Miss ko nang uminom, pero di ko nami-miss malasing

Dahil sa problema ko sa sikmura, bawal na muna akong uminom.

Nakakalungkot, lalo na’t nasa bahay lang ako at madalas na mag-isa. Masarap sanang lumaklak ng beer o kaya ng pipitsuging wine habang nagtatrabaho, nanonood ng kung anu-anong palabas online, nagbabasa, o kahit nakatunganga lang at walang ginagawa.

Ayan tuloy, hindi ko pa rin nagagalaw ang mga beer at ang wine sa ref. Kung wala lang akong iniindang sakit, malamang, ubos na sila. Malamang, maya’t maya rin ang bili ko ng inumin sa convenience store sa baba ng building namin. Pucha, bakit ba naman kasi ganito? Nakaka-miss tuloy uminom.

Pero sige, isang paglilinaw pala: Yung pag-iinom lang talaga ang nami-miss ko at hindi yung pagkalasing. Tipsy, puwede pa. Cute lang ako’t medyo makulit kapag ganoon. Pero kung talagang lasing, hindi ako masayang kasama.

Yung mga kabarkada ko, ayaw nang nalalasing ako. Isang beses lang nilang nakasama si Drunk Mina at ayaw na raw nilang makita siya ulit. Bukod kasi sa hinahamon niya ng away ang kaibigan naming judoka, mahirap din siyang alagaan kinaumagahan kapag may hang over. Ang aga-aga, nanghihingi na siya ng kung anu-ano: tubig, Gatorade, painkillers para sa sakit ng ulo, pagkain. Nang-aabala siya ng mga kaibigang sabaw din lalo na’t halos walang tulog dahil sa inuman.

Kahit ang karelasyon ko, nahihirapan sa akin kapag nalalasing ako. Noong nakaraang napalaban kami sa inuman, umangal ako sa kaniyang hindi ko na kayang umuwi kaya nagpalipas na lang muna kami ng gabi sa isang hostel sa Poblacion, malapit lang din sa kung saan kami nagwalwal. Sa kuwarto namin, grabe ang pagsusuka ko. Ni hindi ko pinatawad ang basurahan sa tabi ng kama na sinukahan ko matapos magsabing, “Hindi na ako iinom ulit!” Hanggang ngayon, nagtatawanan pa rin kami kapag naaalala namin ang gabing iyon.

“Hindi na ako iinom ulit.”

Naku, ilang beses ko na bang sinabi yan bago magsuka, habang nagsusuka, at matapos magsuka? Hindi ko na mabilang. Sa pagkakaalala ko, bukambibig ko rin iyan noong kasagsagan ng pagwawala at pagkakalat ko noong mula 2013 hanggang 2017.

Bukambibig ko iyan noong nagtatrabaho pa akong writer sa isang SEO company sa may Valero sa Makati. Doon kas lumala ang pagiging manginginom ko. Kung saktong inom lang ang trip lang sa Sarah’s at Spazzio ang trip ko noong undergrad lalo na’t kailangan laging bumiyahe pauwi sa Antipolo, biglang naging pangmalakasan ang pagkauhaw ko sa alak sa Makati dahil may lugar na matutuluyan sa malapit.

Paborito ko rin ang linyang iyan noong sa may Technohub ako nagtatrabaho’t naninirahan sa bandang Matalino Street noon 2015. Noon kasi, madalas din akong uminom kasama ang mga kasamahan sa trabaho at mga kabahay. Kung minsan nga, sa sahig lang ng aalog-alog na apartment kami nag-iinuman.

Ilang beses din ako nangakong hindi na ulit titikim ng alak noong nakatira pa sa Taft, bandang 2016. Dahil malapit sa Makati at mura ang Uber noon, madalas akong tumambay sa opisina namin malapit sa Glorietta kahit puwede namang work from home. Ang gusto ko kasi roon, malapit sa Greenbelt na kung saan naroon ang Dillingers. Doon, madalas akong mag-inom mag-isa pagkatapos ng trabaho. Tipong nakaupo lang sa bar, painom-inom ng beer o kaya’y long island iced tea, at payosi-yosi habang nagbabasa ng libro.

At, siyempre, ganyan pa rin ang linyahan ko noong sa bandang Maginhawa na ako nakatira mula 2018. Palibhasa’y kaladkarin ng mga kaibigang kapwa manunulat at manginginom, madalas kong malimutan ang konsepto ng limitasyon pagdating sa pag-inom ng alak noong mga panahong iyon. May mga linggong gabi-gabi kaming umiinom at kung minsan pa nga, sinusuyod namin ang mga paborito naming inuman sa lugar sa loob ng isang gabi: Sarah’s, Black Fork Bistro, Sagul, TK, Flying House. Kung hindi pa rin kami kuntento, pati Pork Barrel sa Kalayaan ay nararating din namin.

Ilang beses man akong sumumpa na titigil na sa pag-inom, hindi pa rin naman basta nahinto ang bisyo ko. Iyon pala kasi, ulcer lang talaga ang makakapipigil sa akin.


Featured image mula sa Canva

His memory will carry on

My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade was released in 2006. It was the same year my father died.

I first learned about the said album a couple of weeks after his death. My friend made me listen to “Cancer” which, according to him, always reminded him of his mom who had died a long time ago. I liked the song a lot. I listened to it over and over, Googled and memorized its lyrics, and owned it as though it were written especially for me.

I didn’t even care what it was about, or what how its creators wanted it to be understood. Freely, I dissected the song, took its lines apart, and used each of them to fill in the gaps my dad had left me. Many times times, I thought these lines contained messages from my father who failed to utter even a single word to me before breathing his last.

No wonder, the line that goes, “Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you,” resonated in me. It convinced me that he would have stayed if he only could. That line consoled me and shredded my hearts into pieces at the same time.

Around March of the following year, I was finally able to buy a copy of the The Black Parade. At first I was scared to listen to it entirely, given how peculiar its album cover was. It also came with an equally strange poster which, I thought, would be too scary to look at at night. Gerard Way and his pals looked like ghosts. Plus, I wasn’t really fond of seeing women wearing old dresses paired with gas masks. I didn’t know what to expect either, since it was the first emo album I had ever owned.

But I actually ended up liking it. I thought “The End” was a great opener as it effectively set the mood, before abruptly transitioning to the adrenaline-pumping “Dead.” “Mama” and “Sleep” scared the shit out of me, so I did my best to avoid these tracks when listening to the album alone at night. Yet, they didn’t keep me from loving the entire thing. Perhaps some things in life were just like that, I thought–shocking and difficult to understand and accept at first. But things would be okay, eventually.

“Cancer” remained a favorite but it was soon rivaled by “Welcome to the Black Parade.” I loved its haunting intro which, I believe, went well with the story it was trying to tell. I also found hope in the idea it brought up about the persona’s father whose memory would carry on despite him being gone.

When I was a young girl, my father failed to take me into the city to see a marching band. Neither did he tell me about the black parade. But, thankfully, with the help of this album, I realized something: Despite his shortcomings as a father and his inability to say a final goodbye, his memory will carry on.


It’s Papa’s 16th death anniversary today, so I am posting this piece I wrote a few years ago. Featured image from wallpapercave.com.

I don’t write poems anymore

I used to write a lot of poems. I even dreamt of putting together a poetry anthology for my undergrad thesis. But since I had completed my creative nonfiction courses first, I decided to just focus on that genre. According to a professor, it might be difficult to write a thesis on a genre that I wasn’t done learning about yet.

Then I began to drift apart from poetry after graduation. I don’t remember how or why exactly. Now, whenever someone asks me why I don’t write poems anymore, I just laugh and say that it’s just not for me.

Although, I have to admit, I sometimes miss the old days. I long for my younger self who was just so positive about writing poems and unafraid to share her work with the rest of the world. And, whenever I do, I check my old notebooks and folders for old verses. Of course I find a lot of pretentious stuff in them, as well some overly dramatic pseudo poems obviously created during moments of extreme vulnerability. They always make me cringe.

Yet they sometimes make me smile, too. They may not be excellent verses, but I know that when I wrote them, they provided me an avenue to release my emotions. Not so bad, perhaps.

Anyway, to give you an idea, here’s something I found among my old notes:

Worries

When you’re a worrier,
the whole forward-thinking thing
seems to make a lot of sense.

Just when the gurus begin to explain
the art of anticipating things
that might happen,

you are already done preparing
for twenty or more versions
of the future that has yet to come.

And so you over-prepare, just in case:
you pack sixteen shirts
for an eight-day trip;
you buy a month’s worth of groceries
for a one-week stay at home;
you purchase lots of stuff you don’t need yet,
because better be ready than sorry.

Even your life
has already been planned
down to the littlest of details, in case

plan A fails, fret not;
there are still plans B through Z,
A2 through Z2 and so on…

(And you don’t mind keeping track
of all of them in an Excel sheet you sync
with your phones, both main and backup.)

Every day, you say,
worrying is the easiest thing
about living
. You prepare

yourself for the worst
and multiple iterations of it
until nothing

can shock you anymore.
Or maybe not, because
anything may happen.


Featured image from Canva

Bagsik ng sikmura

Nararamdaman ko na ang bagsik niyang mukhang galit na galit na siya sa akin kaya walang humpay sa pagbuga ng nakapapasong asido.

Hindi ko naman siya masisi, lalo na’t ilang taon ko rin siyang inabuso: Sa mga umagang kape ang pambungad ko sa sikmura’t ni walang kahit anong pagkaing kasabay o kasunod, mga tanghaling imbes mananghalia’y pagkakape pa rin ang inuna ko, mga gabing pinalipas nang walang ibang ipinanlaman sa tiyan kundi mainit na kape, mga meriendang isinakripisyo sa ngalan ng paglaklak ng pinakapaborito kong inumin.


Apat na taong gulang ako noong unang nakatikim ng kape. Naubusan kami Milo isang umaga. Dahil alam ng lola kong hindi ako umiinom ng gatas, tinimplahan niya na lang ako ng kape. Halos gakurot lang ang kape ang kasama sa timpla niya noon. Mas lutang ang lasa ng creamer at tamis ng asukal. Pero, ayos lang iyon sa akin. Ang mahalaga, nalasahan ko ang kape at sarap na sarap ako rito.

Ilang beses pang naulit ang ganoong pangyayari, hanggang sa normal na lang sa bahay ang pagpapainom sa akin ng kape lalo kung umaga. Di rin nagtagal ay pinayagan na rin akong magtimpla ng sarili kong kape kahit di na agahan. Doon nagsimula ang aking adiksyon. Ang minsanan sa ilang araw, napadalas nang napadalas, hanggang sa hindi na ako makawala. Naging bisyo ko na ito at nadala pa hanggang sa puder ng aking ina.

Noong high school, kape ang madalas na suhol sa akin ng mga guro sa tuwing may utos sila sa akin. At imbes sa canteen maglagi kapag recess, mas madalas ako sa faculty room para bumili ng kapeng tinitinda roon para sa mga guro. Naging gawi ko ring magkape sa karinderya kung saan kami madalas tumambay kapag lunch break. Kahit kapag nasa ibang paaralan para sa mga patimpalak, madalas akong maghanap ng kape.

Natuloy ang kabaliwan ko hanggang kolehiyo. Sa Baguio, kung saan ko iginugol ang unang taon ng buhay-kolehiyo, ginawa kong tubig ang kape lalo na’t laging malamig. Dito rin ako natutong pumunta sa coffee shop, lalo na’t maluwag kami sa pera noon at laging may sobra sa aking baon.

Paglipat ko naman sa Diliman, kape ang sumalba sa akin sa mga panahong gipit ako. May matindi kaming problema noon sa pinansiya at kadalasang kulang ang dalang baon papasasok sa eskuwela. Pero buti na lang, ilang piso lang ay sapat na para makabili ako ng kapeng puwedeng inumin at pagkunan ng enerhiya. Madalas, ito rin ang karamay ko sa mga gabi ng pagpupuyat, lalo na kung may tinatapos na mga babasahin at papel para sa mga major subject.


Maaga akong nagsimulang magtrabaho. Mahirap, pero ayos lang dahil nagkaroon ako ng sariling pera. Ibig sabihin, may pantustos na sa bisyong kape. Dahil dito, medyo nag-upgrade na ang taste ko. Hindi na lang 3-in-1 ang madalas tirahin kundi pati na rin brewed coffee, lalo na iyong mga binebenta sa McDonald’s at 7-Eleven. Mas mahal sila nang kaunti sa 3-in-1, pero mas malakas ang sipa.

Tuluyan nang lumala ang pag-abuso ko sa sikmura ko noong magtapos ako sa unibersidad at magsimulang magtrabaho sa Ayala. Dahil mas malaki na ang kita, itinuloy ko na ang kahibangan ko sa mga coffee shop. Dito ako unang naging suki ng Starbucks at Seattle’s Best. Ang masama pa, mas dumalas din ang pag-inom ko sa panahong iyon. Halos gabi-gabi akong lasing. At ang paborito naming gawin ng mga kaibigan habang nagpapalipas ng tama ay pagkakape. Gayunpaman, wala akong naramdaman kahit anong kakaiba noon sa sikmura ko, maliban na lang sa mga gabing napasobra talaga ng inom.

Taong 2014 noong una kong napansin ang pangangasim ng sikmura. Nagtatrabaho ako noon bilang isang content producer para sa isang wedding website. Napakaluwag sa opisina namin lalo na’t maliit lang ang team namin kaya mas malaya akong gawin ang mga gusto ko basta’t natatapos ang trabaho sa araw-araw. Dahil makapal ang mukha ko, minabuti kong magdala ng sarili kong coffee maker sa opisina. Mas tipid nga, pero mas makasalanan naman sa katawan. Minaya’t maya ko ang gawa ng kape. Ang masama pa, madalas ko pang sabayan ang black coffee ng yosi. Kahit kapag may event kami sa ibang lugar, kape lang lagi ang hanap ko. Madalas akong tumakas sa hotel kapag gabi para magkape. Madalas din, ang lunch at dinner break ko’y nauubos lang sa pagpunta sa coffee shops. Dibale nang hindi kumain, basta may kape. At yosi.

Sarap na sarap ako sa kombinasyong iyon, kaya wala ako masyadong pakialam kahit pa madalas na akong makaranas ng pangangasim. At imbes magpatingin sa doktor, madalas ay lumalaklak lang din ako ng Gaviscon para guminhawa ang pakiramdam.

Noong napadpad ako sa Technohub pagkalipas ng ilang buwan, mas napariwara pa ako nang husto. Doon kasi, 24 hours ang Starbucks at Coffeebean kapag weekdays. Kahit sa anong schedule ako malagay, tiyak na may coffee shop pa ring matatakbuhan. Sakto pa, marami ako laging kasama. Copywriter ang trabaho ko noon at di nakapagtataka, malalakas din magkape ang marami sa mga kasama ko sa team.

Dito na mas tumindi ang pangangasim ng sikmura ko. At di lang basta maasim, kundi mahapdi na rin nang sobra. May mga pagkakataon pa ngang nasusuka at nahihilo na lang ako sa tindi ng sakit. Nagpatingin ako sa doktor minsan, at niresetahan niya ako ng gamot. Ang kaso, hindi ko naubos ang gamot at patuloy pa rin ako sa pagkakape at paninigarilyo. Madalas din, mamantikang mga putahe ang kinakain ko noon. Hindi ko pa rin iniiwasan ang pag-iinom, lalo na kung kasama ang mga kaibigan.

Makalipas ang isang taon, pumunta ulit ako sa clinic para magpatingin. Niresetahan naman ulit ako ng gamot at naubos ko sila, pero walang pagbabago sa lifestyle ko. At nang lumipat ako ng trabaho, parang mas lumala pa ang lahat. Sa bagong trabaho (na siya pa ring full-time job ko ngayon), work-from-home parati, maliban na lang kung may meeting sa labas. Paiba-iba rin ang oras ng trabaho. Sa madaling sabi, mas madaling guluhin ang oras ng kain. Hindi gaya sa normal na office job na may nakatakdang lunch break kaya nasa oras pa rin ang kain.

