Only Lyrically

Tag: personal

and it’s time time time

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finished writing for the earth

finished captioning for the magazine

finished with work that feeds the belly

for the day

it’s now time to love

and love again and again and again

and always, love, loving

the hungry longing empty clean

white sheets

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cue worksong

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“In the next world war

In a jack-knifed juggernaut

I am born again

In the neon sign

Scrolling up and down

I am born again…

In a deep deep sleep

Of the innocent

I am born again…

In an interstellar burst…

In an interstellar burst

I am back to save the universe!”

 

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On The Song “Across The Universe”

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[This post marks the 2nd entry for a blogging experiment within this Project 52 series, as first mentioned in post 32. Twenty posts on music. To be written in a  stream-of-consciousness manner, with no editing, within the duration of one record each. I would go back to correct misspellings, though. Did I spell that right, misspellings?

In this case, since only one song is the topic, a loop of many versions of the song was played during the writing. I took the pleasure of playing the loop as much as I could, which translated to a longer entry. Be rest assured though that this length within this experiment would be a first and last.

I hope I didn’t misspell anything. I don’t feel like another run through of it for misspellings. I’m letting this one go already.]

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It is no coincidence that I am writing this post on a day at work when a few rules have started to be imposed, with a few stricter ones to follow. I am cool with rules, actually, because I prefer order to chaos –

– which doesn’t cancel out the fact that preference over something does not equate to dislike for the thing overshadowed by the preferred.

Let me put it this way, to some degree, a little chaos is, I don’t know, charming? Alluring? Seductive?

Nah.

It is not chaos that I like. I like randomness, that’s what. Randomness as manageable chaos. That’s what spurs creation, after all.

So, in spite of the new rules which I have to observe now, the imposition of which having probably been roused by certain abuses of the seduction to manageable chaos on my part and on the part of my colleagues, I hold that nothing’s gonna change my world.

* * *

Nothing I can say about this song can inspire or shake the earth or fix the world. Monks could make sense of it more than I do.

I am anything but Zen. Especially since I sometimes get seduced by manageable chaos.

Recent non-stop exposure to this song has meanwhile taught me something about the true meaning of letting go, which, for the longest time, I’ve equated with loss. And who wants loss?

Actually, more than the song, it’s this visual interpretation of the song which hit the nail on its head for me:

It’s just like what that San Miguel chaplain, Father Arman, said during his Ash Wednesday mass. His homily was about abstinence. And never in my life have I abstained during Lent, until I heard what he said.

He said that we have all grown to believe that enrichment can be attained only through gains. We are weighed down by the thought and act of giving things up. He said enrichment, especially the spiritual kind, can be attained best through letting go. And that is what abstinence is all about – letting go.

I remember crying like it’s judgment day. For the next forty days, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t eat red meat. And I felt so healthy and light that I actually got tempted into turning vegetarian.

For everything that we release, we gain something in return. When the girl in the red dress let go of her balloon, the man in the high chair went down, and finally, after all her mistaken and futile efforts, they meet eye to eye.

I don’t wanna cry right now so I’ll close this section by saying that for the moment, I can’t pull off being a vegetarian.

But I can let go of red balloons. I have, lots of them, actually. And damn that good, good priest for being perfectly right, because it feels good indeed.

F*ck, now I’m crying. Jai!

* * *

When I was a kid, I thought of this song as a song of rebellion, the kind of song you’d sing when you want to comfort yourself with something like, “no matter what happens outside, I will do as I please, and I have this world in me where I can run to for comfort and safety, and nobody can touch it or take it away”.

Epic eh? Yeah well, tragedies can be epic. What’s nice and awesome is the cure can be so simple, as simple as a song that assures.

I figure I am not the first one to say this about this song, but I’ll say it just the same, so I’d be one with the invisible chorus that sings it: Across The Universe is about the constancy of grace.

Not rebellion. Not anger. Grace, which had been there from the start and up to the end, pure and unchangeable.

There have been times before when I questioned that, though, because the song could have said something like, “my world will always be alright” or “my world will always be good”.

Why the negation? For a song that supposedly asserts its faith in the good, why the negative “nothing”? Why “nothing’s gonna change my world”?

I guess maybe the song, as much as it believes in grace, recognizes the challenges that grace tends to face sometimes, and overcomes all the time. It is not a sugar-coated stubborn song. It knows.

And because it is such a song that loves and soothes its listeners, it says “nothing’s gonna change my world” instead of “f*ck you to all the f*ckers who’d change my world”.

It is such a wise and powerful song that, through the simple negation “nothing”, it is able to cancel out everything that threatens the grace.

