Was I ever a happy child? Without thinking, my parents would definitely say I was, and then they’d go into a lengthy detail of describing my achievements.

“ She was such a competitive spirit. She was smart beyond her years”.

Was I ever a happy child?

I’m a good student sure. I ponder the abstract and understand without trying what most would perceive as unconceivable jargons. The same mind that does not conceal horror; That see the world without filters, without frills, without the protective lies that preserve one’s fragile sanity.

Was I a happy child?

Maybe in my own eccentric way I was. But I knew darkness in a way others do not. Because even while I laugh, I am aware of a spot in my heart that does not really fill up. A void that refuses to accept unadulterated glee.

I knew nothing about Depression as a child. I was shielded from the sharp edges the world so often wielded indiscriminately, — until I came face to face with the monsters.

Fear is protective, they say, until it misfires. Then it becomes an enemy. A shackle or a box beneath the ground. Limiting. Suffocating.

I was a happy child, at least up to the extent I knew how happiness should make one feel. I am now simply a grateful person, for what I have and what I am capable of giving in spite of my darkness.

I’ve seen the demons, therefore I understand. I’ve been alone, therefore I reach out. I’ve felt the all encompassing embrace of depression, the sharp cuts of hate, the racing thoughts of anxiety, and the ephemeral kiss of panic. I met some of the deadliest monsters a mind can ever create, and I made it out. I made it out.

No one who’d gone to battle comes back the same. I know I’ve never been the same since.

Are the changes blessings or curses?

To now have eyes that see too much, hearing that catches the scream of silence, skin that holds enough stories of its own, and a heart that simultaneously bond excessively and not at all. The middle ground had all but disappeared somewhere among the ruins of the past.

Was I a happy child?

I started on life probably happy I don’t know. Maybe, somewhere along the way, while I skip and danced under the bright afternoon sun, I fell, in a hole, unsuspecting, betrayed and wounded.

Dark holes don’t kill you immediately.

It corrupts you instead.

I got in happy, I emerged hollowed out and mutated, haunted by the dark. By ghosts. By my own mind.

I am good at imitating normalcy. I’m good at projecting acceptable behaviours. I made it out.

My mind, in spite of it being infested by sadness and fear, is better than most. I understand abstracts. I am abstract. I see the relationships of invisible congruence and oppositions. I see the unseen. I am more than functional. I exceed expectations. Intelligence is as protective as invisibility, — or morality.

Am I happy?

I guess in my own way I am. My wounds are now but scars, and the darkness in my past allows me to appreciate the stars. The flickers. The dying ember.

Why do I seek the broken?

Because it’s my way of putting myself back together, — one broken soul at a time.

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Nice People

“Nice people don’t swear”. I don’t give a fucking fuck. I’m not nice. I am real.

I hated hypocrisy just as much as I hated Metro Art, an overly orchestrated facade to hide the rut behind it. Just like a botox faced matron, or an overly done teenager trying desperately to hide imperfections.

Nice people go to church everyday. Then they go home and give a blow job, behind close doors of course, because the meaning of decency had long morphed into something superficial. A thing to wear on the outside, while the inside reek with foul indiscretion and malignant hate.

Nice people have nice friends, who also have nice friends, from nice families, with well scrubbed, finely dressed, and well behaved kids, and yes, with supportive, “ nice” spouses. Miss one and you are out of the nice people’s league.

Nice people don’t have tattoos on them, don’t smoke, don’t go to therapies, don’t take Prozac, Lexapro or Rivotril. They sleep well at night, don’t get nightmares, are not seized by gripping fear. They do not stay awake all night listening to the blackness wail. They look up and see stars, not a crashing, burning sky.

Nice people walk life relying solely on the goodness of the universe, with faith, hope and glee, worn brilliantly on their sleeves, without the need of a crudely drawn map, on bleeding skin.

I am not nice, and because of that I see an unfiltered world, unmade, scarred, bleeding and in pain. I see what the “nice people” choose not to see, and I do not feel the least bit ungrateful, just honest. I see imperfections amidst the facade of colours and forced glee. I see reality.

