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by Al Young

She talks too loud, her face
a blur of wrinkles & sunshine
where her hard hair shivers
from laughter like a pine tree
stiff with oil & hotcombing

O & her anger realer than gasoline
slung into fire or lighted mohair
She’s a clothes lover from way back
but her body’s too big to be chic
or on cue so she wear what she want
People just gotta stand back &
take it like they do Easter Sunday when
the rainbow she travels is dry-cleaned

She laughs more than ever in spring
stomping the downtowns, Saturday past
work, looking into JC Penney’s checking
out Sears & bragging about how when she
feel like it she gon lose weight &
give up smoking one of these sorry days

Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space
& the air flying out of them as you look
close is only the essence of living
to tell, a full-length woman, an aunt
brown & red with stalking the years

— from The Blues Don’t Change.


[EDIT: April 23, 2015]

This morning I lost my aunt, my mom's sister, Gina Vistan - Naniong to cancer. She was diagnosed with advanced cancer in the bile-duct/pancreas area, after a tumor was found just about a month ago. She was not just my tita, but in many ways, my older sister, and my best friend. While for a fraction of my life, she had been based in Singapore, she still played the role of second-mother and partner-in-crime to me (along with my mom's other sister, Tita Karen).

I spent my Holy Week in Batangas where she was confined in a cancer institute there, and everyday since then I've offered my prayers for her. Everything happened so quickly and quite frankly, I'm still wrapping my head around it. I couldn't even write about her being diagnosed without tears welling up - more so this. It's surreal. I'm sad, perplexed, angry, frustrated - I'm all over the place. But I comfort myself right now at the thought that she is finally free from all pain. Please offer a prayer for her soul if you can. She was a great person and a truly amazing human being. I can't imagine where to go from here.

I'll miss you everyday, Tita Gina.



Some loves never die

Coming home

Went to CAL after class today because one of my thesis advisers wanted to lend me a fountain pen. He's an avid pen collector; meanwhile I'm a calligraphy newbie. He said he wanted me to try one -- and it was such an honor because knowing how much he values his pens (among other cool and awesome things he owns), he trusted me to try one of his! It's a Noodler's Ink Flexa Pen which was a completely unknown animal to me, because I've only used nibs and nib-holders thus far. But the tip of this pen is very much similar to a calligraphy nib, so I was so excited to go home and try it. (Also because calligraphy's the only kind of "creative writing" I do nowadays, ha ha hahaha.)

But before I did, of course, I took a moment to loiter, linger a bit more, and soak up all the college feelings I could get from being in the CAL area. It was bittersweet being back in the Faculty Center again, walking the same corridors I used to hang out in. Has it really been seven years since I first pre-enlisted in the DECL window, and three years since I submitted a bound copy of my thesis there? To say that I miss being a student of CAL would be a great understatement. I had great fulfillment in knowing that there was so much to learn about literature and the craft of writing, but that there was a place for me to grow and improve. It was an environment that always welcomed, and never pushed people away. There was no competition; no premium on grades, but rather on growth. It was nurturing, it was comforting. In legal jargon: it's my domicile. There is animus revertendi for certain.

At 1:05, in the sweltering heat, I felt myself incredibly nostalgic -- for the place, for friends, for the good times. I'm extremely grateful for the company I keep now; and I've grown to love the things that happened to me since I entered Malcolm. But undergrad was an incredible time. It was as a student of the College that I understood for myself what it means to be brave: in feeling and in writing. I can certainly say I wouldn't have been this brave and resilient if it wasn't for all kinds of love I got from CAL. I will always be thankful. And it will always, always be home.




Required Reading: Dashboard Confessional and all the feelings

Hi, hello, yes I'm still alive.

A lot of things have been going on, all of which have to do with stuff I'd rather not write about for now. There are just some things I'm not strong enough to put down on paper yet, so I'm giving myself time. I guess I'm at that point where I'm literally at a loss for words -- as to why, I guess I'll tell you in another post.

Today, instead, I choose to share with you an article I've come across that is more or less representative of a time in life people my age, I assume, can most definitely relate with. I'm talking about that band which served as the mouthpiece for all the sad, angsty, emo feelings of our youth: none other than Dashboard Confessional.

I'm sure, no matter how hard you try to deny it, you have your DC moments. Lots of them. And while the now cooler, "wiser," FKA Twigs-listening, 23-year-old self will scoff at the thought of you crying in the shower to Chris Carraba, you can't run away from that past. At least not completely. Because every tear you've shed since then had been colored some way or another by a feeling that only a Dashboard song can truly, properly convey.

