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Time Machine

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Me (in red) and my cousin during happier times

She was the one who revealed to me that I’m going to be a big sister once again. After more than thirteen years. It was somewhere in November and I remembered being satisfied by a hearty meal of footlong and coke, making myself comfortable outside the novelty shop my mom and cousin set up for the bazaar market during the Christmas season.

My cousin baited me with a question. “What would you feel if we tell you your mom’s pregnant?”

I was in my second year of high school and for the longest time, it has always been me and Mico, my brother who’s two years younger than me. The thought of having another sibling didn’t appeal to me that much and it didn’t help that my parents never discussed to us any possibility of having a new member in the family.

“I don’t believe you,” I said with a smile, unable to wrap my head around the idea that my mom is pregnant once again. She and my father seemed to reach a decision to limit the family into four. A reasonable decision considering our financial situation that time.

My cousin just smiled knowingly. Her black almond eyes lit up with mischief, her round chin quivering with poorly-hidden mirth. Growing up, I grew familiar with that look when she used to sneak Mico and I some snacks before dinner time or when she describe some gory details of my childhood to our other cousins.

“You’ll warm up to the idea.” She said, patting my knees affectionately.

And she was right. A few months later, my mom gave birth to an adorable baby boy whose features are a mix of Mico and I. I immediately fell in love with Miggy, just as what my cousin foretold. Having spent the majority of my childhood with her, I should know better by now to doubt her instincts.

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Going home to Romblon, our province. Mico is the boy in blue

My cousin, Ate Me-ann, was diagnosed with Lupus when she was around 35 years old. I remembered my mom greeting me with a question of what Lupus is after I got home from school and I remembered thinking that it must be a disease you get from dogs or other rabid animals.

“The doctor said it targets your immune system,” my mom said worriedly. “President Marcos died because of Lupus, didn’t he? It must be a rich man’s disease.”

I told her not to worry that much. After some brief research on the internet, some people with Lupus were able to live their life to the fullest.

Later I found out that the difference between these people and my cousin is that, they have the money. My cousin is a college dropout with no family left except her sister, my mom and our other cousins. And as you may have guessed, none of us were millionaires.

Ate Me-ann earned her living with the annual tiangge or bazaar market by setting up a gift item shop from September to late February of the next year. My mom practically raised Ate Me-ann here in Manila after her mother left her and two sisters in Romblon and her father skirted off to raise another family. The three of them lived as orphans in every sense of the word, but my mother seemed to have sensed Ate Me-ann’s potential to earn money on whatever venture she set her eyes upon. She is friendly and confident and it’s not difficult to trust her. It never took long before she gained financial independence from my mom and started her own small-time business in retailing. She was the star of our local tiangge; a trend-setter of toys and items. Her ability lies on knowing what the consumers want before they realized they want it for themselves.

Before Lupus got the best of her, she was the best in the game. Her energy is infectious and she made sure to accommodate each customer herself. Once a customer expresses an interest in the item she’s selling, it’s rare to see that customer get out of the bazaar without taking anything.

Her medicine, her medical procedure, her dialysis sessions twice a week. All of it, she can afford because of her earnings from the last season. She was a veteran businesswoman; hard to bargain with but she would always soften up when Miggy asks for a free toy. She spoiled Mico and me under her care; Miggy is no exception, even if he’s thirteen years late.

————————————————————————–Ate Me-Ann died without a husband or children to grieve by her bedside. She lived with a female partner for years, loved her and sent her to an accountancy school. That partner was forced to marry by her own mother to an acquaintance living in Canada for a more ‘secure’ future. We haven’t heard from her until now, even after Ate Me-ann died.

Being the person I am, I used to think things would have been different for them if the Philippines has a law for a civil union for the same sex. Her partner wouldn’t have to marry someone else to alleviate her family’s fear of allowing their daughter to enter into a union not protected by the State. But I’m just being political. All Ate Me-ann would have wanted was to see her partner’s face before she drew her last breath.

When it’s not the tiangge season, I spent most of my weekends during my college years in her home. She lived in the same city as we did. Our afternoons are filled playing role-playing games in a thin, secondhand PlayStation she bought. She said it made her feel nostalgic. Back when we were kids, we used to play an endless string of games with our father’s console in my parents’ room without him knowing it.

