Clouds of dust rise from the floor with my every footfall.

No one’s disturbed this scene for half a decade. Each imprint of my sole from the doorway to the counter is like a scream in the middle of a priest’s benediction.

Yet i must do this.

I get a rag and wipe the grime off the countertop, allowing a sunbeam from a crack on the window to finally bestow its light on formica… A tentative reunion of what’s manmade and natural.

Decisions. I decided to come back here, seeking familiar ground. You see, I’ve gone through so much upheaval in the past few years, and honestly, i didn’t think i could make it.

Here’s where I stand now:

This vast, seething landscape I am traversing. They have a name for it: single motherhood.

Behind me, I left outposts and villages. Some had names such as emotional abuse, domestic violence, and suicide.

Parts of me are littered on the ground, ransom for the freedom that i now enjoy. I guess you can see slivers of my heart within yonder woods. Don’t look too closely if you’re squeamish.

Yes, these are a few of the things I went through in the half decade i was gone. Maybe I’ll tell you some of the stories, when you happen to drop by. We’ll make something like Confessional Fridays, where we tell all and not judge (too much or too obviously).

Excuse me for a moment while I put a new sign up:

Broken Coffee Cafe
We’re on our Soft Re-Opening


I am being carried off by Valkyries, not to Valhalla to be honored but to an execution block. My offense? Treason. I betrayed my own kin by failing to obey orders to kill. I thrash and kick and bite to get away from the grasp of my executioners to no avail. My head is thrust on a flat rock. The smell of anger, old blood and death is everywhere. I feel the cold steel knife dig onto the flesh of my neck. I hear the cheers of those who condemned me to my end.

Then, amidst the furor, I heard a teeny voice, like that of a kitten’s mewl. “Milk.”

The images of my execution evaporated. I am back in my own bed in my own century. It was still dark. By the silver light that poured in from the windows, I could make out the tiny figure bundled in our comforter. A small hand poked out from the bundle, and pudgy fingers searched for a familiar shape.

“Milk, please.” the teeny voice was a bit more urgent now. The pudgy fingers patted my arm.

I got up to grant the request. It could be that daybreak was still hours away, and I stumbled-shuffled in the semi-darkness to the alcove where we kept the milk. My senses were on autopilot as I poured water onto a bottle, scooped out the appropriate measure of formula, recapped the bottle and shook it to mix the concoction.

Through the thin curtains, I could make out a thin line of gold on the horizon. The sky was still a fuzzy purple with a handful of stars strewn about.

I got back to the figure under the comforter. I shook the milk bottle slightly, and the sound of the milk swishing in the bottle caused the figure to stir. A face poked out from the covers. “Thank you,” she said as she reached for the bottle and led the teat to her lips. All the while, her eyes were closed.

“You’re welcome,” I whispered  and eased back to my place on the bed. I kissed her cheek. She smelled of lavender and milk. I couldn’t get enough of her scent so I nuzzled her shoulder. She kept on drinking her milk, oblivious to me.

“Ma,” she called out a few moments later. Her eyes were still shut but she brandished the now-empty milk bottle. I took it from her hand. She turned to her side and was deep in sleep almost instantly.

I lay there in the semi-darkness. I listened to her breathing. Slowly, the day unfolded. I heard the old rooster crow. The golden line on the horizon has now stained the entire western sky with pinkish gold light. A breeze ruffled the curtains and brought with it the aroma of smoke from a woodfire.

The day has begun.

A Decade Hence

I’ve discovered that I cannot easily let go of some things. One example is this blog. The last entry I have here was posted a year ago. For many reasons, I stopped writing. Countless times, I’ve considered shutting this blog down permanently. But I stop myself from clicking that delete button whenever I try to.

I hold on.

I cling to the familiar.


I choose this day to celebrate the 10th year that I have been blogging here at the Broken Coffee Cafe. No appointment with the wrecking ball in the foreseeable future. Yet, please excuse us for not having any fireworks display simply because it’s overcast outside.

That a lot of things have changed since I wrote my first post here is an understatement. Yet there are things that I wish to have remained just as they were roughly 3,650 days ago.

Over the years that Broken Coffee Cafe has been up and serving steaming hot cappuccino and crustless organic sandwiches (oh, I changed the menu!), I’ve kept tabs of my gains and losses.