So there, the song even teaches us how to protect the grace – consider the threat as nothing. Grace stands unchallenged, pure, constant.

The song perfectly rounds it all up.

* * *

A friend who now lives in Oklahoma City texted me today, asking how I am. She’s the same one who gets annoyed whenever I worry about her not responding to me. She’s the same one who, from out of the blue, would just text “back straight!”. All the way from Oklahoma she tells me to sit up and stand straight. Not across the universe, just across the seas, but still something that echoes the song.

And John Lennon is long dead and gone, and who the hell am I?

Still, the song and I lived up to meet.

Jai!

[34/52]

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On In Rainbows

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[This post marks the start of a blogging experiment within this Project 52 series, as declared in post 32. Twenty posts on music. To be written within the duration of one record each. Strictly stream-of-consciousness, with no editing once posted. I would go back to correct misspellings, though. Did I spell that right, misspelling?]


I used to sing Bodysnatchers on my way to the lady who sells huge pan de sals in a makeshift stall next to the gate of the courthouse I used to work at.

Power breakfast, I’d call it, one giant pan de sal, double the size of my fist, with one peeled and crushed boiled egg as filling. Altanghap more like it. My one big meal of the day, to last me the whole bundy time. “I’m alive!”

I never saw it coming that I’d walk past that gate for good. The meals nourished me good, I guess, gave me just enough strength to go.

I never saw it coming that before that would happen, I would get to date a friend’s brother, and that on my way to him, I’d be singing “she looks back, you look back”.

I never saw it coming that I’d actually like a date song.

I never saw it coming that the guy who gave me this record would vanish without a trace. And in silence. Maybe he was taken away by bodysnatchers.

God bless him. I thank him.

In Rainbows is a record in transit, and for people in transit.

The beats to me are pulses, and the echoes are drones that are dreamy. It’s nice to dream when you’re trapped.

I remember, when I used to study in that little university within Intramuros, that one which bore the motto “truth and fortitude”, I used to pass this long underpass. A vandal wrote NICE DREAM on the wall of it.

And that’s from another record. The ailing one, The Bends.

In Rainbows is not in pain. How could it be?

It’s the hymn of a peon freed from a leash. It’s what she hears while she’s running. Just listen to how Jigsaw Falling Into Place races against its own heartbeat.

And then, rest, and a moment of reckoning, by the time Videotape’s heavy slo-mo footfalls are heard.

There is comfort in rainbows.

[33/52]

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blues for a lavender

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On Wednesday night, I went home in really good spirits, because payday was announced to be a day earlier. I did not, afterall, need to implement some contingency plans. As usual, and to my half-shame and half-delight, He whom I often doubt did not fail to provide.

So, when I headed to the common kitchen of the place I’m renting to brush my teeth before finally resting, and saw that my lavender potted plant was gone from the cabinet assigned to me, I sort of felt like, “But my Lord, our day’s been almost perfect.”

I put off the brushing for a while. In place of my dear little plant was one of my neighbors’ plastic bath basket, a bilao, and a water heater pot. I removed the stuff from my cabinet, then stared at it for a while.

There was even no question of what to do anymore. I just could not believe that I actually have to be doing what I was about to do. Because I live with some jerks for neighbors. My landlord is an angel, actually, and has constantly been understanding and supportive, always asking me about my condition with heartfelt concern. I didn’t feel like bothering him anymore at that hour, but I have to do something –

because, in the first place, what has just happened would have not happened had I done something long ago, when I discovered that the jerks have been using my laundry basins without asking for my permission first. Later they took my laundry soap. Again I let it pass. Next they took my diswashing stuff. Again I let it pass.

So now, they took away my quiet little plant, technically the only living thing I live with, because, just maybe, I’ve somehow taught them that it’s all okay, no problem, go ahead, anyway, as always, I’ll just let it pass.

I let this happen, I thought – what a shame.

Yeah, those were my little heartbreaking thoughts as I stared at my almost barren kitchen cabinet.

I went back to my room. I looked for a clean sheet of paper to write on. To my surprise, I was actually out of white typing paper. I had to settle for colored papers. I went through one batch and sorted. Orange? No, too glaring. Pink? No, not pink, I’d look soft and not serious. I settled for a formal, dignified, Manila-colored one. Then I pulled out a blue pentel pen from a drawer and started writing.

As far as I remember, my note had the following lines:

“Ang cabinet pong ito ay itinalaga para sa akin.”

“Sana naman po ay respetuhin nyo ang espasyo ko.”

“Napapansin ko pong nagagalaw ang mga gamit ko (planggana, Tupperware, atbp.).”

