Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Eternal Blue Sky

I hardly write this aspiration on these pages. Maybe, I have dropped a line or two on Twitter, where random thoughts are easier to publish because there is no need to create narratives to support the idea. In my deepest yearning, if I were to choose a way to live, I would like to be a travel writer: someone, who creates vivid images with words and paragraphs to describe what the eyes can see. To this day, I refuse to part with the idea, knowing too well that I may never have the clarity of thought to tell a story that pleases my taste. For I have this habit of artistic self-flagellation, of finding this odd pleasure of looking down at my own works, ashamed to let it out in public. 

This thought is just between you (blog) and me (writer), and you know what is strange? I never had this doubt before, when I can still switch between writing in Filipino and English, sometimes, even mixing the two languages together in one essay. I guess times have changed, and I am paying the price for setting up the benchmark too high, that my own free time cannot afford it. With instant gratification I enjoy on social media, and more work asked for the raketship, I have little reason to believe that long-form artistic writing - for pleasure - is just a memory. If I were to endure this literary eclipse, I will have to change my storytelling style to something closer to once was the less uptight writer in me. 

With two successive posts published this November, it is my hope that the time of de-flowering has again resumed. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Breakup Letter

November 7, 2014

For the past days, its been a roller coaster ride for me. Sobrang daming pangyayari that needs to be addressed with, office, personal, health and career.

Pinakamabigat sa lahat ay nung tumawag ang Canadian Embassy sakin last Thursday at 2AM. Nagapply kasi ako ng work for Canada last year. i had my final interview last January 2014. I presume that time na hindi ako nakapasa kasi hindi nako nakareceive ng feedback sa kanila until nung Thursday nga. They are now considering again my application and was advised to visit the embassy for additional information. kaya ako nakaleave today. They gave me the list of requirement that i need to submit within asap.

I'm sorry but in order for me to finish this, there are some sacrifices that needs to be established. I'll be asking a break muna para maasikaso ko to. Feeling ko kasi magsasuffer lang tayong 2 if I continue.

Once all has been settled. I'll talk to you personally.

Nagfile narin ako ng leave sa office para matapos ko lahat.

sorry din for the short notice. Kasalanan ko to.

Maraming salamat!


I never knew him as someone who wakes up at 2 in the morning. 

Once, I tried, and it took him almost half an hour just to answer the phone. I am not even sure if calling a potential applicant for an offshore job interview - at the dead of the night - is standard practice. 

I never tried looking for work abroad.  

There were already signs that our love was losing steam. Just a month before, we already broke ties after he refused to patch our differences. It all started with his non-texting that lead to a silly fight. He never spoke to me for two weeks. Refusing to reach out and make amends, I sent an SMS telling him our relationship was over. His tepid response had sourness all over it. If not for his text asking for a second chance - a month later - we would never make light of what happened.  

We were a couple again in less than an hour after he reached out and said sorry. 

Weeks went by and I felt again the growing distance. He would never talk to me for an entire day, saying he was busy at work. He would never reply to my SMS when I checked how his day was. The ex, a term I find difficult to use for association, had more time at the gym, and when I show up to join him, he would make comments at my expanding girth. I brushed off his remarks believing our relationship was never skin deep.

But who knew his words were laced with warnings.

At a hindsight, I was beginning to think half of his stories were fiction. He would tell me about his well-off family, and yet, it doesn't show in his tastes. He would share some good EDM videos, but when I invited him at Time in Manila, you can see in his face his disinterest. This, and a lot more anecdotes, which I am too ashamed to tell, slowly eroded that suspension of disbelief. When he sent the email, I was less heartbroken, knowing I might have saved myself from his charlatan ways.


The Gundam Pilot will go down in history as the shortest romantic relationship that I had. In the four months, we have been a couple, I never knew where his home was; who his parents were; not even the friends he keeps. He chose to omit those details while having free access to my room. To this day, I am still befuddled as to why he had to write a short email asking for "breakup muna," when we were supposed to meet the next day for a movie date, and for all his self-promotion that he doesn't plan to go abroad (he broke up with his ex because he doesn't believe in long distance relationship) he suddenly came up with this silly story about a pending job application to Canada.

As a partner, who have probably spoiled him in ways no other ex of him did, I would have supported his aspiration to go abroad, had he asked for my support. I would have even accompanied him to his interview, brushed up his English conversation skills, or reviewed his documents before sending them to his employer as my parting duties. But because the story was made-up, his excuse, ill-advised, and that, he had literally abandoned me without ever explaining his real reason for breaking up, I remember our tarnished past, as a footnote to what was, us.

One year later, he still rants about his work. Unloved and still trying to impress those who bother to pay attention, he will never find his name, or his memory on these pages again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Previously on: Ayala Boy

I have difficult news to share with you today. Due to some updates in our SEO strategy, we’ve been forced to lower our writing deliverables by up to 40% immediately. This is not what we had hoped would happen. We’ve unfortunately had to let go of ~50 of your peers today. Although all of your contracts are still active, we have updated a new contract (details below) which you will have to agree to by tomorrow, 3pm, in order to continue writing.


The electronic mail was couriered through the private networks, like a bomb dropped at the unsuspecting agents. There was no advanced word: not even hints that something sinister will tear people's lives before the day's end. It was business as usual for these writers, not even in their greatest fears had they ever contemplated having to spend their last day at work before the month's end. With the holidays fast approaching, seldom do companies hire at this time of the year. Why leave when pay is good, performance is in the upswing, and all seems well with the home-based workplace?

But then the unthinkable happened. 

One of the agents suddenly found herself being kicked out of the company portal. She was unable to log in for reasons beyond her understanding. Another agent wasn't even able to start his work anymore, unbeknownst to him, his contract had just expired.

Across different teams, this was the collective tale. Fifty souls had just lost their jobs. This doesn't include the number of new hires from the outsourcing unit the management had just tapped some months ago. There will be no separation pay. Even those who met swift termination were deemed the lucky ones. They are at least free to look for work elsewhere, unlike those who are still in the company, and unsure when their time of reckoning will come. Not only will they never find peace in the coming days, earnings, unlike the ones they enjoyed just weeks ago have been slashed by more than a half. Those who used to bringing home 60 grand will have to make do with less than 20. The management did not just enforce a limit to the number of work units a writer can do in a week, every short article written will have less value from now on. 

