hecha de luna / moon-made

And so spoke the moon, living is a brave thing.

I feel feverish. Not entirely okay.

It is as if something inside of me has perished and the remaining parts shift uneasily, unaware of which comrade has fallen but certain of the pain of loss.

I know this feeling. When you tell a phantom that they occupy physical space, corporeal form in the world of time, be wary. They might believe you. 

This is how you create vengeful spirits.

They all rush back to me, the old words. We run like ghosts, we shift like shadows. Don’t worry, only the waning night will know of our lunar tendencies. After all, we can be forgiven only because we are ghosts. We occupy the bare substance of memory.

I feel the silvery grasp of every spectre I have been.

And we must have the patience of light, darling. The potential of being does not exist in the contrast between illumination and shadow. It lies in the mind’s ability to wonder at the translucency of existence. In the innocence of first inquiries, even if there will always be a lack of answers. Even when the void does not speak back.

We grieve the parts of ourselves that we lose in the acceptance that death is a part of living. But until the final death, we breathe again and again.

That’s what the ache in your bones is; you are becoming something else.

Love, Velveteen

To a Penpal in September

Do you know how the air smells early in the day, just as the sun is rising?

Here it smells sweet and cold and sometimes a little dusty. 

Then the sun gets so hot that it bleaches the cement and tar on the roads. The chickens and dogs begin to walk around restlessly and children start playing in the streets. 

There are people grilling barbeque and fish, corn and sugar-coated bananas on most street corners. We call this grilled food ‘inihaw’. Unless you are in a car or inside, everyone is usually sweaty by 9am. We duck under the shade of technicolor umbrellas, tarpaulins, waiting sheds and large trees, buying one cold drink after another to keep us from getting too annoyed by the heat. 

I think this is what it is like in most parts of my country. 

But there are some bigger cities, too. I’ve only visited those places, though. When we are in those well-designed spaces with wide streets and tall skyscrapers, my mom likes to say ‘It’s just like California!’ There are beautiful buildings with traces of Spanish, American and post-war modernist architecture, too.

I like to ride the trains when I am there, even if they can be nightmares to rely on. Once, I was lost and the train broke down before we could ride it. I asked the man beside me how long they usually wait and he said, “We never really know. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes more.” 

I’m usually afraid of strangers in the national cities. People get robbed very easily there. But that man was nice. The trolley was already full when it arrived. He let us get on first even if it might mean he would have to wait another hour for the next one. In the end, we were standing almost nose to nose like sardines! 

When the train sways violently, you are pressed against the people around you. You can feel the sweat on their arms. To make us feel better, some strangers will make sounds as if we are on a roller coaster to make us laugh. One time, I accidentally boarded the section for men. These people standing around me began to form a circle facing away from me. I thought I would get robbed! Then I realized they were protecting me from those who might have bad intentions. There are good people on the trains, too.

The national center, Metro Manila, is a good place to visit, but not a good place to live.

I personally grew up in the mountains. 

To get here you take a long highway that winds through forests and limestone cliffs. There’s a funny word we like to call ourselves, tagabundok, or from the mountains. And so everyone else is ‘tagababa’ or ‘from down there’, the lowlanders.

Up here it is cool enough to wear coats and boots. Our small city is a hilly place so we do a lot of walking. There’s also a park in the middle of town with a lake that my friends and I like to sit by. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with many pine trees. In the cold, dewy air of the evenings, you can smell pinewood smoke. 

When I get stressed from work, I’ll take a long walk to the mall to buy some milktea. Then I take the same way back and listen to the crickets on the way home. 

Anyway, I feel like I’ve talked too much. What is it like where you live? I’d love to hear all about it.

I hope you are safe 🙂 We like to say ‘Ingat!’ as a form of goodbye. It means take care.

Velveteen

In Happenstance

They spoke to me in tongues I could not divine.
I must have known them to be sacred and caught myself still straining to hear their whispers in the night.

Was it comfort or terror that would meet me there?
Or perhaps it was the sound of my own voice rasping back, waiting for an answer from the heavens.

God was a hidden word now. And I kept it safe in my back pocket, waiting for it to make a resurrection of sorts or to feel like home again—if it ever was one to begin with.

For a long time, I seemed to be a borderland for things known to be holy. 
There were only questions here.