“Nawalan na rin po ako ng sabon.”

“Pati po halaman na bigay pa sa akin ng isang kaibigan ay nawala na rin ngayon.”

“Sana naman po ay ‘wag nang maulit.”

I went out my room with the note and my little scotch tape dispenser in hand. I posted the note on my cabinet. Then I went on brushing my teeth, one hand on my waist, shaking from brushing while reading the note.

F*ck, I forgot to write they also took away my Scotch Brite!

Doing something still somehow made the day end perfectly. I went to sleep satisfied.

Guess what – when I woke up, and headed back to the kitchen to brush my teeth, my lavender was back.

I was so happy.

And what an effective note, I thought, maybe I ought to frame it!

Nah, I hope I never will have any need again for such kinds of notes.

I am never having any need again for such kinds of notes.

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[7/52]

medley

Before Diwata invited me to join her and her friends up north, I was listening almost non-stop to numerous versions of Waters Of March and other songs that had ‘water’ in them. Moonrivers, Wave Of Mutilations, I Melt With Yous, Bridge Over Troubled Waters – you get the drift. These songs made up pretty much my entire December working playlist. Therefore, they were the same songs that bridged my last two journeys – the southern one and the northern one.

I don’t know – there’s something in the groove of those songs that somehow echo the laid back air of the shores, and hearing them gave me the feeling that I am ever on my way to the next place. I may be sitting here, now, but I am actually on the move. Or something like that.

When the holidays set on, for the first time, I did not play much carols. The songs I mentioned would not let go. They even invited more songs, journey songs, songs that had something to do with ‘place’ and ‘roads’ and ‘movement’ – which was what had me singing I Am The Highway for the most part of the holidays –

especially since the song sounds even more potent if you imagine it’s God speaking in the chorus. Try it: you take the verses, and let Him take the chorus – it becomes one little weird dialogue. You get to be reminded that there’s just no running away from Him.

Yeah, maybe it was meant to be a dialogue. Maybe those ‘pearls’ and ‘swine’ references were actually biblical. And didn’t the song open with an organ? Musicians have so often employed the use of an organ, which is a church instrument, to connote spirituality.

Well, actually, I don’t know what the hell those Audioslave boys intended. All I know is it made me shed geeky, guilty tears to be imagining that God was nagging me through Chris Cornell’s tough voice, “I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky!”

During the New Year, I happened to see Great Expectations again after so many years. In one of the scenes, where a heartbroken Finn walks the streets (?), a song sung by Cornell was played. It was familiar but I could not recall the title. I felt it a hassle to ask my host to open her computer just so I could Google the lyrics and find out what the title of the song was. I had to wait until the holidays were over and I got back to this desk to finally find out: Sunshower. God will finally get a break from tough-loving me through I Am The Highway, I thought – there’s a new song for comfort.

* * *

On the long road to the north, I remembered a few more road songs – A Horse With No Name by America and Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson.

A Horse With No Name made its real impact on me ages ago, when I heard it played in Hideous Kinky, over the montage where the character of Kate Winslett and her daughter were hitchhiking their way through Morocco to reach the Sufis – meeting strange fellow hitchhikers, stopping on the side of the road as their Moslem drivers prayed, watching the desert landscape unfold before them as they moved on.

This is the best clip I could find with the montage – you will have to wait quite long to get to the song, and the montage is even cut, but if only to give you a glimpse, here –

As for Everybody’s Talkin’, the song was originally performed by Harry Nilsson, off the film Midnight Cowboy. For the longest time, again, when I still worked back in the courthouse, one of the songs that got me through was that song. It was anthemic and it suited my needs – it spoke of not fitting in, and going away where one could belong. That time, I was always in the look-out for such songs.

I preferred playing it rather than listening to Nilsson, though. I just was not so much into its original country feel. I had never been into country. Folk I love, but not country. So, if only to keep hearing the song whenever I wished, I learned the chords and figured out how to play it without the country bouncy feel. I chose a more feminine key, and sang it. I used to sing it daily on my way to my rotten bundy clock enemy –

until Borat came out and made a travesty of it. :/

I shall never be providing a clip of that.

Actually, I loved the sick hilarity of Borat. I was achingly laughing out through the movie – until they dared play my anthem, my comfort, over some scene where Borat was cruising the New York streets for a score, to spoof Midnight Cowboy. I stopped laughing at that point.

I kept a grudge against the movie because of that Everybody’s Talkin’ desecration. Since seeing that scene, all I could remember, whenever I heard or thought about the song, is Borat. In that idiotically stretched underwear. It couldn’t be helped – soon I was asking myself whether my misery, salved by the song, can actually just be equated to the perversions of Borat. It wasn’t fair, eh?

