Friday, February 29, 2008

For friends who went away...

Fort San Pedro, Cebu City
Years from now
I shall have forgotten
where you went to school
the number on your gatepost
your mother's maiden name
But I shall not forget
the merciless affectionate teasing
your bunny rabbit smile
when you're happy
and that your favorite color
is indigo
Years from now
I shall have forgotten
who you are
but I shall remember you.

For the past few years, there has been an exodus of my friends leaving the country in search of greener pastures. Jo, one of my best friends, left for Canada about 5 years ago. Former officemates, classmates, friends and acquaintances followed. Miles in Dallas, Arni in New York, Cecille, Maeann and Jojie in Toronto, Chari and Merlie in New Zealand, Mel in Houston, Vicky in New Jersey, Jean in Bahrain, Bobby in Manchester, Helen in Boston, Jeana in Las Vegas, Terry in Georgia, Chubby in Riyadh, Gemma in Reno, Fred in Nigeria, Alma in Dublin, Yvette in Ontario, Malou in Milan, Rina in Burbank, Jun in Seattle, Stella in Frankfurt, Josie and Chat in Hong Kong, Bong and Girlie in San Francisco, Sally and Sallie in Dubai, and recently, Jonathan left for London. While I understand their life’s journey, it saddens me that my friends believe that the realization of their dreams is not here, but out there.

with Jonathan and Kong in Fort San Pedro

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The heart is a lonely hunter...

dawn in Romblon

When I think of loneliness, the novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is the first thing that comes to mind.

Is it OK to talk about loneliness nowadays? Probably not. There’s always shame and disgrace attached to admitting loneliness. Maybe this is the reason why I sometimes wrap it in fancy names like depression (sounds like a medical condition), blues (a personal idiosyncrasy), PMS (can’t help it). I have friends and family and I can find the company I want if I really want it…but it’s the type of company that adds to my feelings of isolation. For a couple of weeks now, I can never quite seem to shake this state of discontented estrangement. I'm having a hard time getting up in the morning--all I want to do is sleep.

My co-worker suggested that I go out of town with friends, that I need a break. I was thinking of going to Baguio last Friday for the Panagbenga festival, but I was too lazy to even pack! I like the idea of going out of town---anywhere---but I don’t like company. Right now, I want to just drive alone without a definite destination. The scheduled trip to Cebu next week is probably a good thing.

I was out with friends almost every night last week…watched a movie, drinks and blabber---but I felt incredibly lonely in the middle of it all. I hugged Fritz last night and was overcome by that same emptiness.

Maybe it's the literature I've been reading---I’ve finished Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul” and have started on “The Kite Runner” by an Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. I guess the melancholy (or huzun) of “Istanbul” didn’t leave me.

Huzun is a Turkish word whose Arabic root (it appears five times in the Koran) denotes a feeling of deep spiritual loss but also a hopeful way of looking at life, “a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating.” For the Sufis, huzun is the spiritual anguish one feels at not being close enough to God; for Saint John of the Cross, this anguish causes the sufferer to plummet so far down that his soul will, as a result, soar to its divine desire. Huzun is therefore a sought-after state, and it is the absence, not the presence, of huzun that causes the sufferer distress.

While some of us spend a lifetime trying to escape loneliness with shoe shopping, binge eating, alcohol, one-night stands…I believe that the only real way through it is by forming true connections with people. But as I grow older, I sometimes feel that I seem to have lost the connection with people, that I indulge myself in solitude. Have I become indifferent? Have I opted to emails, internet chats, blogging, and text messages in order not to get my hands dirty in the humus of humanity? Are these technologies little arrows targeting at the heart of loneliness, or they’re the contributing factors?

I don't know if my loneliness is a symptom of not being “present” in my life. Do I live in the past or the future? Am I denying myself this moment? I ask myself lots of difficult questions when I’m in this mood, and I don’t have the answers. But I learned from experience that loneliness is part of the puzzle of existence, a passing phase, a flatulence of the soul—so I know, I’ll snap out of it. It’s just a question of when.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don't Quote Me

All things change, nothing is extinguished. There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.
~ Ovid

“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun."

~Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

Bamboo at Greenbelt 5

A Thousand Marbles

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the study with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it. I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net.
Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen.
"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital." He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."
"You see, I sat down one day and did a little math. The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about 75 years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime." "Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part." "It took me until I was 55 years old to think about all this in any detail"; he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over 2800 Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."
"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out." "I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focus more on the important things in life." There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."
"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time." "It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 75 year Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going, good morning!"
You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast." "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out?
I need to buy some marbles....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Unexplained phenomena

Inexplicable things bother me. It’s those random, chronic silly little details, mannerisms, events, accepted but incomprehensible. But no one bothers to explain or ask why. Maybe it’s the mole on my forehead. Maybe it’s from lack of sleep and over-analyzing everything. Maybe I am indeed kooky. But do you ever stop to wonder why some things are and why do we let it grow and fester and the next thing we know, it’s got a life of its own, like some infectious disease. There are things that defy explanation that nags me endlessly. Here’s my current list:
  • Why “me” not “I”? I’m sure you got at least one text message like this---“d2 na me wer na u”, or “go lang me sa SM”, “busy lang me” then it mutated and now I actually hear it being said. “Buy lang me sa 7-11”, “paid na me this morning”. Where did this come from? I can’t even say that it shortens a sentence! It’s getting pervasive like the weird adding of the silent H in everything from “ubeh” to “Anahbelle”. My co-worker, Tomas, signs his name as Thom (ewwwww)! Whoever invented this and thought it’s cute, I hope you would grow a huge boil in your armpits. Meanwhile, cry na lang me! :(
  • The white supremacy. Whitening products are all over the place. Look at the billboards with women showing off their white, flawless armpits. And Juday on TV, proud of her white elbows, knees, back, and face. Another set of celebs telling us that nothing touch their [fair, white] skin but Belo! With the deluge of whitening products to whiten the face, body, armpits, even food supplements we should have erased the brown race by now. My neighbor who used to be a morena has now a delicate pinkish white complexion that looks like the underbelly of a fish. I see women in the streets with white/reddish faces---like they were skinned and left to burn under the noontime sun; weird thing is, their necks are brown! Aside from papaya soap, does eating achara could turn our skin white, too?
  • The photo menace: the V for sungay! While the Nazi had the Hitler salute, the Japanese have the trademark “peace sign” in every photo op, we have the devil’s horn by the way of the V sign. I can’t explain it or why I even do it occasionally. An American friend once asked me what it meant…I just said that maybe it’s from a need to pass blame and say---the devil made me do it and look, HERE HE IS! V sign and click!
  • Naked men in webcams. I can’t explain why there are men who invite you to view their webcams and there he is in all his naked glory! Their profiles are also filled with their naked or half-naked photos. What did you eat to make you think it’s sexy? Jessica Zafra was right when she said it on her radio show that when men see a naked woman, they become silent. But when women see a naked man, they laugh! Totoo nga! Unless you’re a male underwear model, please keep your clothes on. Maawa ka sa makaka-view sa ‘yo! Sorry, boys!
  • The flock that go to the women’s toilet. Often discussed but even as a woman, I can’t explain it myself why anytime, anywhere, anyplace, if one goes, all the ladies have to go too. Why is that? They say we gossip about the men left behind but isn’t it a better strategy to let one stay behind to listen in to what they say about us?
There is a great deal of unexplained phenomena from “why do men have nipples?” to “why are there still people who believe Erap is innocent of plunder?” I must share though, one mind boggling thing that drives all those around me bonkers: why I have closets full of clothes and yet, claim to have nothing to wear? I know. It baffles me, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The funky Amy Winehouse

Who wouldn’t have heard of Amy Winehouse by now? She’s all over the news, not only because she won 5 Grammy’s last week, but because of her self-destructive habits, her jailbird hubby who traded her signed photos for heroin in prison. It’s been a while since I watch the MTV Channel that I didn’t know who Amy Winehouse was, until about 3 weeks ago. I heard “Rehab” on the radio, and was captivated. Her voice reminds me of Billie Holiday, one of my favorite jazz/blues singers of all time; and I love the funky, bluesy melody of the song. Downloaded the song from Limewire and it was the first time I learned of the artist’s name---Amy Winehouse. I listened to her other songs, and this is one of my favorite, “Wake up Alone”. Let’s hope that Amy Winehouse would shape up soon and clean up her act, and wouldn’t suffer the same tragic fate as Billie Holiday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On being single

