The ‘bully’

ONCE UPON a time, there lived an enormous she-dragon.

Her works and majesty and riches transcended continents, nations, and glaciers. She’s revered as a ‘superpower’ and a savant in trade. Her name spelled dynasties, wars, and smoke. Her battle cry was to conquer, and through her mighty, scaly feet and claws, she slowly amassed territories that were not rightfully hers. 

She boasted a tight grip of the minds of the smaller beasts around the world because of her influence. Islands and rock formations in a blink became strategic satellites that carried her mysterious mist.

She has a renowned tendency to wave in the air ancient maps and scrolls that backed her wants. Treaties were nonexistent in her vocabulary; agreements were deemed necessities exclusive for the weak. 

She did everything her heart desired. Until one day, she got sick.

She tried to suppress her illness for a period of time knowing that it could damage her reputation, but it got worse. Her health deteriorated. 

Aghast, her advisers shouted for transparency; her citizens cried for help. She spewed burning coals to her detractors and balls of fire to her critics. She convinced everyone that she’s still in control; that her throne was unnerved by the looming threat to her stature. But the increase in casualties didn’t cease.

One hundred. 

Two hundred. 

One thousand bodies…

Up to this day, nobody knows when she stopped counting. 

And I can still smell her breath.

Dear Kobe

Dear Kobe,

When I first saw you about a couple of decades ago, I told myself that you were just another cocky Michael Jordan wannabe. The way you walked, the way you displayed your tongue for every dunk, the way you devoured gum during the game. You’re just a copycat, some basketball fans would declare; they denounced your name. I almost gave in to their hate, but as time passed by, I saw how you genuinely loved the game that I grew up playing since childhood. You earned my respect. I fell in love with life and the game even more because of you.

I don’t own a jersey with your player number on it or a pair of shoes you endorsed. It’s just not my thing, but deep inside my heart, I am one of your fans. I’ve always pictured you as a superhero – invincible, relentless, bigger than basketball. After harvesting five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, an NBA MVP in 2008, and 18 All-Star selections, among other accolades in your solid 20-season professional career in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, you were en route to then take Hollywood and the entertainment industry by storm. In 2018, two years into your retirement—being the Black Mamba we’ve always known—you became the first African American to notch the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and to add to that, the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Oscar in any category for your film Dear Basketball.

I was so happy for you. I still remember the grin on your face when you received that coveted award. I saw the purity of your excitement when you mentioned in your speech that while others expect basketball players to just “shut up and dribble,” you’re glad you did a little bit more than that.

Your name’s etched in my memory as a personification of what the mixture of excellence and fierce competitiveness must look like. I saw how you quietly honed your game as years passed by like a seasoned artist from a desolate land. You were never halfway when it was about basketball; you were all-in day in, day out. You perfected your craft unlike anyone else, and the world woke up from the mist of confusion brought by your strangeness in enchantment of your artistry, cheering for you as one of the deadliest and most influential athletes in history.

Your performance in the 2008 Olympics Gold Medal game was the most phenomenal basketball episode ever, bar none. You demonstrated to everyone what “killer instinct” looked like. Your 4-point play in the crucial minutes was epic.

You were a dependable closer. We felt your vigor, your intensity, and your relentlessness to win. Subtly, by simply observing how you became a serious student of the game and diligently stayed on the course to be the best version you could possibly be, you asked us to do the same in the respective stages we’re in. You asked us to strive for greatness.

Your passing broke my heart. But the knowledge that Gigi – your middle child and promising WNBA star – was also onboard the helicopter when it crashed on a hillside in Calabasas, California, along with seven of your friends, turned my broken heart into smaller pieces. I couldn’t utter a word while tears fell from my eyes when I heard the news. For the first time, I pleaded the universe for it to be fake news. But it wasn’t. And at 41, you left us.

I’ve never thought that your 2016 trip in Manila would be your last. It’s sad I never saw you in person. You made me realize even more to savor every second in life, to continue to love and be loved in a world that has gone mysterious and unpredictable.

You built a universe of your own, and then you invited us in. I’m grateful for that. You singlehandedly weaved the fibers of entertainment, sports, and the various cultures around the globe with your brilliant mind and classy demeanor. With sheer determination, you demonstrated to everyone how to treat sports the right way: no flops, no excuses, no missed practice sessions. Your unparalleled focus in demanding perfection and excellence not just to yourself, but also to those around you sealed your stature as one of the most iconic figures in our time capable of turning the world upside down with your elite manners and professionalism. Your respect for the game of basketball can only be exceeded by your passionate works off the court in reaching out to those who are in need. You’re a savant for unprecedented reasons, and the Mamba Mentality is worth reciprocating.

Watching you play was an experience, but I’ll always remember how you and Gigi looked at each other. I hope to experience the same connection with my child someday. I envision being like you, who’s capable of surmounting challenges and hurdles with humility.

Your absence physically won’t stop us from celebrating the lessons you willingly shared. Even in your death, you speak – that is the definition of greatness.

And the next time I set foot on a basketball court, God willing, I’ll search for the fine traces of your grit and love for the game in every corner, in every attempt, in every defense. As the shot clock expires while the basketball is in my hands, I’ll summon deep within me the little boy who first had a glance at you in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform a couple of decades ago.

In a sleek, composed tone, I’ll pronounce: ”Kobeeee!”

3… 2… 1.

“Bang!”

Love you always,

Ben

KDR TV, Year One

I WAS scrolling through my Youtube recommendations list about 3 months ago when I came across an interesting channel. The host looked familiar, but I never expected him to have his own space on the said platform. I was baffled at first. In a world clad with Youtubers and self-proclaimed ‘Influencers,’ Kuya Daniel Razon has decided to launch “KDR TV.”

I’ve always known Kuya Daniel as a prominent news anchor and tv host. He’s the mind behind Wish 107.5 and chief executive officer (CEO) of BMPI-UNTV. His integrity is impeccable. In 2017, he was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” in the 25th Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Golden Dove Awards. But why did he decide to be part of Youtube? For what purpose?

After watching all his uploaded videos, the answer came to me: He wants to share his thoughts, passion, and perspective while conversing to a wider audience. Yes, it’s a conversation because he reiterates every time that he also seeks what others have to say.

As of today, KDR TV raked in about two hundred thousand views on Youtube. It’s currently backed by more than twenty thousand subscribers. The specific themes it covers include fitness, technology, and reflections on life and love.

It’s been an exciting experience for me so far as one of the channel’s subscribers. And so, to prove this point, here’s KDR TV’s “Best Five” for 2019:

First impression on the Foldable Samsung Galaxy Smartphone

When Samsung Galaxy Fold was first introduced during the first quarter of 2019 and failed to meet the expectations of some tech reviewers around the globe with its problematic plastic screen, it went into a hiatus. The controversy was unlike anything I’ve heard before.

But months later, on September 27, 2019, it was officially released. Samsung made some key adjustments. The product recaptured the imagination of the market with its supremely cool form factor, next level gaming capabilities, enormous battery, and improved nonremovable plastic screen. There was an insurmountable hype. And Kuya Daniel got a hold of one of its commercial units.

