Friday, June 18, 2021

Today

Friday, June 18, 2021

Today I renewed this blog's domain name for another two years. I hesitated at first. I thought of shutting it down for good, but I know that you would want me to keep this, to continue writing even if that day will come when you won't be able to read what I write anymore.  

You know that I write mainly for you, right? You're the only one who has the patience and the inclination to read about my ramblings anyway. I thank you for that and for the many other things, honey.  This blog has been our thing for the past 14 years, and it will continue to be so for always.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

There's a winnowing away

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"The face that stares back at you from the mirror later in life is so different than when you’re young. There’s a winnowing away and a shutting down. A sense of something having been taken from you and you don’t know exactly what it is, just that it isn’t there anymore. What opens up to you instead is experience, is cunning, is foreknowledge. Nothing you sought."

~ Jeff VanderMeer, Hummingbird Salamander, 2021

Saturday, April 24, 2021

I'd Still Do It

Saturday, April 24, 2021

If I knew beforehand that I'd be stuck overseas for months on end with dwindling resources and no means of going home amid a raging pandemic that shows no signs of abating, I would still choose to go through the same thing all over again. Because if I didn't, I would've missed spending one glorious month with D. And I won't exchange that time with him for anything in the world. 

In March last year, the threat of COVID-19 becoming a serious global pandemic was already imminent and we could have called off our vacation. I am relieved that we didn't. I am happy that—flouting fear, caution, and reason—we followed through with our plans despite what happened afterwards. 

This transient life allows us only rare instances of true joy. If D and I didn't go to Costa Rica, we would've missed those moments. Those hours spent watching the sun come up, its yellow light saturating the sky, the trees, the rooftops, and then burning away the mist of morning; we'd sit there until the yiguirro's song ends and the world turns over itself, to begin again. Those afternoons that passed deliciously slowly—hours blending together into a sameness that is joyful and comforting. I relished those moments and wished that they'd never end.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

How illusory the reliance on permanence is

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"It’s human nature to want to bind ourselves to the parts of life we hold dear whether those parts are actual people, events, items, or dreams. We want to fasten them to us so they’re safe and near us forever. But this type of binding frays and tears until, even when we fight the awareness, we’re forced to see how illusory the reliance on permanence is. What we have, in all its glory, to hug and hold, to caress and learn, to feel and grow, is simply right here and right now. If we are lucky, the bond holds in the moment—and the experience of it shines and breathes and expands. Then our story can change in an instant, and we may never be given the gift of why."

Michele Harper, The Beauty in the Breaking: A Memoir, 2021

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Pointlessness of Plans

Thursday, April 15, 2021

If it were normal times by this time I would have finished planning all of my travels through the end of the year. But that's no longer the case. We now live in a constant  flux, and it would be pointless to make any plans. But we can still aim for something, anything, can't we? 

I sometimes think of what I would do once this is all over, when we've regained control over our lives, when we can resume making plans. But my mind refuses to go there. I've become so used to this circumscribed life that the idea of returning to how it's been before the pandemic daunts me. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A peeling away of the skin

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"He felt her detaching from him, from their city. She saw their new apartment as a temporary place, counting down until she could leave it. What she didn’t know, Mauro thought, was that after the enchantment of life in a new country dwindles, a particular pain awaits. Emigration was a peeling away of the skin. An undoing. You wake each morning and forget where you are, who you are, and when the world outside shows you your reflection, it’s ugly and distorted; you’ve become a scorned, unwanted creature." 

~ Patricia Engel, Infinite Country, 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021

Of Brutal Surges and Vicious Cycles

Monday, April 12, 2021

I travelled to Brazil in November last year when the country had finally managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve: the average daily number cases was less than 10,000; restrictions for both domestic and international travel were lifted, and it felt like the country was moving closer to taking full control of the virus. The situation in the country has worsened since then and it is now facing a brutal surge with 4,000 daily deaths and its health system about to collapse. This new surge, what the rest of the world is also experiencing, is fueled by more lethal and more transmissible variants of the virus. There is also no certainty whether the vaccines developed for COVID-19 provide enough protection against these new strains or others that have yet to emerge. 

It makes me wonder if we're ever going to overcome this pandemic. Or will we simply go through an endless, vicious cycle of surges, lockdowns, and vaccinations? 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

There is something we can do

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

“We have to do something.” It’s the phrase that seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, the unofficial slogan of our moment. And yet almost no one does anything beyond reiterating the need to do something. We either don’t know what to do or don’t want to do it. So instead we stagger across the battlefield, firing blank after blank without aiming: something, something, something … 

But there is something we can do. Choosing to eat fewer animal products is probably the most important action an individual can take to reverse global warming—it has a known and significant effect on the environment, and, done collectively, would push the culture and the marketplace with more force than any March."

