Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No One Else Is Coming


My Life
Is a Train Station
Where I wait
and wait.

Sitting on the dull
gray concrete Bench
Just underneath
The Big Round Clock
... tick tock ...
I button up my pea coat
It was cold.

Sat next to me
He said He was waiting too
May He sit a while?
I nodded
Red licorice? I offered.
He took one and chewed.

He waited with me,
For my Train,
No rush, He reassured.
He told me pretty stories
And we laughed
and we laughed
and ate candy corn.

I'll board your train
With You, He promised.
But not this one,
The next one, He said,
Or the next.

We waited.
I waited
and waited.
For a long time.

Impatience and frustration
Became of me.
No, I had to go
I left His Bench
And my bag of chocolate coins.

I boarded the Train
Heading West.


I picked a seat
Next to the Window
The breeze, that earthy smell;
Like a tall glass of water
On a perfectly humid day.
The world cruised by
At a steady 90 miles per hour.

Sat next to me
He took my hand in His
And made promises
of Marvelous Tomorrows;
Honeysuckle, butterflies, dew drops
On purple maple leaves.
All out there
All out West.

But the Sun
Woke up in the East
All my senses -- as if like magnet
Drawn to its
Overpowering Lust.

I hopped off
My Westbound Train.


On platform 12
He was waiting. Again.
Love, again.
You'd be back, He foresaw.
The Eastern Train is coming
Sit with Me.
Gummy Bears? He offered.
I took one and chewed.

We boarded the Train
Heading East.

The clouds were painted
In 16-tone colors;
Horses neighed and
Panthers loped.
It was like Art;

Moons passed, hearts beat.
I was ready to alight
He wasn't.
Not yet, He said,

But Soon never came
I jumped,
I tucked, I rolled;
Dusted off my bruised flesh
And my broken spirit.

Head held high
On platform 9
I waited
And licked my wounds.


A train wreck
A collision
With God's Secret.
Emerged with tired eyes;
Wounded and damaged
But His Spirit flickered.

Sat next to me
Bloodied hands and all.
Twinkies? I offered.
No thanks, He said,
Then He changed His mind.
He took one and chewed.

He shook
From the crash He survived.
No more Trains, He vowed,
Just walking.
Very lonely though, I supplied.
Lonely is okay, He argued,
When life almost left you be...
Lonely is nothing.

We ate marshmallows
As the sun dipped.
He repaired His brazen self
Each day at a time
But the trains have stopped
No more hoots, no more chugs.

He stood up, He shifted,
Wiping His hands on His jeans.
Coming? He asked.
I sat there rooted.
Coming? He echoed.
I sat still
On my Bench
Beneath the Big Round Clock
That same one
... tick tock...


Arms akimbo
I stared down the rails
Further down
And down
As far as this naked eye
Can see.

The Sky blushed
A bashful orange hue;
I trod down the beaten
Iron Path;
No one else was coming.

No one else is coming.

Faith, Love,
Just got Hope.
That's all.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I Could Be

I could be better to you
... For you
But the ghost standing
By the corner
-- holding a glass
of pink lemonade --
He taunts me
And he grins -- oh that
Malicious grin;
And he dares me.

He glides over to sit
On the
Lacquered coffee table;
His transience
Your jagged edges.

His hollowness
His false distance
His inferiority

I could be better to you
... For you
But the ghost sitting
In front of me
Is still stepping heavily
On my
Bleeding toes.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Via Dolorosa - Scourging, Crowning And Falling

Someone I look up to once told me that everyone has crosses to bear -- how there are one or two life-altering events in our lives that we must go through in order to learn from and become better people. A purging of sorts, if you may.

It made vague sense to me so I asked him what his crosses had been. He mentioned that one of them had been his journey through his survivorship of clinical depression. He was twenty four when he got diagnosed with it and the eight years to follow were the most difficult of his life. He went through an insane whirlwind of emotions with people coming and going (though most of the latter) in his life. And this was on top of having to experience a life so tumultuous as it already is. He scraped himself together one day and fought the depression with every ounce of strength that he had. And he was blessed with a partner that saw him through this. "She was my light at the end of the tunnel," he told me with unmeasured fondness.

