I’m Going Home

My Symphony: Home by Daughtry
I don’t regret this life I chose for me,
But these places and these faces are getting old…

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Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation – coming home again. ― Madeleine L’Engle, Meet the Austins

This is it. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be on a plane back home. 

Damn. Typing that out just literally sent chills down my spine. There is something about the word “home” that is very powerful in a comforting way. And that’s what I am feeling right now – this almost indescribable feeling of danger and safety. It’s been a long time coming, and now here I am. My bags are all packed, and I am more than ready to go.

The weeks and the months that have led me to this moment hadn’t been smooth-sailing, though. There was a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of reckless daydreaming and a lot of uphill battles with the people around me and with myself. But I have to say it was all worth it. We take every experience, big or small, and learn from it tremendously.

When I left the Philippines two and a half years ago, I left with one goal in mind: to find whatever it was that I was always looking for. Halfway through high school, I developed this irrepressible longing to leave – leave the city I’m in, leave the people I’m with, leave the life I live. My “past life” (for a lack of a better term) was byzantine, to say the least. I made a lot of mistakes, disappointed loved ones, broke my friends’ trust, caused a lot of emotional trouble and took for granted all the things and moments I now wish I could have back. And instead of facing the world and trying to repair the damaged, I decided to walk away and leave everything behind. And I did that because that’s what I had been wanting to do all along; I wanted to start over, strongly believing that there was another place out there for me which I could call home.

I was wrong. 

I think everybody should leave his or her hometown and go somewhere far at least once in his or her life. Not only is there a myriad of things and life lessons to learn Out There, Out There also makes you appreciate In Here, in a way no other place can. And to me, it’s been an exhilarating ride so far.

Everytime a friend or a family member asks me ,”So when are you visiting the Philippines?” or “Hey Kenn, are you going back here in Bacolod for a vacation soon?”, there’s always this part of me that cringes for some reason. It’s like my heart turns gray and my entire upper body shrinks, and all I want to do is run away screaming like a lunatic. I don’t know, I guess up until now I’ve never really accommodated “visiting the Philippines” as an acceptable oxymoron. Phrases like visit home and vacation in Bacolod sound disturbingly self-contradictory to me. So let us make one thing clear:

I’m not “going on a vacation”; I’m going home.

It’s as simple and as truthful and as accurate as that.

I look at Vancouver and the world that I’ve somehow built here for myself. I look at the bed I’ve been sleeping in for many months; I can see its edges and its weight take up a portion of the wooden floor. I look at our kitchen and then I look inside the refrigerator; I see a dozen eggs with one that’s broken, along with my brother’s sliced cheese which he always reminds us is expensive. I look at the living room; I look at the ceiling, my mom’s new carpet, the big red cushions and the television, which has started to look noticeably old despite its newness. I look inside my closet; I look at the big black bag in which I carefully stuffed all of my notes and physical memories from college. I look at my cat, Dunkley; I see him in the biggest and fattest he’s ever been; I see him groggily walk towards his favorite spot on one of our red-and-white dining chairs, and I see him yawn, stretch, stare devilishly into the air and lull himself back to sleep. And then I look at my pile of luggage sitting tall and proud in one corner of my room. For the first time in a long time, I feel like myself again.

This is why this chapter is very important to me. The farther I’ve been from home, the closer I’ve felt to it. And at these times when I often feel lost and unsure of who I’ve become, I find it crucial to go back to my roots and refresh things a little bit. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had here have all been climactic, and I can never be grateful enough for the opportunity to get to know life and the world around me from such a different perspective. But the time has come. For at least the next two months, I will be in my hometown, the small city of Bacolod. For at least the next two months, I will be breathing a familiar air under a familiar sky. For at least the next two months, I will be storing my clothes and my books in a room inside a house which my feet and my heart have known since I was little. And for at least the next two months, I will be not here, but there.

And there is waiting.

See you soon. 

Undress Me

My Symphony: Hello, I’m In Delaware by Dallas Green

Clothes

“When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being who I am, I found myself.”
― Paulo CoelhoEleven Minutes

Nine months ago, I donated 106 clothing items to the less fortunate (my first clothing donation during my stay here in Canada). After two years of breathing Vancouver’s air, I finally decided it was time I made some space for new things to come.

