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Endgame


I swear I'm going to cry when this scene makes it to Avengers Endgame.

It's the end of an era. I'm already tearing up just thinking about it! I'm both excited and incredibly sad that the MCU as we know it is about to end (or change - tremendously.) But it's been an incredible ten-year ride thus far. The entire franchise has told us so many compelling stories, shown incredible skill in filmmaking, reignited people's love for comic books and science fiction, and brought to life a lot of our childhood dreams and aspirations. They say it's silly to look up to fictional characters, especially ones that are as unrealistic as these superheroes. But at the end of the day, they really are not that much different. If there is anything I learned in all the movies I've watched and comics I've read in the last decade or so (and trust me, they're a LOT - my hard drives can attest to that!) it's this: evil may exist in all forms and all kinds, but there is so much more kindness, and compassion, and goodness in the world. It's in us. In our friends, our families. In strangers. It's inside even the most unexpected of people. It's there. We just have to keep trying to look for it, and let that goodness lead the way.

Whatever it takes.

I can't wait! Aaaaaaah! *Avengers theme song intensifies*



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Standout Songs: "Overkill" on Scrubs




In Episode 1 of the second season of Scrubs, JD tries to deal with the consequences of the night before, following confessions of feelings and admissions of guilt between his friends and co-workers. It's a tricky web of people sleeping with each other and/or secretly having feelings for each other. Basically, it's JD who has to bear the brunt of the fall out. (In particular, JD is gutted that his mentor [and reluctant "quasi-father figure" *insert signature growl*) Dr. Cox found out about him sleeping with Cox's ex-wife, Jordan. On top of that, he feels burdened by the knowledge that Elliot still has unresolved feelings for him. His personal drama gets in the way of his work, and leads him to "forget" about checking on Mr. Zerbo, one of the patients assigned to him.)

At this point in the series, the audience has gotten to know the characters well enough to become invested in their relationships with each other. But it is actually the first time that we see our Sacred Heart gang actually get hurt as a consequence of all their actions - and omissions. This is a comedy, first and foremost, but very early on in its run, Scrubs has realized that it does itself great favors when it takes giant strides at allowing their characters to not just be funny, but be real and emotional. When there is an acknowledgment of real hurt, even at the expense of a few seconds of comedy, consequent jokes land better as a result, because the audience understands that humor is actually used in context to heal, not some cheap device to earn some laughs.

Scrubs embraces its introspective narrative. For instance, take a look at its typical episode format: JD has voiceovers in the beginning and end to share his thoughts or wrap up a good lesson about life (and the medical practice). But it also acknowledges the importance of music to further emphasize these moments of rumination. Throughout its run, Scrubs gets better at selecting songs to imprint specific sentiments into the mind of the audience. The show is a definite favorite of mine because of its writing (great pacing, fully realized characters, brilliant sense of humor), but a good portion of my affection for it is also brought about by its soundtrack. From this show, I picked up some truly memorable tracks which, though not always within the genre I lean towards (i.e. not a lot of rock here), I have grown to truly appreciate.

Enter "Overkill" by Colin Hay. This is probably the most illustrative of Scrubs' ability to weave comedy and emotion into one quirky but still meaningful script. Here, we see JD and Turk walking on their way to work. The opening lyrics come in, and almost immediately we see singer Colin Hay by a bench, actually singing the song. It gets quirkier: JD sees him. In the beginning, it elicits from the audience a "WTF" reaction almost similar to JD when he thinks he's possibly imagining the guy. And then throughout the day, as the consequences of the fallout with his friends make themselves more apparent, Colin Hay (and the song) pops up in random places throughout the hospital, singing random verses on random occasions. As if on cue, the song will jump into the scene and mirror the confusion, despair, and anxiousness of JD. It starts off as funny and ends up being completely substantial to the episode to drive a point home, which is: it all gets better. "Ghosts appear and fade away." It will all be okay... eventually.

The clip I'm attaching here is actually one that already stitched together Colin Hay's scenes through out the episode, thereby completing the song. As posted, it encapsulates the essence of a typical Scrubs episode: starting out with JD concerned about the decisions he's made, personally or professionally, and ending with him realizing something valuable. Life is often difficult, funny, or both. But sometimes, all it takes is a little introspection, an acknowledgment of the struggle - and a really good song in the background - for things to fall back into place.

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"My Overkill"
From Scrubs
Episode: 2 x 01
Writer: Bill Lawrence
Director: Adam Bernstein
Air date: September 26, 2002

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(Just randomly had the idea of writing about my favorite music moments in TV and movies. Yeah, apparently, driving through rush hour traffic does that to you. You suddenly have so much time to think about your old to-write lists! I have a few more written down, so let's see if I can keep this one up. For TV, I have a couple of favorites from sitcoms [because comedies are the smartest thing on television, #fightme], and a few more from movies that are slightly more varied in genre.)





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You'll be out of the dark, yeah you'll get your shot







Still a favorite after all these years. It never gets old; I never get tired of it. I can't count the times this song has pushed me out of bed, driven me to work, led me to ten thousand steps under the glow of business district lights, made me feel less alone and terrible, pushed me to my limits and embraced endings just as much as beginnings.

The chorus is a play on the words "son" and "sun." Quite literally, the singer tells the story of his wife giving birth while in the backseat of his car on the way to the hospital, hence "son's gonna rise." It's a pretty clear scenario. But the wordplay and the imagery that follows the homophonous similarity - that the "sun" is going to rise - is what echoes much more loudly for me. The sun, at any moment now, will crest on the horizon. Better things lie ahead, and the light cannot come soon enough.

I've been running, driving, reading for leisure - thing I haven't done in years - and it all feels new. But then, it all feels right too. Baby steps, small joys, silver linings - getting by one day at a time. Maybe this is just how it is to be a better version of myself. Still the same, but not quite.

Sun's gonna rise, Karla.

In a mile, you'll be feeling fine.



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Music of the Night


Last night, Louie and I watched The Phantom of the Opera at the Theatre at Solaire. It was our way of capping off his birthday month, which was primarily spent on going to museums, eating, drinking, and me perpetually singing off-key in the passenger seat (what's new?!) This time, I have all the more reason to keep singing (much to his... dismay? delight? defeat?) because we finally got to watch one of my favorite musicals together.



Fun fact: I've seen Phantom on stage three times now. First, in 2009, at The Venetian in Las Vegas. with my family. It was such a spectacle because the theater itself was created for Phantom, which meant it felt like the spectators were actually inside the Paris Opera Garnier. The highlight of that show was the chandelier, which was gigantic and loomed above the audience like a haunting menace, as if an actual character itself to the show. Then, in 2012, we watched the Phantom tour in Manila, at the CCP. I remember being impressed by the touring singers and finding them much better suited to the Phantom and Christine of my expectations than the actors from the Las Vegas show. We had better seats in Vegas though (right under the chandelier!), which I think made the Manila experience less exciting for me.

So why watch again? My affinity for this musical is mostly due to my parents' influence. "All I Ask of You" was my mom and dad's wedding song. I grew up listening to the Broadway cast recording because my parents would play it occasionally on weekends. So even though I was only really allowed to find out about the plot when I saw the 2004 movie starring Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler as a teenager (my parents felt that the content was too mature for me), I can remember being familiar to the opening chords to "The Phantom of the Opera" back from childhood. I knew the songs even before I had an idea about the story.

But I think it's also because it's a spectacle where I can just sit back and enjoy everything as it unfolds. I feel like, for the most part, as a former student of literature, I'm wired to consume art with a lot of empathy, a lot of "looking at things from a certain perspective" to make it more three-dimensional. As we've been taught to do, my literary-criticism glasses automatically activate once I watch, listen, or read anything.




Sometimes though, it's just fun to watch things you don't have to analyze and can't relate to. I'm nowhere near a qualified singer, I have no mysterious "Angel of Music" obsessing over my voice and kidnapping me to make me his bride, no devoted Raoul promising his love while a phantom eavesdrops behind the gargoyles. It's such a ridiculously menacing but enthralling Gothic ride. I can relate to none of it - and that's what makes it so enjoyable. I can sit back and not feel any emotions for the characters, and it's fine.

