Bio clock

It’s totally disrupted. I planned to spend the entire day reading or writing something but I spent it either daydreaming or doing unproductive things. Recently, I’d sleep late and wake up late. I am sleepy the whole day and wide awake at night. It was a lot better before when I hardly had time to rest, at least then I seldom felt useless; life was run by routine and worked as if it was on automatic pilot. Now, an entire Saturday would pass and I am still here stuck in my room, opened three different books but not having enough will to finish any of them. I tried to establish regularity by going to the gym at exactly the same time every night. Dinner time here it at 6 sharp and ends an hour after. But all the rest are too erratic my bio clock ceased working.

I want my routine back.

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Reading series 2: Genres of Discourse

And yet whiteness is not a straightforward object of desire, any more than light is: blackness is desired, and whiteness is only the disappointing result of a desire that proclaim itself satisfied. Whiteness will be disavowed, as a truth that is either deceptive (as with the white spaces on the map, which hide the black continent) or illusory: the whites think that ivory, white, is the ultimate truth: but Marlow exclaims: “I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life” (23). Whiteness may be an obstacle to knowledge, as with the white fog, “more blinding than the night” (40), which impedes the approach to Kurtz (Todorov 107).

Choosing to be happy*

It has been four years or so since I graduated from college, and the past four years left me a bit disgruntled, dissatisfied, and aimless, even angry. At some point I began to question my motives for staying in Manila, teaching Literature (a subject I did not study in college) to undergraduate students in a university on Katipunan Avenue. At any given point, while on a cramped train for my daily commute to one of the three jobs I currently hold, or while walking in the rain to my next class, I would question the wisdom of the choices I have made, my existence, the reason why I am where I am now. At any given point, while in my class in graduate school, or writing a paper due the following day, I would feel out of place, lost maybe. What brought me here? What are these for?

I left home for college more than eight years ago. It was an inexorable day the Chinese protagonist in Jorge Luis Borges’s The Garden of Forking Paths would refer to as “day without premonitions or symbols”. Looking back, I sometimes think I should have never left home; I should have just stayed in the province, enrolled myself in a university in the nearby city of General Santos, be with people whose familiarity led me to feel that constant sickening ennui then, and live a life released from complications.

I embarked on a personal odyssey, though to a home I imagined I belonged, and chased Fate in the big city. And that day without symbols changed me forever.

Now I understand the hesitation, a subdued abhorrence, of the character of my favorite novel, Tomas, for symbols. I have chosen heaviness thinking the choice will lend meaning to my curious and starry-eyed 16-year old self then. My search for “something higher” caused this spiritual vertigo, this fear of falling.

And an unconscious desire to fall, says Kundera, “the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves”.

I do not have any intention of letting myself slip down the slope of existentialist rage for I am completely aware I shall never recover from this existentialist hole unscathed. I believe the exercise is not only a complete waste of time but also fatal.

But these questionings, far from being philosophical, are, to me, as corporeal and visceral as corporeal and visceral can get. I am enraged. And being this sensuously enraged is beautiful. It is not mere abstraction.

How I hate philosophizing!

I am in my mid-20s. They say this age places one at the pinnacle of his vitality. But too many times I saw myself irreparably exhausted, dragging myself in doing the things I once loved doing, being on the verge of running amuck. All because of the unfulfilled promises of this vitality.

For too many times, I have feared that those little cracks have already surreptitiously made their way into the dark crevices of my being and have already eaten me from the inside out and that what is left of me now is a mass of bloody flesh incapable of distinguishing the real from the fictional.

Below layers of fictive security our daily routines deceptively make us feel we possess is a reality so shaky, shifting, and unstable. Most people my age would disagree with me, vehemently judging my cynicism as vain, if not selfish, as I am a product of the comforts bestowed upon me by the equally frivolous and elitist institution of higher learning that situates itself in a country in the third world and a premiere state university that touts itself the bastion of liberal ideas amidst the crushing weight of ugliness, corruption, poverty, and hopelessness surrounding it.

One day I shall pack my bags, say adieu to my life in Manila that I used to love and learned to detest (though these diverging feelings of love and detestation, in some very rare moments, converge).

One day I shall redeem myself from the routine and the make-believe.

And go on an odyssey back to my real home.

