Frames of Taal

Sometimes, we see things better when we have a limited perspective of the big picture. Maybe, it’s because darkness doesn’t only have a way of bringing out the shadows, but also, light.

wp-image-934164134

The games we play. These are two of my students playing chess in Tampuhan Cafe.

wp-image--1515086263

Among a crowd of shadows. This picture highlights one of my co-teachers, standing outside the Taal Basilica.

wp-image--2120422622

Secret passage. This one of my students posing at the Marcela Agoncilio museum.

wp-image--2124946893

Taal Narnia. This one of my students, exploring the Taal Basilica.

 

 

 

Advertisements

how do souls brush against each other?

 

d3ce14f7d76ef69451484a7029d06cec

Photo credits: Pinterest (Mishal Benson)

 

to remember that it was a kind of brown,

one that looked like a Monday, like coffee overflowing with sugar,

tucked away inside the eyes of someone who had a lot to say.

there was music and it sounded like pieces of piano keys falling, one by one, like

childhood and the last second before falling asleep. the room knew what was happening,

letting itself be occupied by vacancies and paint splattered on the walls. the paper knew

what it felt to be remembered, so it offered itself to idle strokes and the silence thereafter. in

that instance, there was a universe created, a silent agreement of

allowing the breaking of defenses and taking a step closer. there were secrets

unexplored still but it was then that looking into someone’s eyes meant

seeing them. (finally.)

To me he was Odin

If there was a rule to guard against attachment, it would be this: Do not let the name speak to you. Do not allow it to roll off your tongue. To use names would permit a sense of permanence and familiarity to settle atop your shoes and would bless the soil with that moment forever. (It would be too hard to commit to.)

But the eyes will always try to speak to you first. Despite your initial resistance, it will whisper to you. That day, it was Abby. And then, Odin. Before I knew it, my system accepted the register and I was holding your head. I said it aloud.

My hands never reach out first. They dread the split second they hang on air, wanting. But if I do attempt something, the heart suffers the most, because it explodes both at the thought of flying and actually getting somewhere.

I’d just like to think you understood me then. (Let me pay tribute, before I repress the happiness any further.)

because secretly, i’m a mermaid

105698800_the_daughter_of_the_sea__final_version__by_marcobusonid65ku5c

Photo credits: The Daughter of the Sea by Marco Busoni

There had to be sunlight somewhere. For fish hungry for water, it seemed ironic to first look for heat. But there she was, feet already sprouting, yearning for the sort of warmth she didn’t even understand.

What does it take for breaths to have meaning? Swimming around, she came to know air only as something you need for catching up. The sea was just a place to go. The waves were just a means of passing by.

Inside her, stuck in between bones she called her body, was more water. Her lungs were a well of salt and saliva, thickening with every inhale. Was it dark there? Was it dangerous? (Nonetheless, they were still just transparent.)

What did it mean to be buoyant? Sometimes, when she touched her scales, she can imagine herself floating. Though in her head the surface is also the sea, she knew she really didn’t need to escape water. Drenched, she only needed a small flame to hide underneath her shell.

Write about happy things, Pollen.

 

wp-image--147844109.

My attempt at trying to look cute (sorry)

 

Maybe it’s because, for a really long time now, I’ve used writing for the bad stuff by default, that I feel somewhat awkward using it to document something good. Like for instance, an intense argument would prompt me to write a poem, immediately taking me out of my heaven-knows-how-long writing slump while the small miracles happening in my day to day life wouldn’t even deserve a short diary entry.

Maybe, because it’s so easy for me to come up with sad words, I’ve forgotten how to write about being happy, or at least how happy felt like, that now that the emotion’s overwhelming me, I don’t know how to describe the feeling.

I’ve had so many reasons to be happy over the past couple of months but I haven’t really been keeping the stories about them, even in my private journals. At the time, I figured, I wanted to feel them in the moment and keep them alive only then because I’ll remember the feeling anyway.

