[thoughtpick]

I still wish life comes with a user's manual.

Wandering and lost

                 I like to believe that there is more to life than hashtags or sex or uTorrent or Aldub or Daniel Padilla. I like to believe that there are plenty of other ways to while away aside from sliding one’s thumb on a smartphone screen. Or that a night well-spent is more than just sitting on the bed and watching reruns of Sheldon Cooper’s witty oneliners. I like to believe that self worth is not defined based from whether one is in a relationship or not. I like to believe that this is not yet the end, and that life, truly, has still so much to offer.

                I think everyone of us is born with this tiny hole on our chest, and that this hole gradually grows as we age. Perhaps our innocence when we were young makes us unaware of what this hole really means. I mostly spent my childhood days absorbed in street games and awesome cartoon shows that perhaps they had been enough for me to be apathetic to this hole. But then alongside growing up is my loss of innocence. I became so self-involved that I started to notice even the smallest detail. I started to see this gaping hole in full view. And it didn’t look good.

                So I started the pursuit to have this hole filled. Much like Miles and his quest to seek the Great Perhaps. Something was missing in my life, I told myself, and I hated the fact that it made me feel incomplete. I hated how it made me feel vulnerable as it allowed people see pass through me. Maybe it was gut-feel, or maybe it has subconsciously been instilled in me, but I made this conclusion that, corny as it may sound, there was only one thing which could fill this void – happiness.

                And my chase to happiness thus started. I observed other people, then became so engrossed by adults and their brief cases that I vowed to be just like them. I thought that to emit this kind of all-knowing aura is an indication of being contented and happy. Because the perfect formula to success is simple and straight, right? You enter college and aim for Latin honor. You look for a good paying job. Save up. Start a family. Then spend your old age wearing a straw hat while tending to the thriving lettuce at your backyard.

                So enter college was what I did. But then I realized that college takes time. I grew impatient. I already wanted to be complete back then. So I placed myself in the midst of people harboring the same hole on their chests. I called these people friends, and together we tried to fill these holes albeit temporarily. We partied all night long. Danced to the tune of latest Maroon 5 and our racing heartbeats. Drank golden liquid to our heart’s desire. Went home with the stench of smoke in our hair. Yet drinking days spiced with teenage angst could only keep for so long. Eventually, our nights turned dreary that not even a bottle of my favorite SML apple could turn them around.

                I looked for distractions and became obsessed with young adult novels. I started to chase for that elusive I-swear-in-that-moment-I-am-infinite, believing that it is the only thing that could justify my very existence. Then I tried filling the hole by taking my own dose of romance. But I hadn’t thought that trying to complete yourself with the nonsensical sense of love is a risky business. Yes, it is true that you give away shards of yourself when you fall in love. Instead of getting the hole filled, it ended up getting bigger. Apparently, love only ends up two ways – either you settle down or you break up. And I think the latter happens more often.

                And so I was back at square one. That was the time when I remembered that I could still be happy by being successful in my career. And won’t it provide the perfect ending to my pursuit? Me initially looking for happiness in the wrong places only to find out that my happiness lies on my passion to hone the young minds. Yes, it is true that teaching provides this feeling that you are doing the noblest profession there is. Those small moments of happiness inside the classroom are priceless. But they were not enough to mask the cold painful truth that our country is a hostile ground for teachers. I realized that in order for me to be truly happy, I need to make a change. And I know that my underpaid overworked plain teacher self won’t make any real difference.

                So I tested my luck and tried to get admitted in the graduate studies program of the country’s premiere university. And though the entrance examination alone made me doubt my scholastic proficiency, it provided me this euphoric kind of rush that I have not felt in a long while. Yes, I was happy. I was happy when I received my notice of admission. I was even happier when I received my very own UP student number. But the level of happiness gradually decreases as the academic year progresses. I simply found myself trapped inside a classroom filled with an excellent professor and a handful of classmates whom I think struggle the same way that I do. Apparently, for the nth time, I searched for happiness on the wrong place.

                And so it got me into thinking – is this really how growing up feels like? Tirelessly searching for the possible new things that could make you happy? If so, then Matthew Quick was right when he wrote that the reason why adults drink, gamble, and do drugs is because they can’t get naturally lit anymore.

