Kapag Trapik

Naaalala kita
sa tuwing nata-trapik ako sa daan.
Naaalala kong ‘di ko namamalayan ang oras
sa tuwing hawak mo ang aking kamay.

Minsan marahan mong hinahaplos ang aking palad,
ngunit madalas ay mahigpit ang iyong kapit
na parang bang ako’y mawawala.

Nami-miss daw ba kita, sabi nila.
Laging oo ang ang sagot ko.

Kung gayo’y bakit daw ako humingi ng kalayaan?
Bakit daw kita pinakawalan.
Laging ewan ang sagot ko.

Ang totoo’y alam ko ang sagot —
ang tagal na nating na-trapik,
hindi na tayo makausad.

Tama lang siguro na bumaba na tayo ng jeep
at hanapin ang kanya-kanyang daan.
Sapat na siguro ang sandali
na minahal natin ang isa’t isa.

Pero oo, nami-miss nga kita,
lalo na kapag ma-trapik.

Salamat ha?
Dahil sa’yo, hindi abala ang trapik.




Here is the proud wall of our family portraits.

As a young adult, I would often sneer at our portraits. How phony, I would murmur to myself.

A few years wiser now, I merely sigh. Finally, I have realized that these portraits truly show what our family is — uncomfortably posed.

TPP2018 #2: Smaller and Smaller Circles

Smaller and Smaller Circles

F.H. Batacan


With years of Robin Cook and Dan Brown behind me, I have recently resolved not to read thriller novels anymore for I find that the action-packed scenes and often frigid characters are not good for a heart that always craves emotional warmth. But I had to make an exception for this one because of all the hype it has been getting, particularly its film adaptation.

Smaller and Smaller Circlesthe first Filipino crime novel, won three awards more than a decade ago — the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel in 1999, the National Book Award in 2002, and the Madrigal-Gonzalez award in 2003. With it being a well-decorated book, one may wonder why it had not earned attention before it hit the screen. Being a lover of the unconventional, I became more interested.

As a crime novel, the author did not disappoint. I am no expert in the thriller genre but it seemed to have the elements commonly present in the few crime novels I have read — the main protagonist has a sidekick and protégé, the murders exhibit a pattern, and the killer kills because of a past that haunts him still. The plot, too, is not obvious and had successfully kept me up for longer hours, even through weeknights.

What sets this novel apart from the ones I have read is that the scenes are less frenetic but more lifelike, stirring in the Filipino reader a more unsettling thrill as it exposes our ignorance of our own reality. For instance, all Filipinos know where and what the Payatas dumpsite is but how many of us are truly aware of the living conditions of its inhabitants? Unlike in other crime novels that created suspense in me through delaying the revelation of a harrowing truth, Smaller and Smaller Circles gradually built both fear and guilt in me instead as it made me realize how oblivious I have been to the actual sorry state of those in the lowest rungs of the social ladder. The novel made me realize my own hypocrisy, something that I hate in others, and it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, proving that disgust with one’s self is more chilling than the fear of the unknown.

So would I recommend this book? Definitely! If you are a Filipino who seeks to know the shadowed portions of your society whose cries for help are either unheard or ignored, then Smaller and Smaller Circles is a must-read. It will show you how the poorest and weakest of us manage though each day and how the richest and most powerful of us take advantage of their need, only to push them even deeper down. It will show you how corruption rots the system — particularly in the justice system and even the church. But most importantly, it will show you that despite the continuous and rapid spread of rot, there is hope as long as there are people who are not only brave enough but also keen on destroying it.

However, although Smaller and Smaller Circles is a great read, it is not perfect and there is one thing that I do not like about it — I find the characters underdeveloped. If you are the kind of reader who emotionally invests on characters and reads to watch them grow, then this book is not for you. The characters’ individual stories are half-baked and will leave many questions in the reader’s mind.

What is the story behind Father Lucero’s slight limp? It is made clear that his early years were not happy. How is this relevant to the story?

It was suggested that Father Saenz is adopted. How is this relevant to to story?

And Joanna Bonifacio, why did she choose to love in the side? How is this relevant to the story and her role as the ever inquisitive journalist?

