Friday, September 16, 2016

The Manila Experience

I am seated right now (02 February 2015,  7:30 A.M.) in a cozy sofa where I slept last night, here at the condo of my former student John Joseph Sangutan or we simply call him Otep.

I’m overlooking an urban scenery outside; tall buildings rising side by side with almost no trees in between them. Manila is so polluted that the concrete walls are stained by smog. LRT train just passed by and it feels like you’re really in a big city. Big Metropolis it is, but Manila has different faces: from sleek, modern, and impressive buildings at the business district of Bonifacio Global City to the to the disturbing mega slums in almost vacant (not properly owned) lots. From brilliant, sophisticated and very rich people at Forbes Park to the abandoned homeless children roaming around in almost all streets of Manila. All these contradicting sights live side by side to the extremes here in this monstrous city.

Nevertheless, it is still a very exciting and totally upbeat metro. I just hope that a century from now or even lesser than that, we can minimize this huge gap between the ways of living of the people here.

Well, that is just an introduction to my awesome experience here for the past two days. Though I have been here for so many times, yet there is always new, exciting and fun experience I have here. A couple of nights ago, I caught myself in the middle of the crowd at the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman. Peter and I just dropped by there to see my former students who were partying at the UP Fair. It was so nice to see all of them again. The beat of the live band plus the smoking food around, I missed college days that night. And just last night, we strolled around BGC and it feels like you’re in a shopping district in LA, or in Singapore where the streets are so clean, green and very refreshing. We dined at SM Aura, and yeah, it was OK.

Then unexpectedly, a gathering of Davao Christian Alumni who are studying here in Manila just happened in one call at Otep’s place.  They were wondering “Sir, bakit hindi ka nagsabi na magpunta ka dito?” While it’s a bit weird, it’s heartwarming on the other hand. We’re so happy seeing each other. It feels like an invisible force which attracts metals and magnets, the connection was unspoken. They never interact that much back in DCHS but when they arrived in the condo, they immediately feel at home without even recognizing who is the owner or who are the people around. And the conversations started and it was a sight to behold.

And we played the game of Mao. It is one of the best card games I’ve ever played. You don’t know the rules and you have to figure it out along the way. It is exciting because you have to be attentive and you need to analyze the rules of the game. We were all awaken by its intriguing rules. So many brilliant people in the room and all had a great time playing. Though we all figured it out, Peter won the first game and we’re like “uuggghhhh…” And we decided to have second round. This time the players were more cautious. I already had three Mao’s where only one card was left,.. almost there… but the luck was not on me.

The pizza just arrived and the aroma was so tempting but yet we waited until the game would be over and not long enough, Migs won. And that means it’s time to have pizza party.

What a trip indeed!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bouncing Back

Just a couple of weeks ago (July 19, 2015), I was lying in the hospital bed, helpless as I endure the severe pain which struck my head. I was hit by typhoid fever. That moment I felt like the world was laughing at me because just for the past few months, I have been to so many exciting places, dined at fancy restaurants, slept in hotels, met interesting people, and I could even afford to crack a good laugh, like laughing out loud. And yet at the time in the hospital, I succumb to the pain I can hardly bear. I was feeling helpless.      

And I prayed, like real talk to God. I never have done that kind of prayer for a very long time. I was begging Him to help me because I can’t do it alone anymore. I totally humbled myself to God. I surrendered to Him. Though it might seem to be unfair but I think that what God wants us to do; not to lean on our own understanding but to fully trust Him instead. And definitely He really knows what’s best for us beyond what we can comprehend. 

                I only stayed in the hospital for 48 hours because I really wanted to get out. And thankfully I only paid P30.00 as excess fee. The meds to take after my hospitalization were not that expensive too. After that incident, I have a clearer understanding of the phrase “slowing down.” It was a great reminder and an eye-opener for me. I was taking life so seriously. I think a lot over things which are actually unnecessary. 

