Tagaytay: Seventeen on the 17th

To celebrate my sister’s birthday, my family went to Tagaytay for Mass. It was the perfect excuse for a road trip and a perfect excuse to indulge with the view of Taal Lake.

Initially we were going to go to Our Lady of Lourdes’ Church where my dad stayed for a while during his seminarian days, but the traffic congestion didn’t allow us. Instead we visited the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church that we went to, a few years back.

church.jpg

Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church in Tagaytay

After hearing Mass, we went to Nuvali to window shop. Luckily for us, we encountered a setup for the Sikhayan festival and we got to see some native products and artworks. I didn’t get to take many pictures of the event center except for these:

Then after that, we had our photo shoot at Starbucks before heading to check out more stores.

DSCF4582.JPG

Next on the cover of Times magazine

There was one vintage store that pulled me in. Everything was either an owl, porcelain or something I couldn’t explain. It was like Narnia magic or something like that. And thanks to that beautiful experience, I got lost. Or to put it more precisely, my family lost me.

Instead of panicking, I let myself get lost. I wandered around.

But, before I knew it, I already went around the whole place twice. I even got back to the car twice and they still weren’t there. These pictures are proof of my boredom:

They found me after my third return to the car and apparently, they did some real shopping. But they didn’t shop for me because I wasn’t there. 😦 So I ventured for milk tea with the birthday girl and that was the most perfect thing.

DSCF4590.JPG

Birthday girl and milk tea!

Why did I give you up?

palanca12

When I was in my first year in college, my publications adviser encouraged me to participate in a prestigious writing contest for our country – the Carlos Palanca Awards. At that time, I didn’t understand the gravity of his suggestion so I took it lightly. I did join that year for the short story category but I only ever got to finishing my work a few days before the deadline because I kept putting it off. He never even got to read my work to suggest ideas. I lost, of course.

I tried again during my second year. Again, at my adviser’s recommendation. I can’t even remember what happened that time, probably because I don’t want to remember how I failed him again.

After that, all I remember was finding it hard to trust my writing. And, when I found out how big of a deal the Palanca really was, I detested my carelessness even more. I felt like I disappointed him. He probably saw something in me and trusted me to make the most out of an opportunity and I failed him. That notion stuck. I was a failure. I never expected anything for myself and it hurt because he did and I didn’t deliver. I’ve been beating myself up for that for years.

Whenever I think of the Palanca awards, I associate it with that feeling and because of that, I rarely ever thought about that contest. It became glued to my head, that I would never be a writer good enough for that kind of standard, and soon, the idea became good enough for me to just move on.

It was only recently that I started believing in my writing again (as in really believing in it and not nodding mindlessly at compliments I received because of it). I’ve been guided well by the people around me, I’ve learned a lot from working at my school publication and I’ve found my distinct voice. I know that a lot has happened.

Because of my new-found confidence, I had a different experience when I encountered the Carlos Palanca website whilst surfing the internet. Instead of shying away from it like I used to do, I was stuck looking at the contest regulations.

I thought to myself: Why did I ever give you up? I didn’t have to.

I didn’t have to stop trying. I didn’t have to be so afraid of failing. I didn’t have to let go of that dream because of my fears. He didn’t ask me to. No one did.

Winning a Palanca has been my secret dream, not because I wanted the title but because I wanted to show my adviser that he was right to choose me, that there was in fact something in me that he saw. (He’s passed on now and that’s sad but he isn’t the kind of person that would like to see me succumb to my insecurities even if he’s gone.)

I’ve been so caught up with dread, with my own thoughts against myself that I’ve actually inhibited my growth as a writer. But, I’ve been through a long journey, right? Maybe I can trust myself this time, right?

I don’t want to feel like I’ve killed a part of me because of my uncertainties ever again. I hope I won’t have to kill any more of my lights. I might fail and I might disappoint a ton more of people but I want to fight for my dreams.

No one asked me to give my dreams up.

 

 

System of traffic

When I started “living” in Manila for my internship, one of the biggest changes I had to go through was getting used to such a great traffic congestion. Though I’ve experienced it to some degree in my province, being in the big city with all the people sort of suffocated me and consistently required me to be alive, alert, awake and enthusiastic (which was tough since I tended to space out).

