Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Rarely do I stay over at my Favorite Aunt's place these days, and when I do, they would likely find me in the driveway, writing snippets for the raketship. 

But there was a time, not so long ago, that I did stay for the night and when sleep seemed hard to find, I would read books - tomes containing raw information - until daybreak - or until my eyelids demand a shut-eye. If I wasn't reading the almanac about the events of World War 2, I would on-and-on turn the pages of Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People for illumination. This 10-volume body of knowledge covers everything about the Philippines. From its geography and wildlife to its precolonial past and beyond. Published by the Reader's Digest, having possession of these books is a must for a true disciple of history.

What I like about these books is the way facts are presented. Straight to the point and well-researched, but with a narrative carefully arranged by some of the best storytellers of our time. The encyclopedia portrays heroes with flaws (Manuel L. Quezon having dictatorial leanings) or a society that deviates from the collective memory (women in pre-colonial times are expected not just to manage the family affairs, but also run the business if necessary). It also tells seldom-mentioned events in our history (The brief British occupation of Manila, which is largely uneventful save for the English masters paying on time and in full for services rendered to them). The books also have short essays written by the likes of Ambeth Ocampo and Bienvenido Lumbrera. Scholars, who have to tell something about our history from their own studies. Sometimes, these essays tell of a personal experience, so harrowing that it encapsulates an entire period in Philippine history. Take for example the autobiography of Lourdes Montinola, the sole survivor of her family during the Liberation of Manila in 1945.

"Father ordered an early supper, but the Japanese soldiers came too soon. Only a gunshot, a dog's howling, and the trampling of boots announced their arrival. We were all in the vestibule, including Mother, who had witnessed the shooting from her balcony, and run downstairs to warn us. Father gathered us around him - an uncle, an aunt, their son Edgar, my mother, my sister, my brothers; five other members of the household. Father had time to say only 'be brave' before ten Japanese soldiers came barging in, bayonets gleaming, sneers on their faces. Mother protested weakly, 'We're only civilians.'"

The Americans, she wrote, had liberated the north side of Manila on February 3 of that year. Georgia Peach, the tank that crashed into their iron gate and ran over it came only on February 14. She was the only one to welcome the victors. 

What an anecdote to close an entire volume about the Japanese Occupation.

Stories like these kept me glued to the collection, that there were times I was tempted to borrow a few books from my Favorite Aunt so I can continue dwelling on the pages in the comforts of my own room. For some reasons, the idea failed to push through, and no matter how I tried looking for a set during the yearly Manila International Book Fair, I always went home empty handed. That was until this June. When a classmate from the university announced on Facebook that he was able to acquire a set for 2,000 pesos. He was gracious enough to provide the details: That Fully Booked, the bookstore, offered the set at a discounted rate. Knowing that I have always wanted to have my own, an approval from my mother (emphasizing that one day, the nephews will benefit from these books) ended with me getting a set at one of the last branches that still accept reservations. 

The books were specifically written to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the First Philippine Republic. In the 15 years after the first copies of Kasaysayan were published, much has changed and events in the years after Martial Law need to be written and put into new chapters that will make up our nation's story.

Meanwhile, the wait didn't take long. Two weeks after the payment, and the books that I reserved were already available at the bookstore for pickup. I may have never been able to read a volume from cover to cover in the nights I stayed at my Favorite Aunt's place. But now that I have my own, I will be able to digest its contents and learn more about my people's story at a leisurely pace.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Matter Of Time

Previously on Same Love


This is what I felt in the wake of my posthaste admission of "swinging both ways" on a local online forum. The short-lived elation was quickly doused by growing fears that an acquaintance or worse - a homophobic college buddy might find a way to connect the dots and trace my identity despite using a pseudonym to announce my belated crossover. I remember the immediate need for subterfuge. For I was a guy who was at long last in a loving relationship with a girl. Though the masquerade had brought me some time (I had already confessed to a gay phone pal a year before that I might actually be open to same-sex attraction), and might have dispelled "rumors" already circulating because of my "gentle" personality, (they often point out my bromances, when such concept has yet to exist)

I always knew that something was odd.

That I always get off when I lock my thoughts with the actor on a straight porn instead of gratifying myself while watching the woman being banged.

The events of 2002 resurface as a reminder of how far I've come, and how the world had changed after the Queer As Folk/Will & Grace revolution happening at the same time. In our day, a gay person is forced to act effeminate. People knew them as comic relief who would wear women's clothes and accessories and not men who happen to super-like other men. Our queer time was spent in the closet and in the chatrooms, where the day to day struggle for acceptance is being shared with the kindred.

