Memory is A Telephone & Other Thoughts

My office wallpaper–the picture of professionalism.

Sometimes, when I’m at the office I take to writing down different thoughts and questions and things to keep myself sane. I like (love is an overstatement,maybe) writing drafts and occasionally, uploading them. But there are drafts that I forget about or which seem irrelevant to me once I’m away from the office and the fluorescent lights and the humming of the air-con. Regardless, I send them to myself anyway. 

Here are some of my favorite ones from the past few months.

Memory Is A Telephone
(written the day after I met up with my childhood friend, Tim)

When I think of memory, I think of those DIY telephones that we used to make as kids, with a thread running through two paper cups. It’s a conversation, something that exists because it is being held between two objects: something that is not entirely solid, not entirely taught.

I grew up in a very small school—a school so exclusive that until now, the experience and memory of growing up with the same twenty people year in, year out is a memory place that only a few people can inhabit: even in retrospect, it remains exclusive to those people who sat in that classroom. Or even less, I’ve learned. The thing about telephones is that you can hang up. You can put the receiver into the cradle and walk away from the conversation. I’ve found that a lot of the people I know have put that time to rest.

With the exception of my friend Peluchi (who is oddly enough the farthest away from me geographically), I find that most of those people have left their end of the makeshift landline in the soccer field, gathering dust with our old rubber shoes. Between the blue short shorts and the learning to smoke and kiss and figuring out the true purpose of cars, I feel like a lot of people have forgotten that tiny school: shoebox.

I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find people who remember. Instead, I’ve found strangers: this guy who used to write me love letters talked to me once about finding God and I could tell that I wasn’t there, for him. I was not someone who’d known him when he was awkward and falling down a hill but just someone—a random stranger—to evangelize. There was no shared street or string. Another time, I was sitting in a car with one of my bestfriends–someone who turns out, I didn’t know very well; she was just trying to get high: that was a conversation about forgetting.

It does not help that I only see Peluch every few years or so but it is nice that we keep in touch. It’s one of the things I treasure the most.

So for a long time, I’ve felt like these memories had been severed by garden shears at the string—reduced to monologue. Last night, I hung out with my friend TIm, who I hadn’t seen for 13 years and it was both comforting and disturbing to hear someone else repeating memories to me. We talked about balloon fights and landline conversations, pissing in cracks in the ground and calling them creeks. I’d almost forgotten that those things had happened.

(Written back in March, when I had to write a class on Biology and History)

I am in the business of putting fonts on—Perpetua for serious, Calibri for show. Let me gift wrap the gist: you don’t know what I know. I type myself into another sentence this is this and that is that like a seagull to the little Mermaid (guessing at the ends of a telescope). Times New Roman for the money, Century Gothic for the road. Let me fasten the bow onto the point: I know, I know, I know. I scribble myself into a string of syllables Van-Lee-uwen-ho-ek (just checking). Book Antiqua when I’m lazy, Wingdings when you lean over. This is the: how could you know?

Untitled Draft
(Written back in May, on some random afternoon after I massacred a pack of Oreos)

It’s four in the afternoon. And it’s Friday. And to my left there are Oreos sitting in an emptied-out Selecta doubledutch plastic tin (plastic?), behind that there are two pink jugs that I forget to take home (or maybe intentionally leave here because I just can’t be bothered)—one of them is empty, the other one is filled with rotting bits of coffee from those days before my sister bought me a coffee tumbler and my coffee would keep getting cold in the morning so I’d just throw some of it out because I couldn’t stand how it tasted. To my left is my officemate, who is wearing white: I can see him from the corner of my eye, lateral to the frames of my glasses. To my right, which is somehow more distant to me than my left is my lunchbox and my copy of J.Strange & Mr. N. And the mouse. And under that, as a makeshift mouse pad is my approved leave form—I’m on leave Monday because I suppose it’s about time I got my license. That’s three long days from now—from here anyway, perched on top of the curve it seems long but I know (I think) that once I get out of here and slide down that spiral, it’s going to be Monday and then Tuesday and then I’ll be here again, at 4:13 in the afternoon on a Friday, itching to go and cuddle with my laptop. Time is weird. It’s the hair on a clown. It’s steel wool. It’s the wiring in braces.