                Life is so delicate and we humans are so vulnerable to the irregularities of it. I can see it in the male ward where I was confined. There was a man in his 60’s being amputated because of diabetes. The other older man (or probably he just look old because of his sickness) has rotten feet because of diabetes. He was even undergoing dialysis. The other guy of my age is fighting dengue fever and the platelet count has just dropped at 22. And there’s a “lolo” who was rushed in the hospital because of being drunk at the age of 78. He was the most severe one with lungs being infected by bacteria because of drinking liquors and he has diabetes too.  We were all men in that room and probably feeling so invincible with the might of our body and of course with our thoughts. But there we were, lying helpless, fighting for our own very lives.

                In my two days stay in the hospital, I can totally see the amazing positivity of the Filipinos. The spirit of “bayanihan” was still there as one mother would help other patient rise to enable to urinate. The visiting “forces” of family members and friends did an amazing job in making you feel better. There is an instant connection among yourselves in the room probably because the feeling is mutual – you are all struggling and needed comfort from somebody. And there’s that attitude of making a good laugh despite all the odds. We Filipinos can certainly afford that.

                But sometimes, those light moments are short-lived because the bitter reality kicks in. It will start to sink in that you are in a very uncomfortable situation. The pain will just bite your body unpredictably. The odor in the room is very unpleasant, and not to mention that every minute you spend in the hospital there’s an equivalent drop of peso in your piggybank-like bill. So you really want to get out. And that excitement of being free can be best seen in a patient’s face who is going out of the hospital and even to their loved ones who are there for them along the way.

                I deeply thank my mother before I left home and go back to work. I kissed her. I visited my father’s grave before heading back to the city and face the real world again. I watched the movie that I really longed to watch alone and I enjoyed very much. I did not rush to get things done but still able to beat the deadline at school. I did not entertain the “stressful thoughts” that are boggling my mind. Instead, I learn to cherish the moment where I am into. In the classroom, I acknowledged more the presence of my students. We even went out watching movies and having karaoke together.  I attended the sendoff party of my former student who will be studying in Manila. I finished the book which was long overdue and it gave me sense of accomplishment.  I have a better appreciation of a good weather as I go to work every morning. 

And that’s life. We just need to bounce back after our fall and we will have another and better view of life when we are on the top again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Can't I Have More Days Like This?

Yesterday (January 17, 2016) probably is one of the best days of my life. There's no big occasion nor great celebration. It's just like ordinary Sunday which turned out to be a time well spent. I woke up around 5:00 in the morning but was lazy enough to get out from the bed. As result, I wasn't able to jog. But I had a great alternative for jogging and that was cleaning our pathway.

As my sister was trimming the hedges, she encountered these two adorable eggs resting in the nest. It's very rare to have that live picture nowadays since I'm living in an urban jungle. I was worried though about the stress of the mother bird when we discovered her nest.

After that, my mother and I had our bonding moment and that was actually going to public market, buying vegetables, fruits, fish and other supplies. I like going to wet markets since it has a soothing effect on me. We prepared our lunch together. She cooked directly the fresh fish we bought from the market and I prepared a seaweed salad. Since my sister and her family went to the park for their family time, me and Nanay were alone in the house. As we ate our lunch together she shared her childhood experiences about how rich the resources back then. They didn't usually buy the food they had to eat. They were surrounded by rice fields, vegetables, and fruit trees. They raised their chicken, hogs and other animals. Fishes were just a barter for tuba through my lolo. It was a light moment for the two of us.

I slept after a heavy meal. It's around 3:00 o'clock and I have to go since my high school friends and I decided to have simple get together. And there's no perfect place and a perfect thing to do but to have "pamutong" at Jayson's place at Purok Abaca. It was still high school since I last visited that place to have our lunch then and of course "pamutong." There are so much changes in the place, after all it has been 16 years. We loose ourselves from being a banker, a teacher or a businessman. We were there just like the old days and it was very sweet to go back on that place with your friends doing the things we love to do back in high school days. We open the coconut fruit just like how we did it before. This time, it was not just a simple buko with biscuit crackers and Royal True Orange, Jarold with his love for food, made it extra special with cream and condensed milk with a little pineapple tidbits. It was an awesome experience. We were so full, not just with the buko but with the joy of the company of each other as well.

