Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Importance of the Hands that Toiled for Food


The city is as convoluted as the din, smoke, and stench emanating from every busy street and every nook and cranny too busy to care for the little things it is being survived by. The harvest too gilded for the hands, scorched and veined, that have toiled hard with sweat and tears, is, however, diluted to being inconsequential by the scatterbrains dwelling in rat holes. Food, for the oblivious, is a necessity more than it is a gift. That, that fact, kills a soul covered in comfortable porcelain flesh.

Image: Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines

Monday, January 2, 2017

Spotlights


Underweight, emaciated, and flimsy, you had met the big, wild world like a glaring spotlight in the dead of the night when the tempest was at its strongest, you the young, poor deer, scared you had nowhere to run. Of course, you didn't have a pint of a memory of that. Of course, it was your mama and papa who did, who had felt joy when you had finally broken loose from an aching, soaked-in-wet womb; but the joy was undeservedly fleeting and replaced immediately with worry after worry. Reality bit them hard when they saw through your bones how fragile you were, a most delicate white porcelain that breathed off precious life.

It was a painstakingly agonizing moment that would last as long you live. They both had realized that. You're the eighth child in the already-big family -- five girls, three boys. Your papa would often lose count of his young children whose age was indistinguishable. By the looks of their faces, built, and height, the first four seemed to be born in the same year, quadruplets if you will.

Being the youngest child and son, you were supposed to have had perks being one, to be given special treatment just as any old mother would. But such wasn't the case in yours.  Old mama and old papa, at forty-eight and fifty-one, were either too busy to scavenge for food to be brought to the non-existent table, or to care for everybody's baths in absentia for a couple of days or long weeks. All they had in mind was to survive, for all of them to be alive and be intact and in one piece before everybody dozed off, even though their guts were burning.

Nevertheless, you would never know that, nor understand the heaps of struggles mounting on the every day inside your shanty of anything-goes and what-have-yous. All you ever cared for was sucking milk out of your mama's sickly, close-to-arid breasts until they bled. Your mama's bosom was profusely hurting, you should know that.

The time came when you could muster baby steps as gentle as that of a dying battery-powered walking toy. Old mama and old papa couldn't believe you're strong enough to stand and walk wherever, paths emblazoned only by a child-king. Indeed, you were a miracle baby, and they thanked dear God for that, crying and kneeling before child Jesus inside centuries-old Santo NiƱo church.

Then your family relocated to the fringes of downtown Cebu, living inside an abandoned building, which I thought was better and sturdy enough to weather the passing storm, standing on the shores facing Bohol sea.

That was three years ago when you were at the onset of your walking.

Precisely a month ago, I saw you. Surprising, it was not. You were playing with, I presume, your friends in the neighborhood. I had never seen nor met them before as long as I could remember. New kids on the block, I guess.

As I went in closer, I had noticed the afternoon light cast a shadow behind your new abode, the empty windows serving as spotlights beaming lights onto the ground. Interestingly, you and your friends stood under those circular lights, happy and playing some characters, as if some mighty actors on stage.

What a sight it was to me. I suddenly felt hopeful, glad you had found those rays of light adults would deem of as pieces of hope in this big, wild world. But I was sad at the same time. The world knows why.

I stopped and was silently watching how you kids delighted in the gleeful afternoon.

You had said hi as soon as you noticed me. I saw how you have grown all these years, those bones were fragile no more.

You waved me goodbye like an old friend as I left, smiling without you knowing my name.

Image: Cebu City, Philippines

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Carabao Man


Merde! An excrement, says my dictionary! A carabao dung, in slow, painful-to-watch installation, is falling into the murky stream irrigating the rice fields of Malipayon -- my dusty hometown being taken ill by a hundred sleeping pills -- and descending into a steep, yet-unnamed, two-tiered waterfall.

I want to stop my exhausted beast, and not excuse her, from the disgusting deed, but it's all too late -- her last drop has just wrapped fast her nature-call up. If she had to deposit her stinky processed food, I would have wanted her to feed it to any green, to contribute to the wealth of grey clay. I am flaming, for I can't take any shit be submerged in any water or pool, but I can allow piss and sweat any day. I feel, by doing this, is me giving people taking a weekend bath under the noisy waterfall a mile from here a favor. Poo-poo is a no-no, sorry -- the bias I got when my feet were buried to cold, more nuanced slime many times before.

I sit every midday, immediately after a paltry meal of rice and dried fish, on my favorite bench, so alive, rough, and fat -- the overhanging branch of old acacia, as if bridging two banks, sowed by the first-known farmer in town, says the tale of yore. My back rests on the trunk, legs pointing to the running water below, hands gripping twigs.

