Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Love Letter to Reading

(Originally written in Filipino two years ago today)

Reading is a vital part of my life. So much so that it's a requirement when choosing friends. It has become a standard that if somebody doesn't read, there is a 30% chance that friendship is off the table.

I grew up not doing anything but read.

There are no bookstores where I grew up in a dainty little barangay in Moncada, Tarlac. Unlike the other kids who grew up with Nancy Drew, I grew up with local comics.

Our family owns a News Stand, the lone news stand in our town back in the day. We are woken up at 2am-3am every day because of the loud thump of newspapers and comics being thrown over our gate and into our doorstep.
One of the many stashes whenever National Bookstore goes
out with its annual crazy factory sale.

Before our aunts could even start cooking our breakfast, I would be outside, a 5 year old skinny little girl carrying all the comics for that day, splattering it onto the floor of our Sala, never knowing where to start.

My favorite friends in the morning were Tomas and Kulas from Funny Komiks; Utleg from Happy Komiks. But they were always never enough. The strips were always short and soon enough, I would find myself reading adult comics, aware that there are scenes not suitable for children, but I needed to read more.

I would eventually have the sense to put down those comics, scandalized by some images and lines. So I began to pick up a newspaper. I would read Abante and Bulgar because I didn't understand English.

One of the happiest moments of my childhood was when they finally put out Children's Comics: all in short story form, going up to 5 pages, front and back, per story. 

And there were always new stories every week. I was ecstatic.

I first saw my name on print when I was Grade 1. I wrote a letter to Children's Comics on a scented stationery and one school day on my way home, asked my tricycle service to pass by the Post Office so I could mail it. They would publish it one month after.

Reading an abridgement of "A midsummer night dream" by
the windowsill in William Shakepeare's home
in Stratford-upon-Avon in Britain.
I remember in Grade 4 when our teachers gave us a thick textbook for Pagbasa (Reading). A collection of maybe 50 stories to read for the whole year. I read them all in a month.

I told myself, "thank God for new friends."

One day I went through the stuff of my older cousin who was then in College. I found a book called "Kuwaderno," a collection of literary pieces of writers from St. Louis University in Baguio where she was studying. 

But I didn't understand a thing, even though they were all in Filipino.

I tried to ask myself, like what my teachers always ask us, "what is the lesson?" I was stumped to find there was none, or none that i can see.

I read that over and over, frustrated that I couldn't understand what it was trying to tell me. And then I realized that as in all other things, reading has its levels. And that maybe I needed to move on from my School Textbook to get to another level.

We were living in Britain then, in 2001, I was 11 and I saw the Harry Potter books in a shelf at Ottakar's, the bookstore I frequented in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Before that I have seen Philopsopher's Stone so I decided to buy Chamber of Secrets and start with that instead.

I was amazed by the storytelling and happy that my Grade School craving for lessons were satisfied, and in magical ways no less.
Books I have yet to finish or read coming into 2015

I was 11 when I realized that one of the true beauties of reading is that it enables you to imagine a world that's not there. Everytime I rode a train I would imagine and wish it would lead me to Diagon Alley.

When I wasn't reading Harry Potter, I was at our small school library, reading the collection of famous British children's books writer, Jacqueline Wilson. I started with "Dustbin Baby," the story of April who, when she was born, was left in a dustbin by her mother. When she turned fourteen, she spent her birthday finding her way into that dustbin, trying to understand why her mother didn't want her.

The story seemed sad, but the storytelling was amusing. So I read another: "Bed and Breakfast Star," the story of a girl named Elsa who was living in a dirty hotel cum bed and breakfast. Another was "The Tracy Beaker Show," an orphan who couldn't get a family to like her enough to adopt her.

The beauty of dog ears

They were all sad stories of children, and looking back I think that reading those books were part of why I grew up with very low emotional quotient. I was taught by books at a very young age that it is okay to be sad, that there is no challenge to happiness. I would believe this more as I grew up and especially when I read Filipino poet Rebecca AƱonuevo's works, she said: Mahirap isulat ang kaligayahan (it's difficult to write happiness.)

