At Home


I sleep and sleep some more.

Because it’s not everyday I can sleep soundly. 

I eat and eat some more. 
Because it’s not everyday I can enjoy the food I love. 

I stare at the skies and stare some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I can appreciate a clear sky full of stars.

I laze and laze some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I am not chasing time. 

I play and play some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I get to be a kid.

At home…

I live and live some more. 

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#TGIF


I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.

I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.

It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think.  On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.

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Where is Home? 


My brother  arrived in our apartment a few days ago exclaming he is going home over the weekend. I asked him why he is going home again when he just visited a month ago. He replied, “Because I am suffering from homesickness lately.”

I often forget that my brother has only lived in Manila for 3 years. To date, he has lived most of his life in Bicol. On the other hand, I am more of stranger and occasional visitor in our family house, being away since I was 11. That’s almost 17 years.

I tried to recall what it feels to be homesick. Missing your pillow and beds at home? I don’t have those. I don’t even have a room and a cabinet in our house. The local neighborhood? I barely even know who lives in our street now.

Earlier, I had the same thoughts again while looking at the Christmas lights that decorate the trees on the way to my apartment. I said to myself, “It’s almost Christmas again. I can finally have a long vacation at home.”

Home will always be an interesting concept for people who have lived in so many places. What defines it? The physical structure, the people, the memories? As for me, home… is a place where my mom and siblings are, where I can enjoy my favorite dishes, and exist for a while without caring what the world demands from me.

I guess I am homesick after all and I am not even making any sense.

Human


Every now and then

You stumble, you fall 

To a point where you can’t stand up. 

You cry, you bleed

To take the pain out. 

You fear, you doubt

Because you can’t hope enough. 

Yet you smile, you laugh

Because that’s when you are at your best. 

You love, you give

Because you’re human,

You’re unpredictable. 

You’re beautiful. 

You live. 

Parallel Existence


You and me, we move in the same space.

The left is yours. 

The right is mine. 

An exact replica of each other. 

You, 9 to 6. I, 9 to 6. 

You look up to  sky to count the hours until sunset. 

I look down to count the hours  until sunrise.

You, wondering how it is to be different. 

I, trying to define what is normal. 

You and me, we move in the same space. 

But never at the same time. 

What Changed?


Your style has gotten classier.

You don’t fret over sales.

You value quality over quantity.

You don’t say yes to every invitation.

You don’t bother to please everybody.

You pause.

You laugh at yourself.

You listen.

You shut up.

You don’t stress over every single thing.

You stand up for yourself.

You choose your friends.

You choose your battles.

You are confident.

You are wiser.

Nothing changed.

You just got older.

Constant


If people were waves

That come and go,

Can there be a constant

That tie them to their roots?

 

If you were a constant

Amidst a sea of people

How much effort do you require

To keep you from drifting away?

 

Written on an early morning while walking the streets of Paranaque. 

 

Relativity


I was in my hometown two weeks ago for the Holy Week break. It’s an annual practice—going home during Holy Week, All Soul’s Day and Christmas breaks.  Apart for the reason these are only periods I get to spend time with my family, these are also the only periods I take long breaks from work.

A favorite habit of mine when I am at home is to sit in our terrace during sunset. Because it faces our gate and of the almost 1.5-meter elevation of our house above ground level, I get a good view of the setting sun, the road in front of our house, and railway that bisects the road.

During my recent stay, there was a day that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the utter calmness of my surroundings. There were hardly any cars passing by. Children were happily playing on the street. I could vividly hear the sound of chirping bird and insects, and even the sound of the blowing wind.  It is a fact that in some places like my hometown, life can still be slow and uncomplicated. Yet, it still amazes me I am still able to experience how slow and uncomplicated life can be.

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Losing Sight


I frequent a massage shop called “Vibes” in a mall near my apartment. I usually go there twice a month to relieve myself from stress due to work and life, in general. One interesting aspect of Vibes is the massage therapists are blind. Unlike other regular customers though, I don’t favor a specific masseuse. I am fine with being assigned with the available masseuse because (1) I am generally impatient, and (2) it enables me to differentiate the massaging styles of the masseuses.

In the past three years of frequenting Vibes, I’ve observed a lot of things about their staff which often amazes me more than not. The massage therapists have very keen sense of touch and hearing. Even without saying a word and just by touching my back, they can tell if it’s me, if I lost or gained weight and if I am more stressed than usual. They also know my voice very well. They would say, “Oh! It’s Ma’am Melissa.” even if I just uttered, “Good evening”.

