Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Road That Stretches Forever

Last day of December.

Never in a decade did the Favorite Aunt drop by our house to pick us for the get together. My sister and her family will welcome the New Year with the in-laws. While the driver was unavailable as he was spending the day with his estranged father. Meanwhile, tradition follows that we spend the first day of the year as a tribe, and so as for the old ways to remain, the host took the task to bring me and my mother to her abode.

The sun was still up when we arrived at her place. A breath of fresh air, if I may add, since we often race against time before the fireworks block our path. The last time we saw daybreak, I was still a boy, eager to get my hands on my cousin's video game console, to try to beat the big boss and see the ending of Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog and Civilization I. 

Now older, and yet, still very much a kid at heart, I bought with me my laptop. I have recently installed the newest expansion of Civilization V. The strategy game is taking much of my attention lately, but I don't mind. I was thinking of spending hours playing it. To pass the time as my mother and her sisters catch up with their lives.

And I have other plans in mind.

Seeing my mother settled down, and the Favorite Aunt setting the food for the Media Noche later, I drew from my backpack a small paper bag. It is a gift to my god-child I have not seen last Christmas. The idea is to make a pass at that scenic spot next to the lake. My place of destination is in Taguig, and it's been three years since I discovered that empty stretch of highway on foot.

To see the bend leading to Road C6, and the overlooking, unobstructed view of the Laguna de Bay remains a breathtaking experience.

So this is how the year ends - the way it began. Solitary. Contemplative. Looking at the distance with blissful eyes and a weary heart. There is no denial I am terrified of the uncertainty. It permeates the skin, leaving me curling at the thought of fate and forked paths in the coming year.

The post-revelry chill gets a little more intense as the years go by.

And yet, in my lonesome, I find ways to get by; to see life like its my first breath, to stay curious like a cat, when I positioned my camera phone in front of her. Without much thought, I still perform random acts of kindness (like helping a mother pull her child's wheelchair up the overpass), or feel that empty space after a special friend gives a passionate hug. There is beauty in the world in spite of how horrid many of us believe it is. I still have faith in humanity, despite the hateful vibe reverberating every day.

Climbing a pile of rocks a few steps from my destination, I turned Ndoto around towards the sunward direction. The Hagonoy Pumping Station is just a cartwheel away and before the sun sets, the last sunset of the year of our Maker, 2013, I took a panoramic picture not only of the highway I covered, but of the sun and the lake on which I rest my joys and hopes that chilly afternoon.  

Happy New Year, Everyone.

Because Tomorrow Is Just A Memory

"These plants belong to me. Take me with them if you must!!"

"Are good things supposed to end?" 

I mused before dropping my stuff on the sidewalk. It's late in the afternoon and there's an everything-must-go sale nearby. An entire ecosystem will be shut down all in the name of progress. House plants of all shapes and sizes; delectable flowers in full bloom and bursting with colors are sold at drop down prices. I came to say goodbye to the place, and partake at discounts never would the shop owners give had the closing event didn't take place.

A few minutes before embarking on a home-bound trip, a cat sleeping under the shade was stirred out of curiosity. I was about to take pictures of the little fellow when she approached me and rubbed her head against the back of my hand. Not satisfied with the minimal attention I've given, she grazed her entire body around my leg, prompting me to stroke her fur to show appreciation. She then laid next to the plastic bags of garden implements I bought. An onlooker chuckled at the comic relief.

"Mukhang gusto sumama sa iyo ah." I gave a faint smile.

"Pusa niyo po ito?" The old man nodded.

For some reasons, I saw everything differently.

In the face of uncertainty and sea change, is it normal for creatures to cling to vestiges of familiarity? Knowing home will be gone soon, did the feline try to tell us she belongs to that garden, and that, she is aware it is being dismantled?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ndoto Blue (Finale)

Previously on L'Heure Blue

There is no doubt, that I won't join the bandwagon by getting an iPhone. Not this time. A lot of people I know already use it as their handheld device. Also, I am not an Apple fan boy to begin with, and defying conventions is one of my favorite habit.

Ever since my Samsung phone stopped working, doubts already clouded my belief in the brand. There is no way I would get an S4 for I have no faith in its maker. Like iPhone, a lot of people use Galaxy to communicate with the world. My fear is that like a magnet, the phone would catch the eyes of robbers and snatchers when I use it in public.

The Lumia from Nokia seems to be a decent smart phone. Not only is the series renowned for its sleek design, its reputed Carl Zeiss camera lens command respect from Photography experts. However, Nokia is one of the very few devices that use Windows as its operating system. I couldn't live without Android and its apps. Instagram, which is one of the strongest push to upgrade my phone, isn't supported by the Metro. 

Lastly, there is the HTC One. Reviews of the product make it a credible flagship phone. It also appears to be the preferred device of those who don't follow the fad. Had the phone been recommended to me first, I might have acquired an HTC instead. Snobbed by many, and raved by a chosen few, I would rather count myself among the anti-establishment folks. 

There were other choices suggested by friends - such as Blackberry (whose maker operates at a loss) and Nexus (a device nobody uses). But instead, I ended up getting a Sony Xperia SP. With a price tag of over 18 grands - in Philippine peso using my credit card, it is one of my most expensive acquisition to date. 

Given my limited knowledge of smartphones and tablets, let me share my experience with the Xperia instead: It wasn't rosy as I thought it would be. There were frustrating moments when the device wouldn't read my SD memory card. It also doesn't pick WiFi from a comparable distance with Samsung. The Sony phone's signal bar goes zero in places where there is weak network coverage. Once or twice in recent memory, I had to reboot the device to restore the signal to full bar. 

But these are birth pains and I still believe I didn't receive a defective unit from the retailer. For what its worth, the Xperia's video and sound quality makes it a formidable smartphone for a mid-range market. Powered by Bravia engine, streaming HD video clips on YouTube turns into a one-of-a-kind visual and aural experience. The images are crisp and full of clarity, the colors, well-defined, and the audio turns any sound into an operatic masterpiece.

The downside however is that some clips buffer longer when bandwidth connection cannot stream the videos with ease.

