rain. solitude. nabokov.

I love rainy days. It always gives me an opportunity to slow down and write more. I can be in my room, snuggling under my heavy comforter or walking along the wet and soggy streets and all of a sudden I see something or remember a word, an image, a place, and I can think of so many things to write about – the girl in the bus who always comes with smeared lipstick on her face, my crazy friend who calls me at 5 in the morning (I love him to death but God I could strangle him for disturbing my sleep!), how I’ve somewhat become a hoarder of all things Japanese (thanks to Mitsuwa Market), my never-ending imaginary list of things-to-do, my obsession with Thai food and cinnamon dolce latte. I could go on and on.

Forgive my nonsensical ramblings. It’s Saturday, I had just woken up from a blissful sleep, and outside its cold and drizzly. I wanted to put my empty balikbayan box in the garage but I decided to make hot green tea instead. Like I said before, I’ve acquired a liking to all things Japanese lately, including green tea. I’ve also gotten used to the solitude of early morning air, when my thoughts can wander off anywhere I want them to be.

So what did I really want to write about? Ah, I remember now. I was trying to organize some of my books and journals last night and I found this quote, from Nabokov’s A Letter that Never Reached Russia, which I think is a most fitting description of how I feel right now:

“My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry profoundly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds you in loneliness.”


Nobokov wrote this when he was in exile. And there are times when I feel like I am in exile too. Yet even during those times when I feel this way, I can still say that I am happy here, just a difficult sort of happiness. I say difficult because there’s always this unspoken yearning for the life I left behind (or the memories of it) and coming to terms with the reality that even if I do go back, it will never be the same again.

When I first came here, I had no idea what I wanted, only that I had to leave. I needed to understand myself better and I felt like the only way to do that was to move away from everything familiar and comfortable. And this is true. I learned more about myself in the past years that I’ve been here than the rest of my life before it. Yes, there’s a lot of confusion and some terrible winter nights in between, when all I wanted was to bask in the tropical sun with the people I love the most, but I’d rather go through all that again if only to arrive to a certain degree of clarity. At least now I already know what I want, or some of it anyways. The rest, I hope, I’ll figure out as I go along the way.

epiphany

It’s cold and rainy today. And because it rarely rains here in Southern California, I feel like the rain is a metaphor for change, for moving on. Or perhaps I am just feeling this way because I finally made up my mind about the questions that’s been bothering me for too long now. Like, where do I go from here?

I realized that I cannot keep on hesitating anymore, living my life half-heartedly, with a huge part of me wanting to do something else. It’s not good for me or to those around me, especially since I know that I am capable of so much more. And the world certainly deserves more.
.
So London it is.

playground love

This morning I was a part of a courtship of sorts. At the playground. With one of my kids.

His name is Joey and he’s 8-years old. After practicing his jumping jacks and hanging on the monkey bars, I told him that we have to go inside the classroom to work on his handwriting. He suddenly grew very quiet so I asked him what’s wrong, he said nothing, but he was staring somewhere on the other side of the playground.

After a couple of minutes, he finally told me that he doesn’t want to practice writing and that we should stay at the playground instead. Again, I asked him why. “Because my girlfriend is here”, he answered. Such an honest response. As if nothing is more important than simply being in the same place as the person you love.

So we decided to hang around at the playground for awhile, eyeing the group of girls where his ‘girlfriend’ was. I told him that we should go over and say 'hi' and then we really have to go back to his classroom. He seemed very cool about it at first, but as we approached the girls, he started hiding behind my back. I couldn’t help but smile. How many times have I acted like him before, all excited and giddy in anticipation but motionless and nervous in reality?

Since he suddenly turned mute on me, I had to do all the talking. I asked the girls who their names were, what class are they in, etc. I also asked if they wanted to play with us, they said okay, but when I turned around Joey had walked away and then he started running. When I eventually caught up with him, he was already close to his classroom. I said, “I thought you wanted to play with the girls.” He didn’t say anything but he was still staring at the playground.

Back in his classroom, he told me that he doesn’t want to practice writing because it’s so boring. “We’ll make it fun,” I promised. I suddenly had this exciting plan. So I asked him, “What if we’ll work on your upper case and lower case letters now so we can write a beautiful letter for Kate (the girl’s name) next week?”

He seemed to like this idea a lot. In fact, he was beaming.

Ah, young love.

it's the Oscars!

‘Tis that time of the year again and everyone in Hollywood is all psyched for this evening’s awards ceremony. And because I love going to the movies (and eating ice cream before or afterwards), I thought I should write about the ones that I really liked this year and the reasons why I loved them:


Brokeback Mountain
. By far the best film this year. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall both gave an amazing performance as Ennis and Jack, taking their audience right to the very heart of their characters. But more than the acting, it is the entirety of the story, the magnificent setting, and the poignancy of it all that makes this film really beautiful. For me, this is not just a ‘gay cowboy movie’ (which is unfortunate that a lot of people categorize it this way) – it’s really about life and the choices that you make and how you live with the consequences of those choices.
The last scene with Ennis said it all: he was inside his mobile home, alone and weather-beaten, gazing tenderly at those two overlapped shirts (with a postcard of Brokeback Mountain pinned beside it) and he said “Jack, I swear….” With so little words, this scene managed to portray a universal experience of love and loss and dealing with the consequences, an experience that could happen to anyone…it doesn’t matter if it is between two men, two women, or a man and a woman. And the fact that subtle nuances such as this were captured so vividly in a film is, for me, a rare cinematic achievement. Cheers to its director, Ang Lee, for his vision and daring. .