When I got back from the north, during the short work period between my Christmas and New Year break, I sought the two songs. In the process, I came across Madeleine Peyroux’s take of Everybody’s Talkin’

and just like that, all my Borat grudge was washed away. It never occurred to me that the song could be given a jazzed up arrangement. Before I knew it, I was already checking out her discography, and found out that she also sang Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen songs. And that she wrote songs too. And that she played the guitar –

Peyroux, referred to by some as Billie Holiday on hi-fi, is highly noted for her choices of song to cover, when she covers. Fleshing out the Leonard Cohen-penned Half The Perfect World, she sings –

“On that fundamental ground

where love’s unwilled, unleashed, unbound

and half the perfect world is found”

Now if I could only write like that. I can’t be just stumbling upon lines like that, and they won’t just come to me, too.

* * *

And just as I have been carried by songs to and fro, I heard something from the bus very recently that took quite a challenge to catch –

All I knew of the song is its melody. And that it’s quite old, maybe from the late seventies. I could hum it in perfect pitch, but I could not make out much of the lyrics. Which made it virtually impossible for me to Google for its name.

I typed the words as I heard them – “sentimental” “flowing through my life again” “fourteen” “’cause there may come a time”.

Nothing came out, because as I found out later, I did not hear accurately the few that I heard. But I had to work on what I got in hand, which brought me to try various possible combinations of that set. Remove the quotes, add the plus sign between the phrases, place ‘lyrics’ upfront. Didn’t work.

I even went as far as singing those words to my fellow writers, who are all practically still kids, and were all still likely unborn when the song probably came out. They either just laughed me off or gave me the look.

I kept typing combinations, though, the song was too good for me to give up. At last, I stumbled upon a search page which had in bold most of the words that I typed. I’ve forgotten the exact combination I typed. All I can remember is that when I sang the words from the link that I found, they all perfectly fit in the melody. I got the song, finally! Next goal, to play it.

It’s one happy song. I could stay in it for a while: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1NVm1E_5ok

 

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[5/52]

Hells and Chris Cornell

When I still worked for the government, for the longest time, the only real highlight of my day was playing some music before I march off to the courthouse, wrestling my way through the morning slaves rush and racing to beat the demon bundy clock. I was way younger then, and angry about the fact that, in a way (and as a family member once shamefully pointed out) I was prostituting myself. It actually did feel like I was selling myself cheap, and so my every day felt like hell.

Everyday, I felt like leaving a hell for another hell.

It would be no surprise then if you’d hear me playing Rusty Cage loud enough to be heard in the bathroom, and possibly in the bathroom of neighbors too, every blessed day. Nobody ever complained, surprisingly. You’d think everybody else felt hellish every morning and that just maybe, they found comfort in hearing Chris Cornell echo their pent up lamentations. I found great comfort in hearing Chris Cornell growl out my lamentations.

One day – very early in November, about five or six years ago, I am absolutely sure it was a November because I could remember my dread of the traffic brought by the opening of the second semester of classes that day – a Chris Cornell song saw me not only through one of my hellish mornings but through real, life-threatening danger.

As usual, I was about to be late again for work. It was much harder getting up from bed around those times already because it was getting colder and colder. It felt much better to just stay in bed and lie in a fetal position, hiding beneath the sheets. I guess it was around that time when I first adopted the expression “gisingin n’yo na lang ako ‘pag pasko na!”

And as usual, my mother was yelling her staple “mag-resign ka na lang kung ayaw mo nang pumasok” morning mantra. She found me the job, it was understandable if she resented my growing disinterest on it. The thing is, that mantra never worked. Everytime I heard it, my bones all the more did not feel like budging.

I had to again drag myself through the routine: rise, turn on music, brush teeth, bath, wear uniform, drink warm water, turn off music, go. But that day, as I was about to turn off the radio (fixed on NU 107 most of the time), I heard the strains of a classical tune.

I instantly recognized it: Schubert’s Ave Maria. I turned up the volume, thinking, “why is this station playing a classical piece?”

Then, I heard Chris Cornell’s voice. “Chris Cornell is singing Ave Maria!” I exclaimed. Of course my mother did not care, all she wanted was that I beat the bundy clock, she had to exclaim back at me, “late ka na!”

But I couldn’t move. I crouched in front of that aged speaker. I was transfixed. I wanted to cry. I did not want the song to end. I did not feel like going anywhere. I just wanted to keep listening.