I’ve always had so many clothes. As a child, each birthday celebration, each Christmas Eve, each New Year’s Eve and each graduation and awards ceremony meant a new set of t-shirts, pants, briefs, tank tops, socks, shoes and what not. Even on those days when someone who loved me just felt like giving me a little something, it would almost always be something I could put on. So I guess, growing up, I’ve gotten so used to having other people give me the things I wear and I consequently haven’t really been doing the shopping for myself as much. I may own many clothes, but I’ve never been a shopper let alone a fashionista. Everytime someone asks where I buy my stuff, I often do not know the answer and it’s simply because my situation in relation to the question is always N/A (not applicable).

Quantity had also been a very deceiving part of my childhood. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been such a keeper in the most literal sense of the word. I guess the reason why I was so fond of keeping every little thing everyone gave me was because I, apart from being excessively sentimental, was somehow tricked by numbers. I always thought more was more. Everytime I looked into my “memory boxes”, my “high school scrapbooks” and my “gifts locker”, the sight of how much I had never failed to satisfy my emotional hunger for confirmation and validation. I always got a strange elation whenever I saw a dog tag given by an ex-lover or an apology letter written by a friend hiding somewhere in my desk clutter. All those wrist bands, all those pocket pictures, those magic pens, those Science projects, perfume bottles and friendship handkerchiefs – all of it – are a proof that I do delight in my own life’s history. I admit that this is simply the way I am, and that I do not have to change how I treat the material things people give me. But only I know the real meaning behind the difficulty I feel towards letting go of these…these… things. Because to me they have always meant more than just that.

Today, I am once again donating my clothes. This time, the gesture is aimed at those who have been affected by the super typhoon that hit my home country, the Philippines, about a week ago. And right now, I am sitting here and going, “Wait a minute… I didn’t count my clothes today like I did nine months ago.”

Exactly. Why did I even count those 106 clothing items on the first place?

Simple, really. I have detachment issues. Just like most people do, particularly when it comes to the things they wear.

Let’s all be honest about this: donating our clothes, no matter how we genuinely want to give them to those who are in need, is something that leaves us aching in one way or another during the process. Unless you donate clothes that are evidently old and worn out or clothes that don’t fit you anymore, this is not an entirely easy gesture, and  it often speaks about the typical human mentality and its fondness of materialism.

It is everywhere in social media – my friends and family, and some of the other people whom I know to a certain degree, have all donated their clothes to the victims of the typhoon Haiyan. It’s all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even YouTube – pictures (and videos) of clothes folded together inside boxes and plastic bags, all captioned with something along the lines of “Donating my clothes to those hardly hit by typhoon Haiyan. Let’s all help in any way that we can”.

Initially, my reaction to this would be something like “Uggh is it really necessary for you to take a picture when you donate something?” or “Wow, that’s very genuine of you. *sarcasm implied*”. But this is just my surface-level personality talking. Because when I really think about it and really consider all the other things, I see that the taking of pictures and the posting of tweets and statuses and videos about donating isn’t a question of how genuine people are in their donations, but a question of how attached they are to the things they’ve donated.

Clothes are a very personal commodity to us humans in the modern world. Everyday, we hear things like “I really like that shirt of yours”, or “You always look good in that blue dress”, or “OMG can I borrow that leather jacket you wore at our high school after-prom party?” What we wear, over a given amount of time, become a big part of who we are. Sometimes, it’s how people recognize us. Other times, it’s how they perceive us to be. There are even circumstances where our clothes speak of our personality or mood at a given moment. I mean, right? These are things we literally live inside of. Not everyone will admit this, but each of us has at least one clothing item which we hold very close to our heart. These things are very intimate to us because they are things that somehow contribute to our characteristics, distinctive qualities and, ultimately, our uniqueness. This is why I do not blame those people who take a picture (or pictures) of their clothing donations, or even those who count their donations. It is human nature. It doesn’t necessarily make a person less sincere; it’s often really just that un-communicated value for really significant things that you are about to say goodbye to. It’s not something that’s conscious to us. You can never see a clothing donation caption that says “Holy shit, I’m gonna miss my Ralph Lauren shirt so much, but I just have to do this because this is the right thing to do. And I am a grown-ass man, so I will not cry, but I still feel very attached. But yeah. It doesn’t really matter. All I’m saying is, I love you, Ralph Lauren shirt, but I’m letting you go.” Like, no. You just never see that. But in some ways, this kind of inner monologue will always be there, even when you don’t acknowledge it. How do I know? Because humans, in general, are materialistic beings.