Lives have changed in a single day. 

I have heard stories about agents who suddenly found themselves under mountains of debts. Cars that were paid by loans might need to be returned if other sources of income cannot be found. Children who were sent to expensive schools may need to go back to public classrooms. Many, who have left their day jobs will suddenly find themselves unable to support their new lifestyles. Regret will be the by-word for tomorrow. Some of my peers even started looking for short-term projects on Upwork.

While this has little effect on my earnings, the confidence I have with the raketship has been shaken. No longer can I let the days pass certain of my direction. While I have seen countless retrenchments in my life, one, even engineered by me, it is only now that the stakes have been higher. Losing the raketship would mean a slash of my take-home pay. I cannot imagine keeping a lifestyle with merely my day job to keep my finances afloat.

A town hall meeting was held today, and a person can glean from the agents' sarcastic remarks punctured by self-entitled free thought the anguish of having to work under a new arrangement. Tempers flared. Many, vented their anger and resignation by showing insolence towards the management. At first, my sympathies were with fellow writers, and how they have been led to believe of the limitless opportunities offered by the raketship. But realizing how companies - big and small - ditch even their most loyal pawns, and how each worker is as good as his last performance, little by little, I begin to understand the right of the raketship to save itself. It may have been drastic for others, especially to those who have become complacent of tomorrow, but nothing can really be undone. I may have been spared the fate befalling some of my peers; I may even end up as one of the highest income earners given the decision to stick with two jobs rather than invest in one. However, in the end, I may have to accept this as well:

Nothing is permanent, and I may have to look for a third source of income, just to be sure I may never find myself with nothing, when the day of my retrenchment comes. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Previously on Mariposa

"Ibibigay ko po ang aking sarili nang buong-buo sa ating mga kababayan, lalong lalo na sa inyong mga naka-tsinelas, na nasa labas, nasa ibaba at nasa laylayan ng lipunan."

Atty. Leni Robredo
Liberal Party Vice Presidential Candidate

Only last month she vowed, never to aspire for some higher government post, in a live interview during late night news. Part of the reason was her lack of experience: with just three years as representative of her district, she would rather draft laws to improve the lives of her constituents in Camarines Sur than wade through trash that is national politics. Unlike her late husband, who has been a mayor for almost two decades, she finds strength standing in the background, lending her mind, when needed, in creating policies that made Naga one of the most vibrant cities in Bicol. Her three young daughters are against this new idea. They knew it would change their lives. As the party she had faithfully served runs out of choices when the foundling they groomed to be the vice-president joined the presidential race, everyone who believes in grassroots leadership pleaded for her to have a change of heart. Even the current occupant of Malacanan, offered himself as a broker, so the straight path he envisioned would endure long after he exits the spotlight.

Leni, as she is affectionately called, comes across as a lady who walks among farmers and fishermen; the ordinary folks of the countryside who have less in life than the contract workers and mid-level managers of the cities. She speaks her mind, with reason and fairness that comes from the gut. In that same interview many nights ago, those who have heard her were carried away by her intelligence, she became a trending topic on social media the next day. Being a leader once, I knew her kind of mold. She speaks about servant leadership, and I thought it would be a great loss if the party she represents picks another person to take her place.

As negotiations went behind closed doors, fringe members of the party spoke of alternative candidates. There was the governor-for-all-seasons, as well as the feisty senator from Taguig. Even the House Speaker's name was also floated among the possible candidates. And as the media circus reaches a new crescendo, the core members of the Liberal Party finds no other choice: It's Leni or nothing. Symbolic her place maybe, but what better person to encapsulate the Daang Matuwid philosophy than the widow of the man who first embraced it?

Somewhere in her journey, between the party invitation and her acceptance is a soul searching for answers. "Why me?" Leni asked, when she spoke behind the podium at Club Filipino. "I have no money, not even a machinery to run a local campaign." The audience listened to her epiphany. Drawing strength from Jesse, who had never walk away when friends sought his help, she realized that her husband's legacy will be for naught, if she turns her back this one time her party desperately needs her. With resolve to carry on, not just her husband's Tsinelas leadership, but also the citizen empowerment enjoyed under Pnoy's time, Leni Robredo, at long last, embraced what her calling is all along.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Out of Hibernation

Previously on Trinity

What purpose there is to blog, when there is no urgent need for narratives? Twitter, with it's 140-characters can already tell glimpses of my life, and I get virtual applause when the stuff I share online resonate with the kindred who follow my social media account. Meanwhile my Instagram, which has become a repository of my visual artistry never asks, what the blog demands every time I go back and do expository writing. There I go, uploading pictures at random, while receiving "hearts" as tokens for my work. Then I return to my mundane existence, only to post a cropped photo with filters that make it look artsy when inspiration strikes me.

The cycle goes on.

But the blog defines me, not as a person, but at how I make sense of life. Should there be a need to perpetuate a milestone, I pen it to be able to recall my footsteps; and to put into context my failures and accomplishments as a human being. The blog has also been a companion as I drift across various spheres of people and places. Their quintessence, I have written, so I may have a reference when I come across similar states again. To abandon the blog for other forms of expression, not just betray the calling, it will deny me the chance to weave what I have been yearning to write for tomorrow. In my absence, photos forethought to accompany my long-form pursuit pile in my phone's memory. I fear, they may no longer get published should I decide to prolong this hibernation.

And so we return to form: a little less inspired, with undertones of having to rush another post, with emotions now guarded and devoid of rawness my younger self would never hesitate to show. Yet, no matter the hesitation, there remains the desire to carry on; to remain faithful to tradition long forgotten by luminaries whose works were far more brilliant than mine. And with the fidelity to keep this space to myself, denying the thousands who get to read my mind elsewhere, I reclaim once more what has been mine, now and for all time.

This is Mugen writing back, and here are my stories.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Persistence of Life

Previously: The Martha Stewart In Me

From a certain perspective, a person who finds himself at my mother's veranda can glean the progress I have made: The sprawling oregano plants now need to be tied up, suspended halfway between the ground and the ceiling so their stems would extend upward as desired. The purple wandering jews have grown unchecked behind the sliding glass windows which I could no longer open because of the pots leaning against them. And without the rats digging the soil of the pots lining the ledge, the plants have their roots restored and are now verdant once more. One can only assume that I have prevailed, and that my passion for gardening has turned the house into a green sanctuary. But images can be deceiving, and the cost of my money-making venture is bigger than what a single photo can tell.

