In a TEDtalk shared by Elizabeth Gilbert, she posed an interesting question about the nature of genius and artistry. According to the ever fascinating Greeks, genius stops becoming the little adjective we uttered out of reverence and admiration, but a noun, a subject that refers to that naughty little spirit which whispers words of wisdom and inspiration into your ears. It speaks whenever it wants and it remains silent even if you try so hard to make it talk. It has its own mind, and you have to cajole it to come out.
Sounds ehhh? Well, we’re in this world to listen and digest ideas so the more I listened to it, the more it actually makes sense.
Elizabeth Gilbert will convince you more than my words can ever do so here’s the clip for you to watch:
So according to Gilbert, a genius is a:
– creative spirit
– comes to you in a sudden moment, kind of like a sweet aroma of the blooming flowers or a rush of wind
– someone you have to listen in
– basically your partner in creating art
-the one supposed to take all the credit because it did all the thinking and you kind-of just plagiarized its ideas
As a writer (or someone pretending to be a writer, come on it’s time to give my genius a credit), relating the genius spirit to creating art and words like writing is easy. Writers, like musicians, have an instinctive urge to listen. We try to listen to the harmony of words when we read, we try to listen to other peoples’ conversations to make dialogues in our heads, we like to listen to other people and the way they talk, we like to listen to stories of other people even though we don’t know them and they probably live in another world beside ours and that explains why we love to read.
Great writers love to listen and somewhere out there, a spirit or a sprite or some supernatural force is driving them to create art. Oftentimes, they create art that’s completely opposite of what people perceived them to be. They create art that surprise the world because nobody expected them to take that risk and doing that is so unnaturally like them. It’s almost as if they are an another person.
And great artists acted like they hardly take the credit of what they created. It’s as if like it’s just another pot they molded out from clay and put it beside other ‘more ordinary’ pots they created while all the people around them are amazed with its beauty. It’s as if they are bored with their achievements and all they want is to return to the potter wheel, promptly going back to work.
As long as they work, as long as they create, something great will come out of that work. It’s like a supernatural force is driving them to work and be fair in everything they created.
It doesn’t mean that a genius or a creative spirit gets to pick the privileged, the most intelligent or the most educated…I believe it often picks the one who is most dedicated, the most committed and finally, a person who thinks that his life is not actually his, but it’s made for the purpose of creating things that will outlive him someday.
And even if you are pragmatic or you don’t believe in this genius, it’s funny to think that it somehow parallels the reality of creating art. Creative people are the most dedicated, the most committed and would always think ahead of their lives.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is creativity in a nutshell.
Seriously, just look at this picture.
For the past decades or so, the Philippines (or dare we say, Metro Manila) has suffered a great deal of mismanagement in urban planning. Ironically, I’m writing this in a small apartment caught in the urban gridlock where people are just free to live whenever they want (it’s a free country)
I guess this has gone far more than decentralization. I’ve repeatedly called on decentralization of Metro Manila in my other blog posts but hey, if other cities in the Philippines would turn out like this someday, might as well leave Metro Manila alone in its decaying urban state and let it die a natural death. Let its bones serve as a warning to other regions, maybe.
Let’s face it. Any city in this country is destined to be a Metro Manila, without proper management and cooperation of the people. For heaven’s sake, I don’t think we need any lawyers, economists or military men in the government anymore. What we need are planners. Visionaries. I’m not saying the next president or your next mayor should be an engineer; what I like to see is that this next leader will listen to sound planning and adhere to the practicalities of urban management. That he/she has a great respect on public space, urban greenery or to Nature’s territory.
Lest of all, I want him/her to stand by these principles no matter how much big-time corporations or conglomerates shine their flashy cheques to get him/her on their side.
It’s so sad that in this country, our planners are confined (made to think) to confine themselves in the field of research and corporate world only. Provided that we need good scientists and game-changers for engineering (still waiting for PHL to make its own big break on technology someday, or a decent internet connection at least), but we also need more brains on public policies. We need more rational, practical voices like yours in policy-making and law-making, and to be frank we are already tired of all the hot air coming from the government.
