Worth Begging

TN14When I was in grade school, I wanted to join our speech choir. More than half of the class were part of the speech choir. I would watch my classmates rehearsed every school day. I did not understand why I wanted it so bad. All I could remember everyday I would ask my teacher if I could join. I was very persistent like a die-hard suitor who would never let go until there was a finality of no. My teacher would reply, “We’ll see.” And my hope grew big that eventually  I would be part of the speech choir. I had no memories of being disheartened or discouraged.

I was just a kid.  I was too young to have puberty issues  on body image, allowance, crushes, honors. I  had no idea what self-esteem meant. I just wanted to be part of  the speech choir. I did not try to look for reasons  my teacher did not handpick me to be part of the speech choir. Maybe she thought I could not afford to buy the costume or she just did not like me. The reasons were not clear but I did not bother to know why. The only thing,  that was very clear to me, was that I wanted to be part of the speech choir. I kept asking my teacher until it became part of my school routine.

One day, my teacher got so annoyed. She did not give me the usual friendly reply “We’ll see.” My presence  felt like a  head louse thriving on her head.  It was as if she wanted to scratch her head and just get rid of me.  She told me she would let me join if they would be needing more people.

I waited.

And waited.

I forget how it happened. I just remember I was with my classmates performing the Frog Singing School. Our group won the interschool competition. I would not have celebrated the victory of my classmates if it were not for my eagerness to join the team.

Looking back, I can’t believe I have that kind of guts to ask my teacher everyday if I can make it. I find it embarrassing. I had no inhibitions and fear on asking my teacher. I did not even question if I really deserve to be part of the speech choir. I did not question the criteria of my teacher or did I have what was required. I just wanted it hard enough, the way a five-year old boy throwing tantrums,  forcing her mother to buy  a candy.

I wish I still have that kind of courage and determination that never doubts, never fears. It was not even a big dream or life-changing event to aspire for. I could have just let it go, the way we let balloons and kites leave us, the way we let our coins fall on a wishing well. But  I was just “makulit” and simply interested.

This reminds me of a blog I read days ago. In the blog of Mark Manson, he shared that instead of asking “What do we want in life?”  We should ask, ”
“What do want to suffer for?”

He wrote:

“A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

He continued:

“What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There are some things we really like to have. It is not a question on how much we want something but it is how much are we willing to give up or to suffer. Sometimes, the question should be like, “What are things worth begging ?” What are the things you are willing to lose your pride just to get it?  When rejection knocks at your door, it steals your pride and sometimes gives you a token of humiliation.

Sometimes you just have to wear thick face to get it.

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Summer Fling

“There’s something that always sends us hurtling head over heels. Travel. Regardless of whether you’re married, dating, heartbroken or happily single, if you’re traveling, you can have that beautiful feeling of falling in love all over again, again and again.” – Revati Victor

He was able to articulate what I wanted to say, “Traveling is the closest to the feeling of falling in love. It is the feeling that you do not want to end.” If you are someone who likes romance but not so much on relationships, traveling is your best companion. Every place you go is like a summer fling. You get so excited at first and heartbroken once it leaves you too swift. But right now, I want an endless summer fling. I want to keep my feet moving until I reach a new destination. 2014614105143Traveling is ephemeral.  The value of fleeting moments becomes more apparent in traveling. Nothing lasts forever. Every moment is fleeting. Everyone is leaving. Everything is depleting. We don’t know the extinction of every bird, and every plant. We don’t how long we can swim the seawater.

Traveling is ephemeral. So take a camera with you

Traveling is ephemeral. So take a camera with you

I just realize how wonderful God made the world and I realized I have not seen half of it. I want to do stargazing in the woods, and write in my journal Pablo’s Neruda’s famous lines “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” 11013561_10153072428592906_111947654101653172_n I can never measure the words infinity, abundance, grandeur, borderless, and unlimited but when I travel, it is the only time that these words have real meaning. When I walk near the sea, I see infinity. When I reach the mountain tops, I stand in awe. When I reach a foreign land, there is just too much to absorb. When I get to know people and culture, there is just too much to learn. You will always use the word “too much.” 2014614104943 10703802_10152650144587906_8935474558117179334_n I also want to see the works of people all over the world including handicrafts, paintings, and old and modern architecture.

