Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wealth Gained, Love Lost


Chasing Hours
Endless Waltz

"I was wondering why you didn't finish your 5-hour SEO writing on our day 5 of the on-boarding process?" 

I read the words with much horror after the offline message was left on Google Hangouts. It was from my team leader, sent at past midnight, while I was undergoing training for the new technical email support project at my day job. 

"I need you to finish this tomorrow because we are so far already from schedule."

The way the message was written, sounded like it was an ultimatum. Should I ignore the order from my handler again, certain that I might be dropped permanently from the side project.


The on-boarding process can be described as the same as call center agents' nesting period. What was supposed to be a five-day training, took me two weeks to complete. One of the reasons for the delay was the hesitation. What I thought was easy work turned out to be repetitive in nature. Also, there was already this sense of accomplishment: That maybe, what I wanted was recognition. I have been looking for freelance work on Elance for months, and as soon as I have received the letter telling me that I was hired by this start-up company, my eyes were set to look for shorter, less binding projects.

The demands of SEO writing were too much for me.


To this day, I still have no answers as to what made me decide to pursue this line of work when the odds were stacked against me. It was a mind melting, time stealing, and mechanical writing pursuit that was responsible for my short disappearance from blogging last year. I lose sleep because of it. My creativity waste away for I often write with canned thoughts given the less time to seek and lay down stories, and finally, the hours I used to spend so wantonly now have to be tempered and contemplated, so as to keep myself from going crazy during the weekend crunches. Back then, all I had was the "bahala na" attitude; of using my boss' vintage laptop without his permission to log my details and write snippets to finish the boarding process. It didn't matter if I was using company resources (and time) to complete the task. My colleagues were oblivious to my activities, and that morning, I was intent to deliver despite the uncertainty of my commitment.

I needed money.


It was a slow, and often depressing journey towards accepting my new life. Much of the credit goes to my team leader, who displayed infinite patience when I would never - in my own capacity as a supervisor - extend such consideration to a new hire. The ex boyfriend played his part too. His self-made image gave this impression that I was with a well-established guy. His claimed profession, the manufactured stories about his wealth, and the movie and dinner dates we used to do every weekends forced me to raise funds just to keep up with him.

In the end, he would end our story for higher ambitions.

It was just a year ago when the prospects of losing my savings - for the second time - came close to becoming a reality, and looking back from where I stand today, I have nothing but gratitude for the decision I almost didn't make.

I may have given up too many comforts for this venture to work, but assuredly I can say, never have I been more certain of good fortune that will continue flowing, perhaps, for many years to come.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ayala Boy

And when I close my eyes, I see myself working in some small, but high-paying company at the heart of Makati. One breezy afternoon, I would go out of my new office building to smoke and gaze at the sun's rays reflected on the stained windows of a skyscraper across the street. The day was relatively productive, and day by day, I am becoming more of an asset to the company. Ever since I joined them, I make sure that I am in the forefront of every project they have been involved with.

For I have taught myself to become an achiever; someone who is willing to take all necessary steps just to be ahead of his colleagues.

- Taming the Tikbalang, Secret Blog Entry, February, 2006

I opened my droopy eyes after giving a big yawn, timing that there were no managers in front of me. It was a Friday morning, and with just two hours of sleep, there was little love when I had at last, made the decision to go to the Makati Central Business District. It was a last-minute change of heart, an afterthought, after some team leader from the Raketship included my name on her list. I was to attend a workshop she personally organized, a small group that didn't show up when the company had its summer outing in an island south of the country. Without her persistence, and the realization that I was representing my team, I would rather lay in bed and sleep, than go through another night shift with very little shut-eye.

I arrived late at the venue, as expected. Forced to walk under intense heat from the Makati Medical Center to Greenbelt Mall when the shuttle cut its trip short at the fringes of Ayala and Buendia avenues. Memories of past loves, and even the present one make incursions in the head, as I hasten my steps at the overhead walkway towards my destination. But with thoughts of having an ancient aspiration being accomplished, and the newness of having to set up a mobile workstation in a real office, the matters of the heart turn irrelevant when there is an apparent level-up in my profession.

It would be the first time meeting face-to-face the people at the SEO writing job.