Which isn't to say none of them are written convincingly. They are. But I just do not see myself relating to any of the groteseque or horror characters, and I'm perfectly happy with that. As it is, I can enjoy the music and the set design and the story, without having to worry about emotional or sociological repercussions about what the whole plot tries to achieve. True, the Phantom as a character can be considered problematic - but he's based on a GOTHIC CHARACTER. Every character in that era is almost always problematic or idiotic (haha). Moreover, it's a musical written in the 1980s. It's meant to be menacing but in histrionics. Andrew Lloyd Webber (and Gaston Leroux) cannot possibly be faulted here.

Say what you can about the score, but I absolutely love the entire soundtrack. Always have, always will. The electric guitar riffs peppered all throughout the theme song just takes the cake for me. I have no doubt that if a mysterious Phantom fetches me in my dreams and lets me sing all the layers of that song (melody, rhythm, etc), he'll crash a chandelier over my head in an instant. But he will not be able to fault me for not trying, because I know that song word for word, note for note! And I will never get tired of it. Same with "All I Ask of You" and "Think of Me" which I will gladly sing to anyone even if they don't ask for it (or specifically ask me not to, lol). The entire soundtrack is just such a joy to sing, even though they are extremely difficult. I think the actors from last night's production were great and a lot better than I was expecting. Though I did find Raoul a bit too antagonistic for my taste, and Phantom far more compelling than menacing. But I chalk that up to the director's interpretation and not the actors' failure.  I also love that the theater was small enough to make the staging intimate yet creepy at just the right instances. Although we were seated in the right side of the orchestra section, we didn't feel like we missed out on a lot considering our view.




And the chandelier! For me, nothing can compare to the Las Vegas production's three (or was it four??)-tier chandelier, but this one was much better staged than the first Manila run, because it kind of loomed over the audiences as well. Goosebumps-inducing once the score begins after the first scene at the auction. The way it rose from the stage pa lang, solb na ako eh!

Coming from a huge fan, it's really something worth going out of your way and seeing. It's dark and seductive and thrilling. I highly recommend it, because it's a great first foray into Broadway for the uninitiated and a classic one worth revisiting for musical fans. I hear it's been extended until April, so there's still a chance.




Only downside to this is that now Louie will be forced to hear me belting out a la Christine even though ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is saying "Sing for meeeee!" Fortunately, my voice can shatter a thousand chandeliers as well, so if anything, at least I'm just taking inspiration from the material. He can't really complain.





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Marrakesh Treaty: More access to books for the visually-impaired


I almost never write about work, but here's a piece of news related to my practice which I believe merits a post in my blog. Especially since it concerns two things that I feel passionate about: reading, and our citizens' access to books.

Have you ever wondered about how the visually impaired in our country gain access to reading materials? How much of the books we consume get to be enjoyed by the blind? How many of them even get to consume books? The reality is, a lot of our visually impaired countrymen hardly ever get access to materials that able-bodied people like us do. A major hurdle is our country's lack of resources to convert books into Braille or audio formats. There are also hardly ever any organizations or institutions that import materials in these formats. Another obstacle is our legal framework (particularly laws on intellectual property), which protects authors' and publishers' copyrighted books by disallowing the reproduction and distribution of their work without their permission. As such, no initiative is made to ensure that our literature is transformed into a format that is consumable by the visually impaired.



The good news is that very recently, the Philippines deposited its instrument of accession to the Marrakesh Treaty to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations. This allows for greater public access to literature, media, and other copyrightable works for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired.

What is the Marrakesh Treaty?

The “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled” is a treaty that aims to end the “book famine” faced by people who are blind and visually impaired. Through this document, it aims to give the visually impaired or visually disabled people in Contracting Parties greater access to literature, textbooks, and other printed materials. The treaty is administered by the WIPO.

Currently, of the millions of books published worldwide, only one to seven percent of them are made available to the 285 million persons in the world who are blind and visually impaired, 90% of whom live in low-income settings in developing countries. In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reports that over two million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision.

This is partly due to access barriers in copyright laws enacted in many jurisdictions, including the Philippines. The treaty helps remove these barriers in the Contracting Parties by providing mandatory limitations and exceptions that allow for reproduction and distribution of books designed to be accessible to the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled (VIPs). “Beneficiary persons” under the treaty are defined as people who are blind, visually impaired, reading disabled, or have physical disabilities that get in the way of effectively holding a book, turning its pages, or focusing on the page and its contents.

Conceived in line with the human rights principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Marrakesh Treaty is the first copyright treaty to include a clear human rights perspective.

How does the Marrakesh Treaty allow for access to books and reading materials to the visually impaired?

First, the treaty requires ratifying countries to provide an exception to their domestic copyright law, allowing beneficiary persons and their organizations to make accessible format books without the need for permission from the copyright holder (i.e. author or publisher). “Accessible formats” in this case refer to large print for people with low vision, Braille for those with total loss of sight, and audio books for all types of VIPs.

Second, the treaty allows for importation, exportation, and distribution of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works, again without copyright holder permission. This bodes well for Contracting Parties who have very few resources to transcribe works into accessible formats, as they can import from other countries with a vast collection of books, literature, and other works which are already VIP-friendly.

But how are copyright holders such as authors and publishers of converted work protected under the treaty?

The Marrakesh Treaty provides that only “authorized entities” in the Contracting Parties are allowed to reproduce and distribute works in accessible formats. These are organizations authorized or recognized by the government to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading, or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis (e.g. schools and libraries). It also includes non-profit organizations that provide the same services to beneficiary persons as one of its primary activities or institutional obligations.

Under the treaty, only authorized entities shall be permitted to obtain from another authorized entity an accessible format copy of any work and supply those copies to beneficiary persons by any means. This way, the authors and publishers of work converted into accessible formats are assured that their creations are converted, reproduced, and distributed only for the benefit of the visually impaired. At the same time, the beneficiary persons are guaranteed that they receive accessible formats that are in compliance with the provisions of the Treaty, i.e. legally converted and imported.

The Intellectual Property (IP) Code of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 8293, as amended by Republic Act No. 10372, actually already contains a provision that allows for the reproduction or distribution of published articles or materials in a specialized format for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired. But with the Philippines’ accession to the Marrakesh Treaty, the country is now also given more access to other contracting countries’ collection of works already in accessible format through the treaty’s cross-border exchange provisions. To comply with the country’s obligations under the treaty, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has assisted in the drafting of a bill submitted to Congress to further amend and widen the copyright limitation in the IP Code for the benefit of the VIPs.

Hopefully, if enacted, these amendments will greatly improve access to books for the two percent (2%) of our population who have visual impairments and physical disabilities that prevent them from reading. The Marrakesh Treaty’s clear humanitarian and social development dimension should have an impact in ending the “book famine” currently experienced by visually impaired Filipinos by positively increasing the quality of their lives through easier access to knowledge and information.

It's fantastic news isn't it? Of course, there needs to be government support for the book famine to really be addressed. Now that the legal framework is there, I hope more government institutions and organizations initiate the importation and exportation of works in accessible format, and allow for their wide commercial distribution all over the country. Imagine this: one day, it's not only us visually-abled people who get to enjoy Big Bad Wolf; it's not only us who get to participate in book trades; it's not only us who get to have a thrill out of random trips to the bookstore. I'm hopeful that soon, the blind can also have their own book hauls, as they gain more access to materials that are transformed especially for their use and enjoyment.




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How we weep and laugh at the same thing




In a moment of weakness after a hearing, I visited a bookstore and grabbed something new to read. I know, I know, just a few posts ago I was lamenting about how many unread books I still have (which is precisely why I've decided to skip the Big Bad Wolf sale this year), and how I should let go of some of them.

In my defense I've been doing pretty well on my reading goals so far, work load and tendency-to-fall-asleep-once-my-head-hits-any-pillow-at-home notwithstanding. I've also managed to squeeze in short reading breaks in the morning. So, yeah, I think the way to reward myself for getting almost half way through my books - is to get another book. (I am a hopeless cause.)