With his first tech review, Kuya cited his first impressions of the product. A striking feature of the innovative design of the phone is its articulated spine, or the hinge. The hinge allows the phone to close and open like a book. Its screen size when unfolded boasts at 7.3 inches which is perfect for watching videos on Youtube and Facebook. Because of its enormous overall size, the convenience that a user can experience when typing text or chat messages is commendable. When the phone’s folded, one can still call someone with ease. Naturally, it has its downsides according to Kuya.

Unlike other phones, the Galaxy Fold is so fragile; it’s supposed to be handled with great care. Any seasoned device or gadget user can sense by merely holding a product whether or not it can operate solidly in raucous usage environments such as continuous vibrations, harsh temperatures and wet or dusty conditions. In Kuya’s analysis, the Galaxy Fold can’t be exposed to dusty environments because of the possibility of particles getting into the hinge area which may produce annoying, creaking sound while being folded. In the long run, the accumulation of dirt and dust can damage the phone.

It’s an honest review. The price is divulged at the end of the video which is about $2,000.00 or Php 100,000.00. It’s equivalent to two Apple Macbook Airs!

So, will you buy one?

A day in a life of a CEO: Kuya Daniel Razon

Who never dreamt of being the Chief Executive Officer of a company someday? I did, and this vlog is a revelation.

As mentioned in the first part of this piece, Kuya Daniel is the CEO of BMPI-UNTV – one of the registered and recognized local television channels in the Philippines. But how does a CEO of a growing media entity spend his day?

Typically, Kuya’s engagements include hosting a morning show, conducting meetings with department supervisors, attending voice-over recordings, and giving instructions to some members of the organization. In his willingness to guide his colleagues on their concerns beyond their jobs, he makes it a point that he’s also available for those valuable occasions. He spends time to check on how they are doing and understand their situations.

In the video, Kuya subtly reminds his viewers to do good things whenever they have a chance. In handling work, he emphasizes that if you really love what you’re doing, you’ll persevere; you won’t quit easily. Passion in achieving a goal should be present. And if ever there are things that you must do that are not written in your job description, you should see yourself as a learner. That your actions to grow as a person shouldn’t be fueled and defined by money alone.

KDR Says: Bakit hindi ka crush ng crush mo?

Yes, love. The language of the universe. The mothership. The real deal.

There are those who proclaim that KathNiel still has it while JaDine’s version of it has already expired. But why does the person we like doesn’t like us back?

It’s natural for a person to admire another person. We’re designed to feel a special, alluring type of attraction towards someone. We fall in love on different ways. We can’t fathom its fullness. But what Kuya articulated in this vlog is worth pondering: “Things should come to you naturally; do not pretend to be somebody you are not.”

The first point that Kuya raised is that we should be as real as we can possibly be when we meet someone. If you’re fond of the arts and music – show it; if you’re into fitness – embrace it; if you’re sweet, jolly, and caring – express it. You shouldn’t do something because somebody you like likes it. Do it because it’s good and beautiful and pure. Don’t live on the expectations of someone you like. Strive to be a better person on how you deal with others.

The second one? We can’t control the emotions of other people. Sometimes, in our objective of getting someone’s attention, we change ourselves to the extreme that we could no longer apprehend the person we have become. It’s not sustainable.

Because unrequited love doesn’t dictate who we are as a person. The governing principle in life is not for someone you like to like you back. If in the process of improving yourself you meet someone who appreciates you, then cling to it. Never let go. Stay sincere.

Benefits of daily 25 push-ups by Kuya Daniel Razon

Indubitably, daily exercise is good for the health. Science supports it. Substantial studies have been made about it. So, do it. Now. 25 push-ups for the soul and body!

True Love na ba ito? KDR Says

Again, love.

This must be the most striking vlog for me by KDR TV for 2019 because of the new insights I obtained.

In this vlog, Kuya said: “It’s love if you still like the person over time.” Time reveals a man’s character, and it goes the same way to the one we truly love. But when can we say if the love is true? Here are the following steps he shared:

  • Conduct some research or investigation on the person.

No, he doesn’t ask us to hire an investigator to observe the person we’re fond of 24/7. We must do it by ourselves. But how? Instead of directly scrutinizing the person to know what their ideals, thought process, or values are, we can ask those who are close to them. We can formulate questions about the person and indirectly inquire these to their friends, family members, or peers. As we go through this process, we’ll be more equipped. We must learn how to listen. Our interactions with the person and those around them can reveal salient details we’ve never imagined before. We just have to be patient.

  • Put yourself to the test as well.

Do you exclusively love the person? Is there still a niggling fact that you’re juggling two names in your heart? Do you like the person because of a special trait that they possess? Is it because they’re good in singing? In dancing? In playing the guitars? We have to test ourselves as well. As what Kuya Daniel uttered: ”Kasi yung ‘mahal’, nand’yan man yung hinangaan mo dati sa kanya and then later on nawala, yung pagmamahal natitira ‘yon. Nandodo’n pa rin. Nararamdaman mo pa rin.”

Because in the end, we can’t romantically love two people at the same time. To do so is against sanity.

We fall in love with one.

‘The Little Prince’ from a region in my heart

‘His hope of coming back and correcting his wrong have always floated into the whole flow of the story which were so pure and innocent – acts that we sometimes associate with weakness.’

I WAS seven when I first met him. A fleck of dust besmeared his face; his curly, golden hair and stylish, scarlet ribbon bow tie were pictured to have been enslaved by the wind freely drifting from a corner of his planet scarcely bigger than himself; his pale green coat’s motif suggested it was of foreign origin – from another universe even; his vision casted into the unknown while standing upright next to what looked like a tiny, active volcano spewing smoke and fumes. He was frozen in time. Alone. On a book’s front cover.

Written by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the thin, minuscule book was titled, “The Little Prince.” The story was about a pilot who was forced to land in the Sahara and encountered a mysterious young boy who claimed to be an extraterrestrial prince.

I intently stared at the book’s cover and paused for its strangeness. Then, I swiped the dust covering the little prince’s face with a piece of cloth. His eyes and nose and lips were minute dots or lines delicately plotted on a peculiar canvas. In a blink, a sensation ran through my veins like a river flowing tranquilly. It was as if he invited me in for an adventure – a black hole that came with a cathartic magnificence for an absence that has been lurking inside. There’s no way I could resist that.

You have to understand that I was never a book reader then. Just like most of the children my age in our neighborhood, I didn’t find pleasure in discovering fictional worlds created by minds I knew nothing about.

When the little prince had decided to leave his tiny planet to comprehend what love is after a rose with four thorns baffled his consciousness, he met a king, a conceited man, a tippler, a businessman, a lamplighter, a geographer, a fox, and an aviator.

During his stay on the seventh planet, on Earth, with the aviator, his loyalty to the lone rose on his planet has always been there. His hope of coming back and correcting his wrong have always floated into the whole flow of the story which were so pure and innocent – acts that we sometimes associate with weakness.

