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when read backwards says Desserts.

Universe, what are you trying to tell me?


On my fully-booked bedside table.

Pun intended.

As if my bookshelves couldn't contain any more. My books are what's keeping me sane right now - they provide a welcome distraction to my otherwise mess of a life. Don't they always? Anyway, lately, I've been buying a lot of books that (1) of course, I want and (2) are on The Daunting List of Books in Philippine Literature in English That Every Creative Writing Major Should Read Before She Dies/Attempts To Do Her Thesis. Mostly the latter because next semester, I'm going to be a senior (!!!) and as a pre-thesis requirement we are to take CW199, a subject which requires us to read around a hundred books/selections from the Philippine literary scene. Even for a bookworm like me, it still feels extremely overwhelming. And from the "horror stories" I've heard so far about this subject, it's something we cannot afford to not take seriously (i.e. It has a significant effect on our would-be graduating status.) But so far, I'm enjoying what I've bought so far (mostly short story anthologies) and I'm really not complaining - yet.

At least it's my bookshelf gaining weight and not me. Ha!

Books Under Category Number (1)
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This is the book that will officially take away my Tolstoy virginity. And I have no qualms - I need no protection. I love it. It's the one. :))
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. A collection of short stories which I have already spoken about here.
  • Homewreckers: An Adultery Reader edited by Daphne Gottlieb. A short story collection (again) on the thrills and heartaches of illicit love affairs. The first of its kind, I believe. I got this at Book Sale in Festival Mall last week for Php 90 only.
  • Taming The Beast by Emily Maguire. I got this for Php75 at Book Sale MOA whereas I found it before for around Php600+ (if I remember correctly) at Fully Booked. It is a tale of innocence and obsession; kind of like a modern Lolita, which is one of my favorite books ever.
  • Tales From The Scale edited by Erin J. Shea. Another collection of stories about weight issues on women; it's a material I can gather some resources on for the rewriting of my play for my Filipino playwriting class, which tackles weight obsession.
Books Under Category Number (2)
  • The Bread of Salt and Other Stories and A Season of Grace by NVM Gonzales. "The Bread of Salt" will always be one of my favorite local short stories. Sure, it is considered the local version of James Joyce's "Araby" but there is a je ne sais quoi about it that makes it all the more endearing, and therefore, more heartbreaking. Hmm, maybe it's the sudden craving for pan de sal it subconsciously brings upon?
  • Womenagerie and Twisted by Jessica Zafra. I still believe that she will one day rule the universe. She makes literary geek-ery so cool - and relevant.
  • America Is In The Heart by Carlos Bulosan
  • Prose and Poems by Nick Joaquin
  • Killing Time In A Warm Place by Jose Dalisay, Jr. Sir Butch will always, always be on my list of the best professors I've had in UP.
  • The Gilda Cordero Fernando Sampler. GCF is awesome. Is there anything she cannot do?
  • The Distance to Andromeda by Gregorio Brillantes. A collection of short stories which my current Fiction professor keeps bringing up.

Yes, I am seriously judging anyone who complains about their 30-paged required readings.

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You and Me Song

Always when we fight
I try to make you laugh
'Til everything's forgotten
I know you hate that

Always when we fight
I kiss you once or twice
And everything's forgotten
I know you hate that

I love you Sunday song
The week's not yet begun
And everything is quiet
And it's always

You and me always, and forever

You tell me I'm a real man
and try to look impressed
Not very convincing
But you know I love it

Now we watch TV
Til we fall asleep
Not very exciting
But it's you and me
and we'll always be together
You and me always, and forever

- You and Me Song by The Wannadies

This song could not have come to me at a more perfect time. Today, after a surprise lunch of nachos and pasta, I had someone explain to me how ratchets work as I thoroughly enjoyed a honey glazed donut. In between bites, I laughed, not because I didn't appreciate the science, but precisely because I did, even if I didn't have to, even if I didn't want to. I laughed because it isn't difficult for us to switch gears from kinematics to fiction to politics, all with his hand on the wheel, and the other entangled in mine. I laughed because it's always the most mundane things that affirm the affection. I laughed because I secretly marveled at how the honey glazed donut always just has the right amount of sweetness, as I licked the sugar off my hands before holding his again.

