Tags: Blogging, Friends, move on, new
My sweater is no match to Baguio’s cold early evening air. I sit on a chair among a dozen tables dotting the ampitheater, watching one of my best friends take her first steps as the newest missus on the land. E. looks splendid dancing with R., wearing a deep blue evening dress and a flower on her hair. The wedding, of which I am man of honor, was a close, intimate affair of about a hundred friends and families attending the ceremonies and another hundred merry-makers at the open-air reception.
There is food, plenty of it, on a buffet table with a long line of guests chatting with their plates at hand and their voices racing past each other in confusing speeds. There is music, there is Noel Cabangon and Cookie Chua singing love songs, and pairs of men and women with their feet on the floor of the makeshift wooden stage and their affections on each other’s shoulders for the rest to see.
I press my sweater closer to my chest and try to ignore the creeping cold on my skin, but it is no use. It is December, and it is Baguio, to unexpect the cold is to disbelieve the obvious.
I sat there and thought back to about a year earlier, when my other best friend I., invites me to hang out to break a groundbreaking news. She was expecting a baby. Over the next few months I saw her go through the process of pregnancy – the ballooning belly, the budget woes, the apartment hunting, the baby registry — the adustments that one had to make when making space for a plus one.
As I watched E and R dance their frist dance as a married couple, I remembered how I had missed the birth of I’s baby girl, but would see her later when I would visit her parents’ apartment. She was an adorable little ball of quiet satisfaction when I first met baby A. She had hair that stood on her crown and little fingers that curled to her palm and a little mouth that moved to any sound made around her. And I., well, I was computing the cost of work and law school and family life on all fronts. But when she held Baby A, nothing seemed to matter. She was happy. I remembered the first time I ever saw the newest mother on the land breastfeeding her child. It was a picture of solid joy. And I was the doting first-time godfather.
A godfather, however, who was now in line for beer. I stood up for a glass of alcohol to hopefully keep me warm as the night wind grows colder. And that was when the inviting hands started to beckon me to the dancefloor. I refused, choosing instead to keep my mother company, whom I had brought along to witness the wedding and sightsee the city on this weekend.
As I watched my friends dance, an indescribable feeling took hold of me. Like something wasn’t right. But it wasn’t such a bad feeling as much as it was unsettling.
And then I realized I and E had something in common. They had not just left singlehood, but have upped the stakes on their respective couplehoods. They’ve taken things further into unfamiliar territory. Taken the next steps. Moved on.
I’m completely and honestly happy for my friends. But I felt things were not to be the same.
And yet, if someone asks me how I’m doing, I would just say things are the same with me. Im still working with a non-profit. Im still not dating anyone. Im still a ladder-step away from complete and utter poverty. Same old me, doing my same old schtick.
And it got me to thinking: when everyone else is moving on, how does one keep from being left behind?
The hands that beckon insist, and I give in. I take the dancefloor, and I take it like I never want to let go. I dance with my friends, and the cold December air starts to feel like it wasn’t even there. I do my moves, and the rhythm takes over and the joy of the moment sinks in and it is a welcome feeling.
And as the next few months would show, some constants remain. Like friendships. No matter where people end up in their own separate journeys, there are things that they will always look back at, and always need.
I., sends me messages every now and then, drops me a visit at the office to hang out, chat a bit, study, and pump her breasts for feeding baby A. E. on the other hand is always in touch and we have not lost our small talks at all, even when she juggles her consultancies, her marriage, her malfunctioning car, and accompanyng R. to his project sites.
My friends may have taken the next step, but as they keep moving on, I’m glad I have stayed the same. Because this way I remain one step behind, always ready to be the friend I had aways been for them.
And so I danced that night, that cold December night when there were no stars in the sky, no new thing happening in my own life. Because new things had happened to my friends, and I realized I shouldn’t be caught sitting around and just watching as they unfolded. I needed to dance around them and with them, because lives in motion are lives worth being a part of.
there are just things words can’t illustrate without the need to do so much explaining. there are things that make one sad, for example, but what is the use of saying, “i’m sad” when there would be just too many questions instead of answers which one needs more of? or one could say “i’m happy” but what does the sum of one’s happiness amount to in times when there just isn’t enough room in this world for happy things?