For now, I shall share my pain, what I’ve lost. It is not pity that I ask from you, Dear Reader, but a growing awareness that there is so much in life that we cannot control.

A Fatal Blow

JJ was one-third of the 3-women-strong EvilConners. Writing about her in the past tense is difficult. Her death July of last year is a pain that slices my heart into slivers, for there are many things in my life that remind me of her.

A large percentage of my video collection was gathered because of her recommendation. So whenever I watch a film, I hear her voice saying, “You should watch this, Feyoh. This is change-lifing.” EvilCon will no longer be complete without her presence.

I sorely miss the late-night chats and the hours-long visits to bookstores. We’d stand there conversing over hardcovers and paperbacks, sniffing stationery like a couple of glue sniffers on a binge, and comparing the pros and cons of different brands of gel pens. Funny how I remember these things rather than the somber moments I would have preferred to write about her in a more glorious light, but my heart and mind celebrate her in her most lovable aspect.

Her last message to me was “See you soon!”

We never got to see each other. She had a heart attack two days before we were supposed to meet. I didn’t even have an inkling that she was gone until someone from work sent me an SMS telling me that Super JJ was gone two days after the fact.Gone. Gone.

Her death brought a fatal blow to my security bubble. I had so wanted to introduce my daughter to her, one of my closest friends. My daughter would have grown knowing that she had a fairy godmother of sorts. Super JJ promised to spoil my daughter.

Aunty talk. Aunty swagger. But she was gone too soon. We never got to say goodbye.


Unhinged. Unstable. That’s what life’s been all these years.

Apart from losing Super JJ, I’ve also lost the other third of the EvilConners. Lurch has to work overseas. Communication came to almost a complete halt, with the busy-ness of life catching up on us.

Career and family took on a more urgent priority as we crossed the threshold into superadults and had to struggle to make it, be somebody or something, to ensure that the members of our households are clothed and victualled, to pay bills on time, and be the epitome of the adjective responsible.

Messages to each other became just a way to check that the other still breathes in another time zone. Meaningful conversations just dried up.

It’s in the time that they are out of reach that I realized how vital to the core of my being the friendship I have with Lurch and Super JJ is.

We can only send prayers and our best wishes to each other and hope that each could weather the storms brewing in our individual lives and domestic homefronts as of the moment.

It is not good to be unmoored when the sea of life is cooking up a maelstrom.

I shall do my best to keep the communication lines open again.

Personally, a word has taken on several degrees of importance in a decade of being proprietor of the Broken Coffee Cafe: cherish.

So Happy Anniversary, Broken Coffee Cafe, even if we’re still a month shy of D-Day. Patrons today will receive a free bag of cookie sprinkled with coconut sugar. Enjoy.


this good morning

This morning I woke up to the gurgling sound of a little girl’s laughter and the soft pats of tiny hands on my cheeks, and I wonder at love. I felt the warmth of the little girl’s father’s strong arms engulfing me in a “good-morning” embrace and I wonder about love some more. It was still daybreak but already I was thickly enveloped in it I felt intoxicated.

Yes, some days are better than others. I chalk this one up as one of the best.

And Now For Some Updates

Well, here I am again. My visits have become sporadic and I apologize for those who were trying to get more Broken Coffee in the past, erm, months. Life is suddenly so effing busy(!!!) But in a good way.

So, here’s just a quick rundown on the things I’m doing right now. I ripped this off Lurchie’s blog because I am running out of fresh ideas and fresh coffee grounds. Rambling on. Can’t talk much. Although I can tell you that I am in a government-sponsored seminar on how to make the perfect foam for cappuccino. All hush-hush trade secret.

The following is supposed to be done on a Sunday, as per tradition, but I’m adapting this for today:

A hefty manual on government standards and certification guidelines for the seminar I’m currently attending. It’s already the stuff of my nightmares for several nights now.

This…. as a way to decompress and detach myself from the gargantuan manual mentioned above.

Chatter of people discussing the fine points of Article 3, Section 4.3.a of the monstrous manual. Clacks of laptop keys.

I must get a pedicure soon…

The aroma of recycled stagnant air blowing out from a cranky airconditioner; the overpowering cologne of a man seated three chairs away (it stabs my nose!)

For a two-week leave from work

To digest all information in the manual I am reading so I can pass the assessment waiting at the end of this seminar. (Tell me, do they give out candies after we pass?)

