Compliments for Breakfast


It is a habit of mine to pick up a copy of my favorite newspaper in a nearby convenience store after buying hot pan de sal for breakfast. It is almost always the same scenario: I am automatically greeted, “Good morning! Welcome to Ministop!” upon entering, I go straight to the papers and get one, pay to the cashier, then leave. I had never had a friendly chat with any of the storekeepers even though I have already grown quite familiar with them. Our conversations were always limited to business. That is, until one morning when one of them surprised me by asking, “Ma’am, can I compliment you today?”

I was taken aback not because I found the inquiry cocky but because I found it strange. I had never been asked so in my life. The poor guy must have confused my astonishment with anger for he quickly apologized, saying he did not mean to offend. I told him, “No, it’s fine. You may.” So he smiled and said, “Then I think you are looking lovely today.”

I will never forget that encounter. It was nothing like the “compliments” I am accustomed to. That is, those that are often preceded or followed by wolf whistles or those that are especially directed on a specific body part (e.g. “Wow, legs!”). Instead, it felt sincere (his eyes were really smiling) and was delivered in a respectful manner. And I have to commend the guy, too. When he asked me, a stranger, if he could compliment me, he took the risk of being snubbed or worse, being reported to the store manager.

Some people might say, “He’s just making a pass at you.” Normally, I would think so, too. Women are so used to harassment that any form of comment on their physical appearance is almost always taken as an offense. Maybe this is why the guy in the store immediately apologized to me. He must have experienced being given dagger looks before for attempting to compliment. I find it unfortunate that even those who have clean intention have to suffer the same treatment we feel obliged to give to those jerks who had disrespected us.

All right, some men can be really creepy. Like that pedicab driver who offered me a free ride. Even after I said “No, I don’t need a ride.” as politely as I can even when I was already feeling scared, he still followed me until I reached my dorm, cajoling me to ride his pedicab for free. Heaven knows what he had in mind.

Men who act like they are entitled to every woman they find attractive, like that creepy pedicab driver, make it natural for women to acquire a defensive response whenever a stranger throws a compliment. After all, it happens almost all the time that we eventually came to conclude that all men are the same. However, this recent experience made me rethink my opinions regarding the matter. Maybe most men tend to behave uncouthly around women but not all are like that. Maybe real gentlemen still exist.

So to that guy who works in the Ministop which I frequent, thank you for the respect. Some guys out there can really learn from you. You just proved to me that there really are ways for a man to compliment a stranger without making her feel threatened. You also made me realize that there really is a difference between a catcall and compliment and that is in the intention and manner of delivery. A real compliment is given without expecting gratification such as exchange of digits. That made me decide to always assess the situation first before acting defensively.

Thus, yesterday morning while walking to the bakery (yes, to get my pan de sal and newspaper), I did not glare at the men who stopped talking to stare at me. Normally, I would find it rude that they did not even hide the fact that they were staring. But I thought, at least they merely stared. At least they did not try to get my attention by shouting uncalled for comments. So I let them stare and took that as a silent compliment. Who would not love compliments for breakfast?

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Happy Best Friends’ Day! (from the girl with no best friend)


So today is the day to honor that one person who totally gets you, the one who stayed by your side in tears or in laughter. Happy Best Friends’ Day! Sadly, I have no one to celebrate the day with.

Yes, I do not have a best friend. I do have a couple of close friends but there is really no one who I can truly call my BFF. This is not something that I planned. I am actually longing for a friendship like that of Robin and Lily of How I Met Your Mother or like that of Becky and Suze of the Shopaholic series but I never found that kind of relationship. Somehow, I always find myself in a crowd where, when the boat is sinking, no one would immediately pair up with me.

Lily and Robin of HIMYM
Lily and Robin of HIMYM

“You’re an introvert, that’s why,” my sister would explain. She may be right. I have been quite reticent, even as a child, and I do not mind spending my extra time alone. I rarely recite in class. I tend to be quiet during lively discussions except at home which is the only place where I can be seen chattering. I have always been reluctant to approach other people, especially teachers. I shy away from college parties for the fear of spilling my own secrets after a few shots. These are not exactly top secrets but these secrets define me and I am not yet ready to share these with anyone. Plus, many of these secrets are really embarrassing.

