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The word-of-the-day is ‘catharsis.’ I’ve always had a fascination with the hills of Cebu. They’re very removed from the city, which in itself is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of even bigger cities like Metro Manila. You encounter nothing but nature and scenes of rural life for miles and miles. The drive to our impromptu destination for today even took us a good thirty minutes from our Lola’s house at the start of the hill.

I’ve hiked up the hills of Busay twice before in my life, and both those hikes did well to purge feelings of loneliness, idleness, and general dreariness to boot. The more recent of these hikes I did all on my own, and it was one of the occasions when I learned firsthand the joys of being by yourself — I walked perhaps the longest distance I’ve ever walked in my life (and it took me an entire afternoon to make the round trip), and when I reached the cemetery at Tops, I felt like I had conquered a giant. Of course, I imagine that this is nothing compared to actual giants. I hear Osmeña Peak is its own experience, and I have yet to go up Sagada and Mt. Pulag in Luzon. But I think hiking up to Tops is something that you can be proud of already: it’s not as taxing as real mountain hiking and when you reach the top, you are rewarded with the panorama of Cebu City, which is beautiful in itself, especially if you are lucky enough to catch fireworks from one part of the city or another.

Today, I didn’t find myself going to Tops however. Some of my cousins from Manila are in town, and I decided that now was a better time than any to go up the hills again, as I promised myself I would over this sembreak. But seeing as we had a car now, I figured that it was worth it to be a little adventurous this time, and I got what I bargained for. We drove as far as we could reach, escaping any sense of urbanity and reaching the threshold of the sky. Our only limit was daylight, and we hoped to catch the sunset on our way back, as if to say goodnight to the good day that we were literally leaving behind.

We made our stop at a familiar site (though I personally wished we went a little further), which was the Adventure Cafe in Balamban, just along the side of the Transcentral Highway. This is super easy to find if you’re driving up the road that goes past Marco Polo Hotel. You literally just go straight for miles and look to your right after you pass the Balamban entry marker. If you happen to be in town and are looking for something that isn’t along the line of clubbing or foodtripping or shopping, you should probably check this place out as they offer alternative activities that you and your friends can easily enjoy. By alternative activities, I mean that you can do rock-climbing, zip-lining over the hills, and what turned out to be my favorite today, plate-tossing. Being a cafe, they serve food and drinks too, which you can munch on in between activities. My sister and I had some baconsilog and coffee, which is good for balancing out the cold weather of the heights. While we ate, some of my cousins went up to the roofdeck, where they have the ziplines set up and they arranged with the management to use it. From where my sister and I sat, this is what it looked like:

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As you may or may not see, you sign up for two ziplines, one going to the shed where the Adventure Cafe signage can be seen and another going back to the cafe proper. I myself don’t think I’ll ever hit up the zip-line because somehow only the power of Kryptonian flight has the capacity to shake my fear of heights and high speeds, somehow a lot more than a harness and attendants will ever do. Instead, I took part in the plate-throwing, an activity that encouraged further by the target wall, which has been designed to provoke your anger into Akhillean levels. Allow me to present it:

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See what I mean? Thankfully, I had no real demons to exorcise when I threw my plate. Much to the confusion of my cousins, I yelled the words, “This is catharsis!” as I lobbed the thing, and much to my own surprise, I actually hit the center target without intending to do so. Such accuracy, much hit. The plates go for P25 a pop, and it’s okay to not feel bad about breaking those bad boys cause most of them are already chipped or still bearing the remnants of some last meal that deemed it worthy for obliteration. I do maintain however that there are other (better) ways to exercise your demons – reading literature being one of my favorites, duh – but this one does me a good change of pace and scene. Maybe some other time I’ll actually aim for something.

The ride back down at sunset is equally breathtaking. More than an achievement, you will earn a landscape shot worthy of all the likes it will get on Instagram:

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In these parts, the clouds caress the curves of the hills, passing over each one before floating into its own reformation after the last hill is done. The wind here is just right against the default heat of the city. Not too cold, but not too bad either. If you happen to find yourself passing a vegetable market stall, treat yourself to some sweet corn, which they sell either cooked or uncooked, depending on where you want to eat it I guess. We were able to get seven ears at three kilos/P40 (someone tell me if this pricing was okay or if we were robbed), but whether we were robbed or not, the corn made up for it. The corn and the company, I guess.