It's been almost two months since getting the Xperia, and the handheld device has been a trusted companion ever since. Inspired by visual creation; the need to take photos to be shared in social media, the name I gave to my phone speaks of its aspiration:

In the plains of Serengeti, somewhere within the borders of Tanzania and Kenya are the Bantu peoples who speak Swahili. In their time of contemplation, in deep thought and musings of tomorrow, the wordsmiths among them crafted the word for dream.  

Samsung Galaxy Mini on Sony Experia SP


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ekstra (Second Part)

Previously on L'Heure Blue

It was almost sundown when I arrived at the set. The film was being shot at a gated community north of Manila. It wasn't difficult to follow instructions posted on Facebook. With the aid of Google Map, I found my destination even without making a phone call to my friend to ask for directions.

However the distance, the long walk to the village entrance didn't dampen my spirit. The gate was three blocks away from where I disembarked from the jeep. But since it was dusk, and the cool breeze from the Sierra Madre tenderly stroked my skin, the stroll already was a pleasant experience.

The evacuation center and the outdoor morgue scenes took place inside the unused clubhouse of Neapolitan Village. When I arrived there to sign up as one of the crowd, the production team had just done filming the part where the actor learned that his parents died in the flood. I was told that the film is about a teenage boy starting his life from scratch. His home was washed away by the torrent of mud and water, and has to stay with his estranged grandfather - his sole surviving relative from then on. Cameras were being dismantled to be moved inside the gymnasium, as grime-covered and blood stained bit players rested nearby.

I came across some assistants, and was tempted to ask the names of my friends. But when I realized the production staff number in their fifties, I thought it would be best to look around and search for my contacts instead. 

To walk-ins like me, life outside the actual film shooting is more relaxed than what is being shown in the movies. Bit players, when not reading their lines, linger around the set or sleep in corners. Their handlers argue with production assistants, as they haggle their pay by the number of hours they waited for their queue to start. These, I have seen with my own eyes. I even heard some people complaining that they've been at the set since that morning.

And it was already past five in the afternoon.  

"JM!!!" I turned my head to where the voice was coming from. I saw Carlo waving his hand. 

"Buti nakarating ka. Kanina ka pa?"

"Kararating ko lang. Andami palang tao dito." Carlo chuckled. I told him about watching the film Ekstra, and how the sights I've seen so far was very similar to the film.

My friend told me to follow him inside the gymnasium. We saw his partner, Ben, talking to one of the assistant directors on our way in. The duo runs the department responsible for providing the costumes to bit players. Inside the barely-lit hall, squeaking kids ran around the court. Meanwhile, adults seated on the bleachers engage in juicy banter that - my guess - is the fodder for showbiz sections of tabloids and broadsheets the next day. Carlo and I continued walking, talked about our friends who live nearby; talked about the mass grave scene earlier that day, and how in one take - the bit players were able to bring everyone to tears. Their wailing and chest thumping as they searched for loved ones among the dead moved everyone, even my friend who's used to seeing melodramatic, close-up scenes.

"Grabe, wagas talaga ang hagugol ng mga bakla." He said in amazement. "Madali kasi mag-internalize, Ipaalala mo lang ang Ondoy at Yolanda, maiiyak ka talaga."  I could only imagine what I'd do if I was among the dead - or worse - the living, dazed survivors.

We reached a small room on the other side of the gymnasium. Inside, a dedicated staff folded shirts of various shapes and sizes. Beside them are large plastic boxes containing more old and worn-out clothes that the bit players can wear. I dropped my bag and showed them the tattered shirt and old jerseys I'd wear as a flood survivor.

"Puwede na ba?" I showed Carlo my costume.

"Oo, ako nga magsasando saka shorts eh." Ben showed up to introduce me to his staff. He then spoke to his partner about the evacuation center scene that would take place later that evening.

"Dito ka muna ha?" Carlo said to me before he was interrupted by a production assistant. "Kunin ko lang sa bahay yung dog namin para kasama mamaya sa shooting."

The "Evacuation Center" Set

With restlessness setting in, I left the room after the couple disappeared; to see up close the bit players waiting for the filming to begin. The truth is, I needed to smoke. And like in the film Ekstra, I was hoping someone from the crowd actually sell cigarettes.

An hour later, I was still looking for anyone who sells yosi. I didn't find any. Skipping dinner instead, I ended up stepping out to volunteer in a scene as one of the crowd who will run towards the evacuation center under heavy rain.

It's light, camera, action at last.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dama de Noche

Christmas Eve, 2013.

On this very evening a long, long time ago, I remember us staying at home. There was no panicky mother doing gift wrapping in bed, nor activities hinting of our hasty exodus from our old house in Santa Mesa. The urgency to pack our clothes and set aside our Christmas dresses never bothered the adults. We were there with nothing to do but look at the stars and sleep.

For it was the year when my mom stood her ground, and decided not to show up and join the yearly reunion with our kin. What started the stand off is already lost to memory. All I know is that she and the Favorite Aunt had an argument that day. My guess is that someone wants to do things on her own (go solo with her Christmas celebration) and when the Alpha female refused the arrangement, mom went through with her idea despite the threats.

It infuriated the aunt.

And as if, by way of providence, a mediator appeared on our doorstep. It was already late. Maybe an hour before Noche Buena. My mother's youngest sister showed up together with her husband. For we are being whisked off to spend the holy night with the Favorite Aunt. It no longer concerns me how they made amends. As an afterthought, it was our houses' first get-together that I remember. 

The flurry of movements soon followed. I was led to the bathroom to be washed, while my mom readied our provisions. We will be spending the night in another house. For all my attempts to put the plot into this vignette, the truth is, the narrative was reconstructed from vague memory. Nothing can be done to accentuate the story.

What is cherished in the heart is the uneasiness of waiting; of being outside the house, together with the neighbors' children; of mounting someone's cart with a long pole in hand; the overpowering scent of Dama de Noche as it wafted under our noses. The cart where the kids and I stayed was next to the evergreen shrub. Its blooms, often associated with funerals and lamentation for others, will always conjure thoughts of Christmas and reconciliation for me.