I feel like I’m about to go into another topic here, but yeah. This much is true. It is something that cannot be denied. We have been conditioned to the rules and the ways of the modern world, and unfortunately for our souls, this also means that we have subconsciously grown very (very) attached to things. 

When I was looking inside my cabinet this afternoon, I did not bother sorting out my clothes anymore. I did not bother to think about which ones I’m comfortable giving away, which ones are old enough to give away, which ones are too new to give away and which ones are never gonna be given away. I didn’t have the heart to do that anymore. I honestly just pulled out everything until my entire wardrobe was almost empty. Some of these clothes, I haven’t even worn yet. With tags and all. And I like to think that I’m now completely confident to say that I am no longer a materialistic being, but that would mean I’m lying.

But I’m on my way. I am on my way to shedding off my materialistic ways, and this is the first step. It’s not gonna be an overnight process, oh hell no. But it’s do-able. And it’s definitely preferable, especially for someone like me who has been overly materialistic and sentimental for a good 18 years of his life.  This time is the right time for change.

When I think about all those people who are caught in the middle of disaster right now, not just in the Philippines but all over the world, I can’t help but realize that what matters in times when the very core of humanity is shaken isn’t how much money we have in the bank, or how many properties we own, or how many clothes we have in our closet. Because when natural catastrophe strikes, it strikes like a double bitch raised to the seventh power. This is why I love nature so much. Not only is it beautiful, it is also a constant reminder that we do not own this place. And this epiphany has to come with the great recognition that we humans have been too obsessed with things. And that has to change. We should grow attached to people, to relationships, to nature, to ideas, to adventures, to life, to love, and not just things. 

I rest my case (for now).

A Jeepney Ride to the Heart of the Philippines

My Symphony: 73 by Yolanda Moon

Philipines_Grungy_Flag_by_think0

June 12th, 2013 – The 115th Philippine Independence Day

Before anything else, I just want to say that I am in a state of a great bliss right now, and that I am writing this with a genuine smile on my face. I feel nothing but freedom, hope, love and happiness right at this hour. Moments like this feel surreal, but here I am. This is actually happening…

As a kid, a teenager, I had always been so attached to the idea of living a non-Filipino life in a non-Filipino world. I was maybe four when I started to develop a strong desire for all things foreign – movies, television, clothes, food, books, celebrities, music, language, even history itself. I found it so easy to be drawn into what was “not mine.” Well, I guess I couldn’t really blame myself that I preferred The OC to Hiram, Blink182 to Kamikazee, Orlando Bloom to Jericho Rosales, John Green to Angelo Lacuesta or Tommy Hilfiger to Penshoppe. I was psychologically Americanized in the little world I lived in. It was my destiny to live the early years of my life with a colonial mentality. I fought against it, and I fought hard. And today definitely marks the end of this battle. I now have seen, I now have grown and I now have learned.

I was born in a nation that suffered from a sort of an identity crisis. And this is exactly the problem. Filipinos wish to be someone other than a Filipino because of an inferiority complex. This is due to the fact that a Filipino nowadays has no sense of the great history of Filipinos and only looks at the beauty that others can offer. Also, Filipinos often criticize themselves as a result of accepting that they are inferior to other beings. And as they criticize other Filipinos, calling them names, or even getting mad at them, they don’t see that they are criticizing their own selves.

Everytime I skim through my Facebook news feed, I am deeply saddened to see hundreds, if not thousands, of posts that contain discrimination within my own people – insults from Filipinos aimed against fellow Filipinos. I’ve heard and seen it all. Homophobic slurs, ageist notions, harsh judgment and mockery based on one’s looks, skin color, financial status and social standing. What’s worse than this is the amount of people who think and believe that this is funny. It repulses me to learn that a lot of Filipinos today find “racism against one’s own race” a somewhat enjoyable pastime or an amusing source of humor. This is one of the greatest pains and fears I have in my life. The knowledge that somehow, we as a people never completely incubated, coalesced; that maybe we never really united, and it is anybody’s guess whether we ever will.