Who holds the gate open? And what words must we encant to keep them hospitable?

I couldn’t say that this pain was not mine. Only that some of us do not even know what name to call it. With the lack of words, my mouth becomes that of an animal. I become the wolf again, the curve of my spine more weary than defiant. 

The questions are double edged and sometimes are captors, sometimes lend salvation. We live in that middle space, never knowing what will come next.

Was it defiance or a lack of choices that forms the ground I stand upon? 

In lieu of shelter, I seek the comfort of poetry that is not my own. How sweet is the history remembered through another’s tongue? Not very. But it keeps me company in the dead of night.

But what would become of us there but strangers? Yes, good. And so for a moment I am free of myself. The flames lick against a darkness that is indiscriminate—and therefore forgiving. 

Sometimes uncertainty breeds uncertainty.  It also allows the safety of not needing to know. Oh, and always it is the stuff of beginnings. 

Creation begets its own sorry substance. From our ruinous pasts, we create ourselves. 

So, really, uncertainty is a necessary ingredient for any form of discovery, of the self or otherwise.
I may not know what it is to be holy, but I do know what it is to be real.

When I am full of terror I forget this. 

Saranggola

My father took on a certain translucency of being in the world.
Many times, he was not fully with us. And I feel like we were ghosts to him, too.

We fade in and out of his memories, only really existing to him as creatures of mind (or maybe just matter) when we are standing in the same room. 

Once, he flew a kite in a large and windy field with my brother. 
“This is the most important moment of my life.” Dad declared to the summer swell. 
Only my brother remembers this now.

There was something in dad which cried out desperately to be alive, I think.

He sought this in grand gestures and wild jumps of reason. Yet in the everyday instances of living, he was not quite sure who he was to us, perhaps even unsure of who he was to begin with. And when we speak it is often to the hollow shape of a man whose mind lies elsewhere.

It is unfortunate that we cannot escape the selves we become in close proximity with others.

There are moments when we suspect he is unwell. 
The kind and curious twinkle in his eyes sharpens. It becomes unkind, grasping; cultivating in its depths a new illusion of grandeur to lose himself in. We become less substantial there.
His cleverness becomes all his own, intelligible only to himself. 

And so, in both the world of the living and the imagined, he turns into this picture of a man teetering on the brink of recluse on one hand and noble madman on the other.

Do we create what we become? Or do we simply run away from who we are?
I don’t like that word, ‘simple’. It is his favorite to say as we become less tangible in his private realm of reason. Ceteris paribus, he says, forgetting that nothing really stays the same.

He must feel alive in those heights of mind. There, he must feel like he has finally taken corporeal form. Maybe he can finally say, Yes, this is what it means to exist
I hope it is at least an escape from the void which hounds him. 

I wonder who we are there, at the peak of his mania?

Perhaps small details. Perhaps seated at his right side.
In all cases, estranged in the everyday reality of family life. 

But we are not spectres yet. At each turn we ask what it is we can do and what must be done to become a ‘real’ family. The resounding call becomes weaker the longer it echoes. Is this what it means to watch the dying of the light?

And in the end, will we be forgiven only because we are ghosts? Will we stand there and occupy only the sorry substance of memory?

One hand clapping

It finally feels old to unpack the standards for growth I once used to perpetuate the narrative of my ill-developed self. For the moment, the task of self pity has lost its potency.

I was reading a certain Ash Presto’s blog. Though these are but vignettes into her life, I feel a strange sense of pride over who she is. She seems to be (almost) a force of nature. A year ago I might have felt an emerald envy possess me.

“How am I not comparable?” This voice would demand that I ought to be more.

But the self is is a private reflection, not a commodity.
Measuring one’s growth against another seems like a fool’s errand. Who can compare the worlds we have inhabited? Who could even begin to speak of the truths we’ve uncovered for ourselves?

I’ve always felt ill at ease with the roughage of emotion these kinds of thoughts bring.
Am I not a farce? And why am I obsessed with playing this private charade of self?
I’m tempted to say that there is no one there to see me.

That would be an old thought, too.
The process of writing is itself conversational. I never know what I’m going to end up saying. The act of reorganizing gives me something new to work with. It is a discussion I hold with myself.

