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)

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. 

Monday, November 9, 2009


if there is one word which would describe politics, for me, it would not be power. rather, it would be 'relationships'. power is essentially a relationship between the powerful and the powerless, and all things in between. 

as i study politics (political economy), i still have not arrived at an adequate working definition of what politics is or what even political economy is.  all definitions i encounter seem to be off-tangent (like, politics is the study of government or how resources are allocated through political means --- puh-lease!) or too long (one was 4 sentences long --- i don't wanna care!).

in all definitions, what stuck like glue to me is though is the dynamics of relationships and how these are inherent in any discussion political. so there. to simplify and to hold my brain from roaming, i sum up P=R.  the relationship revolve not just on resources but also on opportunities, actions, decisions and their extremes --- as in, what cannot be an opportunity, what cannot be a field of action, what cannot be a field of decision. here one can see norms, values, and traditions at work which tend to 'hide' the biases. thus, there is the politics of the body, the politics of sex, the politics of family, the politics of romance --- examples which do not revolve around 'resources' within the context of economics or development aid but are still within the political realm. 

it's hard, doing a doctorate and still a greenhorn when it comes to politics.  i grope like an undergrad and i had to assimilate and sift at the same time. but it's also liberating as being 'new' to the field gives you fresh insight and here i could inject my experience as proposal writer, socio researcher, and development consultant. i am for instance, relieved that my framework for problematizing my research was eerily similar to World Bank's problem driven approach in political economy analysis. so i'm there or perhaps i have a 'natural' grasp of it given my experience in development consulting. i may know how to probe a development problem since that is what i do when i write a proposal. i may know how to understand dynamics as i have experienced being a part of a project and seeing it falter or fly with golden wings once implemented. 

so to my friends in consulting, perhaps if i will give you one unsolicited advice that you should take, it would be this. treat any project that you have as if you are God and you are vested with the power to change relationships --- whether you be in envi, training, finance, tourism, engineering, architecture, education, agri, water resources, or whatever.  wouldn't you be afraid? wouldn't you feel more responsible?  wouldn't you be more awake in meetings and be more proactive working on the field?  frightening right? it challenges you to be 'present' in what you do. challenges you to see the other half as well (i hope). challenges you to look into your motives. challenges and seduces you to either follow or make a stand.  challenges you to look at the dirty side and gauge how strong you are.

one time, in the painful experience i had with woodfields, i realized that standing between doing what is right and what is wrong is one's principles. there are many in consulting who have lost their principles or cannot no longer distinguish them because they have forgotten the essence of relationships. they play within dirty politics, dirty relationships.  so there's the challenge.  what politics do you believe in? what politics do you play?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thanks Abalantung

even if clouds envelop the night
there will always be stars
even in an arid desert
air floats and hovers
perhaps i am that to you
i am never gone
never far away
i am with you in every heartbeat
the stars in your night
air that surrounds you
tonight we share the dreams
of the content

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Having a Life

i'm rushing. within 8 minutes, i should be in bed, legs raised and in another 10, perhaps snoring off to dreamland. by tomorrow, i wake up at 6am, hear mass, cook lunch, finish the last article on tenure, then cross-stitch. yes, cross-stitch. an unfinished piece, brought from the philippines, for Yaman. i started it while she was 2 and now she's already 4! a backload of 2 years almost. good that the design will suit her at whatever age. because whether 0 or 99 past, Yaman will always be my angel. i' ve decided to have a life, and start it by reclaiming my sundays. no more sunday moments. no more sundays on a monday. but just sunday on a sunday. the unfinished article is only 8 pages so i would be finish before lunch. that's why i'm taking an early mass. for the first time in 4 months, i will be attending sunday mass at bateman on its 1st hour. that's starting sunday on the right foot. a real sunday this time. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Like Coffee for Water

i thought i'm a coffee addict. so, i was sipping my second cup of hot water this afternoon, while wrangling through this book on International Political Economy, when it dawned on me...perhaps i don't really like coffee. instead, what i really like is steaming hot water caressing my throat; the heat felt right down my chest, my heart. then i tensed up, could it be true for other things in my life that i 'like'? that there are things in my life that i don't really 'like', if i just had the choice.

could it be? that what i really want is a personal victory, apart from my career as a consultant and writer, apart from my being a mom, and before i rush head on to a lifetime career of mothering.  could it be that my phd is just my way of laying claim to me as me? if i don't get the phd, could i still be me? could i still feel fulfilled? that was my filter. i realize now, and strongly believe it, that this phd is so much about my quest for personal glory as a claim to be me.  one i call my own; a stake laid out which i had to recover before death overcomes. there could be no other way to satisfy this quest (like coffee for water --- no, no, no) but this phd.  so there...i know the phd is really what i want.

