life

a.m.

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.

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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.

So…

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.

Unmoored

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.

 

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:

Reading
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.

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

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

Thinking
I must get a pedicure soon…

Smelling
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!)

Wishing
For a two-week leave from work

Hoping
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?)

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

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

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

Needing
A time off

Feeling
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.

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.

nothing affects me again… is this hormonal or the cycle of things?

answers, i need you now.

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.

 

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…)

never mind

I’ve moved again. Perhaps for good. No guarantees. I float where the North Wind takes me. This time though, I’ve dropped my iron anchor on the forest floor. I’m determined to let my roots grow here. Hah. Goodbye, other people’s dreams.

I am a hermit, channeling the graces of a disincarnate Medicine Woman. Don’t mind me for now. I am steeped in witch’s brew. I’ll get to spring cleaning presently. But for now, let the spiders weave their shawls across the ceiling. Try to ignore the layer of dust on the furniture and the bat droppings on the counter. There’s plenty of time to deal with those soon.

Meanwhile, I’m listening to things grow. New life cracks open from its shell. Bulbs dig deeper into the mossy earth, getting comfortable and dreaming flowery dreams. Fish sigh in greenish waters. Fronds rustle with undecipherable secrets. I drink them all in.

Those marbles… where are they now?

fitful sleep

(In a Southern City)

Stabs of worry woke me up from a fitful slumber. The rumble of a truck added to the sense of agitation that swirled around me in the cold blue dark of dawn. I groped for the lamp’s switch and chased away the crushing weight of anxiety with a warm yellow light.

In waking life, there are still unresolved issues. My studies have been halted because of non-existent funds. My employer refused to communicate regarding the status of the company and until now has not given our November and December wages. It’s already two months past November, and I kid myself that everything is still going to turn out all right. Another co-worker resigned yesterday. I worry about her. She had no other means of providing for herself, had always depended on the funds from her job.

Bills to pay.

Mouths to feed.

Bodies to clothe.

Wants and needs to satisfy.

I also wonder how long I can wing this one out.

contemplations of a parachute jumper

(In a Southern City)

I’ve uprooted myself again.

One boat ride taken yesterday morning landed me in another city by dusk. And I miss my loved ones left behind in my tropical jungle home. Perhaps I am not really cut out for a nomadic existence because my heart bleeds each time a ritual of parting takes place.

Still, I wear the mask with the painted smile. I have duties to attend to here, in this other city. It’s my own free-fall jump. Without the altimeter. Without the false sense of security attributed to the straps of a nylon parachute digging on my glenohumeral joints. Tah-tah, love. See you on the next month’s turning. Or if I manage to land safely after this crazy dive. Just like that – usually.

But I’ve made the decision now. There was a clearer deliberation after spending several weeks in a place where the air was clear and the nights were pitch black. There, I saw things in their proper perspectives. Eureka amidst the palm fronds.

I am taking a packet of seeds on my next journey back.

another impulsiveness on a sun’s day

I brought rain to this tiny city, that I did. The city was in the throes of sunny weather yesterday and I brought my gloom along for the bus ride to this place. The moment I stepped off the yellow Ceres liner, raindrops splattered down from iron-grey clouds. Welcome! Welcome!

When the bus drove off, the streets were empty of any other means of transport. Most people had sought shelter from the sudden downpour.

That I was far from home was something of which I had no clear explanation.

It was one of those impulsive decisions that I’m prone to have every once in a while. I don’t know how it happens. Probably has to do with a certain slant in the sunlight or the barometer reading at 6:09 in the morning. I don’t know what sets off the impulsiveness.

Or probably, it has something to do with the waxing and waning of the moon. Like legendary folks who have powers of lycantrophy but rue the after-effects of chasing prey the morning after (the excess hair, mud, and gristle on the torn bed sheets and the telltale finger or claw on the puke that one has to flush down the drain), I feel out of sorts when the impulsiveness passes and I discover that there are things that happened which I normally wouldn’t have done.

Fortunately for me, I had kin in this city. I made the impromptu visit and was greeted with warmth. I stayed the night and set out the next morning lest I had the fit again. As I boarded another yellow bus for Dumaguete, the clouds darkened again. The rain caught up with me while the Ceres liner was exiting the city limits. It drizzled throughout my trip all the way back to my tropical jungle home.

Perhaps I need some prescription meds or a silver slug amulet. Or probably a heavy duty raincoat or a golf umbrella.

your messiah on a harness

It’s the second meeting with friends, and before us lay the ruins of our lunch: shawarma-rice containers, corn chip and chocolate wrappers, empty soda cans, and the remnants of candy/marshmallow/rice cripies-sprinkled ice scramble. We’re in the food court of one of Dumaguete’s older shopping centers, meeting up in what we all hoped was going to turn into a regular event, a getting together of Super Jj, The Monkey Keeper and yours truly.

We just finished our “main course and side dish”, and The Monkey Keeper was holding court by narrating a series of experiences she had on the second day of January. The noise coming from the mall’s amusement center provided the background music for her retelling of a story told by someone who was supposedly enrolled in SU’s creative writing program.

