Christmas and a changing climate

There’s a scarcity of twinkling lights along Ayala Avenue this time of the year — it’s a wonder why they let go of the white ones that fall like teardrops. They’re my favorite.

There are also very few lanterns, belens, DIY bagel decors with sprigs of hollies, carols, carolers, and other kinds of traditional and modern shenanigans attending the Christmas season.

This downhill trend started that September Ondoy came.

That December after Ondoy caught many Filipinos unawares started out cold, dark, and gloomy. Epiphany was hard to come by. The mud that plastered itself on the streets, on floors and walls, and on vehicles was the least painful to remove. The memories, however, of property losses and loved ones’ deaths are the hardest to lose.


As many of us have not fully recovered from that nightmare, another one ensued. The waters came like a thief in the night. Sendong swept away properties and lives, this time in the South. There were bodies found on the streets and even along beaches. Some survivors claimed that the current crashed into their homes, leaving them no time to escape to their rooftops. One friend admitted on Facebook that had her family not woken up at dawn, the water would have filled up their house and lapped up her parents and siblings in their sleep, just like that.

So let’s forget about the twinkling lights for a moment. Teardrops are falling, those of grief and horror. There are real people who need our goodwill right now, and they need more than lanterns and sleighing songs.

Here are ways to help:

* Donate through Red Cross: Text RED <AMOUNT> send to 2899 for Globe or 4483 for Smart.

* Visit Help CDO’s Facebook page for other means of helping.

* PM me to help you connect with a South-based ministry that sends its own relief effort team to Iligan City and CDO.

My heart in Bohol

A quarter has already passed but Bohol still gives me premature ventricular contractions (translation: makes my heart skip a bit; Kuya EJ‘s GMs can come in this handy). And I still have no idea how to turn this into the late post of all late posts ‘cos Bohol still leaves me incoherent, devoid of words at times. I had my heart buried in a sandbar — Bohol is love, love, love.


Failed jump shots here and there. Ask Mia why this shot is screwed-UP. Haha! She jumped (and thus landed) too soon, even before our tour guide could holler “4!” Our backdrop by the way is the oldest stone church in the country.

Laugh when you fail. Apparently we failed another jump shot here, but the moment that came after was worth capturing (never mind if it’s blurred). That is a virgin island behind us and we are on a strip of sand here. This is where I imagined walking hand in hand with my future love, perhaps to dig the sandbar for my palpitating heart. Sarap mag-beach!

My closest encounter with the winged kind. And the scaly and the small-ish kinds. We went to this den of a caught Philippine python and had pictures of ourselves sitting ~2 feet away from a sleeping, digesting sawa (python). It just gorged on a six-month-old goat, and oh my words, the thing looked like a baby bump under the reptile’s thick skin.

So there’s the bird in the same den with the python. I wonder if the maintenance people got any idea of how hard mutualism can be manufactured in a setup like that.

The butterflies in the conservatory were friendly. But don’t be fooled by this particular lovely thing on my pinkie; its legs were tickling my pinkie and ring finger the whole time. Cute but creepy.


Bohol was like a year in the making. We’re part of the second wave in our friends’ circle that was brought by Ate Weene to her paradise of a home province. I haven’t even posted the Loboc River cruise and binging photos yet, or about the tarsier’s beady-eyed face, the death by the hanging bridge, and the Chocolate Hills trek. All of these remind me how the Philippines is so rich in so many things. And so moving forward, I’ll keep track of my local travels and someday conjure a revolutionary thought of how to fully love the world we’ve been given — our nature, our nation.

Port to paradise: Vote for the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Source: New 7 Wonders 

Freshwater flows through the steep slopes of Mt. Bloomfield light-flooding paddy fields, passes through flat, tree-lined terrains, and then snakes into an open-mouthed, towering karst outcrop called the St. Paul mountain range — which is now the site of the Philippines’ official entry to the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) may have not made it to the modern world’s new seven wonders, but it has been included in this other 28-candidate poll of Mother Earth’s crème de la crème. And this is no feat to keep mum about.

Why I’m voting for PPSRNP

There was a reason the Spanish conquerors crashed our islands for spices, and a reason my environmental science professor claimed we have the most diverse marine ecosystem. Now we have a reason to vote for the supposed longest navigable underground river — and it’s not to land a slot in Guinness or procure a diversion because we suck at football (I think we have to get our feet more wet and stick to aquatic sports like rowing; hats off to Nica & friends by the way).