I became thoughtful after that. I brought up the subject matter with my mother one evening that we had dinner together. She readily agreed about her concept of crosses. "As a matter of fact," she said, "You should be slightly wary of your pending cross. That as much as you're very blessed with many good things, you will get tried one way or another." I then asked her what her cross had been. She furrowed her eyebrows and picked on the pasta on her plate.

"Your father and I have gone through so much together," she began. "One of the more difficult parts of our life together was when we had to help each other through financial difficulties. We had marvelous plans for you kids, and failing wasn't an option. But we were a team and we'd be there for each other when one collapsed. It was hard, yes, but it was worth every bit of it. And if things came easily to us, then I don't think we'd appreciate where we currently are."

She looked at me in the eye. "I just hope that when it's your turn to carry your cross, you'd be strong enough and have enough faith that you could get through it. Because I know you will, but it's all up to you."

That conversation took place some five years ago -- but the idea never left my head. I am aware that no matter how invisible to the naked eye, we all fight some internal battle within ourselves. Some do a better job masking it from others while some just can't. Either way, we're all struggling with something.

Then one day, it hit me. My cross. It had been there all this time and I just didn't realize it. My cross consists of my collection of relationships that I can't seem to fully realize -- that I couldn't seem to be with those people that I truly love and care for.

My family -- a prime example. They perhaps make up the majority of my support system. And every single one of them live oceans away from me. Then there's my best friend whom I've only had the pleasure of sharing the same time zone with a couple of years ago. Not to mention all my closest friends and members of my extended close-knit family. They all have the same story. They are all anywhere but here with me.

And there were also my past relationships. They both had to end partly because of the distance. No matter what type of effort I had to put into them, I almost always had to pull the plug because I couldn't seem to bridge the growing gap between us. On my second one, I thought it was going to be different and that I was finally given a chance to rid of the constant gaping hole inside of me -- only to wearily watch the relationship suffer a slow and painful death at the end for the same reason as the first one.

That's when I stopped trying. I was convinced that I could only seem to love people whom I can't be with. Physically or otherwise.

The cross I bear isn't a particularly outstanding incident that shook my world once upon a time. As they say, God gives us burdens that come in different forms. Mine just happens to be the sort to travel with me and to constantly weigh on my shoulders. And only God knows how long I'd have to carry this. In terms of magnitude, I know that it pales in comparison to what others have had to go through, but it more than makes up for the length of time I've had to bear it -- and moreso, the uncertainty of the time when it would stop being my cross.

I've learned to deal with it though. And in exchange, I've become a stronger and a more emotionally self-sufficient person. I've become a person so vastly different from how I was before. But most importantly, it taught me to never take for granted whatever time I am allowed to be with the people who matter to me. I could only make the most out of it and then fervently hope that the next time wouldn't be too far away.

This is why I enjoy the happily boring events with the right people just as much as any world-class memories I've ever had -- simply because both don't come by that often in my life. And when they do, they're mine and mine forever.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Priceless Little Things

I live for:

1) Toasted buns on my burger

2) Going away on holiday

3) Mindless chatter with people that matter to me

4) Reading while tightly wrapped in a blanket

5) Fresh snowflakes

6) Wearing clothes that look good on me

7) Excellence

8) Calamansi juice with kiamoy

9) Being in love

10) Keyboards that have just the right clicking sound

11) Awesome telephone conversations

12) Unexpected good news

13) Music while in a moving vehicle

14) Genuine warmth from pseudo-strangers

15) Purple fluffy slippers


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

The other day, I rode a cab with a particularly chatty driver. He asked me perhaps the most common question I ever get asked since I moved here to Singapore.

"Where are you from?" he asked curiously. "You look Chinese, but you don't sound like you're from around here."

"I'm from Manila," I answered politely.

"Oh yeah?" he retorted stealing a glance at me. "You don't look Filipina."

Again, one of the most common comments I receive, but I never really know how to respond to it. I simply gave my usual awkward laugh.

