5AM at Limay

Picture the first time you sampled your favorite food. It could have been a rainy day while you sat there savoring the gastronomical delight you happened to chance upon that day. It could have also been a hot, humid day. Beads of sweat could have clung to every pore of your being but you couldn’t really care less. You had in your mouth something that defined and changed you. As exaggerated as it seems, the food that you tasted on that day was probably the best one you’ll ever taste in this lifetime.

There would be no repetitions of the same sensation. There would be no second sampling of your first time. As sad and resigned as it would seem, the next time you would eat the same dish would always be a mock imitation of the first time you ever tasted it.

At a quarter before 5AM I find myself sitting on the floor of a foreign room and typing away on a topic that would seem to be about food. It could be right on the bat as nothing would actually stop me if I change my mind midway through this piece. I mean, who’s stopping me in this early morning light? No one, really. I can’t even stop this parade of thoughts cart-wheeling around in my head.

What am I even getting at here talking about food like it should even matter? No, it’s not about the food. It’s about the message.

It’s about the first time we’ll never be seeing again.

I’m this kind of person when it comes to strange memories. I remember trivial things about people. I find it easy to just pick from my tree of trivial things and to remember it vividly like some picture show. If this worked the same for me during my college years when I’m having a hard time remembering a lot of things, my life would have been a breeze. It would’ve been the easiest years of my life, but that’s beside the point right now. Back to trivial things, I remember most of them as shows where I’m the third person; like I’m part of the audience of a show about myself and my daily adventures.

Sometimes I’d be a rude commentator, lurking behind some obscure corner and cursing my past decisions. I’d be painfully embarrassed about so many things but in the end, I can do nothing but bear the flurry of memories. It’s not so bad when I sleep it off but some memories prove to sleep-proof every now and then.

One such memory would be from almost seven years ago. I was younger and wilder with no room to go. Mind you, I had no hardships in my life. I was just a very dramatic teenager but I doubt I’m ever alone in this kind of angst. Back to the point, I had no room to be what I wanted to be and in that frustrated state of mind I chanced upon a form of romance (like it ever does happen).

It was exhilarating at the very least. It was awkward, confused and, for the most part, dramatic. What could you possibly expect from a freshly-emerged teenager? It was the worst and the best mixed in a cocktail of acne and rabid hormones. Ultimately, it was the proof that maybe there some form of truth in the sad chick flicks we kept on watching on rainy days.

After a while, it would end as most things do. If you were one of the lucky ones you’d probably be sneering at this paragraph’s first sentence. You’d probably be thinking, this didn’t happen to me. You’d probably be feeling quite proud of yourself right about now. Sadly, I’m not exactly lucky when it comes to these things. I find that I don’t have a knack for making things last. It’s like an aria of futility in the never-ending serenade of life, love and everything in between. I’m the singer and I can’t even carry a single tune to save my life.

So at the end of it all, I try so hard to forget.

The problem is, you don’t ever forget. It’s easy to say that you do but every once in a while, you will remember. You will remember these things with such great clarity that it would be almost crippling. Your body will remember all these things: the subtle blush, the rush of a young heart, the sweat in your palms. Ultimately, you will thirst for it for a fraction in eternity and then it will collapse. You will get back to reality and regain as much composure as you can. However flustered you may be, you will just cover it with a smirk and get on living because you know full well that it was just a memory you no longer have to remember.

At the end of a long day when you’re already between the state of sleep and wake you will admit what you couldn’t in all the days that passed – the first one would always be the one that got away.

It will be sad but you’ll be sleeping it off, anyway.

Voltes Five Blues

Mahirap makilala ang tunay na sarili ng isang tao. Mahirap ito dahil sa ayaw natin itong makita. Takot tayo na malaman natin na ang ating tunay na sarili ay isang taong hindi natin inaasahan. Takot tayong maabutan ng ating damdamin dahil alam nating may maliit na bahaging hindi natin gusto. Lahat ito ay sa dahilang alam natin, sa ating pinaka-tagong kaalaman, na tayo’y tao. Tao tayong nagkakamali, nanghuhusga at may kakayahang gumawa ng mga bagay na wala sa listahan ng itinalagang moralidad ng mundong ating ginagalawan. Oo, tao tayo at ito’y isang katotohanang hindi natin maitatanggi sa ating mga sarili.

