Tag Archives: Life

Old Dogs Don’t Play No Games

Dog sunset

Ruff!

Been lying here under the car since forever, bugs carelessly flying above my drooping ears, a busy community of ticks underneath my thinning fur, my belly warming the road and vice-versa.

Ruff!

Used to race back and forth along this dusty street, chasing cars, bikes, and strange people with unfamiliar scents. I never got tired even when my tongue was flapping out my snout, leaving a trail of drool in the rushing wind. Life was a never-ending chase then and I was the four-legged speedster behind it, unrelenting, hungry. I never got tired and realized I was spent until now…

Now I just lie here like a log long broken down by poison mushrooms. I watch the road, the cars, the bikes, and the people but the fire in my gut has been extinguished. They’re all begging to be chased screaming from one corner to another but my legs just won’t move like they used to. And so I watch them overrun this street–my street soaked in my sour pee–and I watch them helplessly.

These days, I am a pretty useless “pet”–if you can still call me that. Can’t even protect my home no more should a man with an evil intent climbs over the wall one of these humid nights. If I’m lucky enough to spot his shadow with my bloodshot eyes almost shut by sticky green grit, then I might let out a bark though my owners shouldn’t really count on it since I lost the demon in my voice years ago when a nasty piece of chicken bone got stuck in my throat. Sure, I’ll force myself to run after him and try my best to bite his leg but don’t count on it. Nobody should ever count on it anymore.

*Scratches ears*

Look at these people with the smirk on their faces–how I long to wipe it off with a good growl. Men are arrogant–they think they know life because they live longer than us. A wise, old dog once told me that men live seven of our lifetime, and that makes them proud beings. What fools. If one has seven lifetimes, then that means it takes them seven times longer to commit life’s mistakes and to learn from those mistakes–seven bouts of the same pain from the same wound, which would never close even when it was licked to heal years ago. And from such an unimaginably protracted existence, you may be seven times the wiser but you’re also seven times the fool.

How many lifetimes does it take to learn what to eat? What to put in your snout and be part of your body? Do you really need such a lengthy life to know that your nose tells the truth? The food that nurtures smells good even if may not always look nice, and what’s rotten smells bad even if it’s often a feast for the eyes. The nose doesn’t lie–for it’s an extension of your heart.

How many lifetimes does it take to learn to establish your territory, to pee on the right wheels and scratch at the right trees? Surely once is enough? The independence and insolence of youth might drive you once or twice to cross the invisible boundaries that cut this space of earth but you learn from your first teeth-and-claw fight to respect others, to stay away from the sacred shrines they diligently guard.

In the same way, seven lives are too many to understand that you can never understand cats. Some things are better left misunderstood–and that’s a sign of respect, too, for cats similarly can never understand you.

You don’t need seven lifetimes to realize that the greatest kind of loyalty comes from humility–that there are things bigger than you and you owe your life to them. You bow your head in service to their greatness and transcendence, and when you’ve learned to bow your head low enough, you become great, too, for you have transcended yourself.

It is often said that freedom is overrated but it is more often misinterpreted. Gnash your fangs and howl all you want at cages and collars but nothing teaches the essence of true freedom as bitingly as limits.

And then there’s love–that primeval force that sends you scrambling desperately out the gates at night when all the unwanted eyes are closed or looking somewhere else dark. The unbearable heat of it, the madness that comes rushing through your veins! You can never rest and crawl in a comfortable corner until you’ve smelled her lovely scent and felt her warmest secrets. But you’ll never learn her secrets no matter how deeply you fall–and that perhaps is the greatest limit of all. For no matter how fast you run, love still runs faster–an unchasable car. And because your paws and claws can never even scratch it, you keep running like a rabid canine–irrational, insane, untamed, wild, honest.

Ruff!

Another kid throws a ball at me. I don’t even flinch. I’m tired and lazy like a young cat. The world now has to forgive me for every little thing I can’t do for I’ve paid my dues, barked my blues, and done them all before. People have this saying that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. They’re wrong. We can learn new tricks anytime–but old dogs don’t play no games. Not anymore.

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My hair’s too long, the weekend’s too short, and she likes somebody else.

Man I hate it.

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Let’s Write Again.

Let’s write again.

And let’s hope I haven’t forgotten how to stitch up with words what’s usually left gaping in life.