I think of my situation now as being caught in deep shit. How I love to say this word, shit. It is liberating. It is free of abstraction.

Shit is the highest good so long as one is not caught, deeply, in it.

A week ago, I took a jeepney ride on campus going to Quezon Avenue MRT station when I happened to be seated beside a classmate of mine in grad school who studied Literature in the university where I am teaching the subject now. Our conversation meandered until toward the end of our trip the subject of our talk settled on world-weariness. She related to me how bad it felt to be jobless and added that the stigma of being a graduate of that exclusive school along Katipunan and be unemployed was just too much to bear, and how she felt, during that very moment, palpable weariness of the world.

I guess, she is as deeply entrenched in shit as I, though the fashion of our being entrenched differs. She wants to escape it; I, on the other hand, wallow and linger in it, though maybe not for long.

For some, those who are lucky in the real sense of the word, still have that choice. For most, the choice is not theirs. I am grateful that I can still consider myself to be part of the former group. After all, I am still afforded choice probably because of my education, my age, my ability to use language to my advantage, my meager savings in the bank, my mother’s prayer, or simply because of sheer luck. And this opportunity I am exhausting to the fullest.

I always tell my students that being young gives them enough excuse to commit mistakes and to learn from these mistakes, that failing should not be something to be afraid of because they are at the best time of their lives to commit mistakes without having to face the grave repercussions that adults committing stupid mistakes face. And that they are lucky to be given this choice. And that this choice is theirs.

Although I feel miserable at times, it’s a little comforting to know that this misery is self-inflicted, and that I can choose, if I want, to be happy. That I can choose to end this spectacle, be kinder to myself, and, from a note my favorite professor in university once wrote me, “smell the flowers”.

*a reflection written more than a year ago I unearthed while searching for an old college picture a few minutes ago.

Reading series 1: The Pleasure of the Text

The Sentence is hierarchical: it implies subjections, subordinations, internal reactions. Whence its completion: how can a hierarchy remain open? The Sentence is complete: it is even precisely that language which is complete. Practice, here, is very different from theory. Theory (Chomsky) says that the sentence is potentially infinite (infinetely catalyzable), but practice always obliges the sentence to end (Barthes 50).

Barok

I am yet to figure out whether the word baroque which refers to “a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music” (from the ever reliable Wiki) is where the pejorative Filipino slang ‘barok’  came from.

Barok refers to the person, language, or way of doing that exhibits crassness, inappropriateness, lack of a sense of taste. In popular Filipino media, a stereotypical barok is a provincial lad arriving at the big city, unknowingly being taken advantage by a swindling Manileño whom he trusts his everything. The provinciano usually speaks with a heavy accent, which is usually Bisaya, dons a camisa chino and cotton pyjama ensemble, and carries a bayong.

It is hard to relate this barok from the baroque classical music that I listened to last night at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester. It was a concert by the Salisbury Singers entitled “Baroque Brilliance” that featured George Philipp Telemann’s and Johann Sebastian Bach’s music.

Not schooled in appreciating classical music, I only listen to what I think is worth listening; at its simplest, my taste in music is barok. I’d find myself switching from Wagner, to Eheads, to the Beatles, and the next minute to April Boy Regino. But if beauty transcends culture and a listener’s level of education, then something that is deemed beautiful is what it is no matter who is listening. And interestingly, despite the cold, and some glitches with my camera, I was able to enjoy the concert.

And felt last night’s music touching my soul, my spirit.

With all seriousness.

Visita iglesia

I asked a Mexican student here how the letter ‘s’ in words like ‘iglesia’ is enunciated. Is it like how my History teacher in college would as in /iglethia/ which I still find funny? Or the more phonetic /iglesya/? I breathed a sigh of relief when he said the latter. I could not bring myself to say /inthithuthion/ or /tholuthion/! But he warned me it’s Español de Mexico and not Español de España. This I shall not forget.

I will not be prejudiced against how the letter s is enunciated by the Spaniards. We all got options, and it’s all a matter of preference. I’m for the sibilant, or however you call it, /s/.

