Tuesday, September 27, 2016


It was a feast by all accounts.

The Pancit Malabon and the home-made spaghetti laid side by side across the large wooden table. Sticks of grilled pork flanked the two pasta dishes. A plate of roasted chicken was being passed around. Not even its bones did escape the hungry mouths of the youthful revelers. A batch of fried spring rolls was set aside on the food strainer, its coat of vegetable oil still dripping on the warm pot.  There were a lot more where it came from. The macaroni salad in the fridge remained untouched, and so were the cakes, brought by friends who arrived expectedly, even in the absence of invitations. Finally, the Lechon was delivered, paid for by the celebrant's other half who was also celebrating his birthday on that auspicious weekend. I don't recall it getting to the table with its crispy skin still intact.

Later that evening, when the family members have all left, those who stayed behind took turns singing at the karaoke. I remember Kuya Roque, the eldest of the celebrant's students crooned to classic tunes from Frank Sinatra to Procol Harum. It is as if, he had memorized all the celebrant's favorite songs and performed it with much feel. Meanwhile, cases of beer kept the live chatter late into the night, spilling into the driveway, where some of the guests had already begun swooning on their monobloc chairs. Unable to handle the alcohol that had already numbed the senses, some of the female guests were told to stay overnight. It wasn't safe to travel home. I wonder if they still remember that event from years back when they felt so euphoric, they woke up the next morning having a taste of what a wasted adult felt like.

I do, even when I was a mere spectator.

Because in the years after that feast, no longer would the celebrant throw a celebration as grand as the vignette I have written, and instead, simply waited for people to remember (and hopefully show up with food that we can all share). The students who were intoxicated now have their own lives. Rarely do they keep in touch. Kuya Roque, the crooner, has passed away after he didn't wake up one morning, and only the celebrant's friends from her old neighborhood (aside from relatives) never fail to show up, to have a modest birthday party to welcome another year.

But that will change.

She had a difficult time sleeping that night when the idea had finally sunk in. She was even worried that she might have a heart attack after failing to contain all that excitement. For after 15 years, she will have a feast, and she has the liberty to gather all the people who mattered without having to worry about the food or the venue because someone will throw her a party. It will be her 70th birthday, and no matter what the cost, all I yearn for is for her to have an unforgettable evening.

With the downpayment for the food, the cake, and the venue already paid, I still have 40 days to convince special guests to show up, make a video presentation of my mother's colorful life with the help of the Weatherman, convince myself to hire a host, and pray, for the third nephew to stay a little longer inside my sister's womb.

May the universe grant this favor.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Luna Mencias Street, Sunrise

Originally written on Facebook.

And so, I had to whisk away my laptop to the office for the nth time since last month because of my issue-ridden broadband connection kept me from doing work at home. There is a positive spin to this sudden uprooting. Not only do I enjoy high-speed internet, the solitude afforded by being cocooned in a real workplace allows me to get things done before the deadline.  

When my shift was finally over, the sun was already on the horizon. It was a different scene, not like when I had to pack my things and slip away at daybreak. I chose to stay a little late, this time, to catch up with colleagues who have been with the company longer than I can remember. Trivial stories were swapped: people who have been kicked out because of habitual absences, people who have rejoined because of their proven reliability when the situation needs their presence; little stuff that makes our days less ordinary. In that brief space afforded by my stay, one striking streetscape caught my attention - that of the vegetarian restaurant across the building that has been part of my growing-up years as a daytime resident of this neighborhood.

Nostalgia retains snippets of memory. Of taking early lunches - solo and cheery - knowing the calories I'll add will be burned at a nearby gym later that afternoon; morning sprints to the time clock as my tardiness counted against my performance; afternoon sashays - away from the workstation I secretly despise for I have to return the next day and perform productive feats for the company. 

And of the time I dated my mom because she wanted to try vegetarian.

These are random memories drawn from the cache in my head to remind myself that no matter how many projects I will be asked to lead, and how, despite my restive youth, managed to outlast all the people who swear to stay with the company, there will always be a part of me that will look back at this bend and in a reverent whisper, whose voice only the mind could hear, say:

"Change is just a construct. The essence remains the same."