On the Smell of Books, Coffee, and Rainy Afternoons

How would I describe my ideal guy?

Someone who smells of old books, and coffee, and rain.

Failing that, it would at least be my ideal perfume (has any company already made that?).

In an ideal world, I would spend every afternoon with a mug of coffee in hand, a book on my lap, and raindrops drumming a tattoo on my bedside window. Who needs yachts and private jets and luxury condos and dream destinations, when you can have this little bubble of serenity all in the comfort of your own home?

On rainy afternoons, the world is transformed, blurred around the edges. The rain drops form a curtain, a cocoon, a shelter. On rainy afternoons, I am transformed. More than just an awkward girl with melancholy in her bones, I am a dreamer, a writer, an artist. My fingers bleed ink and spill beautiful words that stain parchment. Smudges of charcoal form worlds conjured by imagination and rendered alive on canvass.

On rainy afternoons, armed with coffee and book, I am transported to faraway worlds where bravery and kindness triumph, and no one cares about how many followers you have on social media, how many likes your posts get, or how well drawn your fake eyebrows are.

On rainy afternoons, I am alive, I am free, and I am more.

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An Invitation Into My Bubble

So many blogs these days are filled with wanderlust-inspiring travel destinations, a profusion of beauty products and meticulously applied makeup, mouthwatering food and drinks from every cuisine imaginable, breathtaking photography, amazing experiences that make you wish you were in the blogger’s shoes. These blogs allow us a glimpse into the greater and finer things in life, the beautiful, the glamorous, the exciting, the decadent, the #lifegoals-worthy stuff.

This is not one of those blogs.

This is a blog by an average girl (albeit one dealing with social anxiety) living a largely average life (definitely far from “life goals”), earning a living through an average, unglamorous (and at times boring) job, trying to navigate a world dominated by social media and populated by a confusing variety of characters.

This is a blog hopefully for similar people, who don’t lead glamorous lives, who are just trying to make their way through this world in one piece, dreaming of great things but also, really, just hoping that the Universe wouldn’t be too hard on them.

This is for everyone who deals with everyday struggles as a human being who may not be leading a lifestyle that garners thousands of likes on Facebook or Instagram, who may just be hoping that maybe someone out there knows the struggle too, may even be going through the same things.

This is for you.

Welcome to my little bubble of awkwardness and real, unfiltered life.

To the Joey de Leons of the Philippines

Yesterday, during the Juan for All segment in the long-running Filipino noontime show Eat Bulaga, the topic of depression came up.

And boy, was it awkward!

Joey de Leon, a veteran of Filipino tv and cinema, as well as one of the “founding brothers” of the noontime show, said what will come down in PH history as among the most ignorant and disgusting things ever said about depression on live tv:

“Yang depression, gawa-gawa lang yan… Gawa nila sa sarili nila.” (That depression, it’s only made up. They make it up for themselves.)

“Huwag niyo suportahan, gawa-gawa lang nila ‘yon.” (Don’t support them, they’re just making it up.)

Oh no he didn’t?

Yes. Yes, he did. Unfortunately.

Most unfortunate of all is the fact that depression is still largely a taboo topic in this country, and that is due to the fact that the Philippines is populated with hundreds and thousands of Joey de Leons.

I’m not talking about people who share the name (although there is probably a lot of that too -both first name and surname are pretty common), but rather people who share that way of thinking.

So many people out there would invalidate your feelings and struggles, most of the time not even intentionally. They think they’re helping, when in fact they’re making it worse. They would be so quick to say, “mind over matter” or, “think positive”. Maybe that would work with simple, run-of-the-mill sadness. But guys,

DEPRESSION IS NOT SADNESS.

Depression is something that goes deeper, and is much more damaging and dangerous. It is the climate to sadness’ weather. Sadness comes and goes according to the situation. Depression, folks, is here to stay.

Of course, it is also something that is very difficult to explain to someone who has not gone through it themselves.

Mr. Joey de Leon, maybe you said those things because you have never experienced depression yourself, and if so, lucky you.

