Saturday, July 29, 2006

Travel-writing

Oh, I suck at travel writing. I just find myself at a loss for the exact words I should be using to describe the moment. But I will still try, to practice. And it had been after all, my first trip to Mindanao. :)

July 24

Manila, at this moment, is a wet dog. Typhoon Florita is up at arms and all about Luzon. When I left for the airport this morning, I had to contend with the heavy rains, strong winds and flood. The storm wasn't bad enough to cancel flights though, thankfully.

The airport was buzzing with activity. You'd think it was just a normal day if not for the airconditioning turned on low and us still slowly freezing to death inside the pre-departure area. My thick jacket was barely enough to keep me from turning to solid ice. It took us a long time to be seated, and for the first time in my life, I wanted to flee from the extreme cold.

Imagine my amazement then when a fat ray of sunlight coming through my window seat flooded the airplane upon landing in Cagayan de Oro! I don't like the sun too much, but with my consumptive lungs today, I had never been happier to bask under its warmth. From Cagayan de Oro, we drove for an hour and a half to reach Lugait, Misamis Oriental where the Holcim Staff House was.

What a place! This is NOTHING like PBSP's staff accomodations. I was imagining an old, derelict house ridden with cobwebs and stuffy furniture. But what greeted us was a sprawling estate which has its own pool, tennis courts, basketball court, a clubhouse with billiards and karaoke in it plus a well-kept garden! The trees here are wonderful and the air was good for my lungs. To top it all off, the staff house was facing the sea! The SEA!

I think, I'm going to like this. I really think I will. :)


July 25

I have a feeling this place is haunted by a woman ghost. I think I saw her amongst the trees at the back of the house. I'm not really sure. The way it happens now is it only registers to me that I have seen something when my mind plays back the events of the day before I fall asleep. So last night, the first unbidden but quite persistent image that came to me was of a woman I saw looking out from a branch of the tree out back. She didn't look scary like my last encounter with a woman ghost. She was actually beautiful. She had mestisa skin and her hair was long and black. I could see her bare shoulders but the tree branch covers everything else. I can't be sure if she was wearing anything at all. She was looking at me and when I met her eyes, a wave of sadness came over me. She really is sad. It was a quiet desolation though. I cannot feel animosity or hate. She was just staring.


July 26

I had a strange dream last night. The first dream was pleasant because I dreamt I was given a car. It was white, and looked a little like Mr. BEan's car. But the logo it had proclaims it to be a BMW 5 -6.7 liters (haha!). Yes. That was written at the back. It even says it runs on diesel. I was ecstatic. Then I became worried. I don't have a license yet. It didn't stop me from tryin to drive though. I am sure I can drive, I just have to pray doubly hard not to commit any violations so the police won't find out my license-less state. At this point, I woke up. It was 4 am and I felt like I have lost something that makes me happy. Then I realized that in this world, I don't own that car.

I slept again, and this time, the theme was about going home. The place was a mixture of INtramuros and Anywhere-else. I had an errand to run, and upon accomplishing it I had to bring home people on a boat. I just wanted to get the job done so I could drive my car which by then has turned into a pick-up truck.

There was a lot of water in that dream. Rivers were pouring down the streets. It was like a monster Venice.


July 27

Our hosts confirmed that there is a ghost in the staff house. A woman. They call her Marikit (which translates to "Pretty" in English). No other name could suit her, I believe. She was beautiful. She'd been seen here and about by the staff. She was thought to haunt the lower rooms and once or twice they received testimonials that people awoke with the feeling of being strangled. My first thought was, I'm sure happy we're not billeted there. But then...

That can't be the woman I've seen? She didn't look harmful at all. I am more inclined to think she was a tree spirit rather than a vengeful ghost.

There must be two supernatural entities here. God knows, there might be more.

But over here at the land of the living, one happy trooper went on a trip to the Maria Cristina Falls in Lanao del Norte. She'd only read about the falls in her Sibika text books and encountered the name during examinations. Now, this trooper has seen it with her own eyes. Now she can tell her kids, yeah, that place, I've been there. And instead of vague suppositions on how the water is used to energize its surrounding cities, she can actually describe how many buildings there were and what the hydroelectric plant looked like. Above all, she can describe the raging power of the current, and how the water falls was majestic and beautiful and terrifying to behold.

