8/12/2019

Closing Books, Not Closing Doors

I used to believe that a proper goodbye should be done to every liaison we have with another. There shouldn't be ghosting, or any disappearing act, or an episode who left us hanging. It kind of hurts, that alienating feeling of not knowing how a story ends. So even though we did not work out after a year of online communication and an out of country travel, I decided to write him a closure letter. Read or not read, it gets cleared, at least on my end.

----

Hello Engineer,

I think I need to tell you this. You know I really hated ghosting, more than hurting. 

Remember the time you have ignored me from the day I met your mom? Nagsumbong ako sa isang traveler friend, seeking answers to your questionable behavior. He mentioned that there is this group chat that acts as sensates and provide support, and somehow, explanations. 

Last 8thJun, I met an online friend who was part of that support group, a chat about MBTI personalities. He's a doctor, and it's an auspicious day to watch Aladdin and to destress by drinking Gong Cha. After that came another date, and another. Last 12th, he confessed. And then two days later, I decided to commit. 

I don't know, Engineer. Sometimes life gives you such random inexplicable singularities, to which a switch had flicked. Perhaps too good to be true between this person and I, but I choose to join in his little bubble. I want to fully commit in this art of dance. 

I hope you can find yours too, and incidentally, when we see each other in future travels, we have little bittersweet smile in our eyes, realizing a possibility that never happened. Again, I am closing our books, but I am not closing our doors. Padayon, kaibigan.

Ella

8/10/2019

Naruto Dimple

Again, this is my personnal narrative. Names are deliberately changed so that those who knew the characters will not be stalked. Him and his self-absorbed social media footprint. 

It was Day3 of the Vietnam itinerary. Desert sunrise trip cancelled because of the rain from the prior day, so we opted to visit Cu Chi tunnels. All tours are unavailable, so we embarked ourselves on a DIY trip. We used to do conversations in transit so on the bus ride, we continued in our nostalgic narratives. 

Of course, with our senses at jumpstart, we re-discussed the day's logistics, expected expenses, and re-calculation of the ETDs and ETAs. Where to eat will come at a certain point, we were not hungry yet. Then comes those wishful thinking about goals for the family. I mentioned, "As long as buhay si Mama, I soldier on". He planned to create a grander ancestral home, a big place for a reunion whenever he comes home.

Today, I wonder if he is into that goal still or he just say it to symphatize with me and my large family...?

It suddenly got shifted to the books we read (and I knew at once that he is not a reader, he was just saying the books he curiously browsed in his younger years), Game of Thrones memes (because I have little interest in doing a marathon of the whole series), and next travel plans (Dubai on November 2020, Tokyo on Olympics was also proposed).

"Si Grace andun sa Japan."
"Grace? Ex mo?"
"Oo, yung pinakahuli."

Then he goes along with their backstory, on how a third party came into equation, who's losing who, and how the new boyfriend overlapped their "sila pa" episodes. He also explained the little things that caused the breakup: lapses in video calls, zero "I love you" declarations, and the fail of the routinary Hello and Goodnight's. He then stated about being too noisy in facebook, about relationshits being very glaring in social media.

"Kaya ba ganyan ka-self-absorbed ang Facebook and Instagram mo?"
"Oo. ang hirap bumalik sa nakaraan at isa-isa mo syang binubura. Kamukha nun si Mikee Cojuangco, alam mo ba yun? Dalawa dimples sa labi."

The actress got me triggered. I was that Mikee Cojuangco!!! I remembered my parents saying those because of the similarity with my smile.

"Tumingin ka saken nang maayos! Dalawa rin ang dimple ko, may naruto dimple pa nga ako oh! Biloy lang yan! Alam mo, ang kailangan mo ay hindi [Move on], kundi [Move forward]! Ang kailangan mo ay ang taong makakatanggap ng past mo na yan."

I was a that point that I wanted to hit him with this punchline "Kasi ako, tanggap kita!" 
But I can't.

I just looked out at the window, a boiling passion dissipated. Clouds from this little black kettle meddled with thin air. I just stared at this motorcycle city called Ho Chi Minh, hoping he felt what I wanted to say. 