~ Jonathan Safran Foer, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, 2019

Sunday, March 28, 2021

I Wasn't Here

Sunday, March 28, 2021

I wasn't here when the Philippine government placed the country under enhanced community quarantine. Having lived in a small, isolated town that sheltered me from the virus for close to a year, I can only gasp in disbelief when I hear stories about the draconian measures taken to control the spread of the virus in the Philippines—the 6 PM curfew, the travel and quarantine passes, the limited public transportation, the checkpoints, alphabetically ordered grocery runs, only people between 18 and 60 years old allowed to leave their homes, all establishments closed except for those that offer essential services, leaving many without jobs and any semblance of hope.

I came home four months ago when restrictions have been eased, and since then it became clear to me the need for such desperate actions. Now that we've reached 17% positivity rate and almost 10,000 new cases per day for three consecutive days—all attributed to a) more transmissible variants of the virus circulating in the country, b) government incompetence in the local and national levels, c) Filipinos' disregard for basic health protocols, d) all of the above—the country will be returned under enhanced community quarantine starting tomorrow, and I will get to experience at first hand the things I only heard about before. What used to be mere anecdotes has now become reality. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

The narrative flow of our minds

Friday, March 12, 2021

"Logic dictates that writing should be a natural act, a function of a well-operating human body, along the lines of speaking and walking and breathing. We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it. Look at what we already have going for us: some level of education that has given us control of written and spoken language; the ability to use a computer or a pencil; and an imagination that naturally turns the events of our lives into stories that are both true and false. We all have ideas, sometimes good ones, not to mention the gift of emotional turmoil that every childhood provides. In short, the story is in us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down.     

But it’s right about there, the part where we sit, that things fall apart."

~ Ann Patchett, The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life, 2011

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Endless Days at the Beach

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

My tan has faded, but my memories of last year's endless days at the beach have not. At this time of the day, I would usually be my favorite spot, sitting under one of those coconut trees whose fruits passersby always warn me about. "Cocos cayendo," (falling coconuts), they'd always say. 

While families carrying their own umbrellas, chairs, bodyboards, and what appears to be two days' worth of food and beer trickled in, I'd be eyeing the granizados vendor and debating with myself on whether to indulge in that sweet treat. The sun would be shining, browning my skin to the darkest it's ever been. I would move to a shadier spot and reapply sunblock. I'd look around, happy to witness that life continues, somehow.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Writing is the act of saying I

Monday, March 8, 2021

"In many ways, writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space."

~ Joan Didion, Let Me Tell You What I Mean, 2021

Friday, March 5, 2021

After 363 Days

Friday, March 5, 2021

After 363 days of not setting foot in the office, I reported for work last Wednesday. Being in the office felt like nothing has changed yet everything has changed. The building remains squat, drab, and grey, but the parking lot that had always been packed with vehicles was, on that day, empty. The guard who barely glanced at our IDs before now checks the temperature of everyone entering the building. The lobby is newly renovated, and the biometric machine is gone—replaced by an online timesheet. 

When I entered our office, it's as if I was never gone at all. My table was exactly how I left it, organized and clutter-free, yet coated with a year's worth of dust. The page of my calendar was still set to March 2020, the month when our lives were upended and the whole world changed. 

From my seat I used to observe employees from other departments going up and down the stairs, but on that day there was barely anyone in sight. Most are still working from home and only report for work once or twice a week. When my colleagues arrived, I greeted them as if I just saw them yesterday. We actually did but online.

Monday, March 1, 2021

That life is lighter and more playful than I’m giving it credit for

Monday, March 1, 2021

"I love these geese. They make my chest tight and full and help me believe that things will be all right again, that I will pass through this time as I have passed through other times, that the vast and threatening blank ahead of me is a mere specter, that life is lighter and more playful than I’m giving it credit for."

~ Lily King, Writers and Lovers, 2020

Friday, February 26, 2021

Incompetence

Friday, February 26, 2021

If you follow local news in the Philippines, you would believe that the government, the police force in particular, is riddled with incompetence. Is it simply a case of biased media coverage? I would want to think so, but it doesn’t look like it. Last month, there's this police officer who shot his mouth off in public about the death of a flight attendant. He concluded that there was rape involved although evidence suggested otherwise. Last Wednesday, a "misencounter" happened between members of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who are supposed to be in separate buy-bust operations but ended up shooting each other.  It left three officers and one informant killed, some injured, and many civilians who were caught in the crossfire terrified. You would think that they would have at least coordinated with each other, but they apparently did not. There’s also the delayed COVID-19 vaccine delivery and rollout. A few weeks ago, the news was all about how the Department of Health, the concerned local government units, and the Inter-Agency Task Force were preparing for the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the country. They were touting that everything’s in proper order and the country is ready for the rollout. It turned out that we’re not. The authorities forgot to address the issue of indemnification—a bureaucratic hurdle that the country has yet to overcome. While other countries have fully vaccinated as much as one-third of their whole population, Filipinos are left further behind in vaccinations—all because of lack of forethought? Lack of financial capability? Lack of competence?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The writer and the reader