“Things were simpler back then,” my cousin said a few weeks before she died. I finally got the chance to visit in-between my out-of-town work. I rarely got the time to see her when I got a job and if it wasn’t for my mother’s insistence, I would have never seen her alive. She was laying on her bed, her skin hanging loose. She had already missed five dialysis lessons and her lupus had returned with a vengeance. She was vomiting and excreting blood and she was too weak to stand by herself.

The past Tiangge season had been hard on her.  She didn’t earn that much and her most recent girlfriend left her without a word. To top it all that, her workers from the Tiangge stole from her earnings each day but she was too weak to look for any replacement.

That night, she made a simple request for me to massage her legs with her favorite baby oil. I complied and she smiled gratefully, but I turned my head away so she wouldn’t see my forced smile.

“My greatest wish right now is to have a time machine.” She continued lightly. “Just so we can return to happier times. Back when you used to suck Iced tea or coca-cola on your baby formula even though you’re already seven years old that time.”

“I wasn’t seven. I was younger than that.” I replied, stung.

“…And the time you used to wet your bed all the time and you blame it to Mico who’s not even on the same bed as you.”

“At least I don’t sit in one corner of the room and poop in his pants like Mico does.”

She chuckled at that. That was the last time I saw her laugh.

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She stayed at the National Kidney Institute for two weeks. One week to treat her internal bleeding and another week because she doesn’t have the money to pay for her hospital bills. She was literally imprisoned inside the hospital and she kept on crying to go home. Her dialysis treatment had gone too late; the infection reached her brain.

I went to her ward that she shared with three more people. I found her at the farthest end of the room – tossing on her bed. Her sister who had been taking care of her for more than a week now gave a small smile of relief, her bloodshot eyes showing signs of relief after seeing me. My mother was not healthy enough to take care of Ate Me-Ann in the hospital following her chemo sessions the year before.

“How’s ate Me-ann?” I asked my cousin.

She shook her head and I turned my attention to Ate Me-ann, at first, refusing to look at her face, fearing for the face that will look back at me. She was conscious and she lost half of her weight. Her eyes are bulging out of their sockets but what clenched my chest is the lack of emotions, any spark of recognition, in her black eyes. It was like staring into the mouth of a cave. There was no easy smile she would give me, no change in her expression. She sat up and started counting from 1 to 12, her voice rising at each number.

I knew for a certain that the person who had taken care of me since childhood was no longer there. The one sitting across from me is nothing but a shadow of what my cousin used to be.

Her sister told me to ask Ate Me-ann is she still knows me. She barely knew anyone by now and I expected it will be the same case with me.

She answered my name, her gaze unwavering. I smiled weakly. She still knows me, but ever since childhood, she would call me by a different name. I asked her what her name is and she gave me an invented name in a sing-song voice.

I kept on denying it but the truth was clear on her unflinching eyes. We already lost her.


The day my cousin died, the whole country voted for the 16th President of the Philippines. A few days before, my mom finally found a way to pay her hospital bills and they took her home, granting her wish to die at peace in her own house.

Before we go to our precinct to vote, my mom answered a call and took it outside the house. A few minutes later, she went back, tears flowing against her scrunched-up face. One look and we all knew: Ate Me-ann breathed her last.

When we went to their house a few minutes later, the silence of the neighborhood was interrupted by a shriek and a cry. My mother rammed her away through Ate Me-ann’s door, crying uncontrollably, uselessly. My cousin who is in medical school is already there, sitting beside the body like a statue of an angel in mausoleums. The whole house shook with their cries, their wails that I remembered feeling nauseous. Being the only able-bodied man in the house, Mico went inside his ate Me-ann’s room to help my cousin lay the body against the mattress. But he stopped short, his body rigid despite my cousin’s instructions. I think that’s when the waterworks begin in my face.

“Nica, come here!” My cousin called me instead. I took big gulps of air, my shoulders shaking controllably like the last time I had a severe asthma attack many years ago. The tears came and went away  just as fast, but that was the first time in many years I cried that hard in front of my mother, in front of everyone.

I didn’t know how long we stayed inside the house until an ambulance came and the guys from the funeral parlor took the body. I remembered going outside to see the sky brightly lit-up, the sun throwing golden sunbeams filtered by the lush leaves of a nearby Mango tree. The air smelled fresh and new. A helicopter passed by, its distant engine sounding like a drum roll as they carried Ate Me-ann’s body to the car, her body inside a bag.

