And so I changed the blog template last night to something that was more image-centric; because apparently (and obviously), I've been in that mode for the longest time that it feels like a deliberate snub. It's as if I had a secret child out of wedlock, raised and loved the damned child but still somehow unable to recognise it as truly my own. So it's out- I take pictures; and I hope that it won't be the end all and be all of my 'vast' (!) creative gifts.
Someone told me that a long road trip would do wonders for my creativity, that it would stir up my imagination, make me want to write again and that this time, something would come out of it. Turned out they were right. My imagination was stirred up. I wanted to create something, but it wasn't stories- I wanted to take pictures and make videos.
Now, I've been taking photos the moment I had a mobile camera. I have photos on the cloud that pre-date Apple's iCloud. Sixty-percent of the storage on all my devices is images. There is a probably an image of something or someone every other day of my life since 2006. I barely remember stuff, but I can scroll back in time and see what I had done, what I had felt, eaten and worn. It makes sense to take pictures and make videos but what doesn't make sense is how shallow my understanding of it all is and how superficial. I take pretty pictures but have no understanding of how I do it.
I remember one summer (I think) when my dad brought home the first professional camera he's had since he was at university studying Fine Arts. It was a manual Canon, the model of which I can no longer remember. He took photos of all of us- of my mother posed touching flowers in the garden; of my sisters in half-profile, with those weird bowl-cut bangs of the 80s; of me super up-close, pupils half-way up as if I was rolling them; and the best photo of all, of my brother Jay with his famed curls that everyone envied and with our mother's beautiful, placid face.
But this was the thing- half the photos were bad. The one of my mothers' touching the flowers and even the close-up were under-exposed. There was a photo of my dad from the shoulders up taken as if someone had bent at the knees, camera tilted awkwardly downwards (was it my mother who took this with instructions from my dad? Was there a tripod I couldn't remember?) I would've used a different lens to capture a wider angle, or I would simply take the photo face on perpendicular to the subject.
And I know this now because since the trip, I've been studying- something which I HAD NEVER DONE. My dad did photography as well as painting when he was younger and in the space of time between that and the summer he got the camera, a lot of things had changed. I don't know why he had that idea to get the camera and do a leisurely shoot. Was it to take the photos as references to future paintings? Was it to update himself on a hobby/art that he used to do? Whatever the reason, that was the last and only time. The camera was put away in his closet and we would on occasion, try it out after saving enough money to buy film and to have it developed (we had this 'photo-shoot' once with my sisters where they put on make-up and wore black satin dresses and the whole mess turned out blurry and over-exposed, the face foundation coming off as if they fell face first, onto a plate of flour).
I just feel that most of the time, we do things where we just coast along, and I have a long list of these- but after the trip I felt like this is one thing I am simply no longer taking for granted. I don't want to look back and regret having just done things casually and in the same vain of what Leila and I have to label as impeccant mediocrity.
"Ang gand, pwede na" no longer cuts it.
I didn't drive of course. In my mind though, I was the one behind the wheel.
I try to imagine if I could drive and I see myself just driving on and on. I used to do that when I still had my motorcycle. The destination wasn't anything specific; the whole point was the drive itself and how it somehow puts your mind in a zone where you can be away from everything else. This is morbid but I also think of myself dying, some horrific accident that ends my life instantly (it could statistically happen) and the thought forces me to do a quick accounting- have I done enough? How far have I become as a person? Have I loved enough and how true?
And the thing is this, whether you reach this reckoning (of no return or alteration) or not, every so often you do need that accounting.
You need to pause to see if you're moving forward to a destination wherever that may be and to be careful that you're not caught in an endless, repetitious loop like these GIFs below..
I need to get this post out...
Days feel like a time-lapse of sorts
New year happened
Everyone was a year older...
Summer was a record-scorcher
A bunch of firsts; first time to work until our office closed on the 22nd. First time to NOT stress on what to eat. First time to have a decent gift budget which I had half-saved for. And first time to be less nostalgic about the whole thing- and everything was just perfectly fine.