All I sensed was silence.
Perhaps, that's how it should all end: with silence.

5/06/2019

#TheEngineer: Yatto, Ai Mashita!

Describe your first date:
We ate breakfast at 1:30 AM with my mom as the third wheel.


These are all personal recollections so please bear with me as I write down the things that has happened in this UK Spring Bank Holiday.

When he suggested that we can meet before he goes to his license renewal, I took the chance. We were both in Batangas and I don't have extra leaves. I was excited with the pasalubongs and to see him.

Monday morning, he called me saying he's on his way... Mama stopped in her steps and realized, 
"Anak, naiihi ako, ninenerbyos ako." 

He called again saying he's a few blocks away, and when I saw his car, I was calm. It was like meeting an old friend you have never met after a long while.

I was sleepy and hungry. Hunger won at the moment he offered a place to eat. Too shy to ask and tell the stories of the weekend, Mama became the conversation starter. She and the Engineer walked down the memory lane of the City, of how the roads were used to be, how was his flight home, his college years, and some tidbits of the family life. Also, they have the region as the common ground: the Ala-eh-kabayan-bias

I was the dayo, so I listened to their convos, nuances of the pronunciation included.

Tapsilog, Longsilog and Miki-bihon are our breakfast. The bihon is Mama's order, to which she said to us, "I think finally, we learn to share a meal." Be it an elder blessing or not, I expressed my grace outloud thanking the food, the souvenirs and the gift of company. I was grateful that he was with us, ready to help. 

We talked of his plans for the day, as Mama talked of hers. Then he opened up about the plans of our trip and made disclosures to Mama of what has happened that made the change. #SaysaysaSaigon

The Bihon was shared and half of it was spared, placed as a takeaway and we soldiered on. He offered the ride to Balagtas Terminal and check if there are buses available. When cousin Cora says that there are no buses and the crowd keeps on increasing, I became frantic and said that the crowd would take at least 4 buses to subside. He then offered another ride to Lipa Grand Terminal, before he goes on his way to LTO. After all, we still have time he said. 

Most of the moments on the road are filled with my sleepiness, FM music, and Mama telling family anecdotes, including my backpacking escapades. 

Other kotse kronicles include:
1. Gardening, to which he randomly asked: How would one know a fertile soil?
2. Mindoro itinerary, him gasping: 11, andami!
AND
3. Addtl Bus logistics 
Engineer: You can take a Jeep from Lipa to Calamba if all else fails
Ella: Goodie, UPLB as the last stop. Mama we can actually call for help from (ex-turned-friend)
Mama: Naku anak, hindi pinangangalandakan ang dating suki sa bagong suki *Talking about an ex to a potential is Taboo* 

He whispered, "I kept wondering at the analogy of the context." and I whispered back "You're the BatangueƱo and I am the reader, we both exactly know what she's saying." and I said "Yes, mama. I'm sorry."

When we saw the Lipa Terminal and I was a bit sad that we are ending our short meeting, I said my thanks and my goodbyes. It was unceremonial, I think? No hugs, no PDAs. I was that old friend that said "Be careful and see you!" as I made my exit from the shotgun role.

How the morning sun warms up your skin, feeling the gentle breeze as you are about to start the morning jog -- that's how I felt about meeting him after a year of long chats with passive replies, of days filled with one answered call in the course of a year. 

I prayed to God of grace and of feeling auspicious on the day we met again. 

4/16/2019

The Paravan that We Loved

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”


If there is one thing that got me engaged in the verbosity of Roy, it is how she elicit the context thru the little things; and the accumulation of such creates a big narrative as grandiose as the South India, and as huge as the backstories of the countries Caste system. Such histories gives me an avenue of introspection of how the people behaved in such a way throughout the story.

The God of Small Things is about the story of fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, on how they were able to see each other 23 years later after that sudden change in their lives. Part family saga and part social commentary, the book does not only dwell with these two; but also to the lives of their mom, their Chacko, their Baby and Mamachi and Papachi, Sophie... and the Paravan whom they deeply loved.

