as i see it

MUSINGS UNDER THE GLORIOUS SUN, THE SOLACE OF THE MOON, AND WELL, WHATEVER IS IN BETWEEN

Being Human


endless knot ring

Have you ever had those brief encounters that left a strong imprint on you? No, I am not referring to the romantic kind (though it is most welcome), but one that’s equally exciting and enchanting, if not more.  You know, just one of those instances when you were just blown away by both the person and conversation, depending on how and why it started in the first place.

It’s a sort of human and spiritual connection that not only language can establish but one where the meeting of two strangers, from different backgrounds, with the same purpose and openness of hearts and minds, set the momentum, though brief. It’s not as life-changing as any big event, but if you think about it, it’s one of those interactions that will be recalled every once in a while for its sincerity and content.

Well, I was fortunate enough to have had one recently. Just two weeks ago, I’ve had one of those 30-minute encounters that surely left a lasting impact on me. I was in a nearby city with my sister on one of our usual days when we spend time together. After a long day of walking and absorbing the glory of the sun and ending it with a sumptuous meal and a glass of wine, we decided to stop by a shop right next to the restaurant. From outside, you can tell that it was a Nepalese store, showcasing many items that reflect their culture and their beliefs. So, upon entering, we were welcomed by a woman in her 50s and a teen who is not more than 24 years old. Walking in, she had a big smile on her face and a calm yet vibrant demeanor. We started off with looking at some jewelry on the display glass, until my eye caught a ring that spoke to me instantly. What had happened after was not only uplifting but was also worth sharing, thus, this piece.

She was ultimately surprised that I had known about the Endless Knot because she had guessed my Catholic upbringing, figuring out that I am Filipino and because most Filipinos are. I told her that I may have that background, but I am more spiritual than religious and that I welcome teachings and beliefs from other religions. That was when she expressed that even though she is Hindu, if people who have other belief systems come knocking to her door to teach her about their beliefs, she would welcome them with open arms. For her, life is all about learning. If one cannot learn, or refuses to learn, then one has already limited the life they could live. In learning we come to know, and in knowing we become. She also said that you, or we, always have a choice, if you want to believe this or that; what is also most important is that you learn how to respect and accept others. Because in the end, all our spiritual beliefs aim to do the same thing and that is on how to be human and be humane in doing so.

In case you are wondering, the Endless Knot is a symbol found in Buddhism and Hinduism that roughly means infinite life (as it relates to their teachings), and according to her, it also means eternal consciousness. In Feng Shui, I’ve also heard it could mean endless life and love as well as luck because of the loops and the symbol of infinity. While all of these are wonderful, I have added my interpretation, especially after my insightful conversation with her. For me, it also means our affinities with one another, the possible connections we can establish with people once we look beyond our individual selves. It could be brief, it could be one-time, or it could be everyday until the day we die.

Because in the vastness and variety, we are all connected. It’s not just your religion, your ethnicity, your profession, your gender, your sexuality, your political affiliations, your hobbies, your principles, or whichever identifier we have in life that connects us all; no, it should be more fundamental than that. It’s the fact that we are all living, breathing beings. In accepting that we are all the same in that sense, like the lady I briefly met, we both recognized our  moral existence and showed our mutual respect.

I understand that sometimes it could be difficult to get along with others, let alone connect with them. It’s also due to our upbringing, the strict cultural and social (political too!) codes that we were raised in. Deviating from these could mean ostracization from that particular society  that is why we always have that fear, thus, ignoring the infinite possibilities of communicating and understanding those who may not share similar beliefs.

Like the ring that I bought, I believe that we are all bound together. Interwoven in an Endless Knot of communication, of possibilities, and of mutual respect because we are all links in this infinite loop of human connections. I am not asking you to abandon what you know and who you are, but what I am asking you is to open your minds and your hearts. What the lady I briefly met reminded me was that feeling of joy, of not judging another because they are different from you, that despite of our differences, we found something in common. If we had acted otherwise, equipping ourselves with our preconceived notions and our limiting views, then I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t have that satisfaction of knowing, of once again believing that there could be harmony and agreement among us, especially now where there  are issues that seem to be tearing all of us apart, as if we are not of the same species sharing the same world. I hope you always remember this: it is possible, only if we all let it happen.

