Before 4 a.m.

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This old woodshed stands a few feet away from the airport runway. | Dumaguete City, October 17.


THE SEASON of rain has finally come. These days, the sun shows up for an hour or so, then disappears behind thick clouds in order to give way, first, to a slow, steady, quiet drizzle then, almost imperceptibly, on to a sudden downpour. Some days when I wake up at ten or eleven in the morning, I look outside the window and see the overcast sky  imbuing a delicate, somber mood which ultimately registers throughout the day. As a response, I usually curl up on the couch, still half-asleep, as I try to pick up those little fragments of my dreams that seem to deftly slip past my half-conscious grasp. Chase them down for a couple of minutes, although to no avail. Surrender kicks in like an exhausted friend slumped at the corner of the room. So I decide instead to get up and make myself some coffee.

I open my laptop, check my Skype, and quickly scroll down for some updates from my supervisor. Between 15 and 40 unread messages altogether in five or six separate group chats. At least, no private messages for me. Yet. Quick sigh. I wait for the coffee to brew.

Earlier this month, I was transferred to the writing department for this online ESL company I’ve been with for a year and two months. My job then was much simpler: lead generation, posting ads across different sites, the usual marketing tasks. The main goal’s to gather as many online English tutors to teach for the company, and I was among the few tasked to hunt for these particular online job seekers. It was the kind of job I knew I’d eventually get tired of. When, about a month ago, my supervisor pitched in the possibility that I’ll be writing blogs for the company soon (she knew I love to write), I took it like a giddy kid would take a lollipop handed to him through a stroke of some well-deserved luck.

Now I’m on probationary period which — I’m hoping — will last until the end of this month. The task is to write eight 500-to-700-word articles every day from Mondays to Fridays. Topics vary from tips on teaching English to tips in learning English, and other marketing write-ups to push the company forward and spread the word.

I’m a little skeptical about this whole thing, to be honest. I’ve never done full-time blogging before, so now I’m still having a hard time catching up with the pace. I’ve so many pending articles to write — about 35 of them — but every time I sit up straight, face the laptop, and start fidgeting with the keyboard, nothing comes up. Or something does, but it feels too contrived, too bland, that I end up staring at the first few sentences I’ve strung together and realize they don’t make sense. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Speaking of things not making sense, I just recently turned twenty-eight nine days ago, and now I’m utterly and completely broke. Which doesn’t sound like a great way to welcome a new year of my life, although having almost nothing at all, while it’s confounding and, quite frankly, extremely perplexing for the most part, also allows me to patiently look for those small, tender graces I tend to ignore. I really really really have got to start being responsible with my own finances.

On a brighter note, I recently discovered this singer/songwriter called Tom Brosseau. Stumbling upon unheard-of singers is like finding little, precious gems. You take immense pride in showing them off. His song “Fit To Be Tied” is just too beautiful I was a little disappointed to find out no one has transcribed it online. So I did.

Fit To Be Tied

My head is so heavy
It’s hanging like the moon
Well I’ll find a way to love you
And I know ain’t no way gonna do
Well I’ll find a way to love you
And I know ain’t no way gonna do

Well I’m leaving and then I won’t look back
And don’t you expect a goodbye
I said all my prayers
Returned the vows and the honeymoon
I ain’t got the answers
My prayers never made it out to you
I ain’t got the answers
My prayers never made it out to you

Well that’s just the way you wanted it
Ain’t that just the way the story goes
I’m cut from my connection
A solemn anchor cast to sea
I ain’t fit to be tied
I keep driftin’ down without security
I ain’t fit to be tied
I keep driftin’ down without security
And my home’s the abyss and I know
I won’t be missed at all. 






Letter to My Twenty-Seven-Year-Old Self

YOU HAVE come this far. By the time you turn twenty-eight, you will have learned to let go of a friend. This is one important lesson you will learn at twenty-seven. While it will not be entirely his fault, it will not be entirely yours either. It will be painful, more so when your listless mind begins to wander back to fond, old memories with him, and you will arrive at a place of confession. It is here where you will learn to accept that you stoked the fire to your friendship, the same place where listening to your voice with an attentive, compassionate ear will allow you to surrender yourself to your own truth. You will fall in love with him. And while there’s nothing wrong with falling in love with a friend, how you will act on it in the long months following this revelation inside a bar one night, both of you drinking gin and tonic, succumbing to the awkward stretches of silence afterwards, will amount to consequences that neither of you will be prepared to admit and to which you alone will pay. You will still see each other in places you usually frequented with, but you will no longer exchange a single word even though your eyes will occasionally meet. Silence will be the only act of grace you will bestow each other. You will learn a great deal about yourself. You will learn to shake your inner demon’s hand.