These books also taught me that, like its protagonists, I should learn to tread through life just by myself, to not need anybody else.

I read more books after Jacqueline Wilson. I cried over the death of Cedric Diggory, learned my first concepts of romantic love with Leo and Stargirl in Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. I had nightmares over Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It was also when I was reading Dan Brown when I was 16 that my cousin sat me down to talk to me about my faith.

I think the most crucial period of my love affair with books was when I started to read young adult authors like Jerry Spinelli and Meg Cabot. It was from them that I learned that it's okay to be different.

I didn't want to be pretty and popular. I just wanted to be myself, however weird and different.

J.K Rowling published the last of the Harry Potter Books when I was a Sophomore in College at the University of Santo Tomas.

During this time, I was full of insecurities, dealing day in day out with doubts of whether I had the workings to become a Journalist. I would often wonder whether I was just kidding myself. 

And then I read Deathly Hallows and read this: "Of course it's all in your head, Harry, but it doesn't mean it's not real."

I felt like Professor Dumbledore spoke directly to me; that yes, I may be way over my head to think that my dreams will ever come true, but it doesn't mean they can't.

From 11 years old to being an 18-year-old student, it was still Dumbledore who got me through.

And then I met Holden Caulfield in J.D Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye." My Journalism teacher once said that Catcher should only be read when you're a teenager, more years on you and you wouldn't understand it anymore, he said.

But I understood Holden: it's not easy to be lonely.

When I graduated, I went through a 6-month depression bout. I cried every night. I walked under the sweltering heat of the sun along Ayala Avenue in Makati with nowhere to go. I would hold my rosary tight, desperate for answers: Why was I sad???

One night I just felt numb, I didn't feel anything. I was reading Paulo Coelho's Zahir and came across this line: "I was not I - I was nothing, and that to me seemed quite marvelous."

That night, I didn't cry.

On one of my best friend and I's endless trips to Fullybooked, I picked up a book called "Prep" by a writer called Curtis Sittenfeld. The character's name was Lee Fiora and she could as well been have based on myself. She liked to psychoanalyze, covered head to toe with insecurities and made self pity her favorite hobby. At last I started to understand myself.

I would meet John Green and Stephen Chbosky next. Miles in Green's "Looking for Alaska" and Charlie in Chbosky's "Perks of being a Wallflower" would become my shrinks, mirroring a nasty party of myself I wasn't willing to confront.
Another attempt at book spine poetry

It is never easy to be lonely. But it's also never bad. The lesson: whatever happens, you wouldn't be sad all your life. 

Loneliness, these friends taught me, was temporary.

I have many friends, most of them have the same intense love affair with books, but I never found it easy to tell them everything, especially if in fear of not being understood.

Or maybe sometimes, in fear of saying some issues out loud, when you have not admitted them to yourself: Is there a place in the world for you? Will your dreams ever come true? Will somebody ever love you? Are you just kidding yourself?

There are too many questions. And ever since I was 5 years old, the answers only ever came from friends in my books.

Some people find their answers by truly living: by meeting people, by falling in love, by experiencing the world outside of the pages.

But people are different. Had I searched for answers outside of my books, I would have probably ended more confused. 

I have not found all the answers yet. The beauty in reading is that as you get answers along the way, you would also have more questions.

And isn't that why you are alive, to continue to ask questions?

Book by the beach
Maybe it was wrong to have depended so much of my growing up on books. I started to doubt love and its concept of forever when I found out in Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's second book that Nick and Norah broke up. Nick and Norah -- no infinity, what a disaster.

Sometimes I justfiy my anger towards the world with books like Ned Vizzini's, I justify my lack of faith with characters such as Sylvia Plath's Esther Greenwood; my belief that the world is unfair was affirmed by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

But I also learned to love my parents because of Mitch Albom, and learned the value of friendship through the many characters, Ron, Harry and Hermione being the best examples.