Singapore

Singapore

Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak Market

We appreciate history. We appreciate stories if we see their remnants in monuments, in artifacts, in museums, in tradition, and in places. While books can tell you when and why, traveling reaffirms what we know about the world and makes us discover what we haven’t known for a long time.

Cavite

Cavite

225494_4434437861514_1003134511_n

Corregidor

When life is just too dry, I dream of cherry-blossoms, maple trees, and long bridges. I want to touch snow, see Taj Mahal, climb Mt Pulag, and maybe get a tattoo from Kalinga. I want to ride a bike with basket of flowers and pretend I’m in a Korean film. Traveling makes life look like movies. I want to travel as often as I can, partly because I want to escape the truth that some things have to be permanent. As what most people say “walang forever” (there is no forever). But there is always a feeling of forever, maybe in small infinities or in bigger infinities.

I only have two dreams: To go as many places as I can and to eat many kinds of food. The rest is negotiable.

Batangas

Batangas

No art, no he-art

“The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”

-Michelle Obama

Sometimes people ask why you buy books,  handicrafts, materials for scrapbook and painting, watch a play, a concert.  I wonder why people have to look for special reasons. I do acknowledge that there are more important things in this world but I don’t think that it’s a waste of money nor waste of time  to be involved in these art forms. I think art is an investment. Most of the time, we think art in terms of its cultural value. But art has a personal value and has a long term-effect to an individual (whether you are a sender or receiver of art). In the same way how food nourishes our bodies, art nourishes our senses. I am not saying spend more on movies and concerts and spend less on food and clothing. I am not saying go and watch an indie film. I am not saying buy a book even if you’re broke or start collecting comics and paintings. Engage in an art that is accessible and palatable to you. It may be a visit to a museum, studying make-up or reading a graphic novel.

Art is not for the middle-class, for the élite or educated. Some people are willing to spend for liquor and buffet meal but find it expensive to buy a book. Some people buy the latest gadgets but question you why you buy a ticket for a live performance. It’s strange because these are equally unnecessary for survival yet we find a high calorie dinner and an extra cellphone more acceptably rewarding.

So why is it not a waste of money and time?

Art is an experience
Experience may seem ephemeral but experiences cannot be taken away or stolen. An experience is personal, priceless and unique. You cannot copy experiences and you cannot borrow senses. Hence, a friend who shares you how convincing the movie is, how amazing the concert is,  is different from a friend who shares another apple to you.  What you notice a lot in a live performance, or what you see in a mural is not always the same with others.

wicked stage

Wicked Stage

Art makes us human
We are way beyond our biological functions. We are the only creatures that can appreciate design, craft, and showmanship. We sense. We feel. We favor certain sounds and colors. We critique. I guess we should practice what is innately unique in human nature. Let’s find beauty in shapes and sizes, find satisfaction in sounds, sights arrangement, and rhythm. Everyone has an inner artist.

found this painting on SM North

found this painting on SM North

Art gives us another way of looking at things
An example of this would be a bed scene or an adult scene. These are scenes that some people are not comfortable to watch and talk about. You try to close your eyes watching a nude scene because you think you’re not supposed to see it. I just watched Cock of Redturnip Theater and the adult scenes were very intimate. What’s interesting is that the actors are fully clothed and barely too close to each other.

cock

Art mirrors feelings, aspirations, and reality
As the common definition of art in textbooks, “Art is an imitation of life.” A piece of art is one interpretation of real objects, people, life events. He might be a designer, playwright, poet, makeup artist or a graphic artist. Sometimes, I watch a film, I discover not only new ideas, but new feelings, new dreams or maybe they are just suppressed thoughts that are overshadowed by daily routine. When you listen to music, or read a short story, you think there is a medium that identifies your emotions or represents your thoughts.

