The siren in me
Is ready to bow
To unbounded euphoria
That at this point
Is still a mirage;
I could taste
In this endless winter
In the vast fallow land of my soul
What I do not yet know of you
I am undeterred
Just waiting to bloom
One touch is all it takes
For the endless summer
In the midst of darkness
Crisis does pave the way for opportunity.
As a writer, I am always on the lookout for subject matter that I find genuinely interesting, and the corona crisis triggered deep reflective thinking that inspired most of my writing this year. How else do you make sense of the uncertainty but by reflecting on things that you think had gone wrong? How else but through writing can you atone for your sins?
But I am way past that now. I have finally concluded long bouts of grieving and soul searching. I am ready to live with the virus.
I have fully accepted that I will be spending the next five years still hunkered down with my aging parents. One of them has Alzheimer’s disease, whose needs require vast reserves of patience that I cannot bring myself to outsource to hired help (in due time, perhaps, as I am not a professional caregiver). I have self-imposed limited mobility and public exposure to reduce the risk of infecting my family. I will not be traveling overseas unless absolutely necessary. I must retrofit my life according to my current realities and help ensure a hospitable living and working environment for me and my family. …
When the reality of the pandemic lockdown hit me, it took me back to my despair the first time I was fired from my job, five years ago. It was one personal belonging, but when I lost it, I felt like I had lost everything.
I was suddenly alone in an apartment 8,000 miles away from my family and friends. The roof over my head was leaking due to months of heavy snow. It was the winter of my discontent — suddenly bereft of dreams and inconsolable in my grief. I was not really crying but mostly staring into space, thinking too much about spilled milk. …
Endless summer for nerds
I read Nelson Mandela’s epic memoirs Long Walk To Freedom 13 years ago.
At the time, I was co-authoring my first biography of Philippine civil society leaders thrust into civil service. The 625-page masterpiece wasn’t planned essential reading. It wasn’t even something I could dive into for long hours uninterrupted. But the book stands out, to this day, because of the memory of being strangely jealous of a man who was incarcerated and locked up for 27 years.
A man who had all the time in the world to read.
He voraciously read anything he could get his hands on, even before his…
Last April, I was supposed to travel with my all-girls crew to Bacolod for our annual summer sojourn. I had paid for a roundtrip flight via Philippine Airlines (PAL) as far back as January. But as we all now know, pushing through with travel plans slated after March 15 was not only impossible but dangerous.
My friends and I immediately reached out to each of our carriers to apply for a refund. I cannot submit a claim directly to PAL because I coursed my reservation through an external agent. …
And why we should try anyway
I recently chanced upon this article showing that Facebook ran a paid ad from Georgia Congressional candidate Paul Broun. In the ad, he urges people to use an AR-15 rifle he labels a “Liberty Machine” to take care of “looting hordes from Atlanta.” It was taken down after it had been viewed around 50,000 times.
This was a few days after Facebook’s refusal to take down Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” post. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended this decision by saying, “I know many people are upset that we’ve left the President’s posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies.” …
In my country, it is the only way to safely emerge from quarantine.
I just surpassed the eleventh week of our lockdown here in Manila with barely a scratch, and I celebrate it. I am fed, healthy, and still in high spirits despite losing so much, like many others. I am able to look after my aging parents and do the household errands on their behalf. I am not a burden to our creaky public health system. I am happily complying with the lockdown orders.
That may seem like a heavy cross to bear, but in a developing nation, my situation would stand out as the height of good fortune. Just outside of our gated sanctuary are clusters of shanty homes built with scraps of old plywood and corrugated steel. The residents of these urban poor communities live on daily earnings of around $10–20 from selling fish, meat, and produce at the wet market, driving a tricycle, or serving as household help. These services have enabled modest wage earners like me to enjoy a high standard of living in a country where $100 can go very far. When Metro Manila was ordered to shut down on March 15, some of these low wage earners lost their source of income instantly. Some of them pleaded to their government for help, saying that hunger, not COVID-19, will kill them. Their government, however, is incapable of providing an immediate and helpful response, so the more enterprising lot went about their business anyway and rejected social distancing measures. …
I love freshly baked artisanal bread. I love the smell and the crunching sound of toast as it crumbles when you break it apart. I love how good bread signals that the dining adventure you are about to embark on is off to a good start.
It was this exquisiteness that I have always wanted to relive at home where I dine most frequently anyway. But how? I have never baked anything in my life. I love baked goods, but never saw the point of making them myself. Why go through all that science I had deliberately left behind in high school when I can order a cheesecake by phone? …
Recommending books is no mean feat. It is hard to suggest a work of art without first having some idea of one’s reading habits and preferences: do you read every day or just once a week? Do you like to finish a book in one sitting or prefer to read a few pages at night? Do you like historical fiction or true crime, creative non-fiction or sci-fi?
But there are books that are worthy of an exception. These are books that I can confidently suggest to any type of reader. These are memoirs by five outstanding people whose life stories can and have changed the world. Every experience reminisced is a lesson the reader can learn from, especially as the author details his or her reflections on its teachings. Each book is an adventure that takes the reader into realms sometimes so unfamiliar through which he is fortunate enough to live vicariously. …
Some limericks for those who dread it
There once was a chore called the commute
My hatred for which is absolute
When the cars next to me
Honk and drive recklessly
My desire to cry is resolute.
Pain from the journey has just begun
You’re en route to see people you shun
In joined glass and steel blocks
You get stuck in a box
Without wanting to talk to no one
The sarcasm of working that way
Distraction always leads you astray
Your phone or your neighbor
Noise in the open floor
That is deep thinking squandered away
It is the price of moving quickly
Too fast for thinking best done slowly
The world’s starting over
We can’t run for cover
An excuse now moot is “I’m busy.”