Showing posts from January, 2019

If I could be sweet

As I entered the elevator to go down to the lobby from the 5th floor, a man rushed out. We almost bumped into each other, then we did the dance for a few seconds before we found our way.

A quick glance told me he was handsome; he looked to be in his 40s, going by his hair. But the most striking thing about him--at least for me--was that he was eating a chocolate bar. He held a half-wrapped Meiji milk chocolate bar in his hand, biting into it like a delighted child instead of breaking it into oh-so-proper adult bite-sized pieces.

The doors were closing when he suddenly ran back in the elevator. "I'm sorry," he said, in what I think was a Japanese accent.

I suprised myself by laughing like a girl, then saying, "Oh, you were going down?"

"Yes, yes," he said, with a half-laugh, "I'm sorry."

We stayed silent as the elevator slowly descended to the ground floor. I stared at my feet. It was a small elevator.

When we got to the ground floor, I quickly stepped outside to wait for my Grab car, which was two minutes away. He followed, stood near the steps, glanced around, then saw the vacant seat beside me. He took it. Then he happily continued eating his chocolate bar.

There was a time when I'd wish he had talked to me or I had gathered enough nerve to strike up a conversation with him. Right now, however, I really can't stop thinking about that chocolate bar.

It's amazing

Alicia Silverstone recreated her role in the music video for "Cryin'" on Lip Sync Battle recently, and of course it brought me back to the 1990s, to when I never got to wear flannel and boots and ride a convertible with my bad girl friends. Not that I really wanted to, in retrospect, though back then I was so convinced I did.

Thank god I didn't get that tattoo.

Anyway, hearing "Cryin'" again led me to check out the other Aerosmith music videos featuring Alicia on YouTube. I'm still not into "Crazy," but now I guess you could say I'm a little bit crazy about "Amazing."

Maybe I was too young to appreciate what the song meant the first time I heard it in my teens. Its words didn't stand out in the musical sea of 90s angst and rebellion, at least to me.

Now that I'm older and I've had more life experience, I am able to hear the song clearly. In a way, the message of climbing back up after hitting rock bottom resonates with me, though I've never battled alcohol or drug addiction. Or any substance-related addiction, for that matter.

I guess we all have our own versions of rock bottom and things we get addicted to. As Gotye sang, "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness."

Maybe I was addicted to some form of drama, or sticking to that singular narrative about my life. It feels so good to cut it off. Sorry, Gotye.

I mean, it's not just good--it's amazing, with the blink of an eye, you finally see the light. It's amazing when the moment arrives that you know you'll be alright.

What if what was was what if?

I literally fell asleep last night trying to answer this beauty pageant question from a video I saw on Facebook: "What if what was was what if?" I woke up this morning, phone in hand, saw my draft, and deleted the entire post.

But the damn question just won't leave me alone. I'm reminded of the time I was on a roll, posting my own answers to the final 10 questions of the Miss Universe that year. That wit, I'm afraid, has escaped me.

But what if nga what was was what if?

Then again, aren't we already living in that kind of conditional? All the moments of our past carry with it what ifs: We pick one out of many paths, and in picking that one, immediately step away from other possibilities.

So, let me try to answer the question, as I'm quite obsessed.

What if what was was what if? In the poem "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost makes fun of his friend, the poet Edward Thomas. When they went on walks, Edward, ever indecisive, would often end up saying they should've taken the other path. But all paths are essentially the same in that when you take them, you simply took them, and it is your mind that creates the story you tell about having taken that path.

So, if what was was what if, I think I'd still be telling a story of how all my past choices led me here. I'd try to make sense of all the detours, the U-turns from abandoned routes or dead ends, the moments I made the wrong turns, and the times I meandered or stayed lost. Then I'd say it's been glorious, it's been tragic, it's been hopeless, it's been lovely, and it's been fun. But most importantly, it's been real.

Thank you for that confusing, sad, but very human question.

We were both stuck in the rain

We were both stuck in the rain. Me, because I had decided, on a whim, to buy a drink. Her, because she had gone out on her scooter and hadn't thought to bring any cover. There had been no warning of rain, save for a sudden gust of wind immediately followed by a steady spray of water.

We sat on plastic chairs at a table pushed against the frontage of a closed store, thrown together by our need for shelter. I was on my phone; she was on another stick of cigarette.

