Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A World without Words

The other night, a friend and I caught Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu in “La Bossa Fataka de Rameau” at the CCP Main Theater.

The show starts off with a large screen dead-center on stage, projecting a flower pot’s detail of a woman’s naked back coming to life. Perched on a head of a lion that also comes to life (eventually morphing into an elephant), the animation then becomes a backdrop as soon as the first dancer makes her entrance. Immediately, I began to welcome expectations of a zany journey, charmingly disjointed and Alice-in-Wonderland-like in structure; qualities that only the French can seem to pull-off without being ludicrous or pretentious. True enough, I got what I expected and more.

The dancing I have to admit was nothing too special; the dancers imitating animal movements (the chicken dance made me chortle as friends and I would usually do so whenever we’d feel silly), taking on free movements, often repeating the same steps. What caught my fancy, aside from the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing sweaty French men gyrating and yelling before me, was the message that came across. Amid all the modern choreography (an amalgamation of street dancing, jazz and ballet), most of the dances were set against Baroque music by French composer, Jean Philippe Rameau. It appealed to me that the show was celebrating the simple and pure joy of dancing, no matter the music.

I could relate to their showing man’s insatiable craving to “use all the bones” in one’s body to let go, to transmit, and to express and celebrate freedom. After all, I always take the time out to shut myself from the world, lock myself in my room, strip to my skivvies (or naked), and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I always feel happy right after. Endorphins and burning calories aside, as well as the surprise at finding me capable of being a pop star, the shedding of inhibitions loosens the cork up my ass. I even did this when I was slaving away in an office, often locking myself in the bathroom with my i-pod; shimmying like crazy, tie and long sleeves intact. Funny, once in the hallway of my condo, back from a night out with friends, I felt this sudden urge to break into dance. First, of course I made sure that no one was present; and that my favorite song was currently playing on my i-pod. Then, ten seconds into my Janet Jackson choreography, I caught my brother’s head peering from the door! In shock, I violently stopped midway as if post-epileptic seizure (or Turrets!), and gingerly made way to the front door. I vowed to be more careful next time.

What I found the most poignant about the evening’s show was the portion where the clown (whose tragic-like presence seemed to tie all the vignettes together) begins a melancholic soliloquy on the limits of speech. Set against a beautiful backdrop of an underwater view of a tiger swimming (its head above water), she began asking “would you feel my heart even if I don’t speak of it?”. It struck me how powerful actions are, and how life can manage to exist without words. Immediately, the graceful savagery of dancing as an expression of freedom took on an even deeper level.

Discussing this over dinner, my friend added that he had read somewhere how words tend to diminish or convolute what one actually means or would like to convey. And now, I think of what another friend once told me what one of her Philosophy teachers once said: “Why do we hide in the dark jungle of words?” as he attempted to understand what a student was actually trying to say. And now I compound my pondering even further with the question, are words really to blame or is it the meaning we give/have given them?

A discussion earlier in the evening, while waiting for the show to start, my friend and I carried on an almost-heated conversation on labels (i.e. how we brand people). I have heard this said by some people before: that they scoff at labels and would rather leave it out of any discussion. I admit that I get peeved whenever I get these remarks upon asking or confirming the sexual preference of someone. I feel it like the pink elephant that everyone chooses to ignore in a crowded room. Why should it matter negatively? Why should we walk on egg shells when we call a gay man a "gay man" if we can call straight men “straight”?

My friend’s voice began to rise continuing his defense that labels shouldn’t be, that they degrade the homosexual populace. With my cigarette trembling on one hand, I let out thick smoke ferociously, and spat out that the reason why he hated being labeled “gay” was because he still had not come to terms with his own sexuality. I explained that it was only logical to call a man who liked men “gay”, and that there need not be anything more to it. “Call a spade a spade” as another friend puts it. Why should you deny yourself of what and who you truly are?