==--==--==--==--==

When we got back to Lugait, Gilda and I went on our own to pay homage to the sea. We slipped from the staff house, crossed the highway and trespassed to the abandoned wharf. We spent two hours combing the beach for pretty stones and shells. Then we walked down the slippery seaweed-y wharf at the risk of breaking our necks or drowning in the deep sea. I was terribly afraid that one of us will meet an accident and no-one is nearby to help. But, I also think that was why our mini-adventure was entirely worth it. Nothing is as beautiful as something scary.

We watched the sun set over the sea. The whole expanse of it was just water--- lovely, clean, blue water. The horizon was not hampered by any sight of land. The sea there truly is endless. :)

Standing there, near the sea, near the sun, near endlesness and uncertainty, near mystery and death, I don't think I have ever felt more alive.


July 28

Home again!

There wasn't a more welcoming sight than the cluttered, disorganized and cluttered urban sprawl of Manila as seen from above. It ain't purty, but it sure looks like home.

Oh, to rest! To go home to my books! Lovely.

Next week, I'd be back to reality. But that's two whole days from now. For now, I will calm my nerves and rest.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dropping a Note

Book in Hand: Round the Fire Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Song in Mind: I Wanna KNow What Love Is

Right now, I'm in Iligan City in Misamis Oriental, a place only as as foreign as Bulacan is to me. Nothing extraordinary here, save for the fact that they have a port and they are beside the sea. It also seems fat people are a novelty here because my walking down the street is already a cause for people to watch me proceed. What? Maybe they are half expecting that I'll have a heart attack right in front of their eyes and that would be the most exciting thing that could happen in this sleepy city.

Ha.

Anyway, I'm starting to discover that if I do ever become desperate for a husband, I should head to the mountains or to Mindanao and I'd have a 52.45% chance to be married off. Just my inability to comprehend the Bisaya dialect is cause for the guys here to be especially protective, baka daw mabenta kami sa Intsik sa palengke. Sayang, walang gwapo. Pero kung desperado nga, diba? Hay, matagal pa ang future na yan. Masaya pa ako na bine-baby at wala pa sa utak ko ang magka-baby.

Hindi tulad ni Gilda na bawat sandali ata ay nagbubuntong-hininga. "Hay, wab ko."

Sheesh. God forbid I'd ever go down cheesy lane again. It's cute on Gilda, but I think I'll choke first before that happens to me. Do you know that she's already describing her wedding gown to me? And how she wants to get married? Maybe, that fortune teller is right. There still is a high chance she'd be married by the end of this year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for her and I'm glad she tells me these things. It's just that it makes me realize how I cannot do it. I cannot fall in love. Kahit na akala ko na-inlove na ako. And being flirted at here isn't helping to ease away the disgusted feeling. No. I won't. Ever. Be taken in. Again.

But Gilda says I'm just saying that now. And when the right guy comes, I'd probably change my mind in a second. Let's just see.

From the sound of my entry, you'd think we're not doing work here. But we are still part of the Training Team. Thing is, I don't feel like I'm working. This part of the PBSP job, I do love. Travel plus new people plus progress. Here, people listen to our inputs and believe its important. If my everyday work can just be like this, I think I'd be happier. And saner.

I even had happy dreams last night, even if I'm exhausted to the bones. That's saying something right?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How the Poor Bet Their Stakes

I had been fortunate enough to assist in the facilitation of a training for a large cement manufacturing corporation this past week. Aside from the fact that the training place is only an hour away from my house, I also quite ejoyed the free transportation and free food. The participants were members of the community nearest their cement plant, and their classification varied, from municipal officers to simple housewives.

The session which a colleague and I handled was on Stakeholder Analysis, where we asked the participants to do an exercise which we believed would emphasize the point of multi-stakeholdership. After randomly grouping the book to ensure that the officers and the commonfolks were mixed, we asked them to construct a tower out of simple materials which we would barter to them. Their currency? Items that can be found on their body. Jewelry, pants, skirt, shirts, blouses, underwear and yes, even their false teeth. Important items like cartolina and Manila paper were priced high, while less obvious materials like pentel pens and crayons (which you don't need to construct a paper tower) were priced low. We gave them ten minutes to barter with us and then we closed shop. Then we gave them fifteen minutes to construct their masterpiece.

The glaring fact was this, the simple folks were the ones who gave up most of their belongings as compared to those who were considered well-to-do. A school teacher gave up her false teeth. Some of the farmers in the groups were bare to their, well, bare essentials. They literally gave the shirt off their backs. On the other hand, the officers were less eager to give anything of themselves. They just sacrificed their jewelry, shoes, socks and the occasional handkerchief.