One late Tuesday morning, I hurriedly stopped by at Starbucks in my office building. It was a stressful drive from Sucat to Ortigas and I was dying for a hot latte. Latte in hand, I headed for the door when someone caught my eye. Sitting in a black sofa was a slim woman in her early thirties. She was casually dressed in khaki shorts, white t-shirt, and running shoes. A white gold wedding band graced her ring finger, which held a broadsheet she was reading. The woman's baby boy was sleeping in her lap.

For days, I thought about my reaction to this scene. Looking at them, I felt emotion swell from my chest and throat, and brought tears to my eyes. Why??? (I was not PMS-ing, thank you!)
Someone inside me that morning---wanted to be that woman. To wake up and put on shorts and t-shirt on a weekday. To be free of the need to work outside the home full-time. To be able to sit in a Starbucks at 10am, drink latte, hold my child, and read the paper. I don't know her story, but what I saw was a young mother enjoying her life.

I'm a single woman, and it's true that I have a good's not perfect, but it's a good life. I have a healthy family, great friends, and an interesting and rewarding job. But being single is hard sometimes. Most days the kind of companionship I long for in the world, I don't have. This feeling constantly drives me to seek answers from prayers, and the answer I consistently get is: Be patient.

What kind of an answer is that???

I've been patient enough! Should I keep hoping? For how long? I wrestled in prayers with hope and despair, stormed the heavens. But the answer is still the same---Be Patient.

I would comfort myself that some questions only have answers in heaven. People would ask me time and again why I'm not married, as if being single is a sickness that marriage can cure. And I always have a ready answer. But deep inside, at each passing year, I know that the chance of being a mother and wife is slipping farther away. Dark thoughts would sometimes enter my mind...maybe I am not capable of having a deep, committed relationship with a man, or I'm not attractive enough, not charming and intelligent enough, not sexy enough, not submissive at all! And because of that, I’ll be alone forever.

But I've learned to see the battle more clearly and I've found courage to face the future without fear. Whether I have a husband or not, I believe that I have a constant protector and provider. In my darkest hours, when I've come to the end of myself and tasted loneliness past to what I thought I could bear, I pray for strength and courage.

God has made me the woman I am...being single allowed me the opportunity to learn who this woman is. And I'd rather be single forever than be with someone who wants me to be someone else. This is me---Luna, who doesn't resemble Angelina Jolie, doesn't always say the right things, and is bored with sports!

I still have moments of loneliness and disappointment. But I know I've become a woman with greater capacity to love and I continue to struggle to become a better person. As I think back to that morning at Starbucks, I realize that God's gifts come in many forms, but they're all meant to accomplish that same single purpose---shaping me into a woman he created me to be.

The Last Reunion

You've filled completely
this cloudy January day
with reminisces and warm laughter,
chocolate cake and coffee,
a few sips of beer and your brown eyes.
And now unable to sleep
because the day is finally going home
because your sleep has locked me out,
I watched you and wonder.
I know your face by touch when its dark
I know the profile of your sleeping face,
the sound of your sleeping.
Sometimes, I think you were all sound---
kicking free the covers,
switching off the lights,
moving about in the bathroom,
lighting a cigarette.
I know the plains and length of your body
the movement of your eyelids when you dream
the measure of your breathing.
I have total recall of you
and this reunion will close the chapter
of memories kept in the deep recesses of my mind.
It's quiet now.
Only the clock
moving towards rejection tomorrow
breaks the stillness.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Crown of Thorns

I took photos of this flower in my friend’s garden in Angeles City last week, and posted it in my last blog. Gzel asked for a name of this plant and I had to ask around. A co-worker identified it as Euphorbia. I googled and found that it is also called “Crown of Thorns”. Euphorbia is a very large genus with over 2000 species. The sap is poisonous, can burn skin, and can cause temporary blindness if it goes in the eyes.

