It’s been a year since my favorite local historian left to join her forefathers after a century of a life well-celebrated. I remember her not with grief but with continued awe of how she graciously led a life with purpose. Though I cannot help but be unpleasantly reminded of one unjustifiable failure that I should have managed to complete while she still breathed the gusts of the highlands.
When my pen was more cooperative and my mind thirsted for knowledge and preservation, I once vowed to myself to put into paper the rich local folktales that my grandmother kept vaulted in her retentive mind but willingly and gladly shared without much prodding. I started with a sentence or two of the lovelorn yet reckless An-ananga and his princess of unparalleled beauty then stopped for reasons unknown. I don’t even recall where I kept that lazy draft.
Alas! Now my foolproof source is no longer here and I definitely cannot rely on this 30-year old, withered mind to recollect and revive the colorful lives led by those vibrant characters. It is tragic that I failed to immortalize them while she was still alive but it will be more of a misfortune if I do not attempt to do so.
The plights of the gutsy An-ananga, the exploits of the brave Sadsadyokana, and the wit of Pal-pal-ama against the sneaky Oto-ot deserve to be retold. These tales are great reminders of our local culture’s richness and it would be such a shame to let them be drowned in the advent of modernization and technology.
I need to go back to those years when this once young mind savored the evening story-telling with the grandma. With the imaginary warmth of the dying embers of the ‘dapwan’, I go back and start with, ‘A long, long time ago…
…to be continued.
There was, or there were junctures in the past when just about anything can inspire me to pen a jumble of either nonsensical, profound or passably read-worthy thoughts. Riding a cramped bus, the feel of gritty sand cascading through my fingers, the sunset, or even just a broken pencil–a lot of things used to switch on for that tap of words to spew forth.
But when you’ve ridden too many cramped buses, witnessed so many sunsets and broken a lot of pencils, you get jaded. Everything becomes unimpressive that you seem to blend with the dull. I still tried to write by resorting to refer myself in the third person. I got my dog to do it. Imaginative–not.
With the monotony that I managed to accept as life, hours can be killed by drowning into my secret abyss. Tuning out literally and figuratively from everything alive that’s happening around. People in buses stopped being interesting and sunsets became monochromatic.
But some things just happen to awaken the dormant mind. A stimulating conversation, waking up on the right side of the bed, that encouraging prod from someone close to you. Suddenly what seemed normal becomes engaging. Like this sign that I’ve mindlessly passed every morning to work for the past 202 or so days, it spoke to me for the first time. It had meaning again. I just had to see. It reminded me that next time I get on the bus, I would offer my seat with extra kindness. Not that I begrudged before but this time, do it wholeheartedly. I can start with that.
Maybe if I knew music, I’d create. Or if I knew art, I’d Cezanne myself my own “Boy in the Red Vest”. But no. So I must write. I must revive the appetite for searching things which are beautiful and be compelled to imprint them in words. To remind myself that humanity is interesting and thus I ought to be kinder. And that every sunset is different from the one yesterday and that I ought to be inspired.
I can restart with that.
So my hooman turned a year older today. She’s convinced herself she’s still 21 so I’m letting her indulge in this fantasy. Just for today.
I know that for some reason, she was dreading the advent of this day. Who does that? I love birthdays! Most people love birthdays! But I guess she’s not most people.
I delight in birthdays because it means a cake, presents, and I’m treated like a boss. They give me a pass for chewing the couch or they hand me an extra rasher. For my mom though, she claims birthdays somehow make her wistful. These remind her of what ifs, of missed opportunities, of sky dives that never happened, and the worst decisions she’s made. Boy, it must be tough being a grown-up.
The pact she made with herself to Angelina Jolie herself a brown-eyed, freckly baby that doesn’t drool or gurgle when she turns 28 never came to fruition. She’s seen that age come and go but she ended up having me instead and this cheeky little bugger I call my younger brother. (We fart and barf, that’s a better deal methinks.) I know too that aside from us, she has devoted herself to other fur babies. Humans are strange. They don’t know what they want.