Art when done with good taste, it adds depth to humanity
I don’t want to sound too serious nor do I want to sound like an activist but sometimes art gives inspiration. A novel can call for a revolution. Paintings teach history and religion. Spoken word poetry (I’m such a big fan) makes beautiful life stories.

Art is a product of hard work, great minds, and talent
This explains why a piece of art is pricey. Every product of art has to go through a creative process and every artist deserves a talent fee. By supporting what they do, you are continuing the  legacy of a special breed of human race who are passionate in what they do.

 

Learn from Nothing

It has been more than a month since the typhoon Haiyan hit the grounds of Leyte but I still cannot believe. To me, it happened more of a nightmare than an actual event. The TV always flashes the most recent development in Tacloban and I still cannot believe how much media attention is given to the city I grew up with. Tacloban has never been on the spotlight. If not for the typhoon, there are some Filipinos who might not know there’s a place in the Philippines called Tacloban. Now, some people can already name the barangays and the streets of Tacloban. Without Yolanda, no one would ask me, “How’s your hometown?” No one would respond me a three-second silence when I told them, “I am from Tacloban.” They say it was like a movie but never did I think that it would resemble a movie. How can I believe when Hollywood movies show skyscrapers, busy streets, thick jackets, concrete walls everywhere? I cannot believe a catastrophe is so near to me, a tragedy within my periphery and it happened in a place where my life began. And of all the cities in the world, why Tacloban? I cannot believe…

                               ****************************************

“You want to find yourself, right? In Tacloban, you will find yourself because there’s nothing you can find here except yourself,” my brother joked. In an article of Huffington Post, Philippines is recommended as one of the places you should go after a break up. I loved how the writer said “Reevaluate your problems in the Philippines.” My personal problems became temporarily less noticeable when I knew that the only problem that mattered in my hometown was how to get food. Anyone should be ashamed of himself for worrying too much on his career, what to wear, where to buy this and that, and how to earn more. I somehow felt how privileged I was. The only problems I had to resolve were frivolous. I may have had some misfortune but nothing compares to people who lost all their possessions to the the sea.

Basics

When I was in Tacloban, everything was expensive. I made sure I finished everything on my plate including the sardine sauce and the tiny fiber of green papaya. I learned to like tasteless crackers. When I was walking around the town with a bottle of water, I tried to drink in droplets. When church friends brought us fried chicken, it was so heavenly. When I did not need to make a call, I turned off my phone to save my batteries. Before I left, a bakeshop opened. The price of slice bread was higher than the regular price but a lot of people were willing to buy.

I now live in a metropolis where everything is in abundance. If I get hungry, there is a Seven Eleven to serve me. If I want to eat chicken, there’s a grocery store or a marketplace that sells dressed chicken. And if I want an instant fried chicken, I can always walk to Jollibee. I saw two kids in Tacloban meticulously taking chicken’s feathers off. The chicken was a Haiyan survivor too. He stayed on the comfort room to save his life. I can take a bath anytime. But in Tacloban, it’s not a split-second choice to take a bath. People fetched water and some would have their bath near public water pumps.

Passengers in Manila often complained about traffic jam. There are just too many people, too many cars, too many buses. On the other hand, people in Tacloban walked for miles in search of food and help. There was no tricycle or a jeep around the city. And if there was, it was probably costly. People get agitated for waiting too long for a taxi ride and sometimes I hear some passengers in MRT curse and quarrel. At least, they still had a ride. At least, they did not need to walk.