Right now, there is no other song to better punctuate the silences, the differences, thetogetherness. Thank you, The Wannadies. I needed this. :)



How to Date An Invertebrate

First, get the definitions over with. An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. Of all the animals in the world, about more than ninety percent of them are invertebrates. It is general knowledge that humans have spinal columns. Some don't, however.

It is easy to secure an invertebrate. She looks like other vertebrates at first glance. But you will easily see signs of the lack of backbone once she starts talking. She is silent. She looks like she has a problem. You feel compelled to ask her what's wrong. She shakes her head and forces a smile. You proceed with your life. You look at her again and it's the same expression. You get worried. She looks at you, then looks away. Your conscience bothers you. You buy her a drink. She smiles.

Let her tell you her name. Allow yourself to listen to her stories: about how she feels alone, how nobody understands her, how stressed she is, how her head's been aching for the last few days. You don't want her to cry, so you put your arm around her. She will say she's okay, she will thank you for being there. She will text you good night before you sleep. There will be a smiley face. You will feel better about making her feel better.

Buy her lunch. Ask her what she wants. She will tell you, Whatever you want. You will feel selfish for deciding for her, so you ask her again what she wants. She throws the question back at you. Finally, you decide on beef steak. She will shake her head and say, Can I have chicken? You will oblige. You will buy chicken for both of you. She will never bring out her wallet. You will never ask. It never becomes an issue. You will eat lunch together for the next few weeks.

She will tell you how irritated she is in this one class. Her professor did not explain the lesson well. Try to understand where she is coming from. Look at your watch. It's only twelve-thirty in the morning. And it's just a long exam. It can wait. She needs you. In between her sobs, she asks you how you are. You tell her you have an exam tomorrow. She remembers something she forgot to tell you. You cannot put down the phone. She will tell you you are the only one who understands. You wonder if she has any other friends.

You will wake up to your phone vibrating, she is calling. She is angry. You didn't say good night. She got worried. She was studying last night. You were supposed to stay up with her. You were her moral support. She will begin to question your sincerity. She will doubt the weight of your promises. If you cannot even stay true to your word of saying good night, how will she believe you really care? You blame your pillow. But you fall asleep again anyway.

She will demand for your time. Your breaks will be spent with her. She needs you to hold her hand and tell her things will be okay. In the hallway, you see a friend. You ask him how he and Anne are doing. He smiles. We're doing great, he says. Anne is in class. They'll see each other later that week after their exams. You wonder why Anne doesn't ask him to fetch her in class. He is not needed, you conclude. You smile. Then you realize you still have that exam. You look at your watch. She comes out of the restroom. You give her back her bag. She raises her eyebrow and asks you, Can't you be a gentleman for me? She walks ahead of you. She makes you feel needed.

Your friends text you about a party. You want to go. Before you even ask permission, you notice a new update from her on a social networking site. It's a lyric about feeling ignored and unappreciated. You ask her what's wrong. She feels alright. You tell her about the party. She does not reply. Your friends start calling. You decide to go. Five hours later, you check on the thread. She will be musing about how men never understand and that they never know when to put their girlfriend's feelings first. All her friends agree with her. You will feel inadequate.

Hold her hand. Carry her things. Buy her food. Give her medicine. Understand her mood swings. Let her take the lead. Tell her everything you're doing. Do not leave her out of the conversation. Do what she says. Follow her when she walks out. Don't point out her mistakes. See beyond her insecurities. Praise her. Let her know you are there. Forget her irrationality. She makes you feel needed. She makes you feel like a man. She needs taking care of. She is fragile. She is special.

You wouldn't even consider dating a vertebrate. Doing so would mean not being required to see each other when you two are loaded with academic works. A vertebrate will let you spend time with your friends without her feeling insecure. You wouldn't want your phone not ringing with "Where are you?" and "Who are you with?" texts. You would definitely hate the opportunity to choose your own lunch for yourself. Your back would miss the weight of her girly-colored bag. Vertebrates are independent; they do not allow their lives to revolve around you. Why would you want that?