Let’s write about stuff again. My favorite petty things that have occupied so much space in my mind. Let’s write about work and home and the MRT; if you’re me, you almost always find yourself occupying one of the three.

Let’s write about thoughts again. Thoughts that dance so wildly they’re often more real than what I can touch with my oily fingers. The same thoughts that are so lethargic they make me sleepy just thinking about them. God they’re boring.

Let’s write about politics again and limit it to a single, icky sentence.

Let’s write about writing again and secretly gloat over the playfulness of the words–the inverted reflection of an ego so serious it abhors playing. Let’s express our love for words. My bread and butter. My feeding tube and others as well. The reason I’m digesting a huge piece of grilled meat right now and going to the bathroom to take a huge dump later. The reason why somebody on the Internet today, right this very moment, is probably cashing out while gladly taking my bullshit in. It’s a craft.

Let’s write about a girl again.

Oh, there’s always a girl–and that’s the first excuse. The first strokes of a craft well executed.

Yes, there’s always a girl. And the truth is, when everything coated with bull crap is wiped spotlessly clean, the only thing worth writing about is a girl.

There’s always, always a girl.

The one who breaks your heart walks away, another one comes creeping in. Freakin’ creeps they are. The new one’s not the same girl but something indescribable moves you to think she might still be the same, exact one.

Strange but maybe she’s even the same one you thought you got over with years and years ago. Sometimes, it seems to me, she’s all the girls in my life just wearing different masks and costumes. A trickster par excellence.

Maybe her ultimate role is to keep me chasing after her skirt–and you know how much they’re a killer when they’re wearing skirts. Maybe she’s a fishing line and I’m a fish. Only she’s the kind of line that doesn’t end and I’m the kind of fish who’s addicted to hooks. The endless whirring of the reel goes on.

Maybe–just maybe–it’s her purpose to keep creaming my heart until there’s no more and I’ll take the first woman I see by the hand on a drunken night in front of the altar just to fuckin’ get on with it and die.

Maybe her ultimate reason for living is to make me live.

Who knows?

But I guess I’ll wait for her and try to set an appointment despite her impossibly unpredictable schedule. I’ll search for her masked face in the crowd who don’t really give a shit about me and her. Keep on looking ’til I pick up her scent, that familiar fragrance of a kind of fear that has to be met like a man in order to feel like a man. And if I can’t sniff her out because she’s so elusive and rare, maybe I’ll wait some more and grow old some more. I’ve done it before and fairly recently.

In the meantime, I think I’ll tap on the keyboard.

Tap on it like a modern mating call ’til she shows herself–the love that won’t leave.

But come on. Let’s just stop this madness and write again.

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The Real Problem is Gravity

The real problem is gravity. This primordial force of nature that oftentimes subtly, but sometimes violently and mercilessly, pulls our feet down to the ground where we belong. It would throw us savagely against the face of the earth, splattering our brains and guts all over the map. It would crush us the second we get ahead of ourselves and think we can really fly.

How stupid of us. How ridiculous! Just look at how we fill our heads with the most complicated of thoughts and our notebooks with the most elaborate of plans just to see real life break them into two simple shards: to live or to die. And of course, we always choose the first option, making things even more laughable. For the moment we choose to live, we die bit by bit. Who really lives? Is this life? Working from morning ’til night, typing thousands of insignificant letters on a screen, so someone can make millions off them while we waste hours, years, decades, eternities cheating ourselves? Listening to nifty bits of music in the train to dull the senses and hide our consciousness from the zombie of a world banging on our door, screaming, “Let me inside your head, so I can eat your brains, you yellow-bellied fucktard!”

Yeah, that’s about it. That’s about life. And then there’s the amusing fact that when one chooses to die, he miraculously finds the secret passage to real, radiant, thriving life. Ask the people who are ready to die anytime. Ask the rebels in the mountains who have something to live for. The scavenging souls in the streets who still find a genuine reason to smile. The terminally ill who can find spiritual meaning in a matchstick or a dead cockroach. What are their mornings like? I sincerely think they have something I don’t.

See I’ve tried to rise above it like every John and Mary in the room. Hoodwinked myself into believing I’m worth something priceless and intangible. Perhaps an element of immortal love, rushing above people’s heads in a gust of wind. Or an embodiment of hope–a furnace of phoenix fire eternally renewing itself. A lighthouse signaling ships where to go in the darkest, most directionless nights. I’ve tried to imagine myself as such to no avail.

