Tender Truths

February 14, 2016

tender truths

i’ve been listening to music a lot more lately. those same ones i used to listen to back in grade school, in love with a boy i hardly care about anymore today. a bit awkward how the feelings come swooshing back but they don’t mean anything anymore. they’re only cold feelings stuck within songs from moments of our past lives. it intrigues me. music is for the soul. if i could be really really real, unafraid of eyes glued to my vulnerability, maybe all i’d do is sing. i’d strum on my guitar or play the piano so passionately while i sing. except i can’t because there are a lot of things i can’t do. if only i had ten more lives to fit in everything i want to.

i’m writing this now because i just read through some parts of a new frankie magazine i bought a week ago. such a ripoff (in australia, $10 and here in the philippines $20) but so, so worth every single cent no matter. in awe yet again how the silent sciences and forces of this universe leads you always to the right people, the perfect reads. destiny for others, just physics to me. i read it yesterday afternoon, breeze seeping through the windows while i blast songs from yesterdayagos.

i am constantly understanding myself and how it’s really like to be human. we try every day, that’s the best we ought to do. try to be what, to do what? well, what else than to be the persons we need to be, to do what we have to do.

a wonderful writer by the name of rowena grant-frost says all the right words about not understanding but just going on anyway. and it’s so purely honest, i want to share it here for you:

“i can describe my career in numbers: 10 years, two degrees, five jobs, lots of words. the sum of my work is probably more than just numbers, but when i look back at it all, when i try to find the bigger whole that these bits add up to, all that goes through my head is this: “i don’t know, i don’t know, i don’t know.”

it’s a thought that gnaws at me when i find myself working. “why am i doing this?” “i don’t know.” “should i do something different?” “i don’t know.” “will any of this ever mean anything more than it does now, with all the stress and the noise and the pressure?” “i don’t know. probably not. this is probably it forever.”

sometimes i’m brave enough to ask myself if i’m happy. the answer, when it comes, is usually small and halting: “i don’t know.”

sometimes i find myself looking at other people and wondering if they feel the same way. other people, on their way to work with their polished shoes and crisp collared shirts, who seem so sure of themselves and their place in the world and their reasons for doing exactly what they’re doing. do they ever find themselves wondering what it all might add up to? what, in the end, the late nights and terse emails and piles of paper and folders, and meetings and reminders might mean? they seem so certain. they don’t seem to wonder. they seem so ready and eager to go.

i try to look on the bright side. i feel very grateful for everything i’ve achieved so far and know that other people have to struggle up much bigger hills than my own. but gratitude and optimism can only get you so far. gratitude and optimism can’t satisfy lingering doubts, or tell you what it all add up to — or if it is meant to add up to anything at all. they don’t soothe the voice that keeps prodding and asking: “what are you doing? why are you doing it? do you think any of it really matters, in the end?”

the voice wants answers, but i haven’t got any. i just keep going, ploughing ahead, solving problems and busily working, while i watch the days and weeks and years flit past. one day, you might also wake up and realise that it’s been 10 years. two degrees. five jobs. lots of words.”

these 10 years have sometimes felt like an exercise in contortion. they have sometimes felt like i have twisted and wrapped myself into strange shapes to continue on. sometimes i have felt like i have become someone else entirely: the kind of person who doesn’t think about anything other than the achievement of goals, not their meaning. the kind of person who is committed and confident and sure. the kind of person who believes, intrinsically, in what they are doing. the kind of person who is not afraid.

when you go home after eight hours of being someone else, your head feels as full as a fishbowl and your shoulders feel as heavy as your heart. instead of relaxing, you find yourself trying to reconcile the distance between who you think you are and who you need to become to get by.

i have tried letting go. i have tried resigning every conceit i have about myself and just accepting that i need to become someone else for good. but every time i have tried to let go, i’ve found some small part of myself clinging determinedly to the remaining strands of who i imagine i am, or who i imagine i should be.