Nakasentro ang mundo ko sa kaisipang ito. Pilit kong pinag-aralan ang sining ng pagtatago. Marahil ay bunga ito ng kagustuhan ng mga tao sa aking paligid. Ang mga taong naglinang sa akin upang matakot na makilala ang kanyang sarili. Naaalala ko pa ang tawanan nila. Ang kanilang mga blangkong mukha at ang kanilang mga tagong bulungan. Ang bawat sandaling inilalaan ko sa pag-alala ang nagpapa-igting sa aking kagustuhang magtago sa likod ng isang mascara. Ninais kong ang makita lamang nila ay ang kanilang gusting mukha. Gusto ko silang masiyahan kahit na sa likod ng kasiyahan nila ay isang taong unti-unting nawawala sa dagat ng pagkukunwari; unti-unting nawawala sa likod ng kanilang kagustuhan.

Tila isang panaginip na lamang ang mga araw ko sa loob ng kwadradong kwarto sa ikalawang palapag ng Bordner.

Hangin.

Habang ako’y nag-iisip ay may marahang simoy ng hangin na tumama sa akin. Hangin na bagama’t malamig, ito’y hangin na mainit sa katawan. Ang buhay ko noong unang taon ang nagdala ng parehong simoy sa aking katauhan. Malamig at sa parehong pagkakataon ay nagbigay sa akin ng alab na nagpupumilit na sirain ang pananggalang ko – ang aking maskara.

Ngunit dumating din ang araw na ang marahang simoy ng hangin ay nawala. Kapalit nito ang pagdungaw ng bagong umagang hanep sa kaemohan.

Ikalawang taon, taon ng hayagang pagkukubli. Tila may isang malaking salamin na nakaharang sa aking harapan sa araw-araw na pilit kong buhayin. Isang salamin na naghihiwalay sa akin sa mundo nila. Nakatutuwang isipin ang isang taong nagmamasid sa likod ng isang salamin. Parang bantay-salakay, naghihintay lamang ng hudyat na sumugod sa pagkakataong hindi inaasahan ng lahat. Para bang nanganak lamang ang aking mascara at ang kanyang sanggol ay isang doble-karang salamin.

Nasa ika-apat na palapag kami noon. Naaalala ko ang kalangitan ng Maynila. Tuwing Filipino naming ay kulay abo ito. Sa tanang buhay ko sa Maynila, hindi ko pa ito nakikitang bughaw, ngunit tuwing Filipino, doon ko lamang pinapansin ang kulay nitong kulay abo.

Sa ikalawang taon na iyon ay nakakilala ako ng isang taong hindi ko akalaing makikilala ko sa mundong ito. Hindi ko sasabihin ang pangalan niya bagaman isa siya sa mga taong nagpabago ng pananaw ko sa mundo.

Magka-grupo kami noon. Dalawang markahan ko siyang nakasama at sa paligid niya, unti-unting nawala ang salamin ng ginagamit ko upang makapagtago mula sa tunay kong katauhan. Napalitan ito ng isang ngiti na kahit ang mala-abong kalangitan ng Maynila ay hindi ito mapawi.

Ngunit sa ikatlong taon, ang kalangitan ay dumilim hanggang ang abo’y nagmistulang uling. Nangingitim at madaling makahawa sa iba.

Sa ikatlong taon dumating ang maraming pagsubok sa aking buhay bilang tao. Ang ngiting sumibol noon ay bumalik sa pagiging maskara. Kailangan kong ngumiti kahit na alam kong hindi ito totoo. Mistulang piitan lamang ang aking katawan; piitang masikip, abuhin at naglalawa mula sa aking mga sariling luha.

Wala nang elemento na magbibigay turing sa ikatlong taon kung hindi kadiliman. Kadiliman sa damdamin, sa isipan at sa katauhan. Sa damdamin sapagkat tuwing nagkakaroon ng gawain, o kahit ano pa man na nangangailangan ng isang buong grupo para magawa, laging may away. Laging may gustong siya ang kagiliwan, habang ang isa’y gusto palagi ang bida. Ang araw-araw ay nakasasawa at dahil dito ay natutunan kong kagalitan ang mga bagay na pwede naming kagiliwan.

Ang pagkamuhi ko ay bakas dahil ito ang alam kong iniisip ng mga nakapaligid sa akin. Sa ikalawang pagkakataon, hinayaan kong sila ang humulma ng aking paniniwala para maging masaya ang lahat. Ito ang kadiliman sa aking isipan, ang nakapandidiring paniniwalang ito. Para naman sa aking katauhan, ang dating tunay na ngiti ay bumalik sa pagkukunwari. Nawawalan ako ng hawak sa mundo at ang masama pa, minsan ay nagugustuhan ko ito. Mistulang kasabawan lamang na pilit na pinasak sa aking pagkatao. Minsan ay parang droga o di kaya’y serbesa na sa pagdilim lamang ng kapaligiran, sa loob ng isang saradong silid, nasasaid ang pilit na ligaya.

