Getting a second place

After a Sunday breakfast at Kanto in Mandaluyong, I thought of taking a mid-morning stroll (I’m gaining weight these days. The last time I measured I was 200lbs), so from Kapitolyo I walked down Sheridan and finally found myself on Pines street in front of the newly constructed Cityland building at the back of Flair Condominiums. I was there to check out the place and kill time. I asked to see their model unit to get some inspiration on how I will do the interior design of my unit in Cubao that is due for turnover in August. The studio looked okay. After asking some perfunctory questions and making the broker compute for my monthly amortization in the event I get that unit, I decided right there and then to get a unit on the 15th floor and give her my 10 per cent down payment this Wednesday after work. This is my second condominium investment. It is going to be financially heavy for me in the next five years or so, but I think that this is worth the risk.

For a man in his late twenties, I think it is but proper to prepare for retirement. I got a health insurance that will be good for the next ten years, purchased a mutual fund policy, got one condominium unit (now two), saved some money in the bank, and I make sure that I still am able to maintain a fairly comfortable and healthy life.

I am earning enough every month (It would be very difficult if I had my own family). I know that at some point ten years down the road, I will need to slowdown and take things at an easier stride because I cannot work my butt off until forever.

So while I know that it is cute to ruminate upon what the real essence of life is and ask questions like where did I come from, why am I here, where do all these lead to, I have to be a wise man in the latter part of his twenties. I am about to get past that sweet point in my life when my age gives me all the excuses to fuck things up.

Eventually, I realized, aging and the accompanying responsibilities seep in. True, I want to make my life a celebration of that youthful self who was not afraid to speak my mind and to “waste” time daydreaming about a perfect world where everyone does not have to worry about the future; on the side hidden, I am one very practical guy who knows too well what makes up this world. I need to secure the future regardless of how uncertain it will be. The sacrifices I am making now, I hope, will render it less unsure.

Someday, when I am fed up with all these, I will buy a farm in the province, settle there, plant vegetables and fruit trees, then finally begin writing a book.

Or I don’t know. Perhaps go to law school.

 

28 things I learned now that I’m in my late twenties

Everyone seems to be making lists these days, and because lists are admittedly fun to read (and that they organize our thoughts so well they’re anathema to the world made too disorganized by everyone’s random rants about everything), I thought why not jump onto the bandwagon (perhaps I’ll have something to laugh at rereading this ten years from now). So here is the list of things I learned after having lived long enough:

1. Sleep is too necessary the promise of a fun Saturday night pales in comparison to the promise of a fun Sunday morning after a long, restful sleep.

2. I’ve gotten too old to party, too disillusioned by supposed excitement of night-outs gone awry, painful headache from hangover the next day, and the utter meaninglessness of it all. And the crowd, arrgh, the crowd of young people wanting acceptance so desperately from people who barely matter.

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I’d rather have my mug of hot coffee and a book of essays on nationalism in Southeast Asia than aimlessly gyrating on a crowded dance floor while downing an overpriced drink to the tune of a trashy mix done by an overpaid DJ (I’m not even sure of they still call them DJ; the word sounds too dated to me). Seriously.

3. Which brings me to my third point – Reading. I need to read. And I should read indiscriminately, while making sure at the same time that I have a healthy mix of esoteric and challenging ones, of fiction that takes me to other planes of realities, and of those that are mind-deadening because doing so will allow me to participate in this communal conversation.

4. When one reaches his late twenties, he’ll realize that getting those rock-hard abs is not anymore as easy to have as it used to be. There was a time not so long ago when one can eat five cups of rice and completely burn them in three hours. Those days are, of course, over.

However, more than having those chiseled abs, exercising regularly is the easiest way to be high on endorphin and all those happy hormones without getting dangerously dependent on them. Exercising, aside from making one feel and look better, also functions like a milepost and aids in establishing healthy routine. I can go on an on talking about it, but I know you get what I mean.