We arrived at the Favorite Aunt's place past midnight, and I remember her wordlessly embracing my mom when she welcomed us at her home. Years will pass, way into our teenage years and into the ripeness of adulthood, but the tradition of spending the birth of the Child as one big family has never been broken. 

The Favorite Aunt still hosts the Christmas and New Years' celebration to this day.

LR: The Noche Buena, The Family Christmas Tree full of presents, Santa Claus is back.

Sharing the gift of lovingkindness from my family to yours. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Little More Time


In a hall with large, floor-to-ceiling wooden doors, was my favorite aunt seated on a pew. I approached her, walked in an almost processional fashion so as not to disturb her quiet contemplation. She was grim-faced when she looked at me. Her mood, funereal. For beside her was a white casket with blue-painted carvings of whimsical design. 

Within the box was her, in eternal sleep. Beautiful and still full of life. Cosmetics applied to her face made her look younger. It is as if she was still alive. The reaction was almost instant, breaking down in tears, I said;

"She asked for at least seventy five years." 

I woke up. 

Went to her room and hugged her.

And then she told me about her colleague who has Brain tumor.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Creative Dissonance

The world is yet to be written. 

And drafts have not been penned.

Reasons remain elusive. But these days, I confess losing strength to craft prose and weave stories. Maybe it's the seasonal lull, or the mad rush of the holidays. It scares me. It makes me remember the day this page no longer breathes: that I finally fade away - like the stellar bloggers before me.

There are simply too many distractions. Noises, befuddling the mind. When the urge of creation puts me in front of the laptop, or face to face with my phone to put into words the contents of the heart, I'd be gone even before brewing the thoughts for the closing sentence. I am running out of ways to tell stories. 

The soulful writer hibernates.

But there are narratives that are yet to be inked. Journals, the readers are expecting to read. I am not done yet with my life as a bit player. Or what makes me so proud of Ndoto, my new smartphone. I haven't told yet the secret; why stall getting a driver's license when I have always been behind the wheel. The accomplishments of the year have yet to be gathered. Put in a sturdy vessel, to remind myself of life's turning points. 

There are so many tales that are in need of ending.

And I don't know where to begin.

A writer once told, the secret to good storytelling is to draw narratives from experience; to suspend time and speak your mind like there's no one reading. But if longevity is the question, and a creative dissonance pins down the writer, how can good stories be told when words no longer flow even when there's no audience? 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thirty Two

L-R: Shoturday at the Casa, The traditional birthday salubong, with a cake, Baclaran Church at 6 AM. 

There are many things to be thankful for: deliverance from sickness, prosperity that allows a comfortable lifestyle, harmony in the family, a borrowed time well spent.

The reality behind this post is that it took me an entire day to ponder what entry to pen, to mark the yearly observance. I would like it to be something poignant, ephemeral; a vignette drawn from memory.

In the end, indecisiveness prevailed. I was meaning to journal about that deed last week, when I returned the money to the laborer who withdrew it from the ATM. He accessed the cash machine before me. Left, when the cash didn't get out, and was not aware that his money was dispensed.

I would also like to write about my partiality towards intimate and somber birthday celebrations than loud revelries to welcome my day of birth. I'm not used to the spotlight; to be the highlight of the evening because I have long accepted my turn of age to be eclipsed by Christmas parties. Finally, I also thought of writing how this tradition of marking the occasion with a blog entry began. How it meant to be a quiet reflection and report of accomplishment in my sometimes turbulent and directionless existence.

None of these stories ever went beyond the draft.

Without a story to tell, save for a sincere gratitude on how the first few hours of the thirty second turned out, I welcome the year with hope that it will be more promising than the thirty first. That I will love more, care more, and get more opportunities to put my house - and life - in order. My wish also goes to friends and loved ones, that I maybe able to enrich their lives, become a force of compassion, and well-spring of strength when hope seems fading.

Like in the years before, three rites make my celebration complete. But in the presence of confidants and new-found friends, ex dates and near flings, never in my grandest imagination did I expect them to remember, call the shots, and turn out to welcome my new lease in life. 

Thank you.

In the silence of Mugenspace

All glory to the hand that shapes the world.

Happy Birthday, Joms.    

Friday, December 13, 2013


"Ninong J... Ninong J... may pasalubong ka sa akin?" The little tyke barrages me with the same question every time I go home.

"Asan pasalubong kay Totoy?" The toddler refers to himself. I would just smile, stroke his soft, wavy hair, and go directly to my room to retire. Sometimes, I would make excuses and tell him I'd buy one the next day. Convinced with my ruse, the little boy lay down next to his lola to continue their bedtime book reading.

Afforded a reprieve, my mind returns to solving pressing matters that baffle the mind - until the kid remembers the pasalubong I was supposed to give when he sees me the next morning.

The other day, I went to the supermarket to procure a month's worth of supplies for the house. My sister sent a list of stuff to buy, including Hello Panda biscuits for my older nephew and his younger brother. 

When I returned home, the three year old boy wouldn't let me leave the master's bedroom. He was waiting for his pasalubong. My mom handed him the biscuits, and yet, the look on his face showed he was expecting something else. 

Something I've promised a few days before.

"Ano ba gustong pasalubong ni Totoy?" I hugged him tight before saying goodbye. It was my peace offering after my heavy handed discipline when he threw tantrums that same morning.

"Gusto ko kotse." He said gleefully.

"Yung kulay red."

Truth is, I really have no intention of buying him a die-cast toy car. Not that I don't have the money, but I see that he has lots of toys scattered around the house. Also, learning from experience, one tends to place less value on things that were easily acquired. They become dispensable objects. It's no wonder that many of his toys don't even last a year.  

I even ceased letting him borrow my die cast car collection because they get returned to me missing a wheel or some other small, moveable part.

But a promise is a promise, and three year old boys never forget. Restless and close to losing hope, he reminded me once more of the red car when I left the house yesterday. On the phone, every time I spoke to my mom. In my thoughts, it comes across while doing my shopping at Trinoma. There's no more excuse given the reminders from him. 

