Monday, October 21, 2019

Something in my life had ended

Monday, October 21, 2019

“I looked out the window at the station. I had the sense that something in my life had ended, my image of myself as a whole or normal person maybe. I realised my life would be full of mundane physical suffering, and that there was nothing special about it. Suffering wouldn’t make me special, and pretending not to suffer wouldn’t make me special. Talking about it, or even writing about it, would not transform the suffering into something useful. Nothing would.”

~ Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends, 2017

Friday, October 18, 2019

Our Idyll Couldn't Last

Friday, October 18, 2019

At Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
Snug in sunlight, with your hand warm and solid in mine, we walked along the palm-fringed shores of Unawatuna, unaware that that would be one of the last moments we'd spend together; that our idyll would end painfully, ineluctably, sooner that I could ever imagine.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

His pleasure in living has been snuffed out

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

“His pleasure in living has been snuffed out. Like a leaf on a stream, like a puffball on a breeze, he has begun to float toward his end. He sees it quite clearly, and it fills him with (the word will not go away) despair. The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place, despair that is like a gas, odourless, tasteless, without nourishment. You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat."

~ J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace, 1999 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Myanmar, Maybe

Thursday, October 3, 2019

I’m thinking of traveling to Myanmar next year. I’ve got everything planned out: when to go, which hotels to book, which buses to take, what areas to explore, how much everything would cost. The only thing I’m worried about is that I intend to do it alone. Is Myanmar safe for an independent solo female traveler? I read from several articles that it is. But still, can I survive a two-week backpacking trip on my own? I surely would. Will it be lonely? Of course, but it will be fun, too. My life, in general, is lonely as it is. I might as well add some adventure to it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The specter of stagnation

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

"I wanted to land in a new life where everything—bodies, ambitions—would work seamlessly and efficiently. Trapped in corpse pose, in a motionlessness that was supposed to be relaxing, I felt the specter of stagnation hovering over my existence. I missed, suddenly, the part of me that thrilled to sharpness, harshness, discipline. I had directed these instincts at my mind, kept them away from my body, but why? I needed a break from yoga, which had reminded me, just then, of how I’d felt all throughout Peace Corps—as if I didn’t know what I was doing, and never would."

~Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, 2019

Friday, September 27, 2019

Saturdays

Friday, September 27, 2019

I always go on a 10-km run on Saturday mornings because it gives me an excuse to laze away the rest of the day. Coming home tired yet elated from the run, I would take a shower then immediately prepare breakfast--usually, vegetable-stuffed omelet, pandesal, fruits, and coffee—which I would eat leisurely while watching pundits on CNN debate the day’s breaking news. A certain sense of schadenfreude comes to me whenever I watch news reports about what’s happening around the world. It’s an affirmation that other countries are as fucked-up—or even more so—than the Philippines. That momentary pleasure would then turn to dismay—why are these things happening—and disgust—why am I watching this shit—that I’d turn off the TV, seek solace in books, and retreat from the rest of the world.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Perfect, imperfect

Friday, September 13, 2019

"Perfect. Imperfect. A pair of adjectives that come over and again, in all seasons, day in and day out, taunting us, judging us, isolating us, turning our isolation into illness. Is there a more accomplished adjective than perfect? Perfect is free from comparison, perfect rejects superlative. We can always be good, do better, try our best, but how perfect can we be before we can love ourselves and let others love us? And who, my dear child, has taken the word lovable out of your dictionary and mine, and replaced it with perfect?"

~Yiyun Li, Where Reasons End, 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thoughts on a Thursday Morning

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I sit here, alone with my thoughts, surrounded by the bigwigs of Philippine publishing who have once again congregated for the annual educational publishers' conference. Attending conferences like these is the part of my job that I hate the most. I don't want to be surrounded by people. It saddens me to listen to grand ideas about improving student learning when these ideas are actualized only in the most privileged schools in the country. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Ella, Sri Lanka

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dismissed by some travel guidebooks as a small hill town with nothing much to do, Ella is the one place in Sri Lanka that I wanted to visit.  A small town with nothing to do? That’s definitely my kind of place.

A pleasant five-hour car ride from Unawatuna along the southwest coast of the island and through the narrow winding roads of the hill country brought us to Ella. We spent those five hours admiring the passing landscape and chatting with our driver about the flourishing tourism in his country, the 2004 tsunami, and the time he worked in the United Arab Emirates where he learned to speak fluent English.

Ella Rock viewed from Little Adam's Peak
Ella largely consists of a main street lined with shops and cafes that branches out to dirt tracks leading to a plethora of guesthouses that offer splendid views of the mountains. From the balcony of our small cabin, we could see the famous Ella Rock, imposing in its magnificence. The sight of that mountain caressed by milky sunlight never ceased to amaze me. And when we climbed it I was awed ten times over. 