It is true that many Filipinos wish to be a part of another race. American, Japanese, European, name it and there’s sure to be a Filipino wanting to be part of it, as long as it’s not Filipino. I am actually shocked by foreigners who want to be Filipinos when Filipinos want to be foreigners. A foreigner to their own land. And as these words ring through my ears, I just wish that the words of former president Manuel Quezon reach us once again today:

Message to My People
by Manuel L. Quezon (former president of the Philippines, 1935 to 1944 and Father of the National Language)

My fellow citizens: there is one thought I want you always to bear in mind. And that is: that you are Filipinos. That the Philippines is your country, and the only country God has given you. That you must keep it for yourselves, for your children, and for your children’s children, until the world is no more. You must live for it, and die for it, if necessary.

Your country is a great country. It has a great past, and a great future. The Philippines of yesterday is consecrated by the sacrifices of lives and treasure of your patriots, martyrs, and soldiers. The Philippines of today is honored by the wholehearted devotion to its cause of unselfish and courageous statesmen. The Philippines of tomorrow will be the country of plenty, of happiness, and of freedom. A Philippines with her head raised in the midst of the West Pacific, mistress of her own destiny, holding in her hand the torch of freedom and democracy. A republic of virtuous and righteous men and women all working together for a better world than the one we have at present.

So today, let us ask ourselves these: What’s a Filipino? What defines us? And more important, what binds us? What dreams unite us? Now that we are scattered all over the world, born to a mix of races, into different cultures, speaking different languages, who are we and what do our roots remind us? What does it mean to be truly Filipino? Is it through being internationally competitive, world class? Is it living in the Philippines or coming back to the Philippines every once in a while? Is it giving back to the country whatever reward you get? Or is it simply enough that one calls himself a Filipino?

Growing old in a country one had not known as a child can be fraught with a lot of ambivalence. If one is still active upon migration to a strange land, there is the excitement of adventure, but there are also the challenges of surviving and adjusting in an environment that may be totally different from the milieu one had been accustomed to. One may get a good job, grow on it, accumulate assets, and succeed beyond what he or she had dreamed of. Or, one might get lost in the maze of kaleidoscopic hustles and bustles of life and end up in the gutter. For those who succeed in blending into the mainstream, there is the likelihood of becoming so complaisant that they risk losing the soul — that principle of being that defines the very essence of our humanness. Loneliness may set in. And this can turn into depression that can gnaw at one like a rodent slowly and painfully eating up the very core of one’s being. Unless one believes firmly in something he or she can fall back on– something that can wake one up into a realization of his or her true identity that he or she can take pride in, gain confidence from, and be energized by, in order to rise and be whole again.

To me, this thing I need to fall back on every time I falter in my decision-making, every time I stumble into error, and every time I slip into stupor is also the very thing that pricks me into an awakening, that forces me to rise again, urges me to face my indecision head-on, and to follow the path set forth by my forefathers: a path, thorny it may have been, but embedded in bravery, generosity, pride, beauty and continued growth. This is my Filipino heritage that encompasses my Christian upbringing and spiritual growth: what I constantly remind myself of as defining my true self no matter where I am; no matter what kind of environment I am submerged in; no matter what other kind of culture and language I may be immersed in; and, no matter who I must face in the great battles encountered daily in this foreign land. I am, after all, the product of my cultural heritage: its history, its values, its traditions, its customs, its music and dances, its literature, its myths, its rituals, and its ideals.

Family bonding, to me, is adhering to our traditional family gatherings in observance of our noche buena. This helps me re-live the faith of my childhood as strengthened by the traditions. In fact, the number one reason why I decided to come home on December is that I miss Christmas in the Philippines so much. Families snuggle even closer, friends step on another milestone, and the overall relationships find a common, deeper ground. Even the weeks or the few months leading to the midnight of December 24th are filled with an almost indescribable atmosphere of togetherness. The air feels different; it smells fresher. The streets are serenaded mostly by young kids singing Christmas songs. The city glows much, much brighter with all the Christmas lights gleaming red, blue, green, purple, white and yellow. People forgive each other, and sometimes even themselves. It is a season not just of oneness but of second chances, of forgetting about the pain and the hardship and soldiering on with open arms and open hearts. The entire nation is in a state of unselfishness, hospitality and kindness. Love.

 The rites and festivals–sources of every town’s history–each has a story to tell. The rites of the Canao, of the Tadtarin, the Moriones, the Ati-atihan, the Turumba, and the Fandango before Santa Clara—these are, to me, dances of life. The Santacruzan (ah, such vision of vestal beauties!), the Misa de gallo for Christmas and the salubong for Easter—these are my people’s most profound traditions of faith. There seems to be no end, in fact, to the breadth of the Filipino culture that speaks of the colorful lives of my people.

