Monday, March 28, 2005

Manila Diary - Celebrating Rebirth

A week had passed and I haven’t gotten myself on Manila bearings yet. I guess it has something to do with the fact that I hardly ever sleep on time, or that I keep on doing things that take me past reasonable bedtime hours for people.

Holy Week used to be the Holy Grail for family time when all of us children were still students. We actually managed to pack eight people in a sedan – my brother driving, me seated on my father’s lap on the front passenger seat, and my three sisters, my mother, and my other brother at the back.

There were the trips to Pangasinan – with side trips to Baguio for some days. There were the company trips and beach-hopping in Cavite and Batangas – and Holy Week was the only time everybody was available.

Time has past and the allure of Holy Week has faded. Holy Week was also the week that added to the mystique that was our father.

I had made plans with my brother to go to Puerto Galera for Holy Week – but we decided too late and everything was so expensive. In the end, we joined my sister and her family to my brother-in-law’s place in Batangas. We were there from Thursday to Saturday.

At the start of the week, I pointedly avoided seeing my former boss when I visited RFM – it was a good thing he was in Jakarta at a meeting following the First Miss ASEAN Pageant. On a side note, our entry and the winner, Jheazarie Javier, looks very personable. An apt winner, and some plus points for a land looking for some.

I brought the cheque donation of SPA to the Cartwheel Foundation. It was a moment of some significance, and I feel good for all the efforts I exerted on getting that cheque safely settled in their hands.

Of course, the transition to Manila life wasn’t easy. When I was younger, I looked askance upon our eldest brother, but since we discovered that we were helpless drunks (and still are, God help us), we have gotten along just fine. My best friend was my other brother – but since that fateful Change so many years back – I have gone through several stages from self-loathing to pity to disdain to indifference. I can’t change who we were – there is so much history for me to ignore that – but the present is such a quandary to resolve.

So it was in a tense atmosphere that we left Manila for Batangas.

In the provinces, the onset of time is far heavier than it is in Manila. Adapting would mean becoming more laidback – or moving out. So, the more things change, the more that they remain the same. What I find so sad is that people leave so much damage in their wake.

Malabrigo Point in Lobo, Batangas is a national historic site - the landmark of that place is a lighthouse built by the Americans to guide ships around the point to Batangas harbor. The only reason for that area's existence is that very lighthouse. My brother-in-law's family moved there to maintain that lighthouse. I envy the kind of history that they have, though sometimes that kind of history has its own unwanted truths spilled out...

It was nice to reconnect with my sister's sons again. I never developed a relationship with her daughter, the youngest, and this was the first time that we were in close quarters for an extended time. Invariably family relationships rise and ebb and her daughter was born when our relationship was strained. There are always high hopes . . . I hope these kids become an improvement over us, their predecessors.

It would have gone pretty uneventfully - the place is far more comfortable than last time I was there more than eight years past - but my brother-in-law chose to be an idiot in picking a fight with my brother. Suffice to say, the superior man subdues his anger without need for fighting; an inferior man looks for a chance to show his pride when there is no need. My brother-in-law could have been the superior man, but he stooped to the lower level. What a shame. And I thought he had grown up. Tsk, tsk.

I am glad, though, to have met one of the friends my sister turned to when her youngest Trixie was born. While I had no chance to unburden myself as I normally would have and listened to the concerns of other people, the sun and the fresh air helped a great deal to rejuvenate my emotional batteries. I got what the doctor ordered - a holiday and a tan. When we got back to Manila, I even had a double chance to unwind since my brother was checked in at the Pen. Hmmm... his Holy Week holiday isn't a bad idea.

Easter should be the most important Christian holiday but I have a theory why it's not as popular as Christmas - it's because the Easter date changes every year and the sense of anticipation is not the same.

Finally, I am so pleased that this week and the Easter holiday have validated the changes in my own life. Not all of the changes are good, and it would be foolish for me to expect that, but I'm glad all the same.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Manila Diary - Falling Down

Just a warning --- the bulk of the entries in this diary are actually written in hindsight. But it seems unfair NOT to write anything down as they happen.

I had a recurring dream that I would be left by my plane on the way back to KSA. That would be disastrous – aside from whatever penalties I will pick up from the no-show, I would be heavily penalized by the Company. Loss of face actually would mean much more than the loss of money.

I had no idea it would turn out otherwise.

My life would most likely be more profitable have I no need of this form of catharsis. I take a lot of pride in being able to put words to describe my life; I take none in time at times I find that life wanting in meaning.