What I loved in their story is how the context was built up. One clear example of this is the scene (view spoiler). In that page alone, you have seen the collective sentiments of Kerala at the time, their religion and beliefs, their passion, and their desire to establish change. This vivid imagery is comparable to the Zengakuren books -- books that tackle 1969 Ideologies -- like Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and like Haruki Murakami's Norwegian wood.

What the book made challenging though is the build-up on the first few pages. Perhaps this was because of the intention to give us a context of the environment we are about to immerse to. Through its slow pace, we engage our senses; so authentic, that we can almost smell the scent of Ayamemnen, hear the Malayalam language, and see the depth of the river near the Paradise Pickles.

In here you don't discover untold stories; rather, you have encountered them before. Just the same, such a story was told magically that you want to hear it again.


View all my reviews

12/23/2018

Silver Lining

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I cannot deny it. After all those long episodes of me hating Patrick... I shed a tear as I closed this playbook of his.

Why Silver Linings? And why Playbook?

The metaphor of this book is the resolve of the protagonist Pat Peoples in addressing the unresolved issue that currently lingered in his life. Told in a scratch-slash-composition-slash-playwright-slash-reflections-in-a-first-person-perspective, Pat writes his "situations" from the last day in the bad place, and his daily situations as he deal with moving back with his mum and dad, looking for more ways to be fit, being in-sync with understanding the essence of reading classic and contemporary fiction, and his ultimate goal of being with his wife again. After all, every person has this one shot at the silver lining.

I, for one who is brutally frank and blunt to tell this: (you may rant but this is still my review) I don't fully comprehend the rationale of Pat's way of thinking, somehow made me appreciate where Pat's way of thinking coming from. He has suffered enough out of loving too much, and his search for his way home is very passionate. I admire him for that because I believe men (like him) who are very passionate in doing things and putting all efforts to make something happen is getting fewer and fewer as the day goes by.

It may not have the same picture of way home he was expecting, but he has found a solace as the book ends. It gives a not-very-mushy feel like any romantic-comedy-flicks, but after all his effort to losing lots of pounds, getting back in touch with his interest in football, his perseverance to understand the author's perspective in The Bell Jar, and practicing difficult dance steps... we see that he has achieved the feeling that he is needed, just like how much he needed someone to be with.

I watched the movie first because of the actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (with the black garbage bag he kept on wearing which I don't really get at first), but I was glad that the movie director gave a different interpretation from the book. I am glad that both the book and the movie are wonderful, however different their takes in Pat's case are.


View all my reviews

8/16/2018

Three Men, One Woman: One Nation, Three Stories

It has been a while since I read Ermita by F. Sionil Jose. When a bookish friend demanded a review for this goodread, I was pressured at two situations: (1) How can I convince my co-members from the TFG to vote this as the book-of-the-month for Buwan ng Wika thematic read; and (2) How can I convince my other co-members from the PRPB to read the same.

Yes, I am a member of two book clubs. If this is compared to Ermi Rojo, she is a product of two nationalities.

A daughter of a Japanese soldier who raped a Filipina socialite, she used her situation of being an outcast  – from a student of an elite school to being a prostitute in Camarin; for using this as her weapon to have revenge on men, and for being used as a byproduct of a rotten society.

For a rotten society is composed of bleak political situation, fake economic progress, and false promises sworn to men.

One of the book buddies say in our sessions that if other works of F. Sionil Jose (i.e. Poon) is the novel for the patriotic spirit, Ermita: A Filipino Novel is the book for the heart. And it is. It doesn’t only limit to the life of Ermi as a Filipino and as a prostitute, but also how she deals with life as a woman – and so her interactions with men, particularly the loves of her life.

I cannot discuss the patriotic side of the novel for the story spanned from the Japanese occupation to the Marcos’ times. What I can share are her episodes with three men – with Mac, with Rolando Cruz, and with John Collier.

