Happy Picnics by the Sea

Mama is packing the plates and the eating utensils into the basket, Papa is adding lime juice to the ceviche and Honey is changing into her colorful swimsuit. Sunday was my favorite day.

Sunday meant family day when I was still young. My parents woke up by 6a.m to buy fresh fish from Palompon and meat from APL store. As soon as clock hits 9a.m., we made our way to church to hear mass (typical Catholic practice which involved me dressing up) after that we changed into summer clothes and packed the food then head to the local beach.

Fresh fish is truly divine (luckily I am from a country where seafood is abundant) and Papa knew how to make good ceviche from Tanigue (local name for King Mackerel). The taste of lime juice, vinegar, coconut milk, ginger, onions, salt and sugar played an angelic symphony in my palate, one of my favorite seafood dish. He usually paired it with grilled pork that’s marinated overnight in soy sauce, black pepper, sugar and kalamansi juice (a.k.a. Calamondin). The sweet and tangy flavours were wonderful contrasts to the white rice. As a rice loving Asian, I consumed more than 3 cups specially when I ate with my bare hands. My sister and I devoured food like monsters while Mama controlled her appetite in fears of gaining weight. Papa never liked the idea that he would remind Mama that she looked good.

Picnic
Those were the days.

The memories of simple picnics by the sea never fails to make me smile. It reminds me of times when we were complete as a family, where everyone seemed happy, free from worries and resentments. I sometimes miss those moments but I know those times have passed.

My definition of family is broader now and to cope up with zero chance of reliving those moments, I take every chance I can get to have happy picnics with friends and even strangers.

 

Freedom Fridays: My Own Little Escape

This blog entry was originally posted on July 4, 2011.

When I was a kid, I could never sleep without hugging a pillow close to me. My mama can attest to the countless times when I would look for something to hug for me just to fall asleep. I never knew why I grew fond of it. As I turned 8 or was it 7, my mama gave me a small teddy bear and even til now I still have that teddy. From the day I received it til the time I got a new teddy bear, I never let go of it. I can never sleep without it.

It was only til now that I realized why I love having a teddy bear close to me when I’m asleep. Sometimes things happen in reality that are too much for one person to bear and sometimes the people you need the most are never there. It’s because you feel cozy and warm without having to give something back in return. Teddy bears never reject you and they are always there for you whenever you need comforting. I don’t have to put on a lot of effort asides from occassional laundry to keep the teddy clean. I can just be plain, crazy and invisible me.  Up until now, I still have a teddy with me in bed. I love being in my room, it is when I am alone that I don’t feel rejected. I love solitude. I don’t have to worry about how people will think of me. I have peace when I see no one and no one sees me.
We all have our escapes, mine is no big secret. You and me are not that different.  Just me, my room and my teddy. Every now and then you have to escape to avoid losing yourself.

Losing Love: Part 2

Years passed and her world grew bigger. A new life in a new city, another shot at reinvention. “I am someone else!”, mantra she kept in her mind as she started college. Once again, she found herself drawn into the beauty and rawness of the wilderness.

Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere.

She filled herself with fresh expectations but once again her quest brought new wounds. Wounds far more complex and deadly than the ones before. Daytime, she smiled and laugh like sun at noontime but when night came, she slithered into her cave of  self-destruction. A fish out of water desperately seeking the ocean, living off through small air bubbles. Desperation haunted her and self-pity seeped into her blood. She morphed into a reticent swimmer against the ebb and flow. Her mind filled with a farrago of doubts, fears, hopes, and wishes.  They all thought she suffered from the hectic duties and lectures but it was her ray of hope.

Routines made her feel safe. Just as a passenger desperately seeking for saving from a sinking ship, she clung to people who gave her promises of security. She would later find out that they were nothing more than a mere mirages. A bunch of conspirators scheming her demise. One day as she traipsed on, she stumbled into a river and for the first time, she descried her reflection in perfect clarity. She shuddered at the sight, realising that she was her own saviour. All these time she thought she had no choice, nothing more but a victim hanging on to the claws of cruel fate.

Energised with the new insight, she sought to change her reality. She gave up the prescribed life she had before her. The momentum brought her courage and a renewed focus in life. Packed all her stuff and moved to the metropolis, her goal to make her dream a reality. It was more than a decade ago when she dreamt of a restaurant that would serve nothing but fresh and healthy food produced from her own farm. Employing people and empowering them by providing education to their families. For many years, she hated the thought of business, thinking that money was merely the devil’s creation to enslave men. She now saw things in a new light after meeting a stranger. He woke her up from monotony and talked her out of her cowardness.

