The Red Stairway

“The Red Stairway” (1944)
Tempera on masonite, 16″ x 23 5/16″
Behn Shahn

Mag-isa akong kumain sa katabing fastfood ng gusaling tinitirhan ko, habang bumabagyo kahapon. Hindi ko alam kung mapapahalakhak ako sa mga senaryo sa harap ko: ang paggamit ng kandila ng mga crew dahil brownout, ang pagsandok ng iced tea dahil sa di pag-andar ng dispenser, ang mga na-stranded na pasahero na sumusilong sa kakapiranggot na atip sa ilalim ng estasyon ng MRT sa Boni, at ang nakapanlulumong pag-iisa ko na naman.


Isang linggo mula ngayon, aalis na naman ako papunta sa kung saan man ako dalhin ng aking wanderlust. Naisip kong para sa isang taong lumaki sa mga isla ng Pilipinas, likas na siguro sa akin ang pagkakaroon ng dugong lagalag kagaya ng siyam na milyong Pinoy na sa pagtantiya ko’y Antarktika na lamang siguro ang hindi pa nasasakop.

Ngunit ganito pala ang pakiramdam ng nang-iiwan. Akala ko dati, lahat pinapasan ng iniwan, lahat kargo niya; subalit ang hirap na parehong iniinda ng iniwan at nag-iiwan, magka-iba man ng batayan ay pareho nakasusugat at nakasasakit.


Ilang beses na akong umalis, at kadalasa’y di na bumabalik. Gustuhin ko mang pumirme, manatili, at magkaroon ng isang bahay na matatawag kong ‘bahay ko’ ay hindi maaari. Habambuhay na siguro akong di magpapati-anod sa agos.

May mga pagkakataong nalalasing ako sa pakiramdam ng kapanatagan, ng seguridad subalit paulit-ulit kong sinasabi sa sarili ko na ‘John, you’re leaving soon.’ May mga naging kaibigan na hindi ko na magawang iwanan subali’t sa huli’t huli’y hanggang estasyon lamang pala ng tren, pantalan, o paliparan magwawakas ang lahat. May mga minahal din ako sa mga paglalakbay na ito. Ngunit gaya nang kadalasang nangyayari, aalis din ako pagdating ng umaga. May iilang kung sana’y pinigilan ang pag-alis ko, buong puso akong mananatili. Pero nabuo na sa isip nila na hindi na ako matitigil, at natanggap na nila ang katotohanag ito. Isa pa’y di rin ako sigurado kung mananatili ako kung sakaling nakiusap sila.


Gayunpama’y ako’y lilisan pa rin, at tanging ako lamang ang makapagsasabi kung kailan ko na gustong tuluyang manatili sa isang lugar kung saan hindi na ako bababa papunta sa katabing fastfood upang kumain at matawa sa kandila o sandok na gamit, o sa mga taong sumisilong sa ilalim ng tulay habang hinipan ng malamig na hangin ng bagyo, o sa pagkain ko nang mag-isa.

All Dada posters from http://ericceledonia.blogspot.com

Cooking pancit canton and pigging out

Now I know how if feels to pig out on pancit canton to a point of near-abdominal eruption. It seems like all my brain cells congregated inside my stomach and there, drenched in vegetable oil, committed mass suicide.

Lucky Me


I bought three packs of Lucky Me pancit canton (three toyo mansi [a savory soy sauce and calamansi concoction]) and a red pack of sweet and spicy noodles). I found out that this is the most ideal combination of sweet, sour, and a little spiciness sure to sate all my craving for the all-Filipino style noodles. To complete my grocery list, I also bought a bag of Gardenia pandesal and a 1.5-liter MUG root beer. They are a bit more expensive than if I buy them from Robinsons Pioneer opposite our side. However, climbing the steep stairs to the MRT station and going down while dodging real estates agents selling their yet-to-be-built condo units will be too much of a hassle. So I ended up buying the things that will stuff me to my gut with the pancit canton I bought from from a 24-hours convenience store on Boni Drive.

I boiled three glasses of tap then dunked my four square-shaped instant noodles for three minutes. Longer than that and you’ll have a yellowish paste; less than and you’ll be eating noodles with a consistency of cuticles freshly nipped from your fingers and toes. Cooking instant noodles is an art. It exacts and demands accuracy and precision you only find in nuclear physics.  It can be frustrating at first but once you get the rhythm and you established your preference for doneness then you can cook it even while sleeping.

While preparing my noodles like an Italian chef cooking for the Queen of England, I cut one by one the tip of the flavoring packs and seasonings using my incisors, mixed them together until they look like baby shit. It is interesting to note that these packs may contain carrot bits and, if you’re lucky, artificial meat that surprisingly disappear once tossed with the steaming noodles.

Pancit Canton

Photo by tipidmeals.com

After three minutes, using the lid of the pot, I  drained the noodles. Just a reminder, be careful as you could get yourself burned. So I suggest you get a t-shirt from your heaping laundry bag, using it as pot holder, leave a hair-thin space between the pot and its cover, and stealthily tip the pot to about a 70 degrees angle then gradually increasing the recline until you reach 90. Let the urine-colored water to flow. Drain completely.

I then tossed my perfectly cooked noodles to my prepared seasoning.

It was one of the most satisfying meal I’ve had, if my memory serves me right.

The man with a black umbrella

It has been raining since the time I woke up this morning. Atmospheric conditions such as today’s remind me of rainy November afternoons in Hanoi when all I did was to cuddle a pillow and bury myself with blankets my friend’s mom provided me or to bathe in the rain while cycling with my red bike around Ho Dac Di or Pho Thai Ha.


