Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At the Edge of the Mountain


There are places you go where few have gone before.

To stare at the sun.

And sometimes, if you're lucky some will accompany you.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Lost Continent of My Twenties


For my sister Honeylet who has been with me through every journey. Happy birthday my love.

They say time is what ultimately gives meaning to all things; that we only recognize the importance of something when we look back at it.

When I recently re-read some of my stories in this blog, I realized that I was looking at the disappearance of a whole continent I know I may never touch again - Gossip Girl Birthday Balls, Grand Canyon sunsets and Machu Picchu sunrises, adventures with my sister, red leggings and a harem - in short, the land of my self-absorbed twenties.

So raucous and full of joy, they strike me now as obsessed with loss and nostalgia and the One Big Love that never worked out but wouldn't go away, either.

That life is drifting away from me, an inch at a time. Work is now taking up more and more of my time, some friends have become distant, my sister is getting married in November.

Sometimes I wonder once she's become a wife and a mom, will she still have time for her brother? What about our dreams to explore unknown lands together and see the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Orient Express, the Byzantines churches.

Perhaps those dreams are gone.

While writing my stories, perhaps I was dimly aware that time is passing, that things will change. I didn't want to let go of my past; to forget, to become disengaged, to become disentangled.

I wanted to remember. I wanted to build a shrine to honor it, to give it a mark in my new land. I wanted to mythologize it. This, I think, is one of the great privileges of a writer; to create a myth out of a personal experience.

Some say it is best to burn the bridge and move on; to never look back. But I believe it takes more courage to go back and face our past, both the beautiful and ugly parts of it, and recognize it for what it really was. Perhaps for the very first time.

So without knowing it, I was building my shrine to the slowly vanishing continent of my twenties. Some of that terrain was as gorgeous as the Manila setting where most of them are based; full of shimmering curtains of rain and deeply rooted desires.

Much of it was dark and thick with blinding smog too; some almost impassable. But broken love and dreams deserve a shrine; even if its just a few words and scraps of memories.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

From Russia, With Love


Russia is offering agricultural land to Southeast Asian nations to grow crops and help secure reliable food supplies, part of wider efforts to foster trade and investment ties in new markets.

“We suggested today to companies in the region to enter the Russian market given its large scale and to establish themselves to produce food for your own supply,” Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Slepnyov said yesterday in an interview in Manado, Indonesia, where he is attending a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trade ministers.

Andrei went on and on but it was getting hard for me to concentrate. He was speaking in Russian and an interpreter translated it into English, but all I could think of was his piercing blue eyes that seemed to see right through me.

"Honey, the way he was looking at me … I swear …" I told Carlo.

"Like how?"

"Like he wanted to do ... things ... to me."

"Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Hahahaha. I love …" Carlo said. "So how does this Andrei look like?"

"Your typical northern Slavic man with strong jaws, a prominent chin, aqualine nose, blue eyes, and did I mention arms that could lift you?"

"Hahaha. So what did you do?"

"I tried to tell him that I love him … but it got lost in translation," I said. "Oh well. Sigh."

"You should have used sign language," Carlo chided me. "I heart you!"

"Ang hirap naman kasing i sign language ang 'You like Asian boys?" (I know! But I couldn't figure out how to say 'You like Asian boys?' in sign language.)

Last month, my company sent me on my first overseas assignment to Bali. "We need you to cover this," my bosses told me.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads for talks with counterparts from China, North Korea, Pakistan and more than 20 other nations to discuss a range of security issues across Asia. From tensions in the South China Sea to a fractured relationship with Pakistan and ongoing uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, the Asean Regional Forum is the only gathering that brings such a diverse group face to face.

The meeting will test how far the U.S. goes in backing its Asian allies in territorial disputes with China, which last year labelled Clinton's comments on the topic ``virtually an attack." Eased tensions between the world's biggest militaries may lead to greater cooperation and help deter terrorist threats, North Korean aggression and incidents over oil and gas resources in the South China Sea.  

But I am not familiar with any of these things, I wanted to say. I was nervous and scared. But you got to roll with the punches.

"Sure. When do I leave?" I replied.

"Next week."

"Plane leaving. Eat Pray Love. After India, Bali here I come!" I texted my friends as I flew out of Manila.

I could scarcely imagine my good fortune. Finally, all those days, weeks, months, and years of hard work were paying off. I made it, I told myself silently. I made it.

This year is turning out to be one of the best years of my life. Somehow, I feel like everything is exactly where they should be.

They must have been pleased because after Bali and three weeks later, here I am on another assignment in Manado. Manado is the closest point to the Philippines from Indonesia. I know because when I check Grindr, the closest guys I see are those in Davao. 600 kilometers away. Go figure.

Sigh. Looks like it's going to be all work and no play.

"Honey!!! Walang lalake diyan?" Fran asked me. She called to catch up and make me jealous of all the great sex she's been having. Her lover Craig is in town for a three-week rendezvous, and apparently, every night feels like the last night.

"None," I said. "But don't worry. I came here prepared. I had sex four times the weekend before I left. I know… I know… it's a lot no? Does that make me a slut?"

"Oh honey… you know how we detest labels," Fran replied. "But four????????? Hahaha. How did you do it?"

"I don't know. I must have been so stressed, tired, and vulnerable so when they said 'Hi!' I said 'Yes!!!'"  

"Hahahaha. I love it!"

"Hay. I'm so easy no? But what can I do?" I asked.

"Why nothing," Fran said. "The important thing is: men like us."

"Well ... you know, sometimes I wonder why. And they always want a part two. Is it because we're nice and polite and charming?"

"Not to mention intelligent and engaging," Fran added. "But who are we kidding? The sex must have been sooooo good!!!" she screamed and we burst out laughing.

So there I was ... in a strange city yet people mistake me for a local. It was almost midnight and I was about to leave for the hotel from work. Fran and I laughed and talked until the tiredness vanished. I was away, but sometimes, all it takes is a familiar voice to make you feel like you're home.