5. There are days when I hate my job, and it’s just normal. Nobody passionately loves his job all the time. One need not to. There’s life after it, and that life outside of one’s job is just as important.

6. Invest. I buy stocks, purchase mutual funds, and of course keep some hard cash in the bank just in case. I do not have much, just enough to live comfortably based on a standard I have set for myself. I’ve gone past the stage when I’d squander a month’s worth of salary buying unnecessary stuff that reach their point of diminishing marginal utility as soon as I leave the shopping mall.

7. Get insurance. It’s too painful to fish out from one’s pocket cash to pay medical bills. A stay in an emergency room of a hospital due to a simple upset stomach can easily cost 6,000 pesos. And a three-day stay in a hospital will drain all your cash in no time. It’ll feel less overwhelming to spread out the burden of one’s health bills over a period of time by getting insurance because of course you’re not anymore as invincible as you thought you were.

Yeah, I just have to admit that this feeling of security costs something, too.

8. I only need three pairs of shoes: A pair of everyday canvas shoes for work, a pair of black leather shoes for important days (say reading a paper or attending a friend’s wedding), and a pair of dependable running shoes. All the rest, as a friend said, are nothing but fluff.

9. A weekly general cleaning of one’s place is healthy. It gives me peace of mind; I become more productive, and doing domestic chores inevitably keeps me sane. Getting rid of those cobwebs on the ceiling, mopping the floor, wiping those dusts away, emptying the trash basket, defrosting the freezer contribute to one’s overall well-being.

10. There’s nothing wrong if after all this time Alanis Morissette and Savage Garden still appeal to you. No one should be given the right to dictate upon you the kind of music to listen.

11. Fast foods are overpriced. Lack of time will never be an acceptable reason for falling into the trap of these multinationals that prey on the idea of our supposed lack of time, which they manufacture along with their soggy spaghetti, fat-soaked hamburger patties, and chickens drenched in sodium solution masquerading as gravy. With practice, one can easily make a gourmet meal that will give even more horrendously overpriced restaurants a run for their money.

12. People are poor not only because they do not have access to opportunities but also because they simply do not have enough time for everything.

13. Moisturize. I am not certain, but it makes the skin look less tired. I think. The moment one introduces his sentence with ‘I think,’ it’s like raising red flags of his uncertainty over the his assertion.

14. Eat lots of fiber. You can get it from grains and cereals, fruits, and vegetables. They do wonders to bowel movement.

15. It’s nice to have several pairs of house slippers. One, they get misplaced too easily. Nothing is worse than that feeling of having no slippers waiting for you as soon as you take off your shoes. Two, they’re cheap so having many will have very little impact on the budget. Three, they’re so comfortable and they remind you that finally you’re home.

16. Call, text, or visit them, but make sure your family knows you still exist. With independence it’s so easy to lose contact with people that truly matter to one’s life. But hey, it’s never to late to reconnect and to make your parents and siblings feel how much they still affect you in one way or another. Because like any relationships, our relationship with our family thrives in constant nurturing and conversations.

17. Raise plants. Or if your space does not allow for a garden, at least a plant in a pot. But there should be an animate green thing in your place. Unlike pets that require much attention and time, plants need only regular watering and a weekly three-hour stay under the sun. Plants remind you that somehow you still have not severed your connection from nature. They’re also lovely to look at. And if work becomes unbearable, looking at them can be calming.

18. Pray. There was a time before when it was supposedly cool to brandish one’s lack of faith in anything supernatural. Eventually that time will end.

19. The world doesn’t care.

20. Neither should you.

21. But there’s nothing wrong if you do.

22. Happiness is our only goal in life.

23. Learn to let go. It would be a perfect world if we could keep forever whatever and whoever keep us happy. But it’s not the case. When it’s time to let go, hold on for a little while, but when it’s really truly time to let go, then let go. Nothing’s wrong with holding on for a while. It’s normal. Then when it’s okay, you’d know in your heart when it truly is, move on and begin living life again.

