Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Will Care

this is my resolution for the New Year of 2010.

i will care
end my apathy
this distance that separates
dreams from self-realization
emotions from action
willingness from ability
to be more a bridge
to past and present
to help in growing
as in healing
in waiting
as in resolving
to hold more hands
for the tender
accepting me
to unfurl
untesting of
the world

thanks to oleksii for the pic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Love Forecast for 2010

the site says that 2010 is my year, the Pig being the cosmic soulmate to the Tiger that rules over it. hmmmmmmmmm. but this is the 3rd year in a row when romance has been 'read' in my stars and still, the reading has gone pffffffffffffft. so just like any other year, i tend to shrug it off and if ever the love bug bites, i would just hope i won't 'miss' the guy since 2010 (and the coming 2011) would, to me, be the fieldwork years. baka mapaglipasan ko.  hay, whoever you are. i hope you can be as true as you are as by now, i have no more skin to hide in to.  i hope you can endure.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

HP trouble?

in 13 months, the HP laptop in naga seems to have broken down.  it's not turning on so yaman and i would have to revert to the 'crude' form of speaking by phone, starting tomorrow. i hope dick can save the hp, and save the cyber relationship carefully built by moi with yaman across the miles, from here down under.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Stories

stories are our lives. one friend of mine commented that i do not write light stories. instead, they are dark heavy bleeding stories. bunched in 50 words yes but hard to digest. they're quite eerie, vitti.

i do not know how to answer. i could not even justify. perhaps i have a dark imagination? because for me life is drama, karma, quid pro quo, forgiveness unrequited, betrayal, sadness. i sit in front of my computer and on to the screen i type. i see crows and hear them in endless squawking outside my room in the village and i could not help it, i tell myself, someday i'll write a story of how ugly and noisy you birds are! the man in the boat wife and dog, i dedicate to those who pretend and endure undeserving lovers. the mother and daughter monologue are my own frustrations with my mom. the girl selling sweepstakes is a true story, my dad before he died in 1994, pointed out the little girl who had became a chubby 30ish woman with head band and still selling sweepstakes to that day! and of course, my pioneering Guardians story i got from a dream.

i don't know how to explain my stories any more than these. i'm not sure why i even took the time explaining! one thing for sure. my stories are organic to me, they rise from within. with the lightness comes the darkness. if it's not your fare, i don't care. but this space is mine and stories will come, one by one.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Day

on a sunday claimed as fully mine, i didn't leave loris. i stayed in bed until it tired holding my weight and the smell of yesterday. i ate unharriedly through lunch, eating leftovers of eggplant and kilawin, bahaw from yesterday, and soup with broccolini, also from yesterday. i didn't go to mass as for once, i don't want this hot australian sun to invade my body. at 2pm, i was cross-stitching, a little later watching nadal's semis match with verdasco in this year's australian open, stopping once to cook mi-goreng, and going back to finish the stitch, started reading 'the lovely bones' and eventually web-camming with yaman. i celebrate days as simply as this. for tomorrows, for a PhD student, would always be daunting. sometimes, nightmares of fieldwork invade my nights. but for now, today, this day, i just don't care. i do not want to.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


i'm sick
for lack of sleep
i would've rested
but sherlock holmes called
with the company of friends
so i went and i have
none to give
holmes and watson
but sniffs here and there
blocked nose here and there
and sneezing here and there
holmes and watson gone
i'm left
with colds
a red nose
watery eyes
longing to go
go and sleep sleep sleep
till i meet those two

Friday, December 25, 2009

One Christmas Day

what shall i write at the end of christmas day? that in the morning, i was already online seeing yaman with her presents from santa (a belt bag), mommy (a scooter), lola (paper dolls with matching bags, shoes, clothes, accessories), ayen (hair accessories), daddy uncle jungee (teddy and cologne), tita yumi (disney princess pencil case), and ninang itie (watch). we made 'faces' --- bulging eyes, mouths stretched open, eyes in slits --- and yaman doing her famous 'sundo' expressions which help her get in the mood as she sometimes becomes aloof at first when waking up. within 20 min, she was playing with her paper doll named Heart, which we re-christened as Yaman given her large kikay kit. but i had to go since friends and i had to catch this bus to freo so i had to explain. yaman ended up asking, 'you ride a bus mommy? what bus?' so mommy had to explain again while hurrying up half-hearted given this 'bitin' conversation with daughter.

that i had this beautiful mass at st. patricks with the indonesian priest egging us to continue serving as lights to people around us. of the majestic choir and one young woman with an angelic voice, singing heartedly without hint of difficulty as if in elaine's words, 'she's just watering the plants.'

that before the mass, i got this text from a friend who i've lost to the consulting world. i could just say what the heck, of course, i'll forgive because it's christmas day. but i texted back after the mass because i don't want to carry that grudge anymore to the new year. one has to say enough to hurting.

that with the ghostly pall over freo, with only cafes serving sandwiches and coffee open, i made a go with elaine, stephii, jom and angel to perth city to have lunch and had a sumptous rich and reasonably-priced one (prawn tempura) at Poppo's, a Japanese-Korean resto close to the Perth train station. a 5-min walk after and a visit to this souvenir shop, bought two sunnies; the first, a violet inlaid 'taray' one that goes well with my polo shirt; and the other, a 'serious' brown one to make me look 'respectable'.

that walking back to the house around 4pm, i got so flat-tired, i slept soundly within minutes of changing, and raising my legs that i missed elaine, angel and stephii's company moments later. i was so drained and flat out that i missed them cooking vegetable wanton in the kitchen, jianny (the other singaporean housemate) joining in and helping them wrap leftover veggie stuffing on wanton wrappers, and the group later having a merienda of vegetable wanton, according to stephii and elaine's accounts after i woke up half past 7pm.

that i now had to stay up still waiting for yumi's text whether she'll go online (now, already for 40 min without a response so perhaps she's flat out too) and for me to observe a blogging ritual, as a commitment to friends and to stay clear of donating to some of the most-hated political parties in the philippines.

that now i had to 'accept' just having a free day on christmas day, free from work and thoughts of a phd in the works, as i go back to sleep sleep sleep soon...

Thank you Lord!

Thanks Kati for the pic!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Resolution

i resolve that this will be my last christmas away from yaman and my family. i am so sad my heart seems sliced into two. ang kaligayahan ay di ganap. kawawa naman talaga kami. mga nanay na walay sa pamilya. mga tatay. at mga anak na kapiling ay iba.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

father john
the parish priest in st. patrick's
strive not to be decorations.
rather to others, be presents.
let's keep trying, he ended.

Thanks for the pic!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Meron Ako

dirk wishes he has the same excuse. sitting beside me over lunch, he asked how i was and i said, not so good. dirk being dirk, he prodded genuinely, why? i said then in tagalog, 'meron ako'. which he repeated over and over until i had to ask jom, who was getting one placemat, to translate for him. jom sidestepped it and explained, 'he has two sisters, he'll know what that means'. but dirk being dirk, he still could not get it. so i had to explain in plain english that 'meron ako' means 'i have' as in 'monthly period'. period.

women really ought to rest when they have their menses. it's like depression i think. once you have it, you know that bad moods will creep in and you cannot escape it. when i got to the office around 930am, all my plans of preparing a questionnaire flew out the window. i stared idly at the computer for more than an hour, succumbing to that 'low' feeling, as in draining from your chest down to your vagina. it's like having dead weights chained to your arms, hands, knees and ankles. and coupled with that, you cannot help but wear a sad sullen face as if you just the lost the world.  but since i committed to staying, i sought solace from my store of classical music and while struggling, i was able to prepare a very rough draft of my fieldwork questions entitled 'Brainstorming Questions' but just, just to arrive at an output for the day.

there will be days like these, these days of 'having', of 'meron ako' that could preclude me from doing my targets for the day, but i need not surrender.  so after finishing the last batch of questions, all in 7 single side pages, i packed up my things and told stephii, my next door neighbor and soon housemate, that i'm going. as if on cue, my puson started hurting and as if to compensate from my non-experience with natural birth delivery, i could feel spasms down my opening everytime blood gushes through, as if giving birth naturally. it's time to go home.

