Under Northern Skies

I know myself too well and I know for certain that when someone asks me to go out of town, I would be quick to run for the nearest exit before I could even say no.

I am a terrible traveler. It takes me forever to pack for a trip. I always get motion sickness twenty minutes into the ride. I have a set of feet made only for strolling city streets and I have zero sense of direction.

But things were different this time around. When mama asked if I wanted to come and take a road trip to the North, I caught myself by surprise when I immediately said yes.

It was a quick single day trip. We were going to pay a visit to an old church and to attend a luncheon for someone in the extended family who successfully passed the recent bar exams.

Early Saturday morning, we were picked up by a private bus which will take us to the province of Pangasinan. The road was slippery and the skies were heavy with rain.

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By the time we got to Tarlac, the skies started to clear. From the bus window, I watched the great span of green stretching across the horizon. For a moment, there were no busy boulevards and towering skyscrapers in sight, but only the marriage of earth and sky.

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We reached the church at around 10 am. The place was pretty crowded and there were people in every direction. It was difficult to determine the locals from the tourists as the faces of strangers melted into one.

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I didn’t take a lot of photos that day. I just took my time looking at things and wanting to know what it feels like to look at them for the first time. I am not a Catholic and I do not have that flaming sense of religiosity one usually has when visiting a church, but there is a kind of serenity in being one with other people’s belief and taking this understanding was the heart of my experience.

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By modern standards, I might be a terrible tourist. I cannot for the life of me take a proper selfie in front of the shrine, or take other people’s photos without cropping their heads or their feet.

But I am glad that somehow I am still able to see new lands and to recognize this sense of wonder for a place so foreign yet so familiar. It is my wish to throw myself out there and to see more of my beautiful country and maybe get myself a good camera too so I can capture places more beautifully.

An Ode to Sinking Sorrows

There should be a word for the gap in our souls, for this hollow space in our chest where our hearts used to be.

I reach out for myself, dragging my hand all the way down my trembling lips, my bruised neck, my aching collarbones, and notice the cracks stretching infinitely into that lonely cave they call heartbreak. I let my hand wander further and find my skin a vast ocean of memories. My eyes water, my tears forming pool and tracing an island of scars.

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Inside my Homicide: A Verse in Purification

I thought I would never to be able to bring myself to write another entry here.

But here I am once again: scribbling a letter after another until I finally make up a word, a sentence, a paragraph that’s lucid enough to express my apparent ambiguity and my obscure speculations about the world, about everything I know (or thought I knew).

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At the Mercy of Mnemosyne

The end of February always brings a certain kind of sadness to me: sharp, weighty and wordless like a falling dagger to the chest, hammering through the flesh and beating my heart to death. Out of all the months in the year, February is the most difficult to say goodbye to, because the farewell only acknowledges the arrival of a new month, my birth month, and that for me is more than terrifying.

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Farewell Fire Monkey: A Year in Overview

As a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a Lunar New Year; by the simple, striking truth that not everyone subscribes to the Gregorian version of time and that there are people out there in the world whose time are patterned after the movement of the moon. For my young wandering mind, the moon (and the entire outer space) became a source of sheer curiosity and interest, and every time I looked up to the night sky, I grew more and more amazed by the invisible force of that pale white sphere named Luna.

But having been raised in a strict conservative Christian home, I was discouraged to entertain the idea of a Lunar New Year, together with the myths and traditions that are associated with it, and was commanded to abandon my acceptance and faith in an alternate discourse of time.

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Silence, An Eternal Rest: 2016 in Paragraphs

It would be an understatement to say that 2016 was a bad year. I fumble around and probe into the sentiments of other people to find the same grave opinion they have towards this monstrous moment in time.

A year that witnessed the ugliest turn of events for politics; a year that took away the lives of some of my most admired writers (Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Umberto Eco) as well as those of famous celebrities and musicians. And on top of that reek the deaths of many other nameless people whose lives are lost and wasted in the unending parade of war and violence. Alongside human deaths lie the uncalled-for ruin of other life forms on the planet as evident in the painful disintegration of The Great Barrier Reef.

A year that announced the shrouded decay of both man and nature, the world slowly crept like a mad vermin into this dark and dingy limbo, a paradise of human error and technological sin where the gates are washed out by the blood that says “Welcome to the Anthropocene.”

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Carry on to where Green is Home

Leaving behind 2016 also means to me leaving behind Rose Quartz and Serenity. I could still remember how this time last year I was so giddy to find out that two of my most favorite hues have been chosen to be Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year. From pastel skies and hair styles and clothing aesthetics, I let my heart waddle in joy over my favorite colors for one entire year, until it was no more.


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Unrequited Love as Religion

Certain conversations never leave my head. They linger in me like traces of smoke after a bonfire is doused with water. They hang onto me like memorial lanterns, constantly parading themselves in front of my weary eyes, demanding to be felt and comprehended until I finally give up the resistance and give in to remembering.

Here is a memory.