It made me recall the time I was upset with my dad. I was expecting for us to watch a movie - even took a bath and wore my best clothes, when he came home and suddenly told me he'll postpone the movie watching for another day.

I was hurt because he didn't keep his word. Only guilt, and some frank words from a nine-year old changed his mind.

And so before leaving the mall to go home, I made a detour at Toys R Us to get the cheapest die cast my money could buy. It's the least I could do, knowing I've allotted a chunk of my savings for his Christmas gift.

"Ninong J, wala ka pasalubong sa akin?" He greeted me when I showed up at the master's bedroom. 

"Ay wala!!" I teased. "Nakalimutan ko bumili."

Frowing and on the verge of tears, he asked once more if I had something for him. 

"Kiss muna..." I ordered. He walked towards me to plant a kiss on my cheek.

"Isa pa." My mind was telling me to get used to this - to be expected of bringing home something as my nephews get older.

Pulling something from the paper bag I was supposed to show my mom, the little toy car my nephew waited for so long emerged, like a precious gem from my hands.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ekstra (First Part)

L-R: Soldier patrolling the evacuation center, a family of bit players taking a nap while filming of a scene takes place on the other side of the gymnasium, a kid poses in a tub.

Never to be mistaken for the displaced and downtrodden, they arrive in groups from places god knows where. Men, women and children, in simple attire and clothes worn at home. A careful observer would think they were herded on short notice; neighbors, friends and families convinced to be set pieces in films, many of them will never get to see.

They come for one reason and that is to earn. A few no doubt hopes to be seen as B-List celebrities; professional bit players whose faces become the stereotype of everyday characters. They all show up with their handlers. It's easy money, after all. Lucky are those who stand next to the cast - for they get their shot to fame when the camera rolls and they become part of the scene.

"A crowd is a crowd," Vilma Santos quipped to fellow bit players in the movie, Ekstra. The Cinemalaya opus is about the lives of bit players and walk-ins, and how their larger than life stories during production is the subject of the film. I would never forget the silent but powerful ending; of why tears cascaded down Vilma's face as she watched the soap opera on television while people around her talked about the episode.

She was asked a question I could no longer recall, her grief-stricken face encapsulates the narrative.

The credits rolled and I was happy to put the movie behind me. But who would have thought a few months later, a chance to play a bit part would come unexpected.

It was an invitation shared on Facebook. A friend who is part of the production team of an indie film seeks extras. They need walk-ins, who will play the role of flood victims for a scene that takes place in an evacuation center. There will be no pay for us, only experience. And maybe, an opportunity to see a life I've seen once on the big screen.

"Count me in sa evening scene." I replied to the chat thread after getting the details. "Kelangan ko ng idadagdag sa bucket list."

The truth is, I just don't know what to do with my time. and for someone who doesn't belong or have any close contacts in the movie industry, I feel, such experience only comes once in a lifetime.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Before I learned to raise my hands in the air, and let my hips drop to the ground; before I started doing pelvic thrusts with strangers and bounce my head to the beat of the sound; and before I learned to identify a progressive trance from a hard house, and get acquainted to the music of Fatboy Slim and Dirty South, I owe my love for Electronic dance music to a diva known to everyone as Cher.

I just remembered her, and her music as it was one of the questions thrown at me on Ask.FM. Those who knew me as someone with vast knowledge and ear for EDM could not believe that my roots lie with Dance Pop.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ang Munting Perberto

I was twelve years old, and still very much attached to my action figures. I had to keep it a secret though, for everyone was telling me to look for another hobby. When no one was around or when everyone's asleep, I would draw my toys out of their hiding places. I would take the role of a producer, creating sets and directing action scenes for a play whose audience is no one but me.

Often, I would move my action figures with my thumb and index fingers. Improvise wooden dialogues I have come up with my juvenile mind, and create fantasy worlds I can manipulate at whim. There, lords and princesses assemble inside the closet; while minions and guardians wrest control of the room in their flying fortresses and fortified citadels. Both pieces came from discarded carton boxes and plastic packaging materials rummaged from piles of trash at home. 

The plot thickens and soon, I've introduced evil bosses and sprightly goddesses into my play as well. 

The goddesses were my sister's Barbie dolls, I "borrow" when she's out of the house. At times, they become cohorts of the evil bosses as they trash the "good guys" around. However, there were occasions when impulse rules, and curiosities turn the harmless play into something different. 

They say, what you see on television has a way of manifesting on your playtime activities. 

And as I recall, now that I'm able to grasp the things I did in my youth, it appears that my idea of sex bordered on the absurd and perverse. As to how I can still write the account in detail, like the playtime only happened yesterday is a question that still bothers the mind.

"Batman is one of the most powerful of the evil bosses. Undefeated, even by the combined forces of the guardians, his strength comes from draining the life source of his victims - the goddesses that his minions offer as tribute. Bound and unable to move, Batman acts on his prey by fondling the two humps in front of her chest. She moans, louder and louder as Batman squeezes her bosom with his prickly hands. Unable to contain his excitement, he shoves down the goddess' head against his groin, humping, as the poor victim is powerless to resist his roughness. He then strips down the goddess, force her to bend over, and mount her like a beast in a rush to unleash his seeds. The sexual organs stay within the confines of the imagination, but Batman's pole stuns the victim into submission. And as the goddess is being milked dry - a prey being ravaged for someone's consumption, she passes out, twisting and turning in delight."

Friday, December 6, 2013


Straightening out the physical aspects of your life can also bring clarity to the mental ones.


Two nights and twenty four actual hours later, the dust and grime had been wiped off the floors and surfaces of my room. It was a feat I have never done in the past, given the rushed performance to make way for the holiday season errands.

The meticulousness was beyond belief: every hardbound, every CD jewel case, and every wooden and stone ornaments have been carefully attended. The carpet layered with dirt has regained its old luster. Even the cost of procuring the cleaning materials has reached almost a thousand pesos - just for a taste of renewal that comes with these twice-in-a-year observance.

And it's all worth it.