This would probably take a long while to be solved, since Metro Manila is the busiest and most commercially-industrialized city in the country, and having it to undergo a massive urban and industrial overhaul may be an expensive and lengthy investment. Yet bear in mind, it won’t be the same way forever. The shadow of the West Valley Fault, the threat of stronger typhoons to come, and the tendency of everything in this city to get caught in a fire that can kill dozens of families living on shanties loom just over the horizon (and don’t forget, zombie apocalypse!)
It may be too late for Metro Manila, but it’s never too late for other regions and cities. We don’t have to wait for a picture showing the devastation of the Big One to make this point. This picture is clear enough.
When the doctor informed us that my mom has cancer, I didn’t cry. Around my younger brothers, I simply couldn’t. I remember it was a bright and sunny day. The TV inside my mom’s room is switched on for the daily noontime show. The train passed through the window like a silver snake whose windows gave off a glint of the sun, like golden scales.
My mom was in the operating room, sleeping and unaware of the serious discussion on the floor above her. The whole breast needs to be removed. It’s a procedural thing. They informed us not because we have to make a choice. It’s a statement; If the cyst is benign, we will only remove the mass. If it’s cancerous, we will remove the whole thing. My mom’s cyst is far from benign.
When the doctors left, I pretended I need to pee. There I sat there, glaring at the roll of tissue paper as hot tears streamed across my face. It’s just a breast, I reminded myself. I don’t know why I’m crying over that damn little thing. None of my brothers nor my father in that room would understand and that only made the tears worse.
I forgot to pretend to flush but they pretended they haven’t noticed.
When my mom woke up around dinnertime, she doesn’t need to touch her chest to feel it’s gone. The bandage and the sore sensation of stitches told her as much. She looked at us with shining little eyes and touched my younger brother’s head: “Wala nang dede si mommy.”
My rational, clueless brother replied she still had one more but I looked away from her, as if distracted by the passage of the train in our window for the thousandth time already.
Our family has no history of cancer. When my mom felt a small bump at her left breast, she dismissed it as a common occurrence when you’re about to have your period. She never really like hospitals and needles and a check-up is the farthest thing in her mind. When the bump didn’t go away as it normally should, she confided it to her bestfriend who, in turn, almost pushed her inside a clinic for a check-up.
After a series of CT-scans and biopsy, the doctors revealed that the mass found in my mother’s breast is no ordinary mass. It’s quite big, and even if it’s benign, which they had no way to prove unless they cut open my mother’s breast and take a sample of it, they have to remove it. Immediately. My mom took this news as calmly as she could but I know she’s rattled inside. Before now, cancer seemed to be a foreign idea for all of us. We all know it’s there, it’s happening (or happened) to other people we knew, and we have watched countless shows and dramas about it. We know it’s out there but we thought it couldn’t touch us. We thought a history with no cancer is our protective shield and we can live in our perfect, little world relaxed and happy, cancer-free. Oh, how we were wrong.
After rounds of chemo, my mom has to undergo 30-day session of radiation. On Christmas morning, she was at the radiation ward, eagerly collecting stickers (passes for hospital guests) and stamping them on the orange file organizer she would carry around as the days go on. Inside the orange organizer are thick files of hospital bills she need to clear up for each day. I have no idea how we got through this, financially-speaking. I’m thankful that God had been with us throughout her treatment. While my mother bore the ordeal, He took care of the rest.
I often accompanied her during her last days of radiation and there I witnessed how my mother handled her illness with exuberant grace. She likes to listen and chat with other people, even strangers she met only a minute before. Everyone in the cancer ward knew her, from the patients to the nurses and med-techs. She even gave presents to them on Christmas and had even shed a tear on the last day of her radiation while bidding goodbye to the friends she made. I have no idea where her energy comes from but it’s certainly not from that shadow of a malignant cyst threatening to take over her body. My mom doesn’t like us to worry and so, she tries to be herself despite all of it. She hates if I stumbled upon her crying one night even though I kept saying tears are natural and it’s okay to cry every now and then. I wanted to comfort her but I more than a few times, I hid myself in my room, buried in books and loud music, to get away from it all.
A source of a mother’s strength, even at the face of cancer, is something you can never grasp until you become a mother yourself. My mom would often say she had to get better for the three of us, but I admit I couldn’t imagine how three “ungrateful” kids helped her got through with this. I guess it’s something my mother cannot explain, but only feel. A feeling I will never know until I had kids and I had to plow against the tides of uncertainty and fear in life and just to understand this special form of love.