Euphorbia milii var splendens is a straggly, spiny shrub bearing bright red bracts and, given a chance, will grow to 2m. Euphorbia milii was named by Des Moulins in 1826 and, while not a succulent, can withstand long dry periods when the plants will shed their leaves. The stems are furrowed and furnished with stout, tapering spines about 2cm long. The leaves occur at the top of the shoots and the branched inflorescences grow from the leaf axils. The variety splendens is simply a larger form than the species itself and occurs naturally. In fact there is considerable variation in the wild in south-west Madagascar and several have been named, including a yellow flowered form, also grown for the pot plant industry.

My aunt had an episode where she and her friends would drive around Negros looking for other colors of this shrub. She claims that she has all the colors of this flower in her garden. I love the colors of this shrub's flowers. They’re all vivid—reds, yellows, and oranges.

Arni, whose garden these photos were taken, is a former colleague vacationing from NYC. She took care of me when I visited New York for the first time a few years ago; gave me a tour, and brought me to Broadway to see “Mama Mia”. I drove to Angeles City last week, stayed overnight, and we went to see a movie in SM Clark---Arni and I were movie buddies and we had been teased in the office that we attended more "Lupang Hinirang" in the theater than in school because we were fond of going to the movies during the last full show. After Arni left for New York, I was a regular patron of Greenbelt's "midnight workaholics" with screening time after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh, those were the days! :D

And one shouldn't leave Pampanga without dining at the famous Aling Lucing’s, home of the original Sisig. We braved the smoke from the ihaw-ihaw just to taste the appetizing Sisig one more time.

my old movie buddy

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good friends, good times

Friends are different flowers from the same garden.

It was a bit of a short notice but I was looking forward to dinner with Kikay, Sally and Sallie last Tuesday night. It was a sort of pre-Valentines’-cum-Despedida dinner for Sally and Sallie who are leaving for Dubai next week.

Kikay, Sally and Sallie
The evening was lovely, and with the cool February weather, we opted to have dinner al fresco at Conti’s. Oh, after a number of attempts, I was finally able to try Conti’s in Serendra…although we waited for a table for almost 30 minutes. It was jam-packed as usual.

Parmesan Fish Fillet

I had a particularly stressful day at work on Tuesday, but there is comfort in friends who meet you for dinner and allow you to vent at the same time make you laugh. These kinds of get-togethers are necessary for our mental health!

Chicken Roulade with risotto

The conversation roamed in a variety of subjects, from ghosts and haunted houses to Filipinos in Dubai, Pap smear to the current Senate hearing, corruption in government to festivals. It was all vibrant and happy, warm and relaxing, and there’s richness in the experience that cannot be explained. I count myself lucky to have good friends who enjoy food as much as I do, and love each other’s company, rain or shine.

Shrimp green salad with blue cheese dressing

The food at Conti’s, by the way, was delicious as expected! I picked on Kikay’s Chicken Roulade with risotto---it was delish! My Parmesan Fish Fillet was delectable. I am not really a cake person but I yielded to the temptation of Mango Bravo---it was divine! We were all excited with our dessert that I forgot to take a photo. :D

I went home that night with more energy and zest for life.

Good friends are those think you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked.

P.S. Happy Valentines' Day to you..and you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Puppy Love