                I thought that the easiest way to be happy is to take the same roads that others had taken. The question then is though I tried not to leave a stone unturned, then why did I still fail? Why is it that not even obtaining a degree or having a job or enrolling in graduate school or being with the people near and dear to my heart could suffice to make me feel whole?

                Then realization struck me. Maybe the very reason why I failed was because I tried to imitate what others had done. I thought that I was making my own decision, but the opposite was actually happening. By trying to mimic others’ story of happiness, I was letting these complete strangers dictate me of what to do with my life. I made my decisions based from the things that were preconceived by other people.

                It’s quite clear now – the reason why I got lost is because I was blinded by the idea that everyone shares a common Great Perhaps. It took me a long time to figure out that there is no ‘the’ Great Perhaps but only ‘a’ Great Perhaps. The fact that the universe is so random must entail that we, too, share with this same thread of randomness. This only means that there is an infinite number of Great Perhapses out there waiting to be discovered, each of which quite unique from the other.

                Yes, I am 23 with no apparent direction. I must admit that I am wandering and lost (apologies to Tolkien),  but then I remind myself from time to time that the greatest thing about me getting lost is the fact that it is only a matter of time until I will be found. Not by other people (I am done following their ways), but by my own self. And when that happens, I am certain that I will finally feel complete.

Dear me five years from now

Dear me five years from now, if you are reading this then accept my congratulations. Despite the mount of uncertainties the five year younger you is facing at the moment, by some kind of sorcery, you have managed to stay afloat. Plus it seems that the zombies have not taken over the world yet. Or have they? Either way, you survived. I am proud of you. As how Barney Stinson would put it, you deserve a self five.

How’s it going? It has been five years since, for a moment, you thought that your diploma adorned with flying colors is enough to realize your dreams in an instant. It has been five years since you pictured the world ahead of you similar to a labyrinth that could practically lead to anywhere. But then you found yourself cluttered in the same room with billions of young people who, just like you, have wrongfully thought the same. So you vowed not to suffer the same fate with theirs. You started to move. You sent several copies of your resume to a dozen of employers, yet, up until this writing, not a single response has made it to your inbox.

But then here you are reading this letter which has been drafted when everything seems hopeless for the five year younger you, so I wonder how did you end up and what you do for a living. Are you successful in pursuing a graduate study and entering a prestigious academe? Are you now wearing a necktie and working on a graveyard shift in a random call center amidst the toxic of metropolis? Or, like many of your batch mates, did you trade your white collar with a blue one and are now working at a foreign land with all its coveted yet overrated greener pasture?

How are you? I wish that money is no longer at the top of your worry list. I wish that you now possess a savings account. Not the no-maintaining-balance-ATM-kind, but the one which requires you to enter the bank and surrender your passbook for an update. I hope that you no longer settle for a regular burger with regular fries and regular Coke whenever you find yourself inside a fast food chain as it is the cheapest meal on the menu. I hope that you now have enough money to spare for a second pair of shoes, and that you have bid farewell to your tattered 200 peso gray sneakers which have served as your buddies for nearly three years. I hope that you already bought your sibling the Dora the Explorer stroller bag she has once upon a time adored behind the glass wall of National Book Store. Or that you have finally consulted a specialist to treat your mom’s goiter as it was one of the stones under your mattress keeping you awake at night.

How are your best friends? Five years ago, you were considering limiting your opportunities just to be always near them. So I hope, with all my heart, that you saw the light and decided to move forward eventually. I hope that you realized that they are a part of the past which you have grown used to. Haven’t you heard somewhere that one should not stay at the past just because it is far more comfortable? You have explored who you are with them, so you have to know how it is to be you when with other people. Sure, you might have ended up in a lot of good times with their company, but that is only temporary. So if it happens, God forbid, that you chose to stay, I think that it is not yet too late. The happy memories you have shared with them are not going anywhere, but your chances are. When the time comes that you realize you have not been completed because of your decision, you will just end up resenting them. And it will not bring anyone of you any good.

With five years, I hope that you did not surrender your identity to Father Time. Science could be right in claiming that change is inevitable, but then not everything is meant to be changed. I hope that you have maintained the things which distinguish you from others, and determine who you are. I hope that you are still the t-shirt-plus-loosed-jeans-type-of-guy. I hope that you still tag poetry books as your favorite, and that you still find solace on their breaks and rhythms and rhymes. I hope that you still cry over the death of a character in the book or in the series you consume. I hope that you still find summer storms refreshing. I hope that you still have that flower patterned pillow that you had since you were a child, your only company during those bitter nights when sleep proved elusive.