Thanks Todd for the pic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prelude to a Cooking Blog

i don't have a high cooking iq. not like yumi who can estimate the ingredients of a certain dish just by tasting it. the time i cooked elaine's beef mince with pumpkin and eggplant, it wasn't as delicious as the one made by her. but i know what to do next time. i could experiment. experimentation has been my key to cooking. if i cannot get the dish the first time then i will try again on the 2nd, 3rd and nth time. like my adobo, it's a blend of advice from yumi, anjo (a fellow filipino phd student based in UWA) and my own experimentations with water --- how much of it, the source ---pure clean water or from washed rice. in cooking for the last 6 months, i've learned to appreciate the power of ingredients like fresh garlic, herbs like thyme and coriander, natural crushed pepper, sesame oil. i'm still learning to be patient; of not turning the eggs yet to produce a perfect omelette although a breakthrough has been not turning my adobo mix for 30 minutes while boiling. i still have yet to learn creativity as my cooking are still 'hand-me-downs', straight from menus, recipes i get from TV (e.g., SBS travel tales, nigella lawson), or cooking styles witnessed like tien's vietnamese chicken soup and fried vietnamese roll last sunday in janty's kitchen in nedlands. cooking could be so much fun, the only reason why i would prefer staying in loris during the day (and makes studying from home impossible!). it's a long way to go, like my cross-stitch and my phd, before i could call myself a real cook. i'm still not confident enough to offer people my dishes (although i've committed to cooking adobo at janty's soon for naris's sake --- OMG!) but if practice makes perfect, then i won't hesitate experimenting. so there, kicking off soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy 1st Anniv to the Natalie Meter!

december last year, i decided to challenge myself into blogging every day. so there, i came up with 'natalie's challenge', the name coming from natalie goldberg, my favorite author who writes books on writing based on 'writing practice'. this practice of writing daily Natalie does in notebooks using a pen, as in this case she is able to write with her heart, connect with her inner being. she instituted 'free writing' or to just write whatever one thinks of, any inspiration, or even the lack of it. a stapler can be an object of writing, or one's finger, the ring on it or lack of, or the frustrations in not having one. one can write about one's family, one's dentist, partner, or just the metro aide sweeping the sidewalk. anything will do as the main intent is to just write. day or night. in bed or in a cafe (natalie does it in a cafe), with a writing group, buddy or alone, sick or not, in the himalayas or down to the remotest barrio in ulas. basta, write. i had trouble following her practice especially at night when i'm too tired or at that time in manila, i'd rather play and talk or just be with yaman by the time i'm home. so since the computer was always beside me and i was sort of feeling guilty, following natalie's books, reading her, yet i cannot summon the will to write everyday, i decided to write everyday by blogging. so 'natalie's challenge' came about, and with negative reinforcement. i had to 'punish' myself patterned from the marathon monks of mount hiei of japan who travel with a knife, so that in the event that one cannot go and finish the route, they ought to kill themselves (natalie's allegory of writing practice is like the marathon of these monks). so i pay P500/day for any day missed from that 20th day of december to its equivalent in 2009. so far, i've missed by days. not bad for a beginner. but if i were to shoot my toes off for every day missed, i would be in crutches now.

for the past 12 months, blogging every day could be such a toil. perhaps because sometimes it's hard to find inspiration on a dull day. sometimes naman, i am fixated with an object (e.g., like my heartaches) which i write about on and on, or all of a sudden but in a way blogging about it helped me release all my frustrations, and reconcile with what i have done, should've and couldn't.

then, i began to see myself in another light. i went into poetry, my own kind of poetry. i learned how to verbalize contradictions in my life as with my experience in ADB where i cannot seem to understand how indeed poverty could be eradicated in the relations of unequals: of experts paid a million dollars a month and the 'poor' getting by less than 1 peso a day. it's an obscene world. i used the blog to vent my politics, my ups and downs with the consulting world where i invested the best of my past 10 years only to be back-stabbed by those close to me. but then blogging is also a source of joy as i shared Yaman to the world, the highs and lows of our relationship, her genius in arts, how our mother-daughter relationship is changing under cyberspace. my bestfriends who share my wholeness, my mother and her sadness, yumi's cooking and my brother's hidden unheralded genius. my experience here in perth as it has evolved from being a sad lonely walker living in a cavernous flat to someone enjoying walks with friends, comfortable as i live in a 4-bedroom spacious old but homey house here in loris way. in here i vented hang-ups with my PhD, the crazy confidence-sucking sullen moments to the heady relieved experience of surviving six months of proposal writing, way too different from my professional experience in it.

so who am i then in this blogging space? i am a million contradictions as my blog cries, laughs, tears people, opinions, and even celebrities to pieces, rambles, grunts, moans, roars, forgives, and asks for a little forgiveness too. if my blog should mean anything, it is that it is naked in its personality and in that lies its truth. i am my topic for the day, my language, what i opt to exclude, and what i chose to magnify. lightworks because it means to be understood as it is, no philosophical leanings here or acclaimed brevity here. i just be, and i am.

now, i have to pay for the missed days. so ms lynn and mam elsie, how shall we go about it? i am again committing myself to the natalie meter for another year but with a twist.  i got this idea from cecily who suggested that instead of charities, i should give instead give contributions to organizations i hate. like in the US, a writing group pledged that for any missed writing commitment, a contribution would be made to the Ku Klux Klan. imagine how one could really be emboldened to write to avoid giving money to the Ku Klux Klan. so there without much ado, for any day that i miss writing, for the next 365 days, i will give P500/day to any of these parties should they still exist:  ERAP'S Partido ng Masang Pilipino OR GMA'S Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI). just typing these names makes me puke and indeed makes me resolve to write tru-li-li everyday for the next 365 days.  but still, i want to give to charities, so friends in case you're interested just click on the link on the side bar to join the list.

so now, again, we're on!

Thanks Chris for the pic!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mr. Dionisio Nora

my numerologist, mr. dionisio nora, died last wednesday, dec 16 2009, around 6am. he was 85 years old. i got the text from his daughter, melinda, at around 10am before my meeting with jane. i had a feeling that he will be gone soon. it started way before i learned around april 2009 of his heart condition; the hardening of arteries making him expel blood during his morning rituals. sometime around 2007 during my annual visits to him (starting 2006), after getting my numerology calendar for 2008, i sort of asked him out of the blue if i could ask for the 2009 as well. he gave me a queer smile, the light on his eyes on, as if getting my cue. i felt then that i will not see him long after 2009. it was also perhaps strange of him to agree on giving my 2009 calendar, two years ahead. but he did and i think, we both know why.

like a long lost grandfather, that was mr. nora to me. the first time i met him, around 2006, he mentioned that for people 'lost' as i am, it was a good thing that i came to him as i seriously need guidance. i have never met him and vice versa but in that meeting, he was able to unravel my sorry sad relationship with the Old Man, how our relationship was 'pag-ibig' but not 'pagmamahal' just by looking at yaman's numerology. we tend to interchange both terms right? so he explained. 'pag-ibig' craves for something in exchange kaya nga 'ibig' - may hangad. while 'pagmamahal' is unconditional --- loving without expecting anything in return. and he related how he, a farm boy, in the 1930s ended up graduating with a masters in agriculture from the university of iowa after the american liberation. self-belief and own effort, he said. the same with you, pointing at me. the 'problem' with me he said is that i have very little self-confidence. mahina ang loob mo ineng.  i could not believe it as i thought i got through life with my guts. so i asked, are we talking about me now or me then. now, ineng. he taught me not to hesitate. he taught me to look at the big picture always. to always plan ahead. to stay focused with what i want and where i want to be. 

he advised me to refrain from being so maawain (thus, i should not be a lawyer!) and accept my fate to be betrayed by very close friends, especially those i helped and would help (sounds familiar?!!!) because of the number 5 in my numerology. counting with his hands from 1 to 5, starting with his pinky and ending with the thumb, he explained how as number '5' tends to be left out from the rest (i take this in mind but still i help. i think better be the one betrayed than the one betraying).  he was able to predict how woodfields and dr. medina would turn against me (which i didn't believe at first of course) and that in 2007, i will be going abroad (i went to canberra for 'training' under hassall). i would not say here his predictions for yaman (baka maunsyami) but he did advise that i be her bestfriend more than just a mom.  soon after, in my plans, i will always have this memory of mr. nora egging me on. so when i told him around march 2009 that i will be going to australia for my phd, he was so pleased he rewarded me with his bright smile, eyes alit. 

i will miss mr nora. i will miss his forthrightness and sincerity. his simplicity. never did he use his gift to enrich himself with an 'office' consisting of a table with pad paper and a cup of pens and pencils, reached by the side entrance of a simple mixed concrete and wooden house circled by plants and the back of which are logs chopped mainly by him, at over 80 years old. how he loves manny pacquaio so much on our first meeting he requested that i be early (as early as 8am which means leaving manila at 6am) because once manny's match is on, he would not be taking clients anymore! i will miss his numerology calculations in 1/4 of 1 whole pad paper. his scribbles of letters and numbers side by side and how he could arrive at totals in a flash.  around 2008, he would be using a calculator but within a year that calculator would be so run down, the numbers no longer visible from too much punching i guess (he has so many clients, daily). i will miss how he adjusts his earpiece and engage in lively talk just to explain a point, like the way he related his life to me to drive how i should not mind the seemingly impossible.

now that he's gone, i feel that my life is missing something. that somehow, going to lipa every year has been a ritual while i'm in the philippines; sitting by the desk of an old man with bright eyes as if paying homage.  now he belongs to the stars, standing watch. an extraordinary mortal who with the power of numbers saved the lost, the confused, the uneasy, the unsure, and the mistaken. a life well lived. salamat po, mr nora.

