tidbits of thought

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It was the day before Day Zero.  I hadn’t had any sleep and I had just spent half the afternoon standing in line at the bus terminal.  I breathed a sigh of relief and sank into my seat.

“Finally, some much-needed shut-eye!” I almost said out loud.

But then I realized that I was seated next to some random guy so I clutched my backpack and leaned my head against the window instead.  A conversation with a stranger was the last thing I wanted.

Every muscle in my body was sore and my eyelids felt like lead.  I looked out the window at the heavy traffic and giant billboards.

“Hello, Manila.  We meet again,” I whispered as I half-smiled.

It wasn’t long after that I found myself weaving in and out of consciousness.

Although I was in a stupor for a good part of the trip, I did have moments of alacrity.  Whenever I would find something interesting, I would scribble on my imaginary notepad and take snapshots with the camera in my head.

Tidbit No. 1: Juxtaposition and Ambivalence
Tall buildings are a dime a dozen in Metro Manila but one particular building managed to stand out: a high-rise building that seemed to be in limbo.  It looked half-unfinished but also half-abandoned.  It was like seeing the beginning and the end all at once.

Something about its ambivalence stirred something in me.

Tidbit No. 2: Different Strokes for Different Folks
Like in most places, houses and buildings gave way to increasing stretches of green as we moved farther and farther away from the metropolis.  I couldn’t help oohing and aahing over the sheer variety of trees that dotted the landscape.  I imagined painting them, using a certain type of brush stroke for each type of tree.

Tidbit No. 3: The Desolation of SCTEX
But what I found even more riveting were those pockets of petrified land in the midst of all the greenery.  It was as if some maniacal sorcerer on a dragon haphazardly threw down balls of fire, scorching patches of grass.  Leaving behind nothing but shriveled remnants of shrubs standing in mute horror and seemingly delicate magenta flowers clinging onto the branches in defiance.

Tidbit No.4: Sea of Devastation
Those little pockets of desolation along SCTEX, however, paled in comparison to the river of lahar in Porac.  I could only imagine the terror the people of Pampanga must have felt when Mt. Pinatubo erupted all those years ago.  My college roommates’ stories came rushing back to me as I stared in awe at the lahar flow.

My reminiscence of these borrowed memories, however, was interrupted by the high school kids behind me.

“What a weird-looking sea!” they exclaimed.

I honestly didn’t know whether I should be amused or mortified.

“That’s lahar,” I couldn’t help saying.

Their eyes grew wide for a moment and they nodded in comprehension.

Although these kids initially had no cognizance of lahar, they were still in a way correct.  This may be a river of lahar but it could just as well be a sea.

A sea of devastation, that is.

a-hunting we will go

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One of my favorite childhood memories was the annual Easter egg hunt my cousins and I used to have.  Our parents would boil dozens of eggs and we would all gather together and color them on the eve of Easter Sunday.

At sunrise the following day, our parents would hide the eggs in my grandmother’s garden then wake us up and we would all run around in our pajamas looking for the eggs.

Although I never ended up with the most number of eggs, I always found it to be such a wonderful experience.  So when I became a mom, it was one of the first things I placed on my to-do list.  Although my son was just a year old last year, I decided to give it a go.  I let him paint two eggs and go on an egg hunt.

We did the same thing this year but I added one more egg.  A lot of our art supplies were missing so I had to make do with what I could find.  The little one didn’t seem to mind though.  He was completely stoked about painting the eggs.  He did a pretty good job, didn’t he?

fresh from the oven

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“Why don’t you go check?” said my dad as we pulled up in front of the tiny store near the bus stop.

It was scorching hot but I got out of the car anyway and ran excitedly to the lady at the counter.

“Sorry, it’s not yet available,” she said.

My heart sank and I turned to walk away.  I had only taken two steps when the guy in the kitchen suddenly called out, “Wait! It’s almost done!”

Huzzah!  I wanted to do cartwheels right there and then.

