Disclaimer: this post is brought to you by me given “the talk” on how young age can bring such idealism that apparently dissolves into nothingness when you enter the “real world.” And I beg to differ, reality does not come with responsibilities brought by age. The concept of “real world” only applies to those who aren’t ready for it. You only live today for today; there is no preparing for the future — only by going through the present. 

My job entails talking to people everyday, maybe six full hours of my usual nine-hour workdays. (Okay, maybe four full hours.)

My job entails literally reading what is going on with people’s lives, what has happened within the past year – in between things beyond their control and things they choose to be beyond their control. Reading what is going on with people’s lives, and how my job affects what they’re going to have to eat within the next week, or how much money they can have to buy alcohol for the next few days.

My job entails listening to people: the indifferent ones, the grateful ones, and most of the time, the struggling ones. Having spent eight full months into this job, I have figured out a way into weeding the lies in between the context. I talk to people all the time and I hate to have to admit this, but sometimes all stories weave into a universal plot. (Although I feel like that goes for the entire humanity but that’s another story or not.) Jobs require results, and when I am pressed for time, I am afraid that more often than I want it to, faces, names and stories turn into numbers and plainly into tasks I have to meet for the day. And the next time we talk, I really don’t remember the details off the top of my head.

Everyday I walk into my office; I walk into an office with everyone older than I am. I can safely assume that I am the youngest person who works in our office and I genuinely believe that the more years you spend on this lovely planet, the wiser you become. But age is just a number, and it does not discredit what you have experienced and what you have to say.

I am happiest when I can hear a smile on the other end of the line when I tell people they have more money today. I am happiest when I can tell them they’re disqualified for the program because they’re over income – and congratulate them on the new job. I am happiest when they share their struggles and at least for the time have them feel that someone sincerely feels for them (because I sincerely do—at least for the time being). I am happiest when I can help the elderly ones fill out paperwork because they can’t read; and wait for that sigh of relief that they have finally submitted all the taxing, required paperwork.

And the list goes on.

All these do not mean that I am the nicest, and all these do not mean that I always have nice people to talk to. I cannot count the number of times I have been shouted at, or mocked, or shouted at, or shouted at. When program regulations get crazier by the minute, it’s hard to explain in plain, simple words how this is rational at all but I have to. I have to conform to rules even I do not completely understand. And on the other side, when they have to make ends meet, sometimes people think they have to resort to lying.

And I get lied at in my face every single day. But I think to myself, if they had a better choice, they would not be here. What people do to you does not justify how you can treat them. Last week, I was subtly reminded how age can bring you so much idealism as you can be so naïve to a lot of things. They say that life is pretty much a choice, and I agree a hundred percent. Circumstances aside, life is really how you make it. But what I mean by people not having a better choice, is making that choice itself. (Really, how many times can I write choice?)

Just the fact that they think that quitting their job is better because they would have more money from our program is sad. Just the fact that they think that saying this and that and this and that instead of the plain truth is already sad. Just the fact that they could not bring themselves to make better choices, or that they could not bring themselves to the idea that whatever has happened in the past does not have to repeat itself is really sad. Who am I to judge what their motives are? Who am I to say that my life is so much better than theirs?

Anyway. I have so much respect for older people; but I hope when I become older, I wouldn’t hold people guilty before they’re proven innocent. I hope that as I get older, I wouldn’t be so hard on other people nor to myself. I hope that I can easily forgive what imperfect ways people have to say to go through and get through life. And I hope that I don’t judge younger people on all the positivity they have and carry around with them.

 “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

One time I had a person wait for me for an hour, and I was utterly sorry. To which she was quick to ask: “are you new?” As I said yes, she told me she knew it. I promised her I’ll still be sorry for whatever wrong I’ll do when I’m no longer new.

***

Don’t get me wrong, I judge people a lot. I judge people who takes tons of selfies when the truth is, I do too. I judge people who wear almost nothing outside when the truth is, I am just plain insecure of my weight. I judge people a lot, and writing this serves a constant reminder that I have no right; whatever the circumstances may be.

All pictures taken on December 26, 2013. 

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Twenty thirteen is the year I left San Francisco. This is the third time in three years that I’ve moved; only never finding home. I have always thought of Manila as home, but at this point I don’t know where home is yet or anymore at all—but I’ve always home with family and Manila will always have its home in me.

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My thoughts were always consumed by thoughts of then home, what used to be, and my indifference toward the beauty of the new city I was in. I did not live in the city itself, but I always think I do/did. Because true enough, I was mesmerized by all the glory of its air, its bridges and its lovely, lovely people; but I was never absorbed by its way of thinking. Probably because I felt intimidated by the idea of loving this foreign land or I was scared of betraying my illusion of exclusive nationalism. Or I was scared to make mistakes.

My mind was always someplace else, I never exactly knew where, but I was unhappy.

Its fastness scared me—I felt like I was running out of time yet my life was going too slow, I felt stuck. I was always planning and dreaming, yet I saw all my ideas always in reality with someone else, or something else.