Until then, it will remain as that unbelievable and powerful magic I will never understand.
On a homecoming trip to Romblon, I surprised my mother with a stopover to an island known far and wide, inside and beyond the country: one you can categorically love or categorically hate. An island so mainstream in the local Philippine tourism industry that my inner antisocial self hates with passion but one I couldn’t get enough off since my feet got the feel of its world-famous carpet of sand: Boracay
My last Boracay trip was in January 2015 and I initially thought that the beachfront would be littered with dirty beer cans, lost slippers and other traces of debauchery after years of steady growth of commercialism. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find it as pristine and iridescent as ever and so I thought of bringing my mom here so she can relax before we continue our trip to an island nearby.
I kind of expected it would be the same beautiful (crowded) paradise as it was in January . Alas, my hopes are dashed with our personal encounter of the infamous Boracay Algae Bloom (and an even larger crowd – the remnants of LaBoracay Party 2015)
Growing up, I used to hear praises and accolades about this tiny beautiful island. Boracay is the country’s answer to the beautiful Hawaii – our own own paradise island. Aside from boasting one of the greatest beach sands in the Philippines, it is also home to extreme water sports activities and outdoor thrills. Of course, I don’t need to mention how it turns into a mega-crazy place where you can party all night and not ever recall a single thing the morning after. Along with the fame is also the imminent downfall, as they say. After a while, media has shown countless footage and documentaries of how dirty the place is turning to be, how businessmen and investors keep on building their facilities without slightest regard to the island’s natural beauty and how nature is supposedly fighting back by sending legions of green aliens to its shores.
According to what I found in the internet, the Boracay Algae Bloom is more of a structural problem than an environmental one. The island’s underdeveloped sewage system simply can’t keep up with the wave of business and commercial investments coming in. Locals have been dumping their waste on the sea before it became a top-ranked Philippine destination. Imagine the situation now with onslaught of tourists coming in every year in the last twenty years (and counting)
Still, you can’t dismiss the environmental factors surrounding the issue. With great people comes great trash. It’s the sad, painful truth. Congestion, over-development and the island’s inner resources and facilities unable to cope up with the demand of the industry may spell its doom eventually.
I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t visit Boracay from now on. All I’m trying to say is that we should be at least aware of the island’s vulnerability. Most of us come to Boracay to enjoy, to relax, to party, to let loose and return to our normal lives refreshed with the sun’s kiss still warm in our skins. We’re like: “But moooooom, it’s hard to think about the environment when you’re having fun!!” Maybe that’s why the algae bloom is seasonally there to remind us of its vulnerability and violating it further wouldn’t do it (or your future trips) any good. Everything you do in the island is connected to how it will turn out to be. Follow the simple rules of not smoking or bringing any food/beverage to the beachfront. If an establishment is violating the rules in favor of profit than human decency, stop patronizing them. Leave nothing, take nothing. Or as I like to paraphrase it: Make love on the sand but don’t leave your condom behind. (this is an expression. Seriously, get a room). Enjoy the beauty, not abuse it. If you love Boracay and is deeply concerned for its future, join or support an NGO for its protection.
((And to the local government unit and tourism department, maybe we should move now from Promoting to Protecting? The success of tourism lies not on making it a worthy tourist destination now, but making it a worthy tourist destination for generations to come.))
“Turn it right! Turn it right!” Kuya Pat bellowed. I promptly turned the steering wheel to the left, the stick on reverse. It was only when the car turned to the wrong direction did I learn that my “right” is wrong.
“What are you doing? I said ‘right’, not ‘left'” he shrilled as if I’ve just run through his foot.
“Sorry” I smiled sheepishly. “I was so focused on stepping the clutch, I didn’t realize I was steering to my left.”
“Do it again.” He ordered.
Beads of sweat fell like pearls on my eyes before I can wipe them away. I was using the office car and I couldn’t waste anymore of its gas on aircon.
The engine sounded like an irritable bear just woken up as I slowly let go of the clutch and stepped on the accelerator. The car lurched hard. The engine didn’t die and I stared down at the steering wheel, forgetting which is right and which is left.