Maybe it's a change of perspective, maybe it's age. Maybe winter has become a bit too evocative of what old age would be like- when your spirit is willing, but your body feels half-frozen, fraught with all the signs of physical unravelling. When I was younger, with no friends and no confidence, summer was spent indoors reading book after book. To this day, it's hard to connect with people whose experiences and memories of summer are of easy, physical fun.
I am still resentful of the heat (even if it's nothing compared to the Philippines); the yellowing of the armpits of my white shirts; the constant application of sunscreen; slight twinges of envy when I see fit people. But I smile a bit now when the sun is on my face- acceptance is such a life-altering thing..
1. Another year has past and your mind convinces you that last year was just last week. It never feels anymore that you have 365 days in one year, more like half that.
2. I tried to change out the template of this blog and couldn't make sense of the infrastructure. On one hand, what's the point- no one reads me.
3. I do have great ideas to better my diet, restructure my wardrobe, start a writing regimen, and I get a good head-start, but as with anything, sustaining it is the challenge.
4. Why do spend so much for the holidays? How can we get out of the spending cycle?
5. How do I NOT spend so much?
6. Met with my insurance broker/agent who also happens to be a financial adviser and again I have to remind myself- I'll never be rich, but I can enjoy a worry-free retirement (!!) at least from a financial perspective.
7. Speaking of finances, I spent over 10% of my income in 2017 on new Apple products
8. And these Apple products are my gifts to myself this Christmas
9. Looking forward to a quieter Christmas in New Zealand
10. Missing the hectic, surreal holiday festivities of home
My father was an artist in another life. The life that I knew with him as his son didn't have art. It would be years before I would even make the connection that the paintings in his childhood home were made by him.
And I only ever witnessed him putting pen to paper to draw something just once. It was one of his election campaigns and he asked me to design his poster. There were no Macs then, or tablets. It wasn't really easy to open the computer as it was back then and create a mock design of what you wanted. So he sketched the layout with pen on paper and the ease by which he defined his own face on it or the economy of line to bring out an expression that could only be captured with a camera made me realise that I didn't know the person that he was as an artist.
But it never occured to me to be resentful that he didn't encourage us to take up art or to even have it in our home. He gave us everything we needed including things we didn't even think we needed. And at some point, we realised that he had to give something up in order to accomplish this. He taught us by example, that life is about trade-offs and that when you make them, it has to be for a good reason; a reason you will never regret. And I don't think he ever did.
That art thing seems to be in our family DNA and nearly everyone in our family have dabbled in it at some point with some actually having it as a career. I keep telling myself I'll give it another try only to realise lately that I actually have, that my work as a content creator involves crafting images and design albeit done digitally. To have spun that as a career without any formal training is something I can credit my father for because it's true- you can't teach true talent, it's either you have it or you don't.
In short, I'm actually 'ma-arte' (which come to think of it, is a word that probably comes from 'art' and that if you have 'too much' of it to the point of being annoying, you're therefore, 'ma-arte')
1. I rarely eat lunch straight out of a plastic lunch container. It has to be put on a proper plate and I have even brought personal plates to the office when I think that the provided office plates are not 'proper' enough.
2. I wear my best clothes everywhere just as I present my 'best self' at all times. Why in the world would you dress down, or bring your problems to work?
3. There is no art in chaos as far as housekeeping is concerned. A dirty, ugly house is a dirty, ugly house. I clean up nearly every day otherwise I can't function.
4. Spend some time immersing yourself simply appreciating the beauty of things- like browsing in an LV store!
5. If you find the balance between the simplicity of art and the outrageous commercialisation of it, you're good.
(the following are images taken at this unique museum hotel in Wellington called the QT Museum Hotel where I stayed at recently for a conference).
When your birthday is an endless (Halloween!) party..
When I was at the UP, I was friends with this girl who one day, stopped being friends with me for reasons she didn't really say. Just simply stopped talking to me or even acknowledging my presence even if I was literally in front of her face.
I was literally, dead to her- a ghost. I would Google her years afterward; sneered at her face (she was never the sort you would describe as pretty even if you forced yourself to be nice); judged her job, her hair and her life in general (that's why I left Facebook because I felt that all the incessant judging I was doing was internally toxic). Yup- I literally haunted her with some sort of half-expectation that the answer as to why she stopped being friends with me would reveal itself.
