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.

Dealing with constancy

I left Iloilo in April of last year. A year and a half later the same sights greeted me upon arriving at the airport and on my way to the city — vast rice fields, pothole-dotted roads, old non air-conditioned buses plying the highway from the city to Tapaz in Capiz, and the assaulting warm, humid breeze blowing from Guimaras Strait. The city does not show any major change as well, except for some newly opened restaurants and cafes, the city has a feeling of a framed air-dried leaves frozen in time. All of a sudden, to my eyes Iloilo becomes a small village that will not be able to give me the anonymity necessary for writing. Definitely unlike Manila whose size I used to complain a lot about but eventually learned to appreciate and almost fall in love with.

My two younger siblings who are both studying in the same public university in the city and I went out and ate at the same local fastfood I, my older sister, and my brother next to me used to eat when we were still students four years ago. I saw Melanie, the cashier. She is the cashier seven years ago when I first ate at the place. A lot of the waitresses have already left except Melanie whose very presence reminds me of a familiar fixture in all Chinese businesses, the ubiquitous golden cat whose right paw is in perpetual motion. She and I never had any chance to talk except when she’s getting my order (if you consider that as ‘talking to each other’) but it’s as if she has given me access to her life and known her like the taste of my favorite chicken a la king or palabok, both specialties of the chain she’s working for. Melanie is like Iloilo City, unchanging, dependable, and uncomplicated.

After eating, I decided to visit the gym where I used to work out. What used to be drab concrete walls are now painted bright yellow. They’ve added additional equipment for developing the abdominals, but all in all, everything in the gym remains unchanged. The people flexing and pumping iron, except for some new and younger faces, are the same people I worked out with before. I left after twenty-minutes when the entire floor was enveloped in pungent smoke coming from the other side of the room where somebody is grilling squid. There was no exhaust fan and I had no intention to smell like smoked squid. But I promise to start working out again soon.

Both change and constancy require a strong heart to face. While it is true that change can be traumatic and harrowing, constancy is as formidable a concept to comprehend. It has issues of its own. How come change has not arrived in this place during the time of my absence? What have the people been doing? Before I slept in my bed that lacked mattress early this morning, I almost went too metaphysical as to ask, have I actually left the place? It’s as if everything else was a dream, and this small box of a room where I slept soundly is the only truth I am capable of acknowledging and understanding.

Tips on forcing yourself to leave the bed


I always see to it that I end my day with an hour in the gym. Not so much because I have become a narcissistic health buff or I want to have a body akin to that of a macho Guess model exhibiting his stuff for all the motorists plying EDSA to behold. I work out and pump iron with a dedication comparable to somebody who enlisted himself in a body building competition set a month from now. But my justification is nothing close. I am doing this out of routine. The same routine that kicks me to wake up too early each day to go to Makati to earn extra money and then leave for my real job after I’m done with lunch.

But these past few weeks, I find it getting more difficult to wake up each morning. I set my alarm two hours before any appointment to give me enough grace period to snuggle my pillows for fifteen minutes and to contemplate whether the measly amount I shall get is worth the ordeal and the psychological battle I have to wage just so I can abandon my bed with at least a tinge of sanity left.

I’d complain about my aching biceps, swollen chest, and abdominal muscles soaked in lactic acid, only that I have no one to direct my complaints to. I’d pop a tablet of paracetamol to alleviate my annoyingly wringy headache due to lack of sleep. I can only manage to have at most six hours of sleep everyday. Certainly not enough to allow my body to rest and recuperate from all the wear and tear I subject it every waking hour.

Huge Alarm Clock

But I am beginning to maneuver the ropes quickly and efficiently. I wake up daily at 7:30 or 8 o’clock the latest with little resistance. After 30 minutes from the time I wake up, you’ll see me checking my emails, all dressed up and ready for the day. How do I do that? Here’s how:

1. Take a bath before you sleep so there’ll be no need for an adverse bathing and grime removal procedure in the morning. This will save you time outwitting the rush hour, not to mention giving you a sound sleep during the night.