Baguio 2017 Day 2

As promised, the day started early, atleast with Ken, my daughter and my nephew. By 6am, all 3 are ready for a stroll in Burnham Park. My youngest and I chose to sleep a bit more. After a hearty breakfast of Danggit, Vigan Longanisa, garlic rice, eggs, brewed coffee and hot cocoa for the kids, we began our day. It’s a nice 15°C out so we decided to drive with our windows down for a better view of the scenic mountains. We made a quick stop to the usual tourist spots like The Mansion, the Wrights Park, Mine’s View and Camp John Hay, but it was the drive to the isolated high places that actually took our breaths away. There are still a few spots in Baguio that have not yet been touched by commerce. Such places usually do not have famous names. Just a short detour off road, and one can enjoy the sweetest scent of pines and fresh mountain air. There is also a spot over Sto. Tomas where one can enjoy a view of the sky, where the famous La Preza TV series had been filmed years ago. It’s now down to its usual simple self which we prefered. Here we came upon a place called the Sky Cafe where the best brewed coffee is being served with local delicacies. The drive back to city proper is another matter though. Vehicles exiting La Trinidad from the famous Strawberry Farm merge into the small road we are also taking, together with delivery trucks carrying vegetables and fruits to be sold in the markets of Baguio and other areas add to the congestion. It usually takes 2 hours from the town proper to get to Sto. Tomas, but the traffic and bad road condition adds an additional 2 hours travel time. So, our advice is to start early. 7am is already very late. Places to go to for spiritual enrichment includes The Lourdes Shrine, The Baguio Cathedral and The Pink Sisters Convent, all in close proximity with each other. Again, they have not been immune to the lure of commerce. A huge part of these churches have been converted to souvenir stores and tourists visit this place mostly to take photos and to buy strawberry jams, a few containers of peanut brittle, and bottles of strawberry wine. If the purpose of one’s visit is to pray, better drive down to Manaoag. Places away from the crowded metro is what we wish to experience in Baguio. Many years back, this place provided reprieve from the noise of the city. Unfortunately, the need to promote tourism had mutated the image of this beautiful city into a replica of a common metropolis. Overcrowding had compromised security, and the tranquility that had once made Baguio a destination of choice for those who wish to heal had been lost. The weather in Baguio is fair all year round nevertheless, and the color is still as vibrant as ever. There are no more kids risking their lives to run after coins thrown into the deep ravines of Mine’s View, thank God. But the city itself, especially those visited often by tourists are strewn with litters in every corner. A sad contrast to the beautiful flowers in bloom especially this time of the year. I remember that once upon a time, Burnham Park had been such a beautiful place. The center of important activities, and a place so attractive that people merge in this area to take a breather. That is no longer the case today. Burnham Park is so crowded, chaotic and so disorganized that it’s easy to lose small children among the throng of people. It is also very poorly lighted at night that walking in the far ends of the park after dark is strongly discouraged. The Ukay Ukay shops once lining the Session road no longer offer “authentic” second-hand branded items that once made them different from the common “ukay-ukay” shops in Manila. The Session road itself is a chaotic mess of people, and noisy vehicles. The sidewalks are lined with shops and partially obstructed by storeless vendors. The overpass is packed with people any time of the day. There is nothing safe walking it especially after dark. I also noticed that sidewalks are not wheelchair nor stroller friendly. So are most establishments. Discovering and revisiting places is the goal of our adventures and seeing the good and the bad face of a new city is part of our travel. Overall, the experience is educational, though tiring. The people are very hospitable and warm, eager to help with anything. That, amidst everything else makes any place a good destination.

Driving To Baguio

Going to Baguio City had always been a part of our adventure list, but driving to the City Of Pines using only a 1.4 AT AUV, not following a convoy, and without an alternate driver is a first. ☺ It took me 7 hours to make the drive from our home in QC to Baguio proper, and an additional 30 minutes to get to our hotel due to traffic congestions in session and Kisad road. We started pretty late so the travel time is not unexpected. We left our home in Quezon City at 8am and reached Shell NLEX by 8:30am. We had our breakfast in Starbucks, a gas refill and a quick fluid check since it’s the first time for me to drive an automatic transmission car up to Baguio with a humble 1.4L engine, with 5 passengers, 3 of which are kids and a 3 days worth of luggage. The drive from NLEX Balintawak to SCTEX was straight forward. Traffic was light in spite of the mid morning rush. By 10am, we are navigating the straight and quiet highway of TPLEX. I noticed that if it were night time, the road would have been very poorly lighted. We exited TPLEX via Urdaneta by 10:30 am, and here is where the crawl started. From Urdaneta City proper to Binalongan Pangasinan, until we reached Rosario La Union, vehicles were in a slow moving line due to road widening repairs. We broke out of the terrible traffic exiting Rosario, just about 2 km before our steep ascent via Marcos Highway. Being a manual driver for the longest time, I kept reminding myself that all I could really do manually when using an AT car to help it with the climb was to remember to use the overdrive, but I hardly needed to do so really. The car could climb just as easily as my manual transmission cars, and very fuel efficient too ☺ On the way up, there were a number of slow moving trucks, but since the road had a lot of sharp curves, overtaking should be properly timed. It is also very important to remember to slow down before entering a curve because a tailspin is a definite risk in this kind of drive. Upon reaching Pugu, the highway was almost in zero visibility. In a sharply winding narrow road with only one descending and one ascending lane, all covered in heavy fog,— the asphalt bordered only from the ravine by small cement barriers, even the most confident driver begins to pray. This is the most dangerous part either going up or going down Baguio City. We arrived in our hotel at 4pm, the kids cranky, hungry and cold. But we were lucky though. We got a nice room without a reservation in a very accessible spot in the heart of Kisad Road, with Burnham Park fronting our room. The famous park is literary just across the road ☺. After a hearty late afternoon meal, the kids wanted to go straight to the park, but I am too tired. We promised them an early morning stroll and a frisby game after breakfast tomorrow. That seem to settle them. ☺ Baguio isn’t really a new experience for us, but the drive was, and we are grateful to have pushed through with the trip in spite of the erratic December weather. More stories about the trip on tomorrow’s entry ☺

To Create

I woke up at 3am. Darkness is in its purest, most glorious state. A time when silence makes the most noise.