Why Manila Needs Stories

A recent media interview (nuks) that Nico and I did for MoarBooks has kept this question on my mind—the interview that we did (which hopefully, I can share here later on) was about Chasing Tales and I think that this is one of the most pertinent questions that we are most frequently asked: stories are cute but you know, what are they for?

This talk that the spoken word poet Phil Kaye gave discusses this, but as much as I agree with what he said and as much as I love Phil’s work, watching it felt to me like watching an other answer that question. And that’s fine: we share the internet but we live in essentially different worlds. San Francisco is not Manila. New York is not Manila. But we already know that.

So here is my response to this question.

Image taken from Google

Manila needs stories because these are the only real solution to our problems. We don’t just need to learn what to talk/write about as much as how to talk/write about them. If we look at all of the things plaguing our capital, they have something, fundamentally, to do with language and flawed story-telling. Why do the masses vote for matinee idol politicians? Because they were told that this is what a hero looks like: self-deprecating and handsome, crossing himself thrice before leaving a church. Why do our Jeepney drivers block intersections? Because they were told that if you wait your turn, someone else will take it. But if we didn’t think that way, if everyone waited for the light to turn green—would this be true? This is fact born out of miswritten fiction. Why is there a bad connotation to being called “ambisyosa”? Why is it a bad thing to aspire to intellect, to have ambition? Why are people afraid of science? Why do our people see experimentation as the opposite of god? Why do we discriminate against our own skin color? Why is it that being brown or dark cannot mean that you are also beautiful, attractive, intelligent? Why must you be these virtues despite your skin color? The answer: because of flawed and careless story-telling.

Manila needs stories that push the envelope. Manila needs stories that aren’t afraid to talk about things in a manner that is intellectual and well-discerned—we shouldn’t be afraid to make up worlds; it is the only way we can better the one that we have.

Coffee & Flowers: Collaborate


desire is a cactus

I am lucky enough to have a ridiculous amount of ridiculously talented friends. I’ve never been the kind of person to actively seek collaboration: I’m not good at teamwork. However, recently I realized just how much I admire the people around me. Literature and the arts are interesting because they give you truth by distracting you from it: change the color, tweak a conversation, put people on the moon, elongate a finger. But even more deeply fascinating is that they have different mechanisms. Literature works internally: by teaching you silence, listening, alone-ness you’re able to experience a situation, a feeling that you wouldn’t other wise have access to. Art works in another way–it forces interaction upon you: it works with the external, the sensory: what you see, what is elevated, how you play with space.

And while I don’t rescind the statement that I am bad at collaboration, I think that these two things together are a great mix. I think that maybe I can’t collaborate with another writer (unless it’s for an anthology but shared novels/stories freak me out) but I can collaborate with people who make visual art.  So far I have around 4 collabs in the mix: 3 of which I initiated, another was recently pitched to me. I can’t reveal a lot right now but yeah. I’m both excited and anxious about these endeavors.

Above is artwork that my friend Trizha made for a story that I sent her (which I also can’t say anything about, hahaha) for reading. It made me happy. It’s very interesting to see your work through someone else’s eyes: moreso literally. :)

Chasing Tales, Walking Around in the Afternoon & Other Stories

Things have been pretty crazy for me lately. I’ve been so busy that literally, I’ve only been getting around 3-4 hours of sleep a day/night but I feel like it’s been worth it (and I always have nights like tonight, anyhow). Here’s a teeny tiny life update (because all I can think of at the moment is eating the brownie that I put in my freezer).

1. Chasing Tales

This event has been in the works for a while. My vision for MoarBooks is that it becomes a place where people can go to find engaging stories and works of art–somewhere where they can go to hear from people who are making these stories and to realize why it’s so important that these hypotheticals that are always pushed to the margins of our consciousness are kept alive. Stories are possibilities–both good and bad–and once we lose sight of that, we may as well just pull the plug to be honest.

I’m really excited (and nervous) for this event because one of my favorite authors, Eliza Victoria is going to be speaking along with two of the people who I’ve really grown to respect, both as writers and people: Erika Carreon and Carlo Flordeliza.

It’s Fantasy Night and I’m super excited for this. Fantasy has always felt comforting to me. Like when things fall apart, sometimes it’s throwing yourself into something else that helps you figure those things out.