Kojin and I wanted to do something special for her today but the best we could manage was to refrain from having diarrhea and not give her another scar mark from excessive nipping and biting. We give her ‘ruff’ love.
Today she went about her daily grind. Three-hour commute back and forth to work. (She doesn’t drive. Too many fenders bent.) Nine-hour shift. Ten pages leafed through a 360-paged textbook. One lottery ticket and another scratch card that was not at all lucky. A conspicuous gray hair plucked from her black mane. One or two candles snuffed out.
She seemed chipper but she cried a little. She pondered why bliss for her age seems to be perpetually pursued. She says it’s a constant effort; that it needs to be chased. I don’t get her. I hound dragonflies and smelly butts, and these make me euphoric. It’s not that complicated. Maybe I ought to take her butt-a-chasin’ next time. Humans are weird. Especially women. Especially women her age.
She says she’ll start doing more favors for herself. Eat healthier, drink lesser. More adventures, less passiveness. More spontaneity, less routine. Be happier, and be impervious to people who make her feel otherwise.
So far she’s managed to turn herself into a flexitarian. Whatever that means. (I call it a cheating vegetarian.) She started running again and does these ridiculous squats that scrunch her face ugly. She can now sleep without having to watch those murder documentaries that she says lull her to oblivion. And she’s withdrawn from drinking soda (but she started drinking beer). She still enjoys her favorite pastime which is to have duets with herself. Cringe-worthy. I guess she’s getting there.
My brothers and I wish her the best today and all the days thereafter. I wish to see her cry lesser. It can get weird seeing her sob when she watches dogs or cats being rescued, or when she sees reruns of the Gladiator. She does say we raise her oxytocin levels when we let ourselves be cuddled. I should not begrudge her those hugs then. I hope she knows that despite constantly chastising herself for her inadequacies and falling short of expectations she’s set for herself, she’s our world. She makes us happy. Happy 21st woman!
An airport is either the happiest or loneliest place. I sit here contemplating the obvious with a half-eaten, overpriced hotdog sandwich and a lukewarm cappuccino that would have otherwise been downed in a jiffy under different, happier circumstances.
It’s not the first time I said goodbye to family and friends. Been through this heart-wrenching process a lot of times already but every single farewell seems to be a first. You succumb to this dragging drift of misery as you question yourself yet again why you had to leave in the first place.
I’ve been looking forward for the longest time to 30 days in sunny paradise. It came and went rapidly. So fast that by the time it was over, I was in complete denial. Still am. Lugging my belongings into place was a harrowing, dreary task. I went through airport queues in a trance while replaying vivid images of my teary-eyed mother and Byte cluelessly yawning as I blew him kisses through the car window.
The whole procedure of goodbyes and reassurances that we undergo takes an emotional toll during the days or even months that come after. We know the heartbreaks and chest constrictions that come with it but we willingly submit ourselves to this in exchange for fleeting escapes from routine that is our life. We let ourselves be subjects to such arduous pain because we know it is more than worth it.
This summer’s indulgence with the sun as I basked around the love of family, friends and home made me reconceive that every single moment is immensely significant. Even sleep was a costly option as every moment should be a waking one. I literally bought a day or two more by rebooking flights and cancelling reservations. Time is pricey. That’s why it is meant to be savored.
I certainly don’t anticipate dealing with jetlag that involves eating rice meals at two in the morning and bingeing on cooking shows during ungodly hours, while reminiscing all those moments that I wish I could freeze.
So with the stoutest heart I could muster, I walk the jetbridge that would literally disconnect me from the sun and all the love it has brought me during the last 30 days towards the reality of routine, bills and adulting. Till next time.
Earlier this week, my people brought home this funny, brown fluff that I thought was another addition to my countless teethers. I was already grinding my teeth in anticipation when the thing moved! It moved! Like its little nose snuck out for a sniff and then its tail wagged! It has a tail!
