To My Lola Charry

A stifling breeze barges into the room
And your hand shuts the door
You find a weak flame and
You feed it, feed it, feed it

A pen on a blank notebook
And you are the writer
You fill the empty notebook
Page after page after page

A bud in a crack on the wall
And you are the gardener
You water it every day
Until it grows, grows, grows

Thank you for keeping me warm
Thank you for my history
Thank you for nourishing me

I love you, lola.

The Time Is Now

While I was growing up, my dad always reminded me before any big decision that he and my mom taught me right from wrong and the rest was up to me. When the Marcos family announced and shamelessly publicized the burial of their patriarch in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani on November 18, they took us all by surprise. Many instantly abandoned their classrooms and offices and took to the streets in outrage. The critics narrow these protestors down to Aquino supporters, yellowtards, or anti-government or anti-Duterte crowds. But I asked myself what I thought was right and what was wrong and I knew my answer. From here on out, I will no longer stay silent about this.

To those who’d like us to “move on” from this issue:

If we move on from this and accept a criminal’s burial in a place for heroes and soldiers, then we are merely believing that everything written on history books and everything we were taught in school was one big steaming pile of cow dung. The body count? The torture stories? The stolen money? The MARTIAL LAW? Who cares, it was all in the past anyway, right? Well, you see kids, the past and present are connected (surprise).

Remember all those petty criminals whose bodies are lined up in sacks, carelessly labeled for their crimes as a “snatcher” or “drug addict”? Well, isn’t it unjust and unfair that the biggest plunderer of them all, the man whose family stole billions from us as a people, is getting a hero’s burial? All this at the promise one man (our president) made to another and a family going behind our backs in a surprise funeral, despite the people’s request not to have him buried there?!?

So by letting this happen, we’re saying, “oh, yea his life mattered and we honor what this dictator did but these small-time criminals are trash. They are beneath us and they have no room for change.” This is the exact opposite of the good change we want to see in the people. We are learning to become apathetic and lazy instead of empathetic. Change has definitely come, but in the worst way. Take note, the world is also watching us right now and we look completely mad.

Also, our present state as a country wouldn’t be this dire, had we not suffered economically during the 21 years of the Marcos administration. We could have done so much with the money that was stolen from our nation. In fact, here’s a list of what we could have today, had it not been for the family’s ill-gotten wealth.

I’d like to think there’s a difference between “moving on” from something and changing its chronicles completely. By accepting this new reality, we are paving the way for future mistakes, as well. Why even bother studying history when we’re just going to make the same mistakes as those from the past. How is that “moving on”? We have to move forward and call out a spade for what it is.

 To those who say we’re just Aquino supporters or “yellowtards”:

At this point, I don’t even care where the body is buried. My friend Patti made a wonderful point: Are the Aquinos even in the picture? They aren’t. It’s not about whether if you’re pro-Aquino or pro-Duterte. It’s more than that. We are telling future generations that Marcos was not such a bad guy after all even given all the facts of his wrongdoings. American writer Alfred McCoy estimated in a major history book he authored, Policing America’s Empire, that 3,257 people were killed during the Marcos dictatorship from 1975 to 1985, while 35,000 were tortured and some 70,000 were arrested. Those were just numbers, right? They weren’t actual people who lived and had families and aspirations like you and me, right? It was all in the past and we should just forgive, right? That time was NOT a long time ago. There are people still affected today, people who actually suffered.

Let’s be honest: it’s convenient not to care about these past events. It didn’t happen to us per se, so why bother. Go on, and have dinner in the comforts of your home, surrounded by your loved ones. Continue watching your shows on Netflix and worrying about which restaurant to eat at tonight. It’s so easy to play no part in it but be wary that it *might* breed laziness and selfishness. Okay this sounds really preachy and virtuous but this is just an exasperated me talking.

Why am I doing this now?

I’ve stayed silent for so long. I don’t see myself as a particularly strong person with a grounded political opinion but I want to act against what I think is wrong. The happenings of today will go down in history once more and I ask myself, would I like to see future generations getting the shock of their lives when another multi-hyphenate of crime gets honored as a hero in a surprise burial? It’s really not a fun ordeal (but that’s just me).

