Sunday, May 31, 2015

Whirlwind






Once, I knew this boy who used to lay his heart next to the man he had slept with. The first he met in Malate. They left the dance floor together at daybreak and ended up in a motel somewhere in Quiapo. The next day, lust had turned into affection. A week later, they elevated their bonds to being partners. 

The boy was 21. 

The second was a random chat mate on Yahoo Messenger. They exchanged scanned photos, liked each other, and then they decided to meet a few days later. On the evening of their hang out, it rained, drenching both kids, which lead them to making a detour in a motel instead of going home. After the make-out and the fucking, they left the grounds promising to keep in touch. A week later, the guy was introduced to friends as our boy's next lover. 

He was barely 6 months out of his first relationship. 

Somewhere between that time and today, the rules of engagement had changed. The heart, which he used to expose on the first night of intimate contact, is now the last he reveals to strangers. Boys, who would grow fond of him after spending a day (or night) in his company never gets his attention. He would wonder how others would speak of endearment when little by little, his gestures hint his desire to keep some distance. 

I sometimes ask, does he feel pain when he disappoints another, a guy he probably had sex with, in real life, or through digital trade-offs? 

"Why should I?" He'd say with ambivalence. 

He would then go on telling me the burden of realizing how someone's tenderness is like a poison to his solitude. The last time he coupled with another, he was dumped for reasons unjustified. That, or he would cling to the faintest of hope that a sharing of minds would eventually lead to the oneness of hearts. 

Chances are, he would give up after finding another worth exploring, and when things don't work out, he would move on, and begin another cycle. 

Looking back through all the days he had closed his eyes and allowed his heart to lead the way, he would end up bruised and limping, with nowhere to go but back to his fort. And all the lessons he learned - from sharing lives with other beings - pile up, like thick stone blocks he use to reinforce his walls, making it more difficult for the next soul to reach him, and pull out that boy who once believed in unconditional attachments. 

Still, there are remnants of that childhood, cocooned and waiting to break free for that once chance to soar again; like how he still finds himself under the Weatherman's spell, promising he would look after him even when the kid searches everywhere for that one-of-a-kind attraction; or when he comes across some "bromance" video clip, mistaking it for homemade gay porn on Socialcam, and then spend the rest of the morning lamenting how he once believed in such fairy tales; or when he listens to his Spotify playlists, and shares some of his favorite tunes on social media, hoping someone would actually dig his music. 

I would like to believe the boy still wanders within; past the turbulence of new-found and fleeting trysts, beyond the trappings of lust that open the door to longing; and laid beneath this narrative of always looking back, and using past heartbreaks to make someone's attempt to get close as complicated as his thoughts of having relationships.



Once, I knew this boy who used to lay his heart next to the guy he had slept with. And now that this boy had grown into a man, he sleeps with his heart lay hidden, never for the one whose impatience would not even bother to learn the troubles it had gone through, and understand why it takes longer nowadays for that organ to even sound a beat.



*After A, whose troubles and hang-ups rival mine.




Doomsday Prepper | Act 2



Previously: Doomsday Prepper | Act 1


Knowing what might happen in the event of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, whose epicenter straddles the towns east of Manila is just half the battle for disaster readiness. With a generation who has never felt the ground quiver like the one that happened more than a decade ago, the government's decision to hold an entire day of Earthquake drills is a wise move. The masterstroke lies in the fact that they set it during the school season, and between two important dates no one should ever forget - August 2 and July 16, terrible days when temblors not only caused the earth to crack open, the violent ground shaking took so many lives as well. My sincere wish is that there is enough time to teach everyone the importance of doing real-life preparations.

For we would never stand a chance.

The government can do so much to educate and prepare its citizens to face this kind of natural disaster. But no one can truly foresee the kind of devastation once buildings collapse and city-wide infrastructure come crashing in the earthquake's immediate aftermath. With this kind of thinking, the heart and soul of every doomsday preparation lies at home, with loved ones who will benefit such foresight. With eight lives at stake, I have made strides to ready my family in the event such calamity happens. There is no guarantee how things would turn out.

What I know is its urgency.

