Saturday, June 27, 2009

where I go when I'm not working

This is the front view of our building, Asian Center. The building looks old and gloomy. Maybe that's why I also feel a bit morose every time I go there. I personally think they should have painted it with bright colors.

This picture was taken within U.P. grounds. My three classmates are waving at me, telling me to hurry.

My beloved best friends, Sahara and Juls. This picture was taken after the demo lecture in our Bahasa Indonesia language class. We helped our professor teach Bahasa Indonesia to students who will go on tour around insular Southeast Asia.

This picture was taken during the centennial celebration of my alma mater. We just finished participating in the Lantern Parade (held every December), an annual tradition in the University of the Philippines. Unfortunately, my camera's batteries were failing at this point so the resolution of the picture is not that good.

Ini saudara-saudaraku di depan lantern besar. My bestfriends posing in front of the huge lantern of Asian Center during last year's Lantern Parade.

Confessions of a Cockroach Killer

Originally posted Jan. 8, 2008 in my multiply blog....


Note: This article is intended as a joke only. ;-D In real life, the author is not as bloodthirsty as she sounds here......


How to Kill a Cockroach (Part 1)

For a long time, I've thought of writing something about this subject. It started when my roommates in my former dormitory challenged me to write a moving treatise regarding the various ways of emasculating and annihilating these perversely annoying household pests. I am not really keen on writing about this subject since I've had an unexplainable aversion to cockroaches ever since I was young. Everytime I see these pesky little creatures crawling on the floor and dormitory walls, I could not have a moment's peace until I consign them to perdition. The worse scenario is when they actually fly all over the room and land on my bed. Crawling cockroaches are partially tolerable, but flying cockroaches are totally unacceptable! You have no idea how much money I've already spent on insect repellants, Lysol, and other disinfectants. I practically spent a fortune on these "cockroach repellants", much more than I would spend on my clothes or cosmetics.

Don't get me wrong. I am generally a peace-loving person. But cockroaches tend to bring out the worse in me. Whenever I see one, I either scream my head off in fear or in rage. My poor room mates had to put up with all my nonsense for four years. They would have been easily canonized for sainthood for their patience in handling my hysterical outbursts. What can I say? It seems like I was programmed to "freak out" whenever I see cockroaches. Even my writing style is different when I talk about cockroaches. I am not really very expressive about the things I love, but I can be shockingly eloquent when it comes to expressing the things I detest. Either I start spouting some poetic nonsense, or I end up sounding like a pompous ass.

Keici, one of my dearest room mates, is very empathetic about this problem of mine. We share the same paranoia, same hatred. I do believe she would highly approve of this discussion. She has lots of interesting ideas of her own when it comes to dispatching cockroaches. hehehe.

Honestly, I do not know how to end this subject. I think this will probably be a never-ending article. As long as people fear and hate cockroaches, there will always be room for their ideas on the "Kill Cockroach" list. For convenience's sake, I've set the limit up to number 101. If, heaven forbid, more murderous ideas keep flowing in the comments and emails, I'll extend the limit to 200, and so on. Let me also say in advance that this project is not meant to cater to the sick amusement of paranoid cockroach-haters like me. I kinda hope that this article would be my catharsis. I hope that the day will come when I no longer need to write any more cockroach annihilation techniques. The day I cease to cry "Murder most foul!" will be the day I am cured of this irritating phobia.

So the list goes on.......

101 Ways to Kill a Cockroach

1. "Put your right foot in, put your right foot out" technique

This technique is done by stamping on the offending cockroach with your slipper or shoe. I recommend this to first time cockroach killers. There is a perverse feeling of satisfaction in hearing the crunch and splat of cockroach carcass on the floor.

2. Flying Broom technique

This is actually a technique I learned from one of my room mates, Ate Marie. She is an expert on this. With one swipe of the household broom, she easily subdues the scampering cockroach until it ceases to move. Then she proceeds to sweep it into the dustpan and dispose it in the trash bin afterwards. Call that maximizing biodegradable waste.

3. Edsie's Barbecue Technique

Hehehe. This one's wicked. Edsie, my dearest dorm mate, invented this technique. She uses a small, sharp stick to impale the cockroach right in the middle. Then, if it strikes her fancy, she "barbecues" the cockroach over a small bonfire. This is not done in the kitchen, of course.

4. "Raid" them until they are "Baygon"

This is probably the easiest and one of the most expensive ways of getting rid of the nasty little critters. If you are not in the mood for some good 'ole "blood and gore" roach-rampage, then I suggest you rush to the nearest supermarket and buy these insect repellants. Using any of these insecticides is guaranteed to freeze a cockroach sunny-side up on the floor. hehehe. But be warned; you will probably need to evacuate the premises for at least fifteen minutes in order not to inhale the "fragrance" of these insecticides. Believe me, the smell can be downright nasty. And you'll probably end up spending more than a hundred pesos for a bottle. But come to think of it, it's really a small price to pay for your much-needed peace of mind. be continued....................

NOte: This is a work in progress. You'll probably see more techniques being posted in the coming months. Any contributions are most welcome. Your ideas will be acknowledged with much gratitude.

Friday, June 26, 2009

an unforgettable experience

Originally posted last August 20, 2004 in another blog....

Una experienca inolvidable

Cuando era pequena, me gustaba ir al rio con mi abuelos, mi tio, y mi hermano. Teniamos una choza alli donde gastabamos nuestro tiempo cada sabado. Mi hermano y yo nadaba en el rio o paseaba en bote. Mi tio nos ensenaba nadar cuando hay tiempo. Un dia, yo decidia nadar solo en el rio porque mi hermano estuvo preocupado en ese momento. No observe la marea alta porque estuve prisa a nadar. Yo continuaba nadar hasta casi estuve en medio del rio. Subitamente, el lodo no era firme debajo de mis pies. Yo empezaba hundir hasta el marea casi cubrio mi cabeza. He probado senalar a mi familia para ayudarme pero ellos pensaron que estuve haciendo broma. Pero mi tio realizaba que estuve ahogamiento asi nadaba a donde estuve y me agarro desde el rio.