"How long have you been living here? Are you a citizen now? Or a permanent resident?"

"I've been here for six years now," I said. "But I'm neither. I'm still on employment pass."

I braced myself for the usual retort about how being a permanent resident in Singapore has so many perks -- the CPF that eventually translates to retirement savings, the eligibility to apply to be a citizen, and just having the privilege to live in a country with a raging economy.

But he surprised me by saying, "You're very smart, you know?"


"At least you get a choice where you want to live by not tying yourself down to Singapore," he continued. "If you decide to become a Singaporean, you will lose your other passport. They force you to give up so many other things."

I frowned. I don't get that a lot. "Where are you from?" I asked.

"Singapore. Born and bred," he said simply. As if it was the answer to everything.

Having grown up in a country where colonial mentality is inherent, I could sincerely understand why many Filipinos would jump at the chance of owning a foreign passport. I've gotten accustomed to filling up lengthy application forms for visas whenever I have to travel and trust me, it's not exactly a bed of roses. I silently fume at how people holding privileged passports could take such a thing for granted. And holding a Philippine passport subjects me to various stereotypes and all kinds of racial profiling. It's not something I enjoy, but I've gotten used to it. Once you've gone through it a few times, you'd realize that everyone has the same idiotic ideas about your country and your nationality that you'd end up pitying them more than anything.

Despite all that, it never occurred to me to give up my Philippine passport. Sure, I still fantasize about owning a passport that will allow me to go to any country out of sheer whim. But it's too frivolous for me to act upon. I wouldn't mind holding dual citizenship for pragmatic purposes, but that's all it will be. A practical decision. As much as I curse being Filipino every time I have to shell out EUR 100 for a Schengen visa, I still maintain my pride for my national identity. After all, the Philippines is still my birthplace, my family home and the roots of my culture. I owe it that much.

I haven't lived in the Philippines for the past twelve years. That's about two-fifths of my life. Even though I still look back fondly on my memories of growing up at home, and even though I still keep a healthy amount of close relationships back home, I can't help but feel like I'm being pulled away further and further from it. I've spent my impressionable years in a couple of adopted cities -- I've had to adjust to other cultures and paradigms. While the core of my being is still very much Filipino (after all, it's the culture that molded me while growing up), a significant part of me has also absorbed bits and pieces of other cultures especially those that make sense to me. My ideas and mindsets have adjusted to more global environments, and my decision-making skills have morphed into the practical kind more than the usual traditional and emotional categories. In essence, it was like I was given a palette of cultures to choose from -- and I cherry-picked those elements that I wanted to keep.

I don't particularly strike myself as the patriotic kind. As a matter of fact, I am acutely aware of the shortcomings of being typically Filipino and I try so hard to stray from them. I refuse to fall into some cookie-cutter trap where my nationality defines my individuality. But if I was forced to choose sides, I wouldn't think twice about adhering to my mother land. I may not speak my first language like it's really my first language, I may have been quite a delinquent during voting and election times, I may not have as many Filipino friends than I have foreign friends, and I may not have traveled as extensively in the Philippines than I have in New England -- but these are not testament to my being any less Filipino than the next karaoke-belting woman dressed in a Maria Clara costume.

My passport is the only official document that links me to my country. I don't own anything else that proves I'm Filipino (though I fervently hope my mother still has my birth certificate somewhere). This hit me hard a few years ago when I had problems availing of the local hotel rates at the Shangri-la Hotel in Manila. There's nothing more frustrating than having to prove something true without any hard evidence to accompany it.

So to give up that single thing that reminds me of who I am and where I came from is asking for too much. It's too big of a footprint to discard so easily. As baseball player, Branch Rickey, once said "It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.”

Monday, June 28, 2010


A haiku for you
Because you've always believed.
I love you, you know?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Half A Decade

The last time I filled up one of these was way back in 2005 -- one year after I started my life in Singapore. It was both nostalgic and exhilirating re-reading my past blog entry ont it. Even though I never felt the past six years pass by, it made me realize how much I've changed as a person since my naive little self set foot at the legendary Changi airport upon my first arrival.

