Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Apart from the details, everything is always the same

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A lot happens in our little everyday life, but it always happens within the same routine, and more than anything else it has changed my perspective of time. For, while previously I saw time as a stretch of terrain that had to be covered, with the future as a distant prospect, hopefully a bright one, and never boring at any rate, now it is interwoven with our life here and in a totally different way. Were I to portray this with a visual image it would have to be that of a boat in a lock: life is slowly and ineluctably raised by time seeping in from all sides. Apart from the details, everything is always the same. And with every passing day the desire grows for the moment when life will reach the top, for the moment when the sluice gates open and life finally moves on. At the same time I see that precisely this repetitiveness, this enclosedness, this unchangingness is necessary, it protects me.”

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book One, 2009

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Funny, Sad

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Over dinner we chatted in that funny, sad way of people who have known each other since high school about the same things we used to talk about when we were young that now make us feel old. I sat there laughing and talking with my friends while ardently wishing for more moments like those. Yet life happens, priorities change, responsibilities intervene, and we are no longer at liberty to simply while away the hours in each other’s company. The trip we’ve been planning for almost a year now—and which I really look forward to--isn’t happening anymore. That dismays me. But the thought that we are increasingly drifting apart dismays me even more.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love blurs your vision

Monday, October 16, 2017


"Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you’ve made."

~ Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye, 1988

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

That Day We Went to Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I clung to the shoulders of arguably the handsomest man I saw in Colombia, as we roared down the highway on his motorbike. Soaked in the hot, Caribbean sun, with the wind blowing ferociously through my hair, I felt a delicious sense of recklessness diffuse through me.  Trucks and buses flew past us and we raced through the countryside, its structures looking forlorn yet defiant in the oppressive heat and the shifting dust.

Tayrona National Park is located in the Northern Caribbean Coast of Colombia, 34 kilometers north of Santa Marta. It covers 15,000 hectares and protects 27 species of fauna and flora that are found only in the region as well as 56 endangered species.
Still flushed with excitement, my boyfriend and I arrived at El Zaino, the entrance to Tayrona National Park, and joined the hordes of bewildered backpackers figuring out how to get tickets. It was confusing: some were queuing up at a badly lit counter while others were watching a video on an old TV mounted on a wall; a few were listening to a man giving an introduction to the park while the rest were just milling around, unconcerned with the chaos around them. Nobody speaks English so we had to rely on our limited Spanish to make sense of it all. We managed to pay for our tickets and board a shared van that would bring us to the start of the hike at CaƱaveral. With us in the cramped van are a lone traveler carrying a backpack that looks bigger than her and a Colombian extended family whose members are all dressed up for what appears to be a formal event and are talking over each other with voices raised. My Spanish wasn’t that good to discern the details of their conversation but it was good enough to grasp that they are arguing about the entrance fees. The backpacker, who is also a local and looked rather embarrassed by what’s going on, tried to engage us in some small talk.

La Piscina
Though I wanted to know the conclusion to the unsubtitled telenovela unfolding before my eyes, we got off at the trailhead and started walking. For an hour and a half we walked along wooden boardwalks and narrow dirt paths through thick rainforest then down big rock outcrops to reach La Piscina, a pristine white-sand beach fringed by large boulders and palm trees. I was puzzled why, despite its beauty, the beach is almost deserted. Later I found out that everybody else was at the party beach, El Cabo San Juan del Guia, a thirty-minute walk away from La Piscina

From that exhilarating motorcycle ride to the chaos at the entrance of the park and the drama inside the van to the hike to the beaches of Tayrona, it was a faultlessly beautiful day indeed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

I am bursting with the hopes of a generation

Monday, October 9, 2017

I was born of both stability and chaos. I have seen nothing and everything. I am twenty-four but feel ten thousand years old. I am emboldened by youth, unfettered and hopeful, though inextricably tied to the past and future by my beautiful brother, who is part of both. Can you not see that we’re extraordinary? That we were meant for something else, something more? All this did not happen to us for naught, I can assure you—there is no logic to that, there is logic only in assuming that we suffered for a reason. Just give us our due. I am bursting with the hopes of a generation, their hopes surge through me, threaten to burst my hardened heart! Can you not see this? I am at once pitiful and monstrous, I know, and this is all my own making, I know—not the fault of my parents but all my own creation, yes, but I am the product of my environment, and thus representative, must be exhibited, as inspiration and cautionary tale.

~ Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 2000

Thursday, October 5, 2017

When an Invite Comes Along

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An invite comes along once in a while and my immediate reaction is I don’t want to go. Please leave me be. Most of the time I’d rather stay home by myself instead of having to put up with the requisite small talk and appear interesting and interested although inside I’m languishing in boredom or berating myself for going in the first place, or both. Why do I have to be with people who ask how I am but don’t really listen to or care about my answer? Why do I have to suffer the company of those who ask about personal matters whose answers they think they are entitled to but are actually not?