Ilang buwan pa lang sa bagong trabaho, ramdam ko nang mas tumitindi ang nararamdaman ko sa sikmura. Mas dumadalas na rin siya. Nagpunta naman ako sa doktor, pero hindi ko ulit masyadong naseryoso. Ininom ko lang ang mga gamot na nireseta sa akin at umiwas sa kape sa loob ng dalawang linggo. Pero, pagkatapos noon, tuloy ang ligaya! Laklak ulit ng kape kung kailang maisipan at lamon ng mamamantikang pagkain. Pati pagyoyosi at pag-inom ng alak, hindi ko pa rin tinantanan.

Sa ikatlong taon ko ng pagtatrabaho sa proyektong ito, lumipat ako malapit sa Maginhawa, kung saan mas lumala pa ang aking kondisyon. Paano ba naman, napaliligiran ako ng napakaraming kainan, kapehan, at inuman? Isa pa, kuwarto lang ang aking nirerentahan kaya bawal magluto. Naging kusina ko tuloy ang buong Maginhawa.

Halos araw-araw, nasa coffee shop lang ako. At, kapag gabi, madalas akong mayaya ng mga kaibigan na kumain sa kung saan mang kainan doon. Madalas ding mauwi sa inuman ang aming pagkikita. At, siyempre, may yosi pa rin sa eksena. Kung iisipin, parang ang sarap ng buhay ko noon. Masarap at masaya nga naman talaga! Ang hindi lang natutuwa ay ang sikmura ko. Hindi pa naman ako nagpapatingin ulit sa doktor at sige lang ang inom ng Gaviscon.


Natauhan lang ako nitong Hunyo. Naisipan kong pagpakonsulta sa doktor dahil sa paulit-ulit na problema sa sikmura at doon ako napagsabihan na kailangan ko na talagang ayusin ang pamumuhay ko dahil delikado ang ginagawa ko. Noong una, hindi ko pa masyadong ramdam ang tindi ng sitwasyon dahil mukhang nadadaan naman sa gamot ang hapdi. Kaya nga lang, biglang nakaranas na ako ng bleeding. Matapos ang ilang pagsusuri, nakumpirma na may ulcer na ako.

Sa wakas, sumagi na sa isip ko kung gaano ko inabuso ang sarili kong sikmura noong mga nagdaang taon. Kaya nga lang, matigas pa rin talaga ang ulo ko. Naiwasan ko man ang kape, alak, at yosi, hindi ko pa rin kaagad nabago ang diet ko. Mali pa rin.

Di tuloy nakapagtataka na kahit noong natapos ko na ang unang set ng medikasyon, nakararanas pa rin ako ng paghapdi ng sikmura, lalo na kung mamantika ang kinakain. Noong binalikan ko ang doktor ko, ang sabi niya’y bibigyan niya ulit ako ng mga gamot. Isang round ulit. At hindi lang iyon; kailangan ko na ring iwasan ang lahat ng mga bawal. Dahil kung magpapatuloy pa rin ang sakit, kakailanganin ko nang dumulog sa isang espesyalista at sasalilalim na rin ako sa endoscopy.

Pucha! Seryoso na nga ito. Nakatatakot na nga.

Kaya ngayon, heto ako’t sinusubukang pakalmahin ang sikmura. Ramdan ko pa rin ang bagsik, lalo na ang pagguhit ng asidong ibinubuga niya. Pero, sana, mawala na rin ang sakit. Sana, kumalma na siya. Heto na, kakain na ako nang maayos at patuloy na iiwas sa mga bawal, kung iyon lang ang tunay na ikatatahimik at ikaaamo niya. Alam ko, matagal akong nagkamali. Pero sana’y hindi pa huli ang lahat.


Banner photo mula sa Canva

That city called Baguio

Tim and I rewatched That Thing Called Tadhana last weekend, and of course it made us miss Baguio more. Actually, we’ve been thinking of this place a lot lately. It has already been a year since our last vacation there. And, in this weather, it is really not too hard to be reminded of this city.

But we can’t go there yet. To be honest, even if they lift the travel restrictions soon, I don’t think it would be a good idea to travel there immediately. So I guess I’ll keep on reminiscing about it in the meantime. I will continue to look at the photographs I took from my previous Baguio trips and recall the nice moments I spent there.

UP Baguio

up baguio

It’s where I spent my freshman year, and I can say that it is really one of the prettiest campuses I’ve been to in my life. Of course, I also have a lot of nice memories here. It is where I started to learn more about who I am and where I began dreaming of being a creative writer.

Session Road

session road baguio

Anyone who’s ever been to Baguio knows that Session Road is a destination in itself. There are lots of things to see along this road, after all. Plus, walking here regardless of the weather is an experience to behold. Just be careful and don’t get robbed.

Ridgewood Hotel

ridgewood hotel baguio

This was our home during the USTNWW in 2019, so we were here for a week. My co-fellows and I loved hanging out at the lobby to drink and exchange stories. Of course, its function hall was also very memorable for all of us, for it was where all our sessions were held.

View from Oh My Gulay

view from oh my gulay baguio

I had already been hearing a lot of good things about Oh My Gulay before, but I didn’t set foot on it until April 2019. We had a one-day break from the writing workshop, so some of my co-fellows and I decided to roam around the city. This place was one of our stops. Apart from the food, we also enjoyed the great view from its balcony.

Museo Kordilyera

museo kordilyera baguio

Museo Kordilyera is one of the places I keep coming back to whenever I visit Baguio. I really appreciate its exhibits, since there are always a lot of things to learn from them. Plus, the place itself is so beautiful. I also like the little coffee shop there.

Mt. Cloud Bookshop

mt cloud bookshop baguio

I have always loved Mt. Cloud. I spent a lot of time, bought a number of local books, and even attended a lecture in its old location. Then, last April, I was able to visit its new home. It was a bit far from the center but a lot bigger! I can’t wait to visit it again.

Camp John Hay

camp john hay baguio

Walking around Camp John Hay is one of the things I like to do whenever I’m in Baguio. It’s just nice to look around and see lots of trees and check out different establishments. Whether it’s a cafe, a gift shop, or a family restaurant you’re looking for, you can find it here. Of course, its hotels are also well-known.

Cafe Yagam

cafe yagam baguio

It’s one of my favorite coffee shops in Baguio! Sadly, though, it’s closing its doors for good, according to a recent social media post. But I also learned that the owners would continue to sell quality coffee beans. I will miss this place, definitely.

View from Arca’s Yard

view from arca's yard baguio

I have only been to Arca’s Yard once, and I cannot wait to visit it again. It’s an underrated establishment that offers great food and views. It is also very cozy. I was alone when I went there, so I had lots of time to just enjoy the food and the view then read a book while drinking coffee.

Bookends

Reading is one of the things I really enjoy doing whenever I’m in Baguio. And, when looking for new books to devour, Bookends is definitely one of my go-to places. This shop offers a lot of interesting titles at reasonable prices.

Baguio Botanical Garden

Okay, this place’s kind of touristy, but I have to admit that I still enjoy going here. Especially on weekdays. I just like being surrounded by plants and trees.

Ili-Likha Artist Village

This photo will never be enough to showcase the beauty of this place. But what can I do? It’s the only decent photo I have of it, probably because I lose my mind whenever I visit this place. Or, perhaps I’m always too preoccupied with food that I don’t have time to take photos of things around or in front of me other than what I am about to eat.

Burnham Park

It’s already been over a decade since I last tried boating at Burnham Park. And oh, I don’t miss it at all. Yet, I still go to this park whenever I visit Baguio. I just like walking and seeing its lake, no matter how murky the water has become.

Glenn 50’s Diner

We loved having Sunday brunches at Glenn 50’s Diner during our freshman year. My go-to order was Mama’s Kidd, a combination of chicken, spaghetti, fries, and rice. It was a dream-come-true for a carb-loving person like me.

Cafe by the Ruins

Cafe by the Ruins is one of the most well-known eating places in Baguio City. No wonder it’s featured in That Thing Called Tadhana. I’ve only been there once, and what I mostly remember about the place is its great coffee.

Hill Station

Hill Station is a bit pricey, but I keep coming back to it anyway. Its coffee is to die for. I also love its Lechon Kawali with Laing sa Gata and its famous dessert called Death by Chocolate. The restaurant is located in Casa Vallejo, where Mt. Cloud Bookshop and Cinematheque Baguio used to be.

Rumours

I used to go to Rumours a lot when I was still a huge fan of drinking and smoking (and when smoking was still allowed in some establishments).

View from Bencab Museum

It’s actually in Tuba, Benguet, but it’s often associated with Baguio. Going there can be a bit challenging if you don’t drive, but it’s definitely worth the effort (and all the money). Best time to visit? Weekdays!

Consider the Liebster

I’ve been blogging on WordPress for a decade now, but this is the first time I’m doing this. Besides not being too active here these past few years, I also didn’t interact a lot with other bloggers here, which basically limited my chances of getting nominations.

But a few days ago, Jolens nominated me for the Liebster Award. Although I know awards such as this one don’t really mean a lot, I still appreciate it. The whole thing seems fun, after all! And I think it’s a great way to discover other great blogs to follow.

Thank you for the nomination, Jolens!


So, here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  3. Name 11 fun facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  5. Ask your nominees 11 questions.

My answer to Jolens’ questions:

Why do you blog?

Right now, it’s more of a practice for me. I’ve been pushing myself to write more these past few months, and blogging’s been really helpful. But I won’t deny that part of the reason why I’m still doing this is because I somehow overvalue my own opinions, something I only realized when I read “The I in the Internet” in Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion. It says:

The internet is also a large part inextricable from life’s pleasures: our friends, our families, our communities, our pursuits of happiness, and—sometimes, if we’re lucky—our work. In part out of a desire to preserve what’s worthwhile from the decay that surrounds it, I’ve been thinking about five intersecting problems: first, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages you to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarity; and, finally, how it destroys our sense of scale.

What do you like most about yourself?

I’m not a quitter, and I think that’s great. I have already encountered a lot of difficulties in life, but instead of abandoning my goals, I push myself harder to reach them.

What is one thing that you are very good at?

Learning! I’m a fast learner and I take learning very seriously. Also, I always see to it that I always have something new to learn each year.

What is your favourite song at the moment?

I have to say, it’s Mitski’s “Last Words of a Shooting Star”. I first heard of it a few weeks ago, and fell in love with it right away. I think it’s well-written, and Mitski’s voice is just mesmerizing.

What constellations can you recognize when you look up at a starry sky?

None!

What was the last Filipino film you saw?

Cuddle Weather (2019). I really like this film! I watched it for the first time last year, when we were in Baguio for a vacation and I rewatch it every now and then.

What goes on in your head when you solve 38 + 47?

I add 7 and 8 first, then combine 3 with 4.

When did you last laugh?

Earlier, while watching Big Bang Theory.

What is your favorite alcoholic drink? (If you don’t drink, why not?)

San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

What has been your most expensive purchase to date?

Does education count?

What are you excited about?

Books! I have a lot of great titles in my reading list and I can’t wait to read all of them.


11 fun facts about me:

  1. I grew up in Antipolo City.
  2. I’ve never attended a private school.
  3. I was so into painting when I was a kid, so I thought I’d be a visual artist. Things changed when I got into writing, though.
  4. I love Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
  5. A former lover blocked me on Facebook and stopped talking to me entirely after my essay about him had been published on inquirer.net.
  6. I started drinking coffee when I was four.
  7. I auditioned for and got into the UP Singing Ambassadors in 2009, but I had to quit because of financial problems. I looked for a part-time job instead.
  8. UP wasn’t my dream school, but I was the only one who passed the UPCAT in our batch.
  9. I don’t know how to swim.
  10. I listen to Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” over and over when I’m sad.
  11. I used to host provincial bridal fairs.

Unfortunately, though, I can’t nominate 11 bloggers to do this because most of the bloggers I’ve been actively following and interacting with lately already did this.


Title inspired by David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster”, banner photo from Canva

Prito mania

Mahilig ako sa piniritong pagkain. Kahit noong maliit pa ako’t nakatira sa bahay ng lolo at lola ko kung saan laging masarap ang ulam, baliw na baliw na talaga ako sa kahit anong pinirito. Ang totoo, sa sobrang kabaliwan ko, madalas ko pang ipagpalit ang masasarap na putahe tulad ng kaldereta at sarsiyado sa piniritong Tender Juicy.

Mas lalong umigting ang pagmamahal ko sa pinirito nang pumisan ako sa nanay ko. Hindi siya marunong magluto. Madalas ding kapos sa budget, kaya delata ang kadalasang ulam namin. At siyempre, hindi nawawala sa listahan ang mumurahing meat loaf ng Argentina. Sa halagang P14.50, may ulam na kaming mag-iina.

Kapag may pera, lalo na kung kasusuweldo lang ng aking amain, namimili rin kami ng kung anu-anong uri ng processed meat na masarap ding prituhin. Ham, embutido, longganisa, tocino—sarap na sarap ako sa mga ito. Ni hindi ko nga maintindihan noon yung ibang tao na nagrereklamo sa puro prito. Kesyo tuyong-tuyo raw, kaya naghahanap ng sabaw. Para sa akin, kapag pinirito, panalo!

Di tuloy nakapagtataka na mas sineryoso ko pa ang pagmamahal ko sa piniritong pagkain noong pumasok ako sa kolehiyo. Napadpad ako noon sa Baguio para roon mag-aral at kinailangang tumira sa isang boarding house. Dahil malayo sa pamilya, mas naging malaya ako pagdating sa pagpili ng pagkain. Siyempre, piniritong ulam ang halos inaraw-araw ko. Bukod sa tipid sa oras ang paghahanda at mura, gustong-gusto ko rin talaga sila.

Sakto, mahilig din sa pinirito yung isang housemate ko. Madalas, sabay kaming pumunta sa supermarket at doon, bumibili kami ng iba’t ibang brand ng mga delata at processed meat dahil curious lang kami sa kung ano nga ba ang pagkakaiba nila sa isa’t isa. Isa pa, dahil sa trip naming ito, mas marami rin kaming oportunidad na kumonsumo ng mga piniritong pagkain.

Siyempre, nalulong din kami sa fast food. Kahit kalagitnaan ng gabi, lumalabas kami’t naglilibot sa mga kalye ng Baguio gaya ng Session Road para maghanap ng makakainan at maibsan ang aming cravings. At oo, fast food chains ang kadalasang takbuhan namin. Sarap na sarap kami sa pagpapakasasa sa fries, burger, nuggets, chicken fillet, at kung anu-ano pang mamantika’t makasalanan pero masarap na mga pagkain. Maluwag-luwag kami sa pera noon sa pamilya, kaya may pantustos sa bagong bisyo.

Pagkatapos ng isang taon sa Baguio, lumipat ako sa Diliman, kung saan naman tumindi ang pagkalulong ko sa silog at sa iba pang piniritong pagkain tulad ng siomai, lumpiang toge, at piniritong tokwa. Pati ang mga gusto kong meryenda, panay nilublob din sa mantika: banana cue, proben, at karyoka.

Noong nagsimula akong magtrabaho, mas lalo akong nabuwang fast food. Lalo na noong mapadpad ako sa Makati, kung saan kada kanto ay may McDonald’s at Jollibee. Noong 2013 pa nga, halos cheeseburger lang ang kinakain ko sa araw-araw. Hindi ako nagsasawa. At sa tuwing mag-iinuman kaming magkakaopisina, sa McDonald’s kami laging nagpapalipas ng tama. Habang nagkakape, lumalamon kami ng sangkaterbang fries.

Ngayon, masasabi kong hindi pa rin kumukupas ang pag-ibig ko para sa piniritong pagkain. Kahit anong pilit ko sa sarili na kumain ng mas masusustansiyang pagkain, lalo na’t marami-rami na rin akong natutunang recipe nitong mga nagdaang taon at sigurado rin akong masarap ako magluto, binabalik-balikan ko pa rin ang aking prito favorites.