Very little can be said about the event, except the resource persons talked about work issues and new QA processes the business will implement soon. Also mentioned were features that would aid writers like me so our production multiplies, and the quarterly goals achieved. This of course, is corporate chat, a preoccupation I am to make some distance given the job arrangements with the company. And with portal issues keeping us from writing snippets, and animated managers who take breaks to smoke every two hours, there was little doubt about the informality of the meeting.  

And it made me feel at home.

What I can write with more than fleeting descriptions are the modern and minimalist style workspaces, divided into small rooms with floor to ceiling glass walls so that one could see what everyone is doing within. There are spacious common areas too where groups can meet and conceptualize ideas, socialize with colleagues, and relax, as there are swinging benches, Foosball tables, and even a stationary bike in one corner. The raketship has a small office there as well, enough to fit 10 people for brainstorming and roundtable teleconferences with counterparts abroad. I was told the office is seldom occupied, and when it does, only the country director and his team go in to stock items to be given away as motivational trinkets.

I can also tell about the people at the workshop, whose names I no longer recall, except those of Lourdes, the manager of my department, and MM, the country director of the Raketship. What I knew from MM's brief talk was his love of scuba diving, as well as his desire to make everyone as productive - even at the cost of doing more automation to speed up our work. Also remarkable was his decision to use the fire exit stairs from the fifth floor to go down to the lobby. He said it was to save electricity. Everyone of course, followed. Lourdes, meanwhile, was instrumental for my stay in the company. When I found that my pay went to some people I have no contact with. She was there to speak on my behalf, even raising her voice when the representative of the staffing agency showed arrogance when she was being polite about my missing earnings. To this day, I still see Lourdes as an elder sister, someone I'd always remember should a time come I'd have second thoughts leaving the side work.

We parted ways that day with a tight and sincere hug.

I went to the workshop believing I could live the Ayala dream: of finally doing some work-related stuff that would put me alongside the thousands of corporate drones and creative slaves who make up the daytime population of the financial district. The last time I went to Makati other than to meet ex lovers or have dinners with friends was to look for work, and aspire to become a slacks-and-sleeves guy myself. Typing on my laptop as MM speaks about the hours we render work, memories of that one afternoon at Sencor re-emerges, when I used to gaze at the skyscrapers while lamenting how near I was and yet stuck at the bowels of Pasay. I also recall musing the job hunting days, when I was very close to accepting posts that pay very little, but at least, I can boast rubbing elbows with the professional elites. I know, such pipe dream will never be mine anymore, and at a time when relative wealth no longer drives me to shop for workplaces beyond home, there is comfort knowing I can put my illusions to rest knowing that for once, life afforded me a day to be an Ayala boy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Prayers Are Not Enough

In grief, and in tragedy, we first remember our maker for sparing our lives. It is human instinct drawn from a time, history no longer recalls: to seek higher power for solace and consolation; to carry on the painful task of picking up the pieces of broken lives. For those whose eyes and ears only see and hear the catastrophe, we offer prayers as expressions of sympathy. That no matter how difficult the days ahead, someone remembers, and wishes relief for the burdened.

But relief comes in more tangible forms. Like thick blankets and clean water, like life-saving medicines and warm meals to feed the starving. Given the scale of the calamity - the temblor that struck the entire country of Nepal a few days ago, the poor nation of over a million souls is unready to cope with the disaster.   

As the dead begins to pile up, the international community makes a hasty entry. Countries far and wide* sent rescue teams and makeshift hospitals in a race to save lives. News agencies report the events on the ground, and while social media continue to broadcast words of solidarity, these are the times when words, including prayers are not enough.

It is time for ordinary people to step up.

The wake up call was sounded by a skeptic, an old friend I haven't seen in ages. He questions mankind's priorities with its hashtag #prayfornepal when there are ways to really help. While my worries linger closer to home, (the great destructive "twerk" might flatten the city any moment soon) I was struck by his observation, and in my own way, sought to play my part in the relief efforts to save as much lives as possible. 

When online companies like Paypal invoke corporate responsibility as their new marketing strategy, I took some time off from the raketship, despite the looming deadline, to make some donations to organizations that deliver aid. Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, just to name a few, I have come across these names and thought to divide the cashless payment so as to spread out my pledge. While this gesture won't be known to many, aside from those who would come across this entry. I simply found it fitting to perform the act of charity before letting everyone know in my social media accounts that there's a way to render aid, not just with prayers but with real, hard cash.