Thanks Pere for the pic!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Autonomy Talks

i was searching the web for materials for a chapter when i chanced upon links of one bikolano academician here and another city government official there advocating bikol autonomy soon --- the rise of a bikol federal public in the offing. i am skeptical as the talk of autonomy should first be explored with questions on self-sufficiency and financial capability.

like, how can a bikol republic fare without a firm resource base? are we not a rice-deficit region in the first place? how can a bikol republic fare without flourishing trade routes? albay has lost its grandeur as a port province right? how can a bikol republic fare with its vulnerability to typhoons, animal diseases, volcanic eruptions-mudslides? is not albay so reliant now on national largesse with the rising number of evacuees from mayon's impending eruption? how can a bikol republic fare with a capital center like naga city still reliant on 80% of budget from IRA; a commercial center with a highly mobile population and an economy generally reliant on services (or servitude)? how can a bikol republic fare when history says that it has generally been a subsistence than a production economy, fueled by migrant Chinese and Tagalog elites, and not Bikolanos? how can a bikol republic fare in an environment of factions, when use of a public plaza is still a bone of contention between a city and a province --- how much more a whole region?

would it matter to the poor and the very poor this talk of autonomy? perhaps more significant questions would be how to create more equity; how to increase school attendance among poor students; how to increase schools and incentives to raise teaching quality and schooling conditions in remote provinces. perhaps there should be more talk on how to curb corruption amid the show of 'good governance'; make real transparency and accountability work than just website pronouncements. perhaps we should care and prioritize livelihood, employment, entrepreneurship than consider these adjunct measures to say, tenure security.  i would care more for an anti-poverty than an autonomy agenda. but then, what is indeed the agenda behind autonomy? are we just riding the wagon with someone else driving it?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Years and No Counting

i felt that i'm entitled to rest today. just last night, around 9pm, while i was watching cold case, a funny thing happened. i was snoring while half-awake as i struggled to watch the series and sleep struggled to loop me in. in the next two hours, with my legs raised, i would sleep through, and occasionally struggle to watch lynda la plante's the commander. by midnight, i turned the tv. ah, such bad influence. not good for my 3 year countdown to a PhD.

today, i didn't go to the arc. i resolved to 'work' here at home but i'm a bit torn between feeling that i deserve to rest and the guilt that these self-imposed rest days would soon haunt me should i run out of time to write, to analyze, or to simply think over my PhD. i'm not sure why i feel this way. perhaps apprehension or fear. apprehension that i am now heading off to the nitty gritty of my research --- the planning of survey, FGD and KII, coordinating meetings and interviews, going to remote barangays in naga like panicuason and bracing myself for the challenges of fieldwork. i have to be physically and emotionally prepared. i should pace myself well lest i drain out early.  i am actually afraid to do my fieldwork. i have a lot of 'what if' questions in my mind. i even fear of getting killed lest i ask the 'wrong' questions. no, i won't be martyred for my research i think lest i be the first martyr of the arc he he. no, just kidding. see? i'm getting crazy again so bear with me on this one. perhaps it's this desire to confront apprehension and fear that pushing me to feel guilty about losing time. although jane has suggested that i rest, including ruel, one of my mentors.

but it's true. after the seminar last tuesday, i suddenly felt the weight of the world lift off and i want to hie off from it for awhile. am i not having it during my sundays? well, i feel this time it's different. as if i want to rest from the first five months of brain, gut and heart-wrenching writing. even if this rest would amount to just one or two 'rebel' days. if yesterday, i equated my rest to kfc, today i just did a little grocery shopping - rice and corned beef australian made (i was looking for our very own purefoods brand) from simon's asian shop; and, kiwi, onions, garlic and broccolini (good for 'boring' chicken or noodle soup). when i got to loris, i cooked the broccolini soup, heated one kfc chicken, chopped one tomato and garnished it with sushi soy sauce and i was having my lunch at 1130am. i did this while also doing my laundry so by the time i finished eating, i hang my laundry.  still, about 130pm, i had a book on naga city's robredo in the table but i struggled against reading. so i took off back to the kitchen to cook elaine's beef mince with pumpkin and eggplant. that's when i realized how cooking could be an escape as much as a way to realize. chopping those garlic, onions, pumpkin and eggplant and smelling beef aroma waft through the kitchen was comforting. so could be a reality soon after all. less than an hour after, i was back to my desk and i compromised. just read one chapter and off i went to bed. still, i'm not sure why i'm not too happy 'resting'.  i'm restless with the countdown of days ticking down, down, down. three years is not such a holiday or treat after all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Public Advisory

beginning tomorrow, this blog would no longer be public. nothing amiss. just concerned that in this wired world, privacy is a treasure and should not be taken for granted. just wait for my invitation, friends.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Call of Cockatoos

from my room here in loris, always from around 6-7pm now in december when the sun is still out, the cries of australian cockatoos, the breed called Little Corellas, are heard.  they cry as if calling each other to rest and call it a day. if you listen carefully, the cries tend to be coordinated, with one or two 'leader' calls as if organizing their returns. in the midst are the cries of other birds in the background as if in agreement. one late afternoon, two thursdays ago, while i did a little night shopping with elaine in IGA, i passed by the laurie withers park, about 50m from my house and there, in the ring of trees, a mass of cockatoos homed in. i thought the cries made were only of 5 birds, but it was a whole lot, about 30 or more, which again showed how organized the calls were with 'leaders' calling louder as if organizing the positions the birds would take in each tree. one early afternoon, i saw about 10 of them lined up, perched on electric wires close to my street, serene as ever. because here in perth (and the rest of australia) it is a no-no to shoot or even aim at birds for play, these birds didn't find my presence suspicious and just calmly watched and lay rooted on their spot, as i pass by. every time i hear their cries this summer, i know it's time for me to 'rest' too.  that i need to home in, gather my senses, raise my legs up and call it a day. i heed the call of cockatoos too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Naked Audience

i have a seminar tomorrow, to present my proposal. i should be comfortable since i'll be speaking with colleagues who i have drinks with, eat soggy chinese lunches with and 'banquet' dinners at hutchings (elaine and stephii's house). yet, i'm nervous and after being 'uta', and deliberately not reading my paper for the past weeks, with a bout of amnesia over my arguments, the debates over my topic, and my proposed methods. i'm not sure how i'll be tomorrow. perhaps i should take nicole's advice, imagine that they're all naked to quell my fear.

Thanks Alex for the pic.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sister Vitti

at 7, i knew what i wanted to be --- a nun. the influence of kind soft-spoken nuns in white habit and blue cape at st. mary's academy in bulacan was not lost on me. me, the sickly kid who's always brought to the clinic tended by a sister whose soft antiseptic smell kinda captivated me. in my kindergarten, i would often pass out. until now, i still have that memory of seeing all my classmates' faces up there in a circle as i lie down the floor, before lapsing to unconsciousness. i was low blood at such a young age; until now, even if i'm fat at 145lb, i'm generally low-blood.

when i was doing my masters in el-bi, sometime between 1992 to 1993, i nearly did 'time' at the st. claire's monastery in canlubang. it's in the tip of my tongue what they call this 'serving period' prior to being a novice. this time, i no longer want to be just a lay nun given my experience with the hypocrisy of CSI's nuns. if i will be a religious, i told myself, i'll be a contempative nun, truly separated from the world and fully devoted to Christ. in 3 visits to st. claire's, i met sister ernestina and a sister whose name starts with mary and ends with  a man's name ('christened' to them inside). i was supposed to return one friday evening after my vacation in naga to do service like maintain the chapel, clean the backyard and be a kitchen hand while also observing prayer time, one at 12 midnight and mornings as early as 4am; as well as living a meager existence. life as it was explained to me inside by sister ernestina was sleeping on a hard cot, feeding on bread, working the gardens and much much singing at prayertime.

i made the mistake of calling my father who surprise surprise actually supported my decision to be a contempative nun! when i saw him a week after, i can still remember how serene my father's face looked, kind and contented, not even feeling remorse that this kid for whom he 'invested' so much to study and graduate from UP is throwing it all away to literally turn her back from the world. and then the bomb. my mother would not approve of it, which i found interesting since i thought she understood me all along. my mom distraught said that she will die should she lose me that way. that's what i get from being a good girl, a good daughter. my heart sank since i could not bear the guilt of causing my mom's death, if ever.