Rainy Day in Asian Center

This is how a rainy day looks like in Asian Center, University of the Philippines. I took this picture during a typhoon. Fortunately, our building is made of brick and cement. I don't think any typhoon (no matter how strong) can blow it to pieces. ;-D


Originally posted June 14, 2004 in another blog

Note: I dedicate this poem to my Saudara (brother), who is often misunderstood.........


I am

To the world,
I am but a placid lake
With only an occasional ripple
disturbing the quiet surface.
But the tranquil cold of the surface
Hides the smoldering fire within its depths.
My face is what they’ve seen
My heart, they’ve never known.

Letters of a Javanese Princess

Note: This book is perhaps one of the most influential books I have ever read. Thanks to our Asian Studies 210 Professor, Dr. Malay, who introduced this section from Princess Kartini's letters. This letter showed me that women everywhere experience the same struggles in their pursuit of greater freedom and empowerment.


Book: Letters of a Javanese Princess

Author: Raden Adjeng Kartini

3: To Stella Zeehandelaar

November 6, 1899

Certainly, Stella, I cannot thank my parents enough for the free bringing up which they have given me. I had rather have my whole life one of strife and sorry than be without the knowledge which I owe to my European education. I know that many, many difficulties await me, but I am not afraid of the future. I cannot remain content in my old condition; yet to further the new progress I can do nothing: a dozen strong chains bind me fast to my world. What will be the outcome? All my European friends ask themselves this question. If I knew myself, dear people, I should tell you with pleasure. All I can see that the situation is critical for us; and then they say that it was a mistake for my father to give me the little education which I have had. No! No! Not on my dearest father lies the blame. No, and again no! Father could not foresee that the same bringing up which he gave to all of his children would have had such an effect upon one of them. Many other regents had given to their families the same advantages that we have had, and it has never resulted in anything but in native young ladies with European manners, who speak Dutch.

There is no help for it. Some day or other it will come to pass, must come to pass, that I shall have to follow an unknown bridegroom. Love is a will o' the wisp in our Javanese world! How can a man and woman love each other when they see each other for the first time in their lives after they are already fast bound in the chains of wedlock?

I shall never, never fall in love. To love, there must first be respect, according to my thinking; and I can have no respect for the Javanese young man. How can I respect one who is married and a father, and who, when he has had enough of the mother of his children, brings another woman into his house, and is, according to the Muslim law, legally married to her? And who does not do this? And why not? It is no sin, and still less a scandal. The Muslim law allows a man to have four wives at the same time. And though it be a thousand times over no sin according to the Muslim law and doctrine, I shall forever call it a sin. I call all things sin which brings misery to a fellow creature. Sin is to cause pain to another, whether man or beast. And can you imagine what hell-pain a woman must suffer when her husband comes home with another—a rival—whom she must recognize as his legal wife? He can torture her to death, mistreat her as he will; if he does not choose to give her back her freedom, then she can whistle to the moon for her rights. Everything for the man, and nothing for the woman, is our law and custom.

Do you understand now the deep aversion I have for marriage? I would do the humblest work, thankfully and joyfully, if by it I could be independent.

But I can do nothing, less than nothing, on account of Father's position among our people. If I choose to work, it would have to be at something fitting! It is only work for pleasure which would not be a disgrace to my noble and highly placed family—a chain of regents from Java's eastern coast to the middle. Why did God give us talents and not the opportunity to make use of them? My two sisters have studied drawing and painting, and without any instruction, have made fair progress, according to those who know. They would gladly go on with their studies. But here in Java, there is no opportunity, and we cannot go to Europe. To go there we should have to have the consent of his Excellency, the Minister of Finance, and that we have not. We must depend entirely upon ourselves, if we wish to go forward.

O Stella, do you know what it is to long for something intensely and yet to feel powerless to obtain it? Could Father have done so, I do not doubt he would have sent us without hesitation to your cold and distant land.

I draw and paint too, but take much more pleasure in the pen than in the pencil. Do you understand now why I am so anxious to obtain the mastery of your beautiful language? Nay, do not contradict me. I construct it after a fashion, but I understand my limitations all too well. If I could learn the Dutch language thoroughly, my future would be assured. A rich field of labor would then lie open to me, and I should be a true child of humanity. For, you see, I, as a born Javanese, know all about the Indian world. A European, no matter how long he may have lived in Java and studied existing conditions, can still know nothing of the inner native life. Much that is obscure now and a riddle to Europeans, I could make clear with a few words.

I feel my powerlessness all too well, Stella. You would burst out laughing if you could look over my shoulder and read this little sheet of paper. What a crazy idea of mine, is it not? That I who know nothing, have learned nothing, should wish to venture upon a literary career? Still though every one else should laugh at me, I know that you will not—I will not think that for a moment. It is indeed a desperate undertaking, but “he who does not dare, does not win,” is my motto. Forward! Dare mightily and with strength. Three-fourths of the world belongs to the strong.

You ask me how I came to be placed between four thick walls. You certainly thought of a cell or something of that kind. No, Stella, my prison was a large house, with grounds around it. But around those grounds there was a high wall and that held me a prisoner. Never mind how splendid a house and garden may be if one may never go beyond them, it is stifling. I remember how often in dumb despair, I would press my body against the fast closed gate and the cold stones. Whatever direction I took, at the end of every walk there was always a stone wall, or a locked door.

Of late Mevrouw Ovink often says to me, “Child, child, have we done well to let you come forth from the high walls of the kabupaten?* Would it not have been better if we had let you remain there? What will come of it now? What of the future?”