My mother blames herself. She said they used to hide me from my grandfather who had no idea that she and Dad were together. She thus hypothesized that the fact that I was a secret baby may be the reason why I became too secretive and often hesitant to talk with people I am not familiar with. But I disagree with Mom. I have now figured out what’s wrong: it’s my face.

I used to wonder why I am good at intimidating people unconsciously. It dawned on me lately when I chanced upon this article from Cosmopolitan Philippines. Reading it was like a eureka moment that I kept on exclaiming, So true!

I understand you, girl.
I understand you, girl.

So that was the problem – my resting bitch face. After reading the article I remembered rushing to the bathroom to look at my face. I stared at my unsmiling self for a full minute then I end up laughing (it was good I was alone in our dorm room that time as my roommates might think I was going crazy). I realized that if I were another person, I would not find it easy to approach that lady with that tiger look in her face. So to all those people who I had shooed off because of my mataray face, my deepest apologies. I did not mean to do so. True, I am not talkative but I am not unfriendly.

So again, happy best friends’ day to all who have found their soul sisters! And as for the best friend that I still believe that I am yet to meet, please do not be afraid of me. Believe me, it’s just my face. 😀

Paper


It lay in front of me—
White and spotless
Like a baby’s blanket.

There it lay still—
Empty and waiting
To be filled with my love.

But I know of no love,
Only sorrow and regret,
And only these I can give.

So now it lay in front of me
Black and blue all over
Like a battered body.

Still it lay in front of me
Brimming with tears
Yet still offering its other side—

White and spotless.
Empty and waiting.

When “good morning” is not polite


Don't even pretend that is polite.
Don’t even pretend that is polite.

“Hi beh*, good morning.”

I ignored the man who called out to me — just as I do every time — but this time, he moved towards me, attempting to stop me in my tracks. Swiftly, I overtook him and pretended he did not exist while he and his friend (they are both security guards in a government office near my dorm) snickered. I gritted my teeth and clenched my fist as I walked on — that was the least I can do to contain my anger.

Being catcalled is a usual happening in my daily ten-minute walk to and from school. It has happened so frequently that before stepping out of the premises of my dorm, I always prepare myself to shift from my usual smiling face to a stoic expression so that I can ward off potential harassers. Sometimes, it works. Some men would immediately back off and give me an apologetic smile when I give them my well-practiced don’t-mess-with-me look. But still, there are those who never get the message and would shamelessly shout out to me, “Hoy, suplada! Nag-‘good morning’ lang naman. (Hey, snob! I just greeted you ‘good morning’)”

I just greeted you “good morning.”

That is what they always say. I find it absurd that they actually expect women to believe that. No woman is that stupid to believe that a ‘good morning’ from a complete stranger is a mere act of social grace. How can it be when he has that wicked gleam in his eyes that makes her feel unsafe? And does that stranger really greet every person (that is, men and women alike) he meets on the street that way? Definitely not. That “good morning” is reserved for women who are companionless, particularly those who they think are young and helpless like me. And obviously, they do not intend to be nice. They mean to assert their power over women.

Why do men do that? Thus I once complained to a male friend. He shrugged it off as if I were talking about makeup and replied, “Let it go. It’s just a compliment.” For a moment, I was speechless for I never looked at the matter that way. In fact, no woman would ever look at the matter like that. Not when it makes her feel publicly humiliated. Not when it makes her feel insecure. Not when it makes her feel oppressed. My friend’s answer made me feel dejected but at the time I said nothing further. Just as he advised, I let it go.

Now, more than a year after that conversation, I realized that women, despite our never-ending campaign for gender equality, remain unconsciously obedient to our “masters.” We always let it go. Growing up, I had observed older women being indifferent to catcalling. Therefore, when I started getting catcalled myself, I conditioned myself that it is a natural part of life. I let men have their errant ways while I make the adjustments by pretending that I see or hear nothing or by changing my route to school even when it is inconvenient.