Creating yourself.

What was once lost is now regained. She found direction and let go of other’s life mould. All her life, patterned after what others saw. She finally mustered enough courage to live life the way she always wanted, swore to herself never be oppressed into living a life she is not happy with. She finally embraced her own legend and reached for the stars. She stood infront of the road that she created, knowing that it will not be an easy journey. Gone are her days of emptiness.

Hope At A Time of Digital Reality

Hope. What does it mean for you? In a fast-paced world, there is always a need to keep up. Technology has made life easier and time go faster. Day after day, you check Facebook, email, Huffington, Clash of Clans, Instagram and other sites. You find yourself drifting through the digital world and missing out on life. Is it our way of holding on to hope?

When the things we have in front are far from reality, we try to cope up by escaping it. For those who feel powerless and out of control, they venture into online games. Introverts cope up with their weakness in socialising via various social media sites. While those who do not feel loved or significant find allies by posting photos or statuses that can get them attention. It is such a pity to see these things happening. They forget to realise that they can also do the same thing in life. As we get sucked into the worldwide web, we are slowly changing the real world. We break our relationships by building walls. We start to become mean and narcissistic thinking that the world owes us attention. We spread words that hurt and demean the spirit as a way of feeling better about ourselves. I am certain that most of us would prefer to live online. Although it is a beautiful breakthrough for humanity, we live too much in it that we end up empty beyond it. We put ourselves too much online that we deprive the real world of us. The influx of different ideas and thought from this media has affected us greatly but in a silent way. We become intolerant of imperfection, we criticise mistakes so quickly. We think relationships now can just be solved through chat or video messages. We want crave for connections yet we avoid getting disconnected from our social media. Family time now has transformed into a bunch of people staying in one area all looking down on their own phones. What has become of us?

Internet was created for hopes of making things better but at the rate that we are going, we are slowly dehumanizing ourselves and changing norms. Where likes and follows are all that matters. It seems that we have become more hopeless with ourselves. We put things about ourselves to feel accepted instead to celebrate diversity. We leave barely nothing to the imagination, just to get attention from strangers. We are far friendlier to strangers than to our own family. We try to escape what is and draft a false sense of normalcy. We would rather miss out on live moments just to see what the rest of the world is up to.

Why am I saying this? I too have fallen into this pit. A couple of years ago, you would see me posting about my feelings over Facebook. Venting out to people who have no clue on the situation to get sympathy. It was a passive aggressive way of solving things and it did not make me better. I tried meeting people through random sites but I would never say hello to people around me. I stayed in front of the pc day and night, wasting away hours to see places when I could have worked more to afford a flight to visit them for real. The first guy I liked was through a mobile compatibility game and the entire time he made me think that I really knew him. I felt like I really knew him well that I missed out on my college life. My friends called me “Ms. Monologue” at the university because I preferred talking to him on the phone than hanging out with my friends. I am lucky though that my real friends are still with me after we broke up but I have regretted all the moments I missed just because I disconnected from what was happening at the very instance. I randomly added people when I joined Ms. Cebu thinking that I needed to despite the fact that they only wanted association with a “beauty queen” and not interested in interacting with me. It became a numbers game. In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the Nazis assigned numbers to their prisoners. It is happening in this generation, people do not care about who others are and what they are about instead we care that they are among the likers. We do not ask about how they are feeling, how we are feeling always takes precedence. We post photos to get them to like us more. We succumb to this norm where if you do not have numbers, you are insignificant. What happened to us?

Last year, I visited China and when I got there I forgot that they restricted various websites. On the first day, I felt restless. Coming from the Philippines where checking Facebook is the first thing you do when you wake up, I felt like I did not belong to reality, that I did not exist when in reality, I did. I felt helpless and clueless. I then realised how reliant I have become. The world does not end when you do not have these websites. It took me about four days before I got comfortable with the fact that I only existed where I stood. With Instagram not working, I savoured each sight and flavour. Without Google, I figured out how to travel through subways. I talked to others instead of posting those thoughts online. I realised how little I time I spent for those people who never failed me. It felt like dying online and being born again into real life, liberated from the boxed virtual reality. It then hit me, how many of us are really living? We have invented so much distractions to keep us from doing something offline. You see a lot of people in restaurants looking down into their phones. Family time means being in the living room and just chatting online when they can talk face-to-face. How many digital zombies are out there who are putting life on hold for something that wouldn’t exist if electricity stopped? Think about it. Are you one of them?