For me, Interactions with Mac is the most vulnerable since this is the first man she interacted with. Mac is the son of those housekeepers in the Rojo household, ergo, became her childhood friend. Grew in hardship, he envied Ermi for having the opportunity to study in an elite school, while he has to toil just to be able to study and graduate and help his own family. Mac fell in love with Ermi during teenage years. But he feels entrapped by fate – knowing that Ermi is a prostitute, and motivated by hate and revenge. Adding personal ego into the equation, Mac drifted away, and said his goodbyes, taking the hard road of earning success in the other side of the world.

(Side note: an incomplete review, since I have to read the novel again to fully note the other two male characters.)

8/11/2018

Sakaling Hindi Makarating: Entry 2

Some side-notes: I wish to have lots of entries being sent to different friends, rather than concentrating on one. That way, you get a variety of letters in a specific moment in time. If you want one, I can send you. Kindly message me your address, together with your ZIP code. 

---

Dear Joseph, 

Kapag naiisip ko na palagi kang busy, naiisip ko ang tambak mong labahin; ang mga uniform na hindi pa napa-plantsa, at ang pagkain mong hindi sapat kasi hindi mo hilig ang gulay (or ako lang ang may akala nito?)

Sana palagi kang maayos, pakatandaan na ang pera naibabalik, pero ang oras, hindi. Kapag may sakit ang isang tao, parang hinihigop nito ang oras mo na dapat ginagamit sa ibang bagay - tulad ng paglalaba. 

Worried ako. O siguro, medyo guilty. 

Kasi naiisip ko kanina sa bus kung deserving ba sa tulad ko ang isang linggong bakasyon, or baka... 

Tumatakas ako sa bagwis ng buhay...?

At kung busy ka palagi at nauubusan ng pagkakataon para sa isang mahabang kwentuhan, paano na ang kakarampot na oras para pagsaluhan?

How do you build connections from fragmented conversations, Joseph? Do we write long letters like this one? Sa akin, okay lang. Mahilig talaga ako magsulat! Ikaw kaya, hilig mo ba ang pagsusulat? Or baka, tulad ng Messenger memas mo -- pure one-line endnotes lang? 

It's actually a wonder how do you make time to connect. Siguro kailangan nasa sa iyo na mismo ang hugot ng pasensya at disiplina. Sana maisama mo ako sa listahan. Na bigyan ng mahabang pasensya sa mga pinagsasabi ko rito.

Mag-iingat ka palagi, pogi. Aasahan ko na sumama ka sa amin sa Vietnam nina Ric & Michael. Ay siya, balik labahan na! Hehe.

See you, 
Ella

(wrote in a bunk bed, Mori Hostel, Singapore)

Sakaling Hindi Makarating: Entry 1


I started the entry only after sending this post from Singapore! It's actually a gift from a barista friend who just came from Kuala Lumpur for holiday, but the photo's too pretty not to share halfway across the globe.

Speaking of, I forgot the message I put there, but I remember that there is a hashtag in the postcard:

#Diga

OH MY GOSH. Hahahahaha


Sakaling Hindi Makarating?

I was actually in touch with a long distance friend but I was afraid that all my posts will not be able to reach him, or if it does, perhaps a significant event on the post already died, or the time it arrived came too late.

Which is why I come to this entry.

I want to save all my mementos before I send them over to that person. I want to keep track, like all those memories that I want to remember.

You can never tell, but maybe he can make ways to return the favor. He might write me, too. Or at least, send me a postcard.

I remember Em and Dex in David Nicholl's One Day, where they exchange notes. I guess this is where my interest in post-crossing started.

If you want to read along the entries, have a look. Maybe I can add a label to the blogsite. Happy reading! #IfItNeverArrived


7/22/2018

Today's Hanash With The Tita


(this is the First Draft of the Book Discussion log for the Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books #BookTalakayan that happened last July 21. Final print shall be published in the PRPB website)

---

The Quiet Made Some Noise – A Book Talakayan of Glenn Diaz’s The Quiet Ones

It was out of the PRPB monthly routine, the event was the third Saturday rather than the first. And, it was the author’s last hurrah, before flying out to the land down under. Last July 21, in the middle of the rain, flood and traffic, we conducted the Book Talakayan with Glenn Diaz. We found our safe haven in SGD Coffee in UP Teacher’s Village, Quezon City.
Usual events first took place – introducing oneself, what do you do in life, and what is your favorite part of the book. In a circle of more than 15 participants, the common favorite was this:

“We are the City! What is a city without inhabitants? Nothing but plants and hills and rivers. Or flood plains and esteros... The city is not a place. It is a social arrangement. Defined by concession. By consensus. It is us. A city ends when there are no longer people to define it.”