There are three things I have learned, after all my stuff have been returned to their places: My inner kid relishes the thought that all my toys were never given away; that we lost a chunk of our humanity when we ceased sending written letters to loved ones; and that for all the claims of embracing a zen philosophy, my penchant for sentimentality and keeping keepsakes cannot afford an uncluttered space.

Lay hidden in drawers and boxes are life stories that are yet to be told.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Dalawang beses sa isang taon kung ako ay maglampaso ng kuwarto.

Sapagkat kahit maliit man at salat sa gamit, inaabot ng magdamag ang aking general cleaning. Ang pagbabalik-tanaw sa nakaraan, sa tuwing inilalabas ko ang mga handwritten letters at mementos ng mga sandali ay oras ang binibilang. Hindi pa kasama rito ang pagpunas ng dumi at alikabok sa pang-ibabaw ng mga furniture, at pagsasaayos ng mga damit at libro sa kanilang kinalalagyan. 

Ang bawat kilos ay maingat na ginaganap. Hindi minamadali. Ito ay dahil ang lahat ng sulok ay pinaglalaanan ng sapat na oras. Ang mga gamit na hindi kailangan ay binabahagi sa iba. Ang mga trinkets naman na magpapaalala ng mga bagong kaibigan ay nagiging kayamanang itinatabi sa mga kahong pinakakaiingatan.   

Sentimentality is my second nature.

Cleaning Materials:

Rags, P5.00 per 3 pieces; P35.00 worth of rags
Parker and Bailey Furniture Cream, P220.00
Wipe Out Dirt and Stain Remover, P54.75
3M Microfiber Wipers, P149.75
Mia Maison Room Mist, P121.00
Cleene Ethyl Alcohol, P25.00
Tide Ultra Double Pack, P10.00
Scotch Brite Sponge, P15.00

Total: P630.50

Dalawang beses isang taon sa tuwing ako ay naglalampaso ng kuwarto.

At dahil nasira ang aking kisame sa panahon ng tag-ulan; sabay inabot ng buwan bago ito naidulog sa karpintero at naipagawa ng aking ina, magtatapos na ang taon ay saka pa lang ako magsisimula ng aking taunang ritwal.  

Kaya't hindi na nakakapagtaka kung ang magdamag ay gagapang hanggang tanghali at ang mga dati-rating mga singit-singit ay kasama ngayon sa lilinisin. Sapagkat kagaya ng self-cleansing at new beginnings - mga konseptong tunay na magbibigay ningning sa aking mga mata - the promise of continuity happens when I see a reflection of sunshine on wooden surfaces.

Only then will the heart be assured of my reawakening. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mono No Aware

"Hindi ko kayang mawala sa piling niya," He would tell me the last time we had a one-on-one drinking session at the Casa.

A week later, he would go down as one of those injured in a tragic accident that had taken the lives of seven unfortunate souls. Two of them were seated beside him at the back of the bus. With luck on his side, he was able to recover after undergoing a difficult and painful head surgery.

His lover would never leave his side. In his days of drifting (he didn't even know that I was there a day after he was transferred from the ICU), the only person who could make my friend remember was him.

The person he confessed he loved more than anyone else.

Mono no aware -  is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence, or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

Jungle Age

It is said that great stories are weaved from scratch, a one-sentence idea conjured inside the writer's head. From this spark, a storyteller spins a narrative. Contrived on a digital loom, scenes suspend disbelief. Characters fleshed out turn life-like, and tales swirled from the creator's mind become arcane tapestries pressed into a single book. 

Some become well-loved by all. 

But not all storytellers are able to warp and weft a yarn. There are those lacking the skill to spin a convincing narrative. While others, despite possessing mastery to fabricate moving pictures with words, are denied the use of loom. Their tapestries lay hidden and collecting pixie dust, unread by those who might revel in magical tales untold.

These bards of the written word journey the world, for places that readily embrace their works. They sing fiction that are beyond the machinations of man. Their intrepid souls cross dimensions to bring back fabled accounts of dwarfs and dragons; or slide through alternate landscapes where werewolves, vampires and zombies live among men. In the universe of Google, every imaginable story comes to life. What is sought is a repository, and an audience to hear these enchanting tales.

I have come across many places, where stories incubate before they get published. There is Wattpad and Deviant Art, and some blogs whose links have already slipped my mind. There is not much to say, for my stay in these places were in passing. Only when I stumbled on Jungle age did my words affected other writers.

I lingered, like a restless spirit, searching for answers.

Jungle age is a community of writers and readers. The works uploaded on the website are supernatural and science fiction in nature. Unlike with other writing communities, where approval of one's work comes in the form of "likes," readers of Jungle age are encouraged to leave comments using a template that helps writers improve their drafts.

One look, and those used to the symmetry and clean lines of Wattpad would be driven away by Jungle age's dry layout. Same with those used to the clutter and timelessness that is Deviant Art. Like the stories posted in its mundane pages, Jungle age is a work that has remained in canvass. Imagine a mecha under construction: the upgrades are put together - shaped, by an unseen hand, to make the glide across the website a more cherishing experience to audience and storytellers alike.

Promises abound when a work has room for improvement. When icons overlap with headers, or chapters need to be arranged in a chronological manner for readers to appreciate stories; you know the work is not yet over. However the shortcomings, I see well the clearing: of how Jungle age can transform and become a place for struggling fiction writers - to find inspiration and guide. It is because when other storytelling communities, whose readers have been reduced to clicking icons like "thumbs-up" and "stars," Jungle age asks for substance when leaving comments.

It is like attending a writing workshop and getting improvement suggestions - for free.

I have faith that behind the seemingly featureless page are stories that deserve a reading. For these tales are masterfully spun, and whose tapestries deserve to be seen by all. I have met visionaries, whose discipline to pursue the chapters of their work is unrivaled. I have spoken to young writers, eager to learn and practice the craft.

"One day, you'll become a great writer," I once wrote to a seventeen year old storyteller.

