Thursday, July 24, 2008

flat afternoon, aimless walk and what-not

My sense of time dissipates. The only reference I have now is the church bell. And the cackle of the hens and the crowing of the cocks. Otherwise, I would think dinnertime is still hours away.

My wristwatch has become more of a frill. More of a tan gauge. Under the strap, the tan line reminds me how, months earlier, my skin used to be shades lighter. 

I am seated in the small terrace that opens to an unkempt atrium, with a mug in one hand. This is my favorite spot in the house. Just enough. Just as private. What separates me from the anteroom of the house is the glass curtain. Once in a while, one of the kids knocks and hides behind the glass, rousing me from this stupor.

In front of me, just off-center, beyond the perimeter fence, is a cow grazing. Its black color sharpens the contrast between its hide and the grass and the shrubs that shoots in every direction.

My feet dangles by the railing. And it hurts a little. It’s the holidays I blame. I’m supposed to drop by the Municipal Library earlier. Not knowing it’s closed today, I kept my pace until I reached the far end of the town. There’s a river with row of houses on its bank. But the thick foliage makes it uninviting. 

As I backtracked my way, a habal-habal—the local means of public transport in the hinterlands—was on its way to the town with 5 passengers and the driver. I opted to keep walking.

Not content, I trod a dirt road arched with coconut leaves and lanzones. Round the bend, an old woman graciously provided me with directions until I reached the next busy road. Busy it was. It led to the town cockpit arena and the public swimming pool and well, ahem… an All-Terrain Vehicle rental shop! tee-hee!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

university town's Thursday rush hour

Time factor. It takes double to wait for a boondock-bound jeepney than to cross the strait that separates Cebu and Oriental Negros. In any given day, the cruising speed makes you push the driver to the backseat and grab the steering wheel. What makes the trip more than a drag is the way passengers hand in the fare. Picture this: as soon as the vehicle pulls over--thick black smoke, smell of brake lining and all as he gears for neutral--the passenger goes out, makes a turn toward the driver, hands in the fare, and as if it’s not enough for you to be squashed by the “extension” seat and vegetables—a few more minutes for the change.
Life moves so slow here. But at any rate, I'm beginning to embrace it. My subconscious reclaims the town of my childhood. I could spend an hour in the public pool or in my bathroom, sleep until the attic is roasted by the sun and another hour hanging out in the municipal library. The control freak in me keeps me from giving in. I almost threw a fit at the swimming teacher at the Aqua Centre after we were told that it is restricted today—only for the varsity. Why do we have to suffer on somebody else’s negligence [insert rant here]. We ended up paying double for a second-rate pool a few blocks away.

Meanwhile, I have to unlearn yet my escalator overtaking skills.

Monday, July 21, 2008

time out; method to this madness

In a fit of anger, you say you form a fist and count ten pussy cats to maintain peace and balance. And you added that when everything burns like hell’s kitchen, you lock your room, roll the shutters and holler at the top of your lungs.
But you never said anything about the days when you leave the doors and windows open to just stay in bed, lay on your back and count the number of grains or squares or cobwebs on the white ceiling. They often wonder if you turn green with madness or red with fury because you’ve never shown your emotion in public.
You only burst once when a salesclerk--in her own mistake thinks she can mask her negligence--raises her voice at you. You just lose it. You comfort yourself that you are not angry; just stressing a point. In truth, the rage consumed your pride and ego that very moment. Since then, you stop wondering what you are capable of doing in public.
But lately you take a second look at being non-confrontational and the rooftop. The seldom used rooftop. In your head, in between ordinary days, in a fit of madness, you grab the yoga mat and roll it on a space that can hold a party of ten. On that night, as you lay on your back with the ocean of stars before you, the few secrets of the universe hums, rolls and unrolls with your mat.
Then you left that zone and retrieve Van Gogh from memory to distract the moment.
On a night like this, on a St-Remy’s asylum, Van Gogh translated these stars, eleven of them, into a circular form, magnified than what you see. There is no swirling clouds tonight, only the stars, dot-to-dot.
It always brings back memories of childhood when the family switches off the house lights and gathers at the yard, telling stories which you have long forgotten now. But the night lingers, with you sitting on the grass, with your five-year-old head on your mother’s lap, listening intently to a story about elves and a fiefdom that now belongs to a distant memory.
Or on a night the house was renovated--when the second floor windows are left with no covers. And the moon’s honeyed light peers from those windows to the ground floor where you are seated.
Then you come full circle even for just a moment--like that game in childhood on moonlit nights when you only need water to paint the moon; the earth as your canvas.


And you realize no matter how guarded you weave the words, how you keep the tone in a sing-song and how you try to contain the universe in a phrase; you just realize that you can be displaced in your own beautiful tragedy. Your characters dig their own graves, carve their own tombstones and compose their own epitaphs.
The nuance can go unnoticed into the sinkhole. But you tried. So you put the inverted smiley as a giveaway but took it thereafter. In the derelict alleys of memory, you have, heartbeat after heartbeat, tried to remember a song tattooed at the back of your hands but seems strangely foreign now.
In spite of the disappointment, you still maintain the quietude and stillness. Because in the country beyond your self, they think they are God’s gift to mankind.
There’s no need of words and gestures now. So you let the muffled silence holler its name to the valleys of forgetting.

stranger in your own country

photography | RV ESCAT
You travel every chance you get. The backpack gathers dust not from storage but from endless commute from place to place, island to island. Through the window of the plane, the windshield of the bus or the upper deck of the ship you stare at nothingness and frame the experience. And assure your self that there is much to see and explore.

It started out as a backseat ride to the farm in your childhood that became a wellspring of what you aspire for. In spite of yourself, you plant the sea and the land beyond that. You try to map that world. And build beaches, waves, surf and huts more than streams and mountains.

There was a time when the sea, your ally, betrayed you. You vowed never to travel again in monsoon but ended up tweaking it anyway. Because in your head, in these travels, you are one with yourself and you discover that you can be a stranger in your own country.