I went ballistic! I did not know what to feel. All these new emotions came at once. I’ve never felt these before and my awesome brain was struggling to process them. I know excitement, (I always have that when my mommy comes home or when I smell bacon), that I could explain. But there were these other emotions that churned my insides and made my heart cry a little. They were anxiety and jealousy. I only came to learn and put these into definition when I had to process the reality that I was no longer the lone furball in the house.
My distress came from wondering whether my people were loving me less because why would they get another dog when they already have me? Jealousy of course was obvious. I admit my selfishness. I want all the undivided attention. I want my toys to myself. The treats to myself, my mommy and daddy to myself.
His name is Kokujin. He looks like half-a-dog and half-a-hotdog. But I think he’s more on the hotdog side. He is brown all over—from the fur, to the eyes, and the nose. My hoomans think he is the cutest thing on earth. They swoon over him and get so thrilled because he gives them lots of little licks and kisses. I don’t do cuddles. I don’t do kisses. But yes, I guess you could say he’s the daintiest little thing. I have to give that to him ungrudgingly. Too cute that my paws seem dangerously humongous when I give him a little tap on his back. This scares the wits out of my parents. Relax people, if I wanted him for lunch, I would have gobbled him up the moment you brought him home.
I know they always have the best intentions for me so I will have to trust them on this one. For now though I am trying to adjust. It’s weird having another dog’s bowl next to mine. Or that another dog is playing with my toys. I’ve outgrown most of my toys so I guess he could have them.
Sometimes he naps on my bed. I don’t know why he does that when they got him his own. Mostly though, he sleeps on my mom’s pillow. Tucked like the little baby that he is. I mean I sleep with my mom and dad every now and then but I scamper out when the room becomes unbearable because Daddy starts to snore or my mom throws her legs all over everyone. But this little dude can stay tucked all night long! So since they brought him home, no way am I giving up my spot at the foot of the bed! I’m staying here every single hour of every night, watching him like a hawk.
But you could say I am a lot more occupied, and yes, happier now. I have a playmate! I don’t get as bored as I did before. I only got to play with other dogs when we take walks or when I was still going to school. Other than those, it’s only my people that I pester. Now Kojin is here. He is not as agile as me but he is surprisingly speedy even with those pudgy little legs of his.
Well so long as my mom does not give him a rasher more of the bacon than she does for me, I guess we can work things out. The thought of being an older bro is somewhat cool. And I am getting attached to him already. Till then, I have some butt-chasing to do.
Hi, my name is Kaidu. My parents call me tons of different names that often sound gibberish like Kai, Kaiditu, Jigglybums, Kaiduchan, Kaidupootpoot and so on. But my personal favorites are Big Boy and the Boss. I just turned nine months sometime ago which is like nine years old in hooman years for my breed according to Pedigree’s dog age conversion thingy. I got to know my hoomans when I was just 10 weeks old and that was when life and my awesomeness started!
I’m still very young but I have big dreams because I am ambitious like that. One of them is to be famous like Zayn Malik or that dog-writer, Ziggy, on Barkpost. I know I can be for a lot of reasons. For one, I have the pipes. Music is a huge thing in my household and every time my dad pulls out his guitar, I know that’s a cue for me to howl out the tunes that I composed myself. Mommy joins in every now and then but I always try to make my singing louder because she kinda sucks. I mean, I love my mom to death because there’s a lot to love about her. Like she always sneaks in slices of bacon under the table when daddy’s not looking, she spoon feeds me without complaints when I suddenly decide to be lazy, she giggles uncontrollably at my farts, but her singing is just awful! And when she decides to dance while she is singing, it’s just cringe-worthy. I go inside my crate, bum towards her.