When they are in a light mood, some masseuse also share their  interests. There is one instance when I had to wait for the masseuse for a while. When she arrived, she apologized profusely. She mentioned she was just replaying the episode of a drama she missed the previous night. I asked her how she replayed it. She replied she listened through the YouTube application in her smartphone. She further shared that sometimes she replays TV shows on her Acer laptop. I was simply dumbfounded.

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Managing How to Work, Study and Travel Simultaneously


The other week, my classmates and I were joking on our Facebook group what we would award each other for our upcoming graduation this July 25. One classmate said he would give me a “Master Procrastinator Award”. I was appalled so I asked him why.

He replied, “Because every time I am cramming for our paper or an exam, I would see in your posts that you are either in Korea, El Nido or some random beach. You don’t seem to be bothered by school or work at all”.

Am I one?? (Image credits to keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

I was surprised that some of them had a perception that I am a “procrastinator”, so I clarified that when I am on travel, I bring my iPad and laptop. I study while waiting in airports and ports. I write papers at night or during the wee hours of the morning. I always put my phone on roaming to make sure I don’t miss anything work or school-related while I am overseas. Simply said, I multitask.

I always get questions related to this: How do you juggle things? How do you manage to keep up at work and school and still get to travel? So I thought I’d share of some of “tactics” of how I managed to do all three for the past years:

1. Multitask but do so efficiently. This is inevitable. I am not someone who can let go of my day job just to prioritize school or travel. I don’t have someone who I can say I can lean on  in case I get into financial trouble. I don’t want rely on scholarships either because in the Philippines, more of often than not, stipends are delayed. I also still send money to my family back home every once in a while. Multitasking is not ideal, but to be able to do all things I want to do and have to do, this is the compromise I make.

I am lucky enough that my classes are online. So while on travel, I can still participate in class discussion late at night or write papers at dawn. When I have something important for work that coincides with my travel, I usually check my email at least three times a day to make sure my workmates would still get the information they need from me.

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Peaches and Friends


While waiting for our train ride to Hanoi, Vietnam in a restaurant somewhere  in Lao Cai a few days ago, my three friends decided to go out for a bit to look for peaches. They’ve been craving for peaches since we saw some in Bac Ha market earlier in the day. They asked me if I was coming, I told them I will just stay in the restaurant   since I don’t like peaches that much.

While waiting for them, I noticed that a Vietnamese girl in the next table was fidgety. She kept glancing around while holding her phone. So I asked her, “Are you looking for an electric outlet?”

She replied, “Yes. I need to charge my phone.”

I noted someone charged his phone near my table earlier  so I told her, “There’s one near my table. You can use it.”

She smiled and thanked me. She then asked me if I am from the Philippines since I speak good English. I responded affirmatively and thought finally someone guessed my nationality correctly. I was still mistaken as a Thai by some in Vietnam.

We then talked about her job, my job, her country and my country. She was very curious about the Philippines and certain places she wishes to visit. She even knew about Cebu Pacific’s piso seat sale.

After conversing for about 10 minutes, she excused herself . When she got back she offered me a peach as a sign of thanks. I almost said no but thinking there was no harm in trying to eat a peach, I accepted it. My friends arrived shortly, epmty-handed. When I asked if they were able to find peaches , they sadly replied they were not able to find a fruit vendor that sells them.

The Vietnamese girl probabaly heard our conversation so she went back to our table and gave each of my friends a peach. She said she bought a kilo in Bac Ha market and couldn’t finish it all by herself. My friends looked so happy and  enjoyed    their peaches with big smiles in their faces.

I smiled as well astounded at how the situation turned out. Fate? Coincidence? Whatever it was,  I was just glad to be able to make friends. 🙂

Finding my Footing


I was browsing thorugh my drafts and I found this unfinished post. I wrote this in May 2013. I wondered why I never got to post this. So here’s a sort of flash back Friday post:

Last night my brother told me, “Should I go out of the country next year?”. He then followed up with, “What should I do about the promotion offered by the company?”

I just replied, “Do what you think will be best for you. If you feel you like doing something, then try it.”

There was a time when I have also been bothered so much by such questions. I was very envious of my peers who are already leaving the country to get their PhDs. I felt bad seeing pictures of people who  were able to travel to different places. I was jealous of people who already know what are the things they are good at. I was too consumed by the so called “quarter life crisis”.