And when she sees us drawing and painting she cries full of distress: “Dear children, is there nothing else for you but this?” No, the only fortunate thing, the best thing that could have happened to us, is that we three were thrust out into the light. Luckily, I am optimistic by nature, and do not quickly let my head hang. If I cannot become what I so much desire to be, then I would rather be something, if only a kitchen maid. You will think now, that I am a “genius” in cooking. My family and friends need not worry about my future, do you not agree with me? For a good kitchen maid is always in demand, and can always get along.

The official salaries in Holland seem small compared with those in India. Yet they are always complaining here, about the small salaries. In India too one is entitled to a pension after twenty years' service, and the clergy after only ten years. India is an El Dorado for the officials, and yet many Hollanders speak of it as a “horrible ape-land.” I get so infernally mad when I hear them speak of “horrible India.” They forget all too often that this “horrible ape-land” fills many empty pockets with gold.

A change will come in our whole native world—the turning point is foreordained; it is coming. But when will it be? That is the great question. We cannot hasten the hour of revolution. For it is only we who have rebellious thoughts in this wilderness, this dark distant land, beyond which there is no land. My friends here say that we shall act wisely if we do nothing but sleep for a hundred years. When we awakened, Java would be more as we would have her.

"Work among the People" of India I know. Mevrouw Van Zuylen-Tromp sent Father the book, hoping to arouse his interest. But he would rather interest himself in a book about the native woman; I had thought of that myself. I have much to tell about Javanese women, but I am still too young, and have had so little, so pitifully little, experience with life. The cause for which I would speak is to me too earnest and too sacred to be approached lightly. I cannot write now as I wish, but I know that when I have suffered more it will be different. After a few years I shall have had a more comprehending insight into much that I would know and many thoughts that now run darkly through my brain will have grown clear.

I cannot tell you anything of the Islamic law, Stella. Its followers are forbidden to speak of it with those of another faith. And, in truth, I am a Muslim only because my ancestors were. How can I love a doctrine which I do not know—may never know? The Koran is too holy to be translated into any language whatever. Here no one speaks Arabic. It is customary to read from the Koran; but what is read no one understands! To me it is a silly thing to be obliged to read something without being able to understand it. It is as though I were compelled to read an English book, and the while thing should go through my head without my being able to comprehend the meaning of a single world. If I wished to know and understand our religion, I should have to go to Arabia to learn the language. Nevertheless, one can be good without being pious. Is that not true, Stella?

Religion is intended as a blessing to mankind—a bond between all the creatures of God. They should be as brothers and sisters, not because they have the same human parents, but because they are all children of one Father, of Him who is enthroned in the heavens above. Brothers and sisters must love one another, help, strengthen and support one another. O God! Sometimes I wish that there had never been a religion, because that which should unite mankind into one common brotherhood has been through all the ages a cause of strife, of discord, and of bloodshed. Members of the same family have persecuted one another because of the different manner in which they worshiped one and the same God. Those who ought to have been bound together by the tenderest love have turned with hatred from one another. Differences of Church, albeit in each the same word, God, is spoken, have built a dividing wall between two throbbing hearts. I often ask myself uneasily: is religion indeed a blessing to mankind? Religion, which is meant to save us form our sins, how many sins are committed in thy name?

I have read Max Havelaar**, though I do not know “Wijs mij de plaats waar ik gezaaid heb!”*** I shall look for it for I think much, very much, of Multatuli.

I will tell you another time of the position of the people, and of the ruling classes among us. I have written too much already, and that is a subject which demands no small space.

What do we speak at home? What a question, Stella, dear. Naturally, our language is Javanese. We speak Malay with strange people who are Easterners, either Malays, Moors, Arabs, or Chinese, and Dutch with Europeans.

O Stella, how I laughed when I read your question: “Would your parents disapprove if you should embrace them heartily?” Why, I have yet to give my parents, or my brothers and sisters, the first kiss! Kissing is not customary among the Javanese. Only children of from one to three, four, five, or six are kissed. We never kiss one another. You are astonished at that! But it is true. Only our young Holland friends kiss us, and we kiss them back; that has only been recently.

At first we loved to have them kiss us, but never kissed them in return. We have only learned to kiss since we have been such friends with Mevrouw Ovink. When she would embrace us, she would ask us to kiss her. At first we found it queer, and acquitted ourselves awkwardly. Does this seem strange to you? No matter how much I should love one of my Dutch friends, it would never come into my head to kiss her without being asked. You ask why? Because I do not know whether she would like it. It is pleasant for us to press a soft white cheek to our lips, but whether the possessor of that pretty cheek also finds it pleasant to feel a dark face against hers, is another question. We had rather let people think us heartless, for of our own accord we would never embrace.

If as you say I am in no way behind many Dutch girls, it is principally the work of Mevrouw Ovink, who used to talk to us as though we were her own sisters. Intercourse with this cultured, well-bred Dutch lady had a great influence upon the little brown girls. And now Moesje (Mevrouw Ovink) knows very well that though time and distance separate them, the hearts of her daughters will always belong to her. Father had promised us—in reality, Mevrouw Ovink made him give his word of honor—to let us go to Djombang. Mijnheer Ovink will take us there by and by. We love them so much, have so much love for our “Father” and “Mother.” We miss them sadly. I cannot even now realize that they are actually gone from us. There was so little restraint between us. We lived all the time so cordially together.


*Kabupaten, a Regent's residence.

**Max Havelaar, by Multatuli (pseudonym for E. Douwes-Dekker), a novel, first published in Amsterdam in 1860, which protested against Dutch commercial exploitation of the Indonesians.

*** “Show me the place where I have sown.” (translation)

Escape from a nightmare

Originally written for a writing activity in our Literature class, second semester, 2005

Escaping unscathed from the realm of nightmares.....

