I HATE MANILA

I HATE MANILA WITH ALL THE PASSION THAT I CAN MUSTER. I HATE THAT GHASTLY PLACE. I HATE EVERYTHING IN IT, EVERY CORNER, EVERY CAR. I HATE ITS INHUMANE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES. I HATE ITS LACK OF URBAN PLANNING. I HATE THE HEAT AND DUST AND CROWD. I HATE THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY THE PEOPLE IN THE EMBASSY IMPOSED UPON THOSE WHO WANT TO LEAVE THIS LAND. I HATE THEIR INABILITY TO COMPREHEND THAT THERE IS NOTHING WORTH STAYING IN THIS COUNTRY. I HATE THE FACT THAT THEY DEMAND THE PEOPLE TO STAY AND LIVE WITH CROCODILES. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET US OUT AND LET THE CROCODILES DEVOUR EVERY PARCEL OF GHASTLY LAND HEREIN.

Why poppies are impossible

You were angry at your grandmother for losing her sense of equilibrium. This afternoon, she tried to stand up and she fell, face flat against the cold ground.

You screamed at her, you cursed her — her existence, her physical weakness, her remaining days — and you wished, blatantly, for her to fold her laboured breathing without noise and tuck it neatly in the drawer, never to be used again.

The neighbors hated you because of that. But you ceased caring.

I hated my father with all the passion I can muster. But unlike you, I fear his death. I don’t want to deal with the funeral arrangement and all the necessary, customary matters. I don’t want to attend to everything after everything — abandonment, beatings, screams, deceits, betrayal.

My clan will disown me if they hear me say this. But like you, I have stopped caring. Family is a very messed up institution, you said. And they perfectly know where it hurts.

I think of you often, on times like this. The books we’ve read, the poems we’ve written, the vile, blasphemous things we’ve confessed without rehearsal, the hesitations and half-eaten plates and the raw, unacceptable passages we’ve nailed on our blood-dripping chests.

I think about our burdens. The expectations we find repulsive. Your dying grandmother. My autocratic father. The family we did not chose, the one bereft of warmth. The people we’ve been wanting to flash out, the tyrants we’ve been condemned to live with.

We inhaled the world and built a gallow out of our stifling regrets. We lay on our backs on the soft spirals of aurora borealis. We savoured our distractions and celebrated our impending demise, the graveyard beneath our skins, the barren land inside us, the sunken places where flowers and visitors freeze and crumble into oblivion, the echoes of our footfalls battering the pavement, the stubborn refusal of the night to exhaust its heartbeat and the loathsome desire of the despicable god who ruminates the expansion of his seething underbelly.

We’re the estranged vivisection and you are right. It would take a miracle for someone to love us dearly. (July 6, 2017)

You didn’t get it, did you?

I think we have silently harbored our reservations and contempt towards one another. I have heard yours, and in a way or another you have heard mine but completely missed my point in most cases.

Lately I find you inauthentic actually. Too pretentious in the social media; too pathetic almost, overtly craving the approbation of the online folks at the expense of integrity.
 
What I’m trying to say is it’s not just you alone who wants to walk away from this — I do too. I no longer want you in my life.
Sometimes I want to take back everything I have said, every idea that I’ve articulated, my words and phrases that you’ve mimicked and taken as your own. I wish you would stop doing that. It’s annoying as hell, this sheer absence of originality.
 
I silently rue ever introducing to you the people I know, those closest to me, unknowingly lining them on the road filled with your opportunism. I wish you would just leave them, really. You are rude beyond reason, beyond belief.
 
Take heart on this: more than anything, I want you out of my life and out of everything — and most especially out of every one — that I hold dear.

Blabber, general discontent

I’m about to say the surefire way to go against the very grain of expectation: the Young Blood publication tastes bland.

I know, I know. I ought to feel at least some pride in it. After all, countless essays and authors from 2014 to 2015 competed for a space in that anthology. Battle of the best-est and diversity where the weaker entries were trounced, as one of the Inquirer editors put it. I just… don’t.
 
It tastes bland, if anything. Insipid. Dreary. I don’t speak for the others — what I’m saying here is purely culled out of my own phenomenological standpoint. If it is a journal publication, I wonder if I would have felt elated.
 
There was so much energy during the book launch — everyone excitedly talked with one another. They introduced themselves, talked about their jobs and schools and course works, have their book copies signed by other authors. I was the reclusive freak who resides inside the glass case and who was given a keen and vivid vision to observe the outside events but not to fully partake in it.
 
I have always been this way, detached, in some way or another I guess. I feigned smiles in the photos; I nodded and readily offered insights to those who asked for it — but certain distances stood and stretched between me and the others.
 
Before, it was a wall — and certain people managed to dismember it and get past it. I have learned attachment, that basic human emotion that makes us vulnerable and incredibly human. I have developed fondness towards some individuals, and have injured myself along the way. Now, I have a glass case.
 
I was palpitating when I left the event. I was not thrilled. My mind was numb and unthinking and submerged in brackish water once more. I walked from SM North to Trinoma, lost my way, and strolled back from Trinoma to SM North and then West Ave. There was a gaping hole on my chest, an arid land that devours everything including my rattling bones. Perhaps one day, it will be kind enough to guzzle my self-doubts too.
 
I boarded a random bus and found the slow moving traffic not pesky but merciful. I watched the neon signs of Metro Manila businesses and read the endless lines of billboards and finished a book of Margaret Atwood. In my isolation and fragmentary existence, felt solitude and tranquility.
 