2. Walking Around In the Afternoon

I won’t lie–I was feeling pretty shitty earlier today. It’s been hard for me to sleep and adjust to my new schedule (7 in the morning!). Although I like it a lot, this week’s been tough. To add to my sleep deprivation, a lot of people have just been super duper unreliable. And the thing is that I’m not the type of person to ask for help if I don’t need it–and of course, no one is obliged to give it. I just get irritated when people volunteer to do something and then they don’t do it or worse, when they just “let the moment pass”. Fucking pisses me off. It’s like those people who litter and just watch the plastic bag fly off into the wind. The least you can do is be honest and just say what you mean.

Anyway, after eating brownies at work (and taking some home, heehee), I began to feel better (how could you not, after that?) I decided to walk around Makati before heading home. It was really nice and breezy and relaxing. I got home, made myself some coffee and ate some of the best peanut butter ever–made my my roomie Murphy’s friend. Something about walking is calming. Is it the illusion you’re headed somewhere new? Maybe.

3. Other Stories

I just found out that my Science Lessons series of short stories is going to be published by the end of this year! Composed of three shortshorts (Nomenclature, Air Hunger and Tracing Maps), these stories are very dear to me because a big chunk of my last year in college was spent trying to reconcile my love for fiction with my infatuation for science. What was I doing in a science course when time had made me so different from the person I was when I wanted to become a doctor?

I wasn’t sure that people would understand that. And I wasn’t sure that anyone would want them because of their unusual form. They’re a little more passive and a little less plot-driven than my other stories so I was afraid they would remain my “pet project” forever.

But nope! :D What’s even better is that three of my awesome artist friends (I’ll post again when it comes out) agreed to illustrate one of the stories each! AHHHH. So excited!

Coffee & Flowers: Running In Circles, Chasing Tales

This is probably going to be the most disorganized blog post I’ve posted in a while, but oh well–it’s the weekend and these days, I’m hardly in the suburbs. It’s nice to hear crickets instead of traffic some of the time (although not enough to move back, I should say).

Lately, I’ve been very stringent about my time and how it’s spent so I think this is a pretty good way to break out of that for a while and take a breather.

This year (half of it) is going by (has gone by) so quickly. In a few months, I’ll be turning 24. Getting older is quite the experience, indeed.

1. About MoarBoobs

I mean MoarBooks, my pet project of about a year old. MoarBooks is a teeny tiny indie press and I’ve been working really hard to grow it into something that is better, if not necessarily bigger. This takes up a big chunk of my time. I learned how to appreciate GoogleDocs, tracking sheets and Facebook messenger. I’ve also learned the value of mobile internet which up until this year, was just a way to post Instagram photos.

I’m also cooking up an event about stories set for later this month and I’m really excited about this because I’ve been planning this event for a long time now (about half a year).

2. On Living Alone

It’s a big change living away from home–you have to do things that you previously took for granted: the dishes, cooking, wiping the table, taking out the trash, regularly having to buy internet credit. And still, I think that it’s a good thing. My family is very intense and while I love them very dearly, sometimes we need space to grow our ideas, our stories. Sometimes you need to be a bit farther away to love things, people, places. Apartment life isn’t easy but I think it’s the right type of life for me, for now.

Also, I like cooking.

3. On Story Telling

One of my big goals this year is to get published more. I really want to put my work out there and I want to make it great work: work that is interesting and well-written, work that is both linguistically clever and heart-wrenching. This week, I sent out some of my work and found out that one of my stories would be getting published later this year. I’m really excited about this because I’ve been writing in the long form more lately. More than experimenting with clever ways to say things or to frame situations, I’ve been focusing on story-telling, spinning a yarn, exploring the limits of my imagination.

I was also able to send out stories for the people whom I’d promised work for earlier this year, so that is extremely satisfying.

I don’t want to dwell on this too much though. We’ve got to keep going!

4. On Work

Work is exhausting, to be perfectly honest. But that’s okay. One of my life mottos in college was that life is tedious: but we need to do these things because they allow us to do what we want. Persistence through the mundane is part of growing up, if not the very threshold we cross into adulthood.

5. On Exploration

I’ve also been trying a lot of new things–going to different places, reading new books, writing more, meeting new people. I hope that I get the chance to explore even more: take in new lessons and methods of telling stories, talk to more people about their ideas and experiences, make more friends, have more meaningful coffee conversations, sharpen my skills (further), learn to cook (more dishes). If there’s anything I’ve learned, thus far, there’s no pocket of time that you can’t use for something engaging.