It is my belief that the first five days after the tremor are the most critical to one's personal survival. These are the days when those caught flat-footed would find themselves with no water, money, and even food to keep them sustained, while everyone competes for what resources remain. Keeping this scenario as the foundation for my disaster plan, the provisions I set are supposed to last for over a week. By then, I'm hoping government agencies have already got back to its feet and basic services are delivered to the survivors of the earthquake.







The availability of clean drinking water is the cornerstone of every disaster plan. Realizing that in a catastrophic event such as earthquakes, next to go out of service after electricity and communications is the water supply. The strongest of typhoons serve as reminder of how the elements can disrupt these basic services. With little space available at home, I selected these heavy-duty plastic containers, often used by informal settlers' water storage as our lifeline. They cost only Php 150 in Divisoria and with additional two water jugs scheduled for procurement next month, our water needs - in case Maynilad fails - will be the least of my worries.






Fighting over relief goods when others would risk life and limb for meager supplies has always been in my thoughts every time I do grocery shopping. The sardines, while being staple for many Filipino families hardly get consumed at home. So does the elbow macaroni, which, for some reasons seldom appears on our dinner table these days. The fact that they get little attention make these ready-to-eat meals the best candidate for food stocking. To drive home the government's message of post-disaster resiliency, additional 10 cans of sardines, and 2 bags of elbow macaroni will be added to the stocks we already possess. 







The first idea to make preparations for the "Big One" came after an earthquake struck the islands of Samar and Leyte in 2012. While these violent ground shaking produced little damage in comparison to the Bohol temblor a few years later, realizing that no first aid kit exists at home has transformed me to the Prepper I am today. Unfortunately, a lot of the medical supplies are nearing their expiration dates, and the few useful ones are set to be donated soon. Having this little white box with a cross emblazoned on its surface has its usefulness beyond calamities. What is needed, urgently, is to set the funds for a full replenishment. 

The items most needed for the first aid box are listed here.






What little use is money when ATMs don't dispense cash without electricity? In matters of procuring the basic of necessities, like food and medicine (in case riots and queues need not to happen) how will we ever pay for them? This concern has been haunting me ever since writing the Doomsday scenario for my previous blog entry. The savings cylinder I have in my room, while intended for reasons of compassion, now serves a new purpose. Filled with coins for easy trading, only after its twin repository brims with pennies will I give away the money for charity.


   




Even the best laid plans can still go awry, and no matter how elaborate this disaster preparation is, the items, which I believe are essential, may be useless in the event of a calamity. Still, a lot of things need to be done, and most of the items that would enable us to endure the harshest of post-tremor scenarios lay scattered around the house, disorganized, without anyone aside from me knowing where they could be found: A battery-operated transistor radio is in the master's bedroom, being used by my mother. The high-powered torch lights are kept in my room, the wax candles lay hidden somewhere in the kitchen. Only the helpers know where they are. We still have no matches, no purifying tablets, no means to open the sardine cans, or even turn the macaroni shells into edible pasta. The very bookcase / study table where I write this post has yet to be screwed against the wall, a huge portrait of my late father leans against a high wall, some light shaking and it will fall to the ground.







Finally, I was told to have a "Grab" bag like every Japanese family have. A little knapsack one could easily snatch in case there is a need to relocate to safer grounds. And until this requirement has been met; until there is certainty my loved ones can endure whatever nature throws our path, the doomsday prepper in me will remain awake and obsessed,

For times have changed, and no one is safe from the elements.



Friday, May 29, 2015

The Marikina West Valley Fault Doomsday Scenario





Project Tremors


It has always been the government's worst nightmare: of the West Valley Fault system finally bursting forth, sending ripples of seismic waves across all directions. The resulting earthquake shakes, even the most structurally sound office and residential towers to its engineering limits. The occupants, mostly uninstructed on how the ground quivers, would easily capitulate to panic spells. Given their inexperience with the last great temblor, which happened on July 16, 1990, many would get hurt trying to escape to safer grounds. 

Word yet has to come from the hundreds of thousands of souls who live in substandard housing and apartment complexes; in shoddily constructed commercial buildings and factories that make up the urban sprawl. Had the ceilings above their heads get spared from collapsing, it is the following pandemonium brought by the nearby tectonic rupture they have to cope with. 

I could just imagine how difficult the rude awakening is.