We all knew it was not enough, the time together, since we seldom see each other now. We decided to have a dinner at Big 8 Hotel. Fresh from the farm and there we are, dining and singing in the VIP Room of the best hotel in town. We thank God for how He continually bless us. The struggles we have been through are for real and we did it. The achievements of my classmates are totally inspiring. We all deserve that treat. To end the night, we bought coffee from Mcdonald's and drink it at the provincial capitol which is just near our Alma Mater. And we have SK (Istoryang Kinabuhi) moments. Struggles will always be there in life, it's up to us on how we respond into it. And what is priceless is that you have friends whom you can share your feat and defeats in life. We still have jobs and responsibilities the following day so we call it a night. I go back to Davao and along the way I just wonder, "Why can't I have more days like this?"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Of Reaching 30

You won’t probably believe where I am right now. I am writing a post in my journal while standing in the middle of the footbridge which is a beautiful collection of wooden planks that extends from the shoreline to the hut in the sea. The water is calm. The tiny fishes gladly swim in the clear waters over the bended seaweeds being battered by the waves of the ocean. The sun is just starting to rise like a fireball far far away. Facing the sea, the “medium-sized” islets nestled in the ocean as if relaxing and breathing as they prepare their selves for another day of accommodating and even guarding their visitors for today.

Somebody just passed in front doing probably his morning routine. And who wouldn't? This is one of the beautiful places to jog; fresh warm ocean breeze and magnificent view. The fishermen started to or just finished(?) their daily encounter with the sea.

The sun is fully out now and I can feel its fierce rays heating up my skin. Meanwhile, it’s powerful beams of light provides a beautiful reflection over the water. A sight to behold indeed.

And speaking of reflection, this day is a special day to reflect over my life. Today is something special because I’m turning 30. And I thank God for this opportunity to be here in this amazing place and even for the time to look back and to look forward. It’s really a soothing experience. I can’t contain my happiness. Really.


One of our privileges in life I think is doing the thing we love to do. In my case, that is teaching. I really wanted to be a teacher since. I love the feeling of imparting something I know and helping people unleash their potentials. I’m thankful to God for giving me that opportunity. Why in Davao Christian? Well, it’s more than about self-actualization and image projection. And I don’t have to explain why I chose to be there.

In this generation of “me…me…me”, it is really a great challenge to help young people find their own roads to take and help them explore it on their own. Dealing teenagers who thought they are invincible where in fact they are just a product of the emerging economy is somehow a challenging job. I think that way I have my own simply way of helping humanity.

Reading & Writing

I started to have love affair with books, pen and paper. I read because I truly appreciate how people were able to express their ideas and influence others. I read because it keeps informed about the world we live in. I read because I feel so rich after learning something new. We all have different things we value. And reading is one of the things I enjoyed doing. While reading, I am encouraged to write also my ideas, experiences and thoughts about things and about life as a whole. I feel so much compensated when I learn somebody read and appreciate my article. It keeps me sharp and confident.


Of course, I’m not the bookish nerd person you might expect. Actually, I prefer to be an outdoor creature than staying in my room and read, write and watch movies. I really take time to jog even thrice a week. It has a soothing effect on me to sweat and to keep on going. Probably because I’m preoccupied by the things I read, watch, and by the different ideas boggling my mind. I just truly appreciate our ability as human beings to transport ourselves from one place to another.
And speaking of transporting ourselves, one of the things I’m thankful for my life is the opportunity to travel even here in our country alone, the Philippines. I love to travel because it taught me a lot. Travelling broadens my perspective in life. It gives me new perspective as well about the world we live in. If you only knew how much I desire to party with the Brazilians in the fabulous beaches in Copacabana, or be still with the French in Paris, or spend even a week in the Hermit Kingdom, or keep up with the hustle and bustle life of New Yorkers.