The limestone formation that covers the river is estimated to have been standing there between 16-20 million years. That is longer than one civilization could last. Even the Aksumite Empire and the Vedic Period of India fell into demise after ~1,000 years. But these rocks have been here, if the computation is to be believed, even before nation-states arose and the hunter-gatherers developed their instincts for scavenging. It’s almost historically impossible.

And yet it’s there, for all Filipinos and foreigners to see. And we can rely on it better than the bamboo for a collective metaphor — that in our lowest moments we can look up to the stalactites and believe we are made of the same stuff that has kept them hanging in there.

If my analysis is right, PPSRNP is now the fourth most voted site and still going up the list to this hour. Vote on

There’s this soul 3.0

You are the thing that broke me.

The thing: your ghost in my head, the one that haunts however I revisit the place where we first met. I passed by it two weeks ago, first time this year. A thin film with you standing there and I standing there, and that tree I was staring my blank stare at, and how everything was still and expecting nothing: my mind is the reel and these are the only images it makes appear.

The thing: your way with me. Whether you liked me remains un-hinted at, but you asked for parts of me: my twelve o’ clocks, my divided senses upon crossing streets or waiting for train rides, laughs inaudible but already causing a tremor inside, my bag of bones at your door, which shed its skin and flesh on your floor, my waking hours…

The thing: the first thing at first light I wanted to recognize.

The thing, the idea of you — perhaps the timing, the events that constituted your coming and going, the stranger I came to know but didn’t know — it’s what broke me.

But of all the unexpected things the Universe poured into my earthen vessel — cold, breaking in its transgression, hard before fragile — you are the only one I wanted to keep.

And yet I couldn’t.

Yes, there really are souls I send letters in space to. But you are the thing that broke me. I don’t intend to write you anymore; for a long, long time I won’t.


Being here: A boy falling through a crevice, chasing answers, and a non-ode to this city

20140627-015221.jpgWhere am I? It’s a question that recurs; it’s chasing the answer after you’ve settled for something else for so long — more like.

I created this blog when I was still renting a cramped space in Boni with my little sister. I was 24. The first words I wrote were: Where am I now?

I remember after we hied off to the roof deck of our condominium — my little sister and I — I was looking at the towers that punctuated the Makati skyline. Exclamation points, not question marks. I knew I was going to live in that city.

Two cities, sporadic thoughts of killing this blog, three jobs, several failed dates, smaller and smaller circles of friends, and four changes of addresses after, here am I. I am still here. Two years and seven months living in Makati. Back where the first generation on my father’s side began before they dispersed to wherever they are now in the country, or elsewhere. And I’ve been thinking, how did I get here?

Because between my Mandaluyong days and Makati nights time stretched like the arms of a boy who was already falling through a crevice. It wasn’t asking where it was. It just was. And here I am, curling myself into a question mark around places I move in to. Knowing that I will not stay. I will be 27 in a month, and I know that this is not the city I will live in always. This won’t be the place where my children will grow. But I got here because I wanted to. It is a difficult place to reach.

And Makati will always be the place I fell in love in, twice. I look back at the choices I made and I feel fine. Pain enhances our pleasure sometimes. Where am I and How did I get here? There are questions inexorably linked to our choices. Perhaps we are a species always in search of better answers. I wonder why do we keep asking the same questions. One day I will pack my bags again, my eyes on a new city, and by that time I will have known an answer, which in turn will be fading slowly into something else. This city has nothing in it to drive me away, not even the tempest of a heartbreak. I will always be the first to leave. It’s in my bloodline.

I suppose this is a city that will prove difficult to say goodbye to.

Pompeii: The city we wanted to love

That there is history to reimagine is where filmmakers piss. James Cameron had the night of 14th and morning of 15th in April 1912 urine-stained down to the last second the tip of RMS Titanic’s stern slipped into the sea. But he needed several research years, a dollar amount that could build a cruise ship in its time, beyond a motley crew of talents, and 194 minutes to own that much–“A love story on an epic scale with spectacular effects,” in cinematographer Russell Carpenter’s words.

So no, we did not expect Paul WS Anderson post-Death Race to be territorial in historical tragedy. But one could not disregard a prologue by way of an eyewitness account, and quoting Pliny the Young was how this film should have started anyway. That, plus a tribe massacre, promising cinematography, and the thrill of seeing Kit Harington outside the cold, ominous walls of Westeros.

It’s a story called Pompeii.

