Thursday, December 13, 2012

The daily round

Thursday, December 13, 2012



There lay certitude; there, in the daily round. All the rest hung on mere threads and trivial contingencies; you couldn't waste your time on it. The thing was to do your job as it should be done.

~ Albert Camus, The Plague, 1948

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fading

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Each time I sit down and try to write about this, my eyes well up with tears.   Thinking about it makes my heart feel as if it’s being wrung out. Putting such sorrow into words is almost unbearable, but I feel that I need to.

My grandmother, the person who single-handedly brought us up and taught us the most valuable lessons in life, is fading away from us. That fiery, cantankerous woman of abrasive opinions and imperious wisdom, the parent I grew up with, is rapidly, painfully disappearing, leaving only a silhouette of who she was. Her abrupt mental and physical decline came as a surprise to us.  Perfectly fine just a couple of months ago, she’s now altered and beyond our reach.

I knew that she’s changed when she stopped nagging me about my leaving the fold. She’s grown so thin and frail and her memory is almost completely gone. She doesn’t even recognize me if I don’t introduce myself. Whenever I visit her at my mother’s place, she tells me how she hates it there and begs me to accompany her to travel back home to Baguio.  I try to explain to her that she can no longer live alone.  Imploring her to continue living with my mother so she’ll be surrounded with family and taken care of has become a mournful litany that falls on deaf, uncomprehending ears.

For the past few years we paid her a visit only once or twice a year. Every time I give her a call she never fails to ask me when our next visit will be. Now I regret all those years that we, wrapped up in our own lives, have taken her for granted. Why didn’t I spend more time with her before? Why didn’t I talk to her when my words could still have left some meaning in her mind?  It is a sad, horrible truth that she’d be gone from us shortly. And I wish that through that haze of confusion, she’d recognize us, her grandchildren who have failed so miserably in showing her how much we love her.     

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Moments in India and Nepal

Monday, December 10, 2012

3. Reveling in the unexpected quiet that enfolded an exquisite temple complex in Jaipur




4. Joining in on the jubilation and devotion of pilgrims at the Golden Temple in Amritsar



6. The uphill hike to the World Peace Pagoda



7. Spinning prayer wheels at the Dalai Lama temple




9. The terrifying 20-minute Guna Air flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara


  
10. First morning in Delhi, waking up to the sound of D arriving from his flight

Monday, December 3, 2012

When being in love has burned away

Monday, December 3, 2012

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love", which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

~ Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, 1994

Friday, November 23, 2012

Getting a Henna Tattoo in Pahar Ganj

Friday, November 23, 2012

A fan of Indian movies, I always wanted to know how henna is applied on the hands. So I got a mehndi (henna tattoo) in Delhi's backpacker area, Pahar Ganj, and this is the story: 

Friday, November 16, 2012

the door of the prison is open

Friday, November 16, 2012


"The Stoics teach,” he said to me, "that we should not complain of life--the door of the prison is open. I have always understood that; I myself saw life that way, but laziness and cowardice held me back...."

~ Jorge Luis Borges, August 25, 1983, Collected Fictions, 1998 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Agony and Ecstasy of Travel

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After almost a month of travel I came home in the same state as my baggage: battered, altered and exhausted. If it were a simple vacation, I would have arrived refreshed and invigorated, but it wasn’t. I arrived sunburned, cash-strapped and sleep deprived, with lips chapped, nose runny, throat sore and muscles aching. 

In just a few days in Delhi we managed to be accosted by touts, ripped off, scammed, pickpocketed and taken advantage of.  We chased trains, got lost and fell short of reaching a summit. In Nepal’s international airport, we—along with hundreds of others--had to line up for several hours to secure a visa and get through the countless security checks.  The supposedly six-hour scenic bus ride from Pokhara to Kathmandu turned out to be a 12-hour hair-raising, armchair-clenching ordeal.  At a steep, hairpin turn along the Prithvi Highway our bus collided with another vehicle, an accident not so different from the one we got into in Arequipa a year ago.   

So why did I put up with all these? Why do we go to places that would surely expose us to danger and uncertainty? Why didn’t I just pack a bikini, laze on a beach and sip piña colada all day long? It is all for the love of travel and the agony and ecstasy that go with it.  The misery of travel is negligible compared to the potpourri of discoveries, the mélange of perspectives and the medley of life-affirming experiences that I gain from the road.

Life on the road has taught me a lot of things. In those hours I spent in long flights, inevitable airport queues, endless security checks and cramped and bumpy bus rides, where a high tolerance for boredom is required, I can’t but learn how to be patient.  Adrift in the chaos of foreign cities, thrown upon my own resources and relentlessly barraged with unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells and textures, I learned how to think on my feet.