Sunday, February 21, 2021

"The writer and the reader stand at either end of a pond. The writer drops a pebble in and the ripples reach the reader. The writer stands there, imagining the way the reader is receiving those ripples, by way of deciding which pebble to drop in next. Meanwhile, the reader receives those ripples and, somehow, they speak to her. 
In other words, they’re in connection. 
These days, it’s easy to feel that we’ve fallen out of connection with one another and with the earth and with reason and with love. I mean: we have. But to read, to write, is to say that we still believe in, at least, the possibility of connection. When reading and writing, we feel connection happening (or not). That’s the essence of these activities: ascertaining whether connection is happening, and where, and why."
~ George Saunders. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Working from Home

Friday, February 19, 2021

It was announced yesterday that we can continue working from home until the end of April this year.  My teammates and I have been working remotely since the lockdown started, and we've proven that we can efficiently perform our tasks even if we're physically apart, so why can't we extend this arrangement even after the pandemic or, better yet, make it permanent. Working remotely reduces the likelihood of our contracting and transmitting the virus, but it also brought a welcome change to my pre-pandemic routine. Not having to get up early in the morning, waste time putting on make-up and choosing clothes, spend hours commuting to and from work, and face peak-hour traffic every single day has been an enormous relief. I can't imagine going back to that daily torment. By staying home and commuting or driving less, we not only have more time to spend alone or with loved ones, but we also get to reduce our carbon footprint and do something good for the planet for a change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The sharing of time

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"This could be their life together, each moment shared, passed back and forth between each other to alleviate the pressure, the awful pressure of having to hold on to time for oneself. This is perhaps why people get together in the first place. The sharing of time. The sharing of the responsibility of anchoring oneself in the world. Life is less terrible when you can just rest for a moment, put everything down and wait without having to worry about being washed away. People take each other’s hands and they hold on as tight as they can, they hold on to each other and to themselves, and when they let go, they can because they know that the other person will not."

~ Brandon Taylor, Real Life, 2019

Monday, February 15, 2021

At This Time of the Year Last Year

Monday, February 15, 2021

I remember exactly how I felt at this time of the year last year. I was anxious and excited about our upcoming trip to Central and South America—anxious because of the outbreak of a new virus that's been spreading from China and excited because I'd be with D again. I used to keep track of the incidence of the virus in the countries we'll go to or pass through. I scoured the Internet for articles about travel safety, restrictions, and requirements. I imagined all of the things that could possibly go wrong and hinder our trip. I prepared myself for everything that might happen. But I didn't anticipate that the virus, which was then mostly concentrated in Asia, would be that catastrophic. And at no time did I think that my montlong vacation would be extended and that I'd spend almost a year stranded in a foreign country. I wasn't prepared for that. I did not expect that being stuck in Costa Rica would turn out to be one great adventure. But we never prepare for an adventure, do we? While we're in it, we simply need to embrace it along with the discomfort, uncertainty, and novelty that come with it.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

An invisible rope

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"He is suddenly there, behind her. His arms circle her waist, turn her around, pull her towards him. His head is next to hers: she smells the leather of his gloves, the salt of his tears. They stand like this, together, unified, for a moment, and she feels the pull towards him that she always does and always has, as if there is an invisible rope that circles her heart and ties it to his."

~ Maggie O'Farell, Hamnet, 2020

Friday, February 5, 2021

Irish

Friday, February 5, 2021

It was a typical Friday morning at Playa Espadilla Norte in the small coastal village of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The sun was out and some of the beach chairs and umbrellas were already occupied. The surfers were paddling out, catching the waves, and dancing on the water. I was in my usual spot—on the southeast end of the beach, under the coconut trees, away from everyone else. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a gringo, a tall and very pale man wearing orange shorts who looked distinctly foreign and out of place. It was clearly his first time in the area, or in the country for that matter. He was looking around when the ticos who rented out beach chairs and umbrellas immediately swarmed him. Finally, income for the locals, I thought to myself and turned to the book I was reading. A few chapters in, I dozed off, lying safe and comfortable on a beach towel in the shade of trees. 

