Category Archives: Creative Nonfiction

Awit sa Gabi

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Ngayong malalim na ang gabi,
nakadungaw pa rin sa bintana,
Hinihintay ang iyong pagbalik.

Halika na. Umuwi ka na.
(Naririnig mo ba ang aking awit?)

Iiwan kong nakabukas ang ilaw,
ang mga bintana,
para ika’y salubungin
kung ikaw man ay dumating.
(Hindi kita iiwan.)

Saan ka na ngayon?
Nalunod ka ba sa liwanag ng mga bituin?

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Alikabok

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Pilit na winawalis

ang alikabok ng iyong alaala.

Mula sa itaas ng lamesa

hanggang sa ilalim ng sofa.

Pilit na tinatago,

nililinis,

tinatapon

palabas ng pintuan.

Ngunit nang

akala mong

malinis na,

pagtingin mong muli

hayan,

bumabalik

at bumabalik pa rin.

Found my old journal and saw this poem I wrote a few years ago (January 29, 2011).

Temper

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“Patay! Nakita niya yung bad side ko!” (Shit! She saw my bad side!)

You told me that when I talked to you after you guys lost. Of course, that’s one of the things you were worrying about. With the referee making bad calls and some members of the opposing team playing it rough, you couldn’t help but make a short outburst while on court. On the side, she was watching the game, too. It was her first basketball game. She had no idea about basketball.

In my head, I would’ve told you, “It doesn’t matter.” If I were her, I would’ve liked to see more of that side–the things that make you tick, what annoys you, how and when you get angry. Your bad side is what makes you you, along with the good. Without them, I don’t think you would become the person I have learned to love. You were enough.

I accept you, for all that you are. But I know it is not my acceptance you’re yearning for.

Stoichiometry

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Once, I thought it was enough to have one thing in common–music, books, movies, food. I believed it was enough to fill the void that exists between two people.

Opposites attract.

They complement each other.

But then you realize, it isn’t. There are silences that weigh you down, heavy enough to open your eyes to make you realize that no, it takes more than that. Chemistry, maybe? I don’t know.

***

I didn’t expect that a simple car ride would end up to mean a lot to me. When that song started playing and the first few verses reminded me of Patrick, I couldn’t help but ask, “Homesick at Space camp?” No, it wasn’t that song but seeing you smile so wide, surprised that someone other than you knew about that, made me realize that I made the right guess, the right answer, to a question I didn’t know I was asking that time.

And so we talked about Fall Out Boy. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are, when I found out you liked their old songs. I didn’t really know anyone else who did aside from my high school friends. That was the band that got me closer to them and now, it’s doing the same thing by getting us closer, providing topics for our late-night chats. Do you know this one? Were you shocked when they got back from hiatus? Name your top 5 favorite FOB songs. How about this other band, do you like them? We could talk about them for days.

They say one common similarity could only take you so far and I wondered how long we could keep this up. We did, though. It’s been a month since I gave you that link and watched their concert together, we’re still here. We still keep each other up at night, way up, that I wonder how much time you have to be doing this while keeping up with school. Or who else you’re talking to. I didn’t even think we would be talking to each other, that we would have something to talk about since you seemed quiet, the basketball player everyone likes (I was right about that, to some extent) so I was surprised–and still am–that we hit it off.

***

You like sports. I like literature.

Kobe was your God. I think LeBron can beat him anytime.

You said you didn’t like Lizzie McGuire. Hilary Duff was my role model when I was an awkward teenager.

Norah was good for Barney, you told me. I think she was overbearing.

You pointed out how we seemed to not like the same things. Of course, I began to worry. How couldn’t I? It could mean how we’re not compatible. It could be a big roadblock. Yet, I realized how it was more interesting that way.  I like reading the passion in your messages whenever you try to tell me why you’re into those things, convincing me to believe it as well. I almost did, especially after you gave me 5 supporting statements as to why Kobe Bryant is the greatest NBA player of all time.

***

In a balanced chemical reaction, the relations among quantities of reactants and products typically form a ratio of positive integers.

I guess that’s also the reason why two positives repel each other; a positive and a negative attract each other. There is no one without the other. You can’t always agree on everything; you need something to spur a discussion. Ironically, those differences are the ones building the bridges between us, our similarities providing the scaffolding. I hope that as we get to know each other, we learn to accept this even more. I can’t wait to hear more about you and I can’t wait to tell you more about me. I just hope you’ll let me.

