Tales from home

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.

doomsday musings

Last night, Tata and I stayed up until close to midnight discussing doomsday scenarios. We don’t watch too much horror movies but we gave each other a good scare over what could possibly transpire when end-of-the-world prophecies from different civilizations are to occur in our lifetime. We’re sissies this way.

True, scientists already published reports that our world is indeed in the throes of a major change, as evidenced by more powerful storms, longer droughts, increasing top wind speeds, and rapidly melting glaciers. But those reports take on a different gravity when you’re living at the neck of a potentially active volcano and you’re, more or less, on a ringside seat during one of Mother Nature’s live performances.

Here, MN’s live performance features trees toppling down for no reason, howling winds, and rains straight out of Noah-and-his-Ark’s days. Also, we are privileged to watch the unfolding of every season; only now, the seasons are skewed. Other causes for unease are the howling winds that blow stronger than ever and the rains that threaten to stay for good.

March in this tropical jungle is supposed to be sweltering hot, and a short stroll around the yard can already impart a thick coating of dust on our feet. However, last night, we huddled and shivered under blankets, mugs of unsugared coffee in our hands. Today, the clouds kidnapped the sun, and the whole world is lit in a miserable shadow. A fine mist hung a foot above the ground and it has never stopped drizzling since mid-morning.

Strange times. I expect to see more sandwich board-toting folks soon.

sensual morning

My eyes were closed but I knew I was awake. My sense of hearing was the first to stir this morning. I was brought to consciousness by the knocking of polyurethane against metal. A plastic trash box being emptied unto the barrel that served as the main midden pit to be collected later by the “environmental technicians.” Manong Frodo, one of the hotel’s own environmental technicians – probably up and about before first light – already swept the parking area clear of fallen leaves and last night’s inevitable debris.

I heard the cries of the jeepney barkers calling out their destinations, perhaps wishing that passengers would be more convinced to choose their rattling time machines over all the other rattling time machines parked in front of the church. Then the honks of car horns, squeals of brakes, rattle of motorcycle engines, thunder of eighteen-wheeler trucks, and wails of an ambulance drowned out the barkers’ cries.

Inside my room, I heard the rustle of sheets of paper being agitated by the rotating ceiling fan. I had quit using the AC several nights ago, and could note the return of my joints’ flexibility with each slumber that I was not under the mercies of the blasted air conditioning (but perhaps that’s just me tasting the edges of my twilight years). The fan had an uneven whir; it gave a thump midway to every completed rotation.

Then my sense of smell kicked in. Because I was using the ceiling fan, I kept the bedroom windows open for better air circulation. Now, the day’s aroma became more pronounced. The metallic tang of barbecue wafted in, courtesy of the chicken barbecue station across the street. Then, the clear, sharp scent of mango blossoms tickled my nose. There was a mango tree right outside my bedroom window, and the blossoms were perhaps opening up to catch the Sun’s early rays.

After the enticing fragrances came the aggressive and poisonous odors of fumes spewed by cars, trucks, motorcycles, jeepneys, and cigarette smokers. The stench reminded me that I live in a dying world.

I opened my eyes then.

On the wall in front of me was a woven rug depicting Mecca. This morning, with the Sun’s light pouring in from the window, the tapestry was bathed a golden glow. Above the the rug were two of my sketches done in eyeliner. Their frames glinted with touches of silver turned gold. From the piece of the Universe that I could see out my window, the sky was cerulean, with somber fat cotton clouds.

You bet this is going to be a good morning.

nasty new habit

See, I’ve done it again.

I’ve been staring at this “add new post” page for almost an hour now. Sepultura provides my background lullabye, furiously playing  Convicted in Life courtesy of good ole Youtube.

Nothing comes. I meant to write an earthshaking narrative to compensate for the time that I have neglected writing anything here. But nothing comes. Empty like the desiccated pulp of a lemon wedge after it gave up its life for the tequila.

My days are filled with various leavetakings and new hellos. All’s a whir that I barely have time to filter my experiences. There’s my full time job as a content writer. There’s also my role as a gatekeeper in this new house, answering doors like a butler who knows too many insider stuff about the master and mistress of the house. I am a personal shopper and a 24-hour apothecary, too. Then I decided to vary the routine a bit. When the dust settled, I see that may have bitten off more than I can masticate.