24. Being kind to yourself is a responsibility.

25. Love someone until you bleed inside. Love until it hurts. Love until you cannot give anymore. And you will realize how much more you can still give. And that’s when you truly love. I think.

26. Forgiving people who hurt you will seem impossible at first, but soon everything will be forgotten that forgiveness will be unnecessary. Still, despite its futility, forgive.

27. Do not skip breakfast.

28. Don’t let others’ lists determine how you live your life. Make your own list.

Throwback Tuesdays

Because I don’t want this post to celebrate one of the most depressing days in a person’s life.

Perhaps the most rational reason people dig their trunks and the dark recesses of their computer memories to look for the most horrendous and dated artifacts of their pasts during Thursdays and have them posted on their virtual walls is because even though the past is ugly, sepia-ed, and moth-infested, it has never abandoned them. It is continually remembered with much fondness, like a 5-week old cereal-and-milk mixture sitting happily inside one’s refrigerator, forming crust on top of desiccated crusts, that can turn into either a sour-tasting granola or an organic charcoal–both wonderful byproducts.

Throwback Thursdays appeal the most to people in their 20s. That stage in one’s life when nothing’s uncertain, and the future looms devoid with kindness, when everyone seems to have moved on, but one still finds himself stuck in one place, silently crying for help, but not wanting to cry too hard lest his Facebook friends think he’s a whiner and a bitter participant in this party called life.

And so he quietly posts reminders of the kinder past, hoping, just hoping, the future will be much better, and for friends to drop him a like or two.

Don’t ask me about that giraffe and its various permutations.

What am I talking about? Today is just Monday.

On the road

Amid frenzied reviewing for the comprehensive exams in grad school on Monday, I’m reading this. And the book makes the concepts and theories even more incomprehensible – and looking more closely, the question ‘what are all of these for?’ is too distracting to set aside.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

On the Road, 1957

(from the writer who will endlessly remind me of a friend I lost.)

Kerouac

Here’s to the five years of blogging

I began blogging exactly five years ago. That night of 8 June 2008 when this blog debuted was like tonight; it was raining hard. Traffic of motorbikes scurrying to reach their destinations halted outside because the downpour was just too much to bear for the antiquated drainage system of that old district of Hanoi. The woman selling pho outside our compound was still there, seated in her red kiddie plastic chair serving bowls of steaming rice noodles submerged in that divine broth to stranded motorists who did not bother taking off their colorful raincoats and equally multi-colored helmets.

That night I was suffering from a level of boredom too extreme and painful it was one of those rare times I can recall I cried. I cried a lot. I missed home so badly. I felt invisible because I was indeed living invisibly. For the woman selling pho outside I was just “that” strange ngoui nuoc ngoai, for the rest I was a nonentity.

Writing down about those gamut of feelings  I knew I would never fully capture in writing, I thought, would be the best way for me to at least have some semblance of order during those months when nothing seemed to make sense. (It’s not as if things make more sense now. (Often they still don’t make sense, though I never stopped attempting to understand them.) I was twenty-two then. I could feel I was poised to realize whatever it was I was dreaming of. I have completely  convinced myself then that whatever inconvenience it was that I was going through in that foreign country was a way of gaining a foothold to something bigger. I didn’t know what that something was then, and I can never be less sure now.

I didn’t care that “Going Against the Current” was too corny a title. But it was the first thing that occurred to me. I subtitled it ‘thoughts of a twenty-something.’ I wasn’t aware then that I was having my share of quarter life crises. I didn’t know the term existed. But I knew there was something odd about that whole set-up. Living and studying in Vietnam was not part of my plan then. I only wanted to escape from the banality of my existence right after graduating from college that I was willing to be hurled anywhere, only to find myself hurled nastily in that blah. I was living by myself in that shoebox of a rented place on Tran Hung Dao Street in the old district of Hanoi, which only exacerbated what then was a terminal case of ennui. At that time, it was the aptest title I could think of for a personal blog.

