from “Crowds and Power”

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Tip.Toe.Tip.

I trust your hands to unravel the linings of my brain. Closer, your fingers
tiptoe along the narrow passageways where the walls hold the soft angles of
your face.


The moonlight beams through the nerves where I can only feel a solitary grin. A splintered hue vibrates in dislocated spots — I travel through the maze to pick up the particles you’ve left, like a trail, towards a half-opened gate.


A window filters the night air into tiny crystals, cold to the touch, warm to
the throat — I permit my mouth to swallow the edges of your wit, your grace,
your frown. And here I am happy to have lost my footing inside your mind.

Urban

Last Monday I was given orders to personally deliver a package to an office located somewhere in Ermita. It was just a one-day thing: I leave for Manila on Tuesday night, only to return to Naga City the following night.

It’s been a while since I last had a “solo-mission,” and though I had difficulties in my trip to the designated location I was able to once again take in all the chaos that is the Metro.

——

I arrived in Manila via bus at 5 in the morning. I then immediately checked-in in a traveler’s hotel along EDSA. After a short nap, a breakfast of Tapsilog, and freshening up, I started my trip to Ermita at around 7:30AM.

Despite the allowance provided by the office I resisted all the urge to hail a cab. Morning wasn’t rainy, and I wanted to feel the flow of the city again. Back in college I was all into public transportation as it was cheaper and easier.

I took the LRT2 train to Recto (which wasn’t a problem). I just realized that the crowd inside had thickened. Back in college not much people were still using (or even aware of) the LRT2. I still love this train line. It runs smooth, it’s wide, and the people inside are orderly.

The other lines — MRT & LRT1 — suck.

——

When I got out of the train my real ‘adventure’ started. I thought I was all ready because before I took the Metro trip I had consulted with Google Map to check which jeepneys to ride. I had even consulted with a correspondent from Ermita to ask for some advice on which route to take. I thought it was gonna be easy. I was fucking wrong.

Holy shit there were a lot of possible jeepney routes. And the small, confusing markers in front of the vehicles didn’t actually help. I got confused and so I started asking around — from security guards, to traffic enforcers, to street barkers. They all gave me confusing directions.

I took Plan B: I walked along Recto. I looked at my watch. 8:15AM. Not bad. Perhaps I still had time.

While walking I took in all the details: people waiting for their ride, dogs chained in the street corners, people sleeping on cardboards, shops selling similar wares [DVDs, clothes, cigarettes, electronics, gadgets, etc…], sidewalk stalls selling watches and jewelries, cheap cinemas featuring X-Rated movies, people smoking everywhere, the symphony of engine sounds — everything.

——-

Upon reaching Escolta I saw a bridge. Should I cross it and continue walking?

I stopped. A lot of jeepneys converged in the area and I felt that it the right place to look for the right ride. For the last time I asked help from someone. This time from a random guy who was also waiting for his ride.

“Just get the one with Mabini and Baclaran,” he said. “Ask the driver if he’ll pass Sta Monica. If he says yes — that’s your ride.”

“Will one pass by here?”

“Of course,” he answered. He got on a jeepney a few seconds later. Lucky bastard.

I waited for more minutes. The morning heat was getting heavier. My shirt was all damp with sweat and dirt. I looked at the passing jeepneys. The one with the “Mabini-Baclaran” route was nowhere to be seen. I looked at the bridge, I remembered the printed map. Was I still that far? Should I just continue walking?

An empty cab was right in front of me. Should I get it. Fuck no. Not yet.

I waited a little longer. I thought I spotted a slow-moving jeepney with a “Mabini-Baclaran” route but I wasn’t really sure, and it wasn’t stopping. I ran after it.

I asked the driver if he was passing Sta Monica. He nodded. Yes. I got in.

——

Aaaand Ermita was still far. Good thing I decided to get a ride. We passed by Intramuros, then Luneta, then United Nations Avenue. When we got to MH DelPilar the view became familiar. I finally spotted the right landmarks: Andok’s Chicken, 7-Eleven, Amazonia Bar, and a small red plaza. Thank god for Google Street View.

