Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mga Gabay Sa Gabi Ng Hilahil

And should you find yourself asking, if, everything you will be doing would make a difference, keep this in heart and remember, this might be the design all along.

Hindi man kita mabigyan ng
material na bagay tulad ng
hinahangad ng mga tao sa social media

Gusto kong malaman mo na
masayang-masaya ako na
nakilala kita.

Masaya na nakakasama kita
sa gitna ng pagsubok.

- February 14, 12:00 MN

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Things I Tweet Not

With over 3,100 followers, including lawmakers, former government officials, and even social progressives who are standing against the excesses of this administration, prudence dictates that I should exercise restraint when posting musings on Twitter. Gone are the days when my tweets were nothing but random (and sometimes sleazy) thoughts that require no contemplation or live journals that I could not publish (for being too trivial to post) when the blogs were still the preferred medium of expression. While posting chronicles of the moment still happen from time to time (to let everyone know that I still have a social life, a me-time, a family, or an identity), by all accounts, my Twitter has been completely politicized. Not to mention, being in a relationship limits your liberty to speak your mind on things that you have yet to disclose to your partner.

Like tales of past relationships.

Given this restricted space for navel gazing, here are the things that I no longer publish on my microblogging service:

1. Half-naked photos that fed my need for validation when I still have the guns to flaunt.

2. Stories of past exploits and the lessons I've learned from them.

3. References to my ex-boyfriends, flings, and strangers-in-between.

4. Unspoken frustrations that come with being in a relationship (which, I tend to leave undisturbed in my subconscious thoughts) 

5. Money and family matters.

These subjects were seldom written in long-form writing as they are irrelevant to my personal narrative. But given the anonymous nature of this blog, I may be able to exercise the freedom to write what I have in mind. Should I be able to sustain my mojo and remain defiant to the temptations of going public in exchange for more readers, you may count on some entries that put into context the stories from my dark ages. 

But first, I will need to write casually, and drop the formality that has become my voice now that I have grown.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Preserver Of Worlds | The Barbie House

At a time when our helpers were solely preoccupied with looking after my younger sister, and I was left to my own devices, as long as I don't leave the confines of our ancestral house in Santa Mesa, the afternoons were spent sneaking into that tiny room that connects my mother's bedroom to her private bathroom. On some days, I would climb into cabinets and bookcases and reach into my father's stash of adult magazines, undisturbed on the topmost shelf. At grade 5, I have yet to understand that a sexual intercourse leads into baby-making. I just look at the pictures and get fascinated with the couple's lusty facial expressions. But on other days, I would plunk myself next to the same cabinet, where my younger sister's most important toy was assembled by our father. Given to her by our stateside relatives, her Barbie House was my perversion when boys of my age were supposed to play something else.

Little can be said about my play style. There was Barbie and there was Ken. I would sometimes make them love (by simulating the pumping scenes and bent-over positions I've seen in the porn magazines) but most of the time, I stuck with my fantasy role play where Barbie was a goddess who was harassed by evil dolls who wanted the pink and plasticky house for themselves. Eventually, Barbie and Ken did adopt a kid (another action figure) who I called Miko. It would grow from there - becoming sophisticated - until I found myself assembling an "army of light" made up of tiny action figures who would protect Barbie. Ken would turn into a villain, and an angry Guile doll (from Street Fighter, which was a gift from the same relatives abroad) became the reluctant hero.

I would eventually abandon the Barbie House and the dolls after my sister told tales of my exploits to our parents. I don't recall being scolded, but the discovery was enough for me to turn my attention elsewhere.  The fantasy role play would go on for years, with Guile, and a new Barbie Doll, which I bought from my own allowance. She would become the new goddess. 

Miko went missing. I would never find that toy again.

As my sister and I get older, we would find new hobbies leaving the doll house untouched. It would be disassembled, put in a plastic bag, and was among our belongings that were moved when we settled into our new house. The disassembled Barbie House would be kept inside the closet, under the bed, and when there was no more space in my sister's room, it would eventually find itself dusting in the veranda. It was the part of the house that I claimed for my garden plants ages ago. Still, it would take years before the thought of taking out the foldable doll house from its bag and clean it would take place.  

"Kuya sa iyo na itong mga dolls ko." My sister pleaded when she learned that I was boxing all my toys. I was already getting hooked on PC games, and I was fast outgrowing my action figures. Only one doll from her, including Guile and my own Barbie, survived the passing of time.