Sometimes, you need days out of the house, out of the city, and generally out of your world. It’s like they say, “Adventure is out there!” Yes, it is, friends. Yes it is.

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We visited Lola Emi for the first time at the cemetery today. It felt like the end of a very long winding-up, like the last episode of a television series when they finally reveal what they were teasing all along at the very start: the end will come, but again and again. It’s worth noting that Lola passed away on my last year of college, the year that symbolically stands for passage into adulthood and responsibility, but also for the passage of time and things that must go.

I’ve known for a long time that I would be affected by Lola’s passing simply because I realized that among the people I have seen come and go, she was the only one so far with whom I formed a deep and intimate attachment, and grew a fondness for because she was so affectionate whenever my sister and I came around to visit. At first, when I figured out that it happened – a less effective but more apt term than ‘figure out’ would be cognize – I experienced a lot of the things that people say you will experience when you find out that someone passes away, albeit unconsciously. I was in denial, I was trying to process what was the most appropriate way to react, I realized that I was incapable of reacting appropriately, and then I came to realize that it had happened. She passed away the midnight of my birthday, was cremated later that same day, and was taken back home where she was buried the next day in the family plot where Lolo’s remains were buried too. It was all very fast.

In between that weekend and this one, I went through a number of things that mostly distracted me from trying to make sense of it all, trying to learn from it. The one thing I was sure of was that my life was now imbibed with a certain brand of maturity, and I had to come to accept the responsibility of being able to live knowing that Lola wasn’t going to be around on the weekends to play Rachmaninoff on the piano or speak Spanish to my dad and my tita or tell everyone that she was thankful and happy and in love with everyone, even if she wasn’t feeling her strongest. This is the responsibility of having to be less dependent on things that you’ve gotten used to, things that you expect to be there. I still think that I am in denial somewhat, that if I visit where Lola used to live in her last years, I’ll think that she isn’t around maybe because she’s out of town, visiting our relatives in the States perhaps. But perhaps that’s the wrong way to look at it. The whole moving on thing is a matter of detachment rather than denial, and my maturity will arise from becoming less dependent on the things that come and go. I will instead become a greater, braver soul when I realize that it is better to be dependent on that which never does go, and that’s the Catholic way of looking at it.

It’s also incidental that as I write this I am reaching the last quarter of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, which largely deals with the acceptance of death and more importantly the awareness of now’s importance. I should emphasize that I’m still reading through it so that if you’ve read it, you won’t criticize me for misreading the thing. This is what I understand of it so far, and it will have its own review and discussion post when the time comes. In the novel, a writer also named Ruth discovers an old diary, some letters, and a watch, all washed up on the beaches of her reclusive, small-town home in Canada. In the diary, a young girl named Naoko attempts to explain her reasons for committing suicide (although at this point I stress again that I don’t know yet if she carries through with it) by relating her experience of meeting and getting close with her great-grandmother, Jiko, who is also a nun. I don’t know yet if Jiko dies too at the end of the novel or why Ruth connects so deeply with Naoko’s text, but even if Jiko were dead as soon as the novel begins, you don’t feel that way at all. You feel that she is alive, present, actively being in the events of the story. Perhaps I was deceived or misled into thinking that she was alive, but that escapes the point of her being alive when I read through her story. It’s very much like Schrödinger’s cat, now that I think of it, and I’m not sure, but I think the cat may have been mentioned earlier in the novel. Perhaps stories constitute one such way of detachment. You detach yourself from the dependency of making new memories by relying constantly on the newness of old stories when they are told over and over again after long intervals that make what is already familiar fresh. In the opening of Part III, Dogen Zenji is quoted: “Do not think that time simply flies away… If time simply flew away, a separation would exist between you and time… To grasp this truly, every being that exists in the entire world is linked together as moments in time, and at the same time they exist as individual moments of time. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being.”

And that sounds just right to me. Now I like to think that aside from my divine connection with Lola, all that remains are the stories of her. These are stories where she remains alive, remains affectionate, loving, and happy to see everybody. Three moments come to my mind now, each special and intimate without being explicitly so in their own way, and I think as a way of creating a new story for Lola and me, I’ll mash those moments together now.