One route would be to sit still and hope for the better. In Alma Moreno’s clumsy words, “Dasal. Dasal nalang,” but if we can get up and do something, then why not? We can pray and hope but we can also use our voices. This is the same voice that was granted back to us after the fall of a dictator (the same one who got a hero’s burial in secret!) 30 years ago. I had always been afraid to say anything but I kept telling myself that if there was ever a time to be brave, that time is now.

I’m simply fighting for what I believe is just. This is a way for us protesters to honor those who have fallen and have survived in the past and also a way for us to enlighten those in the present, because somewhere along the way, lines blurred, a villain became a hero, and the people who’ve made it so still walk among us.

Vienna Waits For You


I found myself listening to Billy Joel’s hits this afternoon, after a Facebook post referencing his 1977 tune “Vienna” in a travel photo caption prompted me to. Listening closely to the lyrics of that particular song, I’ve realized that it was such a relatable composition to the youths of any generation.

“Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?… You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in a day”

This seems a lot like our Coffee Culture today, where it’s become acceptable and “cool” to express our stresses on social media, collecting coffee cups as medals we’ve earned for working so hard and wanting everyone to know that.

In modern interpretation, that last line about doing so much is how we like to appear constantly on-the-go through SNS. There are #lateposts about travels on days you’re actually just at home, mobile apps like Swarm that inform followers of your whereabouts (which, IMO, makes you susceptible to stalking), and Instagram Stories and Snapchat that allow friends to follow your every move. We’re so obsessed with collecting experiences and showing them off that it becomes a distraction from potential nuances and the present.

“Slow down, you’re doing fine, you can’t be everything you want before your time.” 

Children are in such a hurry to grow up. This generation, which has been made to believe they’re special and can do anything, has become too ambitious. We’ve been raised on the notion that we’re all going to be successful. We’re all going to be the next Steve Jobs in time, so we set unrealistic goals with only the intention of becoming Steve Jobs, that when reality checks in, we’re disoriented and ultimately, depressed.

To all these dreams, Billy Joel says, “Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.”

That’s when we get to the most important line in the song that seems to have no connection to us, but actually makes the most sense: “When will you realize Vienna waits for you?”

What’s in Vienna? Why was it so special for Billy Joel, an American singer and songwriter, to entitle a song after it? For that, I had to do some extra research. In 2008, The New York Times conducted an interview with the artist and asked him what the song meant. After he was estranged from his father at eight years of age, they were later reunited in Vienna after a little over a decade. Billy Joel found his father in a completely different country from where they parted. And for this, Vienna connotes a homecoming in the place where your family dwells. When we’ve exhausted ourselves from overworking, aren’t occupied trying to look like we’re somewhere else, or when we actually are somewhere else, there’s always home and family to help us gain repose. And the singer phrases it in a wake-up call manner, where we’ve got to realize the significance of a home and family in our lives. For many, it’s a starting point, but in “Vienna”, it’s a sporadic pitstop and the end-goal.

Billy also recounts his visit to Vienna and his encountering a sweet 90-year old lady sweeping the street. His father reassures him, “She’s got a job, she’s useful, she’s happy, she’s making the street clean, she’s not put out to pasture.” According to Joel, the senior citizens in Vienna aren’t put in homes or retired, but rather valued and put to use in the community, as opposed to how they are treated in other countries. Another meaning behind “Vienna” unfolds. After this fast-paced life of doing this and that, making something of ourselves, trying to feel important, Billy, too, reassures us that there’s Vienna — both capital of Austria and a hypothetical situation that secures our future when we’re seemingly old and “useless.” I think that the fruitlessness of old age and being forgotten are two of the greatest fears of youth. Fret not, young ones, because according to this soulful 67-year old, Vienna will be waiting.

MY DREAM GUY MIGHT NOT EXIST

Though I’ve never had a boyfriend, I already know who my dream guy is. He’s someone who can keep a conversation going and is straightforward. There will be no awkward dates. We’ll be skipping the talks about ex-flames because we both know that the past doesn’t matter. He’ll respect my decision to adopt children in the future because he understands how important it is to me.The time we’ll have known each other wouldn’t matter before marriage because at that time, we’ll be mature individuals who know exactly what they’re getting into and who have aligned visions. Most of all, we will get together only with the intention of marriage. I’m not excited to enter a relationship yet because I’m only thinking of the end-goal at this point. I, together with most the guys I know, are nowhere near ready for this and that’s okay.