too adorable for words
I never had a dog since I was a teenager. Spinks [named after Leon Spinks who knocked-out Muhammad Ali in '78], our pet Shih Tzu was hit and killed by a car when I was 15. He ran after my brother who crossed the street, didn't notice Spinks was behind him. After a flood of tears and condemning my brother to the depths of hell, I was reluctant of having a pet again. My mother continued to take care of Nadia Comaneci, a dachshund and Spinks' partner, and I kept an emotional distance. I tried cultivating a cactus about a decade ago...but even a cactus could die from drought! Any animal or plant didn't fit into my lifestyle. I thought of buying an aquarium after a friend told me that staring at his aquarium soothes him. Then another friend told me that even fish gets depressed when left alone for days---an aruana commits suicide (ouch! who wants to be blamed for that?), so I abandoned the idea. An officemate brought a bonsai as a housewarming present, but it drooped and shriveled after a few months. A girlfriend who breeds lovebirds as a hobby has been offering me a pair but I was afraid the birds would just drop dead (kamikaze birds?) and I'd be heart-broken. Yes, I have serious issues... which I am trying to overcome! :D
So to hone my nurturing skills, and declare that I'm indeed a responsible adult, I decided to have a real, living, breathing dependent. Here he is--- TaDaaaaa... meet Fritz, a Japanese Spitz, and the love of my life. I took him home when he was about a month old, and he’s almost 8 months old now. Fritz has a congenital defect which makes him a lot more loveable. He has splayed legs so he walks like a penguin but runs like an Olympian! He runs to the door as I open the gate every night when I come home, wags his tail and kisses me all over. Fritz is playful and affectionate...he loves being scratched especially on the belly, and nibbles at my fingers while we’re watching TV.
chewing the horse' tail
During the vaccination period, I asked the vet if there’s anything he can do to correct his hind legs and the vet said they’re hopeless. Well, it doesn't matter...he's a well-adjusted and happy dog. And I love him to bits! In early January, Fritz got a scare of his young life. We drove that Sunday afternoon to Bonifacio High Street so he could socialize and run on the grass. I parked and was about to turn off the car engine when there was a loud bang, and smoke coming from under the car. From the passenger seat, Fritz jumped onto my lap, he was trembling. I couldn’t get out from the driver’s seat because he was clinging to me, and making small noises. It took me awhile to calm him down and carried him out of the car. Turned out, my radiator hose burst. :(
a 3-month old cutie
He peed twice when I put him down, he was trembling. At his favorite playground, he was jittery and didn’t want to leave my side. Other dogs were running around but Fritz was not in his usual sociable mood, instead he inserted himself between two rocks. He was jumpy for the next couple of days. His body would jump at the sound of a door closing, or a distant roar of car engine. When asleep, a leg or parts of his body would tremble---perhaps he was having bad dreams. Then he lost his appetite, and wouldn’t eat unless I feed him by my hand.
anti-social mood
That really worried me…hell, I even cried about it! Brought him to the vet and was prescribed an antibiotic, vitamins, appetite stimulant, and a water-soluble powder for his drink. When he wouldn’t drink his milk, I would feed it to him through a plastic syringe. The morning after we were at the vet, he was really in a bad shape. He was falling like a drunken master---his knees couldn’t support his body. Maybe it was from hunger because he ate too little the previous night. He really gave me a scare! He wouldn’t eat dog food from the can so I cooked chicken liver adobo for him. When I put food in his plate, he demolished it like there’s no tomorrow. He quickly regained his balance but I called the vet anyway---I was like a hysterical mom! :D
pebbles therapy
Happily, Fritz is back to his old happy self. His appetite has returned and is gaining weight again. He loves snacking on milk cookies, and wrestles the stuffed toy I bought for him. I pamper him with lots of attention, lots of hugs, scratching his belly and head. And every time he wags his tail, I’m the happiest girl in town.
Fritz today
I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain we knew better. They fight for honor at the first challenge, make love with no moral restraint, and they do not for all their marvelous instincts appear to know about death. Being such wonderfully uncomplicated beings, they need us to do their worrying.
~George Bird Evans

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cafe Ysabel

Cafe Ysabel
V-day is five days away, and perhaps you’re thinking of a romantic place to spend time with your beloved. I’ve been thinking about that, too…no, not of a beloved, but of a romantic place to feed my body and soul. Antonio’s or Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay are beautiful places to dine and unwind. But the thought of driving to Tagaytay with the weekend traffic diminished my enthusiasm.

Tired of the usual restaurants found in the malls, my friends and I agreed to try something new for our pre-V-day girl-bonding. Dowie suggested Café Ysabel, a 25-year old restaurant in San Juan. Oh yeah, Café Ysabel---said to be Manila’s best kept secret. I had an intimate dinner there once upon a time---a romantic place! So we drove there for lunch today.

Café Ysabel is housed in a 1927 ancestral home in P. Guevarra, with an old-rich ambiance. The pre-war house is wrapped in latticed veranda, and furnished with turn of the century tables, stained glass panels, antique lamps, and hand-painted ceilings.