The little prince made me realize that there’s beauty and romance and dignity in self-discovery. He taught me that the best things in life can never be brought by the acquisition of what we’ve been working hard for and of what we’re expecting understandably well, but the silent arrival of the unseen, yes, of the mysterious gifts we have been unknowingly longing for which sometimes reveal themselves with a fleck of dust from an untouched region in our hearts. Because ultimately, what is essential is invisible to the eyes.

Truth be told, similar to what happened in our first encounter, I wasn’t expecting to see him about a month ago. I went on a visit to a bookstore closest to my workplace to inquire about the availability of a George Saunders book titled, “Tenth of December.” But there he was, stationed at a shelf near the entrance; something has changed in him. He was much bigger, his golden, curly hair was more radiant, and the intensity of the color of his coat was finer. He looked a little bit different from the one I had met one afternoon when I was seven who vanished when we moved in to our current home. A metamorphosis at its absolute form.

And as I was about to leave the bookstore, the cashier with a smile on her face asked me, “Sir, how about this one?” She waved in the air a copy of “The Little Prince” I had placed close to her station. Then, strangely, I found myself giving a ready answer I’ll never forget.

“I’ll keep him this time.”

On Love

‘And so, I hope you celebrate love with those who see you beyond your skin; those who look at you not just as a fleeting specimen in a universe that keeps on moving.’

IF YOU’RE single now and has no one to date with, it doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to feel lonely. It’s a state of mind. You’re unattached because you’re taking your time. You don’t want to settle. You want the one who’s yet to arrive to be The One. You’ve probably been hurt just recently, or you’ve never been in a relationship before, but that means you have an opportunity to discover yourself more – your gifts, your faults, your aspirations.

Some people dive into a relationship without a clear sense of who they are; they are befuddled on how to set boundaries; they’re clueless on what their expectations embody.

As you probably observed, conflict happens when miscommunication gets into the picture yes, when trust is tainted with infidelity and secrecy. Some of us think that a sensual message to a third-party won’t hurt the relationship; that it’s just a senseless game. But as days pass by, they’re succumbed to the claws of darkness, of forgetting all the words and promises they uttered. And one wonders how easy it is for them to move on; how convenient it is to jump from one fence to another.

Others think that everything’s going to be perfect. Their minds are still immature to the implications of saying “yes” to someone. There are those who give those they love access to everything they have even if they’re unprepared to its effects up to the point that they can no longer recognize who they are. They think of the other person as their world, and when that person commits a mistake, they treat their whole existence to be in vain. And that’s when they part ways. They can no longer endure the presence of who used to be their better half.

Because true love dwells to those who are willing to sacrifice and suffer. Nobody can expect each day to be light and tender and soothing. There will be bricks along the way and the only option is to get over them and to treat them not as fragments of hindrance, but as foundations to a long-lasting union.

To love is to give the other person a spacious, decent, and comfortable room to breathe, to be free to reach for their personal goals and full potential, and to have a voice on valuable causes as a contributor in building a brighter future for humanity. It may sound too momentous, mammoth-like even for some, but we do not exist to solely please one person and give their wants and needs. We’re here to unmask the greater reason of living. That day will come that all your frustrations will just be part of the past.

And so, I hope you celebrate love with those who see you beyond your skin; those who look at you not just as a fleeting specimen in a universe that keeps on moving. Because you deserve better and when the right person arrives, you’ll know it. Your heart will speak to them like you’ve known them before. And that moment is going to be so much more special than the maelstrom of flowers and chocolates presented on any given time of the day.

Beautiful things unfold in His time.

In search of solace

‘You’re reminded that this life is just a fleeting illusion; that you’re a humble traveler; and that this may come to an end in a snap. Today, you’re a towering figure of physique and fitness; tomorrow could be a different story. It’s not promised.’

I STARED at it for about five minutes yesterday at one in the morning. An untitled painting that measures roughly 4 feet by 3, it was displayed on a private hospital’s wall on the third floor with a maelstrom of kaleidoscopic koi of divergent sizes swimming around an imaginary cylinder clockwise under a dark blue water. The artwork was strangely cut into half vertically and was hanging slightly slanted 15 degrees to the right. The others which boasted abstract flashes of colors and astronomic designs stationed at different sections of the corridor were not presented the same way. I was absorbed and drawn by it; its peculiarity intrigued me.

I was all alone, wide awake, sitting on a brown, foamy bench outside the capacious visitors’ room, where my mom was sleeping, just ten feet away from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The breeze was frigid; it was raining outside. I was waiting for the doctor to come out of the ICU to check for an update on one of my brothers’ condition. He had a mild stroke while sharing a meal with his own family in their house in Cavite City, south of Manila. Coincidentally, I was on a three-day vacation leave for my birthday. But how would you celebrate your birthday knowing that your family is amid a crisis?

 “Kuya Jun Jun is in the hospital” my youngest brother Ronnel said. 

“Why?” I uttered. “What happened?”

“High blood, probably” he said. “He had seizure.” In a heartbeat, my mother and I swiftly stuffed our bags with clothes and toiletries like soldiers about to engage in a daring hunt in a deserted forest. 

It must be very serious, I said to myself.

“To a hospital in General Trias, Cavite” I told the first cab driver who halted outside our small, white gate when he inquired where we’re headed at around ten on a Sunday evening. “Please, it’s an emergency, sir.”

“I’m not going south” he answered. And just like that with one of the side windows still half-open, he hastily left.

A huge weight of our exasperation and distress vanished when the next cab driver accepted our pleas. He had brought us to a terminal in Pasay City where we instantly found a bus that took us to our destination.

While travelling, thoughts came rushing on my mind like bolts of lightning in a stormy sky: it’s kuya Jun Jun and our memories together. Yes, our late-night conversations about religion, spirituality, wisdom, mysteries, science and technology, work. His brilliance and depth on a range of topics is impeccable. Tears abruptly rolled down my face. My mother did not witness it. 

When we arrived at the hospital, my mother and I were met with stories on what had transpired earlier that day. Plates flying in the air. Chicken tinola splattering all over. Convulsion. Lips turning black. Eyes moving involuntarily. Wailing children. Panic. Chaos.

But Emergency Rooms, ICUs, Dialysis Centers, and others put everything in perspective. In those moments that you’re encapsulated by impenetrable brick structures painted white all over, everything boils down to that quiet conversation between you and God. The rest of the universe becomes irrelevant: traffic and scandals on EDSA, inflation, MRT woes, #MeToo, possibilities with the person you admire most, child abuse, fake news, typhoons, President Duterte, war on drugs, Facebook and Instagram, poverty, corruption, politics, education, South West Monsoon, career aspirations, a taxicab’s plate number. You forget about them like transitory slides in your memory not to invalidate their value but to solve and face what’s urgent. Maybe, it’s the brain’s natural response in emergency situations. 

You’ve probably been there before. You asked why and wondered why it all happened. Yes, why it had to be you or your family.

