Homecoming

My head was up in the clouds today: soaring like a lonely flying creature in the gloom of this inclement weather, allowing itself to be blown away by the gust of these stormy skies.

My only source of stillness was the thought of coming back to the university, to that one place in the world I can always come back to and call home. Continue reading “Homecoming”

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.

Continue reading “A Royal Exile”

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.

Continue reading “Return to Poseidon”

Songs of the Sea

This has been the longest semester I have ever had in my entire stay in the university. When I closed my eyes last January—the blaring sound of beating deadlines ringing in the background, the clicking sound of tapping keyboards banging steadily in my ears at 2am, the hollow feeling of isolation in the midst of the great white sea of papers—I felt like Time stood still and never again ticked like it used to. But now I could hear the rushing sound of Time once more as I approach the final deadline.

Graduating today feels more like a dream, like a fiction. Like even if I put on my best dress, slip into these expensive pair of Charles and Keith, wear my graduation robe, it would all seem unreal (Yes, I deliberately used the word unreal instead of surreal, for the former captures better the phantasmagoric nature of the event) which I deem is a pretty normal feeling for an event as momentous as this one. But far from this dreamlike reality, I imagine myself misplaced—a piece of a jigsaw puzzle which could not fit into the picture. I feel like I am not here anymore, like I have graduated a long time ago and carried on a different life.

Continue reading “Songs of the Sea”

Marching Meltdown

Hello blog! I have not written much for quite some time because of the crazy deadlines at the university and of all the unimaginable pressure from thesis writing. I do not have any grand plans for my upcoming birthday on the 15th as I would spend every ounce of my time on reconstructing my chapters. But it was a very good thing (and I am very happy for this) that my thesis adviser was finally able to get an initial overview of my proposed thesis, and more than that, to congratulate me for braving the road less traveled (At least academically, since I will be writing on Proust and Deleuze)

Continue reading “Marching Meltdown”

Semester Blues

It is the time of the semester once again for everyone to finally bleed: for words to fall heavy with the weight of farewells, for silence to finally speak the same. I think about this passing semester and remember not so much the days I stayed alive in crowded hallways and sticky classrooms listening to the hours tick away in slow motion, as the nights I spent awake thinking what will happen when all of these are over. I think about empty offices and the muted silence that accompanies them after everyone has stood up and left. I think about the stillness of the lonely river by the window, the ferry boats that pass every so often like time dragging away, and wonder what kind of lives people lead long after they have abandoned this place. I think about their plans, crafted well in pieces and hemmed seamlessly in place, and realize that I have long forgotten how to dream.

I spoke to my some of my batch mates yesterday afternoon, as if by accident. Their words were stars that sparkled in the dimness of own universe. They spoke of things that every average graduating student have in mind: grad school, law school, application forms, the endless pace of someone who chases after endless dreams. When they asked me about my plans, I spoke sheepishly of my wanting to retire already, to which they laughed almost as a form of contempt. I spoke of going to Europe and learning a language, leaving behind whatever there is that’s forgettable, heavy. I spoke of scratching the ground and starting all over again. My words were blunt, silly, marked by a childishness of someone who never take things seriously, but inside me was the turbulence of Tahrir Square. I thought about Berlin and a one-way ticket to everything that I have n[ever] dreamed, and realized that this too was practice. I thought about the future, the helpless attempts to decipher what is to come, the foolishness of it all.

Continue reading “Semester Blues”

Spaceless

I need a release.

It would probably take an entire day or two, nay even a lifetime, like writing a Proust novel of some sort, for me to tell Mom how differently my thoughts about love, relationships, family, God, religion,—life in general—have changed since I left home. Not that leaving home was a good thing, but that certainly it gave me a bit more perspective: from that typical high school girl who knows too much about rebellion but was rather too scared to step out of her comfort zone to a person who actually took a step, however frail and fragile such a step at first seemed. In retrospect, it seemed manageable, easy. But transitions are always the hardest to take especially when one has no strong hold of everything that has shaken and has broken loose.