However, now that I’m looking through the things I’ve written during this time of happiness and bliss, I realized that there weren’t many memories to look back on. Yes, I remember feeling happy and I still am happy, but I couldn’t find the little stories that built my big moments.

Hence the questions: “Have I forgotten how to write about the happy things?”; “Do I still know how to write about the happy things?”; “Why am I not writing about the happy things?”

Not wanting to miss out any further, I decided to write this post, just so I could remind myself later of the reasons why I have been and am happy.

“Senpau”

At the time I’m writing this, I’m preparing for my fourth week as a teacher.

I always knew I was going to teach someday but I didn’t expect to be teaching this early. Despite my initial worries, I’m so glad I took the risk anyway because I’ve found a place where I can do purposeful and meaningful work every day.

Though the workload can be overwhelming at times, at the end of the day, my job makes me feel like I’m serving God’s purpose and I’m making a difference.

(Sometimes, I wonder if I’m normal because I didn’t think it was even possible to love something you do so much that the stress feels like a minuscule part of the job package. Is it still normal to want to do this so much?)

Good people

Now that I’m back home, I’m constantly around the people I love the most – family, best friends, orgmates… etc. In a way, that has healed me and brought me back to a healthy state of mind.

I’ve also met a lot of new and nurturing people who make me so so so happy. All of them are very supportive during tough times and are good company when in need of a good laugh and deep conversations. I’d like to think we were brought into each other’s lives not to just cross paths and make a difference for a short amount of time, but to keep each other as wonderful friends from now on until who knows when.

My best self is myself

The past few weeks has helped me constantly meet my best self, and Pollen, when she is her best self, could be absolutely wonderful. Pollen is at her best when she is unafraid, when she trusts herself, and in those moments, she can do anything.

To know that my best self actually exists within me can be absolutely life-changing. There’s a part of myself that I like and I can trust and that means everything.

The things I can do, the purpose I can serve will be limitless if I kept being my best.

(I like this writing exercise. I’ll try to write more of these happy reminders.)

Poems found

here— as if words written

on tissue meant something.

truth, if it allowed itself to be

relative, would reveal the same:

“I have never given it thought,”

And yet, still. But because.

perhaps —say it— during breakfast,

despite the cold, we become. We

let Friday settle in our shoes so it

can turn into dust. Unless songs, one

without feet to play it, can

exclam: “Be yourself”. Maybe then.

permanence never was; it only

existed in fragments. And I’ll 

remember which table,

when it drops.

Of having have left

lvx

Photo grabbed from: Vince D.

A year ago, I wrote “The curious case of leaving”, detailing how I felt during graduation and the LAVOXA send-off. There, I told myself that:

I may not be in a good place right now but I know that I’ll get somewhere someday.

Somewhere, after a year, turned out to be on Sir Jun’s roof top, celebrating his attorney-hood with Lavoxans of different generations. Despite initial hesitations about going, I came to congratulate him for achieving his goal and for just being an awesome human being, really. Also, it was the perfect excuse to meet up with Lavoxans and other friends.

In a mix of familiar and new people, I felt less overwhelmed than I would’ve been a year ago. I wasn’t fretting about silence and having no one to talk to (because, bottom line,  I really just wanted to be a part of this moment). More importantly, despite being a potato, I have learned to give in to urges of wanting to see people whenever I have the chance to do so. Perhaps, I have grown up.

Note to self: Missing them could just mean missing them, not distance or rules of separation.

Other than being a little more carefree, there’s a lot that changed about me – both good and bad. The good include this new sense of self-love and assertiveness that I found inside me. The bad include parts I’ve left stagnant and parts I lost.

I admitted it before, there are parts of myself that I may have unconsciously traded away for learning experiences, but at least, now, these missing pieces are currently being healed and filled with a new kind of magic. So right now, I’m happier and I know more of myself.

Status: Healing and Happy.

After a long while, I finally felt like I’m doing something right again. For so long, I’ve been so down about life, getting through days just because I had to. I’d almost forgotten how it felt to do good, to care about people, to pin your heart on your sleeve without worrying that it’ll be slashed into pieces.

