Thursday, October 24, 2013

Father Playing A Guitar

This smile I never saw before: as if the lips
Are keeping a secret to itself. It makes both eyes
Rise up at the edges, pushing the brows into
Gentle arches. Wide forehead is out of place
In this young body but the hands, the hands
Curve around the guitar and the fingers
Curl over strings in a most familiar manner
Such that I could almost hear the music. As if
Everything in this picture--the vines, the dog
Lying on the ground in a half O,
The wide, palm-shaped leaves, you--
Are wonders that I could see and touch again.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Who am I to think I’m so special?

“It all ends in tears anyway.”
- Jack Kerouac

We take what we can, those few moments of passion
Leaving our children at home with Legos and biscuits
And running to the mall to get his favorite sandwich
And hard drink, investing more than our hearts
Into Facebook relationships. Waiting at 4:00 a.m.
For some activity so we could say Hello, pretend
We just woke up and are bright-eyed when the truth
Is that we are loving with one hand over our hearts,
The other stroking his ear, his penis,
His ego. Like fragile porcelain dolls our eyes
Are wide and hopeful in the beginning, and even
Right before it ends. Even when we realize
We are not named: No labels, no nothing.
And yet when it all comes crashing down we just
Cry in tiny, painful trickles.

Let us love when the time is right. Oh, how we know
In our most secret hearts, how we know we deserve
So much better. In the meantime, we heal our wounds with
Love songs, belted loudly, inside lonely KTV rooms
Somewhere in this noisy, dirty city, full of double-dealing
boys. Boys, really. Only with beer bellies and salt
And pepper hair. My stomach turns.

So go ahead and chug down your Smirnoff, you beautiful,
Luminous shock of a woman. Wear your attitude like a blazing
Crown. You are very special. Light up the room
With your magnificence. You rock and you roll.
Janis Joplin cannot hold a candle to you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Every time I visit my doctor, strange things happen. Today I walked through the front doors and I saw him getting ready to take some tea and biscuits with two other men. One was a driver, the other one a young Indian priest. I joined them and the priest handed me his cup of tea. We started talking about ways to help balding men grow their hair back. We also touched on mental illness and writing for a bit. Our young priest, apparently, had taken a liking to the written word and so took the opportunity to ask me a few questions about my work. After they left, my doctor and I talked about the proper way to take the medicines. I have probably heard it a hundred times, but I listened and we laughed and... got interrupted by screaming. One of his assistants, a lady I have grown fond of, was reprimanding another assistant at the top of her lungs. They were summoned into the consultation room, all four assistants, and the issue was assessed, discussed, addressed inside. I sat there with my cold tea, in the middle of a "domestic" crossfire. I had a meeting and needed to rush, but I had to wait until things were settled and apologies were offered all around like bread at dinner time. As an afterthought, I was given my packet of drugs. I put my money inside a white envelope and quickly walked out of the clinic, rushing to a nearby restaurant for some soup, pizza and apple cooler.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rethinking volunteerism

I think it was 2009 when I dove head on to a life that was primarily consumed by volunteer work. I started a children’s organization, Isang Bata, because I needed to channel negative emotions into something constructive and positive, and also because I wanted to help children, seeing how my own son was growing up. There were numerous projects under Isang Bata, including partnerships with various individuals and institutions. The most recent happened only last month.

I volunteered my time, ideas, strength, resources and skills for at least six other organizations, but the ones that presently ask a lot from me are my BOD responsibilities in my son’s school and my Executive Committee duties for the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines (FWGP), which I also founded a couple of years ago. I also recently took on a magazine editing job, gratis et labore, for my favorite doctor, not knowing that, although I truly love him as a doctor and friend, he’d be such a nightmare to work with.

As I have been doing this for more than four years, which is no joke considering that perhaps half (or even more) of my working hours is spent on volunteer work, I know that this is not a good place to go if one is merely looking for fulfillment. Meaning, fulfillment, gratitude—these are superficial expectations, and I am sure that those who have been doing volunteer work for years will agree with me on this. Volunteer work is still work. Many times, one is weighed down by limitations and inadequacies, instead of being lifted up by the micro changes and fleeting inspiration and gratitude from beneficiaries. One faces, on a daily basis, the seemingly indestructible walls that hinder, the deeply institutionalized systems that tie our hands, and the people we cannot work with, no matter how hard we try.

I don’t need recognition, I am not even waiting for gratitude. I do my work, I walk away, and I am happy with that. Indifference and ungratefulness mean nothing to me. What frustrates me—and this is the point of this entry—is some people’s misplaced sense of entitlement. Their expectations, demands even, from volunteers like me who are spending our own money, giving them our time that should have been spent with our loved ones. And, getting mad if we are not able to give more. And, criticizing our work and our intentions. One recent and unpleasant encounter with someone I was helping (was, take note) jarred me to wakefulness and made me rethink all of this.