It was this city that let me have my longest days, where todays proved to only bring more difficult tomorrows. And in between commutes, I always questioned why I settled for what I accomplished before I moved to SF. Why did I not travel to as many provinces that I could; why did I not study harder; why did I not listen to live bands more; why did I not pray harder; why did I not create more things to look back and be happy about. I thought about these questions until my bus approached, or until my train stopped to the station.

I would Skype with my sister on a daily basis and bug my friends to not go offline. I only sincerely felt happy when I had food, and when I watched shows which characters thought in the same first language I did. I dreaded every phone call asking how I was doing, what internship was I doing, was I getting paid, was it a real job, would I consider going back to school for nursing, and so on. I deliberately cried when I thought of nothing else to do–looked at old photos; thought of family and old age; it was comforting to have to cry, because what could be worse after that?

It lasted for a while until I fell into a monotony after long wanting to not go through the daily existential mechanisms that I felt this world required me to do. I waited for my  phone alarm to go off,  I waited for the shower to turn hot, then blow dried my hair otherwise I’d freeze. I got used to the daily wait to the bus stop, my walk to the train, and my train walk to my office and back.  I’ve gotten used to it, like if I thought I was a cat. I’d eat twice a day, sleep the entire midday and wait for my humans to come home – I’d tell my dad that I felt life was just repeating itself. Repetitive, and he asks me; whose isn’t?

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This city was so beautiful to my eyes and it had beautiful people. It gave me long, long stretches of silence and acquainted me to start thinking in its language. Today I fully realize that people come and go, and this year I have not given up on reaching out to people just as I hope they would not on me, but I’ve given up on making myself available to those who do not value my friendship. Today I fully realize there is no point in being hesitant to changes, reluctance will only pull me into a blackhole of hopelessness; and this year I have not given up on my past, but I’ve given up on holding back and letting this universe’s system swallow me whole.

I’d still need the long stretches of quiet and silence, I wish for her to come and go, but I can only be grateful to those long, long days that allowed me to think and write.  Since I’ve moved to a less prettier place, I smiled more often; I hated small talk a little less, and I have seldom quipped any reference to Manila when something, anything, was brought up. I’m no longer searching one-way tickets back and wish into the abyss that people from here would not notice my absence although I still badly need and want to book a roundtrip ticket.

Here in on I’d be dreaming more of pastel and wooden books in antique bookshelves, of dusty typewriters and ambiguous furniture. Perhaps in a future city as beautiful as these pictures I would be writing with lavender macarons about Northern Lights. Twenty fourteen could only be better.

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***

This seems like a sad post, but 2013 is wonderful. This is the year I had my first full time job; achieved most items on http://elliscatherine.wordpress.com/2011/12/; spent more time with and understood family more; saw my brother after two long years; landed on more airports than I ever have, explored New York by myself, saw what could be the most astonishing building I’ve ever seen (US Capitol). And so on.

I worry on days I think I won’t make it; I worry on days I think I won’t be able to make, or create anything at all. I worry about tomorrow, I worry about things I’ve said in the past. I worry that at times I don’t understand people — I worry more about people not understanding me. I worry about things that are yet to come and people I have yet to meet. 

I worry on days I think I won’t make it; except I already did. 

I worry on days when things are not enough, I worry on days I’ve got more than I could grasp. 

I worry about the future, I worry about now. 

 

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…ready to hop on a plane but unsure of the events to come, nervous of whether I could truly make sure nothing bad happens with my kids despite the identical green sweaters we were wearing (yes even in the heat of Pheonix airport). I was kind of unsure of what was going to happen that I overpacked clothes I could use for months. A year later I look back and I’m so, so sure that I’d give anything (well, I wish) to be back singing lullabies at night with my amazing Maria Bonita family who made the world a much, much more real concept to me–that countries are not just chunks of land or mere drawings on a map, not just fancy places we could save up for to travel to…but where my postcards can be received with a genuine smile, and whose people I can meet halfway across the world (or so I wish), and where daily news is no longer just something we hear and should be aware about, but ones that we actually feel and pray the best for,  now that we know people whose lives are affected by the most unexpected disasters or life’s littlest joys.

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It’s been a year and this experience is still surreal to me, and I wish that all 11 year olds could experience this sincere friendship and realize that truly, world peace is not just about ideals out of books but is actually something deeply possible. :)

And realize that Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp and Viber are wonderful apps! (!!!)

***

more about last summer:

http://elliscatherine.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/of-pillow-fights-and-a-summer-of-a-lifetime/

http://www.CISV.org

PS if you Maria Bonita guys are reading this, TQM!! miss you all so mucccch!!!! :(

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My brother’s Facebook status reminded me to write this blog today.

There I was, yet again, on my Instagram stream… pausing picture after picture, deciding whether this post deserved a ‘like’ (perhaps a comment), until i saw hashtag after hashtag: a day which apparently was the #nationalsiblingsday.

Coincidentally, days ago, my sister Vibered a photo of her and my brother to me when they were babies. They were born two years apart from each other and were often mistaken as twins. They now live some four hours away from each other by plane.

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I, on the other hand, was born almost a decade after, and live across the globe from the two of them.