Glass Half Whatever

I get called out as a pessimist a lot because I like sad songs, movies and I’m attracted to stories that are tragic. (To be honest, I don’t quite trust people who aren’t.) I’m the kind of person who gets on a plane imagining it crashing. (Who doesn’t, though?) Pessimism as a defense mechanism, I suppose–like knowing will keep you from from the carnage. (Even if it doesn’t.) And anyway, there are a lot of fascinating things about the what could go wrong and about the what did go wrong and about the things that hurt.

One of my biggest struggles recently is that I couldn’t reconcile my love for Jason Mraz with Jason Mraz’s new album because even if Jason’s songs have always made me want to look on the brighter side of life, I don’t think they’ve ever been so overt about it. As someone who writes stories and who willingly reads things things that people made up, it’s very difficult for me to accept something that’s told to me up front.

As one of Mr. A-Z’s older songs pointed out, sometimes you can only arrive at one thing through something else. This has always been the case with me. So. I couldn’t wrap my head around this album–how could someone who had so discreetly gotten me to believe in not mumbling when I speak and all that in the past suddenly write something I couldn’t accept because it was telling me to do something so matter-of-factly.

The other day, I decided I was done. I re-listened to his first three albums.

Yesterday, I listened to the latest album and decided I didn’t hate it. Today, I tried listening to it with my judgement suspended and I heard the harmonies, the deep drum beat, the western twang of the guitar.

Just now, I’ve decided I don’t really give a shit about whether or not something is pessimistic or optimistic. If I like it, I like it and I like it. Does it really matter if a glass is half-full or half-empty? Isn’t the glass prettier? The water more important? The how more than the what? The glass is half-whatever. It’s beautiful, though.

In Envy Green & Pencil Red

Here, an arbitrary photo of sweet things and bitterness.

Even now, in my diploma-wielding, pretty rain-booted glory, I still envy you. You, of lab-coated, white-gloved importance, the test-tube clinking, awkward-limbed put togetherness that I, in my ability to fit all the 5-feet-flat of me into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl mold struggle to achieve. You put the Q in quirk, the M in male, the T in teach. More than anything, I am jealous of the fact that excuses don’t need to be invented for you: how can you argue with the things you should know? How do you protest progress? How can you say no to science? Except that you can—it occurs to me, in my office cubicle—of course you can because science’s very nature is to argue with itself (repeatedly, in an almost schizophrenic manner). I should’ve asked why or said something (else)—I should’ve asked for explanation, for a few words on the topic, for a turning and return to reason. I turned blue instead of red, failed the test, negative, sir and I still don’t know why. Where is the conclusion? The end of the lab report? Why does this do this? Why does that do that? I was hoping you could tell me but I am too far removed from the lecture, I’m watching from somewhere else: I’m always a spectator.

I am envious of your ability to be there.

My life is a small one: my stories, my Daiso-corated apartment, my fridge magnets all fit into my pockets. I think about the weather. I wonder about bowls, plates, pretty paintings to hang up. Sometimes I imagine I am squaring myself in: a box within a bigger box within a bigger box. I work in a cubicle in an office in a building. I write myself into a life on a page, at the table in my kitchen, in an apartment. I wonder about my imaginary people and how to dress them, what to put in their kitchens, how to undo them, make them count in someone else’s imagination.

I practice tearing them apart.

The other night, I had a dream about you dressed head-to-toe in plaid, walking down the hallway. It was sunny. I was walking with my books pressed to my chest. You ran a hand through your hair. I was going to wave hello—and fell through a trap door. I woke up to a storm. I said that I wasn’t going to go to work (but I did). Days later, I’m still wondering whether I was brave or cowardly in going. Was I more afraid of the storm or of not showing up? There is no one to invent my reasons for absence.

If there’s anything that living in cities has taught me, it’s that things disappear. As quickly as you find something to step on, it starts to head into traffic, across the street, away—elsewhere. I should be an expert at fall out of touch, lose track, drift away, missed stop. Maybe I was a terrible student. I should know better than to think you have dedicated yourself to matters of consequence and I, to the loving of useless things.