Sunday, November 29, 2009

trial and error

Once upon a time, I was pretty good in Math. I studied in a Chinese school and my Math teacher taught us so many tricks. By the time I transitioned to a new school, I was way ahead of my classmates. I loved how you could solve any problem with a little bit of common sense and just a pinch of elbow grease. It felt good to know that all problems have a clear solution. For the first few years, I got pretty high marks in Math.

And then came the concept of factoring. Hate is such a strong word and I don’t really use it that often but I can honestly say with the utmost conviction that I hate factoring. I still remember that day we first discussed it. My teacher gave us rules and examples but at the end of the day, it all boiled down to a concept that I could not grasp- trial and error. Math is all about logic. If you willingly risk making a mistake to find an answer, that’s not being logical at all. There should be no room for errors, I remarked and this new concept was shaking my very ideals to the core.

I flunked many a test in factoring and that year spelled the end of my love story with Math. In high school, I cheated my way through Algebra and Calculus. In college, I had to retake Trigonometry in a different college just to pass. I no longer wanted to study Math knowing that there are some problems that could only be solved by trial and error. They say all the failures in your life happen for a purpose. Last night, I realized why I flunked factoring.

I was out with friends two hours after my new love* ended. I needed the distraction. I was quiet the whole time and they kept asking me about it but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t really feel like talking about it. Being the youngest, my friends are a little over-protective of me and I didn’t want to think about anything at that time except recuperating from my loss. When alcohol had lent us its strength a few hours later, they pushed me into talking and I managed to finish the story without a single tear. I was pretty proud of myself.

But then they started discussing it and one of my closest friends said that I “allowed the situation to happen.” She meant well. She always does but at that exact moment, all my fake strength evaporated. In a moment worthy of Maalala Mo Kaya cameras, I delivered my first emotional line of the night.

“So are you saying that it’s my fault I’m in this shit? Honestly, I just gave this whole thing a chance. You wouldn’t understand because you’ve never allowed yourself to fall in love,” I said (with matching tears). It was part defense, part offense. She pushed my buttons and I knew just which ones to push if I wanted to cross her. By then, our voices were raised and the people in the other tables were starting to stare. Our other friends, split by the conflicting points, could not do anything but try to calm us both down. I stood up and went to the restroom. People can be so irrational when they’re emotional.

She was quiet after that. When I came back from the restroom, I noticed she was stifling tears. Damn, I felt so guilty when I saw that. I cannot stand seeing women crying and knowing that I made a really good friend cry made me feel like such an asshole. I knew that words would not be enough so instead of going back to my seat, I went over to hers and gave her a really big hug.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered in between sobs. “I’m just very emotional right now.” She flinched. It was one of our most awkward hugs.

“I just don’t understand why you allow things like that to happen to you. You saw it coming. You told me all about it. I’m not the type of friend who would hold your hand and tell you everything’s gonna be alright. I’m sorry, I’m just not. You saw it coming but you didn’t do anything to stop it.”

“No, I didn’t but you can’t blame me for that. That’s what you do when you love someone. You exhaust all options because it’s worth it. But I have my limits too. Would it help if I told you I ended it?”

She looked at me and said nothing but in her eyes, I could hear what she wanted to say. You’re stronger now. I’m glad you used your head this time*.

“Everyone says I’m jaded. Everyone says I don’t allow myself to love but how can I knowing that it could really get hurt?” she explained. “You’re one of the smartest people I know and yet you’re so stupid when it comes to love. You keep allowing these things to happen to you. I just don’t understand.”

I told her my factoring story. At first, she looked at me like I was crazy to bring up such an inane topic in a moment of high emotional stress but when I got to my point, I felt like for the first time that night, we finally saw eye to eye.

“In math and life, the hardest problems can only be solved by trial and error. You think I was being stupid for allowing my heart to get stepped on again and again and again. What you’re not seeing is I learned so many things along the way. Yes, I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes but they will all be worth it once I find that person- the one who loves me to death and never fails to let me know every single day. The one who can be proud of me and would never hide me behind walls of secrets*. Don’t you think that’s worth it?”