From their first encounter with the colonizers on March 16, 1521, my forefathers had already established their character as peace-loving people who, in their inherent sense of hospitality, welcomed visitors in their land with warmth and generosity.  Giving out the best– as demonstrated by their gifting their guests with gold and huge porcelain jars filled with rice grain–speaks of unselfishness and magnanimity practiced only by the civilized. This, to me, is a defining character, a legacy practiced to this day by a true Filipino: that of being human and humane. But the generosity of our ancestors, if and when taken advantage of, could turn into the ferocity of a lion. Witness the anger of Lapu-lapu who, with his band of warriors, slew the conquistadores headed by Magellan. This is a reminder to me that to fight the exploitative and the greedy is a consequence of being victimized. We are not aggressors, but we know how to assert ourselves as our Filipino heroes Lapulapu, Rizal, Mabini, Bonifacio, and so many others, had shown. Though we cherish peace and are inherently patient, we know how to fight back, because the love for justice runs in our blood.

No matter what other culture I may have been exposed to, it is my Filipino heritage that commands my daily behavior: the po and opo will always be music to my ears; the elderly will always be regarded with reverence, and parents taken care of in their old age. In the tradition of constancy and modesty, a spouse is part of oneself to love and be loyal to, the body a temple of God to be respected and not abused, and life as a whole to be cherished, enriched and refined to one’s best potential.

In sharing what my Filipino heritage means to me, is it too much to hope that others of the same roots as mine, including the next generations, cherish it as well?  In the tradition of our ancestors who emerged into a Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Claro Recto, Nick Joaquin, Wilfrido Nolledo,  and many others, may they all evolve into the human beings they are destined to become–the best of what they can be: unique, beautiful, integrated into an ever growing whole as they embraced their dynamic Filipino heritage. So, to them, I say: unfold like the butterfly and soar to heights of splendor, but be distinctly Filipino!

Distinctly Filipino, yet first and foremost a human being. For when you come down to it, the qualities of being a Filipino are the very qualities that define us all as human beings: After all, my Filipino heritage is my birthright to my integrated self, cultured to the best of what I can possibly be as a human being, polished by the complexity of shared beliefs and patterns of learned behavior governed by honor and dignity. To be Filipino is first to be human, to be endowed with the qualities of being human.

So today, I am so happy. Because I am a Filipino. And believe it or not, mga Kababayan, that should be a reason for you to smile today.

Today, I Turn Twenty

My Symphonies:  Baker Lake by Sera Cahoone | Nothing Left to Lose by Mat Kearny

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“But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s, because I’d like to love them, but I don’t know who they are.”
― Isaac Marion

May 24th, 2013 [Philippine time]

Today, I turn twenty. And right now, I cannot believe how much happiness and sadness typing out those four words brings to me. Although I actually like how “twenty” sounds, I still haven’t digested the fact that I’ve walked on earth and breathed its air for two decades now, and that 1993 is already twenty years ago. It’s quite fascinating to me, how quickly life turns its pages. What’s even more fascinating is the amount of fear and nostalgia leaving the teen-age bracket has given me.

My fear doesn’t involve the future, though, which is unusual for me. I used to always think about the future when I ponder on life and the world I live in. I used to spend days just wondering how tomorrow was going to be like. I had tried and worked hard to participate as a normal functioning member of the society. But the whole future-chasing has done nothing to me but make me weary. I have divorced the future. The kind of fear that I had in what is not yet there has carefully transferred to what was, and possibly is, still there. 

Before any of my loved ones who read this get worried about me again, know that this fear I’m talking about doesn’t necessarily state that I’m depressed. No, this isn’t one of those fears. This is a good fear. It’s the fear that makes me feel more alive than I have ever been. And it lies both in the past and in the present. How so? I’ll tell you…

About two years ago, my family and I moved to Canada. Surrey, British Columbia, to be specific. It was 6th of July in 2011. I remember. I just finished saying all my good-byes both at home and in the airport. I was holding tightly on my sky blue travel pillow as I used its shaft to wipe my tears. Going through security, removing my shoes and all and still sobbing, I said to myself in a semi-whisper (and I will never forget this), “H-h-home… I’ll a-always… b…be”.