On the bank facing the foot of the mysterious, secret-whispers-laden mountain, the tree bore witness to the time when the Spaniards first raided the town and trampled on the naive, bolo-and-sundang-wielding locals. It must have been surely a most nightmarish waking-up at 6 in the morning, when the shrill human cries drowned out the early rooster calls. The day was neither like any other day, nor a day that would fulfill its promise of a brand new day.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Image: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Limits


A weakling, you were. A disaster in all its nakedness nobody wouldn't even want to see, nor get involved with. Failures were in the offing the moment you opened your mouth, and when you did what your mama had told you to.

Cracked a voice. Stumbled down on even your first walk.

It's a crippling truth, making you a big joke running around your circle.

It hurt you like the sharpest knife stabbed in your heart, in your back, and in your soul.

You couldn't even leave home to welcome the new sunshine, which was never one to you each day. All was dark within the four walls of asphyxia.

But you took everything that was being said, the ugliest most especially, to heart like a true valiant warrior, and made a vow only time would tell.

I will make it, you had told that to yourself.

You had grown seeds, a master plan, for a new beginning, swelling muscles, stretching tender joints, almost breaking bones, reaching limits -- your potential ready for the taking.

And now here you are, a virtuosic master, fluid and compelling, on your own big stage.

Be proud of yourself, as proud as the loudest applause the four walls of the theater could contain.


Images: Cebu City Sports Complex, Philippines

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Talking to the Unseen


Religious or spiritual, it can be said that our lives revolve around a centric figure larger than our imaginable selves, a force so magnetic we can't help but be drawn in -- to which we entrust our faith, for which we sing our prayers, and with which we carry ourselves the moment we leave the comforts of home to attend to our day-to-day jobs, the time when we are basking in our successes that we are so apt to share them with the persons closest to us and with our kindred spirits genuinely backing and pushing us up for us to triumph in our endeavors akin to theirs, and when our idyllic lives roll in on a loop in our sound sleep.

We latch onto the force with grains of truths we don't see -- those we were taught to believe in since the day we said hello to the world and those we've learned all by ourselves, through the books we have secretly devoured and through the people we have chosen to have an impact on our lives -- notwithstanding our being visual beings most of our lives. We believe in an amount of things intangible -- things only the heart can feel.

But it's a gamble -- a difficult, excruciating choice of laying our precious trust on the unseen. To some, we will have to be dauntless, to question institutions without fear to validate our own thoughts, emotions, and all that's written in the quaint book, to fend for our empty, starving selves. In so doing, we hopefully find ourselves thrusting stakes into the ground, drawing the line between truths and falsehoods. We are on a quest for what makes sense to us, for what ultimately brings us true bliss, whatever that may be.

When, finally, we have found the truths -- the deemed truths -- and inner peace, the thought of being alone escapes us. We're left with a happy gamble, knowing that there is a higher being -- the one figure who is around anytime, ready to lend a persevering ear to frustrations others may find petty, anticipations others may dismiss as overreactions, sorrows others may never comprehend, hopes others may ridicule, dreams others may have dashed to pieces to wantonly shove their bloated egos into our little selves.

We talk to the unseen, in the quietest time of day. It's the kind of conversation that shed light on the deepest recesses of our soul. It is uplifting, it is enlightening.

In a park, in Singapore, years back, just when my cousin and I were through with jogging laps, she had noticed a meaningful scene, actually a paradox tickling her heart -- too visceral, too profound not to capture. There was a young girl, a teen perhaps, sitting in near-fetal position on the dike lapped by the morning sea, and then there was a bald, slightly bent, old man quietly seated on a bench. Both of whom were looking, staring at the same faint orange horizon but hooked onto opposite directions. To our minds waxing poetic, the young girl was thinking long and hard about her future, as she grappled with struggles in school and in a judgmental society she's in -- while the aged man was reminiscing about the summers spent with loved ones, his carefree childhood, how handsome he was in his prime, his battles fraught with wins and losses, the fruits of his hard work, thanking all there was and is in his life.

Image: East Coast Park, Singapore

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bleeding Sunset in Mactan Island


The dull horizon of a spotless canvas – a garden for the pensive mind staring out at nothingness – exploded into a spectrum of raging fire, quite unexpectedly a visual treat at sundown, one fine Christmas day with family, merry and loud and full, in Cordova. It is a small town on an island ruled by the valiant Lapu-Lapu and where Ferdinand Magellan – the Portuguese explorer that set sail from Seville, Spain in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe – met his untimely death.

The sky that day bled a hopeful message that everything else was taken care of, that the blessing wasn't too far not to see.