I think my maker, which I seldom speak to lately, would be more pleased with this arrangement.

Friday, April 24, 2015


If you are a child raised in a home with strong family values, which between these choices hold more importance: personal freedom, or duty to one's blood ties? This question came up after refusing to listen to a friend talk about his personal issues. 

My friend said he wanted to disappear; that he can no longer take the pressure and the hopelessness of having a sick sibling anymore. 

At a hindsight, I get where he is coming. Being young and so full of dreams, he sought to shape his life without the strings tied to a dysfunctional home. I myself had harbored some thoughts when I was his age, and when it was his turn to speak what I had already resolved, I find it appropriate to let him learn the outcome of his choices without an elder to impose his life lessons, which may not be applicable to his experience. 

Because mine tells of a different story.

I was once a kid who had a father for a businessman, and when our fortunes dipped, I sought to look for work elsewhere, virtually abandoning him and the enterprise he had built after some misunderstandings widened the rift between us. It didn't help that he was stubborn, and unable to truly grasp what lies ahead. And given that he had a family - a mistress - I conspired to keep from my own mother, extracting myself so as not to drag the rest of my loved ones down with him was my atonement. That was my choice, and to this day, the cycle reincarnates with the same narrative happening in my profession. Given this desire not to repeat the mistakes of yesterday, of not abandoning the hand that plucked me many, many years ago when I had nothing, I stuck with my job, while doing a side work that offers much more than what my company provides. The boss doesn't know this, but I am employed, full-time, in another workplace.

I speak of this question, not just for my friend, but for me, who had lost my ability to exercise my personal freedom for duties I have long embraced. Only this time, the knot binding my hands had grown tighter, more grounded in the space within the four walls that is my world. This afternoon, I was thinking of moving into a hotel, a resort in the highlands with a vista of the city to continue working. I was trying to have this notion of a retreat, while delivering tasks that seem to never end.    

Then it struct me, I cannot leave my room. There are too many, mostly darkly scenes cluttering my head: What if a fire breaks out, or one of my nephews get injured for causes I should never think? With these thoughts holding me back, even an overnight leisure in another place becomes a pained decision. 

I would rather stay home.

Hence, I went back to sleep despite the late afternoon heat, relieved that I wouldn't have to spend a penny for some indulgence that I didn't really need. What is lamentable is the pattern, of this growing attachment to the place I cannot take myself off from. Last month was the beginning, when my feet had only afforded me a sight of the bus station. I scrapped my plans of having a solitary trip to Baler on the very eve of my departure because of an omen manifesting in my sleep. Next month, a teammate in the account I am handling will be leaving for Singapore. The boss had decided not to hire another agent leaving me and a colleague taking turns to make sure the customer support runs seven days a week. Finally, earlier today, the matriarch had asked a favor no son can ever refuse.  

"Nakikiusap si Anna." The girl she was referring to was our maid.

"Kung puwede daw na ikaw na lang ang umalalay sa akin pagtayo sa banyo." Fearing that she might slip when no attendant is looking, she asks someone to help her stand up after her trips to the toilet. 

"Sumasakit na daw kasi yung likod niya sa pag-akay sa akin pagtayo." 

Understanding the pauses between her words, I would have to count the hours I'm away from home so as not to break my mom's toilet and bathing pattern from now on.

親孝行 - Filial Piety, In serving his parents, a filial son reveres them in daily life; he makes them happy while he nourishes them; he takes anxious care of them in sickness; he shows great sorrow over their death that was for him; and he sacrifices to them with solemnity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Once, A Boat Was Sinking

Searching, for direction, for I regard myself as a floater at work, with no clear functions while the project I was asked to lead was put on hold. I was in no mood to get into trouble, and yet, there is no denial that this lack of clear purpose shows the shades I used to wear, when I used to be a chat agent, whose messy episodes at home, and at work afforded a life geared for a tailspin.

Previously, The Wanderer


On a random day like this, I would take out my Metrobank ATM card from its hidden purse and insert it at a teller machine. The exercise was meant to count my money, or rather, what remains of it after unforeseen spending had once more, dwindled my savings. When my nephew, Diego got sick and had to be confined at a hospital, I used my savings to beef up my sister's cash reserves. Same thing happened when I could no longer set aside a portion of my salary to pay my credit card bills. I had to slash a thousand pesos from that bank account just to stave off my ballooning debts. 