I could still afford then the luxury of having no idea what would be in store for the rest of my life. I've got to say. Not too shabby.

Happy sixth anniversary to me; to my life in this little island that I've managed to adopt as my home.


What did you do in the past 5 years that you hadn't done before?

It feels like my life only started at 23. Not that my life prior to my 23rd year was exceptionally bad, but I think I only started growing up at 23 when I realized just how big the world was -- and that it doesn't have to be scary. I've done so many things for the first time in the past half-decade, but having to let go of any nearby safety nets by living in a brand new country all on my own may have topped my entire list. Do I recommend it? No. It can be insanely frightening. Was it that traumatizing? It doesn't have to be. You simply take what is offered and make the most out of it.

Did anyone close to you die?

Unfortunately, my two Lolas passed away within months of each other in 2008. It was an intense year, but I hope there are a lot of flowers and greenery wherever they are right now. And with my Lolos. That would make them extremely happy. Rest in peace.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, as a matter of fact. The world welcomed my three favorite nephews -- two from my sister and one from my brother. The buggers took my place as baby of the family.

Even if we did lose both my Lolas, we were still gifted with more additions to the family. Indeed a blessing.

Did you travel? Where did you go? Best holiday memory?

You bet your behind I did. I completely made up for that cultural blackhole I suffered from when I was living back in the US. I rediscovered my wanderlust and remembered just how hard it kicked. It must've acquired some newfound energy while I was dormant. Traveling seems to be one of the very few things I live for these days. Asking me to pick a favorite holiday memory would be like asking me to pick a favorite child. If only I can bundle up all the memories up and stuff it in a cannister than I can take with me everywhere I go -- I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Best thing you bought?

My crappy camera. Seriously. It was the only thing that enabled me to capture all the memories I've collected over the past few years. And it was the only instrument that ever reminded me how awesome and how beautiful the world really is. And how we take so much for granted. And how we see things differently in hindsight. I really should invest in a better one, but it won't feel the same. Perhaps there can be beauty found in raw imperfection.

Where did most of your money go?

I wish I knew. Though I know that a solid chunk went to investments on my relationships with family and friends. May it be flying off to see them, traveling the world with them, enjoying gastronomic experiences with them or simply racking up on ginormous overseas phone bills to speak with them -- it was worth every penny.

What do you wish you had done more of?

I wish I had the mind to spend more time with my Lolas before they passed on to a much better place. But dwelling on that will take me nowhere so I wish to take that lesson and apply it somewhere that I can still control. Having said that, I've learned to cherish and appreciate the people around me even more -- knowing that the day will come that being with them will simply be reduced to memories. So while I can still hold on to those as realities, then I shall.

Other than that, I wish I wrote more. Never stop writing, I keep telling myself. And I still tell myself that.

What do you wish you had done less of?

Eating those damn ice cream sandwiches that they sell for a buck in the streets. Oh sigh, but they make such great comfort food! What's a girl to do?

But no regrets. As much as we feel the powerful sting of regrets that trail behind us, I believe that they still play important parts in turning our lives for the better and making us better people.

What kept you sane?

Knowing that I have a whole posse behind me that provides me with all the support I need -- plus the fact that I know they're all one plane ride away ready to welcome me with open arms. And of course, there are also the wonderful people (whose patience and tolerance I've unwittingly put to the test) that God peppered around me here in Singapore.

And Jack Daniels. And Absolut Vodka. And Amazon.com. Oh, and those awesome Malaysian pirates that bring my favorite American TV drama series right to my doorstep. May Allah bless you and catapult you straight to eternal happiness.

What drove you mad?

People. But hey, can't live with them, can't live without them. We're screwed.

How were your birthdays?

Pretty good. I can't say they were all memorable, but I do know I had fun in each one that passed. I spent them with all the right people and there was always cake (always a good benchmark for me). I had the most beautiful purple cake for my 25th birthday but I don't remember eating it. And I had one of my most expensive meals for my 27th birthday. One thing I realized, however -- birthdays are best spent as quiet occasions with people who matter most to you. Preferrably not sober because once it sinks in that a year has passed and I still haven't done much out of my life, it can be pretty damn depressing. So, bottoms up!