Dear Arthur

Dear Arthur,

Your highness, I have heard a lot of stories about you ( one of the most known king across the world). Awesome name by the way, I hoped for something legendary like yours (bear-like). Unfortunately, my parents came up with a longer, more complicated one. I wanted to know a few things about you. It might be a bit personal.

First, how did it feel like when you lifted the Excalibur from that stone? Second, did you really think of what would happen after? What was it like when you first met Guinevere? Was it really love at first sight? Serendipity? Or did you have medieval versions of Tinder? How you have inspired the youth to embrace chivalry. What are the things that I should consider should I also want to set up an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, and Norway? I wonder if you know how popular you are.

Just so you know, I dream daily on how it is like in your shoes. The idea of governing a kingdom, being known for one’s courage and having my name live in infamy. If it is too much to ask, how about introducing me to Merlin? He is a good contact. Maybe you can take me to your time and appoint me as a knight? You see at the moment, I am a struggling jester and it is not even intended. A lot of people question me on what I can offer to the world.  I am hoping that with this letter I can transition from being a joke into a knight.

Let me know what you think and I would love to hear some sound advice from you.

Respectfully yours,

P

Tableau : A Tale of Perspectives

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.

Sycamore Park

“Why are you crying Paul?”, I asked him. It was a warm breezy morning in the park and I did not know what got into him to sob like this. He tried to compose himself. I never saw him like this, was it something I said? Maybe my revelation was too much for him. He was holding my hand firmly as if he had seen a ghost. I braced myself, I knew something was wrong.

“What do I tell Anna? Should I tell her of my past?”, I thought to myself as she gazed at me perplexed by my sudden emotional outburst. I thought I was strong enough by now. As I was momentarily pondering, I felt the gentle summer breeze as it blows through the sycamore leaves, it reminded me of my moments with Clarissa.

“Another couple, I do not want to see such sight. It just reminds me of Greg, the love of my life.”, I said to myself. The doctor told me to focus on a task and I am having a hard time with this couple around. Although Alzheimer’s disease challenge my memory daily, I remember walking with him two decades ago in this park. His face all lit up by the sight of yellow dandelions, it reminded him of his father. Greg always played with him in this park. After Greg’s death, I visited this park daily to reminisce about him. I miss him terribly. The first and last man who managed to tame the shrew in me. He was never the same after I lost our son.

Dandelion

“She will recognise me, the doctor told me she showed some progress.”, Paul muttered as I looked at him baffled. He never told me who she was. I never met her. “Who was she in Paul’s life? Could she be?” I wondered. We never really talked about his past.

“Anna, meet Clarissa.” I told her as we walked hand in hand closer to the bench. I could see Anna was surprised. She asked about her for quite sometime but I never really mustered enough strength to visit her again. Clarissa was the other woman in my life.  They took her to a nursing home after her depression. She could not deal well with dad’s death, the doctor’s prognosis was Alzheimer’s disease. There are times when she thought I was still 10 years old, she would always knit me a sweater and she loved red. She said that dad gave her a red sweater for Christmas and on that same day he proposed to her. It was her happiest moment.

“Clarissa…. Paul mentioned her on several occasions but it is only now that he took me to meet her” wondering to myself, I looked at Paul and smiled. This is a big step for him to introduce me to his mother. I smiled as we walked an inch closer to her.

“Greg!” I told the young man. He seemed familiar, I know I have met him here before. The way he smiled at my greeting, his green eyes and brown curly hair. As I stood up and hugged him, flashes of memories of me and Greg rushed in. Tears start to trickle down my cheeks and on his shoulders.

“I have missed you dearly. How are you? I can see you are still knitting” I tried to say it in a happy way and yet my heart is ripping apart because she had mistaken me for dad. Her condition is getting worse and the doctor said she only have a few months before her memory completely fades. This is why I brought Anna with me. I wanted her to meet my mother.

I could not help but be touched at the sight of Paul and his mother. As he let go of her, I saw him picking something from his pocket. He walked closer to me with a devious smirk and then he knelt. This was not happening. He took my hand and said, “Anna will you marry me?” Shocked and overwhelmed, I nodded.

I wanted the two women of my life to meet each other. I have to face the reality that I will eventually lose my mother to the disease but I brave knowing that Anna will be at my side to make life easier.