In any case, this book I'm going to talk about is just a short one anyway. It's one of those small Penguin Classics that feature classic writers' most seminal works in small doses. I got something from Michel de Montaigne, father of the modern essay.

(An aside: I loved my non-fiction lit class back in college, interestingly under poet Conchitina Cruz. It was a pre-requisite to our non-fiction writing classes, and it was pretty solid. Our syllabus spanned from Robert Burton to David Sedaris, from Sei Shonagon (a favorite) to Jessica Zafra. It was without a doubt what convinced me to pursue creative non-fic as one of my tracks. Anyway, at the heart of that class was, of course, Michel de Montaigne's works.)

So. "How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing."

How do we? The only thing that came to mind at this was grief, because it was always in moments relating to death that I've wept my saddest tears and let out the loudest of guffaws. (Exhibit A.) I'm no stranger to this feeling. At this point, it has practically become a defense mechanism, one that has enabled me to trudge through the hopelessness of having lost six family members in the last decade or so. But it always escapes me how. Or why.

An understanding of the complexity of conflicting emotions helps us to avoid trivial interpretations of men and their grief. Often, life forces us to label things. Because of how fast-paced and busy the world has grown, we need compartments to keep track of things as they unfold. This is work, so I must act serious. And this pertains to career, so I must only either be motivated or tired. If A, then A1. If not A, then B. It's as if life expects us to only react a certain way - and take it against us when we feel emotions that are not warranted of a situation.

The other night, while I was on my way home from dinner with high school friends and stuck in traffic, "Betcha By Golly Wow" came on. My aunt, who passed away in 2015, used to sing this song a lot in the car. Any time we'd go anywhere, somehow, this song would always play on whatever station she's listening to. "Are you a genie in disguise? Full of wonder and surprise??" I'd ask her, in disbelief, because it's as if her presence summons the opening riffs of that song. After she died, I could no longer hear this song the same way. Automatically, my eyes would well up and I knew, it'd be her saying hello. So when this song started playing as I was driving somewhere along EDSA, between Ayala and Magallanes, it dawned on me how things have turned out: I'm now the one in the driver's seat. I'm now the one tapping my fingers on the wheel as I sing along to the beat. I'm now the one dramatically leaving longing glances on the side mirrors while mouthing "Order rainbows in your favorite shade / To show I love you, thinking of you" as I evade the motorcycles and shift lanes. And she's nowhere to be found.

So I laugh. I laugh at the insanity and inanity of it all. There she used to be, being all dramatic while driving. Then she died. And now here I am, being all dramatic while driving. Except that her histrionics were manufactured to make me laugh. Mine was to remember her... and to be reminded that she is no longer there. I cry, because it reminds me of her, and then I laugh, because it reminds me of her.

The lesson to learn from all this, is of course, to not tear up while driving. Try to talk to your sleepy, heartbroken high school classmates in the backseat to distract yourself.

But also, as Montaigne writes, the truth is that our thoughts and feelings dart undetectably from one place to the next.

"The sun, they say, does not shed its light in one continuous flow but ceaselessly darts fresh rays so thickly at us, one after another, that we cannot perceive any gap between them. So, too, our soul darts its arrows separately but imperceptibly."

Various moments in our life require something definite from us: anger, sadness, jealousy, joy, relief, delight - all mutually exclusive of each other. But what of the moments that overwhelm us completely with varying degrees of all these?

When you see your friends rallying you on as you hurdle the four grueling weeks of the Bar, you feel quivers of joy at seeing so many of them sharing in your triumph, devoted to your success. A smile spreads across your face at this thought. And then, all of a sudden, your thoughts turn to all the others who are were not so fortunate; and now it's as if you feel ashamed of your glee, and want to honor their sadness by restraining it. In that moment, technically, nothing has changed - you still passed  - but your mind contemplates the matter in a different light and sees it from another aspect.

The same goes for seeing old pictures of ourselves. On the one hand, you can't help but marvel at how cute you were. (I was incredibly adorable as a kid, by the way. Yeah, I said it. Haha!) But at the same time, you also immediately feel a sense of wistfulness at time now lost. At how things have changed. At how nothing can ever make you go back to simpler times, to the way things were. The shift in emotion is so sudden, that it escapes us. In an instant, there is happiness and sadness. And an incomprehensible confusion at how it all feels.

Everything has many angles, many different sheens. No emotion should be mutually exclusive. I think there is much to be learned in allowing ourselves to feel many things at the same time, because it attests to the complexity of human nature. No one is all good, no one is all bad. When we acknowledge the wide range of emotions we feel all at the same time, we act more out of compassion rather than impulse. Because we don't restrict ourselves to just one feeling at a time, we give ourselves space to contemplate, to reflect, to think about what it means to have emotions influence our logic. Growth, after all, does not stem from only one mental state - it is the culmination of how our mind has processed all our feelings, all our hurt, all our joys.

We are allowed to feel different shades of sadness, guilt, anger, love, relief, happiness. This is what makes us human. And this is what makes us unique.

When we laugh and cry at the same things, it doesn't make us broken. It actually makes us whole.



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Conflict resolution


A nugget of wisdom that was imparted to us in law school, but something I only truly understood in practice: lawyering is a profession of conflicts.

Artists create. Doctors heal. Architects and engineers build. But people only need lawyers when conflict arises. Lawyers do not envision as builders do - in fact, they're trained to limit the vision. (Because not all that is optimal is legally sound.)

What need is there for lawyers when everything is smooth sailing?

The oath says lawyers should advocate for the law, not one party. You aim to uphold the Constitution and the legal processes. But the truth is, the practice is almost always adversarial. You always stand on one side. While our code requires us to discourage clients from litigation, not everyone is happy to settle. Parties will insist on their stand - correct or not - and sometimes, when there is wiggle room for collision, lawsuits can still be pursued.

I am lucky to be in a practice that does not force me to be at odds with what is legal and what is moral. I can sleep at night knowing that my work is aligned with the things I believe in. But, my job also requires that I stand on one side of the spectrum and be an advocate for one party. The other week, I had to assist in the enforcement of a warrant. It was legal and within the bounds of what the law required. However, I also had to deal with the emotional fall out of the entire thing. I had to talk to the other parties and assure them that I will try my best to reach a reasonable settlement - although, my hands are tied since I have the interests of my client to protect as well.

"Why did you become a lawyer then, if you're allergic to conflict?"

This is something I still have no definite answer to. (Actually, if you just stopped at "Why did you become a lawyer?" I also wouldn't have a clear cut answer to that. Ha!)

But this is something I have to calibrate within myself, I guess. Conflicts exist as part of the fabric of society. Humans interact, humans disagree. The best thing we can do is to help people come together and coexist on terms permitted by law - and hopefully, by society's standards of what is right. Emotions come at a cost in practice, true. But maybe, not being too far removed from the plight of someone is not so bad when it comes to resolving conflict. When you still see gray areas, when you don't see parties (client or not) as just names on the pleading but still people, that makes for a better advocate.

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Forgive the introspection. Yesterday, I celebrated my first anniversary at work! I can't believe it. Feels like I still know nothing about what I'm doing - and still winging it most of the time. But there really is so much more to learn. Here's to growth, and resolutions, and resilience.



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Book frustrations


Books acquired versus books read - the perennial imbalance.

I never make new year's resolutions, although for some reason I decided on three for 2019 (or at least its first quarter). So far, I've kept my promise on two: jogging twice a week and learning how to drive. Every Monday and Wednesday, I run around a track a few blocks away from my office and sweat off all my frustrations, anger, sadness, and anxiety for an hour or so, while listening to angry metal and punk rock (mixed with a bit of mid-2000s pop, haha). The swelling rush of endorphins afterwards make all the heaving and puffing (and severe cramping - at least for the first few days) so worth it. Meanwhile, on Tuesdays to Thursdays, I bring my aunt's car to work. Driving a stick-shift successfully on EDSA - check! This is a very important achievement, considering that on the day I got my driver's license about a month ago, I accidentally hit a jeepney while moving the same car out of our garage. That's what you call progress. (That's also what you call independence, finally. This, coming from a sheltered, privileged bebegurl.)

