Friday, March 30, 2012

birthday wishes

I rarely speak of wishes, save for my wanton requests of presents for people who have the means to provide them. Yes, I am that kind of person, now judge me. As I lay in bed the other day, sick and sore on my birthday of all days, thanks to the flu or some kind of bug, random aspirations whirred before my eyes like some Egyptian vision, Hollywood-style. There are a lot more that have sprung in my head, but these are all I could recall right now:

  • I wish desires are never severe.
  • I wish I would know what to do with this hair.
  • I wish I would start memorizing a poem in each month.
  • I wish my dearest loves would have faith in a poem.
  • I wish I would have faith in myself, bright and constant.
  • I wish my dearest loves would curse a little bit less, if not entirely shun the habit altogether.
  • I wish my dearest loves would smoke a little bit less, if not entirely shun the habit altogether.
  • I wish my dearest loves would read and write more other than curse and smoke more.
  • I wish I would start my own book, as what J.T. has said.
  • I wish I would finish reading those books.
  • I wish I would find something better soon.
  • I wish I would find someone better soon.
  • I wish I would be a better person.
  • I wish I would be less frank.
  • I wish people would be frank.
  • I wish I would be healthier.
  • I wish I would find the right reason that I should smile a lot more.
  • I wish I would be good at remembering names.
  • I wish I would be good at remembering directions.
  • I wish I know where I want to go.
  • I wish I know where to look.
  • I wish people would be more perceptive.
  • I wish people would be honest at the right place, at the right time.
  • I wish people would be more respecting of each other.
  • I wish people would know what needs to be kept and what needs to shared.
  • I wish the ghosts would transfer to another house, to another memory.
  • I wish memory would be less invasive.
  • I wish I would be more humble.
  • I wish my grip on forgiveness would be less unbending.
  • I wish I would smile a lot more (if needed).
  • I wish I would finally start learning how to play a musical instrument. (Piano-widow doesn’t count).
  • I wish I would keep some of my complaints to myself.
  • I wish people would just shut up.
  • I wish I would travel a lot more.
  • I wish I would read a lot more.
  • I wish I would write a lot more.
  • I wish I would stop thinking that something is wrong.
  • I wish I would know when to stop.
  • I wish I would know when to start.
  • I wish I would accomplish something very significant soon.
  • I wish for a month of zero discontent at the soonest time possible.
  • I wish everyone a month of zero discontent.
  • I wish all of us would relish this month of zero discontent.
  • I wish my thoughts are bearable.
  • I wish the world is fine, bearable.
  • I wish the thought of you is bearable.
  • I wish you are fine, always.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

there's always next time

I actually feared the specters that loomed in that trip. Last Saturday, I brought myself back to Dumaguete City for the graduation rites of some people whose roots of relevance branch within me, inching deeper in each moment of recollection. My excuse would be “I had to be there.” But of course, it was more than an excuse, more than wanderlust.

They were there in the afternoon when I walked the stage in my toga, too, like cheerleaders who had missed a game and went hollering amongst the crowd of beaming parents on commencement day instead. One drummer from the marching band even banged his drum wildly to the ire of his lead conductor. Just a few steps away from them were my mother, my father, and my three sisters. It was a scene plucked out from a sappy movie.

All these were happening with the great peak of Mount Talinis and Silliman Church guarding behind us, the Rizal Boulevard embracing water right in front of us, and the sun slowly dipping into a horizon that forgot it should separate sea and sky.

Who could not remember? Not even Dumaguete’s strongest rhum could not knock it off my memory.

And yes, memory, the purveyor of the specters mentioned earlier. The requisite ghosts. These are those that manifest after we’ve been through anything (if not everything), soon to be forgotten, only to be relived again with the slightest push of remembrance. The impact will be lasting, whether we like it or not.

Suddenly it was my college acquaintances’ and dearest loves’ turn. The graduates were Donna Amethyst Bernardo, Phillippe Antoni Credo, Ian Rosales Casocot, Gabriel Pestelos, Ayla Calumpang, Julian Torralba, Judy Gay Jandayan, Aris Ramiro, Urich Calumpang just to name a few. It was their turn to face the impact.

I knew from the start that the whole four-day break would be one joyful escapade, but something behind that gloss, a little bit more denied than accepted, was the thought that this would also be heartbreaking. Something worse than hangover.

Why does it have to be this way? How will we see this little city in the south without the predictable, familiar faces? When will we ever meet again? What will be the changes? Who are we returning to next time? Will there be even next time?

