Paths

Last Monday, I saw her again after eight long years, right in the middle of a morning train rush to work. My last glimpse of her, she was my seatmate in our fourth year, was during our high school graduation in 2003, crying, like all high school students do when it dawns on them that the road from this point on radically diverges and that they’re bound not to see each other ever again.

I was standing, holding the still-warm metal handrail when I heard a woman say my name, ‘Fev’, a couple of times. The timbre of the voice did not register. Nobody calls me Fev anymore except those people whom I spent with most of my childhood and teenage years. Seeing her after many years brought back memories of the better times  in the province. We were classmates in fifth grade when she, along with a handful of her classmates, were distributed among the 13 other sections in grade five after their class adviser died of cancer in the middle of the school year. They were from section 6. She performed really well in class, did even better in subjects like Filipino and Civics than my section 1 classmates. She silently made her way  and consistently maintained her good grades. She remained my classmate from then until our last year in high school. I learned from former classmates that she studied Fish Technology at Mindanao State University in General Santos City then moved to Laguna after graduation and eventually to Manila. We planned to meet once or twice when we began working but it never materialized.

I looked to her direction, she was seated between two old men. She seemed to have aged well beyond 25. I saw gray hairs peeking through her coarse crown. “Kamusta na ka, Fev?” It took me a while to recognize her. I simply blurted “Janice!” We did not talk as she hurriedly got off at Ortigas station. She was carrying a tote bag that dwarfed her small frame but this did not keep her from ambling confidently and joining the crowd scurrying out of the station, and getting lost in the plethora of strangers.

People indeed pass us by in a matter of seconds to say ‘hi’, or if we’re lucky, minutes, and for some of us who are not very fortunate, without us even realizing it. Our paths, though at some point may fortuitously converge, remind us that whatever we have now is ephemeral, that however we wanted to chat and catch up with a high school classmate we have not seen for almost a decade, we all must proceed with our own journey and just be hopeful that in the next train ride we can ‘stop and talk a while’, says a line in a famous commercial for coffee in the 90s.

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Kalahating taon (half of a year)

After more than a half-year, I am still as madly (if not more madly) in love (enamored perhaps) with babe as the first time I saw that fluttering soul in black at a hotel in Ortigas more than six months ago. It occurred to me that calling it ‘6th monthsary (cringing while typing this)’ relegates our union into something of little significance; this may lead you into thinking that I am appropriating too much weight on something as young and as unproven as ours by describing the length ‘kalahating taon‘ instead of the more neutral ‘six months’, probably I am. What makes being in love one of the greatest byproducts of human evolution, though, is the blindness it bestows upon smitten individuals, a beautiful kind of blindness that allows them to see the hidden that is more breath-taking than the corporeal, and the dementia that skews their perception of time and temporality.

The half-year feels like we’ve only spent less than a week together; the fleetingness of the bedtime conversations, dinners, or the precious silence between us while we look at each other’s face makes us look forward to the next time we’ll be seeing each other again.

And the world becomes merely incidental.

On the overuse of ‘though’, though

“Let’s meet at Glorietta?”

“Sure, I love it, though.”

“Will you be able to make it at 5? I’m thinking of dropping by the office first.”

“That’s fine. I’ll just wait for you at Starbucks, though.”

“Great! See you then.”

“I can’t wait to tell you about it, though.”

http://womenwriters.library.emory.edu

I do not know if it’s only I who notice it but it appears that there is an oversupply of uncalled for “though” in almost all conversations in any workplace that require English (or at least a tinge of American/British/English accent), especially in high-rise offices along Ayala Avenue, Ortigas, Alabang, or Libis in Quezon City.

“Though” may function as a conjunction as in ‘in spite of’ or ‘despite the fact that’, or as an adverb as in ‘nevertheless’ or ‘as though’. But it may also function, informally, as an intensifier.

Of the three ‘thoughs’ in the conversation above, only the second ‘though’ is closest to any of the possible meanings of though, that is, if it means “I’ll wait for you not in Glorietta but in Starbucks.” But the problem with this is that the speaker is referring to that specific Starbucks located in Glorietta which makes ‘though’ here unnecessary.

Language is dynamic. One day, this proliferation of useless ‘thoughs’ may eventually be acceptable. But that’s going to be one day. Hearing these inappropriately used ‘thoughs’ irks me, though.

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.

gabriel-marquez

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.

While waiting for my turn to be interviewed

While waiting for my interview, I decided to write this post in my blog to document what I feel this time, this raw emotion. This is my second job interview so far since arriving exactly a week ago. Finding job is not at all easy this time when the economy of the world is not doing well, and especially for somebody like me who has literally no experience in the corporate world to speak of.

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At one point I asked myself why I am giving up, for now, a very exciting job in the academe in favor of the equally challenging, but I’m-an-alien-of, corporate world. I smiled when the closest reason I can give right at this moment is the nice feeling brought about by me wearing a nice shirt, a smart pair of pants, a conservative necktie, and a pair shiny black leather shoes. Staring at my reflection in the mirror in the restroom, I can’t help but marvel at the corporate version of myself, a sharp contrast with the John who used to teach Literature and Journalism in the university, who wore jeans, canvas shoes, and a white shirt in his lectures.

I’ll consider this job as a major point in my life, my first ever entrance to the supposed dog-eats-dog corporate world in Manila.

I feel like a child again. Everything seems new to me. I try to breathe in the air of this bustling metropolis everyday I ride public transport to work. In spite of pollution, Manila is a breath of fresh air (this is not at all sarcastic). I’m always exhausted whenever I reach my place in Espana but there’s this feeling of vigor in me that my laid-back life in the province cannot provide. I feel like being infected by the endless energy of this city.

I feel like a child again, wearing his first school uniform on his way to his first day of class in kindergarten, minus of course the mother holding his shaky hand. After all, I was not accompanied by my mother on that day, just like this time.

The interview went well.

The human resource head of that multinational company I applied to told me to come back for the final leg of the interview with the top managers of the company two days from now. I’m pretty confident things will be okay.

Yes, things will be okay.

Images

The images we have of something are, to a certain point, permanent and unchanging unless we encounter other images that debunk and deny the very existence of the initial images created in our minds.

manila

It’s been almost three days since I arrived in the Philippines. The clichéd expression ‘It’s nice to be back’ did not prove true, for the images I have of Manila as a boy from the province were only confirmed if not strengthened. Most of these images are generally negative: the unforgiving traffic jams, expressionless people who endlessly go to a place no one really knows where, polluted environment, and the city’s alienating character.

I was able to find a place near Espana, two jeepney rides away from my prospective workplace in Ortigas, Pasig. I had an interview this week, a day after I arrived, two scheduled interviews next week, and probably some more in the coming weeks. I am giving myself a month to iron out everything before finally deciding where to work. I know it’s time to think about my long-term plan this time. I simply cannot afford anymore to jump from one job to another for the stakes if I fail would be too much to bear.

Manila does not alleviate any of my worries and fears at all. It is a merciless city where charity and pity are the last things one could expect from other people.

The same images that have been shown over and again are never debunked nor denied; they are only emphasized and highlighted by the grimes, sweat, and dusts my body and clothing collect whenever I travel by bus or jeepney or walk along the busy streets of Cubao.

It’s been three days, but I felt that I’ve been staying here for years.

I think that I’ll have a hard time loving the city.