“I just don’t like seeing you get hurt,” she explained. “I know I have a weird way of showing it but you know I love you, right?”

“I know. I know. That’s why you should probably know this: I have a lot of mistakes to make before I find that person. There will be times when I will feel down and I need to know I can count on friends like you to be there for me.” We hugged and that was that. Good lovers are easy to find but I would trade a shitload of them for one really good friend.

Trial and error: an abomination to logic but if you think about it, when has love ever become logical?

Photo Credit: BCMath

Alicia Keys
Doesn't Mean Anything
The Element of Freedom

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Do you know why secrets itch? It’s because it stings to be kept in the dark. They struggle in the darkness like a drunken man sneaking in at 4AM- fumbling through furniture for the light switch while trying to keep silent.

One of my earliest memories of secrets was with my father. Growing up, I saw him as a very mysterious and strict man. He had many rules for us. We could only play from 4 to 6. By 7, we should be bathed and ready for supper. We could never leave a speck of food on our plates. If we broke any of these rules, we would surely get the bitter end of his black leather belt.

Of all my father’s rules, the strictest was bedtime at 9 o’clock. This story is about the time I broke that particular rule. It was the night that I had a little too much soda and the caffeine just wouldn’t let me sleep. I snuck out of my bedroom and went to the living room to play video games. At around midnight, my father opened the door and found me on the couch wide-awake. He totally wigged out. I got the beating of my life and was sent to bed wounded and in tears.

You’d think that that would keep me from staying up but I was a pretty curious kid. I wanted to know why my father was awake. I could see from the little space beneath my bedroom door that the dining room light was still on. I opened the door a little and I could see my dad. I wondered what he was doing.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that he was swinging his hips. Was he dancing? What was he dancing? I had questions. So many questions. Why was he dancing? Was he joining a contest? Was my father a good dancer? I wanted to know. Dammit, I really wanted to know. When the curiosity was so intense I felt it would overflow, I mustered up enough courage to open the door.

It was then that I discovered my father’s secret. He wasn’t dancing the flamenco or the tango. He was practicing his golf swing.

There are some things you should know about my father. He grew up in a farm; the youngest of a large, primarily male family. Although the land was theirs, it seems there was never enough of anything for his entire family. Like most parents, he wanted his children to have the life he never had. He left the province to work in the big city and swore he would never return. He found a woman with a similar view to raise a family with. Together, they worked hard to raise my sisters and me. They’ve kept their promises. Growing up, we always had enough of the basics: food, clothing, shelter and love. (A little too much love if you ask me. We were a little socially retarded from the lack of interaction with people outside the family.)

Now because my father had spent most of his life making semi-riches out of rags, he did not have the same interests or skill sets as the men his age. To put it simply, he couldn’t afford any hobbies. I suddenly recalled a conversation he had with my mother when we were driving to church. A friend had invited my father to play golf in some posh country club. He tried to play it down, adding a scoff here and a few off-topic remarks there but I could still tell that he wanted to go. My mom told him to turn the offer down. We were barely getting by and a sport like golf would cost a lot of money. “Stick to what you know,” she told him and that was the end of that- or so we thought.

Suddenly, it all made sense- the weekend “meetings”, the late night practices. No wonder he was so cross when he caught me playing Mario! I interrupted his private tee time. He was trying to catch up with men who grew up affluently- who were able to master golf at an early age. My father didn’t have that same privilege and if he wanted to play with them, he had a lot of catching up to do.

I carried my father’s secret. I understood his reasons. That night, I saw my father’s human side- the one he hides from the family he kills himself for. Who was I to deny him of this outlet? Undetected, I went back to my room and never told a soul.

