There is a place in Zamboanga that is almost obscured by the onslaught of the fast paced life in the city. It is there, behind the revered structure of the La Nuestra Senora de la Virgen del Pilar, past the lighted candles held by the pious as their prayers rise, past the stalls that sell cotton candies and cheap rosaries, past the old acacia tree where placentas placed in shopping bags hang from its branches.
It is a place where a mere game of basketball is almost a religion, where women with baskets of fish on their head walk on rickety slabs of wood strung together by ropes. They walk cautiously, lest they plummet to the water below, which is almost solid after years and years of human waste of every kind have amassed. But they walk with fluidity and grace, like dancers listening to the ancient music produced by the tides of the sea. The men, whose flesh are wrinkled and dark, walk with a gait that belied their years.
Continue reading By the Sea, Sun-Kissed Children
Tonight, I look at my child, with her hair bunched up like a fountain at the top of her head, with eyes wide and seemingly wondering whether I’m going to pick her up or not, and feel something painfully heavy on my chest.
A year ago, I had made a very selfish decision not to have her. Before she turne 2 months, I resolved that the creature inside me was not going to make my life any better. In fact, I had decided that her
presence will only bring an onslaught of bad luck and a multitude of clinical depressions. I had wanted to let her go — even forced her to leave.
Continue reading On Moving Forward…Then Staying
All romantic relationships are bound to hit nasty ground in the end — those that were mine, at least. I console myself with the idea that it’s how you loved in the moment that matters. Knowing that you have given yourself wholeheartedly and had possibly been made into a better person is reason to move forward. I tell myself that although I have lost, I have tried hard. At least I discovered who I am and what I am capable of doing. This I learned through someone who, at one point, I thought defined my being.
“You should meet my cousin.”
Continue reading Good Luck and Stay Happy…
What I’m going to do is just share you something because, by having said that you’re an atheist, you remind me of what I was then and the thoughts that I harbored and the journey that I had to go through. Perhaps, your statement is a blessing because it has challenged me to write down and crystallize everything that I believe about God.
But before I start, I just want to ask that you own your statement. It is so easy to say “I believe in God” but it is a wholly different matter to say one doesn’t. To say that you’re an atheist is itself a product of deep reflection and hence must not be uttered in jest or mere fun. I expect that you take your statement seriously because this is a serious matter to begin with.
Continue reading Letter to My Atheist Brother
When I see myself in mirrors, I don’t notice my mother’s nose, my father’s eyes, or my aunt’s lips. I do see my reflection but I don’t recognize myself. What I see is my father, what I recognize is a molded reflection of my father’s.
My father may not always have been there for me, but I believe he made sure to be there at the exact moment I had a weak grasp of what was going around me—he made sure to be there to help strengthen my grasp of what was worth gripping, of what was worth holding on to. Here is how I knew.
Continue reading Reflections
To write is to be in service to the moment, a moment that seeks to captivate and allure as well as to express the complex nature of emotion. I have written for as long as I can remember because I have found the necessity—no, rather, the conscious desire and comfort to see my thoughts and feelings materialize on paper and hence become my reality through which all can awaken and develop a sense of meaning and value.
I write because I feel the urge to enter into the practice of rediscovering the simplicities and complexities around me through the aid of both imagery and words, each story and each poem pulsating with life, striving to describe, to impart insight, to prove, to share—for life, I believe, is in itself the lifeblood of all things written and to be written.
Continue reading Beginning with Inkblots
(Excerpt from a letter of James Martin Welborn, an American soldier in the Philippine-American War who turned planter in Davao in the first decade of the 1900s.)
October 14, 1956
I notice in the F. P. (Philippine Free Press) that there is a lot of graft around Manila; does the same condition apply around Davao?
It seems that all the world has gone crooked. We have it in this country almost as bad as there with you. The older Philipino was trained in it by the Spaniards and many have improved on their methods.
When I was there the aim of most of the young men was to get an education so they could live without work, not for the betterment of their country or countrymen.
Continue reading Flashback 1956: Letter of James Martin Welborn
A few years ago, when our family moved to Davao, we had with us a male Chocolate Burmese cat. He belonged to my eldest daughter, Danielle, then in college. He was a cuddly ball of white when he was sold to us for a song by a family friend. Danielle promptly called him Forrest, after the protagonist in the movie “Forrest Gump.” They bonded instantly.
Forrest grew up to be a majestic tomcat, grumpy and aloof, but fiercely loyal to his mistress. He never responded to our remonstrations of affection, preferring to ignore them with a haughtiness fit for aristocracy. My son was rather testy with him, and Forrest would often return the compliment with a spray of urine on his newly pressed shirts. My clothes were mercifully spared from the amber showers, probably because I tolerated his snootiness.
Continue reading Cat Stories
The full moon shone pale through thin clouds, diffusing its glow. The faces of the people looked peaceful and solemn in the subdued light of the many-colored lanterns that lined the sides of Lourdes Church in Quezon City. The priest’s voice echoed from hidden speakers and was thunderous, like the foreboding voice of God, but I did not see his face because I was standing in the adjacent car park. From outside, I could see empty pews, but more parishioners than what I thought was usual had gathered to listen and to pray.
The evening was chilly. One could almost imagine that the church, the streets, the shabby souvenir shops and donut chains, and all the rest of Manila were air-conditioned. The leaves of the fruitless trees beside the adoration chapel rustled gently, and the seven o’clock sky was pink. Indeed, the weather is best come December. It doesn’t rain and it is never too hot.
Continue reading Psalms
When I was younger, met the -ber months with anticipation. I knew then that gifts, parties, and family reunions were not far off. Chill wind, Christmas carols, and dazzling lights: there was magic in the air. But above all, what I looked forward to in Christmas was the gift from Santa Claus.
My parents taught me to believe in Santa Claus. I did, hook, line and sinker. Who wouldn’t, with everyone at home in cahoots? My brothers would say that they saw huge foot prints in the garden. Our maid would say that she swept up stardust. I believed it all until I was in sixth grade.
Continue reading XMas