At dahil sa quarantine, mas nawiwili pa ako ulit sa pinirito. Dahil nakakulong lang sa bahay, mas ramdam ko ngayon ang pagkaumay sa tila walang katapusang sikulo ng trabaho’t gawaing bahay. Noong una, masipag pa akong magluto ng iba’t ibang putahe. Pero matapos ang ilang linggo ng paulit-ulit na gawain, dagdag pa ang pagkabagot dahil sa bagal ng usad ng buhay, mas ginugusto ko na lang nitong mga nagdaang araw na magprito lang nang magprito para mapasimple at mapabilis ang paghahanda ng pagkain.

Kaya nga lang, sa paulit-ulit kong pagpiprito, natauhan ako sa isang mapait na katotohanan: Hindi pala ako magaling magprito. Bukod sa hindi pantay na luto, kadalasang problema ng pinirito ko ang hindi magandang testura. Halimbawa, imbes na malutong ang balat ng manok, nagiging mamasa-masa ito kaya nakatatamad kainin.

Buti na lang at nadiskubre ako ang Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking ni Samir Nosrat. Binasa ko ang buong libro sa pag-asang marami akong matututunan tungkol sa pagluluto, lalo na pagdating sa pagpiprito.

Hindi naman ako nabigo, dahil maganda talaga yung libro at siksik sa kaalaman. Isa sa mga pinakatumatak sa aking tips ay iyong tungkol sa maagang paglabas ng karne mula sa refrigerator para masigurong hindi na ito nagyeyelo sa oras na iluluto na ito. Nalaman ko rin ang magagandang epekto ng paglalagay ng asin sa karne na nakatutulong para magkaroon ng mas magandang luto. At siyempre, naroon din ang paggamit ng tamang temperatura sa tuwing nagpiprito para hindi sunog sa labas pero hilaw sa loob ang karne. Napansin kong umayos nga ang mga lutuin ko nang sundin ko ang tips na ito.

Tapos, bigla kong natutunan ang tungkol sa airfryer. Nalaman ko sa kaibigan ko kung gaano ito kadaling gamitin at kung gaano kaganda ang luto nito. Mas mainam din daw ito sa kalusugan dahil hindi na kailangang gumamit ng mantika. Ang totoo, sinasalo pa nito ang sobrang mantika mula sa pagkaing piniprito.

Napabilib ako nang husto rito, kaya naman nagsimula akong magtingin-tingin online ng kung anong magandang airfryer ang magandang bilhin. Naghanap din ako ng brand na hindi sobrang mahal. At, matapos ang ilang linggong pagbabasa-basa, nakita ko rin sa wakas ang brand at uri ng airfryer na swak sa amin.

Ngayon, tuwang-tuwa ako sa mga piniritong pagkain dito sa bahay. Mapa-dimsum, beef strips, french fries, o manok man ang isalang ko sa bagong airfryer namin, sigurado akong maganda ang magiging kalalabasan nito. Dahil dito, pakiramdam ko, nag-level up na ang debosyon ko sa piniritong pagkain.

Hindi na rin ako makapag-antay pa sa marami pang piniritong matitikman ko sa hinaharap. Pero siyempre, susubukan ko pa ring kumain ng mas maraming masustansiyang pagkain.

Thoroughfares and trust issues

I was so scared when M and I began dating in 2008, but I continued going out with him, anyway. I didn’t even care that I was about to leave for college in a month. I was hopeful that we could pull off a long distance relationship. Besides, he assured me that he’d remain loyal and wouldn’t flirt with other girls. He promised me this that as he held my hand. We were hanging out at a McDonald’s branch along P. Oliveros Street in Antipolo City. Of course I believed him. I was young and trusting, and he seemed sincere. A few months later, my mother caught him with another girl near at the city proper. They were holding hands. Eventually, I found out that they’d been together for months.

Aboard an ordinary bus to Philcoa one February afternoon in 2010, G told me he loved me. As the vehicle crawled along Quezon Avenue, he held my hand and made my head lean against his shoulder. He sang to me, too. It felt like a scene in a movie. In April, we said goodbye. He was bound for Zamboanga, his hometown, where he’d spend his summer break. He promised me he’d communicate regularly. That didn’t happen, though. In June, we saw each other again at the campus. Suddenly, he said to me, I simply won’t commit to you, so if you’re assuming, don’t. The following month, I heard he had a new girlfriend. There were from the same program and apparently, they’d been flirting for a long time.

J didn’t make any promises to me when he held my hand as we were walking down Magsaysay Avenue at UP Diliman one afternoon in November 2010. But something about it felt so assuring. We’d been texting nonstop since the first day of classes just a few days prior. So maybe, it means something, I assumed. Later that day, he surprised me with a revelation: he was in a relationship with someone else.

During countless walks along Taft Avenue between in 2013 and 2014, E assured me that he’d take care of me, and that he would do his best not to hurt me. I wasn’t really expecting much from him, considering the fact that when we decided to be in a relationship, all we could say was, Let’s see where this goes. But his assurances sounded so good, and I’d like to believe I had actually found the one. What I didn’t know, though, was that in the years to come, I’d feel more attacked and more alone that I ever would.

D and I started dating in February 2018. He was different from the guys I’d dated in the past, but I was hopeful. Plus, seemed so sincere and so sure. He liked talking to me about his plans, usually while we were having coffee in our go-to cafe along Maginhawa Street. His plans always included me, and I thought it was sweet. And so assuring. In April, I found out that he’d been cheating on me. He never stopped talking to other girls, after all. Well, maybe he’d been making plans with them, too.

For me, a thoroughfare isn’t simply a path that connects point A to point B. Sometimes, it can also connect me to a particular set of memories. Some, in fact, I’ve already linked to certain tales of betrayals that when I think of them, I cannot help but also be reminded of how they contributed to my snowballing trust issues.

Yet I also try to fight these thoughts and disassociate these thoroughfares with heartbreaks. Hate the people, not the streets and avenues, I tell myself over and over. It is not their fault people erred in the narratives entangled with theirs. Besides, It’s already been so long since I got over those individuals.


Banner photo from Canva

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Bukod sa pagbuo ng Christmas tree, paborito ko ring aktibidad ang pagbaklas nito noong bata pa ako. Ritwal din kasi ito kung ituring sa bahay namin, kaya hindi lang basta-basta.

Dapat, maingat din habang iniisa-isang alisin ang mga palamuti, sanga, at kumpol ng dahon na maya-maya’y ilulubog naman sa isang palangganang may tubig at detergent powder para malinis bago muling itago. Kapag tapos na ang lahat, saka kami magsasaya at magpapalakpakan.

“Yehey, January na! Ilang buwan na lang Pasko na ulit!”

Si Uncle Leo ang pasimuno nito, siyempre. Siya ang resident kolokoy sa pamilya at paboritong kakulitan naming magpipinsan. Siya rin ang aming Santa Claus. (Pero siyempre, hindi pa namin alam iyon noon. Magaling siyang magplano at magtago, kaya paniwalang-paniwala kami dati na talagang dumaraan si Santa sa bahay namin sa Baclaran sa bisperas ng Pasko para maghatid ng mga regalo.)

Paborito ni Uncle ang Pasko. Bukod sa countdown niyang nagsisimula sa Enero, siya rin ang unang-unang nagpapatugtog ng Christmas songs sa street namin noon. Minsan nga, kasisimula pa lang ng buwan ng Agosto, sige na ang patugtog niya ng “Christmas in Our Hearts” ni Jose Mari Chan. Ito raw kasi ang huling buwan bago ang “Ber” season na, sa tingin niya, ay pormal na simula ng Pasko. Sakto, kasi supportive naman din ang buong pamilya sa trip niyang ito.

Di nakapagtataka, maaga rin kaming mag-set-up ng Christmas tree. Minsan, Oktubre pa lang ay kumukuti-kutitap na ang Christmas lights sa na nakapulupot sa mumunti naming Christmas tree sa bahay. At para kumpleto ang gayak, may fake Christmas gifts din siyang nilalagay sa ilalim ng puno. Para raw hindi malungkot tingnan. Okey lang daw na fake muna habang wala pa ang mga totoong regalo.

Ngayon, kahit hindi na ako naniniwala sa relihiyon, hindi ko pa rin maiwasang masabik sa tuwing darating ang “Ber” season. Alam ko, epekto ito ng paglaki ko sa isang pamilyang mahilig sa Pasko.

Hindi man ako mahilig sa Christmas tree, namana ko naman ang hilig ni Uncle sa Christmas songs. Maaga rin ako kung magsimulang magpatugtog nito. Sa katunayan, may mga pagkakataon pa ngang nakikinig ako ng mga paborito kong awiting Pamasko kahit hindi pa “Ber” months, lalo na iyong “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

At ngayong “Ber” season na naman, hindi ko maiwasang ma-excite, kahit may pandemya pa’t walang kasiguruhan kung anong mukha ng Pasko ang mararanasan ng mga tao. Pero, siguro, hindi na rin naman masama. Kasi, sa totoo lang, hindi naman ako basta lang natutuwa sa mga materyal na bagay na kaugnay ng selebrasyong ito. Ang totoo, mas nasasabik ako dahil sa mga alaalang ibinabalik nito sa akin.

Dahil kasi sa mga masasayang Pasko noong ipinagdiwang namin noon, kahit paano’y nabawasan ang drama sa kabataan ko. Oo nga’t wala madalas sa tabi ko ang nanay at tatay ko, pero naroon naman ang ibang kapamilya na masaya ring kasama. Sina Nanay, Lolo, Mama Ima, Auntie Sherly, at lalo na si Uncle Leo. Masaya rin dahil kasama ko ang mga pinsan ko na para ko na ring mga kapatid. Sila ang dahilan kung bakit hanggang ngayon, maganda ang tingin ko sa okasyong ito.

Almost 30

I am 29 now, which simply means I only have a year left before turning 30. That’s pretty exciting. Imagine being a 30-year-old woman who isn’t married and does not have a child yet. Oh, what a big “fuck you” to everyone who still believes that a woman’s most important role in this world is that of a wife and a mother and that she has to take it upon reaching a certain age.

Seriously, I am looking forward to turning 30. Perhaps, by the time I reach that age, more people would take me seriously. When you’re twenty-something, a lot of people still see you as a kid, even though you’re obviously wiser and more mature than they are. Maybe, when I tell them I am already thirty fucking years old, they’d be more receptive to my ideas. Maybe they would be nicer to me as well.

But I know it would also be tough. I’m sure that no matter how proud I’d be for defying society’s expectations at 30, there would still be a lot of comments on my chosen way of life. I’m certain that there would still be unsolicited pieces of advice on I should live. I don’t think they will ever stop. No, never, especially in this world where everybody has a say on a woman’s life except the woman herself. What do we expect in a world where women’s bodies are everyone’s business except their own, right?

Good thing, I am ready. I am ready for more inappropriate comments disguised as messages of concern. I am ready for unsolicited pieces of advice from people who clearly have no concept of boundaries. I am ready for criticisms and mean comments, as well as those orders on how I should live my life. Most importantly, I am so fucking ready for all the mommyjackers who think that just because motherhood has worked so well for them, everybody who has a uterus should give it a go, too, ASAP.

And, of course, I am ready to rage more. At 29, I have already mastered the art of not giving a fuck, thinking that fucks should be given only when really needed. Like in situations involving things I feel strongly about. At this point, it’s become clearer to me that one of the things I truly care about in life is valuing my own decisions and not letting anyone else dictate things to me. Anyone who tries to discredit my opinions on what I should do with my body and how I should live my life deserves an ample amount of anger—the type of anger which for years I’ve been saving for assholes who are convinced that they have the right to comment on things that are none of their business. I am so fucking ready to hate them more.

To be a woman
Is to live at a time of war.

Joi Barrios

Being a woman is hard, regardless of age. However, I know I’ll have bigger battles to face when I turn 30. I’m excited. But of course, I have to wait another year. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being 29. It may be a year short of 30, but it does not mean I won’t be brave and angry.


Banner photo from Canva

Sleepless in Lucban

Isa sa mga pinakapaborito kong lakad noong 2019 ay ang pagpunta ko sa Lucban, Quezon. Naimbitahan ako ng isang kaibigan para magbigay ng talk sa creative nonfiction sa event ng paaralan kung saan siya nagtuturo.

Mahal ko ang Lucban. Marami akong masasayang alaala sa bayang ito, mula sa Regional Press Conference na sinalihan ko noong 2006 na siksik sa gala at ghost stories (malapit ang paaralang tinuluyan namin sa sementeryo at sa isang sapa kung saan daw may mga engkanto), hanggang sa mga panandaliang dalaw ko roon para sa Pahiyas Festival. Kaya naman, lalong di-matawaran ang pagkasabik ko a biyaheng ito.

Maaga raw magsisimula ang event, kaya bumiyahe na ako pa-Lucban isang araw bago ang talk ko. Sakto, gusto ko ring makapasyal-pasyal sa bayan dahil matagal-tagal na rin akong hindi nakakabalik. Isa pa, marami namang puwedeng tuluyan sa lugar na maganda ang lokasyon at sulit ang presyo.

Maaga akong pumunta sa sakayan ng bus sa Buendia noong araw ng biyahe ko. Matagal ang paglalakbay, lalo at ilang bayan din ang dinaanan. Medyo kabado ako dahil iyon ang unang beses kong sumakay ng pampublikong bus pa-Lucban. Madalas kasi, may service kapag nagagawi ako roon. Pero buti na lang at tinuruan ako ng kaibigan ko kung saan bababa sa Lucena at kung saan hahanapin ang mga jeep papuntang Lucban. Mabait din ang konduktor ng bus na nasakyan ko. Bago ako bumaba sa may Diversion Road sa Lucena, inginuso niya pa sa akin kung saang direksyon ako dapat pumunta para hindi maligaw.

Sa may Diversion Road sa Lucban, Quezon

Pasado ala una ng hapon na ako nakarating sa Lucban. May kalakasan ang ulan, kaya napadesisyunan kong kumain muna at tumambay sa kung saan. Iyon nga lang, inaantok ako’t pagod sa biyahe, kaya wala pang lakas na maghanap ng magandang puntahan. Kaya iyon, sa Buddy’s ang bagsak ko. Nag-order ako ng Lucban longganisa, ang pinakamasarap na longganisa sa balat ng lupa! Sinabayan ko ito ng kanin at itlog, pati na rin kape.

Pagkatapos kumain at tumunganga, dumiretso muna ako sa aking tutuluyan. Buti at mahina na ang ulan kaya naglakad na lang ako. Malapit lang din iyon sa plaza, kaya kayang-kaya. Doon, nagbaba ako ng gamit at nagpahinga. Pagkatapos, naisipan kong lumabas ulit para sa magpamasahe. May branch kasi roon ang paborito kong spa.

Nakatulog ako habang nagpapamasahe, kaya pakiramdam ko ang lakas-lakas ko pagkatapos ng session ko roon. At dahil buhay na ulit ang diwa, naisipan kong huwag muna bumalik sa tinutuluyan. Sa halip, pinuntahan ko ang Pepe n Mary’s, ang kainan at kapehang nirekomenda ng kaibigan ko.

Natuwa ako sa kape nila. Akalain mo, puwede kang mamili ng mula sa iba’t ibang brewing methods! Chemex ang pinili ko dahil iyon pa lang ang hindi ko pa nasusubukan. Madalas, French press at pour-over ang gamit ko sa bahay. Ang aeropress, nasubukan ko na rin sa maliit na coffee shop sa loob ng isang laundromat sa Maginhawa. Bukod sa kape, kumain din ako ng cheese sticks na paboritong-paborito ko.

