(as published on The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Young Blood column today, 8 March 2020)
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a girl who grew up surrounded by stories of dashing knights in shining armor or brooding Mr. Darcys would have unrealistic standards in love.
A tad unfair to real boys who can’t hold a candle to dreamboats that pop out of the page, you might say, but there’s no bit of jest in this. My 13-year-old self once swore she wouldn’t settle for anyone who wouldn’t love her the same way Mr. Rochester loved Jane Eyre. These teen years, really, they’re an era of folly, of giggles at the smoldering heroes of Austen and the Brontë sisters. More than Disney and its sanitized happy-ever-afters, these authors have ruined real guys for me.
Continue reading “No need for Mr. Darcy”
(as published on The Manila Times’ Sunday Times Magazine (Literary Life) on 26 January 2020)
Whenever I am away and a sharp longing
for Mother stabs at me, I will buy a stick
of cigarette, light it in the dark, and watch the embers
chew it up. Pa used to sigh her name, “Anita, hay Anita,”
and crack in loving jest that her mouth’s a tunnel
for steam locomotives, to which she would laugh
a response in hot clouds, in the ghosts of stillborn
thoughts she incinerated in her lungs.
Sometimes I wish she would tell me what
they whisper to her, instead of engraving them
as unreadable creases in the corners of her eyes.
Sometimes, the smell would jostle me between
wakefulness and sleep, her stun-gun chuckle
rumbling in my head. My senses clung onto her
and I hear scrawls of chalk against wall planks
for her abakada graffiti branded in my
five-year-old’s head (or were those forks on plates
when we only have shadows to eat?); I re-feel
the friction of linoleum on my skin as I grunt, crawling
out of a forced afternoon siesta (or were those creeping
days of numbness that I mistake for catnaps?); I relive teary
tug-of-wars at school gates, where I refuse to let go
of your long, leathery fingers. All that and a handful more—
my adult mind a child again, roiling in Past Tense
until, after I burn, in her nicotine hold, I will be home.
Note: I never thought this would ever see print. I remember keying these words onto my phone’s Notepad app late last year. I was away from home for some event I can no longer recall, caught a waft of a lit Philip Morris, and remembered Ma. It was my way of wrestling homesickness then, musings that I think would be best kept in my journal. The Sunday Times magazine Literary Editor Alvin I. Dacanay has my utter gratitude for believing that this is worthy to be shown to the world. I know you won’t be reading this, but thank you so much, Sir.
Half-baked characters from my half-written stories have this habit of lingering precariously on the peripheries of my undemanding days. Not always, of course, but they are frequent visitors at hours they think they are most welcome. With their sinews and bones molded from printer ink and several unfinished drafts several folders deep in the corner of my laptop, they would say hello when a certain scene in my day would trigger their presence.
For instance, when a shaft of sunlight poured from the blinds straight through my clear mug of coffee one morning, it reminded me of the color I gave the eyes of a Little Prince-sque kid in a fairy tale I abandoned. I took a sip of the beverage and he was there, slumped on the chair beside me.
“Have you ever thought of coming back?” he asked, cradling his face in his cupped hand. “You know… of opening my story again and giving it a happy-ever-after?”
Continue reading “I, writer”
(as published on The Philippines Graphic magazine)
akin to the shade that has incarnadined the bruises
of a lone oceanid choking at the rocks of Manila Bay—
she of soiled fingers combing through seaweed-tresses
matted with oil, excrement, with a balm of something
foreign, like a smear of leftover hope
or was it vermillion, the splash that punctuated
a cough of a barrel in an alley lit only
by the unblind eye of a gas lamp? Bespattered
little Totoy’s frail pallor until he is no longer
as white as the stones he did not know he carried
tantamount even to the carmine dark that dripped
from our fountain pens one November in the South,
ebbing, flooding headlines and *58 shallow
graves (32 of whom are of our brothers), drenching
the faded mourning clothes we still wear a decade later
a hue to drown out lazuli Rosco in our flag
to be one solid blood, crib of great men in the Song—
its notes we can still exhale audibly with our fallible
mouths; for as long as we are breathing
there are grieving and living for the aggrieved to be done
“Why is the sky blue?”
When I was a little kid and no one would answer when I asked this question, I simply imagined angels playing in heaven, with one clumsy cherub accidentally spilling a can of blue paint right between the clouds. This was enough of an explanation for me back then.
Today, witnessing sunsets that douse the skies with an array of color, both warm and cool, makes me want to curl back into those innocent thoughts.
Science may have taught me Rayleigh scattering and atmospheric optics, but in a world that has unfolded to be so complex before my growing eyes, I would sometimes like to revisit the vision of little me: that girl whose tickled mind made her so curious that she poured all contents of a paint box onto paper to imitate the skies. That girl who then wrote about them with all the words she knew, which eventually made her decide that her heart was for the arts.
Continue reading “Still life with skies and hope”