An invertebrate will divide her days in two ways: Time with you, time not with you. The latter part will be spent in agony, despair and confusion. She will make you question your priorities. Why would you choose a measly homework when she is feeling down and alone? She will take it against you when she says I'm okay, and you believe her and don't read between her sighs indicating that she really isn't. She will demand you to call her again after she hangs up on you. Twice. She will let you bring her home everyday. She will be incapable of going home without you. In fact, she will be incapable of anything without you. There is no other world existing without the two of you in it. She will find it difficult to decide, to choose, to make a point without you in mind. She will need you. She will hurt you, but you will believe she didn't mean to. She only just wants to feel that you care.

You feel what you have is special; this is truly what you want, and consequently this is truly what you need. You will open your Biology book. You will see the different kingdoms of the animal world. You will study about symbiotic relationships. You will read about parasitism, and how usually they are done by worms, bacteria, and insects. They are all invertebrates.


This is something I just randomly felt like doing in response to this article about dating illiterate girls. If a girl cares more about you not saying good night than your exhaustion over the amount of school work you had to do (that she never asked about), I think that's saying several things: (1) She clearly has time on her hands to wait for you, (2) She doesn't spend this time reading a book, or anything else equally productive, and (3) Your friends are already secretly judging her (HAHA KIDDING! Sort of. Maybe.)

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Keeping an Enemy closer.

Everything else about that day was blurry - I don't remember much about what I said, what we learned in school, or what I had for recess - but there are some details I'm highly unlikely to forget. I was four years old, wearing my black-and-white checkered skirt for the first time in my life. I belonged to Kinder 1 - Pink AM, a first among the many shades of that color that would make a significant impact on my life. I had a new set of crayons and a Polly Pocket bag. My shoes were shiny and my socks were neatly folded down to my ankles.

But the most important detail of all was that she was late; that I know for sure. She came in a few hours late for class. Her hair was down, up to her shoulders. She looked quiet and meek, surprised even, probably because of the numerous pairs of eyes looking at her as the teacher introduced her in front. I remember sitting somewhere near the front, curious about who this girl was. I think she sat next to me, or if not, somewhere in the same table. I already had a buddy then who was just as loud and talkative as I was. But somehow, despite this new girl's apparent shy demeanor, the two of us felt that this new kid should be our friend. She was the "new girl" and we were compelled to welcome her to our table. The three of us promised to eat recess and play together everyday after that. We shared crayons and she told me her name was Katrina. We became attached to the hip after that. Friendship was sealed.

A migration, three graduations, numerous recesses and lunches, and fifteen years later, that new girl and I are still very much the two naughty girls who played only in the yellow slide and chose the swing over monkey bars. Pretty much everything stayed the same. Only she's no longer the gentle, quiet girl, and no one ever calls her Kat.

It's uncanny how similar Hope and I are at first glance - we're both loud, extremely friendly, and sometimes complete goofs. And yet, I think we'd be the first ones to point out how different we are as well. She's more straightforward and frank, I'm more of a softie. She retaliates, I retreat. She tears up when in joy, I laugh even in pain. Aside from that, we have different interests as well. We're taking up two different courses from campuses that could not get any more dissimilar (A Catholic university versus one that lets students run naked). We could not be any more different when you look closer, really.

But one thing we undeniably share in common, however, is our exceedingly corny sense of humor. When it became a fad to call everyone's closest friend "Bestie" or "Bhez" or whatever derivation of the phrase "best friend," as we ascended to the second floor one fateful day during second year high school, we decided to call ourselves Enemies - (1) because in CLE class we were discussing about Jesus and his most important commandment of "loving your enemies" and (2) because we just wanted to be different. We had a good laugh after that - I think it lasted for more than ten minutes. We could not believe how "witty" we were for coming up with "Enemy." Hey, we weren't like anyone else!