It was funny finding ourselves treading uncertainty again. After all these years, we remain stumped and in awe at vagueness of reaching another phase. It’s like a blur in our foresight, as if the only clear thing in our heads is the question, “What’s next?”

Following this four-day break, we will venture onto our own separate ways. But after all these years, I stand by what I have said before. Separation is necessary. To the things you love, to the ones you love.

We couldn’t have enjoyed those meals together in new and all-time favorite restaurants, those morning-the-night revelries in watering holes, those marathon conversations, that three-hour stay in Siquijor, those picture-taking sessions that attempt to frame in images what needs to be preserved, that commencement ceremony itself, that hour-long trip to Tanjay, that “Liwayway Pose” that presented itself out of nowhere, that Twitter hashtag “#ReturnOfTheStars,” those small familial reunions, those big spontaneous gatherings, those fleeting smiles and greetings and many more if not for the heightened absence we have felt beforehand.

Though last minute bad news was received before graduation day, though there were ties that remain broken within the circle, though there were places never visited for fear of meeting past loves, though there were past loves that suddenly persisted in the present, though there were personal announcements withheld to prevent changing the courses of other people’s short-term happiness, we just moved on. The acacias and the boulevard are testaments of endurance.

We may be all victims of the consequences of distance, but this is what makes loving and longing flourish in this city. Maybe next time, our laughter would be louder, our smiles wider, our understanding for each other wiser.

For the new graduates? I guess what matters now are the clinks of glasses and bottles, the shared feeling of accomplishment, the galvanic bliss of it all. We cannot deny them this triumph. They deserve it.

So let us worry on another day. For now, we just have to be happy, have faith that everything will be all right. Until next time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

how to struggle in a crowded place

There has to be another reason
for negligence, how these cigarette butts
settle next to a clump of grass,
how this city spears the sky.
But always, there is too much
that bothers us, and there is too little
elbow room. So we hurl in the air
the ills that brim in our hands.
Such as our least favorite wants,

such as our most favorite curses.
All the things that make us human.
And since we could not bear
the limits we have made for ourselves,
we linger in the dangers of proximity,
in the grip of common knowledge.
Then we will run out of things to say,
our intentions bottled and blotted
by pleas, by many missing words:

Sorry for. Do not. Strong.
It is because. Grapple. The face.
Forgive. But when. Give space.
In between silence and noise
lies the ballpark figure of caution,
and in here we must own a corner.
The struggle is not what
we have yet to see
but what we already feel.


Today is World Poetry Day, so I am sharing here my most recent work. This special day all began in the year 1999 in Paris during UNESCO’s 30th session. As stated in their website, “the main objective of this action is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Moreover, this Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art but one.

“UNESCO encourages the Member States to take an active part in celebrating the World Poetry Day, at both local and national level, with the active participation of National Commissions, NGOs and the public and private institutions concerned (schools, municipalities, poetic communities, museums, cultural associations, publishing houses, local authorities, etc.).”

Friday, March 16, 2012

it's good to have you with us

Many have waxed poetic about Dumaguete, buffing nostalgia into new sheen, romanticizing the past and recently folded present. But who could blame those who have orchestrated them, which actually include me, us and many more, bearing thoughts and experiences from having walked its streets at ungodly hours over and over again for four, five or so years? It is hard to explain, but please forgive us. “To ignore complexity/ is to question the generosity of the sky.”

That is why tomorrow, just as the sun would drain its one o’clock light in the afternoon, I would find myself standing on that city again, breathing in its spirit, to attend my closest acquaintances’ commencement ceremony. Silliman University would be a flurry of smiles (and booze-induced carousing) again. The thought of this alone works like a drug.

And just a few hours ago, that very same drug has conspired with the naughty fates of the day. When I turned on the music player this morning, the sound of piano and spoken word gradually filling my ears, I realized I found the perfect song for this year’s graduates. Especially those graduates that I know of.


The Killers

Aggressively we all defend the role we play
Regrettably time’s come to send you on your way
We’ve seen it all bonfires of trust flash floods of pain
It doesn’t really matter don’t you worry it’ll all work out
No it doesn’t even matter don’t you worry what it’s all about
We hope you enjoyed your stay
It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day
We hope you enjoyed your stay
Outside the sun is shining, seems like heaven ain’t far away
It’s good to have you with us
Even if it’s just for the day
It’s good to have you with us even if it’s just for the day
Outside the sun is shining, seems like heaven ain’t far away
It’s good to have you with us.
Even if it’s just for the day
It’s good to have you with us even if it’s just for the day
Outside the sun is shining, seems like heaven ain’t far away

Friday, March 09, 2012


There is no
Other word for this
But yours,
How memory
And back again
The wound brought
By the razors
Of your name.

