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.