He reasoned that “gay” had negative connotations. I agreed to this, but furthered my argument by saying that these connotations should not speak for all those labeled as ‘gay’. I was making him understand that to label someone ‘gay’ is to simply verbalize his or her sexual attraction to the same sex. Why should it need more meaning? To ignore this only furthers whatever stigma exists, just like the pink elephant getting pinker (its presence felt all the more) as people try their best to ignore it.

Then I realized my anger and frustration speaking in my behalf that night, and worked at changing the subject. As the evening progressed, and even to this day, I continue to consider our argument that evening.

Bombarded with images of scrambling animals on the large screen and animal-like dancers on stage, I considered other thoughts, grateful that it took my mind off the conversation on ‘labels’. I understood and agreed that we somehow tap into to the animal in all of us whenever we dance. And yet, given that a world can exist without words, are we really that different, if not ‘above’ the animal kingdom? Are words an excuse for all of us to betray our ‘inner animal’? Even when words escape us, we try to make up for it through simile and metaphor, or an extensive dissertation: words, words, and more words. Tonight’s show made me realize how many of us attach much negativity to our primordial inner animal, or to "primordial" truths we’d rather not face for that matter. All the dancing I just saw, all the dancing I have done is too pure and liberating to be a bad thing. Is it fear or arrogance that deters us from embracing the dance? When it comes to living life, wouldn’t you rather just strip, let go, and shimmy like there’s no tomorrow? But then again, these are just words; of course, to which actions speak louder than.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pollyanna & The Wench

After staying-in the whole day, mad-dancing a sweat in the privacy of my place (that includes being naked... haha!), surfing channels, stuffing myself with fast food, fixing the pile of books, papers, CDs and DVDs stacked on chairs and my desk, I decided to meet up with a friend for a late-night craving for even more fast-food and a hang-out at a nearby cafe. I needed to get out, I needed to do something, I wanted to escape the imprisoned warmth of my room. Though my place was awash in the orange glow of the afternoon sun, a scene I usually love to immerse myself in, the heat gave me a headache, exacerbating my restlessness and boredom.

Conversations with this friend of mine usually hover from shallow flings to the abyssal world of metaphysics. And though at times I get frustrated and bored at how topics circumvent what we left off on in a previous meeting, I must say that what keeps me interested is the fact that our rhetoric reflects on so many truths about myself and my own life; even several truths that, in most cases, I refuse to accept or never realize. Discussions with a twenty-four year old can put a self-proclaimed twenty-six-year-old-old-soul to shame.

Just like before, three-fourths of our discussion went on about his current realizations about his unrequited (and long-distance) relationship with an ex. Probably I was groggy from this day's inactivity, but I couldn't help countering all he said with unspoken cynicism. Eventually I admitted to it after he mentioned that he had read somewhere that relationships were primarily based on the other's lack or need in something, fulfilled by the other. In this case, (he eventually pointed out) all my negativity was countered and complimented by his optimism (a characteristic this guy seems to be teeming with).

In the onset of our talk, over fast food and the distraction of noisy call center people, I couldn't help but feel confused at his current situation. I grew frustrated that he couldn't seem to move on. I then realized that I wasn't really listening to him. I was filtering most of what he said with my own cynical expectations. What I got then was that amid all his philosophies about coincidences, of reading the signs in his life and being so determined to understand his ex, was that he simply refused to let go of the reality that the other had moved on; and that he was just being played on. So I egged him on to admit these. My efforts fell flat when he did admit to it all nonchalantly. I grew even more frustrated.

I refused to admit that I had missed the point in all his sharing. I refused to see that he was simply happy at doing it all, willing to take chances, to embrace possibility.