Maybe, and I hope, I was just not sharp enough to see how these stories help weave the entire story. But despite my disappointment with the portrayal of the important characters, it is a consolation that the author painted the serial killer not as a demon but a human — a Filipino, most importantly — victimized by crippling poverty. Alex Carlos is not just an antagonist — he is a warning about the future that awaits us if we continue to ignore the rot.

TPP2018 #1: Candido’s Apocalypse

Candido’s Apocalypse

Nick Joaquin


Last year, I put a halt on my reading to give more time for work. Thus, I currently read at a much slower pace than I used to. To ease reading back into my habits, I decided to start with shorter pieces first and then gradually move on to longer pieces as I gain momentum. Hence, I picked this novella, thinking that if I could finish 83 pages in mere hours back then, then I would probably be able to finish this within 3 days.

Boy, was I wrong — I overestimated myself. Candido’s Apocalypse took me more than a week.

Or maybe, more aptly, I underestimated Nick Joaquin. Because you don’t simply bite off a Nick Joaquin — you take your time chewing on it, trying to sense a hint of sweetness off the bitter taste.

What took me more than a week to finish the novella was my insistence to read it as my teenage self because to be able to understand both Bobby and Candido, you, too, have to revert back to your most tumultuous years.

Candido’s Apocalypse tells of seventeen-year-old Bobby Heredia’s struggle to break free from conformity, which he openly mocks as phony and “overacting”. In his yearning for a rebirth and an identity free from the norms of a pretentious society (as he sees it), Bobby unleashes Candido.

Candido is a grimly special boy — he can see everyone in their filthy nakedness, revealing their clothed secrets and buried pasts. Candido is Bobby, had he been born unmarred by his parents’ pretensions and ambitions. Candido was Bobby, until in the end, he chose not to be.

The theme seems to be really simple — the novella shows the social awakening of an atypical adolescent in a typical society, a story line reminiscent of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye — and yet it felt unfamiliar. Candido’s uncanny ability stirred in me both fascination and disgust. Although intrigued, I found it too surreal for my taste that I had to keep coming back to past pages, trying to put myself in the shoes of Bobby and Candido. In the end, after much pondering, I did find a glimpse of myself in Bobby and Candido by forcing myself to recall the confused and angry teenage girl who once quietly voiced out some of Bobby’s rants and who seemed to perfectly reflect Candido’s smugness.

Seeing how it ended up with Bobby, Nick Joaquin has got me thinking, Was Bobby right for detaching himself from Candido? Was I right for doing the same thing?

Hurts to Hurt

“Ma’am, tell me if it hurts.” I smirked.

She started right then, pricking and pinching my face. Instantly, I regretted my nonchalance.

“Ma’am, does it hurt?”

Eyelashes moist, I murmured, “It’s fine, go ahead.”

Are we, women, really programmed to endure unnecessary pain, in fear of being seen as weak?

The Panitikan Project

On Day 1, I talked about ditching yearly resolutions and deciding, from now on, to focus on a single word for inspiration. For Creativity 2018, I have decided to wake up my hibernating right brain.

With this goal in mind, I finally started this personal reading challenge that I have been meaning to do for years — to read 20 books or more in a year, all authored by Filipinos.

2018 Reading Challenge (1)

Originally, the plan was to read at least 50 books but as 2016 had proven, 50 books is not feasible if you have a full-time job that demands time even after work hours (we are not required to work after hours though, I am just that workaholic). Hence, the cut to a measly 20 books.

But why only Filipino authors?

Here’s the thing — I am Filipino yet I am more familiar with foreign literature. I grew up reading American series such as The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley. My favorite author is Haruki Murakami, a Japanese. My favorite book is Love in the Time of Cholera, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian. I have read all books by John Green and Lang Leav but I’m not even a fan of either. Meanwhile, you can probably count all Filipino works that I have read, mostly required readings in school, with just your ten fingers. So you can say that I am a Filipino bookworm who knows little about Filipino literature.

The irony of my reading habits speaks of the deep-seated Filipino insecurity that we are never enough and that foreign is always better. I have always wanted to prove to myself that we, Filipinos, can be great artists, too, but I did not know where to start. This year, it finally dawned on me how to begin — by educating myself. Thus, with this reading challenge that I have entitled The Panitikan Project, (panitikan is the Filipino word for literature) I aim to hit two birds with one stone:

  1. To feed my sleeping creativity by reading books again and
  2. To educate myself about Filipino literature and to prove that the works of our own writers deserve a significant place in every Filipino reader’s bookshelf.

