Coffee Date: 17 February 2018


17 February 2018 / Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, Trinoma Mall / Café Latte and Dulce de Leche

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Once, I believed people when they told me that it was just a phase — that the ink will eventually dry up for good. It has been four years since then, yet here I am, still spilling some ink. It may be too early to tell but I think they were wrong — it is not just a phase because whether they like it or not, writing is and will always be my life.

But it confuses me, too — why? Why is writing my life? Why do I need to write?

Some people write because they have great ideas that they cannot afford not to share with the world. I am not one of those people. I merely write about my petty day-to-day concerns. Not really life-changing thoughts, you know.

Some people write because they have so much love to share that love notes and verses come out naturally and effortlessly. I am not one of those people, too. I do not even know how to love myself properly. How could I then write about love that moves hearts?

You see, I have nothing much to share. I write for the sole purpose of ensuring my sanity. This is why writing is my life for it is, in fact, my lifeline.

Mine is a talkative mind. At any particular time, I have many tabs open which function actively, all at the same time. If I do not sit down and write my meandering thoughts, I have long gone mad.

 

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Apologies and Updates


More than a month ago, I decided to join the A to Z Blogging Challenge. After successfully posting for A and B, I missed C due to overflowing teaching tasks until I forgot about the challenge completely.

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Yes, you read it right — as embarrassing as it is, I admit that I was such a scatterbrain that I actually forgot about a challenge I joined after posting about it just a day before. For that, apologies are due.

With so much shame, I apologize to the organizers of the challenge. You worked hard and dedicated precious time so that bloggers can have an opportunity to further improve their writing and blogging skills. You do not deserve people like me who waste your time and efforts by failing to commit. Really, I am truly sorry.

I apologize, too, to the followers I gained because of the challenge. We were supposed to help one another but I just quit. You wasted time reading the posts of an obscure blogger who does not even bother to check on feedback. Again I am truly sorry.

But on a more positive note (which I probably do not deserve), I failed. Finally, I failed because finally, I tried.

My life is full of regrets. I regret not trying for the school paper. I regret not submitting for a newspaper column after working for months on a piece. I regret not trying to at least fight for my dream. I regret not trying to fight back every time I get catcalled. I regret not trying to protect myself from the people who verbally and emotionally abuse me. I never at least try.

All my life I never dared try for myself, all because I was afraid I would fail and people would tell me, We told you so. This time, though, I tried. I tried finally and I failed and I am proud of that failure. It means I am less afraid now.

I failed on this blogging challenge but I am now less hesitant to venture out of my comfort zone. Perhaps, though, I am not yet ready to commit to another blogging challenge (perhaps, next year?). Right now, it may be best to dedicate my efforts on my current reading challenge to make sure I, at least, accomplish one blogging goal this year. It has been months since my last post and I am currently working on posting about my third book. I am also working through my fourth book and has recently picked up two interesting titles from the book store.

I did not know failure can give one so much courage to try even more. If only I knew from the beginning I would not had been such a scaredy cat.

Here’s to failing! May it drive me to always try.

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A to Z Challenge: Theme


Some days ago, I signed up for the A to Z Blogging Challenge and since then, I have been trying to come up with a theme that I hope can guide me through the entire process of learning to keep up with a schedule. Initially, I thought of poetry but eventually realized that coming up with good enough verses almost everyday is quite an ambitious goal and is a sure way to failure. So instead, I thought that since that I am new to blogging challenges, why not take baby steps instead and work on an important writing skill that I have not yet mastered — freewriting.

I know, I am strange. Every person who attempts to write always starts with freewriting. But it is something that I could never do — there is always that eyesore grammatical error that I cannot help unsee or that short anecdote that I just needed to add two paragraphs away. Such habits usually disrupt the natural flow of my thoughts, often resulting in a piece that is not exactly as planned. To help myself get rid of distracting writing habits, I will thus devote myself to freewriting for 26 days. But this does not mean that each post I write will go straight for publishing because I will hunt for grammatical errors first and correct them before hitting the publish button. I believe we can all agree that no one likes such mistakes. But apart from that, I swear that all my meandering, unfiltered thoughts will be unedited.

As for the A to Z themes, this science teacher has chosen 26 words related to science. This is in an effort to help me become more comfortable writing about science without feeling like a phony. Here they are:

A for Anthesis

B for Big Bang

C for Commensalism

D for Dark Matter

E for Eclipse

F for Fact

G for Gravity

H for Habitat

I for Inertia

J for Jupiter

K for Kekule

L for Light-year

M for Momentum

N for Nebula

O for Orbit

P for Parallax

Q for Quarks

R for Redshift

S for Supernova

T for Telescope

U for Universe

V for Velocity

W for Wavelength

X for X chromosome

Y for Y chromosome

I may or may not poems for some these but I am not stressing myself too much. I just hope to get through this month. Wish me luck! Please.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Tulala


29 September 2017

Finally, an unpopular — and therefore, empty — cafe.