It was the day my cousin died and I expected the intense pain that comes with it. Like anticipating a syringe piercing your skin. What comes is a dull, empty feeling, and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not.

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After they led the body away, we are expected to follow them on another vehicle. Now that things have calmed down a little, I saw that almost all my cousins were there, the same people who joked with Ate Me-ann, the same people who shared stories with her, the same people who visited her at the hospital and accompanied her during her dialysis sessions. If there’s any consolation to all of this, I felt comforted that Ate Me-ann died around people she loved, and people who love her as well.

My mom is surrounded by her nephews and nieces, being consoled as we all knew she was the one hurting the most. She never even got the chance to say goodbye.

We returned home from the funeral parlor and was welcomed by Miggy who had just woken up. I explained to him, as delicately as I can to a child, that Ate Me-ann had passed away earlier this morning. This was the first time I explained death to a child and to simply put, I loathe the idea of doing this again.

As soon as he heard it, Miggy immediately went beside our mother and hugged her as she broke out in fresh tears once again. He subtly wiped a tear from his eye. Just like me, he hates crying in front of anyone, even if it’s in front of my mother, even because of this reason.

“Where do you think she is now?” Miggy asked me later that day while we’re on our way home from the voting stations. “Is she in heaven? Is she with the angels now?”

“Maybe, but I pray she’s happier now.” My mother, being a Catholic, was disheartened to know that the priest hasn’t arrived on time to give Ate Me-ann the last Sacrament. She began to arrange for the prayer meetings on Ate Me-ann’s 9th day and 40th day. At least the arrangements for her funeral and other things distract her from the pain. Another good argument why funerals are created for the living, not for the dead.

“What do you think heaven looks like?” he asked again.

“Like a giant mall. Spacious. Cold. Has a nice smell inside.” I replied, smiling at my own made-up theology. “It will be sad once you get there because you won’t be with your family anymore but it has lots of things that can make you happy. Like a time machine.”

“I don’t believe you,” Miggy replied with a smile.

I tussled his hair, committing all of this to memory. One thing I learned from Ate Me-ann is to create new memories with our loved ones and relish the moment with them. This would be one of the moments I’ll file in my mind as I gripped his neck in a faux-wrestling neck lock and he laughed merrily, trying to get away; memories that will guide me in the afterlife. And perhaps, if I ask, God may just allow me to travel back the memory lane.

Just maybe.

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Pag-ibig at Pagboto: Bakit lagi tayong nasasaktan in the end

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Nagsisimula naman lahat yan sa pangako. “Hindi kita iiwan.” “Hindi ako magnanakaw” Naniwala ka kasi gusto mo maging masaya. Gusto mo guminhawa. Pagkatapos makuha ang lahat sa’yo, iiwan ka na lang.

Andyan din yung cliche na pangako na “Hindi ako katulad ng iba.”

Pero nagtiwala pa din tayo. Umasa. Nasaktan. Di na natuto. Kasi kung natuto man tayo, diba dapat matagal na tayong naka-move on? Literal na move-on. Nasaan na ba tayo ngayon? Hanggang dito na lang ba?

Pag bumoto ka, para ka na ding nagmahal dahil:

