A Study (of K) Pt. 1: Eyeglasses

Those Eyeglasses. She rests on top of your nose confidently, sitting squarely on your face. Like a knight guarding the gate, she opens the doors at your bidding and shows you the world. Once she boasted of a pristine pair of clear plates and a fine, rigid frame. You laid your eyes on her, and she was never the same. How you’ve smudged the glass with your fingerprints, and the frame, rubbed off by your incessant, unconscious touch. She’s seen better days. And yet, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She revels in the idea of holding your vision ransom, and on days when she’s feeling feisty, she’d distort an image or two, throw in a couple of blinding flashes and blurry shadows, and giggle silently as you rub your eyes in disbelief. She falls faint down the bridge of your nose, trusting that you would catch her, and she smiles as you slide her back in place, basking in the assurance that you’d never let her fall, never let her break, never need to replace her. She observes everything with you, wistfully wishing to know what you make of the things you perceive, what goes on behind those eyes — eyes that look on from daybreak to dusk, eyes that rely on her, a supposedly impartial and unclouded ally.

When you finally take her off and place her on your bedside table at the day’s end, she looks on anxiously as you sleep, watching your eyes quiver behind the closed lids. She envies the dreams that show you worlds she never could and cannot begin to imagine, and she waits impatiently for the sun to reappear, the morning to dispel the dark, the light to tear you away from that other place and bring you back to the world of you and her.

Then you open your eyes and always find her.

Tschüs!

Of Buses and Trains and Laundry

It’s a quiet afternoon. The sky is overcast, and there is a faint breeze whistling through the trees. I have just boarded a bus to the nearest train station. I no longer have to look out the window to see where I should get off; I’ve taken this trip enough times to know.

I’m on my way downtown, to Lucky Plaza to be exact. Like most Filipinos here, I’m about to send some money back home. Yep, this is part of who I am now, a Filipino who works and lives abroad. To distill my existence into a three-letter acronym would be a wrong way to describe how I live though, or anyone else, for that matter. Life and people are much more nuanced, and to morph and glaze them over into a concept or collective, however well regarded, would be to see them from a narrow perspective. You begin to realize this when you become one of them yourself.

I’ve been based in Singapore since May last year, and with everything that move entailed and all other things, I kind of lost touch with the pleasure that is writing. Not that I’ve let go of the personally gratifying exercise that keeping this blog has been. It’s always always bubbling underneath the surface, but I’ve allowed myself to be almost fully occupied with the exigencies of this new chapter. Only today did I realize that it’s been a full year since my last post; only today did I finally decide to put a period on that rather sad gap and to start a new sentence, again and again.

As you may expect, I’ve gone through more than a couple of cycles through the metaphorical washing machine of life, from the time I started to seriously contemplate uprooting and throwing myself “out there” up to today. I’m all for YOLO, but know that behind the hippy-ishly filtered images of “living fully and freely” lies major work; setting something into motion and following through with it takes commitment, tenacity, and a whole lot of faith. Freedom, with its dazzling rush of excitement, comes with the grounding weight of responsibility. And depending on how you are as a person, anxiety will surely tag along as well.

Given all that and, at the risk of sounding self-absorbed, my seemingly inborn tendency to observe as I live and at times observe myself as I’m observing, the highs and lows and twists and turns can be prolonged and magnified. A royal pain in the ass sometimes but a gift nonetheless. This is where writing comes in. You put your arms around the wriggling, pulsating strands you fall into, the web of life you find and create, and endeavor earnestly to weave it all into something intelligible, interesting, and if you really try, something beautiful.

I have a year’s worth of balled up material and a lifetime ahead to work with. So please bear with and join me, dear readers. I am not “a voice of a generation”, but I am a voice, just like you. Now you might ask what good it would do you to drop in once in a while. I actually cannot give a perfectly good answer to that perfectly good question. All I know is that it’s fun to share and definitely fun to sort of eavesdrop. At the very least, you can see how my ride is going, and maybe you can tell me about yours. And who knows? Maybe one of these days we’d run into each other on the train.

Tschüs!

Outbreak Manila 3: Enchanted Kingdom

I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. It remains to be the one and only TV show that had me shrieking and jumping around the room in both fright and delight when I saw its first season. I cannot care less for vampire books/movies/tv series/fanfics/etc., but zombies have proven to be irresistible even in their limpy, wobbly, crawly ways. Unlike their pale-skinned, blood-thirsty fellow undead, zombies are admirable in their unequivocal quest to eat humans alive. They won’t try to befriend you, woo you, or win your heart (apart from wanting to devour it). They don’t talk and cannot and will not make piercing eye contact. Almost zero chances of sparks flying. It’s enough that they see us as lunch; there is no need for the added complication of inter-specie, star-crossed love affairs. I respect that. And no, please do not bring up Warm Bodies.

