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So long, farewell, 2011!

To cap off the year, I saw The Sound of Music on stage last night with my family at Resorts World Manila. Nobody can contest that this is my favorite musical ever - I think I've seen this film more than a hundred, possibly even a thousand times. I grew up singing along to every single song and mouthing the words to every line, and every time I saw it as a kid I would find myself identifying with a different Von Trapp kid, depending on what my age was at the time. It truly is a wonderful, remarkable movie, something me and my family (from both sides!) never get tired of. It comes as no surprise then that we would go out and buy tickets for the show. I have always wondered what the Broadway/staged version was like, because being the fangirl that I am, I knew very well that there were several changes made in the film.

The significance of this musical to me is beyond complex, really. Over the years, in the countless times that I have played this on VHS and spun this on VCD, DVD, and now Blu-Ray, this movie has attached itself to various stages in my life, adding intricate layers to the already numerous shades of meanings it has for me. Watching the entire film will remind me of memories of the past, of people, of places, and no one viewing is ever the same - it's like rereading a book and rediscovering things you haven't noticed before. One of my many lolas was a nun, whom I loved visiting at their convent, but who always reminded me that I'm a bit too mischievous to become a nun myself. She always reminded me of the Mother Abbess because of her kind words of wisdom. My maternal grandmother, Wowa, used to play the songs for me on the piano, and has become (and still is) one of the reasons why music is so deeply instilled in me. My parents always made sure we had several copies of this movie at home and the three of us would always sing along together inside their bedroom - in fact, just last year Papa bought Mom the 45th anniversary Blu-Ray collection of the movie, complete with special features, picture books, and even a small jewel box.

But perhaps one of the most poignant memories that I have of the Sound of Music is watching it beside Inang in her room. Papa installed a TV and DVD player in front of her bed a few years ago so that she could be entertained despite having to stay indoors all day. Her favorite film was The Sound of Music - perhaps on some level it reminded her of a childhood that wasn't too far from the story: a strict father, a relatively young mother, and a household of seven children. She enjoyed the songs just as much as everyone else did, and found it just as visually appealing. But she always insisted on skipping the part where the Nazis were chasing the family, mostly because it reminded her too much of WW2. She would much rather put on repeat the scenes with songs instead of sirens.

We were originally scheduled to watch the play at Resorts World on December 2, but on December 1, Inang passed away. The idea that something so painful would now be attached to this happy antidote of a film is not what troubled me the most - it's that I could no longer share it with her. In my head I was already picturing how I was going to tell her about it – how the film actually traced its roots to a Broadway musical, how the children fared against the Hollywood Von Trapps, how the songs were just the way as we remembered it. Even the lights that were by then already set up all around the buildings at Newport City and the Christmas decors that adorned the hotel lobbies – the details, big and small, I was only too excited to share.

Last night was bittersweet for each of us in the family who watched. We couldn't discuss the play without mentioning Inang in some way - something she used to say, something she would have said. It was a very complicated, twisted feeling of nostalgia and happiness hearing Maria sing of her favorite things to make the sad feeling go away.

In many ways, 2011 turned out to be better than I expected. Looking back, this year has been truly kind to me - I visited many places, reconnected with old friends, strengthened bonds with family and particular people. It was truly a blessing. Losing Inang is probably the only truly painful thing that happened to me this year, which on many ways magnifies the hurt, but in retrospect also dulls the ache, for there are so many other things to be thankful about: family to lean onto, friends to care about, stories to share. While the pain will probably not go away any time soon, it doesn't dampen the spirits either.

2012 is going to be a big year, I can tell. It feels like 2007 all over again, with graduation and exam results looming in. I'm sure there are going to be major bumps along the way too, just like every other year that has passed. But I can only pray that 2012 turns out to be just as wonderful, just as empowering, if not more. There is nothing else we can do really other than just cross our fingers and wish for good things. And when all else fails, at least let us wish for the courage to brave the bad ones - or the willingness to think of the good things to get us through, when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when we're feeling sad.

Happy new year, everyone! :)


Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

I hope this midnight, tomorrow, and in the days to come, instead of thinking of the things we have lost or never got to have, let us be thankful for the family we have with us, the food on our table, and the gifts left unwrapped; the hands held, and the words said; the people in our lives, and the moments we've shared with them.

Let's celebrate the love - the pure, unconditional love that was given to us on this day all those thousand years ago. Sending out all my love to you on this very special day.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Being a Creative Writ-Eng'g student.