so here i am, 15 years after, still contemplating what i would have been if i've gone contemplative.  while working for a project, my feet took me again to canlubang, around 2005  i think, and still, i went back to the convent. st. claire's appears to have fallen on hard times, the buillding was already run-down, with notices to visitors written in pentel pen on cartolina. sister ernestina was already assigned in the visayas. and still, i wanted to stay.  in naga, it is in carmel, another contemplative church, where i feel the most welcome, the most at peace. the only one's holding me back now is yaman. my mom doesn't care anymore what i do with my life perhaps as long as i take good care of my daughter. will i ever get to fulfill this dream?  perhaps, in the next 16 years. would it be too late to be a 54-year old novice?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Naga's 'Silent' Masses, Naga's Unsung Heroes

the absence of social unrest in naga city, unlike in other areas in the bicol region, has been attributed to the absence of powerful political families in control of large haciendas. my reading of naga city's history suggests however that naga has and is still ruled by elite families although it is more dispersed, containing provincial elites from legazpi, magarao, and iriga as well as migrants from quezon and as far as panay. the list does not include those of chinese blood which specialized not only in trade but also in extractive industries such as lumber and construction.  what appears overshadowed by history, especially its telling using a linear mode of storytelling, is that the masses of naga has fueled not social unrest but revolution and rebellion from ruling forces; namely, the spaniards and japanese, respectively. the first in 1896 against the spaniards by local guardia civil headed by col. elias angeles and col. felix plazo and the other in 1942 by renegade guerilla units headed by officers miranda, flor and padua.  it is suprising that while naga's history is being told from the vantage points of ruling elites; these ruling elites while responsible for economic development could also be considered paragons of political docility. strangely, there has been no direct evidence showing 'real'  revolutionary plans concocted by the ruling principalia during spanish times, with a majority already aligned with the local bureaucracy.  on the other hand, during the japanese occupation, the elites were quiescent with japanese officials. the same during the american occupation when new elites came from the ranks of chinese mestizos while the old occupied the transitory civil government.  on the shadows and backgrounds of these however are mass-supported and perhaps local-led uprisings that were able to change the status quo, as the one-month civil government of angeles and the guerilla units, aided by cordones or local support units, which eased the entry of american liberation forces in naga by 1945.  if i were a student of history, i will gladly take on these unheralded but pivotal points in naga city's history where the masses literally held its flag with valiantry but until now remains unsung. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Above Suspicion

wednesday night, i got hooked watching the tv adaptation of lynda la plante's book, Above Suspicion, the first of her Anna Travis mysteries. the story is about a movie actor with a dark past which compelled him to trace and kill with gore all drug users/ prostitutes he came to know in his childhood, then later to habitualize into killing similar 'low-lifes' not only in UK but in the US during his travels. he was a beloved actor in cinema with a dark dark past growing in a home-turned-brothel by his mom who physically and sexually abused him, 'sold' him to pedophiles at age 7 with his mom watching lurid sexual acts done to him by men. at 15, he killed his first victim, his mother. in sex with her, his mother's hands bound at the back, strangled. that would be his M. O. (modus operandi) but it would be his savagery that would set him apart. his hatred of women boiling over in every kill. it's a troubling story if one becomes too aware of the trauma we carry over from childhood and how that trauma through time mothballs to our own acts of violence to self and others. the way it was directed, typical among the british to delve into the psychological more than the clinical technique (thus, why, UK's Wire in the Blood is so much better than USA's CSI), i ended up condemning the deed yet pitying the killer.  past midnight, i thought of yaman and my niece, ira, and nephews gianne, gab and gerry boy. i prayed that my life will not be cut short, yumi's and jungee's. i prayed for all children and all parents i know. perhaps the violence we see nowadays are but a reflection of the violence inflicted on children --- physical, mental, emotional, sexual --- and that intellectual, the pressure exerted on children to excel, deliver, manage --- where we turn them into adults prematurely. the violence on children lives on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feeling November

no christmas here because it's hot and sunny. there's no caroling, no simbang gabi, no puto bumbong, no parols although in some houses along winthrop, i've seen pine trees wrapped in christmas lights. at garden city today, i feel removed from shoppers buying giftwrappers, trappings, christmas balls, red green and gold ribbons, big red christmas socks, christmas cards etc. when i saw kids flocking to this booth, wondered why until i saw a fully clothed burly santa smiling at the camera. i love christmas but in the wrong environment, i don't have that festive celebratory feeling. i could even foresee myself working at the ARC on xmas day. my xmas will be this february. with yaman and family. right now, i feel so november inside.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Questions to History

the gulf between elites and the 'masa' of naga could be seen by the latter's seeming indifference to the death of its 15 martyrs, naga's quince martires in 1896. i am led to believe that there was no social unrest in naga borne about by labor exploitation.  yet i wonder why there is 'apathy' of the masses to nationalistic interests shown by the so-called martyrs coming mostly from the cultured/ privileged elite, one-third of which were spaniards. were they coerced by the church to act this way? did the separation of classes, the uneducated masses relegated to the city's lowly paid informal economy, inhibiting the merging of class interests then? what other factors inhibited this merging? who were the masses at that time when the elites created naga? in what ways did they create naga too? what affected their decisions behind seeming apathy? what forces were in their control and not? how far will answers come? how i do get in touch with their voices from the past?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Seeing' Naga's History

i am reading naga city's history for my thesis. based on dr. gerona's book, i get these impressions. naga's riverine system has been its boon and its vulnerability. do you know that the dutch invaded naga city sometime in 1648? the book however does not provide concrete facts about the 'invasion' except for saying that the dutch 'savagely plundered and reduced [it] to ashes.' --- hmmm, quite acceptable for a story but not for a history book. the language is so melodramatic it's yucky.  another is that, spanish-bikol relations appear to have been not only abusive but totally deleterious and parasitic. when the spaniards came in 1576, the locals were so rich, tribute was paid in gold and rice. 200 years after, the locals could not even afford rice and reflective of its poverty, the lone city hospital and its churches were poorly maintained.  impacts of the dutch invasion to this poverty has not been discussed. the dutch factor, other than the spanish, i think figures in the state of poverty in naga then (if indeed the dutch ravaged the city as melodramatically described).

it's fascinating to 'read' history this way. back in highschool, my idea of history was memorization - of names and dates that doesn't seem to add up. we were not taught to understand detail within context.  i just learned now that the spaniards exclusively occupied our centro while the indios and the chinese resided on the other side. in the social ladder, the structure was spanish over chinese over the principales over the lowly indio, with mestizos filling the gaps. for upward social mobility, women tend to be natural pawns as marrying up (spaniard or chinese) meant an improvement from the indio status. the oldest pueblos were naga ('the other side of the river' linked by the panganiban bridge), sta. cruz, tabuco and camaligan! and the docility of the natives. the book may not have done justice to the valiantness of the bikolanos considered that when they were 'discovered' by the spaniards, the locals already had sophisticated weaponry and were well organized for combat. so it appears, they knew how to defend themselves and were systematic about it. to bow to the spaniards easily is not so easily explained by the book although the author concurs with the dearth in historical records to contextualize it.

but i love going back to history. makes me understand my city more. i'm still halfway through the book. the next chapter deals with how naga 'took off' more because of regional integration than the benevolence of one colonial power.  i can't wait to know more. a new way of seeing could make me kinder.

Monday, December 7, 2009


the closest that i have been to a man, physically, after yaman's father, would be with jason. divided only by cotton-spandex, our bodies exchange heat. he has the right to touch my feet, my legs, my knees, my shoulders, my hands, my waist. very close yet very far as our eyes turn away from each other. me to hide the flush in my cheeks. especially in our first time when with his powerful strong hands he would push my legs, my back to the limit i could feel the tension. it was mine as was his. this decent strong young man. i would no longer see him eight months after. but the physical 'mark' would be there. he doesn't know, there's no need to. the near 40-year old woman just remembered and couldn't help but blush.
Thanks Daniel!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Little Hands

in our webchat today, i showed yaman the kitchen side of the house. while chatting, i was cooking my version of mom's paksiw na pata, only this time it's paksiw na spareribs since there are no pork shanks here (in case there is, i have no butcher's knife to cut it in pieces). meanwhile, yaman was her usual bubbly self --- typing her name in full, looking over the kitchen and the pot on top of the stove. later, she drew for me. 3 drawings --- one like a cave shelter for bears (from her bear book), the other pots of flowers with happy smiley faces, and an 'abstract' doodle (i just cannot make it out...). each drawing she would fold in quarters, calling her tita yumi to keep it, for me. then later, her soft little hands i would see folding another bond paper, like an envelope, to hold those three drawings. to be sent with love through mail. i care about the drawings, of displaying them over my wall as much as i displayed her exercises in school.  but what makes it special for me are those big little gestures; of little fingers making flaps out of sides, pressing them unevenly and sealed with love from daughter to mother. it matters the world to me. to hold those drawings and touch even just yaman's fingertips.  tonight, we share the dreams of the content.
Thanks Andrey for the pic!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