But there are those who struggle to get up from bed every morning, because just the act of living is such a struggle in and of itself. There are those who have thoughts of harming themselves and even ending their lives, because sometimes the burden feels too great and tomorrow seems so bleak and hopeless.

Your mind is a prison and depression is the warden.

If you have never experienced these things, then good for you. But maybe be more sensitive towards those who suffer through it? Trust me, depression is punishment enough on its own, without the added burden of ignorant, insensitive people like you who are only capable of seeing things through their own myopic eyes.

IT IS SO EASY TO DISMISS WHAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

When Maine Mendoza, a young, up-and-coming host at Eat Bulaga, attempted to explain to Joey de Leon that depression is very real and serious, that so many people suffer from it and we should support them, he shot her down.

What. An. Ignorant. Dick.

Right?

This is why we need to raise awareness regarding mental health.

To avoid bigots like Joey de Leon from dealing further damage by propagating the lie that depression is a figment of people’s imagination, and invalidating the struggles of people who have to deal with depression every day of their lives.

To allow friends and family to understand the illness (because it is a medical condition, as much an illness as asthma or hypertension), and know how best to support their loved ones and maybe help them carry the burden, so it feels even just a bit lighter.

To lessen the instances of suicide by knowing how to spot the signs and respond accordingly, how to make the victim feel loved and less lonely and less alone.

So many people unknowingly inflict harm by being a Joey de Leon.

Guys, educate yourselves.

Be more of a Maine Mendoza in a country full of Joey de Leons, and maybe in that process, you’ll save a life.

Tether

Four letters.

One word.

Stay.

And yet, her mouth refused to form the word, tongue lying inside like a dead thing.

The word lodged in her throat, stuck. Too big to push through. Too significant.

She knew she couldn’t say it, that it would be selfish of her. She knew his world was much, much bigger than this tiny corner she occupied. He was one of those people who were meant to forever be untethered.

“Well?”

His voice pulled her back to the real world. The present, here, now, on what she came to think of as their spot: this patch of grass where they spent many an afternoon talking about the earth, the stars, and everything in between, where she would sometimes read and he would try to distract her, until it became a game.

“Well what?” she asked, even though she knew. Of course she knew.

He stared at her, some strong emotion burning in his eyes, staining his cheeks. Then his eyes fell away, like it took great effort to keep them on hers.

“Aren’t you going to ask me to stay?” he mumbled, as if almost ashamed of the question, like it pained him to ask.

She felt a burst of anger.

How could that word have slipped so easily from his mouth, when it choked her in its enormity?

She swallowed, hard, and the word made its way down, dropping to her stomach, settling hard and heavy.

“You know I can’t,” she forced out.

“Wh-”

“You know why.”

She was staring at the ground at this point, him still looking away. Both were determined not to look at the other. He continued rubbing his nape, eyes and cheeks hot, while she clenched and unclenched her fists, breath coming fast and shallow.

The silence stretched, precious minutes ticking away.

Was this how they wanted to spend their last moments together?

No, she decided. Definitely not.

“Come back.”

His head snapped around, eyes probing her face.

She looked up at him, her own eyes trying to answer the unspoken question in his.

“Come back,” she repeated, “for me, okay?”

“Will you-”

“I’ll wait.”

His arm lifted, as if to reach for her, but then it dropped to his side.

“Fuck. No. No!” he snapped, “I can’t make you wait for me. Look at you! You can’t waste your life waiting for someone like me.”

“Well maybe I won’t,” she snapped back, “Maybe I’ll wait for you and you’ll come and I wouldn’t have wasted my time.”

They stood there, staring at each other, fists clenched, cheeks and eyes burning.

Then finally, he nods. He reaches out to pull her in, and she lets him.

In a few hours he will be on a plane, and she will be back in her room, waiting.

But for now, there is this.

Tipan ng Tadhana

Nuong unang panahon, inatasan ni Tadhana si Kuntalapa na lumikom ng labing-isa sa pinakamagagaling na mandirigma sa buong kaharian. Bagamat malaki ang pagdududa ni Kuntalapa sa sariling kakayanan, malaki ang tiwala dito ni Tadhana, dahil bagamat hindi pa ito sanay maging pinuno ng isang grupo, alam niyang mabuti ang kalooban nito.