Of course the song had to end. And of course I knew I was already late. I did not care. I walked on still hearing the song in my head.

I took the endmost seat in the jeep that I rode, and slouched. I held my head, I wanted to sleep. I saw that I even did not care to fully button up the blouse of my uniform – anyway, I had an inner shirt – I looked like I just got up from bed, real pathetic, I thought.

I also noticed a young man, even smaller than me and also looking like he just got up from bed, insisting to ride our jeep despite it being fully packed already. I remember saying to myself upon seeing him, something like “mukhang holdaper ‘tong lokong ‘to”.

He was.

He rode the jeep as it stopped in front of U.S.T. He shoved his ass right in the very little space there still was between me and the passenger next to me. As we neared Isetann Recto, and as he pulled out from his back pocket what was probably the longest fan knife I ever saw in my life, he announced the hold-up.

“O, ‘wag na kayong papalag,” he said, or something like that, probably to address the men also in our jeep. I remember we had a lot of them during the ride, all dressed in office garb too. They all did as that little, pathetic looking guy said. Not one man moved.

Even before I saw the knife in all its unfurled, deadly glory, I was already shaking as I saw him reach for his back pocket. I was expecting him to point it to me, after all I was just next to him, and he got me cornered against the end railings. Instead, he pointed the knife to the two teen-aged looking girls who also rode in U.S.T. The girls were holding their cellphones out in the open. Apparently, the guy followed them. They handed their phones without resistance, then the guy ran off.

Here’s the part where I’d assert that it didn’t matter that I looked like a slouched, pathetic loser who had nothing anyway, and that it didn’t matter that those teeners foolishly held their fancy phones in the open – I believed I was spared from danger because I heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, giving the song due respect as I refused to go until it was finished. I was blessed through the song, I thought.

Maybe. Yes, it was just a song. Maybe I would’ve not gotten to share the ride with the hold-upper in the first place had I just gone quickly through the god-forsaken routines and left the song. I really don’t know.

It felt as if my knees wanted to give way as I alighted from the jeep and walked all the way past the giant Manila City Hall clock, all the way to the bundy clock awaiting me. I was still in one piece alright, and the entire piece trembled. In disbelief. In awe.

Things are much better now. There still are hells, seasonal ones, for which I still need the necessary re-assurance. Lately, over the holidays, I saw Great Expectations again after a very long while, and was directed to a song I have forgotten all these years – Sunshower. It’s no hell song, though. That one deserves a new, clean sheet.

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[4/52]

hello echo!

 

I once read of the web being referred to as an “echo chamber” in one online article. I thought perhaps it was called so because maybe, just maybe, one sometimes gets the feeling of conversing with echoes when communicating through the web – you either feel that you are in touch with friends or strangers only in a surreal plane, or that you’re the only one talking to yourself, to your own echo.

I don’t know if other online writers ever get that feeling, but I know I do, sometimes, and I particularly feel more of the latter feeling , the talking-to-your-own-echo feeling, especially since I harldy ever get anyone to comment on my own posts, and I seldom get any traffic at all.

Which sometimes brings me to asking, “What’s the point?”. If it’s all just me and my own echo, then what else am I doing this blogging thing for?

Actually, several years ago, had I been asked about my opinion of the web and blogging, I would have probably given the usual web skeptic’s response. In the first place, I didn’t even know how to surf the web until 2002, when I entered graduate writing school, and one of the professors had been kind enough to sit with me in the library’s cybernook, told me to type w-w-w-dot-google-dot-com inside the big long white bar, then press enter. But blogging, as soon as I tried it, have actually benefitted me. And I have not yet even been making money from it. What more if I grow diligent enough to explore that possibility?

Blogging is a tool, and this I often hear from friends who have been blogging for years, and have urged me to blog too. Around the time it was first suggested to me, I was already contemplating about leaving my ten-year government job (which had me tied to a typewriter and consequently kept me away from nearly everything that had anything to do with high-tech and the net) for a professional writing career.

I knew that I would encounter problems since my only published works during that period were but a handful of poems. They did come out in nationally circulated publications, alright, but they were poems – and I was not applying for a job as a poet (well, I have not encountered any company looking for one – please inform me if you do). My graduate school classmates then said that I should put out a blog which could feature the kinds of writing that I could do or would like to do professionally, so that the magazines and websites I have been applying to would have a ready reference to check for my work. Besides, no website would hire a dweeb who doesn’t even know what in God’s name blogging is, or how it works.

I followed the advice. I included this blog’s address in all the resumes I sent out, and true enough, I got callbacks and eventually got the writing job I wanted, with others at the side.

