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)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exhaustion Point

so far, since march 2010, i've finished 81+15+5 = 101 household interviews. at around 328pm today, just rounded up the 101st interview at barangay lerma, one of the oldest squatter communities here in naga city. incidentally today, i was able to catch the president of a community organization in barangay igualdad, one who has been eluding me since april. he has primed his members that a researcher from the 'urban poor' (meaning Urban Poor Affairs Office in naga which is really misleading) will be interviewing them soon. at the back of my mind, i know the interviews would be conducted in january next year. i also know that these interviews would now just serve as replication-tests of whatever finding about community mortgage programs needs to be validated. meaning, i'm no longer that eager to cover them now. as of today, nov 29, i am conditioned to covering the org in lerma-austria to cover the last community in the original list of 10, prepared since last march.

i feel like i'm done now with the households. statistically, in organizations exceeding 100 members, i've covered 10.  in organizations less than 50, more than 5 has been covered. technically, i'm done with interviewing both positive and negative cases, the former pertaining to normal cases (fully paid, partially and never paid original awardees) and the latter referring to those households not fitting the norm; namely, non-original awardees, households affected by future city demolitions, those undergoing work-for-pay programs. i've also covered comparison organizations, two of them, who are not directly assisted by the city and are under a national-government mandated program (community mortgage program).  although in qualitative research, the truth is that it is impossible to cover all that you need to know, i know that at the household level, i have covered the important issues that need to be given the time provided, and the capacity i possess.  i feel i have done enough, within the opportunities given and environments dealt with in naga city.  if next year, i need to add more household interviews, these would be minimal and only if i encounter unique households as i now venture into org-level interviews.

the org-level interviews are a new mountain to climb. although i have been dealing with community leaders as far as 2008 when i was gathering data for proposal preparation, now i had to engage with them anew on issues dealing with their relationships with members, city government, and among themselves (as federated entities).  but like a wise mountain climber who will not force herself to hike up a mountain without studying its terrain, boundaries, threatening elements, the weather; i too am stopping this coming december first to review the household data for its value; and likewise, the talking points i could gather for org-level discussion.  like now, i'm being offered new fodder for thinking about the city's tripartism strategy (which on paper speaks of partnerships that go well beyond negotiation but in reality has gone pfffft as far as org-member-city relations are concerned) and the effectiveness in which organizations work to protect the welfare of members not only vis-a-vis the city but also among themselves.  my guide now is this: don't ever assume vitti. always, always test and check your assumptions.

before i leave for manila this coming thursday, i will have the satisfaction of wrapping up one of the most grueling 5 months of fieldwork on households. five months. God, help me. help me make it worth it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crazy over a Lock

i bought a cabin bag for the trip to perth. at sm-naga.  the deciding factor was the TSA lock. the lock is recommended for international travel because in airports using stringent security measures. in case your luggage needs to be inspected, with a TSA lock, airport officials have the standard key so there's no need to ransack the bag and leave it precariously open. i could not reset the number combination in this TSA lock and it's driving me crazy. i could not get over it, even now that ShadowMan told me to leave it alone. i could not. it's driving me crazy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yaman's Colors

 Yaman's art is truly her own. no genes, no special inspiration. just her innocence and genius at the highest peak. 

I still can't figure out why she called this Dora.

The best start drawing ever, and not because it's my daughter's.
A gem on the side of the computer table. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Desperately Being Lady

i am a woman inside although i'm more comfortable with shirts, pants, and i wear my hair short.  now that i'm on fieldwork, my get-up is more defensive, 'tomboy-style', of maong and ordinary shirts. this is intentional, to be less confrontational when on the field, to be less academic ang dating, and invite cooperation rather than haughty stares. as much as possible, i just want to blend. the only time i get to be a little more girlie, formal is in church. two sundays ago, i attended the 7am mass in mt. carmel. it must be with how i look as the church usher asked whether i could assist in the offertory procession, assigned to carry no less than the Holy Water!