I enter Lola’s hospital room. It is 8:47, a little after dinner, which I haven’t taken yet. Lola is wide awake and the sound of the television is the first thing that answers the sound of the door opening. Next is the sound of Lola laughing. It’s chuckling really, but I know that Lola is really laughing. I can’t remember the last time I saw Lola watching a movie, and I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a movie with Lola, but if I haven’t, this is the first movie I will watch with her and the last. It feels right, or as we say much better in Tagalog, sakto na yan… tama na yan… tugma na yan, and perhaps it is because I am enjoying with Lola what I enjoy all the time. She is explaining to me what I have missed so far: the particulars of the characters, the plot that arises from the interactions, and the comedy that ensues from their errors. I am waiting also for Dad or Mom to call on FaceTime, so that they can see Lola, just as Dad and I planned while I was on my way to the hospital. Lola was alone that night; no one would be watching her, so it would be best if I went. Exactly when the movie is over, my phone rings. Mom and Dad and Sasa say hi to Lola and tell her that they miss her and love her, and she tells them the same, but she says it especially to Dad in Spanish, just like when they were no younger than I was before I visited her and no older than I was after I did. They have to go now for dinner, and tell me to keep Lola company for the night, which I have already decided to do. They hang up and I proceed to show Lola pictures from our recent trip to the Holy Land. I show her the churches, the statues, and sites of devotion, and she looks very happy to see them in the way she will look happy when she sees for real. Or perhaps she sees it with the wonder of a young child in a foreign country for the first time, which means that I understood exactly what she was feeling when she saw those pictures. I don’t ask her if she has ever been to the Holy Land. Despite the bombs of World War II, the fear and brutality of the Marcos regime, and the dissatisfaction of all that came after it, I think she has in her own little way. She has become happy and holy. She has survived, and, much more than that, she has lived. I sit on the couch and fall asleep. Lola says good night and I love you and she falls asleep.

Good night, Lola. I love you too.

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One of the things I love best about going home is that I get lots of time to work on my writing, and I’ve spent the last two days doing exactly that.

Yesterday, I decided to watch Revolutionary Road (I can’t seem to find a copy of the novel here but I expect to receive a copy of Yates’ collected stories when I get back to Manila next month) and read through some stories in the Raymond Carver collection I bought over the past semester because Dr. Dumol1 suggested that my style could very much turn out like theirs if I keep churning out stories like the one I recently published on this blog, “The Asshole.” I’m actually partial to that because I find myself enjoying especially Carver’s stories very much. Carver’s writing is largely minimalist; more things can be gleamed from the unsaid than the said, but at the same time you get the impression that Carver is very sensitive and economic with his words.

So far, my favorite story from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is still the first story “Why Don’t You Dance?”, which blew me away on the first reading. It’s about a young couple who stumble upon what appears to them a yard sale, and they become interested in purchasing the bedroom furniture for their new house. When they come across the owner of the furniture and the house, he invites them to stay around with him as he drinks and listens to records on his front lawn. It’s suggested that the man wants them to stay because their youth allures him and seems to remind him of something which he might have lost and is now yearning for again. Well, that’s my interpretation of his motives; his intentions are never explicitly stated, and by the end of the story, you have the woman from the young couple struggling to figure out what was going on, but ultimately putting the whole thing out of her mind. The story is rich with implication. Certain nuances and changes in decisions reveal deep details about each character, and you can’t help but feel like the young wife once you’re at the end. It becomes too obvious why this story opens the book once you finish it: because it gives you the idea that Carver is all about trying to second-guess what people are really up to and what they want to get out of things. He seems to admit that people are incapable of totally communicating their deepest selves, but he also demonstrates that the deepest self isn’t entirely obscure either. Rather, he stands by the adage that actions speak louder than words, and in the case of the reader, we are granted the privilege of looking directly into the minds and lives of others to observe their real choices, but without having to spoil the surprise essential to the experience of literature.