Dear Frankie
. An independent Scottish film that I unexpectedly came across
while reading a Borders book review. Very, very sweet. Its one of those small films that will tug at your heartstrings just because it’s so simple and so real and the characters are people that one can easily relate to. And I just love how its so full of little moments that will really stay with you and make you fall in love all over again.
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March of the Penguins. I love, love, love this documentary. From its opening scene to its slow fade-out (and Morgan Freeman’s beautiful voice), I was completely spellbound. There are so many things that I want to write about the emperor penguins but I’ll reserve them for later, when I finally get to see the entire features of its DVD. For now, all I can say is that if there’s any film, documentary or otherwise, that you should definitely watch, this has got to be it.

Match Point
. At first I can’t make up my mind if I like this movie or not, but it will surely make you think, even long after you leave the theater. The story is well-written, very unpredictable and full of twists and turns. And eventhough it is morally disturbing (for me at least), I also think that it’s a microcosm of today’s society – how people would manipulate each other to get what they want, how relationships are so arbitrary, and how, to some extent, everything depends on luck. Plus, there’s Jonathan Rhes-Meyers who is such a good actor and a joy to watch on the silverscreen (I liked him since Bend it Like Beckham).


Pride and Prejudice
. I love the novel by Jane Austen and for years I’ve always wanted to be like Elizabeth Bennet (complete with a Mr. Darcy of my own, hehe). These two are easily my favorite characters: intelligent, well-read, and very introspective…and I just love how they can really talk to each other, even when they thought they hated each other (their verbal sparrings are precious!). As for this film, I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation.
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Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
. This is a very lighthearted chic flick (also adapted from a book) which reminds me of my own ‘sisterhood’, our shared memories, and the crazy things that we do in the name of love (Laile, remember asuka-asuka?). And yeah, I’m biased because I’ve always dreamed of going to Santorini.

Update 3/23:
The Constant Gardener. I just saw this movie recently and I can’t believe it didn’t win a major award (well, except for Rachel Weisz who won Best Supporting Actress). Its soooo beautiful. The music is haunting, the cinematography is great and you’ll be amazed by how beautiful (geez, I should stop using this word) Africa is. But more importantly, the story is socially relevant. The writer should've used a more catchy title though :P.

catching up

I can’t believe winter is almost over. Where did all the time go? I guess February came and went away while I was too busy whining about work and second-guessing my decisions. But you’ll be proud of me, I actually managed to make up my mind for once and I am going home in April. Forget about my future plans for now, or the fact that the Philippine government is still reeling from the latest coup attempt (what else is new, right?), I’m going home and I couldn’t be happier!

This past month has been very interesting. So many things happened, both highs and lows, and I feel like I could write a short story. Let’s see, I can call it “The Art of Calling in Sick and Taking Pictures of the Sky” or “How to Avoid Dancing with Sleazy-Men-Who-Look-Like-Five-Year-Olds and Laugh About it Afterwards” (this is actually Neeha’s brilliant idea, hehe). I could also write about the plays we watched and the books that I’ve read, especially since as a proof of my geekness, I bought the complete collection of Marcel Proust’s A la recherch√© du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), and my mind is already spinning from reading too much of his freewheeling prose. Proust’s writing is amazing, no doubt about it, but its not your typical literature, there’s just way too many words, which reminds me of Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road, only this time Proust is writing about France circa 1890, which is definitely harder to picture than Kerouac’s adventures in 1950s America. Also, reading Proust is an experience to be savored every step of the way, not hurried like what I’m doing now. And did I really think I could finish Swann’s Way in a week? I must be more deluded than I thought!

What else?

Well, I also realized that my mood definitely improves with the sun, my hair is so much better when it’s layered (yes, I had a haircut, again thanks to Neeha), and ‘The Boy’ is, and will always be, beautiful. Unsaon. Funny how after all this time it all comes back to this:


Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
You are far way too, oh farther than anyone.
Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
burying lamps.
~ from Neruda’s Thinking,Tangling Shadows


I want to wish that things could have been different, that maybe there’s more to it than just a simple ‘goodbye’. But the truth is, our lives are so divergent (and literally worlds apart) and I don’t think there’s anything that I could have said or done that will change that. End of story.


Now on to more cheerful thoughts.


After two-something years, I am finally reunited with my dear, dear friends: Grace and Tata, Bachang, Machai and Dede and my beautiful goddaughter Drew. On the surface, we all seem so grown up now, starting our new lives in this so-called Land of Milk and Honey but deep inside I know we’re still the same old carefree crew. It was fun to hang out with everyone, catch up on the latest chika, and exchange anecdotes about our college days (nothing beats Bachang’s infamous letter :P). Of course, in a true candeng-candeng she-kid fashion, I had to harass this poor actor from the show Arrested Development, all for the love of Machai. Good thing the kid was nice and he gamely posed for a photo op with Mai, even in his hideous shirt!

and speaking of photos...

Here's some that I took at Manhattan Beach, thanks to my Canon Digital Elph:

The Strand. I may not be a huge fan of L.A. but I've always loved Manhattan Beach and taking long walks by the ocean. There's a little comfort in knowing that the Philippines is just right across the Pacific, that somehow I am still connected to my islands this way.
. Lone Surfer Boy. I love how you can see the pier in the background and how the image of the boy blended perfectly with the colors of the ocean.

Chasing Waves. This is definitely my favorite shot. It reminds me of my childhood and how I used to stay under the sun for hours, playing with my siblings on the Saavedra coastline. I miss those days!