Thursday, February 14, 2019

godson, i was an hour

... too early for your baptism.
I shall tell you of the world-state at these times -
these times when you could easily fit into
the crook of your mother's arm.

It is the infancy of 2019. It is 3:37 PM.
Cebu traffic deteriorates, yet somehow
I overestimated it, here too early,
though without worries: church yards on weekdays
are premier parking spots. Near-empty,
uniquely peaceful, possessing that hanging
sense of divine security -
who would steal a few steps from God's front door?

If this was the 90s, 00s or even the early 10s,
I would have found an empty pew on which
I could sip into the solemnity as if it’s liquor.
I would have sincerely tried to make
sense of my soul, again,
I would have tried to fit my jagged faith
into that perfect Christian mold, again.
Justify my fate,
to adhere to the rigid parameters of religion...
I still would not have found answers, again,
still it would have been fine, at least
I would have assembled a poem or two in my head.
I would have freed them into paper sometime.

But it is an infant 2019. It is 3:39 PM.
I've long made peace with my jagged faith
and its cold relationship with religion, and
there's not much drive towards writing, these days.
Instead I entrusted my Ford to the church, to all
its divinity, I sank feet, alternating into a few
hundred footsteps towards a cafe.
In minutes, I had the day’s 3rd mug in hand,
coffee in mouth, bitter numbness in spirit.
Soon after I had exchanged a half dozen
messages with your father.
My muted phone was a harlequin, juggling, dancing
in binary, its games and entertainment laid out for me...
I scrolled down some in Facebook and Instagram.

All while encouraging time to crawl,
this child year, second after second
further inwards

Monday, December 17, 2018


She planted an ice cube in the ceiling and in time, it grew into a fine stalactite. She named it Elsa.

The lizards from every room from all of her house came over to visit. Each tiny reptilian face enthralled by the cold crystal, alien to this world that only cycled around four different summers.

They brought tribute and they brought their faith. The birth of religion was inevitable.

Soon, the altars and the chapels appeared across her house's ceilings. Shortly, the churches and the cathedrals followed.

She realized they had to invent a devil, just so they could run a few inquisitions. She had to keep fire extinguishers within reach.

She planted an ice cube on the floor and it grew into a fine stalagmite she wanted to name Anna, but the exiled lizards whose Exodus led to her floor insisted to call by it another name: The Beast, the one to bring the final conflict on Armageddon (it's a couple of adjacent boards in her kitchen ceiling, just above the stove).

They prepared for war.


Thursday, December 13, 2018


I heard her ask, from a table away.

"Do you ever feel the world stalling for time?"

It was a Thursday. Its slow morning saw a sparsely filled coffee shop, caught at a time when most of the working class in this part of the city were either asleep or headed home.

The seconds pass and her question hung in the air, the exclamation point at its tail behaving as it looked: a hook, stalking the catch.

I glanced her way, and as I feared I found her by herself and her eyes locked in on me. A grin as wicked as that question mark. The catch, I realized with dismay, was me.

I wasn't prepared for this and I didn't want this. But social demands demanded it. My lips rebelled with a half-smile.

She knew her question still hung unanswered. Abandoning ranged assault tactics, she leaned forward. Melee attack detected almost immediately: it alarmingly cut off a couple of inches from the distance that kept my solitude secure. This breach terrified me.

"I know the look. Your calendars and phones and emails tell you what day it is. But in the back of your mind, there's a voice that objects. It's in the exhaustion gnawing under your skin. It's Wednesday or Thursday but you just know you've gone through a week already."

Ah, so it was the worst kind of question, after all: the one with the answer nailed at the end. A right answer.

The kind that demanded a polite, reserved, "Yeah..."

Seemingly satisfied, she withdrew her gaze back to her mug of tea. She inhaled the steam like bounty for bagging my Yeah...

She gave me just enough time to feel that false sense of things reverting back to normal, to safety, then, even without the stare this time:

"Today's a Helsday,"

The gentle pull in her voice, quiet and unmistakably the lure I could never resist.

I tried to slow down the way I clutched my cup, the feeble attempt to make it come off as deliberate rather than instinctual panic. This cup, the last branch on the cliff face, impossibly there for me to dangle onto before falling anyway. A cruel ray of hope for my introverted kind.