I remember meeting strangers from online websites to tell my journey. Nothing more. And in some of those sundry and profound conversations about our lives, never did the idea of same-sex marriage ever crossed our minds.

Even when some European nations began making moves for such unions to be recognized and protected by the state.

The logic then was simple. Why push for something progressive when we can't fully embrace the person we choose to be? How can gay unions even be possible when the public at large thinks people like us are immoral, a source of shame in the family, and a bane to society?

Such were the issues of the day.

Little did we know that the seeds dispersed when GMA TV audaciously produced the TV news program "Out," and the great "Pink Peso" became a buzzword for marketing firms that everything we had worked for will eventually produce results. Here and abroad, the movement liberated thousands of men who were living secret and double lives. Going out and admitting your sexuality to the world suddenly became the trend. With the Western media in the front lines, lending their air time for LBGT causes, universal self-recognition was at hand. You will see gay people today - some of them contemporaries of our time announcing on social media their engagement to their significant other.

While much work needs to be done, including laws that will expand safety nets for men who carry HIV, and the complete eradication of hate crimes and speeches against gay people, I am fairly confident that the generation after us will no longer have to live in denial. That now and forevermore, being gay is not just a phase.

And that gay couples having children of their own is as ordinary as single mothers raising kids.

Friday, July 15, 2016

An Act of Restoration

For I'm beginning to get tired hiding behind my own shadow.

And I'm getting weary thinking about if I would last a decade with the abuses I'm giving to my deteriorating body.

Lastly, I'm beginning to get tired ogling at some other buff bodies when I can develop my own.

I guess, it's time to claim my own place.

After all, whatever happens, It's my body and my health that mattered.

Act of Liberation, February 13, 2006
Fullmetal Dreams


By now, my average weight is pegged at 190 lbs. That is an excess of 35: an equivalent of half the total load that I used to lift for my Benchpresses when I was still in top shape. I would have lamented how the girth of my midsection has expanded, or how I get tired even without lifting an arm if it's not because of my own doing. Since December, I ceased going to Eclipse. My busy schedule won't allow me to travel from my place to the gym in Mabini or Shaw. I tried to compensate by enrolling at a nearby workout place and to be the Weatherman's coach, (he decided to enroll at the gym too to get himself bulkier) but I would usually go and burn the carbs when the significant other decides to join. With an unchecked food intake, an inconsistency of a slob, a metabolic rate that gets slower with age, and a complacency afforded by being domesticated, I have lost the edge. Like blogging, I engage myself in some physical activity from time to time just to remind myself that I am still into body building.

But it isn't working anymore.

I would have let things fall further into the curb and wait for a disaster to claim this corpulent frame. But with more and more of my clothes getting tighter by the week, and with the growing fear of some ancient maladies like diabetes and heart disease finally catching up, I decided to take matters into my own hands by squeezing a fitness activity to restore what was mine just last year.

I am perfectly aware that it will be a long shot, but if my most recent blood pressure check-up were any indication, I think the body has already tossed some beginner's luck for encouragement.

"Just 30 minutes of workout three times a week will do fine." My mother's doctor said. 

I used to spend 2 hours at the gym lifting heavy iron plates.

"Talaga doc?" I was brimming with excitement. There's hope after all.

"Oo naman, no need to punish your body." 

While I have already claimed my place and I am no longer attracted to men with muscular bodies, I think I owe myself a favor by just being healthy. There is no need to post my progress for other's validation.

A mere commitment will do.

With this in mind, I have resolved to put on my tattered running shoes and at least during the downtimes between my two jobs, hit the gym or jog at the Malacanang grounds if I were to preserve myself for at least another decade.

One way or another, I'll make a comeback. I have already lived the lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Love Offering

Previously on: A McDonald's Date

"Tumawag pala si Tita Heart mo noong isang araw." My mother said in passing while me and Kuya O, her trusted assistant were carrying her monoblock armchair down the stairs. 

We were going to the hospital for her checkup.

"Contestant daw sa art contest sa school nila si Vito." Vito is my aunt's grandson. He is the effeminate kid they'd expect to turn into a unicorn when he finally comes of age.

The news was met with the usual shrug. Why should I bother paying attention to their trivial affairs when the brief anecdote leads elsewhere? Not since February this year when I last saw the grandchildren after me and Tita Heart sent them to school. It wasn't a rosy encounter. I recall telling my mom how bratty they were, especially the elder.