Monday, October 2, 2017

She recognized loneliness when she saw it

Monday, October 2, 2017

“She didn’t stop him. She knew he’d be back. No matter how elaborate its charade, she recognized loneliness when she saw it. She sensed that in some strange tangential way, he needed her shade as much as she needed his. And she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.” (Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, 2017)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finally

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The waiting has ended. I finally got my visa to Japan.  It was two months ago when I started planning for the trip and preparing all of the requirements for visa application. Now I that I have a visa I can finalize our travel itinerary.   I’ve already calculated trip expenses; read books and travel guides on Japan; watched countless YouTube videos on what’s it like to stay there; booked our flights and accommodations; studied the best modes of transportation to move around the country, looked up all pertinent bus and train routes, fares, and timetables; and selected the places we could explore.

So what else needs to be done? I need to concentrate on mastering basic Nihongo and, of course, plan my travel wardrobe and pack.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The palliative of the primitive hut

Monday, September 25, 2017

“The palliative of the primitive hut. The place where you are stripped back to essentials, to which you return—even if it happens not to be where you came from—to decontaminate and absolve yourself of the striving. The place where you disrobe, molt it all, the uniforms you’ve worn and the costumes you’ve gotten into, where you shed your batteredness and your resentment, your appeasement of the world and your defiance of the world, your manipulation of the world and its manhandling of you.” (Philip Roth, I Married a Communist, 1998)

Friday, September 22, 2017

In Salento, Colombia

Friday, September 22, 2017

It felt surreal—staying at a 150-year old converted stable in a 200-acre ranch surrounded by rolling verdant hills and infinite quiet.  At this ranch in a small village in Salento in Colombia’s Eje Cafetero, we spent several days without aim, simply relishing the stillness of the place and the luster of each moment. 

We stayed at this hostel in Boquia, Salento, Colombia.
We wandered around the ranch, visited the horses, and took endless siestas in the hammocks by the pool. We walked through mud, dodged piles of animal manure, jumped over ditches, and hurdled fences to reach what we thought was a river but looked more like a creek. When we wanted to go to Salento’s town center, the hostel manager suggested that we take the shortcut.  So we did. The shorter route turned out to be a 20-minute climb up an incredibly steep hill with increasingly dense vegetation—an unexpected adventure that left us gasping and exhilarated.  

Giant wax palms are strewn about verdant hills and valleys in Valley de Cocora. 
One morning, we took a shared jeep from the town square to the famous Valle de Cocora, home to the Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm tree that grows to over 60 meters tall.  We were driving for half an hour when, through the dusty windscreen of the vehicle, the hills came into view.  The first sight of those trees framed by misty green hills and valleys lifted my spirits. The driver dropped us off near the trailhead where we began our hike to the valley.  As we walked along the dirt path, a landscape so beautiful and sublime as to stamp itself forever in our memories unfolded before our eyes. And I felt right then that I am doing exactly what I should be doing in life at that very moment.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The quietness of her into the quietness of him

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"They had always fitted together like pieces of an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) puzzle – the smoke of her into the solidness of him, the solitariness of her into the gathering of him, the strangeness of her into the straightforwardness of him, the insouciance of her into the restraint of him. The quietness of her into the quietness of him.

And then of course there were the other parts – the ones that wouldn’t fit."

~ Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hoi An Ancient Town in Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the balcony of the hotel, I watched the sleepy Ancient Town of Hoi An transform into a grand bazaar as the sun dims to a sorrowful red. The lanterns that adorn the place, droopy and faded during the day, come to life at night, enlivened by the throng of tourists taking photographs of the brightly lit town. Like a cheerless dress in need of spangles and pailletes, the sluggish Thu Bon River is embellished with floating candles and sparkling boats.  Foreign travelers and locals alike quickly occupy the plastic tools and tables set up for alfresco dining along the river banks. A few hours before midnight, the tourists return to their buses and the pedestrian-only streets are drained of people. Storekeepers and street hawkers pack up their wares, and the historic town of Hoi An reverts to its former self.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Crumpling time up in your hands

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too – leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you’ve been.

~ Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, 2000

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

One Rainy Day in Luang Prabang

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It rained all day, a languorous drizzle that invited sleep. Abandoning our plan to ride a kayak down the river, we remained at the inn and allowed the unhurried pace of Luang Prabang cast a spell over us.

Crossing the bridge over Nam Khan River in Luang Prabang, Laos
Over an hour-long breakfast of homemade jam, baguettes, tropical fruits, Lao omelette, and endless cups of coffee, we had fun recalling the various experiences we’ve had in the past week: that rain-soaked morning we went temple hopping; crossing that shaky bamboo bridge over Nam Khan River to have a taste of the best sindad (Lao barbecue) in town; the magnificence of the multitiered Kuang Si Falls cascading into turquoise pools amid a tropical rain forest; that roadside stand with the friendly cook where we get our dinner every single night; being lulled to sleep by the trumpet of elephants. On our first day in this ancient town, D, puzzled, asked me, “Why did we come here? Why did you choose this place? There’s nothing to see.” After a week in town, he got his answer. You go to Luang Prabang for its atmosphere, not its attractions.