The third one though, was about finishing a certain number of books. Every time I think about how "tired" I feel when it comes to reading, a significant part of me grows sadder. I used to devour books in days; ever since law school though, reading has become such a chore. Yes, even books for leisure. Don't get me wrong, the interest is there - I buy books every chance I get, I enjoy leafing through synopses online, I get a kick out of picking books from shelves based on their covers, my mood, their price, whatever silly reason I have just to acquire more stuff to read.

But do I ever get to finish them? No. *insert quiet sobs*

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day, and she told me I should just Mari Kondo the shit out of most of them. That is, if they no longer ~spark joy~ I should just give them away. Or sell them. Let them find a new home.

That's easier said than done. People probably won't believe me, but I'm actually not very impulsive with my book purchases. I don't buy books on a whim. Despite the numerous book sales I go to and the bookstores I frequent, I still give careful thought to every book I buy, whether for myself or for others. So every time I see a book on my shelf, I know exactly where I bought it and why. I remember that point in my life; I recall vividly why I found my hand reaching for it. Consider it a memento from a particular time in the past. I see a book cover, and it transports me back to a very specific moment. "Ah, Eugenides' The Marriage Plot. Fully Booked Katipunan. 2013. Post-messy breakup and Oblicon midterms." Or "Oooh, No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I was all sorts of exhausted and tired. The bright yellow cover matched my bright yellow rain boots that day."

Each book contains so many stories for me already; and that's even before I dive into the narrative of the book itself.

It's almost the end of January and I'm nowhere near half of my reading goal for the month. But I look at my bookshelf, and I realize, my friend (and Marie Kondo) might be right. Maybe the better resolution for now - instead of finishing them - is to give some of them away. To come to terms with the fact that some of them will never be read, that some of them will never be appreciated as much as the moment that led me to it. That they can find better joy in someone else's hands.

Maybe I should stop attaching too much sentiment into books. "They're just books," I shall repeat to myself. No one cares about why you got them or how. Maybe this is something I have to learn. Perhaps, until I finally declutter, I will never find the urge to finish all the books I've started. The piles just remind me of unfinished work. Maybe seeing more space will light something up inside me.

Or maybe it'll just make me buy new books. Old habits die hard; old dogs and new tricks; something, something. Let's hope I can KonMari my way out of this. And if not? Well, at least I still have progress in 2/3 of my resolutions. Not bad.

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On the 20th anniversary of "You've Got Mail"





"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but circumscribed. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?"


This classic will always and forever be my favorite, because with every re-watch, I feel like it's got "a hundred and fifty-two insights into my soul."

Thank you for this, Nora Ephron. ✨



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1929 Anaïs Nin on 2018 Karla



From "The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin: Volume Four, 1927 – 1931," from the diary entry dated 27 February 1929.


It's almost that time of year: 2018 is coming to an end, and everyone is making time for some introspection.

When your birthday is at the tail end of October, it feels redundant to have two big reflections about the year just two months apart. The things I realized on my birthday are still... pretty much the same things I'm reflecting on as the year comes to a close.

I turned twenty-seven almost eight weeks ago. I have also become many things in the last few months (lawyer, aunt, colleague, among others). But — and I say this with no bitterness, only a quiet sort of acceptance — I am also, still, very much, not a lot.

To be quite honest, I am still having trouble with that paragraph, Anaïs. "No book, no stage career, a lot of unsatisfied desires, and a realization that I am half of what I hope to be." 

But I'm trying. I'm trying really hard.

It's terrifying to acknowledge this status quo, because I'm no failure - and to say that I am would only make me sound ungrateful. I only prayed for one thing this year, and I was given so much more. I had goals: I reached them. And I am very, very thankful.

And yet.

Anaïs says, "I am terribly, profoundly happy, and terribly, profoundly unhappy." How apt.

With age comes the weight of many kinds of sadnesses that have no name. It's the kind of sadness that comes from little things that, as a much younger person, you so easily managed to brush off. Like realizing you are drifting apart from some of your friends, or discovering that you are no longer as agile as you used to be, or finding out that you may never get to see the world as much as you want.  Meeting people at an inopportune time. Losing interest in things that used to excite you. Making mistakes at work. Coming to terms with a disorder. Accepting your parents' aging. Realizing your nation is in shambles. Dealing with someone's death. These are not things that are supposed to stop you from reaching more goals, from achieving more things. But ostensibly, these are considerations that now weigh heavily on your mind when you start thinking about what lies ahead, when you wonder about taking big risks.

With age comes the weight of fear.

Have you ever changed your mind about anything that used to excite you? I had a childhood dream of going skydiving. I used to tell myself, "That's on top of my bucket list." But as the years go by, it becomes less and less enticing. It's just utterly terrifying now. What if I die? Who takes care of my family? What about master's? Who gets to read the excerpts of my book? And even if at the back of my head, I know that it's something I can do, I'm no longer sure if it's something I should.

The world says, don't let fear stop you. In theory, I know it should not. But when you've started nestling comfortably into a status quo that is just okay, you develop this instinct to not change it. "I have enough sadnesses to keep me company and anchor me into this safety," I tell myself.

See, this particular brand of fear is not a badge I like to wear.

But like I said a few months back, I like putting on masks of courage. There is comfort in my pretense. So every once in a while, I allow myself to admit my fears. Because when I do, I am forced to talk myself out of it. (Or more accurately, I find old books and passages and authors who will talk me out of it. Tonight, I scoured my bookshelf and it's Miss Nin.) Even if it means writing another "reflection paper" just eight weeks after my birthday "essay." Sometimes, it comes as a time when I should be doing something else, like preparing my daily service report.

Well, consider this today's service report: I am not a lot of things yet. And that terrifies me, because what if I never become everything I ever hoped? But I acknowledge that I am all the things that happened to me this year - and more. For now, that should be enough. Every day, I keep trying to be a better, kinder person to myself. I am grateful for what the universe was generous enough to give me. And whatever lies ahead, I should be ready. I put on this mask, and I try to be convincing, even and most especially to myself. I owe it to all twenty-seven years in me to really try.

Both "terribly, profoundly happy" and "terribly, profoundly unhappy." But I will be okay. I'm okay. It's okay. It's going to be okay.

"I am alive - and thank God!"






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Exactly Like You




One of the moments that made me literally laugh out loud while I was waiting somewhere and watching Netflix's "Maniac."

This show is super good. I can't even begin to explain how glad I am that I decided to watch it.






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(R)evolutions




"The revolution1 inside me is quiet and kind."

I say to myself as I brush my hair for the seventh time last Friday. I wear my hair like my crown: in glory. That is to say, I feel like all the pain in the world is surmountable as long as my shiny black hair cascades down past my shoulders before curling ever so slightly by the end. It's therapeutic, in many ways, when I fidget over my hair. It makes me feel like I am in control over something I do not find attractive naturally. (You see, I have waves, and I hate them. So I straighten them out because it makes me feel better. Control is calming.) How shallow, people say, to not allow yourself to embrace your flaws. In my head, I retort back: How sad, to never let yourself pretend and live out versions of yourself you like better.

Quiet and kind. Quiet and kind.

I have to remind myself to remain as such, even when the world yells out and becomes otherwise. 

Another revolution2 around the sun has passed for me. So much of my reflections in the last year, I've never written down. I never even bothered. I think, for the most part, it's because I was too busy living in the moment, enjoying newfound freedom (or the lack thereof, lol, sad reaccs onli), celebrating the biggest triumph of my life thus far.

But also, I think it's because I'm afraid that writing them down somehow diminishes their value. Odd, isn't it? Sometimes, keeping notes for posterity robs them the illusion of being — feeling — real. Because the words can never really fully encapsulate certain moments. And every attempt at restructuring them with sentences is always going to be futile. So I let them stay in my head, where they are pure, and untouched, and vivid, and colorful, and untainted by my incapacity to recreate them. Where I can relive them resoundingly in my head, as I nestle comfortably into muted smiles.