On a morning filled with the opulence of summer we started our hike to Ella Rock. We walked from the inn to the main road to the town center to the railway station; we went down the tracks then continued walking along the tracks past another train station and onward to a dirt path on the left side of the tracks; we crossed a footbridge, went through a tea plantation, and followed the tree line up the mountain that lead us to a ridge from where could see the stunning verdant hills of Ella. From this view point, we walked up an incredibly steep rocky path amid a forest of eucalyptus trees until we reached the mountain peak. It took us four hours to get there. There are many routes—some very complicated ones--to Ella Rock, and we would have been lost if not for the very detailed directions and the hand-sketched map provided by our innkeeper. On the map he marked which path we should take and which ones we should avoid as well as landmarks that will guide us along the way. These include mileposts, some Buddhist statues, the ruins of a house, and a certain long flat rock that he said we would recognize when we see it--which, to my surprise, we did.

While others would generally spend a couple of days in Ella, we stayed there for six. In those six days we were able to hike not only to Ella Rock but also to Little Adam’s Peak and Demodara Nine Arches Bridge; we relished the inn’s traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of egg hoppers, pani pol (Sri Lankan pancakes), roti, fresh fruits, coffee, and tea served right on our porch; we watched Western backpackers in full hiking regalia wander aimlessly around town; we learned how tea was picked, manufactured, and sold; we walked everywhere, wondering how that small town can remain as it is and not be overwhelmed by the influx of foreign tourists attracted to its beauty; we didn’t want to leave, but we had to, of course.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Everyone has their love story

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Everyone has their love story. Everyone. It may have been a fiasco, it may have fizzled out, it may never have get going, it may have been all in the mind, that doesn’t make it any less real. Sometimes you see a couple, and they seem bored with one another, and you can’t imagine them having anything in common, or why they’re still living together. But it’s just not a habit or complacency or convention or anything like that. It’s because once, they had their love story. Everyone does. It’s the only story."

~Julian Barnes, The Only Story, 2018 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I Wanted to Run

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What was I thinking, getting up at 4:30 am to run even if it’s drizzling and then giving up after two kilometers when it started to pour heavily and relentlessly?  Why didn’t I just stay in bed and luxuriated in the peacefulness of that early morning hour? It’s because I wanted to do it. I wanted to run. I wanted to feel my heart accelerate as I pounded the pavement. I needed the comforting monotony of running the same route over and over again. I crave for that feeling of utter exhaustion and serenity—the spent muscles and the clear head—after a long run.

I run because I can; I run because it makes me happy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

That Joyful Ride

Friday, July 12, 2019

I just needed to close my eyes and that train ride from Colombo to Galle unspooled in my mind like it happened yesterday and not a year ago.

We arrived at Sri Lanka’s Colombo Fort Station at six in the morning, an hour before boarding time. The station, though bustling with people, was not as chaotic as I expected, and we easily found our platform, from where I watched with glee the coming and going of trains as we waited for our ride. I could have stayed there for hours marveling at the endless ebb and flow of people leaving and arriving at the station, but our train arrived on time and we had to leave.

Our observation car was attached to the rear of the train and gave us an excellent view back along the track.
The train started to move, past the commotion and the wearying tempo of the city, chugging slowly along the Indian Ocean through small coastal towns. Looking out the windows of our observation car, I could see the sweep of the railroad tracks fringed by coconut trees and flooded by the sun’s warm, golden light.  That ineffable joy of experiencing something singular for the first time seeped through me as the train rumbled on and the cool ocean breeze wafted in.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Often, they carried each other

Thursday, July 4, 2019

"Some things they carried in common. Taking turns, they carried the big PRC-77 scrambler radio, which weighed 30 pounds with its battery. They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak. They carried infections. They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English dictionaries, insignia of rank, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, plastic cards imprinted with the Code of Conduct. They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself—Vietnam, the place, the soil—a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity. They moved like mules. By daylight they took sniper fire, at night they were mortared, but it was not battle, it was just the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost."

~Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, 1990

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Rain

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

We live in constant terror. The ominous rumble of thunder triggers that panicky urge to go home before it starts to pour. “Oh no, it’s going to rain again” our minds warn us, as if rain is a harbinger of doom and not a common element of weather.

We can’t be blamed for feeling like this for everyone who lives in Metro Manila knows that rain, even just a bit of it, will inevitably bring flood and flooded streets mean hellish traffic congestions that turn a 30-minute commute into a two-hour misery ride. 
 
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