Hindi nagtagal ay nakahanap si Kuntalapa ng labing-isang mandirigma na ang layunin ay protektahan ang Tipan ng Tadhana.

Ang mga ginoo:

Si Pasipo na napakatamis ng tinig. Palabiro, at madalas magdala ng tuwa at tawanan sa grupo. Agad niyang napapansin kapag may nalulungkot, at gagawin niya ang lahat upang makapagpasaya, kahit ang sariling kalungkutan ay isinasantabi muna niya. Likas siyang matulungin, at likas na mabuti ang puso.

Si Agui, masayahin, matapang, mahilig sa sayawan. Mula sa malayo pa lamang, maririnig mo na siya. Marami siyang baon na kwento, kaya’t walang patay na oras kasama niya. Siya ang tipo na sinasabi ang laman ng isip. Mahirap maging kaaway, ngunit maaasahan na kaibigan.

Si Bayoa, tahimik at tila palaging malalim ang iniisip. Mukhang seryoso, ngunit kapag piniling magsalita, magugulat ka na lamang na nakakatawa pala ito. Madaling akalain na mahirap ito kaibiganin, ngunit ang totoo ay isa siyang tunay at matapat na kaibigan.

Ang mga binibini:

Si Tala, na may mga matang kasing kinang ng mga bituin. Kasing tamis ng ngiti ang kanyang pagsasalita. Napakabait niya, ngunit siya rin ay matatag at matapang. Sa anumang panahon ay handa siyang tumulong sa mga nangangailangan, nang buong puso at walang pag-aalinlangan.

Si Amihan, mahinhin at busilak ang puso. Tahimik lamang siya, ngunit malalim ang kanyang isipan. Mahilig siyang magbasa, at buong puso siyang nagsisilbi sa May Likha. Naandyan siya upang makinig at magpalakas ng loob. Matamis ang kanyang mga ngiti, kaya naman kanyang naakit si Pasipo.

Si Mayari, ang nakatatandang kapatid ni Amihan. Gagawin niya ang lahat para sa kaligayahan nito at para sa mga itinuturing niyang kaibigan. Madalas sa kilos niya ay tila brusko siya, ngunit sa ilalim nito ay isang malambot at busilak na puso. Matatakbuhan siya sa anumang problema.

Si Dal’lang, na may taglay na kagandahan at katalinuhan. Madalas nakangiti at napakadaling mapatawa. Mapagmahal na kaibigan, kahit madalas ay tila nasa alapaap ang isipan. Mahilig man itong manghampas, mahilig din siyang manlambing. Napakadaling ayain sa anumang kaganapan.

Si Lalahon, matapang at palaban, ngunit mapagkalinga. Siya ang nagsisilbing inahin ng grupo, at handa siyang protektahan ang bawat isa na tila tunay niyang mga anak. Masayahin din siya, sa halip ng pinagdadaanan sa buhay, at sa lahat ng pagkakataon ay kaniyang ikinakalat ang sayang ito sa mga kasama. Napakalaki ng kanyang puso na matapang at mapagmahal.

Si S’dop, taglay ang ganda bilang isa sa mga Maharlika. May naaangking talas ng pandinig, pang-amoy, at paningin. Madalang ang nakalalagpas sa kaniyang pansin. Masayahin at palangiti, baon niya ang tuwa at tawanan saan man siya magpunta.

Si Dihas, na taglay ang talino at bilis ng isip. Maaasahan siyang may sagot na solusyon sa anumang problema. Sa gabay ng May Likha, ginagabayan niya rin ang mga nakababatang mandirigma. Mahilig siya sa musika at magagandang bagay.

At syempre, si Anitan, may taglay na bilis ng kidlat. Kakaiba ang kanyang mga kilos at ang pag-iisip, tila galing sa ibang kaharian.

Sama-sama nilang pinrotektahan ang Tipan ng Tadhana.

Hanggang sa dumating ang araw upang umalis si Anitan at hanapin ang lupang kanyang pinanggalingan.