Did I tell you how watching a movie together while being in different places is part of my bucket list? Isn’t it funny how we were watching Landon cross things off Jamie’s List in “A Walk to Remember” and, in the process, you checked something off mine?

 

Moon Landing

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1Q84

I’ve always liked looking at the moon. The way it shines at night, bringing light to the vast, dark night sky aside from the stars of course.

Does the moon ever feel lonely? It’s far out into space. People often look at it since it shines but do they really look? Can they really see? Back then, they thought it was that far, that it was impossible to ever set foot in it. Yet, Neil Armstrong did it. He showed the world that you can.

I dream of going to the moon, exploring its vastness. One day, I’d like to raise a flag with my name on it, just so I could say that I was here. I was there for you. That you let me. It’s not that impossible after all.

I just wanted to write something quick since I’ve been meaning to write something for the past few days but I couldn’t find myself to actually start. This was done in a hurry so it might not be the best one. There’s just many things going on that I don’t know where to start. Anyway, I hope you’re having better days! 🙂

Press Rewind

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  1. Dance, Dance – Fall Out Boy

It was her English. I hated it. Mostly, I think I just hated her guts.

We lived in the province. Bisaya mi dapat but Kaye almost always spoke in English—to her friends, to our teachers, to most people, in general—and I didn’t get why. None of us in the batch did, which is probably why we liked to tease her about it. I thought being classmates with her back in fifth grade, the first and last time we would ever be in the same section, would help me in figuring her out but it didn’t do much. Most days, I would find her with a book in hand, reading, lost in her own world. Sometimes, she would be drawing on her mini notebooks. But even without a book or a sketchpad, I knew there was something unique about her, speaking English as if it was the most natural thing in the world, not caring if people thought her weird. I found her weird.

“Kaye! Ayaw na pag-English uy. Unsa ka, Amerikano?” (Don’t speak English anymore. Who do you think you are, an American?)

“Why? What’s wrong with that?” she replied with a shrug.

Despite our mothers and brothers being friends with each other, that didn’t really translate well for us, at least at that time. While their friendship is one that has reached the level where they occasionally invite and visit each other’s house especially during fiesta, ours was one characterized mostly by banters and me bossing her around at times. It’s funny how things turn out in the end.

One way or another, writing somehow brought us together and became our common ground. When we both became part of the editorial board of our school paper in sixth grade, that’s when I knew more about her and found that, despite everything, we were more similar than what we expected. Our love for books should’ve served as a foreshadowing but it took us a year to realize it. We moved in different social circles yet we somehow found that we can make our own circle, one wherein we can talk about Fall Out Boy and how hot Patrick is even if he’s chubby (it must be his voice). I only knew about them since “Dance, Dance” came out before I got hold of more of their older songs. “Hey, I have all of their songs from their EP album,” she told me. Before I knew it, I was singing their songs nonstop. After that, we began to agree on more things—poetry, movies, and just about anything else. We talked about random things without judging each other and that’s what I liked most about it. Then again, the teasing didn’t really go away and I guess it will always be there. It will always be part of our friendship.

Before I knew it, she got to me. Hey Kaye, how’s it going? As much as I don’t want to admit it, at least out loud, frequent conversations with her eventually helped improve my English skills. I admit I was intimidated at first but it challenged me which was why I felt like I had to keep up. Now, I’m the one finding myself to be biting my tongue and eating my words, when I said people shouldn’t really use English in everyday conversations. Good thing Kaye didn’t stop her quirk when everyone else told her to.

“When we had our camping back in Grade 5, I woke up in the middle of the night and began to smell M&M’s. I was surprised when I found out it actually came from Trish, who was sleeping with her mouth open.”

Although Kaye practically embarrassed me in front of everyone during my debut, I can’t believe that was the thing she remembered the most out of all the four or five years we’ve been friends.