You know all the answers to these inquiries by heart, but still, there’s a strange, ineluctable sensation when you’re amid it all – existing, breathing, and convincing yourself to be brave in the challenge given to you. You’re reminded that this life is just a fleeting illusion; that you’re a humble traveler; and that this may come to an end in a snap. Today, you’re a towering figure of physique and fitness; tomorrow could be a different story. It’s not promised.

You hope. You say your prayer without anybody noticing. You reach out to a higher being in spite of all your flaws, faults, and shortcomings, Because the situation is beyond the grasp of your hands, of your humanity, of everyone who knows you.

Then, you pause. You can see the minute, fine details. Paths become clearer. Because you believe that everything happens for a reason. You try to make sense of the test you’re faced with. With the waves of life arriving from every direction, it’s facile to forget the essence of one’s existence. Sometimes, in order for us to be reawakened and to reevaluate our decisions, our steps, and our mindset, inexplicable events have to transpire. And right there, in the mist of confusion, doubts, and tears, is where we can only genuinely ruminate what we’re made of.

In the hit thriller movie, A Quiet Place, a family must live life in silence while hiding from sightless extraterrestrial creatures with hypersensitive hearing, indestructible armored skin and attack anything that makes noise. In parallel to the reality, there are monsters in life that we have to deal with whether we like them or not. We have no idea how they look like, their form, or how they would affect us, but to survive and get through them, we have to stick with our principles and with our loved ones as a unit with trust, courage, and faith. 

In the end, after I had convinced myself to stand in front of the painting and equably fixed it in its place, the doctor informed me that kuya was no longer in the critical state. I expeditiously thanked God for his help and mercy. Then, I took a second look at the painting and discovered that there was a total of twenty-eight kaleidoscopic koi swimming around the imaginary cylinder. To my astonishment, it’s the same number of years I just turned to carry across my name on a frigid morning on my birthday. A coincidence? I refuse to think so. For me, it’s an incalculable gift sent from heaven.

In my grief, I found solace.

For Those Who Are Still Hurting, You Are Not Alone

NO, I’M not going to ask you to forget those who caused you pain; those who made you feel small; those who crumpled your person like a piece of paper with their declarations and actions. No, not now.

You know deep within you that you treated them fairly. You undressed your soul under the scorching heat of their presence even if little by little, you’re being burnt. When you smiled at them and whispered your dreams, all you were thinking was the future you’ll subtly paint together on a blank canvas; you were firmly holding your brush without knowing that they were about to let go of theirs.

You accepted them for their persistence. There was a radiant glow in your eyes. They cherished you more than anyone you crossed paths with. And for the first time, someone stared at you the same way you peer at the sunset. Heartfelt. Intimate. Poetic…

You remember everything like it happened yesterday: endless late-night conversations; surprises; secrets; passwords; contact numbers; favorite song, color, artist, coffee flavor, and travel destination; and yes, surreal moments.

You thought they were the one. You saw the signs you were looking for since childhood. You’ve been showered with sunrises. You sincerely whispered to the universe that if you’ll ever meet them, you’ll love them with all you have, with every cell of your body. You expected to set sail smoothly with them while holding their hands and you found yourself in a pit of desperation when you realized that you’ve mistaken; that everything was a fleeting illusion to your preconceived idea of romantic love.

Yes, doubts pierced through your heart. You shut off your closest friends and family and sought for an end to your sufferings. You imagined things you’ve never anticipated to ever invade your awareness.

They disrespected and betrayed you. They didn’t hear your pleas. They were self-absorbed. You convinced yourself that you’re supposed to suffer because that’s what the protagonists in some of the famed movies, novellas, and stories dictated the whole of humanity to be. Suddenly, you could no longer recognize who you are. Every snippet of your conviction, principle, and idealism was gone. And in your core, a burrow scored by their absence lurks like a fictional character who’s about to consume the remaining rays of hope you have. It was dark, murky, and leaden. But please, do not give in.

Let your pillows be witnesses to your grief. Cry and weep and wail until the river of tears dry up. Be consumed with the majestic beauty of literature and the arts. Courageously go on an adventure in other fields and dimensions you’ve never encountered before. Reinvigorate your to-do list. Do things at your own pace. Listen.

Listen to your friends and family when they attempt to comfort you. They’ve always been there for you at the glimpses of your best performances and achievements. Don’t deprive them to be with you at your worst. They saw you at the extent you can never visualize and translate into words in the past; they’ll surely accept you.

Listen to the one gazing at you from the future: the fiercer you. What is life if we get everything we want and prayed for at the moment we expected them to greet us? Where’s thrill, excitement, and pleasure in not challenging the maelstrom of hardships around us? Didn’t we question everything at one point, our decisions, our gifts, our value as a person?

Because today, I’m not asking you to forget the hurt and pain and trouble they inflicted on you; no, not even to show you the path and steps to forgiveness. Instead, may this remind you that there’s someone who believes in you; that in time, all wounds will be healed.

Meaning breathes from tales of triumphs, overcoming of odds, and facing life’s battles head-on. I hope you embrace the process and rediscover yourself all over again. And when the ashes of frustrations of the past subside on the horizon, may your desire to be a comeback story the same way millions of people on the face of this planet strive to do each day overwhelm your heart with interminable virility.

This is a gasping proof that you are not alone.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 3rd of May 2018.)

If You Genuinely And Sincerely Love Her, You Will Love Her Like This

IF YOU love her without pretense, you will welcome the thick, towering walls she had built for herself even before you met her. You’ll not try to shatter or see them as adversaries you have to defeat to find her, to finally have a glimpse of the beguiling soul contently breathing in its innermost and deepest realm. Instead, you’ll embrace them as august fragments of her being. You’ll be patient until she greets you with her infectious laughter and beaming smile because you never deserted her.

If you really love her, you will not entertain the idea of dating anybody else who obviously showed their intent to be with you, to talk to you, to get to know you better. Just the idea of you being with someone else will haunt you. You’ll mightily close your eyes and shut your ears whenever a temptation knocks on your door and windows and imagination. Yes, she’s onerous to decipher but you’ll not stop and give her up just because you’re uncertain about how she feels about you. You’ll not make excuses to forget the words and promises you uttered while holding her hands when you were starting. You’ll hope and wait for her ‘Yes’. You’ll continue to court her even after she confessed that the feeling is mutual.

If you truly love her, you will not leave her hanging. You’ll be brave to tell her how you feel even if your whole body is trembling and the cup of coffee or hot lemon tea you’re holding is splattering brought by her presence. You’ll be honest with her even if you’re scared of being rejected because you know she’s worth it.

If you fervently love her, you will accept her flaws and imperfections. You’ll not use them as your reserved ammunitions and weapons in times of misunderstanding and quarrel. You’ll not bring up her past for you know it will hurt her. You’ll think about what’s best for her and treat her as a valuable vessel, a gift, an answered prayer. You’ll forgive her the same way you exonerate yourself when you commit mistakes and shortcomings.