Well I decided to start writing because I get bored sometimes and I want an outlet for my pent up energy. I want to keep on running and frolic nonstop on that white thing people call snow. I want to dig stuff and chew on wood. But I understand why these cannot be an everyday thing. My pawrents need to go to this place where dogs like me are not allowed. They work there so they could bring home treats, raw hides, and those countless fluffy stuff that don’t last very long under my teeth. I understand that so it’s okay if they say goodbye because I know they always come back when it gets dark. That’s the best part of my days–when they come home and I jump at them like I haven’t seen them in ages. In the meantime, I will write. My mom thinks she’s so smart that only she can access this blog but I figured out her password so that makes me smarter.
The past few days were not the best. I am wearing this cone again because I can’t stop chewing off my hair. I had to go revisit the big man who squeezed something in my butt before. It was awful and downright shameful to have someone poke my behind but Daddy said it was for my own good. Now the big guy did it again and I overheard him say that one reason why I seem to find my hair so palatable is that I have an allergy of some sort. Now that means they’re putting a stop on my little hooman food treats which are always so tasty. It also means only food that are hypo-allergenic (new food always gives me diarrhea, ugh), new shampoo, no this, no that. I don’t like visiting the big guy. Uh-uh. Not unless ladies are there to visit too. Like this Lady Bulldog, Penny, she was beautiful. We sniffed each other. And I think I am crushing on this receptionist, Lora. I think she likes me too.
I like getting into these rides with Mom and Dad but not all outings are fun. I remember before when Dad and my Uncle took me to this clinic that I used to visit a lot when I was younger. I thought it was the usual little prick they always did on my back but this time they did something much more! They took away my two thingamajigs that I used to lick till they glistened! I thought I could never forgive my people for that but I realized nothing they do will make me ever hate them.
So anyway, now I am on a strict diet with this tasteless food and no sirree!!! I am keeping my jaws shut till they give me the good stuff. Let’s see who gives in. In the meantime, I see my mom prancing around like it’s the end of the world. She’s trying to come up with all these ludicrous ideas on how to shove these antibiotics down my gullet to stop my infatuation with my fur. Like I said, she thinks she’s smart but I am smarter.
-Kaidu, the Awesome
Living a Hundred Years and More
Perhaps she didn’t like it as well. Her very long, silver-white hair had to be sheared, right above her ears. It had to be cut because she had to spend most of the hours lying down in bed, tangling those locks that once gloriously crowned her head. She wasn’t bed-ridden, not just yet, but old age has taken its toll and even sitting down wearied her already.
She used to say it was taboo to cut the hair of an old woman as all her memories are stored in those long, thinning tresses—a personal belief she insisted even among us, her grandchildren. But like all the other things she had to give up doing, this was one of the beliefs she had to renounce too.
The years have finally caught up with her. But no one really knows how old she is exactly. She has outlived all of her friends and generation-mates. There are times I can’t help but think that she’s going to live forever, in the literal sense that is. But I, among numerous others know that she will, in one way or another, she is really going to live forever. She has left in us a legacy that makes us want to make the most of what life has to offer. She, now in her silent world, old and weary but with those knowing eyes that are still very much alive. They continue to sparkle with wisdom—of told and untold knowledge she has accumulated through all those years.
Prisca Sumedca Banayan, fondly called Lola Banayan by everyone else, is considered by those who know her as the oldest living citizen of Sagada, Mt. Province, a small tourist town nestled in the hills of the Cordillera mountain range. No official documents could prove that but we accepted it like it was a fact. We did so not only because she has been around longer than anyone else but also because up to now, her say on community issues are still revered, a rarity in a traditional community where the opinions of the male old folks are the ones taken into consideration.
She was born in the unfortunate era when women were regarded lesser as that to men. When her only brother was encouraged to go to school, she was made to stay at home and perform the daily chores despite her insistence that she attend school as well. Despite being adamant to her father that she be given the privilege to go to those classes conducted by the American missionaries, she wasn’t allowed. There were few victories which she fondly recounts to me every now and then. She managed to escape her father’s watchful eyes and was able to attend a class or two. Thus her very sparse knowledge of a few English words—grandfather, stick, green, little girl, cloud, among other words that she can mouth with that self-satisfied grin of hers.