The news is out, and an updated map detailing where the geographic fault line bisects the metropolis is now readily available on the internet. While knowledge is crucial for people living above and around the rift, (hoping they would settle elsewhere) it is in my opinion that thoughts have never been spared as to what happens after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter lies a few steps away from the Medical City strikes the capital. Should those who find this blog get to see another day, what heartbreaking scenes might await them?    

Let me share my worst-case scenario thoughts:

  • First to go is electricity. As the ground shakes, and the Napocor finds it too dangerous to operate while a major seismic activity is taking place, they will cut off power distribution across the city. Depending on how extensive the damage is, (downed electric poles and collapsed pylons, with wires dangling after being hit by falling debris) complete electrical restoration might take weeks. First to receive electricity are government nerve centers and hospitals. Last are the barangays, and what's left of the ruined communities.
  • No electricity means money dispensing machines won't operate. Gasoline stations, which might run on diesel-powered generators would obviously have limited operating hours. And since broadband cables have been ruptured, expect no internet and social media to connect with. And did I mention that since Globe and Smart need electricity to run their transmission systems, we could expect a total breakdown in communications during the first few hours after the earthquake?  


The spot where the Ruby Towers, which collapsed  on August 2, 1968 once stood

  • The absence of potable water. Busted main pipes connecting various sectors of the city; pumping stations that won't run because there is no electricity; broken septic tanks whose sewage get into the water distribution system; bring these into the fray, and what we have is a man-made disaster. For sure, water trucks would be dispatched to address this basic need, but with queues of people stretching forever, and sneaky misfits cutting lines just to get ahead with everyone, riots are never far from happening.
  • Queues everywhere. There are lines for charging cellphones, lines for gasoline and cooking oil distribution, lines for ATMs, lines for relief goods, lines for the dead identification (with the stench of putrefied flesh suspended in mid-air) and yes, lines for water replenishment. Add these queues together and maybe, thoughts of leaving the city to find refuge elsewhere might sound more practical.


Faultline marker at the Barangka Elementary School West Building in Marikina

  • The rise of the tent cities and field hospitals. I once told Ran that if the earth shakes and casualties number in their tens of thousands, we would see portions of Taft Avenue being converted into an extension of the Philippine General Hospital. And what about Luneta and the rest of the open spaces in Manila? Because an earthquake is never a one-time event, (the aftershocks can be as strong as the first tremor) people living in condominiums, and those who have lost their homes, who are probably dazed and shaken by the first wobble, will be forced to stay outdoors. They have nowhere else to go but in public parks where thousands more will be camping out during the first days after the earthquake. Universities, would be forced to open their gates to students and faculty members who need a place to stay. Never in our nations' history would there be so many people dwelling in the streets, competing for resources that should have been a-plenty, and wishing that had they foreseen how worse this natural disaster could be, they would make individual preparations that could have made their lives and their loved ones better.
These individual preparations, and what I have accomplished so far, will be taken up in the next installment of this blog entry.

    -tobecontinued-


    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Salisi



    Note: Fleeting, our expressions have become. And while poetry abounds in forms unexpected, the social media landscape tends to bury these words under a cacophony of random thoughts. And while obscurity has become the new norm, let this pursuit allow voices to be heard, here in this corner of the web, where permanence, for now, remains certain.






    Sabi mo
    Gabi na.
    Kailangan mo ng umalis.

    Sa isip ko
    Kanina ka umalis
    Bago ka pa dumating.


    Credits:

    NASA
    Binibining Camel

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    Perks




    Previously: The Buff Daddy Slips Ipanema






    "Para kang nagsuot ng tsinelas na gawa sa White Rabbit." 

    That is how I would describe the feeling of slipping a pair of Ipanemas; like stepping foot on a pad made of the locally-made chewy candy. 

    "Sa sobrang lambot niya sa paa, parang ayaw mo na magsapatos."

    The impression would stay, six years past the time I got my flops for free. It was the height of the blogging fever, and after letting my online portal become a vehicle for some fancy promotions, of marketing a brand of footwear that sets aside part of its earnings to help restore the environment, the organizers of the event gifted me with a complementary card, a slip of paper that I could use to purchase my own slippers.