Kape sa Pepe n Mary’s

Matagal akong tumambay doon. Nagsulat-sulat din kasi ako, saka nag-ayos ng Powerpoint para sa talk kinabukasan. Bandang alas sais, sinundo ako ng kaibigan ko at niyaya papunta sa paaralan kung saan siya nagtuturo. Doon din ang talk ko. May short film festival daw ang mga mag-aaral, kaya may mga ipapalabas sa gabing iyon. Sumama naman ako.

Ang galing ng gawa ng mga bata! Sa totoo lang, walang-wala yung production skills ko noong nasa ganoon akong edad. Marami ring pelikula ang may potensyal pagdating sa kuwento. At ang acting, ibang klase rin. Halatang hindi lang basta biro-biro ang proyekto nila.

Kumain kami ng hapunan pagkatapos manood ng short films. Doon kami napadpad sa isang cafe malapit lang din sa paaralan. Crispy bagnet kare-kare yung kinain ko, at oo, nag-order ulit ako ng kape. Habang kumakain, todo rin ang kuwentuhan namin.

Hindi ko na maalala kung anong oras kami natapos sa huntahan, pero basta gabi na. Sumakay ako ng tricycle papunta sa tinutuluyan, kung saan nanood pa ako ng TV, nagbasa, at tumunganga. Sa madaling sabi, halos hindi rin ako natulog. Hindi rin naman iyon nakakagulat dahil hindi talaga ako palatulog kapag nagbibiyahe. Pakiramdam ko kasi, kailangan kong sulitin ang bawat sandali sa lugar na dinadalaw.


Sabaw na sabaw ako kinabukasan. Pero ang mahalaga, hindi ako nahuli sa pupuntahan. Nag-check out agad ako sa nirentahang kuwarto, naglakad papunta sa plaza para sa kaunting sight seeing, at saka sumakay ng tricycle papunta sa venue. Dumating ako roon halos kalahating oras pa bago ang simula ng event.

Lucban Church

Buti na lang, masaya ang opening program kaya hindi ako inantok. Dumating din ang ibang tagapagsalita sa araw na iyon, at nagkataong marami kaming common friends nung naka-assign sa fiction. Di tuloy namin namalayan, biglang close na rin kami. Sakto, taga-QC rin pala kami pareho noon.

Pagkatapos ng opening program, hinati na ang mga bata depende sa kung ano ang genre na pinili nila. Dahil mas kaunti ang mga pumuli ng creative nonfiction, ang genre namin ang pinalipat sa isang classroom sa baba lang ng main hall. Doon nangyari ang munti kong talk na sinundan din naman ng isang writing contest. Ako ang hurado, siyempre.

Iniwan ko muna ang mga bata habang nagsusulat para makasilip sa main hall. Sakto pala, naroon na ang isa pa naming kaibigan na siya namang magsasalita tungkol sa poetry sa hapon. Halos hindi matapos ang kumustahan namin, lalo pa’t ilang buwang hindi nagkita.

Natapos din ang oras na nakalaan para sa pagsulat. Binalikan ko ang mga mag-aaral at kinuha ang kanilang mga papel. Oras na rin ng tanghalian, kaya dumiretso muna kami sa Sulyap sa Pahiyas, kung saan kami nakatakdang kumain.

Sulyap sa Pahiyas

Maganda roon at masarap ang pagkain. Napakaganda rin ng tanawin, lalo sa veranda kung saan kami nakapuwesto. Para sulitin ang view (pati na rin ang kape na sagana roon), naisipan naming doon na lang gawin ang judging. Samantala, ang iba naming kasama’y bumalik muna sa venue para sa lecture at contest sa pagsulat ng tula at dula.

Judging session habang tanaw ang Mt. Banahaw

Nang matapos sa judging, bumalik na rin kami sa venue at doon na muna tumambay. Nakailang labas din kami sa campus para bumili ng kape lalo na’t may malapit na 7-Eleven doon.

Bandang alas singko, nagkaroon na ng awarding ceremony. Iyon na rin ang pagtatapos ng creative writing event. Masaya ang mga bata at nakakatuwa silang panoorin mula sa pagkasorpresa matapos malamang nagwagi, hanggang sa pagpunta sa entablado para kunin ang award. Naaalala ko ang kabataan ko. Ay, tumatanda na nga ako!


Tumambay kaming tatlo (ako, at iyong mga tagapagsalita sa fiction at sa poetry) sa Pepe n Mary’s noong tapos na ang event. Doon namin hinintay ang kaibigan naming pasimuno ng lahat, na noong oras na iyon ay abala pa sa pag-aasikaso ng mga kung anu-ano sa pinagtuturuang paaralan.

Habang naghihintay sa kaniya, nagkape at kumain kami, saka nagkuwentuhan. Sa sobrang daming istorya, pakiramdam ko hindi kami mauubusan. Ganoon lang talaga siguro kapag nagsasama-sama ang mga manunulat. Hindi puwedeng walang kuwenta at laging may kuwento.

Madilim na noong dumating ang hinihintay namin. Imbes umalis, nagtagal pa ulit kaming apat doon. Hahabulin ko pa sana ang last trip ng bus, pero sabi nila madaling-araw na lang ako umuwi. May mga van pa-Maynila naman daw na umaalis ng alas tres ng madaling araw. Mas maikli ang biyahe kumpara sa biyahe ng bus, kaya siguradong aabot ako sa pasok ko kinabukasan. Pumayag naman ako. Siyempre, ayokong mapag-iwanan. Alam kong nagsisimula pa lang ang gabi.

Somewhere in Lucban, Quezon

Mula sa sa kainan at kapehang tinambayan, naglakad kami papunta sa plaza kung saan kami sandaling tumambay para magkuwentuhan pa rin. Nang magsawa, naglakad kami paikut-ikot sa bayan habang walang habas sa pagpapalitan ng istorya. Parang wala kaming kapaguran.

Nang makaramdam na lumalalim na nang husto ang gabi, pumunta na kami sa tinutuluyan ng kaibigan naming taga-roon (na siya ngang pasimuno ng lahat). Akala ko’y matatapos na ang kuwento roon. Hindi pa pala! Inabot kami ng pasado alas dose dahil sa daldalan. Ang labo, dahil balak naming gumising pagsapit ng alas dos para makapaghanda sa pag-uwi.

Pero nagising pa rin naman kami sa oras. O, hindi lang talaga ako natulog at pagpatak ng alas dos, kinalampag ko nang todo ang bagong kaibigan na siyang kasabay ko sa pag-uwi. Pupungas-pungas kami habang naghahanda ng mga gamit at sinisugurong walang maiiwan sa kuwartong tinuluyan.

Sa kabutihang palad, nakapag-empake naman kami nang maayos at nakalakad nang mabilis papunta sa terminal ng tricycle. Doon, sinabihan namin ang driver na ihatid kami sa kung saan makakasakay ng van pabalik ng Maynila. Hinahabol namin ang biyaheng alas tres.

Saktong dalawa na lang ang kulang ng van pagdating namin, kaya nakaalis na rin kaagad. Nagpaalam na kami sa dalawang kaibigan. Dalawa, dahil yung isa’y doon daw muna tutal taga-Quezon din naman siya. Sa ibang bayan lang.

Dalawang oras lang mahigit ang inabot ng biyahe pauwi, kaya nakaidlip pa ako sa bahay bilang paghahanda sa trabaho ko sa ganap na alas siyete.

Syet. Sabaw na naman. Pero, ang saya. Parang college days lang ulit. Saktong trip lang siguro, bago pa mas tumanda.


Bored lang ako’t sabik nang lumabas, kaya naisipan kong magsulat tungkol sa mga pangyayari noong nakaraang taon, kung kailan normal pa ang mga bagay.

Sinadya ko palang hindi ilagay ang pangalan ng mga kaibigan para protektahan ang kanilang privacy.

Banner photo mula sa Canva

Why I write

Many times, I wonder why I write. Why, of all things that can be done, I’ve chosen this one. This thing that’s never easy and is often unrewarding. This, which requires discipline and hard work.

It all began when I was in fifth grade. Our English teacher and adviser asked if I wanted to join the school’s English publication. Back then, I didn’t really understand what it meant. But campus journalism seemed fun. Also, Mama said, Why not? And so I did.

The following week, I was told to go to school early, so I could attend the training sessions in the morning. I belonged to the afternoon shift then, and going to school early meant having to wake up earlier than usual. It didn’t thrill me at all. Plus, it also meant missing my favorite shows on MTV Channel in the morning. Worse, I found the training sessions boring. Editorial writing? Duh.

A few days into the training, the coach approached me, telling me that we were attending a series of lectures on campus journalism in another school the next day. She instructed me to bring packed lunch and extra cash and inform my parents that I’d be out for the entire day in the next two days.

It wasn’t the first time I was participating in an activity outside school, so of course, Mama was okay with it. In fact, she was thrilled. She thought it would be cool to learn more about writing.

What we didn’t know, though, was there would be a competition at the end of every lecture. I only realized that on the first day of the event. I was scared for I hadn’t really prepared. I had only been training for a couple of days, and the only type of article I’d been thoroughly taught about was Editorial.

But since I was so scared of Ma’am Luz, our coach, I joined the contests anyway. All of them. Despite having limited knowledge about campus journalism, I tried my best to be creative and spell words correctly and ensure my handwriting was legible. And I followed the lecturers’ instructions.

I ended up bagging five awards, including top spots in Feature Writing and Editorial Cartooning. Ma’am Luz was so happy, and she kept bragging that it was my first time, that I had only been training for a few days, and that I was just in grade five. I was too young to be there. That time, it was usually the graduating students who were set to compete. Of course, school paper advisers from other schools were impressed.

That went on until I reached sixth grade, and then high school. The only difference was, out of stubbornness, I decided to join the Filipino Publication in high school instead. Just for a change.

I kept getting awards in high school, and I always made it to the Regional Schools Press Conference, which meant a lot to every honor student. Just being a participant there meant having extra points for extra co-curricular activities, which of course was included in the computation of the grades among those running for honors.

In my third year, I made it to the National Schools Press Conference. Not just that, our team actually won first place in Scriptwriting and Radio Broadcasting. That time, I was already editor-in-chief of the publication. It was weird, for the position was usually given to graduating students who needed the points the most.

It all continued in my fourth year. I did not make it to the National Presscon that year, but I was able to also win in other essay writing competitions, both in English and Filipino.

Because of my victories, it became too easy for me to decide what course to take in college–journalism. Some of my teachers weren’t too happy about it, thinking it would be such a waste of talent. They thought I should choose anot. Others, which could be more financially rewarding, like engineering or accountancy. I told them I didn’t like to be like everyone else in our batch. Plus, writing was my thing.

Then, graduation came. Again, I graduated top of the class, number one among around 600 students. I was once again named Journalist of the Year. I got other awards, too, but I can no longer remember all of them. Let’s just say that at that time, I was convinced that I was really good at writing. I was ready for UP Baguio, where I was about to major in Communication.

At UP Baguio, things seemed fine. In fact, a professor encouraged me to write more after reading my first output for the class. He praised my essays for their creativity and boldness, and he liked them despite having some grammatical errors. That year, I also fell in love with literature. Finally, able to have a legitimate library experience, I tried to expose myself to more literary classics.

A few months before the end of the academic year, I made up my mind: instead of pursuing journalism, I’d be a creative writer. And so I submitted my application for the Creative Writing program of UP Diliman. Apart from grade requirements, there was a writing test as well. Fortunately, I passed. I transferred the following school year.

I was so thrilled in my new program. However, it was also there where I began developing a lot of insecurities. My classmates, who were mostly from prominent private schools and grew up speaking English and reading good books, intimidated me. I admired how eloquent their prose and verses were and I was jealous. Around them, I realized how unpolished my language was.

But I did not give up. Despite getting a lot of negative comments regarding how awkward some of my sentences were and being reprimanded over grammar slips, I did not give up. Instead, I pushed myself harder.

During my last semester, a professor told me that I had actually been improving. Hard work was paying off. Not bad.

Then I graduated and went to work as an article writer in Makati. It was not my first job. Even before that, I was already working as a writer for a production company. I had gigs with several companies, too. In the years to come, I would do editorial work for other companies as well. So I’d learn about other forms of writing, particularly the types of writing that could pay the bills.

But even then, I made a commitment to myself that I would still read a lot and try to improve my creative writing skills. I would polish my craft. I knew I had to work harder, given how behind I had been compared to other writers my age. I was okay with the idea. In fact, I found it exciting.

However, life happened. I had to deal not just with work but also with family-related dramas and messy relationships, which were so draining and time-consuming. I also struggled financially, especially, when I decided to leave my family’s home.

Suddenly, I had little to no time to write. Sure, I was constantly improving, but I had no time to take it seriously. I had no time to really write. It was hard. I wanted so bad to create, but there was just too much taking place around me and I was overwhelmed. Yet, I realized, why would I let people around me dictate what I could and couldn’t do?

And so I fought. I fought for the chance to write again. I fixed my life, turned it into something that would let me things that I really wanted to do, even if it meant losing certain people along the way. In my head, I was simply choosing me and my dreams.

It’s already been three years since I made that difficult decision, and I am happy about my progress. It isn’t that much, since I still have to mind other things like work and grad school, but still, not bad. I have produced a couple of strong pieces in the last three years, published a creative work in a magazine, and made it to a national writers’ workshop. And, just last week, I received an email saying that my essay has been accepted in a major literary journal in the country.

Moreover, I am still writing. I don’t stop. No matter how busy I am with work and personal life, I still find time to create. And I’ve never felt more confident with my work.

Of course, I still have bad days. A lot of them. There are still moments when I simply feel bad about everything I produce. However, I don’t let these moments completely distract me from my goal: to be a writer who writes, not a writer who just keeps on whining about writing.

So I go on. I take small breaks when things seem too much. I pick up something else to do like reading books I like and need. Of course I indulge in unproductive activities, too. I watch shows and films on Netflix and elsewhere. I listen to a lot of sad songs on Spotify and sing my heart out loud on WeSing. I eat a lot and sometimes just do nothing. Sometimes, I just sleep.

And once I am fine again, I continue to write. This time, more energized, focused, and determined. It is during these moments when I become more certain about the reasons why I am writing in the first place.

I write because it’s what I want to do and because I’ve already given up a lot of things to get this far. I write because I believe in my stories. I write because have faith in its ability to give voice to those who are voiceless and document what’s taking place not just in me but also around me. I write because it matters.

I write because I believe helps me get to know more about myself. By writing, I get a chance to scrutinize facts and narratives and memories until they make more sense, until I heal from whatever wound they previously caused me.

Sometimes, I even write in order to forgive. That’s because writing allows me to take a step back from experiences and process them more objectively and more thoroughly.

I write because I can’t imagine myself doing something else. I write because although it’s so hard that it fleshes out all my flaws and insecurities, it also occasionally brings out the best in me. I write because by writing, I get a chance to immortalize people and things. I also get to immortalize experiences.

I write because because even if it’s usually unrewarding, just being able to produce something can also feel great. Even if it takes a lot of work. Even if the process is sometimes painful.

I write because I believe that I’m meant to do this, so even if there are still a lot of work to do and at lot of things to learn, I am ready. I write because I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

I write because because I’m a writer and no, I don’t want to be anything else.


Banner photo from Canva

Ang kuwentong Chocolate Kiss ko

Isang araw, sumulpot na lang sa pinto ng classroom namin sa Eng30 ang representative ng isang kilalang photocopying place sa campus para ibalita sa prof namin na nahanap na nila sa wakas iyong mga librong pinagkunan ng readings ni Ma’am noong nakaraang semestre. Na-misplace lang daw nila ang mga iyon sa dami ng mga gamit sa shop nila. Bukod sa humingi siya ng paumanhin, binigyan niya rin ng cake si Ma’am. Peace offering daw.

Yun lang, wala naman daw kakain ng cake na iyon sa bahay ng prof namin dahil hindi naman daw sila mahihilig sa matatamis. Kaya, sabi niya, kami na lang ang kumain ng cake. Nagulat kami, pero game lang. Sino ba namang tatanggi sa libreng pagkain?