A few weeks before we were about to graduate high school, she told me her mom planned to send her to London, where some of their relatives are. Of course, she didn’t want to do it, at least not yet, so they agreed to hold it off until after she graduates college. Now, we’re already in senior year and she told me how her mom brought it up again, and that it might be happening for real this time. When she did, I couldn’t help but blurt out, “London is my dream place. I’m the one who’s supposed to go there first, remember?” But really, I think it’s just because I know I’d miss her.
2. Gemini – Sponge Cola

It was sometime between 2006 to 2007 when Hale, Bamboo, Itchyworms, and a lot of other bands ruled the airwaves—the golden days, the rebirth of Filipino band music. No matter what radio station or Filipino channel you switch to, you can almost always hear that heavy guitar riff coupled with the vocalist’s deep baritone or bass, depending on the song they are playing, leaving you as angry or as hurt as what the song’s lyrics are trying to say. Being the music lover that I am, it was probably one of my best times since I enjoyed Original Pinoy Music or OPM. Of course, I had my favorite band. My lucky pick? Sponge Cola.

To prove how much of a fan I was, I bought their CD’s and listened to them over and over again, memorizing their song lyrics as much as I could. I even joined their mailing list, read and occasionally left messages in the hopes of Yael, the vocalist, noticing them and actually sending me a reply. Mostly, I was just content with the thought of him at least knowing that I exist and am a fan of his band. Whenever my classmates would try and say something bad about the band, I would, as calm as I could, always try to defend the band and prove them wrong. Whenever they would come up on the TV, I would stop whatever it is that I was doing then and allowed myself to be drawn in by their performance. That was how much I was into them.

One of the things about living in Bohol was that it wasn’t as urbanized as its neighboring province, Cebu. Whenever I would see artists promoting their concerts and mall tours, I would almost always get disappointed since I knew they won’t go to our place. Just when I was about to stop hoping that it would eventually happen, out of nowhere, Bohol Chronicle, the Sunday newspaper, ran a full page advertising Sponge Cola’s show a few days after. Of course, I freaked out. Screw everything. I had to watch that.

After planning it out with my parents, I went to the mall a few hours before the show to meet up with my friends. Upon hearing that the members were having their dinner in one of the restaurants, we immediately went outside it to wait for them, as embarrassing as that may sound. When I saw a glimpse of the band members, I couldn’t help but panic. Then they started coming out, moving towards us. Ohmigod. OHMIGOD. Even if I tried to plan how I would react when I would finally meet them, my excitement took control over me, leaving me speechless as I just let my friends say, “Hi! Can we take a picture with you?” Click. Yael signed my CD and left. I was stunned. I was overwhelmed. It was just surreal.

Even if listening to CD’s is a great experience, getting to see and hear my favorite bands perform live is still a different experience entirely. It was my first time to be in a concert of a band that I love so I wanted to make the most of it as much as I could.

Come a little closer, flicker in flight.

They were just starting their second song, “Gemini,” when I received a call from my parents. They were already in the parking lot, waiting for me. “Pero bag-o pa man nagsugod.” (But the show just started.) As much as how hard I tried to plead with them, for them to at least let me stay until their next song, they insisted that I go home. I couldn’t do anything. Frustrated, I couldn’t help but cry, my friends asking me what’s wrong. With one last look at the stage, I left. It was a quiet car ride.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous it all was. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Ateneo for college was because Sponge Cola graduated from there. Now, I almost see them perform everywhere—OrSem, Ateneo’s 150th celebration, and even during the Bonfire for two years straight. I don’t even need to push my way just to get a good view of them performing since it isn’t as crowded like in usual concerts. The front view is mine for the taking.

3. Wherever You Will Go – The Calling

Emmanuel. That’s his name. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about him that gave me butterflies whenever he would talk to me. Yes, he was tall but he wasn’t exactly what you’d consider good looking. He wasn’t even the kind, Boy-Next-Door type; we used to argue most of the time. Maybe it’s because he was part of the basketball varsity team back when we were in sixth grade, Team Captain at that, or because he can play the guitar. I remember him playing and singing to me, although a bit playfully, Christian Bautista’s song, “The Way You Looked at Me,” one lunch time and I swear I could’ve melted, if that were possible.