A black blouse, black leggings, gladiator sandals, and lipstick.

the internet connection that allows me to access my blog from over here!

A pound of extra dark chocolate I can sink my teeth in.

A time off

Cold and woozy

Thanks for the inspiration, Lurch. 🙂 Hope to see you soon.

UPDATE: (6-8-2015)

The assessment ran for three days straight with written exams and skills demonstration.

In case you’re wondering, I did pass the Assessment! I am now a certified hush-hush cappuccino foam maker!!! Hooray for me.

sanctum sanctorum

Chapter 1

I had no plans of going inside the cathedral’s compound but something drew me in. It was midday, and the church staff members were probably at lunch. It was very, very quiet, the place’s stillness only punctuated by the cheeps and trills of birds foraging in the trees that cast their cool green shadows over the compound. I walked around and took some pictures with my phone. The quiet was soothing. Something in me was rousing. I sat down on one of the pews. I had to write something to acknowledge that something awakening within me. In my bag, I found a piece of paper (a loan form) and a pen. I’ll share an excerpt of what I’ve written, as well as the photos I took that day.

Chapter 2




Chapter 3


Steeped in the silence of the cool sanctuary, I gradually regain some of the missing pieces of who I am. These days, it is very rare for me to have time to commune with myself. It seems that Life is throwing this bachelorette’s party every day, complete with the compulsory male stripper, the edible glow-in-the-dark undies, the phallic pastries, the booze poured in time to sultry music piped in sync to a picture slideshow of a bride-to-be’s days as a single woman. In this party, everyone laughs, eggs, and hopes (just a teensy bit) that the next day’s bride will just give in to the delicious temptation of well-toned flesh that emerges from a cardboard cake and begins baring every edible part of its anatomy. Nevermind that he probably prefers men, too.IMG_20150227_091635

It’s funny. I’m penning this inside a church. And dim though the interior may be, I can feel the blushes of the terracotta cherubim mounted on the candle brackets.

I ask for forgiveness for this lusty analogy.

I confess I rarely see these thoughts after I’ve turned 30. Today, it seems that I can’t stopper them up as quickly as I want to. Perhaps I am merely nostalgic for the days when I couldn’t care less who saw me while I was drunk and scantily clad–prancing on the beach and begging the Goddess to purify me with the liquid silver of the Moon.

Again, the cherubs blush. So I’ll let these thoughts rest — for now.

But perhaps not just yet. All I know is that whatever vows one takes before the Divine, these will always be remembered.The Gods never forget. And as I sit here, the Gods are helping me remember. The missing pieces of who I am are slowly returning.

And as I end this, a line from Hellboy sidles in.

“You should be running.”

Picking up from where I left off

Yes, it was indeed hormonal.

Who’d have thought that 2013 was the year of MASSIVE CHANGES in my life.

For one thing, I had the crazy compulsion to try the Atkins way of eating in the early part of 2013. I shunned anything that had carbohydrates in it. I was more devoted than a novitiate reciting her evening prayers in my scanning of the nutritional contents of every food package that came my way. I had to make sure that what I got only had less than 10 grams of carbs in it.

At that time, the rest of the household considered me a pariah when it came to mealtimes. As custom, they would lay out bowls of grilled sweet potatoes and tureens of mung beans and yam stew along with the dried or pickled fish then finish off the meal with ripe plantains swimming in caramel sauce. But I’d refuse any of it. As the rest of the family piled their plates high with all the carbo yummies that I did love, I would sit there, wordlessly munching my pig-skin cracklings.

My sister-in-law thought that it was a boycott on her cooking and would often look at me with an aggrieved expression from across the table laden with fried rice and noodles. Tata thought that I was on a suicide mission. In his concern he surveyed how many of our late neighbors died from having a lot of meat in their diet [the evidence he presented was inconclusive, I told him while I ate three fried eggs]. The various nieces and nephews thought that it was injustice that I ate pig-skin cracklings during mealtimes while they had to eat veggies with their meat.

I’ll write more on this later, but for now, let’s just say that Atkins worked for me. I lost more than 30 pounds and never felt healthier! But the biggest, most startling thing would happen in the middle part of year and was probably brought in part by the diet.