Many of the great works I began reading when I first stepped foot on Jungle age are still far from their ending chapters. There is the challenge of refinement, and direction the tale have to take. But in all the days I logged in - and nights spent drowned in stories, some narratives were weaved so beautifully and with clarity; the author decides to take them out of the loom.

Hey, everyone! I just wanted to give you all a special update on "Staying Human." Not only have I finished writing the story, I've been able to publish it as well! Right now, it is available to download from Smashwords.com for FREE! It will also soon be available on Amazon.com in print for $4. Thank you all, I couldn't have done this without all your encouragement and support. Every vote, and comment meant more to me than you could ever imagine. If you want, go download the story and share it with your friends- I need all the exposure I can get! 

Looking back as one of the collaborators, to see through someone's work getting published is a reward unto itself. Like an infant gently ushered out of the womb, a writer's joy, in some ways becomes mine as well.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Surface Tension


All these talks of hard-ons, these morning leanings of sending your naked selfie to strangers;
these digital encounters that fling you beyond the occasional desire
to seek shadows beyond your realm
speak of one thing, and one thing alone:

Deep down, you long to be
cocooned in the arms of another.

It doesn't matter if he's a stranger or a friend,
all you ever wanted is to belong.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ndoto Blue 002

"Ma... I want to seek your permission." 

"What is it?" She asked.

"I'll be getting a new phone." I stood next to her bed that early morning. "But I hesitate buying the one I like because the phone is expensive."

"Get it." She orders. "Baka hindi mo na ma-afford makabili ng mamahaling cellphone next time." 

Her advise got me thinking.

If there is one thing I have never outgrown, it is to consult my mom every time I make a personal purchase. Especially, if it will carve deep into my pockets, and the acquisition is more of a luxury than a practical move. 

Part of the reason was my upbringing. I was raised to discern the value of my possessions. When I was a kid and wanted to buy a new die cast toy car or an Ultraman action figure, my mom pressed me with benevolent persuasion. It was meant to weigh my purchasing decision.

"Practical ba yan?" She would ask.

"Hindi ba puwedeng next time na lang natin bilhin iyan?"

The habit was carried over to adulthood.

So even when I had the money, I hardly spend on bling. I don't have tablets or expensive phones, like my friends. All my earnings go first to savings. The mobile phones I owned were either freebies from my post-paid phone subscription, or hand-me-downs. In fact, the first phone ever given to me was an Ericsson GF788. I was in college at that time and Nokia 3210 was the status symbol. My dad could afford it and yet, I was sending and receiving SMS on a handset, whose tiny LCD screen made long texts difficult to read.

It was his old phone and it doesn't matter. I was into desktop computers to bother myself with the latest trends.

Before I'd step out of the university, he would pass over to me a Nokia 3310.

Returning to the present, the decision to get a new phone only took a day. It was a Saturday, I remember, and instead of working at home, I was in Megamall to get my first-ever, paid hand-held device. Sure, there are bills to pay, a Christmas season approaching and unseen spending that may come my way. But because I already had my mom's approval; the go-signal from the only person I would trust with my money, indulgence was no longer a source of guilt.

Switching on my Samsung Galaxy Mini for the last time, a few press of the button and it crashed before I can even access the applications.

"Hopeless." I shook my head.

Ndoto Blue on Samsung Galaxy Mini

"A new phone has indeed become a necessary expense."


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ndoto Blue 001

Ndoto Blue on Canon Powershot A495

Crash, Voreign did, every time the boss makes a phone call about an urgent work-related task. It was crunch time in the office, and also the time I left the workplace early so I can repack the relief goods for the victims of the typhoon. It was a tense situation to be in, where the client threatens to pull out their business, should we fail to comply with their new instructions. It was already difficult to find an Internet cafe to write an email. But for the boss to receive a dropped call, because my phone turns off must have been a very frustrating experience for him. 

I said it would never happen again.

It is less than a year before my old phone gets replaced. The Samsung Galaxy Mini came as a freebie when I signed up for a postpaid plan last year. For all my faith in the Korean brand, the gadget would not last for two years. I could have Voreign fixed the next day, but then, indulgence has been a distraction. I was already contemplating what phone to buy next, should the present finally breaks down. 

Coach Blakedaddy recommended Sony Xperia, since I was looking for a camera that snaps high quality images. Pictures, I could proudly show on Instagram or elsewhere as long as the digital repository complements the artistic merit of my subjects. He also suggested Samsung Galaxy S4, because I am a heavy social media user. But then, when the Mini gave up - prematurely - I had to dismiss the idea of getting another Samsung. 

Overnight, the acquisition of a Sony phone suddenly became appealing to me.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Man In The Mirror

I was down with a flu since Tuesday.

My muscles ache and my skin singe with fever. I had runny nose in the morning and at night, chills wrap me to sleep. I was in for a bed rest - I had spent a day obeying my body's demands for sleep and more fluids. Come the next morning, I was up in bed and back to weight lifting. I even took pictures of sunset at the Manila Bay on my way to the gym.

Part of the reason for going out was to return the umbrella Giboy forgot to retrieve from my bag last Monday. He was in the city and since my shift ends in the afternoon, I decided to accompany him getting his driver's license at East Avenue. He reminded me of the umbrella last Wednesday morning, and knowing he spends his work outdoors, returning his possession was an urgent matter. I don't mind commuting all the way south to spare him the inconvenience. 

It was necessary.

The journey, however, had put so much strain that the flu made a nasty comeback upon reaching home. I had to take the blue pill before going to sleep hoping to wake up feeling better. The body responded well and I was out of the house to attend a meeting the next day. My presence was required at work. It was Thursday, the same day Papa Tagay was set for surgery. After seeing the boss and two of my colleagues, off I go to the Heart Center to visit my buddy.

I was told by Santi and Panda to go home and rest. They too showed up to express their support for our friend's medical procedure. They said, I was still recovering; that I should not force myself to act like I have no flu. I nodded at their suggestion. I even let Panda see me ride a jeep going home. But stubborn, the self is, an offer from someone to keep me company when I said I wanted to drink changed my direction. At half past seven, I was at the Mount Carmel church offering prayers. Not done with my request for divine intercession, I walked all the way from Aurora Boulevard to E. Rodriguez reciting the rosary. 