Deputy sheriff Rick Grimes getting chummy with unsmiling no-name zombie lady

You can imagine my excitement when I first heard about Outbreak Manila, the 5km run that dares people to run as though their lives actually depended on it. I would not pass up on the chance to live out the fantasy of becoming part of Rick Grimes’ zombie apocalypse survivor crew. I wasn’t able to join the earlier installments for various reasons, but I just had to do the Outbreak Manila 3: Enchanted Kingdom version. I thought the amusement park was the perfect venue for such an event, and I had another reason. When I was a kid, I read a horror children’s book that was set in a traveling carnival. It became one of those stories that stayed with me. As it turned out, I would be hitting two birds with one stone.

The event was held last October 31. It was the first time I “celebrated” Halloween, and I was thrilled. I was doing the run with Pau whom I consider to be one of my best pals. We go on all sorts of crazy “adventures” together, and this was yet another one for the list. Participants were encouraged to wear costumes, and I was game for it. The outfit would still have to be running appropriate though, and I didn’t really prepare. I somehow ended up with a purple wig that I really wanted to wear even if it did not make sense or looked good. But what the heck, right? It was Halloween, and life on earth as we know it has supposedly ended, so why should how I look matter? Because we were taking pictures, that’s why.

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Aside: And we were running with Daniel Matsunaga. Spell distraction! We didn’t have photos taken with him though. I would not need a reminder of how hapless I looked with my disheveled wig beside such fine male specimen. Ha ha. Rovilson Fernandez was there with him. He noticed my purple hair, which I explained to be a mutation caused by whatever it was that brought about the zombie infection. I know, right? So smooth.

Each participant were given three flags that signified his/her three lives. The “zombies” were tasked to steal them without actually touching the runners. Some of them just stood there, probably exhausted from badgering the previous waves, but others remained to be effective and energetic tormentors. Nonetheless, they all deserved props for their impressive undead make-up and styling.

All in all, it was a highly successful event. Besides not being able to provide enough medals for all those who made it out “alive”, the organizers did a good job of making sure that it was safe and enjoyable for everyone, especially non-runners. I myself am not a runner, and I didn’t want to start training for the event even if Pau told me to. I thought I could get away with the workout I got from swimming and pole dancing. I should have listened to her though; my body would have thanked me for it. Good thing it wasn’t a race. There was no need to reach the finish line first; you only have to get to the end with at least one flag (life). Pau and I did complete the run with lots of flags to spare, and we both got a high from screaming our lungs out at every walking dead that popped out of dark corners and from successfully zigzagging our way past the hordes of zombies who took their roles rather seriously.

Now that’s done, I certainly will not want to trade places with any of Rick’s friends, even with Daryl around (ha!). I highly doubt it would be that much fun.

Find out more about Outbreak Manila here.

PS

So sorry it took me this long to post about this. Currently working on my blogging backlog! :)

Tschüs!

On Self-Respect

I called my brother one afternoon to discuss a personal concern that has been weighing on my mind at the time. He gave me advice on how to deal with it in that direct yet gentle manner of his, probably because he knows I don’t like being told what to do. I didn’t really agree with what he said and launched a feeble retaliation, to which he curtly replied, “Have some self-respect.” That shut me up for a moment. His remark seemed to come out of nowhere, so I asked him what he meant by that. He said, “You’re smart. You’ll figure it out.”

The subject has been on my mind since then, which is why excerpts from Joan Didion‘s essay, “On Self Respect”, as featured on Brain Pickings here, jumped out at me when I read them:

The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

[…]

[C]haracter — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.

[…]

[S]elf-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

[…]

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out — since our self-image is untenable — their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meting the next demand made upon us.

It is the phenomenon sometimes called ‘alienation from self.’ In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

Thanks to the people behind Brain Pickings for introducing me to this thought-provoking piece. For a young woman who’s honestly still figuring things out, this riveting treatise provides substantial material to digest and ponder. “On Self Respect” is from Joan Didion’s collection of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Tschüs!