Having been someone who came to friendships late in life, I've developed an independence that I think, sometimes borders on the extreme-I really wouldn't give two shits if I lived alone, or died alone. I find some sort of satisfying fulfillment and peace with my routine, my self-involved interests and my lack of social obligation save for family which to me, are not obligations at all, but commitments. That's why living in New Zealand is perfect- I hardly know anyone and that suits me just fine.
But this is not to say that I've had a lack of opportunities to form strong friendships which in this day and age of numerous digital interconnections, would have been an easy thing to do.
But not for me; I think I've grown too fond of being invisible, of being rooted to one spot, unable to leave it, to move on.
Where: Little Mexico Cantina & Tequila Bar
What: 3-litre jugs of Pina Colada or sugary Margaritas for $60 and cheap, unpretentious platters of the usual suspects (nachos, tortilla chips and saucers of chili paste, guacamole, pico de gallo..).
People think it's more of a restaurant than a bar which suits us just fine in all the times we tried to get into another Mexican themed restaurant/bar, only to be turned off by the crowds so we end up here, our annoyance eased by the easy smiles of their Spanish-speaking wait-staff. We promise that next time, it won't be our back-up choice.
By 10pm, the dinner crowd disappears and if you've commandeered the side-walk tables, forgiving the fact that it's on a sloped surface, you would have called it a night too even if the streets are telling you it's just starting- a pitcher of Margarita is very deceptive.
I've never been fat. I've maintained my weight and my waist-line for the last 20 years. I'm fit and toned and I wouldn't be embarrassed at all if, for some weird reason, I would need to take my shirt off in public (!!!???).
But my actual fitness level is atrociously bad. My blood pressure remains quite high in spite of medication, breathing apps, goddamned pitchers of hibiscus tea and garlic tablets. Sure, I'm genetically predisposed to be hypertensive, but that's not an excuse to try and look for a solution.
I think you have White Coat syndrome said my cover GP the other week. So I had to stay in his office for about 20 minutes, lying on my back to relax while he tried to get another reading. It did go down quite significantly, but inwardly I seethed; I always did significantly well on things that I set out to do and I was losing this badly in spite of what I thought were my best efforts.
So how often does one need to exercise in a given week? Apparently, not enough; walking to and from work from the train station/bus stop, 100 push-ups every other day, the occasional gym.
So I guess I need to step it up.
1. There are always dishes on the sink
2. I looked bad in a photo, and it was an Android one with a 'beauty filter'
3. I can never seem to organise my clothes
4. I try to picture myself in 10 years and all I see is NOTHING
5. I actually managed to save enough in just 4 months to pay off a credit card (in the low five figures), and here I am planning to spend it again
6. I really need to have an above-average fitness regimen
7. I feel that 75% of what I do online is a complete waste of time
8. I logged back in again to my old Facebook account for a peek and realised that I made the right decision to get out of it.
9. Where is my place in this world?? I am here, but it seems that my feet are not planted firmly on anything
10. I need to re-organise. Again. And then again. I feel that if I stop, it's all over.
11. Expression is not all about an image. I've made my camera-phone a crutch for far too long.
Honestly, if I didn't cull my photos, I would literally have a photo for every day of the year. What this means or accomplishes, I have no idea. I have given up trying to understand why I reflexively take a photo of something. Is this the diarist in me, but by photos instead? Possibly.
So a year ago today I was in Auckland city. It wasn't an all-nighter and that I had just seemingly emerged from the Forte bar at 10am- I was just passing through a deserted alley-way on a Sunday morning to get to Queen Street.
Filipinos use the word 'ref'. I still almost always say 'ref' but get to remember it in time to change it to 'fridge'. I cleaned out the fridge simply because it was too damned full. I threw out stuff like half-used jars of salsa, pesto, plastic tubs of tomato paste and soft-squeeze Japanese mayo. The weirdest thing I threw out was a five-month old box of organic dates that I meant to use for baking. After the cull, I wiped the shelves down with soapy water. The fridge has four seperate freezer compartments but I'll probably do a cull of that next time.