What would my father do if he learned my secrets? Sometimes, I imagine life would be better if nothing was kept in the dark. Although I keep most of them for our mutual protection, there are moments (like right now) where I wonder if he would accept me, his only son, for who I really am. I suppose some secrets are darker than others. The only similarity is that they are all in the dark. I understood you, father. Will you understand me? I saw your reasons and I loved you for them. Do you think you could find it in your heart to accept mine?

In saner moments, I realize that such questions are pointless. Some riddles don’t have answers. I have learned to never question. There are things you just accept.

 Photo Credit: MHA

Pieces of You

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I grew up in a house full of music. Both my parents were such lovers of music, it was impossible to live a day without it. My mom loves Nat King Cole, The Platters and Matt Monroe. My dad loves ABBA, Simon & Garfunkel and of course, The Beatles. Growing up, there was no such thing as ‘good music’ or ‘bad music.’ Everything was just ‘music’ and it was so effing fantastic, I couldn’t get enough.

I remember this one time, I was about 5 or 6 years old and I had recently discovered my dad’s Peter, Paul & Mary tapes. I was listening to Reunion and there was a track there called The Unicorn Song. At that age, I spent most of my time alone with my imaginary friends so I could really relate. The man was singing about a unicorn who was his imaginary friend. Together, they would sing, dance and gallop or whatever it is children do with unicorns. I could totally relate to the song. I mastered the lyrics and the melody by listening to it again and again and again. I would play it and when the song was done, I would press rewind and play it again. I must’ve been listening to it for a good two hours when my sister (who was studying in the next room) decided to intervene.

She was very cross. Apparently, greatness is relative. She did not share the same view on the song. She took the tape out of the multiplex and stepped on it with her large Keroppi slipper. It took several stomps from her big, stubby foot before she was able to smash the cassette into pieces. By then I was wailing and screaming and begging her to stop but she continued anyway. After a few more seconds, she declared the intervention a success and went back to her algebra book.

I was as shattered as the cassette. If I were to send a letter to Maalaala Mo Kaya, that moment would probably be in the first 15 minutes. I felt like together with the record, my sister had ruined my dreams of finding my unicorn and in turn, my happiness.

I sort of got over it. I moved on as children often do but for the rest of my waking life, I had a yearning to hear that song one more time. During the hey day of Napster, it was one of my first searches. Alas! I couldn’t find a copy. I tried to find it in YouTube but all I could find were covers. I didn’t want to settle for a remake. I needed the same version I fell in love with. I tried searching for it in torrents but it seems my dear unicorn was not popular enough to be immortalized in seeds.

Years later (or a few weeks ago), I came across a forum about the Reunion album. There, someone posted a link to The Unicorn Song. I felt like a huge cloud had been lifted. It seems my unicorn and I were to be reunited after all! I clicked the link post-haste but to my dismay, it was no longer available.

After tracking, borderline stalking the poster, I finally found her email address. I politely told her my story and asked for the link again. She replied in a nice email with the song attached. I felt like I had just won the lottery.

So a few days ago, I finally got to listen to The Unicorn Song again. I uploaded it to my iPod and after updating the album art and lyrics, I prepared myself for the journey of rediscovery. I locked the door, put on my earphones and pressed play.

As the opening chords played, I felt I was six again. I smiled and let the music fill the room.

♫ When I was growing up my best friend was a unicorn. The others smiled at me and called me “crazy.” ♫

“Hmmm… this song is… different.”

♫ But I was not upset by knowing I did not conform. I always thought their seeing must be hazy. ♫

“It’s very… err… strange.”

♫ The unicorn and I would while away the hours. Playing, dancing and romancing in the wild flowers… ♫

“It’s not how I remember it.”

♫ …and we'd sing ‘Seeing is believing in the things you see. Loving is believing in the ones you love.’” ♫

“Fuck. These people were totally high when they wrote this song.”

I stopped the song and tried to process the situation. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I felt like all those years of searching and waiting were in vain. Why wasn’t it as good as the song I had in my memory?