my admiration for alex o'loughlin, for George C. and that vamp boy in Twilight, do i really want them? or i'm just substituting them, like coffee for water? what do i search for in a man? looks, built, personality, intrigue, something unreachable? am i loving impossible men? do i love without reason? do i love as impossible as this?  so there, i see it. these men are just coffee. perhaps because my longing for a lover who is also my bestfriend. perhaps i do not really seek just the love of a man. but also his trust, his laughter, his conversation, his quirkiness, his forgiving and accepting nature, his unconditionality. a presence that i can count on. i wanted a bestfriend. something that i never had the privilege of having. and so, if i should like Alex, George, and Edward it's for want of a mold to suit my fantasies.  someone who measures in a way, but can't, yet i could settle for them, now, because that is all that's possible. and of course, they will never be real. as having a male bestfriend-lover has never been real for me.

so do i really like perth, or just like coffee, i'm just actually settling for the second best when i wanted was, maybe, to live in melbourne (where the australian open is held), sydney (where uncle rollie and auntie nina live), or queensland (because i heard that they have the best beaches in australia)? so is perth coffee? then i look outside busy south street and dried bush, pine trees, magpies screaming, and red-breasted doves cavorting in the sand. i smell the whisp of dry air signaling summer and feel the hot hot sun which i don't like but is so much perth. no, this is not coffee. perth is real hot water. it is boring but it suits an equally boring laidback chic like me. me and perth share the same traits. we are simple. you get what you see. but real all the time. can never be anything, but.

so there. like coffee for water.  in your life, are you enjoying really hot soothing water? or are you settling for coffee?

Thanks to Silense for the pic!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mane Madness

for the last 2 years, perhaps this is the only time hair covered my ears and has gone a bit long the back has started to turn wavy and i had to constantly brush hair away from my eyes while walking. ayayayay! my hair's getting long!

why is this an event? well, it would be. for someone who has shaved her head 6 times (the first in 1997, then 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 (2x) --- the last time before I got pregnant) and have sported crew cut hair most of the time.  aside from Karina, the hairdresser in Bliss-Mandaluyong who has Juan Ponce Enrile as a regular patron, who accidentally cut my hair short and went on with it when i dared her to shave my head in full, the only other hairdressers who could 'get' the look i want is a gay hairdresser at Ricky Reyes Salon in Project 3 and Belen of Le Camille Salon in Naga.  of them all, i like Belen best. her hands are so light that i could sleep like a baby while she's cutting my hair. and she's the first hairdresser i saw who cut my bangs in sweeping uneven style while holding it firmly upwards.  she has style.  everytime i come home from manila and go to her for a cut, she would ask, 'who previously cut your hair?' and would give this smirk, as if saying 'what a bad cut!' once i say so and so did it.

i have gone used to having short hair that in my bag, i don't even have a comb or brush. even now, what i brought from the philippines here to perth is a curl brush meant for short hair.  i'm so used to not caring about my hair that sometime before in schema (a consulting firm in ortigas), a male friend had to remind me to comb my hair as it has all gotten messed up one windy day outside while i went out on a meeting.  just this afternoon, when i got back to the flat, i nearly screamed seeing myself in the webcam (just walked along south street from the kardinya shopping centre) with hair along my right ears standing up wildly! did i come all the way from garden city (booragoon) via bus then walked along south street with this 'do'?!

hay, i even have to use two types of shampoos now, johnson's and natural instinct, alternating each day only for my hair not to get tangle dry (taught to me by my highschool mate, joyce quilon).  i have yet to get the electric fan from my former 'office' so i could dry my hair up after every bath, like i used to when i had long hair back in college. i would comb it backwards first (to prevent split ends by bringing hair from the roots to the tips --- one tip i got from reading MOD magazine way way back, as in 25 years ago!) until it dries by the electric fan. no, i don't use a hair dryer because too much heat really dries the hair up. 

that's one thing i don't like with long hair. you have to fuss over it. drying my hair would take about 15 minutes so that's another quarter of an hour to add to my rituals every morning. now with graying hair, i might even be forced to have it dyed. hay! with short hair, i won't even bother. but what did alex o'loughlin (my mr. o'loughlin! --- from the movie adaptation of Emma) say about his graying hair as well in the set of 3 Rivers (a medical drama in CBS), he's having this 'clooney look!' (from George C. who happens to be also 'my mr. clooney' he he). with hair short or shaved, i can afford have a clooney look, femme style.

but still, i wouldn't get a haircut. i will let it grow until i can't take it anymore. until the waves become so wavy a scissor would run after me and until the bangs grow so long i could no longer see. then perhaps i could learn to accept it. then perhaps, i could just have a one-length cut. and grow my hair long again. the first in 5 years.