Lately though, I realized that despite managing to stay composed amidst the hooting and unsolicited greetings, deep inside of me broods anger distress. It is just so unfair that we, women, have to put up with that kind of treatment by men who seriously believe that they are giving us a favor when they “compliment” us. But it is not a compliment nor is it a simple polite greeting. It is a derogatory comment on our existence — a mockery of our sex.

I wish I had told my friend, “That’s bullshit!” I wish I could not just let it go. I wish I have the courage to say, “Hey, you are not just being polite and I know that.” But I can’t because I know that for now it will not work. Even when we know it is not right and even when we try to speak up, we, women, end up losers in this game for catcalling has already been accepted as mere inconvenience, not a real problem. But I know that someday, if we continue to fight for our right to security, we will no longer be subjected to public humiliation masked in “compliments.” Someday, that “good morning” will be polite again.

*Beh is a contraction of the word baby. In Filipino culture, it is often used as an endearment among couples.

Signed and sealed


Signed and sealed.

The author of the article is nearly the same age as I am. Probably, we graduated high school the same year or maybe she graduated a year earlier.

I do not know her personally. The only common denominator that I know exists between us is this: we both received what she called “the finest education the country had to offer.”

After reading the article, I tried to remember my own signing day. It surprised me how, for a very sentimental person, I could not recall much details. I could neither remember what I wore nor how I felt about the then dismal surroundings. But I do remember that I was excited. Back then, I thought I was living the dream.

I, too remember that I had to sign lots of forms. When we arrived, my mother and I were quickly ushered into a cramped room where we moved from table to table, talking to people who explained to us that the privilege of studying in the school comes with an obligation to the country. I remember not paying much attention for i just wanted to finish the enrollment to process to make things official. When I realized that I had finally signed the last document, I felt like I have succeeded in securing my future. By affixing the last signature, I sealed my fate as a person of science — a doctor, to be exact — and I felt liberated from the frightening uncertainty of the future. Now, that same fate that I willingly concluded almost seven years earlier is what keeps me from being what I really am. Seven years earlier, I never thought I would change my mind.

It is funny how the author of this Youngblood article and I were two girls who entered the field with opposite feelings — she was reluctant while I was optimistic — and came out with still contrasting but somehow exchanged views. But there is one thing that she and I can agree on — Pisay is truly life-changing.

Why I Prefer Writing Over Talking


Speech communication class is giving me the jitters.

There are four written requirements due next week and I have yet to study for the exam tomorrow. And also, there is the imminent delivery of speeches.

Honestly, I am not worried about the writing part, even if the due date is just a few days away. In fact, I am looking forward to it. I have not written in a while and this class gave me a legit excuse to set aside the science-y stuff and allot time for writing. And just imagine: writing for class credit. How much cooler can it be?

What I am dreading is the speaking part — memorizing the written speech and delivering it before an audience. Like three-fourths of the world’s population, I have the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, as experts call it. In my case, however, public speaking is not just the issue. I hate talking in general.

I often feel uncomfortable when engaging in small talk. I cannot find my voice when a teacher calls me to recite in class. I make a fool of myself during oral interviews. I dread making and answering phone calls. I find difficulty in making a casual conversation roll smoothly.

It sounds absurd, I know. Talking is supposedly as natural as breathing. How can it be difficult? I do not know. All I know is that I have always had trouble communicating orally and it makes me always dissatisfied with my own self.

Why am I so afraid of talking? That question has been replaying in my mind since I was a little kid. Just a week ago, it was answered by the substitute teacher of my speech class. She said that a person fears public speaking because of the possibility that the audience might be forming negative judgment about him or her.

That is how I exactly feel about talking. I am afraid of how other people measure me based on what comes out of my mouth. I am always afraid that I may not be intelligible enough for them to be interested in what I have to say.

This is why I prefer writing — the more I talk, the more I realize that I am not as smart as I think I am but the more I write, the more I realize that I am not as shallow as I seem to be. When I talk, I feel stupid afterwards. But when I write, I get to explore the crevices of my mind and heart that I never knew existed.