It’s based on a textbook tale we had heard more than once, about a city buried in up to 20 feet of ash and pumice that came out of the mouth of the mythological Vesuvius. The film was dishing out a cautionary tale as it attempted to walk the line between vengeance and mercy, hope and fear, love and war. It started off strong with a show of killings, slavery, and social politics at work in the time of Pax Romana. Harington’s Milo was a Celtic horseman orphan-turned-slave-turned-gladiator. Last of his tribe, Milo was the Cesar Millan of horses and had that beastly strength, which were his ticket to Pompeii. To pit him in the same arena against Kiefer Sutherland’s Corvus over the daughter of Pompeii’s governor was the way things go bland. Here’s the man who had ordered the death of your parents, now a Roman Senator and not a stray of grey hair older, pursuing the woman you fall in love with, ending up in the same city where you were being slated to staged carnage, and you got that stroke of luck to kill his men and break the symbolic Roman lance in his face. Vengeance was served. But no case was built to make us hate the Romans, at least for this show. The other virtues merely sidings making all there was a chore to swallow.

What Anderson forgot to stuff into his 105 minutes was glory. The mighty Vesuvius rumbling in the backdrop was oblivious to the life swirling at its foot, but the movie shouldn’t have been. The sweeping eagle eye on his title city could have inspired curiosity: the collective mood of the people; traditions seeping out through language, habits, and emotions; the glory before the irredeemable fall. We found nothing in Pompeii to root for. Not even the dialogues, which could be a film’s saving grace. Character lines were worked out in morsels. At least they gave the better lines–if not the longer, more coherent ones–to Emily Browning’s Cassia: “Senator, you have mistaken me for the kind of woman who drapes herself across your lap in Rome.” We knew who was gonna get the girl. The love angle left us as dry and wanting as were the kissing plaster statues of Milo and Cassia at the final shot. Perhaps we should watch this movie again drunk. Still the trick is to not expect anything.

But if filmmakers wanted to leave the imagining of a love story on an epic scale with spectacular effects to us, we would have picked a book instead.

We recommend Jeffrey Eugenides’ reimagination of the Great Fire of Smyrna in his book MiddlesexMore or less the book-chapter equivalent of the sinking of Titanic.

Tuscents: How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

Yoga, atrophy, people: The dots in my head

I rolled out the yoga mat today, a little over a year after purchase. After doing some poses, I sat, a bit un-used to the effort. But it bought me time out of fumbling through Facebook, to reflect.

I then realized I could not breathe. This place am keeping with my sister and our friend is no longer breathable. It is undergoing atrophy. The floor hasn’t been scrubbed, curtains appear drab, a dozen boxes are in disarray. Perhaps it’s because we are leaving it anyway– two more weekends and we’re out of here. Good riddance, yeah. But I don’t want to be a person who witnesses atrophy more than she does growth, blossoming, the winter giving way to spring.

I have been the person who has given up on far too many relationships– filial, romantic, platonic, scholarly, and professional. Far too many, of course, is relative. Subjective, even. I say far too many because it’s how I feel. I pride myself for “being the first to leave.” I’ve almost committed career suicide, cut off connection with some friends, ended a relationship before it ever saw the light of day, like a chick-to-be still taking time in its shell to grow into something, if only given the chance to do so, that got fried this morning. But that’s a bad analogy. Chick-to-be will end up in a stronger animal’s stomach anyway. Humans are different, in terms of rights and value. And so I wonder why I have let a lot of my relationships decline. (A lot, of course, is just a variance of far too many.) Have I lost my ability to cultivate a relationship? Did I have it in the first place? Or is this the kind of mistake that lets you look back, reflect, and learn?

I will do yoga again tomorrow. But first, let’s fix this place I still call home.

Twenty-six (7-9)

7. When I hie off to our building’s roof deck, I feign interest in the sky. I used to be smitten by its towers and sun. Now, let me tell you a secret: when I hie off to the roof deck, I automatically turn to the east and locate you like I have built-in GPS. I guess you have become my sun and tower. Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that.

8. There is that kind of writing that forces you to look into what you deeply care about. So, yeah, you are the one I deeply care about? But the whole of it is that there is that kind of writing that forces you to look into what you deeply care about, no matter how devoid of entertainment or painful to tell the stories of those things are.

9. April is the cruelest month. I want April 9th back.

Twenty-six (1-3)

Twenty-six (4-6)


Sending letters to space and such feelings

At the risk of turning my blog into a tumblresque emotionfest–if isn’t that yet–here is the song my subconscious has been torturing me with since this afternoon. And of course, Adam Levine.

I got the message, it did send. But I decided to get on with my life.

… When I finally found the words to say, I had turned around and run away.