At twenty-seven, you will be spending most of your nights going from one bar to another. You will meet strangers on the dance floor; and soon enough, these strangers will turn into familiar faces. Much sooner, they will become familiar voices. And on most nights, you will be sharing a drink or two with them. You will hear more about yourself from them. You will laugh at what an asshole you are when you learn how drunk you have been on previous nights. As you go on dancing, you will find yourself delighted to small things — the flicker of lights above you, the strange way people dance around, the absurd-looking clothes of the sweat-bathed ladies and the men, the ridiculous ecstasy written in their glistening faces. Nights like this, you will be perpetually teased by your inner demon asking you relentlessly, Why are you dancing alone? To which you will dismiss, by way of tucking out a passage from one of your favorite books: “Go out dancing tonight, my dear, and go home with someone, and if the love doesn’t last beyond the morning, then know I love you.” And you will close your eyes and smile to yourself, and kiss Andrew Holleran for these kind words even though you’ll end up going home alone.

You will leave the city one morning with a hangover and resolve within yourself that you are not coming back. You will find yourself on another island in the south, and it is here where you’ll write again. You will be astonished, one morning, after going to a bar the previous night, when you find yourself standing at the shore at some quiet resort as you gaze at the distance to a sight of yet another shore while the early morning light sweeps across the coconut trees and the white sand that it reminds you of your childhood home. You will find yourself in tears and realize you have not yet grieved over the death of your foster mother after all.

But you will come back to the city that you left.

You will not be complaining about your online job, even though it will never give you even the slightest breath of excitement and purpose as your previous one did. A friend will write you a letter all the way from Ireland asking you about this, wondering why he’s never heard about it. You will respond with brevity and not with despondency. Another friend will send you a letter from Russia. And another from the UK. You will soon realize this year will be a year of writing letters.

You will travel a lot at twenty-seven. You will revisit old places and see new ones. You will continue to meet new people. In one of these travels, you will meet a fine woman one afternoon at the beach who will talk about friendship and marriage and love. You will take her photo with your small camera you borrowed from your friend. You will also meet another fine woman one night who will talk about depression and family and self-discovery. She will shed a tear, as will you.  You will also find a friend from a young man you will meet much much later, and through him, you will learn again how to ask good, tough questions. These will be the kind of conversations which will resonate in you, and which you will look for.

You will live with your friends. And in this, you will find another home.

No Rain

THE DAYS of rain come to a halt as I wake up in bed at two in the afternoon. I look at the louvered window from where I lay and see a faint brightness illumine the slats of glasses. I get out of bed, pull the crank down, and the sight of the neighbors’ roofs welcome my gaze. They, too, shine with a mild glow.

Outside, a neighbor is singing Daniel Boone’s Beautiful Sunday, the videoke machine set to the highest volume. Even on rainy days, their spirits never seem to dampen. A woman’s voice usually floats through the air, a beautiful kind, accentuated from time to time with mispronounced words.

My friend, B has cooked pasta, and she tells me, as she folds her clothes neatly on the table, to help myself with it. I thank her for this. “Are you going somewhere?” I ask. “I might go around. The weather is nice,” she says. “I’ll stay here then.”

The wind blows softly, the trees sway back and forth, and upon closer look, they seem to follow a shared, well-rehearsed rhythm only they know and understand. Dry leaves. Different shades of green. They dance merrily as the wind brushes past them. The passing motorbikes maintain a relaxing pace, unlike the previous days, and you can tell by the way their engines sound, not the maddening kind of uproar the way they did the past few days as they tried to combat strong gusts of wind and heavy downpour.

B has left the house. I could hear her start her motorbike downstairs, and seconds later, the sound fades into the distance. I’m sitting alone at the veranda overlooking the main street, watching people go by. I prop my feet up on the wooden railing lined with potted plants. The sky is overcast, but a lighter shade of gray this time, promising rain later, but not insistent.

I think of my elusive friend, L who left over a week ago and hasn’t returned yet. No word from him. I wonder what’s going on in his mind. I miss him, and wish he’ll be back sooner. I think of my friends, too, and this thought settles for sometime, but I decide to tuck it in the corner. I decide to light a cigarette instead.

The neighbor has stopped singing. The wind continues to blow softly. It’s past three in the afternoon now. I hope the tide is high. I might take a swim at the beach.

[Siargao, November 6, Sunday]