Earlier last week found me poring over medieval manuscripts and getting reacquainted with Sophocles, Aristotle, and the Bard at an intimate level that would make even the most hardened stripper blush.

I spent the latter part of the week reviewing my rickety background on grammar – and discovered that for all the years I spent as a – quote – copyeditor – unquote – I got by on the barest information about sentence coherence, grammar, and overall structure. A chuckle escapes me when I recall the “brainstorming” meetings in the old Shoe Factory about how to address recent issues in authors’ manuscripts, and I chuckle some more when I recall the most harebrained explanations put forth by the Unimaginative Shoemakers in those days. How naive we all were.

I successfully coerced myself to overcome my pathological shyness to read aloud Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” in front of a panel. The experience left me both shaky and elated.

All these things I did with the intention of graduating two years hence with a Masters degree.

I did mean to write down my experience down to the minutest detail, but I feel drained. Stared at the lappy’s screen for an hour now, Soulfly and Sepultura failing to raise me from my zombified state. This staring is fast becoming a habit.

the house that hums

so here’s another city and here’s another lesson about life and its juxtapositions.

i now live a spitting distance away from a church. not that i spit on the church, mind. but it’s thatclose. furthermore, considering that it is sunday today, the walls of the house reverberate with the crescendo of the choral introit.

and i realized something that i took for granted in all my days running around spreading hellfire and hellion in my wake: i am descended from a long line of ministers.

the realization dawned on me during one conversation i had with my mother while we had supper one evening in this new city.  she was, as she said, “talking shop”. and she was describing one bible study she facilitated where the discussion centered on the apostles and how they were chosen by christ. and she was quoting biblical passages.

i think i’ve already mentioned it sometime in the cafe that since i turned sixteen i’d lived separately from my family and that it was only last year that we lived together again under the same roof. so, i still have a lot of getting used to with how a minister worked full time.

that evening while my mother talked shop, i, being more acclimated with the “darker” side of life, was taking in what she was telling me (bible quotes and all) with some discomfort.

“you seem to be converting a lost soul here, ” i said with a chuckle of unease when she mentioned yet another passage of paul’s letters to the corinthians (or some other old-world city).

“no, i’m just talking shop,” she replied. “your mom’s a minister, don’t you remember? if i were a brain surgeon, you’d be hearing about the gray matter and maybe how i sliced open a person’s skull. or i’d be spouting legalese if i were a lawyer.”

so there. over a meal of rice and fried chicken i got reacquainted with my ancestors’ vocation. yeah, my father was a minister before he went on and permanently donned a while gown and sprouted wings (to sing halleluiahs while perched on a cloud), my mother is a minister, and one of my great grandfathers was a bishop by the time i was born.

but before you switch over to another far more interesting read for fear that this is going to be a scheme to evangelize your lost soul, o dear reader of mine, let me assure you that i would not be converting (unintended pun) The Broken Coffee Cafe into a fount of salvation and redemption (not unless absolutely necessary and if i am under duress).

with that aside, let me go back to the point i was trying to make: about life’s juxtaposition and all that mushy bit. living next to a church – in a parsonage – is quite similar to living in an apartment smack in the middle of a city’s red light district and right next to a nightclub.

music still shakes the walls of our house. and although most of the members of the congregation are not from the same economic and social strata as those heavily made up ladies and men i encountered in another lifetime, they are somewhat the same in essence.  and most days, this place where i am currently staying is where lost souls still flock in – seeking meaning, seeking redemption, seeking acceptance, seeking solace, seeking the divine.

there.

i will not burden you today with too much philosophical musing.

have a happy sunday.

Broken Coffee Cafe Newsletter

Dear Old House in Cubao,

How are you keeping? I miss you. I remember how we spent a sleepless Sunday night packing up the remainder of our luggage to take with us on the plane. You listened in as mother, my two cousins, and I shared ghost stories while having coffee at 2 in the morning.

We left you at 4AM on a Monday for us to catch a flight to this new city. We arrived here at around 10AM (still Monday). A welcoming committee picked us up from the airport, and we drove down to the lowlands and onto the heart of The City.