Still wanting to prove myself right and able, I tried to explain further that the belief in coincidences and reading the "signs" were a result of one's desperate need to believe that something is real and true; an extended 'wishful thinking'. In such a science, things fall into place because we convince ourselves of it. I feel like what I had said fell on deaf ears as he continued sharing what he read from Deepak Chopra and what his psychotherapist told him. He felt that all the aspects in his life seem to be falling in one direction, outward, and toward his ex. I even chided that no matter how I 'sharpened my needle' to burst his optimist balloon, it never seems to be successful. Now I see that in our irregular meetings, I'm constantly charged to shoot him down.

In reality, I'm simply envious at the movement in his life. Compared to my current contemptuous sloth, who am I to judge his thoughts and ways as optimistic naivete? Compared to me who prefers resting on my dusty laurels and languishing in fabricated depression, he's working amiably toward goals. I was arrogant enough to remind him that his constant aims at lofty aspirations may end up in him falling and hurting bad. Again, it did not deter his spirit.

In all my efforts to make him see a bleak reality, I see how much I long to be in his place. All my warnings and discouragements, carefully articulated to sound smart and mature, was simply a resentment to all his advantages. Even his discourse of "sharing the love", that we are all child-like in need of attention and love met my unexpressed mockery at such 'corny' ideas.

Indeed he is someone to look up to. For all those brooding folk, he is someone to contend with; if not to argue with, for a window to see how many of us bitch about craving for the ideal, cowardly preferring to simmer in negativity, under the pretense of a pained, ruminating existence.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Comfort, A Quilt and Some Questions

I was in a lighter mood last night, especially after watching "How to Make An American Quilt". But I was vexed prior to it all. The commute to retrieve the MP3 player I had fixed was its usual mess, and the grogginess I felt from sleeping-in till early afternoon, as well as the blistering heat got me out-of-sorts by the time I met with my friend for dinner.

Hanging at his house was and always is a big help to appease my restlessness. One, I get to escape from the noise of the busy avenue fronting the condo I live in; and two, the presence of a friend's company (even without the conversation) is always comforting to me. And so there I was, at his delightfully lived-in 50's style home, laying on his bed and watching t.v. Somehow, I've gotten used to him busying himself with his own "thang" (chatting online usually) while I simply lounge about, either reading a newspaper, answering the day's crossword, munching crackers from his father's tub of Sky Flakes, smoking and/or watching t.v. Even my body seems to be accustomed to the snugness of it all. I find myself often pooping in his rather roomy bathroom.

And last night was just like one of those days. But the movie I caught made everything all the more a respite from the bitch that is my life and its eccentricities. I actually found myself lightheaded and smiling (it's been a while) after watching the film. Over some cigarettes, chugging on gallons of water, and a good helping of crackers with strawberry jam and hazelnut spread, my friend and I chatted on thoughts on the movie.

I've always enjoyed "How To Make An American Quilt". The first time I saw the movie was in high school, and immediately I fell in love with it. Not just because it was about the lives of women, and that the actresses portraying the roles were people I enjoyed watching (especially Winona Ryder); the movie score was delicate and touching that I even ended up buying its soundtrack, listening to it during my dreadful days, even utilizing it as background music to fantasies while I was reading Jack London's "The Call of the Wild". I enjoyed the mid-afternoon feel the movie and music emulated-- a palpable quietude and brightness I often observed and enjoyed during the siesta hours of my childhood.

Now, with more experience (and hopefully more wisdom) in my pocket, watching the film made me appreciate it even more. I found more in it other than just its escapist aspects. I realized that so much of the film reflected my own life and current experience, most especially with the topics on finding love and being comfortable in being in a relationship. The movie revolved around Finn (the central character) and her fear of commitment, of loosing herself, of settling, and thus becoming immobile and imprisoned by her coming marriage. I immediately translated it into my own fear with relationships. I began to wonder why it was so hard for me to surrender myself when faced with a romantic opportunity? Already, I've pushed away several. Why do I set so many rigid standards for a possible partner? (Funny thought: can I even pass my own standards?!). Is it true that the only way to love fully is to surrender one's self to it? Is anyone really ready for love? Is there really a cork up my ass?