The day after that I was happy. I met my old friends, people I have not seen for 2 to 5 years. We visited strange places and had meaningful conversations. We served as witnesses to the sufferings of the patients in a public hospital ward and the birth of a wedding bow in Manila cathedral.
 
We talked about achievements and past mistakes, exchange gossips about illicit affairs and risque activities of those we knew. We discussed social issues, argued a bit, like before, and practiced the methods of Zen, like now.
 
Maybe one day, I would be able to open this glass case. Maybe one day, I won’t. I hazard that life is a ceaseless cycle of recovery and damages and I have decided to roll on with it, patched as I already am.
 
My few, genuine friends, with their rawness and sincerity are worth it anyway.

Into sea mists and sunsets

We’re literally verging on death and no one even bothered to properly orient us on what it would be like.

There’s the West Valley Fault, ready to strike a fatal blow that will make buildings crumble and set an entire city afire. There is always the Tokhang, a ruthless method that could practically annihilate and gun down anyone through gossips and word of mouth. There’s the brewing tension between the North Korea and the US, the possibility of nuclear war and bioterrorism breathing at the back of our necks.

Earlier today, a friend of mine witnessed an accident. A death, I hazard. Broken bones and crumpled body. A loud explosion, a worker coming face to face with electrocution. He fell from the roof of the footbridge, she said, near Session road. Mortality is easing up on us, she said.

So before any of these befall on us — any of these dooms — as it inevitably will, I would like to ask you to go out with me. We’ll go anywhere, anywhere at all. Everywhere, nowhere, wherever we want. We’ll talk and dance and scream and exist all at once. We’ll build bonfires and watch the stars and roll under the moon beams and in silence and anticipation, we will wait for the arrival of the morning light.

We will savour the last sliver of our days and we will hope. We will carry the splinters of our bones and we will find our way out of all these harms, into sea mists and sunsets in indigos and golds. We will never cease hoping. We will go on living and with each breath we draw against everything that happened to us, each beauty we make out of our sorrow and uncertainties, we will mock this grey, grey world.

Stumbling Proses

I.
Went to the beach today. The place was packed with merry yells and warm sand, gathering dusk and sea foam, last glimpse of the red sun and late afternoon salt water. I walked barefoot on the shore and conversed with people and savoured the wind and read a bit. Oh, the stubborn way we refuse to surrender hope and insist in transforming the pains of this bleak, bleak world into candid portraits of ecstacy.

II.
It’s April. A year ago, I was in Los Baños manically writing my manuscript. Life was neatly laid out — the goals for the next month, the thesis sections that needs to be filled, the diagram of existence that needs to be followed, all idealism burning afire.

Days used to be banal, until the collosal blow of everything hits you hard. Suddenly you are surrounded by weddings and childbirths and deaths of people close to you — the blend of excitement and loss passing through you and leaving cracks.

And there you are, on the bed somewhere, watching the soft, innocent gleam of the morning sun. The ball of your life rolls beside you, patched and pulsating, like the stubborn beatings of your wandering heart.

Another day? It asked.
Another day. You answered.

III.
The inside of my mind is filled with murky water. The scribbles of my thoughts are submerged in a sullen, silver mist. Sometimes I wonder if human existence is condemned to lead a life of phenomenological isolation.

And so we collect memories as we tread on, our days a montage of choices and sacrifices. We savour the strange contour of the mountains, we laugh here and there. We inhale the cold wind, love the innocent mornings, deliberately seek tranquility, and crave for our bygone childhood.

There are things we cannot share, and there are those we can but can never be understood. Still we hold on and nurse our hope — against sorrow and death and anything.

And this is what catches us when we fall.

Tales of Anielou

It’s funny, somehow, the things I learnt about you.

A month ago, I was gravely disappointed at how you have insulted the realm of reason. I have expected more from you but I guess you are not mentally — let alone psychologically — capable of identifying and resisting the superficial belongingness stemming from false acquaintances.

You are just like them, a failure and a parasite who find comfort in justifying your own incompetence.

Last week I met her, your former colleague, and she told me what you did. You go to the office at 11, take your lunch at 12, she said. And you never return until past 4 in the afternoon. You failed to see the gravity of your every act, and your cognitive faculty is too dull to process the magnitude of your negligence.

You said I am the unsympathetic one but you have been wrong all along. Of the two of us I was — and I am — the sympathetic person and I understand things and people and you don’t. But you pretend to do so — the same way that you pretend to be on time and never late when your bosses are around.

Worse, you could not bring yourself to care — you self-absorbed parasite who cannot move past the remains of your lover who has deserted you long ago.

You harboured anger towards those you should have given your solicitude, all the while deluding yourself that you are capable of love you are not. You have successfully devalued the complexity of that experience and wielded it as a shield for your cheap ego.

I could elaborate all the defense mechanisms you have employed — denial, regression, sublimation, displacement — but it will only defeat its designated purpose. You have already unveiled yourself and exposed your own pretense and incompetency and above all, absence of honor.

You have done damages that your tiny mind will not be able to grasp. You’ve delivered a razor-sharp pain that your non-existent heart will never be able to understand.

In the first day of your colleague at work, you told her you are the supervisor before rudely asking for her identity. You like that huh, a drunken sense of power that will never bring back your past lover no matter how loud you cry in the social media but makes you feel in control, somehow. It’s a defense mechanism called displacement.

It’s funny, somehow, the things I learnt about you. You are just like them — selfish, imprecise, and short-sighted. A chronic liar and a usurper. You pretend to be but you are never the sympathetic one.

I was that person all along.