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2008-00470, BA Creative Writing
Now officially a graduate of the College of Arts and Letters
and the University of the Philippines

Mabuhay ang mga Iskolar ng Bayan!

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Postcard from Diliman.

The familiar shade of green and gray welcomed me as the jeep took a right to the Acad Oval that I have always called my own. The sun said hello in between the shadows of leaves that hit my legs, and it was comforting the way it always is. Despite the frantic rush that this campus thrives in everyday, there is always a quiet reassurance that greets me once I catch a glimpse of the lush trees and the people below them. This was how it felt like the first time I looked at it through the eyes of a soon-to-be freshman. And this was the way it has been since, me looking on with much calm as the greenness of the university embraces me.

It is ironic that it should be this way, given that the last four years have been nothing but maddening. My spirits have been defeated, crushed, and trampled in every imaginable way – from having a paper thrown at my face to losing friends in the sea of hostility. It was nothing like the experience I’d had in my head all those years in my life before my name appeared on the list that everyone hoped to be on. As a kid, I grew up seeing UP only through the eyes of others – those who had walked the same halls, carried the same fears, sought the same dream. It seemed perfect and ideal. But it was not yet real. Only much later would I realize that the allure came not from its faultlessness, but from its sharp edges.

I ride this jeep and I look at these trees and buildings, and things are different. UP is no rapture, no dreamland. It has no place for easiness, no time for apathy. Once you step onto its halls, the solid ground you are standing on is pulled out from underneath you and you lose a part of yourself you’ve always thought secure. But UP stirs you to realization – it agitates you so you can straighten out, it unnerves you so you can reconcile. It has certainly made me question my own beliefs, my own thoughts, my own ideals, but it led me to my own answers I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.

Within its space, stories have been told, friends have been made. Interests have been shared and questions have been raised. I began as a stranger overwhelmed by the daunting brusqueness of the place, but now more like a friend endeared by its complexities. Amidst the hubbub of everyday, I have learned to see the colors hiding beneath the blacks and whites, to hear the silences between the noise – the small, minute but powerful silences, the almost unnoticeable and very minute quiet pauses that we often neglect but so evidently piece together the bigger moments that make up the days of our lives. This silence can mean so many things: a yes, a no, a refusal, an acceptance. It can spell the difference between giving up and pushing yourself. It can be a powerful weapon or an unforgivable mistake. It can keep you together or pull you apart.

I ride this jeep and I look at these trees and buildings, and they are looking back at me. It has been four years. Four years is not always a long time, but in this case, four years is enough to wipe away the rose-colored glasses and put on better, clearer ones. I have been changed, just as the buildings no longer stand for just bricks and concrete but words and thoughts and dreams and ideals. UP is not the same, just as I no longer am. And I am thankful. Sometimes, I wonder if I can take a slice out of UP and put it in my pocket, carrying all clamor and calm with me wherever I go, if only to comfort myself as the end of college draws closer. Then I look at myself, the shadows of leaves on my legs and the sun hitting my hands and my face, and I realize that maybe even when I go, I will never really leave; even in my goodbye, I will always say hello.


This is from one of my pieces from my thesis, entitled "Postcard from Diliman." When I wrote this in late February or early March, my future was still very much uncertain - I didn't know if I was going to finish my thesis in time for the April 2 deadline, I had no idea where I would go after my graduation, and I was unsure if I was ready for the changes that was about to come in the next few months. But more than anything really, I was scared of leaving UP - this was the predominant feeling. I have gotten myself in too deep that I knew going anywhere else would prove to be extremely difficult. I was trying my best to be realistic and not pin all my hopes in getting into UP because I didn't want to end up devastated (although I knew that would be the case anyway). So the last few weeks of school had me relishing every little bit of UP - from the jeepney rides to the many different faces. It was like psyching yourself for the break-up, but ending up reminiscing on all the good times instead.

Such is life in UP. It gets to the very core of your being, underneath every inch of skin, and it settles there like a fever that would not go away. UP gets to you - it just does. For all the misery and heartache you are bound to experience is a cone of dirty ice cream, a great talk with friends, or a beautiful, smiling sunflower that will always, always make you want to stay.

It's probably why graduation season is always bittersweet. UP tells us our purpose is to go out there and do great things for our country. But fulfilling that would mean saying goodbye and leaving the very place that has taught us to do so.

This is it. Graduation this weekend.

Maraming salamat, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.



Sunday sunrise.

This was the sunrise that greeted me and my high school friends at Mikka's attic earlier this morning.

As we talked about life, love, and the future, I realized that I truly cannot ask for a better set of friends. I must admit that college truly changed us, and that everything I was afraid that would happen before we left St. Paul did happen - we drifted apart, we had new friends, we saw less and less of each other. But life has a way of putting the puzzle pieces together when you need them to. Just because there's nothing wrong with the status quo doesn't mean it's all right either. Sometimes, all it takes is a little food, perhaps a little alcohol, and a lot of hours of talking to realize that friendships require just as much devotion and commitment as relationships do - but unlike boys, friends don't walk away. They stay. They choose to stay.