MataPobre Banking in the Philippines

how do banks in the philippines love us?
let me count the ways
if your adb falls below 2000
200 kaltas buwan-buwan
wala ka na ngang pera
gagawin ka pang pulubi

if transferring between manila and
non-manila accounts
25 kaltas per transaction
serbisyong walang overhead
pinapatungan pa nila

left and right ang kaltas
mag withdraw ka sa di nila atm
may service charge
magpalit ka ng atm card

may service charge
magbayad ka more than once sa credit card
may service charge
nagbabayad ka na nga ng utang
pine-penalize ka pa?
samantalang interest
1% per annum

ano ang halaga ng bangko
kung perang iniimpok
mismong ninanakaw ng
mga bangkero
siste nyo?
banks in the philippines
are for the rich
for only the few who
can deposit at a premium
yung di iniinda ang service charges
yung pag nagwiwithdraw di pumipila
ang hirap maging mahirap
sa sariling bayan
at mahirap pahirapan
ng sarili mong kababayan

Downed by Chili

my stomach could not tolerate chili. my taste buds could and could even take in more as i took on naris's dish yesterday at our picnic along matilda bay. kwai chow served in thick chili soup. my tolerance for it has heightened, similar to janty's indonesian dish, sambal balado or chicken chili which i've learned to cook in the past month, my version served with potatoes, carrots, spinach and zucchini.  at 2am this morning, what i thought was a regular visit to the toilet was the 1st of four to run until 6am. in those four hours, my ordeal was coupled with gut wrenching stomach pain, similar to the one experienced last sunday. this cannot be happening, i thought. stomach pains in a week because of chili. after my 4th visit to the bathroom, i could no longer walk straight and had to disturb janty and nisa's sleep. while janty provided a balm to soothe my stomach, nisa prepared a thick tea laced with sugar as she saw how weak and pale i have become. even at that time, nisa was so 'scientific' --- even explaining to me that i need glucose (in sugar) to give me strength. within 20 minutes, i was fine, drenched in sweat and finally longing for sleep at 7am. unusual and disappointing. the taste buds are willing but the stomach is weak.  how can i appreciate indonesian, malaysian, thai and vietnamese food without chili? it's like eating halo-halo without ice. janty chuckled with resignation as she said dishes prepared with me in mind would have to be prepared in two: with chili and without. i hate causing a bother. i would have liked to belong. eat chili like any other. not because i have but because i have learned to love to.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Signs that Make Me

i was born in the cusp of aquarius and pisces --- a 'cuspian', Charan, my Indian ARC colleague here says. what does being a cuspian make me? well, for one, it gives me an excuse from not being identified with the 'dreamy' and 'sensitive' pisces as well as the 'hard' and 'calculating' aquarius.  on the other hand, i don't mind having the piscean's 'humanitarianism'  and the aquarian's 'unorthodoxy'. but this is as i chose it. i chose to harp on the advantages while shielding myself from the weaknesses attached to either sign. whatever, i'd rather be a pig.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gloria's Greed

what i will say may offend some people, so please forgive me. i just cannot help it. i flinched upon learning that the wife of mr. mangundadatu sustained 17 gunshot wounds and lacerations to her sensitive parts. but upon learning that greedy gloria would run again for office (swapang to the max!), parang gusto ko syang barilin, more than 17 times pa. sometimes, i could imagine really slapping her and find myself really biting the insides of my mouth. if i could only see her in person, i won't mind really slapping her, kung pwede lang sabihin 'for the filipino people' ginawa ko na. it would be an honor.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cold Case

have you ever met someone, just for a fleeting moment, and have not forgotten her? him? i have. way back in 1994. my then boyfriend and i were having drinks in this small pub along panganiban avenue, in naga city. all of a sudden, a bottle flew over the air, meant for the guy on the table next to ours. it happened so fast, the brawl, until i found glass splinters in my blouse. the then-boyfriend was also caught unaware. until this guy, he was not tall, dark and handsome. he was about my height, short hair, chinese mestizo who gallantly came over and asked how i was. are you ok? are you hurt? do i need to help and go to the hospital? mindful of the then-boyfriend beside me, timidly i answered, no i'm good. but to him my heart warmed, daring to 'cross the line' like that, even though i was already with someone. he returned to the table with his friends and within a minute, i was gone. didn't even get his name. didn't even give him a serious thanks. now, i've forgotten his face. i couldn't make out even his eyes. i'm not even sure perhaps we've brushed shoulders in avenue square, rode in the same bus, plane (no, he looks too rich to ride a jeepney) or perhaps our children go to the same school. but i'm not sure. he's lost forever. my own cold case.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One Low Point

i could still be near yet so far. over the cam, i watched yaman cry. her drawing wet as she when she was drinking, she accidentally coughed and threw up on her drawing. she was crying, begging for attention. and her mom, on webcam, could do nothing but implore others, call on others, to come over and hug her daughter. i felt so helpless seeing my child that way. wailing and all alone. this is one of my lowest points as a mom.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One Proud Mommy

See? Yaman already knows how to spell her name. what is surprising according to Mom is that yesterday when she found Yaman writing, she was already finished with her two names and has already written 'Val'. then see her drawing? that's her first using a ballpen. even Yumi my sister was amazed by my daughter's artistic bent. see the almost parallel and equal spread of lines. and as my sister pointed out, you could even see a window open. hay, it's so heartening to see our children this way. nakakapawi ng pagod:)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Patricks, Northern Lights, and the PhD

i have witnessed two marvelous things today ('marvelous' is so australian an adjective --- like 'amazing' and 'lovely'). my first mass at st. patrick's basilica, the catholic church in fremantle and over ABC channel, i witnessed a woman's journey to norway to see the northern lights and was given a performance of the 'tricky lady'.  si. patrick's has simple gothic architecture. it looks large on picture but it is actually small, a quarter smaller and shorter than our own Naga Basilica. but if not for the choir and the sermon i will not go back. i long to share the sermon to elaine first this afternoon since she would relate to it. i reckon she needed it. just realized that we all need it.

this sunday marked the 1st sunday of advent. the priest asked the congregation, wouldn't it be convenient to just celebrate advent at the start of the year perhaps, january. it would be automatic and not cause so much confusion for catholics to followa gregorian calendar only and not a church calendar also. but the priest explained it this way and he had me enraptured for 15 minutes or so.  i shall not forget him, ever. advent signifies also two faces just like janus, of january. one face looking back and the other, looking forward. but advent signifies much more than futility and expectation in which we see the new year. advent actually signifies the start of the life of Jesus Christ lived the human way. when we say that Jesus is with us every step way, it is not just one convenient cliche, it is one real event witnessed and documented which gives us and Jesus a shared experience. and the priest went on further. he said, look at all the mysteries --- Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and the Light, as these all signify not just the life of Christ but also the path and progression of humans. thus, if we neglect sacrifice, try to cheat on hard work, question events that unfold for us that are not of our liking, then we also evade the realness of Jesus's humanity.  that's why and how life is a mystery.  from the anunciation, which the priest related to events in our lives where we heed a calling and take it without hesitation, a birthing not just of the literal sense but of the figurative. the birthing of ideas, of inspiration. up for us to take, without question. how about the visitation? about moral support, the importance of friendships, of mentoring for us to go on. i found it funny, in my case, i can always relate to the sorrowful mysteries but to see it explained to  me, that evolution of spirit through the Light, for instance: transfiguration (where our acts in faith enable us to meld with the spirits of the past in...knowledge, song, poetry, story etc.); and, the wedding of Cana (the fruits of mentoring, of unraveling our power first in sudden yet critical moments); and Glorious like Jesus Christ's ascension; marking, not the end of our lives but the beginning where we are raised to heaven, with the company of angels, prior to judgment. in our lives, things that we finish, we raise to heaven, but it also marks the fruit of our labors. it marks who we are. it bears our fingerprints, our breathing, the perspiration, the tears, occasional breaks, and the final sigh of relief.  you can do it, elaine.

now the northern lights documentary by ABC. caught it on its final 30 minutes but it was worth it. the woman who is a cross between darryl hannah and kim basinger was in search of the northern lights to pursue a childhood dream. at 7, she read a book about a baby penguin living in the north and saw this drawing on the northern lights, falling like a curtain over the baby penguin. she could not forget thus in her late 50s, or 40+ years after, she went out to search for her aurora borealis. it was not easy. in the whole 2 hour documentary, based on the last 30 min, we can see how she labored at the north pole, talking to hunters, yodel artists and storytellers, explorers, sailors in search for it. there she encountered superstitions about the 'tricky lady' as the aurora is called in the north. tricky because it does not show itself and could decide not to. superstitions say you should not wave at a northern light, or beg for it loudly to come, or even whisper of it. that's why the blond 50-year old woman was wondering, could've the 'tricky lady' been angered by her? since she got to the north pole, she couldn't stop talking about it! crazy thing is in her journey, she decided to ask 'expert' help last. she talked to a research scientist in tromso, norway last. but the advice was not academic, the scientist even believed in superstition. and what he said was beyond scientific. it pledged the power of the divine. the scientist told her, to wait. wait wait wait in the coldest darkest fjord. the place of waiting is significant so as the virtue. to go to the coldest darkest place but not with just bravery, but the simplest humblest act of patience. we are not asked to be patient in ideal conditions but in the coldest darkest moment when the safest decision would be out, to stop. that's the lady's testing. she waited and waited and waited. and suddenly there. as the sun's particles, carried by solar winds, blanketed the earth, the aurora burst forth and gave off a performance lasting more than 10 minutes. a three-folded falling curtain, sharp bursts, emerging rolling waves, and for the finale, the lights dancing with the moon, a blanket of stars. the lady was crying. she said she doesn't care if the audience would think her mad. but she felt as if, as if, the aurora knew all along her labors, was testing her too, and proving herself worth it, gave much much more than the show of curtains falling. it's enough for her to die happy. so in a cold dark place sometimes we find ourselves to be, but instead fighting it,  perhaps patience is the real key.