Also in 2013 I thought that I would lose my mother. We went to Korea in May for what was supposed to be Mama’s treatment for a lump that doctors found in her throat. They suspected a tumor. Fortunately, it was not malignant. I returned home and went back to work, happy with the news about Ma.

And then in July I found out that I was pregnant! And that’s the biggest news for the year.

How many years have we waited for a baby of our own? Faith is already in her way to becoming a teenager. These days, actually, she’s living with her real mom after I explained why her mom and dad never ended up together (read: interfering parents who thought it’s best to let their son marry someone richer).

There were some complications in my pregnancy and had to be in complete bed rest from the 5th month. The baby was scheduled to be born in early March of 2014, but she decided to come out on Christmas Day!

Yes, we had a premature daughter. More than that, she was a micropremie, weighing only 860 grams or 1.9 pounds, when she was born. We stayed for 72 days in the hospital. And it was the biggest ordeal that all of us in the family had to face.

I think I have recovered enough to have the strength to tell of our ordeal. And I can say that our preemie is a fighter, thank Heavens, and she is now a bouncy one year old who melts her papa’s heart like nothing else in this earth could. But that’s just the proud, doting mother in me talking. So it you are into hospital drama (e.g., Grey’s Anatomy), then I encourage you to read posts about our hospital stay, which I’ll write soon. For those who are queasy with thoughts of syringes and ladies in white shoes, I’ll have a warning put up in the first paragraph of a post to give you sufficient time to read about or do something else.

So, for those who are still devoted to the goings-on in the Broken Coffee Cafe, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying with me until now. The place needs general cleaning, and perhaps I’ll get round to it once I can squeeze in the time between diaper changes and milk runs.

Meanwhile, may I tempt you to some cookies and the usual cuppa while I tend to a pile of laundry waiting to be folded? And pardon the goo on the couch. You know how it is with little ones bouncing about in the house.

touching base

and suddenly I’m thirty two.

if i were an infrastructure, the City Engineering Department would be inspecting me for stability at this time. they’d want to know if my trusses and beams can still support the tons of concrete coating my steel beams and iron railings. they’d want to known if my rooms, nooks, crannies, attics, basements, and cellars are still fit for habitation. and i’d probably need a touch-up of paint on my facade, as well as some repairs on the plumbing and the ventilation. i’d give myself an “acceptable” for these criteria.

so i’ve roamed. but i didn’t go far. i took the advice of one sage and i explored my neighborhood like a tourist would. the interval spanned the last post i left here at the Cafe until yesterday. i found the experience interesting. and it did help me set my priorities almost straight. then the muse started bothering my conscience again that i should be doing some emptying online. whatever that empyting is.

maybe it’s just me, but i feel that the world is sheathed in anger. i feel that wrathful heat pulsing through the day, through the places i’ve explored, through the news i see and hear. i see it in the interactions of people around me. peace has suddenly become more expensive than a canister of Beluga caviar. or am i wrong about the price quote?

oh, thirty two.

here we go. another notch etched on the pillar of life.


this post needs prozac

Ever so slowly the realization dawns on me. I am now merely going on autopilot.

Call me narcissistic. It’s OK. What’s not OK is realizing that I threw away my compunction to write more than a year ago. And along with it my desire to live and to laugh and to love. Such shriveled shell. It’s where I find myself right now.

I tell people to soar, spread their wings and let their feathered appendages touch all possibilities. But I don’t buy that sort of natter for myself.

Busy. I pretend to be that. But what I’m actually doing is escaping. Digging a hole to China. Or to other geographical locations. I’m an ostrich. Flightless and constantly getting sand in my eyes. My power of speed (from zero to Mach 3) is useless on a plain where I can be a target even from 2 miles away.

You’d think that I only post stuff here when things are a mess in my personal life. Well, you’re not really off tangent on that one.

If I crash this plane now, who’d pick up the pieces? Would I smell like grilled pork tenders when the fuselage goes up in flames and I failed to bail out in time? Who knows? Who cares, even?

evilcon 2011

(Lotsa pictures lifted from the Monkey Keeper’s album and Jae’s album)

“Madam, I have been looking for a person who disliked gravy all my life: let us swear eternal friendship.”
~Sydney Smith, English writer  (1771-1845)


EvilCon 2011 ended with resounding success, expanding waistlines, and the fuzzy warmth of friendship rekindled.