The inn's library
We retreated into the seclusion of the inn’s library where a shelf full of battered paperbacks, 20-year old National Geographic magazines, and travel guides all over the world beckoned. I felt a jolt of pure joy when I saw Elena Ferrante’s first Neapolitan novel My Brilliant Friend sandwiched between Frank Herbert’s Dune and William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns. I picked it up and curled up in one of the rattan chairs, with D beside me already engrossed in his book. We sat there for hours, absorbed in our books, unconcerned with the pesky insects that tried our patience, the relentless heat, and the ambient noise of the ceiling fan.

I saw dark, menacing clouds looming over the mountains, but they are powerless in concealing the beauty of the tropical jungle that surrounded us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Even if good is often not simple to find

Friday, April 21, 2017

"My mother said I’d have thousands of mornings to wake up and think about all this, when no one would tell me how to feel. It’s been many thousands now. What I know is, you have a better chance in life—of surviving it—if you tolerate loss well; manage not to be a cynic through it all; to subordinate, as Ruskin implied, to keep proportion, to connect the unequal things into a whole that preserves the good, even if admittedly good is often not simple to find. We try, as my sister said. We try. All of us. We try."
                          ~ Richard Ford, Canada, 2012 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ten Years of Muffled Solitude

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ten years ago on this day, I wrote my first blog post:


Here's to ten more years of muffling solitude.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Most things don’t stay the way they are very long

Friday, April 14, 2017

“It’s been my habit of mind, over these years, to understand that every situation in which human beings are involved can be turned on its head. Everything someone assures me to be true might not be. Every pillar of belief the world rests on may or may not be about to explode. Most things don’t stay the way they are very long. Knowing this, however, has not made me cynical. Cynical means believing that good isn’t possible; and I know for a fact that good is. I simply take nothing for granted and try to be ready for the change that’s soon to come.”

~Richard Ford, Canada, 2012

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Yesterday I heard some strange news

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Yesterday I heard some strange news. A friend of mine has been planning to have a rhinoplasty at a clinic here in the Philippines. It turned out that the doctor she’s eyeing is now being investigated for the death of one patient he was operating on. The patient in question died just after undergoing three procedures: liposuction and breast and butt augmentation.

If I had the money to splurge on cosmetic surgery, would I have done something to enhance my body? I think not. If I were wealthy, I would travel the world. It’s more worthwhile to risk my life in an adventure in a far-flung place than expose my unconscious self to the perils of the operating table.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I thought it all rather wasteful, all rather decadent

Saturday, April 8, 2017

“I suspect the reason I couldn’t celebrate the floating world was that I couldn’t bring myself to believe in its worth. Young men are often guilt-ridden about pleasure, and I suppose I was no different. I suppose I thought that to pass away one’s time in such places, to spend one’s skills celebrating things so intangible and transient, I suppose I thought it all rather wasteful, all rather decadent. It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity.”

~Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World, 1986

Thursday, April 6, 2017

When Every Day Feels Like a Saturday

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I’m here at work, painfully aware that it’s only Thursday and there’s one more day till I can escape from the world and rewatch all seven episodes of Big Little Lies and a week to go before the four-day Lenten break that I plan to spend at the beach, and a few months more before I can go on a longer vacation where I don’t have to know or care what day it is. Don’t we all long for vacations that feel like every day is a Saturday and the only major decision we have to make is what and where to eat for lunch? But to be able to afford and deserve vacations like those, I need to embrace the quotidian drabness of my life.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I'd conquered the solitary's way of life

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Not without some hardship, as I've said, I'd conquered the solitary's way of life; I knew its tests and satisfactions and over time had shaped the scope of my needs to its limitations, long ago abandoning excitement, intimacy, adventure, and antagonisms in favor of quiet, steady, predictable contact with nature and reading and my work. Why invite the unanticipated, why court any more shocks or surprises than those that aging would be sure to deliver without my prompting?

~Philip Roth, Exit Ghost, 2007

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I fielded questions about being single and childless

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It’s been a while since the last time I fielded questions about being single and childless despite my age. I am surprised at how I handled all of it. Instead of being defensive about it, I shrugged off their questions with some glib I-couldn’t-care-less nonchalance that any single girl who’d been asked the same question would be proud of. Rather than give them a rational explanation that they refuse to understand anyway, I merely smiled. I could have told them that I do not need a man to define, complete, watch over, or rescue me, but I said nothing.

A 39-year old woman who lives a full, happy life even without a husband or a child apparently astonishes some people. The fact that they are still astonished is even more astonishing.
 
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