Stoked aka 25! #9

I am a novice swimmer. That being the case, it makes perfect sense for me to stay clear of deep waters, much less raging waves… Now that I’ve put those two sentences together, the slight audacity of wanting to learn both how to swim and to surf within months of each other becomes apparent. I don’t know why it has taken me this long to realize that, but I was aware that graduating from bubbles doesn’t warrant a gigantic leap to riding and ripping.

My very dear sorority sister and friend, LC Cpie, would disagree with the statement above. She has always assured me that swimming skills are not really prerequisite to surfing. She doesn’t swim well herself and is proof that there are indeed ways to get around. Knowing that I won’t be heading out into the deep at the beginning anyway, I finally accepted her invitation to join her and her friends in the surfing capital of the North, La Union.

I wasn’t able to sleep for most of my six-hour bus ride from Manila. Alone with no one to talk to, I watched as the sun illuminated the skies at dawn. Rain soon fell and affirmed reports of a storm passing through the area. My dad suggested for me to cancel the trip, and I remember thinking I probably should’ve listened. I was alone; it was raining; and I didn’t know anyone besides LC Cpie. Any misgiving I had were dispelled as soon as I saw her. LC met me with a huge smile on her face and an umbrella in hand. She told me that bad weather is actually not so bad, as I would soon see myself.

The sea heaved and roared. It was a gurgling mess of white water, swelling and crashing across the seafront. I was exhilarated. There in front of me was a sweeping, powerful display that seemed totally alien and rightly intimidated me. I had no idea what to do. LC Cpie gave the first introduction. She taught me how to use the body board, and we (more like I) spent the next hour getting pummeled. I have never experienced anything like it before. I now have an idea on how it must feel like inside a working washing machine. How was it possible for my entire body to spin so quickly and somewhat violently in such shallow water? What a way to start my education.

That seemed like a walk in the park compared to my actual surfing lesson. The rain was pouring harder then, and the waves came in from different directions. I had a hard time finding my balance on the board. I kept falling off, and dragging out the surfboard against the strong current again and again was such a workout. The exhaustion and frustration were starting to get to me. And to top it all off, the fins of the surfboard hit me on the head in one instance. No way was I going to give up until I am able to ride my first wave though. When I finally did, it was the best feeling in the world. The water hissed all around me, but in that short moment, all I could feel was the smoothness of the ride and the stability of the board beneath me. Stoked, I think they call it.

It would take lots and lots of practice and hard work out in the sea for me to earn the right to call myself a surfer. I don’t even qualify as a surfer wannabe just yet. I have to seriously work on my paddling if I truly dream of going out to join the line-up and chase waves with other surfers. And it would take a number of six-hour bus rides to and fro La Union; nights spent packing and unpacking; bumps, bruises, and sore muscles. That stoked, exhilarating feeling is worth all that, but what makes La Union extra special and particularly worth coming back to is the wonderful group of people I have come to know and adore.

Team Guido is composed of talented individuals who are bound by their singular love of surfing. Theirs is a tight-knit family who opens its arms and welcomes people who are willing to learn, share, and take part in their simple joys and carefree lifestyle. It has been a pleasure for me to know them, and I always look forward to seeing them again.

Very special thanks to LC Cpie for making all these happen. Thank you for being so generous in sharing your Team Guido family with me and helping me accomplish my surfing goal. You are simply one of the coolest chicks I know, and I’m not lying when I say how inspiring you are.

I’m hoping to ride back up to LU again very soon. I cannot wait to continue my surfing lessons and continue having one of the best learning experiences of my life so far!

Tschüs!

Girl On Fire

This song by the lovely Alicia Keys brings to mind one of the passages I took note of ages ago and rediscovered recently:

“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?” – Thus Spake Zarathustra

Now who wouldn’t want to be a phoenix?

Tschüs!

Quickie #7: Call Me… (Anything But Maybe)

I’ve often wondered the same thing. If Juliet and Shakespeare are to be believed, names are nothing but an arbitrary convention that we have put upon ourselves. While I do believe that our names do not make us who we are, they do constitute a part of our identity. A lot has already been said to argue both sides, and this is certainly a topic for a much longer conversation. But I just got into thinking how there is certainly nothing arbitrary about the thought and time I have already put into coming up with names for my future children, both first and middle (two given names). Now if only there are kids to christen already, I’d have one less thing to think about. One thing’s for sure though. When they finally make it to this life, they’d find that their names would be anything but random and how absolutely silly their mom is! Lol!

Tschüs!

Photo credit: peashot.wordpress.com