The comforts of home that I am inured with are rarely present on the road – a clean toilet, a comfortable bed, home cooked food, silence, personal space, paved streets, grocery stores.  These things that I usually take for granted I now value more. Away from the familiar and comfortable, I learned to endure discomfort and thrive in privation. On the road, stripped bare of everything superfluous, I discovered that I can live without life’s accoutrements.

Traveling makes me look at the world in different ways.  Staying in a foreign country and interacting with locals gave me a glimpse of their culture, how they look at and deal with what life has given them.  For instance, while talking to a hired driver in Delhi, I learned that the price of the meal I had at KFC is higher than his day’s pay. He then proceeded to beg for a tip. It was very humbling. It made me question the things I put so much value in; it made me despair over why the world is as it is today.

Climbing a mountain in the dark and then watching Himalayan peaks gloriously turn gold as the sun rose over a small Nepali town gave me a surge of affirmation.  In those radiant hours of the morning my life’s worries seemed to dissolve away from around me.  Amid that world of breathtaking beauty, I felt content, as though I had set off from Manila and traveled for weeks to be there, on that mountain, in that moment, with the person I love, simply waiting for the sun to rise.  It was during that and similar other moments when I realized that travel is truly life affirming.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sidewalks

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It was a delight to come home and see newly constructed sidewalks in my neighborhood.  Was I gone that long that they were able to make spanking new sidewalks and fix the drainage system? I wondered. Few things impress me, but this one did. The elevated walkway looked so fresh, clean and inviting that I felt like skipping as I walked along the length of it. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Real Thing Exceeds the Hype

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I went there prepared to be disappointed, but when I caught my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal through its red sandstone gate I knew that the real thing far exceeds all the hype.  It was infinitely grander than I could ever imagine it would be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Suspended

Monday, November 5, 2012

I feel as if I’m floating, suspended between a wistful nostalgia for the magnificence of the past several weeks’ adventure and the harsh realities of the world I came back to.  As the plane landed yesterday, I felt that familiar sickening drop in my belly - a reminder that happy days are, yet again, over. Memories can never fill the void, but they’re all I have. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Excitement

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Now that I (finally!) got my visa, I don’t have to rein in my excitement anymore. I can let it to rule my life for the next several weeks. I can even start packing!

I don’t know what I’m most excited about though. Is it experiencing the agony and splendor of a month long travel with D once again? Or seeing the majesty of Taj Mahal? Or getting deep into different cultures? Or trekking in the Himalayas? Or joining in the communal breaking of bread at the Golden Temple? Maybe it is the idea of being able to get away and escape to another word.  Or the thrill of actually visiting the country that I fell in love with through the pages of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children:

The monster in the streets has begun to roar, while in Delhi a wiry man is saying, “…At the stroke of the midnight hour, while world sleeps, India awakens to life and freedom…” And beneath the roar of the monster there are two more yells, cries, bellows, the howls of children arriving in the world, their unavailing protests mingling with the din of independence which hangs saffron and green in the night sky—“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance…”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Transitory

Monday, September 17, 2012

My journal has become a mélange of pent-up emotions struggling to break free, of spur-of-the-moment ideas and fragmentary thoughts blended into one confused mess. It’s crammed with slips of paper written with disjointed paragraphs and phrases like “the buffering effect of trite language,” “the curse of Tiresias,” “a roving bacchanalia” and “the killing of blastocysts” - ideas I must have intended as topics for an article or as objects of curiosity that I wanted to explore.  Some made me laugh, a few made me wonder. But one thing struck me the most as I read through these random notes: I cannot recall when and why I wrote most them.

This, for example:

Again

It’s the same old feeling once again, when you just want to crawl under the covers and muffle every sight and sound.  The voice in your head just won’t stop, and you need somebody to talk to, but you feel as though you’ve already exhausted that privilege to be listened to with your cyclic bouts of depression and your life’s endless drama. You thought you’d make it to the end of the year without plunging into these depths. You were wrong.

It is not dated, and I cannot remember what made me write it. I just know that I felt so dejected then that writing about it would somehow make me feel better. It must have. Or, by just going through the motions of life and letting things be, I must have moved past that wretched state without my noticing it. But how can I not remember something that obviously affected me in such an agonizing way before?  The hopes and frustrations that consumed me in the past are present now merely as memories.  So many things in life are transitory, even emotions.  Every time I feel like I’m not going to make it, I always do. The moment passes, and life goes on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Cell Phones and Bees

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is it stubborn to refuse to use a mobile phone and not be within constant reach of everyone anytime, all the time? People find it peculiar when I say that I have a phone but I leave it at home, ignored and unattended and used only as needed.  

