Friday, March 18, 2016

On closing doors and what to leave open



I have always been afraid of endings. I am not sure why I developed a fear of change, especially since much of my life has been lived in longing for something better. This is probably why I often hold on to things too tightly and tend to let go too late.

As I live through my thirties, however, I have come face to face with one ending after another, most of them predictable and inevitable, some of them unexpected.

I grieved through many of these changes, even the ones I wanted or even caused to happen, knowing that these were the end of some important stages of my life.

The endings I grieved the most, naturally, were those of friendships. Before some of those friendships came to an end, I had only known loyalty and grief that flows towards reconciliation. I had had disagreements with friends before, but we had always patched things up to either bring back the old order of things or build something new and stronger.

I had never known myself to be one to detach, especially after loving so deeply. I used to call bull on people giving up on people they still loved. But now, even without understanding how it can come to this, I know in my heart that there are some doors that need to remain closed as much as there are some doors that have to be left open even if nobody ever enters again.

One night, a long time ago, in a foreign country, I cried realizing a friendship had come to an abrupt end. The next morning I woke up with a conviction that I deserved better. All is forgiven and forgotten, and there is nothing but good wishes and affection, but that door is closed and labeled for that.

One night, much recently, in Manila, a friend I had loved since my teens told me to get out of her life. I had not imagined life with that door closed, not at all, and it hurt to imagine how things might have to be different. But perhaps that friend is a different person now, and maybe it hurts her to be with the person that I have become, so maybe -- and by maybe I mean I hope not -- our paths are headed in completely different directions. Still, love has left me holding the knob, ready for the door to open. That door is labeled for that.

Last night, I heard from someone I never thought I would hear from again. "I am looking for an old friend," he said, "Are you her? Do you remember me?"

Was I still her? I asked myself, as I composed my quick reply. What I did not write was: Of course I remember you. How can I not? You broke my heart.

Through the years, I have been revisiting that door, thinking of locking it up and managing to talk myself into just leaving it a little bit open until one of two things would happen: either I would understand why what happened had to happen or I would stop caring. So close to the latter, too many years later, suddenly the door swings open.

I understand, of course, that this can mean yet another stage, that of me after him, is changing.

There is a difference, though: Whatever happens this time around, I have already decided it will have a happy ending.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"you loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand"


Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
By Marty McConnell

leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dream: A television studio tour


I dreamt that my mother, my eight-year-old niece Keona and I had stumbled upon an ABS-CBN tour. It was free, it would take only 30 minutes, and there was a man giving away large packs of butter coconut cookies. I accepted a pack, looked at the ingredients and said it wasn't vegan. But I took the pack with me anyway.

As we walked to the start of the line, the guides started calling out to all the tour participants: "Come on, run!" And so we ran, from one dark studio to another, through one dark hallway to another, seeing nothing of interest.

"No wonder this is free," I thought to myself. "This is the suckiest tour ever." The tour guides, all long-time ABS-CBN employees currently not working on shows, were tasked to handle tours by management as an effort to bring the station closer to the public.

Then they put us on a bus driven by a cameraman. He said we were going to the ABS-CBN village behind the compound. The station had built a village for shoot locations and also for temporary residences for all station employees and talents when they were working on projects.

As we drove around the village, which actually just had two streets, we passed by a TV reporter interviewing Boboy Garovillo and Ian Veneracion on the sidewalk. We also caught a glimpse of another actor, one whose name I could never recall, closing a house gate. He didn't look happy to be there, and I wondered if the celebrity sightings were staged for our tour.

Then we passed a Balinese-inspired house that had a sign that said, "Chat's Resort." It had a big yard and a pool. "I have been here before," I said to no one in particular. The memory was hazy, but I just knew it wasn't my first time in the place.

Then I remembered: Once upon a time, I worked for ABS-CBN and our team wanted to hold a "team-building activity." We went to Chat's Resort. We arrived so early that I had to buy coffee from the nearby café. I was even dressed for an outing -- neon sundress, beach shorts, flip-flops -- and I was convinced that Chat's Resort was in Batangas.

We parked in front of the café beside Chat's Resort. The driver told us we were going to walk around the village and instructed us to wait at the café for our guide for this leg of the tour.

The café, more like a canteen actually, was self-service, being run by another off-duty tech guy. One of the tour participants ordered two full meals for himself. As someone took his order, the tech guy chatted with me about the tour.

"Too bad Lucky and Bea just left," he said, "Bad timing. But Popoy is still around, and I think you will be interviewing Popoy."

Popoy who? I wanted to ask. Of course I had an idea, but I didn't want to break the spell! But --

The tour participant paid for his order and the cashier didn't have enough change. Instead, he offered the guy free hopia. The guy helped himself to seven pieces, but they could no longer fit his plate. So he handed me one.

I was biting into the hopia and thinking of what question to ask John Lloyd Cruz -- "Did you ever dream of being in a festival like Berlinale?" -- when I woke up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Dream: The big one


I dreamt I was in a UP campus and it had older buildings built in the early 1900s on top of huge boulders. These buildings looked much like the buildings of UP Diliman but were made entirely of polished stone.

The stairs in the older buildings were always uneven; sometimes, a step would be too far from the next and would be too small to fit even a child's foot. Sometimes, the handrail had disintegrated so you had only wobbly balustrades, if not their exposed steel bars, to help you.

I was working my way down from the fourth floor when I felt the earthquake. It started as a smooth and consistent shaking, and I propped my hands on a wall to avoid getting dizzy. Then the shaking picked up strength, and I just knew it was "the big one."

I ran out, then stopped to pray and plan what to do and where to go and how to contact family. I looked up and saw that behind me the facade of the newer buildings had already started crumbling. I turned my head -- then realized that the campus being on top of a hill, I had a good view of its surroundings -- and saw black clouds swirling in the air, turning into a tornado.

This will pass, I told myself, as I slowly walked through falling debris and saw cracks appearing on the walls of every building I passed. I kept walking until I found my feet on top of solid rock.

The earth stopped shaking. The buildings creaked and continued crumbling. I chose one that was closest to the boulder: the geological sciences department building.

I found a room and forced its door open -- only to find a group of South Asian male scientists trying to enter the same room from the other side because it was the room with the best bathroom on the floor.

Even as the scientists pushed past me to use the bathroom, that room became my base for the next couple of days. I shared it with others, mostly female UP dormers, because they had supplies.

Occasionally, we would overhear the scientists discuss how beautiful Filipinas were because of our long history of foreign occupation.