All the cabs passing in front of me were occupied.

Meeting the stranger, and having a drink at Quattro Bar took my mind off things. Yet, at the back of my head, I was very conscious that careless words may lead me into trouble. His questions were laced with curiosity. His fascination, evident in his bespectacled eyes. There was no doubt I had the advantage, but I refused to acknowledge his attraction. Strange as it sounds, but I too, lament that those days of sensible exchanges will not prosper. In real life, we simply differ. We paid the bill unsure how to spell the friendship I was willing to offer.

Awkwardness seem to shadow the message exchanges that came after.

And once more, the flu made a comeback.

Friday and I was back at work. Unwell, but my mind stayed bent performing like the malaise hasn't beset my body. I was able to wrap the day completing all the tasks at hand. I was even able to return to the gym, to work out like my chest wasn't even hurting because of cough.

"Such we are creatures of habit," I left on Twitter before resuming my work-out last Wednesday. "That we rather suffer the consequences of our actions than to break our routines." 

The same question was asked of me by my drinking buddy last Thursday.

"Don't you find routines boring?" He said before smoking his cigarette.

No longer I recall the answer, or how my excuse for living had put a smile on his face. But knowing my penchant for changing decisions at whim, and solitary movements, without considering the convenience of others, routines hold me in place when outward perception dissolves in chaotic mess. You may call it discipline, or other lofty expressions that say the same thing about commitment. 

But when I no longer see everyday patterns, and certainties in days ahead; when I feel constants being overwhelmed by changes, and that my place is befuddled by events not of my doing, the resolve to cling to time-bound habits I faithfully repeat with every cycle is a reflection of my inward response to situations. So it doesn't matter if I'm down with flu, or buried beneath piles of work, with approaching deadlines.

Routines must stay in place, only as to tell my feet the direction I'd be going.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Ding, the ex-boyfriend of Pilyo was rushed to the hospital early this month because of gallstones. He had to undergo surgery two days after being confined at the Medical City.

A week later, Panda found himself sitting in one of the chairs at the emergency room of the World Citi Medical Center because of swollen appendix. He too, had to undergo surgery to excise the pouch-like tube, which in pictures appeared to have grown the size of a small hand-held communication device.

On the third week of November, Papa Tagay was one of those injured in a vehicular accident. A bus lost control along Edsa and ran over several waiting commuters before slamming into another bus. While our chap wasn't among the casualties, he was seated at the back of the bus that was hit by the passenger carrier that lost its break. He cannot remember the blow, only blood dripping down his face. He was discharged at the Makati Medical Center three days later after suffering concussion. 

We thought he was already recovering.

But we were wrong.

I received a direct message on Twitter this morning from his partner telling me that Papa Tagay was once again rushed to the hospital. He was to undergo an emergency medical procedure. A clot formed somewhere in his brain and has now blocked the passage of blood. When I paid a visit at the Heart Center this afternoon, my friend was visibly weak, unable to sleep because of the sharp pain he felt.

We are still waiting for news as to the outcome of his Ventriculostomy

I do not know how to put it in words, but I see a pattern in all these unexpected surgeries. All the people subjected to the forced laceration of the skin belong to the same group who get to see each other for our weekly drinking binge. From Ding (who happens to be Santi's present partner), to Panda and now Papa Tagay, it seems the series of unfortunate events affect the ringleaders. 

Much as I don't want to think about it, but we still have eight days before the month is over. And when I look at the situation with superstitious and ominous eyes, the only ring leader left; spared from all these handiwork of an unseen hand, is none other.

But me.         


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

It is a matter of fact that in the past few weeks, I have been visiting friends who were confined in hospitals, work even on my rest days, go to repacking and donations centers to lend my hands in relief operations, sneak out every Saturday nights to meet friends, or sleep all day because I was up the whole night.  

Guilty as charged and I have no appeal. I maybe physically present at home, but my mind wanders elsewhere.

But what caught me off guard was a remark from my mother. For someone who is not "out" at home, and is not dating (even sleeping) with anyone at the moment, what she told me after barging through her door to demand a hug put me in a mild state of shock. 

"Wala ka na oras sa akin." She said in jest while stroking my hair.

Gangnam style
Cornered? Let's Dance

"Ang oras mo nasa boyfriends mo na."

Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea - The act does not make [a person] guilty unless the mind should be guilty.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Walk I did a few weeks ago. Before the super storm made landfall in the Visayas, and my feet were still eager to see sights that evade me. From the walled enclave of Intramuros to the choke full of trailers below the Del Pan bridge, all I did was walk; walk towards the mouth of the river that flows not far from home.  

You may consider me a riverine. A kid raised next to the river. My earliest memories of my dad include crossing the Nagtahan bridge on foot with him. I still recall that sense of wonder, as huge barges pass beneath the bridge; creating ripples that slosh along the banks, parting water lilies in their procession towards the sea. I remember holding my dad's hand, as tugboats pull the behemoths toward their destination. I would get drowned in my imagination, as I see myself boarding the same boats as we chug our way towards parts unknown.  

When I turned older, I would sit on a floating terminal while the Metro Ferry boat unloads passengers heading to PUP. The swirl in my head, as waves stir the pontoon used to force me to flee to the banks. Soon, I would look forward to these fluxes as they have become a well-spring of excitement. In moments of stillness, I would spot bubbles on the water's surface. Little movements that lead to solid evidence of life. It seems, and I was told, by the birds circling above my head that the river is still alive. Dying, yet giving life to creatures hardened by the ebbs and tides. 

There is no denial that the river is stinky. Sometimes, dead animals float along the water's edge. Its surroundings have turned lifeless, its waters a vial of death. But the river remains a romantic retreat. In high school and college, part of my urban stroll is to ride the ferry going upstream, where city lights and skyscrapers change the backdrop of my beloved metropolis. And there are days still, when I cross the historic bridges or sit in crumbling walls of the Santiago fort, I would imagine a time when people used to wine and dine near the river's edge; when children take a dip in its sparkling waters, or when the superstitious still warn of mermaids dwelling at the belly of the watercourse.