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As I slurp my iced latte, I wonder how many Filipino words are not translatable into English. For instance, the word tulala. To be tulala, in the usual context, is to stare blankly ahead, mind wandering aimlessly in a different time and place, real or fictional. Sometimes, as in my case, it is simply thinking quietly. It annoys me that I cannot think of an English world that perfectly encapsulates this.

Just then, the barista (that’s what you call a person working in a cafe, right?) arrives with my bacon and eggs. He introduces himself and told me to look for him if I need anything. I heard him but I do not catch his name. Whatever. I never ask for anything extra, anyway.

I pick on my bacon and swirled the undone yolk of my sunny-side up with my spoon, wondering this time why people often ask me why I am tulala. I mean, why do they care? What’s so wrong about thinking? Apparently, for some people, thinking in virtual solitude is a crime.

My yolk-swirling is interrupted by the same guy, this time asking if the food is okay. I gave him half a smile and flashed him a thumbs-up. Honestly though, cafe food anywhere tastes the same to me. Whatever. Anyway, I am just here because I need a deserted place and some time to be tulala.

Being tulala keeps me sane, just as writing a ramble does.

Now I feel a little better.

Forever Drafts


I write and write and write,
endlessly through the night.
For with the words I bleed,
my heart I freed.

Papers stained with tears I shed,
papers hidden underneath the bed.

I write and write and write —
endlessly through the night —
stillborn verses and paragraphs,
remaining forever drafts.

Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing


Having read innumerable writing rules, I first thought the article is just another one about writing. However, I found one truth that I never realized, until now:

“Deep down, we all want to be poets.”

In the literati ladder, the poet occupies one of the highest rungs with his enigmatic way of making music with the pen as her instrument. Thus, which lover of words would not love a poet? Which aspiring penman would not look up to a poet and aspire to be one himself?

But alas! Not all of us can be poets. We can all write but not all of us can make verses sing because that is a gift poets are born with. Because poets are born, not made like the rest of us.

Still, we keep writing verses, hoping that with each poem we take one step up that ladder. A long way to go, yes, but still a little bit closer to that coveted spot because no matter what they say and what we know, deep down, we all want to be poets.

Sometimes, not even genetic endowment can restrain the desires of the heart.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

shawna kenneyBy Shawna Kenney

First thought, best thought; revise, revise, revise. Write first thing in the morning when the mind is alert; write at night and never while sober. Do it alone, in an office with the door closed, surrounded by books; write in coffee shops, surrounded by stimulating characters and conversation. Use traditional quotation marks and capitalization Unless You Are a ‘Genius.’ Journal in longhand; always type fast. Sentences longer than three or four lines are unacceptable and tedious, unless you are William Faulkner, William Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jamaica Kincaid, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, David Foster Wallace or one of those other people who can get away with it. Short is good.

Write with an ideal reader in mind; fuck the audience. Never show anyone an early draft; find a workshop for feedback. Write to please everyone; quit workshop and hire an editor. Take classes…

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It’s Just A Name


Note: All right, I know this is not microfiction. But let’s face it, this is probably the last short story I will ever write. This was a requirement for a literature class I took during my senior year in college. I know I have never been comfortable with writing fiction but I thought it would be great to share this and finally face rejection bravely (for I shy away from longer pieces of fiction because I am afraid of criticism).

It was an uneventful Friday night and all three of us were cooped in the house, eating a dinner of tuna spaghetti. Bored, we spent the evening just like any family (minus Mother) on quiet Friday nights— in front of the T.V.

We were watching the probably most controversial teleserye of the moment. Commercials promised that the night’s episode was a must-watch so since we had nothing to do, we decided to watch it and see what was hooking everybody. But before Angel Locsin could slap Maja Salvador, my brother grabbed the remote then the screen went dead.

“We’ve had enough of that. Thank you very much,” my sister said.

“Can’t believe how people eat up this stuff,” my brother said.

As I turned the T.V. on again to find a better show I replied, “People always love the unusual.”

My brother shrugged and went back to the kitchen to get more pasta. My sister had finished hers and has found a magazine to read. Neither of us said anything but surely we were all thinking of the same thing.

The dark weather in the house dragged me out and I found myself in my favorite cafe. It is an unpopular one (that’s why I like it) but with the hell weeks looming in, the shop is unusually full of students in loud group study sessions. At this moment, I love the noise. It drowns unwanted thoughts.

I pulled out a book and tried to read to brighten mood. But I was not even halfway through the first chapter when a tall, older-looking man came and asked if I were alone. I nodded. I did not trust him but I did not feel like lying. It can be tiresome.

