A stray dog

We humans think in symbols (albeit unconsciously, and most of the time use symbols that are a part of the general repertoire of symbols so unoriginal and fully embedded in the language we fail to realize that they are in fact symbolic).

And we impose gravity on these objects that so happen to be there in the most opportune of moments and associate with them meanings both frivolous and profound. Often, we begin by using them as a metaphor, an all-purpose cliche to simplify thoughts, but which also has this very insidious effect of rendering our thoughts banal, even dead, if chosen haphazardly and in a way that is uninterrogated. (Which is almost always the case. As who has the time to examine one’s choice of metaphors in speech?)

But in some very rare instances, we strike at something novel, pure, original, and powerful that we get dumbstruck at how metaphors, if chosen correctly achieve the status of a true symbol, recurring and with multiple layers of meanings. And dangerous because they function as a frame by which look at the world.

This afternoon, on my way home, I saw this black Labrador. I used to see him last year with an older-looking Labrador who by the looks of it was in the twilight of his dog life. They were inseparable. Then this year, this guy has been seen plying Alvero Street every afternoon alone.

Cats fascinate me more than dogs. Cats seldom show emotions and feign independence. Dogs are rather predictable, unashamed of dependency. Dogs are sad creatures programmed to suffer from a tragic old-age. Cats expire in privacy that is of their own choosing, untheatrically. They don’t experience abandonment because they are no one’s pet to begin with. One doesn’t feel nostalgic towards things he doesn’t experience or believe to have experienced.

For dogs, it’s different. It’s heart rending to see an ageing canine walking on a street alone and abandoned. It’s sad because they had a taste of love and warmth but are deprived of it at a time in their lives when they need these the most. To be conditioned to feel love for one’s entire existence then to be divested of it is painful, and to witness one creature experience it is as painful to the observer.

When I was told that he’s called by someone in his past a stray dog I had nothing but pity and guilty empathy. I wanted to run my hand on his hair, look at him in the eyes, and tell him I will not abandon him, but I have nothing to prove that I will stay true to this promise. I barely know him. I don’t know his fear, his dreams, or the extent of evil he’s capable of doing. I only see what is good because that is what is allowed by our young relationship.

To declare that I will be loyal to him, to be with him, forever, will not make me any different from that person who promised the solitary Labrador that he will be with the dog until his dying days.

I, like any human being, am capable of leaving behind the things, pets, and people I care so much about.

And this is the folly of the human being. But it doesn’t mean that we stop making this promise, that we give up on attempting to stay true to this promise, that we don’t articulate this promise.

Because after all, everything begins with that promise. To have it is better than nothing at all. To experience love no matter how short is better than to not have experienced it at all. To hope that forever exists is a choice I shall make than to forever doubt its probability.

Delusional, sure.

But so what? This is what our brief existence allows–forever.



When a reader becomes too critical and reads what I have written like a professor of literature or psychology, I begin to be more wary and careful with what I write. I choose my words correctly, pick my verbs with caution, and fastidiously revise the organization of my essays lest I’d be labelled mediocre, and, worse insecure.

This is the danger of having an identified reader in mind and if that reader in mind actually reads one’s work. That reader in mind used to be an abstract concept whose impression I need not manage too closely, but the moment he makes his presence concrete and actually voices his opinion, then the writing process becomes more challenging, scarier, albeit more sincere, open, raw, vulnerable.

I have no issues with my written works criticised. I have heard and read more scathing criticisms of them, but for my person to be judged based on my written words, it can be a little hurtful, but I’m taking it in strides. Perhaps I’m just trying to run away from these gnawing suspicion that my writings are indeed too full of myself. And that he’s brave enough to tell me this thing I know all along but was too proud to admit – this too much focus on the self as a reflection of my insecurities as a writer, my fear of going beyond the self because I do not believe in my capacity to write about other people because I am afraid to be told I am wrong.

I enjoy observing people, but these observations are always filtered by the lens of the self, as should be the case. But often times what I make are not observations but a long confession of my longings via the observation.

And it’s refreshing to have a reader as unabashedly honest and candid as this reader in mind.

He, holding his about to be extinguished cigarette in between his middle and index fingers, naked, looking at me straight in the eyes telling me that it wasn’t an essay about Juanma but about me, taught me a lot of things about writing and reading.

And for the first time in my life, that reader in mind has responded very articulately. And I am floored.


I am often intrigued (I’m not sure if this is the best word to describe it) by all these that are happening between us. The start, it was something I did not think would lead to anything deep and beautiful, but to something deep and beautiful it led to.

This morning, while walking toward you, you smoking what remained of that cigarette stick always stuck in between your index and middle fingers, I barely held myself from smiling. I felt I was again a teenage boy mesmerised by the sight of a teacher he admires a lot, whose attention he wants to catch, whose affirmation of his good works he always seeks.

The noonday sun as it shone on your face almost blinded me. I tried to ask you a mundane question because if I said anything other than ‘how are you’ I’d betray the upwelling of excitement I had inside me. And it has long ceased to be appropriate for a man my age.

I have told you that my circumstance keeps me from being with you, and you told me that my choice of the word ‘circumstance’ is something that you don’t like. You’re right. It’s a word used by a coward, someone not brave enough to understand our agency as humans who are always given that choice to redirect our journey to wherever our hearts lead us.

Forgive the cliche. I have not written here for a long time, and I have become quite rusty. This is my way of documenting this very important decision I’m making as an adult.

Yesterday was a good day. We walked under the trees, we lay on the grass, you lay your head on my chest, you read me a poem, we kissed; it was so good I didn’t want for the day to end. I wanted it to go on forever. But my circumstance keeps on pushing itself on me.

But this shall soon change because you’ve given me enough reasons to.

As for irony, I shall write about it soon.

Sunset in Pagudpud

I know that pictures of me on the beach change each year–I gain more weight, develop more facial lines, look a little more confident, and perhaps happier because of my growing acceptance of the many things I cannot change now but I may take some shots of changing in the future.

My happiness now has become less dependent on many external factors; they’re more hinged on the fact that the sun, more than the people I’m with, the hotel where I stay, the things I do, they matter less, and that what counts is that I’m alive and am able to have a glimpse of the setting sun, that I believe is already something worth celebrating about–being able to enjoy that view of the sun as it turns bright orange then suddenly darkness.

I am becoming old. And that’s a good thing. I am not having so much fun, but I’m happy. The two are different.

A story in my mind

From a distance, looking at both of them, nothing seemed to be happening. They’re both good at keeping the facade of a static self.

A continued doing what he normally did, that is, be lulled by the quiet repetitions of his life. B was his normal, distant and quiet self. The only thing that betrayed him were those beautiful eyes that glimmered with so much knowledge of the world. But both knew that something strong and powerful was happening within, something that would sweep them both away. That night, before A said good bye to B, B told A that he wanted to talk to him, at least for an hour; there was gravity in his tone, but it needed not be that evening, that talk could wait until they have again that stolen time. The wind was quiet but it was cool.

A said yes. Terrified. It was one of those rare times when B called him by his name.