It seems that, even though I’m still not 100% percent sure about where I want my life to go, I’m at a place where I’m meant to be. And this place, is not a safe haven where I can hide until I feel better, instead, it’s a home where I can challenge myself and rediscover the “Pauline Navarro” that’s been slumbering for months. I recognize myself now.

God, I’m just so thankful!

A year ago, I couldn’t even imagine how I would be able to go, survive. Now, I can look back on the experiences I’ve had so far and thank them for the lessons they taught me. It’s just unbelievable how after being so lost back then, I’m here now with direction and heart still full of hope.

Maybe, this piggy really has taken flight.

 

Notions on Destiny

Aside

a recent painting I did

I’ve been believing in destiny for as long as I could remember. To me, it’s a sign that God and the universe are listening and that something is working in my life. 

Say for example, if I were to find a milktea stall in an unlikely occasion, especially when I was craving for milktea the whole day, instead of simply buying milktea on the way to school, I’d feel more happy and magical. 

But I’ve questioned destiny before. If things were destined to be, then how can we still say that we have a sense of freedom? Does destiny negate free will? Are we slaves to our destiny? (I’ve addressed this through the natural law, but that’s for another post.)

Today, I’ve questioned it again. A situation prompted me to ask if believing in destiny makes me a passive decision-maker. I wondered, does relying on things working themselves out mean that I’m just too lazy or scared to do things myself?

I’d like to believe that I’ve never used destiny as an excuse to get away from something before. I associate it to magic and religion so it’s somehow more of a principle thing than a conscious decision thing for me. 

Well, except for maybe when it comes to the things I like. The more I like something or someone, the more rewarding it would be to get it because I was meant to. (I’m not saying that I freeload on come what may. I just like it what I see invisible connections leading to success, as if I was meant to succeed beforehand.)

An example would be deliberately sitting beside someone I like. I’d rather be in a situation where there’s no other chair so I’d feel like I was meant to go there. Is that weird? Or I’m really just a person that doesn’t want to actively want for myself?

I don’t know. I just really don’t see destiny as a mechanism to get something I like. It’s not meant to do anything. I just establishes a magical connection and an assurance that my life is running a certain track.

Maybe I’m talking about two different issues here.

There’s really no conclusion for this issue yet. At the moment, my belief still stands, that I believe in destiny. Whether it’s making me passive or not will still be determined by further introspection.

[REVIEW] “Better At Weddings Than You”: A New Take on the Classic Pinoy Happily-Ever-After

BAWTY.fullcover.preview

Full book cover of “Better At Weddings Than You”

When Mina V. Esguerra, the romance author of my teens, announced on Twitter that she was doing a blog tour of her new book, I knew I had to participate. But other than being an obvious fan of hers, something about her latest novel caught my attention – it was about weddings.

Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

I’m the kind of romantic that could obsess over wedding details and all the over-the-top lovey-dovey moments, even if it wasn’t my own. (A/N: I honestly love weddings so much.) I’ve also had a bit of experience organizing corporate events so I felt like I would empathize with Daphne (the main character) at least with how she does her work.

With that in mind, I signed up to get a copy and dived in the world of weddings, scrapbooks, and finding love in a job that involved a ton of tension and drama.

Expectations and First Impressions

Honestly, I was expecting this book to have the sweet familiar charm that weddings bring to a love story. I guess, with the many local and foreign teleseryes and movies that use weddings to resolve everything, it became normal to expect so much joy and pure goodness to come out of that one event. I thought that this book will use the concept of weddings like that too, but just accentuating a different angle of the drama (because weddings are great for those too).

But, a few pages in, I’ve already encountered such strong characters and immense (unspoken) tension. It didn’t feel like the usual wedding planning setup; it wasn’t overly sweet and cutesy to the point that you could already picture people walking down the aisle, but it wasn’t too serious,  dramatic and over-the-top either.

The tone of the first chapter set a mature urban mood that nudged me and said, “Hey, this isn’t your usual wedding chick lit. Hold on tight.”