“Can we share the table? All are taken.”

I looked around. Indeed, no table is unoccupied. But he can go find a seat in a different shop, right?

Probably seeing my hesitation, he added, “Please? I really like this place.”

Well, I do, too. “All right.”

As soon as he sat down, he made a polite attempt to talk. He said he is an English teacher. With that said, the awkward chitchat turned to an actual conversation about literature and, eventually, words. I could not remember how we got to that part but he asked me this: “What’s your least favorite word?”

I was stunned. I know my favorite word but I am unsure of my hatest word. It changes, depending on my mood. Right now, with the bitter aftertaste of the dinner at home that I escaped from, one word is burning my tongue. But I cannot see why I have to tell this to this stranger. One has to guard her filthiest secrets with her life. But then, I probably wouldn’t see this guy again, anyway.

“Illegitimate,” I said. Trying to look disinterested, I pretended to be too absorbed with studying and started highlighting random passages in my book.

“Oh.” He motioned for the waiter and seemed to have no intention of leaving. It bums me more because I really wanted him to go away. I hated the sound of that Oh.

After ordering, he turned back to me and said, “Me, too.”

“Oh…” Now he has my attention. No more elaboration is needed for me to get what he meant.

“Copycat,” he replied with a smirk.

Goodness, I hate this guy. How does he expect me to reply to his revelation? I feel you, dude?

“So what’s your story?” he asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Tolstoy said — wait, do you know him? The Russian guy who —“

“I know Leo Tolstoy,” I sharply answered.

“Right. Well, he said: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is —‘”

“‘… unhappy in its own way.'”

“Exactly,” he said. “So what’s your unhappy family story?”

At first, I found it ridiculous. This random guy just barged into my me time and now he’s asking me to tell him my family’s story? Who is he anyway? But then, maybe it’s about time.

There are five of us — my brother and sister and our other brother and sister. My brother, my sister, and I belong to Mommy. The other two belong to the other mother. But to Daddy, there is always five of us.

When I was little, I was entirely unaware of my family’s real status. In my earliest memories, we were just like any normal family — a mom, a dad, and their kids living under one roof. We ate dinner together on weekdays and go out on weekends. Mommy and Daddy would put us to bed with bedtime stories. Birthdays are all about cakes, candles, and lots of gifts. We spent every holiday together. It was a rather happy childhood. But I started asking questions when I was around ten years old.

When I turned ten, it was then decided that I was old enough to attend sleepovers and overnight pajama parties so I spent a lot of Friday nights in my friends’ houses along with other girls. I get asked a lot but when it was my turn to throw a pajama party, only two girls showed up in our house. Back then, I could not see why.

When I was in my friends’ houses, I noticed how their houses are almost the same as mine — there is a Sto. Nino altar, a T.V. set in the sala, a framed picture of the The Last Supper in the Kitchen beside or in between a large pair of wooden spoon and fork, and lots of framed pictures on the wall. There is only one thing that is strikingly absent in our house: a wedding picture of Mommy and Daddy.

One Saturday morning, upon arriving home, I decided to ask my mom why their wedding picture is not up on the wall or displayed by the coffee table. I remember how scared I was when I saw the face of my naturally confident mother turn white. I knew immediately something was wrong.

“The picture is not that important, dear. I could not remember where I had put it.”

She was lying, I know. If pictures are not important to her, then why is it that our photo albums were the first thing she grabbed when there was a fire across the street? But she woud not tell me so I went on to find the picture myself.

In the attic, I found a shoe box containing old photos, mostly of my mother when she was little. I was thrilled with what I found (though it was not what I was looking for) so I brought down the shoe box to my sister’s room, as quietly as I could so Mommy would not notice.

We were having a great time looking at the old pictures when, surprisingly, we found a quite recent photo of a teenage boy and girl that we could not recognize. Just as my sister put it back on the box, I noticed there was something written at the back.

To Papa, We miss you so much. Love, Kate and Kiko.

“Who is Papa?” my sister asked.

I turned to her nervously. “Daddy?”

“That’s impossible, Ate,” my sister said confidently. “He’s Daddy, not Papa.”

My sister went back to the old photos but I stared at this picture. For some reason, Kate and Kiko suddenly looked familiar.

Seven years later, we met Kate and Kiko in person on Daddy’s funeral. They were already in their late twenties and were already professionals while I, Mommy’s eldest, was only seventeen and barely in college. I was right the entire time — Daddy was indeed Papa.

When I first saw their picture, I had suspected we were of the same blood but deep inside I was not entirely convinced that they actually existed. Seeing them in flesh during our father’s funeral was like waking up from a beautiful dream only to find nightmare in reality. And that nightmare is the horror of realizing that the life we had been living was not what it was. For seventeen years, I lived a lie. It was unfair. My siblings and I did not ask to be born to this kind of situation.