Yesterday when I went to Inquirer office in Makati to get my prize and my friend’s for the Virgin Labfest theater review, I mentioned to Gibbs Cadiz, the man who organized the competition, in our chat that I studied in Hanoi for almost a year. It felt as if it was already a long time ago, and the people and the place more fantastic than real. It has almost been five months since I arrived here in Manila and decided to ‘test the water’. Nothing much has come up from this youthful adventure I am embarking on.  I could’ve directly gone home to my parent’s house in Polomolok.

Hanoi was the first thing I thought of when I woke up today. How I miss that city.

While exerting all my efforts to climb the steep stairs going to Boni MRT Station, the black umbrella I bought from 7eleven weeks ago when I got caught in a downpour in Intramuros, flipped a la Mary Poppins to the chagrin of the woman in front of me who seemed to have magnetized all the water soaked in the synthetic fabric of my umbrella’s canopy. She gave me a deathly and almost deadly look and proceeded unceremoniously, before I could say my apologies, to her despirited gaits up the train station.

One of the reasons I love rainy days: people are cool-headed.

Harry Potter

Although I have no intention of watching the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to the 8-part movie, the film review by Manohla Dargis of the New York Times may help you put the film in a perspective using an unimportant critic’s critique  here.

Wifi, bumming, green-rice-and-shiomai, and Virgin Labfest V

I became aware of  a very funny thing this morning when I was in my usual contemplative, almost trance-like state doing my routine morning writing exercise. I’ve been rambling about the world lying supine on the stairway, my laptop on top of my belly. And I only realized I was in this unflattering pose when my housemate arrived from his night shift work at a call center company located in a building nearby. He reminded me that I looked like I’ve been raped by 10 devils. His use of that hyperbole was too much, but the way I look might have been something close to that. I’ve been doing my writing in all the parts of the house depending on the location of available sources of wifi signals.

I am too tired to walk to the mall across EDSA to avail of the free wifi connection. The thought of using the very slow elevator down to the ground floor, bumping on people who are waiting for buses going to Baclaran or Ayala in front the building, climbing up the steep stairs going to Boni MRT station, then dodging the aggressively pushy real estates agents who are distributing badly written leaflets and selling units in a condominium yet to be built on a vacant lot adjacent Robinsons Pioneer is already too discouraging. Instead, I stayed inside my room and waited for divine providence to shower me with a wifi connection faster than 5.5 mbps.

I feel like I am already starting to master the art of bumming with grace and perfection. I steamed the rice and shark’s fin shiomai I bought last night for dinner but which I totally forgot because I was too tired from my whole day work and my travel to Cubao for a talk with a professor who was supposed to help me in my graduate school application but then called to postpone the meeting while I was already inside the train in Ortigas. When I arrived home, I collapsed to my bed and slept like a dead man.

So here I am eating a goosebumps-inducing green colored rice that is as tough as dried coagulated blood that forms just outside a wound we collected with so much gusto when we were seven years old, and the shiomai that tastes like rubber drenched in oil.

But not everything is lost to bumming and the chilling green-rice-and shiomai boxed inside a purple polystyrene.


At least I have Garcia-Marquez to entertain me and divert my attention from my troubling food to a love story that is a bit popish but is a truly evocative romantic love story that unfailingly provides generous literary visions in every line. I am reading the saga of love involving three interesting characters – Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino – set during a time of cholera.

My review of the three plays in the recently concluded Virgin Labfest 5 is one of the honorable mention in the competition organized by Gibbs Cadiz, a theater reviewer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. My attempts paid off as I will be receiving an anthology of essays as prize. I watched four sets out of five, and the Virgin Labfest was a good venue to introduce myself to the theater which I never really though that it could be that fun.

Now I need to continue eating lunch. Lose some, win some.

Falling in and out of love in 9 minutes

I stood there stoned, reading a book of essays on Ernest Hemingway’s works, firmly holding it with my left hand; a black sling bag was hanging on my right shoulder; and my right hand is holding a tumbler of cappuccino. I was doing all these while humming the refrain of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I know I looked like a poor student eking my last, hard-earned peso bills to pay for the train ride from my condominium in Boni just to watch a free Japanese feature. For indeed I am, except that I am not anymore a student.


Still you stood next to me and even mustered the guts to ask me a stupid question which I only responded with an indifferent no. A response that articulately told you “I am not interested in commencing a conversation. I have far more important things to do.”

You hesitated a bit then turned your back on me. And in the tradition of bodily movements only admissible in the theater, you made a 180-degree turned, gave me a half smile then politely asked me to watch your line.

A more inert “Sure” was my answer this time.

You came back after two minutes with literally nothing added or deducted. I could not think for the reason of that action you did. But I felt it meant nothing. So there we were again with the dumb silence patiently waiting for our thinning chance to enter the cinema.

After a while you gave up standing like lame and left. I followed suit, but did not really follow you. In fact I walked too fast, too fast that I failed to notice that I overtook you. The last time I would see you, I thought. I took the escalator, descended to the ground floor, and bought my favorite un-dough-nut-like dough nuts there. Then I took another escalator up to the MRT station on Shaw Boulevard. You were on your way down. I acted as if I didn’t notice you. I did, but oh how I hate theatrics especially if they’re outside the theater.

I knew it would be the last time I shall see you.

And so here I am writing about what happened and looking at all the angles of my thoughts that time, asking myself why I did not try to be more earnest, why I did not allow a conversation to take place and from there to just let the moment take its course unbarricaded by our all-to-human tendency to shrink whenever we confront the unknown.