We arrived at our new house, right in the heart of The City and in front of a main highway, around 11 AM, floating on a fog brought on by our lack of sleep.

We expected to have a quiet lunch with just the family and then probably catch more than forty winks before being presented to the general populace… But all was well – free lunch and good company. Short speeches and words of welcome all around. The rest of the day was filled with social calls from envoys of various affiliations who wanted to welcome mother.

In case you are wondering about this move and why we left you after staying there for a year (me) and four years (mother), it was because of mother’s new job. I’ll post more about this later, considering that I am still thinking of ways to weave a veil* over mortals’ eyes so that they would not know the true appearance of things. In short, I am still looking for appropriate pseudonyms for this new life.

Now the family’s here – including the feline members – and we are still adapting to yet another major move. There are still nomads who roam the earth, and their existence is not limited to the desert sands of Arabia and Africa. I have mixed feelings about this.

Oh yeah, the cats are fine. I know you’d want to know what happened to them after Luigi’s initial reaction of being placed in a cage with his mother and younger sib. He could have freed all three of them with his jumping around and shrieking like, er, a caged animal.

Luigi’s relatively fine now. I understand his situation because he did have a girlfriend there  – the stray across the street – and I am sure that they had arrangements and plans for their future before we unceremoniously whisked Luigi away to practically another planet where his interaction is limited to human feet and polished furniture. No birds or sewer rodents to prey on in here. Worst of all, his blossoming romance was nipped at the bud.

The two other cats are already quite adapted, and are now using the space beneath the sofa as their own command center. They have become quite adept at ambushing any pair of feet that dared cross their territorial boundaries – wreaking havoc on nice ladies’ stockings.

So far, so good. But of course, the other issues are reserved until I get to create the veil.

The rest of our cargo is yet to arrive. It’s still with the shipping company. Meanwhile, I’m off to do some shopping for household needs. We came here without pots and pans and I am hankering for boiled rice and chop suey for lunch.

Catch you later. Cafe’s still in business, although in (yet) another city.

Tah-tah and all those mushy bits.

All my love,

Feyoh

*refer to Percy Jackson, please

Breakfast At World Class Persian Kebab

So, yesterday morning I woke up craving intensely for chicken shawarma and fresh fruit shake. I tried to beat down the thought by rationalizing that I am not exactly rolling in dough as of the moment and by willing my mind to think more austere thoughts, i.e., something that involved blank walls and a three-legged bar stool.

Of course, I am not a disciplined thinker, and the more I tried to replace the image of succulent slices of sauteed chicken drizzled in garlicky mayonnaise with that macabre austere picture of a bar stool against a white wall, the more the gluttonous thought rose like a tide in the half-awake part of my mind. In less than three minutes, the dam broke and my brain neurons short circuited, flooding my whole consciousness with the insane chanting of “Shawarma! Shawarma! Shawarma!

Rather than risk a nervous breakdown, I gave in to the inevitable. As I got dressed, the thought of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde tramped in my head, along with the images of that Eastern world delicacy. Ah. Whoever coined the term split personality really made big bucks by setting the standards for what is sane and what isn’t. But this is supposed to be a post about food and not a psychotherapeutic exercise so let’s move on.

I know the one exact place in Metro Manila that serves chicken shawarma at seven thirty-eight in the morning. I headed out, crossed the main highway, and caught a westward jeepney to the World Class Persian Kebab.

I got off at the corner of E. Rodriguez and Tomas Morato Avenues. To my right is the eating place that haunted me in my waking hour. It’s located on the ground floor of a commercial building that also houses Sabroso’s Lechon, Pandelites, Ricky Reyes’ Hair Institute, and SkateOfTheNation.

World Class Persian Kebab (Persian & Mediterranean Cuisine) is the only eating place, by far, that always delivers what I expect when it comes to chicken shawarma.

I let myself in, and the waitstaff smiled in greeting. Already, there were other diners who were enjoying their orders.

The chanting in my head was now replaced by a humming of “shawarmashawarmashawarma…” All right, I’ll feast on Persian cuisine for breakfast. Whatever those chanters in my head were, they erupted into applause and finally fell silent as the waiter took my order.

