Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Hut on the Hill

Two bamboo chairs. Dusty. Broken. A wooden table between, like a defiant obstruction that arms and fingers need to negotiate. But there are no arms. There are no fingers. Not anymore. There is a flask and it hosts the flavor of inebriation, golden, and any moment now it will taste like a violent objection to sobriety, as if it is a sin, a liquid crime that glides down your throat, to your stomach, then up the brain where guilt is the punishment to be had. Here is where the truth must be known: the cure is its own poison, and I will take it.

Four walls. Four barren walls to inscribe an absence. Because something is missing. Gone long ago. Lost to nowhere. But twenty years can happen in the blink of an eye, and this state of nothingness can become its own presence. It does now. A weak substitute, but an alternative nonetheless. I wish I can hold these memories with my hands.

The sound of the rustling leaves by the window escorts the early nightfall. The room is not quite like one because it is a hole. A void. A vacuum at the heart of the universe. The last of the sunlight impales the shadows, to no avail. The door, ajar, creaks, like a whisper constrained by its own voice, speaking in tongues, a forgotten language, a secret invocation to a mystery as ancient as time.

The old and tattered curtains sway and momentarily part in deference to the wind, revealing the stony trek along the slope where the grass is no longer green. There are no hurried steps from tender feet. No sacks of bigas piled after a day of milling. No stacks of firewood after having been dried under the sun. No fresh laundry in the clothesline. None but the rocks spread in a stretch toward the flatland below, a place where for many summers there were children playing until age robbed them of their innocence. Like their fathers and mothers and their elders before them, they had to go, too.

The grumbling in the distance announces the promise of rain. Slow. Steady. And sure. The sky will bleed like a wound. The earth will receive the offering because it has no other choice. Like yesterday, and the days before, as it has always been. And when the clouds have finally unloaded themselves to the ground by way of a trillion fragile drops, the disheveled nipa roof will find no rest and the clay floor will nourish itself with the sustenance that water brings. Until then, everything is to remain dry. Arid. Like most unfulfilled wishes.

In a corner, the broken kerosene lamp remains unlit. The blackened wick thirsts for the fire that will bless it with life and death. It is getting darker. There is no moon. There are no stars.

I take a swig from the flask. Then another. And another.

Long ago, this was home. Now, it is just a house on the hill, a hut with a humble awning where once upon a forgotten time a young dreamer with hands outstretched and feet on a chair tried to reach the stars as though they were fireflies flirting with the darkness, his eyes nascent with wonder at the sight, wondering at how such cosmic infinity can mean little to nothing in the course of our mortal lives. Here we are on this earth. Sometimes without a family.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The First Diary Entry of the Young Man

[Part 2 of the "Diary Entries" series]

“I was not born with the gift of poetry, certainly not the eloquence of speech. I speak with my silence. I swallow my thoughts and drown in them because the right words often slip through my mind like the water on my hands. For so long, it has been my weakness to wait for the phrases to declare their own mutiny against the lips that ought to breathe them into existence. Existence. I tremble at the idea. But when I met her yesterday, it felt like life validated itself for the very first time. She is poetry in motion, and I feel like I can write her soul. On my skin. Inked in permanence after the pain of the needle. She will be the verses and lines and rhymes, and the rest of the world will read me like an open book because she will be the only story that I will ever have in me. On me. Inside and out, through and through.

“I do not understand where this audacity is coming from. After our first class that morning, I walked up to her, told her Hi we’re classmates I was at the back, told her my name, and stood my ground. Maybe it is because memory is a commodity I cannot yet afford for I dwell in the present. And if things go well, I will live in the seconds and minutes and hours that she and I will be together. Or perhaps that’s presuming too much. Nothing is certain, so I might just settle with spontaneity, though I wish I told her that if the price for remembering is forgetting, every day, every now, is a gift. It costs nothing, yet it means everything.

“Of course, I told her anyway. And she said What are you, a poet? What is a poet like you doing here? You should be writing poems I will never understand. I said I wish I were a poet. I wish I could write, or write well. She said Fair enough, one day you’ll find the reason to write. You will want to write so bad that you’ll have no other choice but to surrender and let the words bleed from your heart to your fingertips. Poets. And she laughed. I didn’t know what to say, confusion having gotten the better part of me. Then she said Why are you taking Mass Communication? We won’t be doing anything other than fucking around and splicing videos. She laughed again. I shook my head.

“She paused and said So from now your name is Splice. Not bad, I said.

“I lied when I told her I did not mean to touch her hand, or hold her hand. I’m not good with excuses. Sorry was all I could say. She said sure it’s fine no big deal it’s just my hand and your hand, and she smiled at me. Strange, though, that she didn’t let go. She didn’t force her hand away until I felt guilty and had to withdraw my hand from hers. We talked, and walked, and had lunch, and talked and walked some more. We were late for class that afternoon, and somehow it didn’t matter.

“She said that she’s not used to the rustic life in this university beside the mountain, that she’s missing Quezon City, and that she might transfer to Diliman by next school year because all of her friends are there anyway and they’re her family because her parents are in Canada and I thought maybe that explains why she had blue eyes and god do I love her blue eyes. I told her to give it time. She said she can try and give it a year. Three hundred and sixty-five days, probably less. Way less.

“A day with her and she gave me a sense of time, as though there is urgency in things. But for having done so I have started to become wary, for time is the domain of the past more than the future, and there is no undoing what has been done because, in endings as in beginnings, there is a schedule for everything. May it not be so.

“May it not be so.”