The truth is the revolution in me is loud.

Certain parts of me feel awakened, while other parts feel indifferent. These parts I cannot always reconcile. How dramatic, you say. But it merits a loud, heavy sigh — or a laugh, disguising a cry —  every time I realize some clocks are ticking quicker than they used to: biological, emotional, spiritual. 

The revolution in me is loud, but every day I try to find reasons to keep it down. Why? Because I actually like the pretense. I like putting on a brave face. I don't mind never letting my guard down. I don't like others fussing over me. I wear my brave face like I wear my hair: in glory. How tiring, people say, to always have to convince others that you are fine. On this space, I say back: How sad, to never let yourself pretend and embrace a braver, softer version of you, one that you actually like better. 

Quiet and kind. I have to remind myself to be quiet and kind, always, in all ways. I have the love of people I love, and the grace to accept the present, even if it means embracing the uncertainties of the future. What is there to not be thankful for? What is there to be so noisy about? Why bother myself with worries, when I can instead live in the moment — not verbalizing every thought, not overthinking every concern, not deprecating every second of pure joy?

The revolution2 is both quiet and loud.

But I hope the revolution1 in me will always be kind. It will be compassionate, and it will always surrender to my belief in serendipity, in goodness finding its way back to me at the right time. Because this is what I know best. Because this is the only way I know how. I will manage, and it will be alright,3 and it will be all right.4

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1 - a sudden radical or complete change.
2 - the movement of an object in a circular or elliptical course around an axis.

3 - fine.

4 - according to fact or truth.

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Seven excerpts, before twenty-seven


They say birthdays are a time for introspection. Well, I found my old college notebook from one of my poetry classes early this morning, and it did make me think about some of my favorite poems.


One
From "You Are Jeff" by Richard Siken

You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won't tell you that he loves
you, but he loves you. And you feel like you've done something terr-
ible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself
a grave in the dirt, and you're tired. You're in a car with a beautiful boy,
and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to
choke down the feeling, and you're trembling, but he reaches over and
he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your
heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you
don't even have a name for.

Two
From "Small Wire" by Anne Sexton

As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.

Three
From "Rain" by Danton Remoto

But you are here,
in the country of my mind,
wiping away the maps
of mist
on the window pane,
lying beside me,
as the pulse of the pillows and sheets—
even the very throb of rain—
begins to quicken.

Four
From "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Five
From "Before Bed" by Zora Howard

I is a still wet concrete
and here comes you,
a brazen unkempt boy,
carving your gang signs all up alongside me with an unassuming stick.
Where is your home training?
Why do you make the city of me so unbecoming?
Your language is hardening in this landscape of mine.
Everyone will pass here
and what will they find?
That I am your block,
I am your boulevard,
your bayou,
And baby,
I don’t mind,
I don’t mind,
I don’t mind.

Six
From "Send Me To The Moon" by Conchitina Cruz

Lay down your arms where I can
                stay in them and send me to the moon, forget the freaks
we ran away from one afternoon by the library, the guard whistling in the hall,
                                       the howl and swagger and the fall—
               Haven’t we all made that jump? Haven’t we all heard
the plunk, the mere grunt of you,
                        the mere spunk of you, reeking of musk
        while teaching me physics, crawling down the road piss drunk
                                                   at 3 am, plastered and master
         to none, pushing my head down in cars all over town—
                                             Don’t we all stoop and deliver?
And so, what now, hopping from bed to bed, all red with rage,
                         the age of the wine on the label tossed
                                                  in the wastebasket, the taste
         of it all, the last of it all, the pale madness of this song,
my thong tugged at again
               by your wandering fingers, still smelling of
                                 another sweet wonder—Don’t we all
have another? Where are my fangs?
        Where are my pangs of guilt for my sins, where the wince
                          in the eternal threat of end, how mend the night’s
            idiosyncrasy, the spittoon in the fantasy
                                         of ordinary life, your wife,
                             my darling nonbeliever, my unwarranted claim.

Seven
"It is not impossible to survive—" by Lauryn K. Alleyne

You have mastered solitude, struggled to unpack
the thick realities of time and matter. Love has flattened
you. Measured, you have faced your least loveliness.

How fragile God’s graffiti, the text of us scrawled
wild, twisted into this renegade, complex sentence
of living! How the making betrays and becomes us!

Look at the tree revise its body daily, spectacularly
rendered through the small violence of loss. If nothing
else, learn this: You are not broken, but rearranged.


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Talk throughs and celestial (un)certainties


The thing about being in school for so long is that you stop feeling like having a life outside the four corners of most rooms - a classroom, the library, your condo unit - feels like a transgression. Any time spent with friends or family without books or cases, you start feeling guilty. Days are counted by the number of hours you have to either earn your breaks or make up for it. You never get to fully engage your self in certain social situations, because at the back of your head you're always worrying about crawling back to your readings.

Now that law school and bar review is over (for good, HELL YEAH), I'm slowly easing my way into having a social life. I get to have dinner with friends and have meaningful conversations that I can fully immerse myself in because things are - well, not easier, per se, but - less stifling.

Which is an opportune time, I guess, especially now that I feel like I'm going through an internal crisis of sorts. I'm navigating through grief, I'm coming to terms with certain realities about being an adult, I'm feeling angry and frustrated about our nation's institutions falling apart - and I can't do that alone. Or, maybe I can. But I appreciate the company of people going through the same things, riding out the same waves.

Of knowing that you have allies, in your principles and in your passions.

Listening is underrated. There is comfort in conversation, folks. It liberates.

___


Somewhere in the digital sea of old files in my hard drive is an old screenplay I wrote for class. I never got to finish it - never even got it to take off to any kind of conflict - but I recall it was about fortunes being told, and fates being decided by the stars.

A girl opens her palm to a mysterious lady under a tree. It was mid-afternoon when she stepped out of work for a smoke. The lady called to her and asked her if life consumed her the way the puffs of smoke did. Out of both curiosity and boredom, she approached her and sought out answers for questions she didn't dare ask. But my script ended there because I had no knowledge of palm reading, and did not have insights on what it meant to predict futures.

Venus is about to enter retrogade, so goes much of Twitter today. I try not to take these things seriously, but sometimes there is comfort in hanging on to so-called certainties found in celestial bodies. 

Scorpio sun, Libra rising, Moon in GeminiVenus in Virgo, reads my birth chart. What does it mean? I sift through readings, I scroll through interpretations. I press like when I recognize myself, which is just about thirty percent of the time. I know none of these matter in the real world, and almost all of it is never really true. But I still find myself Googling through meanings every now and then, hoping to make sense of feelings that shouldn't be there but just are.

Is this part of the quarter-life, suddenly seeking new lenses through which to view life?

One of my best friends has recently thrown all caution in the wind and professed faith in horoscopes. I message her about these fears of mine every now and then, and she tells me how "Scorpio" or how "Libra" I am, or reminds me that this is just how it is for "Moons in Gemini." I sometimes don't know what she means, but I find myself being okay with it. Normally, I would scoff at such frivolities, but these days, I feel like exchanges like this are more comforting than "real talks" where practicalities are clearly defined.

How naive, Karla. Also, how delusional. You think putting your head above the clouds makes sense? 

No, but, somehow it makes things more easily digestible. 

And I feel like this is probably how it is for a lot of people. There's a reason why millennials cling to astrology so badly these days, out of irony, but maybe also out of desperation. These horoscopes, and personality tests, and astral charts - all coping mechanisms, and to a certain extent, they work. If it gets one going and allows you to still wake up, find the courage to carry on, and do some good in the world, then why not.

Outside, people are starving, dying. There is turmoil, and chaos, and fear. There is this nagging feeling of "Why can't I do anything about it?" All that we've known, and all that we've been taught - they all feel useless. The world is becoming more and more cruel, slowly and surely gnawing at whatever is left of our idealism.

The future is scary and overwhelming, the present, even more so. None of us have the answers, but all of us have the same questions. I guess it's in these times where we're allowed to find something to hold onto these days, no matter how capricious.

Is this being a Scorpio, or is this just being a 26-year-old? 