Funny how your fridge resembles your closet in so many ways:
1. You buy too much and never get to use them all
2. You buy one item and realise you didn't like it after all, but..
3. ..you think it might come in handy so you don't throw it out
4. You think the time will come in when you'll eventually use it and it's there
5. Needs some organising
6. Needs some planning
7. Needs a budget
8. You think it's good for you but it's not
Some more items not in photo but are on the refrigerator shelves on the door:
1. Organic eggs
3. A bottle of Moscato
4. Heinz ketchup
5. Coke Zero
I had the last of three three microdermabrasion sessions at the Avana Clinic at the Sylvia Park mall today. A different girl did my face and our conversation started with her wondering if I was wearing coloured contacts. No I'm not, I reply followed by my standard explanation that when I was younger, they were slightly bluer (a lie) and that the shade had changed to something closer to greyish blue. It was a far easier (and less dumber) explanation than, I didn't really know; that I started out with brown eyes like my siblings and that somewhere along the way, they changed.
We got to talking about ethnicities (my father's family has Spanish ancestry I tell her, and this is mostly likely true) and hers she tells me, is an interesting mix of Japanese on her mother's side while her father is Pakistani-Kazakkstani-Indian; that she is a practicing Muslim who doesn't wear the hijab. To be honest, I didn't take much notice of her as you would with some people who seem to either consciously or unconsciously try to be inconspicuous. But even then, my fleeting impression of her was that she was Korean and I tell her that.
I get that a lot she says somehow a bit dismayed, as she begins to cleanse my face. After the treatment, I make sure to get a proper look and I see a girl in her early twenties with a square-jawed Eurasian face. She could possibly be younger too which makes me re-think about trying out the laser treatments I was thinking of getting over the Christmas break.
I've never done lasers before and I feel that for such a procedure, maybe I wanted a more mature, medically authoritative person like an actual dermatologist.
She asks me at length what I did for a living but for some reason, I didn't question how she was trained for this. Was she a trainee? Was this a temp job for university students earning money on the side? In Adidas Superstar sneakers, jeans and a plain white t-shirt, she looked the part. Wielding a derma-microdermabrasion polishing wand may be easy enough but lasers?
My other alternative was About Face also at the mall. I've tried them twice and while I found their exacting professionalism very comforting, I actually hated their pushiness for their expensive products. It was like that dentist that I tried who even before he could start the procedure, was already ticking a list of stuff I needed to do with matching price-estimates. Do I need to spend $2,000 to deal with micro-cavities?
I've been 'doing my skin' for nearly half my life. I know its up and downs. I rarely ever go to sleep without washing my face and putting some product on. I have sun-screen on 365 days a year even on cloudy days. I've recently started drinking lots of water even if I hate the taste of water. I hate it when someone pushes for a recommendation based on an assumption- a cosmetic assumption for God's sakes.
But the next step, lasers, has to be done right so I needed to weigh things carefully.
It was either the millennial crowd at Avana, or the pushy professionals at About Face.
So what's your name again I ask her. She gives one that has Zs and lots of Ss which my hearing/brain promptly fails to process. I find the other girl who did my first two sessions at reception when Zss Sss and I walk out. Hi, I simply say to her because her name too is one of those confounding things that are obviously foreign and so exotic that it defies normal pronunciation.
So when are you booking for your laser treatments they ask me and Zss Sss opens up her appointment tablet to look for a date.
Probably before the holidays (most likely true)..will be travelling a lot overseas in the next couple of weeks up to November so not sure of my schedule (not true)...I'll give you guys a ring to book (maybe) and hey, thanks...
Weekends or any kind of free day is like my paycheck in my bank account; it's suddenly there and I struggle with what to do with it.