And in reading, I learned to write, which is what I love most.

In Tom Rachman's "The Imperfectionists," I also learned that my life doesn't stop at my job, no matter how much I love it.
I get by with a little help from my friends

The most important thing in reading is that I never felt I was alone, whether I was sad or happy, enlightened or confused, I always had someone who I knew understood just exactly what I was going through.

How often do you meet someone like that in real life?

And books stay forever. No matter how long you are disconnected for, when you open the pages once again, looking for someone to talk to, they are always there, have not changed a bit, ears and hearts wide open to listen.

How amazing is that?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Starting to say Goodbye

 Not because you are saying goodbye doesn’t mean you love what you’re saying goodbye to any less. 

Today is December 1, and in 30 days I may no longer have a job.

To make saying goodbye easier, I will start today: a farewell letter to my life’s greatest love State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. 

To me, the program wasn’t just a job, it was my life, I loved it passionately and unconditionally and this is just to acknowledge that although I’m saying goodbye, State of the Nation was, is and always will be one of the best things to ever happen to me.

To this day I’m still amazed at how blessed I am to have landed this job. I knew nothing about Television, I didn’t know how to write a TV script, let alone shooting, but I knew I wanted to tell stories – more than anything in the world.

For only my second story as a TV producer, my bosses sent me to Baguio to report on SM’s earthballing of 182 trees at their Luneta Hill lot. I spent the weekend talking to artists, activists and environmentalists and listening to Up Dharma Down, who joined the rally by staging a concert under the pine trees up a hill. I went home with that story and another: that Baguio was running out of land, resulting to problems of water supply and forcing the local government to develop the Metro Baguio plan to decongest the city.

I was lucky to have stumbled upon some very good research materials and even luckier to have been teamed up with a very good cameraman for that assignment. Beginner’s luck, I guess, but my next segments weren’t as spot-on. Some lacked research, some lacked good videos and others that just weren’t executed well. But none that made me love storytelling any less.

It just took me into a journey of discovering which kinds of stories I wanted to tell, or which kinds I could tell better.

I found it difficult to shoot news features. Often, there is no natural sequence so we always had to direct what we call in the industry as “stylized scenes.” I also wasn’t good with “happy” stories, the running joke in the Newsroom was that I should never be assigned to write a Christmas story, unless they want to hear the Grinch version.

Together with my researchers over the years, I hunted for policy stories. From school memorandums of banning the use of hijab, local ordinances on community funds for funerals, to Department orders of removing Filipino as a required unit in College. In the process, we found people who were affected by the policies, who, in turn, brought the heart to the story that I couldn’t otherwise write, or shoot.

But my bosses and colleagues know, I have a favorite: Culture and the Arts. I did stories on Museum Tours in Cebu, Filipino Book Stores in Baguio, Poetry Slams, painters who were also construction workers on the side, and just recently, the Art of Angono, Rizal.

Nothing brought me more joy than seeing those stories air on Television, and knowing that at least one person was being affected, or changing her mind because of the story we told.

I owe it to my Executive Producer and Program Manager who trusted me enough to give me that kind of creative liberty. I have aired stories with boring videos, wrong soundbytes, wrong graphics; stories that were 2 minutes too long, even stories that failed to say what it was supposed to say. But they still continued to trust me. The luckiest producers are those who have bosses who believed in the same brand and value of storytelling as they did, those who have bosses who gently remind them of the ratings game but always end the conversation of why the stories matter.

“Find a story that matters and then find a way to sell it,” was their formula for me.

I learned to appreciate that formula better when I started writing News for the daily production. Every day we write about corruption and abuse of power yet watch the Filipino people forget they have been wronged and let the same anomalies happen over and over again.

Everyday we write stories about conflict and human rights violations yet watch the victims be further victimized by the ignorant judgments of those we try so hard to inform and educate.

So it was clear to me the importance of that formula: we have to make them watch the News first before the News can start making some real change, and the only way to do that is to make the stories more appealing.