2. Set as many alarms as there is possible at varying time, a five-minute time difference each so in the event you are too callused to ignore the first one there will be several other alarms that will prompt you that it’s time to leave the comfort of your nest and face the uncertain day ahead.

3. Place your alarms in hard to reach places, in crevices and other impossible places, or stick them using adhesive, say a duct tape, as near your cochlea as possible. Never at an arm’s length for reason we are all aware of.

4. If you stay along major thoroughfares like EDSA, Ayala Ave, Commonwealth Ave, or Aurora Blvd the better. Do not close you window when you sleep. Since rush hour in these roads starts early, around five in the morning, the sheer noise the vehicles create is enough to bring you back to your senses or discourage any lame attempt on your part to doze off.

5. By the way, I forgot to mention that the alarm clocks you planted will also serve another purpose. They will annoy your roommates or neighbors that in the event these devices fail in restoring you back to life, they’ll place the burden on themselves to wake you up. Disclaimer: this blogger relinquishes any liability if you decide to follow this suggestion and your skull is whacked by these people you inconvenienced because of your alarms.

6. If you are into S&M and derive pleasure from inflicting pain or you want to be the object of pain then you may also utilize sharp and pointed objects placed in strategic locations dotted on your bed that will both wake you up and give you pleasurable sensation at the start of your day. Think of hitting two birds with one stone.

7. Remove all curtains that will keep the sun from shining on your sleepy eyes. Our body is wired to eschew sleep when it is in a bright surrounding. This explains the extra bright lighting in offices with clerical, and therefore repetitive, working operation. Without the curtains, going back to our tip No. 7, the last one, we welcome a bright day scurrying to the bathroom to start a busy day ahead.

A cultural taboo of oversleeping


Shame of all shame.

I woke up at 11:30 this morning. Although I had a very sating sleep, and it felt so good, but instead I reacted differently, I panicked and was filled with guilt and self-loathing. For somebody who grew up in the Philippines where one’s industry is measured by the time one wakes up in the morning, waking up at such late a time is tantamount to indolence and faineance.

Once upon a time, the natives’ god, out of solitude and loneliness decided to create man. He accidentally cooked up several races of man: because of his fretfulness – the white men, his forgetfulness – black men, until he reached perfection – the brown-skinned men he called Filipinos. After a very tiring day, as the story goes, the natives’ god went to sleep and so did his newly created human beings. The next day, just before sunrise, the white men woke up first, followed by the black-skinned men, causing them to step on the faces of their still sleeping brown-skinned brothers. This resulted to the dominant Filipino facial feature of  an almost flat nose.

The myth, aside from explaining the reason for the conspicuous wide nose of the people from the Philippines also gives a commentary on the value placed by the society where the myth originated on industry and time and how they relate with that crucial time of the day when farmers go to work.

Farm animals, specifically water buffaloes, or carabao in the native language, do not have sweat glands so this explains why they cannot work in the middle of the scorching sun forcing farmers to work before dawn when it is cool. This is why it is morally upright and compelling for farmers, and the Philippine society dependent on agriculture, to wake up early. The story above was told to me by my father who grew up in the plains of Iloilo as a young farmer; the same story was told to him by his  mother who is also a farmer.

Although I’ve been spending the last eight years of my life in urban areas, I know that I have never outgrown this urge to wake up early and to feel unwell whenever I wake up late in the morning. A case of oversleeping transformed into a taboo. When I was still studying in college I wake up an hour before my first class to do some writing or last minute cramming; this didn’t change when I was teaching in the university.

Longer nights during these months compounded by winter in Hanoi make me sleep until almost forever. This disturbs my Circadian rhythm which I have a little chance of recovering, but I hope to reverse this soon.

So whenever I visit my hometown my father’s prodding to wake up early is as constant as the idea of home. So tonight, I resolve to sleep earlier than usual, stick to this resolution and wake up earlier tomorrow.

I will never forgive myself if I wake up again at 11 in the morning.