(I would apologize to the dear readers because I did not have a camera with me to take images of my impulsive breakfast. I’m truly sorry to put a damper on your voyeuristic tendencies. All is not lost, however. For visuals, I borrowed some shots from wheninmanila.com in order to further illustrate the next points in this long-winded soliloquy. These are all nighttime pics.)

I ordered fresh watermelon shake, chicken shawarma on a plate, beef kebab, and extra pita bread. And you’d think that in my cash-strapped state, I could afford to pay for all these? Oh, yes, indeedy! Look at their price list:

The price is another allure that World Class Persian Kebab holds over me. I can have freshly cooked good food for less than Php150, or about US$3.30.

(Visual aids end here, dear readers.)

My order arrived and I can’t help but smile at the presentation. On a square plate, my pita bread was folded demurely to one side. Beside it lay the chicken slices (spottled with cracked peppercorns), and the rest of the plate was piled with slices of assorted vegetables, which consisted of cucumbers, white onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. My extra pita was served separately, warm and nestled in a wicker basket. My beef kebab was set in another plate. The watermelon shake came in a sundae glass, so it’s quite a tall early-morning drink. There’s unlimited garlic mayo sauce so that the diner – such as moi – can drizzle liberal amounts over each scoop of pita, meat, and veggies.

So, after a sigh and a word of thanks to the Universe for the goodness of life, I dug in.

And the food was what I expected. The beef has just the right blend of saltiness and spiciness, with that juiciness that is often missing in some other eating places’ beef dishes.

The pita gave the shawarma a hint of sweetness. The vegetables were crisp and succulent and juicy. The slices of chicken were bursting with flavor. And the garlicky sauce complemented it all.

They use real fruit for the shake, which is something else I appreciate about the place. No synthetic flavors here.

And I ate and drank all of it. By the time I finished my breakfast, the glutton in me was appeased. It was purring like a cat that has found a comfortable sleeping place.

Hmm. Maybe I’d do this often.

***

For those who wish to experience the wonders of World Class Persian Kebab when you happen to be in or around Metro Manila, the place is open 24 hours. If you need the specific address, I would certainly not withhold it from you.

It’s #1 E. Rodriguez St. Avenue (corner Tomas Morato Avenue), Quezon City.

Many thanks to When In Manila for the photos.

A Quick Gab With Your Friendly Cafe Proprietor

I meant to post a long-winded treatise about the correlation of masterpieces and the inebriated state. However, I’m cold sober so I can’t get the thing to sound right.

Anyway, just thought I’d share my musings and vibes. It seems that a lot of changes are coming along. Good changes. And I am excited about them. Will again have stories to tell in the coming days… those that actually feature some other assorted human characters and not only yowling members of the Feline genus.

I am still thwarted by more pressing concerns in my attempts at organizing, alphabetizing, and categorizing by weight and substance every post that I have in this blog. And I am happier for it. This quarter, I will try to ignore my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and really just go with whatever’s blowing and flowing and rolling. And, no, I am not on an acid trip because I sound so optimistic to some of the regulars who probably are used to the generally misery-loves-company writing in the Broken Coffee Cafe.

Can’t say much for now… I’m still trying to decipher the message left by the universe on tea leaves and bird droppings.

So, cheerio and all that mush… Come by again soon. Drinks’ll probably be on the house this weekend.

Forecasts

Gray skies in the morning are a common scene in the last few days. They make me think of JK Rowling’s Dementors floating around this dead city, spreading more misery and despair among the already tormented populace.

I have coffee, still the instant variety, and I hold the mug close to me as I tread to the dining table. It looks like it’s going to be an overcast day but I have a hunch that the Sun would break free of the iron colored skies around breakfast time.

Upstairs, I hear a chair scrape on the floorboards. My mother – up before the morning’s first light – would already be over by desk, writing. It runs in the family, I guess… that impulse to glide ink on paper even before Sleep had completely left our dream-infested consciousness.

It’s been almost a year now since I’ve moved in this city choked by fumes. But even now I am preparing to move. This is another thing that runs in the family. Even if we stake our claim to a piece of land and even if we work hard to grow roots in one place, the winds call us to other destinations. They beckon like old friends wanting us to have a look at some exquisite treasure unearthed from yonder. And we could not resist.