I still remember our house in the South, as that which one of my estranged friends referred to as my ‘fortress’, for in there I was more than guarded, I was safe and sound. But more than that, I was watched upon. And isn’t this what’s missing in the world that is out there? For we look so much at what’s ahead of us that we don’t even look anymore at that which is in front of us, that we don’t look anymore upon each other. I still remember my father’s eyes, and how they burned, tortured, arrested my soul with his steadfast surveillance as much as I burned with his steadfast love. In high school, I thought of love as chains shackled around my feet, refusing to give me movement. But in college I roamed the empty unfamiliar streets with boys begging for the same love that my father has so selflessly lavished upon me. But arrogance stopped me from running back to my father’s feet, asking for forgiveness for whatever it was that had me sundered from them all. We always look at the present as something that ‘needs more’ of everything: needs more space, needs more time, needs more improvement. In high school I thought I needed more freedom than home was able to provide for me, but in college I thought of home, safe and adequate, for all that I was wanting, missing, longing for.

I look at this life now, with a vision that’s still blurry from all the things that has happened for the past three years in the university, trying to see what my Mom and my Dad would see, trying to carefully extract their perceptions of what has become of their divergent daughter. There are instances when I would feel proud of my accomplishments, of my experiences; when I would send over to Mom a photo of a certificate I received from a private university; when I would tell Dad about thoughts that were so conceived in the midst of my trying to philosophize about every fucking thing in the world. But in the end it would all seem so small, so insignificant, and I would hark back to a day when I was just a little girl and how my every action was more than enough to make them satisfied. There is something about innocence, and the art of forgetting, that detaches man from all of the present and brings him face to face once more with his child-like self. And it is not just about the mere negation of what was already been situated in the here and now. But far from that, it is a return to the more aboriginal of being, that which is naive and infantile, a soul unblemished and uncorrupted.

Aren’t we doomed with our memories, we the remembering mass of humans? Would life be any different had it been the case that our minds could retain only a day’s worth of memory and discard them thereafter? There are days when I would wish for a tennis ball, or even the big neighboring ball that is the moon, to strike me on the head, to make me forget history. But forgetting history would also mean forgetting the good and the bad, forgetting Mom and Dad, forgetting all people, forgetting even the self. But how could one live in oblivion? How could one live at all?

I think about the future, and in my projections of what is to come, I see nothing. A blank space, an eternal rivulet of the nameless and the nothingness. Back in the days when people asks me of my plans I would respond with a healthy enthusiasm and present them a delicately drawn portrait of all my hopes and dreams, which include getting my degree on time, landing a job, taking all that there is to take in life with all the energy of a Spanish bull. But when people asks me now, I would think about the void, and how it engulfs us deeper and deeper into that which is uncanny. It reminds me of the ending part of Murakami’s 1987 novel Norwegian Wood where Midori asks Watanabe where he is. Watanabe’s response was rather eerie, belonging to the terrifying unseen. And in his place I feel firmly fastened as well.

Where are you now?
Where was I now?

Gripping the receiver, I raised my heads and turned to see what lay beyond the phone box. Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere. Again and again I called out for Midori from the dead center of this place that was no place.

Roger Rabbit

The days ran on like racing rabbits in the greener meadows of my avid antipathy for all things great and unknown. I looked up and was surprised to see November with its sinister smile and its subtle claws digging 15 layers into my pallid skin. To some, this is a good thing. To know that time is passing, to feel that you are moving. But as much as I wish, I could not bring myself into wanting for time to drag its racing feet into the greater wilder world that is the future.

And this should be wrong. Wrong as in a knot that could be untangled and be undone by firmer more resilient hands. I think about the future, intoxicated with the prophetic promise of a brand new day, and imagine that in a few years time, three semesters from now, all I know of the present will melt into thin air.

The truth is, all I ever want is to graduate. It doesn’t have to be grand. There is no need for a Magna cum laude under my name. To make it all the way to the finish line: that is what I am bleeding for.

And it costs so much to bleed. There are days when I look out to the open view from the sixth floor of the university and imagine a day when all of this is over. Then altogether there’s the sound of boulevard traffic echoing into the nook and cranny of the abandoned classroom, footsteps tapping the polished floor like the ticking of the clock, voices of all sorts transforming itself into a massive form of tyranny, laughter like perfumed air poisoning the clouded sphere of corruption under their watchful eyes that glare like laser beams in the absence of all my defenses. And in the end comes the gentle reverberation of my own hearbeat slowly filling the crowded air as I try to find an escape into the equally crowded hallway.

