Sunday, July 13, 2014

Notes From My Personal Life #41

      Even with the madness of school, thank goodness for the little projects that keep my sanity intact.

Here is a breakdown of my activities.:

Last Wednesday, Tito Romy invited me to record cover for Mizuho Tanaka's project (a Japanese DJ, sweet and talented girl). I don't know if I'll ever hear the final mix but hurrah for meeting new people! One of the songs we recorded was a song by Pitbull. It's not a simple song to record, thanks to the layers of harmonies and effects, and while we waited for the sound engineer to finish editing, he was like "pag makita ko 'tong Pitbull na 'to, sasapakin ko siya."

At Bellhaus Recording Studios

  It took a total of 3 hours to record and edit that just one song. Such is a normal occurence in recording sessions, depending what type of song you're working on. It was challenging but we had fun and just laughed off our mistakes. Wish I could speak Japanese. The producers thanked me for lending my talents and loved my singing. Domo arigato. I could've done better. They're so kind.

Tito Romy and Brian.
   After our session, they treated us to a huge dinner at this Korean barbecue place at Teatrino. I was so full that I couldn't remember my name.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Spiraling into introspection, yet again.

Memento mori.

 One of my greatest fears in life is to be out of touch with daily reality.

  I'm not talking about daydreaming my afternoons away or getting lost in a creative storm. I'm talking about social and psychological disconnect- if I am able to secure my future, if I've done everything I've set out to do but eventually have grown oblivious to my past struggles and others' struggles, I might as well have taken a step backward from my sense of humanity.

  Knowledge is redundant. Intelligence does not immediately equate to altruism. Autonomy is not synonymous to selfishness. I don't have any interest to leave a mark in this world. At the same time I'd love an opportunity to bestow a little bit of kindness and instill a sense of optimism in my community. Empathy isn't one of my greatest strengths. But then again, I've learned that one can only empathize up to a certain point; some peoples' struggles will never be yours. But that doesn't mean you don't try to learn what's on the other side of the fence.

  The idea that I want to give back without even considering how my actions and mindset is detrimental to the very community I'm trying to help is disconcerting. It's like wealthy countries being proud of providing jobs and stimulating economic growth in developing countries while exploiting its natural resources and workers. Or the male feminist who demands quality for women but claims "not all men are like that" in the wake of sexual harassment/violence.

  If I make these kinds of mistakes, will I simply be forgiven for doing so out of sincerity?

  I'm learning all these social, economic, and political theories and arguments in school but I believe observing daily realities close to your doorstep paints a better picture of our problems and solutions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Unpopular Opinions and Stuff

  I was going through my Tumblr archive, looking for pictures of my old artworks. There were blog posts from this year and last year that  I've written and it's a strange feeling to read them because it feels like a different person has posted these tidbits, unpopular opinion, and insights. Here are couple of posts, arranged from most recent to oldest. 

*When someone says that I should be in a relationship to be “inspired” for my art, my inner artist child laughs until it chokes because I believe that once you start putting someone on a pedestal that way, you tend to use them as a creative crutch and with that you’re giving away your own creative power. Yes, it helps to be surrounded with creative people and maybe being in a relationship can get you through artistic droughts but at the end of the day, you are the artist and you do the work, regardless when you’re inspired or not.

*For the record, I do acknowledge that “privilege” exists. It’s activists with the constant victim mentality who are so hyperfocused on dividing and dehumanizing people that fucking pisses me off sometimes. These are the same people who forget how intersected our identities and problems are.
   The point of change is to usher in an era of cooperation, love, and equality. And that means EVERYONE is involved, whether you like it or not.

*Miriam Santiago’s privilege speech borders on the extreme but in retrospect she is one of the endangered types of politicians who refused to be coerced into silence, not even when she has been unreasonably humiliated, or disregarded in the Philippine senate by Enrile and his groupies.  Unlike the typical Filipino who has short-term memory for grievous crimes against the state, Miriam Santiago refuses to fall into this state of selective amnesia and apathy; she is not perfect but she has integrity. I just hope her health can still withstand this long and arduous fight against corruption.

 * I was walking around the mall when it suddenly hit me… I thought Miriam Santiago’s speech borders on the extreme?? She has been using her pork barrel reasonably compared to the majority of the senate, fought for the Reproductive Health bill along with Sen. Pia Cayetano, appointed by the UN as judge to the International Criminal Court (and the first Filipino in that position, might I add), and has written books about law, international relations, trade treaties, the Constitution…
Compared to Enrile who is responsible for 4000 deaths during the Martial Law era, had peaceful protesters arrested in the same time period, spends billions on dummy NGO’s and campaigns, has an obvious disregard for women and their rights… AND I THOUGHT MIRIAM WAS A LITTLE EXTREME?