Part 1 | 2

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Waning Fire in the Distance

For a while, I watched the beacon cast its light back and forth across the evening sea, like a blade cleaving through the heart of darkness. The sand beneath my feet felt unusually warm. I dug my toes into the fine grain, momentarily shuffling my feet as if I was trying to secure my footprints on liquid earth. The waves continued to lap at the shoreline, edging closer as the tide ushered itself under the aegis of the crescent moon, with it the breeze and the tidings of another summer. I approached the sea, my body sinking under the cold, the taste of salt on my lips, and then I swam and swam until, at last, I could hear the murmurs of the undertow, an ululation issuing from the depths, urging my arms to punish themselves against the water. The minutes felt like days, and in my exhaustion I let the world be: I floated. I surrendered myself to the will of the ebb and flow. My back to the sea floor and my eyes to the sky, I saw a billion other beacons, their light flashing like portents for the wayward. In that moment, I was lost. But for the first time after a long time, I felt light.

There's a waning fire in the distance.

Out in the open water, there are secrets told. They are tributes to the currents. Like flotsam. Excess baggage unloaded so that they will become buoys, floating reminders for those who meander. That evening, away from the coastline, I rid myself of the things I have kept hidden for so long. I did not bother if there was anyone else out there, so I kept shouting, cursing myself for the errors I have committed willingly, damning the names of those who wronged those dear to me, myself notwithstanding, for in the open water the rules of human decorum are null.

It might have well been what Milan Kundera meant when he wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being. All for the sake of eclipsing my little unwanted histories, strange that I had to venture farther than usual: six hours by bus that looked like scrap metal coughing its way around mountains; thirty minutes on tricycle ready to deliver its passengers to their unscheduled perdition; and almost an hour on feet across muddy fields, to a nook by the sea I have never been before. An unexplored territory for a stranger. Spontaneity got the better part of me, so I traveled without any clear sense of direction, my backpack my only companion, though I understood right from the start that there was only one destination waiting for me at the end.

Anywhere. And solely on the basis of the seclusion that the place had to offer, it was clear to me that anywhere was here. There is a reason for this.

A week ago I gave up on the extended prose I willed myself to write since last year. More than fifty thousand words eventually went stillborn just before the narrative could peak. I could have continued and yet end up unable to steer the story to its logical conclusion with the finesse I promised myself to pursue. Modesty aside, it wasn't because the characters felt so real, as they should. It was because I came to realize that, in truth, they personified the lives of the people I know, except that I anointed them with different names. It felt cheap, wrong, abominable even, to force them together in the trifle of a plot, subsuming their personal stories in my selfish agenda of immortalizing unwanted heroes and anti-heroes and preferred villains in print. Some of them I loathe, others I admire, but it just wasn't fair by any stretch of the imagination. I took the manuscript with me to that shoreline by the beacon. Maybe the unfinished story led me there.

Two hundred pages asunder. Fifty thousand handwritten words to fuel the flames of the bonfire. A waning fire in the distance as I floated beneath the stars. Almost a year's worth of writing gone in less than an hour. I felt light.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Some of the most interesting stories are those that hardly ever get written, for they exceed the power of the printed word and there can be no justice in lending them the inadequate semantic and semiotic devices they do not deserve. They are told once, and then a few times more, until they retreat into the silence of memory and stay there forever. Or maybe not forever, because one day another stranger will become a part of your life and make you recall, perhaps all too quickly, the things you thought you have already forgotten. Like a bookmark to a lost chapter.


Minsan mo nang sinabi na lahat ng bagay ay may bilang na nakalaan. Gusto ko sanang maniwala, dahil kung ito ay totoo dapat ay matagal mo nang napagtanto kung ilang paalam na lang ang kaya mong bitawan. “Paalam, ito na ang huli,” makailang beses mong nang ibinulyaw, ibinulong. Paulit-ulit. Minsan ay isang araw lang ang pagitan. Madalas halos dalawang linggo. Pakiramdam ko, sa bawat paalam ay hindi ikaw ang naglalaho. Sa bawat paalam, ako ang nawawala. Unti-unti. Sa ngayon, hindi ako sigurado kung ano na lang ang natira sa akin. Pero kahit pano, may puso pa rin naman siguro ako.


The ineffable thrives in abstraction. When we try to hide what we want to say in plain sight, or negative space, metaphors gain their clarity. They stick out like sore truths, painful and unrelenting, demanding to be felt, reminding us that there is as much violence in language as there is language in violence. Which is why when we broke-up, it came naturally, as if it was inevitable: we were dragging the names of each other's families between the slurs and curses, and in the end we both felt defeated, having lost ourselves in the worst possible way we never thought we were capable of doing. For once we were monsters. For another we were our own casualties. But we have moved on.


Nais kong isipin na kailanman ay hindi naging hadlang ang pagkukulangan natin sa oras, sa panahon para sa isa’t-isa. Kung ano man ang sinimulan natin ng walang pangamba, tinuldukan naman natin ito na puno ng panghihinayang, o ng mga pahaging sa mga bagay na hindi natin kayang sabihin ng harapan. Duwag tayo noon. Duwag tayo hanggang ngayon. Hindi na natin hinahangad na balikan pa ang maraming mga bagay. Duwag man at maramdamin, sa pusong mapagparaya, sapat na ang minsan.

Sapat na ang minsan.


Asterisks are little stars. Most of the time, they do not have any meaning. But in the rare occasion that they do, they become true to their nature. They become signs.


Malimit kong isipin na mga munting bituin lang ang nasa pagitan ng lahat. "And yet everything is just cosmic dust," sabi niya noong una ko siyang nakilala.


You and me, we are part of everything. And yet everything is just cosmic dust.