When the time has come for the twinkling fairy dust to collect on the floor like regular dirt to be swept away, all I see is a man, sitting in a dreary desk in a square building, facing his computer screen for the upteenth time. An existence deprived of the time to love. Or to take his lunch. A bag of sickness and porn waiting to explode into something fleeting, filthy and futile.

It’s all because of gravity.

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Cut the Bullshit: The Sanctity of Toil

It’s always been one of my greatest fears that by some twist of fate (not really that strange and even much closer to reality when I think about it) that I’ll end up a beggar on one of the many footbridges of Manila.

That even with all the education and the job experience I have, I’ll end up being one of those subhuman creatures barely distinguishable from the dirty concrete on which they crouch and lay festering with all the grime and soot of the city.

Then one day, my educated and well-off friends from the university will pass by my footbridge and happen to identify my face among the faceless. And they’ll be shocked to their wits’ end. They’ll cry. And they’ll be afraid to talk to me for fear of what I have to madly rave about the world, about life, maybe even about them.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that that fear is one of the many reasons why I strive daily to make something for myself. I want to be able to tell people I’m ok–in fact, that I’m doing great and I have a future. Like many of us who have actually finished our studies, I’ve always wanted to send a crystal-clear message that, so far, my life was worth it.

But what if I fail?

What if the devil whips its cruel tail and this nightmare of nightmares by some not-so-strange twist of fate comes true and I become, by tomorrow, a hapless beggar on a bridge muttering insane?

Would I not be worth considering a worthy friend and schoolmate?
Would I not be worth considering a productive and honorable citizen of this nation?
Would I not be worth considering a good son to my family?
In other words, would my life not be “worth it?”

Let’s cut the bullshit. You and I both know the answer and we don’t have to sugarcoat it just to defend our conscience currently being questioned. When I say “burger,” you instantly think of the object “burger.” And so therefore, just to be honest right here, right now, don’t stop that burger from appearing in your mind. The easy, simultaneous and honest answer, stranger, is that “Yes, your life would not have been worth it. Your life would’ve been a waste.”

It would’ve been an utter waste because I failed to make something for myself. All that learning and toil for nothing. Networks of useful people down the drain. Hopes extinguished by a terrible, inescapable destiny when an unspeakably shameful, shabby and fearsome monster came out from the skin of a former, now forgettable, human being.

What this means to me is that my life’s worth is in my toil–in my hollowed place in the market, in economics.

Stripped bare naked without my education, without my networks of friends, without my career, without my money, I am not worth it. To cut the huge pile of bullshit again, I don’t deserve to live.

No, it’s not that harsh of an idea and this is definitely not just the ramblings of another depressed soul who’s overflowing with sappy melodrama. Make no mistake about it. This is a rational proposition you should think about.

The squalid people in the streets, they don’t deserve to live.
Our pathetic, uncivilized, dirty neighbors, they don’t deserve to live.
Our farmers who barely earn anything, they don’t deserve to live.
The 925 million people who are suffering from hunger in the world don’t deserve to live.

For if these people deserve to live, how come they’re dying? And how come it is within our conscience to let them die?

I tell you the day I join these people is the day I lose my right to live. That is the day everyone who is in their right mind would leave me to rot and be another heap of meat for the city’s voracious host of parasites, the worms, the flies.

If someone has the right to live, we do everything to allow them to live. Or to be more precise, if someone has the right to live, then he has the MEANS to live. What is right but freedom and what is freedom but the means to achieve an end? For instance, if someone says he has a right to education, that could only mean that he he has the power to access education. Otherwise, that right is nothing but an empty word spoken by a lunatic to a brick wall.

To have the right to live is to deserve to live. And to deserve to live is to have the means to live. No more, no less.

And here we arrive at a question of conscience: since it is within our conscience to let other people die of extreme poverty while some of us live in obscene luxury, do we then concede that it is within our conscience to say the majority of the people in the world just don’t deserve to live?

Do we then concede we our complicit to this setup that agrees some people should just die?

Why? Because these people haven’t found their hollowed ground in toil, in the market, in economics. Therefore, they deserve their lives extinguished.