Napamahal na siya sa mga kasama: Ang makulit na si Pasipo, and palakwento na si Agui, ang tahimik na si Bayoa, si Tala na napakabuti, ang mahinhin na si Amihan, si Mayari na maaasahan, ang malambing na si Dal’lang, si Lalahon na napakalaki ng puso, ang masayahin na si S’dop, si Dihas na matalas ang isip, at maging ang pinuno nilang si Kuntalapa.

Ngunit alam niyang importante ding matagpuan niya ang sarili. Kaya kahit mapait, kinailangan niyang magpaalam.

Diary of First Loves and Other Silly Things: Entry 1

September 29, Tuesday

16:30 Bubble Tea Cafe, Mall

Yes, I bought this notebook on impulse. Aside from the really rockin’ cover (“I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison), what sold me is the fact that the pages are lined on one side, and blank on the other.

Today’s topic: …

Well, I was supposed to be thinking about the topic for my final paper. But as every person in this world probably knows, “what we should be doing” often doesn’t end up “what we actually do”. So instead… I find myself thinking about him.

I believe that dreams are very telling. I do not believe that they are prophetic, but I do believe that they give us an interesting peek into a person’s subconscious -how it reflects a person’s innermost fears and desires.

So I dreamt about him. So what?

I do know that I like him. And maybe it’s kinda narcissistic of me, because I wonder if I find him awesome by virtue of him being him, or me perceiving him as a reflection of myself. I wonder if his thought processes fascinate me because I fancy them so much like my own, or if it’s the parts I don’t get that intrigue me.

I’m confused, and I’m thinking: I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about this.

End entry.

Ponytail

“She is oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. The same elements that are inside the rest of us, but I can’t help thinking she’s-“


Tug.

Tug.

“Oww!”

The tug on her ponytail wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but was hard enough to annoy.

She whipped her head around and glared at the offender.

He smiled lazily, top front teeth (just slightly bigger than the rest) appearing, blue eyes crinkling at the corners.

She tried to stay annoyed.

It was a losing battle.

He peered over her shoulder at the book on her lap. He was close enough that she can smell his shampoo and that faint scent of tobacco that told her he had smoked earlier. She wrinkled her nose, both hating the smell and hating herself for enjoying it just because it’s his and it’s him.

“What are you reading, anyway?”

She snapped the book shut and made to stand up.

“None of your business.”

Long fingers wrapped around her wrist, tugging. She plopped back down on the grass, none too gracefully.

He smirked.

“It’s one of those crappy YA books you bafflingly love, isn’t it?”

She huffed.

“Yes, it is a YA book. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. I’ll have you know, it is far from crappy. In fact, the main character reminds me of you.”

“Oh?” he brought his face close to hers, “Is it because he’s charming, funny, and devastatingly intelligent?”

And he has dark hair and blue, blue eyes, and he’s confusing and complicated and so much deeper than he lets on. He cares deeply, but disguises that fact by making a joke out of most things. He’s guarded, but that’s because he has such a big heart that it’s such an easy target.

“No,” she replied, arching a brow, “it’s because he’s annoying and full of himself and he likes playing games with people.”

Suddenly, his expression turned somber. His eyes hardened with a seriousness that scared her in its intensity so that she had to look away. In the distance, wispy clouds were lazily floating across a clear blue backdrop, and she focused on them.

“I don’t play games with you.”

She sucked in a breath, but managed to keep her eyes trained on the horizon.

Tug.

He drew the end of her ponytail over her shoulder, long fingers playing with the strands. She was frozen in place.

“This,” he sighed. She felt him lean his forehead against her shoulder, fingers still threaded through her hair, “is driving me crazy. And it shouldn’t, right? Why should it? It makes no sense. No fucking sense.”

Suddenly, he drew back, pushed himself off of the ground in one fluid motion, dusted off the seat of his pants, and started walking away.

“See you around!” he waved, not even bothering to look back over his shoulder.

Her fingers lifted up to touch the ends of her ponytail. She frowned.

Confusing and complicated, definitely.

She sighed. Maybe she should start wearing her hair down.

Ozone

Ozone.

He smells like ozone.

Like the air just before a storm, charged with electricity, crackling with energy unseen.