After a minute or so, I walked out of the store carrying two bags of bibingka (a type of Filipino rice cake) that had just come straight from the oven.

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Everyone in the car was just as excited as I was.  We all wanted to gobble up the bibingka right away but they were still piping hot.  We had to wait until we reached the next town so we wouldn’t end up with burned hands and tongues.

They were definitely worth the wait though.  They were so good, I couldn’t help thinking, “With bibingka as yummy and fluffy as these, who needs toppings?”

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*Available at the store in front of the bus/shuttle stop near Laguindingan Airport at P10 apiece

hollow

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perhaps it’s time
i lower these arms
and let these muscles rest

constantly trying
to reach out to you
has made them so sore

or maybe it’s time
i raise these hands
and wave a white flag

constantly fighting
to keep things afloat
has taken its toll

indeed it’s time
i remove this mask
and stop hiding the truth

constantly pretending
to be fine and dandy
has left me oh so hollow

fare thee well

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When my sister was a little girl, she and my grandfather planted an avocado seed in our front yard.  It grew and grew and after many years, it finally bore fruit.  The avocado from that tree was the creamiest we had ever tasted.  It wasn’t hairy or bitter like most avocado fruits sold in the market.

We loved that tree dearly.  Not only because it produced the best-tasting fruit, but more importantly because it was my sister and my grandfather who planted it.  We worried about it incessantly during typhoons.  It was the first thing we checked as soon as the sky cleared up.

We found out fairly recently that the avocado tree was actually planted out of bounds.  We hoped the owners of the adjacent lot wouldn’t cut it down when they start construction.  We were assured it wouldn’t be touched.

So imagine my consternation when I went outside one day and saw one of the construction workers cutting down about half of the tree.  I was ready to raise hell then.  But they told me they were just lopping off a few branches.  They weren’t going to chop down the whole tree.

The avocado tree had five fruits then.  It produced a lot of blossoms after that.  It seemed as if it was pleading its case.

“Look, I’m going to bear much fruit! Please don’t cut me down!”

Every single day, I would sit on the balcony and marvel at the sheer number of blossoms and how big the fruits were getting.

“They’ll be ripe soon.”

“The avocado will be ready in about a week.”

“Just in time for your sister’s arrival.”

We all monitored the fruits’ progress.  I guess we all had that fear that we would wake up one day and find that the tree had been chopped down.

I never thought it would be today.

My dad had just got back from an errand when he burst in and said, “They’re chopping it down!”

I immediately ran outside and saw the construction workers mercilessly butchering our beloved tree.

“The roots are in the way,” they said.

But they could’ve warned us.  Our attachment to the tree wasn’t a secret.  We declared how important that tree was to us.  The least the owners of the lot could have done was tell us that they were chopping it down.

We could’ve at least taken a picture of our beloved avocado tree with all its blossoms and fruits.

We could’ve at least said good-bye.

flip side

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Campus Journalism Workshop – Day 1
4:46 PM

Here I am sitting on the sidelines, watching campus journalists rack their brains as they struggle to put their thoughts into words.  It feels strange sitting across from them like this.  Surreal even.

I can’t help but feel as if I’m on the wrong side of the room.  Although it’s already my fifth year as a school paper adviser,  it seems as if somebody just grabbed hold of the handle and flipped reality.  As if I woke up this morning and found myself trapped in a different persona–that of a coach rather than a campus journalist.

This sure is one heck of a freaky Friday.

Campus Journalism Workshop – Day 2
1:20 PM

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks I’m out of place.

School paper advisers normally address each other as ma’am or sir and they call their students langga.  Guess how most of them address me.

And when they finally realize that I’m actually a coach, they invariably ask, “Fresh grad?”

Ha!  I’m pushing thirty next month and yet everyone here thinks I’m twenty.

Must be the hair.

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*scribbled on a notepad on March 14 and 15 at the Regional Education Learning Center