If you wish to know (I’m telling anyway), the proprietress of the Broken Coffee Cafe is one-third of a group that also consists of the Monkey Keeper and Super JJ. It is a long-standing tradition in our group each year to meet for EvilCon. The annual EvilCon is a harmless gathering that aims to resurrect the Age of Tyranny and to aid our trio’s rise to power as Overlords of the Universe.

In relation to the quote above (the gravy has nothing to do with it, though), the EvilDoers finally met this year after numerous cancellations of our plans to reconvene and plot world domination.

But nobody has to get nervous yet that the world will soon be ruled over by three beings with varying degrees of insanity because we never got our plans off the drawing board. The food, drink, and company effectively sidetracked us from our original goal previously mentioned.

The Venue

There is an eating establishment in Dumaguete called Moooooon Cafe. It actually has three O’s only, but since the management has taken liberty in doing the misspelling, I’m amping it up just a notch. By the way,  it’s pronounced as “moon,” as in the silvery orb that hangs over earth’s night sky in a 28-day cycle.

We chose the location for its ambiance and the fact that it was closer to civilization compared with our initial choice for the meeting place. It is one place in the city where I got a “New Orleans” vibe, despite the fact that Moooooon Cafe has a Mexican theme. This branch of the lunatics’ cafe (I mean that in a good way) was at Silliman Avenue and was the perfect venue for hatching evil plans and the ordinary occasion of meeting up with special friends.

Beber a Su Propio Riesgo

Or, roughly put, “Drink at your own risk.” Mooon Cafe has an extensive selection of beverages.

Here’s Jae doing a photo op with the drinks menu:

Here’s the Monkey Keeper posing for Victoria Secret with the drinks menu:

Here’s yours truly… Unlike my friends, I am seriously studying what to order for drinks. After all, I am such a drunkard didn’t want to end up with a pitcher of sewage silt to go with our Mexican dishes.

In the end, we decided on a Sun Cooler. The menu’s description said it has mango, watermelon, oranges, calamansi, grenadine, and a splash of vodka. I think the splash had to be equal to the volume of water you get after a ten-wheeler drives through a mud puddle at the side of the road. It completely drenches you. And I suspect that the Sun Cooler was also laced with anesthetic (just some thought). Anyways, after the first glass, we seriously needed more ice to dilute the substance. And the succeeding glasses made my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. But can you believe it? I was sooo happy and had a smile plastered on my face the whole night.

Los Alimentos (The Food)

What to order? Mexican, of course! But at this point, I still debated the merits between having a burrito and a taco.

In the end, we had lots of cheese-laden food! All the cheesy goodness was slathered in our quesadillas and on the pizza and burrito and taco; it was more than enough to make my lactose intolerance enzyme weep, pack its bags, and move in with my serotonin.

Here’s Jae wrestling with her second taco:


The meal ended.

As ever, the Monkey Keeper is not without her gadgetry. I think in this picture she’s Tweeting or sending an SMS to someone saying that she’s at a Prayer Meeting. Notice, though, that a slice of pizza lay uneaten. The pizza had the odd consistency of teething rubber so I will not recommend it if you happen to drop by the Lunatics’ Cafe, Dear Reader (not unless you really fancy having a teething-rubber pizza – or a pizza-flavored teething rubber, as might be the case – every once in a while).

I rue the time when the Sun Cooler became extinct. Besides, I was seeing double by then.

More Photos from My Friends’ Cameras

Just to show you, Dear Reader, that we all had a great time last night, here is a couple more pictures of our trio during EvilCon. 1 disembodied head = 1 EvilConner:

Funny how little was said during the entire meal but we still went home feeling better than we had in months. The warm, fuzzy feeling still lingered when I woke up this morning, and I found myself smiling all the way to work today. Till next year, guys! I miss you already.

(L-R) the Monkey Keeper, Yours Truly, and Super Joe Bokie

just another morning in the tropical jungle (featuring Wol)

This morning I found Wol lurking among the bushes. I wasn’t glad to see her at the side of the road hiding among brown weeds and dying lanzones seedlings.