“where have you been hiding?”
meredith said it quite sufficiently in a recent rerun. “i’ve become one of those people — who are so miserable they can’t be around normal people anymore.”
i’m just not in that place right now, you know? where i can easily relate and function like “normal” as “normal” gets around nowadays. everything looks screwed from where i’m seeing them, and i am beyond pissed. maybe once i’m done with this moving out thing i can gain a fresh perspective.
more than anything right now i want control, and control demands certainty. but when things are as yet uncertain there is just a build up of anxiety that one can’t shake off so easily. why not just pack everything up and go elsewhere, like singapore? how’s that for really moving? why try getting into grad school if you think you want to go abroad anyway? sigh. if i could just get a glimpse of what i would be doing five years from now — in more concrete terms i’d be happy. but that, like everything else, would be too much to ask.
what’s that saying that goes you can never really get away from your past? i think mclachlan sang about it once, asking if you can “look out the window without your shadow getting in the way”?
i’ve come to accept that we should never judge people on the basis of where they are in life, or who they were before we knew them. (there was a time when i didn’t, especially when it came to me).
but now i get to thinking just how much of this is true, and where is it applicable. i find my past deeds catching up with me; though thankfully not in relation to people in my life.
i’ve been considering taking up graduate school and have looked forward to knowing more about a couple of programs in the old university. but something about their admission requirements unsettle me: the requisite GWA of a 2.0 or better for undergraduate studies. this wouldn’t actually be a problem but if my memory serves me right, there’s two 5.0 tucked away in some corner of my transcript that would be more than enough to pull down my GWA to something like 2.02 or something, effectively shutting me off from being entertained as a candidate in the PolSci department, for one, where applicants are advised not to bother if their GWA does not meet the required average.
and this is how my undergrad days catch up with me. i was an average student who, at one point in his academic life had to find a job just to stay in school. that may not be an excuse, but anyone would agree that having additional personal burdens can and do take a toll on your academic performance. maybe not much for others, but for some, it can.
i look back and realize that i could see my college years as a time when i still didn’t know where i wanted to be in life. i thought i did, but i was often displaced — by choice, and then by circumstance, at other times. i shifted courses, i got into activism, i almost went full time, i left, i lost friends, my stipend couldn’t keep up with the costs of my thesis, my siblings didn’t offer support, etc etc etc.
what i mean is, life wasn’t easy back then, and excelling in school eventually took a backseat to the primordial concern: just get a degree and get a job. i could say i crawled my way out of college, but if that inability to keep up with the rest of the pack is the bar against which my suitability for further studies will be measured, then what hope can we really offer people who have not had it easy in life?
i’ve met people who can’t even string together a decent sentence in english get accepted into masteral programs (yes, you, melody!) . i’ve even seen some people attach MAs to their names but can’t even spell BIMP-EAGA correctly, much less know what the hell it is. i know this is rather shallow, but my point is, i’ve learned a lot outside of school, and my critical senses have, i hope, remained intact all this time. and my writing — goddamnit, my writing is just fine.
but will i always have to bear the mark of an underachieving young (gay) man who didn’t know what he really wanted in life? i didn’t have parents who provided me with weekly stipends. i took public transportation every single day of my college life, in clothes i would rotate almost twice a week. i scraped my pockets to photocopy readings, i packed lunches because CASAA prices were starting to get a bit pricey. and when everybody else were getting in touch through pagers, i didn’t even know how to place a message to those damned things.
i wasn’t mainstream because at the time, i had a vague feeling i was in the margins, but didn’t have the consciousness to make sense of where i was. but my UP education presented me with an enormous amount of opportunity. all i had to say was i graduated from UP and the reputation preceded the reality. but what i chose to do with that education — using it to pursue a calling to tap into my basic sense of human decency; to build on that notion of selflessness that UP says it wants to do to every student; to make what i do know count for something more than just anything — that’s not something you can grade on a scale of uno to sinco.
additional requirements include referral letters from peers and professors, but i suspect with the forms that i’ve seen so far — these letters are not intended to gauge suitability as much as to ascertain if the candidate is career-oriented. these letters can only do so much because the graduate admissions will always go back to that 2.0.
and here i am after all these years, facing a hurdle with only a diploma and an intellectual potency so lacking in a lot of people who flaunt their 1.75s. and here is my old university telling me i’m not good enough because i don’t meet the cut-off grade. and here is my old university telling me they won’t listen to the other half of my story — where i’ve been and what i’ve done after graduating, and most importantly, what i’ve learned? it just doesn’t make sense.
despite these odds, i’m still going to try. that cut-off scares me, but i will try. i want to go back to school because i want the structure, the discipline, and the formality of a teacher-student interface to affirm and compliment the work i do outside. i wasn’t cum laude material back in my teenage years, and maybe i am not the smartest of the crop after all these years, but i am competent enough not to allow myself to get left behind and condemned to the inadequacies of my past.
to make up for the sucky gifts i am yet to give them i will make wishes for my closest friends instead. hehehe. take them as tokens of growing friendships, gals. some words i say here may hurt but let me assure you it’s only because i want what’s good for you, even if i have to be mean while doing it.
in no particular order:
to e., breadth of awareness.
to i., discernment to do what is right for herself and not for anything else.
to c., resilience. calm waters.