Thinking about that moment today still sends shivers down my spine. I was younger then, and I didn’t know a lot of things. I was only trusting my feelings based on the experiences I had in the places and with the people back home. But I always knew inside of me that I could never escape something so bold and real in my life just like that. It’s actually very paradoxical, how being away from something actually puts you closer to it. And I’m grateful that I get to be here in Canada, I really am. This was what I wanted so badly when I was still in the Philippines– to be away. To be somewhere else for some time. To take a break from the world I was in too deep. To learn, to grow, to see. And today, I am happy to confirm it to myself that all of the things I wished for is now right in front of me.

I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve seen.

I’ve learned, in the past two weeks that I’ve been reconnecting with my friends and family back home, that real relationships are supposed to stand the test of time and distance. I’ve learned, from hearing their voices and seeing their faces, how strong a memory can be; that we are ultimately interwoven no matter where life takes us. I’ve learned that truthfulness is rare, and it only lives from a place of love. I’ve learned that as a person, as a human being, my highest goal isn’t to build castles for myself, to have monuments dedicated to me or to possess a power akin to Zeus’ or Hercules’, but simply to give; to find what is real in my heart and to offer it to people in ways that I can.

I’ve grown, so much so that I’ve managed to reach out to the clouds and to the loneliest plankton on the seabed. I’ve grown slowly, but I’ve grown meaningfully. I’ve grown in a way that has made me ask a lot of questions to the air even when I know it’s never going to give me any visible answers. I’ve grown enough to see both below and above me; I’ve grown to stand beneath a marquee knowing that mountains do move and that the sunset is the most romantic lover I have in my life. I’ve grown not just into a man but into a child, which is far more important and remarkable– I’ve grown to love my parents more and more, my brothers like they are those mountains and my friends like they are the whimsical wind in front of the sunset. I’ve grown in a way that makes me feel okay about not being okay, and great about not being great. I’ve grown with the little things, and these little things have made me grow bigger.

I’ve seen that the best things in life aren’t things. I’ve seen the desperation of a student, the heartbreak of a girl and the melancholy of a writer. I’ve seen the ways by which a boy follows his heart’s dictates. I’ve seen the falling down of the world and the rising up of the citizens. I’ve seen every bit of sorrow that takes place in seventeen-minute intervals within gloomy coffee shops. I’ve seen the coldness and the bitterness of society. I’ve seen the anger in people’s chests and the compassion in their mere little fingers. I’ve seen the hunger for light and the quest for beauty. I’ve seen emptiness and rage, loyalty and condemnation. I’ve seen the escape from the labyrinth, and I’ve seen the best thing of all.

So where’s my fear in all this? My fear is that somehow, my learning, and my growing, and my seeing have managed to take me face to face with who I am. It’s overwhelming, nonetheless exhilarating, and nothing short of enlightening.

Last week, I was reading the scrapbook my friends made for me when I left my university back in the Philippines. I was just shocked by the way I felt upon reading the individual letters and the pieces of sentiments written in that scrapbook. I haven’t read it since I left the country, and reading it again sort of put me in a time machine that brought me back to my brief college days in Miag-ao, which is a place I hold dear to my heart. Each word in that scrapbook (which they entitled “Kenn”) means so much to me. What I love about it is that it isn’t centered primarily on me but actually on the kind of friendship we all had. We all became so close to each other in so little time. I wish they could read what they wrote in this scrapbook right now. That way, they’ll clearly remember. One of the letters there, written by my friend Lester, succinctly narrates a night spent in Bentoy’s (a super cool, laidback resto bar that serves really aggressive drinks for such a low price and whose owner lets his pet dog named Shabu meddle with the customers) along with Esther and Nikko. We did some really fun, though not completely appropriate, things that night and as freshmen college students, we didn’t really care. That’s what got me about the letter. It took me back to that night, and I could clearly see the four of us sitting on the bamboo floor, drinking, smoking, talking about life not really knowing it was right there sitting with us. And I could see everything else– the road leading to the resto bar, the color of the night, the shapes and the cracks of tables, even the color of Esther’s shirt (it was her olive green shirt which she wore best during nighttime). 