"Pabili ng pabili ng kung ano-ano yung panganay eh nasa ospital na nga yung tatay nila." I was fuming when I arrived home.

"Tapos ang ingay pa at ayaw makinig sa lola."

The news of my cousin's bunso joining an art contest is nothing but a subtle attempt to remind my mother of the duties she took upon herself after my dad passed away over a decade ago. Every month, a portion of our earnings go to my aunt's family as my disabled cousin cannot find a job. His preening wife, meanwhile, would rather hang out with friends than do some back-breaking work. I do not know if things have changed after he had a stroke early this year. Last she hinted she'd leave my cousin if things don't get any better. While I was generous with my financial support then, domestic duties at home can no longer afford me to offer cash assistance.

They have to make it on their own.

I don't know if my mother was hinting if I could shoulder a portion of the money she's planning to send to my dad's younger sister. But sensing the apparent message, I flatly rejected her suggestion by saying that I don't work 7 days a week only to part my money with people who refuses to improve their lot.

I don't like leeches.

Besides, I still recall having to pay the courier after Tita Heart cornered me the last time, and asked if I could send my uncle's international driver's license to France. I learned a few weeks later that the document was already expired and I wasted a fortune for an enterprise that I thought would finally lessen our burden.

I was terribly disappointed. She and her husband never told me what happened.

"Noong isang taon ko pa sinasabi na maghanap sila ng pagkakakitaan dahil kaya ko pa silang pondohan." I was terribly annoyed.

"Huwag nila akong asahan ngayon."

My mom could only lament how Tita Heart lost me because of a single mistake. Truth is, the list of errors were adding up. I was already seeing the veneer of deception conveniently wedged into a recycled narrative. We used to be very close - so close that I overlooked the details that would make me question how they run things at home. Besides, the last time we spoke, she tearfully told me that I was the son she never had. I now doubt if everything she said was authentic or merely a lip service so she could win my sympathy. It doesn't matter now. I am numb. Meanwhile, my mom appears to be wallowing in guilt. When asked as to when she can send the grocery bag to Tita Heart, she would only say she'd have to raise some funds first.

"Hindi nun kailangan ang grocery." I shook my head in frustration. Mom tried to explain to me the real situation.

"Pera ang inaasahan noon." 

While we are no longer on speaking terms, I've never really cut my ties with my relatives on my father's side of the family. The matriarch makes it a point to tell me of their never-ending destitution (they seem to lap at their misfortune) given my financial capacity to render aid if the situation demands for it. While the obvious screams right in my face, the feeble attempts to ignore them puts me in the quandary. This isn't how I was raised by my parents. I am pretty sure the Favorite Aunt (who belongs to the mother's side of the family) would show a little more compassion than I ever will if I were to follow my nature.

Hence, in spite of the condescending private comments, and the dismissive attitude whenever Tita Heart suddenly makes her presence felt through once-in-a-month phone calls and SMS messages, I'd still find myself getting a bag of Bear Brand milk powder or cans of sardines whenever my mom would ask me to do the rounds at Puregold. A few days before the start of classes last month, I was at the Merriam-Webster bookstore in Avenida to buy some educational supplies I sent to my niece and nephew. And shortly after telling everyone within earshot (while looking at my father's portrait leaning precariously above the altar) that the only thing that can reverse my refusal to own the responsibility is for my dad to visit me in my sleep, it appears the visit is no longer necessary.

The conscience has already prevailed.

I once vowed to set aside some money for charity should I get retained at the Raketship when talk of lay-off was the order of the day. Keeping my word, I tucked a 500-peso bill inside the "Love Offering" envelope used by my Favorite Aunt when she sends over my uncle's (her brother) monthly stipend. 

It has found a renewed purpose and Tita Heart, after receiving relief, can resume her life living a tragedy she can always end.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Much Diminished

I used to write everyday on these pages.


The hanging herb garden outside my window used to be a source of pride and a reason to journey around the metropolis for Basil and Lavender saplings. I would then attempt to grow them despite the rampage of city birds.


I used to walk from home to my gym in Mabini, often, at dusk, when the sun was about to set. I used to have a time for contemplation as I gaze into the open sea: The days afforded me a moment to forge those unfulfilled dreams and cast away the regrets accumulated in years.


I used to brag to inferior men that I worked out three times a week.

But now, everything seems like a distant memory. Even putting into words the life I choose to lead is a struggle, a pain that keeps catching up whenever I am being reminded of the person I used to be.

Times have changed and in so many ways, so am I.