A little bit

I love weekends because I can bum as much as I want. On these two days, after the crazy weekdays, I can sleep a little bit longer, linger a little bit when eating my food, and walk with insouciance and a little bit slower gaits.  I am still to make up my mind what to do for the rest of the day. Gym will definitely be one of them and probably go to Ultra to swim after. Then read a book which I had not really gotten the chance to read the previous week because of my, well, schedule.

I remember in March, just when the school year was about to come to a close, I excitedly looked forward to my summer because I shall be resting and vacationing the whole time, but it seems to me now that this summer is giving me just a little bit of a room to breathe, a slightly freer feeling than the previous two sems did, which allowed me 5 hours of sleep on average every day.

The first thing I did right after I woke up at 9 o’clock today was to feed my pet fish, Hachiko. From that point on I was stricken with the deadly vice of sloth. I went back to my bed, stared at the lachrymose view outside, and listened to the diaphanous rhythm of the sound emanating from my airconditioner. Minutes later, I began to panic when I realized it’s already 10:26 and I still had not left my bed.

I checked my emails and was happy to learn that I already got a teaching load at the Ateneo next semester. I went to UPD CRS to preenlist my subjects in grad school but the system is not yet allowing students to do this. I already got accepted at the Asian Center and will begin with my master’s in Asian Studies (Southeast Asia) this semester. This incoming semester is going to be another killer, as lethal if not more lethal (somebody told me this is an absolute adjective, hence does not admit intensifiers) than the previous.

Excited because of the beautiful turn of events, I ran to the bathroom, quickly took a very cold bath, readied my gym bag, went downstairs to catch a bus, and here I am now sipping my cappuccino and enjoying my honey glazed doughnuts before hitting the treadmill.

Despite the very little room left to enjoy these small pleasures, somehow, managing to still do makes this day a little bit…

Journey alone

I’ll turn my back on Manila this Thursday. I’ll  join Babe to Pampanga then we’ll part ways in San Fernando. I’ll be staying with my sister in Mabalacat until Friday then catch the first bus going to Baguio at Dau terminal in the morning. If my itinerary is followed to the minutest of details, I’ll reach Sagada by Saturday afternoon, that is, if I decide to stay a night in Baguio. This plan was finalized an hour ago. Other than basic facts such as what buses to take, where to take them, where to stay for the night, and where to get a clean meal (save delicious), I had to keep myself from reading descriptions of the trip and veered away from reading reviews of hotels and restaurants in the area. I want to reach Sagada with my sense of wonderment as whole as that of a five-year-old’s.

It’s a trip I have been dreaming about and finally embarking on alone. I am forgoing a Visayas trip with former college classmates at UP in favor of this sojourn. I’ve had too much of talks these past few months that I reached a point when I get nauseated whenever I hear any form of utterance. I do not want to spend this hard-to-come-by vacation in loquacity. I have deprived myself of this much needed introspection which can only be had by distancing myself a bit from all these things that caused me undue stress, and from my very self, including.

My backpack will contain only the most essential–a little cash, toiletries, clothing for two days, my laptop, a camera, and two paperbacks. Trips of spiritual nature, though I am far from being the spiritual sort, are best conducted in ascetic fashion and in solitude.

I tried my best not to sound like I romanticize solitude in writing this post as aside from the fact that I do not want to be called funny names such as troglodyte, recluse, solitary, anchorite, solitudinarian, or worse cave dweller and/or hermit, the whole concept is trite. I need somebody to survive. In retrospect, it was an illusion I cultivated during my teenage years: that I can be self-sufficient. A fallacious assumption. However, in spite of this realization I recently have, now that I am in my mid-20s, I still believe that I owe it to myself to seek quiet whenever chance lets me. And this is exactly what I am going to do in the next four days.

On exactly the same day two years ago:

While ridding my computer of useless and redundant files, I found these pictures dated 3rd of January 2009. I was with my Vietnamese friends visiting the port city Hai Phong, 100 kilometers from Hanoi. It was the height of winter and the shivery breeze from the sea exacerbated the chilling effect of the bitter weather. I was suffering from a breakout of pimples, flaking skin, asthma, and scores of discomfort associated with cold January. But those didn’t keep me from enjoying the trip and taking thousands of pictures which some just ended up, like souls do in the now defunct purgatory, in the recycle bin of my computer.