It doesn’t end there. It has been quite my frustration to become a rock journalist. I hold fast to the belief that the two best writing jobs in the world are those of rock/music journalists and travel writers – basically because I believe music and travelling support poets the best. During my one year so far of living off from my writing, I have had only one chance of writing a rock album review for which I got paid. The blog therefore sometimes serve as my outlet for music reviewing. Actually that was the original intention of this blog, to indulge my desire for music writing. Lately, though, the entries have been more into the personal – delving on personal trips or side stories from official travel assignments – stuff that would not be suitable material for the actual articles commissioned.

In the future, I hope to be able to use this blog to help promote personal, major works – God willing.

There really are benefits after all, eh?

So, at this point, I actually can’t remember what I have been earlier asking “What’s the point?” for…

Ah! The hardly-any-traffic thing…

What’s the point if no one’s listening?

I would have to wax cinematic, but basic, here. Some professor in some beloved movie two decades ago said something about poetry, which I feel applies into answering the question –

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” — Dead Poets Society.

I wrote this entry alone, longhand, in my solitude – afterall, writing is a solitary act. But what has been written would be useless if not surrendered.

Must I wait to have gigs in a rock/music mag before I should write about music that sees me through every day? Or movies that I grew up loving? Or books that are ever humbling? Or my little journeys, to places, or within?

Must I be assured first that I would be heard before I’d be willing to share? To offer? To give?

Hopefully, this project could open other doors for me. As blogging is a tool, it would sure be nice to reap more as I wield it.

Pulp? Rolling Stone?

National Geographic?

Just asking. 🙂

And yep, only blogging could have room for the smiley.

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[2/52]

vignettes

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Diwata

I have a classmate whom the class fondly calls Diwata. On the eve of the last Christmas of the millennium’s first decade, I rode with her, heading far up north. A half-moon, shaped like a boat, was rigged up in the sky.  During one point in the long ride, I pointed it out to her – Diwata, we are going to the sea, and the moon is a boat! A little more moon talk followed, especially as the decade was about to end with a blue moon, and a partial eclipse, even. Diwata is a moon-watcher too. It felt real good that I had someone I could wax moon-geek with, even if for just a few days.

Diwata earned the nickname Diwata because of her mystique. When in her company, one would hardly catch her leading the conversation, or speaking. When she does speak, though, be prepared to hear something you will probably remember for a long time. Poetry to Diwata is a reflex, she does it naturally, like breathing. Most of the time, though, when she is out with our school group, she simply listens to her fellow writer-classmates expound, digress, question, argue. Actually, I often get the feeling that one will all the more only tend to lose Diwata once the conversation verges into argument. She always struck me as one who dislikes tension and conflict. Diwata is zen made flesh.

She is also clearly the prettiest in class. And fittingly, she wrote the sexiest poems. My personal favorite is that one that describes a pair of thighs “larded with love”. I could imagine the subject of her work glistening with desire.

Diwata is also a recluse. She hardly answers text messages, and when I finally asked her about this, she said that she only replies under life or death circumstances. She hardly shows up for impromptu gatherings too. And so to get Diwata to respond to one’s online post or text message or invitation has often roused awe from her reply’s lucky recipient.

Imagine my awe when she allowed me to join her and her friends in a trip to Pagudpud. Not only would I be seeing the place where the shores are said to be the farthest northern edge of the country, I would also be witnessing the Diwata in her laid-back glory.

Perhaps the most vivid Pagudpud image of Diwata for me would be her, in her white swimsuit, drifting like a pearl, at times raised high and at times held low by the waves, which seemed to me loved her and held her gently.

[with writer Razel Estrella, a.k.a. Diwata, in the Cape Bojeador lighthouse – photo by Aisha Vidal]

White Wave

While Diwata’s next goal is to polish her butterfly stroke, I can’t even swim. I never found the urge to learn to swim in my youth, especially since the only bodies of water I ever got exposed to as a kid are family outings’ treacherous gigantic pools and Sampaloc’s seasonal and ever-dependable floods. Even at Caramoan last summer, the allure of the waters was not enough to convince me that I should finally learn how to swim. And even after the advice of people for me to take up swimming to strengthen the lungs, I still pretty much held up the idea in the air –

until I stood there at those northern shores, nailed dumbstruck on the fine pebbled beach because I could not brave the waves. I could die here, I thought, these waves don’t look forgiving, they could take me in for good.