Some people say that what is spoken is more reliable than what is written. They say it is so much easier to lie in writing as there are no body language and paralanguage to hint the truth. As one of our professors said, it is easy to attach a smiley to a message even when you are actually fuming in anger. She does have a point there but I believe that writing can be a more effective way of accurately expressing the truth if used properly.

Since speaking is a spontaneous process, words may sometimes be said without thorough thinking. Thus, biased opinions or hurtful words may slip from my tongue even when I do not intend to be unfair or mean. In writing, however, I can keep my feelings in check to avoid emotional flare-ups and I can weigh my opinions and ideas to refrain from being prejudiced. Also, I can rephrase my wording to exactly convey what I really mean to say.

Speaking can also be an ineffective method of communication if you have a limited vocabulary. When speaking in class or even when just conversing with my friends, I often find myself groping for the right words that would perfectly give form to what I have in mind. This is not much of a problem in writing. When I do not know the precise word to use, I can always seek the help of the thesaurus.

To make things short, I prefer writing over talking because in writing, I can always edit and revise. Speaking, on the other hand, is irreversible. Once something is out of my mouth, I can no longer take it back, no matter how much I regret saying it. The occurrence of complicated situations that may forever cause tension in relationships can be avoided in writing but in talking, these are inevitable.

But then again, talking is inescapable. As I have said earlier, talking is supposedly as natural as breathing. So I have to get along with it and learn to be a better talker. I really hope this class will prove to be helpful in lessening my fear in public speaking and in developing skills that will make me a better communicator in speaking.

The Nineteen Dancers in Fiery Orange Dresses


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Nineteen dancers in fiery orange dresses danced before me,
Unchoreographed but synchronized by the same melancholy melody.

Atop nineteen posts they swayed and twirled
And slowly, nineteen wishes lay unfurled.

They do not seem to get tired and their dance gets bolder with every turn,
As debris of the posts droop from their tiny stages that are now worn.

Still they did not stop even as the posts become smaller.
“When will this be over?” I wonder.

As I watch the dancers grow taller I get uneasy,
For the wishes are getting crazy.

So I took a step forward to end their fun,
By putting each dancer to rest, one by one.

Coldness and darkness envelopes the now empty room,
So I revived the nineteen dancers in fiery orange dresses on my own loom.

For Jade, on her eighteenth birthday


Dear Jade,

Happy birthday!

I really meant what I said yesterday that I wanted to say so many things at the eighteen candles speech thing. However, I decided not to say them because of several reasons. One is I found it uneasy to talk in front of all those people. You know how I always clam up every time I have to do that. Secondly, the other girls’ messages were short and I did not want to take too much time. And lastly, I did not want both of us to cry. I did not want to ruin your makeup.

During dinner, I thought of what to say and how to say it. I wanted to tell you how I find you admirable and how thankful I am that we are friends. Because it was your eighteenth birthday, I decided to tell you the eighteen things I love about you. It did not even take me five minutes to enumerate. Here they are.

18 Things I Love About Jade

1. Your penmanship is cool and your notes are always neat.

 Is it the tilt of the pen? Or the pen itself? Why are your notes always neat? Spill the secret!

2. Your queer OC habits are charming.

You are the only person I know who uses a ruler in highlighting text (Xtine is a mere copycat — Hi Xtine!). You are the only person I know who uses a ruler to draw a benzene ring. You rewrite all class notes even when it seems impractical and time-consuming. These habits are a bit weird but I find them cute. They make you unique.

3. You look like Barbie.

Have I told this to you before? Sometimes I think you look like the world’s favorite doll. I love Barbie and sometimes, I feel like you are a life-sized doll.

4. Your big eyes are lovely.

I am always drawn to people who are wide-eyed. Every time I look at your eyes, they make me feel like you can see right through me.

5. You make me laugh with your corny jokes.

Your jokes are not always funny but they always make me laugh. I don’t know why.