Even the film posed interesting questions: Who would you rather marry, a friend or a lover? (a character responds that she'd rather marry her soul mate... I find this a little too bathetic); would you rather do foolish things and blame it on the folly of youth (and end up paying for the rest of your life), or be safe and wonder instead without really experiencing them?

One of my favorite aspects was when Finn was shown a poem by one of her aunts (played by Alfre Woodard)who believed to have met her soul mate while she was in Paris. The man she met was "the only one [she] didn't have a picture of", was a poet, and was almost perfect for her, except for one thing: he was married. Though Woodard's story was a bit too plebeian and melodramatic, it was the content of the poem that was striking: "Young lovers seek perfection.
Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together
and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches."

Indeed, why do many people like me seek for more? What if all that we have is all that there is?

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Own Private Hell

Lately, I've been in a pensive mood. I feel as if I've gone back to my angst-ridden adolescent days; constantly bitching about everything, irritable and lonesome. My current sloth and inactivity seem to have brought about so many moments of emotional volatility and viciousness (towards myself and to others). I do not really know if such instances were newly created or long-repressed. With constant thoughts and feelings that skirt around issues such as insecurity, violence, and self-doubt, I've even found myself having an affinity for the supernatural. Indeed, I currently seem to be in a dark space.

Regarding violence, I find myself brimming with so much hate whenever I commute. I am easily irked by the people around me; terribly annoyed at those who shove, who step on my toes, who hog the holding rails, who smell of a hard day's commute, who lean on you with damp backs, who brush their naked skin against yours, who breathe down on you, who talk so loud in an affected manner, the jeepney rides where people are cramped like a bay of pigs ready for the slaughter, the exhausting summer heat... The angry litany simply goes on whenever I commute! I constantly imagine hiding a shotgun. And then I point at someone irritating, and blow him/her away to kingdom come!

Earlier, while waiting for a friend at a coffeehouse somewhere in Quezon City, I felt I was the butt of jokes of a company of Filipino-Chinese. I sat in front of them in an attempt to make my heavy presence felt, yet they continued in their careless banter. I felt all the more agitated because somehow I knew that they were aware of my being there in close proximity, and that I was within earshot of all what they had to say. Even with my earphones on (in the hopes of drowning my distraction), I could make out (possibly imagined even) that they were pointing out my resemblance to one of their friends. They chided and chuckled, and I couldn't help but boil in silent anger at their rudeness. As I puffed my cigarette away, the shotgun fantasy played in my head.

I was relieved that my friend appeared. Glad that he arrived, I blurted the line which ran through my head throughout my calvary: "I was so close to being a racist! These fucking dumbass chinks are ugly as hell!!!". Each aspirated vowel and consonant was deliberate in the hopes that the group heard me. I had no fear. I was consumed by anger. My tirade at them went on for a good twenty minutes till my friend distracted me with conversation.

Regarding insecurities and self-loathing, I cannot help but doubt myself lately-- my capabilities, my talents, my entire life! A friend of mine asked me a couple of times why I constantly disregard my ability or the possibility of being brilliant. Another pointed out my fear at being so. The verdict is: I am afraid of taking responsibility with whatever being brilliant entails. Sad (and even pathetic!) but true. I am well aware of my strengths and weaknesses, yet I cannot seem to muster the courage to go the extra step and take on these challenges. I find that I have moments of brilliance, that I have glimmers of being so, but I give up and lay low ever so easily when I get the chance. It's difficult leaving some place when you feel so snug.

I take out all these on myself and the people I love. I'm currently getting better from an infection, a contamination from one of my casual trysts, and yet my misguided search at sympathy and love keeps me craving for the next encounter. I think ill thoughts of my family and friends, assuming them selfish and exploitative. It's terribly unfair for all of us.