Wol is no beauty. Her facial features reminded me of a horse that once kicked me on the arm. Her eyes protruded from their sockets, as if they regret being part of her anatomy. She has a severe underbite – a row of cracked teeth poised precariously on her lower jaw and stuck out from her gray lips… a demented homeowner’s picket fence. She waddled when she walked, an odd gait that raised her right hip with each swing of her leg. Her hair was the color of moldy straw, and was often caked with the detritus of dead things that she came across in her walks. She loved rolling over roadkill, cow dung, and other highly pungent canine eau de parfum.

She might get hit by a passing motorcycle (or, worse, a careering dump truck carrying fresh produce from the farms a little way yonder our house) that’s why I wasn’t happy seeing her today. Anyway, it wasn’t usual for her to be out roaming by the road. Usually, she just sat at the shed where we parked our motorcycles, contented with harassing the cats or playing catch-the-tail-of-the-clueless-dog. But something must have pulled her to investigate her surroundings. I tried shooing her off. Her attention was somewhere else though… took no notice of me at all as I backed my motorcycle that Tata parked earlier at the roadside.

Wol looked alert, protruding eyes more ready to pop out of the sockets any minute, nostrils flared in interest, ears cocked in the direction of the road that wound its way farther up the mountain. Then, as I made a first unsuccessful attempt at kick starting the motorcycle to life (which just sputtered and belched thick smoke from the antediluvian engine), I saw something huge and brown barreling down from the direction where Wol was looking.

The brown blur quickly became the hulking shape of a great wolf dog. It was as big as a baby killer whale. A baby killer whale with four legs that ended in claws that I only see on When Animals Attack specials. Its hackles bristled and its mouth was wide open, displaying an awesome collection of knife-sharp teeth. It was headed my way.

I tried starting the motorcycle again. And again. And again. But the engine only gave a helpless sputter. Someone in my head was yammering omigod, omigod… you’re gonna die… you’re gonna be eaten by a werewolf… no one will find your remains… they will bury an empty casket… omigod…hope it does not have rabies…hope it’s vegetarian…

Canis familiaris humongous was  now just three feet away from where I stood trapped on the motorcycle that – Fate would have it – also didn’t have a kickstand.

[Random thoughts at this point: If I just let the bike go and run, I might damage the motorcycle and do without transport to Camp for several weeks until I could find money for repairs (that’s it if I were still alive by then). But can I outrun the werewolf? Wouldn’t it magically transform into a hunky guy who has great disdain for t-shirts? Would I see winged people playing with harps when I die? Which funeral parlor provides the best service?]

The beast closed in, and I could already hear the rumblings from its mighty chest.

I braced for the worst. Being mauled by a wild animal on a lonely forest road is stuff from which nightmares come.

Inches away from me now… I could see the strands of the creature’s bristling fur. Then, without changing speed, the big monster dog veered away from me and headed towards Wol. I braced my heart against the certainty that my dog will be brutally murdered this morning. But the mauling that I expected and dreaded didn’t happen. When the dog saw Wol, his snarl transformed into a goofy smile, his hackles became smooth fur, and his powerful tail wagged like a deranged flag waver took possession of it.

Wol pretended to ignore the now obviously smitten stray and walked daintily out of the withered bushes. She looked my way and seemed to wink and say, “Coast’s clear, mum… the eagle has landed,” or some such blather.

The motorcycle’s engine mercifully came to life on my next attack on the kick starter. As I clanked down from that lonely mountain road, I saw the  big dog running to and fro in front of my Wol, enticing her to play.

tarot thursday

Today’s card is “Fortune”. It’s telling me to resist going against the universal flow and let all “hang loose” because the ride up ahead is unavoidable, inevitable. Also, the card warns of being too hasty in getting ahead without appreciating the landscape of my current surroundings. Maybe this is so because the best gifts usually come to us when we least expect them. Cheers, then, for the three weird ladies at the spinning wheel.

Searching for Earth Rainbows (Part 2)

(a continuation of sorts)

Sky. Dawn. Ocher. Blood. Tears. Rust. Sunlight.

The earth birthed these colors and they are now on my palette. Salima, one of the Talaandig artists facilitating this workshop, showed us how to invoke the numerous hues of the earth, channel them to our brushes, and give life to them in the images we wrought on canvas.

Ad gloriam ex luto

From the mud to glory. Or something like that.

See, we are now painting. But the smell of turpentine and linseed oil is missing. The canvases before us are slowly filling with the images ushered up by our subconscious… a bird of prey there, a tree over there, a road leading to nowhere propped on a makeshift easel of stone, a face, a bowl of rice, an egg. Soil on canvas.