Everyday is a struggle to work around that formula, I didn’t always succeed but everyday is another day to try.

And there is no better motivation than the fact that we are working for the one and only Jessica Soho.

I learned a lot from Ma’am Jess, sometimes I learned embarrassingly; when she would cross out words in my script because no such Tagalog exists, or when she would ask me basic research questions I didn’t have the answer to. One time she asked me to compute the total pork barrel allocation of the 12 Senators for a certain year – I fumbled over calculator keys on my iPhone and still she finished before me just by calculating mentally. She would re-write my entire script on my notebook in the span of 5 minutes, and when we were pressed for time, she would directly record her voiceover editing my script as she goes.

I had the privilege to have been put under her famous, nerve-wracking “graded recitation.” “What was our GDP in 2012?” she asked me one time when I wrote about the quarterly GDP report in 2013; she asked this during the live broadcast, in between reports when she was off camera, so both her and I didn’t have the luxury of time. I failed that test but learned to always research everything there is to research about a story.

I could go on endlessly about the things she has taught me in Journalism --- how to tell when someone’s lying and playing safe being one my favorites --- but the most important things I learned from her: ethics, humility and kindness.

Working with her has taught me that storytelling goes beyond the story, a good part of the job has to do with treating your subjects and sources with honesty and sincerity and to never, ever forget that being the one who has the microphone and airtime doesn’t put you above the rest.

I was prepared to spend the rest of my life in GMA. I love my job that much that I also risked so much fighting to keep it.

Now that I’m about to lose it, I’m reminded of the reason why I wanted it in the first place – I want to tell stories and as much as I have loved telling them from GMA, a new story has emerged: that the corporation failed in its labor policies, and is refusing to change a system that has been taking employees for granted for a very long time.

More than a hundred of us have stood up to tell this story, and although it hurts to be losing the job we love as a consequence --- this is a story that matters.

One that could hopefully change the media industry for the better, so younger ones who have the same dreams as ours could experience better labor practice.

I knew going into the job that I will never be rich in my line of work, I will never be able to afford a mansion or a flashy car, but it is the right of every employee to have social security.

Saying goodbye will be one the hardest things I will ever have to do, God knows how many times I've went back and forth, but to not tell this story will be a betrayal of the craft that I’ve loved with all my heart.

This letter is dedicated to all my bosses and co-staffers in State of the Nation; to my co-producers who helped me improve my craft, my researchers who are more deserving of credit for the stories we aired, the masterful camera crew who made me look good through their compelling videos --- thank you all for being part of the 4 greatest years of my life.

To my friends in the Newsroom, for being my sanity in such a crazy world, and for the friendship that makes it all worthwhile.

But most of all this letter is dedicated to the hundred us who risk to lose our greatest love, simply because we truly love it.

May ours be a story of justice and change, we have 30 more days to let it be heard, and our entire lifetime to make sure this story is not forgotten.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I didn't quite believe in the power of hugs until maybe today.

A friend told me earlier that a person needs to be hugged daily, with one lasting for about 20 seconds for a proper serotonin fix.

I'm not a hug person, it goes with not being affectionate, so one day, months ago, when he suddenly came out of nowhere asking me for a hug, I resisted briefly.

"What's wrong?"
"I just need a hug."

So awkwardly, and hesitantly, I wrapped my arms around his slouched body, barely touching him, just enough space so I can tap his back for whatever comfort it may bring. I remember counting up to three, before letting go.

"Can I have another one?"

I let that next one last for a little while longer.

I don't remember now what he needed that hug for, or why he needed 2, or why it had to come from me. I just remember feeling slightly proud about myself, for not hugging properly thus not completely submitting, but for being a good friend at the same time by meeting him halfway.

Had I known what was going to happen in the next months, I would have hugged him for 20 seconds for his serotonin fix.

And then again, and then again, and then again, longer, and tighter so I can be his serotonin fix. Let science do its magic, and allow our bodies to touch, so the chemicals may do its job, without us doing anything but permit.