Maybe it's the sloth and idleness about me lately. Maybe it's the lack of diversion. Maybe it's my being burnt out from the chaos of the city. Maybe I should just be grateful and love myself more. But at the moment, they seem too much to ask.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dis-location and Melancholy

The week's almost over, and I am glad that this certain phase in my life's almost done with. For some time I've been giving so much of myself, expecting so much in return, and ending up empty and wanting. Sounds like any broken relationship right? Well, I've given people advice regarding the matter: lower your expectations or don't do so at all, the end result would be much happier. It's ironic that I myself can't even buy my own 'two cents'.

Nonetheless, the new phase is imminent (I gotta look for a new part-time job to last me before I leave for the States in September), and I actually can't wait for what's next for me. As of the moment, I feel I'm in a state of limbo, of dislocation, that I can't place myself anywhere yet. It must be that my body and soul's still getting used to the lack of anything impending. Well, there is always the thought of money seeping away so easily. But the thought of no more cramming of lesson plans, checking of papers and grading is something I'm still trying to grasp. I've been bitching about these for so long, and now they're gone. Interesting that I found myself earlier absentmindedly telling my sister that I didn't want to go home yet because I refused to check papers! Hahaha, it seems I'm still dizzy with the aspects of yore. I need to let go without the regrets.

I have the condo all to myself tonight, my friends are out drinking and my laptop's corrupted once again. I don't have any plans, but I feel like my space can't contain me. I feel restless now, trying to savor the returning freedom I was desperate for for the past months. And now that I have it, my hands remain free yet empty. It must be melancholy biting me in the ass again. I know I can do so much at home---perhaps clean the place; begin/finish my newest literary acquisition; endlessly surf channels on the telly; search for a job online--- but lethargy seems to have won me over.

So, I am online once again, hoping to find something or someone to appease this dismal restlessness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


"I've found myself in a new place, and I'm excited to explore it!," were the words I found myself gushing when my sister surprised me with a call on my mobile. Caught in the middle of the walkway connecting LRT 1 and LRT 2 (Recto Station), I decided to take a different route on my way home. Sweaty and feeling quite icky from the arduous commute and the day's annoyingly sweltering heat (it was about 3 P.M.), seeing my sister's name pop in my mobile was a great respite from it all.

Aside from our usual pleasantries, she caught me off guard when she suavely inserted in our conversation that she was pregnant! There was a five-second pause. I couldn't believe it! I was ecstatic for her! It was one of the things that I've always wanted not only for her, not for my parents (who've been cradling the dogs at home in longing for a grandchild), but for myself as well. I've always loved babies, and the idea of taking care of one--holding it in my arms, being anxious at having someone's life in my hands, not bothering about my own self-- was simply, beautiful.

In jest, I've often told my friends that I'd love having a baby because I felt that I had so much love to give. I was even surprised when I told my sister that I didn't have to look for a boyfriend anymore, now that the baby was on its way. Ironic that it still is about me! Haha! But really, loving beyond yourself is always a good thing!

Interesting enough, those words I had blurted out when my sister called were the same sentiments she shared, figuratively of course. It wasn't a surprise to me but a confirmation that me and my sister were indeed siblings; people deeply connected not only by skin and blood, but by thought and soul.

Being in the long and boring commute, my i pod being a stubborn bitch again, hiding from the sun's torture: all these melted away after the call. With a smile on my face, I went on my way exploring one corner of busy Recto. First, I stopped by a mall housing kiosks reminiscent of Greenhills and St. Francis Square, only lesser in number. After making the rounds, ogling at the merchandise, I ended up buying fake perfume (a rip-off of Lacoste's "Style in Play" and 2 RnB CDs for Php 30). I stepped outside to take a quick drag and to soak up the charming chaos of Recto.