Para makain namin ang cake, tumakbo yung isang kaklase namin sa CASAA para bumili ng paper plates and plastic forks. Nagtagumpay naman siya sa misyon, kaya lahat kami’y masayang nakakain ng cake. Parang may party lang sa klase.

Yun ang kauna-unahan kong tikim sa cake ng The Chocolate Kiss Cafe.


Kapag sinabi noong ChoKiss, sosyal yun. Madalas, mga rich kid lang ang may kakayanang tumambay doon. Yung iba naman, makatapak man, grabeng tipid pa rin. Base sa kuwento ng mga kaibigan ko, minsan daw ay naghahati pa sila sa ilang putahe para hindi masyadong mabigat sa bulsa.

Ang iba naman, umaasa lang sa panlilibre ng iba para makakain dito. Parang tulad ko na hindi pa makakatambay sa ChoKiss kung hindi ko sinamahan ang kaibigan ko sa interview niya sa subject niya sa isang feature para sa journ class.

Sa baon ko nga namang isandaang piso kada araw na halos sakto lang sa pamasahe at mumurahing makukutkot tulad ng lumpiang gulay at turon, paano ko nga naman kakayanin ang presyo ng pagkain sa ChoKiss?


Sa isang session namin sa UST National Writer’s Workshop, napag-usapan ang tungkol sa obesession at kung paano ito nag-uugat sa deprivation. Sa gitna ng usapan, di ko maiwasang banggitin ang tungkol sa walang-kamatayang pagkagusto ko sa ChoKiss na lalong pinalalim ng kawalan ko ng kakayanan na kumain dito noon.

Dati, madalas akong mag-crave sa mga pagkain nila. Kaya nga lang, wala akong perang pambili. Kaya naman, noong magkaroon akong trabaho at regular na kita, sinimulan kong balik-balikan ang ChoKiss. Pati mga kapatid kong parehong mga iska rin, idinamay ko na rin. Madalas, kapag binibisita ko sila sa campus, dinadala o kinikita ko sila sa rito.

Sa sobrang loyal ko sa ChoKiss, tinangkilik ko rin ang branch nito sa UP Town Center noon. Madalas, kapag nagagawi ako sa mall na iyon, sa ChoKiss ko pinipiling tumambay kaysa makipagsiksikan sa ibang coffee shops doon. Sa katunayan, doon din kami nag-celebrate ng pamilya ko noong magtapos sa kolehiyo ang pangalawa kong kapatid.


Hindi ko na maalala ang pinakahuling punta ko sa ChoKiss. Basta, ang alam ko, nakatira pa ako noon sa Quezon City at madalas na pakalat-kalat sa UP Diliman.

Sayang na wala manlang akong ideyang iyon na ang magiging huling kain ko roon. Ni hindi ko manlang nanamnam ang order ko, mapa-beef stroganoff, salisbury steak, carbonara, o mushroom aglio olio man iyon. Hindi ko rin nasulit ang bawat patak ng house blend coffee na ipinares ko sa pagkain ko. Walang ritual ng pamamaalam.

Pero ayos na lang din siguro iyon dahil kahit paano, walang anumang bahid ng kalungkutan ang huling bisita ko roon. Parang normal lang ang lahat. Parang walang kahit anong pagbabadya ng katapusan. Hanggang sa dulo, ramdam ko na mayroon at mayroon pa ring ChoKiss na babalik-balikan.


Banner photo mula sa clickthecity.com

Milo madness

When I was four, I was crazy about Milo.

One night, we ran out of it. Already accustomed to drinking a hot cup of this drink before going to bed, I was devastated. I cried.

Good thing, my Uncle Leo was there. He tried to pacify me by telling me we’d buy lots of Milo the next day. A truckload of it. I stopped crying. The idea of having that much choco malt drink all to myself also thrilled me, bringing a smile on my face.

He failed to fulfill that promise of his, and he will no longer have the chance to because he’s now dead. I am not mad at him, though.

Not so long after he made that promise, I realized that it wouldn’t be possible at all. A truckload of Milo? Who was he kidding? I knew he just said that to make me stop from crying. Classic Uncle Leo move.


I was a sad child.

My parents separated when I was three. My mother and I left our home after discovering that my father had been cheating on her. We moved to my grandparents’ home, where my uncles and aunts were also staying.

Mama had to leave eventually, since she got a job elsewhere and could not take me with her. Not too long after her departure, though, he met a new man.

When she got pregnant, she decided to leave her job and stay in Bicol instead. It was where the new guy was from, and she wanted to stay there while waiting for her due date.

Of course, that hurt me. Although still very young, I was already aware of what was going on. I was a smart kid, after all.

Many times, I cried because of what was happening. I felt abandoned. Mama was supposed to be with me, but she wasn’t. She was faraway, carrying a child that wasn’t my father’s, making plans that didn’t include me.


The night I cried over Milo was not the only night my Uncle Leo tried to keep me from shedding more tears. In fact, I already lost count of the times he calmed me down and made me smile instead.

Uncle Leo was known in our family as the funny one. He liked cracking jokes and making puns. He was the cool uncle, too, always buying us toys and treats when we were kids.

He tried to give me a normal childhood despite the circumstances. Although I was forced to grow up fast, he gave me a chance to feel like a child.

Of course, I still feel sad whenever I look back on my childhood. What I had to go through at a young age has scarred me so deeply and up until now, I am still dealing with a lot of issues that stemmed from my troubled past.

Yet, I can still say that I have nice childhood memories to treasure. Most of them involve my dear Uncle Leo. All those Christmas Evenings he pretended to be Santa Claus, secretly leaving us presents so we’d wake up on Christmas Day with our stockings filled with gifts. All those jamming sessions in which he’d play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and try to copy the different voices in the song. All those afternoons he’d play with me and my cousins. Memories as such give me the assurance that although I was different, I had several chances to feel normal.

Although he didn’t buy me a truckload of Milo, I still love Uncle Leo and I will always think of him so fondly. And now, as I descend into another phase of Milo madness, I vow to remember him in every cup of this sweet, sweet drink.


Banner photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Some things you should know

On the first day of classes, the morning: The College of Arts and Letters New Building’s Atrium craves for silence. Students sit in lines outside the classroom, waiting until the ongoing classes end as they chat about the break which has just bid adieu. And there are guessing games: how do the professors whose names are like clichés look like in person, how these big names behave in class, what are the new challenges and so on…

Mid semester: Nights grow shorter, days are longer. Class requirements begin to come one after another. Papers are in and so are exams. Midterm crises are experienced by some. The check marks on the class records begin to decrease for the number of students who cut classes obviously increases. Crammers start to take cramming to the next level, non-crammers take things more seriously. People feel that there are really a lot of things to do yet they know there are more works to come.

Hell week: You feel the need to get a copy of the map of hell according to Dante’s Inferno not because you feel like going to hell after death but because you already feel that hell starts to burn and you need a map to show you the way, so you can survive. Eye bags swell, this time, they may already be larger than eyelids. Nights are the shortest compared to any time of the year. The dawn makes many hearts weep for it means another day—another day to see the walking pressures, the devils and all the inhabitants of your beloved hell. Light embraces the skies after the darkness of a sleepless night and you ask why there are only 24 hours in one day, and then you realize that having additional hours in one day would mean additional work loads for the people around you would assume you have more time to do more things and so you stop questioning and just be contented with 24 hours.

A friend told me that the real UP experience begins when you start taking up major subjects. According to her, that’s when you learn the art of masochism: the more pain you get, the more you are satisfied. It is waking up with a smile after only two hours of sleep, feeling a sense of pleasure after your brain has bled because of a difficult reading, wanting more mind-torturing pages of books you never thought you would ever read, humanizing comments of your teachers. Sometimes I wonder if these things are true or just some sort of consolation prizes which entitle people some bragging rights…

Papers: The writing process should always start with a pen and a piece of paper for the flow of ink from the tube to the sheet gives a more organized flow of ideas, unlike the anything-goes style which usually takes place in directly in front of the computer. Papers should be printed at least a day before the due so proofreading could still be done. These are the rules. And what are rules? Sometimes, eggshells lying on a bed during your bed time.

Best attempts: Studying regularly and being confident that you are already geared up anytime the professor schedules an exam, jumping out of joy when the professor announces that you will be having your exam next week until she tells you that she will be giving additional readings that you would all have to study, quite more than the number of readings you discussed in class. Receiving an announcement that your professor would not be around for an entire week, rejoicing with the whole class until you all receive an email saying you have to submit a number of requirements when the classes resume. Attempting to cut your classes for one day just to finish a paper due at four in the afternoon, accidentally bumping in to your professor on your way to the library and hear her say, “See you later in class.”

Things to ruin your day: A traffic jam that causes you to be late for class. A jeepney whose driver is fond of stopping from time to time, hopeful to get some more passengers while you are already late for a class. Not being able to eat breakfast for the class is about to start in three minutes yet the progress of the line in the canteen is inversely proportional to the number of persons lining. A snob librarian who asks you to leave your shoulder bag, which is always allowed to be brought inside when someone else is guarding the entrance, to the baggage counter.

Once when my sight deceived me: Hungry after an epistaxis-causing class discussion, I lined among the so many others at the Katag to buy some food. At first, I was planning to buy Spaghetti alla Carbonara. When I was already near the finish line, I saw some Spaghetti al Pesto. It looked so nice that I couldn’t help but have a sudden change of heart. So I ended up with a serving of Spaghetti al Pesto. Excitement filled me up as I marched toward my table. When I started eating, all the excitement had suddenly gone out of the exhaust vent and meandered endlessly together with all the smoke and fumes.

Things to make you smile: An inspiring quote from a professor. A message of encouragement from a classmate who, though strange, also needs some encouragement. Meeting Zorro on your way to the Faculty Center and feeling him tap your shoulder as if telling you that you can survive another hellish day. A librarian who smiles at you while you carry a pile of hard bound books. Seeing the professor on whom you have a crush and hearing him ask you: “How are you?” The sweaty version of Piolo Pascual running on the Academic Oval. A “No class today” sign on the door of your classroom. A holiday which happens to coincide with the due date of a project, which means the deadline is extended. Your own version of the last two lines of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”: When hell week comes, can sembreak be far behind?

Once when I thought a professor would not come to class: Though feeling the persistent attempts of my eyelids to kiss each other, I decided to attend a class. Half conscious and a half not, I walked along the corridors of Palma Hall, aware of the walls whispering. PH126. I stopped, entered. Fifteen minutes late, I entered while my classmates stared at me as if something was wrong with the way I looked like. Eyebags? Who cares? So I just sat down. Eighteen minutes more, everyone was ready to escape out of that blue-paved jail. Two minutes before the quota. Ready, set, run. But before the inmates were able to totally escape, the warden without a gun had already arrived.

Things that are worth all the curses—and even tears: A power interruption when you are not able to charge your laptop on a day before a paper is due. Finishing all your papers due on a particular day and finding out at the computer shop where you would have them printed that your files are corrupted because of the virus which infected your flash drive. Arriving at a computer shop, confident that you would be able to print your paper until you find out that there is a power interruption in the whole area. Losing your flash drive containing all your files which, unfortunately, do not have backups in your computer. Having a difficulty connecting to the DilNet when you badly need to send a very important email.

To save your day: A coffee with a friend who is always willing to listen as you curse your professors to death. Eating whatever brand of instant pansit canton while facing the sunken garden on a sunset. Accidentally seeing a friend around and to end up sitting on the green, green grass as you talk about happy things. A notice on Facebook saying your crush likes your profile photo. Eating siomai from Lutong Bahay together with your best bud who never despises you no matter how bitter you are sometimes. Mang Larry’s isaw. A serving of spaghetti alla carbonara from Long Island. A meal from Beach House Canteen: two cups of rice, a stick of barbecue and a serving of chopsuey or sautéed vegetable with tofu. Ice cream with friends while joyfully talking about Marx, Althusser, Orwell, and the girl who claims that she looks like Bella of Twilight.

Things that are discouraging: Receiving low recitation marks for a number of consecutive days. Having a feeling that your professor does not like you at all so she is being bitchy. Bad feedback during workshops. Hearing your professor say that you have rethink about your poems for they are not working, remembering you did not sleep for God-knows-how-many nights just to come up with them. Long lines at the CASAA food court when you are coming from an examination in a Comparative Literature subject.

Inspiring things: Watching the sunset while at the back of the Quezon Hall. Fireworks display near the Film Center. Lying down on the heart of the Sunken Garden and feeling its skin while listening to John Mayer’s St. Patrick’s Day and other songs. Watching Noel Cabangon perform live at the Carillon Plaza. The fact that Noel Cabangon’s show was for free. A pa-macho friend singing Nicole Hyala’s Mahal Kita Kasi. Hearing a friend saying that she is praying for you. Drinking beer with a friend on the heart of the sunken garden late at night while you are talking about life and doing some star gazing and yet you are both alert for you might be caught by some security personnel. The song Blue jeans.

Things that would remind you that you are human: Not being able to say anything when your professor asks you. English 23 (Introduction to Shakespeare) class under Prof. Ramas. John Donne’s poetry and his metaphysical metaphors. Wanting not to sleep just to finish a paper yet still falling asleep because the body could no longer resist. Examinations. Workshops. A professor playing the role of a devil’s advocate.

Things that are laughable: The grammatical errors you find in the Facebook page of your former special someone’s present girlfriend and knowing that the girl is some sort of a jejemon. The unshaven armpit of a professor who loves wearing sleeveless tops. A bitchy classmate’s crappy reaction paper about a wonderful film.

Things that could be so ephemeral: A pop supernova sort of professor’s good mood. Money when there are a lot of readings. Hang-over. Lovelife, if that’s what you really call it. Inspiration. Drive to finish paper works days before the due. Bodily energy most especially during hell weeks.

Things you would love to forget: deadlines and exam dates.

Things you should never forget: deadlines and exam dates. Dropping date.

Things that make your heart beat faster: A professor’s question about a particular Shakespearean drama and a feeling that you would be called anytime. Your professor locking the door of the classroom so the late comers could no longer get in. Rallies, though you know not what they are rallying for. Oblation run—where notes are seen, not heard and are measured by size instead of loudness or softness. Experiencing workshop for the first time. Waiting for your grades until they are all posted; you try to delude yourself that they are just numbers and not the real gauge of cleverness so they do not really matter yet, they still do. Being aware that hell week is not yet over.

Something that could give you relief: thinking that all the hardships concerning academics end when graduation finally comes—the omega of the hell alphabet’s alpha.

One thing that would make you think twice: realizing the fact that after graduation, a wider and more dangerous world awaits you. And you begin to hear the vultures flapping their wings.


Inspired by Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book; written for Comparative Literature 115 (Creative Nonfiction), 1st Semester AY 2010-2011, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City

Banner photo from Canva

Spaghetti ang ambag ko

Usong-uso ngayon ang tanungan kung ano’ng ambag mo. Ano ito, potluck? May swimming ba tayo o Christmas party na agad?

Kaya ayan, napaisip ako kung anong magandang i-ambag. At, siyempre, ang unang pumasok sa isip ko ay Pinoy-style spaghetti.

Big hit ang spaghetti sa birthday parties, lalo na kung bagets ang mga imbitado. Kebs kung ma-ketchup, malabsa ang noodles, o kahit pa kapos sa hotdog at cheese. Ang mahalaga, may spaghetti. Dito pa lang, kumpleto na ang birthday.

Paborito ko talaga ang Pinoy spaghetti. Oo, yung asim-tamis na may mapulang sauce at sinabuyan pa ng ginadgad na keso. Sa tuwing makakakain ako nito, talagang sumasaya ako. Feeling ko, birthday ko ulit.

Bukod sa lasa, siguro kaya ko rin gusto ang spaghetti ay dahil naiuugnay ko ito sa masasayang okasyon. Bukod kasi sa birthday, uso rin ito kapag Pasko at Bagong Taon, pati na rin kapag may honor ako noon sa school.


Balik muna tayo sa birthday.