*I have no patience for some social justice bloggers who think their rude, snappy, and sarcastic behaviour can be justified by their cause, oppression, what-have-you. Everyone is human- and if you don’t have the patience and humility to create a place of open discussion and debate, you’re no better than your oppressors.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Notes From My Personal Life #40: Feelings

How do you priorities.

   I've forgotten how to school.

 I'm slowly adapting to the pace of things though I'm still trying to iron out on managing my time. It's conflicting: I'm studying and doing research in between classes. And in the back of my mind, I wonder if placing my relationships in the backseat is worth it. And then when I'm with family or friends, I'm thinking of all the readings and recitations I have to prepare for. I feel dejected in both worlds but perhaps because I am my own worst critic.

 I do understand the value of education and I'd like nothing more than to graduate, armed with mental tools and capabilities that can help me critique, appreciate, and contribute in this life. But I also feel bad when my mom wants us to spend time together as a family and I really can't participate. Or I have to say no to old friends who just want a few hours of my time. It is normal for one's social life to fluctuate and maybe even be virtually non-existent at a certain time period but honestly, I can say my youth is more meaningful with memories to share and experiences to recount than knowing how to identify the variances of Realism or the history of international trade. My only comfort right now is that I only have a couple of terms left in school so maybe by then these 2 worlds would've reached some sort of compromise.

Not giving time in fear of losing time. How ironic.


   Watched The Fault In Our Stars yesterday. I personally still prefer the book (read: my opinion is biased LOL) but I am glad the film has stayed true to the essence of what TFIOS is about.



The dude who plays Isaac is fooooiiine.


    While in school, my mom asked me (via text) if I could accompany her to her errands. I replied, saying that I'll accompany her but only until 2pm because I have a date with a certain gentleman. Even through text, I could feel her enormously intimidating presence when she replied, "nanliligaw ba yan o boypren mo na??"

 The perks of being a favorite child.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Notes From My Personal Life #39: Keep Breathing

  It's the second week of school and I am ready to just flip tables.

 It feels like I'm so way behind, I can't remember all the important theories and key concepts that I need to know for the majors I'm taking up. Readings are piling up one after the other. My highlighter has been getting more workouts than I am and there are moments that anxiety is this close to paralyzing me.

 My dad says I just need to put in a little more work in re-learning everything and study smarter. I could easily say that I was on leave for a long time which is why I'm having a hard time but I know I'm responsible for catching up on everything I have to know beforehand. Sometimes the pressure to do well in school makes my brain go on overdrive and in the end I feel like I haven't done enough. That I can't be enough. And the professors I have this term have expectations that I want to live up to. I'm usually optimistic when it comes to schoolwork and responsibilities.

 I have to keep telling myself to breathe lately. Sometimes I get nervous for class to the point I'm shaking. It's ridiculous but it happens. I'm still adjusting to the mental pressure and the pace of it all. I'm trying to figure out the best way to cope with everything.

 Some nights I pray for clarity and the courage to get up and face the next challenge.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How I Popped My Hiking Cherry (Part 3/3)

Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

 "You know what gets me going?" My brother Kristoff said while we took a break at the edge of the grasslands. "What?" I asked. "That we can go home after this," he replied.

*******                                                   *******                               ******

Hiking Mt. Akiki trail is like marriage. When you look at the pictures, the sights are glorious, everyone's having a good time, the sunrise/sunsets look romantic. And then reality hits you when you've gone for two days without a proper shower and you're freezing your ass off while you wonder when you'll encounter a toilet that can actually flush. I'm thankful though that our group members are a cheerful, upbeat bunch.

"I'm negotiating with the trail," I told one of my brothers when I was slowing down.
 "I'm negotiating with my life," he snaps.

  Don't get me wrong. Nature's beauty doesn't exclusively lie in the comfort it provides, but also in its terrors and extremities. I can imagine my ancestors shaking their head and saying "look, there's a reason we built civilization!" 

We've reached the grasslands, which means we're getting relatively close to our campsite where we'd settle for the evening. But that doesn't mean the trail is any less challenging. Temperature has significantly dropped. The fog and the winds make the grasslands look like a desolate, lonely place. I'm one who's always preferred to be alone, so I trudged on the trail without much trouble. There aren't any cliffs but the trail was definitely narrow and more steep to the point you occasionally have to be on all fours to get anywhere.