There is a girl who still writes you

She doesn’t know how not to

Twenty-six (4-6)

4. Spoken Word Poetry. I am smitten. There is Sarah Kay, my goddess. And Phil Kaye, the guy version, only he is his own man. I write no poetry, but I am smitten. I have listened to almost all of their performances–TED, TEDx, Bowery Poetry Club–I can sing you their poems. An Origin Story. The Type. Private Parts. When Love Arrives. When I talk to myself, I say this:

Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman men will hurt.
If he leaves you with a car alarm heart,
You learn to sing along.

– The Type

I sing–in the bathroom–

No matter your wreckage, there will be someone to find you beautiful despite the craggy metal. Your ruin is not meant to be hidden by paint and canvas. Let them see the cracks.

– Ghost Ship

One day I can sing to you all of their poems. If you will only let me.

5. I finally learn what the Universe has been trying to teach me. From one of those poems. LOVE is spelled G-I-V-E.

6.  So borrowing words from Ms Kay:  I forGIVE myself for all the decisions I’ve made, the ones I still call mistakes when I tuck them in at night.

Sometimes it’s the only way to put the star in starting over.

So if it’s not all-consuming, I will not have it. Because even if I combust, I will give give give. Give you my light. If that’s all it takes to bring you home.


Twenty-six (1-3)

Ghost Ship

Majority of Sarah Kay’s poetry make up the guideposts to my labyrinthine post-quarterlife. I’ve tacked here The Type for all my darling girls, and for me–our sticky note for when it seems easier to slip under the sheets of another only to count our wrongs afterward under ours. But this one, Ghost Ship, from her debut collection No Matter the Wreckage, is for the boy…

how do you keep a boy floating, how do you keep him above the ache?

man will drift eternal. man will say it’s just a scratch when the  cannon has shot them full of holes.

Ghost Ship

by Sarah Kay



Dear Love,

“… No matter your wreckage, there will be someone to find you beautiful despite the craggy metal. Your ruin is not meant to be hidden by paint and canvas. Let them see the cracks. Someone will come to sing in these empty spaces. Their voice will echo up your insides like a second grader and her little brother–four years younger, two steps ahead–singing until the metal vibrates, until the ghost ship wraiths.”

On the different uses of time

Sometimes: a day job is not necessarily a comfort zone but just a thin, thin thread separating:

sleeping off a growling stomach in an insufferable summer afternoon


answering emails while alternately sipping Starbucks Frappucino in your own tiny, steel-cold office cube.

Just this time: I miss writing. Badly. The kind that puts me on a punching-the-desk mode because I have written one line I can be proud of, out of a hundred. Good times, good times.

Every time: does not mean all the time. It means without exception. And it’s two words. Always.

This makes “Every time I think of you…” a questionable proposition.

Take this example: “Without exception I think of you, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Without having to exclude it from WHAT? It doesn’t make sense, right?


I still think of you. Every time.

Twenty-six (1-3)

I make lists now, to live.

Three things about me, in general:

1. Am an executionist of real-life cut-and-paste. There would be a link to a Thought Catalog dating article on my Facebook feed, the next second I would be devouring the content. It would not stop there: I would vicariously live through every word. It’s a bad habit I hope to overcome.

2. I’ve been told am a hopeless romantic. I just feel things, that’s all. Did you ever see/hear me tell someone I love him? LOVE = contains letters that spell galaxies and the universe. Am too small for love. I guess others call what-I-am a ‘hopeless romantic’. It’s better than nothing for someone from Earth.

3. Am a Leo. I catch lies as they’re told, or ten years after, when am scrubbing my skin in the shower and connecting dots on my mind. Also, the rest of the time you’ll catch me indecisive, but there is this moment when all becomes clear and anchored in deep sea. Fear or rejoice. When Leos decide to love you, it will be hard to change their minds. But we will always be the first to leave.


The cheese

A friend once told me just because someone’s story engages me does not mean I have to exploit it for gains. As a writer, I see almost everything as a potential subject. My abandoned drafts in this blog alone span 1) attempts at the socio-political–how Christmas 2013 was supposed to arrive four months ahead, but un-Christmas things rapid-fired at us at -ber months’ start: from the Zamboanga heist to Yolanda–

Perhaps, in their history of merrymaking and celebrating Christmas, Filipinos are only beginning to learn what the season truly means.

2) practices in referencing pop culture–at which I really, really suck–

‘No rush’ is what Twenty-Six said. This is the first time future visited me, something pre-time travelling Henry deTamble would understand. ‘Walk on– or in your case, brisk-walk on?’ with a lopsided grin ‘workout, do what you want. Everything’s gonna be fine.’