Glued on Glass

Glued to the glass
With both eyes
Intently staring
At the feeds
A second, a minute, five minutes
Or so have passed
Waiting for status changes
Photos of yesterday’s feasts
Thumbs up here
And there
Oh surely everywhere
Logged In and logged out, all day
When was the last time
You were off
Looking at the skies,
On the ground,
Seized in mid-air,
Off for a walk,
And some realtime talk?
Not having to
Check out and check in,
without the compulsion
To be seen, in feeds and photos
Always floating on the stream
Online, offline,
In megabits of data
We measure
Our life’s worth
And all its pleasure
Beyond those photos and statuses
Videos and some pseudo-messages
Behind the thin glass
Separating you from me
Can we really see our world better?
Or are we merely lulling our minds
And hearts to slumber,
Away from what life
Readily has to offer?
Sometimes, I ask
Are we really who we are
On those pages
Or do those pages
Dictate who we are?

Man-made Haven: Arcadia’s Arboretum

In Blood and Dust

they went for a quick run
to honor our kids,
but ended up with
leg wounds and blown ears,
what’s worst
some have gone
in the thick grey smoke
never again will they
walk these asphalts of hope

inside we scream
until our hearts fade
blood and dust
on these streets
many lives were unmade
buildings turned into rubble
the scent of burning rubber
fills the distraught air
i wonder why and who did it,
no one else could tell.

not too long ago
lives were disrupted and lost
our nation has mourned before,
and we all rose again
until this day
justice seemed
to have had its end
we should have
learned from many days, months, years,
and centuries before

why can’t they all agree?
in their hands,
they have blood
don’t they see?
i know some will say
that this happens everywhere,
every time,
but really who deserves
a tragic end to life in a snap?

Why Can’t We?

Why can’t Beauty just be beauty?
With no pretensions,
just full acceptance of the body,
the shape, the texture, the color,
the size, the length, the height,
the width, and the weight.

The only standard is to accept,
to embrace your own
and those of others’
as it should be.

Why can’t Love be simply love?
No restrictions,
no prejudice against another,
no saying who can
from those who cannot.

A territory of boundless space
as vast as lands
and as deep as the waters,
all-encompassing,
all-nurturing.

Why can’t Humans just be humans?
Not just viewed through science
but through the general consensus
of living in and with respect,
in shared spaces,
a humane community.
Recognizing that your needs,
dreams, and thoughts
are as valuable as those of strangers.

Not holding your rights over others
but letting it be known
that like you,
everybody else can choose
who they want to be,
how to live,
what to look like,
and who to love.
No hypocrisies
as a result of a limiting
and limited conditioning,
released from the bondage of close-mindedness and arrogance.

Why can’t we, when we can.

Keep Writing and Blog On

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Today marks the first day of March, and there’ll be a month-long celebration as my blog reaches its first year anniversary since its launch on March 15, 2012. It has been a year filled with numerous blog posts about almost everything I could conjure or speak of and with it, many drafts containing some thoughts that I’ve been brewing. Upon starting this blog, I wasn’t sure how it’ll be. I was simply following a recurring urge to write and express myself in multiple mediums. It was literally an exploration in the depths of my mind and likewise, for the readers who shared their feedback or simply enjoyed the pieces that I’ve written. Now, almost a year had passed since my first blog post, and I’ve continued to capture and describe fleeting moments, feelings, and thoughts, even now as I write.

While I have written about my journey to the Blogosphere, I have yet to share my experiences, my stories about blogging — the ones that you don’t see when you visit my page. The grueling yet exciting processes before we could hit the ‘publish’ button. There will be days when we are teeming with ideas that we can just write all-day long. When you are sitting down and staring at your coffee, and an idea hits you like a rock, or when you are talking with a friend and hours later as you recall your conversation, you have a refreshed point of view and now you are writing about it. Yes, those days are wonderful indeed.

Then, like any self-respecting blogger, there will be those days when you’ll seem burned out; when nothing seems to make sense and all you want is something innovative. Those are instances when you feel as if your mind is as dry as the deserts. You simply become frustrated, and everything you’ve had at that point seems worthless. Yes, those days come very often too, and if you are not careful, those days can overpower the fruitful ones. Oh, did I also mention those days when you see your fellow bloggers’ posts and you are like “I had that in mind the other day” or “I swear I was going to say the same thing!”