I used to think that there is salvation in the future, for it promises a break from all of these present worries. I used to imagine a life somewhat better in the brighter days to come. But one day I stopped looking for all the right reasons to wait for the future, and pondered instead at the word ‘contingency’. You see, there is no such thing as the future, only actions taken by a human who sees and understands the greater picture of events well enough to prepare for the proper response, a human who looks through life with the frenzied anticipation for both the better and the worse, a human who is ready to accomodate accidents whensoever they take place in the midst of all that is planned.

If there is such a thing as the future, maybe it is in the here-and-now of things. Maybe it is tucked away in the very presence of the present, awaiting for its time like a flower awaiting bloom. Maybe, as they often used to say, the future is what we make of it. Better still, maybe there is no future. Only a projection of what we envision ahead of time. And that what we have instead of the future are contingencies, drawn and outlined in the image of our projected future. But like I always tell myself, maybe only time could ever tell. There are days when the mere sight of the calendar is enough to bring ache in my heart but there are days too when the thought of time passing in a slow but steady rhythm is all it takes for salvation.

Whatever will be, will be — or we let it be.

Rush Hour

Where are words when you need them? At 9 in the morning my feet burned to the color of blood as I tread the crowded corridors and climbed the steepy stairway of the university. Beads of sweat drowned my forehead and left my lungs gasping for air. In my backpack are freshly printed term papers, tucked between books, begging to be read. In my eyes were traces of sleeplessness, the dizzying vision of a world without colours.

By the time I reached the room, final exam was already unleashing its poison in the dryness of the morning air. I looked at their faces, blank with expression, pained by the two-sentence question scribbled on the board, and told myself that there is no rush. But rush lies there no matter how much I fight back the current, no matter how much I resist.

Where are words when you need them? For the first time in months I felt the dried desperation of a person who has no words. I felt a desert-like barrenness in the vastness of my inarticulation. I felt arrested by failed attempts to translate my thoughts into written ideas. I felt dry and empty and loss for words, words, words.

The rest of the day was a haze. I remember their lips, stretched to make a sound, but nothing came out but muted silence as the hallways crammed up with faces both strange and familiar. I remember their voices and how they rang in all directions like the metro traffic. But nothing remained of the sound but the bitter aftertaste of a lost word with all its lost meanings.

Come afternoon the bloody gladiator game presented itself in the form of a rushed discussion on the subject of structuralism. Afterwards we were given a three-question exam on the said subject, and the pathetic little fool that I am racked my sorry little brain for all the right answers. I remember feeling sucked into a vortex. I remember hearing the silence up in my head, as if all my nerve cells closed down on business. I kept telling myself to calm the fuck down, to think of rush as an imaginary impetus. I kept telling myself to produce words, more words, for one more time. But all that I managed to do was to put into empty words my frail and under-developed understanding of Saussurean linguistics.

I felt defeated somehow. I spent the an entire night trying to decode the seemingly impenetrable text that were prescribed to us. But in the end it was all hopeless and in vain. I have known my professor since freshman year, and for all the time I get the most favorable marks, this was the first time I ever felt smashed by his questions.

Where are words when you need them? I think about it now — the words I have searched in the nether regions of my head, the words I have found to have no meaning at all, the words I have lost in the process. I feel their deception, their concealment, and how they slip ever so suddenly, like a sinister in the alley, when all I need are words words words to write my ideas and to express what I feel.

On my way home I felt an exhaustion quite unlike the academic kind. Sure, I could keep up with sleepless nights, writer’s block, brain paralysis, bouts of stress. But there’s nothing more profound than the sight of a finale, the muffled sound of an imminent end. The blasting noise of Manila traffic on a rush hour drowned the pounding rhythm of my fears and frustration as I marched the empty steps back home. I felt trapped in the imprisonment of my body, caged in my own limitations as a girl, a woman, a fucking piece of joke in the higher sphere that is philosophy. But most of all there is the maddening amount of hate and resentment brought by the inability to do that which is required of me because words, these dear words, have finally betrayed its user.

I checked my watch. The clock screamed past six o’clock. There’s nothing quite like the rush hour spectacle in the heart of the city. I spent much time inhaling carbon monoxide and watching private vehicles make a turn, speed up, hit brakes, clutch, gas, first gear, second gear, rev their engine. Signs say no U-turn, no left turn, no parking here. Crash on the nearest establishment, crash head on. Get the fuck away from this traffic jam, from this world. I counted every street sign, every street lamp, every street post, the silent countdown of 3, 2, 1, and waited dreamily for that green glowing light to say, “Young girl, it’s time for you to move on.”