I have nightmares. There was a time in my life when I had them every single night without fail. Sometimes I wake up hearing my own screams, other times I open my eyes suddenly for fear of staying too long in the realm of a horrible dream. There were also times when in the midst of a nightmare I find myself slowly awakening, but then I would deliberately descend into that dream, no matter how horrifying. No matter how horrible the nightmare, I figured that to stay in it a bit longer would enable me to end it the way I wanted.

I wish I had known the legendary Sandman when I was young. I wish I had been introduced to the sweeper of dreams—that flighty and enigmatic creature who inhabits the world of dreams, whose only job is to sweep away the cobwebs of one’s mind, so that one can finally get some decent sleep. But I had an unconventional childhood. I was surrounded by no-nonsense adults who did not teach me to believe in Santa Claus and all that stuff. And who taught me to deal with my nightmares with a glass of water.

Nightmares are like unwanted visitors—they show up when you least expect them. No one claims to know where they come from. But perhaps it is easier to imagine that they have some basis in reality. Nightmares have a way of telling me that no matter how horrible I think reality is, there still exists a realm where the horror is beyond compare. Perhaps they come from one’s experience of living too much and too hard. Life is not exactly peaceful where I come from.
Nightmares. One gets used to them eventually. But I wish they would just disappear. Sleep would be more pleasant if one is not troubled with them.

Insane Ramblings from an Insomniac

Originally posted November 13, 2005 2:52am

Insane Ramblings from an Insomniac

This is crazy. I can’t seem to sleep yet I am not thinking of anything important. There are just nights in which I am unable to sleep a wink; nights which then stretch into the dark hours of dawn and finally till I see the faint morning light of 5:30 filtering through my window. My bed is near the second window, close to the door opening to the terrace. I know the temper of the night by heart, the way it changes its mood the moment my watch strikes 12 midnight. I can feel the changes of the breeze from my bed near the door. Instead of tempting me to rest my scattered thoughts on the shores of sleep, the sensations only heighten my wakefulness. I really should consider getting some decent sleeping pill. Sometimes, the restlessness of the mind can be unbearable.
Music sometimes help, but not when I desperately need it most. I listen to it whenever I want to be lulled to sleep, away from the troubled sleeplessness that mostly characterize my nights. But the more I listen, the more I seem to hang on to every melody, the more deeply I feel it just because my mind has no other thing to focus on. The music sometimes reduces me to a state of semi-catatonia; I get caught easily with its moodiness. The more my mind wanders, though I know not where.
It's weird. Sometimes my itinerant thoughts come to a dead end. I know not where they go, but when I reach that end, I even surprise myself. Dead ends are like humans, equipped with their own identities. Each wandering step and turn had always led me to something different. Dead ends are like clouds, constantly taunting me with their fleeting forms. One moment, I see them solidly ahead of me and the next they disappear from my sight. I try hard to grasp them but they vanish just as quickly. Thus, my thoughts, noble or ungodly as they may be, disappear and are forgotten quickly whenever sleep finally overtakes me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I choose not to reveal thoughts ahead of me
The radiant sun may obscure my thousand moods
I look back at my shadow.
It grows longer as I walk into the dusk..
Here, I whisper my thoughts
Hidden in the folds of its darkness.

The Madness

Here's a short story that we wrote for our Philippine Institution 100 course during our undergrad years. The characters are based on Jose Rizal's novels "Noli me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo". It's not really that much, and we all contributed in writing the parts equally. I hope the lapses in grammar and writing style can be forgiven....



“Will I do it? Will I not?”

Nighttime had crept quietly into the town of San Diego. The pale rays of the full moon illuminated the deserted streets, the Spanish-styled houses, and the massive outline of the church looming in the center of the pueblo. The silence was only broken by the tolling of the church bells announcing the midnight hour. But no sleeper stirred in bed, no troubled soul wanted to be woken from a dreamless sleep. The only person awake in this ungodly hour was the occupant of a small-lighted room in the monastery beside the church.

While the rest of the townspeople were snoring in their beds, sleep seemed to elude Salvador. The floor of his room creaked underneath his footsteps, and the candles slightly flickered from a faint breeze that entered through the half open window. He was pacing the floor in an agitated manner, never noticing the passing of midnight nor the strange shadows that the moonlight cast upon his walls. A mild breeze making the leaves of the trees, especially those of the tall acacias at the west side of the monastery, rustle. His thoughts were in shambles, and his mind was confronted by an even greater dilemma. It seemed like he had asked himself the same question a thousand times yet no answer could be found. He felt like he was standing between the devil and the deep blue sea; whichever evil he chose, he would still lose. He had silenced the dead, yet the dead came back to life to haunt him. Would he silence that same person all over again? Or would he allow time to settle his debt?

Salvador’s feet grew tired from the incessant pacing. He slowly went to the window and slumped on a nearby chair. His gaze went outside the window towards the distant fields touched by the pallor of the moon, his memories unconsciously transporting him to the past. He remembered walking barefoot on the sand with a woman during moonlit nights, remembered readying his boat at sunset to fish out to sea, remembered a familiar hand waving at him as he sailed farther away. Yes there was a woman who occupied his thoughts. Salvador’s pulse quickened when he remembered how the waves washed over her creamy skin when she bathe in the sea, how the sun brought out the golden hue in her hair, how her smiling brown eyes matched the gaiety of the flowers in spring. Then he saw the same young woman wading in the river of San Diego, the whiteness of her arms and thighs exposed to the sunlight, the shape of her body silhouetted by the water lapping at her dress. The same strange sensations returned to Salvador and haunted him with both desire and fear. Then the memories faded slowly into blackness until he found himself staring at the walls of his room once again. He was once again reminded of his guilt and dilemma. In the past years, he had thought that the deed would be safely buried throughout the passing of time. But the woman had come back and he needed to dispose her for his own peace of mind. Would he be willing to do it again in the subtlest way? He had prepared the poison that would promptly send the woman back to her grave. He had plotted everything with cunning and malice. The only thing lacking was his will to do it again. That was the reason why he had paced the floor back and forth, ignoring sleep and time, while his mind drifted in and out of his reveries.