And certainly, we aren't. After almost two decades of friendship, I can very much say we're not like most friends. We don't just read through each other's thoughts, or finish each other's sentences, or call each other everyday. For all the complexities there are, ultimately, it really is the time we've spent together that has sealed this friendship. It really boils down to that. When you've been friends with someone for so long, losing touch just isn't an option anymore. I think we've reached this point where it doesn't matter how long we haven't talked to each other or how far apart we are - just put us together and we can pick up where we left off.

Today is Hope's birthday. I know she wants a surprise and she would love to have people blindfolding her and presenting her with cakes and balloons. But I've known her longer than I've known how to spell the word 'caterpillar' - and coming from me, those kinds of surprises would mean nothing already. We've gone past that stage. We no longer need the gifts and the party hats - right now, we just need the words, the acknowledgement, the same kind of reassurance we had in each other that day in kindergarten when we promised to be playmates forever; that no matter the distance or the time, in this time in our lives, when everything is changing and life is starting to unfold, she would always be my Enemy, and I would always be hers. And that would always, always be more than enough.

Thank God, she came late in that class.

Happy birthday, Enemy! Let's bond soon, okay? Love you! :*


Death March.

Appropriate description for how this month has been turning up so far.

Just to give you guys an idea of what (else) is taking up most of my time for the last few weeks and will continue to do so in the couple of days ahead:
  • CW130 (Playwriting) final staged reading. Our event is on Monday already and getting actors is stressing me out. (Btw, free admission; you guys can come watch, if you want!)
  • MP174 (Pagsulat ng Dula) final draft submission/approval and final performance.
  • CW111 (Fiction) final short story draft
  • CW140 (Creative Nonfiction) final compilation of revised drafts for informative essay, opinion essay, travel essay, and memoir
  • Eng22 (British Lit) final project on Austen's Sense and Sensibility
So far, only my Philo150 (Epistemology) has been officially crossed out from my list of things to worry about this semester, but already for that, I am very grateful. Nonetheless, there's still A LOT more to go and I'm guessing it will be quite a while before I can throw my papers up in the air finally scream adieu to this sem. (Not that I can't do that right now, but I still have enough guilt inside me to stop me from doing so.)

On the brighter side, I got an incredible surprise from the CRS - I was enlisted in a much-sought-after PE that had a demand of almost two hundred and slots for only twenty five! I have literally dreamt of taking this PE since first year, and I am beyond ecstatic that I got it FINALLY. The universe wanted this to happen! (I think!) What it is, I'll let you know soon enough. Let's just say it's bound to make my summer really sizzling...

Second sem, please just end already.



No one belongs here more than you.

"...gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanging, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world."
This is an excerpt from the blurb of No One Belongs Here More Than You, a collection of short stories by award-winning artist and writer Miranda July. This was one of the four books* I bought yesterday at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street after a very, very stressful week. I've always found pleasure in prose more than anything else and short story collections like this I fondly devour.

Writing is a form of masochism, that's what our fiction professor always says. It's a painful sort of release, much like an exorcism, I guess, only in an internally turbulent way. It's more than just writing words on a page; it's wanting to calm the tension inside you, to flesh out the voices of different characters in your head, to make something real come out of the surreal. My writing "philosophy" has never been about the fantastic images or fabulous settings, because I admit I don't have the skills (yet) to perfectly craft such a story. But I find pleasure in writing about the little moments, the quiet ones that almost go unnoticed because I find them the most powerful. Their weight comes not in the grandness of the moment itself, but the slow, creeping poignant effect it brings long after it is over.

So far, I am enjoying the stories I've read in this collection. This just might overtake David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" on my list of favorite short story collections (but it's too early to say.) I am also particularly in love with the cover design, the title in a simple black serif font atop a plain yellow background. Very simple and hushed, echoing perhaps the tenderness of the book itself. And the title? Do I even dare to begin about the title? It was practically screaming out to me the first time I saw it on the shelves - maybe it's the universe's way of reassuring me that I actually belong to the books/in this course/among the words/in this literary world?

Maybe I'm just going delusional because this week is the final one for the semester and it's still far from over. Hearing book titles speak to you might be a very telling sign of hysteria. Ah, the perks of being a writer.