Nomads shall roam. Boxes have to be packed again. Decisions have to be made as to what items to leave behind… things that will be too heavy to take as baggage. Good byes will be said again. And hellos will follow by and by.

The idea of a journey embeds itself in my head, making me smile.

Two more months.

Two more months.

I pad outdoors. The cats meowled their morning greetings when they saw me. The patch of sky that I can see from the towering fences above my head now blazed azure.

It is a sunny summer’s day after all.

The Mess

I’ve been bitten by a wayward spring-cleaning bug today, and my arms are still aching after my rampage through months-old dust and clutter in my mother’s cottage.

You might want to grab a chair and a mug of brew if you’re going to read this. Go on, make yourself comfortable. I feel like a long-winded story today.

So, there I was, bored nearly out of my wits. It’s been more than a month since my last experience of routine, and I guess I was having withdrawal symptoms. This freedom thing suddenly seemed so cold and lonely… Visions of Bundy clocks and high heels and well-pressed clothes and daily schedules that begin and end predictably danced before my eyes. I was desperate to go back to the corporate world… Luckily, the portion of my brain that does my sanity check kicked in just then. Whew. I almost went over the edge there.

I shook my head to clear thoughts of how Continue reading

Brangelina in Tata’s Brains

Now I found out why Tata really likes the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt [no adjectives before the names of both Ms. Jolie and Mr. Pitt, take note].

It came out while I sat behind him as he drove down the lush tropical jungle that is our home down to the sweatshop where I earn a living.

The discussion that afternoon had been my approaching exit date from The Shoe Factory.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned it here yet? Silly me, it completely slipped out of my deranged noggin. But, it’s true, avid readers and friendly neighbors. I have — the adverb “again” is appropriate here — resigned from The Shoe Factory.

Date of effectivity: February 16, Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Nine.

Last actual day in the factory: 14th of Continue reading

If Only I Could Catch a Reindeer

Slept late last night.

For one, I was in a happy place because of a healthy dose of holiday spirits channeled by a video CD of The Nightmare Before Christmas given to me by Kim as a kris-kringle present in the Shoe Factory.

I had almost given up hope of being infected by the holiday cheer, but something kept me optimistic. Sirius, a reader, had remarked that it helps if there are kiddies helping around when putting up decor for the holidays.

Why didn’t I realize that sooner?

So, over the course of the past few days, Faith — that self-sufficient four-year old who calls me Mama but is Ta’s sister’s daughter — was my little sprite, the cheerleader of our one-woman-and-a-girl team who battled against the cobwebs, the recalcitrant tinsel garlands, and dusty wreaths to cook Continue reading

Saved by the Beach

It has been a hectic time at work the past few weeks.

Although our group didn’t really render that much overtime, each day of last week was spent slogging off and agonizing over complicated files that seemed to be written by authors not of Earthly descent but may have come from planets Jupiter or Mars or from Galaxy 6-O-991. It was no surprise that output was low and group morale was lower than Marianas Trench’s depth could go.

blue overall

To save my sanity, I proposed to the family that we head off to the beach at the closest weekend. They all readily agreed, especially Tata who, for the past weeks, had been taking the brunt of my stresses at work (sorry, baby!)

Sunday morning shone bright; the skies had the blue hue of an ideal summer day. The clouds were scattered above just so, and the breeze picked up nicely as we went down from our mountain home to the beach. Faith had a new yellow lifesaver.

Tata with the new lifesaver

We took off with a few friends who were also eager to do something that would herald summer for them. Our slice of beach was not in some commercialized resort lining the shores of this side of the island. I’m very pleased to know that there is actually, in Bacong, a little clearing — free from cottages and the omnipresent hawkers and vendors — with a strip of sand and shade from coconut trees, which is very much like the beaches of my childhood memory: untainted, unspoiled, and isolated.

cool summer

Nevertheless, our group’s elation at being the only ones on that deserted beach lasted until a couple of hours before lunchtime. By then, other beach goers — families, couples, kiddies, grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins all — came in and invaded our sanctuary by the truckload and busload. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who knew of that strip of beach’s existence.

faith by the beach

Still, that didn’t stop the fun that we were having. The tide was coming in, and the waves crash to the shore with such force that took my breath away. I swam over, under, and into the waves, appreciating how powerful such force of nature really is. I think I already have an idea how it is to be punched on the abdomen. I was screaming and laughing and swimming along with everybody. We body surfed and built sand castles. We buried someone in the sand! I realized that I never had such fun in such a long time. I’m all brown and a bit of sunburnt from staying under the scorching Great Yellow for a great many hours; Faith and Ta are browner as well.