And so a couple of friends, B, and I went for a visita iglesia on Holy Thursday. It was my first. The idea is for one to visit as many Roman Catholic churches as he can and to pray the fourteen Stations of the Cross, ideally a station for each church. Doing so was a tall order so we settled only for eight churches. Still a feat considering the traffic, long ride, heat and humidity, and the crowd of Catholics who were to express their faith by doing their own visita iglesia. We went around Bulacan, a province north of Manila.

The altar of the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace in Barangay San Vicente, Sta Maria, Bulacan. It has this other-worldly feel because the image of the Virgin is outside the church which can be seen from the inside through a clear glass panel.

Bas reliefs of angels found in a church museum beside the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace. One would also find relics of saints and other icons in the museum, which despite the limited space was able to enthrall (this word sounds awkward here) me with the sculptures and paintings that were,  more than being religious, curious.

The belfry and facade of Inmaculada Concepcion parish church in Sta Maria, Bulacan. Outside, while waiting for the mass to finish, we ate fish balls and boiled corn. I may be mistaken, but one of our friends mentioned that beside it is a shrine for a saint whom people who are unable to walk pray. Those who were able to walk again offered their crutches to the saint.

Interior of Sta Rita de Cascia parish church in Guiguinto, Bulacan. This year’s Holy Thursday was unusually solemn because according to that same friend of ours in the previous years there were children hoisted a la Cirque du Soleil on the ceiling of the church portraying different scenes in the Christ’s Passion.

There was power black-out when we reached this church of Santissima Trinidad in Malolos, Bulacan. I found this the most modern-looking among the churches we visited. I failed to comprehend, however, the symbolism behind the glass stained eye-in-a-triangle (Eye of Providence) image.

Among the churches we visited, the Barasoain church or the parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the most historic. It was found on the 10-peso note that is now out of circulation.

The cat was nowhere to be found.

The National Shrine of St. Anne found in Hagonoy, Bulacan. There’s a waterfall inside!

The Santa Isabel church in Malolos, Bulacan is nothing short of spectacular. But after having gone through six churches, it seemed quotidian although it truly was not. This was where I prayed the 9th Station, stuttering.

And finally, the Immaculate Conception (Major Seminary). Our last stop. The seminarians prepared well the three churches in the area for the visiting faithfuls — the paths were lighted, there were priests ready to hear confessions, and seminarians guided people around.

The exercise showed us one of the many things Filipinos would do to express their faith, the beauty of Philippine churches, patience, valuing the company of friends, and for me, the importance of taking part in this communal Catholic exercise once in a while.

I look forward to the next visita iglesia or iglesya (but definitely not /iglethia/).

Ito’y para lang sa iyo

Ito’y para lang sa iyo:

Babe,

Ang post na ito ay aking isinulat para lang sa iyo. Ang oras ngayon dito ay 4:49 ng umaga. Sa mga oras na ito, alam kong natutulog ka pa, kung andiyan sana ako sa atin ay katabi kita ngayon sa pagtulog, tapos tatayo ako ng alas singko upang umihi, bubuksan ang bintana at pinto at paaandarin ang electric fan. Matutulog ng kaunti at pagsapit ng 7:00 ay isa-isa ko nang papatayin ang mga alarm na iyon na-set. Sa isa mong alarm andun ang ‘i love you, babe!!!’ Mangingiti ako at babalik sa kama, sa pagkakataong ito, yayakapin kita para hindi mo sabihin paggising mo na hindi kita niyakap habang tayo ay natutulog. Aamuy-amoyin kita, pakikinggan ang mahina mong hilik at tititigan ka lang.

Pero ngayo’y magkaiba ang mga oras natin. Ako eto, minamadali ang essay na ipapasa ko bukas at tinatapos ang pag-i-edit ng isang libro, habang paulit-ulit na pinakikinggan ang kantang “Follow Through” ni Gavin Degraw. Prosaic man, subalit ang hirap pigilin ang sarili kong magsulat habang umiihip ang malamig na hangin mula sa labas. Kung sana’y nandito ka, maglalakad-lakad tayo sa kakahuyan, hihigop ng mainit na kape sa downtown, o mag-uusap lang tungkol sa kung anu-anong bagay sa itaas ng burol.

Hindi ko na maantay na muli kang makita.

Naaalala mo ito?

Labin-limang buwan na.

At sa mga susunod pang mga buwan at taon.

Di na ako makapaghintay na makasama kang muli sa pagtulog.