  • Magpapapogi sila para lang makuha ang matamis mong “Oo.” Sa una, sila ay mabait. Bubuhusan ka ng pagmamahal. Aalagaan ka. Once na nakuha na nila ang tiwala at pagmamahal mo, ang masasayang alaala mo lang sa kanya kapag naghiwalay ang inyong landas ay ang taong minahal mo noon, hindi ang taong nakikita mo sa SONA sa harap mo ngayon. Ang eleksyon, isang mahabang dulaan ng ligawan. May mga ibang naka-costume at mas madami ang naka-maskara.
  • Bumuboto ka kasi with your feelings. Matuturing bang pagmamahal pag walang emosyon na involved? Syempre hindi! Feelings are everything. Tayong mga Pinoy, mahilig pa naman sa feelings. Kahit hindi pa nga nagtatapat yung tao, mga feelingero at feelingera na tayo. Nilalagyan natin ng feelings lahat, binibigyan natin ng meaning lahat ng bagay. Eto ang sigaw ng dugo at puso natin, bakit natin di papansinin? Boring pag ginamitan mo ng utak. Hanggang sa school at trabaho lang ang pag-iisip. Kung mag-iisip ka palagi, di mo na ma-eenjoy mga bagay-bagay, lalo na mga palabas sa telebisyon. Kaya, I repeat, feelings are everything.
  • Kung nasisiyahan ka sa kanya o sa mga pinaggagawa niya, siya ang pipiliin mo. E masaya ka sa kanya e. So what kung action star siya dati? So what kung di siya nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral? So what kung madami siyang naging anak sa labas? Diba nga sa pagmamahal, past is past. Ang mahalaga ay kung ano siya ngayon. Ang mahalaga ay nawiwili ka sa kanya ngayon, lalo na pag nakikita mo siya sa TV. Kesa naman yung panay ang English pero di mo naman maintindihan ang mga pinagsasabi. Pfffft! Siya na ang magaling.
  • Kapag nakalimutan na tayo, lahat ng bagay isisisi sa kanya. Magagalit tayo. Niloko ba naman tayo e. Self-righteous anger: tayo ang niloko so tayo ang may karapatang magalit. Yun nga lang, di natin naalala sa kabilang banda, tayo ang namili at nagkamali. Of course, lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Wala nga lang mangyayari kung lagi kang nagkakamali every 6 o 4 years.
  • Dahil crush ng bayan, siya na din ang pipiliin mo. Tandaan: Mahirap sumakay sa bangka na marami ang nakasakay. Mas lalong mahirap pag walang patutunguhan ‘yung bangka. Wag tignan kung ilan ang likes niya sa Facebook o kung ilan ang followers niya. Kung titignan mo lang ang numero, tignan mo kung ilang panukala ang naisabatas niya o kung ilan ang naipagawa niyang mga proyekto na may kwenta at pang-matagalan. Kung ang boto ay pagmamahal, mas mabuti nang itaya mo ito sa taong bumabawi sa gawa, hindi lang puro salita.
  • Kapag nabigo ka, hindi ka natututo. Bakit lagi ka na lang nilang binibigo? Bakit lagi kang dismayado? Sineseryoso mo naman ang pagpili ah. Kumbaga sa context ng pagmamahal, saan ka nagkamali: Sa pagmamahal ng tao o sa konsepto mo ng pagmamahal itself? Ano ba ang ideya mo ng pagpili? For short-term o long-term happiness ba? Kung masaya ka lang sa ganyan, hanggang diyan ka na lang talaga. Pero kung nakukulangan ka pa, walang masama na maghangad ka ng tunay na pagmamahal. Wala ding masama kung maghahangad ka ng tunay na kaginhawaan.

Bakit ba bigo tayo lagi sa dalawa? Mahirap buksan ang mga mata sa mga tunay na nangyayari, pero ang unang hakbang para makamit ang kalayaan ay ang pagtanggap sa mapait na katotohanan na matagal na tayong niloloko. Na hindi binibigay sa atin ang kaligayahan na karapat-dapat sa atin.

Pinag-uusapan pa din ba natin ang pagboto o pagmamahal? Meron bang pagkakaiba?

Ang mahalaga, sana ay matuto na tayong lahat.

Kahit mali nagiging tama, basta ba'y natututo ka (1)

#MayTama

To the person who’s right for me: “Please, not now.”

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.

Until then!

Love,
Immature, spontaneous, Unable-to-love-you-yet Me

Debunking the ‘Love Just Happens’ Mystery

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I am a person raised by books. To say it inflicted tremendous positive effects in my overall growth as an individual is an understatement. Reading opens your mind and broadens your understanding of the world and people in general. However, you cannot base your whole worldview on books alone. We have something we call life to learn lots from.

One of those misconceptions of human emotions I got from books and films is that ‘Love just happens naturally’. That love is a mysterious force that drives two people together. That some sort of inevitable ‘hand of fate’ is at play. That resisting love is futile and hopeless. That you are destined to fall in love with someone and there’s nothing you can do about it.

From the beginning, even before I experienced falling in love, love presents an interesting concept for me. What drives us to love someone? Is love just a concoction of pheromones and brain chemicals and we are completely under control of its effect in our body? More importantly, can we control who we are going to fall in love with?