Noong bata pa ako, madalas akong mag-celebrate ng birthday nang wala ang Mama at Papa ko. Hiwalay kasi sila’t may kani-kaniya nang pamilya, habang ako naman ay nakatira sa bahay ng lolo ko at lola, kasama ng mga tiyuhin at tiyahin, pati na rin mga pinsan.

Dahil dito, bilang din sa kamay ang mga kaarawan kong may present na magulang sa selebrasyon. May mga taon pa ngang walang handa. Pero, hanggang ngayon, naaalala ko, hangga’t kaya ng lolo, lola, mga tiyuhin, at mga tiyahin ko, gagawan nila ng paraan na may handa sa birthday ko.

Siyempre, nag-aambag din naman minsan yung mga magulang ko, lalo na si Papa. Pero may taon na nagpadala lang siya ng cake. Nakakatawa, hindi manlang nagtanong kung anong plano. Hindi niya tuloy nalaman na may cake nang binili para sa akin sa bahay. Nadoble tuloy.

Para sa akin, kapag sinabing spaghetti, special yun. Oo, masarap ang pansit. Star din ito sa mga okasyon. pero, kapag spaghetti ang handa mo, ibang level talaga iyon.


Spaghetti ang unang-unang putahe na natutunan kong lutuin.

Pagdating ko ng grade 5, kinuha na ako ni Mama para manatili sa puder niya. Tumira kami sa apartment na kalapit lang din ng bahay ng lolo ko at lola.

Isang Pasko, naisipan ni Mama na magsarili kami ng handa. Lagi na lang daw kasi kaming nakikikain sa kabilang bahay. Kaya lang, hindi siya mahilig magluto. Wala rin siyang ideya kung paano gumawa ng sauce ng spaghetti.

Buti na lang at bida-bida ako. Nag-volunteer agad akong ako na lang ang magluluto. Sa wakas, di na lang nood-nood! Di na lang basta chuwariwap sa kusina na tagahugas ng gamit panluto at tagabalat at tagahiwa ng mga sangkap!

Buti na lang at game din ang tiyahin ko. Inilista niya pa ang mga sangkap na kailangang bilhin sa palengke, saka idinetalye sa akin ang paraan ng pagluluto. Sinunod ko naman lahat, kaya ayun, ang sarap ng unang luto ko. Ang sarap ng spaghetti ko.


Sa paglipas ng taon, unti-unti kong na-master ang pagluluto ng spaghetti na naaayon sa recipe ng tiyahin ko. Di nagtagal, nagkaroon na rin ako ng lakas ng loob na maging mapaglaro sa pagluluto. Sinubukan kong ibahin nang kaunti ang mga sangkap, pati ang ilang hakbang.

Inalis ko na sa recipe ang ketchup, dahil gusto kong bawasan ang asim ng sauce na maaaring magdulot ng acid reflux ko. Mas mataas na ang ratio ng karne sa sauce, para meaty. Mas marami na rin akong maglagay ng keso, kasi bakit hindi?

Minsan din, sinusubukan kong gumamit ng ibang uri ng pasta, para maiba lang.


Sa ngayon, mas madalas na akong magluto ng spaghetti. Kapag nasi-stress o nalulungkot, nagluluto lang ako nito. Ganoon din kapag masaya at feeling ko may rason para magdiwang. Kahit gaano kasimpleng bagay, dapat lang ipag-spaghetti yan!

Kaya naman, hindi ako nawawalan ng mga sangkap ng spaghetti sa bahay. Wala pa naman ako sa puntong biglang nagigising sa kalagitnaan ng gabi at naiisipang magluto ng spaghetti. Pero, malay ba natin kung kailan darating ang pagkakataong iyon. Pwedeng mamaya o bukas o sa makalawa. Mabuti nang handa.

PS. Sabihan niyo ako kung tuloy yung potluck. Spaghetti ang ambag ko.


Banner photo mula sa Canva

Dating lessons I wish my younger self knew

This is your Tita Mina speaking.

As you may already know, I am happily committed right now, and to be honest, I am already very sure that I have found the one.

But of course, I also had my share of messy relationships and pseudo-romances before getting this far. In fact, when I was younger, I was notorious for being stubborn. I was always unafraid to give people a shot, even if that meant getting hurt later on. And so I chased after a lot of problematic individuals, even though I had been aware of their flaws from the very start.

Although I learned a lot from my previous heartbreaks, I refuse to romanticize everything about my dating history. It was my stubbornness that led me to really problematic situations in the past, after all.

So, if you’re going to ask me if I regret some of the things I did when I was younger, my answer would be a big fat YES. In fact, there are so many things I wish my younger self knew.

If your new guy tells you all his exes were crazy, how sure can you be that he won’t say the same thing about you in case you break up?

Shitty men love to use the adjective “crazy” to describe their exes whose only mistake was taking a chance on them. These shitty men tell their new prospects about all those times their “crazy” exes acted in a certain way, of course without mentioning that the exes were simply reacting to their fucked up behavior.

Just a few weeks ago, I learned about how an ex of mine had told his coworkers about my “craziness” during our time together. What he forgot to include in his story, though, was how he had cheated on me many times. He did not even tell them about how he had taken advantage of me financially, especially during his unemployment days. And when I got upset, he simply took it against me. Wow.

Although I admit that I also displayed a couple of toxic behaviors back then and I am not proud of them, I hate that the guy never acknowledged the fact that those behaviors had simply been responses to his wrongdoings.

What a way to antagonize a woman, right?

When someone cheats on you, don’t put all the blame on the third party.

Sure, people who choose to get involved with committed individuals are problematic. However, we also have to remember that in many cases, third parties are not made aware of the other person’s commitment. Yes, think of those married men who still date single women, not telling them about their wives and kids.

Also, we can’t be really sure about what the guy has been telling the new girl, right? Who knows, he might have been assuring her that their marriage is falling apart anyway.

Don’t try to get over someone by immediately dating someone else.

To be honest, I don’t believe that we completely get over people, especially if we spent years with them. Whether we like it or not, there will always be remnants of them in our lives. To quote my favorite Filipino film Dagitab:

They leave a void. And you carry that void with you… You don’t move on. You just become a bigger person until the void doesn’t feel as big.

Issey (Eula Valdes), Dagitab

So, it’s kind of pointless to use someone else to try to get over a particular person. Of course, you can always distract yourself with the help of the new person, but that can’t assure you that you’ll be able to forget them.

I really had to learn this the hard way. After a four-year relationship, I rushed into another one and ended up with a toxic person. Worse, I realized that I wasn’t really doing anything to process my heartbreak. I was just making everything more complicated.

Don’t give your all without trying to see what the other person can sacrifice first.

Selfless love may sound cute, but let’s admit that it can be dangerous.

Remember, there are bad people in this world. You may not be able to sense it first, but some don’t really mind taking advantage of others.

Before you gamble on someone, try to see first if they are willing to make sacrifices for you as well. It’s not fun to be the only who exerts effort in your relationship. It takes two to tango.

Sex is not always the answer to your dating problems.

It really isn’t. And, to be honest, if I could only turn back the hands of time, I’d definitely school my younger self about choosing the right people to share this magical experience with.

Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it is good for you.

I used to think that being able to always say yes would make me look cool, only to find out, eventually, that I was just wasting my time and endangering myself by not saying NO to the wrong people. Just imagine all those hours that could have been used for things that were more important. And all those risks, too.

There is never a good reason to cheat.

There’s never a good reason to tolerate friends and family friends who cheat, either. No matter how “shitty” the other party may seem, that’s not an excuse for you to make a fool out of them.

Set high standards for yourself, so you don’t easily fall for shitty men.

When you set high standards for yourself, you become more certain about your negotiables and non-negotiables when entering a relationship. That’s because you easily get a picture of what you will potentially lose if you pursue someone who does not meet your standards. Then, you can ask yourself: Are you really willing to make this sacrifice just to be with the person?


I know, my dating life was really messy. I hope yours isn’t as bad.

Finding joy in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

For the first time in a long time, you are excited to wake up in the morning again.

More than that, you are suddenly fine with the idea of starting your day as early as 5:00 AM, so you can run to your mailbox. In it, there are letters from neighbors and friends from faraway lands waiting for you. Some of them come with gifts, too. There are also goodies mailed to you by your go-to online shop.

Most importantly, your house has been renovated again. This is the nth time you’re doing it this week, but who cares? Loans are interest-free, so you can mindlessly say yes to all of them without having to worry about ending up on the streets in the near future.

Even if you suck at Stalk Market, you’ll always be fine. Lost some money last week after letting your turnips spoil? Stop whining and spend more time catching bugs or fishes! Here, all your hard work will eventually pay off.

Because nothing can really go wrong here, you always look forward to all your daily tasks. Besides catching bugs and fishes, you are also fond of shaking trees because sometimes they drop money and furniture for you to keep. Even if you get stung but wasps, it’s okay. You can easily purchase medicine from the nearby shop or simply conjure some using materials that are readily available around you.

See? Things will be fine in just an instant. Remember, you are in a place where there’s a solution to every problem. And there are plenty of texts online to guide you. to  Life does not suck here.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not for real. It’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons!


It’s already been a week since I created my own ACNH account, and I still can’t believe how much time and energy I have devoted to it. I had never really taken a game so seriously in the past until I began playing this. I got into GTA during my freshman days in college over a decade ago, but I wasn’t committed to it the way I am committing to this new game. In fact, the only reason why I paid attention to GTA was because I thought punching and running over random people on the street were cool things to do virtually. I never bothered to complete any missions.

Now, here I am. In less than a week, I managed to have my home remodeled three times. I earned over a million Bells, some of which have already been invested in the Stalk Market. I own a decent number of furniture and clothes and I have a great relationship with my neighbors.

I have thousands of Nook Miles, too, which I can use to explore mystery islands. I have also contributed a number of fishes, bugs, and fossils to the museum!

Suddenly, life is exciting. And, in a time we’re currently in, who would not love having something to look forward to? Who wouldn’t kill for having more reasons to wake up the next morning?


I know my fascination with ACNH has a lot to do with my current disappointment and frustration with everything taking place around me, especially here in the Philippines where uncertainty always looms. But I guess I am fine with that. I am aware that it’s kind of escapist, even delusional. Who cares? Each of us copes differently, and this is how I do it.

Also, it makes me happy. Now I understand why some would get so invested in a game, as though their happiness depended on it. For real, games such as this one can really make people happy. It has given me hope in a time when everything seems so dark, and I will always be grateful for it.

Yet of course, I won’t deny that the game itself is amazing. I would have fallen in love with it even if we weren’t dealing with isolation. I think it’s just perfect for me.

Finally, I have found a game I understand and like. It is also something I can play at my pace. It is both demanding and not, plus it’s really cute. I know I have a lot more to learn about it, and I’ve yet to do millions of things to help our island prosper. And I am up for it.


Banner photo from wallpaperaccess.com

Remembering Romblon, Romblon

There is no way our trip to Romblon is pushing through next month. Even if they completely lift the enhanced community quarantine by the end of April, it would not be a great idea to travel right away.

Of course, this devastates me. I was really looking forward to it, after all. But what can I do? Given the circumstances, it’s only for the better. It’s not wise to take big risks this time.

So, I guess, I’ll just settle with reminiscing my previous Romblon trip in the meantime. And I will do it by posting photos from that said trip.


Kipot River

Bonbon Beach

Tiamban Beach

Lintian Beach

Marble Beach

San Pedro Beach (Talipasak)


All in all, I spent eight days in Romblon. That was in April 2018. A close friend was from there, so it was easy to travel around the island. Since we both wanted a relaxing experience, we decided to just go for one destination per day. That allowed us to really enjoy each place we were visiting. We did some work, too. We took some nice photos for Sinaya Cup!

It was indeed one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was slow-paced yet meaningful. And since I wasn’t in a hurry, I was able to learn a lot about the island life, too. I even made new friends there.

Of course, I had fun in Siargao

As soon as I caught a glimpse of Siargao from the plane, I already realized why it had been a huge hit among travelers, especially beach lovers. It was such a lovely island. Even from above, I could already see the mass of land covered lush greens and surrounded by blue waters. Waves were visible from where I was, too.

When we got to General Luna, where our hostel was waiting for us, I immediately felt the cool island vibe. Imagine, surfer dudes all around, just having fun, being so chill. And the locals, they were so friendly. Right then and there, I was already sure I’d had fun on this island.

At Cloud 9, we were delighted by the sight of the waves crashing against the rocks by the beach. I marveled at the view for longer, since I had chosen to stay at a cafe instead of taking surfing lessons. Of course, I had fun there. Sipping black coffee and reading in a place like that was such a magical experience.

At Sugba Lagoon, I had a great time, too. Sure, I did not get wet there and just read instead, but the view alone was more than enough for me. Even the boat ride to and from there was one hell of an experience. It was scary at some point because of the waves, but flirting with danger to visit that magical place was really worth it.

We thought we’d die at Tayangban Cave. But no regrets, we had a great adventure. Nothing beats a dangerous spelunking experience, especially when it’s already getting dark and the water inside the cave is already murky, thanks to saltwater mixing with the fresh one. Having gone through that, I can now say that I can do anything.

Yet, what I really liked the most was Magpupungko Rock Formation. The walk from the beach to the attraction itself was tricky, but truly worth the effort. The water was so inviting that I immediately took a dip in the pool. To be honest, I’d love to stay longer there. However, we had to leave just after about two hours, because we were on a tight schedule.

Of course, I had a great time in Siargao.

However, I refuse to reduce this island into something that’s just purely fun and beauty. What I saw was more than just a place with super cool island vibe and worry-less folks as portrayed in some lame local film. It was, in fact, a real island with real people in it. And, these people had their own struggles, too.

In between activities, I managed to look around and observe what was really going on there. I was aware that gentrification has severely hit the island, and how it can be problematic. My friend and I talked to some locals, too, particularly tricycle drivers and servers. They told us about how difficult life was outside peak season, and why they’d normally make the most of opportunity to earn. We were also told about how majority of businesses were owned by foreigners.

Somehow, I felt guilty. I knew that by being there, doing touristy things and taking cool photographs to flaunt on social media, I contributed to the whole narrative of gentrification that has hit the island so severely. At the same time, I was also glad to have helped those working so hard by availing of their services and patronizing the businesses that employed them. And of course I was also hoping that they were being paid fairly.

On the top of it all, I realized how traveling could be tricky. Although it can widen people’s horizons and deepen their understanding of the world, it can also create problems. Apart from gentrification of communities, it can also breed mindless individuals who just travel for traveling’s sake. Inside their minds, travel destinations are simply boxes that should be ticked off on a list. There isn’t even an effort to recognize a place as a space where real people with real problems exist. The world is their oyster. Was I becoming one of those people?

To be honest, I am still trying to process everything. It’s already been over a year since I visited Siargao, but I remain conflicted whenever I try to recall that trip. Of course, I had fun. Yes, I loved taking on mini adventures with my friend. It was our first trip together, after all. I even got the gift of relaxation which I had been craving prior to that vacation. However, my mind is still filled with questions, and I don’t have the answers to most of them yet.

Dealing with productivity guilt

I haven’t touched anything academics-related for almost two weeks now.

Each time I try to, my brain seems to freeze for a second or two then restarts with an entirely different thought: What if you do something else? The suggested activity ranges from important to mundane, so I sometimes end up doing important chores at home like making dinner an hour too early or organizing photos in my long-forgotten hard drive. There are times when I simply doze off. Your body needs rest, you deserve it, my mind tells me.

This is really weird for me. Usually, I’m so good at getting things done no matter what the circumstances are. I pride myself at still being able to function well despite everything falling apart. In fact, I have already gone through a lot of major heartbreaks in life without letting work suffer. There were many times in the past when I’d continue working even if tears wouldn’t stop running down my face.

Even telling a professor about my inability to give my 100% last week took a lot of courage. Indeed, it was something I would not normally disclose. My closest friends from college would know. Regardless of how chaotic my personal life was, I never missed a deadline. And, I always showed up whenever necessary. Sometimes with puffy eyes, sure. But I really tried to be around no matter what.