They say most people today are always a half, a quarter, a part-something. Half-American. Half-Chinese. One-fourth Norwegian. Fifty percent blue-eyed. Twenty percent with hitchhiker's thumb; recessive gene. You get the idea. My parents are full-blooded Filipino, I was born and raised in Manila, and I have no significant clarifications regarding the pronunciation of my surname. I have always been a 100% something for most of the things in my life, and I had no intention of having it otherwise - or so I thought.

Looking back, I think I have spent almost half of my stay in UP with my heart leaning a little bit towards one college in particular, in that one building that's all the way on the other side of the Acad Oval. Not that I have ever considered shifting - God, no. I love my course and my department too much to even think about belonging someplace else. In fact, if only I could have taken more electives, I would have signed up for at least one class in every department in our college. I love CAL, I really do.

But I love more people outside CAL, and quite honestly, they all belong to one place, that of angas, intellect, and moneyed alumni: the College of Engineering.

Half of my barkada is comprised of students from Eng'g (or who used to be from Eng'g). Several of my previous crushes (emphasis on previous!) were from Eng'g. My first friends outside my barkada were also from Eng'g.

I've had a lot of people come up to me and ask if I already shifted to Eng'g. That's because I spend quite a hefty amount of time either with Eng'g students or being in places associated with them. I do have my own affairs inside my college, but more often than not, I feel like I've been adopted by affiliation.

It comes as no surprise then that I spent the last school week of the year practically loitering around Melchor Hall again. After all, it was Engineering Week, and who's to say I can't be a part of it?

Karla, Andee, and Ria being vain as usual

Spot Miss ERG! Gwapo by day, chicks by night!

Someone is being molested in this photo.

ERG people!

On the Eng'g Steps is the place to be.

Spotted at the Lantern Parade! A rare Pokemon!

Before Ms. Eng'g

At the ERG home front!

Behind-the-scenes at Ms. Eng'g
Ms ERG with his (her?) "Mommies"

Eng'g Week has always been magical for me - from the epic org-bashing Smokers Night, to the concluding battle of beauty/kapogian Ms. Engineering, and everything else in between. It's where friendships are sealed and affections are affirmed. The promise of a better second semester lies in the secrets that unravel in the midst of Eng'g Week - well that's what's happened to me, at least. While this year held no surprises, it was still particularly special for it was my last as an undergrad. I spent it with my friends, just like I always did, and I couldn't have had it any other way. I am really, truly hoping this won't be my last as a UP student ;)

And so, to the College of Engineering, thank you for making me feel like a part of you. For the memories, for the friends, for the love - I owe you big time, Eng'g. Here's to you!

(photo credit: Ria Esguerra)



Out of the blue.

I took the Ateneo law entrance exam last Saturday. To say that I welcomed it with tremendous anxiety was an understatement: it was the first law admissions test I had to take (the UP LAE was moved to January 22), it was in an entirely different environment (hello, Rockwell), I had so many things to do last week regarding my acads, and the distress over my lola's passing is still pretty much a big factor in my current mental and emotional state.

But all the stress in the world doesn't excuse me from taking the exam. I saw two friends that day: Abby, a former classmate who is a Comparative Literature major (she graduated last April), and Maica, one of my friends from my LAE review. Seeing familiar faces definitely helped ease some nerves, but all throughout, the voice inside my head just kept screaming expletives out of panic (a la Lizzie McGuire's cartoon counterpart). The test was divided into three parts, with the first two given forty minutes each, and the last one an hour. Part 1 was like an IQ test that pretty much had all the reading comprehension, math, and abstract reasoning bundled up in one package. It was alright, and all throughout, I said to myself, "Kaya na 'to." Boy, did I speak too soon. Part 2 and Part 3 were all logic - strength and weakness of arguments, applicability of statements, truth and falsity of premises - the whole entire shebang. The questions per se were not other-worldly difficult, it's just that the time really was not enough. 100 questions in 40 minutes! And the passages were not at all short either. The reading comprehension part was tedious; I'm glad my literature background got my ass covered on that. The questions pertaining to logical reasoning weren't exactly alien to me, but of course it still required much mulling over - something you cannot do for long when given such limited time.

I did finish the test unscathed, thankfully. Results will be posted around the second week of April. Oh, the wait! The long, agonizing wait! I'm crossing my fingers - both for Ateneo and UP, of course. At this point I'm still in no place to choose where I would like to go - I haven't even taken the LAE yet; but my concern right now is just to do well on the exams. Maroon or blue would do fine by me. I've always been curious about what it would be like to be an Atenean, but of course, UP is my alma mater and I'd never want to leave. Let's just wait and see. (And try not to think about it for a while.)