Letters all pointed,
All too ready
To pierce,
To cut
And to pick.
I could no longer hold
The ruptures
On recollection’s
Gossamer shell.

There could be thousands
Of deficiencies
That are yet
To be known,
But here is one
I could diagnose
Today: The first fall
Is not the hardest
But how
It unfolds.

Among many other things,
This is what I like
About you:
Even with that cigarette,
That paper article
You burn but hide
On your back
With the fling
Of an arm
In my presence,

There is the absence
Of stains
On your teeth,
Those that mimic
On too much coffee,
Tea or recklessness,
As you blow rings
To the other direction
And quip

An apology
Or two
Like “’Sorry.”
But what
I do not like
About you
Is that you always mean it
For such small things
Like smoke
And nothing more.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

return of a beloved

A few days ago I mentioned bringing my dear Baki, a Canon PowerShot SX200IS, to the service center for a little tweaking. All right, not entirely little. I was about to shell out nearly half of my monthly salary to fix the three-year old thing if not for the humble, gracious, and fault-admitting friend who had swept it off a chair with her butt when she sang a drunken rendition of Whitney Houston’s “All At Once” (or was it Eraserheads’ “Spolarium”?), dropping it dead smack on the marble floor. She had agreed to pay the other half of the repair fees.

One would say she should’ve paid for everything, but I say I shouldn’t have left it on a chair when someone nearby is doing a tribute to a newly-departed favorite, a little bit intoxicated. No more argument.

I just knew on that night that something was wrong when I picked Baki up from the floor, turned it on, and heard a sputtering of mechanical beeps, a message on the screen saying, “Lens error. Restart camera.” Then it turned off by itself, no matter what I did. I eventually accepted this was a camera’s last hurrah to a PC’s Blue Screen of Death.

What was a little bit painful at that time was the warranty benefit of the gadget had expired just two months ago. I asked the consultant at the service center if there was a grace period or an extension for my warranty card
’s power, you know, just to give it a try, but she just smiled and let out an uninspired laugh. Monosyllabic “Ha-ha-ha.” I think it translated to “Cheap-cheap-cheap.”

Of course, I had to press my luck. Even if I had to travel miles to the service center only to find out a new one would be opening three blocks away from where I work the following day (which highlights weak PR), even if I had to get lost on my way there, even if I had to miss documenting mundane things during my camera’s absence, I got to revive my beloved Baki. I couldn’t sum up the milestones in my life, big and small, the camera had witnessed and concretized for me in images. Baki is an electronic poetry.

And things were ironed out in seven days’ time. Thankfully, repair was quick.

So, here it is now, the handheld beauty in my hands. I press a little chrome button, and there goes that faint whir, the barrel zooming out with lens as clear as dew, the screen coming to vivid life. As the flash snaps up in place, ready to take a shot, I feel its entire heft like weighing gold in one’s palms.

Strangely, it’s as if I am seeing something in new light.

Monday, March 05, 2012

bltx 2

Last Friday, March 2, I went home from an expo in QC that was Better Living Through Xeroxography (or better known as BLTX). It was its second edition, and though in paper BLTX was a small affair, its goal was big:

“Bring together independent self-publishers from Metro Manila (hopefully from elsewhere, too), in a one-night event that will allow them to sell their wares: books, yes, but also zines and other printed materials like shirts, postcards, posters, and this year, CDs from musicians more indie than indie.”

And I think the turnout met its goal. Ilyong’s at Kalantiaw was packed, the tables brimming with things not found in malls, and I was glad I spotted faces who I thought I would not be seeing in a while and faces I believe I have not seen in a very long while. Around three in the morning the next day, I went home with a bag heavier than before. Ah, new reads.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

that month again

And it is March. And there is that tingle again, a sharp, downward push on skin, burrowing into every pore like some massive undoing of sweat. It will return, it will be known, this memory violent in its urgency, the same questions surfacing like a howl heard from the other side of the hill, like bad poems read on lonely nights. February will only be remembered for that shirt suited for another season. Or that text message that appeared on screen in fragment, incomplete, saying, “I think when you’re”

Not a period is in sight, not even the suspense of ellipsis. Perhaps it is best to leave some things that way, misplaced and unsaid, to be spared of what we do not want to see, of what we do not want to hear. And in each morning, around eight or nine, we could always say, “Look, there’s too much blue in the sky. I’m sure it wouldn’t rain.”