As we browsed over the menu, we were surprised at the affordable prices.

We had Oyster Rockefeller for appetizer, followed by Caesar Salad. Dowie ordered Gamberoni for her main course, a pasta dish cooked in olive oil, garlic and shrimps. Myen had the rich Pasta Ysabel---fettucini with seafood, cream and cheese. While I ordered Lapu-Lapu Al Graten, fish cooked in red wine, cheese and tomatoes.

Dowie's Gamberoni

Pasta Ysabel

Lapu-Lapu Al Graten

The romantic ambiance is still there but the place is no longer in its top condition as I remember it. The interior looks dusty in natural light. As Margaux Salcedo puts it…”flowers under the awning look like they had a hangover from the previous night’s wedding…”
mi amigas---Dowie and Myen

a big fish in a small pond

The good thing is, my lapu-lapu tasted good! Dowie and Myen agreed though that their pasta needed a bit of salt. They kept of adding parmesan cheese on their plates. Nonetheless, it was a satisfying lunch...peppered with girl-talk and laughter, and spiced with the warmth of friendship.

waiting for his date??
“Romance is in the details and sadly, Ysabel seems to be quite the neglected girl rather than an immortalized goddess. Nevertheless, her raw beauty continues to shine. Indeed, Café Ysabel’s immortality would be sealed if the restaurant would step up and manage to make it a place to fall in love in---and fall in love with---again.”

Friday, February 8, 2008

An old flame

I accidentally met an old flame this morning, at the doctor’s clinic, of all places! It was my follow up check-up with a gastroenterologist, and he was with his wife and daughter to see a pediatrician next door. Waiting to be called in, I sat outside the clinic with the other patients, eyes closed, earphone plugged in my ears, and was surprised when my shoulder was tapped. I haven't seen him in a long, long time. I said hello, and was caught off guard when he kissed my cheek! His wife was staring and it was a bit awkward for a few seconds. After some kumustahan, he introduced me---telling his wife that we used to be neighbors! Kissing neighbors? Hah! Now I’m relegated to being an ex-neighbor, I thought! Funny!

When they entered the clinic, I returned to my music but couldn’t help thinking about our 'past'. More than a decade ago, we were "in love" but things didn’t work. We were both young and the relationship was full of drama (on his part mostly)! Most of our arguments were silly really, now that I think about it. One of the unforgettable dramas was when I walked out of our friend’s party because he was getting drunk and started saying stupid things. When I got home, it started to rain, then my roommates told me that he was at the gate asking for me. I told my roommates that he’s drunk and I wanted him to leave. He didn’t leave…instead he kept on calling my name and it was raining...he was soaked to the skin (di ba parang sine? hahaha)! My roommates were looking out the window feeling sorry for him, while I went to bed. Yes, I was a cold-hearted bitch! :D

I remember he liked being alone, and he was shy with strangers. People would mistake his shyness and reclusiveness for arrogance. I guess it was a convenient label slapped by those who see only the surface of things and nothing more. But alcohol loosened up his tongue---he would talk endlessly and sometimes, cry. It was like he had a split-personality disorder! He was this shy, thoughtful and gentle person when he's “normal” but after a few beers, he became a totally different person---nasty, jealous, offensive and just strange. He and his wife lookeed happy though…maybe she enjoys listening to his rants and could manage his psychotic breaks.

So there I was, sitting outside the doctor’s clinic, with a smug look on my face when he said goodbye. And I thought of my life now…a life of slightly unsettled contentment, all right in general but cut through with an aloneness that I simultaneously treasure and dislike. It’s a blend of contentment and weariness of being happy where I am and yet wishing I am somewhere else. But not with him, that’s for sure! I wish him and his family all the best.
Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you're really strangers.
~Mary Tyler Moore

Thursday, February 7, 2008

La Sombra del Viento

Around 2 pm on Sunday, I started reading a novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon called The Shadow of the Wind. I finished the book about 6:30, Monday morning. Walang tulugan! This novel is one of the most gripping stories I've ever read in a long time.