“QUE TE JODAS!” The words kept ringing in Salvador’s ears ever since his childhood. He remembered his Mama, a hard and bitter woman who regularly beat him up when she was drunk. His Papa was a sickly but industrious fisherman, unable to stand up to his wife and stop her abuses. His greatest love was the sea, until the day the storm came and the sea permanently swallowed him up. Salvador and his mother shed no tears. His mother was out with her neighbors playing mahjong that day, while Salvador was all alone in the house, shivering with cold and hunger. His mother’s vices only worsened after his father died; she gambled almost on a daily basis while leaving him to fend for himself. As a result, he became undernourished and diminutive in stature. But now he was almost a man, yet he was unschooled in any profession or craft that enabled him to make a living in the world. What was he to do? He was not physically strong to withstand the hardships of being a fisherman? He could endure the beatings and insults of his peers but he was not prepared to face the elements of nature. Nevertheless, he went out to sea everyday in order to feed himself and his mother.

“I could buy fish from you everyday. Our family is new here, and we don’t know any other fishermen.” Such the ordinary words spoken by a woman to Salvador yet they were like a stream of kindness winding into his lonely heart. The woman who spoke them had silky skin, flowing hair, and smiling brown eyes that were shielded by thick dark lashes. Salvador remembered so well how he asked her name, how they shook hands, and how they saw each other every sunset when he set out to sea with the other fishermen. Soledad bought fish from him everyday, becoming his only regular buyer. Their friendship deepened, and Soledad often accompanied him during evenings when he was setting out his boat to sea.

Eventually, Salvador became aware that he was a changeling. He only realized how quickly he seemed to grow up through some strange emotions that he recently felt. Salvador knew that the world called this madness ‘love.’ But for him, madness and love seemed to have no distinct difference. He only knew that no one had ever shown him such kindness before in his short life. Women had always treated him with contempt, beginning with his mother. But Soledad was different from them. Her family was newcomers in the town but she never hesitated to reproach the other boys in the village for insulting and threatening Salvador. She had on other times demonstrated such acts of generosity by sharing food with him. Since Salvador was always hungry and depressed, Soledad’s disposition towards him was a refreshing breeze to his otherwise colorless life. Their friendship grew. Soledad would tell him things she never told anyone except for the reason that one, just out of the blue, she seemed happier than ever before. Starting that day, Soledad would smile serenely at remembering fond memories. Salvador would ask her repeatedly about the self-contented smile but she would only smile more.

But just as jealousy has a way of perverting reason, madness often takes the strangest form in lonely souls who had only experienced good things in so short a time. The fear of losing one’s happiness can transform a person into madness if that person has no control over his obsession. Without realizing it, Salvador had become obsessed with Soledad that the thought of losing her was unthinkable. He sometimes hid in the shadows and followed her on her way home. He never told anyone how he returned to shore in the middle of his fishing just to sit near the gate of her house and watch her window. He would spend hours in his room fantasizing about her…

“Somehow your smile seems different today,” Salvador remarked when Soledad finally came out to the shore at sunset.
“It should be. I am happy. Very happy,” Soledad said smiling, “and you should be, too, for me.”
“I’m always happy when I’m with you. What difference does that make with today?”
For a quiet moment, Salvador and Soledad stood looking out into the sunset, each absorbed with their own thoughts. Finally, Soledad broke the silence, saying, “A childhood friend, the reason of the smiles you often comment upon, of mine came to our house last Sunday. Rodrigo and I have always been close, and so are our families. We’ve been engaged for a year but had no definite wedding date… and now we’re planning to get married next month…”

Salvador hardly heard all of the words. It had never occurred to him that Soledad would get married and leave the town. He certainly never thought of losing her this way. The announcement came as a brutal shock. Salvador hardly knew what to say or how to react.
“What is the matter?” asked Soledad worriedly, “aren’t you happy for me?”

And everything suddenly became a blur as Soledad’s voice faded into the darkness again. The once happy memory was suddenly replaced by something painful. Salvador’s chest tightened and he sweat profusely. He almost jumped out of his chair and resumed pacing just to catch his breath. He could no longer hold back the ugly memories that suddenly flooded into his mind. His emotions were a mix of anger, hurt, and remorse. He could not help but remember…

He was happy when she was kind to him but now she would have her fiancé to think of. But now, the fear of losing her made him even more obsessed at keeping her forever. Would he tell her what he felt?

“Salvador, where are you taking me?” Soledad asked.
“Out there,” was Salvador’s reply. He and Soledad were on a boat heading towards the open sea. The clouds hanging over the Atlantic had a foreboding look.
“We’re heading farther and farther from the shore. Do you think it is alright?” asked Soledad worriedly.
“Don’t worry, it won’t take us long. I only wanted the distance to add privacy, for what I am going to say is so important,” Salvador said quietly.
“Well, the shore is certainly far from us now and I cannot see anybody around anymore. You can tell me freely now. We’re friends, right?” Soledad tried to lighten the atmosphere because she saw how serious Salvador’s expression was.