Of course, there are days in between, when you are at the middle of finishing a post and you are just not satisfied with the way things are phrased, with the words that you’ve used, the humor or lack thereof, the tones and manners of your writing, the use of punctuation, the length of your piece, the ideas you are focusing on, and many more. The list can be endless, depending on how meticulous you are with your writing. And then, there are those days when everything is almost seamless; a few edits here and there, and you are done. Off to the ‘publish’ button you go! They are all in the process of writing, which I am sure many can relate to.

These are also the joys and tribulations of maintaining a blog. Blogging is a gift to humankind, and we must utilize it the way it is meant to be used. No matter what, whichever sort of day you’ve had as blogging goes, don’t stop writing, hold on to that feeling (insert that famous Journey song’s tune). Kidding aside, there are multiple benefits that I’ve garnered since starting a blog. Not only have I polished (and I continue to do so) my writing skills, but I have also been absorbed in a virtual community of fellow bloggers, one in which I am constantly improving intellectually and creatively and which I also hope to bring about unto others. Unlike other socially oriented websites, rarely do I find, in the language of the Internet, ‘trolls’ here. It is such a welcoming place to be. Though similarly in the ‘real’ world, we cannot please everybody. There will always be readers who will not agree with what you’ve said or with how you’ve written a post, and it is perfectly okay for them not to like it. What is important is that you have a medium of expression; you have your space where you can explore the world and renegotiate what it means to you. It is yours after all.

Perhaps, you are reading this because you are seriously considering starting a blog or like me, you already have one. I am not going to offer you tips; there’s just so many of those guides and how-to pages on the Web. Plus, I am not sure if I am the right person to give them anyways. With that said, I have something important to leave you with — something so obvious yet something that most of us overlook. The only advice I could give to you, dear reader, in the spirit of my blog’s first year anniversary is this: Keep Writing and Blog On.

Asserting My International Identity

Culture, lifestyle, self-perception, and nationality are some of the many aspects that comprise one’s identity. It varies across time and space, thus, constantly changing as it interacts with geographic and demographic elements. Identity formation, for me, is a continuous process of discovery and rediscovery; it is the establishment of personal ties to a certain geographic location, to a group of peoples, and to a set of principles.  I consider myself a hybrid of my Filipino and American identity. It must be noted that I now have two homes: Lucena City and Los Angeles. The former is my motherland and the latter is my new home. Although I was born and raised in the Philippines, I also subscribe to some American ideals that I deem to be applicable  in my life. I take various views from both cultures and create my definition of what it means to be a Filipino and an American, at the same time.

As far as my cultural and ethnic heritage go, my father is Tagalog, and my mother is Bisaya; two of the many ethnic identities in the Philippines. My father is from Manila in Luzon, while my mother is from Tanjay, in the Visayan region. Interestingly, tying my cultural and ethnic heritage to Philippine history, my father’s patriarchal ancestors were the Katipuneros or guerrilla liberation warriors in Cavite against the oppressive Spanish rule, while my mother’s patriarchal ancestors were of Spanish descent, the localized Spanish landlords in Negros Oriental. This in itself is contradictory; my parent’s patriarchal ancestors were against each other. I identify with these two places because of my parents’ origin, and hence, this is where I take my roots. Like other Filipinos, I am a hybrid of classes and origins.

I am a Filipina not just because the Philippines is my place of origin, but also because I was raised and oriented in Filipino culture: Catholicism, Tagalog, family values, food, folk arts, and other ways of living. Growing up in the Philippines, I have always been torn between Filipino and American culture. I am both westernized and localized, knowing both Tagalog and English, languages that I learned ever since I was young. I know and speak more English than my mother’s Bisayan dialect and as articulate in Tagalog. I listened to both American and Filipino artists and watched both American and Filipino films and series. Unconsciously, I was subscribing to American culture (a superficial understanding and subscription that is), the way we, Filipinos, perceive America and the American identity; while at the same time, I was reinforcing my Filipino identity by participating in this cycle as well as cultural practices and beliefs. This sense of “westernization” commenced from the successful cultural implant the US enforced during its direct control in the early 1900s and continuous indirect control post-1946 (Philippine independence) through American businesses, consumer goods, and media.

I consider myself an American not just because I am a citizen, although this may be one big factor, but most importantly, because I live through and participate in the daily activities that are exclusive in the US. The social, cultural, and political milieu continually mold my knowledge about the world from America’s point of view. It’s as if I have these social, political, and cultural bifocals composed of Filipino and American knowledge and identity.