On the other side of the house, the fragrant lavenders have all disappeared - whole plants wilted for reasons I could never explain. The mint plants struggle to sprout new leaves, and weeds, whose seeds were carried over by passing birds continue to steal nutrients from herbs that are still thriving. In places of the house where the sun illuminates the corners, empty pots continue to multiply. Plants are still dying, and plans to replace them get postponed as work demands less time to go about the city. The late afternoon showers and week-long monsoon rains sometimes help in watering the polymer vessels, but at times when the winds refuse to spray the windows (where the pots droop on the iron grills) with rain water, I end up with wilted plants, with lumps of soil as dry as the Sahara.

This has been the concerns lately, and like the garden I have put up in sun-ward corners that used to offer nothing but a view of the neighbors' disarrayed rooms, there remains this feeling that I may have sprawled and spread out in places, but within remains stagnating. It may have been caused by pressing demands for material accomplishments, which as of late have already clawed deep into my personal time. Maybe I have lost myself in the cycle, and it reflects on how I attend to my herbs' needs these days. 

One is safe to say I am entrenched. 

Meanwhile, as new stem cuttings get planted on the ground, or old garden pots rearranged so it may hold more water for the soil to absorb, it is my hope that these feeble attempts to bring life into my shrinking paradise remind me of the feat that cannot be counted at the teller machine. 

The persistence of life, no matter how subtle, remains a reward in itself.  

Postscripts To A Pluto Flyby

I have always been fascinated with space. 

My earliest memory of the heavens was UFO-spotting with my father at the back of our house. Strange as it sounds, but my introduction to Astronomy came in the form of pseudo-science. And while I don't recall finding anything bizarre in the sky, except for a stationary orange object, which I insisted to be a cosmic body, nothing groundbreaking happened to us that night.

Or so it seems.

Then came the Master of Orion. That computer strategy game that lets you run an entire world and send ships to colonize other stars. Of course, there are rivals, artificial intelligence, whose goal is to prevent human players like me from dominating the game. I was in Junior high school then, whose time coincided with my growing addiction to the TV series, Babylon 5. Bring the two together, and the space geek in me finally achieved sentience.

I remember taking my strategy game very seriously - so much - that I was hard-pressed to pick names of real celestial objects already discovered by astronomers. Vega, Lalande, Fomalhaut, just to name a few. I even made sure to name my newly acquired worlds in the order of the nearest star systems to the sun. As to how I got those names and their distance from the Solar system accurate, a pocket-sized encyclopedia takes the credit. It was one of those trinkets I bought with my own school allowance, and one, whose contents still illuminate me to this day.

Among the prominent chapters of the pocket-sized encyclopedia were the illustrated pages of the planets in our Solar System. They were recent photos, taken by the Voyager probes as they glide past those worlds. There was Jupiter, and her Jovian satellites; Saturn and her majestic rings, and then there was Neptune, which, according to the little book appears to have internal sources of heat. That tidbit of knowledge thrilled me, and so I turned the pages, only to get disappointed, when I found how scant the information was about the next featured planet: Pluto.

Pluto was the final frontier, and until last summer, very little was known about the dwarf planet. In the pocket-sized encyclopedia, only a silhouetted dot, together with her blurry satellite, Charon were shown. It was taken by the recently launched Hubble Space Telescope in place of high resolution pictures of other worlds. 

At that time, nobody thought humanity would embark on a journey to study the planet up-close. Not in our lifetime. After all, it takes 6 hours for sunlight to reach its surface. The object was at the fringes of the Solar System, and while the technology is available to send a probe to Pluto, human will can't. It was only after a series of project scrapping, followed by collective outcry that NASA finally decided to fund the project and launch the New Horizon spacecraft in 2006.


The New Horizons probe sailed the depths of the solar system, unnoticed, while the matters of the earth shifted from petty wars to climate change. While the quest to study the heavens, with Curiousity taking selfies on Mars and Dawn snapping pictures of Ceres, went on, with much fanfare, the New Horizons flyby was gearing up to become the most talked about human accomplishment so far. And on July of this year, almost a decade since the spacecraft left the Earth, humanity had its first encounter with Pluto.  

The exploration of the Solar System is at long last, complete.

The collective jubilation was apparent on both the virtual and real life conversations. Memes were created, with focus on the heart-shaped feature prominent on the surface of Pluto. There were also those who lament, that after all these years, what we can afford to send was a probe merely capable of passing a distant planet. And while the issue of the trans-Neptunian object being downgraded to a dwarf world was once more being raised, this breakthrough suddenly became yesterday's news: the terrestrial affairs (and all its domestic concerns) once more became the daily struggles of humankind.

It is as if, sightings of another world is but a stuff of dreams.


I would like to think that our flyby to Pluto, no matter how ephemeral, will stir the imagination of children, like it did, when our generation had its first glimpse of the worlds beyond Mars. At a time when talk about scaling down space exploration is being thought out of political accommodation, and when our yearning to go places wanes as we grow more at ease with our lives spent on the internet, there is a tinge of anxiety knowing we might cease searching and just stagnate here, until we all die out.

But I still believe there remains to be accomplished and our aspiration as a species since leaving our cradle in Africa to inhabit the planet still needs to be fulfilled. We may have mapped the solar system, and have begun looking at the stars for worlds similar to ours, but until we set foot on another world, and make it our new home, the dreamers among us will still look at the sky at night, and sigh with vexed yearning at how long before the heavens are within reach.

The DOST National Science and Technology Fair

In the early days, before I began reaching out to fellow humans in the four-corners of the classroom, and make friends with some of them, my cherished companions were the encyclopedias and science almanacs in the library. It was easy to form bonds with them. You say goodbye to your teacher after the last subject ends at 3 pm, drop your belongings right at the door of the school library, and for hours, you get to drift between space and time with pictures and letters, undisturbed behind shelves of tomes seldom explored by other kids inside the spacious room. And these books, don't stab you at the back when others make fun of your habits, or abandon you when other kids do things you hardly enjoy - like sports. Book reading was for me, a solitary leisure activity. What I didn't realize is that I would carry on the fascination, and still gasp at the discoveries, halfway towards the finish line of my life.