I look back to one sunny day in March: by the hall way of the sixth floor of the university, the entire view beneath us glimmered in the light of the noontime sun and the sticky breeze blew me away as in a daydream. Someone was speaking to me but her words came off as indistinct murmur as I went about staring mindlessly at the cumulus clouds over us. She nudged me twice, thrice before I managed to pull myself back to Earth once again. Her voice was intrusive when she burst out her question.

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Project December: 21 Days of Green Tea

This month I made a promise to purge myself from the grime that surrounds my soul.

It was kind of a shame how it took me this much time before I even began to notice and to realize that I was already ten-feet deep into the poison which, for all these years, I have clung into and suckled upon like a starving infant.

As a symbol of this newfound pact, I am going to shower myself with green tea for the first 21 days of December. I’m on my 16th day now, and struggling with consistency. I know it might sound odd the way I gather things and create unnecessary connections between them (like my inner thoughts and herbal drinks) but this is just me and this is how I function. I need a certain kind of a myth, a symbol to fasten myself onto, otherwise all of my attempts will fizzle into thin air just as easily as a blink of an eye.

I am never blessed with optimism, having been reared in the womb of melancholia. But this time—at least for this time, I am going to tell myself to look at the brighter side of things and to take this life one steady cup at a time.


Death and Demystification

I went to the cemetery today: a one-ride trip to the northern part of the city that is well-known for roasted pork and burial grounds and crematoriums. I have been to this area only once in my life, about two years ago, when we had to take Lola to her final resting place. Even then, I couldn’t understand the idea of burial rites as the final passage of a person’s life. And when they said in unison, “Lola is finally going to rest,” I thought mournfully to myself, “Finally?”

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Phantoms in Transit

Hello September, it’s you again.

It seems to me that once again I have lost track of time. If someone comes up to me and asks what month it is today, I would probably say December or March without thinking twice, or scream the year 2010 without doubting its validity.

My sinking soul could only hold so much of its consciousness before it finally starts to displace its attention to something more crucial than the fleeting motion of people and events, before it finally starts to lose all reverence to time.

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A Royal Exile

Some days I just feel this inexplicable exhaustion from writing, as if every word I have in my head is drained to its last dying drop and every sentence is wiped out clean of their substance. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and there is simply too much friction in my head already brought about by the relentless engagement of words, by the merciless impingement of their letters.

Don’t get me wrong. I am more than thankful that I am still able to write, even if most of my writings now are just musings, personal reflections on my every day life in the city, reviews of my most favorite books and films, and honest takes on beauty products and online shops. I have created quite a distance now from the kind of writing I had been accustomed to for the past five years in the university, and sometimes it feels odd to write about things which I am not so sure of writing, things which I am not familiar with. (Like how am I going to write in a manner that acknowledges the presence of the reader and allows the reader to know of his/her participation?) When I was writing way back in the university, I wrote mostly for exposure: to let my ideas be disclosed to my professors without thinking whether they would approve of it or not, or whether they would understand it or not. What I learned from reading philosophy was to get as brutal as possible to expression. I think I was never able to finish the Critiques because I had no patience with Kant. Hegel was so close to unfathomable. Heidegger was gigantic with words until the eternal charade of Being and being. Nietzsche’s my favorite but they say his writings are not for everybody, and sometimes I feel like I am part of that excluded crowd.

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Return to Poseidon

Today I stood in the middle of a sea: a great white sea of papers and parchments and pain crashing one after the other with all the madness of a tidal wave, screaming to kiss the shores with all the urgency of a ticking time bomb. I stood in the middle of the raging waters and looked longingly at the immeasurable vastness of this now foreign territory, an ocean-deep of memories from my five-year stay at the university. Piles and piles of papers lay before me like flowing river: test papers, term papers, thesis drafts, photocopied pages of books from all of my adored authors, sheets of scratch and sentiments.

I looked each of them with wistful eyes, trying not to remember the long tough days when I once clung onto them like a child, like my whole life depended on every single word written on their pages. I read these words now, treaded on them carefully as if trying to extract a secret code, to see if maybe I had missed something important in all of my five-year education in philosophy. But in the end I only see these words words words and the absence of their context, their meaning, and realize that maybe I could never think again as deeply as when I did when I was there in the university—face to face with the unspeakable colors of dusk, the gentle breeze wheezing from the lonely river nearby, the gentle rhythm of trees swaying as in a dance, the sound of students’ laughter seeping through the cracks of time.

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Titanium Hearts

There are so many things I would like to say, so many stories I would like to share, so many pain I would like to express. These things are in my head—screaming, boiling, begging to be heard. But I cannot find any more reasons to release them to the universe where I know they would also inflict the same damage that I have sustained.

Sometimes I imagine myself as the vest to a bulletproof man: this weary little jacket which serves to cushion off the assault of bullets. But as soon as I think of such a thought, I banish it from my mind as much as possible, for there is no reason at all for one to think of oneself as a hero at all costs.

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