Characters

BAWTY - Daphne (1).png

I don’t know if this is just me not reading as much as I did before, but I’ve never encountered a Daphne before. She isn’t the type of girl that needed to develop before she could truly fall in love. Yes, she still did need some learning to do about life and stuff (which she does throughout the story) but that didn’t mean she needed love to be able to tell her who she was. She could look in the mirror and recognize herself. She was a person, whole and self-assured, and she knows what she wants.

But, at the same time, she didn’t fit the archetype of a woman who was strong but reckless and violent, nor was she made to be intimidating just to fall putty into the hands of a man when she falls in love. She commands respect, not just because she’s beautiful, but because she’s good at what she does and she’s headstrong about her decisions.

It’s refreshing really, to be able to read her story and thoughts, because to do so can really be empowering to an extent.

BAWTY - Aaron.png

Aaron, on the other hand, took a while longer to figure out and like. He’s handsome, and I won’t deny it, very swoon worthy even from the start. He’s an industry newbie and is the kind of guy who’d be oblivious to his best friend liking him for years. But, his character felt familiar and new at the same time and it was hard to put a finger on how I really thought of him. (Mainly, I was trying to figure out why would I like him other than his dashing good looks.)

As the story progressed, Aaron felt like a classic boy-next-door who was always there when you needed him. Of course, that guaranteed pogi points already because 1) he knew exactly when to swoop in and 2) it was obvious that he, like Daphne, was also good and knew what he was doing.

But, he proved to be more than just that as a character, as he exposed his sentimentality in how he handled his work and in how he interacted with people in general. I felt like he was the kind of guy that understood and emphatized with people.

Also, and I think this is one of his best characteristics, he had an element of being “lost” in him, showing that he’s grown up but he still has a lot to learn and work hard in doing. It was a great balance to Daphne’s straightforwardness.

Setting

Oh Manila. You were perfect for this kind of story. There’s no place better to embody the drama and hectic-ness of wedding planning and falling in love in the most unlikely of situations than you. And because the author wrote you and the city life really well, everything fit in really well.

Plot

As I mentioned earlier, the story started off with a lot of tension already, especially with the interaction of the two main leads. But, as it went on, the story and the leads themselves became more relaxed and honest. (The story showed how freeing it can be to not give a shit.) And because of that honesty, their banters and interactions became more playful and enjoyable to read.

Even during the first chapter, things were already pretty steamy so I was really curious as to how sex was going to be used as a plot device for the book. To me, I think it was utilized greatly to show a shift in character among the leads. It was what allowed them to be raw and vulnerable which helped them to understand more of each other’s personality and us to get a sense of who they are without the bravado they’re all trying to portray.

The overall story flow for me was paced just right, allowing me to discover the characters and understand their decisions. The ending did feel a bit hurried though, but when I thought about it, it must be me wanting for more scenes of the leads being together.

(There were also empowering scenes for women that I really loved, mostly of Daphne sharing her philosophy on taking care of herself and dating. Kudos to Ms. Mina for this!)

Overall

As the title of this review suggest, I did experience a different take on weddings because of this story. It didn’t focus on the couple getting married and what the wedding would mean to them. It wasn’t the usual wedding story that I’ve grown up knowing either. Instead, the story showed how wedding planning is as an industry and what it takes to be a wedding planner.

And in the end, for me, the story was a reminder that when you allow yourself to get away from the hectic and the commotion, and just become honest with yourself, you can find a love that’s worth it. (And even when you can’t, all you need is one thoughtless moment, to be honest about what you really want and who you really want to love and fight for.)

Where do you get this book?

You can buy “Better At Weddings Than You” by Mina V. Esguerra on Amazon: bit.ly/chicmanila9 ($1.99 pre-order price until April 30, $2.99 starting May 1). Free on Kindle Unlimited.

About the cover: designed by Tania Arpa, photography by Alexandra Urrea. The photo comes from one of the shoots we did for #romanceclasscovers, our project to provide romance-cover photos with Filipino models. (More about that project here: instagram.com/romanceclasscovers)