It is for this reason I found immense joy when the Weatherman invited me to see the DOST Fair at the SMX Convention Center. He, more than anyone else revere science and technology, and a visit at the exhibit hall, with all those never-before-seen innovations done by our scientists rekindled that sense of wonder in me.

In many ways, this was my formal introduction to such event.

First stop was the exhibit showcasing the hybrid buses and tricycles that would one day complement the mass transportation system already in place in the metropolis. These buses, with two interconnecting carriages, run on clean fuel, and could carry around 200 passengers at a time. They are meant to load and unload passengers at designated bus stops, and may even require their own lanes in a busy highway like Edsa. The motorbikes, meanwhile, could replace the mini gas guzzlers that pollute the suburban air. While it would take another administration to make these buses and trikes run in our major roads, what matters is that the technology exists. Maybe when the right leader take his place, and the new cabinet secretaries realize the urgency to mass produce these eco-friendly vehicles, this public demonstration is just the beginning of our shift towards a more environment-conscious society. 

Onward the Weatherman and I moved to another exhibit, this time, the simulations could save lives when disaster strikes. 

A week before the city-wide earthquake drill happened, visitors to the science fair were able to experience how it feels when the ground shakes during a tremor. At the middle of the exhibition hall was a shaking table similar to the ones used by the Japanese to educate the public about earthquakes. Stepping into the small ring, the mechanical floor begins to sway using simple hydraulic systems. I mentioned that it was simple, for the ground shaking doesn't really come close to the real thing (from what I remember) What I got from the experience was a brief dizzy spell, and that experience of riding a mechanical device better featured in amusement parks. 

Among the innovations we have seen at the fair, there were two which stood out at the exhibit hall. One was the improvements made to Project Noah, the foremost flood control and weather forecasting tool of the government, and the other, which is the Diwata, our nation's ambitious program to send the first home-grown satellite to earth orbit. For Project Noah, new improvements include more accurate data that shows the flood-prone areas of Manila. Also featured at the exhibit are the early-warning devices, from state-of-the-art air raid sirens to digital rain gauges that measure the amount of rain falling at any given time. The Diwata program, meanwhile, was a technological grant from Japan. Using one of their satellite designs, the aim is to build one to serve as our communication beacon in space. A full-size mock-up was on display at the fair, and while it hardly made the spotlight at the exhibit, realizing how this compact machine could start our own space program made me look forward to see it being launched in 2017.

There were many other exhibits worth looking at the fair, like the Lego robot almost the height of a toddler, or the heirloom Abaca and Pina fabric making technique preserved by the science agency for future generations. There were also various advancements in agriculture including native livestock bred and returned to their places of origin, and more cost-effective ways to do shellfish farming. There was also an exhibit about nano-wires already being replicated in the country, as well as a contraption that creates miniature tsunami waves to show how it destroys everything in its path. After making rounds at the exhibit hall, and seeing with my own eyes how vibrant our science and technology innovations are, there is no doubt, we are making progress.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Metro Manila Shake Drill

It all began with a showing of a topographic map, distributed to the media with blue lines bisecting the metropolis' eastern fringes. These broken dashes represent the fracture in earth's crust. It runs through swathes of Quezon City, Marikina, up to Muntinlupa, and was the result of a survey of the West Valley Fault System. It was commissioned by the government in the interest of public safety, and also for risk reduction in the event of an actual temblor. Overnight, the news became a sensation, something that puts fear and panic to those living near and beneath the tectonic system. While immediate relocation of families living in the danger zone is out of the question, authorities knew that something has to be done. Before this hype was replaced by another buzz, it was decided by the MMDA to set about a metro-wide earthquake drill. The aim is not just actual coordination of government agencies, but also a chance to educate the public of what needs to be done during such disaster.  

The initiative was the first of its kind. Nothing of this magnitude has been done in recent memory, and while it is understandable that the MMDA is also unsure about the drill's execution, what matters is that the foundation for such readiness has already been in place. The original idea was to include power and water interruption, as well as telecommunication disruption. They wanted to remain faithful to a total infrastructure breakdown scenario and let the public experience it. But realizing how inconvenient this is to everyone, the revised plan focused on four sectors set up across the metropolis to simulate civil evacuation, medical relief, and disaster response. 

While public support was tepid, at best, given the lack of news build-up after the drill was announced, I have already resolved not to leave the fate of my loved ones to chance. Heavy duty plastic containers were procured to store water in case the water pipes get busted. The acquisition of transistor radios also became a priority. Finally, with the medicine cabinet replenished with new bandages and antiseptic fluids, somehow my fears were put to rest. What is missing are the go-bags should we need to stay outdoors, and instructions to everyone about what to do during an earthquake.

The metro-wide drill was the perfect excuse to educate everyone.

I would not deny being tempted to go all the way to Intramuros to watch how the fire suppression drill is being performed. There is also the command center at the LRT Santolan station for disaster relief and rescue affecting residents closest to the fault line. I could have gone to these places and write my experiences. But then, I realized, much of the preparation at home would be for naught if my family members have no idea about "drop," "cover," and "hold" which are the basics of earthquake survival.

"Ang pinakamahalaga mama, eh maprotektahan yung ulo mo." Handing over a pillow to the matriarch, I told her to use it to cover her head. A disabled person like her would have no time to hide under a table or run out of the house in case of a temblor.

This is the same instruction I told the maids, and also pointed at the objects at home that have the highest risk of falling and hitting someone in the head.

That includes my dad's man-sized sketch portrait.

Looking back, giving up the chance to be out there and joining the actual drills was nothing compared to what I can contribute at home. They say, disaster preparedness begins with loved ones, and what better way to do this by teaching the littlest ones - my nephews - who need to be protected more than anyone else.

"Lenin, tayo ka." I had ask him to take a break from his child's play to impart the lessons I've been telling everyone since that morning.

"Try mo nga magtago dito sa ilalim ng kama." Following my orders, the elder nephew tried to fit himself into the small space under my mom's hardwood bed.

"Alam mo kung ano yung lindol?"

He shook his head and smiled at me. Apparently, it wasn't properly communicated at school what the drill that morning happened. At 4 years old and with no actual experience of ground shaking, it was difficult to explain what an earthquake is.