“this is all you have left,” the small voice tells me. “make it mean something.”

so i carry on and watch the years go by. and hope that, in the end, it matters.”


when i read this i feel a tug inside. all of a sudden i don’t anymore feel alone. for weeks now i’ve been battling a similar war. making sense of who i really am and who i should be. i want so badly to understand, to find answers to my never-ending questions on how to balance everything out and not disappoint anyone. this leaves me helpless when i allow it.

and yet still, trying to put myself in rowena’s shoes,  i feel very grateful for having a very deep why. to live with purpose everyday, every movement with a sprinkling of meaning. it’s full, it’s messy, but it’s totally meant.

but at the same time, why don’t i feel like i belong? why does it feel like i should be happiest here and yet i’m not? i’m still looking for something, i still need to fill a part of myself i’m not getting. i just don’t know what it is, and it’s hard to move when what i want is so hazy.

i wonder if it’s selfish of me to want happiness for myself.

but you know what i desire deep in my heart?

the loudest of music pounding on my eardrums, flowing through my heart until i can’t hear anymore the voices that shackle me helpless everyday. i want to dance in front of other people so bad, with those same silly bops and boogies i do in my underwear when i’m alone in my room. the girl i see in my bedroom mirror, i want to see that same her across all other mirrors in the real world. the real me out there, living fiercely, moving with grace no matter how clumsy i can really be, throwing out love after love even when it’s hard. i want to accept sadness with joy. to fall in love and be able to hold hands with the boy that i love so everyone can see. i need someplace else to be real. to find my god up in the mountains where there’s only the two of us, nobody else, nothing else, no thought else. i want to to allow myself to be absolutely flawed and imperfect without being judged and being considered a bad person. i want to be the best i can be, but i also just want to do that whilst being me. i want to be honest. goddamn, i want to be so so so honest so bad. and to spend entire days living slow, reading a book or playing scrabble without thinking about anything else.

i leave the city for a bit for fresh air i’ve been longing for in months. i ride with my cousins as they head back to their home in a city up in the mountains. their busyness is a blessing even to me. they don’t find much time to spend with me but it isn’t at all a problem. i find a lot of time alone here, in milk tea shops sometimes but mostly on the bar at their place i marked my work place.

away from expectations, in here i am just me. not completely me still, but more me than i feel when i’m back home. so i silently write and draft plans away, eat lots of sweets (cupcakes, cinnamon buns, an assortment of fruits, chocolates, crispy brownies, so on) in between. i find time to jog and meditate, even read books past midnight. and then when we both find time, b and i talk over the phone and talk about how things have been. i feel so free.


Shooting for the Stars

February 13, 2016
My Journal Entry for the months of October, November, December 2015

I’m back home in Manila after four weekends of adventuring away from the city. My days are as normally full as my city life gets. I write on my journal, and then on my Instagram post — I can get used to to this. Leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back and never feeling like my life is a mess. Every single day I feel beyond blessed for this whirlwind life of crazy everything and anything and strangers and familiars and adventures and misadventures of all kinds.

After a September beyond any that I’ve hoped and imagined, I am ready for a new month.

oct, nov, dec 15

Mornings, I’m sick with allergies. Our 6-month young lab Philip has been living with us for four months now since that day our dad randomly brought him home and I know he’s the reason behind my wild everyday sneezes. I start my day pushing away feelings of sick laziness. I can’t allow it. Big things are coming, but for now little things fill my days. There seems to be a bit of a funny perception on the braver (maybe lazier) few who have decided to leave school. My days aren’t filled with scheduled classes and tons of graded requirements but every single day I head to bed so damn proud of what I’ve accomplished. I don’t get a ton of money nor get to run alongside fellow students to fuel my energy and give me soothing words of commendation but I find complete contentment in a life that is wholly, happily lived. Doing what I love and living a life that is centered on love and directed towards all that is good is what’s most important to me.

I write often nowadays, on my journal and for the blog. I think it’s the cold breeze and the storm that often comes. Late at night, I spend hours coloring and finishing off what’s left of my photography work. I’m working towards a transition. A bit of a change of careers to put it frankly, although only for a while so I can come back and create more photographs.

I meet Sofia at my favorite yoghurt place and she instantly becomes my sister. We’ve long been admiring each other over the Internet until this moment. Without even trying, our conversation flows like river. We are one and the same — sentiments and visions aligned, especially with what we’d love for the world to evolve to, although still very different. Her pretty curls, her affinity towards the color pink, and her artistry of creating something out of absolutely nothing (she creates collages) makes her very different from me. I look at her and wonder how I’d be like by 27.

I tell her about the change I’m finding myself in. That I’m also scared of what others might think — I fought so hard to make everyone, my parents especially believe that photography is what I wanted to do the rest of my life. And here I am. But I tell her this isn’t really a change, that it’s just my passions evolving into something more lucid and potent. She gets exactly what I mean.