With Le at the gate of the Cathedral of Hai Phong. The city is one the few cities in the country with a sizable Christian population. My friend, Le, practices ancestor worship.

With Le’s cousin, Chi Anh.

By the seashore several meters from the Hai Phong Harbor, the biggest in Vietnam next to that of Saigon. The sea was unfortunately too murky, and without expounding on the thesis, too cold for swimming. But had I brought trunks, I wouldn’t let go of the opportunity to wade in the water in the dead of winter.

The two I look forward to seeing when I reach home:


Mt Matutum being crowned by fluttering, morning clouds.

And pineapples being harvested. I am yet to taste something more divine than a freshly picked, succulent Dole pineapple. The taste and the tangy smell remind me of my childhood.

General-cleaning with Gem and Sef

After a back-breaking scrubbing, sweeping, and washing, Gem and Sef’s place in Lapaz is now squeaky clean, better smelling, and definitely more habitable than the jungle that it used to be. We threw away the decade-old linoleum floor cover, opened the perpetually closed window that gave us a view to the neighbor’s antique window grilles and rusty, obsolete, Korean-made air-conditioning unit, and dusted the ceiling that forced-evicted several colonies of tarantulas and black widow spiders. We had to cover our mouths and noses to keep us from inhaling noxious fumes and fungal spores that have accumulated in the room since the house was built in the 70s.

At first, it appeared to me that Gem and Sef did not have any intention at all to clean their room because both looked contented and happy enduring its familiar gloom and comfortable darkness. But this afternoon, the temperature and humidity soared to impossible levels. The small room, measuring 6 feet by 10 feet, was suddenly transformed into a malfunctioning, overheated sauna. It was the desire to let in more air and light by opening the window that led to this major general-cleaning project.

One thing led to another. First it was the closed windows, then the cobwebs looking too inviting to let go, then the topsy-turvy books on top of the cabinet, then the sad-looking floor, until everything was turned upside-down and it became morally scandalous to return them to where they normally were found without dusting them or washing them.

I told Gem to throw away those useless stuff we accumulated since we all started going to college. I was surprised to find our eldest sister’s photocopies, my high school identification card, the clown costume that my brother next to me used to wear in his part-time job, and other things we thought were long gone or lost.

Although I thought it was a more intelligent idea to set the room on fire and start from nothing, this proved very challenging and eventually dismissed as infeasible since my sibling are only renting the place. My sister brushed this idea off as insane. I thought it was fun and out-of-the-box. My younger brother gave me his full support.

But my sister, who is, by default, the matron of the room, prevailed.

However, because I am the most senior among the three of us, it was not difficult to boss them around and give them irrational orders such as transferring an indoor plant and placing it just outside the windows to add more vitality to our sad room. Only that the smallest indoor plant around is three feet taller than my younger brother and twice as heavy as my sister. This could not be done by them and I did not want to over-exert my muscles for something as commonplace a task as lifting an indoor plant several meter from its original point of origin. We abandoned the plan. Or waxing and scrubbing the floor until it reflects more light than the shard of the mirror I broke but which Gem found a better use of and glued it on the wall rather than wait for me to buy a replacement for the one I accidentally broke. They said this task of polishing the floor was Herculean in difficulty. I said nothing is impossible to determined spirits. Theirs, they told me, are not determined. Case closed. Further counter-argument is unwelcome.

At around 5:30 in the afternoon, the room started to look like a real room of two college students and less like a slaughterhouse. Of course, it was still hot and humid but not anymore as hot and humid as it usually was before we cleaned it.

We were greeted by a gush of fresh air from our neighbor’s air-conditioning exhaust. This was better than nothing at all, our indefatigable spirit told us.

To reward ourselves, and because I am their eldest brother, I felt compelled to go out and buy ourselves something for snack. I crossed the street facing West Visayas State University Medical Center and bought five sticks of banana-Q. We downed this with ice-cold Coke and some hearty conversation and laughter.

I felt good knowing that I’ll be leaving my two younger siblings with a clean, comfortable, and livable room at least for the next five months. This made me truly happy.