"Ah eh ganito yun." I started shaking my mother's bookcase.

"Kapag gumalaw ito ng walang tao, kailangan mo magtago sa ilalim ng bed ha?" To make it more realistic, I shook the bookcase violently, until the books stacked on top of the shelves started falling.

"Kailangan mo magtago kasi mababagsakan ka nitong mga books."

Getting my idea, my nephew hid once more under the bed as the book shaking continued. I didn't stop, and instead, made sure everything on the shelf lay bare on top of the bed.

"Tandaan mo ito palagi ha?"


It has been 25 years since the last big quake shook the city. Another 22 and news of the Ruby Towers collapsing, and killing more than 200 souls put fear in the hearts of high-rise dwellers. The great big one is long overdue. Should a time come the ground shakes once more, I hope that all these efforts in family preparation will not be for nothing.

Like the Metro Manila Shake Drill, knowing and actual practice are the keys to saving lives.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

As We Return The Relics

Out of this desire to write something - anything, just to catch up with my 10 blog entries published every month, I tried recycling works I have penned long before online writing became a calling. I've spent the rest of the night rummaging articles, stored on my computer's magnetic vault, hoping they could be used for my self-preservation. They were written in college, back when I knew nothing about Creative Writing, and all we ever did was to write using journalistic principles learned from our discipline. They were a source of pride, I tell you. Given my scarce vocabulary and infantile style, some of them could stand against the self-scrutiny I often apply in my works today. The problem is, the narratives could be published in connection with the present. Something I'd have to unearth and refurbish to gain some credence. But it's almost daybreak and nothing I could spin would make them relevant. So I thought, maybe, I'd let them linger in oblivion. They have more value than being reduced as a stand-alone throw back post. There too were the cheesy poems inspired by real-time events. Cringe-worthy as they may sound, nothing I could do would make them get past their juvenile musings. Finally, there was this one piece scribbled in my attempt to immortalize a trip down south. Replete with descriptions about the sights and tastes of Davao City, what I find lacking is the sense of journey. Forgivable offense, I thought. After all, the journal existed long before I learned this gift of writing.  

Eventually, I was left with nothing but this hurried post that will appear on my blog before sunrise. If there was something I have picked in that little time travel to my own pre-history, it is the affirmation that I've told stories long ago. One day, I would have to weave a tapestry warping the past and the future, so they may find permanence in cyberspace using the weft I have always carried along.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Previously on: Rinavia Prime


I will always remember those three blood-colored, heart emoticons he would once, or twice drop between Facebook chats, or the hesitant whispers of those three magic words I can never recall reciprocating during our partings. After all these years, I carry on the regret, and so is the burden of hardly making him feel assured when he was the one trying to get close.

However, things have started to change after our exclusivity pact a month ago. We would see each other once a week. Watch events or movies that appeal to our common interest. Lay side by side at night, with my arms wrapped around his chest, and my lips, planted on his shoulders. This has become us after three years, and despite my occasional and delusional fear that this might be all just a dream; that we would one day get tired of being dating partners, we go on, hanging out as friends and sleeping as lovers.

I pray the best is yet to come. And we would realize how this bond brought us closer than we ever been since the first time we reached this point in our lives. And if these sweet nothings, conveyed, just before he leaves for his religious duties last weekend hint not of what we really are, I don't know anymore how to put into words the depth of this special ties.

"Daddy Bear mo ako?" He smiled and nodded as an affirmation.

Kissing him in response, I replied, 

"Patotie kita."

Monday, July 20, 2015


Previously: Unpretty

It was the succession of ulcer and flu that caused me to stop my workout routine. Sacred as it was, I even went to the gym at 2 in the morning just so my physical activity would not come in the way of work. That was before the malady struck. Last week, I had to stay away from doing any fitness activity while recovering from sickness. There was an undeniable strength loss after my return. Meanwhile, the mind felt uneasy without the pattern I have grown used to follow.

The gym has become the pillar from which my repetitive existence gets a break. It was a preoccupation that breath life unto me, especially after the weekend shifts forced me to become a social hermit. The colleague who I used to assign on Saturdays and Sundays resigned from work last summer. No longer I could call for a binge. Friends of the Casa went their separate ways. 

For a long time, the plateau was the reason I never lose weight. I would still remember someone from last year, a lover from a deleted timeline, telling me repeatedly that I am getting fat; while he became more frequent at the gym. To this day I keep in mind that it was the reason for our breakup. No longer was I fit like when we first met, he decided to make a run without ever saying a proper goodbye.  

The thought still makes my heart break.

From 180 lbs last Christmas, my weight has dropped to 166, the best accomplishment so far since I ended the Bunny Interludes last 2008. It was a combination of less rice intake and more jogging activity around the Malacanan that broke the hold of fat on my body. I would not deny the ease of moving around after my pants became looser. There is liberty in knowing a small-sized shirt could snugly fit on my frame.

I am publishing this piece as a throwback to once was a goal that seem impossible to keep. Even after the two-week absence at the gym, I only gained a pound or two when I last stepped foot on a metal scale. I checked my weight at the same time I resumed jogging and strength conditioning and little fat do I have to burn, unless the metabolism slows once again. 

When I look back, now that I have accomplished this kind of freedom, I realize that it was no longer the ex and the pain he caused that drove me to do this transformation. But instead, what started it all was a careless remark from someone, during our cuddle moment, telling what he felt as his arms wrapped around my shoulders.

"Para akong may kayakap na bear." He said affectionately. 

"Teddy bear..." I would keep in mind his description, so that if ever he finds me on top of him again, he'll have a leaner bear to cuddle.

And he did.

Bear or buff, it no longer matter. After all these modifications I did to myself, maybe it's time to say I already have the last laugh.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Encounters With A Fundie

Careless musing, an observer will say. I should have exercised caution when I let my thoughts out in the open, lest I may court opinions completely opposing mine. It all started with a shared image, of a conversation among teenagers asking about the relevance of science. They contend that science disproves the existence of God, thus, should be given a choice, it should be removed from the curriculum. The fetid smell of ignorance in their exchanges didn't escape my senses. I could not help but post it on my Facebook wall to express, not only my indignation but alarm. In all my years in the academe, we were taught to embrace science more than any other subject, and reading posts from these pre-teens invoking God's wisdom over mankind's quest for knowledge defeats the purpose of our existence.