I don’t know how  but thankfully I am slowing easing out of the stage already. These days, I am less bothered by how far my peers has achieved, how many places they went too and whether they are now rich by mastering their craft. Instead, I have diverted my energies on trying out different things such as finally booking a ticket to go the place that I want to and enrolling in a course even if  I am not yet sure if it’s the track I want to pursue. I now don’t feel so bad that I haven’t achieved yet the things that I want to do when I was 23. I have now appreciated the investments I have made to secure not only mine but my brothers’ future are as well. In short, I have finally found my footing and I am now in betters terms of myself as far as capacities and experiences are concerned.

The path towards this state was not easy and I am not even sure how I came to such kind of peace and understanding. However, one thing I have always acknowledged is that every one of us is unique but at the same time share certain universal traits. By understanding individual differences, I realized that is no point in competing with anybody. When we strive to improve, it should not be because you want to beat someone but because you know you are lacking in certain areas. And by acknowledging that we share certain universal traits, I realized that despite status differences, people still seek the same thing… happiness, acceptance, contentment.

Whoa. I was thinking  of these things when I was 23. But I feel happy that I still feel the same way I felt two years ago. You  don’t compete with anybody but yourself. 🙂

Learning and Living


Yesterday, I heard someone (a lady) tell another person (a middle-aged man), “Why do you even bother paying for her matriculation fees? She is not even your child. You should stop doing that.”

There could be several explanations why the lady said those words to that man. The man could be paying the matriculation fees of an ungrateful child. He could be borrowing money in her behalf. Or…it could even be as simple as he wishes to a help a person who is not even his own child.

I don’t know the whole story so I am not in position to judge. However,  if the lady’s statement is related to the third scenario I mentioned, it’s so sad that she harbors such kind of beliefs. Since when there was a rule that we should only send  someone to school if she/he is our child? It violates every value I know about education, and what does this make me, my siblings and every person out there who was   able to study through the graciousness of other people?

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A Grandmother’s Story


I still find it unfathomable that I have no more grandparents waiting for me to come home. Barely two weeks ago, my paternal grandmother, my last living grandparent, succumbed to coma and eventually death after suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke. What’s even more even more difficult to comprehend was the rate at which life surprised us. Lola Flor  just celebrated her 79th birthday last February 23 and I was even able talk to her through the phone. Three days later, our entire family was dumbfounded with the news that she suffered a stroke. 

On the last night of the wake,  our family  organized a short program to honor Lola Flor. The family members were requested to share their fondest memories of her.  I placed myself then on a time machine trying to recall significant moments, and I can’t help but be sad because I can barely recall them. During the program proper, I cried ever more, because  I gathered that among the grandchildren, I was the only  who never had a chance to live her. As I hear my  brothers, uncles, and extended relatives speak, I realized that there were many facets of my grandmother that I never knew of. 

I knew she gave birth to my father at  a young age. Yet, I didn’t know  that while taking care of her own children, she also attended to her siblings and even to to her nieces and nephew. She also took a lot of other people under her wing, the testament of which are the people who were present during her wake introducing themselves as either “adopted son” or “adopted daughter”. 

I wondered then, am I no different from a stranger? Every time I go home to Bicol, I visited her. Yet, I never asked or learned about these aspects of her life. I never got to ask how I behaved as a child, or if she remembered the days when I would spend some days at her home during summer vacations. As my uncle had carefully laid out during his eulogy, “I was probably very busy growing up and thinking about my own I life that I forgot Lola Flor was also growing old.” 

I feel sad  that I wasn’t to able to appreciate Lola Flor more when she was alive. However, I am still happy and thankful because in ever in her death, I still got to know her more or perhaps even better. 

Lola Flor, I hope you are at peace now.  And… forgive your grandchild for being so callous and carefree. 

 

 

Road Trips


I’d choose an eight-hour trip to Bicol anytime over a one-hour plane ride. Aside from the fact that there’s too much hassle in checking-in at airports, the scenery on the way to Bicol is just too good to miss. In general I love long rides, may be it be on boats, on a motorcycle, in the open sea or even in rough roads. My eyes simply crave for sceneries and time to absorb them.

My love for road trips was greatly influenced by my late father. When I was around five or six, we just had a motorcycle but he would take me and my brothers as far as Buhi Lake, home to the smallest  freshwater fish. There, we would make quick stops on the resorts around the lake. We never paid entrance fees because we barely stayed on each resort for an hour. My dad would simply talk to the owner that we were just visiting and off we go jumping from one resort to another.

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