One of the two stories I am currently working on will be an exercise in this. I haven’t actually started it yet, but what it is about and how I want to do it is clear in my mind. It’s about a boy who time and time again runs away from his dormitory to try to catch a plane going home. I want it to be somewhat in the order of Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”, where you don’t actually see the boy and it ends with the parents being confronted with what could be the boy’s ultimate fate, but I also want to contrast the environment of the boy’s point A with that of his B. The other story, which is so far the most postmodern story I’ve written, is my own prosaic tribute to my favorite works on unrequited love, Paz Marquez Benitez’s “Dead Stars” and Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love. This story takes place on the night of a young man’s bachelor party, where he bumps into his crush from long ago. The two spend the night together and that’s generally it, but it’s up to you to decide which of it is past, present, real, or fiction.

I’m so excited to share these stories with you guys. If you’ve read Carver or Yates before, let me know what you guys think and which stories to look out for in particular!


1. Dr. Dumol has a prominent presence on my blog, it seems.

Blogging, unlike most writing, is extremely difficult work. I say this because perhaps like most bloggers who find themselves confronted with having to practice their writing through blogging, I am a regular reviser. I have a tendency to edit, to replace the unsatisfactory. I must always be my best self and that includes of course being my best writer. But the desire to write every day does not come frequently and I worry that I will eventually stop writing or lose whatever edge I think I have. In my bio, I describe myself as an ‘eventual’, which means that I will eventually transform into whatever it is I am doing at present, as long as it is something that I begin doing minimally but gradually do as a habit. As something that I have to do or else things will feel weird.

My professor Dr. Dumol suggested I take up blogging (again). Though I’ve blogged before on various platforms and under a number of guises, I’ve failed in maintaining most proper blogs. I seem to be more attuned to the act of microblogging, which I realize isn’t very good for me because I fear that it means most of my ideas are being reduced to bite-size (i.e. 140 characters, an image, a 15-second video). Hence I must return to the practice of expanding my ideas, to writing wildly, not looking back, and then looking back once I’ve finished.

That being said, blogging is just as much a discipline as it is difficult work. Habits are not easy to start, and just like most of the predecessors of this blog, I think this will be just as tedious a task as many of the other habits I am trying to develop: exercising regularly, eating dietary foods, praying the rosary every day, going to mass every day, and so on. I do this in the imitation of many successful eventuals: Usain Bolt, The Beatles, Hemingway… I write now to write for a thousand days, to observe how many walls I’ve walked through, and then write to write a thousand days more.

I just have to make sure: hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.

EDIT: An additional observation, as a result of returning to this year-old yet barely-used WordPress blog, I’ve become more determined to stick to the habit of regular blogging. I’m trying to see what I can to make the theme more unique, less bland, etc. but for now this is what I have. On to more blogging.

I’m frustrated with how uniform Roon is, and so I’ve decided to come back to WordPress to get a better sense of ownership over the blog (says the man whose blog is mainly black-on-white). I’ll be moving my Roon posts here momentarily.

“What does it mean to be a great poet? It means that you wrote one or two great poems. Or great parts of poems. That’s all it means. Don’t try to picture the waste or it will alarm you… Out of hundreds of poems two or three are really good. Maybe four or five. Six tops. All the middling poems they write are necessary to form a raised mulch bed or nest for the great poems and to prove to the world that they labored diligently and in good faith for some years at their calling. In other words, they can’t just dash off one or two great poems and then stop. That won’t work.”

– The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker

Hello. My name is Mio and I’m 20 years old. I am a student in an MA Humanities course with a major in Literature. Though many have acknowledged to me as I have acknowledged to myself that the track I have chosen is not the most popular, I have done so with the hope that knowing what sort of literary tradition has preceded the generation of writers and poets I live among can help me develop my art.

A caveat to this is that I am young and timid, especially when I find myself dipping one foot into somebody else’s swimming pool. That is to say, I prefer my own swimming people; it’s much more comfortable there. I am, thanks to habit, careful with my words, and it will take some time before I actually untether them into the air, anxiously waiting for white noise or feedback. Thus personal blogging has never been a habit I found very comfortable, and my posts have become prone to continuous revision and revision (a back-and-forth motion that indicates indecision) to please my readers, which is everyone.

A caveat to this is that I cannot please everyone – a truth that I have possessed but have never applied.

Here are some of my poems from the past four years and the years to come. Every now and then, I will place a speed-bump, a reflection on my goings-on.