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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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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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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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.

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A Year of Admission

There are voices inside my head that refuse to be silenced. On the train or at the streets, or at the streets or in the silent corners of a classroom at the university. I hear these voices with all the sharpness of a wailing knife. Sometimes they tell good things to me, but most of the time they curse curse curse. I wish they would stop but the stronger I wish they were gone, the louder they scream into the depths of my calloused consciousness.

But even with all these weight I try to live like the most of them: these lost and floating faces in the university. And through my interactions with them I come to realize how little they differ from me, and how much we share the same encounters. I promise myself this year to learn to live with acceptance, and in all of those moments I find myself wanting for some, I tell myself over and over again to learn to accept my circumstances and to learn to be grateful for whoever the Universe sends in our way. The ultimate strategy is to live in the moment, and to let the rest of your worries find their own time.

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.”


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.

June Brides

It almost feels surreal that June is about to end. Surreal as in the experience of sunsets fading sleeplessly into the horizon like the leaving of a lost dream. Surreal as in the sound of the abyss resting beneath our shallow feet. It’s comedic, as I think about it now, how the days slip into our consciousness like a fascist pig commanding us, dictating us, that Time will soon be over.

I have been in school only once this June. That was my first day, a Wednesday. After that the days stretched itself into an infinite stream of lonely wakeful hours and zombie-dead days of depression and unproductivity. Skipping class is one thing. Missing out on org meetings is another. But the sickest, most dangerous thing of all is deciding not to care. Or deciding not to decide altogether.

My first day in school was a blur. A giant absorbing blur that if magnified two or three times would present all of my imperfect survival mechanisms. Two of the professors didn’t show up that day which left me a handful of hours to waste. I spent the day listening to other people’s stories about how their summer went or about the new boy/girl they’re crushing on or about the irksome ways to bully the Freshies. Petty matters like that. On the surface was my plaster face warm as the weather and the welcoming committee combined. On the inside was my screaming voice begging to go home. By the end of the last period I was close to murdering myself with the tip of my G-tec pen  just so I could be alone.

A typical school day for an average college student would consist of the following:
a) sitting in class
b) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was.
c) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was, while munching on a cheap cheese burger.
d) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was, while munching on a cheap cheese burger and pondering on philosophical issues raised by the professor.

Life at the university has been mostly a’s. Plain and repetitive a’s day after goddamn day. I wish I could say that college was the best thing that ever happened in my life. But the truth is nowhere near these words. And it’s not the people I detest, though in some odd ways they bring something to the equation. Far from that, it’s this faceless ghoul that keeps on meddling, nagging, imposing ways on how I see life. It’s this deep dark swirl of both pleasure and pain that keeps on treading both ways in an imperfect balance. It’s this unnamed imperative to languish, to suffer. It’s the inevitable experience of the extreme, the weighty withdrawal from people and from life in general.

I’m married to loneliness for as long as I could remember. The first few years were mountaintops. But once I got the hang of it things eventually seemed familiar, easy. Contrary to popular belief depression is not destructive. It is creative. Of course, at first you have to go through the unglamorous sessions of dealing with your unglamorous feelings. But once you master these monsters you get to learn to create a world with meaning, a world acceptive and uncritical of who you are. In a world where people insists on always aiming for brighter days, going through a rather dull one could actually be a more fulfilling encounter than all the surface-level happiness in the world.

Simple Machines

How’s your German?”

Grandma’s voice hung all over me for a solid minute. I could tell there was too much static on the line. The occasional hissing and crackling of the smartphone betrayed the immeasurable distance between me and her. Yet in that same distance her voice, stern and all-too-familiar, clothed my consciousness with an awareness of her presence. I stopped, almost at a loss, and started racking my head with all the German words I could think of.


Mom, who was beside me all the while, laughed at the sight of my own difficulty. She was always the smarter one. She spew German phrases out of her perfectly parted lips and left me with no chance to figure them out. Before I knew it, the conversation morphed into God-knows-what-they’re-talking-about, leaving me and the rest of my dire attempts to dissolve into a lonely pool of Ja and Nein.

I’ve always wanted to learn a different language. Next to an all-expense paid trip to Europe and an entire lifetime lived in France. Part of my projected future was a picture of me standing by the Siene river next to the man I love. I could perfectly fit into Augustus Waters’ description of Hazel Grace: the girl with such cliché wishes. God, my life was literally a living cliché.