Yes, she is illiterate, hardly the kind who can possibly do much for her society as she was never given the chance to be educated about the new ways of the world. But that’s what makes me admire her so much. I’m in such awe at her wisdom, wisdom not acquired in the academe, but one which was nourished by years of braving a life that seemed to offer so much in so little time, a life that challenged her to make whatever little thing she had into something huge.
Even as a toddler, Lola Banayan had always been a favorite of mine. I had this unquenchable thirst for stories and she had endless of those. She had this knack of telling stories that could enthrall me for hours, knowing that I had an attention span that lasted for such a short time. It was in these stories that I gleaned a lot of things, for these were not just tales designed for bedtime but these were stories that were brimming with local lore and history that are unfortunately left undocumented.
I never really got to ask her where she got these stories. But I could picture this scenario where as little kids before, she was among those toddlers who like me, were eager to get as many stories from her elders as well. I see her huddled around the dying embers of the fire while maybe her grandmother or mother recounted tales long lost to the younger generations nowadays. But in my case, I can still remember them like they were told to me yesterday.
These stories were set in the rural suburbs of villages with female protagonists who always emerged victorious in their own plights. Even in my young mind, I somehow always pictured one of those heroines as my very own grandmother. For me, she embodied the traits and characteristics that enabled those characters to be victorious in their own respective exploits.
Lola Banayan’s own glorious feat cannot be measured by the community contributions she made or by any distinctive deed that would earn her a seat in the town council. In fact, she had so little but she gave so much. As a wife of a farmer and a mother of ten children, her life revolved around rearing this huge brood while toiling everyday to be able to support the family. It was the time when paid labor was rare and to be able to survive, one has to literally work their bodies off. That was what she did. To her, there was no difference between night and day, as long as her lithe body could allow her to toil and labor. Accounts from my mother gave me a picture of a woman who worked as hard as a man to be able to provide to her family. As life was truly hard those times, it wasn’t enough depending on the resources that were available in the vicinity. They needed other commodities aside from the homegrown crops that they plant throughout the year. The idea of barter trading was also recognized by the highlanders. As it was, Lola Banayan always took it as her responsibility to trudge those mountains on foot while carrying a sack or two of her produce with hopes of exchanging it for a certain amount of the highly-valued salt from their lowlander brothers. This scenario already gives me an idea of the kind of hard labor and sacrifices that Lola Banayan had to undergo just so no one among the family members could ever go hungry.
As a mother, she never failed. She made it sure that there was not just enough food for everyone but also made it a point that what she missed before, she won’t make her children forego the opportunity of being learned. She was more than dutiful to encourage all the members of her brood to attend the public school that was being run then by American missionaries and some pioneer highlander educators. She knew that she needed all the hands she can get to help her in the fields for the family’s daily sustenance but she took it upon herself to do all the chores though some of her kids were already old and more than capable to help her out with the livelihood. For her, it was more important for the kids to go to school than to have them help her in the fields instead. She eked whatever little they had to be able to provide paper, books and school clothing for her children.
Fate tends to be kind to those who persevere as Lola Banayan was blessed with children who knew the importance of hard work and who recognized and valued the sacrifices of their parents. Their kids grew up to be industrious and diligent ones. Though far from being pampered, they fared way better relative to their mother’s experience. This however did not make them complacent at all. Values were embedded in their young minds. More than the lessons they encountered in the school, were the morals that were constantly being imparted by their parents. Lola Banayan always had adages and life lessons to share to her children. My mother often re-echoes these to me, morals that are really very familiar as I usually hear these from my grandmother as well.
When her kids were old enough to fend for themselves and have families of their own, she continued to be a doting grandmother to her grandchildren. No wonder she became a favorite of most.