I was mindlessly wearing a shirt with lines from Dead Poet’s Society. I just realized how ironic it was to wear a shirt like that in times of crisis. My shirt stated: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute… But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. ” My brother said you will forget whatever principle you keep, you just want to survive. Very true…

Charity

Haiyan changed how I think about charity. I used to criticize celebrities and public figures who helped victims of natural calamities. But when I saw with my very own eyes how helpless and how much was lost in Leyte, it was uplifting to know there were a lot of people who were interested to help. Whatever their motives are, we welcome them without reservation. This is not the right time to question people’s kindness. It’s very discouraging to read negative comments about Bongbong Marcos going to Tolosa and other nations giving assistance to Tacloban. It is so easy for a person to criticize if his life is so normal, if he has everything he needs and if he has all his family members alive. But if he lost everything, he will grab whatever help that comes his way. They may be his foes or the least expected people. I no longer care about imperialist ideas. They are only good in theory and paper. When I know that people are dying and no concern from the national government is evident, I see hope in flags of different colors. I no longer question celebrities who travel and send relief. It might be petty to be overwhelmed by a presence of superstar but it is a source of happiness when nothing is left.

Just Alive

How precious life is! This may be another repetitive lesson. I heard a lot of stories of people who fought for their lives during the typhoon. Some lives were paid by heroes we may never heard of. Most of the time, it is a challenge to be satisfied. The summary of our dissatisfaction in life is:  “I don’t have the life I deserve” while others  are mourning over their loved ones’ death- they do not deserve.

I’ll be spending my holidays in my hometown. I don’t know if we will have soft drinks or fruit salad.  I don’t know if there will be fireworks. I just know we will celebrate life.

Megaphone

The night of  November 8 was one of the most difficult nights to get by. I was crying over the phone as my friend and I were talking about the news of the super typhoon Yolanda that hit our hometown Tacloban. I monitored updates in Facebook and cried some more as I read some of my fellow Taclobanons looking for their families. I woke up in the middle of the night, sobbing, calling “Mama.” I called my brother and parents for the nth time but all I could hear was the telephone operator. I was waiting for news about Tacloban the whole day. All we had were reports and videos taken around seven in the morning. With so much tension and anxiety, I complained why entertainment shows should continue to be aired when we who left our families in Tacloban were very desperate for news. I kept repeating in my head the little information we had. Water reached 15 feet high in downtown area. Portions of roof were flying. The trees were dancing. Electric wires were fighting the wind. I calculated the chances of how my family could survive, how far was our house from the sea, how sturdy our walls were. I imagined broken glasses and water covering our house. I thought of my elderly parents and my teenage nieces.

Not my city

When I first heard the news about the devastation and violence in Tacloban, my reaction was: “That is not my city.” I used to believe it was one of the most quiet and peaceful cities. “Don’t go there. It’s not safe. People steal and kill.” I read a lot of warnings before I went to Tacloban. Some people associated this unruly mob behaviour with the stereotype given to Warays. They were known to be war freak. I don’t have a Waray blood but I was born and raised there. I am one of them and it pains me to know how chaotic my people and my hometown are perceived. It was a safe place where my brother biked around with his pricey gadgets. In my entire life in Tacloban, I walked in the streets without a fear of threat.

I arrived in Tacloban on the fourth day after the typhoon. We passed through the nearby towns that did not have extensive media coverage, Tolosa, Dulag, and Abuyog. The mountains facing the Pacific Ocean had nothing but barren soil that complemented the murderous sea. The coconut trees were perfectly cut as if there was a giant ax that chopped them all. As we entered the city, I could not recognize Tacloban anymore. It had no civilization. People were everywhere looking for food and news. They lived up to their name, “Waray” which meant “nothing”. I was speechless throughout our trip.

Not God’s punishment

In the midst of this crisis, I wonder why someone would drop the words’ God’s punishment’. If you were a victim of Yolanda, these were the last words you would want to hear. Those who were heavily affected by the typhoon were those who lived near the coastlines. They were fisher folks, people who built their dream houses, ordinary people who had nothing to do with PDAF and pork barrel. They were far from people who lived near the gates of hell. To utter the word punishment is unbearable for a person who lived a decent life and lost everything in a short span of time. We try to interpret God’s message with positivity and end our philosophical explanation that those who survive have more work to do and those who are gone have completed their mission.