Losing Love: Part 1

An awkward middle child born into a simple family in a quaint city. She always felt so small, her existence seemed meaningless and insignificant. She tho grew up thinking that she was either a shadow or invisible. You see her wearing baggy clothes loose clothes because she thought that her arms and legs were ugly and oversized. When she looked in the mirror, she never saw beauty only discontent with the face she was born with. Too scared of people, she could not even bring myself to talk to the waitress asking for my order at fast-food restaurants. Her younger sister spoke on her behalf. Each time someone tries to talk to her, she scampers away in fear. There were rare occasions when she really talked about things and that was when she had the company of her few close friends or when asked by a teacher in class. As a child, she found it better to talk to her dogs about life issues than to her parents or sisters because she knew dogs are loving, loyal and non judgemental.

By the sea
Silence was her escape.

Being a child from a low-income family who went to a private school, she was bullied all throughout her younger years by affluent classmates. After being publicly humiliated during one school activity, she built walls to keep her far from people, to avoid getting affected by words and putting her faith on seemingly trustworthy friends. She never took compliments well. Every time she received one, she would doubt and think they are either liars or just nice. In her head, she had no one. A lone wolf on a prowl for contentment and peace. She grew up thinking that it is weakness to show her feelings and to depend on someone. After seeing her mother getting beaten up regularly by a father who could never control his alcohol intake, the fear of vulnerability crept in her veins like poison that she feared it more than she feared death. She fell into a routine of school, house and church, a way of grasping normalcy. An achiever at surface level yet her teachers knew she had to learn to speak up. You will never see her smile in photos, she started mastering the art of hiding what was inside her. For her less emotions, less connections and less attachments meant safety. She sought refuge in written words and melancholic melodies. Each night she would spend countless of hours writing and listening to songs of disappointments and losses. The darkness inside grew more each day after the death of a loved one. Barely a teenager and yet she has gone through a lot. She would trod on through life like a beat up warrior who is numb and tired.

The Soundtracks to My Life

There is always something magical about music. For every influx of emotion we experience there is always a song that best describes how we feel. The melody and words that goes with each one connects to our soul. We might speak different languages but we share similar love for songs. I am a music lover that appreciates a lot of genres but I tend to prefer Indie/Alternative Rock when I am pensive, Electronic when I want to dance and Pop when I am perky. I have not really thought about songs that mattered to me up until this daily prompt came up. In my country, almost everyone sings and even kids know lyrics to songs that existed way before they did. Every morning, you will never miss on a love song. Filipinos love listening, singing and dancing to love songs, admittedly we are a bunch of romantics. When it comes to song I not only listen to the melody, I even put more emphasis on lyrics. Among all the songs I know, here are the top 3 songs that came into my mind (stuck in my mind longest).

1. Lenka – The Show

 The Show is my life story. Eventhough I am 28, I still feel like a little girl (or maybe I just refuse to grow up) and so I find myself going through the maze of life and trying to figure out love. I push myself to be uncomfortable and try to live by the philosopy : Be Brave. There were a lot of times when my bravery was tested. I am quite lucky that I have an allergy to cowardice and giving up. I have been quite persistent with life despite all the challenges that it has thrown at me. Life should not be taken so seriously, it should be enjoyed like a good show.

2. Daft Punk- One More Time

If Peter Quill of Guardians in the Galaxy had Hooked On A Feeling, then One More Time is my never fail go to song that transcends me into elation. Each time I hear this I end up either tapping my foot or bobbing my head. A reminder to never get tired of celebrating life. To dance like nobody is watching and to keep doing it. Let’s celebrate! One more time!

3. Kid Cudi -Pursuit of Happiness

Are you happy at the moment? If not, when would you want to start being happy? No one in the world who would want to be unhappy. The choices are influenced by our perception of what is happiness. A song that speaks of not caring about other’s definition, not living up to someone else’s expectation.

Our world cannot just be rainbow filled, there are moments when we are tested on how happy we are with ourselves. For most it is the biggest and hardest struggle. We try to do things to escape who we are or to deny who we can be. Spending money on things that fade, putting meaningful relationships on hold for something temporary. We fall into a pit of self-destruction thinking that what we feel is the real sense of happiness. Trading a lifetime of pain for a moment’s pleasure.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” and if you think about it the reason why most of us choose to continue living is we have tasted happiness. It is just a matter of holding onto it when times get tough. Do not lose sight of the big picture. Do not die without pursuing your own happiness.