i think about elaine's phd while writing this. my phd. i'm dreading it within 6 months of candidature. but i know dread is just part of it. dread is instrumental in it. jane is right. we do it, go through the torture. because it's character building. we get in touch with the mysteries of life, as the phd intertwines with the other aspects of our lives, our children, the boyfriend we left behind, an uncertain career but nonetheless we do it. doing it means straddling between like and dark, where we get to prove ourselves not by stealth or just diskarte. it is where we carry our values, simple as these are, and allow them to manifest. corny it may sound, but the phd is a journey in creating, the journey of life-long dreams that we cannot bear to die without, and in the process, we finding ourselves, we find our faith, we find the extent of our humanity.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Defining Moments

i'm starting on a new 'hobby'. i'm collecting 'defining moments'. i got the idea when watching 'nights in rodanthe'. that moment in time when robert and adrian first looked at each other, there was no spark but the spark is not the point. the point is the circumstance. what was adrian doing? why was she there? why did robert chose to stay in that inn - to pay double the price at off-speak season. i asked the same thing last night to michael and lenny. i wanted to know the first time that they met, what led to it and what happened. i'm just starting so i have no 'statistical' trending yet. but michael, the man, could not remember the first time. only the circumstances. of knowing first lenny's dad and brother en route to his research in tatalon. while lenny remembered it so vividly, it felt just like yesterday. she was working as a community organizer and one time, she saw this 'white' man coming with her brother and was introduced to her. her initial reaction was 'ngiii!, ayoko ng puti'. so distanced herself away from him, this australian guy with long curly brown hair. interesting 'no? how time sets off the circumstance. how everything is meant to be. what michael said was quite significant. there was no spark, there was no electric current in seeing lenny to proclaim, 'here ye, is the love of your life'. which turned out to be. michael and lenny's is the one relationship made in heaven. he calls lenny his bestfriend, confidante, gastronomic inspiration, emotional support, his sanity. but see? they never knew it at that first meeting. time was central to the discovering, the knowing, and the accepting.  meaning, relationships had to be worked at. and the friend, the acquaintance you had just now, yesterday, last week or some over time in the past could have been or be 'it'. hah, so many sources to collect 'defining moments' and learn from and be soothed with.  who's next?

Thanks B for the pic!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bye 145

in the next 24 hours, i'll be moving out of here, from the student village to Loris Way, Kardinya. i've packed my stuff and tonight, i'll be sleeping with the cover draped sluggishly over the bed to make it easy to unpack tomorrow. what will i take from my experience of living in a student dorm, otherwise called 'flat' here? i'll miss my quiet housemates. rina who cooks veggies all the time and taught me how to make sushi; carol who likes to eat chicken and riotously danced to african music one afternoon; troy who most often forgets his key card; and jeremy now a gourmet cook but can't seem to wash his dishes after. i will miss the quiet inside my flat and how one can spend the whole afternoon just looking over south street without a soul bothering you. but i will not miss the crazy shouting down the corridor, the german speak of cute german boys, one of whom looks like mark wahlberg, face and built, oohh lala (!); the crazy crying one morning; the crazy kissing, of lips smacking by lovers separated by floors; the crazy language of crows outside eyeing the garbage cans; the crazy laundry which doesn't accept $2 coins; the crazy paranoid experience of having to watch over one's cooking, one's ironing, one's bathing (the steam bath) lest you trigger the alarm; and the crazy waking up at 4am one august morning, fog still all over, because indeed the fire alarm went off; with a crazy student sleeping over heated soup i guess.  one whole semester in an alternatingly cadaverous riotous dorm that was never my world so to speak. now i move on to a lovely brick house, with 3 international students. similar to what i had 10 years ago in green court. where i can wake up every morning and see blue sky and clouds from my room.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mourning for Maguindanao

today there is much condemning. today, nov 24, has been declared in the philippines a national day of mourning for maguindanao for what would go down as the ampatuan massacre of 57 civilians, among them muslim women and journalists. this is not a senseless killing. it makes a lot of sense actually. but i will not dwell on that. instead, i join the sadness of the filipinos and the world. i mourn in behalf of my muslim friends, my bestfriend janty, an indonesian muslim woman, my friends in the arc, the colleagues i found in sultan kudarat, tawi-tawi, cotabato city, paro bing, sir boy, sir sandy, joy, sir maguindra. there are no right questions or even right answers. i just want to hold your hand.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Red Flag

perhaps tomorrow i can sleep late in the day
perhaps i earn it
perhaps i could just ride the bus and go to perth
have ice cream
take random walks
and just stop
i have the right to stop

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nasa Sulat ang Lunas

pag mainit
pag tinatamad
mag bus
pag sangkaterba
bag na malaki
di kailangang
kung pwedeng
magdasal ng
diskarte ang
ngunit pagsusulat
bakit mahirap
gamitan ng
ito nga yata ang
kahulugan ng
walang payong
sa mainit na usisa
walang bus
para makawala
walang bag
para sa dalamhati
lumuhod man
o tumayo
dasal ay napapako
marahil nga nasa
marahil nasa
pagsusulat pa rin
ang lunas
ang dasal ng kaluwalhatian
ang bag na babalot sa daing
ang bus na magpapalipad ng isipan
ang payong na sa takot sasangga

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lutong Pinoy

alabang dyaryo dito?
maamoy ko man lang
dyaryo na pambalot
nalasahan ko na din ang tinapa

alabang paper bag dito?
makakurot man lang ng isa
maalala ko ang init na sumisingaw
sa bagong ahong pandesal

alabang wrapper dito?
manipis puti may butas pa minsan
pambalot sa lumalagatap na sarap
ng turon at lumpia

alabang stick dito?
bago o gamit na't hinugasan naman
pantuhog at sa taba't apoy iniihaw
ang manok, baboy at isaw

ako'y gala at nawawala
naghahanap sa wala
sapagkat kung nasaan ako
doon ay di ako
matuto mang magluto
hanap ko pa rin
istilong tunay
kakaibang amoy
hugis at gawa
halaga ng pagkain
di lamang sa lasa
kundi sa lahat na anyo
ng kultura ng bayan ko

Sunday, November 22, 2009


had a good cry today with elaine watching 'Nights in Rodanthe'. a story of love between two lost people who have given up on second chances. only to find a third chance in each other, took it, consummated it, bonded over it, and just. then death. in their story, we are asked if love that has not been through tribulations, as marriages, as long relationships go, matter.  and it does. and sometimes, those are the relationships that take us over the ridge. that stay with us. relationships that do not leave scars. if i'll go through another love story, i'll settle with that. i look forward to life fed by the memory of a good, beautiful, and loving man.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can't Wait for Sunday

my back is already aching, a sign that i have had enough. actually, uta na ako. i'm a bit fed up with the material. i've gone to about 6 drafts already and at an average of 25-30 pages, i can't see anything 'new' anymore, can't think of anymore new insights. i'm just laboring through the lit review jane requested to clarify the significance of my study. then, i will go on shortening the methodology. hay, i can't wait for sunday to cross-stitch to be just away from this. i don't mind waking up 4am on monday to resume writing. i just need a break of more than 24 hours. i need my sunday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Moonlight Sonata

in one forwarded email, i read that moonlight sonata was actually composed by beethoven for a blind girl who longed to see the moonlight. he met her in one his 'dark days', on the verge of suicide. perhaps in parallel to the story of the man without shoes drawn to self-realization in seeing a man without feet, beethoven must have been awakened from his stasis, of still being a man in touch with his music despite resisting it. of being drawn back to life that still surrounds him. could i be like beethoven and that shoeless man too? the time jane rejected my second draft (of the second programme of study), i felt like giving up. i went seriously into questioning whether i have the right to be here. i went even to questioning whether i have what it takes to be an academic. has writing within the neoliberal frame of consulting reduced me to an unacceptable proposal writer in academic terms?  i am a proposal writer for heaven's sake and i can't even please my supes!!! (well, carol, the 30% supe accepted the 2nd draft though. but jane is important because she's the 70% supe) i could picture myself bleeding. then i realized that what would make me kill myself is perhaps the time i lose the love for writing. this is dangerous.