If you earnestly love her, you will recognize her talents, dreams, and aspirations. You’ll not regard her as a blind, emotionless follower to all your wants and needs. You’ll honor and respect her all the time and view her as a partner in facing each morning’s challenges and surprises. You’ll celebrate her triumphs as yours and will be an unfailing shoulder to cry on in times of grief. You’ll support her in her own endeavors for you know that her success and yours are key ingredients for your connection to continue to flourish and bloom to a greater form.

If you authentically love her, you will set aside your ego and will listen to her thoughts and views. You’ll not degrade her person or abuse her confidence in you. You’ll be transparent in all your dealings and you’ll not hide critical information to her that has a direct effect on your relationship. You’ll safeguard her trust all days of your life.

If you seriously love her, you will shower her with your warmth, artistry, and poetry. With joy, you’ll write her essays and lyrics and letters not just on days or nights you feel like it. You’ll secretly take photographs of her or paint the minute details of her personage on a canvas. Yes, there will be times when you’re occupied, tired, and fed up with life’s expectations and demands, but you’ll make time to be with her even if she doesn’t ask for it. You’ll relentlessly remind her of her beauty, of her strengths, of her brilliance when you sense that she forgets them. You’ll vibrantly reminisce the moments in your past when she made you feel unsure whether she’ll accept you or not; how she single-handedly brought you into a peculiar world you’ve never been before. You’ll sing her songs and dance with her when she’s weary and frustrated and jaded; when failures unceasingly try to put her down and make her doubt the glaring possibilities of tomorrow.

And if you genuinely and sincerely love her, you will be faithful in her presence or absence; whether you hear her voice or not; whether she’s sitting next to you or hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Because if the kind of love you have for her is pure and untainted, it will reveal itself over time and if you’re fated to be together, she will stay with you with all her thick, towering walls vanished forever.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 3rd of April 2018.)

A comeback story

Somewhere along the way you’ll get hurt.
Broken promises.
Failed relationships.
Frustrations from all angles.
To face these is inevitable.
But take heart.
What’s life if we get everything we want
and prayed for at the moment we
expected them to greet us?
Where’s excitement in not challenging
our limitations and weaknesses?
We’ve all questioned everything at one
point in our lives – our decisions,
our gifts, our value as a person.
But look at the one gazing at you from
the future – the stronger you.
You’ve gone through this before;
you can do it again.
Meaning breathes from tales of triumphs
and overcoming of odds.
Be a comeback story.

Madness

Challenge me in ways that I’ve
never been challenged
before

Show me things – grand and minute,
subtle and bold, and let’s get drunk
on each other’s fascinations

Let’s not be mediocre, forever
threading what the men and women
before us built for themselves

Be mad at me, really mad,
to the extreme extent not
brought by hatred but
of love

Love me, show me, tell
me every day, every
hour, every time
the sun’s rays
visit your lips

Stay while the storm
displays its wrath, the
noise around us, all the doubts –
be with me still

For you’re my hiding place,
my refuge, the light in
a world that has gone crazy –
sit next to me.

Be patient.

21. Carbonated Fruit Drinks

AS SOMEONE who doesn’t find joy in consuming alcoholic drinks, being an attendee at a party where carbonated fruit drinks have been made available is a gift, a sweet gesture to avoid being out of place. Let’s toast!

‘Consistency’ not ‘Intensity’

IF YOU know deep within you that you love someone, don’t settle for anybody else. Don’t call or text or entertain those who express their intent to know you, to be with you. Don’t waste time and energy by giving others hope for your affection. Be courageous enough to tell them how you feel. Choose the one that you love despite all the mysteries, the uncertainties. Be loyal, sincere, and faithful even if all that’s in between you is silence. Relationships, the genuine ones, do not exist because of intensity. They don’t happen overnight or by pouring all the emotions in one sitting. They come into being through consistency. To be willing to listen, to give in, and to put the other person first; to be committed all the time. And nothing is more satisfying than being stared at by someone you waited for because you did not settle with all the tempting, enticing, and riveting roadblocks along the way.

Fire and Water

He’s fire.
She’s water.
When she tries to be with him, pieces of her turn into vapors. The wind takes them away; they are nowhere to be found. But she craves to be consumed. To sense his warmth. To forget for a moment the cold feeling inside. To decide on her own. Because only then, she’s reminded on how to be alive. She’s still searching for the missing pieces. Yes, up to this day to feel his touch all over again. And he’s waiting for her.

You

“With your presence, your warmth, I believe I can do great things; that I can reach my dreams with your help. I can’t imagine my existence without You.”

I CAN’T imagine life without You. I can’t imagine doing things just because I want to, or just because of my desires. I can’t imagine waking up each day without giving You thanks or remembering your goodness. With your presence, your warmth, I believe I can do great things; that I can reach my dreams with your help. I can’t imagine my existence without You.

Please talk to me every time, every second of my life. Please be patient with my shortcomings and mistakes. Please listen to my prayers, spoken or not. Please guide me always.

I hope to see You someday, to offer You everything that I have, my whole being. I hope to sing You songs and offer You thanksgiving in your paradise, in eternity.

I hope because you are God and I am not going to ask for anything else.

Escape

“When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives?”

IF YOU want to start a war and destroy a territory of your adversary, you don’t divulge your plans. You just do it. No threats. No clamor for the world’s attention. No senseless imaginary epistles to the media.

The North Korea’s leadership in its desire to infiltrate the world over the past few years have been doing unspeakable things. Labeled as a rebel to a world where the international police is the United States, they continuously terrorize the psych of those who wanted to keep the current order.

Can you imagine being one of the more than 160,000 people living and working in Guam with a looming threat for you to be vanished on the surface of the Earth? Can you imagine attempting to sleep at night before the deadline thinking that you might no longer see tomorrow with all its beauty and grace? I can’t.

I still wonder what’s really going on in North Korea. There were reports of starvation, deprivation, and abuse towards its citizens. When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives? I pity those people: brainwashed, ignorant of the outside world, walled literally by the selfishness of those who call themselves leaders of the new world.

The coming days will be interesting. The hype is here.

North Korea succeeded in getting the attention of all of us. The next question is, what now? According to the latest report, they delayed the launch of the missiles to pulverize Guam as an ally, a forward fortress of the United States in Asia-Pacific. But for how long? Is it just a stunt, a publicity, a tiring move of North Korea for it to test its presence in the political arena?

I hope that no war will emerge in the coming decades between countries. We’ve all seen and read how destructive and pointless wars are to those involved: lost lives, gone dreams, and endless call and cry for help.

We are all different. We are diverse. We all want to move forward, to be in a better position, to be great. But again and again, we have two options on how we can achieve these: to promote life and peace or to be catalysts for destruction.

They say that history dictates who the heroes and villains are; books marvel the real ones and forget the pretenders.

But today, all we can do is to keep believing. To believe that the threat to our lives will no longer be there; that they managed to escape from us.

19. Passing the interview

“In a one-click-please-answer-me-now world where Google is at the top of the food chain in technology, it is expected that one can easily answer the questions cited. But no, it’s not the case.”