There had been repeated talks of a new project in the workplace, which would let us handle the email support of a music service provider in the US. The prospects of a business turnaround was promising, at a time when a downturn in our base accounts threaten to slash the remaining jobs for my colleagues. Negotiations between my boss and the client have been going since the beginning of the year, but a quarter had already passed and the nesting hasn't even begun yet. 

The team is getting restless, and I, anxious. Should this venture not push through, I was ready to give up and throw my career away, to look for employment elsewhere and start over with a clean slate.

When the training started after so much delay, it had to be postponed a few times because the trainer had to attend to some pressing business matters. Weeks went by and the team assembled for this account went home with nothing but empty promises. In one of these nights, I found myself getting acquainted with my past. A bottle of beer in Cubao before midnight, on a Tuesday, and in a place where people who have lost direction find themselves inebriated and belting, the narratives of their failed lives. 


Battered and yet, refusing to accept being broken, very little was said about this life phase exactly a year ago. I had seen worse, when I was younger, and my constant presence at Elance meant that salvation was just a raketship away. A budding romance on the side softened the brooding thoughts. But love was no guarantee of a life getting fixed. The precariousness of being in suspended animation, without fortune, or accomplishment to speak of is a cause to go on a free-fall. But I didn't, and within a week, I would bear witness to a transformation that will change everything, and lift the siege that has been my life for as long as I can remember. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Perhaps, Not In This Lifetime

Out of boredom, or maybe, curiosity, I asked a girl friend in college to read my fortune written in the lines on the palm of my hands. I still recall, like it was yesterday what my secret crush said about tomorrow.

That I will never find true and everlasting love. 

In return, I will enjoy the rest of my days in prosperity.

Though I am a self-confessed fatalist, (believe when I say that I pay close attention to karma that I make a conscious effort to perform acts of kindness days before the Weatherman and I go out) the thought that I'll never settle with someone hasn't really cross the mind.

Until lately.

When I see myself in the near future; when I search within and question if I'm still capable of feeling beyond the affections with my present obsession, no answer ever come.

Perhaps, it's time to believe in what fate has foretold. After this third book finds its closure, there is lingering doubt if I can still afford to drift close into someone's world.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Third Book

And if in some future, fate affords another crossover, it is my hope that the affections I still cradle today already disappears, only for reasons of enduring a lifetime of friendship.

Previously: Almost

The slow, almost dragging pull-back commenced as instructed, after the decision to give up the idea that the Weatherman and I had chances of romance set me into the path of exploring. There were moments when the growing distance was tempered by my habit of checking his Facebook wall for his activities, or the Twitter updates he posted while I was offline. He would still remain the first person I'd look online when I wake up, or before I begin working at night, when I knew it was his bedtime. The stalking habit was unobtrusive, I would like to believe, and the only occasions I break the silence and send him an SMS is when his absence leads to longing; when there's nothing new to read on his social media accounts.

As much as I would like to walk away from his life, and mind my own affairs, just like I've always did before the events of February 3, the truth is, I have underestimated the attachment. It wasn't easy to step back and see him as a casual friend when I find him "liking" my Facebook posts, or putting a "star" on my Twitter updates, or worse, re-tweeting the same news, that both appealed to our senses. In all my experience forging bonds with other men, no one has gone so close as to what the Weatherman and I share aside from our past intimacies. For this reason, complete extraction may only happen when he falls in love with someone else, or he himself initiates the distance.

But no. He knew when to strike, and every time he does, all my attempts to escape his sphere go for nothing knowing I may never refuse his invitation to hang-out - even when it is for activities that hardly get my attention. And every time he does leaves me with questions I am afraid to find the answers:

"Free ka bukas ng gabi?" His SMS came unexpectedly. I was of course, pleasantly surprised.

"Yup, anumeron?"

"Gusto mo manood ng football sa Bulacan." I knew only of the sport because of FIFA. I stopped watching the spectacle after the Germany - Brazil match at Rio left me shouting expletives at the middle of the night.

"Sure what time tayo kita?"

"Mga 4pm sa Ayala, malapit sa office. 8 pm ang match." The subtext was quite easy to glean. Finally, all these bodybuilding preoccupation would be put to good use.