And as much as I feel so rich after finishing a book, I feel so rich also as I’m heading back home after my new adventure of seeing new places, meeting different people and enjoying delectable cuisines. Travelling also is somehow a self-actualization in my part. When I conquered Mt. Apo last Holy Week, it’s more than reaching the highest peak in the country but proving to myself as well that “I can do it!” Or listening to Ramon Hofilenia as he discusses the wonders of Filipino culture and how we are trapped in our past is more than educational. Or Dining at Pala-pala district in Bacolod is an experience food lovers must have. Fresh scallops bought from a wet market nearby sautéed in butter and some spices are simply mouth-watering.

I travel plainly because it feels good.


With regards to self-actualization, it seems that the society’s norm is for you study, land a good job, and get married. Well, I have different direction when it comes to relationship or many would say of completely being a man. In this aspect, I will quote some lines by Joshua Harris in his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”:

            “I’ve come to realize that I have no business asking for somebody’s heart and affections if I’m not ready to back my request with a lifelong commitment. Until I can do that, I’d only be using that person to meet my short term needs, not seeking to bless that person for the long term.” 

I will be so hypocrite if will tell you that it feels alright to be alone. I had a partner before and it’s a different and even more beautiful feeling if we have somebody who loves us, who cares for us, and who is there for us. They said to love and be loved in return is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It’s just that commitment is a heavy word for me. Besides, I’m holding back a lot and I don’t know why. But it doesn’t mean I’m not happy with my life. Of course I am. I’m happy with my family and with my friends. But of course, it would be lot happier if I have somebody whom I can share my greatest moments. A lot happier when you’re waking up right beside the person you want to spend the rest of your life. A lot happier when you know that there’s somebody unconditionally understands your weaknesses and gives you strength.

There’s no perfect life, and I think it is in this aspect which I have to make a “sacrifice.” Why? Hmmmnnnn We can’t write everything we feel and think.


One of the things which changed in my 30 years is my faith or should I say my relationship with God. My faith honestly is shaky sometimes. And I think it’s one of the reasons why I am in Davao Christian: for me to grow more spiritually (that’s my opinion). It’s a sensitive issue and it would cause a long debate so I will stop it here.

I’ll just put it this way; I think I reach my own room. And it does not mean I condemned the others who chose different rooms. Instead, I respect them as they respect me.  I don’t want to be absolute in everything. I believe in God but I respect those who do not believe in my God and those who have different practices towards my God.

The Next 30

They said Life Begins at 30. Well, maturity doesn’t come along with age. It’s more on how we handle things and our attitude towards responsibility. The sense of being adventurous in us is the one that keeps us young. I’m not conscious about being 30, instead I’m thankful enough of reaching this stage. I’m grateful for what I have become. From the innocent kid, walking more or less 6 kilometers going to and fro school in becoming a person of influence in school (really?).

In the past 30 years of my life, I’ve seen how we can change the course of our life. Though life is a matter of choice, we will not be what we are today if not because of people who helped us. I won’t be teacher and I won’t be this positive about life if I didn’t experience kindness around me; from my supportive family and relatives, to generous neighbors and even strangers; from genuine friends, to my wonderful colleagues. They all made impact in shaping my life. Of course there’s God. And He is indescribable. He is simply God beyond what we can comprehend. All knowing and all loving God.