___


Facebook's "On This Day" reminded me that six years ago, I was eagerly anticipating the release of Red. Yep, that Taylor Swift album.

October 2012 feels like a lifetime ago. I am no longer in that same head space, no longer heartbroken and tired. I no longer have the same feelings of love-and-hate towards Taylor Swift (these days, it's more of just ambivalence). But it is still my favorite album of hers, for many reasons, the first of them being "State of Grace."

I am turning 27 soon. In twenty-one days to be exact. I am both excited and terrified, because 26 was so good to me. It was incredible and exhilarating and generous. But 27 is a little more uncertain: no more goal posts, no more clearly defined finish lines. Only an open race that leads to... what exactly? I have no idea.

"This is a state of grace / this is a worthwhile fight," I remember singing this song while cramming for Persons as a first year student. It carried me through that exam. Will it carry me through this month, nay, this year?

Let's check in with "On This Day" next year to find out.

__


A very good friend has been telling me to keep writing. I don't have anything to write about, I say. And worse, I don't have the time.

Well, here: fragments of thoughts at 5:21 in the afternoon, on a Friday. It's not much, but it's still something. Maybe one day I'll get back to that screenplay. But until then, this will have to do. 





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beer cold and a mental hold




The other day, I was raising my beer in honor of Chris Cornell again. It was a night out with the partners and my fellow associates, and Audioslave came on. I started mouthing the words to "Be Yourself" - as one should - when the partner noticed me and gave me high-five. Two seconds later we were both air-drumming and banging our heads to the song, while simultaneously mourning Cornell's death all over again.

Some griefs we never really get over, huh.

And then over the weekend, I started listening to Mac Miller. Coming clean here: I'm not a big fan of hip-hop, even though I've tried so many times to really get into it. It's just a matter of preference, I guess. But I do appreciate a good track every now and then. So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I come across a song, and an album even, that truly captures my attention. The Divine Feminine is what got me the last two days. Another confession: I'm a casual Ariana fan. "So Into You" is my perpetual perk-me-up/gusto-ko-lumandi jam. I cried after the Manchester bombing. I tried following Big Sean because of her ("Best Mistake" is fire, okay.) I fangirl over her and Pete Davidson, and watched all his SNL videos because of their crazy, whirlwind engagement. Oddly though, I never really got into Mac Miller even though I kind of liked "Favorite Part." 

Which is something I now regret, because I realize now how much of an artist he is. I guess what I appreciated about him as I waded through his tracks on Spotify is that his songs aren't just words. He experimented with instruments, he played with different genres, mixing together jazz and soul and hip-hop. He spoke simply, but surely. He was no singer, but he lets his heart warble through the pain to seek bliss, albeit temporary. And, I guess, what made me keep listening was this: even though he had his demons, it was evident that he fervently believed in love. I listened to The Divine Feminine and heard a man who just wanted to make a woman happy. Maybe, he thought, by pleasing you, I can please myself. And what greater satisfaction is there than by giving, and seeing someone receive you, fully, unconditionally?

How sad that the demons in his head had to take him away. I respect Ari's decision for walking away - and I will always root for any woman who has to leave behind someone they love dearly if the relationship is taking a toll on their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. But, I also can't help but feel sad that he couldn't handle it on his own. Everyone was rooting for him. He deserved more time.

Him and Chris, really. 

And everyone else. We all deserve more time.

How lucky we are to have their music to keep us going, when the artists themselves failed at it. I hope we all manage to wade on through, to swim it out, to keep walking, until one day, without us realizing it, we bump into a sense of purpose. A state of mind that will truly, fervently have us believe that life is meaningful. Or not even that - just the general assurance that hey, life isn't bad. Maybe that should be enough. 


__



Off to a hearing. Do I know what I'm doing? Yes. Do I really know what I'm doing? No. Did I just spend half an hour preparing a playlist composed of Cornell and Miller songs instead of replying to an e-mail, just to get me going through this day - nay, this week? Maybe. Do I need more beer in my life? Absolutely. We do what we have to do to keep going, right?





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The minutiae of death - and life - are messy


Forty days ago, my uncle passed away. He was forty-four years old. He had a heart attack in his home - we tried to bring him to the hospital but he was declared dead on arrival. I saw and oversaw everything.

I had three long cries: one, when they were wheeling his body into the morgue; two, during his funeral. And one random morning to work, at the back of my papa's car, both of us bawling our eyes out in silence.

I should already be used to this, I think. And yet, I'm not.

I have conflicted feelings about death. In the last fourteen years, six family members have died. Four grandmothers, one aunt, one uncle. All of them, incredibly close to me. I grew up in a small town, and with very few relatives. The attachment I had with each of them ran deep, because I was an only child whose first pals were the grown-ups around me. They were friends to me. The funny thing is, when I close my eyes and try to remember them, I don't recall big gestures or grand occasions. I remember the way they held my hand; the way they coughed; the way they would stroke my hair; the way "Amen" rolls of their tongue when they pray. I remember the little things; and it's the little things that set me off, every damn time. One would think I have gone through the stages of grief enough times to master it already - on the contrary, no. I am still going through it, and probably will never reach the end.

It never ends, this grief.

Last Friday, I came across an old Esquire article in our office lobby. "Exhumation" by Vanni De Sequerra. In sum, it's an essay about the author's experience exhuming the bones of his deceased father to have them cremated and transferred to a columbarium.

It's grotesque, and sad, and fascinating in a way that only a person dealing with prolonged grief can understand. I've seen dead loved ones - I've seen *bones* of dead loved ones - but not this. Although, I fear that one day I may have to. It's twisted, how I feel about certain things like death and sorrow. On the one hand, I now feel like I am more prepared than any one I know. (Claiming a body from the morgue? Check. Paying for the hospital bills and getting the death certificate? Easy. Choosing a casket? Fine. Securing a burial certificate? Done. I know all the intricacies surrounding death by now. Guess I'm an expert.) On the other, I know that all the grieving I've gone through places me in an even more vulnerable position when someone dies again. I'll be carrying an even heavier burden, a sadness whose weight will quadruple in an instant, and that's terrifying.

This is what I haven't been telling people about me, and probably what I haven't been admitting to myself either. I am sad. I am a less-happier version of myself for every tragedy, and it will never be the same. Am I able to carry on and live life normally despite their absence? Yes. Have I accepted the fact that losing loved ones is part of life? Yes. Have I become closer to God because of this sorrow? Yes. Am I thankful for the gift of life? Yes. But am I still sad? YES. The truth is, no matter how many "Life goes on," and "Things happen for a reason," quotes I read, I am - and will probably always be - perpetually burdened by the weight of all these deaths.

And it is this concept of continuous, uninterrupted blues that I have to learn how to deal with.

How do I go about this? If my mom reads this, she'll call me up and say "Hindi ka kasi nagdadasal." ("You haven't been praying enough.") But I have prayed this sadness away for years, and I think I've turned my mind inside and out enough times to come to the conclusion that maybe this is just how grief feels like for some of us. Never fully coming to terms with death, but just getting used to it. We get used to the person's absence, but we never stop hurting. And then eventually, we get used to the pain too.

People ask me why I sometimes make jokes about dying. Maybe this is why. Because I know how easily it can take people I love away. But also, because it terrifies me. It has taken people I love away. Perhaps by joking about it, death would cringe and recoil, and hopefully stay away from me.

We mourn even as we carry on and laugh at life's absurdities, but also when does sorrow end? Does it ever? Or does it only transform into a weird, odd sense of humor as a coping mechanism?

Spoiler alert on De Sequerra's essay: when they were trying to exhume his dad's bones, they realized that it hasn't fully decomposed. It was grisly and upsetting, but also, considering the author's relationship with the father and the sense of absurdity surrounding the whole incident - it was oddly comforting for me. Funny, but sad. I know that feeling. Equal parts hilarious and terrifying.