This is just another day for my pre-driver’s license training. After nearly a month, the greatest achievement I ever had is not killing the engine on first gear.
Getting a driver’s license is one of the goals I have to achieve for this year. For some countries, getting your driver’s license is like a battle you need to prepare yourself for. But here in the Philippines, all you need is a money and some guy your friend’s friend knew of and there you have it.
Kuya Pat taught us how to move the car forward and backward, then we’re done, he declared: “You can get your driver’s license now.”
In some cases, you don’t need to actually drive through a test run. I know this guy who was given a hand-out of the answers for the written exam. It doesn’t make sense that you will take an exam you already know the answers for. You might as well abolish the whole thing and save a lot of trees.
I promised to myself that I should basically know how to handle the steering wheel at least before I took the “test”, despite how easy it is to pass it. I don’t know why everything in this country, including the permission to handle vehicle that can potentially kill/hurt someone, is run by money.
Cars these days are automatic, some would say. You really don’t need everything there is to know about driving to get a license. I beg to differ. You should at least develop quick reflexes, learn to control your emotions on the road and know the traffic rules to spare the rest of the people the inconvenience of ramming your car the next post or the sidewalk or even to their own cars.
I’m not saying that driving should be serious. Unless you’re a car junkie or a professional driver, there are hardly any rewards for driving almost everyday in your life (give us better roads or less traffic and everyone would be happier). Driving should be enjoyable and you can do it by not inconveniencing someone on the road.
The car stopped a few inches from the plantbox. Kuya Pat made a twirl with his finger – clockwise. This time, I didn’t think. I steered the wheel to the right and pushed enough gas for the car to slowly ease into position.
And this time, I was right.
To my future partner/soulmate/Mr. Right/Other Half,
While other girls of my age are dreaming of finding the boyfriends or husbands of their dreams, meeting you at this point of my life terrifies the heck out of me.
It’s not because I’m afraid of falling in love, or being hurt because of love. It’s not because I’m too scared or too naive; I’m 22 years old and I know finding your true love at this age is one of the most wonderful things in the world.
It’s because I’m an immature, spontaneous, vulnerable and laidback 22-year-old girl. I still have so much to learn about life, though meeting you can probably teach me a thing or two, but right now I feel I need to get through this alone.
I want to travel. I want to study and earn my masteral/law degree. I want to learn two foreign languages. I want to go solo backpacking. I want to write a book or a screenplay. I want to have my own car. I want to treat my mom in an overseas trip to Rome and France. I want to be that girl who accomplished half of what she wants to do in her life before meeting you.
I know we’re going to have wonderful adventures together and we’re going to create cool memories. Just that before we meet, I want to feel already complete.
I know you’re supposed to complete me, that we’re supposed to complement each other. I believe in that. It’s just that for me, you are supposed to fill the holes I don’t know that existed in the first place, the hidden gaps and lapses in my life that only being with you can fulfill. You’re supposed to give me that special kind of happiness I never knew existed.
But right now, I am more focused on things that I KNEW would make me happy. I want to feel complete, not depending on how others make me feel, but what I feel about myself.
I have my own goals and dreams. I know half of them will probably be nothing but dreams. I know I’ll have plenty of failures and rejections in store for me. I know I’m going to get hurt and probably along the way, I’ll be wishing that you’re right here with me.
But I want to come through all of this alone. I’m vulnerable and emotional. I tend to latch unto things that make me happy and comfortable. If I meet you right now, I don’t want to be that kind of girl who will wrap herself around you and consider you an emotional blanket.
I don’t want to be that girl whose emotional weaknesses may possibly hinder your own enjoyment of your life, your personal dreams and goals.
I don’t want to be that girl who thinks that love always completes. I have the love of my Creator for that.
I want to be that girl who will be your partner – your co-equal. I want us to look out for each other; seek strength from each other; learn from each others’ experience and life lessons. I want us to have this special kind of love we were unable to find from other people, or from the things we enjoy doing.
I’m excited to meet you, whoever you are, and God knows how I would love to be there if you’re hurting right now. Just now, you have to go through this alone…and I have my own personal battles to deal with.
I hope by the time we meet, our creases and dents, our imperfect shapes and curves, would fit us together perfectly.