Memories are funny things. With them, every strength is magnified and every flaw is forgotten. The song was not as good because I was young when I first heard it. It was before I had any grasp of good and bad. The song was indeed terrible and my sister had good reason to smash the cassette tape but back then, I didn’t really know what ‘terrible’ was. All those years of searching led up to that moment when I would be reunited with my precious song. It was the build-up of the decade. If you think about it, it almost seems like I was setting the song up for failure. It was then that I learned this simple truth: things are almost always perfect in our memory.

Memory is like the lover who leaves too soon- the one who got away. We always remember the good times. We always blame ourselves for not being able to hold on to them. But given a chance to reconnect with them, the situation is often lackluster and embarrassing. You start to remember more bad times than good. You remember more pain than pleasure. The things you argued about suddenly come to mind. You recall the strange memories that managed to keep itself hidden.

Memory is a traitor. To paraphrase (500) Days of Summer, next time you look back, you should look again. Time keeps moving, with or without you and there’s a special place in hell for people who look behind them as they speed through life.

Or maybe I’m just drunk. Haha

Photo Credit: Diana Peterfreund

Peter, Paul & Mary
The Unicorn Song

Layout#6. A few nights ago, I was playing with my template when I accidentally ruined it. I had to create a new one and I’m kinda glad I did. Although I miss my orange template, I believe it served its purpose well. I hope you guys like it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Banner Photo Credit: pbo31
True Type Font: gnuolane

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

interlude: love

It is clear that I must find my other half. But is it a he or a she? What does this person look like? Identical to me or somehow complementary? Does my other half have what I don't? Did he get the looks? The luck? The love? Were we really separated forcibly or did he just run off with the good stuff? Or did I? Will this person embarrass me? What about sex? Is that how we put ourselves back together again? Or can two people actually become one again?

[Hedwig, Hedwig and the Angry Inch]

John Cameron Mitchell
The Origin of Love
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Monday, November 9, 2009

mamatay ka na epes

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Nag-lakad akong gume-gewang gewang pauwi. Siguro kung nakita mo ko nun, iisipin mong lasing ako o di kaya eh inaantok. Pero gising na gising ako nun. Sa totoo lang, daig ko pa nag-tatlong Venti na Americano sa Starbucks. Bakit kamo ako gising na gising? At bakit ako gume-gewang gewang? Namimilipit ang lolo mo sa sakit. Sa edad kong ito, akalain mong nakuha ko pang madapa? Pakiramdam ko, bata ako ulit. Gusto ko sanang tumakbo pauwi pero nahiya naman ako. Gusto ko rin sanang umiyak sa nanay ko pero tulog na siya. At oo nga pala, bente-tres na ako.

Takot ako sa ipis. Ay wait, mali yan. Takot na takot as in p*tang ina takot ako sa ipis. Sabihin mo nang duwag ako o di kaya eh lalampa-lampa pero basta ipis na ang pinag-uusapan, kinikilabutan talaga ako. Dito magsisimula ang aking kwento. May oras ka ba? Kwento ko ha.

Pauwi na ako sana. Bumili lang ako ng maiinom sa 7-11. Habang naglalakad pauwi, napansin kong may lumilipad-lipad sa kalsada. Akala ko nung una eh paru-paro lang pero nang talasan ko ang mata ko, flying ipis pala. Eeeggh… Kinikilabutan parin ako ngayon pag naaalala ko.

Tumingin ako sa paligid ko. Walang ibang tao. Takbuhin ko na kaya? Pwede ko rin naman siyang iwasan kaso ang layo ng iikutan ko. Yung bang tipong iikot ako mula MOA hanggang Trinoma para lang makaiwas sa bwakananginang ipis na yan. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, Sige. Kaya natin to. Ipis lang yan. Ang laki-laki mo kumpara diyan. So ‘yun. Nagpaka-brave ako. Nung una, mabagal lang lakad ko. Naisip ko kasi na kung tumakbo ako, baka ma-excite si Kuya Ipis at maki-fun run sa akin. Kaso nung nakita ko na siya ng malapitan, napansin kong kumikinang-kinang yung pakpak niya sa ilaw ng buwan. Para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig bago nagbabad sa aircon. Binilisan ko na ang lakad ko.