With these, I’m positive enough and excited to face the next 30 years of my life. :-)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tragic January

I forgot what time I woke up on New Year’s Day. All I can remember is that we had a great lunch with my sister Ling and her family at our home. I cooked “nilagang baboy” for lunch and I’m proud with what I did. I already have that confidence of cooking. Our “handa” for the New Year were all instant. Bam-i, fried chicken, lumpia and fruit salad were all prepared by me with the help of my cousin Jan2x. I also bought fruits, chiffon cake, a loaf of bread and soft drinks. My father was not feeling well that time. So I just asked permission from him if jan2x and I can watch the fireworks display at the downtown and he didn’t hesitate to say yes. So there we are meeting the new year with the spectacular fireworks display sponsored by the city government of Tagum. We headed home immediately and ate our Buena Noche.

On the second day of January, I spent my day watching movies. It’s our bonding moments with my family. I watched The Pelican Brief and One Day. I repeatedly watched those movies, and still I’m impressed and touched by their stories. Tatay was not feeling well. He had mild fever and he had difficulty in breathing. It’s a sad picture to see your father fighting that way. I just don’t make him feel I pity him. It’s more painful on our side to hear him cough so hard and chase his breath. It’s been years since my father suffered from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). It’s irreversible, which means it cannot be cured. All the patient needs is to relax and live healthy. But that’s not what my father was doing. He was a man who doesn’t want to just stay in one corner and do nothing. He was always on the move. At our humble home, he would prefer fix anything, look for firewood, attend to his small garden, drink coffee often and smoke perpetually. It’s the lifestyle he used to have.

I told him that I have to go back to Davao since I have to finish checking the papers, prepare for my exam on Saturday, and other commitments. He told me to text my sister to bring the nebulizer and some ventolin solution for obvious reasons. It was not new to us to see our father in that condition. As matter of fact few years ago, he really asked us my younger brother to bring him to the hospital since he had difficulty in breathing. I would rush to go home and bring him to the Davao Regional Hospital for check-up and for some medications. Since his illness is irreversible, he was not admitted. The doctor will just advise the nurse that “paasohan siya.”  It means inhaling ventolin solution through a nebulizer and after that, they will tell us that we can go home, buy the prescribed meds, let him take a good rest, stop smoking and drinking liquors. It’s a routinely advice not only from the doctors but most especially from us, his loved ones.

 It was early in the evening when I left home. He even asked me if I can suspend my desire go back to Davao the following day. But I didn’t listen to him. I was stubborn with my decision; I headed back to Davao that evening.

The following day, my students and I jogged at the old airport. It’s a routine I usually do when I have free time in the morning. After lunch, I went to school and checked some papers. After a dozen of papers, my eyes were tired already and I remember John Grisham’s book The Testament which I’m about to finish reading. And indeed I finished it. It has a heart-warming end. It’s hard to believe but there are really people in this world who are not driven with money. That afternoon also, my cousin Jan2x has been texting me if I could text my mother since my father has been looking for her. Tatay was worried if classes will resume, no one will attend to his needs since Jan2x will be going to school. So I called my mother immediately and asked her to go home as soon as possible. She was hesitant at first but I convinced her though. I wanted to go home that moment immediately but my mind is telling me that I still have exams in a couple of days. I texted my siblings that Tatay was not feeling well when I left home last night. We’ve been calling each other about the situation of my father. My sister Ling and her husband Tata brought the nebulizer already and Tatay had his ventolin inhalation when I left. I already have mixed emotions about the situation of my father. “This is not like the one before. It’s graver now.” I told myself. Still, I didn’t go home.

I called my mother again the following day and she promised to be home the soonest as she can. Meanwhile, my younger brother PJ has been calling me already to check my father’s situation. I was not feeling okay that day already even though I still managed to meet my college friend and discuss some things about our graduate studies.