Though already aged and silver, her desire for literacy was never quenched. Benevolent local educators held informal learning during night times and Lola Banayan was always a punctual attendee. Those few months she spent under the tutelage of someone a lot younger than her increased her meager vocabulary on English. She was able to create a sentence or two using the language and that was already a huge thing for her. They say that it’s never too late to get educated but this unfortunately applied to Lola Banayan. Her very flimsy grasp of the English language is all she could boast of. Time and human nature was not so kind to her. If perhaps the opportunity was given to her during her younger years, that would have spelled a huge difference.
However, whatever she missed out, she made up in the wit and knowledge that far transcends what a learned man has. Her integrity and her outlook about life, her selfless love, her huge and open heart, among other truly outstanding virtues earned respect not just from her children and grandchildren but from everyone who knew her.
She has a lot of friends, but most if not all of them, she has outlived already. That attests how old she is in years already, but her strong memory of history’s events as if they happened yesterday more than affirms the length of time she has lived already. It is amazing how someone her age can vividly remember events long gone. Her memory’s so reliable that a lot of local writers consult her for their outputs. I myself have repeatedly consulted her for my researches and studies that included local history. She continues to be my best local historian as her accounts of past events though not based on actual dates are always specific and detailed.
She led a life that is far from easygoing. She epitomizes the hardworking mother who sacrifices so much for the sake of her children as she manifests the kind of woman who can be submissive if it means sacrificing her wants for the greater good.
She led an ordinary life, no outstanding feats that could make her standout in the community, but how she was able to live it is what is extraordinary. True it was difficult but she never did once complain or be pessimistic in her outlooks. She talked about the harshness of life but recounted these with a strange fondness that is quite hard to comprehend. Life’s difficulties did not make her bitter in any way but instead made her stronger and more persevering, not just to get by but more for the sake of the people around her. That to me is a life well-spent. Not to sensationalize but I can really see Prisca Bacagan as one of the heroines in her numerous folk tales. I could repeatedly listen to her own story and not ever get tired of it.
We belong to a society where we put so much premium to one’s academic achievements. So much indeed that one’s background in the academe correlates to societal status. Perhaps it is for this reason that individuals are endlessly clamoring to have that distinct title attached to their names as they see that this could give them the edge in a highly-competitive environment.
The following essay relates the story of a woman who wanted so much to be educated like everyone else but who was unfortunately prohibited from being able to do so. Despite this, the author deems her as one who has lived a truly virtuous and purposeful life, even more so than others who were able to attain an academic diploma.
Calidad humana is to be depicted by not how worthy an individual is in terms of accomplishing his or her personal feats, but as to how many people he or she has unknowingly affected in a good way with his or her deeds. The person portrayed in the essay is far from being controversial or famous. But her simple, humble but laudable deeds and virtues make her an exemplary individual in her own right.
It is sad that we can be so hindsighted with one’s capabilities as we base these on societal statures. But there are a lot of people like the one in focus who contribute to society without even intending so or knowing it–humble and selfless individuals who are grounded on their values and who make the most of life even with life not offering much to them.
*Lola Banayan inspired my entry for this essay competition for “Calidad Humana”.
This is Kaidu. He’s a six-month old, snarky bi-eyed Siberian Husky who has unwittingly taught us how to save—or not.
We got him when he was just 10 weeks old. He cost an arm and both legs so I believe to start with, he put a huge dent on my credit that would in turn restrict me from doing shopping of any sort for myself for a decade or so. Moreover, as doting, hungry new ‘pawrents’, we mindlessly shopped for dog paraphernalia–dog beds, bowls and bottles, leashes, collars, shampoos and sprays, carpet cleaners, deodorizers, puppy-proofs, how-to-books, a basketful of toys, kibbles and treats, multi-flavored dog food, more toys. Not to mention vaccines, neutering and microchips. That means another 10 years on top of that other no-shopping restriction for a decade.
It may be difficult for some to fathom how people can splurge on a non-hooman. But like deciding to have a baby, getting a dog to be a part of our little family was a decision that was mulled over for the longest time. (Who am I kidding? I did it in a split second once I saw those naughty bandit eyes!) Thing is, if other women find shopping or the spa therapeutic, I find my crazy bliss in a furry friend.