Thanks to for the pic!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Inexcusably Mortal

after near-death experience, being sick makes me so much aware of my mortality. this physical body could not be taken for granted as from it, all flows. this blog, my stories, my studies, this capacity to love and be loved back. this earth is much more visible. and the philippines so much more remote than ever. i miss the comfort of just being with yaman, of my family near me. but the latter i could not dwell on so much as taking care of myself so there is a point for missing, for hoping.  the question --- 'what am i doing here (again)?' nags but i would rather address this 'what can i do, on my part, to repair there must be a reason why i am here.' the approach would still be physical and psychological. like how, i've 'cured' my coffee addiction by just drinking hot water instead; of how sleeping 'early' at 9pm last night made me wake at 7am and allowed me to maximize my whole day reading and note-taking; how the mere proclamation of 'i will get well' could stop me from crying and feeling self-pity at this time away from my daughter and the people i love. mortality brings you back somehow to what can be done, with what is little or left, and what still could be had, at best.

Thanks to Vladimir for the pic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not Holding This In

i am self-repairing for now. innumerable trips to the bathroom since friday and difficulty urinating means i may have UTI. i've been to the doctor this morning but i'm on the waiting list and i'll get to meet one only for next tuesday, at 330 pm! what a wait! in the meantime, i drink coco juice (manufactured from Thailand), lots of water, and refrain from too much coffee (only drank 1/4 of a mug --- couldn't help it, my head aches!).  tomorrow, i'm buying cranberry juice since literature says it helps. of course frustrated because the situation here is so much unlike the philippines where doctor's services can be had via walk-in. i have scoured some other OHSC-accredited doctors near murdoch and i'll call them tomorrow.  i'm a bit concerned this UTI will worsen if i don't see a doctor.

i keep holding it in you see. in the literature, more women tend to contract UTI than men although it is not definitive whether we're more inclined to hold it in than them. i hold it in during writing class (we have uninterrupted writing sessions of 25-45 minutes), when i'm on the bus. sometimes i just refuse to rise up and go to the bathroom when i'm in the middle of a dream. it's not ok to hold it in. just like anger, resentment, guilt, frustrations, and even fear. it's just likely to destroy you, and perhaps kill you in the end.

Monday, November 2, 2009


i'm feeling very inspired today. though tired after vacuuming and these innumerable trips to the bathroom. 
so inspired, i want to be well enough to live longer.
so inspired, i elect to feel beautiful each day.
so inspired, i pledge to pray before every meal, my simple way of showing gratitude for grace undeserved.
so inspired i pledge to be efficient from mondays to saturdays, to claim my sundays back.
no, there is no special someone.
yes, me and yaman are well and good.
i cannot say it's nothing (my usual expression) because it's a start, a meaningful re-start.
i pledge to live again.

Thanks Rebekah for the pic!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I, The Seeker

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves told of the significance of the number 7 in women's lives. there are 16 age ranges for women starting from 0 and ending at 105.  each scale representing supposedly a woman's progression to 'deep knowing', the cultivation of deep relationships with the soul. 

i've read this book like so many times since 2000, it is only now that these age scales have caught my attention. particularly at this time, alone and away from family and deliberately trying to hold at bay this workaholicism, this fastidiousness with work. according to it, at 38, i am within the age of the seeker (35-42), the time when i am seeking my 'self' and at the same time, learning to 'mother' self. 

strange but true. it may not even be a coincidence that at the median age of 38 within the scale, i chose to journey alone, and live alone as if i am collecting time and space within this nook which is the self, busy cultivating, busy building as if in preparation for something. at this age, i've begun asking questions about my relationship with my mother, her mothering, and the switch, which is my mothering to yaman as well.  i would say, i regret not having yaman at an early age (then i would not be obliged to leave her at this 'seeking' stage). but then, come to think of it, if i had yaman earlier, i would not have been this stable or emotionally prepared.  age 27-34 is the peak of my wanton years.  i was still a (hopeless) incurable romantic, worked but had no direction (started proposal writing without a mentor so i learned by 'heart' and 'trial and error'), maxed out my credit cards (but i did shop any where, bought the clothes and shoes i want, stayed in enough hotels just to rest and write), and just surrendered myself to a 'twin soul'. that's why yaman came just at the 'right' time when i was 35. yaman 'saved' me in a way from me as by love, force and obligation, i had to 'reform'. this is where love becomes transforming because love makes you see the future better.  you seem to have power over it. it helps you prepare, just as i'm preparing now. perhaps, that is why i have to seek.

but away from the pack, i get in tune with myself once more, have enough time to listen to my own voice, work with my hands to creating again, being able to concentrate my faculties quite unlike the dispersed and harried pace months ago. it all makes sense except for this mothering part. i need to be away but i shouldn't although i ought to. perhaps mothering is just like this.  away or not, i will always be a mom. just as away from her or not, i still feel my mom's connection to me, although it is faint, becoming shadows. in four years, it will be over. i hope i find what i seek.