6. You are a proud left-hander.

I was not really thrilled that I am a lefty. It was you who introduced me to the lefty pride. I remember how excited you were when you saw me noting with my left hand. I find it sweet every time you would share to me an article about being left-handed. Somehow, you made me see that we, lefties, are kind of special.

7. You love reading.

We both love to read and books are one of the topics that always dwell our conversations. I love how you always share with me the books you love. I love it that you are not bored when I talk about books and authors that are quite unpopular (or if you are bored, you never show it).

8. Your cheesy smile is infectious.

I know almost all had already said this but let me say it again because it is true. You always seem to be smiling. Your beaming face is like the go signal for me to smile. Do your face muscles ever get tired?

9. In you, I found the one person who is more iyakin than I am.

People always tell me that I am such a crybaby. I was always find myself branded as the “pinaka-iyakin.” I used to believe this until I met you. I remember how you would cry every time you receive a low score on an exam that you studied for (that low score is usually higher than mine, though). I may not show it but I always feel bad when you cry because I can almost feel your disappointment. Sometimes, I do not look at you while you sniff and wipe your tears because I could feel like I would break down any minute, too.

10. We share the love for Leonardo.

My crush for Mr. di Caprio goes back to when I was like three or four. I never shared this to anyone because I thought nobody would understand. Who develops crushes on old men? But there you were, upset that he, again, failed to win the coveted statuette for best actor (I know, dude. It broke my heart, too.). It is a comfort to know that there is another person out there who shares the same sentiment.

11. You are a model student.

I am always motivated by your astounding perseverance. I always ask myself, “Why can’t I be like Jade?” Then, I start studying because I feel ashamed of my pig-like laziness.

12. You are a time-management pro.

This is another secret you have to reveal: How do you manage to still read books despite our hectic schedules?

13. You teach me study techniques and memorizing tricks.

You saved me so many times from flunking those exams that require lots of memorization. Those might be just simple helpful gestures to you but they mean a lot to me.

14. You always seem to be older than your real age.

No, I do not mean you look old. I mean, you always seem to be wiser than your years. You are responsible and always sensitive to the feelings of others. I am older than you are by almost a year yet you are more mature than I am. I think this is your strongest trait and I look up to you because of this.

15. You are friendly to everyone.

I have never heard you say an unkind thing to or about another person. You are one of the nicest people I know and I am sure others will say the same. It is no wonder why you always get along with anybody.

16. You were friendly to me even when I was a snob.

I do not have many friends because people say I am suplada. While other girls ignored me because of this, you never gave up until you were able to get past my supercilious mask and reach the real me. Not many people are willing to do that and I am grateful God created circumstances for us to meet because you showed me that people are not who I think they are.

17. You always make me feel comfortable.

I do not know why but you can always make the ambiance delightful. You can always get me talking even when I am not in the conversation mood. I can see that this magic of yours does not only work for me. People are never uneasy with you around.

18. You love me (and Nicole) and I (and Nicole again) love you back.

No more explanations needed. We just love you, Jade.

 

This list might not be complete as we have known each other for only two years. But still, I am thankful for the friendship. I wish you all the best.

 

Love, Wencey

Why I Chose To Be A Moth


If you are going to be an arthropod in your next life, what arthropod will you choose to be? Why?

My professor gave this as a five-point bonus question on our exam a few weeks ago. Without hesitation, I quickly wrote that I would want to be a moth. I gave a short explanation because of the limited time I had and probably because of the triviality of the question. I would love to expound on the topic more and that I am going to do now.

I would choose to be a moth for the simple reason that moths are usually left unbothered, unlike their cousins, the butterflies, which attract more attention because of their flamboyant display of wings. I do not like that.

People say that moths, in contrast to butterflies, are dull, even up to the point of being ugly. I agree with that. In fact, I would not give a moth a second glance if I ever see one. Drably clothed with grays and browns, they are definitely not pretty and therefore, uninteresting. So when I see one, I usually leave it alone. I believe others do the same, too.