This fiery little fellow has been a constant destressor. True, he’s more than a handful. If he decides to be a raving maniac, that switch button of his can stay turned on for a long time. For the most part though, he has not failed in being the bouncing hairy bundle of joy that I’ve been missing since I left my other shaggy non-hoomans back home.
To say that Kaidu has been chomping on a huge part of my budget would be snarl-worthy. This little menace has in fact fortuitously versed us to cut on our spending. We ungrudgingly gave up the impractical pleasures that we used to often indulge in before he became a part of the household. A ruffian such as him made us readily sacrifice the cheap thrills of extravagance.
I can’t remember the last time I visited the mall to gratify myself with an unnecessary purchase. We’ve totally ruled out the guilty treats of eating out. Whatever meal we’re missing from a favorite joint has been recreated, albeit painstakingly, in our own kitchen. We can barely remember the last time we watched a movie in the cinema. We’ve learned to make do with new releases from Netflix. And since his teething and mouthing does not allow us to have nice stuff for the house, bargain goods are our best bets. No he has not made us cheapskates, he has taught us to be practical.
Since he came, the priority was to be home the soonest. Days off work were automatically programmed to be Kaidu days as well. His arrival has evoked more financial thoughtfulness on our end. To be enticed to spend on something we wish but don’t necessarily need has become out of the question. So yes, in a way he is indeed teaching us to be more economical. And to end this little salutation for our dog, I’m going to give him a treat, or two. 🙂
Today I woke up feeling apprehensive. I’m a year shy of hitting the big three-O and I feel like the forces are mocking me today; reminding me of those long-forgotten things I jotted in my to-do-list way back yesteryears.
Bold and ambitious, I used to dream about globe-trotting, having a job that won’t be confined to a desk but nonetheless earn enough to afford me a beat-up truck that would enable me and my one-eyed St. Bernard trips to countrysides. I could not wait to skydive, win at a casino, make love with a dashing young man on a hot air balloon, do all things outlandish–live the life.
With youth comes the gifts of vitality, idealism and ambition. But as the reality of life starts biting you past mid-life, one tends to gradually lose these. Work, bills, slowing metabolism, and adding up to the years submit one into an unremarkable routine of waking up to finish a day that would more or less repeat itself the next one. The best things have become catching up on sleep, a new release on Netflix, clocking out after a shift, finding a pair of old jeans with buttons that don’t unexpectedly pop and those rare alarm-less mornings.
And as I am one of the unfortunate species with a brain that reminds me of all the bad decisions I made in my life before I get any chance to fall into oblivion during the end of the day, I often get to think about the current life I am leading and question every single thing. I finally succumb to troubled sleeps with a resolve that I would do something extraordinary the next day but then wake up feeling uninspired. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.
Everyone around me seems to be having babies and growing toddlers while here I am wanting to get another puppy. That does not make me forget that ten or so years ago, I said to myself that if I turn 28 and I’m still single, I would Angelina Jolie a baby of my own. Today though, all I could think of is adopting a rescue dog or cat at the local shelter. Interesting how the years can change you.
I catch Pokemon and give them weird names. I share the bed with my husband and occasionally with our handful Kaidu when he decides the sheets are not as tasty as bacon. I have not started to eat more responsibly; our cupboards hold a full section of food that have the same nutritional value as that of a cardboard which we indulge in ever so often. I’ve reached the age when jammies feel sexier than cropped fitted tees, and my idea of a fun night is watching medieval war movies with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.
Then there’s that guilty excitement of buying new cutlery. A house ware section beckons me more than a clothing department does. I like buying plates at the plate store. I like our salt shaker. I like the sound of our pepper grinder. My Amazon account boasts not of shoe purchases but dog tags and leashes. So adult.
But although I’ve been independent since I left the University, I still have that urge to look for Mama when stuff becomes unpleasant. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.