The thing is, I feel myself growing beyond my passion for sharing stories through photographs and writing. Nowadays my dreams are of touching other people’s lives in a much deeper, more interactive way. I don’t want anymore just to take photographs and write and have people stumble upon them, see beauty and be inspired for just a while. I want something more. And so I start to work towards that more and it’s a bighearted gathering with lots of work to do behind it.

It’s so intense sometimes I dream about it at night, even more when I’m awake planning and drafting ideas on my notebook. So I try to let go of other things and responsibilities I don’t need anymore a bit more each day, leaving more and more time and space and energy for stitching all the little details together until I can share. I don’t tell anybody just yet. Only B knows for many weeks.

A lot of hesitation comes along with the change. Fear eats me up like it does others. I doubt my capabilities, my readiness, even my age. I struggle to keep going.

I am topless on my bed, the sun waiting to rise. I don’t know why I woke up with barely four hours of sleep but I use this calmness to finish a book I bought from two weeks ago, in a book store way down the southernmost tip of the Philippines. It’s all blue and yellow with lame fonts but right under it proclaims “how to turn a great idea into a thriving business” and so I grab it.

It’s such a beautiful, poignant book. So me at this point in my life. I nod too much I think and smile a lot, even cry at times. I have so many favorite parts and I hope to share about this some more in time, but it mostly revolves around this quote:

A business with conscience.
That is, I believe, the only mission worthy of the name.
To create a world in which people are present, honest, open, and alive.
To create a world in which people make conscious decisions in good conscience.
That is what shooting for the moon is all about.
And one cannot do it in one’s sleep.
It requires all we have.
And it requires now.

So I made a decision in my heart. I choose to jump in. No more putting dreams on the shelf and playing it safe. It will take a lot of work, a lot of learning. On many moments I’m so sure I’d want to give up, but for as long as I have the will I promise to keep trying. The best part about it all? Everyday as I work, I hardly ever think about how this would benefit me — all the while I can’t help but feel so elated to be working on a  project that can transform so many other people’s lives. There is so much more happiness in giving to others, I trust and believe in it so much more now.

I shoot still in between. The lasts until another six or so months. Some I’ve already shared: Mermaids on LandJeline and portraits of Shannice. I am yet to color and share all other sets of photographs I still haven’t. I’ll get to them one way or another.

Somewhere along the way I stop feeling too much. The sentiments never leave, I drown deep into them still. But they don’t ever reach paper anymore and unreal as it is, sometimes I forget I even own a beautiful camera. Life gets mechanical. Everyday I scratch off to-dos on a TextEdit note I don’t exit on my desktop. It feels so good somehow. And yet I know I’ve lost a huge part of myself. I don’t dare question it.

Days are so full and flying too swiftly I hardly believe sometimes a certain memory roots back only from a week, two weeks, a month, two months before. I wonder if this is how it’s like growing up. I fall badly sick again, but only for a bit so I can get back up and live.

I find fragments of quick adventures in the city.

I drag B, my dad and sister Trisha to watch a play some friends of mine have helped produce. I feel a different zest having some of the most special people in my life with me tonight. The play revolves around millenials and is rightly called No Filter. I cringe at the thought of my dad hearing all this bluntness but I throw out guilty laughter still from relating to some monologues throughout. I see some old friends amongst the crowd and again and again, I’d hear them spurt out words that I’ve changed. We head back home, the car exploding with thoughts and opinions. When we arrive at our place, I give B some of my mom’s cheese-overloaded lasagna to bring back home and hug him goodbye.

I meet Arielle for dinner on another. We’ve missed each other after almost a year apart so we say it so often in between stories. As usual, a lot has changed but not our friendship. It’s that kind that will remain real and honest no matter the time apart. Hugging as we’re about to separate ways, Air says “I love you!” and I feel in my heart how much she means it. I tell her I love her back.