Then the cold seeped into my palm and I wished I ordered a hot drink instead.

Yet beyond my social ineptitudes, she made sense. I was bad at peering into those optical illusion paintings, back in the days of the old 3-floor department stores. Those cheap artwork said to have some hidden imagery that once found, your mind made room to accept the realization that absolutely, it was always there. There she sat telling me there's a Helsday somewhere in the middle of the week, and absolutely, it's the only reason why a Tuesday always went slower than a Friday.

Does the how matter? On the concept of hidden truths, it is deep waters I don't want to dive into. On the specifics of a missing day, this was what she told me, straight up, like the most bitter wine unwatered:

"She fell for him, but he would not love her back. It was the last Helsday. She asked the universe to take away all Helsdays from weeks gone and from weeks that will be. Her love and heartbreak cannot be anyone else's."

It was true. Absolutely.

She must have been long gone when I finished my cup, by then the liquid was more melted ice than coffee. Like a truth lingering through long measures of time, it's still there underneath all the great lies and all the lesser truths, and barely showing.

As I stood, I consulted my phone and the clock on the wall and the position of the sun. Still it was Thursday, a slow morning.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018


how else could i hold you,
other than like sea?
resigned to being,
unable to hold all of you,
most of you,
any significant amount of you,
in an embrace,
resigned to being,
unable to comprehend,
all the depth of you,
all the silent dark mysteries
underneath your shimmer,

you may think of me,
as wave.
often in need,
to crash out of you.
i need to surface,
i need,
a gasp of air,
a gasp of shore.
but in a moment,
rolling back to you,
unable to be,
without all your complexities...

call me tethered.
call me chained, locked,
name me imprisoned, captive.
if i confuse us with the many things
i am to you,
ask me, love, to fold that,
all in a word,
ask me, to elucidate,
and you will find no great depths,
no curious mysteries to unravel:

i would settle in the world
wrapped in the moment you
call me yours.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

vitamin sea

grant me permission to imagine tying
tiny kites at the end of each
of the thousands of your hair

i will think of you as anchor,
harbor to your kite fleet warring
with the continental winds;
i will have you stand knee deep
by the edge of an ocean

the waves will lap at your thighs.
your hands will cup around your mouth,
sea water brimming over your fingers;
i will not stop you, nor your dress,
from drinking your fill.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

eye, lid.

We each have a dark thing that only comes to us in times of great depression, and mine came some Novembers ago. In the time of the year when the weather could not decide between being a punishingly hot rainy season or an annoyingly wet summer, it came to me in the form of a man, claiming to be my true father.

“Son. Son, son, son,” there was considerable tremor in its voice as it told me this, its dirt-rimmed fingers digging hard into my shoulders. In a voice bordering on screaming as if he was hard of hearing or wearing headphones, he said, “I... see you.”

Breath that held Death and Decay captive for centuries hurled storms onto my face. Panic was salvation, Panic kept me awake.
The noontime crowd flowed around us as water would navigate around a stick stabbed in the middle of a stream, heedless to my nightmare.

It was wrapped equally in rags and its own hair, and all the dirt both parts have amassed over a long time.

Its eyes, though. Specifically, the wounds in place of them, a pair of gaping doors to the same abyss housed in a body mistaken as human. Empty pools rimmed with torn skin, long-dried blood blackened by time, infection with all that pus. All the grimy hair could not curtain, or refused to.

“Take those off. We’re not them. You're not them. See me, too, son, see me, too. See the universe,” it told me in haymakers of breaths, right as Fear shoved Confusion aside, thundering in like a god to lend me a moment’s strength to fly. I pushed myself out of the thing’s grip. I picked myself off the initial stumble. I ran a long time until the last gasp of breath abandoned me. No, I did not dare look back at it, but I knew. I could not unsee it. A permanent streak of spilled ink, blackest ink, running across my memories.

But the truth was I have not seen it. I have not experienced it. Not then.


Depression peaked when I lost her, but it had been growing over the past years. I could have let it take over every cell that was I, I could have had my true self take his leave, have Depression put on the entire body and run the Life. It may have been easy to let it find an exit out of all this.

But no. I did not want that.