ShadowMan wouldn't say in straight like i do but he slipped when en route to the airport last monday, he asked, if possible, for me not to have my hair cut like this, this short...and that, well, he preferred that i be more ladylike...

ladylike. ladylike. one thing i haven't been, well sort of, since i stopped working in adb and wearing those smart tops and leather shoes. my wardrobe then wouldn't even be considered really ladylike as there's no skirts or dresses. i even compromise with pink, present in only one polo blouse, which incidentally Shadowman likes.

ladylike. it's quite difficult given my frame now. and as i know me, i may be ladylike in one season to just revert to my simple, laidback and mannish style in a while.  i don't know, let's see.  true love has a way of changing people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


by accident, i moved the frames on the wall in front of me while arranging framed collages of yaman's pics over the years.  after reviewing my supervisor's paper this afternoon, i was left exhausted. so just earlier, at about 755pm, slumped back here in my chair, facing the white wall again. until in a serendipitous moment, my eyes fell on the cross in front of me --- The Serenity Prayer.

have it ever occurred to you why Serenity needs to go with Courage and Wisdom when it comes to dealing with change? perhaps because it is evil to just end in stasis, choosing to be blind or to be selectively blind, not finding the words when one has resources at one's disposal, embracing meekness. but truths need tempering, tact, a deep thinking over of lost causes and causes that matter.

in this PhD, i thought i will rest until the last period is punched. there's no resting from now on. but i know where i stand.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stopping and Instinct

because this is phase 2 fieldwork, i am filled with new data collected for the past two months and the old data carried over, gathered last march to june.  i know i have to move up to the study of organizations now. but i feel like stopping. to think through the data, write and find a more strategic way to gather org-level data in the coming 4 months. actually this december, since only 9 days would be spent here in naga, i'm planning to organize finally the household data, read through the transcripts and immerse into the experiences of the orgs i've selected. no, i am not following another standard method in the field. i'm just doing this by instinct. after experiencing such a heavy load on my chest since monday. as if there's something wrong with immediately immersing into the org-level in-depth interviews, with the household data left hanging.  lately, i've been having insecurity dreams: being caught bathing in public, being heckled while reading out my poetry in public. in both dreams, i am fighting off the antagonists. the first, i nearly strangled to death, and the second, who happened to be william baldwin, rammed in the head by the folder in hand.  i am insecure but i know what i'm doing. i'm ready to defend. so now i'm stopping.  not to hibernate and do nothing. but to work deeply with my hands, reconnect, refill the spirit of my bones.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Caleruega on ShadowMan's Day

last november 21 was ShadowMan's birthday. perhaps because we were so tired, heading from Tagaytay to Manila; he dropping by Ian's still, and me left at home to cook spaghetti, around 9pm, blogging time, my brain cells were no longer working ok, thus the 'ek-ek' blog that failed to capture the highlight of the day --- my hubbylabs' birthday!  and perhaps to show how burned out we were in our worlds --- me struggling with headaches, vomiting and an upset stomach in naga; and he, with a big conference to handle at smc, there was no blog at all for nov 22.

The view we come for in Tagaytay...

ShadowMan drove all the way to Tagaytay. Here amid a raging sunset on a Saturday.
it's the first of many birthdays spent with him at 41.  ShadowMan has this morbid idea of dying at the age of 65, which what? would leave us 24 years to spend his birthday?! no way. no deaths this time, we have 24 and many more years to celebrate life, we two 'ancients' who know more this time. the pictures here attest to how Nov 21 was spent, the highlight of highlights of which was a visit to Tagaytay and an old Church ran by the Dominicans called the Caleruega.  our love is as old and renewed as this church.

The Caleruega is actually not in Tagaytay but Nasugbu, Batangas. According to Wikipedia, the name actually comes from the birthplace of St. Dominic in Spain.


The magnificent altar showing Jesus's Transfiguration. As such, the church is also called the Transfiguration Chapel.
The Holy Chalice, an unmissed detail, at the center.

Resurrection and Transfiguration in symbolic form.
The Birthday Boy in bloom...
The Caleruega is also a Church within a park of pine trees such as this one. ShadowMan found the place 'too bright' on what appears to be a dusky day.
Hungry na? I bet you too...
Take this call muna from Cel...Relaxing amid the breeze and view of the mountain ranges...
My Michael surrounded by angels. This is the winding staircase inside the Old Seminary.
We'll have fish for lunch then?  Here's the pond below the winding staircase.
And a sip of mountain water...
We'll always be together my love...Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love, Hot, Down

there is a time to make and not
to get and not
to just lie and not
wake up, be the same
even without

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Being a Wife

i have been a mother for 5 years ago (a year of it absentee/ cyberific) but i have yet to be wife, fulltime. the times i could be for Shadowman, here in Manila, are still few and short (at most 3 days) to even attest that here i am, really taking care of a man.