On that day, I could not cry. I was angry at everyone — at my parents for keeping their secret, at Kate, Kiko, and their pretty mother for showing up and pushing our family to the corner, at my friends who would not treat me the same way again.

My brother and sister were both silent. They could not believe it. This is the stuff that only happens in movies. It does not happen in real life. Or, if it does, it happens to other people, not to my perfect, happy family. It could not be. There must be some mistake.

But soon, just weeks after we buried my father in the ground, there were talks of us, three children, taking up Mommy’s name instead. It was the legally right thing to do, they decided.

I went livid. They have no right to strip me and my siblings of our name. We lived that name and brought honor to it, too. What right have they to say we do not deserve it just as the other two do? Are we not our father’s children, too? But my aunts and uncles shook their heads and said I have to listen to them for it was the rightful to thing to do. My mother said nothing.

So here we are, both fatherless and nameless.

“So that’s the story of how, in his death, my father took my name with him to the grave,” I ended the story. There is more to it but I have said too much for this stranger.

“What’s in a name? ‘That which we call a rose —“

“‘… by any other name would smell as sweet.'” I took a sip of my coffee. It has grown cold. “Why do you like quoting classics?”

“Because it makes girls swoon and they don’t even notice it wasn’t exactly original.”

I grunted. “Weh? I don’t believe you. All girls know Romeo and Juliet.”

“No. Trust me, most don’t. They only know ‘O Romeo, Romeo!’ and that they both died in the end. You’re one of the smarter few.”

My cheeks burned. Heavens, swallow me now, please.

He noticed and smiled. “Seriously though, there is absolutely no reason for you to worry about your name. It’s just your name. It’s not you. You did not name yourself — your parents did that for you— but you chose to be the wonderful person that you are and that’s what’s important.”

I could not help but smile. I’m starting to like this guy.

“I told you mine. Now, tell me yours.”

And he did. But I am not telling you his story for that is his to tell. What I can tell you is that his is an unhappy story entirely different from mine. But he has found a way to liberate himself from the question of his true identity for, as he had said, one does not name himself. He said I can, too. I could only smile and say, “I hope so.”

“You will,” he said. “Remember, it is you who determines the kind of person that you will be. Bad circumstances are mere inconveniences. They don’t define you unless you let them to.”

The cafe is turning quieter as the college kids start leaving.

“I think I should be leaving. My sister must be waiting for me at home,” I said.

“I’ll walk you out.”

Before I turned to leave, I thanked him. I honestly had a good time talking with him. He thanked me, too, then we said goodbye.

“I’m sorry but I didn’t catch your name?” I turned and called back.

He waved his hand in dismissal. “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a name.”

“Oh. ‘K, bye!” Then he was back inside the cafe.

Walking back to the house, I realized he’s right — it’s just a name.

It’s December the 1st!


It’s December the 1st and I can’t believe how time can fly so fast! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was just moping, trying to figure out how I was going to graduate on time and now, I am doing the very thing that I had only wished for in the past. Still, there are quite a lot of 2016 goals that I failed to achieve (I really suck at New Year’s resolutions). For example:

  1. Avoid processed foods and soda. (But McDo float…)
  2. Read 50 books. (Current count is 39. There is no way I can finish 11 books in a month.)
  3. Blog at least once a week. (Got to explain this in a separate blog post.)

Recently, I have read several articles about bullet journals and I am thinking of jumping on the bandwagon. Do you think it might work? Your suggestions are very much welcome. 🙂

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Strictly Mine?


Last month, I started a six-part series telling the story of my uneventful college life and how I managed to survive it. I intended to end the series on my graduation day. Now, it has been more than a month since I posted the third part and the fourth is still a shabby first draft.

I can give a handful excuses as to why I could not write it:

  1. reading
  2. getting as much shut-eye as I could to make up for the sleepless nights
  3. watching T.V. because I have not in months
  4. job applications
  5. some more reading

But to be honest, there is just one reason why I cannot proceed to writing it:

Some stories are painful to tell because they are built by memories that we would rather forget.

My junior year in college was the toughest year of my school life that I used to worry so much for my mental health. I got past through it, alive and whole, but thinking about it now opens up a hodgepodge of distasteful emotions that I fought so hard to keep bottled deeply inside all these years. They are just too intimate that I could just not find the right equations to show you how I came to here. It feels like I should not be sharing it because it is strictly mine. But still, a part of me wants to tell it — to unleash the monster that I managed to tame. A part of me wants to say that it is possible to fix your own brokenness, to make yourself whole again — not necessarily the same but whole and new.

Right now, apart from typing this rambling post, I am trying to write it for the nth time — not exactly writing sentences but rather gathering the courage to share a story that I believe is strictly mine. Wish me luck.