‘Why?’ They ask. ‘Because cell phone signals kill bees,’ I half-jokingly reply.

But it’s not really that.  For several years now I don’t find it necessary to have my mobile with me all the time. Phones encumber people, like me, who try to lead obscure and unfettered lives. That I have to be at someone’s beck and call beyond office hours and even during vacations is something that I don’t understand. But some simply cannot be out of reach even for a while and they welcome intrusions on their private time. That they need to be accessible at all times shows how busy or in demand they are.   When I see people devotedly attuned to their phones, neither engaged nor disengaged in conversations but only paying continuous partial attention, I’m glad I’m not that busy yet sorry for the busy bees.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The vanity of the present

Saturday, September 8, 2012

History has been described as one damn thing after another. The remark can be seen as a warning against a pair or temptations but, duly warned, I shall cautiously flirt with both.  First, the historian is tempted to scour the past for patterns that repeat themselves; or at least, following Mark Twain, to seek reason and rhyme for everything.  This appetite for pattern affronts those who insist that, as Mark Twain will also be found to have said, 'History is usually a random, messy affair,' going nowhere and following no rules.  The second connected temptation is the vanity of the present: of seeing the past as aimed at our own time, as though the characters in history's play had nothing better to do with their lives than foreshadow us.

~ Richard Dawkins. The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. 2004

Friday, September 7, 2012

One September Morning

Friday, September 7, 2012

What better way to start the month than to spend some lovely time with a friend whom I haven’t seen for years? 

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, with that fresh, crisp air this time of the year brings.  The glaring sidewalks, host to the mundane concerns of every day, are atypically empty. The buildings loomed large and imposing, casting shadows on the streets but unable to dim the brightness of that day.  As I walked towards the coffee shop, with each step I could feel myself being lifted from the languor and listlessness I’ve sunk into.  And then I saw my friend seated under an umbrella in what looked like an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle, sipping coffee and radiating that openness and ease of manner that I find endearing.  In that instant I felt that, despite everything, life is still good. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tanned

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


So deeply tanned my skin has become that it can attest to my love of the sun.  Like Sookie Stackhouse of True Blood, I'd be a terrible vampire because I won’t feel right without a tan.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

so i'll reign in my thoughts

Monday, August 27, 2012


I have to restrain myself from writing down every little thing. I feel I could take note of every little thought and describe every molecule of this cell and every moment of my life. I have plenty of time.  I have all day. But only so much paper. and only so much faith in your patience, so I'll reign in my thoughts.

~ Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Too Early

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And so I applied for my visa to India today, only to find out that wanting things organized and prepared two months in advance is not a very good idea.

I took the metro to Ayala and from there walked more than a kilometer to the visa application center, BLS International at One Corporate Plaza along Arnaiz Avenue.  An hour early, I didn’t mind the wait for I brought a book with me. Come 9 am, one of the personnel checked my documents, announced that everything’s complete and gave me a number. Glancing at my application form, she suggested that I change the length of visa requested from 6 months to 2 months.

I waited some more. After 20 minutes, they called my number. I approached the counter and handed over my documents to the same lady who checked them earlier. She went through the documents once again.  I told her that I cannot change the duration of visa. Because the validity of an Indian visa starts from the date of issue, 2 months would be beyond my travel dates, which are in October and November. That’s when she realized that I won’t be leaving till October. (She didn’t see it while looking at my papers.)  She then gave back the documents and told me to come back in October.  “You’re applying too early,” she said. “Well I want everything in order the earliest possible so if ever I won’t be granted a visa to India I can make alternative travel plans,” I said, curbing the urge to argue for the virtues promptness and preparation.   “Just come back a week before my departure date. Visa processing takes only four days, anyway. We don’t know but the embassy could give you a one-month visa, which you won’t be able to use given your travel dates.” she replied.  She has a point there, I thought. But why would the embassy give a visa that obviously would not correspond to the applicant’s travel dates?

If I wanted to wait till October to get my visa, I could just go for the Tourist Visa on Arrival facility in New Delhi.  This is one case where procrastination would have helped.  Disappointed that I didn’t achieve what I set out to do, I walked all the way back home.  If not a visa, at least I would get a good exercise from this, I thought.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Questions give us no rest

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

And questions give us no rest. We know not why our curse makes us seek we know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it. It whispers to us that there are great things on this earth of ours, and that we can know them if we try, and that we must know them. We ask, why must we know, but it has no answer to give us. We must know that we may know.