Had I foreseen this tragedy, I would not have let him go.

But I did.

And now I need a hug.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Inside my head

One day I'm singing happy songs on a roadtrip to Tagaytay, the next I'm blurting out "I'm inexplicably sad today," and I just lie in bed excessively, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the next trigger so I can escape loneliness and go back to being happy again.

They must have a name for it. I'm not bipolar, I'm also not clinically depressed. But I did test positive for hormonal imbalance. So maybe I'll just charge it to that.

My triggers are everywhere, sporadically finding me in the most inconvenient moments of the day, like maybe at 6pm when I'm assigned to write the lead story for a newscast and I can't think -- my mind just blacks out, and my palms become uncontrollably twitchy and sweaty and there is a strong urge for me to shout but I can't and that only makes it worse.

Sometimes the trigger can be as simple as a song; for example, hearing something which played at a certain moment in my life I would rather not remember. I associate things/people/moments to songs and when something plays and brings up a memory - I lose it and can never figure out how to snap out.

But at least I know where it's coming from. The worst moments are when it just hits me from nowhere, like a sudden whiff of air, or a movement from my periphery, or just a case of deja vu, and I'm thrown off. Like tonight after the newscast aired, I felt a turn in my stomach -- probably because I have not had dinner yet but instead of accept an invitation to eat, I wanted to go straight home and sleep, because that's when my mind is most peaceful, when I'm in the comfort of my room, safe from the world and its cruel elements.

So then I sat up to try and write it down. Another attempt to make sense of it, that maybe as I type words here I'll stumble upon an explanation at least, if not an answer. But the city lights outside my window is such a terribly sad image, causing my heart pain, worsening by the minute, the sound of the fan whirring like a broken sound to a broken cassette or something. Something must be up, so I rack my brain for sign of where this sadness must be coming from, but it's giving me nothing.

When this happens, I usually blame it on the obvious. I let a wrong graphic illustration air tonight, on my own segment even, after that I wallowed on heartbreaking internet posts from Paul Walker's daughter, and then of course, I remember, I have not had dinner yet.

But my stomach feels full and my brain is telling me that any minute now I may want to vomit but of course I won't --- in reality, my stomach is empty.

So I just stare mercifully at my downloads tab, I'm expected to have fresh episodes of sitcoms in 20 minutes -- maybe that'll solve it, but my wifi suddenly broke down and 20 minutes became 20 hours and then 20 weeks and that stretch all the more caused me anxiety, like being on a rollercoaster and never knowing when it's gonna stop.

Then The Wombats' Let's dance to joy division played. I remember listening to this last year, on a bus, on my way home from my teacher's mom's funeral in the province, and I remember feeling not happy, but content.

And it just washed away everything that's been occupying my head for the last 2 hours and finally -- thank God -- it snaps back into focus so I can do what I set out to do -- which is to squeeze in some work before I sleep.

Over the years I've learned slightly how to deal with it; I've learned never to force it by doing oe thinking of something happy and expecting it to just go away -- it never does -- I've learned not to attach to it too much -- I can't explain it but I've learned that just as bad triggers are everywhere, good triggers are too, I never know what to look for but somehow, I end up finding it -- like tonight, through a song.

There's a relief in the heaviness of my chest and I no longer feel I have to vomit, the space around me is slightly spreading out, I'm not fully normal yet, but I'm better.

And that'll have to do for tonight.

Until the next time.

So yes, hormones, you're a real bitch.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tacloban afterthought

As my cameraman so vividly described it, Tacloban looks like an effortless set of Walking Dead. "Natural na natural e, 'no?," Kuya Leo quipped. I was with the most veteran producers and cameramen that day but Tacloban was unlike anything any of us had seen, covered or even heard of before. The easiest videos were tracking shots, anywhere you point your camera to is an image of destruction, fallen trees, damaged houses, cars and posts flung into whatever piece it was that was also once part of something else.

And that's how Tacloban is right now -- once part of something else.