Waiting is an option but so is never getting together with anyone at all. I’m writing this to reassure myself of other goals and shying away from petty worries of romance. Marriage has been on my mind lately because others around me are planning it, while I also know of so many couples who so far from it, too. Until then, let this be a guide.

Source: Digital Library

Why People Leave & Some Relationships Have To End

pruning_0311

Source: Lowe’s

Over the course of this year, I had been moping about my dearest friends leaving. They’d literally be leaving the country, cutting off all physical contact and leaving no specific return date for us to mark our calendars on. They would be getting into other relationships and you no longer become a priority to them, and instead would be seeing their photos with new friends sprawled over social media sites. Or worse. They would ghost on you and either gradually or abruptly dismiss you.

I found myself wondering what the point was to friendships when they don’t even last? Every time a friendship ends, a part of me dies and little by little, bits of my spirit get chiseled away.

But then someone I was never close to shared a personal story about how she and her husband got together and it involved a lot of unhealthy friendships ending in the process. She called it “pruning,” and that single term, usually associated to gardening, just made so much sense to me. There are tons of reasons as to why relationships need to fade (to name a few: (1) to help you mature, (2) to help you get out of your comfort zone, (3) in order for newer relationships to start, (4) to fit into the new person you’ve become or your new lifestyle) and you’ll have to look at it like shedding skin. The healthier layer of the epidermis just itches to come out, even if it means going through unsightly peeling and uncomfortable phases. They came for a reason, they left for a reason, but their job might be done and somehow they’ve changed you or vice versa.

You’re not going to lose your friends for good, but deep down you’ll know that it will never be the same as it was now or then, just as time is like a flowing river. Let’s face it. All those quotes online, those Thought Catalog posts saying, “We might not talk all the time and I might be busy, but I’m here when you need to talk to me” — you won’t actually pour out what you’re going through via random text to a high school friend you haven’t talked to in years.

Well, what can you do when the fizzling out of the friendship hurts and you’re only left with memories? Think of only the good times and revel in both your successes or sympathize on your failures of the present. But then sometimes being civil with each other is the way to go, if you can’t salvage any remnants of the past.

ANATOMY OF A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

Last night I indulged myself and bought my first Young Adult novel in what seemed like years, for the sake of a quick, easy, and amusing read (note: I love trashy trailer park movies, cheap reality shows, and cliché chick lit novels so this one was right up my alley). I picked up Andrea Portes’ 328-page novel, Anatomy of a Misfit, without reading any reviews, over a bestselling Rainbow Rowell work because I felt I could relate to a high school misfit more than a Fangirl. You must know that before reading this, I had just finished reading Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch. After having finished the two, I was compelled to compare though both works are worlds apart, coming from entirely different genres.

I’m a slow reader so it took me an estimated month and a half to finish The Goldfinch (somewhere around 900 pages long with the same page size, but of smaller text size) because I was drowning in adjectives and heavily descriptive scenes of the “art underworld”. Admittedly, digesting a Donna Tartt book takes patience and constant consultation of a dictionary. I’ve read two of her three published novels and I’m a fan of her erudite writing style (though I prefer The Secret History way more than The Goldfinch).

After spending so much time with The Goldfinch, even spilling soy sauce on some pages, wearing out its paperback cover, and taking it along with me on train rides and dinners alone, I was astonished at how easy it was to finish Anatomy of A Misfit. A few hours easy. Money down the drain for something so dense with a narration that was almost condescending. I may not be in high school anymore, but I sure as hell don’t remember anybody talking like that. Okay, maybe I laughed a handful of times and I teared up when [spoiler] Logan died but the amount of time reading it probably has some correlation to the amount of time it took the author to write it. And doesn’t time give a thing its value, more than its material or monetary worth?

What makes a YA novel? Why are they so popular besides the shabby writing, faulty loopholes, and cheesy plots? From what I experienced from reading Anatomy of A Misfit was that it appeals to emotions. Sure, it might teach teens a lesson, but these are more of reiterations of values we already know and situations we’ve already experienced. The only time we have is now, you say? I’ve never heard that one before! But we end up purchasing it because of its ease to get into, its cheap thrills, and relatable experiences. Might I throw out that the younger crowd, myself included, is more easily swayed by a heart MacGuffins? The puppy love, the love triangle, the bullying, and the slang. It’s all so predictable and “sincere” but it’s just that. There’s nothing below the surface, unless it’s a John Green novel that tries so hard to be philosophical.