It's just like falling down - the power of the g-force swooshing against one's cheeks, the adrenaline kicking in and the promise of fear all but gone as exhilaration takes over the short-circuited nerves. It's all so exciting - until the brunt of the impact deadens the whole body. The thrill - and the emptiness - that's how the search of life must be those for those who have leisure at their fingertips.

Now if all those broken bones wouldn't serve up a reminder…

Thirty-five days I was away from my life in KSA, and my exile was put in hiatus. Thirty five whole days! How I wish they could be so easily forgotten. The prize of all this toil - a mere respite for all the 300 or so more days I have to wait for again - is a chance to be in touch with who and what I was BEFORE I left for the Middle East.

Funny, after one whole year, it seemed that it didn’t add up to a whole lot, but when I had to return, it was a whole lot more.

Day 1 – Actually, night one.

My mother’s 70th birthday was the 19th of March, so by all means fair and foul, I had to make to it to Manila by that date. Complication was, my sister was in Dubai and I had to go there too to see her.

So it was I booked myself on Emirates instead of Gulf and suffered a seven-hour lay-over. It didn’t feel like that way, but I did get stressed from all that waiting. The flight was full – families making their way back for the school holidays. In other words, I twiddled my thumbs since I couldn’t get on the earliest flight out. I did get some practice with Arabic by listening to the airport PA system.

Finally, when I got on the plane, some intemperate kabayans drank too much red wine on the trip from Dubai to Manila. Aforementioned kabayans started feeling the effects of their drinking, and proceeded to make a beeline for the toilets. Since I couldn’t do my thing in the plane, I had an extreme case of number two on the way out at Immigration. Coupled with the numerous frantic phone calls of my folks wanting me to arrive in time for my mother’s birthday, it was a real pressure cooker.

My folks arranged for airport pick-up – my arrival was meant to be a surprise – so I really had to get on the car service ASAP. There was traffic on Tramo, there was heavy traffic at Edsa Guadalupe, there was traffic at Pioneer. My kind driver drove me to a Chowking and fortunately I made it before my sphincter gave way… (hahahahaha!). I had a great entrance at the party. It was a blast. Nothing beats going home.

I was not surprised that I ended up that night at one of my old haunts along Edsa. It was as if I had never gotten away – there was the smell of spilled beer and cigarettes, the slight zest of the fragrance the bar gave to their girls, and as always, the videoke machine. Bless the videoke machine. Without it life wouldn’t have been as bearable.

Day 2 – The bright lights have given way to the start of the Manila heat. The notable of this day was that the SHARE people got together courtesy of our buddy Robert who called a reunion on my behalf.

Quezon City is still the same. The buildings of Eastwood rise against the smog-filled sky. Traffic clogs the streets.

The hits of the day: Beer and pork – goes without saying. Meeting with the SHARE folks!

This past year saw some friends and family depart – some very close to my heart and others just simply part of the periphery that makes up the space of OTEP. There were also new friends – friends out of the necessity of sharing the same workspace, but more importantly, friends I have chosen to take into my heart because they enrich the space where I live, think, and feel.

But the SHARE people – they are irreplaceable.

Misses of the day: I never missed Manila traffic, and I got a first-hand lesson in Manila humidity. The service at that Gerry’s Grill was abysmal.

Treat of the day: I bought an HP iPAQ 6365. It has some disappointments, but I couldn’t be more excited about it that Sunday night.

(This will have dire consequences for me later).

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I crave
I crave to be free
I crave to be me
Unmistaken to be a shining star
Firmly placed in the heavenly vault
A sign
A hope

I crave
I crave for the truth
I crave for my youth
Unknowing grasping at unknown
Folly to want so much wisdom
A shoot
A spur

I crave
I crave for a love

Not lost
Yet not understanding
Riding the rollercoaster of life
Going down the chasm
Yet wanting it again
and again
and again

Clutched in my mother's arms
Bearing a sword in her defense
Wanting to be weak
Wanting to be a child
Wanting to let go
To be

No lies on my face
No false hopes
No questions
No doubts
No walls
No defenses
But no true love

Divided by expectation
World wanting so much
Having everything and nothing to give

No reason to be brave
No reason to behave
I live
I thrive
I seek
Love hides
So it must be
So it always has been

Searching for the true song
A song of love
A song of living
A song of deliverance
No meaning hiding between the lines
For that song says

You are
I am
We are together
But we are two
But strong even alone.