To restore, what was considered a junk, takes a generosity of patience and a sliver of craftsmanship to accomplish this project. Dirt and grime coated the surface of the Barbie House, while its interiors were barely recognizable because of mold and other traces of plant life. It did not help that the delicately-painted wallpaper sheets were peeling off. To clean the entire thing with soap water and dish scrubber might worsen the damage wrought by neglect.

But these concerns didn't matter. I was bent on cleaning the doll house and reassemble it after being forgotten for more than a decade. So scrub and rinse I did, until my own worries were washed away. Credit to its maker, the house and what remains of its furnishing did look vintage after they have been left to dry. The problem, however, lies in how the structure would stand up. While the beams supporting the roof are still intact, its locks were already broken. The walls, which also serve as the base would not snap. It felt like building a house of cards that would anytime fall apart.

I would have given up and simply put back the house inside its bag if I were not bent on writing about the experience. The Barbie House is still my sister's possession, despite my initial thoughts of giving it away. But it mattered to me more than just a toy. It was my wellspring of creativity and the beginning of my journey toward self-discovery. Many years later, I would still recall the house while playing the Sims on my PC.

The perversion of my childhood is now an accepted adult pastime.

"It has to stand up," I mumbled as I connect the sturdy blocks that would make up the pillars that would carry the weight of the doll house's roofing. To bring back a semblance of my childhood, I brought along some action figures who once revered the dolls. Meanwhile, the pillars worked - briefly - until they became too wobbly to support the structure. The playtime approach has to be modified.

I need to think practical, like my dad.

Using duct tape (which I was supposed to use to patch that hole on my mother's bathtub) the locks were sealed and the beams were bound together. What took hours of realigning and snapping the walls to the roof was done in minutes. The Barbie House finally stood, like it did, the first time I snuck into that tiny room to play with my sister's toys.

"Ang galing naman." my sibling affectionately said when I let her see the reassembled doll house. "Pakita mo kina Lenin ha?" She insisted. "Okay lang sila maglaro diyan." Her remark left a smile on my face. I have bright hopes for my nephews.

Gazing at the Barbie House from a distance, just before I disassemble it again to store it somewhere away from the elements. I didn't see a toy coming back to life. Instead, it was a personal monument rebuilt - albeit for a day - to celebrate the being I have become.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Preserver Of Worlds | The Remains Of His Being

Previously: Matters Of National Security

When he was still in his prime, my dad would always tell that he doesn't expect that I will fight for him. That I won't get back at the people who have wronged him in business or had thrown insults as a result of his brash character. Given this perception of ambivalence, he might have thought that I would completely erase his memory. For I was the insolent son who turned his back when he needed my help to run his businesses.

The last time I saw him alive was when he was being hauled out of an ambulance. He was on a stretcher, unconscious but still breathing. EMT's were relentlessly pumping oxygen into his body. Next came out was his sister. Her words cracking, she first said to me, "patawarin mo na ang papa mo." There were no words to say. I was looking at the brown-skinned lady, slender and in her mid-twenties, cradling her son. She was sobbing in the corner while her fingers moved as she felt the beads of the rosary. Ignoring my aunt's plea and refusing to show some compassion to the lady, I went to comfort my own mother. Had my father's sister known the depth of my savagery, I wouldn't show up at the Manila Doctor's emergency room without the blessing of my mother's sister. I was even having second thoughts of telling my mom that her husband had a major stroke.


Twelve years into the future and that hospital scene linger as a reminder of the choices I made. The other side of the story - the reason for the fallout - is irrelevant now. The essence lies in the gestures of the present.

I do not know if it's mere social niceties, filial piety, or some subconscious guilt that pushes me to return to his final resting place. Never in my recollection did I miss bringing flowers on the day of his earthly departure. My younger sibling who was closer to him in all those years I was giving him an icy treatment last paid a visit a few days before her elder was born. Her firstborn is now six years old. My mom, in her advanced age (and without someone to bring her all the way to Navotas), has been a no-show since 2013, when our family driver secured work abroad.  While I deliberately avoid the aunt and her dysfunctional family, who by the way, lives a few blocks from the cemetery, the presence of mums and anthuriums on his grave marker - fresh and well-arranged - tells that in spite of my father's personal tragedies, his footprints still leave a mark to at least one person, who had known the triumphs and downfalls of his life.