Salvador felt an intensity and anticipation he had never felt before. He had to say something, he must convince Soledad that she’ll be making a big mistake by walking away from him.
“Yo..yo te amo.. please you must believe me, Soledad.” Salvador confessed in stammering tones.
Soledad looked at him with surprise. Then her look softened to understanding and sympathy.
“You will always have a place in my heart, Salvador. But friendship is all I can give. For I have already promised love to Rodrigo...” Soledad answered gently but firmly.
Salvador felt the words pierce deeply in his consciousness. For the first time, he became aware that the dark clouds had gathered over the sea and that the biting cold of the wind on his skin was nothing compared to the cold he felt inside his heart.
“Por favor, don’t walk away from me Soledad. So many people did that to me before.. I can’t lose you now.”
Salvador tearfully tried his desperate pleas but it was useless. Love and madness are the same thing, they cannot both be dictated. Salvador’s pleas fell to deaf ears. Soledad in turn, also pleaded with him to understand and be happy for her instead.
“I can’t accept this! I can’t lose you! You belong to me only!”
Salvador began raging and shouting his frustrations while Soledad looked at him with horror. He had felt such an overwhelming fury and disappointment that he lost control of himself. Soledad began crying, begging him to return the boat to shore because a storm is surely coming.
“No! We will both die here! I suffered, therefore you will also suffer!” And saying so, Salvador dropped the oars into the sea.
“QUE TE JODAS! What made you betray our friendship Salvador? Are you pushing me to jump out of this boat since I cannot save myself as long as I’m on it? How could you do this to me?”
No answer was heard. Soledad’s gaze settled on Salvador’s face. What she saw made her blood curdle. The most demonic gleam was in his eyes. A bitter smile lurked at his lips.

Perhaps it was the madness that provoked him to blind fury… perhaps it was his deep obsession that drove him to violate her… perhaps it was the jealousy and resentment contained from the past years and had suddenly burst forth… perhaps we may never know. The world may never know that he wrapped the body with his father’s net, hid it inside the fishing trunk, and dumped it into the sea… No trace of her was found. The Atlantic hid the dead into oblivion, and Salvador’s deed was never discovered.

Salvador clearly remembered how his guilt made him suffer. He had horrible dreams at night; he burned the candles in his room at odd hours, talked to himself, and cried in his sleep. He would often have memory lapses, having no remembrance of where he was or what he did on certain days. By this time, his mother had grown ill and weak, and she was saying the he was sometimes talking alone in his room. She took all of his actions to mean that he had been communicating with God and was gifted with visions and strange tongues. She was utterly convinced of this belief that she repeatedly implored Salvador to enter the priesthood in order to save her soul and his father’s. Salvador saw this as an opportunity to leave the town. The walls of the church would provide him sanctuary and escape from the ugly memories that hounded him, and the missionary work of the order can take him to places where no one will recognize or condemn him. Furthermore, the new monarchy in Spain is sending friars to the new world, to the colonies of pagans that had not been indoctrinated into Christianity. The church needed missionaries, and Salvador needed a new life. So he made the decision to enter priesthood and eventually shortened his name to ‘Salvi.’

Fulfilling his mother’s wish did not endear him in any way to her. The same bitterness was there, Salvi was still unloved and unaccepted. His mother’s last words were still ringing painfully in his ears…
“I never loved you. You may have wondered why. It was because I never wanted you in the first place...”
He had forced himself to sit near his mother’s deathbed one day when he was unable to ignore her call. Between fits of coughing, his mother told him how his father got her pregnant, how their parents had arranged the marriage in haste in order to avoid disgrace, and how she had taken drugs and cursed the life in her womb as it grew day after day. With pain in his eyes, Salvi only looked at the woman he was unfortunate to call ‘Mama.’ Even in the last hours of agony, his mother had not been able to let go of the bitterness. She took them with her to the grave.

Padre Salvi left Spain for the new world with few regrets. First, his mother had died with the belief that her soul would be granted passage to heaven because of her son’s entrance to priesthood. Salvi had only a vague recollection of what happened in his coastal hometown. He had sought to bury that part of him which was sullied by those horrible memories. He still had nightmares every now and then, and sometimes he could not remember how he spent some of his days… it was as if there was a certain gap in his own identity. He had buried the obsession in the past into oblivion.

Las Islas Filipinas was the tropical island far into the southeastern part of the world. Salvi thought at first that it was teeming with unruly pagans and that they would have to be subdued by sword before receiving the Christian doctrines with docility. He was surprised to find that his parish at the obscure town of San Diego was not at all filled with infieles and indocumentados. Instead, the indios in the town were civilized and subdued, and they held the power of the Church with such awe. Here in this strange town of San Diego, Salvi seemed to find the peace he wanted at last.

“Soledad is dead… Soledad has come back…” The voices that whispered inside Salvi’s head had taken a twisted and gruesome tone. His nightmares now had new faces, and he seemed to have more and more memory lapses, which explains why the servants found him oddly distant and moody at times. The servants in the convent were avid gossipers, and he was frequently talked about. They gossiped about his weird habits, his nightmares and strange delusions, his sudden mood swings, his night ramblings, and his sullen disposition. He still had memory lapses every now and then and on several occasions he had found that he had been sleepwalking outside the convent. But mostly he was left alone, partly because he was the friar and also due to the indios’ ignorance and awe. Guilt came back to haunt him day and night, even in this far side of the pagan world. Soledad had risen from her grave! The ugly memories that he buried in his subconscious threatened to come out and drown him in a deep depression. He recognized Soledad, even though she had a new name and an alien fiancé known as Ibarra. Her presence filled Salvi with such nameless terror and remorse that he sometimes had to confine himself in his convent for days and burn his candles at odd hours of the night. It seemed as if no amount of religious penitence could wipe out the madness that he had buried within his subconscious. She now frequented his nightmares at night and his thoughts in the waking hours. At times he found himself staring at her, and this would cause her discomfort that she had to excuse herself from him. Salvi was in constant fear least his guilt and crime would be discovered. The young woman called Maria Clara was a threat to his peace of mind.