While many friends agree with my observation, a lone dissenter nearly caused me to go ballistic and start a nasty exchange on my own wall. He was a classmate in high school. Someone who was given privilege to study in Diliman, and eventually, migrate abroad to lead a better life. Had he been someone whose accomplishments were less stellar, I would simply brush off his opinion given his intellectual limitation. But this is a UP graduate disagreeing with me, and his defense would have disappointed all those progressive thinkers who continue to draw the line between religion and reason.

"Those young people might have not presented and discussed this matter in an intellectual way but actually they are right. Evolution is wrong and very wrong but the problem is the educational system is still feeding them to our children, and for that reason I'm seriously considering not sending my kids to a public school. All evidences points directly against evolution but many scientists deny it. Why you ask?! Because evolution is the only way some scientists prove that God doesnt exist."

Nganga. That was my initial reaction. I would have said there and then that the Bible doesn't logically narrate how creation started. "God creates heaven and earth in six days." Who would believe such crap? Figuratively, it would hold ground, but if my Creationist acquaintance will assert the literal interpretation of the Holy Book, I might as well unfriend him as I don't want to associate myself with Christian Fundamentalists. I've had enough of their trash talk back when they used to bully people like us in high school.

"I've always questioned the theory of evolution and how we all got here. Hard evidences clearly point to a young Earth (10,000 years) and not billions of years. Plus the Creationism clearly explained how the first people reached the Philippines."

I decided to avoid direct confrontation, and instead, let others talk on my Facebook wall to share their thoughts. But this guy's conviction would never let him stop. He would continue insisting his Intelligent Design view when doing so would make him look silly to those reading his post.

"Actually evolution debunks the existence of God so evolution and creation cannot coexist. It is either one is true and the other is bogus. Evolution states that we became human due to random events while creation states that God created us in His own image."

I'd like to disprove his statement: how could they not coexist when creation precedes evolution? Evolution states that all creation begins from atoms and single-celled organisms, and through natural selection and adaption, only the fittest survives. It might sound like there's an uncaring universe out there, a world view where God apparently doesn't show grace. But the fact that the miracle of creation happened, and life multiplied in ways no scientist still could not explain already debunks his claim that evolution proves a creator doesn't exist.

It would have been a waste of time to argue my beliefs and counter his claims of Science being anti-god, but if Hollywood has a better explanation of why the Bible version of creation and Science's evolution theory complement each other, this short clip tells all.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Previously: Eid

The hypnotic chant of the Muezzin, carried by the wind calls the faithful for the early morning prayer. The lyrical recitation of Adhan bounces off from the loud speakers perched high above the electric posts, leaving those who seldom hear it spellbound at how ancient this way of summoning is. It is 4:17 in the morning, the exact time the Fajr is offered on that special day. And as Allah's children rushes towards the Golden Mosque, I sat across the street, with my eyes closed to listen to the unabridged Quoranic verses, while my mind soars to distant lands in the south, where at that very moment, Muslims from Tawi-Tawi to Cotabato were heading towards the house of prayer to celebrate the breaking of the fast.  

It was the Eid, the end of the Ramadan. To this day, I remain uninstructed of the tradition, and I haven't really internalized its religious significance. Despite the ignorance, I decided to mark the occasion by going all the way to Quiapo to see the sights and sounds around Globo del Oro. The last time I was there was half-a-decade ago, when I headed straight to the Muslim community after getting a haircut from my barber. I arrived late in the afternoon, when most of the worshipers have already gone home. There was little to see then; most of the shops were closed, the restaurants have yet to serve Halal dishes, and except for being mistaken as an applicant for the Balik-Islam program, the attempt to fit in wasn't really a success. At a hindsight, I find it silly greeting people "Eid Mubarak," when locals likely don't greet strangers they come across.

Now five years later, I decided to make a comeback. To somehow indulge that little Dora in me. I arrived in Quiapo a little past 4 am, to a sleeping neighborhood still about to set shop for the day-long festivities. Except for the unusually bright lights illuminating the side streets, little could be gleaned from this expedition: the shops were still closed; glass racks displaying curry dishes were still empty, and while I saw the TV networks' trucks parked beside the mosque, (as they always do every year since the government declared Eid a national holiday) news would only get beamed to households at sunrise, when the imam ends the Fajr.

Still, without understanding a single word, I choose to remain on the sidewalk and waited for the dawn prayer to finish. Between live-tweeting what I see, and contemplating my presence in a world I would never be part of, I tried to understand my curiosity when nobody outside the religion seems to care. Perhaps, it is the thought of squeezing a pre-dawn adventure that made this whole trip worth doing. In my hour's linger at the Muslim community, not a single soul had asked if I'm interested to join the conversion program; an elder in his early sixties had mistaken me for a store attendant. He spoke in the vernacular, which I didn't understand. When I pointed him to the real shopkeepers, I learned that he was asking how much was the cheapest prayer mat. Arabic verses may have spoken by the worship leaders, but their melodic recital kept me glued to the pavement. When the men wearing Taquiyah and the women wearing Hijab started showing up at the exit to return home and partake at the feast, I decided to leave as well. One last stroll and in one of the canteens dotting the neighborhood, bowls and bowls of chicken and fish curries were now displayed on the glass racks. I would have ended the trip by having a hearty halal breakfast, but the thought of doing it with the Weatherman would have made the experience more special.

*Fajr is the first of the five daily prayers offered by practicing Muslims.

*Muezzin is the person appointed at a mosque to lead, and recite, the call to prayer for every event of prayer and worship in the mosque.

*Adhan is the Islamic call to prayer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bad Shot

And so the first blog entry for July was written and published 15 days since the first morning of the month, and whose author had his world shrink because of a busted sim card that needs a quick replacement, and whose raketship needs to be attended double-time, while his clients from the day job howls at his incompetence.

Pending job tasks pile on his imaginary desks, wilting herbs, half of them dead because of neglect, and a workout program that has to be delayed to recuperate from a malady afflicting the body.