Maybe the best we can expect from others is a good conversation in the waiting room. Let the unexpected bond with a stranger you might never see again remind you that life is a series of disjointed moments. We form and fall apart to those collected fragments of experience. Many days feel as if I am always in the unmaking. And there is no shame in that. This instability is at the very core of human development.

I sometimes still feel the grating need to reach out and have someone /who knows, who understands/ to hold me. But I understand now that this is just another thing that happens: one swell of emotion which will crash and give way to another kind. There is wonder and fear and love and longing. Happiness, too, is in those middle moments.

I’m beginning to understand that my kind of peace isn’t a solid state of being unbothered. It is instead the practice of sitting with myself as I thrash about. Toward what end? Just for the sake of kind companionship. Pagdadamay.

Sometimes there is no reason, rhyme or purpose.
Sometimes you just are.

Life is too short to be one defined thing. I am all this and more.

Dama de noche

At midnight, the clouds fold in gently over the city, settling down in a steady mist. 

The lights are dulled over the hills. Surely, this is done in reverence of those who are dreaming. They do this peacefully, fitfully, sometimes even without having to sleep at all. 

Maybe if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear everyone breathe in one cacophonous breath shared by many fractured bodies. It is our great irony to live in vast colonies dreamt up into space and still pass the midnight mark, in essence, alone. But there is a special kind of darkness where this does not matter. There, all that matters is the banal fact of breath.

What lies at the other end of bare existence?

Someone asked me what I think it means to exist and if I had to respond with urgency, I’d still say I wouldn’t know. But I hope the answer lies in that slippery place between living and dreaming: the raw stuff of creation which is our burden to carry.

On better days, I like to imagine existence as that spark you feel when a possibility comes to life in your mind. 

Doesn’t matter what you do with it. Doesn’t matter what you leave behind. 

The fact is that you were there, in that point in time, almost fully convinced that all this might merit something more than the raw necessities of survival.

Although we stumble into the world by haphazard fates, it is in those acts of dreaming that we reclaim what it means to be alive.

Friday Girl

Ako ang kanyang Friday girl. Dahil para sa bawat pangarap ng isang tahanang muni-muni, may isang nangangarap at isang nagpapahiram ng anino sa mga panaginip na iyon. Pero tuwing Friday lamang ito showing, mula 8:00 hanggang 9:30.

Siguro sa gano’n na rin ako natutuwa. Sa mga baha-bahaging ito ng pelikulang ‘di matapos-tapos. Post-modern nga, di ba? We’re doing away with the established beginnings, middles, and ends. Hindi ito joke time only at hindi ako basta-bastang kabit. Minsan ang katotohanan ay mas magulo pa sa bangungot.

At ito ang katotohanan: Ginagamit kita para patayin ang mga pangarap ko’ng magmahal nang tunay.

Noong una, inakala ko pa na isunusumpa ako ng tadhanang makita ka nang paulit-ulit at palagi’ng sa pagitan ng paalam at pahiram.

Sabi ng crush ko, may mga taong kinakailangan nating makilala. Wala namang nagsabi na ang mga pagkakataong iyon ay palaging ikabubuti ng puso mo. May mga sakit na kailangan nating madama para makapag ipon ng lakas ng loob. At sa pagsapit nang oras ng pagbitaw tayo ay maging matatag sa pagbigkas ng mga salitang ito: ‘Paalam, at hindi na muli.’

Pero hindi pa kami umaabot ‘dun. Sa ngayon, magpapatuloy ang aming mga Friday shows.

Tatawa ako. Ngingiti. Dahil sa bintanang ito ako ang bida at may kaming gumaganap. Halika, yumari tayo nang mga mundong tayo lang ang nakakaalam. Tawagin natin itong pagmamahal. At mamahalin kita nang lubos hanggang maubos lahat ng mga damdamin ko para sa iyo.

Walang mabuti o masama, sala o akma sa mga tahanang gawa-gawa.

(Tayo Lang Ang May Alam – Peryodiko)

Ito ay para sa bawat minuto, araw, at saglit na ako’y tumutumba sa iba’t ibang pagitan na nabibigyan anyo lamang ng mga salitang bigkas. Nangangahulugan ba na ang mga ito ay kathang-isip na walang bigat sa mundong ibabaw?

Aba, ewan ko sayo.
Edi ewan ko rin.