There were a lot of lessons they could have learned during that exercise, most of it on planning and illustrating the need for unity and partnerships, but the lesson for ME is this: For the dream, the poor will give almost anything. They pour all they've got into it, trusting those they consider more educated to direct their efforts. This boomerangs, of course, most of the time, especially when the "learned one" starts seeing her/himself as the leader even if she / he is ignorant of what actually needs to be done. In one group, all the old men were shivering without their shirts and shoes on, but their tower never stood up. They gave the planning part to the officer who was with them, and she was quite simply inept.

If they only empowered each other, their story might have been a different one.

3 Little Pigs

wink, wink! ;)

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Lady in the Water

Water.

Too much of it can make you sick. Take me for example. After that blatantly incongruous birthday celebration held in Malabon, where we had to battle with the typhoon FLorita and dubious looking brackish floods within the vicinity, I landed myself a stuffed nose, bleeding raw throat from coughs and the occasional fever once every three days.

Yes. A week after the big bang celebration (which turned into the big booboo), I am still sick. I keep hacking up green mucus (disgusting, I know), and talking and standing up makes me nauseated. Last night, I had a fever again.

But I'm not as depressed as I ought to be because I treated my poor, sick self to a movie. And just like a druggie, I can't get enough of water. Fittingly, I watched M. Night Shymalan's Lady in the Water.

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Shivering from the cold and whatnot, I sat in my seat with a glazed look in my eyes. It did not lift until after the movie has ended. Yes, I have heard not so favorable reviews about this film, but my opinion is: It's just right up my alley. After all, I'm just a little girl inside, who loves bedtime stories.

The story is about a middle-aged building manager Cleveland Heep who found a water nymph in the pool. The nymph, which in the movie was called a narf, is trying to seek out the writer who she was supposed to inspire. The writer was portrayed by M. himself (I was surprised to realize the guy's actually handsome in a dark-Prince-of-India way.) After seeing the writer, she was supposed to go back to their Blue World. Unfortunately, there was a big bad wolf determined to kill her. So what Cleveland does is to rally up the tenants of the apartments to help the little narf go home.

Talking about it now, I find it quite silly. Logic tells me, the movie does not make any sense. The critic in me cringes at every idiosyncracy made apparent on-screen: the noisy, screechy Chinese girl and her mother, the stereotypical Latinos and Brits, the simply slow flow of the movie, not to mention the disjointed presentation of the fabricated mythology. It tells me, this is not a good movie. But I am terminally biased about Shyamalan's movies. The six-year-old in me likes them a lot. The twelve year-old in me thinks he's a genius. The 24-year-old in me can only sense the magic that I am sure I would have seen if I were any younger and less jaded. I pick up on the eerie, magical things he's scattered throughout his films and I understand what he's trying to say.

He's saying Believe.

Critics say that the only genius of this director is creating hype. They are right. Whether or not M. is a supernaturally-aware person, he's taken the stuff out of stories and made them watchable for today's audiences. And since hype is the only way you could get people to listen nowadays, he uses it as his medium for advocacy.

The film is not for everyone. Those looking for the usual wham-bam-glitter of the blockbuster movies would not find it here. Shyamalan antagonists would have a field day throwing rotten tomatoes at this one.

But if you can watch a movie just for the story, if you love the night and the water...
risk your heart on this one.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

this is what i did to distract myself

1. I watched Pirates of the Carribean 2, and decided it is safe to have a crush on Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom at the same time. The movie was a little murky, but I guess the action is all there. Beats the boring Superman Returns anytime.

2. Bought 10 books over the weekend trying to think it will make me feel better. My book total has now reached 1,802 and I am becoming more convinced that my room will be the first to be blackened out if ever our house catches fire (God forbid).

3. Was happy for about five minutes when I was told by my friend that the anniversary issue of Total Woman magazine was already out last Saturday and it features my article. I mean, c'mon, this is a first for me. Published and paid for it. Sure, it was just a silly movies review, but hey, I'll take anything just to feel justified for calling myself a writer. More than the pay, it's a milestone.