But Germany. Germany was something else: the land of Nietzsche, the name brandished with unfulfilled promises and unseen hopes, the longing of a distant dream. Germany brings to mind the middle of 2007, and how Mom and I stood in line waiting for those motherfuckers to grant us Schengen visas.

But it never happened.

I remember spending Christmas sick and depressed altogether. In my mind burned the wintry air of Berlin, snow falling as gently as I dream. I remember ending the year full of skepticism towards the world. Mom moved on as easily as changing clothes but I remained cold and uncommunicative. I fucked the rest of the year beyond repair.

Grandma was on the line the other day. Her words sparkled like stars as she fed me once again with the illusion that life could actually be better once the papers are done. She said this time around, a student visa would be my hallway pass to a better brighter world that is Germany. I turned to Mommy with a surprised look on my face but beneath it all was my doubt. But I demanded no explanation as to why they were planning on this all over again. I realized there are things we allow on our lives to pave way for other people to live their own. I figured I have no right to take away their happiness any more than darkness could swallow the light.

We’re machines made only to agree or to disagree. We are no more than mere splinters of the machine spinning together to make a single move. Like levers and pulleys, our lives are so constricted by actions in an effort to move another, to lift their weight or to alter their course altogether.

I guess I stopped revolting, that’s why. One day you just wake up, completely forgetful of things, completely washed up by ocean tides of insights that take you to an acceptance of people. I guess I just allowed myself to be taken away and be moved by firmer hands. After all they’re my family. At the end of the day Germany remains just as the shaded part in the map. Still too far away, still too good to ever be as real as the sound of traffic by the window. Only time could tell.

Last Blog Post for the Year 2013

In a matter of hours everything that I have ever seen, felt and experienced for the past one year shall all be sucked into this grand massive festivity known as New Year’s Day. Everything that I have ever been through shall be effaced gracefully from memory to make room for the coming of a brand new year. And in the light of such a gleeful anticipation, there is within my soul a yearning to look back, to remember. In the midst of the blinding glare of pyrotechnics and the thunderous sound of gaiety lies a deafening silence for this retrospection.

2013 was a year of both loss and gain. There was, all throughout the year, a familiar rhythm of the coming and going of things, of people. It marked the dawn of an awakening that for the most part brought me the hardest lesson I ever had to learn in life: to let go. Be it an expensive backpack I kept all summer long only to be stolen in the 2nd month of the semester or a missed chance to present a paper in a school seminar, or perhaps, a memory of childhood on a rainy August afternoon, there was only one loud sound throbbing incessantly in my mind: “Let it all go.”

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To Self-Incrimination

I feel like a murderer, only that what I’ve murdered was not a person but a thing, a very important thing. In the wake of my crime I shivered and realized what I’ve done, what I’ve lost. But for a murderer to mourn would be wrong. So what I did was hide the traces of my actions, wrap the body with every possibility of reconciliation while I think about surviving with my secrets, and dig a pit under the starry skies where I can lay my fragile heart to rest, once they caught me and found me guilty.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, convict me. Save yourself from due process and pronounce me guilty. Sentence me to an eternity of death and show me no mercy. Punish me, with every possible punishment in the world, for I was wrong.

Once upon a time, under the dreamy blanket of a cold December evening exactly two years ago, I had him. I had him like a puppet on a string. I had him like I would have had anything that I wanted. And he had me  — but only for that December evening.

But now I stop and stare at myself, thinking why people fall out of love. What is love in the first place? Because when I look for the signs, from puppy loves to my parent’s marriage, from first dates to fall-outs, I end up thinking how miserable people are in their choices, how I tell myself everyday never to make the same mistakes and how I’m wrong about everything that I have ever believed in. For all I know I never believed that such horrid things could ever happen to me, because I thought I was smart and witty and tough and hard as a piece of granite to all the boys who came up and said they love me

But I don’t know.

All I know is that I was happy with him, and I woke up one day and was not happy anymore. But when was that? When did I wake up and realize that this was not what I wanted? When did it begin to hurt like hell? When did I learn to lie, casually, about wishing and wanting for the same things?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, chain me. In a matter of minutes I will burst in rage and spew words at him again. Painful, loathing. But what are words but letters strung togther to form a comprehensive whole under this dry repulsive tongue of mine that wants neither to taunt nor to sneer. I could scream at the top of my lungs, for all of my life, that I hate him, that I curse him, that I loathe him but it wouldn’t make any difference because deep down there is still a space reserved for him and for no one else.

Ladies and gentlemen, judgers and jokers alike, the whole world, the jury, I love him. The only thing I hate is my self.