What political/economic issue stirred you the most?

The Financial Crisis of 2008. Being in the heart of the financial industry didn't help matters at all. I witnessed first-hand how lives of people turned for the worst, and I saw how former high-flyers had their wings clipped by humility. It was perhaps one of the greatest events that purged the world. Lessons of prudence and moderation were hopefully learned. I would sacrifice a lot not to go through that kind of trauma again.

What made you celebrate?

The weekends. Every single one of them.

What song will remind of the past 6 years?

Crash And Burn by Savage Garden

"Cause there has always been heartache and pain, and when it's over you'll breathe again, you'll breathe again"

It was a tough lesson to learn, but it's true.

Biggest achievement?

Achieving a state of pseudo-contentment and finding comfort in knowing what I don't want in life. I've spent my whole life trying to figure out what I want and truth be told, I could be 70 years old right now, and I still wouldn't have a clue. However, it took a while for me to realize that I want to be anything but ordinary. And that I don't desire the kind of life I was trained to work for along with everyone else. And realizing that it's okay not to want that, experiencing the joy of rejigging my priorities, and garnering the support of my loved ones -- just priceless.

Biggest disappointment?

Nursing heartaches, allowing fear to get the better of me (thus, yielding a lot to playing it safe and avoiding numerous risks), and having to sever ties with people who used to be important to me. But such is life, no? We don't get anywhere by sitting on the fence so no matter how intimidating, we have to jump off and pray hard that we land on the good side. And if we don't, then we simply deal.

What is the one thing that would have made you more satisfied?

Instinctively, I wanted to write down that it would've been better if I were financially better off. But when I chewed on it, I don't think things would've panned out the way they did if I had everything I wanted. Or at least easy access to them. I was provided with everything I needed -- I had to work for anything else I wanted beyond that. And that's what it was all about, wasn't it? A big part of the journey is finding out whom you'd become as you pine after your aspirations. And more importantly, whom you'd become when you don't get them.

A valuable life lesson you learnt?

Leben und Lieben. Live and love (despite everything that can go wrong). It's the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do You Remember?

To my beloved "Thelis,"

You were about three years old then; I was five. It was scorching hot that afternoon, but I don't remember which part of the year it was. Was it summer? All I know was that the leatherette seat covers on the backseat of our Toyota Corolla were burning my thighs from the heat. Daddy was driving and Mama was on the passenger seat. I was alone at the back -- and I couldn't wait to see you. My parents told me you were in the hospital and that we were going to visit you. I didn't get any details, but they said you were very sick. I hoped you were okay. I wanted to show you the new Rainbow Brite doll I got as a reward for getting a gold eagle award in school. Mama helped me pray for you at night so that Baby Jesus would make you all better.

We rode the elevator up the hospital. I don't remember which one it was, but I can still smell the stench of the Lysol that was generously sprayed on every corner. Mama knocked four times against your door and your Papa answered. I took his hand and touched it to my forehead, and I asked for you. Your Mommy said you just woke up and that I should take it easy with you. She looked like she had not slept in years. She said you just went through your operation and that you were tired. And to be gentle with you.

My height barely reached your hospital bed, but I managed to see you. You looked so small laying in the middle of those white pillows. Your eyes were closed. I poked my fingers through the bed railing trying to wake you up. Your eyelids fluttered -- and you smiled widely when you saw me. I grinned and waved. I missed you! You were sporting the coolest hot pink bracelet on your left hand. I pointed to it and you showed it to me. It had your name on it, as well as your doctor's name. At least that's what I thought it said. I couldn't read that well yet at that time. I wanted one so badly, but I knew it was one of those things I could never have.

Mama came over to see how you were. She was whispering rapidly with your Mommy. They were talking about your doctor, I think. Then she placed her hands over your head and started praying over you. You were staring at her as if not knowing what to do. You looked at me; I smirked and then you smiled. Heehee, Mama looked funny when she talked with her eyes closed.