I had my back to her, not wanting to intrude or be intruded on, but she spoke, her voice thick and raspy from, I could tell, years of nicotine and tar and smoke.

"You have a nice belt," she said.

"Sorry?" I replied.

"You have a nice belt," she repeated.

I turned around. She was a beautiful mestiza: creamy skin, dark brown eyes, a tiny sharp nose. Makeup-free, as far as I could tell. She was wearing a pink spaghetti top and short denim cutoffs. Her brown hair was put up in a messy high ponytail. She was ten years older than me, she would point out later, past 50.

"Thank you," I replied, and before I could stop myself, I added, "I like it too, because it's made of recycled materials and it's good for the planet ... Earth." I tapped on my phone, an effort to rein in my rambling. Beautiful people, in general, make me nervous.

"It's nice," she said, "you don't need holes on it." She quickly ran a finger on the weave of my belt, an intrusion so swift I didn't have time to flinch.

Is she trying to trick me or something? I found myself thinking. But instead I mumbled, "I hope my underwear isn't showing," and I tugged at my jeans. She assured me it wasn't.

I took note of my belongings, almost immediately feeling bad for thinking with malice. There were other people around us; the people manning the store next door knew her by name. But I turned my back anyway, making a show of being busy on my phone.

It was still raining; I had nowhere to go.

"Have you seen the movie Glorious?" she asked, her voice straining through the silence I was putting between us. "That was some kiss he gave her, with his tongue all out."

Is she trying to pick me up? I found myself wondering. I'm not good at reading sexual cues, and I didn't mean to be assuming, but I'd seen Glorious and how did the subject shift from my belt to a movie about a 51-year-old woman who, after years of fearing she had turned frigid, reignites her sexuality with a young lover?

But I had made a resolution to be generous with my attention, so I decided to give her an audience, at least for as long as the rain would last.

She told me the story of her best friend, a woman in her fifties who had a 21-year-old boyfriend. The boy was crazy about her friend, she said, and he wanted to marry her, but the friend wanted to keep their relationship secret because he was younger than her youngest child.

Besides, they couldn't marry because she had been married before, years ago, to a mason, the construction worker who looked like Panchito whom she had chosen over her rich American journalist boyfriend and another American suitor who was based in Hong Kong and took her to five-star hotels and gave her a package with 24 bottles of different expensive perfumes.

Her best friend and the boyfriend are going to Leyte together soon, to meet her family and make the relationship official.

She also told me the story of her uncle, an engineer who worked in Dubai as an airline mechanic. He was pirated by a competitor once--asked to name his price, he quoted four times the amount he was making, and they gave it to him. The woman said they tried to set him up with her best friend, but she loved her Panchito then, so they ended up setting him up with her best friend's maid.

The uncle fell in love with the maid. He married her and built her a mansion in Pangasinan. He was infertile--everyone knew this--so when he found out that his wife was pregnant, he knew the baby wasn't his, but he accepted it because it was the one thing he couldn't give her.

The second time she got pregnant, she tried to get rid of the baby. She ended up bleeding heavily, non-stop. She almost died. He flew from Dubai to nurse her back to life. The baby didn't make it.

She eventually left him for a policeman from Urdaneta. The uncle came home unannounced and caught the lovers in flagrante delicto. On their bed, in the master bedroom in the mansion he had built for her.

Her uncle had been tempted to kill his wife right then and there, the woman said, but he calmed down and told himself that it was pointless to kill such a terrible person. Let her suffer the consequences of her actions, he said, life will get her back.

She kept the house and everything in it. He left for Dubai. He died a few years later. "Sa kaiisip," the woman said, pointing to her head and twirling her finger. Death by overthinking? I wondered, but I was thinking of myself.

"Do you have children?" she asked. She had two. One was 37, a daughter. She was single.

"No," I replied. "I don't have a husband either." But I have other things I think too much about, I wanted to say, like presbyopia and falling hair, whether I keep misinterpreting sexual cues from men, and even women, and whether I talk too much and say the wrong things. Basically, a slow kind of death by overthinking.

"You want a smoke?" she asked. I shook my head.

In another life, I would have said yes and continued the conversation. I would have made a new friend--a beautiful, chain-smoking, scooter-riding momma with a raspy voice and colorful though sometimes tragic tales.

Also in another life, this would have been a meet cute. She would have been a handsome, single man instead--or our genders would have matched, at least.

In this life, it had stopped raining. "Well," I said, "I have to go home now." I said goodbye, and that was that.