This striking quote is a birthplace of multiple short stories created as sub-plots, and remapping the interweaving narratives of Glenn’s first novel The Quiet Ones. As I asked where this work started, he zeroed in to Kilometer Zero, his short story of a Filipino and an American Anthropologist who wanted to write about Manila, coming from a foreigner’s point of view.

Glenn claims he’s Manilenyo, born and  grew up in Sta. Mesa, with Ilocano parents. For us who have read the book through and through, this explains the alluring noise of Manila, and its stark contrast with the disturbing peace of Pagudpud. He does his research not as intently as I thought it would be, for he is not like the writers I imagined (those who do the mind-map and tried to bleed out the ideas from shelled-out themes).

For me, he broke the current tropes of poverty porn by creating a white noise in the daily lives of the Pinoys. By the novel more humane, he actually made bus routes, LRT tracks, and the concrete pavements of the Ayala Business District immersive and alluring – creating romance in the mundane. It was an effort, he says. “Let’s demystify writing, it takes hours of labor to put it into a piece of work.” Elaborating the unlearning, he says he desynthesized the angsty tones in his young working student years (he used to be a work in People Support from 2005-2007), making the familiar places more sentimental. He sees his former workplace with a nostalgic tone – the Lung Center, Paydays and American Holidays and  Pecha de peligo – that he even thought that this phase will delay his graduation to finally get a move on with life.

The discussion were a bit disjointed; like the novel itself, series of questions were not made in linear form, but instead, it is a traverse between multiple moments, interjecting personal questions in between. Let’s say, more of probing the author himself. Instead of continuously reflecting into the quiet, it oftentimes got escalated with the [Questions of the Tita], triggering bluntness and candor in snippets of serious questions.

And the noises came in.

In a series of candid questions – reflecting on the romantic moments between Carolina and Reynaldo, Philip and Eric, Alvin and Scott – these subplots with partnered characters is a work of fiction. I see it as a staple statement to veer away more personal questions, but to be able to write a female perspective is his way of channeling Lorrie Moore. And actually, seeing himself as Carolina. He did say about an old couple he saw in Pagudpud. Perhaps, it also gave an inspiration to create a female character and a summer romance with build-up tensions at the end of the chapter.

In discussing the Palanca stint, he actually did not expect it to win. He just wrote the novel to get the project done, made an impulse decision (more of #YOLO) to submit it for Palanca Awards, and actually won without any backups, or so-called politicality of it all. He has this look that he doesn’t want his work to be tagged in the words of “Palanca Winner”; more of he was happy if he hears about a reader raving reviews without the knowledge about the award-giving body.

Calisthenic writing, is there such a thing in The Quiet Ones?

He says the first chapter itself is a writing exercise. He wanted to challenge himself if he can write an action-filled part, focusing more on the plot rather than the character’s stream of consciousness. But alas, it cannot maintain it’s consistency. I guess, it is more of his buying in to the readers to get engaged before immersing. In addition, having WE as the first-person-plural point of view is an observation from the creative writers and readers alike – and he says it is not him being part of an equation (i.e. Alvin + Glenn Diaz), but rather, it is a collective term for The Workforce.

Marie meanwhile, as an omnipresent character throughout the novel was not a writing exercise, not even an intention to create tangent points with the characters across the novel. She is the missing link, but Glenn emphasized that it was our insight in seeing that way. She used to have her own chapter, but in the end removed. For me, she represented the essence of a person sans the spotlight; like an old friend who was always there, waiting.


After closing the book discussion, I personally have a renewed love-hate relationship with Manila. Perhaps if I look at Kilometer Zero again, I might see a ghost of a Scott saying “Mahal na mahal mo itong lungsod, ano...?”