3) and flashbacks with boys’ names and the memories they summon when I call them at night:

The curious thing is time; so is the mind.

Because once upon a time we sat across each other on a swing– the ugly orange-brown-black of rust chipping away at the powder-blue paint on some places– I feigning fear while you alternated from rocking to abruptly halting the poor thing– producing that kind of impact that comes from pedaling a bicycle hard one moment and hitting the brakes the next. Your name was _____, and it was ’97.

So here’s how it works: I pick a current event, a character from a film I really like, a song lyric, details of a failed first date, things I miss about a person or place, or or or. When I have my subject, I feel the boldness of a mouse near cheese. I dive into writing the piece head-on, only to find traps or get chased back into my hole by a devilish Persian cat. I don’t know about the mouse, but I abandon all desire for the cheese. Maybe someday, I say.

The next day I will find another potential subject while passing by Buendia on a cab, smokers huddling, two security guards checking car rears with inspection mirrors, the bomb-sniffing dog guy chatting with the two, pedestrians crossing, scattering poems walking as e.e. cummings noted. Do they love their wives? Are they excited to go home to their waiting wives? I want to write a story about the blonde girl crossing, too. She is me, holding a secondhand book I bought with three friends at RCBC. There’s the cheese again, but the boldness will be gone: so someday.

It is within this frame of mind that I remember my friend’s words. I am a writer. If a scientist gets curious about the dust on his tabletop and begins studying it, what’s the fuss if I start wondering about what stories go on amidst Buendia’s smoke and mirrors? What stories go on beyond these?

But then, I could be making the biggest mistake of my life. In chasing any subject, I would lack the discriminate taste that writers should possess. I would have a lot of words but no message. That would be a disservice to the words I once professed my love to. But what if I’d glean a good message from another person’s story? Would that be a sign to take pursuit? Even if I would gain no applause, a good story would really bring me back to my game, the boldness of the mouse near cheese. That would be an incredible, satisfying feeling.

I get to the end of this post and have figured nothing out yet. But there is one thing from the sea of abandoned subjects that I can summon. These are words from Nick Joaquin, the great Filipino writer, as interpreted by Mashable’s Bianca Consunji:

Then one morning, I went down to read the papers and turned to the entertainment pages, where I was besieged with a battalion of badly written show-biz articles. I read about Kris Aquino’s latest beau, the contents of some starlet’s closet, and Sharon Cuneta’s weight-gain update.


How supremely baduy, I thought with a smirk. I wondered why anyone would want to read (or write for) the entertainment section when everything in it was always so tacky.


Then there he was again, Nick Joaquin on my brain, admonishing writers to respect their subjects. A young poet, he said, was scandalized because he once wrote about Nora Aunor, therefore making him a bakya writer? “But that article lives as one of the best essays on Miss Aunor because she was not bakya to me and I did not go bakya on her,” he said.


“Every report,” he went on, “must be done as if you were reporting on the parting of the Red Sea, or the Battle of Pinaglabanan, or the splitting of the atom.”


…In his long and varied career, Nick Joaquin managed to reconcile the rivalry between literature and journalism by performing admirably in both fields, giving each side a chance to look up and respect the other. He merged the principles of journalism and creative writing in a sentence: “Good reportage is telling it as it is but at the same time telling it new, telling it surprising, telling it significant.”

Treat your subject with respect. That’s good advice right there, can go hand-in-hand with my friend’s admonition, too. Surprisingly, I also have an experimental piece of advice to give myself: GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Go get your stories out there.

Run for the cheese.


Because sowing is growing

I was born between sepia and high definition, into a generation still unsure of itself, or anything, or anybody for that matter. We were young at the turn of everything– the century, the millennium, the technology. Our grandparents and parents, the older they are it’s for sure, are Boomers. They built entire cities back from tragedy. The Allies did not win the war, the battle just went on. We question what they’ve reaped. But the answer is this, we’ve been doing the reaping. We don’t have to lay the foundations. We were born in between things: skyscrapers and boulevards, mixtapes and iTunes, street and digital, consumerism and more… consumerism. Get, get, get. We didn’t build the bridge, let’s burn it and build a new one that will not crumble. Let’s carve the Earth till it looks like a blue pumpkin with really bad scalp from the sky. Our minerals and metals will suspend this bridge until Satan comes to collect his dues from God. We haven’t really started sowing. Because sowing is growing.