Walang kalangitan na makikita sa kwarto sa ikalawang palapag ng Main. Tanging anino lamang ng gusali ng Emilio Aguinaldo College ang masisilayan mo. Isang aninong tila nang-aasar at nangingitil ng iba’t-ibang pinagkukunan ng ligaya.

Ang kadiliman, ang maskara at ang pagkukunwari ay naglaho sa ika-apat na taon.

Naisip ko, pwede naming maging masaya. Bakit ko hahayaan ang aking sarili na lamunin ng kalungkutan? Ang pagdurusa ay nasa tao, nasa kanya na ito kung pipiliin niyang isuka ang kanyang sariling kaligayahan hanggang siya’y mamatay. Lahat ng bagay, dapat may hangganan. Dapat malaman din natin sa ating sarili kung kalian dapat tumigil at kung kalian dapat ipagpatuloy ang mga bagay-bagay. Kung naipagpapalit mo na ang sarili mo para sa iba, ano na lamang ang matitira sa iyo? Isang  bakas ng anino, isang sulyap sa sulok kawalan?

Ang hangin ay nagging marahan at ang anino’y naging malamig sa himpapawid ng maynila. Ang salamin ay nabasag na.          Sa isang bakanteng upuan sa loob ng kwartong may apat na pader, sa wakas, natagpuan ko na rin ang aking matagal na ikinubling sarili.

Mataas na Paaralang Pang-Agham ng Maynila

I graduated from MSHS. It’s a school located along Taft Avenue and it is home to some strangely normal people. Not that it’s anything noteworthy but the people there aren’t exactly what people assume them to be.

When we were in high school, we were also subjected to the usual drama. Every once in a while, gossip would spread about people we haven’t even exchanged looks yet. Surprisingly, we got to know each other through that exchange of stories. The small community we have became something like a familiar necessity; something bordering on family.

We were children when we entered the walls of that school. We were sticky and drooling. Some of us grew up fast (or thought they did) while some of us refused to acknowledge maturity. Some of us were pretty much shielded from the world and its awfulness. Some tended to have other influences outside the walls and perhaps it was good for them. For these matters, we only had to hope and wait.

The four years spent inside was something like an opened cage to me; the door was there for you to exercise restraint. During the first year, we were drilled to be awesome. We were taught to think that we are awesome and at the same time, to think that we could be so much more. As much as we seemed like doomed individuals back then, we were happy that we were somehow better than somebody else (that somebody else need not really exist). The downside was wearing a nametag when you’re trying so hard to shed off the elementary side of you.

When 2nd year rolled in, our batch was the meanest. All sophomores are mean. They are the prime cut tormentors of all the freshmen. The reason for this was not always clear but it was frequently attributed to no longer being the youngest in the school; hence, the petty power tripping and a prouder sidestepping. Aside from these favorite activities, sophomore year usually rolls in with the first taste of serious heartache. In our generation, this came through text messages. If you’re lucky, you’ll end the year with another hand secretly holding your own. Otherwise, you’re thinking that the world hates you and you’re belting it out in Friendster.

The juniors weren’t quite as quirky as their younger counterparts. They are actually the serious bunch. For us, junior year was the no-nonsense year. This was the time to be important because you are almost a senior – you had to earn points. But of course, this was the first prom. This was the year that culminated in February and not March. Sometimes, it ends happily. To the general public, they just go home stuffed and thinking how much it sucks to spend the night in the school quadrangle.

The greatest year was probably the senior year. This was the final step to freedom. For me, this was the best year of my HS life. A tip to the younger generations: when you get here, no matter how bruised you are or how perfect you think you are, things will always be so much better. Senior year was like a dream and like all dreams it tends to stay that way. It had to end. Life had to go on. Just when you thought you had it all, you still have so much more to do.

You had to begin again.

We had four years to our names. We had Paco Park, McDO-UN and KFC-Taft. We had WPD and Rob-Ermita. We were the ankle-biters of an aging city. We had known wars between sections and we had known how it is to cry over unspoken words and ungiven gifts. We had skinned knees and broken bones. We knew everything and yet we still knew so little. In our little world, we are the world.

We were required to be something when we were behind the walls of MSHS. We were expected to be better than what we are. Sometimes, these things worked but I remember things differently. We were golden but we had to be panned out of the rocky streams of the world. Eventually, we found out that we were wrong. We were not golden. We were not better than somebody else. At the end of the day, we were just sticky children hurrying to grow up.