Sunday rest for the restless

I love Sundays, especially if I've spent Saturday out. It's still a day of rest for me, though rest now takes on different appearances, such as doing the dishes or folding my clothes or trying out a new recipe.

I learned recently that the rest I need after a busy week doesn't necessarily mean resting the body. It's more of resting my mind, and that can happen when I labor on other things I don't think about on the other days of the week.

I also learned recently that I actually enjoy making things, no matter how little talent--and patience--I have for crafting.

My mother and I (but mostly my mother) made a princess skirt for Kiara to play with last December. I took some scraps and made a matching skirt for her Minnie Mouse toy. The stitches were messy, the fabric was crooked, but you can bet I was proud of that little thing!

Emboldened by the relative success of my little project, I decided to finally make the prototype of that infinity scarf with a secret pocket I'd always wanted to make. It took me perhaps a total of twelve hours, including not just one instance of taking my creation apart because I'd made a mistake, but I was satisfied with my latest endeavour.

Take a look! I'm not so crazy about the print, but I'm happy with the outcome.

That strip in the middle is the secret pocket.

Basically, a few years ago, I bought a few meters of the cheapest stretch fabric I could find so I could learn to work with it on a sewing machine. It was a pretty advanced plan, as I had never used a sewing machine in my entire life.

I still haven't learned to use a sewing machine. I made this scarf by hand, using the only two stitches I remember from Home Economics class: the running stitch and the back stitch. Then I sewed on the secret pocket with a zipper using, well, my common sense. Somehow it worked.

I think I'm going to make more scarves on more Sundays of this year. I'll probably want to get my own sewing machine, if I learn how to use the tiny portable one that we have. At the very least, I'm definitely going to improve my running stitch and back stitch.

My theme for 2019: good intentions

To be clear, it's living intentionally, but I wanted to use a noun, or noun phrase, as has been the tradition.

This theme snuck up on me when we got home after Christmas Eve dinner with my brother-in-law's family, as I was tidying up in the living room before going to bed.

I'd noticed that the Christmas lights were still on the table, and the branch my mother and our helper had painstakingly cut off from our podocarpus tree--which had, incidentally, borne fruit for the first time ever in 2018--was looking forlorn in its dark corner in our tiny patio.

That was our Christmas tree, still unfinished. It had to wait until Christmas morning to be completed, and it would have only one Christmas night to sparkle in its full glory.

We'd had a good night with family, and in the spirit of the season, I switched on the lights. I watched them twinkle on the table, many of them still coiled, and thought to myself: here lies our good intentions.

But what we had really intended was to have a light, happy evening. We had intended to not be so tired from unnecessary preparations that we'd be cranky or exhausted before midnight. And that's what we got.

So, here's to living out all my good intentions this 2019!


It took a while to come up with this theme. I'd been thinking of making lifestyle changes, like simplifying my life further, speeding up my pursuit of minimalism, and going for zero waste as much as possible.

I was on a jeepney a few days before Christmas, and I noticed this boy in front of me. He was dressed in casual clothes--t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, no socks--and he was probably a university student. He had an arm up and on his wrist was a phrase tattoo: "mise en place" in cursive.

Mise en place is a French term associated with the culinary arts. It means "set up" or "putting everything in its proper place" to make cooking easier, especially for professional chefs.

But it's also a philosophy that extends beyond the kitchen. Here's a nice short article on it.

It almost became my theme for the new year--my life, after all, is a complete mess--until I felt the need to go bigger. I mean, did I really just want to put the elements of my life in order? Or did I also want to start creating new things as well, even as worked on having mise en place?


Speaking of mise en place, I was reminded of the term yet again when I met up with my old friends Eric and Donna for our annual Christmas meet-up.

Eric, me, and Donna

We were talking about our shared lack of desire to have our own children, and the conversation zoomed in on the whys: some sort of fear, some form of laziness, and perhaps what others would misconstrue as selfishness, but what, I think, is really a question of readiness.

"Do you make your own bed when you wake up in the morning?" Eric asked. If even that takes too much effort, what more the work of parenthood?

Maybe I'll still be a mother. Or maybe not; time is no longer on my side. Or maybe I'll be a step mom. Or perhaps an adoptive mom.

I don't know.

But what I do know is that that's another level of mise en place. I wouldn't mind putting on the work, really.

Good intentions, 2019!