I could really say, from experience, that a little unwinding could do wonders for wage earners such as moi. A little break can be all we need before tackling another grind on the work mill.  Ask me how I’m feeling today, and you could already guess that my reply is, “I feel good!”

Jungle Fever

dscn4691.jpg

I live in a tropical jungle.

During warm nights, when the moon is waxing, the grunts and croaks of tree frogs and pond toads fill the air; the froggy serenade vibrating in the purple darkness. I used to mind the noise, but lately, i tend to worry if the frogs are not performing any nocturnal concerts.

Each morning, I wake to the song of birds, the cackles of chicken, an army of chicks, and a proud rooster. And when I open a window, I see the blaze of a young Sun, slowly birthing itself up, up in the sky. Faith and I would sit by the window, saying good morning to the whole creation — the plants, trees, the passing gecko, and the ants that march pass us on the window sill.

There are snakes that bask out on rocks that line the path to my cottage. There was this time when I tried to scare a small one away; it was stretched right across my path. I tried stomping my foot and even went as far as getting the cat (who is a very good snake and mice catcher), who was lazily dozing by the stove, and placing it near where the snake was, hoping my cat would chase away the reptile. Reptile and mammal both ignored each other. The cat just sat there, grooming itself while the snake continued lying there, oblivious to anything around it.

Dogs howl in the middle of the night for various reasons.

Bamboo groves abound in my surroundings. I now know what is the real sound of the bamboo. It is when the wind whistles through these giant grasses, making the pliant trunks sway and bump against each other, and music is produced. There is no human-made instrument equivalent of the music produced by the wind and the bamboos in concert.

Centipedes, millipedes, scorpions all have a place in the cracks and crevices of the rocks and tree trunks around the property.

rscn4833.jpg

Moths and butterflies of all color seem to congregate on the flowers nurtured by Tata. A pink moth (pictured above) was photogenic and accommodating enough to allow me to take a picture of her when she landed on the living room floor.

There are bugs the size of my fist, and when we we were still building the cottages, I was really scared of the jumbo-sized grasshoppers that try to land on the candles that we used for illuminating the place.

The frond roof of my cottage is home to arachnids and rodents, who have tiny worlds of their own.

Bees and wasps build their nests right over head; one just have to be careful not to wear strong-smelling cologne or perfume, but during these insects’ migration, we just tend to avoid getting in their way.

The moon looks nearer from 1000plus feet above sea level, and the stars are brighter as well.

dscn4635.jpg dscn4643.jpg dscn3845.jpg

Because of the fertile soil, flowering plants grow in profusion and bloom with amazing displays of colors.

dscn4080.jpg

Sometimes, when the conditions are right for it, the clouds come down from the sky. Silvery fog casts a blanket over everything that is familiar in the surroundings, muting sounds and softening sharp edges. Sometimes, when the fog is really thick, you can’t see anything before, beside, or behind you. If you sprinkle it with a little fearful imagination, then you have the makings for Silent Hill, hehehe.

I live happily here — close to nature, close to creation, close to the wonders of the Creator’s work.

Mother’s Day

It’s my mother’s graduation today. She receives her Master’s degree in Ministry from the Union Theological Seminary. She graduates with the distinction of being the recipient of the “Best Thesis Award” for her paper “Rites for Life,” which is a collection of rituals based on the stages of human development as put forth by Erik Erikson. These rituals are not the usual ones published in a church missal, and these rituals can be used by anyone in the faith community for events in their lives, whether celebrations, mournings, commemorations, or anything that attempt to lift the events of a person’s life out of the mundane and into something sacred and divine. I think the rituals my mother presented also include blessing same-sex marriages.