Batchmates, did we?

Dekada Nobenta

Ako’y bente-anyos na. Dalawang dekada na ang alaala ng 90’s. Tulad ng mga imbang martial law babies (80’s children), may sarili ring angking ka-weird-uhan ang mga bata ng henrasyon ko. Siguro, wala kaming maipagmamalaking people power o kaya mga iniyakang radio-drama. Wala rin kaming alam tungkol sa toning water at nutri-bun. Kung tutuusin, marami pa kaming hindi alam.

Pero alam ko na isa ang henerasyon sa mga nakapila bilang susunod na mga mamumuno ng bayan (kung may pamumunuan pa).

Pero sa mas kwelang side ng maraming bagay, nakiuso na rin ako sa mga “Batang numero dito ka kung…” na nauso nung lumaganap ang dial-up sa bahaging ito ng daigdig.

Ang tunay na batang 90’s nakaranas magsuot ng glittery platforms ng sketchers at ng makulay (at minsa’y matunog) na mga rubber shoes. Kumakanta kami ng buchikik habang pinapanood ang Calendar Girls sa APO at si Aisa sa Eat Bulaga. Pakiramdam ko lahat ng batang babaeng ka-edad ko ay nagtali ng pigtails dati dahil kay Aisa.

Mga anak kami ng Macarena at Baywatch. Kahit wala pa siguro kaming pakialam sa laki ng boobs nina Hasselhoff at Anderson, go lang kami sa panonood ng slow-mo na pagtakbo nila sa beach na napakaraming nalulunod na tao. Umikot ang mundo namin sa pakikipagsapalaran ni Goku kasama ang ulap niyang ‘di ko alam kung Clinton ba o Kinton ang pangalan. Kasabay nito ang pakikipaglaban ng Power Rangers sa mga kampon ng kadiliman kasama ang isang malaking ulong di ko alam kung ano ang ginagawa doon. Big deal din sa amin ang kwento ng BT’X at mga Batang X. Syempre, dakilang tagasubaybay rin kami nina Eugene, Taguro, Fujiko at Lupin.

Umiyak ang iba sa amin sa Goodbye, Butterfree epidode ng Pokemon. Kakumpetensya ng Pokemon ang Digimon sa dos at kahit papano, nalito kami kung lalake ba o babae si Palmon. Kabisado namin ang forms ng kougan-anki ni Lorcan pati ang mga kanji ng walong dragon ni Recca. Nabagabag kami sa pagtili ng apoy ni Kurei. Tinaas din namin ang aming kamay at napa-halleluiah sa tuwa noong namatay sina Freeza, Cell at matabang Majin Buu.

Sa kabilang banda, nababad kami kina Fulgoso, Marimar at Fernando Jose. ‘Di namin mawari kugn bakit ‘di sabay ang bibig sa sinasabi sa TV. Pai si Chubilita pinatos namin ‘pag hindi pa pinapalabas ang Wedding Peach o kaya ang Sabre Marionettes. Sa gabi, umiiyak si Esperanza sa bisig ni Wowie. Kadikit nilang nag-iiyakan sina Via at Gabriel sa Mula sa Puso. Bago pa man kami humantong diyan, napagpalit muna sa kuna sina Mara at Clara.

Jusko, ang ngitngit namin kay Clara abot langit.

Sa kalye, nalasap namin ang patintero, trumpo, syato, tumbang preso, langit-lupa, piko at kung anu-ano pa. Kung gusto namin ng equips, sikat na ang may pellet gun pero ok na rin ang daliri na nagpapanggap na ray-gun. Sikat dati ang may Gameboy pero mas naging imba ang may Playstation. Nakuha na ng Playstation ang kaluluwa namin bago pa naimbento ang 9gag. Oo nga pala, kami ang tunay na pilot ng FF series.

Sa lahat ng naganap sa dekada nobenta (kasama ang pagkaskas sa radyo ni yaya ng kantang Rivermaya at Eraserheads) wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska.

Sa mga batang ka-henerasyon ko, isa lang naman talaga ang tanong ko eh. Nami-miss niyo rin ba ang ice candy na tigma-miso (which also comes in many exciting flavors)?

Willing to Walk

It gets to be like a plague, how easily wild memory spreads over the horizon in your head. Like in the dawn or the dusk that you let slide without further note for the day, you get to succumb to the restless gestures and caresses of times spent in the company of one person. This gets to be quite crippling when experienced in the pleasure of one’s own company.

And silently, you walk the Metro feeling more like a leper with every step.