Remembering. Today, I give myself that. I know society forces us to always look ahead and move forward but really, sometimes I think that’s a trap. I think it is fantastic to be able to go on with my life especially now that I am two years away from home; I think it is awesome that I’ve made few great friends in Vancouver whom I know I will continue to be friends with for the longest time, and I think it is so, so nice that I embrace this place for all that it has taught me. But to treat time and distance as an opportunity to escape eighteen great years of my life? That’s simply unjust. I know for a fact that I would never be able to grow as the person I am today if it weren’t for my family and my friends and the real-life moments I spent with them.

I guess, after all these musings, the fear I am talking about is only the fear of remembering. Remembering my roots, remembering my values, remembering myself. And like I said it’s a good fear. Well, I think that fear is generally a good thing. It makes something real.

Today, I turn twenty.

Bouncing Back to Beverly Hills

My Symphonies: California Bound by Carolina Liar
My First Kiss by 3OH!3 feat. Kesha

Honestly, I am experiencing a CULTURE SHOCK in my own culture.

The third season of 90210 premiered last month (September) with a lot of surprises. Going through several reviews and criticisms of the show online, I can say that a lot of people were disappointed with the season 2 finale. I have to agree that some events in the finale didn’t really add up to what momentarily appeared in the recent season. Mr. Harry Wilson “The Daddy Principal” suddenly disappeared in season three, just the way Ethan Ward evaporated just like that in the second season. However, I can never say that I am completely frustrated with the show. In fact, I’m not even affected by the little flaws of the tv series. Liking something is relative. I just love the show the way it is.

Although I hate it that the Annie-Liam loveteam wasn’t that successful in the third season, I must say that that’s just the way it is. In real life, teenagers never stick to one. Okay, maybe there are a few who so dramatically and desperately try to be faithful to just one. You know… those “one-woman-man” and “my-first-and-last-kiss girls”. But even so, it is also evident that relationships never really last for too long among teenagers nowadays.

Now I realize that my ideal life is that lived in Beverly Hills. I’ve never been there. Well, I’ve never been there physically, but emotionally, intellectually and dramatically… yes, I’ve been there many times.

I don’t know what’s so wrong about this place I live in that makes me wanna be somewhere else all the time. When I graduated in high school, I wanted to be either in Manila or in Iloilo so much. Came freshman college year, I actually moved to Iloilo, this time with the desperation to transfer to Cebu or Diliman. After thinking (and thinking some more), I realized there’s still some place I wanna be in. I mentioned last year that I found that I am like a true-blue American boy trapped in a Filipino’s body. I take that back now. Haha! I just came to see myself as a patriot who wants to change the system in his own nation.

What I’m trying to say here is that maybe what the Philippines lacks is a little change. We all know that as a tradition, we are trained to be hospitable, caring and loving. As a culture, we are expected to be respectable, religious, conservative and reserved. The list of all the good things which are expected from us goes on:  charitable, kind, honest, courteous, polite, dignified, blah blah blah. Not that I am saying that these values and morals are bad because technically and vocabulary-wise speaking, values and morals can never be bad, but it’s just that I don’t see these values very existent among us Filipinos anymore. The past generation has proved its culture as a people. How about this generation? How about our generation? Didn’t it occur to anyone that maybe we are all just expecting too much from generation X? What if this world really is destined to be filled with mistakes in the near future? What if it’s too late to pretend that the Philippines is still a place of a tradition which is permeated with an almost perfect set of values– a set of values which I tend to view as an almost perfect set of expectations.

Expectations lead to disappointments.

This is a general truth. We can never be disappointed unless we expect. If we expect too much, then there is a great chance of getting enormously disappointed.

Personally, I think that this whole view of the youth as nothing but failure boils down to the people’s expectations. Like what I’ve said, this world is fast-changing. The reality is that we can do nothing about it even if none of the original Filipino norms will remain in the feared future.

Maybe I am saying all of this because I am a teenager. Maybe it’s because I’m not born in 1960. Maybe it’s cause I watch too much American soap operas, or maybe it’s because I am a youth and I dream of changing the world too much. Whatever the reason is, I know what I want. I want Philippines to start embracing change. It will be for the progress of the nation.

I mean, come on. Nothing and no one succeeds in a stagnant standstill (pardon the redundancy. it’s just that I want to emphasize things here).

So, this is why the 90210 (zip code of Beverly Hills, California) life is my ideal life. I am attracted to its liberated and carefree culture.

90210, you inspire me.