He's been down with a flu since Monday night, with a mind thinking nothing but sleep, with a throat choking, and muscles aching, like it was being punched by a million tiny fists. The sad part is, he's been stuck in his own black hole and nobody seems to care. And he would have to devote his day-offs for complete bed rests just so he can get back on his feet and catch up on the things he has been forced to abandon this week.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rinavia Prime

Previously: Neverwhere
         The Third Book

Barely a week had passed after the near-troubles with the two boys, and the Weatherman is back, making his presence felt, just when it all seems the long chill between us was about to set in. You see, we maybe too cozy in each other's presence, but when leading separate lives, the distance makes it look like we are mere acquaintances. The issue comes from hardly engaging in small talk. I would make attempts at reaching out, but depending on his mood, he would cut off the conversation just when I would like to prolong it. I never complained. He also pays little attention to my activities online, even when we speak of the same thoughts, and when my obsession strikes, I would stalk all his social media accounts just to glance at the things that keep him preoccupied. Sometimes his fascination with others fuel this jealousy, and to avoid getting hurt (or mad, whatever comes first) from being neglected, the habit of looking around has become a necessary distraction.   

Only that, it never gets me anywhere.

Now back to the Weatherman, he sent an SMS asking for a favor. It came as a complete surprise since we had nothing in store for the coming weeks after watching the Azkals semi-finals game last Independence day. The favor wasn't that much, knowing the situation he found himself in, and without having to think it over, I acceded to his request, especially since he had to pick it up at the most convenient place for me. He arrived an hour later at my doorstep, and without even saying a word, we found ourselves lip-locking inside my quarters, like we did when he came back into my life early this year.

To describe the moment as pure bliss would be an understatement for someone who has harbored this tenderness for three years. All I know is the futility of searching when the Weatherman holds sway over me. Someone has to step up, or the cycle would tear me apart. Not to spoil the day-long cuddling, I spoke my mind while having a stroll at the Malacanan on his way home. 

"Hanggang ganito na lang ba tayo?" The Weatherman was in for a complete shock.

I told him what has been going since the events of Deus Ex Machina, and no amount of pretending will erase the obvious that we treat each other as more than just friends. 

"Walang ganito na magkaibigan." I was referring to the deeds we do in private. Through and through, I have never seen him as just a lay. "At sa tuwing naiisip ko na masaya tayong magkasama, nanghihinayang ako sa maaring mangyari kapag pinili kong muling lumayo at maghanap ng iba." 

My words were broken and devoid of eloquence. 

"Ayokong malaman mo isang araw na wala na ako sa iyo."

I told the Weatherman of my plans for us, of how I think of no one to see the world except him. I reminded him of our common passions, of what keeps us getting drawn into each other's spheres. I asked how he sees me, and his vague answer makes my plea a little more unsettling. "You're very special and I can't think of anyone who enjoys the same things I do." 

"Wala pa akong nakakasamang iba sa ganitong mga lakad."

Maybe he was careful with his words so as to emphasize his non-commitment. Perhaps, he really felt nothing beyond the trappings of lust, and the companionship we enjoy every time we have these scheduled hang-outs. But given how our lives seem to cross paths without ever realizing that they bind us closer, I proposed a more steady arrangement - one that would at least make us hold on to something even when a romantic relationship may not be forthcoming.

"Can we at least be exclusively dating?" He was silent. "Exclusively dating means we're not in a romantic commitment, just the fact that we won't see anyone else." 

A further elaboration and the Weatherman finally said yes.

It was not the most ideal settlement, one, who is head over heels would find himself accepting. An observer might even think it was a desperate move by someone who would seldom let anyone breach his walls. I personally think it was done to collect more memories; and weave enough stories of being together, so as to make the Weatherman realize what I might become should he let me into his life. For the way I see things, it is easy to win someone's attention. It is the unwillingness to explore the possibilities that lead two intimate couples to drift apart.

"I really want to grow with you," I squeezed his hand as we sat next to the river. In the distance was the Quezon Bridge and the street scene during a Monday rush hour. The disclosure lead us to talk more about us, and what our lives were when we were still in someone else's arms. The day ends knowing it would be a struggle to win his heart back, the heart I almost had when he and I found each other many years back. But knowing I might never see no one beyond the Weatherman, and the difficulty of finding someone like him, risking everything in this seemingly puerile experiment might eventually win us a lasting bond.

Love might be a long shot, but at least, I would never have to confess again the sins I commit in the name of escaping his gravity.

Suspended between the eternal and the temporal, I have begun to orbit his world. 




Sometime early this month, a new found acquaintance from Twitter asked me to go out and see a movie. I would usually decline such invitation given my habit of watching a film only with someone I'd probably date with. But he was into indie local films, and after seeing the movie trailer on YouTube, I thought it would be worthwhile to see the feature about a local and foreign couple trying to adjust to living together despite their cultural differences. It was a comedy, slice-of-life flick and since I had declared a week-long respite from work, I said yes to the stranger and saw the movie with him at Greenhills.

Although the cliches made my eyes squint, the film deserves my time, and so was the guy who took the extra mile to see that I was comfortable in his company. We parted ways without ever crossing the threshold between platonic friends and flirty mates and for that, there was a cause for continued engagement. It's after a few hours later, over the company of friends and bottles of beers that he said the "L" word.

"I think I like you." He sent over SMS.

If I were not holding back, I would have replied. "Too fast bro."

"Thank you." I tapped on my touch screen. "Let's evaluate that the next time we get to meet." 

The next time is not forthcoming.


That same night, I found myself drunk and raving at O-Bar after joining the table where Nishiboy and some old friends were. While hooking up was never a plan (I broke the no-clubbing rule after hearing that my favorite DJ, Cal Soesanto will be spinning at the club), I had a feeling that I was being eyed on the dance floor. One guy wrapped his arm around my waist, and before daybreak, made his intentions clear that he wanted a companion. Instead of going with him to some place away from the club, I walked straight to the exit, hailed a cab, and went home without saying goodbye. Because of my inebriated state, I only knew from Nishi that the guy who was eyeing me was a secret crush on Social Media.

Fortunately, I wasn't aware.