Immature, spontaneous, Unable-to-love-you-yet Me
I was never athletic. Never has and never will be. I like the great outdoors and I enjoy nature more than I enjoy most people. Sometimes though, I do wish that my body would keep up with my soul’s wanton desire to be one with nature.
And what amazing work of nature to get lost in than a mountain? I hold an almost reverent, romantic view for these hulking mass of the earth. I am simply enthralled with their hugeness, their constrained power, the mystery they hide beneath the carpet of green. Ever since I graduated from school, one of the things I must do in my list is to climb a mountain. But for reasons of the other, I wasn’t able to.
So when my bestfriend casually invited me for a dayhike at a nearby mountain in Bulacan, who was I to pass up the chance? It’s time to get up close and personal.
Mt. Balagbag in Bulacan is a minor climb, just right enough for a climber newbie like me. Eme told me that in a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest, it scored a 2. But believe me if I tell you that when you’re done with this mountain, you would think that someone has done this mountain a great injustice by giving it a measly 2.
The difficulty 2 mountain will never give you the luxury of a flat, even ground. Mt. Balagbag has a steep terrain, riddled with sharp, huge rocks. It will provoke you with 45° steepness which often bends in a narrow curve. The climbers we are with, who are far more experienced than us, has to stop in every big lonesome tree they come across with just to breathe normally again.
Another thing you should remember in facing Balagbag is the lack of protection from the sun. The climb would have been a hundred times easier if we hike at night or at dawn. I swear it seems like the mountain is frying you like a good sunny-side egg before it can eat you alive. Good thing the wind picks up every once in a while and it’s more than enough to keep us going.
Reaching the top is a bit anticlimactic but still memorable. One of my friends, Crisel, kept on saying: “Shit, I can’t believe I made it!” and it’s wonderful how our “I’m dying. Just leave me be..” exhaustion minutes earlier is suddenly wiped out by “Yeah, we can take on everything!” elation.
From the experience as someone who is “devirginized” by a mountain, here are some of the musings I can share on what to expect on your first climb:
* Before anything else, condition your body. Before Balagbag, I jog about two times a week to pump up my cardio. I’m still a little sore two days after the climb but I hate to think what it would be like if I sit on my ass all week, thinking it will be a piece of cake.
* Choose comfortable clothes. If you’re in a dayhike climb, wear shorts with leggings underneath. Stretchable armbands are your bestfriend because you can take them off after the climb. Don’t dress to impress. No matter how good you look, the climb will change your appearance so much, you wouldn’t recognize yourself anymore. Do not wear extra clothings as possible, unless you’re about to climb the likes of Mt. Pulag.
* Rubber shoes may be too hot to wear but you will be thankful with them when the trail before you is a steep slide with sharp rocks at the bottom.
* Bring at least two 500ml of water and/or electrolytes. 80% of your bag is for water bottles.
* In a dayhike, travel light. Your backpack should be smaller than usual. In a major climb, make sure to choose a bag with comfortable shoulder straps.
* Bring caps, sun shades, visor or anything thag will protect your head and eyes from the sun.
* Hike in your own pace, especially if it’s your first time. So what if your hike buddies are far ahead of you? Give your poor body a chance to get in grips with that awful decision you made in climbing a damn mountain in the first place! (You’re not the first person who asked yourself: “What did I get myself into?”)
* If you feel like resting, do so. If you’re breathing hard and your heart feels like it’s about to burst on your chest, DO NOT sit down right away. Lean unto something or continue to stand until it finally subsided to a normal pace.
* On the middle of a steep climb, don’t spend most of your time looking far ahead. It will make you think of how high it is or how difficult it will be to make the turn or reach a point. It will make you tired more than you already are. Focus on your pace and at your progress. Before you know it, you’ve reached the top.
* Going down is just as hard as climbing up. But arguably, more fun!
* The view at the top is always worth the sweat.
* No matter how tired you get, or the regrets you thought while climbing, trust me if I say you will be addicted. The fever you will catch in climbing is no ordinary bug. You’ll experience some feverish desire to climb a mountain if you saw one.
Some geological trivia: Dead/dormant volcanoes are mountains without any neighbors. Usually, ordinary mountains are part of a mountain range or a cluster.
Now excuse me while I plan my next climb for the month of April. Pico de Loro, here I come!