~ Ayn Rand, Anthem, 1938

Thursday, August 9, 2012

India-Nepal Trip Checklist

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lists create order and make infinity comprehensible, or so says Umberto Eco. Perhaps that is why making a list of things to be done helps whenever I’m obsessing about something. So here’s my TO DO list before our trip to India and Nepal:
  • Apply for three-week vacation leave (DONE)
  • Purchase round-trip plane tickets to New Delhi and Kathmandu (DONE)
  • Book hotel in New Delhi (DONE)
  • Book hotel in Kathmandu (made reservation through email but still waiting for a reply)
  • Make train reservation: New Delhi to Agra (DONE)
  • Make train reservation: Agra to Jaipur (DONE)
  • Make train reservation: Jaipur to New Delhi (DONE)
  • Make train reservation: New Delhi to Amritsar (DONE)
  • Make train reservation: Amritsar to Pathankot (DONE, but could only purchase waitlisted tickets)
  • Make train reservation: Pathankot to New Delhi (DONE)
  • Have 2x2 ID picture taken (DONE)
  • Photocopy first page of passport (DONE)
  • Fill out application for permission to re-enter India within a period of two months
  • Fill out visa application
  • Get a copy of bank certificate
  • Apply for visa
  • Book hotel in Jaipur
  • Book hotel in Amritsar
  • Book hotel in McLeod Ganj
  • Book hotel in Pokhara
I just hope that the Indian Embassy will grant me a visa.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Choosing What We Pay Attention To

Monday, August 6, 2012

There is something about David Foster Wallace’s writings that will always resonate with me. I reread his commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005 and his words made me think about what I think about:  

“Twenty years after my graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.  It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.  Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

His words make so much sense to me; yet when I think about it, choosing what we pay attention to is not that easy.  Our mind wanders all the time and oftentimes I’m not even aware that I am already dwelling on the things that I do not really want to think about.   How can I exercise vigilance over my thoughts when there are times that I want to simply relinquish consciousness? Choosing what to pay attention to and understanding why I need to pay attention to it need moment-to-moment effort.  But still, I try.

For now I want to pay attention to finding the right words to finish this post. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Crap

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Me: A paper has already been written about that. 
Him: Do you mean this (while glancing at the paper)? This is crap. Who wrote this? 
Me: I did (while looking at him straight in the eye). 
Him: I’m sorry. This is so awkward (his face reddening in shame). 
Me: It’s fine. I’m professional enough not to take offense at your remark. You obviously have not read the paper so… (shrugged) 
Him: I browsed it. I’m so sorry. This is so awkward. 
Me: So what makes it crap? 
Him: (bowed his head and said nothing
Him: (after a long and uncomfortable silence) I really want to apologize. It was unprofessional of me to say that. 
Me: Forget about it. It’s nothing, really. I know myself too well to let such things bother me. So it's crap. You can throw it away. You don't have to use it. Let's just move on, okay? 
Him: I’m new here and what I did was unethical. 
Me: Then learn from it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sweaty and Fascinated

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I must have looked ridiculous last night, doing exercises with my puny 3-kg dumbbells while watching other women lift weights that are more than double their own weight, but I was having too much fun from the absurdity of what I'm doing to care about appearing silly or think about anything else. It was already past midnight when the women's 58kg division weightlifting competition ended. Through it all, I was glued to the TV, sweaty and fascinated. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Had had enough of lying

Monday, July 30, 2012

Humans themselves are the source of good and evil, I thought. We must think for ourselves; We are responsible for our own morality.  I arrived at the conclusion that I couldn't be honest with others unless I was honest with myself. I wanted to comply with the goals of religion, which are to be a better and more generous person, without suppressing my will and forcing it to obey inhuman rules. I would no longer lie, to myself or others.  I had had enough of lying. I was no longer afraid of the Hereafter.

~ Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel, 2008

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fluency

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If I could, I would have stayed at home and watched the Justice Secretary being interviewed live on TV for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but I have my own interview to conduct so I had to hurry back to the office.  To say that she answered the questions of the Judicial and Bar Council panel very well would be an understatement. I marvel at her articulateness, her fluency, qualities I—as well as my applicants--regrettably lack.  Propelled by my love of words and language, I can’t help but admire people like the Justice Secretary who can verbalize their thoughts as coherent as she did. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I was trying to write then

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced.

~ Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, 1932  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Good Night's Sleep

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

There is something in that pillow-laden, slightly sagging, dimly lit top bunk in my mother’s house that never fails to give me a good night’s sleep. Whenever I spend the night, I immediately fall into a deep, uninterrupted slumber and wake up with the suspicion that my siblings must have again hidden the stairs that I use to climb down the bed, as they—full of playful mischief--often do. With disguised merriment, I anticipate those pranks they pull on me, just as much as I could count on that huge mug of taho (tofu yogurt) that my mother buys for me from the neighborhood vendor every time I’m there.  Whenever I sit in that sun-filled kitchen with the delicious smell of morning cooking wafting through the air, chatting with my mother and waiting for my siblings to wake up, I feel invigorated, as though I could take on the world. 

It must be the cool, fresh air blowing from the corn fields that lulls me to sleep; or the comforting tightness of the narrow bed weighed down by various stuffed animals and half a dozen pillows; or sheer tiredness from trying to stay awake and refusing to let a wonderful day to end; or it must be the soothing clasp of family that always makes for a good night’s sleep.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kaunti na Lang

Monday, July 16, 2012


May mga pagkakataong nasasabi ko na lang sa kanya, “kunin mo na ako dito,” gamit ang tinig na tila nagsusumamo o nagpapasaklolo. Ito man ay dala ng kahinaan o ng matinding kalungkutan, ang tanging nais ko ay makasama siya kahit panandalian lamang. Nakakainip ang maghintay, ngunit nakakatuwa ring isipin na malapit na, kaunti na lang.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the reins of life slipped from his hands

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


He felt utterly, utterly overcome - as if he didn't care what became of him any further. He didn't care whether he were hit by a bomb, or whether he himself threw the next bomb, and hit somebody. He just didn't care anymore about anything in life or death. It was as if the reins of life slipped from his hands, and he would let everything run where it would, so long as it did run.

~ Aaron's Rod, D.H. Lawrence, 1922

Monday, July 9, 2012

West to Midwest

Monday, July 9, 2012

Searching for a house, our house, has proven to be truly heartbreaking. For the second time, we’ve lost that property we thought was already ours. Who would have known that by missing to tick a box you would lose a house? It sounds trivial and arbitrary, but it’s exactly what happened. The listing agent failed to put an X mark on one of the boxes in the document. It lead to the bid being cancelled and dashed hopes on our part. We tried to submit another offer, but they’ve awarded it to the next in line. 

Pinning our hopes on the overly volatile housing market of Las Vegas, we realized, is a terrible idea. And so we decided to expand our search towards the Midwest. I would have wanted to live in an area where it’s warm, where there’s a sizeable Filipino community, where the mountains are just a short drive away. But I can trade all of those for a place where I can jog along the lake, grow a flower and vegetable garden in my backyard, walk to the library whenever I want and be with the man I love. 

And so the hunt continues. May luck be on our side this time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pick-me-up

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The last time he called me at work was to tell me that he just jumped on a plane bound for Manila and is waiting for me to get home. It was such a delightful surprise that I could hardly contain my glee. I rushed home, and we spent the holidays together.  This morning when he called I can’t help but ask if—or wish that—he’s back in the Philippines. Sadly, he is not, but the call itself made my day. For solitary souls like me, a simple phone call works like a pick-me-up. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Coated With Slime

Monday, July 2, 2012

How do you deal with people who are in the habit of making pronouncements that are at once grandiose and vacuous? They often say things that are meant to make you feel good but lack the sincerity to pull it off. When every utterance is tinted with posturing and affectation, can you still get through to what they really want to say? When you look at them and see their smiles coated with slime, how do you suppress the disgust from showing on your face? Or should you?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bursting with Hemingway

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Current obsession: Ernest Hemingway

It started with my watching a BBC documentary on Hemingway’s travels, Hemingway Adventure, where Michael Palin revisited the places and passions that defined Hemingway and his works. Those places include Chicago and Michigan, his birthplace and childhood haunts; Italy in WWI, where his experiences as a volunteer Red Cross ambulance driver became the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms; Spain, where he translated his experiences into a manifesto on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon, the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the propaganda film Spanish Earth; Africa, which inspired The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Green Hills of Africa; Florida’s Key West where they continue to hold annual Papa Hemingway lookalike contests; Cuba where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which won him the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature; and the American West where he spent his last days in search of peace and solitude.

As the show took me to the places where Hemingway has been, I sensed that same jolt of excitement I felt when I first encountered Hemingway’s work, For Whom the Bell Tolls, eighteen years ago. He got me then. I became an instant fan. And as I learn more about Hemingway, my regard for his work and his attitude towards life has turned into something akin to an obsession.  Watching the HBO movie Hemingway and Gellhorn did not help either: it just increased my fascination with the man.    