I think of other people like my siblings and I know that for the most part, their decisions for the day are determined largely by their responsibilities as parents. I only have to be responsible for myself and there lies the conundrum- what to do with oneself? Obviously, I'm good with the 'I take care of myself' bit; I like to believe I have a good grip on my health- it could be better, but there's the part of enjoying life. I always cast the story of my dad's health as a cautionary-tale but when I relieve the memories of family weekends filled with great food and contentment, I pull myself back from thinking that a piece of perfectly cooked pork-belly will end up killing me.
It will or it may not, but one thing I will never do is to live in fear of it.
But no pork belly today, sadly.
With the exception of Yanna/Ally, none of my siblings' children resemble them at all. My mom would moan something vaguely racist about dominant bloodlines but I get her point; there is something comforting seeing your likeness passed on to your children. So I've used an image of Yanna/Ally because I couldn't find a photo of her mother that I liked. I find this photo taken when we spent Christmas in Hawaii a few years back particularly interesting because this is how I remember Binky when we were younger. She was always the serious one and it was rare to catch her simply unguarded, unburdened by whatever she was thinking.
I would like to think that we're polar opposites but it doesn't seem to be true; I just hide the seriousness very well. In photos, we have the same expression of hesitation; should I smile? Should it be a half-one, a full-on grin? We get caught in photos always looking unsure of what to project. But maybe that's our problem- do we need to project anything at all? And if we do, should it be what the world expects, or should it be what we truly feel at that moment?
And the search goes on, looking for the 'perfect photo'.
My mother makes it a point to ring us on our birthdays. After the greetings have been dispensed with, it's mostly a catch-up on what's happening at home. Unlike dreaded text messages in the middle of the night, most of the news- admittedly grim ones- concern other people. Because really, there are only two kinds of news anyway right?
Binky hates it tho- what kind of news is that she complained to Doyet who told her about what had happened to Atchi Gina. But she's not the only one who chose to brush that away. When I was home last December mom had urged me to pay Atchi Gina a visit, but I really didn't want to. What does one say to someone who is dying from a mysterious condition that doctors couldn't diagnose?
These are people you've known your entire life, but the connections are now so tenuous, I feel as if the stories are not real. It seems like copping out, but I would choose to remember people as they were in the past- alive, healthy, happy.
And on a happier note, we settled on Chinese for Doyet's birthday.
22 July 2017
Last night, I got one of those horrible texts; a number that wasn't on my phone-book and without my glasses, all I could make out was that the message was in Filipino. Possibly bad news.
It was Jong asking if I was still awake, that he had brought Doyet to Middlemore hospital for stomach pains and if I could come over to the house the next day. Sam asked me if I wanted to go over and I said that it should be fine. It should be. This was one of those things that you knew, had to be fine; willed and prayed to be fine.
It had been a gruelling several weeks of what else, work. Mental work. Creative acrobatics. Petty office politics. Superficial office socialising. Waking up at 5am. Thinking of lunches and dinners days in advance. Butt and leg exercises. I wasn't really exhausted; I felt full. All I wanted was not to think of anything on a Friday night but just get to bed, to sleep, to wake up at 10am.
I would usually put my phone on flight mode before I went to bed to shut off the endless notifications, but I didn't this time. I texted Jong back to update me and that I was coming over the next day.
I went to bed and didn't think of anything except to surrender to blessed sleep, to faith.
(Doyet is fine)
15 July 2017
Trying to find snow and unable to find it..
10 July 2017
It took all of 15 minutes of a sudden Auckland winter storm to rip off part of the roof of a building our offices are in, allowing rain-water to soak most of the new extended wing. There is something terribly refreshing about a pseudo-disaster (it took less than two hours to relocate desks, set-up and start the daily grind); you (temporarily) become more productive, more sociable. Alas, return to 'normalcy' happens too quickly.
30 June 2017
The best steamed pork-bun is in Manurewa. And to be clear, this is siopao which is actually Hokkien for steamed buns and totally different from the more commonly found char sio bao with the cracked top, the denser dough and the paltry filling. The best siopao should ideally be half bun and half filling. It should also ideally be eaten the moment one buys it; I would get it for morning tea and have to contend with peeling off the paper bottom that gets stuck via the steam onto the bun. Microwave ovens are convenient sure, but it's a steamed bun's worst enemy.