When I saw my target (Ermita Center) I asked the driver to stop. I thanked him. I went inside the building and successfully delivered the package. It was 9:30AM.

Going back was easier.

——

trip

——

Achievement Unlocked: No Taxi.

——

After my business trip I went to Katipunan to check some art supplies at the Common Room, to check for new titles at Fully Booked, and to grab some lunch. I thought about visiting my alma mater across the street but I decided not to. My feet, still encased in battered Chuck Taylors, were getting sore. After eating lunch I looked at the sky: the clouds were getting heavier. I decided to go back to the hotel.

It was a good choice. As soon as I arrived in my hotel, the rain started to fall.

——

In the evening I passed the time in Cubao X. I was tired. I bought two bottles of beer. I looked above and noticed the mix of old and new structures. The place continues to evolve into a complete stranger. I have lost my ties with this city years ago.

The music was just fine, the people weren’t rowdy (it was still early), the sky looked lovely. How I wished for Ahj to be there with me.

7

——-

I used to go to the Metro every year to remember my old self. These days it just sucks to be in the urban chaos alone.

Flake

Your lips are brittle
this time. A great deal
of skin came off ––

Once, I picked up a flake
and mistook it
for an old rose petal.

It’s still here:
a bookmark tucked
between Chapter VII
and your written thoughts.

Missed Observations

Last year I was able to accomplish my 365 Days of Observation project over at Facebook. I kinda miss it actually, and there’s this invisible itch. Just to get it off my body I compiled seven random observations from the past few days. They’re not listed in chronological order.

I
An ice scramble seller was loudly playing his radio. The DJ was blathering some recipe for a top grade, high-class pasta.

II
A young couple was in a cafe. The girlfriend seemed tired and vexed. She put her head on the armrest, trying her best to sleep but the music was just too loud. Meanwhile, the boyfriend — with his douchebag bro pout — kept on taking selfies.

III
Cats are listening to class lectures. They’re getting smarter every semester.

IV
An old, quiet lady was selling fresh pansit in a dimly lit sari-sari store. Behind her, a bossy cat was mewling. “Human, where’s my food?”

V
After my morning run I bought some hot malunggay pandesal. I cradled the hot paper bag on my way home, not knowing that my chest sweat was slowly being absorbed by the bread inside.

VI
Just this morning the DJ said that the if a guy has a higher IQ, he has a lower chance of cheating on his partner. I thought of all the politicians and their mistresses. Gah, Philippines.

VII
I bought the last stick of fried isaw. It tasted like raw gasoline.

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Sunday Jazz

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I dive into letters this morning. My fingers need to re-familiarize themselves with both pen and keyboard. A little bit of jazz at the back helps chill the murky waters of my writing. The music is smooth, like fine wine sliding down your throat.

I time my tapping with the beat of jazz. The words whistle along the tune. The trumpet puts in a declarative statement — Sunday is smothered in drizzle, the music makes its way around the maze of water.

——

I’ve realized that I’ve been making some weird hand gestures when I write, like I’m trying to grab a number of words flying around my head. I take hold of a verb, only to find it unfit. I open my hand and let it fly, once again, from my palm. My fingers are the net, a capturing device, a poor filter. Words continue to flap. I get dizzy.

——

Yesterday, Ahj and I were slowly sealing the deal regarding the possible venue for this event in July. We’re gonna confirm our plans this afternoon.

It’s always scary taking the leap, but without risk life is but a repetitive playlist. Sometimes you have to hijack the airwaves to see if the tension can hold everything together. Tension is always necessary. It keeps everyone awake, aware.

 

Missing Memories

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This morning I wasn’t really feeling well in the office. There’s this internal, physical pain in my upper abdomen (I’m taking some meds by the way), and whenever I would feel it throbbing I would become anxious, further complicating my condition. Stress is hell.

And so to calm myself I tried writing something. Since my birthday is near (I’m turning 31 this year), I couldn’t help but be sentimental again. I’m over my days in the Metro, but I have yet to write a story based on my life there (if you would notice: some of my poems depict a nameless persona walking in an urban landscape — for me: there’s something about walking and getting lost in the chaos of the city).

Anyways, to pass the time and to ease the pain, I wrote some short entries on my Twitter account with the tag #missingmemories (they’re compiled below).