I'll be spending the rest of the weekend revising my two plays, while finding time to read my new books and lunch out with the family in between. The semester is coming to a close but I cannot find myself to feel relieved just yet. Hopefully the books will take my mind off of things. In a good way.


* The other three were: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (which I've been dying to read), A Season of Grace by NVM Gonzales, and Prose and Poems by Nick Joaquin, both of which are included in The Daunting List of Books in Philippine Literature in English That Every Creative Writing Major Should Read Before She Dies/Attempts To Do Her Thesis. True story.



Good Biscuit.

“It’s just a dare, Mia,”

I stared at the small piece of bread, round and flat, with the top a little more brown than the rest, the entire surface shiny and glistening, like the ones my dad used to bring home. Hopia has always been Daddy’s signature pasalubong; he said he never believed in chocolates and candies for dessert, and he always got them at a cheaper price anyway because the lady selling them thinks he’s Chinese. We have the same eyes, Daddy and I. The family calls it alkansya – piggy bank eyes, they say. The tiny little slits appear when we smile, when we sneeze, when we take a bite, when I try to remember the names of relatives, when the early six-thirty a.m. sun hits his eye in the morning as he drives us to school.

Melissa is staring aghast at the rows of hopiang monggo atop our cafeteria counter. She said she only tasted it once and never tried it again. It smells like gasoline, she said. Once she decided it was disgusting, the rest of us could not possibly like it anymore. Tricia never ate anything but her mom’s chocolate chip cookies for recess, and Cindy has never tried hopia before. I was the only one who enjoyed eating it for dessert, for merienda, for breakfast – but secretly of course, in the confines of our own living room, with only my parents and my brother as witnesses.

I gave my five-peso coin to the Manang, motioning for the first hopia in the row. How quickly the smell found its way to me, and eventually my friends! I saw them wrinkle their noses in disgust as I started moving the piece of bread closer to my mouth. It looked a little glossier than what my dad usually brought home but smelled like gasoline just the same. An oddly addicting taste and smell. I do not want them to think this is too easy for me – I close my eyes and pretend disgust. I pull it away from my face and I hear Melissa laughing. Tricia and Cindy are cheering for me. At the back of my head, I know this would be easy. I take a bite and feel my eyes squint their way into an alkansya and for that moment I am sitting across dad in our small, dining table, looking Chinese even though our surname sounds more like a telenovela character. I take a bite and I chew; slowly I taste the gasoline and soon I smell it, like I did as I sat on the passenger seat with dad driving me and my brother to school, like I did the time we went to the hospital after Dad never woke up. I let its strangely delicious flavor swirl inside my mouth like a current of emotion. Tricia hugs me and I lean on her shoulder, wetting her sleeve. See, it wasn’t so bad, I hear Melissa say.


As an exercise for our CW140 class, we were asked to write down our "secrets" on small pieces of paper and draw them in lots, after. We then had to write a story based on the ones we picked. This was what I came up with with this secret: "I ate hopia in front of my classmates even if it smelled like gasoline because I liked it." It was actually quite a funny, insignificant little detail - which I surprisingly liked a lot, really.



A lazy Monday afternoon.

Depending on what mood I'm in, Mondays are either the most productive or most useless days of my week. It is general knowledge that (most) UP students do not have class on Mondays so more often than not it can be the saving grace from the uselessness of the weekend (because God knows it's hard to be productive on Saturdays and Sundays) - you can catch up on your acads or catch up on your sleep. Either way's fine.

Since it's almost the end of the sem, obviously my Mondays have been more of the Cram-and-get-everything-done kind. Not that they've all been one hundred percent spent that way, but you get the picture. Of course there will inevitably be short (not really) naps and the occasional random musings that are normal of a person who is alone in a nine-square-meter room. Usually brought upon by random songs on my iPod.