so i had to pull myself together and summon all the positive energies that i could muster to make me not succumb to a rut.  after moving my presentation back to three more weeks, i knew i had time. i woke up 2am of thursday as i had trouble sustaining sleep.  opened my laptop, revisited the draft, and went on to make tiny notes here and there. i went on for 30 minutes i guess. to relieve stress by transferring my thoughts to the page. i knew as soon as my fingers touched the keys, there would be no other way to approach disappointment in writing but to write anyway. i've said it here before, writing will be my savior, my tonic, this would be just another thursday.  and then i came to this knowing that my experience here, in doing this phd, is indeed a mountain to climb. it's like mount everest. to reach the top is to continue climbing which means every step is not joy and a pat on the back. every step is difficulty. and like any mountain-climber who in every climb openly face the prospect of death (diba paul?), perhaps that is how serious writing goes too. i will be constantly challenged, disappointed, threatened to the point of death, to the point of giving up, to the point of letting go. and the sinister thing is, i would be cajoled to it by my fears . so i had to push back the image of my supes as enemies, and stop griping over lost time as over milk spilled. i had to breathe, get so much of life surrounding me, push back dark thoughts and like beethoven go back to creating with the music of my soul which is writing just as by going back to his music, he was able to cast and make a blind girl see moonlight.
Thanks to for the pic.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ARC Reality

how can one be kind
pretend to be
in the interest of civility?
how can one stomach
open annoyance or contempt
because of difference?
how can one assume
the stance of friendship
when every step is counted as threat?
equality is empty rhetoric
what does not exist would not prevail
so in tensions we lie
arrogance and submission
in cold embrace

This I dedicate to Elaine, Jom, all others who endure and those who endure us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Dozen Pans

i want to wash
a dozen pans today
totally greasy
sooty muck-covered
one i will name dent
the other hutch
and maybe this one
then that one
could be racism
the other one
that on the left
that far right
the other five pans
i will name
lost time
wrong directions
vigorously i want
to wash
if only to release
the well
of frustration
and overwhelming

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thursdays of Our Lives

Cecily made us write about the contents of our thesis today in writing class. I could not as I'm too exhausted from two days (Friday and Saturday) and 1 day (Monday) of fierce writing. Last night I finished at 10pm. But I still free-wrote. I wrote about my plans for the next few days until my writing diverged and I was soon reflecting on what happened to me last Thursday.  This is part of how my writing went.

At this stage, I know that a higher one is guiding me. I know I could not have written all these without the powers of the Almighty up there who guided my hands, and my thoughts through the difficult phase I went through last Thursday, of facing rejection like that. Subtle from Jane. Clear in Carol’s body language. Well, I have to be thankful to them although at the start I was angry.  They have seen through the methods and perhaps may have even saved me.

So you know, perhaps the bad day I had last Thursday was actually a good day because it forced me to think through my methods. Made me really sit down and situate myself with how the fieldwork will answer my research questions. So, really, the bad things that people do to you are actually egging you on rather than the good or the passive things people say to just to please you, just to be nice.

Which makes me reflect on other things too. Like how the betrayal I got from Woodfields actually made me think of getting another career than just being a proposal writer, of working in consulting. The expendability in which I was kicked out of SDS made me think that as good as think I am, I am not excused, I would not be protected by the system. The rejections that I faced before with my father, made me realize that not what others think about me would guide me in life. I have to forge my own path. I had to be me but at the same time learn to see and find and nurture my worth. That way I will be protected. That’s why probably Mr. Nora (the numerologist) said it right. I have to carve my own path. Kailangan kong lakasan ang loob ko kung gusto kung umasenso. No one will do it for me. No one will lay out a paved road for me to walk on. I have to struggle if I need to, but on my own terms. So perhaps that’s the lesson last thursday. That not all that will hurt you, disappoint you, betray you could ever destroy you. These circumstances are actually meant to help you. Mold you to be better.

Like the one with the Old Man, I still hurt but that experience could have actually prepared me to be a better mother, a better provider. Otherwise, it would just have gotten worse. Perhaps it’s better for Yaman na walang ama, kaysa magkaroon ng walang-hiyang ama. That experience made me hold men at a distance, made me distrust them when they're breaching my boundaries. But then, it helped me exert my own independence especially the time when it was challenged. Made me realize Old Man didn’t know me at all. I’m not a clinging vine. Even before we met, I was already a lovely tree. He can’t cut me down kumbaga. My roots are deep. I hope that Yaman would be as strong as her mother. But it would mean that Yaman would need facing her Thursdays too. She would need to face disappointments, perhaps from me, our family, her colleagues, her superiors, friends held close to her heart. In overcoming these disappointments, she is made an even stronger person.

So I should thank them perhaps. Those who have caused me hurts.  For all of you have helped me be a good person, as my supes 'helped' me prepare a programme of study for 2 days he he. You have helped me find me. I wish you the same. Too. (Karmahin din sana kayo! Isa pang he he) But kidding aside, I hope you also learn the lesson. With similar knowing, similar believing, similar self-searching. Someday, you may be in the same predicament. Despite solace from friends and well-meaning comfort, you will have to call forth the power inside. Just let the fears come, let ‘depression’ engulf you for a while. Find your strength. Don’t lose your head. Move forward, and try to learn the lesson. Especially when it hits you on a Thursday.

Thanks Mike for the pic!

Monday, November 16, 2009


in cooking rice, the part where rice is 'prepared' for eating is called 'in-in' in Bicol (my other language aside from Filipino and English). in traditional cooking, once rice boils, you take out the excess water (called 'am-am' --- hmmm, monosyllabic repeats here huh?) but not so much as to leave it dry. you leave a little for water for rice to become soft enough to eat, not hard and dry.

this process of 'in-in' i also apply in writing. sometimes, if you write non-stop or just into serious writing, there is a time when you need to stop and move away from it.  to be isolated from your writing and allow thoughts to germinate in your head. for truly, as i experience it, once i'm into a topic, i can't stop thinking about it. just like yesterday, sunday, my non-working day, while on the bus to fremantle i was still taking notes. fresh thought or first thoughts, as natalie would call it. but i did not write when i got back to the flat after the bbq. it took a lot of will since i wanted to save time by not moving the writing for monday. but i just won't i've given it my mondays to saturdays. and sundays away from writing is also like 'in-in'. you prepare your writing for the next day. by the time you attack it on the next day, your mind is fresh and uncluttered. 

just like when preparing for exams. my dad used to tell me this story about his friend's son. who's really studious he studies with a lot of focus weeks before a scheduled exam. then a week before the exam date, that guy would play basketball, go to the movies, hang out, date, or just drive around manila whiling away his time.  he doesn't cram. he doesn't peek into his notebooks hours before the exam. the time he's given the exam papers would he let his mind work. and work it does because he always aces the exam! top of the class!

well for all of you out there who have deadlines to fill or in the cramming phase, i'm not saying that you leave your writing for extended periods. you've already lost precious time. but what i'm saying is that minutes, hours, and a day away from writing will not hurt.  rest your mind and as it has been said before, writing will come to you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I, the Cross-Stitcher

I've made progress on my 2nd sunday. See the difference with the 1st picture? I can't download closer pics of the piece since the Nokia cable is no longer working. Sira na yata --- ewan!

i started cross-stitching when i was in grade 6. it was a class project and i did not fare well which means my work was not fit for display in an HE exhibition done for the same year.  someone else's work did, a classmate of mine. i don't like her so i dare not mention her name in this precious blog. but anyway, 'it', the cross-stitching bite got to me again sometime in 1994 (estimate) when cross-stitch became 'in' that they even held national level competitions in shangri-la (i wonder, do they work on the same pattern, you know, to be fair?) and male cross-stitchers were even featured in TV (sabi ko na nga ba, basta lalaki ang gumagawa ng gawaing pambabae nagkaka-mileage di gaya nating mga babae kasi expected tayong manahi diba?)  

the first cross-stitch i did then in 1994 was an image of Jesus Christ to be a sort of blessing or para mabasbasan ang aking cross-stitching career.  sa awa ng Diyos, i was able to make 4 more pieces after that. all animal motifs. if not for my sister yumi who forgot to email the pictures to me today, i would have featured them here now. in another blog na lang. animal motifs: 1. panda; 2. australian sheep dog (just before i left for australia in 1997) in memory of bardagol, our mighty askal who ruled the village (left and right territories) from 1987 to 1994. bardagol was widely known in our village that neighbors would refer to us (his masters) as "ah, amo ni bardagol"; 3. daisy duck (those cute all-in sets just for fun); and 4. a group of 5 puppies in memory of my dogs: aringkingking, fido-dido, babajee, statistics, and mestizo (i still get teary-eyed over them...). 