Then a towering white one rose in front of me all of a sudden, and rolled towards me with a speed I could not outrun. It caught me, hitting me real hard on my side, pinning me down on the sand, and went on rushing over and past me. The wave did not claim me for the sea alright, but it brushed me aside, and forcefully. It would be easy to get into the old habit of equating what happened with plain rejection, but I guess that wave smacking me out of my wits had to do so not to reject me but to affirm what I earlier sensed of it: it was telling me, I am no joke, I am powerful, you have to have what it takes, in the meantime: shoo!

That wave made sure I got it, I guess. The great wave, after its passage, left a drone in my head. Water got in my right ear and I could not shake it off. One of the elderly women in our company laughed at seeing me tilting my head to the right and hitting it with my palm on the left side. After she had her fill of laughing, she taught me how to get rid of it, by tilting my head to the right, letting in a clean drop of the sea on my left ear, then tilting my head to the left to shake off the drop. It worked after a couple of attempts, the drone was gone. Besides, I have not been encountering any trouble listening to this or to this. Send-off music ‘til the next journey.

I wonder if I could have the songs played in a boombox while I take the swimming lessons. It would be nice to hear “going where the weather suits my clothes” echoing in some indoor swim school.

[Saud beach – photo by either Diwata or Aisha Vidal]

Red, pink, yellow stones

At Bangui bay, the waves were even fiercer. Because I was not in my non-swimmer’s swimwear during our stop to those windmill-lined shores, I all the more could not dare come nearer to the waters. I had to content myself with beholding the sea at a safe distance. At one point, Diwata stood next to me and said that the smaller waves looked like fingers crawling towards the beach. True, it seemed like a thousand white fingers were crawling towards the windmills and to us. The windmills were too high up on the beach, though, while me and Diwata ran away with little shrieks every time a wave rose and rolled nearer.

The sands of the beach there are black, with multi-colored rounded stones, sprawled like jewels. I remember pointing out a red one to Diwata, and picking up a pink one for her too. She asked why I was not taking one for myself. I said I thought about it, but as I was thinking about it while examining some stones, I stepped on a thorny twig which struck deep into my rubber slippers.

Good thing Diwata understands things like that right away, I needn’t explain. Perhaps had it been one of the good elderly women we were with who asked me, I would’ve answered with something like “Maybe because it’s not environment-friendly?”. One of them, by the way, the oldest in our company, took some huge gray ones. She carried them with just one hand, her left. She walked on with the stones raised next to her ear.

And while everyone else went to the windmills for photo-ops, I went on scouring the shores to find Diwata stones of more difficult colors, like yellow, and I did! I thought about picking up a green one for her too, then returned it back to the spread, thinking she might have already picked up one, there were a number of green ones around after all. I also tried looking for a blue one, but the waves began stretching farther towards the shore, threatening, until they reached parts where I had to leave the jeweled spread and retreat.

But it’s not for me, I yelled to the sea, it’s for Diwata, she’s just like you and all your children, so you shouldn’t mind, you know, I said. I don’t think the sea cared for what I had to say. His waves kept pushing forward. And even before I could make up my mind whether or not to continue looking for a blue one, I heard someone from our company yelled my name. The group had to be moving on.

The truth is I did not want to take anything because I wanted to return to the sea, and I wanted to be compelled by my desire to return. And I want my desire to remain raging, like those waves.

Before I turned my back to the water, swearing that I’ll catch him again in another shore, I stepped into the white foam of the last Pagudpud wave that I saw. It was warm and the warmth rose all the way up to my body – from the skin of the soles of my feet, to my legs, to my chest, to my face. The chill of the morning air all washed away.

Back in the van, in the chill of artificial, aircon air, I handed Diwata the yellow stone, saying sorry that there was not enough time to look for a blue one. She said it was okay, and held all the three stones in her palms. The thing is, all the stones turned grayish the moment they dried up.

Maybe you should just wet them again, I told Diwata, their true colors come out when they are wet.

Tama, lumalabas yung tunay pag basa, Diwata said. I will remember that for a long time.

So, I really have to go back, you see. To be true. I am coming.

[Bangui beach – photo by Aisha Vidal]

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[1/52]

The Heart Of Angst

 

 

 

 

 

“You remind me of myself when I was younger.” – mangjose

 

 

Might have gotten ‘younger’ wrong there. Mangjose could’ve said ‘a teenager’. It’s either of the two, though, I’m sure. It was said in the midst of the scent of a lit candle, a cool evening breeze blowing at the penthouse terrace where we were, Alvin in front of me, Suzeth at my right, and Mangjose at my left, with his right hand holding my left forearm. It was the last meeting of the council under the love cult.