On a similar note: At my uncle's funeral, there was a moment where he couldn't fit in the tomb. They lowered the casket at a bad angle, and it wouldn't get in. A parallel incident happened when he was being brought into the morgue. (He was a pretty big guy.) I was there both times; I was crying and shaking my head in both instances. Inside, I could hear my conscience scolding me - "Ano ba yan, we're supposed to be sad, eh bakit may nakakatawa?" I don't know. I am not nearly mature enough, surprisingly, to have a clear-cut answer to this question. I still manage to keep my composure while wiping my tears anyway. Because how else to deal with this sadness, other than trying to find the hilarity, the absurdity in it all?

The minutiae of death are messy. But of life - of life after someone's death - even messier. I am managing just fine, I think. But I allow myself to cry every now and then, alone and in silence, because I feel like it's my way of honoring my loved ones. And also, it's my way of reminding myself that sure, life goes on for the rest of us, but it doesn't mean we have to move on completely.

I cry to remember. And maybe it's because I really never want to forget.



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Lighthousekeeping


I looked back at you. These moments that are talisman and treasure. Cumulative deposits – our fossil record – and the beginnings of what happens next. They are the beginning of a story, and the story we will always tell.

– Excerpt from "Lighthousekeeping" by Jeanette Winterson



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I passed the bar!




THERE IS NO BETTER WAY TO SAY IT.

Yes, folks, I freakin' passed the 2017 Bar Examinations! I'm a lawyer!!!!!!!!

(Well, technically, I still have to take the oath and sign the roll. But the most difficult hurdle is over!)

It has been almost a week since the results came out but I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea that I'm finally — finally — a lawyer. How did this happen? How is this even possible? Am I hallucinating? Is this all a dream? This is surreal. I passed the bar. Wow.

For the first time in more than a decade, I can finally heave a huge sigh of relief. This is it, I've finally reached the finish line. After this, no more class, no more studying. Only life awaits. To quote a Hold Steady song, this must be how a resurrection really feels.

__


June 2017: Graduate from law school ✓
November 2017: Take the bar ✓
April 2018: Pass the bar ✓

To have reached the finish line and to succeed — completely beyond my wildest dreams. I am humbled by the grace the Lord has shown me as He carried me through this victory.

The last few days have been surreal. I still can't believe how things turned out. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who sent their love. I couldn't have done this without you. Forever grateful to my parents, family, friends, loved ones, Loved One (hehe), sisses, professors, lecturers, blockmates, batchmates, reviewmates, officemates — everyone who cheered me on and believed in me.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel indeed. What a feeling. ♥



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Never Not Love You: A Review




Never Not Love You is a simple movie. It is quiet and still, letting its pauses speak louder than its lines. In its simplicity, truths are found - a lot of them almost too real, too painful to see unfold. But like a late-night motorcycle ride, coming to terms with these truths on-screen is joyful and scary all at the same time. It makes you feel terrified, but also, alive. It is not your typical Filipino romantic film but it is very much a typical Pinoy love story.

The premise boils down to the same essential question of how far we are willing to go for love. How much of yourself do you give up for the one you love, and how much of this sacrifice becomes a part of who you are?

Dreams are the driving force of this film. This is not a premise we haven’t seen before. We’ve seen it in La La Land, we’ve seen it in Sana Maulit Muli. In many ways, Never Not Love You asks the same questions. The ambiguity of a definitive answer, however, is what sets it apart.
We all know this story: a carefree man falls for a simple girl with big dreams. Joanne wants to be successful and provide for her family; Gio just wants to be happy. These two dreams are not mutually exclusive. But as we all know, they are not always within reach either, especially when the difficulties of life get in the way.

We all know this story: like most of us, they’re not chasing fame or money. They just want satisfaction in a job that gives them sustenance and stability. But with this comes a lot of sacrifice - sacrifice founded on commitment, but also sacrifice that can turn to resentment. Such is the problem that lies at this pragmatic take on a love story.




Two scenes worthy of comparison stand out out to me: one, when they were in Zambales, talking about their dreams, basking in the glow of sunlight - and in their love. This best encapsulates the giddy feeling of a first kiss, the exciting notion of seeing a glimpse of your future with someone. “I just want to be happy.” Don’t we all? It was said with so much optimism, so much carelessness, with no clue about what lies ahead. Kind of makes you remember the first time you talked to a great love about a future, a blurry image of a someday that may include each other.

And then we have that scene where they decide to “renew their vows,” i.e. have their ring finger tattoos re-inked. They were no longer the naive young adults who, on a whim, decided to live together and get matching tattoos. They have weathered years apart, pursued their dreams together and separately, evolved into people their old selves would not recognize. The look on their faces in the ending of the movie notwithstanding, this is a story of two people who made a commitment - and stuck to it. And this is where Never Not Love You strays from a typical romantic movie. Because instead of giving us a clear “Yep, it all ended well,” or “No, they went their separate ways,” - we get two people who made a choice. Is that choice out of love or out of convenience? Only life will tell. Who can say how love dictates our choices? After all, sometimes, choosing to stay is an act of love - one shaped by sacrifice and an understanding of how the years can tear away layers of affection. Besides, who is to rule out a kind of love that sighs, that looks tired, that feels weary? That belief is naive, as naive as telling someone “It’s so easy to be happy,” just after giving them a kiss. Life has thrown them shit, but they managed. Maybe, that’s enough affirmation.

Because this is a "LDR" movie, some beats are to be expected. Some parts of the narrative felt like they needed to be there just to establish the difficulties of being in such a relationship. The arguments felt real - but also, at times, repetitive. In some parts, I felt that the progression of their characters never fully came to fruition. Which is a shame, because I think the ending scene itself could have been more compelling had the lead up to it been less passive.

Nevertheless, the risks taken were reminders of what this movie was going for: not simply kilig, but realism. The truth that love is never constant. It can make you jaded. But just because it's tired doesn't mean it's gone.

So is this a movie about love, or is it about ambition? Never Not Love You tries to find a middle ground for both. Its narrative is built on trying to find a resolution, but never really getting one. As with most Jadaone projects, the characters try to find answers in the places where the story takes them. Whereas in La La Land, Los Angeles serves as the fantastic backdrop to the struggle between the two, here, the gloomy, overcast skies of London highlight the gloom of being away from what is comforting and familiar. Even the neon-lit streets of Makati and fluorescent glow of 7-11 visually underscores how fleeting some pleasures can be, and how joy is not always found in what is temporary.

My favorite scene highlights what I love best about the movie and the questions it dared to ask: after a long day at work, Joanne receives a video call from Gio, who is walking by the Thames River. He asks a Pinay street performer to sing Sugarfree’s “Prom” - their song - for Joanne. This isn’t the first time we hear the song in the movie, but this time, we hear it differently than the first. The characters are no longer nestled comfortably into each other’s arms, no longer racing through the road with only their helmets and each other. They are separated by time zones, in cities that hold no assurances but bustles with promise. And yet, they somehow find a way to walk to and from work together, hypothetically holding hands, engrossed in the same song. We’ve seen this before, we’ve been in this before: missing someone so badly and trying so hard to close that distance. It hit the chord right by bringing on the screen something realistic to all of us: the struggle of aspiring for dreams and the sacrifice of our loved ones to help get us there.

It’s charming how the choice of song, “Prom” is one that evokes memories of high school. Of youth. Of hopeful longing. Far from being a mere cliched rom-com vehicle, Never Not Love You is a film that explores the reality of navigating the consequences of our decisions, as young people and eventually as adults, be it out of love or out of ambition. “Matapos man ang sayaw / pangakong ‘di ka bibitaw,” so goes the closing lines of the song. This might be a bit too on the nose, but it sends the message: love is a choice. It fades, it changes. But who is to say that a weathered love is any less real?



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Signs of life


Man, it's been a while.

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Hello. So I'm still alive. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, although I'm not sure if all that has passed is really worth recapping. What's there to tell you anyway? Not much. Basically, the gist of the last year or so was this: I was holed up in a room and studying.

Now I'm out of that room, but inside another room, and working.

Life is funny sometimes. If you asked me four years ago, "Is this where you imagined yourself to be?" the answer is both yes and no. Yes, because of course I was expecting to be employed by this time, after having taken a break post-exam. But also, no, I had no idea I'd be doing this, working for a practice I genuinely enjoy. Who knew there's a place for me in this world after all?