Now I’m thinking of that way overdue bungee-jump (times ten) and that spontaneous trip to Machu Picchu. If I wake up one of these days feeling less conventional, spontaneous and impulsive, things might start happening, again. And with newfound determination, I end this day. *snuffs candle out*
It was Pacquiao’s much-anticipated fight with Mayweather then so the otherwise busy Manila streets were all ours. Save a few cars here and there, we had the roads to ourselves and had the luxury to cruise at 120mph while intently straining our ears for the blow-by-blow account of the commentator on the supposed fight of the century. I winced every time our Manny got a hard one, felt riotous when they announced Floyd as the winner, but I knew that the awful feeling which was gnawing at my insides was largely due to the fact that I was getting scared the more distance we covered away from those familiar mountains back home.
I was due to fly with my husband that day. There was of course excitement. I’ve never been one to say no to any prospect of exploring a new place. But we both knew this was different. The moment I bade goodbye to my family, the reality I’ve been trying to ignore months prior was hitting me full on, and harshly at that. I could still feel my sister’s tight grip as she was trying hard to put up a brave front, always the stouthearted one that she is. Mama’s sobs still resonated clearly as for the first time, I had to be the stronger one between the two of us, reassuring her that I’d be back the soonest I can. That was the first time I’ve seen her let down her defenses as she unabashedly cried for her youngest daughter’s departure. My dogs’ fluffy tails still seemingly tickle my nostrils as I try to shake off their questioning doe-eyes from my mind. It was not a pretty scene.
I’ve said tons of farewells to my family before but nothing as sentimental because we always knew I would be back, maybe the next weekend, the next month, or even the next year. No matter how long I’d be gone, what I’d do, and where I’d go, there was comfort in those goodbyes as they knew I’ll come back soon enough and still be solely theirs. But this time was undeniably different. A man, my husband, was whisking me off to start a new life with him. And it was not just to the other side of the mountain.
It was a myriad of emotions. Excitement, dread, anticipation, despondency, happiness–all for their respective reasons. For the first time in a lot of years, I felt like a little girl, my mother’s little girl. But that constant squeeze of my hands made me a bit brave. That reassuring smile from the man beside me made me feel that everything will be okay.
After two glasses of wine, two unfinished movies, and disturbed dreamless half-naps, my husband excitedly woke me up for my first view of Canada. I feigned pleasure. But the bigger part of my being was wanting to board the next plane back to the Philippines. I felt defiant and only comforted myself with the thought that I was here on a two-week vacation. That was how much in a state of denial I was.
I had the warmest of welcome from my in-laws, friends and relatives when I got here. That helped a lot. But as the days dragged on and I fell into an obsessive routine of scouring job sites and ads so the soonest I could find something to occupy my days with, there was that unavoidable void. Days were longer (and they literally were) as I pined for the familiar comforts of home. I grew spiteful towards my husband (which was totally unreasonable given that I should have braced myself for this big leap) as I felt like I threw a huge chunk of who I was and what I do for something so uncertain. But I knew I was being utterly irrational. I was simply homesick.
He was very patient throughout the ordeal. He showed more understanding than I deserved. And he did his best to introduce me to the mountains here. He knew what to do.
We started out with simple walks in parks and reservoirs. Then that escalated to hikes and reaching several summits. I began appreciating what was here on his other end of the world. And I concede, the views here are fascinating. What used to be just postcard images or wallpaper screens can now be actually seen with the naked eye. There’s an added magic to that. Every moment I get myself engulfed in the magic of greenery and foliage, I was transported back home. I loved every trek and hike that I always looked forward to the next. Gradually, I succumbed. More than the physical pleasure of getting mesmerized by picturesque scenes, each trip meant reconnecting to that part of home.
Without realizing it, a full year has passed. I’ve experienced the full cycle of the seasons. One year gone means one year closer to being back home.
It’s been a struggle making a new place my second home. It will still be for the next few years or so. The homesickness will not be snuffed out lest I make that first trip back to Sagada. The mountains there will always beckon me but for now, I have to view horizons from other peaks.