 

When he was younger –

 

I distinctly remember wanting to wisecrack with something like, “But coach, I am even older than you, so if I remind you of your younger self, does that mean you think I’m actually retarded?” Delivered in just the right tone I knew I could’ve made him laugh. Or maybe he would have hit me on the back of my neck. Or maybe I could’ve just plainly pissed him off.

 

So it was good that I caught myself. I went quickly back to the moment – the scent, sight, sound, and feel of it. It was all too solemn. I wanted it to remain solemn. And despite the naughty pinch of doubt in the form of my aborted question, for the first time after quite a long while, I did not feel awkward to have the need to hide behind a wisecrack. I felt all warm and happy, in fact.

 

Perhaps I should not have any fear that my wisecracks have been rendered obsolete, and that the girl who rages through verse, whose anger was the sustenance of my youth, had deserted me as I turned mushy.

 

I know somehow I still have her in me. It was her wisecrack that I suppressed after all. And vengeful as she is, she had to make me wait for Mangjose, that stranger who showed me kindness, to disappear first before she let me let go of my tears.

 

That is how I combat her these days. She would not allow me to weep before my friends. So I have simply resolved to never again be her mouthpiece, as vengeance.

 

* * *

 

“I am not cool.” – sunswirlies

 

 

For at least four years now, I have been friends with Sunswirlies. She, along with Mangjose and a very few intimate others, have been my counsel, my lifeline during some really dark hours, and the transition that followed.

 

I am not sure though how I would have dealt with a Sunswirlies had I met her when I was in my teens. I might have resented her big time.

 

Of the little that I know about her teens, her college years in UP in particular, the following have made the strongest impression on me: she is a member of several orgs, she had quite a good number of friends, she had a few little bad habits, she had her share of romance, and she wasn’t angsty.

 

Meanwhile, I wasn’t a member of any org (not even the college paper despite the journ degree I was taking), I had one friend – my regular seatmate Maan, I didn’t even smoke (though I learned to drink in my last semester, when some of my classmates finally realized that the only way they could get me to socialize with them is through offering me alcohol – which led me to going to my last few classes drunk), I had no teen or college romance whatsoever, and I was the angstiest girl I knew.

 

And since I have always measured myself as uncool given those said circumstances, it would follow that I would have regarded Sunswirlies as ‘cool’.

 

Except perhaps for the fact that she wasn’t angsty. She might have done rebellious things, but not out of angst. These days she says that her angst then was that she had no angst, and that she simply was lonely. Inversely, if there was one thing that made me feel invincible then, it was that angst. I considered it a virtue. It was my one grip on being cool. It was what kept the bullies away. All the men away. I elected it to be my voice, believing that as my writing would save me, anger would be my co-redeemer.

 

Then sometime after college, I heard (of all people) Alanis Morissette say in her Jagged docu, “Anger, in my estimation, is a cowardly extension of sadness… It is a lot easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell them that you’re sad about something.”

 

Taking what she said, that would basically just classify me as lonely too. Despite my anger which I overrated, therefore, I still was definitely ‘uncool’. And not only that, I was cowardly too, as I refused to admit the sadness, and the being ‘uncool’.

 

By the way, Sunswirlies said that I am not cool bit just around two weeks ago, when we attended the rock book launch of one of her college friends in saGuijo. Apparently, she, her author/musician friend, and her fellow college mates have now become accomplished and recognized writers and editors. And Sunswirlies has that national prize almost every Filipino writer aspires for.

 

Ah, I could already hear her brushing that last one off, she always does, nothing cool about that, she’d say. What is definitely cool is through the good graces of her who let me tag along, and who could have been my enemy in my youth, I have finally met, spoke with, and now possess the autograph of Raymund, the voice behind Alkohol, my favorite Ehead.

 

* * *

 

“Pr0n actor.” – old and grumpy (on being asked what his dream job is)

 

 

How was I to know pr0n is porn?

 

Could he be thinking I’m an idiot?

 

Peon peon why peon?

 

Seven straight years of work, and no vacation?

 

How could he have lived in his grandfather’s store?

 

Where were his folks?

 

Why did he leave their city of golden friendships – home?

 

Is he alone?

 

Is he really grumpy? Is it a front?

 

Does he feel old?

 

Would he think me loony for blurting out all these questions?

 

Does he ever watch Hey Arnold!?

 

Because Helga G. Pataki, who, among others answered “her husband’s sex slave”, is wondering what happened to his leg. And who helped him take care of it, aside from the paid doctor and all the rest of the hospital peons, if he is all alone.

 

Could he be saying, “You idiot, how could I have been alone when somebody took my photos?”

 

Does it still hurt?

 

Hers doesn’t anymore.