    Never in my wildest dreams would I see the flops endure the passing of time. The Ipanemas had seen many places, and witnessed so many events, some, would even trickle down to these very pages, in published entries too many to mention. As a testament to its durability, a selling point I didn't say when I wrote about the pair, the slippers have never been replaced. They were my only flops. I was confident the footwear would endure, that I forgot, 

    Rubber, like all natural materials, breaks down with time. Mine did, when tiny cracks gave way to large fissures at the base of the slippers, where the plastic strap meets the thick foot pad. 

    ---

    So I have seen the last of the Ipanemas, and may this be my parting entry for a commissioned work that began with a product launch invitation. Let this also be a time for remembering, of the glory days when blog writers were treated like royalties, and get perks for publishing stories that would populate the search engines with copies of consumer products. To this day, I would not deny yearning to return to that time, and write stories about food and travel, like many bloggers did. Forget earning from penning press releases. With perks such as the pair of footwear I got for doing what I loved the most, I would never tire of writing.

    This has, after all, been my calling. The published entries, and how they weave narratives that jump from one life to another are my rewards.



    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Laundry Day







    In all my thirty-three lives, one of the few activities I am privileged not to do was laundry. There were many reasons I could get away with the chore. For one, we always had helpers. Even when one of them had to return to the province to visit her loved ones, another maid does the clothes washing for us. Another reason is because I never had a taste of living solo. While I rented an apartment in Quezon City in the past, seldom did I spend my time living there. And when I needed my clothes washed, there was a nearby laundry shop to accomplish the task.

    It is safe to say that I lead a comfortable life. But at the back of my head, I always knew, a day would come when I would have to wash my own clothes.

    Such as when the present helper went home to visit her family, which she had not seen in years.






    The nanny of course, was available to do the laundry. But times have changed and we have kids now, who needed undivided attention. So instead of waiting for the other maid to come back and wash the items I wear, I took this opportunity to learn a new chore.






    There was of course, the washing machine, to lend aid and keep the activity a breeze. I bought it a few years ago after the vintage one could no longer run. The appliance, which I have never seen do its work, cut the laundry time in half. All that's needed was to separate the white items from the colored ones. The white ones go in first, so as not to smudge them with faint hues of other colors. Then, I took a few scoops of Tide with Downy, (more like calculated coursing from the packaging, since we don't have a plastic scooper at home) and set the timer to five minutes, which, I had to repeat twice just to make sure the sweat, grime, and dead cells part from the fabric. As I watch the tub spin in a clockwise motion, I recall the days when my elders warned not to put my hand inside the swirling pool of greywater. I didn't pay attention, of course, even when they said that I might get electrocuted. To this day, the temptation is there, despite the persistence of the urban legend, and when I did wrap my fingers around a piece of clothing, I didn't get a jolt. Instead, the swirling maelstrom bound my appendages to the point that I had to lift my arm just to free my fingers from being compressed further.






    The backbreaking work came when I had to soak the items on a tub of clear water: The repeated rinsing until the soap suds disappear; the full arm twisting while squeezing the remaining water absorbed by the bed sheet covers; and the squatting I am forced to do for faster "banlawan." It was unglamorous, and when I think of the large amounts of water I had thrown away after each rinsing cycle, the pangs of guilt nearly drove me to let others finish the job. There must be an easier way of doing this part of the laundry, but it didn't come across that I could have looked for it on the Internet before embarking on this task.  






    On that sunny day, not only was I able to wash my clothes, the provider I have grown to be had learned to apply detergent and fabric softener, which I get every grocery shopping day. Amusing, how you never pay attention to the items you gather at Puregold, until it's your turn to use them for the first time. This, and the stories of improvisation (for we are running out of hangers and clips to air dry the wet clothes) are what makes this activity worth telling, and even if it will take some time before I do my own laundry again, unlocking this achievement inches me closer to living my life the way I want it,

    Someday in the future.


    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Unbent




    Previously: Dandelion Fluff


    It has been a year and a month since the migration began, and the green revolution on my mother's veranda has been a resounding success. The flimsy and delicate stalks of Basil and Mint have grown roots and stems, and new plant saplings were added, to make the evergreen dream inch closer to reality. Some of the herbs don't make it, and they are replaced by new ones to have a semblance of continuity. No longer do I lament their loss, but instead, see their unceremonious uprooting as a chance to start over. It may not have been as verdant like in my imagination, but the plants thrive, and life sprouts in that forgotten corner of the house.