We had with us an ample supply of water and snacks to last us an entire day of coverage. But human nature told us to hand our bottles of water and packs of bread to Taclobanons instead. But it was not that easy. It had been 6 days since the typhoon hit, the grief of lost loved ones and devastation of lives hovered in the air that stunk of smell of decaying bodies and what is left is their gut instinct to survive -- to eat, or drink, and to find ways to do that at all cost.

If we hand them water or bread and not have enough for everybody else, there will be chaos. We had to be discreet.

And once we found an opportunity to help, we grabbed it. But it only made our hearts ache even more because we knew that not only was that bottle of water or piece of banana not enough for a person's daily need, they also wouldn't fill whatever it is that's missing.

People who look like they were rich and those who look like they were poor now all look the same -- dazed, clueless, but also, very determined.

Folks at the airport complain of having waited days for their spot at the C130 plane and never getting their turn. "Padrino system, ma'am e, kung sino ang may kakilala ng army, sila ang sinasakay," a man told me the second I stepped out of our own plane. This sentiment would be repeated through numerous people as our coverage progressed.

'May number ba kayo na pinanghahawakan,' we would ask. 'Wala,' they would all answer.

They would tell us stories of how men rob houses in the dark, and worse, even rape women.

Residents at the Redemptorist Church of Tacloban City said that the number of evacuees at the parish would increase at night, because some families are scared to sleep in their own homes, and would take shelter at the house of God.

Whether these stories were true or just concoction of hungry stomachs and hungry souls were not the point; the point was that these stories were borne out of desperation and frustration.

Frustration out of the fact that planes come and go during the day and yet the army had not formulated a system of who can hitch a ride and when. Frustration out of the fact that on the 6th day of post-typhoon tragedy, no main command post had been established; people didn't know where to go.

They keep their ears open for rumors of relief operations, oftentimes coming from independent organizations and volunteers riding in trucks, providing what their government could not.

"Narinig lang po namin sa isang babae na may tubig dito."
"Sabi dito raw magpapalista pero ewan ko kung saan."
"Nakita ko lang may mga dala silang plastic kaya sinundan ko."

That there had not been an established system by the 6th day baffles me. DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman admits there were delays because "it is a complex emergency," roads were closed for days, she said, flights were limited, she said, "but there is government presence here," she said.

Yes, there is presence, but what was needed was so much more than just being there, the people of Tacloban needed them to function, to be efficient, to maximize the resources, to come through.

On the 6th day, there already exist towers of boxes and sacks of rice, truckloads of water and clothes, and yet, they sit inside dark rooms and factories, on the ground at the airport, only because there is bureaucracy involved. There is a process, of documentation, of waiting for authority, of inventory -- a process that eats away at precious time that survivors could have spent eating, or healing, or even feeling like they are being taken care of, that somebody was looking after them.

But no.

People felt helpless. They don't know whether to go to the airport and wait for a plane, or to the terminal for a bus, or by the streets for kind strangers in vehicles. Whether to be mobile to chance upon relief trucks or stay still for help to come to them.

You would expect that for a country always plagued by calamities such as Yolanda, our government would be better prepared, you would expect them to make wiser decisions, to know what to do when everyone else don't.

There was not even a medical post, where people with injuries could be tended to, where children could get medicines for diarrhea and fever, where infants could get vitamins.

At the same Church, we ran into a group of volunteer doctors from Iloilo who had flown to Tacloban armed with supplies; they were doing the checkups, the stitches, they were handing out tablets and capsules and evacuees lined up in peace, thankful that help had come.

You see, the survivors' tendency  to be violent and disorganized come from the lack of assurance that help would come; when the situation force it to become every man for their own, but when they know that there is someone behind them, order would ensue on its own.

But that was the problem, no one felt like there was someone behind them.

A lady we gave a ride to told me she was experiencing shortness of breath but walked the distance from the street that was serving as their home to the airport where the DOH was stationed -- they were turned away due to the lack of supplies. That night, another lady suffered what could have been an asthma (or even anxiety) attack but was again turned away by soldiers who told us "sabi ng doktor, wala na po."