Manila traffic sure is different from the one at home. Here are a few comparisons I’ve come up with:

  1. In my province, the 10 km distance can be traveled in 30 minutes or less riding public transportation. In Manila, it would take me two to three hours depending on the time I’m travelling. If it’s during the rush hour, I’d take longer.
  2. In my province, I rarely have to ride the bus (and that is the reason why I felt like a grown-up when I ride buses before). In Manila, buses are my ticket to everywhere.
  3. In my province, the bus conductor passes you twice – once to hand you a ticket, twice to collect your payment. In Manila, they pass by once to do both tasks. Since buses here are usually overloaded anyway, going back and forth would be extremely difficult.
  4. In my province, I fall asleep during commutes. In Manila, I don’t have the same luxury.
  5. In my province, I can walk wherever. In Manila, I can’t just do that.

Dealing with Manila traffic was challenging when I first started out, partly because of those reasons, but more so because I wasn’t used to the volume of people with me. Everyday, everyone is fighting for their spot in the bus and everyday, we would just let people in because we understand the struggles of getting to work. And no matter how sweaty and squished we become, we have no choice but to grin and bear it. On top of it all, I have to guard myself from being taken advantage of and from getting lost.

But, after a while, I got over my fears and that allowed me to have my one bus moment. (How? I’m trying to figure that out yet.)

I was heading to work earlier this morning, riding an EDSA bus. I was looking out the window, staring at the CRATE & BARREL sign to my top left. And then I looked at all the people. At this point, all the hunger games for travelling was starting to get monotonous.

I wondered… What started this ruckus in the first place? Why don’t the buses ever seem enough?

And the answer was quite an obvious one, I realized. There were just too many people and Manila was like a kettle, ready to blow. The problem doesn’t rely solely on the lack of transportation facilities or roads or skyways. Manila is just overpopulated, mostly by dreamers like me who hope to find a bright future out here.

Nothing will ever be enough because everyone in Manila requires more space than it can provide.

The system of traffic? We are the system of traffic.

To all the people I’ve failed to reply to,

I’m sorry.

I was riding a jeep when I thought about how I suck at reaching out to connect to my friends or to people in general, even if it simply means just replying to their messages or actually texting first. I often forget (or neglect) replying and I rarely text first except if I have a purpose (because, now, I’m not the kind of person that texts to look busy or texts just because really).

It wasn’t always like that.

In high school, I was a text savvy because, back then, that was how I communicated with people. And believe me, I have gone through the different phases from sending hourly group messages with “_*uSeRnAmEs*_” at the bottom to “h3ll0 p0hz” to proper English to whatever style I use to text now. Also, I used to send long dramatic texts to my best friends especially when saying sorry or talking to a guy and we often rambled on till it was too late for us to be awake (which was around 9-10 PM back then). I  always had a textmate just for chatting about life in general.

When college rolled around, I still texted a lot, but for different reasons. I mean, sure I text my friends stuff that we left out when we’re not hanging out but, now that I think of it, most of my conversations with the people I text are either about school, organizations, family matters and corporate service kind of stuff. My phone is always busy because someone always needed me to do something. I was fine with that though.

But now that I’m interning and I have no people to send out group messages about midterm projects that we have to do, my phone has been quieter than usual. And that’s not the problem. (Trust me, it’s refreshing to me that my phone isn’t always buzzing). The problem is I’m loving the quiet, and I feel like that’s being irresponsible.

I actually love not having to have to talk to people. I love missing people in silence. I can do with living far from the people I care about without checking on them and telling them what happened to me because I believe we’ll get to tell our stories one day and there isn’t much reason to rush. I can not only survive, but also have fun, alone in a room for a whole day not talking to anyone, even without WiFi. And even if it drives me crazy, there are days that my thoughts are the only company I need.

I am not anti-social and I do really love the people that I love but I don’t always feel the need to be connected in that sense.

This mindset of mine hasn’t always done good. I think I’ve given the wrong impression to other people.

Scenario 1: Late night conversations

To my future boy friend, I must really love you if I stay up late night to message you or greet you every morning. I already figured out that I’m not the kind of person who’s constantly up for that.

So one time, there’s this guy that I was having late night conversations with. We were sort of friends and even if I liked him a tad bit, we were just talking about cool stuff anyway. During that time, I was often staying up because of projects and talking to him helped me not fall asleep. That happened every night and I was giddy for the first nights because we never seemed to run out of things to talk about and I was laughing most of the time (via “hahaha”).

But soon, this routine started to wear me off. I wasn’t used to have someone waiting for me to talk to them. I didn’t think it was going to be an everyday thing. And when my plates started piling up, I always had to excuse myself from our conversations and it was making me feel pretty lame and guilty.