when i got back from australia, i went to stitching mode again. but perhaps to signal my very busy work and lifestyle, including the interferences of romance which all failed dismally of course, i never got to finish three which i started. the first was again a pack of dogs (yeah, mahilig ako sa A-NI-MAL!) in blue basketweave (started just before i met Old Man); a star angel in black (here i realized i don't like working in black basketweave; started just before Old Man left me) and God's Little Angel in cream (dedicated to Yaman, the product of Old Man and me). so you can say that my cross-stitch pieces were never isolated from the kind of life i'm living at the moment. they always bear a trace of what's happening in my life at that certain time. 

now in my second sunday of totally enjoying sunday, here i am renewing my cross-stitch vows.  i looked at my progress for 2 years and it's not much, considering that after giving birth to yaman, i sort of made up and double-timed with work, being a single mother. in manila, i just did not have the time. Yaman have seen my work and thank goodness, she doesn't fidget at all with my threads or play with the needles and scissors. i even gave her a basketweave cloth just the size of my hand for her to work on. with needle and thread, with me looking on of course. but she just is not yet at it.

when i started last last sunday, i discovered that i forgot bring the pin cushion from my cross-stitch kit (a box bought from papemelroti), and forgot to buy DMC thread #920 (see the bare patch in the angel's left foot?).  i did not bring the kit, you see, as it was quite bulky. so i had to settle (and quite nicely) with the makeshift kit, a champagne box, about to be thrown away by ate babot (lives in winthrop).  see, it holds my threads, special scissors (used for cutting threads and cloth only), needles, 'holed' cardboards for holding spare threads (each hole for one thread identified by number). the box is big enough to hold my work and the pattern. bulky but it makes do.  perfect.

cross-stitch is a labor of love. one will not have the patience to trace the paths and crisscrossing of threads from this square to the next, without inspiration, without the thought of finishing a piece worth displaying, worth giving. i am not a finicky stitcher. i'm even embarrassed to show the back because it's a bit messy with threads knotted here and there, loose finished ends showing like little hairs. in some spots, the threads have overlapped so much that i don't know where to start inserting my needle to start a new direction or thread.  what i am conscious about is the making of 'x's'. 

instead, i make sure that the threads are well spread out and not twisted, which it becomes after continuous diving and pulling. i also use new batches of threads quite often. the standard length for cross-stitching is the distance from any finger tip to your elbow. this way, the threads don't look run down (walang himulmol) or frayed.  pulido kumbaga.  and my technique is to first start with one direction, normally bottom left to upper right to be a bit fast and efficient. that's consistent all throughout. this way, the first direction sets out the pattern. it is the more difficult part because you have to trace the movement of the pattern. how many squares to the right here, to the left, top, bottom or criss-crossing? are the stitches in order? the point of reference being adjacent squares distinguished by position, color. sometimes, one has to think --- what's the best way to start so that i can link many squares as much as possible with one color and save on thread? the second direction is then just mince-meat. i can watch movies over my laptop while stitching the other direction since the first had it all laid out.

and then there's the math. of counting exactly to the mid-point of your cloth were everything starts.  in cross-stitching, one always starts at the middle and works outward.  the point of reference is alwats the middle point. good that now, pattern-making has become sophisticated, the mid-point is already pointed out. back when i was in grade 6, i had to count from the squares in the pattern to the squares in the basketweave. so all in all, cross-stitching is not just a labor of love. it's a labor of diskarte, and a lot of patience too.

i'm not sure when i'll finish. this first quarter of the pattern i'm working on will take about 8 sundays or 2 months. so perhaps in a year i will finish. my target is to finish the piece before the phd. uhhmmm? this sounds realistic, doable, and motivating. it makes me want to work harder on my phd monday to saturday so i could deserve the whole sunday off for stitching. God bless cross-stitching. God bless needlework. God bless the work of (arthritis-free) untiring loving hands.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writing Half Way

the proposal i'm making is 80% finished. i was in the middle of a sentence when i had to stop since yaman is already online at around 8pm. little did i know 10pm is fast approaching and i had to be in bed by 10pm. tomorrow, the bbq's on and as it is sunday, it's my day of rest and my day of cross-stitching. so that sentence will hang. writing would have to wait this time. and the supes too!

Friday, November 13, 2009


writing is such a tonic. i just let my thoughts flow and roll down in black on a white screen. believing on imperfect writing that would later 'work' in shaping and ordering my thoughts. what an irony, the proposal writer admonished for not writing a 'true' proposal. well, here's one smoking-hot proposal for the two of you. if this doesn't instruct or enlighten you of my questions and arguments, then might as well take up Supervision 101 and relearn your stuff. anak ng tinapa! if this is still not a proposal, then what is? at my desk from 7:48am, i'm now signing off. after walling off all distractions for the day (youtube, drinks at the Tav, webcam), i'm hitting the sack, plunking.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I am Angry

because i have been working my behind off on a draft for two months now, then less than 2 weeks before my presentation, i am told to change it
because i am supposed to appear 'ignorant' with my topic at this stage, and i should not get ahead of the proposal examiners
because i am supposed to be sifting through my research questions and not my arguments
because i am already into designing my methodology and now i have to go to back write the intro again, 'recast' it ---- @#%$^$^%!!!!!
because in the flow, i'm along mid-stream and i'm told to bail out and start again
because it is not a river i should negotiate but a little bank of muddy waters and i got to get clear water
because it's hard to start start start again when i'm longing to do much more
because probably they're right
i'm still ignorant
i have yet to learn
what i learned is not enough
what i did was not enough

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tender Mercies

when combing my wet hair backwards this morning and the tip around the middle touched my nose, i knew i needed a haircut. so off to Hairess (in-school salon) i went and had a trim after 4 months...4 months! it's quite strange how the work of another's hands, snipping-snapping here and there could actually make you feel good.

yet the irony is, sitting in that salon chair, you are actually at the mercy of your hairdresser who profess to make you beautiful while holding a scissor that could cut through your throat. not many of us are without this experience of getting a bad haircut and wanting to get even, by 'killing' the one responsible. if hair is one's crowning glory, you'll kill for glory right? that's why there's this expression in the philippines. once you see someone with an awful haircut, you say, 'patay na ba? (is it dead?)' the 'it' being no other than the hairdresser (or barber). 

but really, we are at their tender mercies.  they hold very sharp and hot instruments (e.g., razors, blades, shavers, blowers, hot plates). they make us lie helpless while controlling our bodies, our faces, our hands, our feet, our armpits, our very head. this control is the very reason i never had a pedicure or manicure ever in my life.  i could hear my mom complain of the pain as her ingrowns are removed and nails are cleaned at their seams. when i ask her why she doesn't complain, mom would look at me as if not understanding the question. as if pain is part of the experience and it is to be embraced. in our village in naga, one woman who had diabetes got amputated because of a botched pedicure job. i cringe. still, off women go to parlors and salons. we trust them in the name of beauty.

the stories of our lives we share to them as well.  we talk to them, discuss our day, the highlights, our kids reading at the age of 3, our boyfriends who no longer call, our hang-ups with our in-laws, our plans to go to hongkong etc. etc. in one salon in manila, the woman beside me getting a perm was meeting with her lover --- her toyboy inside! the salon is their meeting place especially at the time when men as 'metrosexuals' could alternate going to barbershops and salons. one hairdresser shared to me that she services married women, and their husbands and their queridas without the former knowing! perhaps after paparazzi and showbiz reporters, hairdressers are one of those people who know our inner lives, perhaps with jest or with the patience to endure it.  but still we trust them, perhaps as a way to escape.

in salons, we expect and are made to believe that we are at our best. that going out of its doors, we are showing the world our best at a certain moment. it is a different world altogether where confidence mixes up with reality, and at one moment we see the eternity and fragility of beauty, and escape.  'thanks amie for making me feel so good.', i said to the hairdresser in Hairess.  truly, i felt good. and perhaps bad haircut or not, the feeling made all the difference. 

Thanks Michael for the pic!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ms. Clean

i have a clean of bill of health! according to christine, the murdoch doctor, there's nothing 'wrong' me.  right there in her room, in plain sight, she analyzed my urine sample (in a whopping 10 seconds! with a swab and indicator set) and said it was just fine. well, perhaps 'self'-medication helped as i have not taken coffee, tea, cola since nov 3. i take just water and cranberry juice (good for easing UTI symptoms). sleeping at 10pm till 6am probably helped in my bio-rhythm as my kidneys and liver underwent their 'normal' discharging functions as my body is rested early not like previous months when i entertained sleep past 12 midnight till about 3am. perhaps it pays to listen to the body this way as it reminds us of our fragile physical and mental states, and that everything, as in everything could be gone in one flick if we ignore its 'signs'. it's humbling to start life like this. listening well aware to echoes, murmurs, numbing sensations --- little pains that mean a lot for ageing fragile humans like moi.