Kaso, may surprise guest pa pala. May kapatid ang Kuya Ipis mo. Sa peripheral vision ko, nakita ko lumilipad si ipis #2 a.k.a. Ate Ipis papunta sakin. Tumakbo na ako! Medyo mababa nga takbo ko kasi feeling ko may malaking bulls eye lang yung ulo ko at dun trip lumanding ni ate. Si kuya naman, andun lang sa baba. Steady lang, parang inaantay na ako pa lumapit sa kanya. Di na ako nag-dalawang isip. Aaaaahhh!!! Takbo!!!

5’8” ako. Nasa 140 lbs narin siguro ang timbang ko. In short, di ako magaan. Sa baba at bilis ng takbo ko, di kinaya ng katawan ko. Umiral ang gravity. Ayun, sumemplang ako. Lumipad yung iced tea ko sa kahabaan ng Buendia. Pakiramdam ko, slow-mo lang lahat ng nangyayari. Si ate di-dive sakin. Si kuya nakangiti, nag-aantay. Ako naman parang dine-demolish na building. Kahit yung audio naka slow-mo. Noooooooooo!!! Pang-pelikula!

Sumalampak ako sa semento. Huli na ang lahat nang ma-realize kong ang dami kong sugat. Ang laki-laki ng galos ko sa kaliwang braso! Dahan-dahan akong bumangon, sabay sigaw ng fuuuuuck!!! (para maangas at sosyal parin!)

‘Yun na nga yung point na gusto kong magtata-takbo pauwi kay mama. Layo pa ng bahay nun pero tiniis ko. Pinagtitinginan ako ng mga tao kasi una, ang dumi ko. Pangalawa, duguan ako. Pangatlo, nangingilid yung luha ko. Siguro kung nakita mo ko nun, naawa ka sakin sabay bigay ng isang magabagdamdaming hug.

Pag-uwi ko, diretso ako sa banyo at nag-bonding kami nina Kuya Safeguard at Ate Betadine. Ang hapdi parin niya. Nagtutubig-tubig nga yung pinakamalaking galos ko eh. Aguuuuuy lagiiiii!!!

Sabi mo siguro, ano naman ngayon kung nadapa ka? Ikagaganda ko ba yan? Ikaliligaya ba yan ng madlang people? Wait lang. May point ‘to.

Na-realize ko ang stupid lang nung nangyari. Oo, nakaiwas nga ako sa ipis pero mukha naman akong inupakan. Buti kamo naiwas ko mukha ko. At least yung mga sugat ko ngayon, matatago ko naman sa damit ko. Eh kung may malaking galos ako sa mukha? Ang hirap nun ipaliwanag na di ako nagmu-mukhang engeng.

Minsan kasi, sa kagustuhan nating umiwas sa maliliit na problema, lumalaki sila lalo. Sana nung bata ako, sinanay ko na sarili ko sa ipis. Ngayon tuloy, ang tanda tanda ko na, takot parin ako sa kanila. Kung di mo malusutan yung problema mo (tulad ng di ko ma-get over ang fear ko sa ipis) edi humanap ka ng ibang paraan. Kahit mas mahirap. Kahit mas nakakapagod. Kung nag-long cut nalang sana ako edi sana di ako sugatan ngayon. Ang problema naman, di nawawala eh. Kung di mo kaya maging matapang, edi subukan mo nalang maging listo.

Ayun lang. Yun lang naman ang gusto ko sabihin. O sige na, tama na ‘to. Magbo-bonding pa kami ni Ate Betadine. Tandaan, mga bata! Pag may problema, wag umiwas! Wag din mag-shortcut! Sige ka, baka madapa ka.