Images: Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant, Cordova, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Battle for Mortals and Immortals


Mere mortals prejudiced against me and my own kind from heaven and hell, reeking of envy, stirring poison, I am set to soar high no matter what, however bruised my mettle is, however reduced I am to being inconsequential, and however clipped my wings are you do try so hard to. 

I may be dying — breathing with my bladed faculties that reveal of fire and my septuagenarian earthly body — but a colossal task looms in the horizon, revealing itself before my still laser eyes. I have to win this test — this ugly war. I owe it all to my dear people — mortals — and my own kind — immortals.

Image: Temple of Leah, Cebu City, Philippines

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bigotry


The morality of a highbrow bigot can crucify a poor, barefaced soul in seconds.

The plebeian gets pounced on a slip -- to death -- profusely bleeding without being heard.

Reasons that don't cower in fear and apologies that bury the lowly alive six feet under blindingly shiny shoes, are a murmuring drone of a gnat within earshot.

An annoyance to be silenced, or to be stamped out by inutile tender hands -- pink and moisturized and manicured to high heavens, unsullied -- that have never met any kind of soil.

Why?

Because, again, bigot.


Image: Toa Payoh, Singapore

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fiery Roads


"What am I doing here?" begs the existential question — the everyday affinity for baffling reasons and purpose. 

I ask that, out of the blue, whenever I am alone devoid of Facebook slaughtering productivity and of other derivatives of distractions; whenever I am in the womb of a thick forest where the light don’t shine, awaiting the pleasant surprises and the perils the isolation might bring; whenever I am dead exhausted and have unexpectedly found time to drop the nonsense close to the bin and think like a wiser man, a full-fledged grown-up; whenever I catch a whiff of a potpourri of roses and sampaguita that bloom like mushrooms in pouring days, hypnotizing my bones; and whenever I see poverty around and in the eyes of a flimsy-framed child, thin as whisper.

With the entirety of the noble and the baloney in a mad stir up in the face, what am I doing here? I ask. Why don’t I give a damn lift a finger to make a change, a difference, in my life and in someone else’s? Why get stuck in the comfort, or otherwise, of a job?

Convinced of life’s incredulous absurdities and eternally lost in an excruciatingly demanding clockwork, I grill, invariably, the gravity of my existence. How crucial will the answer be?

If living is one fortuitous ride, then it is pointless not living in my deepest hopes and dreams — the heartbeat telling me to go racing my own battle, even in a neck-deep pool of fears, doubts, and bad luck. If what I have been sweating off isn’t self-gratifying, if what I have been working on still feels so much of an empty gut than it should have warmed me to a good night sleep, even if it means rewards of a fatter bank account at the end of a taxing month, then, why deprive myself of what truly enriches my soul?

Ridiculous, insane — yes – utterly foolish, isn’t it? But isn’t the mere act of attempting to fulfill our heart’s desires — even if we have to stumble along the way and fall hard — imitating life as it is, where we try, we fail, we cry hard, we learn, we succeed, in either a modest, paltry manner or in a resounding way? And doesn't a dent into our soul make us soldier on to dear life, shaping us up resilient and fighting fit?

What am I doing here?

I drive the so-called vehicle of life, both exhilarating and mundane, steering it to my destination — the road I have opted and risked to take, behind serious nimbus clouds and threatening thunderstorms.

I know the road to success isn’t paved with glitter and gold.  The road, it seems to me, is fiery — full of passion in the fever of rush hour. I get going and head safely and boldly all the same toward my destination.


Images: Pan Island Expressway (PIE), Singapore

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tacloban: Scars and Life After Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)


It was hard, I was told, though the world saw it all on the news. A recounting of the sad tale had opened old scars, the city bracing itself for the tempest: strong winds were relentless, a gush of water rose 7 meters high -- choking the city in seconds -- roofs blown off houses -- a rickety collection of thatch or aluminum, coconut wood, and plywood -- glass windows broken to pieces, trees pruned to their bareness and chopped off, huge ships dashed to the ground. Thousands of lives had drowned.

Survivors were met with a faint light. They were lost. They didn’t know how to fix their own piece of earth. They cried out in pain over the nothingness they were left with. Families were intact, reduced to two or one, or all swept off to the ocean. They grieved.

Swarms of flies feasted on what seemed to be cold wastebasket reeking of spoiled lifelessness, including of dead dogs. No potable water, no electricity. No food, and found it in malls or the nearest stores by breaking in. Desperation. It was a city in anarchy.

That day, November 8, 2013, Tacloban had turned into a war-torn landscape, with survivors feeling a dull to grave ache from the havoc wreaked by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). And the world had sympathized and was quick to aid. The city had found hope.

The city is scarred. But life goes on -- thanking life and god, laying their hands on what remains, and asking for help, still up to this day.