NOBODY LIKES to be rejected. It is an innate need for us to be accepted, appreciated, and valued by other people. It’s one of the reasons why there’s awarding ceremonies, recognition days, and ‘best’ and ‘most outstanding’ titles that the world societies give to deserving individuals.

But we’ve all gone through it or faced it. A simple job interview maybe weeks or months after school or college graduation. By then, with all the might that we have, we faced men and women in suits, ties, and leather shoes. It’s no longer a joke. Everything’s real and we’ve got to cope or else we’ll be left behind in life.

Come to think of it. For more than a decade, we’ve unconsciously prepared for this momentous event. Yes, we want to be successful, to earn money, to buy everything that we want. We want to enjoy, be in a more comfortable position, and sip hot green tea in an island in the Pacific. We crave for meaning among the millions of things around us. But nobody told us the Dos and Don’ts in an interview.

Hearts pumping. Sweats everywhere. Minds juggling.

What are your weaknesses? How about your strengths? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What is your greatest achievement? Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you?

In a one-click-please-answer-me-now world where Google is at the top of the food chain in technology, it is expected that one can easily answer the questions cited. But no, it’s not the case. Because some of us memorize what we’ve got to say for the Big Day, we forget the essentials why managers and executives sit down to talk to us (some do it over Skype or through a telephone call). One can easily sense if the provided was based on a script in a computer or smartphone somewhere. The interviewers are not dumb to fail in measuring you up. Interviews happen to gauge you, your values, your virtues, your principles, your outlook, and you, the whole package. Accepting you means saying yes to a future that they cannot foresee with your talents and capabilities. It’s a form of investment.

Failing an interview happens. It happens to those who are not qualified or to those who did not prepare: being oblivious, not following the dress code, being impolite, unorganized resume, missing documents, wandering mind. To be accepted and appreciated and valued is something that we all long for. But first, we should ask: Do I really want this? Did I make the necessary preparations? Can I imagine myself working in this corporation, company, or entity?

It is not easy to pass an interview. But if you’re chosen and if you’re deserving of a nod, of a yes, of the opportunity, expect that you’ll exit the door with a smile on your face or you’ll wave goodbye at the person on the other side of the screen with gratitude in your heart.

An Open Letter To ‘Kita Kita’ (I See You)

“We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people.”

Dear you,

At a time when we grew tired of being bombarded with films with worn out formulas and endless sequels, you came as a delightful surprise. We felt helpless when the news broke that the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) changed its format all over again and chose to revert to its old self which saw the return of familiar staples in the annual showcase. But being pulled out of last year’s roll of MMFF movies with all the controversy that surrounded it is the best thing that happened to you. 

You are an unexpected visitor in our consciousness and so, I would like you to have this that we may not forget each other as time passes by. Let me reminisce the memories we had the same way Tonyo and Lea (played by comedian Empoy Marquez and award-winning actress Alessanda de Rossi respectively) did. It’s about an hour and a half of a roller coaster ride that you and I experienced together. Let me start counting: 

One. One bicycle ride of Lea in the introduction and it hit me. I remembered a scene in the 2000 South Korean romantic television drama Autumn in My Heart where the main characters were biking on their way home from school. The background music was captivating. Lea’s vibrant face greeted us with a smile. Her eyes were magical. 

Two. Two questions popped inside my head: Firstly, did Alessandra and Empoy really act?  And secondly, is it true that they’re not friends before? It’s as if cameras were positioned in front of them and everything just unfolded, like in a reality show. It’s as if they’ve known each other so well that we felt the comfort in every pat on the shoulder, hands, and sometimes on the face. We saw ourselves in them, on how we deal with our friends and loved ones.

Three. Three elements made you outstanding: unconventional love team, cinematography, sincerity. Infested with ‘pabebe’ love teams around, the pairing of Empoy and Alessandra is something that we’ve never seen before. The visual texture of the film, the pacing, the overall mood are remarkable. As a country that has gone crazy with South Korean dramas, you captured us with pleasing imagery all shot in a foreign land: a garden with various types of flowers, plain green fields, rain. But more than these, you’ve shown us sincerity. Yes, sincerity that we’ve not felt in Filipino movies in a long time. I sensed it in every line, in every laughter whenever a joke is delivered.

Four. Four producers gambled on you. Piolo Pascual, film director Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo and Suzanne Shayne Sarte made it possible for you to exist. It’s a difficult time for producing films. How many film studios have gone bankrupt in the Philippines? How many creatives and writers tried but failed? But they saw something in you. They saw your potential and cleaved to that. They’ve displayed courage all throughout the process which is a great example to us. 

Five. Five times I tried to stop myself from crying. Five times I saw those sitting at my left shed tears because of you. 

Six, seven.  Six or seven times I reminded my mother who’s in her sixties to refrain from giving her comments to some scenes for it might distract the other audience members. In the past, we would humorously tell her to not sleep inside the theater or she’ll miss the flow of events. But for the first time since she got her senior citizen I.D. card which gives her the privilege to watch movies in all theaters in our city for free, she did not fall asleep watching you. You got that hook. 

Eight. Yes, for eight instances I watched your trailers. It is also the number of times I hoped that you’ll be a blockbuster. I felt how your writer and director, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, attempted to offer us a novel recipe that we can enjoy and be proud of. And she succeeded. No pretensions. No awful chemistry. No forced twists in the story. 

Nine. You left me with nine trademarks that will forever stay with me: cabbage, teddy bear, banana, heart, bell, bowls of ramen, Sapporo beer cans, paper cranes, and baby dragonfly. You gave each of them a different meaning that has never entered our imagination before. You thought us how to look at the minute details, the small things, and know how to value them. 

Ten. Ten million pesos was the amount of money that has been spent to bring you to life. But you know what? Because of that amount, we got to see ourselves better. We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people. 

They say that your success banked on word of mouth. But I believe, it is because of word of heart. Our hearts finally spoke after a long time of silence and we just listened to them. You are a relief, a refreshing reminder of who we are as Filipinos. You made us believe again on our creative capacity, on our genius when it comes to storytelling, and on our distinct voice deep within us; that we may see and love even with our eyes closed.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely yours,

Kabayan

12. Discovering that you are a creator, an artist

“Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary.”

IF YOU see yourself as a creative, do not give up. If you believe that you are an artist, embrace and nurture your craft. If you think that every cell of your body directs you to do more, to work on your passion, to reach the farthest limits of your imagination, try. And if an idea pops up in your head out nowhere, while you’re brushing your teeth, while taking a bath, while pouring tomato sauce on your plate to make your special dish, while walking, jogging, or sprinting, while waiting for the one that you love in a cafe, Japanese restaurant, or on a bench somewhere, while reading a book, or while riding a bicycle, a car, or a seesaw in a park, listen.

The world is filled with people who call themselves artists and poets and writers but do not know when to listen and be brave enough to spend their time to give their art its own form, life, and space. They do not want to feed themselves with new perspectives. Everyone is born a creator but not all of us are courageous enough to face its inexplicable faces, its inescapable enigma.

Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary. I know because it frightened me to write this.

But we both know that there’s no other way.

10. Impromptu hosting

“You have to be sensitive to their needs like a mother to her child; be aware when to emphasize your thoughts and ideas.”

HAVE YOU ever been asked to be the instant host of an event?  Well, it’s thrilling. But if it’s in your blood, you should always be ready. It should not be a burden to you.

It brings a different feeling whenever you stand in front of a lot of people. Their eyes are glued to you. Their ears and minds waiting for your every move and instruction. It’s about being in control and a catalyst for laughter to surface in a room of desserts and awards.

Conjunctions are essential; witty lines are required. As the life of the show, you must have a mastery of what’s supposed to happen next. But as an impromptu host, the challenge is tenfold. You have to gather in less than 2 minutes all of the information that you can get. You have to familiarize yourself with the kind of audience you have: their likes and dislikes, their inhibitions, the limits in culture and religion. Or else, you’ll fail without you knowing it. You have to be sensitive to their needs like a mother to her child; be aware when to emphasize your thoughts and ideas. Timing is a valuable commodity; facial expression matters.

After all, hosting is acting. It’s a performance for the audience to have a good time, to enjoy and forget some sections of their lives. Yes, even if you’re notified shortly by your boss while sitting next to her in between your sessions with your mud pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

2. You won in a raffle

“And the winner is… (your name).”

BE IT a washing machine, a rice cooker, a Starbucks gift certificate, a bunch of cash, or an SUV, nothing beats the feeling of being a winner. Yes, a winner in a raffle draw that you did not even think about when you attended a party, a TEDx talk, or dragged yourself in a meeting, a conference, or a company event. Everyone stared and cheered for you as if you’re a gladiator who just triumphed over a pack of beasts at the Colosseum. Your heart beat faster and faster. The room erupted with joy. You solemnly followed the rules and voilà! “And the winner is… (your name).” Congratulations!

1. You woke up today

“And leave all the heavy baggage from yesterday to move forward.”

WHAT’S MORE fascinating than that? Isn’t it awesome to realize that you have another chance to make things right, to reconnect and build ties, to laugh and smile and greet the security guard who’s been up all night to secure your workplace?

Declare that today, you’ll do better. Pronounce that you’ll own this day and treat it as if it’s your last. Forget about your shortcomings and failures in the past. Restart. Recharge. And leave all the heavy baggage from yesterday to move forward.

You woke up today and that means you have another opportunity to enjoy life and appreciate everything. Yes, even the little things.

Seattle’s Best Coffee

Never again will I buy and drink a medium-size cappuccino from Seattle’s Best Coffee 6 hours before midnight and expect to have a complete 8-hour sleep in preparation to a meeting with the Assistant Operations Manager at work the following day.

Forgive and forget

It’s Sunday and I have been reminded of two powerful acts to have a more meaningful life: forgive and forget. Everyone makes mistakes and for one to be forgiven, one has to forgive first. But true forgiveness happens when the mind and the heart no longer remember the sin that has been committed by another person.  So, please forgive and forget. Yes, before you close your eyes today… Before the moon and the stars sing you a lullaby.

Dear Boy who’s named after Superman

Dear Boy who’s named after Superman,

From the moment
We laid our eyes on you
We imagined the great things
We’ll do together and we
Knew something was real:

You got us with your smile, Kent.

Every time we held you
Your warmth ruled us with
Pure, unpretentious love
A feeling that God has
Reserved for us.

You travelled with us, talked to us
In a language that at first we
Couldn’t understand
But the joy in between us
Bridged the gap.

We were given two years to enjoy
Each other’s company
It was a short time
We will surely miss you.

We’ll miss how you stare at us
How you tried to mimic how we speak
How you embraced us with
Your soft, tiny arms
How we held hands when
You had your first walk.

We’ll miss how an icing
Covered your face on
Your birthday and your
Dimples made our day.

We’ll miss your sincerity
Your voice, your peace
Your laughter in times of
Chaos and celebration.

We’ll remember you for all these
For the adventures that
We shared together.

And everyday we thank God
For meeting you
For witnessing your
Extraordinary journey.

You will always be our Superman
Our little boy with an imaginary
Cape made from heaven.

Love you always,
Your family

I love you, ‘Nay

“Whenever I felt down or it seemed like the world has revolted against me, whenever I had a bad dream, I would lay beside her. I would press my ear against her belly and she knew our routine: I would embrace her, kiss her, and close my eyes.”

WHEN I was a child, I used to lay beside my mother and press my ear against her soft, warm belly. I would close my eyes and imagine the world inside her, on how the rice grains travelled from her stomach to her intestines after every meal and listen to the grumbling sounds which became my lullaby. While it is true that my mother was passionate about books and stories in her youth, I never fell asleep while listening to her reading or when sharing one. I would fall asleep every time I listen to the enticing borborygmi created by the movements of her intestines.

Lying beside her is one of the most peaceful places in the world. And then one day, chaos came in the real world and inside my head.

In May 1999, while sitting outside our house, my father saw the kitchen of an apartment building nearby. It’s on fire.

“Fire! Fire! There’s a fire!” he shouted at the top of his lungs as he pointed his finger to the apartment’s window on the second floor.

The people in the neighborhood were alerted. Confusion surfaced. My mother approached my father to calm him down. But she’s too late. He’s having a heart attack. Again. The second time in the past year and the third time in his lifetime. I shed tears. I was too preoccupied to process the whole scene that I peed in my shorts.

They rushed him to the hospital. He stayed there for months. During that period, our youngest and I only heard bits of news. We were not allowed to make a visit for we were warned that the hospital was full of sick people and we might get infected. My mother never showed any sign of weakness.

In July 1999, two weeks before my 9th birthday, on a round, wooden table with nothing on top of it, I heard the saddest news. “Tatay is gone… He passed away earlier today” our eldest sibling said who just came from the hospital. I didn’t know how to react or what to say. There was silence. And then cries of longing.

For a few weeks, after the death of my father, I’ve not seen my mother smiled even once.

I wondered how she would manage the gargantuan task of raising a big family like ours of 8 members. We were still attending school. Our eldest sibling was still in college. How about the tuition fees? How about the daily expenses? How can a laundrywoman and part-time dressmaker shoulder everything?

I still remember how she pleaded the sari-sari store owners in our place to lend us their canned goods, rice, instant noodles, etc. for our meals. We were turned down multiple times and despised at because we couldn’t pay our debts on time. There were times when we would skip meals. Our relatives on the other hand have been so supportive to make our situation better. But the support was not enough. It was one of the lowest moments of our lives.

My mother always said: “Someday, we’ll get over this.”

Looking back, all we could do is to smile. I understood everything that happened then. I still couldn’t believe that we survived and continued to fight all because of my mother who stood by her principles. All of her children graduated from college and I know that she’s proud about it.

