Sleepless

I rejoice whenever it rains. But everything changed when one night, on my way home from work, I saw how children and women and men sleep next to each other. Their beds? None. They sleep on soft drink boxes with no roof to cover them on the sidewalk while public and private vehicles pass by them. Headlights expose their fine details. Stray dogs and cats search for food on the pile of garbage just few feet away while they’re dreaming. I then asked myself: Where are they going to stay if it started to rain? The Catholic church near their neighborhood’s closed. It haunted me inside out.

I rejoice whenever it rains until last night.

Advertisements

The Protest

It’s perfectly legal to get angry, to raise your clenched fist, to shout and to have your thoughts made known to those holding the highest positions in the government. With everything that’s going on, it is a natural reaction, a civilized attempt to express. But it’s scarier I believe if the voices of those who care have been shut, the doors and windows to understanding closed, and hope gone. I wonder if the Philippines will one day wake up on an atmosphere of pure hate, hurt, and heresy. Yes, I still wonder because at 4 A.M. my mind wanted to believe that we can get over these humps. I hope that fear will never triumph against the truth… I hope.

16. Published

“I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about.”

WHEN I first held a copy of Philippine Daily Inquirer years ago (the largest and greatest of Philippine broadsheets) and realized that they accept column article submissions, I told myself that someday, I should get published there. I fell in love with its opinion column ‘Young Blood’ where the twenty-something and below gets featured. It was then that I dreamt of being a writer.

I’m still a work in progress, every aspiring writer will tell you that. But after getting published, it kindled hope in me to be a regular contributor. It became a catalyst for me to be a better observer, a finer listener, and to pause more. A lot of things are going on and it is our job to translate them into words. Sometimes I sulk after learning that an unexpected thing happened which is natural.

I can say that being idealistic is an important element to be able to write. You have to hope that there’s a better world ahead and you have to be part of the public discourse, a contributor, to get it. You may fail miserably, you can get rejected multiple times but these are all part of the process. I can’t think of a successful writer today who never experienced rejection.

To understand that there’s a gatekeeper who filters all of the submissions makes it beautiful. To understand that millions of people wanted to write but die dreaming about it places writing at a whole new level. I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about. We have our own gift, our own passion when it comes to creativity. We all have our own point of view which surely differs from others; different opinions on an issue or an idea. different mindsets.

But isn’t it true that every published work humbles you? It is not easy to generate ideas. You have to keep moving, keep believing, keep working. Yes, it’s work because you spend time, energy, and intellect to accomplish it. But since you enjoy doing it, time flies by without you knowing it.

I still have a lot of dreams but I hope that this will remind me every now and then that they are attainable. And I hope that it will do the same to you.

To just keep going. To write.

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

Fleeting perfection

I WANTED to write about President Duterte and his third rape slur but I couldn’t. I wanted to discuss my dismay on the reinstatement of a police official in the Espinosa slay but something’s hindering me. I wanted to tell you my support to the Office of the Ombudsman in its move to press charges against former President Benigno Aquino III for mishandling the Mamasapano operation during his term in which 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members have been killed by a mix of rebel groups in the south but I won’t do it. I wanted to write about poverty, education, and health problems of my country but a part of me doesn’t want to.

I guess it’s because it’s Sunday. We deserve a break, don’t we? We do not want to hear any negative, saddening news on this day. We worked all week to spend this day for ourselves, our families, and our friends. I fully understand where you’re coming from.

Because of these, I am not going to delve deeper on what’s going on. Just like you, I am going to treat this day as a gift that I won’t let anything taint it with reminders of corruption, murder, homicide, suicide and of children in a state of shock, covered with blood, and white ashes because of bomb explosions. Because this day is a fleeting perfection and one should shy away from all distractions.

And so, I hope to see you next Sunday when we’ll transform all over again, to try to forget everything, and to pretend.

Soulless breathing beasts

My heart bleeds for you tonight. All three of your children have been killed. Multiple stab wounds. A slashed throat. Your wife was allegedly raped. She attempted to run, to seek help but the perpetrators silenced her on her way out, in the doorway. Your blind mother-in-law faced the same fate.

My heart bleeds because of this unspeakable crime that has been committed by soulless breathing beasts to you and to your family. I can’t imagine how the next couple of weeks will be like for you. Your house in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan will no longer remind you of a happy home but of horror. But please remember that there are those who care. There are those who wanted to embrace you, to comfort you. There are those who see you as a man who never backed down from a trial in this gruesome form. And that there are those who will be vigilant for justice to be served.

I am one of them.

Finding home

There is hope in me that the people in Marawi City, as soon as the war ends, will receive the help they need to start over; that the aid from the government and international community to rebuild their lives will not be put to waste; and that the appeals for donation to those who have been displaced will be heard. There is hope in me because the President of this country came from the south and because he made a promise that their voices will be recognized. There is hope in me because in one way or another, we know how it feels like to be locked up in a challenging situation. It must be difficult to accept the reality that you have to all of a sudden evacuate from your comfort zone with no extra clothes, toothbrush, or other personal belongings to bring with due to threat to your life. I hope that the war would soon be over. I hope that they find their way home again, our fellow Filipinos – the civilians, the police officers, and the soldiers.

I hope.

Photo credit: AFP Getty Images