Plying Pasig River

These photos taken using my phone would have remained untouched on my desktop had I not fortuitously ran into them this morning while I was attempting to clean my computer and rid it of unnecessary and incriminating files.

Two weeks ago, a friend and I went to Manila for lunch and finally proceeded with our long-stalled plan of riding a passenger ferry that plies Pasig River from Manila to Taguig City.

I must say that the idea of the project–using the navigable portion of the river as a passenger route to ease the traffic in the metro–is an excellent one, only that the government arm who is tasked to do this has been missing on a lot of details.

The ferries are not properly maintained, the air-conditioning units not working, and the security is, to say the least, very lax. The stench of the river seeps through the interior of the ferry. Despite the commendable effort of both local and national government to rehabilitate Pasig River, undeniably, the river still gives off noxious odor. If they intend to use the river for the purpose of making it a commuters’ highway, and if they want the people to patronize this alternative, then something has to be done regarding the minor discomfort the system brings to the riding public.

In spite of this, the experience had a tourist-y feel in it similar to riding a Ferris wheel or walking through a House of Horror for the first time, we ignored the inconvenience because of the novelty of the experience; it’s not as if we ride the ferries in Pasig River every day.

From Escolta, several meters from Chinatown, is the second station south of the route. I imagined Elias (was it he?) throwing the improvised bomb to Pasig River thwarting Simon’s plan to seek vengeance against the corrupt friars in Jose Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo.

The trip, which took more than 40 minutes, had lull moments. So to let time pass, I folded my ticket into a paper boat.

One will notice that people keep on moving from one side of the ferry to another to avoid the sun. With this, one can see the narrow line that separates death (that is, dying from ingesting murky water that has in it God-knows-what species of bacteria and viruses million times more potent than HIV or Ebola virus)  and life, all because of the vanity subliminally imposed on the Filipino psyche by ads for skin-whitening lotions.

The back of the Post Office building that faces the Escolta station and the building being reflected in the nearly black water. If there is something beautiful about the waters of Pasig it’s the fact that their reflections of buildings and objects along banks of the river are comparatively clearer and definitely more beautiful than in the waters of cleaner and more pristine rivers.

For unknown reasons, probably security, it is forbidden to take photos of the Malacanang palace. The moment it dawn on us that the magnificent white building to our right is the center of power in the country, we passengers started snapping pictures of the president’s palace. The uniformed men in the ferry hurriedly ordered us to delete the pictures in our phones which we promptly did, and these men made sure we did. But out of sheer luck, I was able to keep this one. This, I believe, will hardly pose any security concern to the incumbent president, Gloria Arroyo.

(But if somebody has the audacity enough to go past her legion of security personnel and, say, put poison in her cup of coffee, plant a bomb in her bathroom, or simply bludgeon her to death, it’s an act some of us would gladly welcome.)

And after the long trip, we saw this imposing silhouette of Guadalupe Bridge right in front of the breathtaking Pasig sunset. Relishing the unforgettable sight before us but more concerned with the stench that got stuck to our clothes, we caught a bus home to Makati.

I need my five-hour sleep

I don’t do naps, naps are cheap. Although I must admit that people who take naps are the most courageous if not the most audacious of humans but that does not make napping a hobby more respectable than poking booger or making sound from the vacuum created inside one’s clasped armpits.

An eight-hour sleep, on the other hand, especially these days, is a luxury only a royalty can have. For those who are situated barely above the poverty line and sometimes even falling below, giving in to sleep means giving up precious time earning to eke out a living. For a poor twenty-something like me, I know I cannot afford a sleep longer than five hours. A long sleep is expensive but truly invigorating just like your truffle, caviar, and cold champagne. Regardless, I’m sure I can live without these finer things in life.

I have less than five hours of sleep every day, but when I do I make sure I sleep like a baby which means surrendering all my cares to the cruel world. If the world burns in hell, Noah’s great flood drowns mankind and his banality, or the Christ comes the second time around, and fortuitously I’m in the middle of my five-hour sleep, I would then rather get toasted, bloated, or not resurrected than not have my sleep.

I’ll never exchange my five hours sleep for anything. I’ll sleep my five hours of sleep.