Saturday came, January 5, the first text I received was not from my cousin Jan2x, or from my siblings. The message was from my professor telling me if I can tell my classmates that he can’t meet us that day. I was disgusted since our exam is one of the reasons why I came back to Davao that early but still I forwarded the messages to my classmates. I decided to go home immediately but seeing my laundry, I was tempted to wash some of them since I need them fresh when classes start after two days. While washing my clothes, I already have that feeling that any minute of this day I will receive any news (sad ones were on my mind) from Tagum. That’s intuition I think. When I was done, I checked my cp and I was nervous with what I had seen. 7 missed calls and several messages. I don’t want to think that my apprehension was true. But it was. My knees were trembling when I read my sister’s text message for me:

 “yobs morning. anhi balay karn daun ya wla na tatay. Wla na ni mata c tatay namugnaw na. anhi daun yobs. 9:58 AM, Jan 5”

It’s a text message that you don’t want to receive. I wanted to shout and to cry as loud as I can but I suppressed myself. I forwarded the message to my siblings and my older brother immediately called me. And as I asked him about the message, he said it was really true. Our father was gone. I couldn’t hold my tears anymore. I sob while talking to him. I called my younger brother PJ and he was already crying when he answered the phone. I took a deep breath to feed my body with right amount of oxygen to help me focus. I had to be focused. I’m still 60 kilometers away, and I need to pack my things and leave. Not to mention that I need to bring some money. The Christmas and New Year was just over and that means funds were drained. And I am one of those millions of unbanked Filipinos, workers who do not have enough savings or no savings at all. I called for some help and God is so good to provide people to help me in times of needs. I just grab few clothes and asked permission from my uncle that I have to go home. Kuya Dennis was aslo stunned by the news. I was living with the cousins of my father.

My sister Ting with her daughter baby Ting and I met at Panacan bus stop. It’s awkward moment. Neither she nor I wanted to talk about it. Silence prevailed all throughout the duration of the trip. Along the way, I texted people who are closest to me about what had happen and I told them not to call me. It’s the moment that you don’t want to talk to anyone. The idea of questioning anybody, even God why this thing happens eats up my mind. “****, why is this happening?” I keep asking myself in disgust. When we arrived home, we cried even harder. We leaned on the shoulders of my older brother and wept.

The body of my father was in the morgue already and we have to fix things. You cannot just cry out loud and grief the whole time. We are living in a culture where dead will be placed properly and even settle in a manner which we consider a civilized one. And we had to move since no one will do it for us. I went to the funeral parlor and transact the necessary things to be done. And it’s not easy you know. When finally my father’s body was embalmed and was placed in a casket, I accompany the funeral car going back to our home where we decided that the wake of my father will be done. It’s a scene you really don’t want to be into.

More crying, sobbing and weeping followed during the 8-day wake.  There were people numerous people who showed support for us, morally and financially. Everytime I look at the white-coffin where my father lies, I cry. He is should not be there yet. But there are things beyond our control. And it’s difficult to accept that thought.

Yes, we all know we are going to die. We expected that it could happen to our father anytime especially that he has incurable disease. But when that point will arrive, you cannot just live to your expectations. You will be stunned why those things happen and it still feels so unexpected. Suddenly, you will be stricken by the thought that YES, YOU’RE FATHER IS GONE…forever here on earth. And that thought not only saddens me but left me a hollow deep within myself which I think no one can replace. We may have hundreds of friends, many lovers, even couple of spouses, but we only have one father. The idea alone that Tatay is gone sucks me. We will never have those moments again to eat together, to watch movies together, to plainly talk each other, even to argue with each other, or simply doing the households chores together. I wish we could have more laughter together with his grandchildren. I wish I can have more time with him. I wish I should have listened to him. I wish could make him feel more that life is beautiful and I thank him for that.

Life has to go on they say. Well, it’s easier said than done. Even though I spent the rest of January going back to work, watch movies with friends, having field trip, volleyball games, dinner outside, the feeling is not the same anymore. Everytime I’m alone, the thought of what happened to my father stupefy me. I missed him. We all missed him. You cannot just rationalize everything. You cannot just explain or reason out why things happen. And most especially, you cannot easily accept why things happen that way.

“Tay, salamat sa tanan-tanan. I’m so sorry for everything. May you find peace and happiness wherever you are now. God bless you! We love you…”