No megaphones

Tacloban, an urbanized city turned into a small village where strangers talked liked close friends, where the main source of news was by word of mouth. Without electricity and clear communication lines, people were eager to share and receive news. When we walked our way to our parents’ house, people were a lot friendlier than usual. They asked how we were doing. They were clueless that the entire world was watching them. I’m glad that there was no television during the most crucial moments because it could have been more depressing to hear news on how ill-equipped our government was and how insensitive some of the leaders were.

Much has been said about the destruction that took place in Leyte and Samar. Bad news were widely spread but supply of food, water, fuel, and good news were limited. When I was in Tacloban, I wished there were some military personnel or officials who had megaphones used to pacify tension in the crowd. People were panicking for unverified news. If there was a voice out there, it could have saved more stores from being ransacked. It could have shortened the line of people waiting for C130. It could have uplifted their spirits. If someone with a megaphone strolled around the city with a simple message: “Everything is under control. We are doing our best to help,” it could have improved the situation in Tacloban. Stories of rape and bandits circulated as quick as fire but stories of relief goods and free services did not reach that far. By this time, I hope there are megaphones in Tacloban.

Spreading hope

I stop browsing photos showing the destruction and depression in Tacloban. I want to see more photos, more news stories of camaraderie, compassion, resiliency, and hope. Tacloban was a beautiful city surrounded by seas and mountains. It aches me to know that what most people know and what most people see are ruins and death.

My family is fortunate to have survived. I guess we who have been spared  from the typhoon, we who are given a chance to live longer owe the victims of the typhoon some hope. We need more good news. Instead of saying “When you go to Tacloban you will be depressed”, say “When you go to Tacloban you will be inspired by the courage and the resiliency of the people.” Instead of saying “When you go to Tacloban, you will be harmed,” say “When you go to Tacloban and help, you will be rewarded.” Instead of saying “When you go to Tacloban, you will feel like it’s the end of the world,” say “When you go to Tacloban, you will feel like it’s going to have a new beginning.” Instead of saying, “When you go to Tacloban, you will see death,” say “When you go to Tacloban, you will find life.” When you see people fixing their houses, finding food to eat, protecting their families, looking for their loved ones, lamenting over the dead, you will find the meaning of life in its barest form.

answer

Note: Written November 25, 2013

Spoken Word

I found my new love, Spoken Word Poetry. It is one of the literary forms I am very addictive of. I enjoy listening to Spoken Word Poetry as much as I enjoy listening to latest pop songs. I know the word “poetry” sounds intimidating as if it belongs to a subculture. Our notion is that poetry is for people who study literature, who read works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Oscar Wilde. If not, it is for people who pretend they can write or pretend they are well-read. But Spoken Word Poetry is different. It can  appeal to a large audience. It can be very entertaining.

Spoken Word Poetry is written to be performed on stage. It is written for both the ears and the eyes. I like this medium of self-expression because it combines storytelling, theater, and poetry. Unlike poems published, it is more palatable and conversational. Trust me, it is not a difficult art to appreciate. I am not a good listener and I have short attention span but I manage to listen an 18-minute performance while I am doing other tasks.

Here are some of  my favorite performances.  I am not going to explain and describe further  because I want you to watch and discover the beauty of Spoken Word Poetry.

OCD by Neil Hilborn

This video has been viral.  Watch this  and you will understand why the world fell in love with this poem. It is about a man who has obsessive compulsive disorder. And I am very much obsessed with this guy. My heart broke after I heard the last line.

Love Poem Medley by Rudy Francisco

I love this guy! He is very witty and funny. He has a lot of cheesy lines.

I heard that love is blind so, I write all my poems in braille

And my poems are never actually finished because true love is endless

Touchscreen by Marshal Soulful Jones

If you spend more than eight hours on the internet, always take photos of the food you eat, make friends in Yahoo chatroom and Skype, this is for you.

One Color by Neil Hilborn and Renee Schminkey 

If ever Reproductive Health Bill should be discussed again, this poetry should be heard.

But was never  taught that there are worse things that could happen than a baby or a disease.

Shrinking Women by Lily Myers

As you know, I have soft spot on issues about women. This girl described struggles of women in conforming to gender norms.

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