I wish we could have stayed longer but my parents whisked me away and said you had to rest. Already? It was barely half an hour! They promised me that you'd be home soon and that I could come over to your house to play when you're better. And that in the meantime, we were going to SM Department Store to buy you a toy. I told Mama that you would like a Rainbow Brite doll too -- Shy Violet was your favorite. I turned around to say bye to you and you waved a limp hand. Hmm. You did look tired.

Back in the car, I asked Mama why you were sick. She told me that your intestines knotted up with each other and that the doctor had to open you up to unknot it. I didn't know what intestines were, but somehow I envisioned a friendship bracelet of sorts inside you. She said you had to watch out what you ate from then on -- no bananas, no suman, nothing sticky. And she told me that I should look after you just in case you ate something that's not good for you. I put on my most serious face and nodded sagely. No bananas, no suman and nothing sticky, I said to myself.

As promised, you were sent home a few days after. I brought you some gummy bears when I came to visit you, and you ran to your Papa to ask if you can eat some. He allowed you two, but you had to give the rest to Yaya Mercy so she can keep it for you. We were all very cautious of what you ate -- we didn't want you to end up in the hospital again. You turned to me and said "Mommy bought me Red Butler for being a good girl when I was sick, do you want to see it?" Of course I did.

I swear, if your parents could have placed you inside a vaccuum to protect you from everything that is harmful, they would have. I would have. They would have given you a million Red Butlers just to make sure you would always be safe. You scared them half to death with that incident -- you scared all of us. You were so young, so small. So helpless. You didn't deserve to go through that. We could have lost you. But praises to the heavens that you were okay. It was a big gamble.

Do you remember it?

God only knows how I would've turned out if you weren't there with me growing up. You grounded me and you gave me balance. You were the baby sister I never had -- and yet there were times when you seemed a lot older than me. Oh, the endless anecdotes we have with each other! Truly precious. I would have given anything to ensure your safety, good health and happiness. And I still will.

Now that you're about to embark on a whole new journey in your life, I do want you to know that nothing has to change between us. I promise you that. Despite everything we've gone through, we're still as solid as the two of us can be. Everything else that we are meant to weather will just add more colors to our story.

In two weeks' time, you will be someone else's -- and I know that there's nothing else in this world that makes you happier than that. Trust me when I say that you deserve nothing less. And I am more than honored to be there with you and for you on your special day. Because after everything you and I lived through, I won't have it any other way.

I love you.

Yours Forever,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nullum Desiderium

Is that bitter aftertaste
For stretches of time

But we are only human
We must accept
All we can do
Is keep moving

Dwell not.

The anguish deliquesces
The remnants
Eventually veer
Beautiful memories
Like scabs
That we relish to

And then it stops


Friday, May 07, 2010

Bon Mot

It's funny how we spend half our lives pining and praying for numerous things. We call out to our respective gods for favors and bargains; and then we spend the other half of our lives whining and complaining that we never get anything that we've asked for.

If we take a closer look at our lives, we are actually given most of what we've asked for. We rarely realize this. The caveat, however, is that they just aren't usually presented in the way that we were expecting they would come.

It's like asking for a huge sum of cash, and eventually getting it in the form of inheritance from a late parent. Or like asking to meet Mr. Perfect, only to meet Mr. Perfect and his equally perfect wife. Or like asking for a fair stab at love, only to find an acne-ridden stalker serenading you by your rose bushes every night despite your attempts at throwing him clumps of hardened clay. Or like asking for the dream job, only to find out it pays so poorly that you may have to live in a cardboard box outside your workplace.

Frustrating, really.

The gods indeed have a wicked sense of humor. But perhaps it's to prove to us that they know what's best for us so it might be in our best interest to simply let them do their jobs. We ought to just sit back and relax -- and just be grateful for what we have now instead of constantly kicking up a fuss about what we don't have. Life is tough enough as it is.

"It is better to want what you have than to have what you want." - Proverb