Noah and Bianca arrive at my place before I am dressed nicely, busy cooking carbonara. We’re all laughing at how random this is — we only planned this the night before and here we are — making meals that don’t seem to fit together (pasta, air fried sweet potato & tostitos with lots of cheese) while we mention hilarious, mostly pathetic stories and statements. We never had the chance to get together like this ever — not even when I was still in the same college as them two years back. I think of the Chiara they knew then. Sixteen and in love with theatre, sporting long, ombrèd hair that fell until my waist. I’m so sure I still used to spurt some ugly cusses then, felt more confident with myself even though I was 20 pounds heavier. They’ve changed in many ways too but I’m happy getting to know the persons they are now. This (re)union is a gift. We eat and talk for hours and hours about art, this crazy world, the drastic changes in these recent generations, how life has been so far and the struggles and beauty of it all, religion and the great God of this universe, and all the random, hilarious, profound things in between. My heart is so full. I want to sink deep into this moment. I feel grateful to have friends who are so creative, so insightful and just downright real and honest.

With the holidays coming quick, the streets are unbelievably packed. My dad and I play tag team in overtaking cars to get home past midnight and in my car I’m giggling the entire time. Once I thought I left him way behind, only to hear honking on my left side seconds after and there he is — windows down, my dad’s head peaking through, a smirk matched with a teasing wave that says, “Ha! In your face! I caught up with you!” I’m ahead most of the time as he follows me criss cross past car after car and when we get home, he tells me proudly (still with a huge grin) that I’m a good driver. It’s one of those father-daughter moments that are most special to me — when we’re out there yolo-ing together, as silly as it sounds. The next week, we are all restless in the car, the traffic not moving an inch. It feels like an apocalypse. We drive in the nearest hotel and head back home the next day.

Mulan flies in from Australia and stays with us until the end of December. A crazy month to cap off a crazy year.

I sit myself down and write a ton of self-love and evaluation. I celebrate what I’ve done right and write lists of things that I still need to work on. I attempt to map out my plans for the next two years. Doing this helps me to move forward even though the future is obscure and mostly out of my control.

A lot of anger wells up inside me. I hate that I’m stuck in a situation I have no control over. That people around me expect too much of each other. That I have to keep pushing for perfection even when I’m far from it. I want to leave so bad but I know I’m just mad and this is just a fleeting feeling. I go on with life with this heaviness. I float through the days.

Bryce and I are not good. I found out we’re staying at the same hotel, worse, on the same floor but we don’t share a single glance. It’s so late and we have to be up early again. I finish prepping for bed when I get a weird urge to look through the peephole. Seconds later, he walks past. I catch my breath. Unreal. I’m jumping towards the bed, confused at what just happened. I stare blankly into space and decide to walk back to it one last time. He passes by again, this time back to his room. What? I wrap myself tight under the blankets, watching the soft shadows on the ceiling flicker in the dark until I’m gone.

It’s a stormy Saturday and we’re driving to Tagaytay. We eat the best-tasting organic salad and fill our stomachs heavy with creamy chicken pasta and lots of sweet potatoes at Sonya’s. We say this is our our brunchner — breakfast, lunch and dinner altogether, and we are not joking. I feel at peace today. By nighttime, we settle at Carmelence’s place. Our hosts tell us this room usually promises a beautiful sunrise view but with the storm, we’d be lucky. Everybody finds their spots and silently head to bed. I brave the cold at the balcony to work.

The pitch black scene ahead of me gives me the worst of goosebumps. I don’t see anything, I only hear the howling of the mad winds against leaves and branches who are crying for help. The power of nature overwhelms me. I am trying to ignore it but the chandeliers’ sharp clinking tells me they’re soon to fall. My notebooks and books forget about gravity from time to time. I think of the Creator of all this — how much more wildly powerful he must be, nature just a glimpse of his mightiness. I can’t take the cold and fear anymore, I run inside and lie on a shared bed with Kc and Mulan. For a bit I am giggling at how pathetic I must’ve looked so frightened at invisible things outside — like those supernatural events caught on cameras. I sleep fulfilled and wake to a pink-glittered sunrise. The storm has abated.

B leaves for Amsterdam on the 21st until the new year. I wake up to little snippets of moments he shares to me. I miss my best friend, I miss the sight of all scenes and people unfamiliar. What I’d do to be away from here too. I send him back his photographs I’ve colored.

These last weeks I work like I’ve never thought I could before. I call my project the Evergreen Gathering.

I write until firecrackers start to roar and it’s a new year. In my parents’ room I ask my dad what his 2016 theme is but he only throws back the question at me. “Take risks” I told him easily. I see that familiar look on his face when he’s processing how weird I am. He says, “you mean taking calculated risks.” I laugh and tell him I agree.

I love these months. A life changed. So much more goodness to come during the next year.