Like my concerns about my own future: about this summer, the next school year, the LAE, graduation. I know it's too early to be anxious about stuff like this, but I can't help it. I don't usually worry about them but with everything so close all of a sudden, how can I not think about it? Big changes are sure to come this year, this 2011. And not just to myself but for most people around me. This year can possibly define my career- heck, my life. Can't time just maybe stop for a while and give me something to hold on to, something I can be certain of, before life throws its shit at me?

It doesn't help that this week is Hell Week and the amount of tension is just about to exponentially increase as days go by and I am bound to stress over every little detail that I come across.

Then it rained and Portishead decided to say hello. "Glory Box." Seriously? Beth Gibbons on a dark, moody, lonely Monday? Suddenly, I was feeling all sorts of emotional, comforted, distressed- a twisted bundle of sentiments I cannot exactly put my finger on.

Sometimes songs are all I have. I realized, as I lay on my bed, lazily typing a blog entry and a Philosophy paper, taking in the entire "Dummy" album, what I really needed was some snuggling. Or beer. Or maybe a secret rendezvous, an illicit night out. Just something, something to go with this song. Something to make me feel sane. Whichever comes first. I'll gladly hold on to it.

Give me a reason to love you
Give me a reason to be a woman
I just wanna be a woman


Some kind of osmosis.

The last few weeks have been toxic, really toxic. The next ones aren't going to get any better either, maybe even worse. The semester is coming to a close, yet I don't feel a sense of relief washing over me just yet. I just really want this semester to end already but there's still so many things to write, to revise, to do- it's completely frustrating.

It's no secret that this sem is probably one of the toughest I've had so far. With majors taking up most of my Form 5, it's safe to say that I really am a Creative Writing major now, staying up late for character revisions and literary analysis. It's not always a walk in the park, especially when I reach this point of complete and total stagnation- when no words come out of me, no thoughts; just a loud, piercing kind of silence that looms over me like a dark cloud. It's a vicious cycle really: I can't write because I feel tired and I'm tired because I can't write. It has been like that for most of the semester, and it has just been really exhausting. Sometimes I'm still surprised at how I peel myself off my bed and go to school even on zombie-mode.

But if there's one thing that keeps me excited, not so much about my school work, but about still getting up at least, is getting to see the people I care for, the people I admire. It's such a hackneyed thing to say but I've only truly come to appreciate it in the last few months. Everyday what keeps me going is the interesting conversations I share with my friends, how we're worried about our future, how we want to carve our places in the Philippine literary scene, how we can't wait to become our own selves- random, daily conversations that aren't really important, but aren't stupid and shallow either.

I am also constantly in awe of my professors who are all geniuses in their own way, having already made a name for themselves in their chosen fields. All of my professors this semester are PhD holders and going to class, even just for the stories they share about their experiences, is already enough to make the few thousand bucks I paid for that class worth it. Just the other day, I saw a modern adaptation of Macbeth directed by my playwriting professor and I realized how lucky I am to be in this college, in this university; how much of a privilege it was just to be surrounded with these unbelievably artistic people. It makes me want to do better as a writer, as an individual.

It's amazing how we gather the strength we need to carry on from the most mundane of things. The other day, while enjoying the religious revelation that was Moonleaf, my boyfriend was explaining something about cars and the clutch and other parts of an automative I wouldn't really notice (nothing new really since we always have this geeky kind of talking, him of mechanics, me of literature) when I realized how grateful I am to be with such a dedicated, intelligent person. That he can talk to me about the dynamics of a car over a cup of milk tea makes me want to grab my Norton Anthology and explain my sociological analysis of The Rape of the Lock.

The way he would talk about bomb calorimeters or centrifugal force, the way our professor would tell us about bringing out the moment in each play, the way my friend elaborated her plan of taking up further studies after college- all these talks, these conversations, they all make me feel like I am in the company of such diverse but equally brilliant people.

And I realize, how can I not be motivated after that? How can I still have an excuse for feeling unenthusiastic when here I am, mingling with people who are so committed to what they do? The dedication does not take away the stress, that I am sure of. But for the most part, it makes it more valuable, more significant. Maybe it's about time I take a cue from them.

Just a couple more weeks to go, Karla. Keep it together.