Good thing, the prof was so compassionate. She assured me that it was just fine, and that she understood my situation. She even postponed our exam, which she was supposed to administer on the same week. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. My classmates were also having a hard time.

That correspondence comforted me. For once, I felt that it was okay to accept defeat during difficult times.

That was a huge leap, since I always feel guilty when not doing anything. It’s so bad that even on my rest days, I try to keep myself preoccupied either with tasks for a part-time job or important chores at home. And, when done with everything, I simply turn to productive hobbies like reading, writing, or learning anything online.

Although I watch movies and series, I usually multitask. And, whenever I feel like just watching without any other tasks on the side, I see to it that I earn the privilege first.

But the last few days have been really different. It seems to me that my brain hasn’t been functioning properly that I have to take things slow and, as much as possible, focus on just one task at a time. It’s just been hard to focus. Of course it’s disappointing. Each time I fail to do something school-related, I feel hatred towards myself for being so lazy and undisciplined.

At the same time, it has pushed me to mourn death of my younger, more energetic, and more focused self who, despite having a lot family problems and insufficient sleep, could still travel from Antipolo to Quezon City early in the morning, attend classes, tutor kids for at least three hours, travel back to Antipolo, and stay up for a couple of hours more to read the assigned reading materials at school. On the top of it all, my younger self also had a vibrant social life, enough time to date and fool around, and the energy to participate in extra co-curricular activities. Why can’t I just be that person again? Why can’t I just run like a machine?

Clearly, it’s productivity guilt that’s been eating me up. According to Isaac Lowton:

It’s a mindset of feeling bad about not creating, achieving, or working hard and it has (probably) been around since forever.

He even linked it to the Zeigarnik effect, which pretty much explains why humans tend to have “intrusive thoughts” on unfinished tasks.

In my case, though, it’s not just thoughts of unfinished businesses that keep me from taking things slow. Also bugging me are those ideals of my younger self about how things should be done–excellently regardless of the pressure.

This is totally unfair. Of course, younger Mina had no choice but to do things properly no matter what. There was no opportunity for a slowdown. I just could not afford to slack off, because doing so would mean not having enough money for school, not being able to finish college, and failing to escape the terrible situation I was in.

But now, I think it’s just okay be a little kinder to myself. I need to slow down or even take a break once in a while. I need to accept that certain situations could negatively impact my productivity, and that’s just okay. In other words, I need to understand that my inability to focus and remain productive in a situation we’re currently in is actually not a crime.

I’ve been trapped in a condo unit for days now, with no one to talk to. My partner is in another city for work, while my entire family is in another region. There’s just no way to see them right now because of the lockdown. Sunlight has barely touched my skin, and I haven’t had enough physical activities to help release my happy hormones. I’ve been eating like shit, too.

I know that my personal struggles are nothing compared to what others are dealing with right now, but I have to admit that things are taking toll on my mental health. Like what I said in the message I sent my prof, this pandemic is affecting me more than I imagined.

Also, adding to the stress is our government that has been anything but reassuring. It’s so frustrating to see it fuck things up, as though the threats weren’t serious at all. It does not seem to care much about the lives we already lost and are about to lose.

Indeed, it just makes really sense to slow down, breathe, and allow myself to process things instead of going business as usual. I need to fight productivity guilt before it drives me to madness.

San Sebastian: More than just a pretty church

San Sebastian Church is so beautiful that it’s always included in the lists of the most picture-perfect churches in the Philippines. It’s also been a favorite among soon-to-weds. For me, though, it’s more than just a pretty structure. It always reminds me of my mother.

It was her who first told me about this basilica. While on a jeepney bound for Quiapo one afternoon in 1997, she called my attention to its light-blue spires, the only parts of the basilica that could be seen from where we were. According to her, they belonged to that spectacular church called San Sebastian. She even bragged about it being an architectural gem.

From then on, I’d always check out the basilica in textbooks, marveling at its architecture. When I finally learned to commute alone, I always delighted to see its spires from the LRT, which I had also loved taking.

However, during the time my mother and I weren’t talking, I suddenly had a different perception of the basilica. The sight of its spires would often make me feel uneasy. No wonder, all plans to visit it were put on hold.

Good thing, though, we were already okay when my friend told me about the tour. Finally ready for it, I immediately said yes to my friend’s invitation. I even agreed to write about it and the initiatives focused on its restoration.

The tour was truly memorable. Apart from being a dream come true for me, it allowed me to see some parts of the church that weren’t usually accessible to churchgoers. In fact, we climbed one of the belfries of the basilica, from which we could see one of its spires up-close. I also learned a lot about its history.

Of course, that experience meant a lot to me, not only as a fan of beautiful churches but also as a daughter of my mother. The said experience moved me so much that it inspired me to write an essay about the San Sebastian Church and Mama.

Actually, it was one of the essays that I submitted to UST for their national writers workshop. And, guess what? I got in.


Sandwich, stick, cup


We used to own a sari-sari store. As a kid, I spent a lot of my free time there, marveling at the little packs of chichirya hung like banderitas during fiesta. I also had fun watching my grandmother, uncles, and aunts attend to customers. I found the whole ritual of reciting prices, getting payment, handing out change, and wrapping the purchased goods intriguing.

One day, I saw my aunt break the usual protocols. Her voice was lower than the usual, and her sentences shorter than the standard spiels. I also noticed that she wrapped the purchased item in a sheet of old newspaper instead of plastik labo.

“What’s that?” I asked my aunt.

“Sandwich,” She answered, her voice still different from what I was used to hearing.

What she was wrapping looked like a pack of mini-sandwich, indeed—square and a bit thick, soft-looking like two slices of loaf bread, perhaps joined by a generous amount of thick, yummy filling.


Years had passed before I figured the truth about that mysterious transaction: What my aunt was wrapping in old newspaper wasn’t a sandwich but a single pack of sanitary pad or “feminine product” especially made for the so-called “red days.”

Photo by Anastasiia Yanishevska on Canva

According to my mother, red days refer to the three to four days of bleeding that most women had to experience on a monthly basis. Others also called it “buwanang dalaw” or monthly visitor, “mens”, or simply “girl thing”.

I did not quite understand it, even though I was also told that I would experience the same thing, too, when I grow older. Also adding to my confusion about such a phenomenon was the apparent weirdness of how it was pertained to and tackled by people at home, as though it were an entirely sinister thing.


“It’s the body’s way to get rid of dirty blood,” a classmate once talked about it. I completely agreed to this explanation of hers. A couple of days prior, I read a newspaper article about a teenage boy who was rushed to the hospital due to an inexplicable pain in his tummy. After several tests, it was found out that he was anatomically female. He and his parents had just not been aware of it. He was already supposed to start menstruating but there was something wrong with his genitals that prevented blood from coming out of his body. As a result, he experienced intense pain and had to undergo an operation. I told my classmate about it, and she formed a theory about it.

“He was poisoned by the dirty blood!”

This made perfectly sense to me, so I thought I already I understood why women at home would talk about menstruation in hush voices, or why women in general didn’t want to be seen clutching a pack of sanitary pads.

Thoughts about these discoveries had stayed in my head that when I started menstruating at 13, I felt so unclean and ashamed. Although in panic and still clueless on how to deal with the bleeding, I considered keeping it a secret. I would not have told my mother about it, if it weren’t for my ignorance on the use of sanitary pads with wings.

red
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Yet the effort to keep things a discreet as possible remained. At school, I resisted the urge to ask anyone, even my closest female friends, whether I had bloodstain on my skirt or not. What I did, instead, was scurry to the comfort room in between subject periods to check for any stain myself. I also made sure to stuff my pocket with a sanitary pad to change with, plus a sheet of scratch paper to wrap my soiled napkin in.

Inside the cubicle, I performed my ritual as careful as possible but without taking consuming so much time. My breathing almost stopped as I slowly peeled the pad off my underwear, trying not to raise suspicion among the girls waiting for their turn to use the bathroom cubicle I was in. My hand shook as I wrapped the bloody piece of evidence in scratch paper and threw it into the trash can. My hand’s trembling went on as I stuck a fresh piece of sanitary pad onto my undergarment’s crotch panel for I was worried about not doing it right. Mislaid pad, after all, could result in bloody leaks.

When I was done perfecting the position of the pad, I put the underwear on. Then quickly, I checked the toilet bowl for any traces of blood. If there was none, I unlocked the door and went out of the cubicle. It was only then that I could finally start to relax—but only for a short while. As soon as I felt blood oozing out of my body, I’d start getting that familiar icky feeling again.

Just a couple of months after my very first period, I was already convinced that it was indeed a curse. I was even reminded of the story saying that menstruation was given to women as a punishment for what Eve had done at the Garden of Eden many years ago. Naturally, I felt so guilty and thought that maybe, I really deserved it.

Or maybe not.


In third year high school, I had a very humiliating experience involving menstrual blood. I was sent to a campus on the other side of the city one day to participate in an inter-school essay writing competition. I was on my period, and I was using a regular pad without wings. It was a cheap brand, so it wasn’t made of highly absorbent material. I didn’t mind at first, thinking I was just going to sit most of the time, anyway; no big movements to cause leaks.

When I was done with my entry, I went to the nearest comfort room to pee. It was a huge public high school with limited facilities, so I had to queue and wait a couple of minutes for my turn to use a cubicle. When my turn was fast approaching, I noticed that the other girls were already giving me weird stares. I was just when I remembered that I was actually on my period and I realized that I might be having a period-related emergency.

I was right. When I pulled my panties down, I was greeted by the bloody truth—my sanitary pad had failed me. Not only was my underwear stinky and reeking with fresh blood, a continent of blood also formed on my skirt. Since there was no water supply inside the stall, I had to run outside and get a makeshift tabo and filled it with water. I took it with me as I ran back inside the cubicle. I tried to wash the blood off my skirt and though the mark faded a bit, its reddish outline remained.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Outside, people were already complaining that I was taking so long. The sound of them grunting and irritatingly asking why I wouldn’t come out of the stall yet contributed to my already shooting anxiety level, so I thought that maybe I should just finish what I was doing and leave that place. Then, to hide traces of the map on my skirt, I turned it around until the stain was already on my front. That way, I could easily hide it under the sling bag I was using.

The humiliation intensified later that day, as I was called on stage for the awarding ceremony. I had just snatched an award in the competition, but I was not happy at all. What was supposed to be a fun and victorious experience turned out to be a nightmare. That moment, all I wanted to do was find quiet corner and sulk, yet I couldn’t. My coach was already throwing me an angry look, probably wondering why I wasn’t walking toward the stage for my award yet. Her stare frightened me, so I thought I would just have to go with the flow and pretend that I was just okay.

After the awarding ceremony, I felt the urge to run to a friend and rant about my unfortunate experience earlier that day. However, deep inside me, I also hesitated. I just thought telling her about it would just be too gross. And so I decided to just keep things to myself. I also thought that I was the one to blame for such a misfortune. I could have been more careful but instead, I chose to be too complacent.


Addressing period leaks was one thing; dealing with menstrual pain was an entirely different story. On the top of the paranoia concerning maps that might suddenly appear on panties, skirts, or pants, I also had to learn the art of conquering period pain as a teenager.

Still in high school, I trained myself to sense foreboding menstrual pain, so I could prepare myself early as possible. Whenever lower back pains fell on dates that were close to when my period was supposed to come, I’d immediately take painkillers and cut down on coffee and other food which, according to the Internet, could worsen the pain. This strategy worked, generally, although there were days when my menstruation and its symptoms came like my least favorite relatives on Christmas day—unannounced, unexpected, and most of all, annoying.

Of course, like some unwanted guests, menstruation and it symptoms could not be avoided so easily. There was no way to drive them away, so all that was left to do was simply deal with them while pretending things were okay. This usually worked, except when my lips failed to cooperate, or when things got too much that I began to throw up all of a sudden, due to dizziness.

Too much drama was how it looked, especially to those who thought I was simply exaggerating the pain. The classmate who rolled her eyes when I was excused from one basketball game in our PE class, the friend who judged me when I ran to the university’s infirmary instead of attending a class, and the school paper adviser from another high school who, despite her ignorance of what I was going through, thought it was okay to invent a story about me intentionally skipping a session during a week-long training for campus journalists—these people had no idea about the pain I had to endure, and I honestly wish I had the audacity to wipe some of my period blood on their faces so they’d at least get an idea about how what “making a scene” actually looked like.

One of the reasons why, I think, menstruation has always been a big deal among people as though it were a public performance, is that it remains surrounded with a lot of mysteries. Many people are still ignorant about it, mainly because they refuse to talk about its nature. In our family alone, there are already too many superstitions built around the concept of menstruation.

In her teenage years, my mother was prevented from taking a bath whenever she was on her period. Showering during menstruation was believed to be harmful for the body. I also heard stories involving older women who had to perform a couple of rituals when they bled for the first time, like skipping three steps on the stairs to ensure one’s period would last for only three days. Some were also told to smear blood from on their faces to avoid pimple breakouts.

Bad luck was also associated with menstruation. Once, my uncle lost in cockfight and when he was asked about what had gone wrong, he just said, “Bad luck!” My aunt and cousin were on their period that day, and he was convinced that their bleeding caused his loss.


“If I were a boy, I wouldn’t have to menstruate!”

My housemate sang, to the tune of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy.” She was in the bathroom while I was right outside it, waiting for my turn to take a shower. I had heard it clearly and I thought it was clever.

It was just one of the many days menstruation was mentioned in our boarding house, which was a normal thing since it was exclusive to female boarders. It was where I began to finally feel comfortable with my own body its various functions. And like other bodily functions, such as respiration and digestion, menstruation was definitely normal. There was no point making a big deal out of it. Neither was it fair to surround it with myths that were not really helping women who had to deal with it.

This also meant that I no longer thought of sanitary pad shopping as an upgraded form of walk of shame. There was even a time when, on our way to our group meeting at a café inside a mall, I shamelessly asked a male friend if we could drop by the pharmacy to buy a pack of sanitary pads. The guy, who was from a household dominated by women, agreed to do so. He even found it cool that my preferred brand of pads was the same with his mom’s and sister’s.

Many times, I’d also find myself discussing period with some female friends. Together, we would talk about the changes in our respective bodies before and during menstruation. Others might find this gross, but I thought it was educational. Although I was aware that women’s bodies differed from one another and no two women could have exactly the same symptoms, such sessions were still fruitful. Most importantly, I gained confidence in discussing such matters, even in public, through those talks.

Besides their educational value, those discussions were also therapeutic in some sense, for they allowed me to openly talk about my struggles as a menstruating human being. In a world where periods were usually portrayed as an ever-amazing experience, complete with pretty teen celebrities worry-free in their white pants and miniskirts, I could not help but feel frustrated. No wonder, other people, especially men who didn’t know any idea about women’s struggles concerning period, could easily dismiss our difficulties as mere attempts to start unnecessary drama for added attention.


“What’s a tampon?” I asked my mother when I was a child.

We were talking about models and beauty queens that time and I wondered, out loud, how they managed to wear bikinis while on their period. My mother said they were probably using tampons. Mama did not explain what tampons were, although I guessed they were like sanitary pads, too.

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It was just in college when I became fully aware of what they really were. One of my closest friends at the university took up swimming for her PE and according to her, she had to use tampons so she could still swim while she was on her period. I just nodded as she told me about them, even though I didn’t have a clear idea of how tampons really worked. I had already seen photos of them online and I was already aware that they looked like sticks, but I could not imagine how they were inserted and taken out of the vagina after use.

I wanted to give them a try. I knew they would not end all my period woes altogether, but they could surely lessen the burden that I had to carry regularly. I imagined how lovely it would be to stroll around the city on a hot summer day without worrying about the icky feeling and rashes that sanitary pads usually gave. I also thought of all the activities that I could do even when menstruating. Perhaps, I could also go to the beach! The picture I had painted inside my head seemed so appealing, and I could not wait to free myself from some of the burdens menstruation usually came with. I also pictured myself in a pair of white capri pants, running wild and free, completely mindless of the blood gushing out of my body, as though it didn’t exist at all. Maybe I could finally feel as carefree as those Modess girls on TV!