Set in postwar Barcelona, this stunning literary thriller is a celebration of friendship, of life's small triumphs in an unjust world. A love story, comedy, tragedy, suspense rolled into this marvelous adventure of a teenage boy, Daniel. The storytelling reminded me of Garcia-Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, the language captivating. I could feel the cultural texture of postwar Barcelona. I cried a bucket at the tragic love stories of Julian, Penelope, Nuria and Miguel. The sinister Fumero sent chills down my spine. Fermin's character is the most witty and most entertaining.

"Look, Daniel. Destiny is usually around the corner. Like a thief, like a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it."

I love the Cemetery of Forgotten Books! A mysterious crypt that houses the books that have lost their owners, books that are no longer remembered by anyone. I could almost smell the musty scent of old books in this labyrinth sanctuary, where a 10-year old Daniel pulls a single book to adopt as his own. Daniel's adopted book started an adventure that will unravel another man's tragedy and solve a mystery that has already taken many lives. All the characters in this story are colorful and interesting.

Grab a copy of this novel and plan to stay home this weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Milan experience

inside the Duomo di Milano
Milan and design. They go together like Dolce and Gabbana. Milan is the center of creativity in Europe, and when an American client invited me to meet them at the Macef International Home Show in Fiera Milano, I was beside myself with excitement. I bought a pocket Italian-English dictionary, practiced ‘grazie’ in front of the mirror, and I was ready to go!
After meeting the clients at Grand Hotel Verdi, Tess, my colleague, and I walked towards the exquisite Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a glass-roofed arcade with marble floors that was built in 1867. There are high-end stores, restaurants and cafes inside the galleria.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Our destination was the magnificent Duomo di Milano, an elaborate Gothic cathedral on the main square of Milan. Building this vast cathedral started in the 5th century, generations of kings and popes changed the design a couple of times that it took more than 400 years to complete. Breathtaking statues and intricate stained glass adorn the cathedral.

Duomo di Milano
back of the Duomo
Unfortunately, the Duomo was undergoing renovations and cleaning when we visited, scaffolding obscured its glorious façade.
a scary statue inside the cathedral

on the roof
We rode an elevator to reach the roof top of the Duomo. There are pinnacles punctuated by a grove of spires, topped with statues overlooking Milan. The intricate marble design was astoundingly mind-boggling.
Armed with a map, Tess and I decided to look for Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The famous painting is in the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie, a church built in the 14th century. Taking photographs was not allowed inside the museum. I noticed this wrought iron floor candelabrum in one of the church’s chambers.

My feet were already blistered by the time we arrived at the Castello Sforzesco, a castle built in the 14th century. The Castello houses several museums---works by Michaelangelo, Mantegna, Bellotto and Canaletto are displayed at The Museum of Ancient Art.

Castello Sforzesco

a park behind the Castello

At the far end of Castello Sforzesco is the Arch of Peace constructed in early 18th century. This arch was Napoleon’s idea to celebrate his victory but after his Waterloo, the arch was left unfinished until 1838.

Arch of Peace

Tess with the doves at the piazza

We met a lot of Pinoys in Milan…waiters, domestics, exchange students, wives of Italians and tourists. Our hotel manager enthused about the Thrilla' in Manila when he learned that we're from the Philippines. For a minute, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized he was talking about the Ali-Frazier boxing match in the 70's at the Araneta Coliseum. I remember my father going gaga over that match. Like Filipinos, Italians, I realized, are crazy about boxing.
We also chanced upon a Ferrari launching at the piazza where Tess was star-struck by F1 driver Michael Schumacher. She panicked and asked me to take his picture---alas, I didn’t know who Michael Schumacher was, didn't recognize him waving in front of me! I was busy admiring the cars and the drop-dead gorgeous Italian men all around.

dinner at the Galleria
with our Pinoy waiter and his boss

facade of our hotel
It was a short and memorable visit---my first taste of Europe. Shopping was out of the question because it was extremely expensive! After roaming the luxury shopping areas of Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via Sant Andrea, and drooling over the windows at Fashion Quadrilatero, we ended up shopping in Benetton’s outlet store! How can a peso-earner shop in an expensive city like Milan???? Sigh.
Tess and I comforted ourselves by drinking espresso at Zucca, and dining al fresco-Milan style.