I can talk for hours and days about Hemingway and his novels, but I confine myself to just writing about him, instead. Who would listen to a lengthy discourse on the author, anyway? Not even my friends would. My colleagues haven’t even heard of him. And they are not interested in a dead guy who’s famous for writing a story about an old fisherman who had gone 84 days without catching a fish.      

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel Resolutions: What Have I Achieved so Far?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Half the year has passed, yet I’ve achieved only one of the ten travel resolutions that I made at the start of 2012:  

See more of my country

I remember that moment when, realizing how inexcusably ignorant I am of the wonderful places in the Philippines, I resolved to discover the land of my birth.  And I‘m proud to say that for the past several months I did just that. I was able to climb three mountains in different parts of the country - Mt. Pulag in Northern Luzon, Mt. Pico de Loro in Southern Luzon and Mt. Pinatubo in Central Luzon.   To fully describe the beauty and grandeur of those places is to fail – a thing I won’t even attempt. And to see more of my country is to discover unplumbed parts of myself.


Half the year has passed, yet I’ve achieved only one of my ten travel resolutions. It simply means that I have the rest of the year to revel in the delights of making the other nine real. 

(Response to the Indie TravelChallenge 2012 Week 26 Prompt: “Look back at the travel resolutions you made for the first week of Indie Travel Challenge. What have you achieved so far? What is something that you are proud of?”)

Monday, June 25, 2012

the last dream of my soul

Monday, June 25, 2012

I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul…. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Swimsuits and Memories

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My friends and I have started planning for another getaway.  We haven’t decided on the exact location, but it would most probably involve some sun, sand and surf.  What a perfect excuse to buy another swimsuit, I told myself. And so, indulging my vanity, I did.  I bought a two-piece, green and black twist bandeau.  Its sight gives me that extra push whenever I’m too lazy to exercise. 


Embarrassing as it may sound, I admit that I collect swimsuits. One-piece, two-piece, bikini, monikini, tankini, bandeau, maillot, halter top, string top – I have them in different styles.  It’s fun to look at each of them and remember where I wear them for.  Each swimsuit I associate with a happy memory, a fun vacation, or a wonderful place: the brown, polka-dotted two-piece that I was wearing when my boyfriend and I walked along the shores of Tanjung Aru in Penang as the sun expired; the pink floral maillot that I was in when my eyes got seriously infected while snorkeling with the girls; the floral swim dress that I wore when my friends and I had a marvelous time island hopping in Boracay; the yellow tankini that lent me some needed propriety in the company of family in more conservative areas in the country; the blue and green bandeau top that I wore while watching people frolicking in the sands of Pattaya.  Every piece is special because of the happy times that went with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something that tastes good can also be good for you

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I recently read a compelling article from The New Yorker about whether or not there is still a clear distinction between commercial fiction and literary fiction.  The author argues that “for the longest time, there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good.” And that distinction is now starting to collapse: “the presumed superiority of one type of book over another no longer passes unquestioned.”

So what distinguishes commercial or genre fiction from literary fiction, anyway?

Literary fiction is “elegantly written, lyrical, and layered" and focuses on creating "introspective, in-depth character studies" of "interesting, complex and developed" characters. (Source) Purportedly of less literary value, commercial fiction relies on formula, convention and uncomplicated prose.   Whereas literary fiction is character-driven, commercial fiction is plot-driven. Or so they say.

Whether or not there is an abiding distinction between the two, I simply don’t care.  I read both kinds.  As discussed in a podcast I regularly listen to, it is a question of quality, not taxonomy.  There can be art in both the pulpy and the highfalutin; there is brilliance in both literary fiction and genre fiction. It doesn’t matter if a novel appeals to lowbrow or highbrow tastes, I will read it as long as it is absorbing and written well. 

What keeps me absorbed nowadays is the third book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice of Fire dystopic science fiction series. Prior to that, I was engrossed in a collection of essays on political and cultural topics written by Christopher Hitchens. And before reading those essays I went from a chic lit take on the life of a former US First Lady to E.M. Forster's masterpiece about the British Raj to Jonathan Safran Foer’s nonfiction account of factory farming to a Stephen King horror classic to Mark Twain’s adventures through the Wild West in the 1860s.  There is something truly satisfying in sampling all categories and genres of the written word. Shifting from fiction to nonfiction, from one genre to another and from commercial to literary fiction gives me different ways of looking at the world.

