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

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

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

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

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