In misery and love. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health. :)


The thing about characters.

I like talking about people. Not (just) in a "Did you know what happened to...?" kind of gossip. And certainly not the "She said you said he said they said..." type. I like thinking about what people do and why they do it. I like over-analyzing stuff they say, reading into their every word. It's kind of crazy, I guess, for someone who isn't a psychology major. (And it really sometimes makes me want to consider taking up psych in the future.) But I like it, I really do. There's fulfillment in seeing a group of people ruffle each other's feathers or gel together like a single unit, despite (or perhaps because of) their differences. The tension need not be written in because upon collision, it's already there. She's bossy, he's an introvert. She's brutally frank, the other's much too nice. He's got ADHD, but the other's a little insensitive. Ah, an immediate explosion. That interests me more than anything, really.

Modern Family and Community - two of my favorite comedies right now that are both making my long, free summer days so worth it. Include Arrested Development in the list, and it rounds out what I think are the best-written shows on television ever. They also, incidentally, all comprise of ensemble casts, with each episode being more character-driven and focused on the cohesion of the people rather than the plot. Not that these two have awful premises - they actually have the best story lines, but just in different contexts - but I appreciate that the plot unfolds as the characters are fleshed out (and vice versa), rather than because of accidents, coincidences, or other sudden event that sounds convenient.

Character has always been more interesting for me. I always find myself fascinated more with the characters rather than the story itself. At the back of my head, every time a new character is introduced, be it in a show or a book or a movie, I always find myself wondering where they were from, what they like having for breakfast, who bullied them during their second-grade recess, what they would do if someone called them fat - that kind of thinking. I find character quirks interesting to look into, not only because they have the potential to be funny and are almost always worth remembering, but because they can drive the story much further than anything else can. After all, a lot of the things that happen in life are often a result of someone else's weird/sudden/expected reaction from it. Things don't always fall into places by magic - it's the people that make it happen.

(Which explains why I hate shows like Glee that rely so much on what tricks they can keep milking rather than invest on their characters. It's ripe with quirky, interesting people on the show yet they keep giving the "Let's randomly insert a song that is currently popular and is somewhat tangentially related to this scene so that we can get thousands of iTunes downloads"? Come on. And don't even get me started on how they work in their songs.)

I guess this also explains why I'm a sucker for the "uneventful moments" in stories and novels, in movies and TV programs. My favorite moment in The Kids Are All Right is Annette Bening singing "All I Want" by Joni Mitchell at the dinner table. My favorite part in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Rich Boy" is when Anson Hunter, at the home of Paula (his former love) and her husband Hagerty, responds with a simple, seemingly nonchalant manner when the two display showy amounts of affection. The best scenes in Modern Family are always the couch scenes, when they're looking at the "documentary" cameras.

I like them because quite frankly, reality doesn't always rely on grand gestures, just the friction between people in that one single moment.

And who doesn't like friction?


No fireworks just yet.

It's been a week since I submitted my thesis at the Department of English and Comparative Literature. It's been five days since I last emailed my final requirement for the last semester of my college life. It's been two days since I found out I also passed in Ateneo Law. Let's just say I'm well into my vacation now, and I have a lot of reasons to rejoice.

Quite frankly, I really am overwhelmed. This was the moment I've been working for the last four years of my life - the part I can finally say "Finally!" and not bat an eyelash, not lose a wink of sleep. This is real now. It's here. College is ending. Things are finally coming to a close, and another chapter is just about to begin. It's hard to resist reveling in relief and excitement.

But four years ago, I was expecting to welcome this rather differently. I thought I was going to be partying with friends, or frolicking in the beach, or flying on a plane to somewhere exotic - something big, something grand, to actually encapsulate my feelings of happiness.

Instead, here I am in my grandmother's house in Batangas for Holy Week, enjoying spending my nights talking to my grandparents instead of staying on the Internet. (There isn't any Internet in the first place, just some... leeching...)

And I could not be more glad. Four years ago, I thought happiness meant noise. I thought happiness meant exiting with a big bang. But if there is anything I learned in the last four years, it's that sometimes the best moments are celebrated in the quietest of ways. It's in seeing the beauty of lying in bed at two in the afternoon, huddled up with only a good book and your pair of eyeglasses, and realizing you have the rest of the day to finish all the books you brought with you, and then some. Happiness is getting a short good night call welcoming the first of the month. Happiness is being at your friend's house with your high school barkada to comfort her while eating Gardenia bread and laughing about people you know, finding strength in just your togetherness.

I don't need the grand stuff to feel grateful, I don't need the loudness to affirm how much I deserve being this happy and contented. I'm thankful, really extremely incredibly thankful, for everything I have in my life right now. No one else needs to see that in high-res pictures on social networking sites for it to be true.

So no, thank you, I can do without the grandeur for now. For now let me thank the universe in my simple, quiet way - and I'll let it give me my fireworks in its own great timing.