It's been four years since I last felt this jittery over an entrance exam, four years since my intellect has been judged so severely. I feel like a high school senior, again. But unlike 2007, I guess I'm taking things in better stride now. I'm more relaxed (relatively) and more realistic than idealistic. Ah, maturity.

Ah, Rockwell.


The whole time before the exam (including the previous night), I was talking to Inang, asking her to intercede for me. Both my immediate grandmothers dreamed of being lawyers - in fact, my maternal grandmother (whom I call Wowa) was already in her first or second year as a law student when she stopped because she had to work. Meanwhile, Inang graduated only from high school but her level of education was never the sole indication of her intelligence. I was with my Wowa the whole afternoon that Friday because she and my grandfather fetched me from UP, and she told me once again of her law school travails - which helped me feel less nervous about the upcoming test. But that night, I also found comfort in talking to Inang, even just inside my head. Somehow, in an ironic kind of way, it made things less menacing when I told her I was also doing it for her.

After the exam, I visited my aunt who lived with Inang. I was telling her about the test, and other school-related things, when I suddenly felt the urge to share with her my sadness over the lost picture. I was using her laptop that time because I was showing her something on Facebook when she thought of opening one album in her My Pictures folder. Lo and behold, there it was: the entire album of my high school graduation party, with all my pictures, including that of Inang and I.

I do not take it as a sign of me passing or anything, because finding that photo is not about law school - it's so much more than that. I guess it's a way of coming to terms with the reality of the events. While I still cannot say I have fully let go, I can at least acknowledge that I'm getting there. But of course, seeing the picture again was reassuring on so many levels. It affirms in me the permanence of love; that she is not lost, that she never will be.


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I found it.

They say things find you when you need them to find you.

I love you, Inang.




On losing people, pictures, words.

My paternal grandmother passed away last Friday. She was the oldest person in the family (she was 91), but also the wisest, and quite possibly the funniest. She never had a trace of dementia or Alzheimer's disease; she was fully aware of how charming John Lloyd Cruz is, and never forgot the words to Doe a deer a female deer... even after almost fifty years. She was kind and gentle, but also honest and brutally frank. She's the first to notice how much weight we put on, but she's also one to compliment my gigantic earrings.

I left for Diliman last Tuesday without Inang to say goodbye to for the first time. It's a terrible, terrible loss and I still have not come to terms with it to be honest.

In a frantic search for comfort and some assurance, I raided my laptop last night for this particular picture of us during my high school graduation party. It is clear in my head, this photo. I am wearing my Paulinian uniform and she is in her wheelchair, and we are both smiling. I remember it perfectly because I used to say I will compile my pictures with my grandparents (after my maternal grandmother remarked that she was making an album of me and my grandfather) but I never got through to doing it. I was desperately clicking through all folders, everything that could possibly be opened, crying, sobbing, pleading, hoping that it was there somewhere - nothing. I found all the other pictures of that year, but not of that night, not of the two of us. I even found pictures of my mom, my dad, and my aunt with their own shots with Inang, but not that particular picture I was looking for. The entire album of that graduation party, I have no clue where it is, if I uploaded them or transferred it somewhere. It's not on my laptop and it's not on my hard drive. It's not in any storage device I have with me right now.

And as if dying itself wasn't the superlative of a loss, being unable to find that picture underscored the fact that indeed she is gone - now, tomorrow, for good. Suddenly I was angry, I was confused, I was sad: for losing the photo, for not being able to have more photos, for the opportunities to show her more love now lost.

Before I knew it I was crying not just for her, but for the three other grandmothers who passed away in the last seven years. They should have seen me graduate, they should have seen me go to law school. They should have been given more chances to see us kids grow into adults, to thank our parents fully, to just be the solid foundations that they were to our family. They deserved to continue being given the love we are only so willing to share. There was still so much to do, to say. Somehow it dawned on me again that all the moments I shared with them were not enough at all.

I lay awake in bed in a maddening assortment of crying and forcing myself to sleep, for what else is there to do?

I've been trying to find the words to truly express my grief but they are lost to me, just like Inang and I's picture. I wish I were strong enough to write about being fully accepting of all this, of finally being able to say goodbye without hesitation. I wish I had a better ending to this post, something to tie the pieces together for closure perhaps. But I can't and I don't, and all I have right now is a chaos of words trying to make sense of things in the absence of order, trying to deal with the loss of a photo, of a grandmother.