This early I am left with not much to do so I started to scroll on my Tumblr entries. Writings made in the ripe womb of the night deserves a trigger warning.

To write is to create something that has part of yourself in it, like conceiving another being and giving it life. It is assembled in ways like its creator, a bit haunted, a bit tormented, somehow lost in the labyrinth that invites both the past and the present to intertwine in a lurid, sickening embrace.

It’s a little after 3am. I find my thoughts in avalanche. It’s the moment writers and artists alike wait for. The moment of unmasking, — the ritual of emerging from our hiding places, in order to create, to put life into words, into lines and shades, — allowing a parallel universe to exist and to transcend beyond pages, beyond mediums and canvases, to invoke powerful emotions, and convey empathy.

We are all hidden behind masks. It’s what’s acceptable. It’s the norm of a civilized breed. We wear clothes, we wear our status, we wear our smile.

And we hide our hearts and souls.

To walk bare amidst the fully dressed is a huge deviation to what is conceived as the social norm.

The night allows disrobing. It allows nakedness. It opens the gate to ideas suppressed by daylight, and thus the creation of writings with the element of fire and blackness; with the spitle of truth and the stale breath of a soul forcefully induced into sedated slumber, it could trigger emotions and memories that could invoke a past long dead to resurrect and to haunt the present.

Words have the power of an army’s arsenal.

I curled into a duvet on the porch and waited for the first glimpse of sunrise. The night is retreating, and daylight is about to take over. A cacophony of sound has replaced the monologue of silence. A new day is about to begin.

I stood up to begin the tedious process of covering up.

Racing Thoughts

They said I need to keep on writing, even if I have nothing more to write.

I need a subject, but it defeats the purpose of putting my thoughts on paper. Thoughts that are usually jumbled up and random. Thoughts that are senseless even to me –especially to me.

My pain talks, but in tongues – or in a language long dead. It’s like putting together an entire book shredded into bits and pieces. Still, I need to try.

I’ll start with a dream I had last night. I was running from something I can not see. I was terrified. I felt I needed to get away, but I was moving in slow-mo, like running under water. I woke up very tired.

If what I feel and what my mind fires up along the way is analyzable, then I won’t be sitting with a shrink every so often. If the fog emits clues as to why I have been chosen among so many others to be tethered to depression, I would have untangled the mystery of me by now. But there were no giveaways, no hidden answers -only broken, indecipherable thoughts running like race horses without a race track.

I hate the rain.

It’s not personal though. I just hated the way it hides the sun. I hated its familiarity, like meeting someone from a long forgotten past. I hate what it represents, how much it reminds me – of me.

I am the rain.

I’ve always been the rain…

I am that sudden cold draft; that muddy puddle on the imperfect sidewalk; that grey cloud that hovers too close to everything nice casting ugly shadows; that blinding downpour that overwhelms…drowns… consumes…

I fear the night

Not because of its darkness… but because of its innocence.

I fear its trust. I cringe from its warm embrace. My soul is unworthy to rest on its bosom – simply because of my restlessness. I taint its purity by being a shadow – disturbing the sanctity of sleep, my nightmares breaking its holy silence.

Do you think I’m crazy?

Do you think you are not?

If there is a line demarcating the normal from the insane, where do you think you’ll be standing? I have no idea where I should belong to.

What I do know is the imperfection of that line. I know how liquid the parameters are, often encroaching upon each other than people wish to see. Sanity is relative.

And so is being normal.

Fake It Until You Make It

Fake it until you make it used to be my mantra. It’s what I used to tell myself when giving up wasn’t an option. I did not become a doctor because I am smart. Mental strength plays only a partial role in the journey every doctor needs to go through. It’s the will to survive that provides the greatest thrust of all. How much do you want it? How many times can you fake strength until it becomes real?

The pull of grief is unmistakably strong. It swallows a person all at once, not little by little. I’ve been into that dark hole many times over. I managed to crawl out each time not because I am unconquerable, but because I refuse to be cheated out of the game too easily. Pride makes it easier to choose which way to go. I chose to stay. I chose to walk my path like I am not lost. I chose to smile like nothing is hurting. I chose to present myself as if nothing is broken, like I am all together even if chunks of who I used to be have broken off like pieces of an old chugging train long forgotten. I chose to live as if I have not yet died.

Courage is the ability to keep an eye on the runway amidst the inevitability of a crash. It is untarnished hope, and the undaunted will to keep on going, even if it meant taking optimism too far; even if you are leaning on a mirage of strength, until what was once a mere illusion becomes real.