The Dutchess

Saturday, November 7, 2009

change of address

or: of moving out and moving on

I got the shock of my life last Saturday. It was a little past 2PM when I finally decided to get out of bed. When I went downstairs to look for food, I saw that our entire first floor was missing. My first impulse was to shout MAGNANAKAAAAAW!!! at the top of my lungs but then I remembered that Saturday was moving day and there was no reason to cause a scene.

By 4 o’clock, I was well involved in the moving process. My first task: to ensure that my old room looked just like my new room. Problem is, while the two rooms had some similarities, there were a lot of differences you couldn’t ignore. One side of the wall was bigger. I tried to fit in my dresser, bed and a set of drawers in one side of the room. It wouldn’t fit. Hmmm… It fit so perfectly in the old room. With just a little stretch, I could get whatever I needed. I tried physics, brute force and whatnot but they wouldn’t fit. I didn’t know what to do. Something had to be done but I didn’t want to let go of the layout I had in my mind either- the layout from my last room.

First step was to accept that things had to change. I whipped out a pen and paper and started to sketch. It was hard at first (I did it Sims style) but after a few more moments of trial and error, I was able to find a suitable location for everything. Tired from moving furniture, I sat down on the floor and admired my work. Not bad. It actually looks better than my last room. With that, I breathed a sigh of relief and updated the score: New house – 1; Old house – 0.

New love. It’s funny how it feels just like moving. We may try to recreate moments we had with out past lovers. We want our moments with them to be just as happy as the moments with our exes (at least the ones that didn't involve violence, betrayal or tears). We ignore the fact that apart from loving us, these people often have nothing in common. No one loves the same way twice and once I accepted that, I was able to find a way for everything to fit.

By 10 o’clock, we were almost finished. The last of the boxes had been unpacked and we were slowly trying to piece the house together. I decided to take a little break and wash up. The new bathroom looked pretty harmless until I realized the sink was a little too small. When I sat down on the toilet, my hips (which don’t lie*) barely fit. Ang liit naman ng mga lintik na ‘to! Ano ba ‘to? Banyo ng duwende?! I was, of course, talking to myself. Sa kabila, sakto lang lahat. The sink was big enough. The toilet was wide enough. Because I spend a lot of time in the bathroom, it was the room I missed the most.

But then I got to thinking. The old house had pests and clogged sinks. The old house did not have as much closet space. The natural lighting in the new house was really, really nice. This house isn’t just different- it’s better. Sure, it isn’t perfect- we may need to change the toilet seat- but the good stuff definitely outweigh the bad stuff. New house – 2; Old house – 0.

No one will admit to it but there’s always that part of your mind that compares your current love with your exes. It’s human nature. We were born to distinguish, classify and categorize. My ex used to do this. Will my current love do that? Coming from a horrible relationship, I realized that the comparisons were not only pointless- they were downright unfair. My new love is sweet, understanding and is a lover of the arts. Of course, I traded up! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

At midnight, almost everyone retired to bed. I was still up trying to organize my clothes. I went down for a glass of water and stared at the living room in the darkness. It was a little disconcerting. The furniture was the same. The sofa was still white. The computer table leg was still broken. I don’t know what it was but even though everything screamed home, it didn’t feel like it. This new apartment was a house and not a home- at least not yet.

It starts with the little things. I looked through several boxes and found some paintings and a wall clock. I started hanging them around the house. After a few minutes of hooking and arranging, I stood back and admired my work. Suddenly, this little piece of wall began to look like home. Not the last home but specifically, my home. New house – 3; Old house – 0.

From the darkness, I heard my phone beep. I miss you :-*, said the message. It starts with the little things. Suddenly, the nights become a little warmer and who was once just a friend becomes so much more. New love – 1; old love – 0.

Hello world. I am not homeless anymore.

Absence of Fear