Or maybe he doesn’t.

Maybe it’s just her. Maybe it’s just this overwhelming attraction she feels, the charge of electricity skittering along her skin at his nearness, the nearly tangible but always indefinable something hanging in the air between them.

Taking a deep breath, she risks glancing up.

In the fading light of dusk, his face is partially thrown into shadow. This near, his eyelashes stand in stark relief, thick and curling, the tips glowing golden from the setting sun. His eyes, forever shifting in color from grey to blue to green, now look like pools of molten silver mixed with gold.

He breathes her name more than says it, and she suppresses a shiver. It has always made her feel strange whenever he says her full name. Perhaps more from the way he says it than the actual saying of it. And it’s always a good strange she feels.

But today feels different somehow. There is something more to how he has said her name. Something akin to the indefinable something that always seems to hang between them.

But today, she also feels brave.

“Yes?” she asks, meeting his gaze head on. This makes his lips tilt upwards in that familiar smirk she so loves.

Wait.

Loves?

“Do you smell that?” he asks, a teasing note to his voice.

Bemused, she asks, “Smell what?”

“Ozone.”

Her eyes widen, but before her brain even begins to formulate a response, he closes the distance between them.

The air crackles.

The “Drawing” Life

Depression is… complicated.

And one of its little “nuances” is the phenomenon of agreeing to a social appointment and cancelling, seemingly at the last minute.

We Filipinos have a term for that. It’s called “drawing”.

This term stems from the plan never materializing, being stuck on the “drawing board”, so to speak.

Most people who do this, do it because something else suddenly comes up, or they just suddenly don’t feel like it: maybe they got lazy, or are just in the mood for something else.

For someone struggling with depression, it is somewhat similar to that, except it’s… heavier.

Most days, it’s a struggle to even get up and drag yourself out of bed. Most days, you have to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself just to face the same people you interact with everyday, because it’s that exhausting.

So to agree to a social event outside of what is normally required of you is quite something. This is a common theme among introverts as well, depressed or otherwise, but even more so for introverts struggling with depression, which category I fall under.

It’s a difficult spot to be in, because people would give you shit for “drawing” on them, and the last thing you want is for them to hate on you for that. You already hate on yourself more than enough, thankyouverymuch.

But what can you do?

This is a sickness, and as much as you try to fight it, some days the battle is too much, and you just let it drag you down, invisible weight pinning you onto your bed, and you draw circles in your mind, wondering when you can be a normal, functioning human being.

Why being fat is more embarrassing in the Philippines

Yes, yes, of course fat-shaming is practically everywhere these days, and okay, maybe it’s not necessarily worse in the Philippines than it is in any other country. But let me tell you, it is indeed more embarrassing in this country for one unique reason:

It. Is. Socially. Acceptable.

In fact, it’s almost expected.

Ang taba mo na. (You’ve gotten so fat.)”

Lumalaki tayo ah! (Looks like someone’s getting bigger!)”

Try mo kaya mag-diet? (Why don’t you try going on a diet?)”

These are among the most commonly uttered words in every Filipino gathering, be it a high school reunion, a family event, or even just friends getting together after a while.

And the worst thing? You are not allowed to feel bad about it. Everyone does it, everyone endures it. It’s a normal, everyday thing.

Oftentimes, it is said in a friendly way, out of a place of concern, with no intent to shame or hurt. But all the same, you do feel ashamed and you are a teensy bit hurt.

I was a fat kid.

When I was little, I just wouldn’t gain any weight no matter what my grandma did. So she started feeding me these supplements, and I. Blew. Up.

My mother was a single mother, so she left me mostly to my Lola’s care while she spent her days and nights working. One afternoon, I heard her talking to Lola on the phone.

Ma, bakit mo naman iniwan sa kusina anak ko? (Why did you leave my daughter in the kitchen?)”

‘Naiwan sa kusina’ is just one of the many phrases in the Filipino language that translates to ‘fat’.

My mother has always been beautiful and wonderfully slim even well into her 30s. She was a ramp model in her younger days. I felt like I would never ever be able to fit my chunky self into her tiny, svelte shadow.