I stopped communicating after a while. I think he thinks I’m a bit mean. I think I’m a bit mean.

Realization: It was too much of a commitment.

Scenario 2: 43 unread phone messages

This is legit as of blog time.

I haven’t been opening texts lately. Most of them are just replies to my previous texts anyway like “ok”, “thanks”, “sure”, “welcome”, etc. and it’s an inconvenience to me to go and open them. But, because of all the clutter, I’ve also not been able to see other important texts and sometimes, I’m even purposely not opening messages of people that 1) I have no idea how to reply to and b) I just don’t feel like talking to at the moment because I got used to not opening texts. Usually, people just text me when they need me anyway.

Dwelling on this, it shocked me how I could just brush people off like that. I’ve texted and waited for replies before so I know how it feels, but most of the time, I’m not even bothered that I do that to other people.

Realization: I’m unfair but communicating exhausts me.

Scenario 3: Friendship

Since OJT started, I haven’t been seeing a lot of my friends but that didn’t mean I had the urge to contact them either. They’ve been messaging and often, it’d take me hours to reply or sometimes, I’d not reply at all. I know, it’s really mean especially since they’re just checking on me and they just want to talk to me and that’s nice. I have stuff to tell them too but maybe I’m just enjoying the silence too much. Or maybe this internship is teaching me how to be the ultimate introvert.

It wasn’t a big deal until one night, I fell asleep on a conversation with a friend. For our following messages, I kept replying late (because I was getting a bit busy and because I just didn’t really reply fast). A few days later, I realized that she was holding a bit of a grudge for it. That struck me as a big WHY? Like seriously, WHY? Why did it affect her that much?

And then I asked myself: Did that make me a bad friend?

I mean, I don’t text my high school friends but I was always confident that we are solid. I know that we have each other’s backs. And we don’t have to constantly talk to know that. (Or is that just me speaking?)

But I know it was a different case for my aforementioned friend and I didn’t want to make her feel that way. I may not be replying fast enough but I didn’t intend to hurt her. I would never.

And with my other friends, I don’t ask how they are as much as I think I should because, though I am known as the clingy one in our group, I’m not one for small talk and I would very much like to text them about big exciting monumental things about our lives rather than the standard “How’s it going in your office?”

And again, does that make me a bad friend for not wanting to always check or initiate a conversation?

Realization: Different people have different communication needs.

The point is, I understand my limits and I know what I want and who I am. I may not text first, reply as fast as a minute, be easy to reach but I am an honest to goodness person that can genuinely care about another person. And I have my own way of connecting (I prefer face-to-face).

But other people need affirmation via messaging and that’s okay. That’s their communication preference.

And in order for any form of communication to work, both parties must know each other enough to compromise.

I guess this is just a knock knock to me asking me to evaluate how I show that I value people. Maybe, though this is just a manifestation of who I am, I also have to think out of the box and think of the people that matter to me. I don’t mind having my own world but I do mind what my loved ones feel about be being so closed off.

So again, I’m sorry. If it matters so much to you that I’d message you and reply to you quickly, I’d make an effort but please understand me too. There are complex reasons why I do (or don’t do) what I do (or don’t).

Friends and Safety

I was having dinner while watching cable with my cousin when my cellphone rang. The Caller ID was that of my friend from the publication I belonged in so I answered thinking that it was something work-related.

Instead of what I was expecting, I heard the voice of one of my best friends, panicking and scared. She had just been threatened and stolen from on her way back from work.

It was so surreal. I got really worried, and after I made sure she wasn’t physically harmed, I just flared up. How dare they try to hurt someone so important to me? What gave them the right to scare her in the dark and take advantage of her vulnerability?

If I knew how to, I’d run to her just so I can hug her and make her feel safe. She has to know there’s someone there of her.

When we all decided to move to Manila for our internships, we knew we were going to have to risk our safety but when it’s real, when a knife has been pointed at you, the game changes. And I feared for her and I felt the instinct to just want to keep her inside my pocket and protect her.

Then, I thought of all my other friends. We’re all wandering in this world unprotected.

I know it’s absurd to wish that I could all save them so instead, I wished that they think of me when they need someone to comfort them, to listen to them, to check if they went home safe at night. Because even if I’m not the reach-y out type, I’d willingly check on them if it means I know they’re alright.