An article from the New York Times piqued my interest one boring afternoon. It is: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?_r=0. It is a clinical approach of falling in love with someone and teaching your body, brain chemicals, etc. to feel something for a person. It then concludes that: Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

The article may be a subject for more open-ended arguments, case-to-case situations of people falling in love without the brain knowing about it, or reminding that this doesn’t speak out for everyone. Well, it did to me. I’ve been haggling myself why I can’t establish a romantic relationship with anyone, and why the mysterious force hasn’t been at work in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen in love quite a few times in my life. Some are unrequited, some are promising but have to be cut off for plenty of myriad reasons, some have no chance of working out at all. And all those experiences, I thought I’ve never been truly in love. Because in books, it’s either the hero or the heroine loses his/her mind over a love interest and that, it doesn’t make sense. I’ve never lost my mind over someone. In fact, I knew exactly why I like him. I made the choice and decision to be more than just friends, not because I couldn’t help it.

To look at love in a clinical point of view can be boring. I mean, where’s that mysterious force that binds us together for all eternity? Well, it set the record straight. We can be in control of our emotions. There is a big chance we can fall in love with someone if we willed it. If we get our hearts broken, we all have the guts to move on and look for someone more worthy of our affections. I guess what they say is true. The more you mature in love, the less exciting it gets. But hey, it all depends on perspective. It’s your choice what to believe and what to live. ‘Love happens’ or ‘you let love happen’, it’s a matter of enjoying love as it is.

It raises one point though. If we fall in love by choice, we also fall out of love by choice. It eventually completes a perfect circle.

Modern Filipino slangs on Love and Relationships

Photo courtesy of PUP Stolen Shots

Photo courtesy of PUP Stolen Shots

It goes without saying that we Filipinos are one of the most expressive people in the world. Most of us are ready to indulge in any kind of emotion, and love is no exception. Love takes a special case due to our innately romantic nature and the need to shower our special halves with affection and warmth.

The new generation and introduction of technology brought an interesting development to the Filipino style of dating. Slangs and witty-callings are introduced by young teens to be ‘hip and cool’, but still remaining true to their heartfelt intentions. These words have been entrenched with our popular culture and conversation, so for those who don’t know, this is a list with a twist to help you get on with the times and take a glimpse of the Filipino wit.

Ander – short for ‘Ander the saya’ and a corrupted word of ‘under’; refers to a relationship when the the girlfriend/wife is the one totally dominating. It is important to understand the Philippines’ patriarchal roots so this slang may come off as sometimes an exaggeration by the ones speaking it.

Bitter – describes a person who has a seemingly obnoxious attitude and/or cynical point of view on love and relationships. Catchphrase: “Magbebreak din yan!” (They’ll eventually break up) At most, they’re just kidding around so don’t take them too seriously.

Chatzoned – When you and that person chats for the entire night but unable to get a proper conversation going when you’re facing each other the next day. (Or worse, you two both act as if the other doesn’t exist.)

DOTA o ako? – DOTA is a mega-popular online game among the youth which had caused small squabbles among lovers. The girl sometimes find it more difficult to drive away her boyfriend’s attention from an online game instead from other girls; When confronted by this question, this is the hardest question a guy has to face and the most heart-wrenching choice he has to make (especially if he and his guys are in the middle of a rebansa)

First Blood – commonly used among young men that probably has online game references; an act wherein they have taken the virginity of the girls they slept with and usually boast about it among themselves, as if they did something ultra-badass. (I hate this kind of men…..do you?)

Friendzone – this is too sad of a word to define

Haba ng hair!” – literally translated as ‘your hair is long’, refers to a girl with many admirers. I don’t have any idea where did the phrase came from, its context probably came from the fairy tale ‘Rapunzel’ (Note: This is also applicable for attractive short-haired girls. Just appreciate the irony.)

Harana – an old custom where the male suitor serenades his object of affection; used to be a form of courtship in the old days, although some people report it’s still very much alive in far-away provinces. This is a rare thing nowadays so if even if you have a voice of a dying cat, girls would still this quite romantic, so I suggest you should do this at some point in your relationship.