We prodded and prodded and against our ethical convictions, intimidated them with our camera lights until they gave in and took the lady in. I wonder what would happen if we weren't there.

To be constantly told no, to be denied, to be offered nothing when you had just lost everything is devastation at its most cruel definition.

Other countries have praised our resiliency, amazed at how we find the ability to laugh and find the silver lining; they have celebrated the richness and kindness of our spirits to be going through such a tragedy with much hope and determination --

but we could only be patient for so long.

When our strength wavers, we should be allowed to break down. And damn it, our government should be able to cushion that fall, help us stand up and say "here, I'll show you the way."

I don't know whose fault it it is. But something in the system failed, and the fact that it's not the first time it did should serve as an awakening for every single one of us to hold those we elected accountable, to demand much of them, because it's their job to be demanded and it's their job to deliver.

We cannot just run on pure hope and faith every time. To do so would be giving the government a free pass to screwing up and allow them to abuse us, use us, and eventually, destroy us.

*Opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect those of her employer

Sunday, September 29, 2013


When I was 15 and fell in love the first time, the general rule was not to act on it. Wait for him to fall in love with you, they said. Don't ever tell him your feelings, they said.

I told him anyway. And it could just have been the most empowering thing I've done in my life. The role women were imposed with is just unfair. There's a concept of self preservation across cultures and as Filipinos, we are expected to mirror Maria Clara and wait for us to be wooed in the azotea by a handsome, young, dashing man. 

Well, I live in the topmost floor of a high rise condominium, no one's ever going to  woo me from below. 

When I told friends what I did (and even now when I retell the story) the general sentiment is that it's gutsy.

Damn right it's gutsy. But what I can't bear is the injection of whether I felt defeated because rejection was made worse by the fact that I told him. They think that if I hadn't, years of dwelling and the ultimate rejection in the end would have made for a more graceful exit. I can't understand why a girl telling a boy she loves him is so "ungraceful." 

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing except that I should have told it more. I said it just once, and I went years thinking that once is enough. It wasn't enough, for a love that (I think) molded my coming of age; for a love that served as a muse for my writing growing up; the kind of love that taught me about what it means to have self esteem, how it feels to lose it, how to get it back, and ultimately, how to grow up the kind of person that doesn't need another person to feel complete, once is never enough.

Yes, I laid my heart bare and fragile. Like putting it on a table and giving him the permission to break it, as many times as he can because it's okay --- it's okay to have my heart broken if only to mean it did something. 

And I think that's my victory. People see it another way, because I'm a girl, I'm the one who lost, I'm the one they pity, I'm the one who was left behind. Well, fuck that. I took control of my destiny, I didn't just wait and depended for the other person to say when and whether or not I can love him. I wanted to love him, that was my decision, and at the end of the day, I stood tall, called it a defeat, but never a failure.

I did everything I think I should, how can you call that a failure.

I write this as I cross another threshold in my growing up stage --- after 6 years of being in love with a person who can't find it in his heart to fall in love with me -- and 2 years of struggling to define "feelings," never quite putting my finger on it, sometimes confusing being comfortable with another person as maybe love, and then maybe not, I finally felt certain that whatever this is I'm feeling --- it's not just any other thing. 

And again, people tell me: you can't just do all the first steps. 

Why not? It's not everyday I feel this way, to stumble upon a person one day and just realize, the butterflies are back from years of wandering around. 

I haven't decided what I'm gonna do yet, but I'll leave it with this: whether you're a boy, or gay, or bi, and especially if you're a girl, when you feel feelings, you act on it, be smart, be dignified, be "graceful," but be gutsy, tell him, tell him straight and don't be scared of falling flat on your face because when you do nothing, that's when you fail. 

Forget people, it's not what they say that matters, it's what that person will say -- and whether it's a rejection or affirmation, you got your chance. 