I hope that the brutal slaps of waves brought by modern world are not enough to shake the character you have painstakingly built with every grain of sand that came your way.

I know that this has now turned more into a list of expectations than a friendly letter. Yes, people always identify expectations as source of disappointments. But haven’t you paused once and come to the conclusion that expectations can also turn into joy once fulfilled. Also, I have all these expectations because I think highly of you. I know that you are destined for big things. Look at this then as a reminder from your old pal of the things you are capable of realizing.

You may be five years older than me now, yet you are still young, so explore. There will come a time when you will find yourself having plenty of yesterdays and very few tomorrows, so you should do more while you still can.

And oh, if it happens that time machine has finally been invented, please find the time to send me a postcard. I want to see a picture of the big city where your awesome apartment is situated. Yours, me

Konstelasyon

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Bawat tugma
ng bawat salita
ng bawat linya
ng bawat tula –
                    dumanak
                    umapaw
                    umagos
                    umikot
                    uminog
                    nagkabuhol-buhol
                    nagliko-liko
                    hanggang bumugso
                    at bumulwak sa iisang dipang kalawakan
                    ang pagsabog ng bubog na may isang dakot
                    nagsilbing konstelasyon ng –
                                        bangkang papel sa himpapawid
                                        nginig ng hatinggabi
                                        banaag ng lugod
                                        punyal ng dugo
                                        kulay ng panalangin
                                       tunog ng ngiti
                                       pagaspas ng ala-ala
                                        kaway ng segundo
                                       pintig ng libro
                                        hininga ng Diyos
                                                       o hilik ng himbing nitong iyong binitiwang pangako.

Possibility

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If I could just hold your hand

Without you holding mine

Then the hungering heart

shall be at peace

As if poisoned by a lullaby.

 

If I could just soak my palm

In the moisture of your face

Then the ricochet of your name

impressed along its crevices

Might disperse in an instant

Like a summer storm’s drop

hammering the amber of a rooftop.

 

If I could just bury my fingernails

On your back in our bidding hug

Then the texture of your blood

Might provide me some relief

Cause it is always you that gash my flesh

Stripping me of chances to second chances.

 

If I could just hold your hand

Without you holding mine

And without me holding his

For yours and his are intertwined

Then this anguished heart

After all

Might still make it to the other side.

Ostia

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Hesus,

Gusto kong paniwalaan

na ang

dugo mo’t katawan ay

nagawang isiksik

sa piraso

ng biskwit

na inilalapat ng

makasalanan

sa mga palad at bibig

nilang

nakatanghod

sa

mahabang pila sa

simbahan.

Kabuuan

Ang piyesa ng piyano’y kailangan ng hinangin.
May lamat na sa musika nito.
‘Di na rin tumatalima ang pedal sa paang nakasampa.
Magkagayon man, kami pa ri’y aawit
Na para bang hindi ka humayo.
Walang pag-iingat na kinapa ng piyanista ang nota
At inawit namin ang mga himig na minsan mong inibig
Bilang pag-alala naming mga nagmahal sa’yo.
May bigat sa lalamunan, may patak ng luhang
Sumisibol sa aming mga mata,
Na ibayong yumurak sa sintunado ng kanta.
Siguradong ‘di mo naman mamasamain
Kung hindi namin nagawang pantayan ang mga anghel
Na harinawang hinaharana ka sa iyong kaarawan.