Kilig – that tingling, pelvic-wrenching, lightning-like jitters that ripple across your body like some sort of electricity. There are various types of kilig among the ladies, there’s the kilig with face-splitting grin, kilig accompanied by small jumps or silent kilig where you act so indifferent on the outside but screaming in joy inside (Tsundere-like)

Ligaw – Filipino term for earning the love of your object of attention; it shares the same spelling but different intonation with another root word, ligaw which means getting lost or not having any  slightest idea where you’re going. Having been around with boys who were too clueless on dealing with courtship problems,  frankly I don’t see any difference in the meaning between the two words. (See Torpedo.)

Makaraos – originally a word that denotes overcoming a great difficulty in life, this generation has now reduced the once nobly wholesome term to sexual gratification.

Mamanhikan – In the Philippines, it’s a beloved tradition for the girls to introduce their suitors to their parents as a sign of respect and approval, so when a girl invites you to her house after a few days of dating, don’t expect to get on her pants…. she just wanted you to meet her parents you pervert (Good luck with overprotective dads)

Marriage Booth – that diabolical creation during your highschool days, when your friends enlist your name and your crush and you have to spend the next hour tied up to each other, thinking of ways on how to kill your friends for what they did but super kilig inside.

MOMOL – acronym for Make Out, Make Out Lang; slang term for teens disguised as a witty, phonetically white lie. Refer to the sentence below:

Sentence: Nay: Nasaan ka na?

Ikaw: MOMOL lang kami ng boyfriend ko.

Nay: O sige, uwi ka nang maaga ah. (Mom mistakes MOMOL as magmamall, a favorite Filipino pasttime of going to the mall.)

* SHOUTOUT to Moms, now you know!

MU – or short for Mutual Understanding wherein both parties agree that they ‘like’ each other but refuses to take the relationship to a new level for various reasons like avoiding a total commitment; roughly comprises 80% of the drama in Facebook.

NBSB – No Boyfriend Since Birth. Or as local comedian and resident pogi Ramon Bautista aptly pointed out, No Valentines Since Birth. Also can be called NLSB: No lablife Since Birth.

Pakipot – a term usually used by most male suitors when the object of their attention refuses to take the relationship in a whole new level; the so-called Maria Clara of this age. The hard-to-get type. The one you either give up pursuing or end up chasing for as long as it takes.

Panagutan mo ang anak ko” – This line has been widely used in most Pinoy teleseryes which means that once you committed the horrendous act of pre-marital sex and your girlfriend ends up pregnant, there’s a 80% that both of your parents will marry the two of you off.

Silay – a Tagalog euphemism for ‘stalking’

(guilty)

Torpedo– Guy/Girl who are usually stuck in the Friendzone, Seenzoned, Silayzoned who will insist to you that it’s okay for them to love their object of attention at a distance, but you both know that’s a lie.

Tulay – literally translated as bridge to help the suitor earn the love of his object of affection; in the simplest term, the wingman. There are certain dangers on using a tulay to court someone as there’s a big chance that the wingman and your object of attention may fall for each other and you may end up being the miserable third wheel. So stop acting like a torpedo, don’t use the tulay and do the swimming to get her yourself!

Valentine’s Day – a.k.a Red Day; aka Flower and Chocolate Day; aka the day Motel managers are happy; aka the day wherein the Department of Health and organizations have a proper excuse of distributing free condoms to the hormonal-crazy public; aka Independence Day for happy Single Ladies/Men/In-betweens; aka Self-Awareness Day for unhappy Single Ladies/Men/In-betweens; aka the ‘Why don’t you have any Dates for the 14th?‘ Interrogation Day by nosy relatives and friends directed to people contented of being single and unavailable.

That Day

That day was the Day of Perfidy; Blood-red hearts and roses accompanied with self-serving desires hidden behind deceptive smiles. Every corner of the university reeks with tangy scent of flowers and pheromones.

You almost missed the first and only class because you came late. I was talking with our friends on the corridor when you walked in with that single stalk of rose you tried so hard to hide behind your back. We saw it and behaving like gradeschool kids,  we didn’t let you off easily. We teased and provoked. Our friends are doing it for the fun but I was just curious. Perhaps, I was jealous. But most of all, I was surprised why you bringing a flower meant something to me.