for indeed, a wife takes care of the husband in the private and informal sphere established by society. we occupy the private and informal, away from the public work sphere that the husband occupies. the husband goes off to work, in charge of bringing home the bacon so to speak. while the wife ensures that the home is taken care of, with hot meals to come home to, clothes washed and pressed, house cleaned, bills paid in full and in time and the food stock always full. and the children bathed, well-fed, and at home.  one joke we're found off at the ARC is that among us female postgrads, we should get a wife to make our lives easier. that the luckiest is luky, the indonesian, who has a wife to come to. he need not about cooking, the laundry, budgeting, and even minding kid stuff.

i'm just talking here of the economic sense and not yet the values, and morality that goes with wifehood. i have yet  to blog on this as this still have to be experienced. but i'm getting a taste of the other side, a whole new world ventured primarily out of love. so yeah, now i blog as the hubby is still sleeping soundly like a baby in the other room. and i have to go. got to make breakfast.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Home is a Christmas Tree

home is where a christmas tree is
made by hands, small and big
hearts still alive and innocent
the holidays an occasion
to both forget and remember
forgiveness that knows no territory
love that always finds a sanctuary
the tree is my homing place

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Visitas

around 9am today, i rounded up my 10th interview in abella. at so early a time, did a spur of the moment thing. decided to do a Visitas Iglesias; at first, at only Cathedral, Basilica, and Mt. Carmel, until after passing by it, San Francisco Church was added to the list. so starting 930am, trekked around Naga on foot (San Francisco-Cathedral) and commute (Cathedral-Pe├▒afrancia-Mt. Carmel-Immaculate Conception Church-Holy Cross Parish-Tabuco) until 1148am.

it is so easy to be puffed with self-importance when doing a phd all by yourself. without an assistant, i do my interviews, transcripts, data processing, and secondary data gathering to the simple tasks of buying supplies, filing, and working up daily and weekly fieldwork schedules. it's so easy to think that you're doing the phd all by your lonesome. self-pity and hubris is not far behind.

although a spur of the moment thing, the Visitas, especially the quiet of the church this regular workday, and the one-on-one commune with God as embodied in our beloved Ina and Jesus on the cross, could grant a whole new different perspective in what i'm doing.

for one, i'm not doing this phd all by myself. one gross mistake on my part. my support networks are so rich to the point that i could even go out on the field without worrying about yaman and her needs. i am away from ShadowMan but every time he hovers and asks how i am. even from a distance, i need not worry over losing him to temptation because of the trust he assures me every day. i think of my mom and her many sacrifices, of elvie's patience, in allowing me to immerse in work even after coming home from the field. my little girl Yaman is growing in understanding and is back to her usual self of now drawing and designing cakes online especially 'for mommy'. i think of her school, village montessori, and the intellectual and emotional care they're adding on to her.  my bestfriend, Angeline, whose experience in mothering, reassures me all the time amid my doubts on my capacity for mothering.  i remember old friends like Joey who never fail to ask how i am almost every week. Dr. Galicia and Dr. Joson, whose diagnoses on my breasts have saved me from worrying on yet another thing in doing this phd. my brother and sister who become pseudo-dads and moms everytime yaman needs extra care when sick, stuck in school because of heavy rains, or just plainly being a kid. and there is jane and carol who are helping me now work from theory to empirical evidence to my own theory-building.

i am not alone. i fly on the wings of others and stand on others' shoulders. i am truly humbled.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To My Love, Asleep

while the night is still long for one who has yet to sleep, in my heart i'm satisfied with the love shared with you today. no man makes my day complete but you. 100 interviews do not measure up. i may have my moments but i still chose to start and end my day with you my beloved, my ShadowMan, the true love of my life. there's nothing left to wish for but for a lifetime shared with you. there's nothing left to wish for but for our wishes to come true...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We are All Mai Mislangs

we are all mai mislangs. our hubris and recklessness take the better of us, sometimes out of sheer carelessness, or just complacency. i could still remember in 1999, i was interviewed for my request for a straight phd promotion by ausaid. how do i assess their work in the philippines, i was asked. and i answered, well with the poverty overwhelming mindanao, it appears ausaid's impact is shallow. i did not lie. but the occasion did not call for the truth. so i kissed the straight phd goodbye when the ausaid officer exclaimed, 'such an interesting assessment for an agency funding your studies'.