Riding the Internet of my TMI-self

As a part of making this blog my legit blog, I decided to unify my accounts and to de-clutter my SNS life. Here are a few things I discovered in doing so:

  1. I am loud on the internet.
  2. I am too honest with my thoughts.
  3. It’s harder to deactivate an account than to make one.
  4. It’s not too safe being all over.
  5. It’s important to organize your content and to know your goals in making an account.
  6. Never take the internet you for granted.

Apparently, I have over 15 accounts. I deleted some but there are two with no deactivate options. 😦 Anyway, at least that opened my eyes to just be more careful.

Despite that, I’ll still share my soul here, of course.

Good Samaritans in a Hopeless Place

Though I have adjusted a bit to the trials of living in Manila, I’m still not used to having people be nice to me.

So one of my pit-stops is at the Baclaran church and there’s this one traffic aid that was able to recognize me. Some days he would approach me and ask where I wanted to go and then stop a bus for me to ride on. (Those days, I was still very desperate so I just accepted the help and didn’t dwell much on the matter.)

But then Christmas break came and I was gone for a long while, so I didn’t expect him to do the same if he sees me when I got back. He did though, yesterday and today. He even told me to always just ask him when I need help.

Yesterday, I was more doubtful than thankful. Was it false generosity? What did he want in return? Was it some sort of scam? But today, I saw that he was assisting tons of other passengers too. He was stopping buses for them too. That made me think that maybe he’s just a good man, doing a good job.

Manila taught me to trust no one but myself, but after getting over the constant feeling of being unsafe everywhere, I think I can finally see the good in this place. Maybe, we’re all just people trying to figure out how to be alive. And maybe, those people who have survived here know how it feels to be so troubled that they willingly lend a helping hand.

A present for myself

I’ll try to be less intimidated.

Last year, ***** *** (publication) considered me for internship, but, I was too overwhelmed to pass a second set of samples for the second screening. It’s my biggest “career” what-if so far.

This applies to people too. I often regret when I respect someone too much. It never gives us a chance to bond because I’m too in awe of that person to even consider being worthy of a conversation. (So hooray for the people I’ve come to not respect! *wink*)

Maybe I live in moments, in between the milliseconds when I blink my eyes right before crossing the street. Maybe I feel too much, think too much. Maybe I’ve made my world too literary.

I love it. I love the experience. But sometimes, I need to be present too.

Unnamed Chinese movie: wake up call indeed

Head heavy and worried about running late, I rushed to the seat behind the driver’s when I boarded the available Cubao via EDSA bus this morning. It was a strategic place to sit because my bag was big (and an inconvenience for travelling in crowded places), and I didn’t need to punish myself by having to carry it from the other end of the bus to the door.

Even when I was finally settled in my seat, I was barely ready for anything. I was still part-zombie because it was early. I was also part-anxious because I knew heavy traffic would welcome my new year and I might not earn extra hours I needed so that I could go home early. And, I was a total wreck because I fell sick the night before and I’ve had little rest to recover.

But, apparently, I don’t even have the luxury to decide if I want to be ready for Manila or if I could still go to sleep.

When I looked up at the glaring screen before me, I saw Chinese movie characters shooting each other, blood flying everywhere, during a police raid. (At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was a raid because only the sound and red registered. I only confirmed my guess during the main antagonist’s flashback sequence.)

I’m not a particularly squeamish person but people firing guns at each other was more than I bargained for. The booming alone was enough to kick start my day. But, I was getting a free movie (though I didn’t like the action genre very much) and like a good resilient person, I just kept watching.

So the film’s about this Chinese police man who disobeyed orders during the raid who ultimately saved the life of a hostage by doing so. Because of that, the police council had to decide if they should fire him or promote him.

Enter commanding captain that initially seemed like an irrelevant part of the council. She interrogates him a bit in his temporary holding cell and you know it’s gotten hot because the protagonist just finished exercising and is still sweating so much. In the end, she invited him to join some secret Wolf**** army for China which, according to the movie, is the army that can do whatever is needed and is the one that receives the best of the best weapons available.

Protagonist (let’s call him Leng) agrees.

Leng meets the Wolf people and they undergo an exercise. This exercise is like paint ball wars except the terrain is pretty war-like legit and there are tanks and fake-ish explosions and a commanding general for the blue and red teams.

While that’s going on, Mr. Head of the place they raided is shown to have escaped and arrest by the police with the help of the American mercenaries he hired.

Segway re: movie plot – I am so sorry to whoever created this film but I don’t know the title so I can’t just link a synopsis here. And I have to reveal plot points because it’s vital to my later reflection. So sorry.