In the Philippines, there’s a common formula for majority of Filipino films. First, they have to be titled after love songs from the eighties or nineties. Second, there’s always a clash of social classes, poor vs. rich, and the portrayal of both are never accurate. Third, in rom-coms, there’s almost always a love triangle or an affair going on somewhere. All this accompanied by poor theatrics, hasty set designs, and a finished product that I find capricious (I recently found out that it only took two weeks to film a certain unnamed Filipino film, which provides some evidence to my claim). BUT HOW COME THEY NEVER CHANGE? Because audiences fall for the lazy ploy over and over again by its appeal to emotion and its melodramatics, just like YA novels. Sure, they give you momentary entertainment, but after a week or two, your life resumes as if you’ve never read the book or watched the film.

Do yourself a favor and know what you’re spending your money on. Stop and think before making that purchase. Reviews help. Don’t go wandering aimlessly into a bookstore (like I did) and buying the first book you get your hands on. Once in a while, it might be fine to splurge on these, but it would be wise to opt for something with a little more depth, not just in the plot, but in the writing style as well. If there’s one thing I learned from a Yale writing conference, it’s to read as a writer, because what you intake will affect your output.

Today’s Specials

Nine thirty-four

Crusty small eyes and oatmeal make for breakfast

Topped off with waffles and sunny side indifference

A steaming hot cup of coffee jolts the joints and fogs up your glasses

 

Twelve thirty-five

Trickling raindrops on windowpanes with a side of Caesar salad for lunch

Regrets of a day wasted and smoked salmon follow but

Not before a glass of cheap Merlot to numb the senses and make you forget

 

Seven thirty-six

Tear-stained cheeks and salty soup for dinner

Provoked by questions that had no answers with

Roasted chicken and baby potatoes that came after

You end the day with crème brûlée in hopes that

Tomorrow will dissolve today’s torpor

The Future at the Tip of Your Pen (Commentary on Nabokov’s Lance and Sci-Fi)

Vladimir Nabokov tries his hand at cross genre with a piece, circa 1952, published by The New Yorker. Cross Genre is always tricky, what with the metafiction tinging itself with science fiction particularly. In Lance, the narrator, detaching himself from writer Nabokov, painstakingly composes the character Lance, an astronaut, and his family. But unmistakably, the narrator justifies this piece as an amateur work, even calling Science Fiction out as masked regular fiction:

“I utterly spurn and reject so-called “science fiction.” I have looked into it and found it as boring as mystery-story magazines — the same sort of dismally pedestrian writing with oodles of dialogue and loads of commutational humour. The cliches, are of course, disguised; essentially they are the same throughout all cheap reading matter, whether it spans the universe or the living room. They are like those “assorted” cookies that differ from one another only in shape and shade, whereby their shrewd makers ensnare the salivating consumer in a mad Pavlovian world where, at no extra cost, variations in simple visual values influence and gradually replace flavour, which thus goes the way of talent and truth.”

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During a literature class four years ago, my professor mentioned there only being seven basic story plots. Of course, there are also several different theories contesting and justifying this one. But can I just say, I agree with Nabokov/the Narrator on this one. I applaud him for a piece well-written. Anyway, science fiction is almost always set in the future or in some alternate present, but quite actually, there is no such thing as the future; it’s all just a skewed representation of the present. According to an analysis of ‘futuristic art’ by Brian Dillon (which also coincidentally mentions Nabokov’s Lance), “the only future that seems to have mattered is the future anterior: what will have been, or more accurately what might have been”. That’s exactly what the narrator attempts to do in Lance: he’s actually conjuring up some pretend future that his descendent will later experience. Those attempting to write science fiction or metafiction should take cues from this wonderful and overlooked masterpiece by Nabokov (who gains most recognition only for Lolita)

Science fiction is just so fantastical. I don’t mean that in the informal marvellous-adjective sort of way, I mean that, while I don’t fancy reading much of it, I commend the writers for such an overactive imagination contributing to the portrayal of a disguised world as we know it until it no longer becomes recognizable.