This is Day 3 at the Talaandig Village. The fog has not stopped caressing our cold bodies. The rain even joined in the fray and has never stopped beating down on the tin roof, so intent was it to take part in the day’s activity.

Today’s activity was one of the things I looked forward to before coming here. And as I plunged deeper into painting with soil, I had several epiphanies.

That painting with soil is a primeval art form.

That soil doesn’t consist of a single hue. My makeshift palette of tin cans containing a vast selection of colors, the so-called earth tones, attested to that fact.

That soil is an essential part of our lives; if there’s no soil, there’d be no place where plants could grow. The great circle of life. And I would not deny that the visuals that came to me that day were akin to some scenes right off Disney’s “Lion King”, with the great circle of life montage (creatures of wing and hoof thundering on and on across a great plain) plus the soundtrack itself played in full crescendo in my ears.

I must’ve looked drunk to all the others. But… but… but that afternoon, I must’ve waken up something within me that slept for a very long time. Because, cliche as it may sound, I came out of that activity with an understanding of how each of our lives is connected to everything else in the universe. And, yes, i was cold sober when this realization came.

Let me show you what I painted under Salima’s guidance:

a long-winded alibi

instead of spewing words that sound good together, i decided that starting today i’ll write about things that are of relevance to promoting world peace and general goodwill for all of creation. yeah. the broken coffee cafe was finally going to contribute something good for all humanity — all the necessary information designed to end suffering and answer the ever-surfacing question of what the purpose of our existence is. is it to merge with the numinous, the divine? is it to further our ascent into the upward golden spiral, where we finally merge with the great creator? it is to evolve spiritually and to transcend the need for our physical forms?

my mind is primed. juices flowing, cogs turning smoothly as a well-oiled engine, pistons propelling all possibilities, channeling all of this to manifest my vision on this particular page, on this particular hour.

the thinking, processing part of my brain is now in overdrive, force-feeding my consciousness with visions of glorious treatises on how the entire world can achieve lasting peace and eradicate poverty and exterminate the root of all greed.

the answers are served in a tottering pile on a bone-china saucer.

good old ADHD (a.k.a. Old Ade) might have caught wind that something was brewing in my inner sanctum. he does have the key to the place (us being best buds since a long way back and all), and he let himself in… shambling through the darkened passageway and plonking himself in his usual roost on my left shoulder. quite the ideal spot for lounging the whole day, whispering his valuable adages and commentaries into my ear.

“wassup, feyoh?” Old Ade asked in his snuffling, wheezy voice. every time Old Ade spoke, i am reminded of a basset hound. don’t ask me to explain. it’s been that way ever since.

“oh, hi Old Ade. i’m busy with upgrading the quality of the Broken Coffee Cafe. I am making a treatise on world hunger right now. See these Venn diagram and three-dimensional bar charts with multicolored legends? I’m going to explain to the whole world how we can channel just a portion of the resources of the richer nations and…”

Old Ade nodded in his unhurried way. “Yeah, sounds awesome. And since you’re already online, just open a new tab on your browser. One of your friends on Facebook tagged a picture of you. Quite hilarious pose, by the way.”

“Really?” I squeal as I clicked on my bookmark for the site. The photo was there, alright. And I simply had to “like” it. But my hair looked funny in the picture, so I had to comment on it, too.

“That’s hilarious, right?” Old Ade said from his stoop. “By the way, that’s not the only photo where you’re tagged. Actually there are three pics. And your coworker commented on another one.”

I simply must look at the other photos and also check if the comment is in my favor. Somewhere in the back of my mind, the tottering pile of ideas on the small saucer came crashing down.

Old Ade still had another news for me. “You know,” he ventures after I typed in my third “LOL” on FB’s comment bar. “An ice cream cart is parked outside. I heard it has mocha flavor. Your favorite, remember?”

Mocha ice cream!

with Old Ade riding on my shoulder, I zipped out to the camp’s gate where an ice cream vendor beckoned. mocha ice cream in the morning rocks!