It was close to lunchtime and I've started gathering my things when the white guy, who was then as pink as a burnt lobster, approached me. We started chatting. Weary of the long lockdown in Ireland where he came from, he decided to go on a vacation and landed in Costa Rica a few days ago. He told me that he couldn't resist talking to me because I looked so relaxed and carefree just lying there in my bikini. I replied, "I've been in the country for several months now, and I go to the beach almost every day. I've somehow adopted the Costa Rican way of life. The locals treat me like their own so I don't see any reason not to be at ease." 

He then asked me, "Do you know any other Irish guys?" "Yes," I replied, "James Joyce? Frank McCourt?" He laughed and said, "I meant normal people from Ireland." When he said "normal people," I immediately thought of Sally Rooney, a young writer from Ireland who recently wrote a book entitled Normal People and a new favorite of mine. I could've named more Irish authors—Tana French, Colum McCann, Iris Murdoch, Emma Donoghue, Samuel Beckett—but the look on his face told me that either he doesn't know them or he's not interested in them. I stole a glance at the book left abandoned on his chair, and I realized that he's more into John Grisham (not that that's bad, I quickly reminded myself). We then moved on to various topics: tourist attractions nearby, the horrific first US presidential debate, Bali, his job, the continuing protests and road blockages all over Costa Rica, and so on. 

After months of trying to converse with people in my rudimentary Spanish, it was wonderful to talk to someone who spoke English. But it's already past lunchtime and I was feeling very hungry. I bid him a quick pura vida and left him to enjoy the rest of his vacation. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Blissful Unencumbrance

Thursday, February 4, 2021

"... they’d decided not to have children, which at the time seemed like a sensible way to avoid unnecessary complications and heartbreak, and this decision had lent their lives a certain ease that he’d always appreciated, a sense of blissful unencumbrance. But an encumbrance might also be thought of as an anchor, and what he’d found himself thinking lately was that he wouldn’t mind being more anchored to this earth."

~ Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel, 2020

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Exercising Safely

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The hospital grounds where I used to run regularly, up until the start of the pandemic, is still closed to the public. It will definitely remain so until all residents of the city are vaccinated against COVID-19 or until the virus and all of its variants are taken under control. 

I looked for safe areas nearby where I can run, but no such place exists. There is a gym a block from where I live, but the idea of being around people huffing and puffing in an enclosed room doesn't seem like a great idea either. Running in the street is an option for those who can do it with a mask and a face shield. I'm not one of those people. So for now I've limited myself to going out for hour-long walks and doing zumba workouts at home—the safest forms of exercise I can think of. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The world didn’t have to be a cold, unforgiving place

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

"If we won, it would mean that what had led me into politics wasn’t just a pipe dream, that the America I believed in was possible, that the democracy I believed in was within reach.


If we won, it would mean that I wasn’t alone in believing that the world didn’t have to be a cold, unforgiving place, where the strong preyed on the weak and we inevitably fell back into clans and tribes, lashing out against the unknown and huddling against the darkness."


~ Barack Obama, A Promised Land, 2020

Monday, February 1, 2021

Home Office

Monday, February 1, 2021

As working from home remains the default workplace arrangement, I thought of sprucing up my "home office" by tidying up the usual clutter and rearranging the books on my bookshelves. It took me the entire morning yesterday, but it was all worth it. I think I deserve a pat on the back.

While dusting each book, I discovered titles I don't even remember owning, let alone reading. This leads me to a new goal: to reread all the forgotten books in my bookshelves. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Losing the Memory of the Experience

Friday, January 15, 2021

You write a thing down because you’re hoping to get a hold on it. You write about experiences partly to understand what they mean, partly not to lose them to time. To oblivion. But there’s always the danger of the opposite happening. Losing the memory of the experience itself to the memory of writing about it. Like people whose memories of places they’ve traveled to are in fact only memories of the pictures they took there. In the end, writing and photography probably destroy more of the past than they ever preserve of it. So it could happen: by writing about someone lost—or even just talking too much about them—you might be burying them for good."

~Sigrid Nunez, The Friend, 2020

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Longing for Quiet

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

It was one of those days between Christmas and the start of the new year when everything's still and there's a short respite from the excitement of the holidays when I realized that I miss being alone. Engulfed in constant chatter and the pervading noise of life, I longed for quiet. I love being with my family but I also yearned for those days when I don't have to speak with anyone and no one speaks with me. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

A Collective Howl

Monday, January 4, 2021

"The internet was a collective howl, an outlet for everyone to prove that they mattered. The full spectrum of human emotion infused social platforms. Grief, joy, anxiety, mundanity flowed. People were saying nothing, and saying it all the time. Strangers swapped confidences with other strangers in return for unaccredited psychological advice. They shared stories of private infidelities and public incontinence; photos of their bedroom interiors; photos, faded and cherished, of long-dead family members; photos of their miscarriages. People were giving themselves away at every opportunity." 

~ Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley, 2020

 
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