I am both an insider and outsider. But this is not to say that I don’t belong anywhere. It is just that whenever I am in the Philippines my heart yearns for America, and while I am in America, I long for the Philippines. I have personal attachments within these two nations and its people. I choose to be a part of both nations. This may be selfish, but this is how I define my Filipino-American identity.

My having two homes and conception of my Filipino and American identity started when I swore allegiance to the United States of America in front of a citizenship officer in the downtown Los Angeles US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office. It was February 2008, months after I have applied for my US citizenship. That moment was quick, and although I was alone, the entire process was impersonal. I was standing in front of a window, similar to what they have in banks. Behind me were people from various backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities, all waiting to be called upon by one of the officers to acquire their long-awaited certificates of citizenship. My formal denouncement of my Filipino citizenship deserved more than just 15 minutes of signing a certificate or “agreement” and swearing-in to be a loyal “American.”

After that momentous occasion, the officer called out another name, and there came a family of five. I felt like I was just released from a food processing plant with a big check on my forehead, signifying an approval for American consumption. The entire experience of abrogating my Filipino citizenship for an American citizenship was unimaginable. I knew that it was going to be that way since the immigration papers have been approved and since I obtained my “green card.” Although I had it coming, its effects had never occurred to me until that day. I never thought that the impacts of that process would occur incrementally. I did not feel as different as I ought to be, but knowing that this legal process has altered my identity through a new nationality, it made me uncomfortable with the fact that when I go to the Philippines I am technically a tourist. Like what Jamaica Kincaid said in A Small Place, “For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native somewhere.” But then, how is it possible that a native becomes a tourist in her own hometown?

Ironically, this experience instilled in me a growing sense of Filipino nationalism because I never appreciated the value of being a Filipino until I denounced it legally and a newly formed American identity not only because of my participation in legal processes but also because of my investment in living the quotidian lives of many Americans. These factors coalesced into a form of international identity. I have cultural, geographical, ideological, and personal connections with both the Philippines and the US, and this for me is a form of internationalism that some immigrants possess and generations after will have.

Now, as I sit on my uncomfortable chair, I cannot help but think about the day (which will be in a month or so) that I will be flying thousands of miles again. It is nothing new really. After several flights, I have gotten used to it. It becomes a routine that I take part in almost every year. Although the facilities are incomparable to what I am used to, I still manage to be well-rested during those 13-hour flights. It is not about making sure that I brought what I needed, packed according to the limits, or unpacking that bothers me, but the journey that I will be ending and beginning upon my departure and arrival. It is the thought of once again leaving and arriving. It is as if I am being awakened and sucked back into a world where I must live in. The challenge is that I cannot be in both worlds– the Philippines and the US; I need to choose one and be absorbed by it. The reality is I can never be a full-fledged Filipino or American; I consider myself as a product of both. Like my cultural and ethnic heritage, I am a hybrid of the Filipino and American identity, one supplementing the other. When I grow old, I can simply say I spent half of my life in my comfort zone, and I spent the other half searching for adventure.

Love’s Woes and Won’ts

it is as i see a face

i’ve come to vaguely know

the joyous glow

the glimmering of eyes,

will there ever be

an instance,

a moment,

to see it up close?

to whom do i owe this pleasure?

to whom do i owe this demise?

a blooming presence

that can no longer be denied.

must there really be this or that?

must there really be here or there?

can’t there just be what ‘is’

as opposed to what ‘is supposed to be?’

i’ll meet you,

if it’s accorded by your will,

not a function of obligation.

i’ll call you,

if it’s my voice you’ll be glad to hear.

i’ll converse with you,

if it’s our talks you miss.

these i’ll do

without restraint.

if you extend a hand,

i’ll surely shake.

i took your hand once.

now, i am ready to let go.

i’ll take the memories.

i’ll keep them in a bag.

i’ll leave without a trace,

except for that emptied space.

there is no other way.

i know i’ll never stay.

but why is it?

am i too late?

could it be you went ahead

and found another in my stead?

January’s Notable Reads

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This gem of a book though short speaks of and in depths about life, death, and living. I cannot for the love of Krishnamurti do this book justice by explaining the contents and entirety of this work. To understand the book, you must experience it for yourself. This has easily become a staple in my reading needs, adding to my list of go-to books. I know I’ll be rereading this work and many more of his writings.