I wrote this to console myself:

“On Being an Exile”

I have been reading a short essay written by Jorge Luis Borges, and he talked about how being an “exile” brings out parts of our personalities that is unknown to us, and will forever be unknown to us, unless we allow ourselves to be exiled or for us to be exiled by force (which can be in any form such as that of the state, an organization, or the bigger society).

Here, I shall be talking about throwing one’s self away, figuratively, that is, one chooses to embark on the feat of a self-exile. Consciously choosing to leave, and here it means physically deserting anything that has to do with a secure life, and living in a place that is foreign, a place where doing something for comfort will prove burdensome. Barriers will include inability to communicate one’s self, lack of cultural knowledge, ethnocentricity, etc.

Just like all ethnographic researches, the researcher, or as in our case the exiled, faces several stages of coming to terms with himself in relation to his environment and its actors. Roughly, there will be a period of much patronizing and romanticizing, that is, the exiled will think that everything around him is better than what he has left behind. It will be followed a realization that things around him are different and therefore will tax his understanding of all the cultural truths as well as subtleties in his new environment. This will awaken the hidden ethnocentric (and xenophobic) character of our subject which lead to a gap and further distancing from everything around him and creating a world of his own making. Although this may sound pessimistic, this is necessary for the subject to create a giant leap towards understanding and eventually living in harmony with the foreign people surrounding him.

The third period, which I will refer from hereon as ‘distancing’, is a very crucial step because this is where the hidden and repressed selves of our subject surface and thereby allowing different personae to make themselves known to him. Here, creativity, appreciation of one’s former society, and objective probing of the world in general are strengthened and are highlighted.

In distancing, the mind of the subject shifts from a passive, non-observer of events, objects, cultural truths and subtleties, and idiosyncracies into a more active, peering, and critical entity. Interestingly, this also leads to a blossoming of the artistic mind, scientific inquisitiveness, and more understanding of the inner self as well as the emotion. Distancing allows the exiled to have a hold of his world and shape it in a way that can be radical, sometimes, but most of the times more reformative, and in general beneficial. It can be in a form of literary works such as Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain or Tolstoi’s novels War and Peace and Annakarenina, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

It is, therefore, necessary, especially for the young people, to travel and to detach themselves from the mundane and the usual and immerse themselves in a world devoid of comfort and security.

No amount of feigned cockiness could hide the insecurity of my twenty-two-year-old self, of my inability to know where exactly I was heading. Still I treaded on because doing the most difficult was the easiest thing to do. And I never regretted having gone on with the journey. The ride has been exciting and I look forward to more years of blogging. I just hope that when another five years is done, I’d be a lot better.

Why I have boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well

Most will consider it scandalous to talk about enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning when everyone is supposed to be in his political animal mind these days. Elections are on Monday. And one cannot just write about the pretenses and the superficiality of the bliss of a cup of coffee without being viewed pretentious and shallow. It’s too light a topic. It’s a non-topic, for christsake! Any self-respecting, supposedly responsible citizen of this country must take part in this exercise, must be part of a nation desperately in need for change. But how shall I convince myself that all this be taken seriously? This is laughable, a comedy of basest sort. Comparing elections here in the Philippines to a circus has long gone trite. In fact, they’re expected to be circus-like, that they should be a circus.

Why have I boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well?

Boycott is not exactly the most accurate word as there’s no hard line political reason I have not participated in this democratic exercise since I turned 18. I neither feel any compelling need to spectate in this farce nor do I think I can use my one vote to compel these politicians to do what should have been done a long time ago. Participating in this travesty will only add to the delusions of these jokers that I am complicit in their charade. I’d rather close my eyes, cover my ears and let Monday pass.