This walk out incident didn't stop us from seeing each other, and after a few days of daily correspondence on Viber, decided to meet for a late dinner on a Thursday evening. The guy was a contemporary, who like me, wasted half of his twenties dancing from Wednesday to Sunday at Government when we could have been preoccupied by other things - like saving the world. The only difference is that I made my death too slow, that it was almost unfelt: I religiously went to the clubs only during weekends, never made friends on the dance floor, and never binged on drinks like he said, he did. We too came from the same university, and became members of the opposing political parties. Too bad he already left the campus when I took the reigns of power from our seniors.

The late night dinner was extended until past midnight, when we found ourselves looking at the distance, on a curb somewhere at the Cultural Center grounds. By then we knew there was mutual attraction, only that it was still in its infancy, and could change at any moment. We sealed the night with a kiss, and I went home a little doubtful of my true feelings for him.

"Let's find out," I told myself while taking out the pair of boxers I slid inside my bag. The events would unravel in a matter of days.


For some reasons the correspondence just ceased to continue, like what happened with Jake the Dog and the rest, who, I considered as more than just a passing fancy. It so happened that it was never my habit to pursue or waste people's time when I feel a pinch of indifference. While letting go is easy, at a hindsight, you cannot help but question what made two intimate people drift apart. Is it because no one wants to show how the other is badly needed? Or because things are happening too fast, life refuses to accept the new order? Or maybe, all we ever wanted from someone is a moment of distraction, because deep within, there are hang-ups that remain unresolved? Eventually, you end up accepting the simplest of conclusions: timing, and you move on without regretting your decision not to stay.

The events of this month showed how quick the turnover is, with two strangers succeeding in getting my attention in just a single night. It may also be seen as a demonstration of my charm had I been active in the dating scene. But instead of marching forward, and continuing the search for a pair, (or another temporal object of affection) this apparent cycle serves as a wake up call: face the present disposition with the person who caused this all, or repeat the same meet up story until they all pile into your puddle of guilt.

After all, just days before you met these men, you watched an Azkals game with Him, and made out on a bus as it cruised the expressway going home, and simply because you are losing your mind thinking how long this complex arrangement will go on, you look for another way out, to find a more permanent settlement with another, or at least a counter should a time come these random hang outs with that one guy, who meant everything to you, would no longer happen.

You were never serious on letting go.




Go Beyond. Create Tomorrow

Every four years, youth athletes from around the world come together for the world’s biggest winter sporting event. In 2016, they will go to Lillehammer, one of the oldest winter sports destinations in Norway.

The Youth Olympic Games medal consists of stylized snowflakes and ice crystals representing the winter climate and proud skiing culture of Lillehammer. The main snowflake at the center is formed by five youth athletes from all the continents represented in the Olympic rings. Inseparable at the base, these youths symbolize unity, peace, friendship, solidarity and fair play. The arms form letter “Y” which means ‘youth.’ It is also the universal symbol for peace, for which these games are held, to foster harmony and cultural exchange among young people through athletics. 


It was one of those random direct messages from the Weatherman asking for small favors. Around last summer, he submitted a medal design for the Youth Olympics Games. He was asking me to write a short description of the medal, and how it symbolizes the event. Knowing that I won't have the perfect narrative for someone's creation, I instructed him to draft an introduction. I will supply the right words. And so he did send a short blurb about his work, which required little polishing. That same afternoon, I sent him my version, which, became his entry for the contest.

The rest is history.

Though the Weatherman never got the prize, (the chosen design was from Romania) the collaboration was a milestone I have never achieved when I was in a relationship. It was a communion of two artists, who made attempts to accomplish a common goal out of their desire for recognition. It maybe said that my contribution was merely to articulate what the designer had in mind. But for me, it was a demonstration of a talent my inspiration may not be aware of.

He will join design contests each time he comes across invitations in the future, and hopefully the next time he decides to showcase his work, it will be conceived by two minds: One who creates symbols and images through digital illustration,

And one who masterfully put words to make the opus stand out from the rest.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Same Love


On Gay Marriage Pt. 1
On Gay Marriage Pt. 2
On Gay Marriage Last Pt.

A deeply divisive ruling in the Supreme Court of the United States of America has made gay marriage legal across the land. It was a historic decision, a liberating precept that allows all couples regardless of sexual leaning to form a union that is protected and recognized by the state. It was a struggle that is as old as the first riots of Stonewall, and a victory shared by all people who put love first before the wrath of God.

The global jubilation was immediately followed by a collective derision. Religious conservatives call for civil disobedience. Those who speak of abomination were being mocked on Social Media. Meanwhile, closer to home, friends are pitted against one another all in the name of creed. In a nation where the Creator has the first say in everything, flocks risk burning bridges just to speak their conviction. While my own Facebook page is free from such bigotry, others were not as fortunate as me. A same-friend voiced his disappointment on Twitter after two of his girl best friends wrote on their wall their scathing rejection of gay weddings. 

He fears he may never be accepted.

The gay marriage debate has been going on long before I embraced my sexuality a decade and a half ago. From a mere thought of people who might not even understand the separation of church and the state, the possibility of such family arrangement and social policy grows with each generation being exposed to the wonderful world of gender diversity. And all along, I saw how minds change. While hypocrisy lingers with each dose of religious poison, I have faith that the progressives will prevail in the end. 

And my stand has remained, no matter how swift the changes are. Same love will become commonplace, and while a government-sanctioned union may still be light years away, the certainty of marriage equality will reach these shores some day.

Baby steps will still get us there.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Depth Of My Fidelity

No longer apparent, my words were.
This time it is for real.
You may never hear me speak of vows before you,
much like you would even care.
But behind your ears, let me assure my sincere intentions.

I take our exclusivity agreement very seriously.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Place In Displacement

It has come to a point that I have nothing to write, not because personal narratives have eluded me, but maybe I'm just too preoccupied catching up with life, after I choose the path of wanton abandon. 

I have yet to recover from that week-long absence at my jobs.

What I have learned from the deviation is that routines need to be sustained. Otherwise, the carefully crafted lifestyle built from embracing a humdrum existence might get broken, and the sudden newness in experiences might overwhelm me, like it did, when I spent days out of my cave and reaching out to people until I spread myself too thin.  

I will tell more in the coming entries, if I manage to get back in the zone, in spite of the pressing demands of the raketship, of the home affairs, of the troubles that I need to sort out after the consequences of my actions. All I am saying is that I still linger and I will keep sharpening this craft, even when the luxury of time, and creation appears to be in a full-scale retreat.