A double pair of thick-rimmed glasses; a Press ID issued by the publishing company that gave him a break in the newspaper industry; an organizer, with list of contacts and set appointments, some, scheduled days after his passing; certificates recognizing his contributions to the National Press Club, a Nokia 7650 phone, perhaps, the last prized possession he was clutching before his blood vessels ruptured, and brought him squirming in pain. It might be a strange coincidence or a timely providence, but these personal effects were rediscovered on the day of my dad's twelfth passing. Sifting them out of the piles of disused items inside a dusty cabinet that was cast out to rot at the veranda, I wonder what my father's thoughts were when for the first time, he had to borrow money from me when I was working for another company; or when I politely declined his offer to get me a second-hand scooter smuggled into the country? Did he feel dejected when I gave him a cold embrace the last time he showed up at the door to pay us a visit? Did he harbor ill feelings when he had to spend his last Christmas meal in a makeshift eatery, with his sister, because his children had asked him not to show up at my aunt's house where our family reunion would be taking place? 

Perhaps, the reason I keep coming back to his grave is because there were words left unsaid; that deep down, I am terrified of committing the same ruthlessness to the people I tried to scratch out from my life. Putting back these artifacts in a sturdy plastic box, I realize that as long as I walk this earth, I will carry his memory, and put it in a safe place where time could never devour it.

And within me, in that little corner of my chest that is still capable of recalling, celebrating his life, including his sins and redemptions, will be my atonement.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Slave Driver


He wakes up at past 5 in the morning to carry on the tasks he was supposed to perform overnight. He finds less than 10 emails on his help desk software. This can be processed in less than an hour. However, times have changed for the raketship, and to compensate, our slave driver has commenced working for his day job 8 hours earlier than the time he was expected to go online. There is no supervisor checking. The clients abroad are spending their rest days. Might as well tweak the hours of being on the job so he can serve two masters at the same time.

The work schedule was different just a week ago. At this very hour, at 6:47 AM, one can find him in front of the laptop, rushing to add at least 15 units of work before the mandatory deadline at 8. With an entire week to write snippets - short descriptions about the services being offered by independent business owners - he only feels the crunch time on Sundays, when there's still over a hundred units of work to submit to the client.

These days, that over a hundred units of work have to be done before Tuesday midnight, to remain competitive, as 80 more writers will have to sink their nails and teeth and write as many snippets to earn their keep.

Thirty thousand work units, divided among freelance writers who used to deliver five hundred snippets every week. The first attempt may have ended in disarray; we still speculate how this affected the quality of production. But like in all organizations, the leadership will come up with ways for correction and make no mistake, we trust their wisdom. As for the writers like our slave driver, the choice is to adapt. This new work arrangement may turn him into a hermit for at least three days. But one thing we have discovered (and how joyful it is to find that there is so much to do outside of the two jobs) is that once the work units have run out, life at long last, says hello.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

It Always Comes Back To Call Us

Against the dying trend of long-form writing, there is a reason we never left.

We have been writing for as long as we remember. From that dream journal we had back in Grade Six, way before we learned how to properly pen in cursive letters, to that last entry we published about the matriarch's major bout of infection last year before her grand birthday party attended by so many family members and friends, we knew we can never stop. One way or the other, we will create a medium or simply resurrect this blog, to paint our thoughts like we used to when blogging was still an artform.

While coming back feels a little premature, (Twitter, with its 140 character limit already suits our needs) the events of the last two years are piling up. We were telling Sloane, a blogger friend, a few days ago that all the milestones we promised to put into this personal journal, in a creatively narrative fashion when Twitter has yet to exist, have already taken place. We still hope to connect them to past entries and write them the way we see fit. But in essence, setting our foot again to publish stories was a way of keeping a promise. A thought, or maybe a gentle nudge, while a love one's life might be in dire straights.

In case you wonder, how is life treating us lately? 

We have never been comfortable with the religious folks (with their self-righteousness and holier than though haughtiness towards non-believers) but we learned, from personal experience, that the Creator grants freebies, when you do deeds out of selfless love; A dictator was given a resting place at the Heroes Cemetery, precipitating unrest among elder street fighters and the millennials; for the first time, the next generation hosted the Noche Buena last Christmas. So begins the passing on of a tradition in the family; A lighting of candles at the start of the year cemented a vow to become a light bringer; finally, a very special person suffered so much from a serious malady. The process of recovery has just started. 

These, among other snippets of life, are what we yearn to publish, and we hope that with divine inspiration, may we never lose our thoughts in the cacophony of noises. This is Mugen, and with his inner voices in one with this undertaking, we have returned to reclaim our space and write our stories.