My mother got married at the age of twenty-three, was a mother of two by age twenty-five, and was a widow and single parent by age twenty-six.

She is a minister, an ordained Reverend of a Protestant denomination in the Philippines. When her husband (my father) died, she did her best to raise my brother and me, provided for our needs, and strove to send us to the best schools in the places where she got assigned to minister. And those places! From big cities to isolated mountain areas rife with the conflict of the mountain people and the government/military.

She also worked overseas, being a regional coordinator for the Asian region for a German-based missions organization. We, her two children, decided to stay behind in the Philippines.

She was in Indonesia when my brother died after being shot right in front of his school by a drug-crazed classmate. My mother resigned from her overseas work after that.

We bought land in the province where my brother is buried. After that, I kept the lighthouse… I met Ta, and Faith came into our lives, so I decided to stay in the land we bought and, with Tata, tried to develop it into something of a retreat, a place for healing.

My mother went to Manila and continued her Masters studies, which she halted when she went to work overseas, while at the same time being the Acting Director of a Mission House that caters to children of families from urban-poor areas. The Mission house is based in New Manila.

Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all the things my mother did to raise me well. I love you, Ma. There is no other daughter more blessed than I am with a mother such as you.

dreaming of winter

spent the entire morning making woodfires, to chase the chill away, and roasting fish, while i cried as acrid smoke got into my eyes.

outside, smoke curled against the grey skies, and the wind kept whistling through anything ready enough to withstand the fierce, gale-force onslaught.

it felt like a cozy reunion, too. what with our house being quite full of people for the next few days: tita jane of the s.u. divinity school, rev. park from korea, mother, eu (tate’s father), and faith.

the breakfast table teemed with rootcrops (as per request of the city people who had enough of the holiday bingeing) and with conversations about religiousity, dogma, charity, politics, chocolate bars, toilet training, and how the guinamos nicely complements the camote and the gabi.

nobody wanted to take notice of the bratty weather. it was chilly, chilly, chilly! but everybody was talking, making a point, expressing an opinion, reacting, yelling, laughing… it was a happy madhouse!

my efforts at building the woodfires turned into an impromptu grill-fest when the fires died down and the embers seemed to beg for a second lease in life, followed by an early lunch of roasted fish. afterwards, although it was still raining like kingdom come, tate drove me down to town so i could catch a jeepney for the office.

i still feel like it’s yuletide. the only thing missing from my little house in the prairie scene is the white blanket of snow all over the landscape.

now, where did my mittens go?

Crash course

The nerves of my left knee and right elbow are screaming in agony right now.

Tata and I figured in a motorcycle crash yesterday.

No brakes. A curve in the road. Rear wheel sliding on slimy cement road. Spin. Spin. Ugly roar of motorcycle engine. A ditch. Skin kissing concrete. Rolling. Blood, tissue. Gristle.

I  found myself rolling. When I got up, the motorcycle, now upside down in a drainage ditch, was whining, the rear wheel spinning and spinning. I thought it might explode. Tata was at least two yards away, his head down on the ground. I was relieved to see him try to get up. I saw my raw left knee, blood oozing from it. I started towards the motorcycle to turn it off before it really explodes but Tata beat me to it.

I sat on a rock by the roadside, our companions in another motorcycle approaching with worried looks. Tata came towards me. I was looking down when he came to where I sat. Blood dripped on my leg whenTata’s head hovered over me. I looked up and saw that his chin was split. The wide gash spurting blood, making his goatee glisten with maroon liquid.

Stitches. I thought. That needs stitches.

Our friends took us to the hospital. The scrapes on my elbow and my knee got dressings. Tata’s chin got a couple of stitches. Nothing was broken so we were discharged after a few minutes.

Sleeping was difficult last night. My nerves were still raw and it was so hard to find a comfortable position so I could sleep. Also, the moment when the motorcycle went out of control kept coming back like an awful scene from a B-movie I would not dream of directing. But Tata slept soundly beside me and it was only this morning that he complained that his chin, as well as his other wounds and scrapes, hurt.

Nevertheless, despite the hurt and discomfort, we are both thankful that we got away from the crash with just the minor scrapes and the wound on his chin.

We’re in town now having our motorcycle’s brakes fixed.