    The veranda's seaward location allows it to receive generous doses of sunshine in the late afternoon. Oreganos filter much of the sunlight with their unusually large leaves, as well as the Lavenders and Rosemaries that occupy larger plastic boxes that are the envy of those herbs growing on my side of the window. But lately, destructive acts performed by sinister creatures at the middle of the night lead to some setbacks. 

    It all started one morning when I found a garden planter dug out and its once flourishing occupant lying wilted on the ground. It would die a few days later, never to be replaced again.






    At first, I thought the nocturnal digging was some random occurrence that would cease in a few weeks. I would let it pass, until another garden planter was dug weeks later, leaving a deep crater that would scare even a seasoned urban gardener. I immediately asked a helper to place a rat trap on the floor, and to our horror, the device caught a very large rodent the next day. 

    I would never forget how the balding creature squealed when I made an attempt to approach it. Larger than an average kitten, I imagine it to be an alpha female, or male, in the hierarchy where it belongs. The rat was exterminated, and a retaliation was forthcoming. Much like how the mice nibbled on my clothes after I started culling them in my room, rats of all sizes made passes in my mother's veranda just to dig the pots and leave the plants scattered on the ground.

    It was heartbreaking.

    I did everything to make the raids stop. With the assistance of the same helper, we tried to look for holes where the pests are coming from. The searching ended in vain. Next, I tried raising some planters on top of canisters just so the rats won't reach them. The clever rodents simply used their size to topple them down, leaving more plants overturned on the ground - together with their pots. I would have placed sticky paper everywhere, just to annoy the critters. But it appears this desperation won't be necessary. The last, and perhaps the most effective among my ideas was to block all access to my little garden. For a week now, I have never seen lumps of soil on the ground, or pot marks dug out of the plastic containers.

    The plants that have been uprooted sprout new leaves again.

    For once, it appears that I succeeded holding the rodents back, but never can I claim victory until some new herbs are added.



    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Sway Over Me




    I always tell every potential date, or acquaintance that I cannot go out on weekdays, much more weekends, because of work duties.

    Not even during my rest days.






    But with you, work is of no essence. My time, no matter how short, will always belong to you.



    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Return To The Zoo




    Previously: Manila Zoo






    There is this kind of magic when returning to the place that once made your eyes shimmer with excitement. For a moment, the toils of daily living is replaced by this longing, as memories of past visits fill you with fleeting thoughts - echoes of children screaming with delight upon learning their rickety tour bus is heading towards this forgotten corner; of getting an SMS from a brother after your work, asking if you can accompany him for a leisurely photo shoot; of family visits so obscure, you create scenes, unsure they ever happened. For reasons that need no contemplation, I thought of going back at the Manila Zoo, a kind of kindled visit, so as to remind myself that time flies and the things I used to cherish, may not be there anymore.






    It was never my first idea to go there, as what I had in mind was a tour of the National Museum. Sleepless and needing some activity to spice up my rest day, the free entrance at the public exposition was something one should never ignore. I went there, at the building across Intramuros only to find the repository of the nation's artifacts was closed on a Monday. 

    Bummer.

    Instead of going home to catch some sleep, or having a detour at the gym, like I always do, a plan B comes in handy. I may have to endure the blistering heat and the stench of animal excrement, already wafting outside the walls of this verdant space, but better have this trip now, than return to my bed without any story to tell.






    The return expedition is like a "Time Space Warp" to the past, except the sights and sounds look so vintage and yet neglected, and whose soul seems to be in a state of despair that no publicity or promotion can bring back the zoo's old glory days. There is Maali, the 41-year old elephant, who was masticating her late afternoon snack when I came across her pen. She made some headlines some years ago after an online petition for her transfer to an animal sanctuary gathered a lot of digital signatures. Aging and isolated, she is not the only wild beast confined to life imprisonment. There is this hippopotamus, whose wrinkled hide show some moss green lines, a lion with thinning mane having a dip at his tub, and peacocks, with balding feathers trying to call the attention of an unimpressed mate who was nesting in a corner.   

    One can't help but wonder, are these animals really getting the care they need?