Salin ng tulang Finality likha ni Anthony Tan (mula sa Poems for Muddas)

To One Who Was There

by Anthony T. Tan (Poems for Muddas, Anvil Publishing, Inc. 1996)

If for love you walked five kilometers
In the rain, under the rage of thunderclap,
The fury-vomiting sky that cracked,
Along muddy byways of an unknown country;
If for love you forded turbulent rivers
By hopping from boulder to boulder,
Scaled three mountains
That separate her father’s house
From the bus stop of a tomb town;
If for love for her you trusted a stranger,
Half-drunk with tuba, to guide you,
Carry your bag for a peso,
While your hands wore your shoes,
In an uncertain afternoon
That soon would be evening,
And you weren’t sure of supper
(The lack of which would worsen your ulcer)
– Who can say whether
It was courage or recklessness?
And you can no more undo it
Than you can prevent crow’s feet.
You smile, grateful time has made you forget
Whatever it was outside love that moved you
And the mountains under your feet.
The rain tamed the dust of summer.
You welcomed even the body’s shiver.
And where the flesh must now rest
And bask in the pleasure
Of a half-complete picture,
The spirit must pursue
The truth to its precipice – and know:
She wasn’t in her father’s house.
The muttering demented rain
Must have told you
The waiting would be vain,
But you waited for her all evening.
Then your ear-deceiving desire
Mistook each sudden gust of raindrops
For the sound of her footsteps.
In the dark it sounded
Like her drenched skirt.
From among the night entangled branches
The solemn, clear-eyed owl
Hooted away the witching hour.
Left with the cinder of your dream,
You knew that with the rain
The fugitive summer had ended.


Para kay suking kapatid, sa saliw ng awit. 🙂

Pangangarap

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Mamaya
sa ganap na pagpantay
ng mga paa ng orasan
uupo ako sa dalampasigan
malapit sa mga alon
aabangan ko ang diktang panahon
tapos
Pakikiusapan ko ang Araw
ng mapahintulutan niya akong
samahan siya sa kanyang
pag-lubog
bubuksan niya ang tulay
nang matawid ko
ang kabilang panig ng daigdig
kung saan wala ang mga
pagkakataong
pilit akong ibinabalik sa
pangangarap.

First Sonnet

Upang ihanda ang isip laban sa oras
Ng iyong napipintong pamamaalam ay
Makailang sinalamin itong tagpo ng ‘yong paglayo
Nang tuluyang namutawi’y mistulang buga lamang ng malamig na hanging
Nagmumula sa purong sisidlan.
Ngunit dalawang beses kinailangang magdusa
Noong inasahan ang sakit ng ‘yong pamamaalam
At ibayong hapdi ng sugat ay binudburan
Ng asin ng ‘di maikakaila at katotohanan
Na nagmitsa ng iyong paglalayag sa dapithapon
Lulan ng ulap na kulay lila at alapaap na kulay asul – anong rikit
Na humahalina ng isipan. Wala akong mapapala
Sa pagtanaw sa iyong paglisan na pihadong magmamarka,
Sapagkat ikaw itong paralumang nagtakda sa buhay na wala ng halaga.

Salin ng tulang First Sonnet likha ni Anthony Tan (mula sa Poems for Muddas)

 

Rosas para kay Maria

IMG_5810Saang hardin ko nga ba
maaaring pitasin ang rosas
na sasalamin sa
tuwa at tangis
ng pagkadalisay ng iyong
pagiging ina?
Ang rosas na hahagkan ng iyong
labing
siyang labing
bumigkas ng oo
na nagmitsa ng bumugsong
grasya mula sa Anak mo’t
kanyang Ama.
Ang rosas na tutunghayan ng iyong
matang
siya ring naging
unang saksi sa
unang ngiti
unang kaway
unang hakbang
at unang singhap
ng iyong anak
kapag lingap ka.
Ang rosas na hahaplusin ng bawat guhit ng iyong
palad
na nagsulsi ng lampin
ng Anak mong tumubos
sa mundong balot ng pagnanasa
at pagdududa.
Ang rosas na ipapatong sa iyong
ulong
nadama rin ang hapdi
ng tinik na humalili
sa gintong korona sana
ng iyong Anak –
pinaratangang kriminal
ngunit banal at dakila.
Ang rosas na may samyong sintamis ng
hanging
iyong ibinuga na
umalo sa mga sugat na tinamo
ng iyong Anak na wala ng
hininga.
Maria,
saang hardin ko aapuhapin ang rosas na
hindi nalalanta
tutumbas sa iyong pagiging ina
ng sa gayo’y mapahintulutan mong
makadaupang-palad ko ang
Anak mong
ngayo’y nakatanaw paibaba
sa akin mula sa
paraiso.

 

* I wrote this poem a couple of months ago, yet thought that the perfect day to share it to the world is today. Happy Mothers’ Day!