A thousand miles – that’s the proverbial length we’ve traveled together in terms of memory lane. It may have happened on a stormy night or under the heat of the Metro sun. It may even be in the grime of the afternoon sun or even under the deceitful cold of an air-conditioned seat in a bus. For all the small lengths that joined up to form this thousand-mile-long reel of memories, there are still those underlying moments when you knew that something mattered.

I’ve come to realize small facts along the way. That marching these tides of reminiscence, that this constant pacing on this carpet of patience, and this small throb of solitude had been for the slight chance of a caress, a few terms of endearment and maybe a lucky shot that another hour could be wasted in your company. That these long hours of waiting would, in hope, bear the uncertain chance of feeling what small ounce of happiness can be felt with you.

All of this for the happiness that cannot be attained from anyone else.

It’s terrifying how these things go, that you become something unbound for another person. More and more, it gets to be a plague at the end of the day. More and more, you start losing yourself to the sad state of comfort in your head.

Deftly, you become less of what you are with every step.

Nenok

When words have already become a barrier that can no longer be penetrated, how can you know what remains; how can you understand?

During a long walk, I’ve been piecing memories, keying in the most memorable and easily slipping out the few rotten ones. A distraction, that’s what the process really is. It’s nothing but a distraction to set aside things that shouldn’t be thought about. Like a picture show minus the blank wall and a reel of film.

I was listening to songs and I came across one that put me into a weird mood. It’s The One That Got Away by Katy Perry. I’m guessing it’s popular enough to be known by people who sometimes come here but I only found out about it recently. Anyway, I listened to it and suddenly the distraction has become more like a lifeline than a slight aversion.

I don’t really want to think about it that much. I talk about it with some people whose fidelity I’m confident with and nothing else. Usually, it’s always in passing that I even mention it. No, it’s not whatever you’re thinking about. It’s just about a story that I’m having a hard time believing.

I wake up every morning thinking that maybe I’ll be back in the timeline of my memories. At the end of the day, I plan out the special days (birthdays, holidays..etc) and sometimes it makes me smile. But then I take a shower and the water would taste salty and my face would feel warm and swollen. Sometimes, I’d pray for my dreams to be a replay…a request never granted for its sheer futility. Even my subconscious doesn’t recognize the need for it.

And now I’m writing it down just to put a close to this month’s depression. These words remain lacking. It’s one note, they don’t sing. They can’t touch you for me. They can’t be my warmth around you. This barrier cannot send you the wetness of the tears that I’ve already made my company.

When I can no longer give any meaning to this, how can you possibly understand?

Physical Therapy: Respect The Pain

There’s been only one person for the last two years.

Who that person is remains to be vague.  Not that tangibility is an issue; it never was to begin with.  But from here, let me paint you a picture.

Kismet. It’s the hackneyed event that keeps on happening in our heads. We rehearse it – that special moment when everything falls into place and everything just makes sense. But it never does. Consequently, that moment of cosmic harmony never happens. We just make do with what happens around us and call it the workings of fate.

Now let’s say, by pure circumstance, the cosmic energies aligned and produced a near-perfect machination of fate that allowed you to find something valuable. This thing, a concentration of abstract concepts, just happened to be someone else. Suddenly, everything made sense; the oily pork dish, the pre-teen acne, physical chemistry. All of these things caught meaning in that one moment, when your attention only centered on that one person.

The moment of meaning condenses into understanding – something close to love but not yet, not quite. Then it stops.  That person passes and you are left to wonder what happened. And everything makes no sense, just like before.

Bluntly put, a moment of kismet just happened to pass by. May be you’ll do something about it, maybe not. But for sure, whether you did something or not, you’d be walking in the lines fate weaved for you. Of course, you’ll never know. Just like I’ll never really know how and why I got here.

From this clichéd fan of your life, you have to understand this: what I can only give you is abstraction. I’m no longer tangible just as I am to you. I’m the presence that lingers only from dusk to dawn (much like Benjamin Button). From where I am, you are there from dusk ‘til dawn. We are essences conversing, sharing something that I’m not really quite sure what. But for sure, it exists. Like that one moment when all understanding came and somehow, I knew how and why.

It was you.

It had always been you – the goal I’ve been trying so hard to reach. That one thing I keep rehearsing in my head even though I know it would never happen; it had always always been you.

Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. I don’t care at all. When I look back to this post, maybe I’ll find out if I was wrong. But for now, let me live in my lies. This deception helps, even if it’s only for a few hours. Let me believe that I’m holding on to something that’s happening. This machination of cosmic forces, this pain of understanding how it could go so wrong, let me live in this.

Because at the end of the day, there’s always you who I can come home to.