    The lament was deepened by the seemingly cavalier attitude of those who run the place, and the kind of people who visit it. From shack owners who wheedle curiousers to have a photo shoot with their exotic birds (and snakes) for 100 pesos, to adults who encourage children to feed the animals of whatever edible stuff they carry around, I was shaking my head in disappointment, and even wishing Manila Zoo to charge more before visitors can get in. I think there is a need, not just to see healthy animals on display, but to actually learn the value of preserving the environment through on the spot education, and realize, that these creatures belong in the wild, and not inside corralled spaces.

    I wouldn't forget seeing plastic containers of bottled water and cups of 7-Eleven Slurpee next to a sleeping tiger. For a moment there, I thought we have reduced ourselves to organisms far lesser than the species whose attention we were trying to get.

    The beasts who have thrown those garbage should have hurled themselves instead.






    Despite the heartbreaks, there too, are light moments worth sharing to cap my return: the almost instinctive "meowing" when trying to call the attention of the felines, particularly that civet cat sleeping inside her cage; to that inter-species enclosure where rabbits and guinea pigs share living spaces and appearing in harmony; to talking to a pen maintenance worker who told me that many of the turtles there were donated by pet owners who can no longer take care of the overgrown reptiles.

    "Minsan dinadala na lang nila dito," he was sweeping the little pond while the slow-moving Testudines rush towards the other side of the pen, in a manner similar to a stampede. You can hear the clacking sounds as their shells collide.

    "So anong pinapakain niyo sa kanila?" I further probed.

    "Hayun, dilis, kaya malansa dito."

    Despite my hatred for enclosed spaces, and animals that seem to being displayed with wanton abandon, there is a need to return to the zoo, not to glorify this false mastery over lesser creatures, but to see the sights before each of the animals who have known this place as home pass into oblivion. The last time I stepped foot on this ground, there was this orangutan taking up residence in one of the cages. She died of old age last 2010, never to be replaced again as the entire species may become extinct a few generations from now. Many of the larger pens have been left empty, with local funds apparently being funneled towards personal pockets instead of adding stocks of wild animals for people to see. And with trends turning against all forms of animal cruelty, (including putting them in places, like zoos) there would come a time when the Manila Zoo will just be, an ordinary public space.

    A park, whose history comes alive in pictures and stories, like the one I am writing today.





    Sunday, May 10, 2015

    A Moment Adrift




    Snippet: 


    Mugen is a BPO supervisor who also does email and chat technical support, as well as SEO writing. He also offers basic gardening, errand assistance, blog writing, and more.


    ---



    1. Too much work makes one forget the passing of days. I was surprised to learn yesterday that it was already Sunday, all my friends were drinking, and there I was, responding to email inquiries sent by users at 2 in the morning.

    2. Mother's Day came and all I was able to accomplish is buying flowers for my mom at Dangwa Market. She was pleased when she saw it, as she never got one from my father in all the years they were married. I bought my sister a bouquet of roses too, something her husband cannot do given his economic limitations.

    3. I've been encouraging the Weatherman to pursue his plans of applying for emergency passport. I even volunteered to accompany him at the DFA, which, I will never do to anyone. Not even to my sister. 

    4. He needs to have a passport so he could be with his mom who had a delicate surgery last week.

    5. Never has my body clock been this fucked up in recent years. I sleep in late afternoon, wake up at around early evening, take a nap at 12 midnight, after the batch of pending emails were sent to customers, and wake up again at 2 am to continue working. I clock an average of 5 hours of sleep every day.

    6. And I'm able to squeeze the workouts despite the woozy feeling.

    7. Yesterday, I participated in this social media meme on Twitter where one has to confess something about himself for every "star" he gets. I got 25 stars in a span of an hour, and had to tell some of my darkest confessions I have yet to write on my blog. One condition I imposed is that I will delete everything at 6 in the morning. Too bad for those who woke up late as they will never get to know the adventures I had in my previous lives. 

    8. I sometimes feel that my money-making activities have robbed me of my creativity. In all fronts, I feel that something within is wilting, including writing. I may still keep a treasure trove of words, but hardly do I use them for artistic expression.

    7. Like a pure shot of caffeine, I decided to start the month with this blog entry, while trying to beat the deadline for the raketship at 8 in the morning. I succeeded in doing both.

    8. The title of this blog entry is an appropriate description of my state of mind: lutang.