4. Wrote a book review for Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and sent it to the My Favorite Book contest of Philippine Star. Anything for the P 5,000 worth of gift certificates from National Bookstore. Next book review would be Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

5. Wondered when I would ever start my short story collection. Or if I ever could. May I tell you a bit about it? Well, it'll be about falling asleep. All of them. Various states of being asleep and awakening. The working title of the primary story is, "We Who Have Fallen Asleep" taken from the Bible. Yep, you know, those five foolish maidens and five wise ones who fell asleep while waiting for the master of the house to arrive? Then he comes in the middle of the night and the five foolish girls had to go out and replenish their lamps' oil and wick. Then they came back too late and they get barred from the house forever. I'm adapting that. I'll try.

Well, this is life, isn't it? One should just try. I hope next week, I'll sound happier to you guys. Don't want to scare you to death or anything, but in this blog, I just can't help but show my true feelings. I am truest when I write. Which is unfortunate for you guys.

Til the next time then.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

what a girl wants

Recently, somebody asked me what job do I really want and what I can do.

My heartfelt answer was, "I don't know!" This was seconded by my brain who said a nasty, "I don't have what it takes to be anything good; It's the attitude." The only thing that saved me from forever branding myself as a loser is this third voice which told me, "I know what I want and can do; I just have to pursue it."

The dilemma is the balancing of three factors which I have to consider: passion, ability, and compensation.

I used to think that I have the passion for development work and I built my ability to do so. But after three years into it, the fuel is slowly oozing out of me. I'm finding myself stranded in a sea of paperworks and projects that does not interest me. But I can hardly choose the projects assigned to me, and the choices are alike anyway. I don't see myself as an urban poor program officer either, since I'd have to be made of tougher stuff which drains me emotionally. And after yesterday's fiasco in Malabon, I don't think I'm a project officer as well. I desperately want to be like the others in my team: sure of themselves, efficient, dedicated. I cleaved to the job because I thought if I held on long enough, learned enough and endured enough, I would also grow to be like them. I realized though that the longer I stay here, the more I degenerate into an unthinking wuss who's working on automatic pilot for most the time.

Thing is, whether I like the tasks or not, the job compensates well. As long as I'm stuck here, I am assured that my parents will have free health cards which we are increasingly dependent upon. I get a monthly salary that is just enough to help make ends meet at home. The last thing my family needs is to suffer the loss of one more source of financial support. I can't lose this job because the whole family needs it. And the other things I do want to do will not guarantee a fresh supply of money every fortnight.

This is my daily incantation:

As a teacher, I don't have the proper qualifications yet and I barely have the energy to take classes on top of the job I have. As an adminstrative clerk, I would be bored to smithereens. As a call center agent, I won't end up servicing much because I hate selling stuff and I deplore bugging people. I also don't think telling people how to fix their VCR or how to operate their washing machine would do much for my interests.

In some ways, my brain is right. It's the right attitude I lack. But compare these jobs to those below, which aren't financially rewarding but attracts me nonetheless and you'd see why I hesitate to settle:

1. A play school teacher -- 2 weeks ago, I was in Gymboree in Shangrila Mall with my cousin. There were three girls on the afternoon shift and they get to play with the kids and the kids love them. I'm sure the job doesn't pay much, but I envied them because the kids were surrounding them while shrieking with glee.

2. Bookshop employee and finally a book shop owner -- to be surrounded with all those books! To catalog them and put them on the shelves. To be able to recommend them to people. The joy of it.

3. A librarian --- see above

4. A pre-school owner -- my best friend and I have actual plans for this but I lack the capital start-up. I took up a job so I could save up for it, but whoopeee... hard times hit and I still don't have an iota of savings to my name.

5. A writer -- who can actually write and be published.


This difficulty of making what I want and can do to what can pay and help my family meet depresses the hell out of me. I don't need the expert advise of a shrink to tell me I am actually suffering from clinical depression. The symptoms are all around me. I don't think I'm supposed to know I am sick, but a part of my brain can still rationalize, as if separate from this confusion and blackness I am mired in.

If I think as a psychologist, the answer to my problems are so clear. Get a mental overhaul. But as me, stuck here, I can't see my way out. I really can't. I keep asking for help, but everyone sees me as a veritable Jolli-bee that they discount my pleas as melodrama. I can't blame them because when I'm feeling good and settled, the darkness that overwhelms me seems unreal too. But when I hit the ground, the task of enduring hour after hour is painful, grinding to the bone, exhausting to the last drop of marrow. The thickness of it asphyxiates me, the wall closes around me. I can't see any other way out but terminal sleep. I'm telling you now. I need help but I don't kow what. And if you come to me offering advice, I would probably just grin and say I'm okay. The direness of it is real though. I have a tin can full of expired medicines in my drawer, the next time my insanity hits I might actually be foolish enough to down them all.