I finished the ice cream and nearly got back my resolve to finish my treatise on poverty. Old Ade chose the moment when I began guiding my feet back to the room to finish my writing. “See that dog?” He said. “He’s so cute, right? But he looks a bit lonely.” And I am not one who could ignore a lonely dog. So for the next quarter hour, I played tag with the charming tongue-lolling mongrel who also fetched sticks i threw out for him, and i scratched his belly which he offered up as a symbol of a newly formed bond between human and canine.

i definitely have to finish the treatise now. “hey, isn’t that a tree branch shaped like a fairy?” Old Ade had a talent for detecting unusual shapes in tree trunks, branches, leaves, clouds, and tablecloth stains. one time he even had religious folks under his spell with the water-stained bed sheet found with the alleged imprint of a famous person’s face (a.k.a., the turin shroud). one day it’ll be the Great Jacko on a waterlogged ceiling.

so, when Old Ade says a branch looks like a fairy, it definitely looks like a fairy. i went closer to the tree for a closer examination to admire the perfect rendering of one of the Wee Folks. the possibility of providing an answer to the ills of the world seems very remote now.

but I can still do it, I know. just one hour will do, and i can probably write the preamble of my treatise. i was a bit reluctant to leave the charming Wee Folk on the Tree Branch. but i managed. and i think my willpower is strong enough to resist the further promptings from Old Ade to look at, check out, or listen to something within a hundred-meter radius.

i made it back to the room. and i sank in back to my seat. Old Ade was unusually quiet as I typed in the first few words of my preamble. then… a knock on the door.

“this is where I make my exit. see you next time, kid.” Old Ade shambled off my shoulder and disappeared (like dissolve before my eyes disappear). the door knocker poked her head into my inner sanctum.

“hey, feyoh. can you help me with something?” that something lasted for the entire afternoon and involved strenuous physical and mental exertion.

by the end of the day, i was exhausted to my bone marrow. i was in no condition to write a coherent sentence, let alone a treatise of life-changing proportions.

i guess the broken coffee cafe will forever remain a mixed bag of literary detritus. everything’s from scratch and what i scoop out from the lowest shelf of the fridge. still, the condiments are free and the coffee’s scalding hot. bon appetit.

Introduction to “Searching For Earth Rainbows”

(This is Part 1. Succeeding posts will be published in the following days.)


“Oh dear lord, we still have 3 nights to go,” Kat said.

Like me, she was shivering from the cold. Underneath the Day-Glo orange blanket wrapped around her, Kat wore three layers of clothing. She’s wound a scarf around her neck, too. She had a pair of socks on, and like a topping on a sundae, she had a crocheted cap that was unintentionally color coordinated with her entire getup. Fashionably toasty warm, you’d think. But the cold was relentless in its attack, seeping through the very marrow of bones used to the stifling heat of the city. And Kat was from the city. And I don’t think she’d make it through the night. And she was right, we still had three nights to go in this place where the fog easily kisses the ground any time of the day and the rains beat down mercilessly on everything and anything that stood on its chosen trajectory.

We were in the heart of Mt. Kitanglad, the fourth highest peak in the Philippines’ host of mountain ranges. We were there not by active choice. We were there because of the nature of our work. This time, the goal was for the campers to intensely experience village life in this country, and the camp administrators chose this place smack in the center Mt. Kitanglad as the ideal spot for our grand vacation.

I’ve heard some say that working as camp counselor for Camp Half-Blood is a dream job. But that evening while I searched for ways to avert the frostbite threatening to attack my toes and while monitoring Kat’s condition (mentally reviewing my knowledge of CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, just in case…), I wondered if being camp counselor is the stuff from which nightmares are made.

I actually shared Kat’s apprehension. Three more nights of watching over a herd of hyperactive campers. The conditions were not optimal. It has rained non-stop since we got there. We had to walk some distance to take our meals. Meandering through the village could have been a walk in the park if the rains let up. I’ll give you keywords to help you to visualize our daily situation: mud, slippery, slide, dark, rain, curses, growling stomach, faulty flashlights, pitch black, cold, screams, howls, thuds.

“You know, the more you count the days, the more you’d want to extend your stay by the time you’re supposed to leave,” I told Kat. I’ve overheard that line somewhere, and I wanted to cling on to that idea, so I passed it on to my fellow counselor who I really assumed would not last through the night.

Ah, Mt. Kitanglad. There were rainbows here. We just had to find them.

It turned out, I wasn’t wrong on both counts.

(To be continued…)