That is also how I want others to treat me. It is not that I want to be alone all the time. I also need companionship but for the most part, I like being alone so that I could ponder about things and self-reflect. I want people to leave me alone, especially when I am working. I do not like engaging in uninvited conversations that are utterly meaningless to me. I do not like being bothered for things that are not important. I am an introvert and for an introvert like me, a butterfly’s ostentatiously vibrant wings would surely be a disadvantage.

I also want to be left alone in the sense that I do not like attracting unwanted attention. Butterflies get a lot of that. People do not catch moths to look at them closely (except biologists, I believe). But they run after butterflies to marvel at their beautiful wings. I do not know a poet who wrote verses for the plain moth. Instead poets wrote countless poems for butterflies. Artists never find inspiration from a moth’s pair of wings but a butterfly always finds itself as an artist’s muse. The attention might seem pleasing but it is not the kind of attention that I seek.

I hate it when other women approach me to introduce themselves and, then, say that they find me pretty. I hate it when a man offers intimate friendship immediately upon meeting me for the first time because of the prospect of a romantic relationship in the future. What if I were not pretty? Would they give a second of their time to be my “friend”? I do not think so. And besides, I do not think I am pretty. I just happen to look much younger than my age that makes me somewhat cuter than other women.

I would rather attract the attention of somebody who can see past through my exterior and appreciate me for what I am inside. I do not like being admired by people who are blind to what I am and what I can do. I do not like artists and poets who recreate me as a magnificent being while being ignorant of who I really am. I want to be safe in the hands of someone who has a deeper understanding of life, someone who knows me better than what I display to the world.

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How about you? If you are going to be an arthropod, what would you be and why?

Writing Through Hell


When I started this blog, I resolved to post at least once a week. But these past two weeks, I failed to keep up with my pre-set deadline.

The reason is obviously school. With only two weeks away from the official end of classes, it seems that everyone – both professors and students – are cramming to make up for the remaining lessons which, in my opinion, could use another month or so. With very much little time left, the quality of learning is again at stake. I am getting sick of this way of life (why can’t I just get used to this and go with the flow?).

Starting tomorrow, hell weeks will be ablaze (a hell week is a week’s schedule cramped with exams, reports, and submissions). When we say “hell”, we really mean HELL. This week is peppered with two lab exams, a case study report, two paper submissions, and a lecture exam. Don’t ask me what’s penned on my planner for the week after this.

Hell Week

Actually, I should not be scribbling in this blog right now. I should be studying the eighty-page chapter on arthropods for tomorrow’s exam. I have been trying to focus on studying since last night but I can’t. The little voice at the back of my head keeps telling me, “Write! You haven’t written for a while. And you have been neglecting your blog for two weeks already. Put down that book now and I start writing.” Sounds like a little devil? Well, no. That is my angel. So I did as it told me. I put down my book and logged in.

I understand the importance of studying. I will always be one person who would encourage students to study more and spend less on other activities. But to tell you honestly, I hate studying. I love learning but I hate sitting down at the library for hours, reading and noting again and again until I fall asleep. I hate memorizing. I hate boring lecture classes. I appreciate hands-on learning better where I can study at my own pace (that is,  without deadlines and exams). Sometimes, I get tired of the system. I think I seriously need a break but I can’t. I just can’t.

study break

A friend once told me that if you want decent grades, taking study breaks is a crime. In that case, I am a criminal. I am constantly taking breaks even on times when I really have no time for them. Like today. Like I said, I should not be writing this post. I should be studying the Phylum Arthropoda.

Study breaks have always been  reading and writing for me. These are really the only things I do – studying and reading and writing. I do not know why reading and writing have always had a calming effect on me. It seems that after taking a break, I always find myself more receptive to the information provided by my books and lecture notes.

The magic of reading and writing is still a mystery to me. How do reading and writing make me feel refreshed? But still, I am happy to have these options other than studying all day. I am particularly thankful to God for giving me this gift of being able to express what is within me.

So for the coming weeks, I will try to keep on writing to save me from hell. Wish me luck. 🙂

I apologize for the undeniably distracted, random post. I promise to make a more sensible post after this semester is through. 🙂