Hurt, I ate away my misery.

One time, an uncle pinched my back. He took a fold of fat and skin between his fingers, and told me that I needed to shed my baby fat. I had never even been conscious of my back before that. Apparently, I realized, even my back was fat.

I stayed chubby throughout high school, and a male classmate of mine nicknamed me, “Chubbs”. He said it in a fond way, and we were pretty close friends, but all the same, it made me feel that I would always be just a bit too heavy.

Miraculously, I shed my weight in college. Having to commute 2 hours to school and another 2 hours back took its toll on my baby fat, and I grew thinner and bonier.

Still, I felt fat.

I continued to eat my body weight in food. My friends jokingly called me “The Bottomless Pit”. A decade of eating like a construction worker was hard to shake off. I stayed thin in the eyes of my peers. In the mirror, I continued seeing the fat girl I have always been and, in my mind, always will be.

I know every single person who ever commented on my weight never meant to damage or scar me. But all the same, they did.

The thing is, despite the fact that calling a person out on his/her excess weight may be considered normal as a Filipino, there’s no way of knowing how it could be affecting the person on the receiving end of the jokes and thoughtless comments.

Everyone is struggling with something, and that struggle will oftentimes not be visible. How many children grew up to be adults with body-image issues? How many times has a person’s day been ruined because of an offhand comment about his/her weight? How many people have faced the mirror and seen less than their glorious beautiful selves, because people said they weighed too much?

Growing up with some extra pounds may not be worse in this country than in any other, but it sure as hell is embarrassing and just as damaging.

The Duterte Bullshit Files

“Maganda yun. Makapatay lang tayo ng another 32 every day, maybe we can fix what ails this country.” -Duterte
Uhm… So ang sinasabi niya ba pag nakapatay tayo ng 32 bawat araw (224 a week, 960 a month, 11,680 a year), mawawala yung kasakiman sa Pilipinas?
Kasi yun naman po ang sakit ng ating lipunan. Kasakiman at kawalan ng pakialam. Greed and apathy. Hindi naman kasi droga.
Hindi ko sinasabi na hindi problema yung drugs ha, pero hindi kasi yun yung most pressing problem eh, at lalong-lalo na, hindi yun yung pinaka-ugat. Hindi po drugs ang root cause ng mga ka-bullshit-an sa sistema natin. Hindi drugs ang dahilan kung bakit napupunta sa mga hinayupak na buwaya ang pera na dapat napupunta sa pagpapaunlad sa Pilipinas. Hindi drugs yung dahilan kung bakit ang trapik sa bansa, kung bakit andaming batas ang hindi nasusunod. Pag nawala ba ang droga, biglang magkakaroon ng disiplina ang mga tao?
Ngayon, sige, kung yung 32 na papatayin na yan, mga tunay na kurakot at salot sa lipunan, yung mga kuha nang kuha sa kaban ng bayan, lalo na yung marami na ngang pera at pag-aari, pero sige pa rin, gusto pa nila MORE MORE MORE, kung yan yung tinitira ng mga death squad na yan, ewan ko na lang kung hindi manginig ang bayag ng mga tunay na salot sa lipunan.
Kung ang 32 na papatayin: yung mga ganid at sarili lang iniisip; yung mga walang pakialam sa kapwa tao; yung mga nakakakita na nga ng mali pero wala silang ginagawa tungkol dun, pinapabayaan lang nila; yung mga gumagawa ng mali kasi lahat naman ginagawa eh; yung mga nagpapayaman sa pamamagitan ng paggamit at pag-abuso sa mga mahihirap sa lipunan… aba eh, baka makatulong pa.
Hindi ko sinasabi na dapat patayin ‘tong mga tao na ‘to ha. Hindi ko sinasabi na tama yung pagpatay. Ang point ko dito, ANONG KLASENG LOGIC YAN, PANGULONG DUTERTE?
Ako, hindi ako mahilig magpost o kahit magcomment tungkol sa ganito. Opinionated akong tao pero natuto akong magtikom ng bibig dahil sa ka-toxic-an ng social media, pero grabe lang kasi, hindi na ako makapagtimpi. Sobra na.