"There is a brief window of life where it seems earnest emotion can be cool, and it happened to coincide with when I discovered Dashboard: high school.

Dashboard Confessional, or When It Was Cool To Have Feelings by Julie Beck

Reading this article got me transported back to a time when my Y!M status updates were always quoting "Brilliant Dance" and "Swiss-Army Romance." It's true: at some point, you will realize how funny and even embarrassing it was that you were once so brave about putting your feelings out there. Sadness was worn like a badge. Misery was a one-way ticket to coolness. Being honest was okay; being hyper-sensitive was more than welcome.

And then we grew up and started worrying about careers and bills and failures. We had real, actual problems come our way. Suddenly, Chris Carraba became the encapsulation of the paltriness of teenage hormonal angst. How silly of him, how whiny to sing of such things, we say. Suddenly, feeling confused about love because your crush hung out with someone else seemed so inconsequential and petty. But the gift of retrospect, is that all it has to give? The feeling of shame about feelings once felt? Aren't we doing our teenage-selves a little disservice when we belittle the feelings we had to go through, the very same ones that brought us to who we are?

About a month ago, when I went out with my boyfriend's friends for karaoke, I was surprised that one of his friends chose a song that I once called my favorite: "The Curse of Curves" by Cute Is What We Aim For. It's another one of those emo-punk bands of that long gone era; the type of song that had words 15-year-old me thinking they were brilliant, but were actually nothing but a bunch of convoluted phrases masquerading as raw emotions. I had no idea what the song literally meant back in 3rd year high school, but so what, it seemed angry and I felt angry. When I started singing the song with Louie's friend again after about eight years, man, I couldn't help but laugh a little. What was I singing about?! What the hell did I know at fifteen? But realizing that I still knew every word and every riff by heart, I also felt a bit wistful. 2007 me was so full of naivete, but also full of earnestness. I was "confused" about life; but I felt no shame about singing about it then.

I guess the really sad thing about being an adult is having to close the door on emotions — or at least being transparent about them. We force ourselves to be more proper, to be more cautious. Not without good reason, yes. But it's also kind of fettering how we have to build walls around ourselves in order to be considered mature. It's as if, you're not an adult until you can keep your feelings locked up in some drawer with the key flushed down the toilet. Only small increments of such are allowed, none of the Chris Carraba-wailing variety.

"Dashboard Confessional’s music is a relic of an earlier, more earnest self, who would sometimes overshoot, whose emotions sometimes reached the level of unreasonable, unseemly, uncool. But so what? There’s a bravery in just saying how you feel, especially in a culture where norms are put in place to discourage it."

Maybe we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. Let's give Dashboard Confessional — and all the other emo bands of that very emo era — some credit. Perhaps it was in feeling all the feelings that we eventually found the kind of people we were to become. We had to reach a turning point somehow: heartbreak, defeat, a failed test — something that could've been scored by a DC song. And then after all the tears have been cried (and all the sad song lyrics have been transcribed at the back of your trigonometry notebook), you learn to move on. After you whine and wail and cry, you put it all behind you. You manage. You carry on. And you're never the same person again.

And wow, do I owe those guys some thanks.

Lucky for me, I still have my iPod from high school. It's been with me since 2006, so yes, it still has all my Dashboard Confessional, Cute Is What We Aim For, Taking Back Sunday, and All-American Rejects tracks — along with a host of others. Guess it's about time to give all those songs (and feelings!) a spin again.

Sabi nga ni Pareng Chris, "Don't wait, to lay your armor down."




blue week

'As Joan Didion writes in The Year of Magical Thinking, “The power of grief to derange the mind has been exhaustively noted.” Yet this derangement is something whose “cure” can only be lessened with time. It’s not considered a pathology. I was so deranged during my time in Tucson that I couldn’t even write in my journal. I felt that whatever I wrote about my father would come true, and I did not want to jinx anything. I also couldn’t have a single conversation that wasn’t punctuated by uncontrollable fits of sobbing. Even the most benign questions, Are you hungry? Do you want to go for a walk? caused my grief to flare anew.'

Suppose I Kept On Singing Love Songs Just To Break My Own Fall by Anna Pulley

'We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.'

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

'We’re not probably, put on earth to prepare, there are certain things that, only by living through them, do you, learn to live through them. And what about understanding them? Through writing about them, that’s how you start to understand them.'

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

No one knows sadness better than Joan.