Shotgun

Exactly five days ago you had me bursting with hate again. I knew this the moment you spoke to me. I looked at you and saw that you looked at me too, a split-second collision of madness and fury and rage all summed up in an indelible injury, and how right then and there I wanted to gouge your eyes out and make you blind for the rest of your life. Because you once were, and because for once I wanted to know what revenge tastes like under this bloodthirsty tongue of mine.

When I looked at you that day I had every hope of strangling you in the neck, or cracking your skull open, or setting a bullet where your cold unfeeling heart is supposed to be. But it was not fair that I even put myself again into such a silly game. When did I ever win to you? Even in the darkest corners of my memory all I remember is that you were stronger, you always had the upperhand.

But not anymore.

When I looked at you that day I wished that I was looking at an illusion, something that would vanish instantly if I close my eyes, something that would leave no memory at all if I wake up the next morning and find myself on the floor. Still you were there in front of me, and even if I blink a thousand times, your memory lingers like a scum sucking leech in every shattered inch of my consciousness.

But today I close my eyes. What I see is my finger on the trigger with the gun aimed at your head, or at your heart. Depending on which will cause more pain. What I see is blood trickling down from your heart to the ground to erase every fucking memory of the time I spent with you. What I see is your face and the color of crimson in your eyes when you say that you’re sorry. What I see is my own unforgiveness. What I know is I will never forgive you.

When I look at you what I see are our memories together, but only the blurry outlines of them. I could trace the lonely path where we once existed and tell myself that I loved you once, twice, thrice, until I lose count of them all. But that would be a lie. To say that I still want you would be wrong. What I want is an undoing of things. What I want is to look at you, dead or alive, and feel nothing. What I want is for you to be nameless, faceless, in a world where every inch of you is erased, vaporized.

What I want is to bury you.

Undergraduate

Despite the rain, this is the driest semester I have so far. Parched from the absence of oceans and waterfalls and enthusiasm that once welled up within me. Drained of devotion to its very last drop.

Blame it on my two-day schedule. A schedule that actually allows more time for self-pitying than for sitting in class. But most people at school would look at me surprisingly, express their thoughts about how seldom they see me, and say with all their hard-earned desperation, “Buti ka pa ito lang klase mo”. 

I could engage them in this particular subject matter if I wish to, draw a perfectly shaped circle of my inconsistencies and talk them into believing how it’s ten times worse to be an irregular. But in the end I would simply attend to their thoughts by subscribing to the weather, asking them about trivial matters, cracking the most mundane jokes in the planet like I would crack an egg. What I realized over time was the futility of explaining things to people, the hollowness of a desire to be understood and the attempts to understand what most regular students never will.

There is a vast desert island in the depths of my soul where even the oasis is ennui. As the rain makes its dreamy downpour I, however, thrive impatiently in my own tropicality, basked under the heat of my withdrawal from people I thought were sensible and sincere to hear the truth of the matter. I’m sunburned to the third degree by their shallowness masked under the pretense of their half-baked knowledge about Heidegger. I’m toasted by the way they made my life a private joke, and how at random times they would approach me in the hallway and ask me how I’m doing, and the stupid little doll that I am would answer however untruthfully “I’m okay”. If they were real friends they would’ve accepted my decisions and sticked to their promises for better or for worse. But little did I know that I was married to a barkada whose hard-rock ego blinds their sensible judgment of people and replaces it instead with prejudice of maximum proportions. Before I even knew it I was the barkada’s newest joke, an excommunicado.

But most of all I am tired. Dead-tired and almost at the brink of surrendering to this exhausting and utterly pointless life in the academe. There are days when it’s too tempting to pack these bags and leave. Travel South where I came from, or North where it’s too far from everything I’ve ever known. I learned from Mom that if you’re not happy in a certain place all you need to do is move someplace else. If I tell her I want to quit college she would probably only laugh at my indecision. She would simply say “Just do it”.

But do what? Quit school and find a job in the BPO industry that pays enough to buy a Starbucks venti when the 8-5 shift turns horrendously unbearable? Or enroll in an art school and paint your boring unproductive life in technicolor? Or join a creative writing workshop and convince yourself of your own inadequacy? Or get fucked up somewhere sometime by people who has no sense of direction in life like you? Or die an uneventful death so Mommy won’t have to worry about sending cash to her crazy little damaged daughter?