While Padre Salvi was pacing and reminiscing in his room, there was a certain young woman occupying the convent’s sick room who was even more disturbed than he was. Maria Clara was stricken with fever again, lying motionless on her bed. She could not believe how she had come to rest in this convent. Her memories were still fresh in her mind. She remembered Crisostomo Ibarra her fiancé, her home with Kapitan Tiago and Tia Isabel who had been her security and refuge, her affection with Padre Damaso, the person who was the missing puzzle of her identity, and finally Padre Salvi, who had become the ominous phantom in her life, the one who was responsible for her suffering. She recalled the day she first met him at church. He had been delivering a sermon from the pulpit. When his eyes fell upon her, he turned pale and his voice quavered. The whole congregation thought he was going to faint so they urged the sacristans to bring strong spirits to mass next time. Time and again, she kept seeing him staring at her strangely. She had once thought that he was mad, because he kept asking her if she had dreamed of letters from her mother. But her fears came true one day when she was lying in her sickbed. Padre Salvi came as her confessor. It was at that time that he revealed the truth about her real father, producing the letters that were written by her mother as proof. Padre Salvi had asked for Ibarra’s letters in exchange for silence and for her mother’s letters. It was during her sickness that the priest became the one who confessed; Salvi had revealed his dark obsession to her during that confession. And she realized her stupidity too late. She should have chosen to face the harshness of the world instead of escaping from it, only to fall into a harsher and more inhuman prison. Her hasty decision and emotionality lead her to the Sta. Clara cloister where Padre Salvi followed her and continued to torment her. Maria Clara shuddered in remembering the darkness behind those walls, how she had suffered, and how she was sullied by the man whom everyone believed to be holy. And this time, Padre Salvi had spread lies about her declining health, convincing the Mother Superior that her illness was contagious and that she would have to be treated and housed elsewhere. He further tricked the nuns into believing that she would be brought to a clinic that specializes in the illness. She only found out that she was given something to drink and the next thing she knew, she was back in San Diego lying in this monastery room. And her nightmare was only a corridor away from her!

The toll of the bell signaling midnight was heard deep into the night. Maria Clara was paralyzed by fears as midnight meant a visit from her captor. What would he do to her tonight?
“No, I cannot go on like this,” Maria Clara thought. “The harshness of the world is nothing compared to what I’ve suffered here. I have to escape. This is my last chance.”
The fever made her footing unsteady but she was determined to stand. Slowly she made her way out of the room, dragging her feet as she went, her heart clutched in fear. She knew that all doors are locked. No jail keeper would leave open doors for their prisoners. She made her way to the second floor of the monastery to make her escape. Maria Clara went on walking until she reached it. The climb was an agonizing one, and her muscles and joints ache from the exertion. A few more steps and she would be at the top of the stairs. But when she reached the last stair step, her vision suddenly blurred making her last step a heavy one.

Padre Salvi jumped out of his chair again, his ears keenly listening for the source of the noise. He had a suspicion that Maria Clara may be trying to escape. He hastily went out of the room and ran to the source of the sound.

“Mierda!” The curse slipped from his lips when he saw his captive nearing the room in the farthest corner of the west wing in the second floor. What is Soledad planning?” Then, as clear as the day, the answer came to him as he trailed the corridor to catch Maria Clara. She intends to climb out of the window to a nearby acacia tree to escape.

Maria Clara was too sick to notice Padre Salvi. Her whole attention was devoted on escaping. Thus, she was shocked when somebody grabbed her from behind.
No, only a few more steps to freedom, this can’t be happening, Maria Clara thought as she struggled against her attacker.
Their struggle continued for some time but Maria Clara was weakening. Padre Salvi sensed his quarry’s slack in her efforts. “Soledad, Soledad, he crooned as Maria Clara went limp in his arms. “Soledad, Soledad, Soledad, Maria Clara, Soledad…
Reality was lost as the past and the present merged. The onslaught that Maria Clara feared came to be. She was breathing but her eyes were dazed and lifeless. Her body was like a rag, her spirit broken. Padre Salvi, after dishonoring her, carried her in his arms back to the room and locked the door.

Maria Clara heard the lock clicked into place. She laid unmoving on her bed. Her eyes drawn to the bars of the windows, but unseeing. It was the wee hours of the morning yet darkness cloaked everything. Not even the moonlight seemed to reach this part of the monastery.

Little by little, Maria Clara’s broken spirit left her body. It was in the wee hours of the morning when Salvador silenced Soledad once more, this time inside a monastery where “only the walls can hear her cries.” Perhaps the world will never know how Salvador’s madness had penetrated the gates of the monastery… how he had sullied the victim inside the walls in pursuit of his obsession. But then again, walls may have ears… and justice is as obscure as the stars in a stormy night.

Mylene, Lovelyn, and Graciella

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Reina de Bastos

This is my first time to write my thoughts on the net. I am not a very expressive person. Naturally reserved, I keep my thoughts to myself or stomp it off someplace where no one can hear my curses. But I realize that this exercise can help me be in touch with myself. It is a perfectly harmless way to let out my frustrations and my musings. I do not care if anyone who stumbles on this blog will be bored to death. In fact, it is my sacred duty to warn readers who are too adventurous that this blog may cause extreme boredom. I do not wish to add to others’ discomfort.
Oh, right, where are my manners? To start this blog, it is only fair to give a proper introduction…

Reina de Bastos, and what it means….

Reina de Bastos (Spanish) – Queen of Wands
· Emblema de amor, persona extrovertida, casta y serena, practica, provista de encanto y gracia. Los significados inversos son celos, duplicidad, posible desconfianza, inconstancia, intransigencia, obstaculos, oposicion.