I picked one of the thinner spoons out of her silverware collection. It seemed like the one we used to taste soup as it cooked, never one of those that made it to the dining table.

Could you have imagined such a mundane eating utensil to have such an extremely good command of pain when applied onto the human eye?

The first bloody globe finally rid itself of the last stubborn nerve and dribbled around the sink. I thought of a fish plucked off the water, the nature of draining energy from the living body to synch like dance and song heading towards the end of their mutual existence. I wondered if this was a dream. If it was, I remained asleep.

I started on the other.


Darkness, then Light.

It began with Vision.

How do you describe color to someone who had never perceived it? I could start with pointing at a small portion in the sky, telling you it was “less azure” than the portion on its immediate left. But each centimeter of expansion would demand a new measure of comparison, and I would have to name each new color for you, and after a couple of million I would have given up. It would be comparable to building a network of religions, and I do not have the motivation to instill Faith, the one ingredient required for anyone who's not of my kind to believe in the Truth.

The world itself was a welcome party to my birth, the sights a glorious parade not unlike a mesh of a thousand years of Sinulog.

Sound followed: the horrified voices coming out of the shells of what I used to call fellow men. But even then, all their emotions dispersed across waves of music vibrating from everything, even from every wisp of air hanging, hovering, floating around.

Scent and touch came next, the elusive couple harder to define, and you know how it is. Man learned to record sight and sound but never scent nor touch. I began with feeding a lingering human hunger to try, to let you know, but Pity came to me in a wind pattern of three thousand, nine hundred, and eleven different colors, twice the number of different tunes, and in as many scents and textures. I knew then that all I could give you was a sad look barely masked with a slight smile.


It came at the summit of my birth's celebration , shearing through the shells of who, or what, I called fellow men: you. Unfortunate creations with only darkness beneath your spherical blindfolds.

It was pulsating with a billion sights, patterns, melodies, and everything you thralls never could. Amplifying all those and surrounding elements as it got closer.

I called out to it. My voice, my words, were alien, but familiar, and deliciously richer.

“Father. Father, father, father.”


‘cause you wrote a confession on her palm when she wanted your name; better yet you should have written the plan instead

i. alternate ending

Twilight, spiked with sake for the gods, did not have the magic to have her take his memories.

The price that took form of losing each other’s name, at what purchase was it attached to, then? Certainly not the blueprints of his terrorism. Or the fate that befell a city bicycle that took her halfway to here, while having to suffer a trail beaten down for mountain bikes and people on foot.

She was confused. How could one hang on to sanity when your last memory before this dream-like dusk was of the festival of falling comet shards over windswept grass fields? True, their minds had taken turns at driving each other’s bodies, but as dancers do - weaving across the floor, deftly flowing out of each other’s way, guiding the other, but always with a chasm separating them, never together on the same precipice.

So she stood there at the lip of the crater, behind her the lonely green paradise it encircled, the rock shelter of gods. Before her, the breathtaking lake whose beauty she had grown to take for granted. The town she always wanted to toss over her slender shoulders, all of the first some-teen years of her life she could not wait to leave behind.

Death. Death was falling upon her world, her mind nagged at her. But her now-questionable memories confined her where she stood, the uncertainty stemmed from him living as her on that day she had already lived. It threatened to overlap and mock whatever is left of her reality. For instance, the question of how her hair got cut short that day: was her memory false now, had he overwritten this day but left it clinging to her like a phantom only she could see? Or, was it even the same festival day, was it even the same comet?

And it must have took him forever to get her up here. The exhaustion it taxed on her body kept her rooted where she stood and demanded she gave in, and it was just too easy to fall to her knees, and wait for the end of the world.

ii. alternate epilogue

She was not where the rocks from heaven landed.

But the lot death had taken from her, abetted by her psyche’s state of already skating over the slippery ice of this mind-switching mistaken for romance, had broken her. They found her sporting an empty gaze, wandering around the edge of the water where her town used to be.

No, she did not return to his city. They found her a comfortable bed where they cared for her and others like her, until weeks later when no one was looking, she went into the younger of two lakes and walked to the bottom to sleep and rest, knowing in three years he would come and restart the torment.


This was from last year, when I was still bothered by the plot hole in the ending of Shinkai Makoto's anime your name.