Until that day comes
I crave
Until that day comes
I crave
I admit loss

I am craven
But I am me

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Stupidity of War

The headlines scream at me with the regularity of conflict that the images metamorphose to numbness. If there is a cause the world should devote itself to, it should be peace. There is no conclusive proof that free-market economics will do the trick.

Let's concentrate on the word "free." What kind of freedom does a "free" man have when all he has is the freedom to starve with the burdens of government inefficiency, too many taxes, too many barriers ... when conflict in the Middle East will spike oil prices and drive prices of commodities even further.

Yup, cynicism is the order of the day - or perhaps guarded optimism at best. A little piece I'd like to share with you, written at the beginning of the Balkan conflict in the 1990's:

Little soldier girl, do not cry when the drums refuse to play.
They are dead and buried under the ground, you know.
Don't fret when the clap of the cymbals have ceased singing.
They have wasted away in silence, even as you are far away.
No matter how much you tried to hear them as the winds blow,
No matter even if you're a world apart or within hearing.

The sounds of the battle march were tried, and found wanting.
And your tears mean even less in your own hour of reckoning.

Little boys in men's clothing take up their standards of death
And spread them like cloaks, or perhaps like picnic cloths
That invite destruction and decay to feast upon their souls.
Watch and see, little soldier girl, the stench of their breath
As they gamble recklessly and with doom they cast their lots.
They know little, men that they are, the weight of their roles.

So do not cry when the joyous jigs are buried with the moles.
The din of their gaiety brings no laughter but from the poles.

And did you know, little soldier girl, that with each battle cry
Another drop of blood is spilled upon the ground, to sow the soil
With the seeds of death, so that more would die the next time?
Did you know that the cries of joy these men heave and sigh
Are the very shouts in the darkness against which all must toil?
There is no reason in the melodies you wish to hear, nor rhyme.

The echoes lash about themselves, destroying themselves in time.
And perhaps you may say the song of death has become sublime.

Little soldier girl, will you die for the din in their hearts
That cries for retribution, that shouts for revenge for wrongs
Of childhood that all must bear? Will you perish for dreams
Of fear, of bogeymen in the night, of wan witches and their arts?
Will you make them real as these men plan to do in their throngs?
Will they die for you, you who do not know what's real and seems?

The anger and hatred in them is ripping their souls at the seams.
And the discordant tunes that haunt you are nothing but dreams.

It's said that idle minds are the devil's workshop, and I agree,
As the train of thought urges one to take one's hands and grasp
That lowly piston of desire, to acquire some comfort from lust.
Little soldier girl, it is not war which would set them free,
For their guns spit only the scum from their fear-filled asps,
Cringing in their fear of unknown destiny rising from the dust.

And they still spew and fight, doing what they think they must.
But looking in their eyes, reality has powdered itself to rust.

And oh, the loneliness that cries out from their scarred sinews,
The greed which has wasted their speech into guttural laughter :
You know how it is, little soldier girl, when dreams have died,
There's no herald to shout and holler, no tome to break the news,
There's no one to pick up the broken pieces in the morning after,
There's nothing to make up for but the noise of slighted pride.

There's no song in the air and the whistle in the wind has died.
And you will stand all alone with only adversity by your side.

There's still time to grow, little soldier girl, time to scatter
All your dreams and sow them as seeds into the great wide beyond,
Time for you to live and be happy, time to cherish the beauty
Of all this world, time to ask and know what really is the matter
With all of life. There is time to bear your daughter and a son
Who will carry on all your dreams and live in all this bounty.

I can hear your song for them, but its voice is spent and empty.
The melody is mired in the stench, still it is proud and haughty.

Little soldier girl, the song foretold for you is beyond hearing.
Puny men decide the way you go, to show the size of their roles.
Let go, strive for happiness, look for the reason and the rhyme
In all of this madness; find the the true gold in all that seems
Glitter; raise yourself from the pile of filth and from the dust,
Give yourself a reason to brush your feathers and live in pride
For deep within you there's more than wealth, more than bounty.

Look for it deep within your heart. It's called the truth.


Does anyone want to live forever?
Does anyone want to love without pain?
In the rush to buy all things we've forgotten
Nothing we have is so easily won,
No road is better than the one we're on.
When this life ends, when everything is done,
Can eternal day make brighter the sun?
Glory fades soon after it's begotten
But no loss is lost; lost love is true gain
In memories of our lives together.