Whenever I had an assignment about essay writing in grade school, she was there like a hero who’s always ready to rescue the one in need. I didn’t know how to compose a sentence or recognize an independent clause then. She has shown me the wonders of stories and on how to spark the curiosity of the readers. In public speaking, she shared the importance of confidence and on how the manner by which you stand in front of everyone else can either leave them fascinated or disappointed.

My mother is our family doctor. I couldn’t remember a time that she did not take special care of any of us, her children when we’re sick. She would buy the necessary medicines, have us drink Gatorade to avoid being dehydrated and would prepare and apply wet cloth on our foreheads to lower the body temperature. Even her siblings, my aunts and uncles, would contact her for advice when it comes to health issues. We’ve become witnesses of a woman who stayed in hospitals for months because of my father’s condition. And by that, she gained experiences and tons of information for simple types of sickness.

My mother will turn 63 in October this year. She’s a senior citizen and the evidence of her old age is her constant complaint of body aches. Another proof is whenever she willingly and proudly waves her senior citizen I.D. at Jollibee, Chowking and Mercury Drug Store for discount on her purchases and in theaters in Makati City to watch a movie for free.

I stare at my mother whenever I have a chance and ask her random questions like, “What is your favorite color, or favorite food, or what place do you want to visit next, ‘Nay?” I go on a date with her every time it is possible.

Whenever I felt down or it seemed like the world has revolted against me, whenever I had a bad dream, I would lay beside her. I would press my ear against her belly and she knew our routine: I would embrace her, kiss her, and close my eyes. And finally, I would whisper: “I’m thankful and grateful to God that you’re here and you’re my mom. Thank you for your courage and love. I love you, ‘Nay.”

Beyond “The 44”

“If only we make reforms in the education system for children in the young age to achieve a better understanding for the biases and differences and practices of all groups, ethnic or local, religious and political, we may have a better future.”

HOW MUCH does peace cost? Does it require the displacement of more than a million families or the deaths of thousands and the revision of a Constitution even before you and I probably were born?

I am always curious as to how beautiful Philippines is. More than its scintillating and 7 Wonders of the World caliber spots, the smiles of its people, Muslim or Christian, I wanted to discover its cultures no matter how diverse. I wanted to know their stories. However, the line that divides its people became more evident now more than ever. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), or what others call it, “the sole key for peace in Mindanao”, is still in the air but nobody seems to have the will to have a grip of its wings, for now.

Six years ago, 58 trembling souls had departed, one by one allegedly because of those who are seeking political immortality in Maguindanao. And just over a month ago, still in Maguindanao, on January 25, 2015, Clash of Mamasapano happened. At the height of passing and pushing of BBL a tragedy surfaced. There was a news-break “44 elite Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) combatants were killed. The best of the best were massacred”. The day the news broke, the country was saddened. There were angry, dismayed, and emotional senators, congressmen and government officials on TV giving interviews. A proposition of “all-out-war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF, has been the subject of discourse. Professors of universities and the intellectuals of the different sectors of societies were debating whether BBL is the real answer for peace in Mindanao or not. And there were “instant experts” in the peace process as well in social media.

But the truth is, according to Rappler, “…the number of fatalities in the day-long clash to at least 68. The incident also claimed the lives of at least 7 civilians, including a 5-year old girl.” There were Muslims or Moros and civilians who were killed, but the “44 PNP-SAF” combatants were those highlighted because they are from the government. They are regarded as “heroes” and the other victims of the clash as shadows and smokes and dusts of the “misencounter” (a new term used to describe what happened; it is not found in Merriam-Webster dictionary).  It is not that I do not feel the sentiment of the families of the PNP-SAF commandos; it’s just that equality is nowhere to be found by observing and listening to every word that comes out of the mouth of non-Muslim government officials.

As a country with the majority of its people calling themselves Christians, we know a little about those we call our “brothers” (a description we remember during Ramadan). Here are the limited facts that I know about Muslim or Islam or Moro.

“Moro” is a political or cultural term that refers to a society of people or an individual which are mosly living in Mindanao. “Muslim” on the other hand is a “faith-based” term that refers to a society of people or an individual who believes in Allah (their God) and has “Islam” as his or her religion. We usually see them selling DVDs, cellular phones, and other gadgets in malls. “Bumili ka sa Muslim” is a generic phrase being used by those living in the metropolitan areas whenever they have to transact to “Muslim” people in the market for cheap goods. We enclosed them in a box of identity just like this. These people are usually wearing long, white clothes. Some have their faces covered. They are unusual for first timers and for those who are used to seeing women wearing short “shorts” and fitted shirts and pants for men. There are communities of Muslim people in Taguig City and at the southern part of Visayas and most are living in Mindanao. They have structurally elegant Mosques where they practice their Islam beliefs. In elementary, we tackled Islam as one of the religions in the country and that there are different identities of Muslim in the Philippines, politically. Tausug people are the more famous. They live near the seas and known as “the people of the current.”

At the dark side, they are referred to as “terrorists” by some governments which in my opinion is improper and unethical for there are billions of Muslims all over the world and attaching the term to these people or even to make it sound synonymous for those who listen is injustice, unjustifiable and racist. Their argument is that most of the terrorists in the world are Muslims.

If only we make reforms in the education system for children in the young age to achieve a better understanding for the biases and differences and practices of all groups, ethnic or local, religious and political, we may have a better future. Once we understood and built respect on one another, bullying in the grade school level related to differences in religion will just be part of history. Not only that, we can have leaders who are sensitive enough, objective, and who will not let events aggravate their emotions and destroy the very mantle of the long history for peace process and goodwill in that part of this nation.

I hope that positive change happens sooner to save another family from being displaced in their homeland, or for a child to continue to have the education and learning environment and basic rights he or she deserves under the Constitution and for Christians and Muslims to finally meet half way and make an understanding that is more important than any resources this world has to offer.

In an interview by Boy Abunda (in his show The Bottomline) with a representative from Mindanao, he asked, “What it’s like to be in that place (in Mindanao)?” Then she answered, “It’s such a nice place”. Being the second largest island of the Philippines, Mindanao has resources that we should have been utilizing for the growth of the country. Malacanan boasts an average of 7% economic growth. But the reality is, this growth is only felt by those in classes A, B, and C. – the rich and middle class. How about the masses, those in classes D and E? We are an archipelago and we need every help we can get to alleviate the sufferings of the greater number of people from inside.

The Nobel Peace Prize is still in the horizon for the president, if indeed he is running after it as a seal to his legacy. And yes, it is not commensurate to the gravity of loss of lives we have witnessed in the past decades because of this conflict. I hope that that glorious day would come that Christians and Muslims go hand in hand in fighting the more aggressive demons of humanity like poverty, corruption and the inability to weigh things that are of greater value for the afterlife. After all, we all want peace and everyone loses in wars. Our eyes may not see it but at least, our children will. We have to give them a blood-cleansed land where they can go visit the provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao without any troubles in mind that one of their own can change it in a blink of an eye. We can weep. We can blame everybody. But looking at the bigger picture of things, there is no better alternative.

There are different paths for peace. The only question is what path to choose and if we will take the first step to attain it today and beyond.