so who am i to throw the first stone? even though it's so easy to hate her, and her actions further smeared the below-par and inexperienced staff of the current president (reflective of his poor political record), i'd rather leave her alone. it's enough to suffer from your own mistakes. it's enough pain to think twice before you speak, write, endure being a public persona for the next 6 years. it's hard being the real mai mislang already.

what we should never forget is that one time in our life, yesterday or the future, we will all commit a mai mislang. for a few words not even exceeding a paragraph, we would be held accountable, riled at, ridiculed below the belt, or withheld the best opportunities because we failed to think wisely before releasing them. and like mai mislang, we would wish for the noise to go down, for prolonged sympathy, and certainly, more than one chance to bury our wrongs with many many rights.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sexy as Bald

the day i saw bembol roco in the flesh, in the grounds of Colegio de Santa Isabel, at 12, i knew i like bald men. bald men hold a certain aura, of confidence and self-control that can only be had after enduring stares to an absent crowning glory. i'm not saying bald men do have these qualities, but it sure do takes some guts to wear none but just your head to the world.  my advice to my brother is to shave it all off, ala bruce willis or andre agassi, in case the thinning could no longer be reversed by shampoos and tube formulations. for me, hair has never been an issue. losing it is even a come-on. lucky for Shadowman.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Blessed Little Children

what seems to be is not
forgiveness a simple but brave act
from little children we learn
how to just forget and move on

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blog Hate

lately i just don't want to blog. it's taking a toll on my momentum. like, after note-taking, preparing interview guides, at the back of my mind, i would still be reminded --- the blog! i'm definitely taking on too much with so little time, in 24 hours. i come to the point of not finding what to write. while before my mind is a tabula rasa, white space; now, i refuse to be white. i refuse to think for this blog.  blogging is no longer light work. i'm hating it.

Friday, November 12, 2010


now i blog because i have to, and not because i want to. tomorrow would be better than today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


i hope the little headache
is  not anything serious
because if with the headache
comes forgetfulness
what other cause
there is to fear?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holy Now

i'm waiting for a call
that will never come
for now
i am awake
surrounded by sleepers
for now
toiling until the last hour
making sense of script
for now

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Weight of Blogging

blogging is the one constant thing i have been doing since starting Natalie's challenge in 2008. it's been a duty, hard and daunting, as i've realized that committing to a task every day, is one of the most difficult commitments ever. since january 2010, i've missed blogging 11 times already, and this does not count the 'daya' when ShadowMan would blog for me. in this fieldwork, where i've learned from phase 1 the hard lesson of transcribing and keeping one's notes in order, i could hardly blog without reminding myself everyday that i have to do. it's becoming a chore i'd rather not do. but because i commit i'm here. and sometimes, i blog with a sad, angry, tired disposition. forcing myself to, with heavy hands.  how i wish i could commit as staunchly to other physical essentials like walking, watching what i eat, eating fruits and veggies, and holding a hobby other than reading.  how i wish i could commit as deeply to the values of patience, tolerance, self-control, and trust as i seem to be losing my hold on these. blogging is a duty worth taking after all. i may learn to do more, be more, give more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Memorable Specks After All

just a week ago, i learned from my brother that a fellow Bikolano UPean, straight from el-bi, is now battling with stage 4 cancer. indeed, it is very easy to say, let him be, stage 4 cancer is incurable anyway. that was admittedly my first reaction when i heard the news. i even thought, he must be killing himself because he intends to do at least 4 major 'projects' (a book launch, a piano concert, selling of shirts and postcards, selling of his private manuscripts) to raise money for his chemotherapy.

but after taking yaman to school and walking along the windy subdivision where their school is, i began to wonder, how does one really approach the reality of dying early?  early as in half a period earlier than the national life expectancy. early as in your only child is only 3. early as in you'll be leaving your wife to take on the role of father and sole provider soon. early as in, you will never have the privilege of being able to take things for granted. like getting a smoke, having one bottle of beer, reading a newspaper without thinking of yourself, pausing to take pictures here and there. blogging just for the heck of it. just allowing time to pass by unnoticed. when one gets sick and terminally ill, the intangible and precious commodity that is time could no longer be had.

you want to compress everything in an instant. if your life can fit a scrapbook then so be it. one aims to an act of heroism by leaving an imprint of the life spent in so short a time.  in a paradox with my thoughts yesterday, faced with the prospect of death, we yearn to find a bit of instrumentality and importance to our existence as specks in the universe. we are memorable specks after all. that we mean something to someone after all. in this way, death can be defeated.

death can be defeated by memory.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In Your Will and In Your Time

strange, but it must be how the universe works.

i failed to attend mass the past 2 sundays, first because of sickness on the first and of a skin regimen that needs resting on the second.  i have been feeling low for the same past 2 weeks ---balancing relationship needs, tending to Yaman and her impossible thoughts at 5, and this frustration over fieldwork. i went to mass today to just attend mass. the priest may have just been there to give one. but in the mysterious workings of the universe, his sermon on the women with 7 husbands and how Jesus was tested by the Sadduccees on a question on the afterlife, brought me back to my senses.