There’s so many possibilities.

The Law of Cause and Effect states that everything happens for a reason. All actions have consequences and produce specific results, as do all inactions. The choices we make are causes, whether they are conscious or unconscious, and will produce corresponding outcomes or effects. If I am moved from where I stand, there has to be a given cause. And when I close my eyes and think about the reason I see their faces, red with alcohol, burned by the silence of the secrets I kept for a long long time, consumed by the hunger of a human being who knows not to care or to understand. If I were to retrace this profound longing to get away from the university I would remember the sun, and how it burned brightly one day in July, and flickered softly until there was nothing left but the afterglow.

I haven’t moved on, if that’s what they want to hear. I haven’t forgotten one single detail of all that was said and done. But that doesn’t mean I still want it back. In fact I hate it. I loathe it. I despise it. Somewhere deep in outer space there’s an other I who has learned to forget. She isn’t afraid of hurting people. She has no time to play it safe. In some alternate parallel universe she is leaving them.

Run

This day was spent mostly on walking. A hundred brisk steps to get to the university and a hundred steps more to get back home. Repeat the same course of action until feet bleeds dry, and what I get at the end of the day is a bucketful of running sweat and wasted determination.

I didn’t know people take earthquake drills as a joke. I actually waited for the sound to fall flat on my ears and shake me off my feet like it would shake the earth. But in the end there was only their voices, young and full of sarcasm about things they refuse to know and to understand.

If the ground ever shake from where I now stand, there would be only one thing I would do.

Quick Post

So much has happened yesterday that I cannot even begin to count them all, much more to tell them all with vivid exactness. But I can feel them beneath my skin, with so much power, so much clarity. I can feel the weight of their eyes as I stood,  for the very first time as a Philosophy major, on that platform and spoke with ease about things I thought I would never be able to utter. I can feel the air blowing in my head like a tornado and how after such an intense blow I felt more calm and composed. I can feel the sound of assurance from within my heart that tells me I can make it through.

There is so much in overcoming as that priceless feeling of conquering your wildest fears, of conquering yourself. I will never forget the 9th of September as the day I overcame. For the very first time in such a very long time I felt that unmistakable desire to burst open, to explode, to rip myself apart in so much joy, so much gladness.

Dear God, thank you. Even as this ego-centric, overly-skeptical, hypercritical, agnostic Philosophy major, you have not failed to shower me with Your love, your sweet love. I lift it all to You,

Make a Lemonade

When life throw lemons at you, what will you do?

Most people would say “Make a lemonade”, which in my own interpretation means that you make something useful, something beneficial, out of what was thrown at you. And in some cases when life decided, out of spontaneity, to throw you at an unexpected place and time, you really lose all sense of coping mechanisms to pull you through that situation and adapt instead to the given moment. (And doesn’t existential philosophy knows this too well: this throwness of Being in the world.) But every moment is fleeting, transitory. And eventually, every attempt for and of adaptation quickly becomes a step away from an exit, and closer to confusion. Which brings you to your last resort: to improvise.

You make whatever you can make out of the shit that you’ve been given, which is very much the same like making lemonades only that this option comes only after you have exhausted all others. And after all of that, life will pull you out again of that given situation and leave you alone for a minute, for a while— enough to make you reflect on the actions you take and the ones that you didn’t take. And so, when life decides to abandon you temporarily, you begin to wonder about the stillness of life in the absence of the circumstances, the short-lived chance to experience one’s own existence, to feel alive, to feel human.

What I had experienced in PHIL 2153 yesterday was more than just a test for me as a Philosophy major. It was more of a challenge to summon my soul by a Higher power not necessarily outside of me but that which emanates in me, fills me up like a spirit, dwells in the innermost corners of my heart as well as in the world that I am living in. There is something about this throwness that makes human existence so peculiar yet so profound. And before I knew it, I was dazzled by how beautiful it unraveled in the end: that in the midst of my throwness in the world, my spirit chose to break not.  It left me breathless how the resiliency, the unflinching courage of man against the cosmic forces clearly reveals itself in moments like these. Surely, when life throw lemons at you, you make a lemonade. And after thatwatermelons, anyone?