But of course, even tampons were not free from prejudices. In fact, I was sad to find out that even fellow women found the whole idea of switching tampons gross.

“So, you’re going to insert it into your hole down there? Yuck!” A female friend commented when I shared about my plans to give it a try. While I understood that some didn’t like tampons because they could cause toxic shock syndrome, I could not fully grasp why the idea of inserting such a product into the vagina could easily gross people out.

It had to do with the whole obsession with virginity, I realized later on. No wonder, menstrual cups, which were considered a better option than tampons, were also viewed negatively by many.

I still wanted to explore, though, and other people’s perception could not stop me from doing so. To me, it was clear that as a woman, I had control over my own body. What to do with it was completely up to me.

After carefully weighing my options, I decided to skip tampons and shift directly to menstrual cups instead.


“Oh, it looks so big!”

Although I was already aware of how it was used, I was still a bit surprised when I finally got my first menstrual cup.

I’d be lying if I said that I did not have any difficulty using it for the first time. My hands trembled as I folded the cup and inserted it into my vagina. Even my feet were shaking, as I was maintaining a squatting position.

Photo by Sinaya Cup

The struggle did not end there. I knew it had already popped open inside, yet I was worried that it might still need some fixing. Unsure of whether it was positioned properly or not, I used my index finger to touch the base of the cup. Yes, it had popped open inside but it still needed a little fixing. Now using both my thumb and index finger, I tried to reposition the cup by slightly turning it, pulling it a little, and then pushing it. Again, I checked if it was already fine. It was, and I felt victorious.

Of course, the idea of having something in there was still new to me, and sometimes I’d stop whatever I was doing and think if I could really feel it. It was probably because I was conscious that something was in there. But the absence of any leak and stink of blood for 12 hours was worth it. For the first time, I felt freer despite the fact that I was bleeding.

After the recommended number of hours, I took out the cup to drain the blood it had collected. As I shamelessly poured the liquid red with clumps of maroon tissues into the toilet bowl, I could not help but feel proud of myself. I was able to transform from that little girl at the sari-sari store, so naïve that she believed what her aunt had handed the customer was a pack of sandwich, into the woman that I was right at that moment.

Right then and there, I knew there was no turning back.


A shorter version of this essay can be found at www.sinayacup.com

Corned beef confessions

Amoy na amoy ko na naman dito ang ulam ng kapitbahay. Sigurado ako, corned beef naman ang ginigisa nila.

Habang nilalanghap ko ang amoy nito, hindi ko mapigilan ang aking imahinasyon. Ayan, kinukutsara na ang corned beef at saka itinataktak sa kawali kung saan nag-aantay ang pitpit nang bawang at hiwa-hiwang sibuyas na nakiki-kisay sa kumukulong mantika.

Shhhhhh!

Sa pagbagsak ng tumpok ng corned beef, mas tumindi ang sayawan sa kawali.

Shhhhhh!

Sa pagsali ng sandok sa indakan, sige rin ang pag-angat ng amoy ng nilulutong ulam.

Shhhhhh!

Nakakainggit naman! Parang gusto kong ganun na lang din ulit ang ulam!


Bakit kamo baliw na baliw ako sa corned beef?

Simple lang: Ginto ang corned beef sa bahay namin noong bata pa ako.

Dahil limitado lang ang budget namin sa pamilya, kadalasang itlog, tuyo, instant noodles, at delata lang ang ulam namin noon. At, pag sinabing delata, mga tipong di lalagpas sa bente pesos.

Kaya naman, madalas kaming manalig noon sa kapangyarihan ng sardinas. Isa itong miracle food; isang lata lang, kaya nang pakainin ang buong pamilya naming may limang miyembro!

Madalas din kaming kumain ng meat loaf, na noo’y wala pang P15 ang isang lata. Dahil madaling lutuin at hindi malansa, pwedeng-pwedeng pambaon sa eskwela. Ang isang lata, kaya na ring pakainin ang buong pamilya. Hahatiin lang namin ito nang maninipis, para everybody happy!

Pero syempre, iba pa rin ang linamnam ng corned beef. Mas mahal ito nang di hamak sa sardinas at meat loaf. Madalas, umaabot sa P21 ang isang lata ng Argentina sa suking tindahan.

Kaya simula noong bumukod ako at magkaroon ng sariling trabaho, siniguro kong mayroon ako laging access sa corned beef. Sinimulan ko ring sumubok ng iba’t ibang mga brand–kasama na iyong mga mamahalin.

Syempre, tinupad ko rin yung isa sa mga pangarap ko noon: Ang solohin ang isang lata ng corned beef!


Mayroon akong malungkot na alaala sa corned beef.

Noong grade 5 ako, may isang umaga na lang na nakagisnan kong umiiyak si Mama. Nagtaka ako, kasi dapat masaya siya dahil nakatakdang mag-intrega ng sweldo si Papa (stepfather ko) sa kanya.

Napansin niya yatang nagtataka ako, kaya nagpaliwanag siya agad.

“Nanakawan si Papa niyo,” sabi niya.

Nakatulog daw si Papa sa bus, at may lumaslas ng bulsa niya. Natangay ang buong wallet niya, kasama ang buong sweldo niya sa kinsenas na iyon. Ipinakita pa sa akin iyong pantalon ni Papa na may laslas. Nadurog ang puso ko. Natakot din ako, kasi wala kaming panggastos sa loob ng dalawang linggo. Maliit na nga ang kita ni Papa bilang sekyu, nabiktima pa ng kawatan.

Wala kaming pagkain sa umagang iyon. Petsa de peligro na rin naman, bago pa man ang nakatakdang araw ng sweldo. At dahil sa di inaasahang nangyari sa padre de pamilya, lalong walang aasahan. Pero buti na lang, nakatakda rin akong dumalaw sa bahay ng kaklase kong kapitbahay din namin.

Pagdating ko sa bahay ng kaklase ko, inalok niya agad akong kumain. Lagi raw kasing nagluluto ng almusal ang nanay niya, at saktong may natirang pagkain. Pag-angat ko ng takip sa mesa, nakita kong corned beef ang ulam. Wow, paborito ko!

Yun nga lang, dahil sa lungkot at takot ko sa araw na iyon, halos di ko pa rin malunok ang corned beef na kinakain ko. Kahit pa masarap ito. Pero syempre, laking pasalamat ko pa rin sa grasya. Sa katunayan, hanggang ngayon, tinatanaw ko pa ring malaking utang na loob sa kaibigan kong iyon ang pagpapakain niya sa akin sa umagang iyon.


Isa sa mga pinakamasasaya kong alaala na may kinalaman sa corned beef ay yung pagluluto namin nito sa prod house kung saan ako noon rumaraket bilang writer.

Madalas akong matulog noon sa studio, lalo kung may recording na inaabot hanggang madaling araw. Doon na rin ako kumakain, kasama ng iba pang staff.

Minsan, para mas masulit ang food budget, nagluluto kami ng mga kasamahan ko sa trabaho. Mayroon kasing induction cooker doon na pwedeng-pwedeng gamitin. Isa sa mga paborito naming lutuin ay corned beef. Ang brand? Highlands. Effective yatang endorser si Phil Younghusband.

Miracle Corned Beef

Mga sangkap

  • 1 lata ng corned beef
  • 1/2 ulo ng repolyo
  • Bawang (Depende sa trip mo)
  • 1/2 litro ng tubig
  • Asin
  • Paminta
  • Mantika

Mga hakbang

  • Balatan at hiwain ang bawang at sibuyas.
  • Hiwain din ang repolyo. Siguraduhing maninipis ang hiwa nito, parang pang-pansit.
  • Magpainit ng mantika sa lutuan.
  • Kapag sapat na ang init, simulang gisahin ang bawang.
  • Kung golden brown na ang kulay ng bawang, isama na rin sa paggisa ang sibuyas.
  • Kapag matingkad na rin ang kulay ng sibuyas, isunod na ang corned beef. Gisahin ito nang maayos.
  • Ibuhos ang tubig sa lutuan, haluin, at timplahan gamit ang asin at paminta. Depende talaga to sa trip mo.
  • Kapag pasado na sa panlasa ang niluluto, takpan muna ito at antaying kumulo.
  • Pagkulo nito, saka idagdag ang repolyo. Hintayin itong maluto; yung saktong luto lang, para hindi nakakaumay kainin.
  • Patayin ang kalan at ihain na ang pagkain. Enjoy!

Ang maganda sa ulam na ito, kaya nitong magpakain ng maraming tao. Miracle food talaga! Sakto rin itong pamares sa gabundok na kanin, kaya siguradong pasok na pasok sa panlasa ng mga panatiko ng extra rice.


Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin nagbabago ang debosyon ko sa corned beef. Kahit ano pang sabihin ni Senyora Santibanez tungkol sa mga hampaslupa kunong mahihilig dito, wala akong pakialam. Gaya nga ng sabi ko sa kapatid ko minsan, ako’y #HampaslupaForCornedBeef.

Lagi pa rin itong nasa grocery list ko. Pero gaya nga nang nabanggit kanina, mas mahal nang brand ang binibili ko ngayon. Sakto, mayroon akong isang brand na sobrang kinababaliwan: Palm. Simula noong ipatikim sa akin yun ng jowa ko, hindi ko na tinantanan. Sa tingin ko, hindi basta-bastang mawawala ang pagkahumaling ko sa corned beef na ito.

At dahil sa naaamoy kong ulam ng kapitbahay ngayon, parang alam ko na kung ano ang ulam namin mamaya. Ha! Hulaan mo.

Our hero is dead, and so is our love

Although I had heard of Anthony Bourdain many times in the past, I did not become a fan of his until you came into my life. I don’t exactly know why, but I think it had something to do with you introducing me to the joys of cable TV.

The year was 2014. We had only been dating for a couple of months but decided to live together, anyway. I was originally planning on having my own place in the City of Manila, preferably somewhere close to where you were residing. Yet, you thought it would be much better if I’d simply move in with you. Your parents were okay with it, after all. Having been aware of how steep Metro Manila apartment rental fees were, I accepted your proposition. Shortly after that, were already living under the same roof, sharing meals, and watching the same shows on TV.

Before that, my idea of television was limited to the shows produced and aired by mainstream networks. While I was not too fond of those programs, I had developed a sense of familiarity with them. I was well aware of how convoluted a teleserye plots could be, especially when ratings were high and the producers felt the need to stretch the story line just to make more money. Same thing went for talk shows. I always thought of them as shallow and substandard. Even after years of watching them, almost on a regular basis because the house I grew up in always had the TV for the sake of having a background noise, I failed to understand the point of seemingly endless blabbers made by hosts while cooking dishes or while visiting random restaurants and other tourist destinations.

Unquestionably, lifestyle shows on cable TV seemed like blessing from heavens to me. Finally, something with substance. I was especially amazed by Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I admired how great of a storyteller he was, and how his features defied formats usually employed by other television personalities. I also liked how he respected different cultures and how humble he was each time he had to interact with people from the places he was visiting.

One of the episodes I could not forget about was the one on Glasgow. It was, to me, as truthful as truthful could get. Instead of going for the usual cheap tricks other hosts usually resorted to using, he chose to present the place as honestly as possible: He showed how dark and bland the place seemed and why, for many, this wasn’t considered a viable tourist destination at all. But of course, he also told about the beauty he found in it — all those lovely little things that made it unique. Sure, it had a lot to do with food.

You were so glad to welcome me into the fandom as I grew fonder and fonder of him, and as I became more familiar with his works, too. Then, eventually, you told me about Kitchen Confidentials, something you had read and learned a lot from. It was, according to you, what taught you about why one should not order fish at any restaurant on a Monday. It was also where you learned how blasphemous well-done steak was. These revelations intrigued me, so I picked up the book.

The next thing we knew, we were treating it as our bible. All of a sudden, our decisions on what to eat and where were affected by the bits of knowledge we had acquired while reading this book. There were even times when you’d call me out for my “boring” and “too safe” food choices. Shame on me, you would say. I had to explore and strive to become an educated eater so as to uphold the teachings of Bourdain, our hero.

It was fun, I must admit. It has changed me for the better. From the overly picky and dreary eater that I used to be, I finally started trying new things out. I no longer asked for well-done steak; I stopped myself from fancying dishes whose meat swam in too much sauce, knowing how chefs typically used those rich liquids to conceal flaws and lies. I also tried to suppress my seemingly endless fascination with chicken, especially when eating out. Chicken meat, after all, was all about playing safe. In other words, boring.

With all those bits of new wisdom inside my head, I also became more open to try out different cuisines. I graduated from being the pasta girl and braved Korean restaurants in Malate, finally able to appreciate the beauty of unlimited sides. I also became a bit more daring to try other dishes at Japanese restaurants and broke up with karaage, which had been my go-to order.

I even agreed to go to a Greek restaurant in Makati once. Although its pretentious atmosphere had irked me upon entering the establishment, I soldiered on. I valiantly asked for the menu, thrown quick yet sensible questions about dishes at the server, and ordered what I thought I’d enjoy. As soon as the food landed on our table, we looked into each other’s eyes and sent each other a message: Victory!

Our cooking habits changed. Since we were eager to prove how much we were learning, we started buying spices and ensured each of them was used with the right type of meat or in the correct dishes. We also tried, as much as we could, to buy ingredients from nearby wet and dry markets, instead of the big supermarkets around the area.

We also became more appreciative of the people behind the meals we ate at restaurants. Now aware of the preparation process, as well as the struggles usually faced by the people involved in the food industry, we waited for our orders more patiently, said “thank you” to the servers more often, and gave bigger tips.

Like many other things, food kept us close and made our relationship stronger. Our shared commitment to educate ourselves on food and the different processes involving it gave us something to hold on to and nourish, besides our feelings.

However, it came to a point when our shared enthusiasm for food could no longer save us. Perhaps, we simply grew apart. When not trying out interesting dishes or conjuring meals together, we were nothing but two different people with different sets of values and priorities.

Remember the last food trip we had together? It happened on your birthday in 2017. We ate tofu at Quik Snack along Carvajal Street and downed a platter of Kutchay dimsum at Dong Bei. Then we shared half an order of Sincerity fried chicken. For our finale, we both had coffee at The Den along Escolta.

It seemed like a perfect day, except I had already been full of doubts deep inside. You had been cold for the past few weeks, and I was getting tired of having to initiate most of our conversations and plan our dates. It was as if you were no longer interested in me and whatever we had. I don’t know if it was because I had chosen to move out of your place, or if you simply were no longer excited to spend time with me. In fact, earlier that day, I had to force you to meet up with me for us to do something together on your special day. You said you didn’t have work that day, it was your birthday, yet you’d rather stay at home and prepare for your company dinner.

Your coldness and lack of interest persisted even during the holidays. And then, one day, I just woke up and realized that I no longer cared much about you. Maybe I just got used to not having you around. Or, maybe, I just got tired. Maybe I just realized that enough was enough.

I will remember our love in the same way that I will remember Bourdain’s life, or what I know of it: It was good while it lasted.

I know that to this day, many people still believe that what we had was too great to be thrown away just like that. I am sure they remain convinced that it could have not ended, if only we had enough courage and drive to fight a little bit harder. But what do they know? Our relationship might have seemed ideal from a distance, but they aren’t aware of what we had to go through and how difficult things were for us, especially in the last months we spent together.

In the same way, people have no idea what Bourdain had to go through while trying to live his life and what really pushed him to the edge, until he could no longer take it. While we can all live our lives wondering about the things we could have done while things were not yet too late, we can no longer change the fact that it’s over now. He’s dead. And like him, our love is, too.


I wrote this essay in June 2018, shortly after Anthony Bourdain’s death. A four-year relationship of mine ended in January of the same year.

Banner photo by Haus of Zeros on Unsplash