Not everyone gets a chance. Take yours.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The story of co-dependence: How I became so clingy

There was a time when I would answer calls from friends with a rude, "I don't want to go out." Sometimes I don't even use words, sometimes I just grunt. And then from that, I just became the sort of person who asked every single one of her friends on a Friday night what they were doing for their Friday nights and whether they'd like to do it with me.

This is a story of co-dependence. Or just simply the explanation for why I have been so clingy lately.

People around me should have a historical context. I have one sister but we were not close growing up. My childhood was spent proving to adults that unlike the other kids, I don't need an Ate to guide me. And because my mom was abroad most of the time, I also wanted to show everyone I don't really need parents.

Sometimes, I also like to show my friends I don't really need them. This is why I don't say sorry unless I feel I absolutely have to. It's not that I don't like to say sorry, it's because I don't feel sorry. I'm also not the first person to patch things up. It never occurred to me like I'm the one who has something to lose. If they leave, it wouldn't really make much difference.

This is how friends would describe me now. Someone with zero emotional quotient. Walang puso. Gustong mag-isa.

And they have evidence, too. They would offer to accompany me for lunch but I would insist on eating alone. They would ask to come over my house but I would explain that I really would rather be by myself. Weekends were spent with me left at peace with my laptop, and I would be completely happy doing just that. I just really never felt the need to be with another person - I've always felt like people take too much space, like it's an effort to talk and make them feel comfortable when I could just be enjoying the silence and solitude. Simply put, I just couldn't be bothered.

This also explains why I'm not a text person. (So if you ever felt like I've ignored your texts, don't worry, it's not a selective behavior. I just don't text in general. Phone calls annoy me too)

What happened? Like what always happens, life.

I just realized somewhere in between work deadlines and family issues and personal frustrations that I've been alone for much, much too long. That Christmases shouldn't be spent watching FRIENDS in the bedroom, or sleeping all the way to Christmas noon.

My emotional shifts are no secret to people close to me. I can be happy one day and be terribly sad the other. So one night, in the millionth night I was lonely, I decided to take a break from being myself. I decided to be with people.

I just decided to do what people do. To talk, to laugh, to share and yes, to drink. That first time sometime weeks ago gave me some degree of clarity that in order for me to have a relief from the exhaustion of being happy and sad and happy and sad, I needed to have a relief from being myself.

As my friend would put it, "sayang ang kabataan"

Alcohol is just a symbol in this journey. I started this with a drink in hand, maybe I'll follow through with more. The people who consistently tried to convince me over the last 8 years about the wonders of alcohol did a really, really bad job. They should have known better than to lecture me about being carefree or how to celebrate youth. It just pushed me further away from the idea of drinking, thinking that just like I don't need people, I also didn't need liquor to be able to feel feelings.

I didn't want to feel feelings, anyway.

Until I was halfway that bottle of beer one night, opening up to friends in front of me, saying things I previously just shared through vague writings on the Internet to strangers. And it just felt, well, wonderful.

It helps that it turns out I have a very high alcohol tolerance. That means I won't have to go through the embarrassing process of getting drunk, like I skipped steps to get to the level of treating alcohol as simply just a fun way to socialize.

I guess it's also not a coincidence that the last conversations I had with friends over drinks were the most honest ones I've had with them in our entire relationships. I guess they felt like because I was now drinking, I was also less judgmental. And I think I am.

I've also opened up to the idea of young people having fun with love. Sometimes, you really have to look at it outside this rose tinted glass of butterflies and sparks. (Although, I would still insist that the concept of electricity between two people is true)

It is in this light that I've accepted I belong to the 99% of mankind who needs to be loved in order to feel alive. Granted, I've not found that person yet but at least now I know I'm looking.

In the meantime, I treat friends so much better now, I want to spend more time with them, have a more meaningful relationship and feel the obligation to make them feel appreciated as long as I like them. I also let them know I like them.

And just like any transition in life, the first tranche can be overwhelming. Therefore, the co-dependence and clingyness.

And you know what? I'm not sorry.