First on this list is Nick Joaquin’s Candido’s Apocalypse. Hopefully soon, I can tell you how it goes.



P.S. I wish not to insult John Green and Lang Leav. As a reader, I may just have unconventional preferences. If you were offended, I am deeply sorry.

Creativity 2018

At the start of every year since I was eight, I had been making New Year’s resolutions. At the end of January every year since I was eight, I also break them. Well, actually that is not entirely truthful. A few were broken mid-February — they were the lucky ones — while many did not even had the chance to be broken because they were not even started.


Like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, if not all, I never managed to discipline myself enough to accomplish my yearly goals. While I have long accepted that this is part of our humanity and I have been making resolutions only for the sake of tradition (and to placate holiday guilt), I have decided to shake things up this year. Instead of making another set of certainly ill-fated resolutions, this 2018 I will be living by my Word of the Year.

This “resolution revolution” was first introduced by entrepreneur and founder of Uplevel YOUChristine Kane. In this alternative, you pick one word and you let it guide you to your aspirations and dreams for that year. You will live by your chosen word.

Word Art

In 2017, I ended my first year and started my second year in my first ever job. Being a workforce neophyte with a deep-seated insecurity regarding my skills and talents, I dedicated my 2017 as the year of building habits that will fortify good work ethics, in an effort to prove my worth to my own self. While aware that there is still a lot of room for improvement, I was more or less satisfied with the results of my efforts. However, it came with a price — I am slowly losing my lifeline.

Writing used to be my lifeline. When reality was frustrating and seemed hopeless, I could always turn to writing. But lately, I have been struggling to write for at least twenty minutes without being distracted.

Writing is my first love and I realized that despite the writer’s block that I am currently experiencing, I am still willing to fight for it, the same way I did when I started this blog. Thus, this 2018, my Word of the Year is Creativity.


This 2018 I will live by creativity. Because of 2017’s creative drought, my 2018 will be spent trying to wake the hibernating right brain. I do not expect to be able to write again with the same passion as I did a few years ago because knowing myself, action does not happen in a snap (and that is why the word of the year is not Create). But at least, I expect to rekindle that passion, even if in a lesser intensity.

I have no detailed plan of action and I have no intention of making one. All I know is I need to go back to my old habits that used to elicit a lot of light bulb moments — i.e., reading a lot of books, visiting museums, taking long walks, etc. — without breaking the new ones I worked on in 2017.

It will be tough, I know. But who knows? Maybe cultivating creativity this year will also help me at work. After all, creativity is a necessary trait for teachers.

Cheers to 2018, the year of Creativity!


Unwashed by the Sea


It is the color of serenity,
of blissful solitude.
Unwashed, I watch in guilty tranquility.
Away from the vicissitude masked by quietude.

The sea endlessly beckons,
its rolling waves serenading my wandering soul.
It is a trap, I though reckon,
knowing many souls it once stole.

But what if the sea is my salvation?
What if only it can wash what weighs me down?
But I am afraid, beyond consolation —
What if the sea is but a ghost town?

I shall allow the sea to wash me someday.
I shall wash myself, but not today.


God? I know you’re there.

November 8, 2017

We were discussing about earthquakes in class so naturally, I showed a documentary to my students. As the geologist narrated about the most destructive earthquakes the world has ever faced, one of my students mumbled to himself, “So where is God in all of these?”

“Where is God in all of these?”

It was not meant to be answered, based on the way it was said, yet this has been the most difficult question I had to answer as a teacher.

Many have claimed that in the beauty of nature, we see the face of God. But face to face with nature’s wrath, where is God?

Always, I have staunchly upheld my faith. Despite strongly disagreeing with the Church’s comments on reproductive health and same sex marriage, I have remained a Roman Catholic. Despite my science education opening a world of truth for me, I still believe in God. But never have I found an evidence of God’s existence. You may think, how can I, a made scientist, believe in an entity whose existence I can never physically prove?

I can only sigh. I do not really know where God is in all of these. But there is comfort in trusting that somewhere, he must be there.

Homeless Heart

“Home is where the heart is,”
they say.
My heart is lost.
I am homeless.

This homeless heart waits right here,
waiting for someone to take her home.