So Mr. HPTR then has the flashback of his little (not-so little anymore) brother calling him about their drug factory of some sort saying that he finally has use for him now and in that video call, Mr. HPTR sees the raid happen. Apparently, brother is the hostage taker that Leng shot. (Leng is a sniper, BTW).

It becomes a revenge story. Mr. HPTR tasked the mercenaries to go after Leng, even if it means crashing in on the most high tech Chinese army exercise.

Okay, so this is where the feels come in.

I wasn’t particularly engrossed in the movie at first because 1) I’m not a big fan of action films and 2) I haven’t watched a lot of Chinese movies to know if I really like their film style or not. But, there’s this one minor character that I found absolutely adorable.

Call me out of my mind but one of the Wolf army guy to me seemed like the perfect teddy bear. He wasn’t a softie and he wasn’t, any way, looking huggable (except for his cheeks). He was a pretty tough dude. He’s Leng’s commanding officer in fact. But I don’t know! He looked like one professor I met and that doesn’t make sense. I guess, through the actor’s portrayal, I saw that this guy has a good heart.

Then, boom!

Dear Movie, I was just starting to like you and you kill off the one guy character I found adorbs right after you show us the picture of his kid hidden in his helmet. I mean, come on! No one was supposed to die during an exercise! It was a drill! How could you?

So yes, the adorbs dude died because the mercenaries came for Leng and during an attempt to kill Leng, he died instead.

I wasn’t done grieving yet when the bad guys decided to go on an all out attack just to kill Leng. There are just six of them but they are confident enough that the top secret highly-weaponized army of China is no match for them. (Yes, the film portrays racism).

Side note re: racism – This movie is subtly kicking racism. The guys with the upper hand on attacking and stuff are the mercenaries a.k.a. the Americans. And, all throughout the film, some character is degrading the capabilities of the Chinese and their weapons.

Anyway, I didn’t want to have to continue watching. But I was right up front and it was right there. I just didn’t want to like more characters and watch them die. (I know I’m sounding whiny but fangirls out there know my struggles.)

I kept watching. I was slowly getting over the death because so many people kept dying. Leng triumphed in the end though and by the time that was happening, my mind was caught up on something else.

See, there’s this scene that Leng battles the head American guy and he wins. Just when he feels victorious and sees other Chinese army nurses sending rescue stuff, one of the medical man pretends to nurse him but then actually tries to kill him. And cue all the racist callouts in the movie. Wow, Leng just fought for his country and so many others died for that cause, but it’s their own countrymen betraying them.

Things got deep pretty fast.

In the end, it’s not just a matter of racism or patriotism. It’s about the great evil that money ushers in – greed and power. And I’m in no position to preach here and I have no intention of doing so, but that morning, I just felt so many things and in my head I was going all “This is also happening here.”

Movie-wise, the plot was very generic and usual but it punches at clichés in a way that get’s the audience without being irritating. The racism and feminist attempts here weren’t too loud either (which allowed it to be a symbolic subtext kind of thing). I’m guessing the director wanted to get an audience (thus the clichés) but also wanted to pitch a cause to the general masses.

Did it work?

Well, I was awake the whole two-hour trip and I still kept thinking of Leng and adorbs dude and other possible subtexts hidden in the movie halfway through the second movie that aired.

Off on a different foot

Unlike the previous years, I didn’t have a routine or “ritual” for the last day of 2015 to prepare for the new year. I went through the motions of what I had to do for the day, particularly helping my cousin during his very special photo shoot. I had no ceremonial room cleaning to throw the clutter away, no last story writing of the year, no planning of what I wanted to accomplish this 2016.

When midnight came, I wasn’t even awake. I was half asleep, dreaming of changing table settings while listening to the sound of fireworks by the bedroom window. I didn’t want to get up because my body craved for more than an hour and a half nap and I was already so comfortable. But, I got out of bed eventually, after almost ten minutes, just to be a part of the moment too. I walked around the house, kissed my parents, drank a glass of water, greeted everyone else and then, retreated back to bed.

I guess, though I claim to have no resolution for 2016, what I’m hoping to start the year with is peace of mind or something like that. I don’t want to be overwhelmed with having to cram in order to fix my last year’s clutter. I don’t want to be forced to have to change and evaluate my life just because it’s a new year. I want to start my 2016, knowing that being a better person is an everyday choice, a work in progress for every waking moment. Not a one time big time thing. So, instead of pressuring myself to committing to big promises, I’ll make sure I get the little things right.

Hello, 2016!