It must be that something that tastes good can also be good for you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Palasak

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Magkahalong yamot at pagkamangha ang aking naramdaman habang kapiling ang isang grupo ng kabataan paakyat ng bulkan. Isang dekada lang naman ang tanda ko sa kanila, ngunit tila hindi ko maunawaan ang kanilang usapan. Ganito na nga ba ang tipo ng pag-uusap na palasak sa kasalukuyan, o ako ba ay nasanay lamang sa sinauna? Lahat ng kanilang pangugusap ay nagsisimula sa katagang ‘tang-ina na binudburan pa ng mas makukulay na salita na panunungayaw kung ituring ng iba. Sa tono at wika ng kanilang pananalita lahat ng bakas ng pagpipitagan ay tuluyan ng nawala. Ang mga salitang ginagamit ba nila ang dahilan o ang kawalan ng katuturan at paggalang sa kanilang usapan? Marahil ako lamang ay nagiging mapanuri at mapanghusga o sadyang tuluyan nang tumatanda.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dormitory

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carrying pillows, clothes, books, coat hangers, toiletries, what looks like a month’s supply of food and everything else our youngest sister could possibly need to live comfortably away from home, we trooped to her dormitory located inside the campus. She’s about to enter college, and it amazes me how excited she is about the whole thing.  The idea of living among strangers surrounded by ceaseless movement and babble makes me shudder.  Having to be gracious, nice and easy to live can be such an arduous task.  

Maybe that’s why I’m in my mid-thirties and still alone and impossible to live with.  I never learned—nor even tried—to coexist with people outside my family circle.  Living a few kilometers from the university, I had no reason to live in a dormitory, and having the same set of friends from high school eliminated the need to make new friends in college.  Twenty years later, I still find it difficult to establish new friendships and be with people.  If friendships are built on shared interests, how can I make any when it seems like I’m the only one who cares about the things I care about?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

He had better be able to make the lady laugh

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: He had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further."

~ Christoper Hitchens, “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens, 2011

Monday, June 4, 2012

House Hunting

Monday, June 4, 2012

A three-bedroom house with a backyard - that’s all we wanted. With the number of houses out in the market, it looked simple enough, yet house hunting proved to be more difficult than I thought it would—or should--be. 

We thought we already had that mustard-colored two-storey house, but at the last minute, when everything appeared to go according to plan, it was snatched away from us. Offering a price higher than the house’s assessed market value seemed to be a good idea just to secure the house, but it turned out to be the opposite. Trusting our realtor’s word and exercising patience over glaring inefficiencies were errors in judgment that cost us that house. And we simply cannot battle a system that is operated by automation and built on bureaucratic principles. 

But then again, maybe it’s simply not meant to be. That house was not for us. 

It’s been months since we started the search, yet our dream house continues to be just a dream. I hope it won’t be for long. The search goes on, and each day we look forward to a new listing; we hope for our offer to be accepted; and we yearn to find that house that we can call ours.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What is home then?

Friday, June 1, 2012

What is home then, you might wonder? The place you first see daylight, or the place you choose for yourself? Or is it the someplace you just can’t keep going back to, though the air there’s grown less breathable, the future’s over, where they really don’t want you back, and where you once left on a breeze without a rearward glance?

 ~ Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land, 2006

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It’s almost 9 pm

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It’s almost 9 pm. I’ve been reading the whole day. My mind’s filled with words and ideas all muddled into a murky mess. Not another page, I told myself. What does it take to reorder my thoughts and bring some semblance of clarity to confusion? A break, perhaps. Or an invigorating conversation. A distractingly funny movie, possibly. A good night’s sleep, definitely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lame

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book development’s done, and I’m currently idling away the hours until the start of the new project.  I can now catch up on my Spanish lessons (where I’m stuck at conjugating radical changing e to ie verbs); I can focus on training for our next mountain adventure; I can also dedicate my mental faculties, deficient as they are, to writing something less lame than this.

Monday, May 28, 2012

fascinating, bewitching, entrancing

Monday, May 28, 2012

If there is any life that is happier than the life we led on our timber ranch for the next two or three weeks, it must be a sort of life which I have not read of in books or experienced in person. We did not see a human being but ourselves during the time, or hear any sounds but those that were made by the wind and the waves, the sighing of the pines, and now and then the far-off thunder of an avalanche. The forest about us was dense and cool, the sky above us was cloudless and brilliant with sunshine, the broad lake before us was glassy and clear, or rippled and breezy, or black and storm tossed, according to Nature's mood; and its circling border of mountain domes, clothed with forests, scarred with landslides, cloven by canons and valleys, and helmeted with glittering snow, fitly framed and finished the noble picture. The view was always fascinating, bewitching, entrancing. 

~ Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872

Monday, May 21, 2012

How Can Something This Beautiful Be That Lethal?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The sun pounded mercilessly, defying the leaden landscape that surrounds me. A few minutes into the two-hour hike to the crater lake, I looked around, dazzled by the splendor left behind by destruction. Can this be the same volcano that caused such havoc to our country several years ago? I asked myself. How can something this beautiful be that lethal?


MT. PINATUBO
Location: Boundaries of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales 
(15°08.4’ N, 120°21’ E)
Elevation:  1.445 km (height before eruption was 1.745 km)       
Base Diameter 40 km                                          
Caldera Lake:  Pinatubo Crater Lake (2 km in diameter and depth of 600 to 800 meters)  

The second-largest volcanic eruption of this century, and by far the largest eruption to affect a densely populated area, occurred at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines on June 15, 1991.  The eruption produced high speed avalanches of hot ash and gas, giant mudflows, and a cloud of volcanic ash hundreds of miles across.  The impacts of the eruption continue to this day. (Source)


The former summit of the volcano was obliterated and replaced by a caldera 2.5 km (1.6 mi) wide. The highest point on the caldera rim now stood 1,485 m (4,872 ft) above sea level, some 260 m (850 ft) lower than the pre-eruption summit. (Source)


A reported 847 people were killed by the eruption mostly by roofs collapsing under the weight of accumulated wet ash… In total, 364 communities and 2.1 million people were affected by the eruption, with livelihoods and houses being damaged or destroyed.… In addition to the severe damage sustained by these communities, roads and communications were damaged or destroyed by pyroclastic flows and lahar throughout the areas surrounding the volcanoes. (Source)


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Global Table

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Next time you sit down for a meal, imagine that there are nine other people sitting with you at the table, and that together you represent all the people on the planet. Organized by nations, two of your tablemates are Chinese, two Indian, and a fifth represents all the other countries in Northeast, South, and Central Asia. A sixth represents the nations of Southeast Asia and Oceana. A seventh represents sub-Saharan Africa, and an eighth represents the remainder of Africa and the Middle East. A ninth represents Europe. The remaining seat, representing the countries of South, Central, and North America… 

If seated by nourishment, one person is hungry and two are obese. More than half eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but that number is shrinking. The stricter vegetarians and vegans have one seat at the table, but barely. And more than half of the time any one of you reaches for eggs, chicken, or pork, they will have come from a factory farm. If current trends continue for another twenty years, the beef and mutton you reach for also will. 

~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals, 2009

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reclaiming Citizenship

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I think that’s the surest sign that you’re a Filipino: You lay claim to it, and in doing so, help shape its meaning. (Carla Montemayor, Interaksyon

It amazes me how excited he is to receive his Philippine passport. Maybe living in--and being a citizen of--another country for such a long time does that. Claiming once birth right becomes so important that one is willing to go through anything just to become a ‘Filipino’ once again – just like he did. 

We were lining up to have our passports stamped at the entrance to Machu Picchu when I noticed him trying to hide his passport from our fellow trekkers. Later I asked him about it. He said that he wanted to be identified as a Filipino, and not another gringo. That is how proud he is of the country of his birth. Many US citizens can easily go to Peru, but only a few from a developing country like the Philippines can or do. And some Filipinos—both here and abroad—do not fully lay claim to and take pride in being Filipinos.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stiff and Sore

Monday, May 14, 2012

I woke up feeling the aftermath of another great hike. Sore and stiff, my muscles and joints are screaming not in pain but in jubilation. All this pain is part of the splendor of another day outdoors doing what I love best.

hiking to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence. Inside its cocoon of work or social obligation, the human spirit slumbers for the most part, registering the distinction between pleasure and pain, but not nearly as alert as we pretend. There are periods in the most thrilling day during which nothing happens, and though we continue to exclaim 'I do enjoy myself' or 'I am horrified' we are insincere. 'As far as I feel anything, it is enjoyment, horror' - it's no more than that really, and a perfectly adjusted organism would be silent.

~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, 1924

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blankness

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Here I go again. A deep, gathering blankness has taken hold on me.  I sit down and pick up my pen, but I always end up staring at an empty piece of paper. Unsure of what to say, devoid of fresh ideas and disinclined for the buffering effect of trite language and worn-out sentiments, I give in to the clarity of silence, of words left unarticulated.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Unruly

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Twisted into two tight buns then uncoiled after a couple of hours, my hair resulted to this:


Wild and unruly. And totally me.
 
muffled solitude © 2007-2016. Design by Pocket | Distributed by Blogger Blog Templates