"Naghahanap lang ako ng kasama." 

Why does my best hang outs never had labels?

Barely fifteen days after I have resolved to make a calculated retreat and here I am, more entrenched to the person who refuses to let go. I do not expect this renewal of bonds to lead to deeper, more romantic ties, but the chance to be with that one soul who inspires you in more ways you can count is enough to stay longer, 

Hoping the memories subtlety created would make you inseparable, even if such tender moments only last an equivalent of a provincial bus ride.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Room Improvements (Little Stories Pt. 2)

I.  Mirror

Once there was a mirror, hanging on the wall behind the door of my room. It has been there for ages, and I no longer recall how, and where the vanity item was acquired. All I know is that it served as my last stop every time I had to leave the house, or when I had to examine my nasal orifices to trim some wiry hairs protruding out my nostrils.

The mirror was a source of pride, not because of its plain and functional design, but because it was made of wood. Something I value when everything mass-produced is made of plastic. To me, the mirror reflects a bygone era, a time when ornately carved furniture adorned homes of ancient families and people with tastes. So imagine the sense of loss when my brother-in-law slammed the door of their room adjacent to mine, and the mirror came crashing to the floor.

His wife, my sister, shouted at him for being careless. But the error has already been made, microscopic shards have punctured a wound under my toe.

II. Rechargeable Flashlight

In a house resided by hoarders, it is easy to acquire stuff with questionable uses. One example is a wall calendar given by my aunt. The calendar was said to feature photos shot by my cousin. It would have been easy to perch the item at some unoccupied corner downstairs. But with space becoming scarce, the bunch of rolled calendars ended up squeezed behind the huge portrait of my long-dead father. They have been there for months, hidden from plain sight, until I pulled out the unused days planner only to dispatch them straight to the garbage can.

Same can be said with flashlights. We had pen-sized ones, as well as mini rechargeable lamps for sudden power interruptions. They were all over the place, until one by one, the electric torches disappeared. Some got broken, with batteries oozing with toxic substance still lodged inside their sockets. The flashlights were replaced by candles, but with matches as flame source, igniting a stick in pitch-black darkness might turn the lightbringer into a sorry firestarter.  

III. Herb Pot

The time of replanting meant returning to the Circle to shop for herbs I will grow on plastic pots. I had two unused ones, canisters, whose previous occupants had to be ditched as they were invasive weeds whose seeds piggy-backed on birds' feathers. The pots were immediately put to use, with cuttings clinging to life as new roots refuse to sprout. Meanwhile, a mature Purple Basil, a variety I haven't cultivated in ages remain confined within its plastic wrap. Had I obsessed less with symmetry, I wouldn't mind keeping it there until I get to buy a sturdy polymer in my own leisure. But with the plants around it already kept in plastic and aluminum containers, it felt that my work is not yet done had I let it remain without a bowl to establish its domain. 

Hence the original idea of embarking on a canvassing trip at Wilcon's for my carpet replacement summer project, ended with me paying for the acquisitions that were the subject of need in this blog entry.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pitch Black

The rotten carcass was served in a rusty platter
And I indulged in it.

The putrid aftertaste burns the tongue.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Designed To Unlove

To move on and seek another person to spoil my affection could have proceeded without delay, had my life been as conventional like everyone else. But my days are designed to follow strict routines, to accommodate work that has become more demanding since a colleague passed away late last month. It is as if the noose just got tighter with the confirmation of a co-worker's resignation. He will just stay with the company until next week. Without him to look after the accounts when I am unavailable, managing the day-to-day business operations would become unbearable. 

I'm losing sleep because of it. 

I'm losing faith in my ability to run a show on my own.

I have already given up my weekends for recreation. And on weekdays where I'm supposed to get some rest, client emails (which are coursed through my smart phone), as well as subordinates waiting for my decision on assortment of issues, never really detach me from duties. There is also the Raketship to attend to, and while I haven't failed yet with my deliveries, time no longer affords relaxed working habits. Only the fitness activities have remained consistent - a commitment that has to be followed given the choking lifestyle I chose to lead. 

With time, fast slipping away from my hold, and boys I disappoint with my non-interest to meet for movies, dinners, or even lays, so begins the mechanical transformation. 

Beyond the Weatherman, no longer do I see myself in a romantic pursuit.