My brothers. Dying. 
Several minutes through the grasslands, I thought of Frodo and Sam from Lord Of The Rings when they were going up to Mordor.


Like, four for you Samwise Gamgee for leaving the comforts of The Shire to follow Frodo Baggins all the way there and going as far to porter his bitch ass to the top.

  And of course, there's the porters who go through the trail like they're strolling through Luneta Park on a Sunday night. Such strength. Such skill. How do you even.

  The frustrating thing about the grasslands is when you've overcome a steep hill only to find that there's another hill to conquer. Rinse and repeat. At some point, you have to stop assuming you're near your destination just to avoid giving up and Akiki roll all the way down.

And suddenly, campsite.

Settled in.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

  We set up camp, had dinner (it was only 4pm), and just tried to relax even when the temperature was still dropping. It was so cold to the point that even the Baguio people were suiting up in their thermal wear. I tried to get some sleep but it was hard because our tents were close together and I can practically hear the conversation at the next tent. Not that I minded, but sleep tends to be the last thing on your mind when you're stifling laughter.

 The Barkada at the tent next to ours were watching movies in their tablets. After their movie session ("A Crazy Little Thing Called Love". The one with Mario Maurer in it, yeah I've watched it before), they offered to lend their tablet to anyone who wanted some movie entertainment before the night closes in. I don't know which guy in the group they were talking to. It sounded like he was checking the movie genres in it when he asked, "wala bang kayong horror?"

 "Di na ba horror 'yung dinaanan natin, Kuya?"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I Popped My Hiking Cherry (Part 2/3)

Day 2

 Fuck this trail. Fuck Akiki. Fuck my life. And fuck the creators of Slender Man.

 It was still dark as we continued our trail at 4am. There were more rocks than usual, bushes, fir trees of some sort, and various types of vegetation. We used flashlights and for some reason the whole setting feels like a scene from a B-grade horror movie. I've went ahead of my family and the rest of the group were way ahead of me, their flashlights like dots in the distance. I was alone, technically. I stopped from time to time to catch my breath and look at the full moon. Some of the bushes and plants formed shadows that my overactive imagination mistook as Slender Man. The novelty of the pine forest has worn off and I just wanted to get through the day in one piece.

I'm not a morning person so what got me going through the trail was a mental list of things that piss me off: Justin Bieber, spambots, the patriarchy, and don't get me started on Philippine politics.

 I sat on a boulder covered with grass and looked up at the twilight. The mountain seemed asleep, covered with a thick blanket of clouds. Morning was beginning to break the darkness, though it was still a bit dim. I turned off my flashlight and carried on.

Quiet morning.

Still alive and kicking!
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

   There was a resting spot along the way where I joined the other and waited for my mom and brothers to catch up. Our porters caught up with us pretty quickly even when the load they're carrying is twice or thrice heavier than ours. The maximum weight they're allowed to carry is 20 kgs (44lbs). They're a cheerful lot with the stamina of dwarves and the dexterity of hobbits. They probably know the trails like the back of their hands. They could effortlessly go around the mountain if they weren't carrying so much load on their backs.

  We continued on our trail through the pine forest. Pine needles. Rocks. Cow dung. Tree roots. Breathe. Pine needles. More rocks and tree roots. Pine cones. Breathe. Water break. Louie started to play music with his phone, a playlist of old and modern genres. His music is not spared from Taylor Swift. I don't know if him playing music is more for his benefit than ours. It was surreal to imagine that if I slip and fall downhill, it is to the soundtrack of Taylor singing "I'm only me when I'm with yoooouuu." 

And the journey continues!
  The sun was up and apparently we weren't even halfway on our trail yet. We trudged along while my younger brother, Kristoff, seemed to be going through this weird "stages of grief" thing. Yesterday he was annoyed that Mama didn't do any research at all about the trip because the only thing on her mind was the photo-op (which she inevitably regretted) and now he's in this bargaining phase. ("Lord, if I survive...")

 A moment later, he starts confessing stuff like "I was the one who ate the bag of Lays when you were gone!"
 OMG he's confessing, shit's getting real.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How I Popped My Hiking Cherry (Part 1/3)

Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

 If you have any good sense at all, you would not go to Mt. Pulag via Akiki trail.

 But if you want to explore the hidden beauty of the mountains and earn bragging rights for the summer, I highly recommend it.