There. You have it. The meaning of the name “Reina de Bastos” or the Queen of Wands. You may be wondering about its origin. Reina de Bastos is the name of one of the Tarot cards. The Tarot is in many ways, similar to a regular deck of cards, also divided into four suits. But instead of having hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs, the four suits are composed of wands, pentacles, cups, and swords. In addition to that, the Tarot also has a major arcana, composed of 21 character cards, different from the suits. This is where I get my namesake. In my native language, Reina de Bastos sounds lewd. (Don’t ask me what it means.) But in Spanish, and in the jargon of the Tarot, it symbolizes something beautiful and mysterious.

Now don’t get any wild ideas out of the little background I gave you. I am no fortune teller, but I am no ignoramus either. Yes, I am familiar with the Tarot and its methods, but my overall knowledge about its intricacies is as sparse as hair on a balding man’s head. No, I do not practice divination using the Tarot for I do not possess the deck of cards. And probably if I had the them, I would not take the predictions seriously. What’s more, I find the price of Tarot decks in my country outrageously expensive for my deprived pockets. The prices are in a state of inflation for as long as I could remember. Thus, there is no assurance that I will be able to buy it in the future. Furthermore, my mother would be horrified if ever she found out that I harbor this desire. I can already imagine her angry face and shouting eyes, shrieking curses at me while she throws me out of doors. She’d think I had lost my sensibilities completely to a bunch of esoteric mumbo jumbo! Mortified, she would disown me. She would not want a gypsy for a daughter, not in her own roof! The present circumstances as well as my financial capacity are not favorable for acquiring Tarot decks. So instead I tried to settle with a book about divinations and prophecies which I had a hard time translating because it is printed in Spanish. I will need all the dictionaries in the world and all the patience I can muster.

This is how the name got stuck to my brain, and it would not give me a moment’s peace until I had adopted it for an alias. I personally like the meaning both in my native language and in Spanish. Every time I use it, I can’t help but laugh inwardly at the disparity of its meaning, in Spanish and in my native tongue. But true to my word (or else my conscience will hound me night and day), this is how I’ll refer to myself from this moment onwards.

Unsettling the water…

But even with all the negative publicity about divinations and fortune-telling, I still had not lost my old childhood curiosity about them. I feel that I am really a gypsy by heart, now more than ever. I never seemed to belong permanently to one place, nor held on to some ideas for too long. A changeling, I am. I remember fearing change one moment and then wanting to embrace it the next. One thing that’s always on my mind is to be free. It is a belief and a desire that is as restless and as elusive as the wind, yet I continue to hold on to it. So fascinated was I by the endless chase.

I am single, as created by God, and continue to be so. And I hope that the next lines will be sufficient to impress upon you how stupid it is to ask me about my love life.

My mother and many of my friends inwardly think that I am as stubborn as a mule. I flatter myself sometimes that the last thing people would accuse me of is being a stereotypical girl. So now this is my chance to say “Strike, but hear me first!” Judge me, harshly or kindly, but only after hearing a tiny part of my story.

One word. One difficult and unpopular word that I have adopted because at one glance I think it is an appropriate blanket description of myself in a personalized way. So starts my confession. I am a feminist even before I encountered the term or knew about its meaning. This is not a source of pride or shame. It is simply a fact about myself. The world demands proof yet I can only write about a few. I remember defying my unmarried grand aunts when they tried to teach me lady lessons or lectured me on proper behavior. I argued with my mother at breakfast, lunch, and dinner about how a girl should behave and what is expected of her by society. I beat my brother in races and got into fights with the boys using my fists and my brains. In moments of valor, I resisted the patriarchal tendencies that my kinfolk tried to impose on me, especially the unreasonable ones. At the onset of my adolescent years, I do not think the way my peers think, nor dress in the way girls in my time dressed up. I dress up to feel good, to be comfortable, or to be at ease with myself by looking good. My efforts were not aimed at capturing the fancies of the opposite sex either. I became a self-confessed manhater in high school, mainly because I wanted to be left alone or to ward off any uninvited attention. You may have correctly guessed by this time that my views and my manners have rendered me unpopular with my peers. They say it unusual for a teenager during those times to think the way I did. But I was a glaring example of deviance, and those who were too envious of my certainty labeled me a ‘geek’ or a ‘weirdo’. Ha! Thank you very much but those terms don’t seem to strike me as insults. I would rather be sensible, intelligent, and headstrong a thousand times than be a vain, fussy, dim-witted teen who is hopelessly smitten with some silly fad or fool. All these I did, without knowing what feminism meant.

There was really no conscious thought to be feminist. All I had was the desire to be free from sexist restrictions as much as possible. And why not? It is one thing to acknowledge limitations and constraints, and another to yield to them like cows passively being led to the slaughterhouse. Voltaire had long ago declared that “man is born free but is everywhere in chains”. I should like to finish it by saying that humans have the freedom to choose their chains or to be free from them.

No, I do not hold grudges against my aunts, my kinfolk, and my friends. I love them dearly, appreciate their concern, and no amount of disagreement can blur that devotion. They are simply expressing what they believe. I just think it is a bit unfair if they impose their views on me. This stubborn mule knows the value of respecting others’ beliefs. I am no tyrant. If their values work for them, good. But they do not have a monopoly over mine. My life, my views. And this is my greatest fear. My greatest fear is to live a life that runs contrary to my beliefs. For that is no life at all. I would be like a puppet on strings, letting others do the thinking and the acting for me. Such as dull and unfulfilled existence!

I had repealed the chances of going through flings, side-stepped questions about my love life, and altogether spared of the drama and the trauma of unnecessary heartaches and stress. Also add the blessing of not having to suffer from idiotic choices resulted from rushing headlong into something without sufficient sense and experience. Which brings me to this question. Did I have any regrets? Blood and gore! I did not regret my deviance for a single moment. I even enjoyed it for so many times. So this settles further questions about my affaire de coeur. And as I write on and on, there will be more angst and grumblings regarding this subject.