to y., discipline to carry through our plans.
to f., a wider lake with lots of other fish in it.
to m., safe streets and nights in singapore.
to r., excitement in her work.
to t., your own mark in your own spot in this world.
to l., a sense of service to others, and no more boys!
there. some might be too revealing but what the heck. i really, really wish you all the best gals. i might have other wishes for some other friends so maybe i will just update this list later on.
and shouldn’t it be obvious what i wish for myself? LESS JUDGMENTS!!!! hahaha!!
my mom and i are chumps who, under the pretext of avoiding the noise and the pollution, go to those countdowns on new year’s eve. for the past two years we’ve gone to the (ehem) kapuso countdowns because they’re generally civilized and the fireworks are fantastic. never mind the variety show that precedes it, the fireworks obviously cost something north of millions.
anyway we’re going home and got on an FX. which was rather odd because historically going home had always been a bummer during these countdowns. but 08 started off well enough i guess. so there we were sitting comfortably in the back. never mind the jacked up fare. at least we were going home.
and then i noticed there was this guy sitting in front of me. beside him and across from where i sat was my mom. okay, no, i swear this isn’t about boys again and how yummy they are. it’s about something else. let me get to my point.
anyway he had this johnny depp thing going on with him — shoulder length hair, short goatee and that “atchaka”, and he was fair skinned which is right up my alley. in short i thought he was cute. as we made our way through the midnight streets of cold haze and fireworks smoke we would make eye contact several times. and no, again, this isn’t about serendipitous moments or some finding-the-love-of-my-life shit i used to crow about. i’m not saying this to wonder whether he was interested or not — though i can contend he was, hehe.
my point simply is that there before my very eyes was my own aruba nights dillema. the moment was pregnant with representations, and conferred a certain level of clarity of purpose for me. my mom gets sleepy and starts to doze off while the FX ran the highway. i reach out in front of me to hold her head high so she won’t hit it against the door. he looks at me, and then my mom, feebly smiles and then looks away. i could almost read his mind. “you have a great son ma’am, and he’ll find himself a great guy someday — just not today.” because i know what the lifestyle demands, and how you stand in the community when you have the sort of responsibilities i do.
i don’t stay out all night. i don’t take care of my body. i don’t over stack on hair products. i don’t even have a circle of gay friends. i’m on the outside looking in and part of me doesn’t want to go in, because i am held back by what i need to do.
that was the clarity i gained that night. it’s so tempting to go off in search of my own aruba nights, but at the end of the day i still go home to a house where i pay for everything, including the whims and medications of a septuagenarian single-parent household mom. i’m not as independent as some people i know. i have to make peace with that, and boys fly by my sight every now and then, but knowing what i do know about the community, i’m not one of those people who come with the most marketable credentials — think no sleep overs, no moving in together, no shared family dinners, no nothing like that crap. and i’m perfectly fine with it.
which is not to say i’m taking myself out of the game. far from it. in fact if dates come along then fine. but a gradual shuffling of priorities set my head straight the past few months. i have a plan. no deviating. it’s time to let others tell the story of love as it unfolds in their own pathetic puny little lives. i’m building an empire. and it’s more exciting than heartaches, hehehe.
but an extended holiday? not my cup of tea. i’ve never been a big fan of long holidays. i can deal with them once in a while, and long weekends are okay. but for prolonged periods of time? no.
times like this i get to imagine myself elsewhere, alone, working on christmas eve. preferably somewhere snowing. i don’t know why. sometimes i just want to hide under a rock. reunions, shopping sprees, gift-giving, carols, parties? sometimes i like them, sometimes they make me sick. if it is difficult for some people to imagine themselves alone on such an important day like christmas, the opposite is true for me.
it’s always been a fantasy of mine for as logn as i can remember: me, writing, no distraction, somewhere far far away. like some place where there is a castle overlooking a stormy sea. or a hut where you can see the beach outside. somewhere isolated, where the only rule is: leave the protagonist alone.
it’s so weird because i know we’re a society that is steeped in associational values. who we’re with and where we are at any given time is the basis of what people think of who we are. if one stands alone, unavailable and beyond reach of human touch, is he stripped of his self, and what would one find in his core? is he left a meaningless entity just because he doesn’t need to hold anybody’s hand to validate him?
for the longest time holidays pass me by with people all around me. i watch them get lost in laughter and in their stories about their work, their lovers, their families, their desires. but sometimes my mind wanders to that isolated place where i don’t have to exert effort to associate — to listen, to see, to feel. a place where i can just think. and be.
while it is not an obssession, and i get to sweep the thought away and go on to keep functioning as a social being, holidays always bring this feeling up over and over again. holidays are all about time with people we know and care about. but i get to thinking — do we really need holidays to be with the people we love? that’s the part that strikes me as phony about holidays, specially christmas.
this consumerist world tells us to spend more on our loved ones because the occasion calls for it. but shouldn’t we be showing them how much they matter that all year round? why does our affection have to have price tags attached to them?
everytime i think of these things, i conjure that clean, well-lighted place in my head. i will go there someday. i’m stacking up on greeting cards.
this is the actual transcript of an actual interview with a famous personality whose insipid drivel i am writing up for a glam coffee table book. if you can help me summarize whatever fucking point she’s making here i would give you half of whatever pay i get from this raket, i swear. haha!