Now, I know that my story is no different from millions of those who live away from their families. But I could not overstate nor underemphasize the pain (I’m not entirely sure this is the right word to use — pain) of the distance; some say I’m lucky because at least my parents are with me, etcetera, etcetera… but somehow, I still digress.

Maybe I’m overreacting, being overly dramatic. I’m… an adult, after all. And it hasn’t been that crazy long, just a little less than two years. But having seen from others’ experiences, I do not want to be a stranger to my siblings. I don’t want to save forever preparing to go back home when I’m already indifferent to the way things used to be between us. I definitely do not want to be that sister who showed up twenty years later, because “life” happened. So to two dearest to me, I struggled to find a picture to post on Instagram (this is really the point of this entry. hahaha)…

and I realized that according to Facebook, there are only 20 tagged photos of me and my brother. And 80 percent of those were of Marielle’s. Long story short: no picture to post of the three of us. (Well, there’s one which my sister disapproved of.)

So there I was lying on bed thinking about my siblings and started scribbling on my phone:

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… to two of the few who remind me to pray to God who listens; to two who believe I can when I think I can not (and unfortunately at times think I can NOT when I feel I can); to two of the very few who tolerate my silly, stubborn attitude at times; to the ones who truly want to see me through not for whatever or whomever but just for me (and maybe the earth’s greater good); to the ones who constantly teach me to appreciate our parents:

I don’t really know what to say.

Many people think that distance has allowed us to be closer as a family. I beg to disagree. I have loved my family and appreciated them the same way even before we moved — only we learned that it takes some getting used to, but no amount of time can ease the longing: no matter how old, no matter how much of adults we think we already are.

You two may have their respective partners in life right now but I trust that no matter how our priorities change, we have each others’ backs in the long run — at least in this lifetime. For hopefully in a parallel universe, we wouldn’t be Skyping birthdays and holidays away. I’ll no longer need to Viber what strange thing I’m eating… or wait for your Facebook posts to see where you spent your weekend. Only now do I realize that that gallon of Selecta ice cream while waiting for The Buzz on Sundays is priceless, even under Manila heat. And in that parallel universe I’d be sharing chocolate chip cookies with Marielle in person and not virtually.

I don’t know if I’m good at keeping promises, but this I know for sure: that I’ll do my bestEST to not be a stranger to you two. And until we meet again, I’ll take comfort in the fact that though we’re not on the same lands, we all are under the same sky. And wish that this blog post warm your hearts enough to surprise me with roundtrip tickets (I’m not choosy, MNL or KL is fine — your choice). ;)

And sorry, weebs, here’s a photo of me and kuya. Ikaw kasi, ayaw mo yung picture nating tatlo kaya kami na lang. :p

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I love you ate and kuya. :) 

***

And because I’m overly in like with quotes, here’s one from a favorite book:

“I am not,” the general said, tilting his head sideways and pressing his hand to his chest to convey humility. “Boys and girls must know the legacy of their fathers.” He turned to me. “Do you appreciate your father, bachem? Do you really appreciate him?”

“Balay, General Sahib, I do,” I said, wishing he’d not call me “my child.”

“Then congratulations, you are already halfway to being a man,” he said with no trace of humor, no irony, the compliment of the casually arrogant.

P.S. Ok frustrated lang talaga ko waley ako napost that day. Hahaha. Kasi si kuya status status pa drama rama tuloy. Huhu. I love you two! :)

IMG2628My alarm clock goes off. 6:14 a.m. I dismiss it, only for it to disrupt my slumber once again. 6:29 a.m. I snuggle in my blanket for the last time and force myself to wake up.

I get off the BART and look at my watch: 8:26 a.m. Perfect. I made it on time. I hurry past the traffic signs and greet my supervisor. She’s wearing a Santa hat and asks me to help lay out nametags on our registration table. Today we have an event in Union Square. The huge Christmas tree makes me think ofPasko at home.

I grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco last year. Every time I walk around downtown, I can’t help but admire its beauty—intricate buildings, cable cars and people speaking different languages, carrying shopping bags. It’s something that I don’t want to get used to. I don’t think I ever will.

Around noon I find myself on our truck parked in front of Macy’s, preparing hot chocolate to give out to passersby. I watch people from my tiny window and occasionally shout “free hot chocolate!” People would stare blankly, mutter in disbelief, shrug the idea off, or talk to me. I liked the people who talked to me. Some would drop a dollar; some would simply grab their cup, smile, and walk away.

Among the most appreciative were the homeless. They detail how great it is to serve a warm cup for the cold day. I happily quip a “happy holidays” after they thank me until this man answered back with: “I am trying to be happy here, okay? It’s not happy…”

His words blur with my thoughts. Maybe I was wrong to greet him. I can’t help him any more than the cup of hot chocolate.

I walk back to the BART and my boots’ heels click against the floor. This sound’s nice, I think to myself. Back home it always felt like summer so I didn’t own any pair until last year.

I hop on my train and hear a couple of Filipinos talking: “sa atin kasi pag Pasko…”

We enter the tunnel and the noise shuts their conversation out.

***

repost from http://www.the3six5.com

 

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