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I miss writing. Let's get this thing going again.





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Postmortem


What have I to share about life outside the confines of my study?

To borrow from a friend: for the first time in nine years, there is no longer a lien on my existence. It's like I can finally breathe and enjoy time for what it is, not for what it is about to become.





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There are (Christmas) lights at the end of this tunnel





And so I tell myself that I'll be strong
And dreaming when they're gone
'Cause they're calling, calling, calling me home






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I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling





"All I really, really, want is our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too."


It took me almost a decade since I first heard this song before I finally understood the love you were singing about. And now that I have, it feels like there is nothing in the world I cannot overcome. A love that seeks to keep on giving is a love that will never run out. Love from family, from friends, from a person who makes you feel safe — when you have that in your life, what is there to fear?

This month is about overcoming a lot of things. And accepting that the journey that got me here is a reward in itself. Whatever happens, there is light waiting for me on the other side.

Happy birthday, Joni Mitchell — songwriter, artist, lover, Scorpio.



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Now Playing: Something from three different decades


One Hot Minute, Red Hot Chili Peppers (1995)





Unpopular opinion: I actually like Red Hot Chili Pepper's One Hot Minute. No, I love it. Yeah, I said it. Come at me, bros.

Don't get me wrong, I love John Frusciante just as much as every other fan, and I truly think that it was his style and amazing ability that shaped the Chili Peppers sound that we know of today. (Although much respect is to be given to Hillel Slovak, let's admit that most of the RHCP songs we know are from both Frusciante eras.) Any time I watch an RHCP concert with John, it's like witnessing an apparition. (My favorite is their Live at Slane Castle.) To say that his skills are god-like would be a complete understatement. Listen to the opening riffs of "Snow (Hey Oh)" or the guitar solo at the end of "Dani California" in any of their live performances — a good introduction to their style for anyone who hasn't heard of them — if you're not convinced.

But. I have a soft spot for Dave Navarro's short tenure with the band. I don't know if it's because I generally like underdogs — in this case, the guy people never root for, the guy people hate on and mention right away when asked "Who was the worst RHCP guitarist??" on random online forums, the guy the band members themselves want to forget about — or, I just don't know enough about these things and the musicality of it all to make a proper judgment. But for whatever reason, I just really dig the whole dark, full-on rock aesthetic the Chili Peppers took on during his stay.

Truth is, I didn't really listen to songs from OHM except for "Aeroplane" until a few months ago when my boyfriend upgraded my Spotify to Premium (one of his grad gifts, haha), and I decided to explore their entire discography for study music. But even before this, I didn't think Dave Navarro was a bad fit. In fact, another favorite RHCP live performance of mine is "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" from Woodstock 1994, with Dave at the helm. I know it's a Frusciante-penned song, but damn it, Dave just effin' slayed that song. This is one of those rare instances where, yes, Dave >>> John. The song just became so much more edgy and insane. The riffs went from kinda funky to hardcore, and ugh I just love it so much. (Can you tell??)

Anyway, I got around to giving the Dave Navarro-era some love because I needed new songs to listen to. Needless to say, I loved it so much more than I expected. Please don't throw stones at me and say, "What, you like RHCP when they're less funky?? Not a true fan!" I don't care. I loved it. It was definitely a different flavor than what we — and apparently the band — were used to, but I think it shouldn't be swept under the rug as a forgettable album. It's definitely up there with the good ones, and deserve some more recognition, at least for me. The record was rough and hard and harsh — in a good, incredibly satisfying way. It's something right up my alley, honestly. If you think about it, it's amazing how much their sound changes and evolves with each new guitarist, and especially with One Hot Minute, it really seems like a very Dave record. It's so distinct. I wish the guys remained friendly with each other, if only so they could work on even just one new track, or at least perform some songs from the OHM era. But, alas, I'll content myself with Spotify and YouTube for my RHCP+Dave fix. Thank you Internet.

(P.S. I'll talk about my love for Flea and Chad Smith some other time.)


You Gotta Go There To Come Back, Stereophonics (2003)





Okay so it's no secret that even after many, many years since high school, "Dakota" is still my jam. Name whatever device I have, that song is there. It's been with me on my iPod classic crying over useless high school drama, and it's still with me here as I struggle my way through review. But I wish I could say the same for the other Stereophonics albums. Because apparently they're all freakin' great.

For a long time, I thought my favorite Stereophonics songs were all on Language.Sex.Violence.Other. But turns out, many of them were in either You Gotta Go There To Come Back and Push The Pin. This ignorance is a result of high school senior / college freshman me just downloading songs off Limewire, so I knew squat about where these tracks came from. But now that I know better (LOL) I decided to revisit these old songs I used to just hear on 00's teen shows. And to no one's surprise, these albums are fantastic.

Honesty time: in my teens, I had a few bands that I "fake-liked," — i.e. I only listened to their songs and claimed to like them because I thought they seemed cool. (Shame, 15-year-old, Karla. Or not, because you know, you were just a teenager and didn't know better.) This included Aqualung (I still can't remember any other song aside from "Brighter Than Sunshine"), The Killers, and Foster The People. I've long accepted the fact that I will never like them the way other people do, and it's okay to let them go.

But the Stereophonics, man, there was no pretending there. The few singles that did speak to me then still speak to me now. And the albums from where they came had the same effect. I'm so, so glad I decided to revisit their discography. This 2003 album in particular is so good in its longing and yearning. It's like chasing feelings you can never experience again; like holding on to ghosts that will never haunt you again. Man, it's such a shame that Stereophonics never really took off outside Europe, because this means there's a scarcity of performances and interviews to devour online. This also means there's a very, very slim chance of me seeing them live. (Although with the amount of obscure artists visiting the Philippines, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.) This record — and the other two albums I mentioned — aged really well. For anyone who wants to dip their toes into some sad (in a good way) Welsh rock, definitely check these ones out.


Concrete and Gold, Foo Fighters (2017)




Let's get this one out of the way: the only other Foo Fighters album I've loved from start to finish was The Colour and The Shape. I have so much respect for Dave Grohl as a vocalist, drummer, default torch-bearer of modern-day Rock Music. (Also for Taylor Hawkins, because drummers are the best.) But the truth is, none of their albums really stand out to me. I know their singles, sure (I still dream of a future moment in my life where "Everlong" will be played in the background, LOL.) Their albums are just okay. Which isn't to say they aren't good — because they are. They're consistently good. It's just that, in the last decade or so, most of their albums have been very, uhm, vanilla. Delicious, but safe. And again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Who doesn't like vanilla? I bet if you ask ice cream companies, that is their most successful flavor. And really, is there any other more lasting, successful, and genre-defining rock band right now than the Foo Fighters? As far as longevity goes, vanilla isn't a bad path to take.

To quote this line from an FF article I read: "That the Foos’ nearly quarter-century together has produced little in the way of artistic development is exactly the point. Grohl and his pals never set out to write the gospel on modern rock—they only sought to preach it, hammering it into our heads by way of biting hooks and anthemic melodies."

That being said, I think Concrete and Gold is very much an invigorating, exhilarating ride. A typical Foo Fighters album is an above-average one, even without them trying. But this one felt like they really did go out of their way to epistolize something new. The album has its political and critical undertones — but never on the verge of sanctimonious. It's the right kind of encouraging people to the streets — maybe not necessarily to protest (although it can definitely be seen as that), but maybe to free themselves from the shackles of our burdened times. It laments, but also, appeases.

I particularly loved the single "Run." If you close your eyes you can almost imagine yourself in the middle of an arena pumping your fist up in the air with this battle cry. "In another perfect life / we run," Dave sings. And for the next forty-eight minutes, it does feel like nothing can go wrong. You can run. It's anything but a safe, secure sentiment — and it's definitely a freeing one. Although you never really went away, welcome back, Foos.

(Bonus: Watch Dave talk about the creative process behind Concrete and Gold. The animation is so cool! Plus, it's interesting to see the stories behind the artists that got featured in the album.)


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