How lovely it is to live in such time.

In all the years I have stood next to the river and daydreamed of times when it used to be teeming with life, the very place where it drains has been a mystery. Part of the elusiveness is the inaccessibility, of the perils and dangers found where the Pasig meets the bay. And one day, while remembering the guy who once told me his dream of setting foot at the confluence, I thought of embarking a solitary trip in honor of his memory. 

So walk I did, pass the trucks waiting their turn to enter the port terminal, pass the gates where container vans are stacked, and pass the homes and hovels that make up the bustling urban landscape at the rim of a reclaimed land. There, I found what I've been searching; a longing my eyes delight in indulging; the river's edge, a few steps away from the sea:  

Baseco Compound, Tondo

"Nakarating ka ng Baseco ng hindi mo alam?" A store vendor at a sari-sari store told me with incredulity. I didn't answer her question.

"Okay lang po ba mag-ikot ikot?" 

"Okay lang naman, basta huwag ka pupunta dun sa may dulo. Magulo dun." She warned.

A sea of trash it may be. But the river mouth remains a poignant discovery to me. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Disquiet Morning Of Fury And Rage


"Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God." The old lady holding a wooden rosary implored in a cracked voice.

"That we maybe worthy of the promises of Christ." A chorus of terrified faithful mumbled in response.

"Let us pray."  

It was nearing daybreak, and no one has slept yet. The howls of death has kept them craning their necks to the ceiling, as the corrugated aluminum sheets on their heads tear up like it was being trampled by invisible hooves. Eight souls counting three kids huddled together inside a small room. Hidden under thick blankets and with their hands wrapped around their mother's waist, these children shiver every time the walls shake.  

Days before landfall, authorities made rounds around the neighborhood beseeching families to stay in concrete shelters. A handful heeded their call. But not this family. Believing their two-story home can withstand the winds of perdition, the patriarch of the house decreed it would be best for them to stay together as the swirling oblivion passes through.

"Our house is far from the shore" he said to his wife "There is no chance the sea will barge through the door." 

Nightfall came, and a televised speech from the President urged people to move to higher grounds. It was aired live in the evening news. The lights flickered as he spoke, prompting the maid to ready some candles. Outside, the winds warned of the approaching tempest. Electric wires swayed, while whistles in the air (the eldest among the three girls compared the sound to a jet plane that is about to take off) grew louder as the hands of time inched closer to midnight.

There was no sleep, especially for the one who sealed the fate of them all. He switched on the transistor radio, but only white noise can be heard across the airwaves. Looking at the window, all he saw were red skies lit by lightning. His judgement now clouded with doubts, he began to question his decision. 

"Was it the right thing to stay?"

"Or should have I let them evacuate in Maasin, where my in-laws are living?" He felt a gentle hand land on his shoulders. It was his wife.

"Everything will be alright." She smiled.

At four in the morning, the lights went out. Somewhere in the distance, they heard a loud thud. Like an electric pole crashing to the ground. With the winds now showing its ferocity, the family believed the worse is almost over; that the eye wall was directly above their heads. 

"Anytime soon, this will be over," The matriarch assured before leading the prayers and raising her hand to do the sign of the cross. However, cut from the outside world, the meteorologists tell of a different story:

"The eye of Typhoon “YOLANDA” was located at 62 km Southeast Guiuan, Eastern Samar (10.8°N, 126.2°E) with maximum sustained winds of 235 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 275 kph"

The worse is yet to come.

It is already morning but the sun is nowhere in sight. Faint blue light illuminates the windows, only to be blurred by horizontal rain bands splatting against the frosted glass. The winds, in its fury uproots a nearby Acacia tree. It leans precariously next to the balcony. Its branches clawing deeper into the walls as the furious squall tries to lift the wooden beast off the ground.

Fear begins to show in the eyes of the old lady. Never before, in more than half a century of memory has she seen such winds able to smash a tree against the concrete skin of her home.

Clutching her grandchildren, intuition tells that they should leave the doomed quarter: To move to a room away from the windward direction. Just when they were about to reach the door, the ceiling collapses. An iron beam smashes into the matriarch's head knocking her down, and pinning her body to the floor. On the verge of losing consciousness, she mutters the words "leave." while blood gushes down her face. Unable to grip what just happened, the wife yanked her husband, and her father-in-law out of the room. The remaining family members crawled towards safety as broken glass and toppled objects now litter the corridor. 

There was no time to mourn. No time to weep, as the tempest reveals its full strength. The typhoon is now directly above their heads, and the gale's shrills is all that is to hear. It screams destruction; like the gates of Hades have been forced open and all the wretched, cursed souls of the underworld force their way out of the bottomless pit. The groans of horror as the wind holds sway over the ruined house will become stuff of nightmares for many sleeps to come

- if the remaining family members ever get out of this hell alive. 

The wind pounds the walls, and rips the roof. Clothes fly out of the dresser while beds and bookcases overturn. Doors slam against their frames. Eventually, they fall to the ground with their hinges and locks twisted. The mass of air puffs what remains of the house, that it was no longer safe to stay on the second floor. It means a perilous escape towards the staircase. The bathroom downstairs might be their last hope. 

With the patriarch dazed and on the verge of break down, it was the son, the father of the three children who made the call. With a rope knotted around the waists of her wife, helper and three daughters, they inch away once more, inch where four pillars and a concrete slab may spell the difference between life and death. Twice they had to duck, for the winds had almost lifted them off the ground. Soaked and trembling, with sprays of water slapping their faces, they go on, making every breath as their last. Turning his head to where he had last seen his dad, curled and sobbing as he repeated the words "I'm sorry," he saw no one. Gone was the old man, and the room where they took shelter.

Reaching the staircase, the ground floor was nowhere in sight. Instead, waves, upon waves of water - the storm surge they were all warned about has swallowed everything in its path. The house shakes once more, as the walls on the ground floor are being eaten away by the torrent.

"Abandon all hope," his thoughts say.

But his heart resolves to live on for many more tomorrows to come.