——

 

  • When you’re stuck along the urban highway. Evening. The rain pounds the pavements, and water from a clogged canal overflows.
  • When you wake up at 4AM due to insomnia. You look at the window and see the buildings at Ayala, full of life and stories.
  • When the dorm is empty. You get some gin & sprite to make you sleep. Robbery reports have risen up. Is the door locked?
  • When you search for good apartments or rooms and get frustrated because they all eat up your wage.
  • When you run out of money, getting sustenance by consuming only crackers and softdrinks. Cigarettes help you forget hunger.
  • When you drink alone at SaGuijo, only to get lost in the noise and crowd and chaos and nobody really cares.
  • When you watch the premiere of Transformers at 12:01AM at Greenbelt and you’re not afraid walking alone towards home.
  • When you try to belong in the office but you always quit every six months.
  • When you attend mass at Greenbelt chapel, after that you drink your coffee & write on your journal on why you hate your job.
  • When you celebrate your 21st birthday alone in some cold coffee shop. Because no one remembers and it’s totally just fine.
  • When you wish to have a drink with your fellow new-grad friends but they’re also busy trying to survive the first phase of adulting.
  • When you wish to cross but traffic light says no. The street is empty but you still follow. The closest thing to interaction.
  • When you’re silent the entire weekend because there’s no one to talk to.
  • When you think that everything is just an endless cycle of punch cards and hunger and walking and movies and comics.
  • When you think you had enough. You go home, to Bikol.

What Summer

Summer is about to end and holy shit I didn’t even feel it. I know, I know — I’m not a student anymore. It’s just that I have had a lot of things planned out for the summer since I don’t have any teaching load for two months. A lot of unexpected shit happened though, and I couldn’t stop them from stifling some of my plans. Argh.

——

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I’ve begun with my A’Pisong Osipon (One-Peso Story) series. It’s comprised of subtly interconnected short stories with the one peso coin as instrument which connects everyone.

The piso project happened when, one boring day, I got an ugly coin (I think I got it from the tricycle ride). I wondered where it came from, who owned it, and how it got ugly. Were you ever curious about the life of the coins in your pocket?

A’Pisong Osipon‘s default language is also Bikol (been a while since I last wrote a piece using my own language), but sometimes it will change depending on the central character. My target is 60 entries. I’ve just uploaded the first in the series yesterday on my FB account.

——

Speaking of project, it seems that I’ve somehow neglected my weekly project for 2016: Seen Scene. Argh. My problem here is that I always need a picture per entry, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to take a picture of interesting people in action because I don’t want them to notice me taking their picture.

But I still need to finish it. Perhaps I don’t need to stick to the schedule, but I have to finish 52 entries.

Ch-ch-changes Changes!

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First: This year my ENGS002 (for DIA students) load has been finally lifted, leaving me free from committing to any morning class. This way I’ll be able to focus more on my office work. Last year I realized that my teaching duties were taking up too much time, invading staff work (and yeah, I neglected a number of projects because of this).

Second: I’m usually the go-to guy when it comes to teaching Mythology & Folklore, but I got assigned to teach Contemporary Literature — much to my satisfaction. I find this load important as it supports my intent in studying [Modern] World Literature.

Third: I partially “de-loaded” myself as Moderator of the organization. After reflecting upon matters last year, I realized that more empowerment should be given to the members, hence I decided to step back  a little bit further to give more space for them to move, to make mistakes (and learn), to take risks. Of course, I’m just casually sitting at the sidelines, ready to give consultation when needed.

Fourth: K to 12 has arrived. Two days ago our first batch of Senior High School students had their Orientation Seminar. This marks not only the new school year, but also a new academic culture. What’s amusing is that we’ve just re-introduced an old practice in the campus — The morning assembly! Well, for SHS students only at least. Back in high school (circa 1998-2002) we used to have a morning assembly in the gym. The planned assemblies will be held every Monday in front of the O’Brien Library.

This will feel a little weird since, after 12 years, the main campus will once again accommodate… kids? Senior high is right between college and high school. So there’s a symbolic coming-of-age dynamic going on here.