Being friends with you is something I’d always consider as a miracle. You are a one-in-a-million guy who quickly got used to my obnoxious attitude and found a way to push me out of my rock to get me talking non-stop. We’ve always talked easily and we don’t need to hide behind a mask when we face each other. I could probably use a toothpick in front of you and you wouldn’t bat an eye or if you break a wind while sitting next to me, I’d probably laugh with you. Even if I don’t understand half of what you’re saying sometimes, when you talk about charcoal painting or Billie Joe Armstrong, you will segue in a very lame joke we can both relate and then I would still laugh in spite of it and I would begin to care about charcoal painting and Billie Joe and listen to you for once. One smile, one flick of an eyebrow or an eyeroll, we understand each other and simultaneously crack up while the people around us are staring at us as if we’re crazy.

I wonder if most girls with guy bestfriends went through the same thing as I did. Even for once, had they imagined their best friends as someone they end up with? Or is the thought as repulsive as marrying your own brother? Guy friends are there for two things: If they’re not comforting you, they are confusing (without meaning to, of course) you with your feelings.  And even if you know so much about each other enough to try the higher level, being great friends doesn’t guarantee that you will be great more-than-friends kind of thing. Stories like that seldom survive once outside books and movies.

That day, on our way home from the group date, you walked with me when the others are gone. You’re still holding that flower, unsure what to do with it on your hands. I joked about you chickening out and wasting P50 for a rose you can’t give to the girl you like. In response, you shoved the flower to me. You gave me that half shy/half messing-around-with-you kind of smile and I can’t help but to smile back.That time, I swear, we were as gooey and awkward as teenagers going out for their first date.

I would always love and immerse in that what-if moment. A moment of crossroads, a glimpse of what-could-have-been if we continued to the path we were too afraid to take. I could have answered your feelings that time with mine but I took a step back. You didn’t stop me and we parted ways, smiling as before, the same people as before. It’s a mutual decision to never cross the line.

I imagine of another world, in another time, the two of us could have been together. Yet for better reason or for worse, in this time and place, we are not. In another life, we are soul mates who can be so perfect for each other and yet perhaps in another, we fell apart and went back as complete strangers. During these quiet, contemplative nights, it always feels so nice to go back to that moment, recall my jumbled thoughts and drive myself crazy by thinking about the solemn smile you gave to me when I left you standing there without saying anything. I would often think of quite a few endings, deliberately better than what actually happened.

Time grew and the fire kindle between us dies. And we are perfectly content with that, because after everything is said and done or, rather left unsaid and left undone, we can still smile and look at each other in the eye. On that day and the future after, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Singles’ Night-Out: If True Love has a GPS….

“How do you know if someone’s the right person for you?”

Alas, our happy conversation about reforms for the Philippine society has come to a bitter end, when my friend finally chose that small dead-air moment to interject her sentiments and unanswered questions about love and relationships, a field I try to avoid as possible unless we’re on a slumber party with our other girlfriends over small shots of Tequila.

But there’s only the two of us, sitting over an unappetizing sandwich and steaming coffee inside a small 7-11 convenience store, a ghost of two persons in the midst of rambunctious highschoolers laughing in the other table and a cozy couple who had their own world over to our left.

Thing is, you can ask me about chaos theory, about the wildest conspiracy theories, about current news and political affairs on Iceland or some God-forsaken country, about the life cycle of maggots and how can they make Greek cheeses very delicious but never ever ask me about relationships, especially romantic ones. I already made this clear to my friends but seriously, why do they always have to ask for love advice to the Great Single One?

Most opinions of Great Single Ones can veer away from cynical to blessedly innocent, depending on the past romantic relationships or the lack thereof. Like in my case, who grew up with books and fictitious, ideal tales of love and whatnot, my data about relationships is 100% inaccurate. Somehow, I can’t understand my own emotions too, and that is why I instantly avert away from any romantic moves of the opposite sex towards me. I just can’t simply imagine myself holding hands with someone or go out on Saturday nights, or spend the entire evening exchanging sappy texts. My experience in a serious committed relationship is as broad as that of a group of Eskimos conscripted to build another Great Pyramid.

Coming back to the point of this article, how would you know if that person is right for you without having to enter into a committed relationship? My friend is much as a dummy as me, probably even worse. For those people who are near to us while we talk, our conversation may had been painful to hear. Imagine two fishes talking about the sky. We’re as clueless as men in the kitchen (although not all men are but we’re in the majority)

Fortunately, I am a great observer (snooper) and an even better listener (shrink!) and I think I provided some realistic angles in our conversation my romantic-type friend needs to listen to. For me, love has no pattern. Love has no formula. It comes like a blast of lightning, spontaneous and unwelcome, but it may lie in the shadows of your mind all along, silently lurking over the premises of your heart and you just refused to acknowledge it over pride, foolishness or both.