“When i say think big, ok i want to relate with Europe, all right Europeans, you come here, we speak French, we speak English, and we speak Spanish. We have schools. Imagine Lee Kuan Yu would say ok Singapore, we’ll speak English, Mahathir would say, Malaysia… Why can’t we think big? Always yong maliliit na bagay. That Filipinos would be the bridge between the South Pacific and the South East Asia, why cant we talk like that? Or we can be the bridge between the west coast in America and Luzon, manila. Why don’t we talk like that? Countries are talking like that. We’re always.. We cannot even open NAIA 3 up to now. We have to think big. Ganun, oo, sige. And then we have to… I hope this 50 luminaries should not be luminaries for themselves. They should be luminaries for the country. And get together. And really not just talk, talk, talk, with there to many talk shows, there also so many seminars, conferences, that’s why I’m doing all of these, dairy. You know, there’s money in milk and really humbly looking at the carabaos, how they breed a superior variety, how to discipline that rice farmer to wash his hands so when he milks that cow at 5 o’clock in the morning it’s clean milk which our children can drink, which who will give its blessings to. That’s the way to do it. You’ll say of these you know, the trajectory of the Filipino, it’s following the American dream, that sort of thing. You have to think more of the collective. And not so much of the individual human rights. But the rights of the nation, so be sense of responsibility, the military, everybody is going his own merry way. Sabog eh.”
and for confidentiality reasons i won’t even post here stuff she said about Japayukis and the poor, maligned Chinese. Just take her words of wisdom: “You must always hope even when there is death around you, that’s the cycle of life.” What?!? After you die you come back to life again, ma’am, like, uh, a zombie or something? Ok, so maybe I should go easy on her. Blame the transcriptionist, who actually spelled the acronym BIMP-EAGA as “Bimpiyaga”. Lord.
haaaay! ang hirap kumita ng pera! *lols*
am i ready for this?!?
and i have like, what, 66 days?!? damn. what the hell am i thinking. i even missed the NB power race 25km last sunday because i was still in cebu. i have no way of knowing if i can do this in 5 hours. crap. gotta get back on track.
on a different note: i’m just glad my former colleagues in the house are okay after that blast last night. the very same spot where i passed by thousands of times for five years is now the scene of a crime for which innocents had to pay with their lives. there have been times in my life while i still worked there that i thought the place really did deserve to be bombed. maybe i still do. but the targets are clearly defined in my head. to whoever did this, couldn’t you have been more discerning? or is this way too insensitive at a time like this? oh well.
i’ve heard enough stories of doubt and fear and anger to finally be able to say that i am thankful that i am not answerable to anybody else but myself. how many couples do i know are in a stable, loving relationship? one. one genuinely happy couple i have not heard any problems from in a while. everyone else i know have either been single a long time, just got out of a mess with some fuckhead or bitch, or are still in the market.
So the big three-oh came and went. And if you ask me how it feels now, I have to say it’s a bit disorienting. For a brief moment I was fearful. It felt like the past 29 years were a waste of time, and I got to thinking how did I spend all of them and why I was doing the things I like only now. But then again I came to realize it may have been necessary to learn the lessons from all those years because now I know that the past 29 years made me smart enough to know what I do know now. There were things I wanted back then and there are things I still want, but waiting is probably the smartest thing I can do right now.
People spend their lives at breakneck speeds, some people stand still and refuse to take action. At thirty I can safely put myself in between. Life can still be hurried and mad at times. There are deadlines, and there are challenges to be hurdled, there’s a marathon to run in January and a race to train for in February. There are summits to reach and more yoga poses to strike. There are more lessons to learn and there are still responsibilities to live with. And there is a gap, a huge gaping hole that remains unfilled. But I like things the way they are now. I see relationships all around me falling into pieces, I see people hurting, scared, angry and dejected. But inside there’s an inner peace I’ve found which I know no one can take away anymore. At thirty, I have learned to claim that spot and own it.
I used to laugh over how they say life begins at a certain age. But it’s really true. At thirty, I have learned to push aside the fear and the uncertainty, and realize that indeed, life begins the moment you decide it’s time.
It feels like I’m starting anew. And it is my time.