The priest's challenge was for us not to concentrate on the question but on the motive behind it. that our tendency is in questioning God of the events unfolding in our lives.  the motive in our questioning is the pride innate in our being human, but at fault nonetheless. because our pride leads us to think that we do not deserve to face these defeats and disappointments. that we are so puffed up with self-importance we forget our place as mere specks in the sands of time.

i have been to a lot of questioning and to less of praying lately that i have forgotten one mantra that i keep repeating every day i get to pray, 'In your Will and in your Time, Lord.'  I seem to be forcing a lot of issues even though they are still in their inception stage. I have forgotten the glory in unfolding, the prize of patience.

Last night on TV, i saw this old lady, the lola of a 12-year old kid with Morquio syndrome. i think she was asked how she learned to accept the fate of her grandson. she surprised me when she answered, 'kailangan tanggapin ang ganitong sitwasyon dahil basta tinanggap mo ng maluwag, Sya na ang bahala. bakit hindi tatanggapin ang isang kaloob ng Diyos?' what is there not to accept from the God who knows all things?

the answers i seek were in an ordinary Sunday mass and a grandmother whose serene face i could not forget since yesterday. there would never be a God this good. Thank you Lord. In your Will and in your Time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


there are times when i wish i have not been a mother. as a mother i suck. i don't know how to pacify my daughter. to the point, she now raises her fists to me. she no longer says 'i love you'. no longer makes drawings of hearts, or mommy and daughter together. perhaps it is wrong to say 'my'. it is just wrong to possess her this way. better not expect.  i do not deserve anything.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lost to the Challenge

i have reached a point where preoccupation with more important things has pushed the blog to the margins of the mind and of time. mea culpa. natalie's challenge has been lost for 2 days. i'm now writing without my right foot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forgiveness and Candy

my nephew, Gab, just had a run-in with Yaman this morning. this led him to cry on end, 'long-playing' as we call it. burying his head on the sofa, he just couldn't stop wailing until his lola brought him this tupperware full of cookies, candies, and lollies. not long after, Gab was still and moments later, was already coaxing Yaman (who apologized by bringing Gab a lampin to wipe his tears) to pry open his lollipop.

it is amazing how kids like Gab could be comforted with a piece of lolly. how children with their pure hearts and kind innocence readily forget a fault, release burdens of guilt, and just embrace forgiveness indeed as simple as candy.  is it possible to retain this kind of simplicity among adults after encountering injustice, betrayal, and just open hostility? can battle scars be healed indeed by just one bar of chocolates, one serving of skyflakes, one piece of lollipop enough to make us trust again our once-enemies?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Negotiating a Relationship

the phd is reaching a point where ShadowMan and i had to adjust. adjust on the times we spend texting each other. the times when long silences and unanswered texts are becoming the norm (usually from my part). when sometimes talking over cyberspace is not enough to bridge divides brought about by one mind working on other things than just skyping.

long before this started though, i told him already that i will reach a phase, in doing this phd, of absolute crankiness, moodiness, aloofness. in short, i will slowly be showing my horns. as much as i try to balance, i would inevitably be imperfect, and in due course, hurt the people i love.  and i am talking not only of ShadowMan, but also Yaman, my mom, my bestfriends, my siblings, Elvie our household help, people within sighting radius.

because i need to be selfish once in a while with my time. because time is a valuable resource when it comes to doing a phd.  i do not want to use the excuse --- because i'm just human. because i'm naturally human. i could not be anything more. instead i say, because it just happens. it's an inevitable part of being in relationships. the give and take is not always 50-50 as sometimes the pendulum bends a little bit deeper on the other end because of the circumstance. 

change is a constant but also conditional state. we adjust because of the conditions.  in my relationship with ShadowMan, i do not proclaim to be a God(dess). but i will always be me.  perhaps that is the more important thing. the essence of the woman Shadowman loves is there. she happens to be just doing her phd.