What this creative-writing-program kid told her started off as a promising horror story. So, Super Jj and I made ourselves more comfortable in the best way possible when one has to deal with Lee Plaza’s food court chairs. This was a story, and we love stories.

We shut off the noise from the arcades so that we’ll catch each unfolding of the plot as The Monkey Keeper retold the story of a grave digger who had a penchant for looting the graves of  rich dead Chinese who were certain to be buried with ancient coins in their caskets. Predictably, like any good rehashed horror story, the ancient coins of the dead were supposedly cursed. Jj and I waggled our eyebrows: This is going to be good!

However, the story suddenly branched off into a badly concealed deux ex machina – complete with the inevitable exploding volcano, earth tremors and landslides our country is notorious for. Then it became a Filipino parody of Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle, which then morphed into – what it seemed to me – a Dawn of the Dead story line. From that, the story mutated into a parable, with the grave digger being transformed into a Messiah figure on a harness. Jesus on a harness. Then the narrative evolved into a prose with an ecologically nihilistic theme that, all of a sudden, became a humorless standoff between death and salvation. It ended there… a parable of the lost soul that had Jesus Christ on a harness and the figure of a gullible Grim Reaper.

The original writer of the story actually feels good about his magnum opus, and would willingly tell anyone who shows half an interest about it or if they mistakenly buy into the false advertising that this story was “the best one ever written”. And he does not care for feedback.

But we had feedbacks, and we discussed the story’s merits (or lack of them) for a good part of the afternoon, causing someone to fail to return to the office after her lunch hour and nearly forgetting that she’s supposed to pick up one daughter from school.

Anyway, here’s the general aftertaste left by the best story ever on our psyche:

The Monkey Keeper felt that she just heard the plotline of another local TV station’s soap opera (teleserye).

Super Jj gave a trademark one-eyebrow-raised expression and a yell: “What????!!!!!!!!!”

I echoed Super Jj’s yell… So frustrating. Like being promised candies and chocolates but was instead given a cucumber and grapefruit because these latter ones are healthier and better. Blech.

It would have been a very good story… ~Sigh.~

*

I’ll put a disclaimer here:

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

I admit to writing off-tangent plot lines myself. But still… the kid’s enrolled in a creative writing program that’s supposed to enhance his writing skills. I think he’s missing out on a wonderful opportunity to really shine as a writer if he continues to proceed with that single story that he considers as his masterpiece.

vagrancy and the cold

(In the tropical jungle)

It’s freezing. And I am broke. That’s how the new year caught up with me… penniless and shivering.

I wonder how vagrants survive during the winter months.

Still, the entire household finds means to get by. At least we don’t purchase gas for our cooking fire. Although the firewood is quite damp, we can still build smoky fires to heat our instant coffee and cook our dinner. It’s all about survival this first week of 2011. That and practicing how to be grateful for the simplest blessings in life.

I wrote something down on the pad of paper I always keep handy on my work table, and my scribblings say:

I will not heap curses upon your head; instead, I ask the Universe to pour blessings unto your life that through you others may be blessed as well.

There.

I penned this down when I was nearly tearing my hair off in frustration. Funds that I expected to arrive before the old year ended didn’t come in. There was no sumptuous new year feast that I envisioned months before. I am now flat broke and powerless to influence the glacial flow of funds. Still, I am humbled that I have understanding and generous loved ones to tide me over this lean period.

Here in the tropical jungle home, we’re busy finding ways of tightening the proverbial belt. Just this morning, a person who buys scraps and junk came by and we were happy to sell off the cans and bottles that Ta’s sister has accumulated from the past year. The cans were weighed in at 28 kilograms. Our contributions to the war effort.

I’m trying to put off the inevitable decision-making that I must face before the middle of this month.

This all sounds vague as of the moment. Maybe it’s for the lack of caffeine. I’ll scavenge around the house for loose coins so I could buy instant coffee.

Don’t mind if I can’t greet you a happy new year just yet.

Still, brightest blessings be upon your life always.

here is home

(In the tropical jungle)

It’s freezing cold. I just finished a couple of articles about electricians… wrote from what I knew about electricians – that they are in charge of things, um, electronic. Actually, I did fill in the article with grit that I grabbed from a government-run website that described the nature of the electrician’s job and the qualifications in order for a person to become one. Dry stuff, but I do take comfort in the thought that what I’m doing gives me the means to line my nest with warm quilts and my stomach with rice, meat and vegetables.

Rain patters softly on the roof and finds its way in through the holes in the rusty GI sheets; there’s barely a dry surface on the floor. The waterfall quality of our roof and the fact that the central cottage is about to cave in if the dogs sneezed together are the things that make me wish that I could extend my stay here until I could help set things right again.

Perhaps these things are making me decide more speedily on where I should spend this year. Home.

It’s not Kansas. It’s home.

My tropical jungle. Here, I am amidst the ferns, the moaning bamboo forests, the swaying coconuts, the tree frogs, the coffee-hued soil…

The past two years that I lived far from home were essential. The time apart placed things in their appropriate perspectives. But I guess it’s time to buy that return ticket. Before the dogs forget my scent. Before the ferns have flourished and withered. Before the jungle refused to embrace me as ever her own.