Even with that, it was always whenever he played The Calling’s song, “Wherever You Will Go,” that would always make me feel like there are butterflies in my stomach, as cliché as that might sound. He would be plucking the strings and producing the melody that I knew so well from early mornings of hearing it on TV every breakfast, a melody that I eventually learned to associate with him, his guitar, and, of course, his smile. Whenever Emmanuel played it on the guitar, I couldn’t help but notice how he had on a different look in his eyes, like he was doing something serious. For me, it was as if he was revealing a bit of himself whenever he’s working and doing something he loves. It’s the same look I see in him whenever he plays basketball. From being the playful guy I know, he becomes serious and turns into someone different; I liked that kind of different.

Maybe that’s it. I tend to like guys who can do those things—play the guitar, be good at basketball, and just make me laugh. In case you’re wondering, no, we did not get together. I wish, though. We used to hang out a lot and talk even during class but, as we were nearing our grade school graduation, he suddenly stopped talking to me. By the time we got to high school, we lost communication. He moved to a different school where, according to our common friends, he was still part of the basketball team. I also heard he found himself a girlfriend there. Huh. I wonder what song he plays for her on the guitar.
4. All You Need is Love – The Beatles

The thing about not being too affectionate as a family is that you learn to gauge things by feeling them, using your intuition of some sort. Receiving “God bless ingat” is probably an equivalent of “I love you” or “I care for you.” Likewise, my brother staying at my lolo’s house, which is just beside ours, must mean that my mom is angry and therefore should not be crossed, leaving us to behave in our best behavior as possible. We’re not the type to really prod about each other’s lives that much, so I have always wondered what my parents’ favorites and even peeves are. With my dad spending only a few months at home every year because of his work, I’ve always wondered what he was like the most.

Being the ate, I was tasked to at least clean some parts of our house, to wipe the dust off our cabinets every morning. Even though it seemed like a tedious task sometimes, it was how I discovered my dad’s collection of CD’s—AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and, oddly enough, Shania Twain. Except for the fact that those bands were metal bands from the 80’s, I didn’t know them that much. However, it was his Abbey Road CD that caught my attention the most. I knew who The Beatles was and so I felt that this was something I could relate to. I knew their songs, liked most of them, and it made me happy to know that my dad did, too.

As soon as I saw the trailer for Across the Universe, a movie musical which not only featured Jim Sturgess, an actor who I liked, but also featured Beatles songs, I knew I wanted to watch it and so I did, thanks to a copy I found off the dorm network back when I was in freshman year. Hearing all the Beatles songs, I couldn’t help but think of my dad. He would probably like this.

During that sem break, my dad was back at home, taking a break off work. It was one of those afternoons when the world just seemed so peaceful, the sun’s heat at just the right temperature, enough for us to rest for a while after having lunch. My mom and brother were sleeping while I, on the other hand, was on the bed, using my laptop, when suddenly my iTunes playlist played a random Beatles song off the movie’s soundtrack.

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung

Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game

It’s easy

As soon as the opening lines were sung, I tried to maximize the player’s volume and tried to sneak a look at my dad, who was sitting on the couch. Just as I guessed, he recognized the song. I saw him humming along the lines of the song, gently tapping his hand on the arm rest. I watched him and marveled at that moment when I felt like I had him figured out. Even if we didn’t really get to see each other 365 days a year, I felt like I knew him that well. He eventually looked at me and smiled. Then, I scanned my playlist for more songs I could play for him.

Everybody’s son

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It was supposed to be a good day. The sun was shining, we were all laughing, then it happened. You ran, slipped, fell on the floor. When you got up, there was already a little bit of blood on your face. A certain portion of your chin was cut open. I immediately panicked while you just stood there, clueless or, maybe, in shock of what just happened. It’s funny how you were the one telling me to calm down and call Mommy Jenny. I think you were only 6 years old then; I was 16. I guess age doesn’t always tell who’s the grown up.

It’s hard for you, isn’t it? Moving schools, staying in different places, and having a lot of “moms.” You didn’t even get to meet your real dad. Everyone in the family calls you their son but your real mom wasn’t around until now. That’s why I try my best to understand you, even if you can be a little prick sometimes. I just hope you don’t let resentment or whatever negative feeling grow in your heart. It may not be the greatest but we’re trying our best to raise you to be the best person you can be. I hope you know that Ate day, Kuya Adrianne, Mommy Lalai, and Dada Laido are always, always here for you. Just don’t test our patience.

Happy birthday Ken! I miss you. You’re like a real brother to me. Good luck!