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Yes, I am Gaiman virgin. With the exception of watching Stardust and Coraline (but then, films do not really count for me at all; I treat them as different entities budding from the same source), I have never– ever — read any of his works until I came across NeverwhereThe worlds offered in there were both vivid and exhilarating, no doubt.  What I enjoyed most was the storytelling and the underlying themes present in the novel. So, yes, I know I’ll be reading more of his works from now on.

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It’s short, realistic, and tragic, yet it makes the reader question the entire city (in which the story took place) and its residents, a novella to my liking.  It took me a year to finally read this after purchasing it from a bookstore, and I wonder why I didn’t read it any sooner. But as I learned, it is never too late to read those old books you have on your shelves!

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Admittedly, this is my second novel from Nabokov, after his Lolita. I truly enjoyed his writing and the zeal he has in ‘executing’ it, so to speak. This is another work that I’ll be thinking about even after I’ve read. It stays with you because you’ll keep on asking “is it or isn’t it” or “did they or didn’t they.” It’s not so much as the crime committed by the protagonist that’ll make you wonder, but the way everything is or was and the relationships each of the characters have with one another that’ll really feed your curiosity. Everything seems so strange, but if you think about it long enough, you’ll realize that it’s in fact the world that we live in.

The Act of Writing a Letter

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In the age of heightened communication and technology, primary modes of communication like Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, and Skype and devices such as smartphones and tablets have made contacting people more accessible and have even enabled us to express ourselves in different mediums. We literally communicate with our fingers; with the push of various buttons, we instantly send and receive messages from all over the world. Wherever we are, whatever it is that we may be thinking about, we can easily share it with people. But all of these do not necessarily equate to sincerity, appreciation, and thoughtfulness in my communication handbook.

Nevertheless, modern communication and technology has definitely reshaped the way we understood time and space. The crux of it all, in a period where physical distance technically no longer becomes an issue when it comes to keeping in touch, is the convenience these all bring in communicating and in rekindling relationships. Now, my question then is this: given this context, are handwritten letters and notes irrelevant, obsolete even, nowadays? Of course, I’ve come to pose this question with an answer already in mind.

A few days ago, my brother told me that I had received a small packet from a friend who lives overseas. Because I am also away from home, I asked my sister via Facetime and Imessage (compliments of modern innovations) to open the package and to show me the contents, particularly the card that my friend never fails to include. As I was reading her handwritten message, the manner and tone of her writing resembled how she would have addressed me back then when we were in our dorm rooms in college, passionately engaged in a colorful conversation about life and the many lives we had lived throughout the day. It was as if we were simply continuing how we were, regardless of how far we are from each other. Of course, the fact that I received this from a friend is a testament to our friendship, to our fondness and appreciation of one another. No doubt about that! But what was most important is that instead of simply writing something via email or Facebook, which she could have done, she had taken some time off from her busy day to write to me. That alone made me appreciate what she had written and done more. Perhaps, it is also the element of surprise of receiving a package and a letter that also made it extra special for me.

Now, as a response to my question, my answer is a resounding no. This shouldn’t be a surprise because the very act of writing a letter, of writing down the date and time when the letter is written, of carefully (or carelessly due to excitement) folding the flaps of the envelope, of sealing the packet, and of copying the address, are all  forms of affection and appreciation. In a sense, you are removing yourself from what is convenient for you and exerting an effort to do what is most thoughtful for your friend; you are doing this for the person you care for. Instead of taking the easy route, with the use of social media and cellphones, here you are, on your way to the post office to drop of your letter to a friend.

On certain occasions, there is something more personal in sending a letter to your friend’s home than simply “tweeting” or “texting”. It’s one in which no matter how hectic your life may be, you still find the time to assemble a delightful surprise. It’s also because our lives are saturated with these technologies that we take communication and communicating for granted; we think that because we are all in the same social mediaverse, thus, supposedly can communicate with each other more, that alone will suffice. But in reality, there is a danger to this mentality of accessibility. Just because we think they are “just there”, we take for granted the time and space between us, slowly forgetting that your friend is not just a name or a follower, but a person that you care about and that you want in your life.

It is important to understand that it’s not about the aesthetics of writing a letter or the little tokens of friendship that come with it but both the sincerity and the effort in sending a heartfelt and well-crafted letter that touch the hearts of those who are to receive them. So, the next time that an opportunity to write a letter to someone arises, a special occasion or simply an urge to simply communicate, do not think twice in doing so, for whoever will receive this letter will feel the same warmth, if not more, that enabled your relationship in the first place.

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