     For those who are not familiar, the most popular Pulag trail for tourists and wanderlust locals is the Ambangeg trail: it's usually a one-day journey, you spend the night in one of the camping grounds, and wake up at the break of dawn to trek up the final destination that is the peak of Mt Pulag. It's challenging, it's fun, and you get photo-ops galore. Meanwhile, for Akiki trail, it's a three-day journey to the top. Majority of the journey is hiking uphill. You begin to question your sanity with the steep inclines and you celebrate at the sight of a few square meters of flat land.

  Akiki trail is popularly known to park rangers, locals, and DENR peeps as the "Killer trail". And rightly so. Some people assume it got its nickname because of the beautiful sights that will kill your stress and make your worries disappear- judging by the pictures. Experience is another thing.

 Reasons why you should take the Killer Trail:
1. It's the perfect trip where you can start to question your life decisions. Or just life in general.
2. A great opportunity for you to bond with friends while testing your friendship. Also a great revenge trip for your frenemies.
3. The Killer Trail is a journey where nature has its way with you and not the other way around.
4. If you want to put yourself in Frodo Baggins' place (Or Bilbo's, or Katniss Everdeen's), Akiki trail is a revelation and a reality check. The struggle is real.
5. If by some chance you're looking for biodiversity, Akiki will not disappoint.


 Fuck, I forgot my toothbrush.

  With my coffee-to-blood ratio extremely low, morning passed like a fog as we arrived at our meeting point at 4am. I'm physically present but my mind is bleary. Louie, our coordinator and official photographer, greeted us and we all boarded the jeepney where the rest of the group was waiting. There were 10 of us (not including Louie). For the sake of easier comprehension in this blog post, the group is comprised of

The Family (me, my 2 brothers, and mom)
The Barkada (2 sisters + a friend)
The Couple
Some Dude (probably the most physically capable to trek Akiki without breaking a sweat.)

  We had to make three stopovers before the beginning of the trail. First was for breakfast in this modest carinderia-slash-sari-sari store. The homecooked food was warm and delicious. I bought my toothbrush before we left. Second stopover was at the Visitors Center for orientation. When we stepped out of the jeepney, there was this friendly black dog who basked in our attention. He probably makes a terrible guard dog.

 Orientation. My mind is still foggy. The park rules involved no bringing of pets, no straying off the trail, do not trample plants or vegetation, you cannot use soap near the water source, bring your trash with you... wait a minute, we can't use soap? No soap? How do we proper hygiene??

Orientation. Photo by Paul Louie Serrano.

For our third stopover, we had second breakfast (since it was only 9am) in this carinderia owned by an old man who had lived through World War 2. Louie told us about the itinerary and there were talks among the group whether we should hire porters or not once we reach the ranger's station.

 The start of the trail was at the side of the road. Louie took a group picture of us. There was a sign at the threshold that said "difficult trail."
 "Difficult? Psshh." One of my brothers scoffed. Louie mentioned it was a 10-minute climb to the ranger's station where we have to register and get porters.

And so began our 10 minutes of hell.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Notes From My Personal Life #38

 ** As you might know, my birthday is coming up next month and if any of you are wondering what present to give me, here is a short and reasonable wishlist.

1. "Outside the Lines", an awesome coloring book for grown-ups. (See above image). It's a pretty awesome collaboration curated by Souris Hong-Porretta. Saw this book in National Bookstore. I'd definitely watercolor the pages and just go crazy.(Php 795, if I remember correctly.)

2. A bag of Whiskas or Friskies cat food. Or a few cans of wet cat food. Will donate it to PAWS.

3. A blank journal where I can write and draw my feelings. Doesn't have to be moleskin.

4. A pot of original Mod Podge. You can find those at Deovir (SM North). I think a pot is Php180.

5. A handmade birthday card. Store-bought ones are fine too.

**I'm a firm believer of having a good relationship with yourself if you are to have a healthy relationship with other people. (Though this doesn't guarantee you won't end up with a douchebag, at least being alone isn't daunting and you can break it off easier.)
   The occasional date with myself helps me ground myself after a stressful week. I've taken to the no-frills Japanese restaurant-slash-ramen house near my place, Kasugu House. This is where I can concentrate on eating slowly without any distractions. The food is not too pricey and not too many people eat there. The place is relatively quiet except for the HDTV that's usually showing the local channels. The food is awesome and their house tea is scalding.

**I am happy to say I'm done with my first house project.

  Whatcha guys think?

      If the postmen still get confused with which house to drop off mail and parcels, I'ma march to the post office and talk to human resources. I had fun painting the gate though there was a time that dehydration was seriously getting to me. I had to take a few days' break.