Such a long entry. And all i wanted to say was

HELP.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

just my standard everyday questions

to borrow from my favorite song:

where is the passion when you need it the most?
whatever happens to magic that's lost?
if i died young would i have been happier?
what have i done to make my life so much harder to swallow?

unfortunately, I don't think a holiday is all I would be needing though. major life overhaul would be more like it. i feel stuck and lost and tired. overused, underpaid, overworked. people expects too much, i can't get anywhere fast enough.

talk about a bad day.

geez, talk about a bad year.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Water Girl

A forester I am not.

Yesterday, I joined a tree planting activity in the mountains of La Union and did not even meet my quota of 10 seedlings. Yep, a measly 1-0 was all that was required and I barely planted 7. Barely, because the 7th seedling was probably just half submerged when I chose to save my neck instead of saving the watershed.

I have no problem with digging and getting my hands dirty. It's the climbing mountainous terrains I have a problem with. Yesterday's site wasn't extremely hard, but I don't have the feet nor the confidence to go with the steep incline. I noticed that the really good mountain hikers move quickly. They don't negotiate footholds like I do ; you'd think I was discussing the probability of a peace pact with an al-Qaeda chief. I think for some five seconds, I understood how it feels to be completely useless.

I stuck out in the forest like a sore thumb. I felt like a beach ball dejectedly enduring the alien presence of grass and insects. Good thing we went back somewhere near the sea afterwards. It felt good to walk by the shore and to get my feet wet. The waves were strong and the urge to submerge myself was stronger, but I didn't have the necessary wardrobe so I politely declined King Neptune's invitation. Maybe someday I'd learn to swim and I'd find less hesitation to go deep.

The sea scares me to death, but I'll take it anytime. From what I've seen in my amateur probings of its contents, there must be whole kingdoms underneath. Mountains, I'd probably never like climbing, although I love a good top view of the world just as the next person does. But there wouldn't be that awe; I wouldn't have that mystified reverence I can only hold for water.

Death by drowning. I'd be terrified, but I'd be willing. That way, the element I love the most would completely claim me and maybe then, I would finally belong.

Of Mice and Men

Prozac’s secret disclosed

"In a recent study, researchers from an American laboratory claim to have discovered the way in which the anti-depressant drug, Prozac functions on the brain. Prozac has been around for 18 years but this is the first time scientists have been able to explain the working of the drug. It has been common knowledge that Prozac (fluoxetine) alleviates the symptoms of depression by stimulating the growth of brain cells. But how it does this has never been known until now. Scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Long Island conducted a research that enabled them to finally understand the mechanism of the drug. The examination was carried out on mice specially bred by Grigori Enikolopov and his colleagues."


Tsk, tsk. These uncommon heroes, these unwitting victims, these mice.

How many of your breed, of Mickey, have died in the name of Science? How many mothers weep, Minnie, everytime they inject viscuous fluid into those tiny, extremely furry bodies?

I mock you not. I'm just wondering why.

True, I don't care a lot for rats. If anything, I detest them. But you have to give them some acknowledgement for sticking around as long as they have, even if it's only because they reproduce so rapidly.

But why Mice?

"Among the animals used in research, teaching, and testing, mice comprise a majority of all experimental mammals. The remarkable genetic similarity of mice to humans, combined with great convenience, perhaps accounts for mice so often being the experimental model of choice in research. Mice also are used to test new procedures and drugs for safety, as required by an array of federal regulations. Another primary use of mice is for the production of biological reagents, such as monoclonal antibodies and vaccines. Mice are small and inexpensive to maintain. Their short life span and rapid reproductive rate make it possible to study disease processes in many individuals throughout their life cycle."

O-ho! Hello there! Another mammalian cousin! I wonder what anti-evolutionists would say about that, huh?

Monkeys are starting to look pretty good now, aren't they? :)

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

I wonder what my fixation about evolution is? I started out wanting to talk about Prozac, that's how I came across the research. Why Prozac? Because I thought I needed it. But after reading this article, it left me trying to remember if I've come across some extremely happy, frolicsome mice and rats these days and I realize I haven't. :) Suffering then must truly be more than just a human condition. It must be some kind of universal crap that goes around and comes around.

Hehe. Strange, but that makes me a tinge happier than I was five minutes before. :)