For now, I am taking a break. Perhaps I have done much more than I should and given more than I could. I guess it’s high time to go help someone else: me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I need to say this

It’s been a wild ride so far, this BOD thing. Bowi calls me a member of the bored of directors. Yet I am totally the opposite. I have been constantly on my toes, concerned about one thing or another, working on a task, or meeting with people. It’s a full job, and I’ve been involved in this for more than a couple of months, I think.

For the past weeks I have relegated my income-earning projects to second priority. Only because there are things to do for the school, which is supposed to open in June. Because time is of the essence, school-related work needs to be finished before anything else. And also because, like I always say, it is my son’s school and he likes going there, and loves the people there. And finally because I love the children and could not bear to stay in the sidelines and simply watch as the school struggles to survive. Again, it’s my Sagittarian spirit showing itself, definitely unaware of the hurdles it needs to overcome in the coming months.

When I accepted the position a few months ago, things were a mess. I don’t want to sugarcoat this fact because this is the truth and I only want to write the truth here because it’s my blog. Things were a mess because there were people with huge egos, hypocrites who think they were entitled to things bigger than what they truly deserved. The children were fine, but the adults were making things complicated and ugly. As a newbie, I didn’t know who were on the side of good and those who were not. As the days passed, I began to understand many things, like pieces of a puzzle falling in place. Today as I write this, I have a clearer view of the whole picture. I cannot say I understand everything but at least I know some of the why’s and the who’s.

These are people who will do malicious things, and hide behind the cloak of innocence and righteousness. I am only doing this for the children, they’d say. Or, let us uphold the values and principles of our educational system. They say pretty things and blink their eyes, then turn around and ruin what many people, including innocent children, are trying to build so patiently with their bare hands. Ruthless beings who, on the outside, look every inch professional. Educated, decent-looking people whom the children look up to, trust and love, but who are capable of such malice and selfishness. I do not know how they can sleep at night.

If it were not for the respect that I have for my co-directors, I would have confronted these people. In two of my co-board members I saw such calmness and compassion and yes, love for those who attack us, directly or otherwise. The board never answered back nor gave them a dose of their medicine, which has always been my preferred action as far as school matters are concerned. But I am not the majority. I have the freedom, however, to write my honest thoughts here. I am writing not as a member of the board, but as a disgusted human being. At my age, I am still amazed how some people can be so cunning and vicious.

Where do you draw the line between compassion and justice? Surely there must be a limit to what you can ignore or let pass. How long should I fight this battle? It is easy to give up and simply move to a new school. Why am I even doing this? (Did I mention the BOD does not get a single centavo for all the hard work and the stress they go through?) The negativity coming off of these people is enough to make a person sick, so why am I even staying on? If I were a quitter, I’d say to the attackers, knock yourselves out, and then go.

I want nothing more than to have a good school for the kids. What about you, what do you want? These are my questions for those who seem to enjoy the demolition job that they have been doing. What will make you happy? Does it fulfill you to ruin our children’s school? I am this close to naming names, but I won’t, again out of respect for the people who have been working so hard for the school. But you know who you are, better yet, God knows who you are.

It’s become a true test of character, this whole business. Now I am sad, frustrated, angry and disappointed. I am human, after all. I cannot be indifferent. I cannot be calm, soft-spoken and composed all the time. Yet I cannot stop hoping and trying, if only for the children. I cannot let it break my spirit and put out the fight in me.

It’s a battle between good and evil, and the children are counting on the good to win this.

Monday, April 1, 2013


The rains came early this year
drowning my longgans and chilis in April.
And yesterday my little boy came rushing home
balancing an insect carcass on his palm.
He asked me how it died, why.
I knew he deserved the truth
so I told him it probably got tired
of doing and buzzing the same
shit every day.
So it simply chose to die.
He went away after that, sobbing.
Probably regretting his question.
But knowing is a necessary pain.
It forces one to build a roof
over things that could die in the rain.

April 2009

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Two Women


She is a new friend. Pretty, independent and confident. Each time I talk to her I discover new things about her that increase my respect for her. These are discoveries that I am re-learning for myself. Simple but powerful revelations: enjoying life, being free, living in the moment, loosening up. Simple lessons she doesn’t know she is teaching me. I am grateful to her for making me remember ways of living that I used to practice but have forgotten as life became more challenging.


She is a celebrity I only met once. I talked to her for more than thirty minutes, about her life as an artista. And then about her loss. Hers is permanent but simple, mine is more complicated than that. Again she did not know that she was making me see my loss as something similar to hers. And why it is best to regard it that way. I remember breaking down many months ago not because I lost something, which is frankly less of an ordeal than the fact that I was not given the chance to say a proper goodbye.