This place is so different from what I'm used to (i.e. Quezon City and Makati). Faces still looked tired and uptight, but they seem to give off a more "grounded" and deliberate aura vis-a-vis Quezon City and Makati's predominantly pretentious and guarded sort. Amid all the traffic and the mess of cheap and fake merchandise, the late afternoon's sun lit the area with an almost-sepia tone. Decrepit buildings and cinemas standing side by side with gaudily painted malls all added to the hybrid charisma of the area. I felt caught somewhere in time, in some drowned world where the past and present mixed.

But let's backtrack a little bit. Earlier in the day, I joined a friend to visit a massive Nike sale in one of Makati's high rises. The place, small as it was, was packed with all sorts of people: families, blue and white collared workers making the most of their lunch break. I wasn't really in the mood to shop at all. One, I was still groggy from sleep; two, I wish I had the audacity to shove and yell at people to get out of my way; three, I didn't feel like rummaging through boxes and boxes of sneakers and sports apparel; and four, I wasn't really a Nike (i.e. the sporty look) fan. But why did I go? Same as everyone in that damn cramped room: to find a bargain. I didn't find one, so instead I projected my frustration at my friend, holding his just-in-case-they-fit choices and goading him to buy a nice pair of sneakers.

That wasn't all that was interesting that time. The idea of going out with my ex-boyfriend (whom I broke up with after only one week of being together!... Actually, I'm not even sure if we were really a couple) was a curious thing. He invited me to the Nike sale, and being with him after that whirlwind romance kept me wondering what I was doing there with him.

During lunch, he was sharing with me stories about his new fling. Before, if I was who I was then, I would have felt terribly bitter and awkward with the conversation. Over cigarettes, a really oily Chinese fast food meal, and Coke zero, I couldn't help but listen. I couldn't help but pacify his ego with phrases like 'Good for you' and 'I'm so happy for you'. Indeed I was happy for him. I was glad that the emotionally turbulent time I had spent with him was over, that he had somebody else to be bothered with, and that we ended up as friends. But I must admit that while he was talking, I couldn't help but bitch (but only a little) in my head that this guy was simply trying to make me jealous or envious at his newfound happiness. It also sort of annoyed me that he admitted to lying about going out of town with friends (after our "break up"), when in reality he was alone with the new boy. It was annoying to confirm how much of a player and a liar (several aspects that complicated our relationship further) he was. I guess I still have feelings for him.

Later in the evening, he'd share through SMS that him and his new boy toy had a fight. I ended up giving him advice. I couldn't help it. All the more, I now feel that breaking up with him was a good choice. Indeed, he's simply too young for me, and too emotionally volatile. I am those things too; and if we stayed in the relationship longer, we would have been at each other's throats like petulant children. It seems better this way. I get to keep that distance between friends, where emotional investment is easily kept at a minimum.

Still full from the pricey dinner me and some friends from another choir had at a deli, I remember one topic of conversation we had. The issue of finding a "sense of fulfillment" in our lives crept up when he was curious to know why I didn't want to teach in the next semester. Let me share, in bullet points, the ideas I told him:
  • having a "sense of fulfillment" is actually a choice one makes
  • the choice must come from a place of "nothing" for it to work
  • expectations and disappointment would be eradicated by this frame of thought because you've started from nothing. There's no point of comparison, there's no anticipation to base results from
  • the idea of choice comes with integrity, being true to your word
It's funny how I remember being so glib and confident about these things to him. I somehow felt like a hypocrite in promoting such views (which I learned from a forum I attended before) when I myself am unable to follow through with them. But it's always a struggle, and that is what should matter. Right?

This is my first ever post. I've been putting off blogging for quite some time (my friends goading me to do so in the past). It has often been a constant in my life to keep a journal, but being busy with teaching has rendered me to stop writing temporarily. Moreover, the idea of having someone read my thoughts, the idea of being able to edit my thoughts were considerations in the past. Now I realize: don't these actually point to the same premise of journal writing? The idea that someone, somewhere somehow, would manage to witness another's life through writing?

I'm excited where this activity may bring me.