I would have to say, I’m a little cynical about relationships and ‘happily ever afters’. One of my favorite authors, Ricky Lee, have said: Love has a quota. In every 5 people who love, only one person gets to have a happy ending. If you would look at the statistics today, actual figures would back up Ricky Lee’s statement.

But despite all its faults and heartbreaks, love is a gift, isn’t it? As much as it’s the cause of heartbreak, it is a choice for happiness. Love is probably the most overrated emotion in the world, but few people understand how it makes the monsters and saints out of us, and it isn’t the most perfect thing on earth. I admit my experience in love is very limited and myopic, but I’ve seen enough people being transformed by it, for better or worse, seeking and chasing that elusive happiness on finding (or staying with) for what they believe as the Right One.

My friend and I went on talking. She said something about ‘if you’re meant together, you’d end up together in the end no matter what’. It’s true I’ve held that belief for some time, but you have to face some harsh realities that destiny, or fate for that matter, isn’t going to fight for your love story. The Universe doesn’t care. You may argue that God has something in store for you, a good life partner, but in the end, it’s your choice that ultimately matters. We are all bound by our choices. We live and die by our choices, we also love through them.

In the end, I managed to pluck out from my friend the reason why we’re having this weird conversation right now. She confessed that a guy has been expressing interest over her, and she has no idea how to deal with that. As if I was the crocodile expert for that matter :/

“We’re young,” I remembered telling my friend. “Don’t get TOO worked up for that. If a guy finds you interesting and you find him interesting, take him to a date. Not date-date as a potential boyfriend but as a friend. No pressure there, no expectations. Just go out there and have fun”

But my friend is adamant. She is very clear about her feelings towards the poor guy, having like him only as a friend. To give him a chance, to rally up his expectations, would meant she’s lying about her feelings to him which would eventually lead to rejection. I pointed out how could she reject him when she’s not giving him a chance yet. She wants a love story that doesn’t require her heart being broken many times over before she found the One. Her mom married her first boyfriend that is her father and I guess it’s one of the reasons why she remained partly obsessed with the idea of having your first serious relationship as your last.

“A GPS for the One?” I jokingly asked

But my friend is serious. “If we have that, everyone wouldn’t bother having their hearts broken by the wrong people”

“But that’ll take the thrill out of falling in love,” I said, “It’s like having your own map of what’s going to happen in your life twenty years from now. It’s like reading movie spoilers off Wikipedia.”

“Then how would you tell if someone’s the right person for you?” she reiterates the question

“That’s the beauty of it,” I said, realization sets in. “You wouldn’t.”

The great opportunities require us to take a leap of faith. The road to happiness demands us to sacrifice. Unless you don’t want to live to the fullest, there is no easy way out of life. Taking risks for things that matter, it defines us on what we’re going to be and who are we going to end up with in the future.

After some time, our other friend called, saying she’s going to arrive here after ten minutes for the meet-up. We’ve been waiting for her for two hours now, and we managed to kill our time with all this existential blabber of human spirit and the universal suffering mankind has to endure for love.

“I still wouldn’t go out with him, though.” My friend warns, referring to the poor guy she’s going to reject

“He may be your future husband for all we know,” I joked again and she only rolled her eyes

“How about you?” she asked, “How’s your lovelife?”

“As boring and frustratingly uneventful as yours,” I said.

 

“I don’t get it,” she said, “If you like him, why don’t you ask him out for a friendly date? You’re the one who’s pushing me to date!”

“Difference is, I’m the girl and he’s the boy. I have no problem with girls asking boys to go out but with his personality, it would be too much of a shock,” I answered

And that started our long discussion on the reversal of gender in a relationship, or a potentially blooming one. On what would happen if the girl will do the pursuing and  the boys will certainly become the deer hunted over in this wild jungle we call the dating world, consolidated with the contextual analysis of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ”Call Me Maybe” and the mixed signals it brings to women of the world.

Not bad for the Single Ones’ Night-out, huh?

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