For if these people deserve to live, then obviously, we should have already acted in a decisive way ages ago to save their lives and keep them from dying a slow, terrible death brought about by hunger and sickness. If your mother got sick, wouldn’t you spend every bit of your savings to send her to a hospital and provide her with all the medicines she needs to get better? Heck, if your puppy suffers a stomachache you would surely send it (Him? Her?) to a vet if the fee is within your resources. Your mother, your puppy, and other beloved human beings and creatures in your life–they clearly deserve to live because we have the means to make them live.

But those others I mentioned earlier, they clearly deserve to die.

Oh, don’t feel so guilty. We’re all in this together. We are stopped by the same obstacle and arrested by the same fears. We’re not so bad.

Aren’t we?

This is not a new proposition at all. On the contrary, this is something deeply ingrained in our consciousness, manifesting in our most automatic judgments and decisions. We affirm it everytime we say and we agree that “The poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough. They deserve what’s happening to them.”  We proclaim it every time we cheer the MMDA who clear away shanties, leaving the poor howling and thrashing on the ground in front of their “illegal” dwelling places. They don’t deserve such places. Some people who have already bought those spaces deserve them. They alone have the right to build dwellings and buildings or maybe even leave those spaces growing nothing but tall grasses for years. Curiously, this is the economic equivalent of that karmic belief in Buddhism and Hinduism that underprivileged people deserve whatever they have in life because they have been unworthy in their past lives. They haven’t reached Enlightenment. And in our case, this means our poor haven’t reached economic Success with a capital S. In that country we so find it righteous to follow in institutions, culture, and in many other aspects of life, that karmic enlightenment, that Success is known by another term–the American Dream.

Without toil, we are nothing. We aren’t human beings. Let me correct that.

Without toil that makes us a significant amount of capital, we are nothing. We aren’t human beings. After all, the beggar on the footbridge still captures capital in a cup. It’s just nowhere near “significant.”

And so I go from day to day, struggling to keep all my armors and weapons of life in tact–my education, my networks of people, my career. These are my chain mail, my iron shield and my great sword forged in the fires of bourgeois upbringing. I wear them always and polish and sharpen them everyday lest they crack in the midst of the often merciless battle of the global market. I wouldn’t want to be stripped of them and die suddenly, do I?

I’m sure you’ve heard of that term, the “inviolability of life,” the “sanctity of life.”

Well, it is clear to me these beautiful phrases mean nothing but the “sacredness of toil,” the “the holiness of the market.”

———————————————————————————

From my former professor, Gerry Lanuza:

“If all the food produced worldwide were distributed equally, every person would be able to consume 2,760 calories a day (hunger is defined as consuming fewer than 1,960 calories a day). Food entitlement differs from food availability in that it indicates what a person can command with income and thus consume, rather than what is available in the market.”

He said it on Facebook, if that means anything.

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Quite Convinced That You Have To

Sitting here, quite convinced that I have to.

A pretty girl joined the communist armed forces. They said she helped the farmers harvest their corn while teaching them to do the math. After all, she was a former scholar. She treated the rebels’  wounds. Treated them until it was her time to bleed from a bullet that penetrated her chest and existed through her nape.

She laid there quite convinced that she had to.

A single mom promised her mom that she wouldn’t get herself pregnant again. They believed her for she looked as innocent as an angel. Turned out she was a heavy smoker and owed a lot of money to  the cash register. Turned out she was pregnant with another baby and had a married Muslim security guard for a lover. He said he impregnated her precisely because he loved her.

She loved him quite convinced that he loved her too.

A wealthy couple brought their children to Canada. They were thinking about their future, and the future of their sons and daughters, and the future of the sons and daughters of their sons and daughters. From air-conditioned offices to sweaty warehouses, from quiet nights to livingroom skirmishes. It was quite a gamble.

They were quite convinced of the money.

A woman did some scandalous things not too long ago. Been ashamed of them forever. She joined a high-end church and called on others to follow her footsteps. They flooded the social networking site with Bible excerpts.

She was quite convinced of her salvation.

A sector of believers slammed a bill promoting  the dissemination of contraceptives to the population. The priests preached. The non-believers mocked. A man dressed up as a Spanish colonial era dissident and pumped the uproar to fever pitch.

They were quite convinced of the issue.

A hulk of a man decided he wanted more physical challenge to test himself. He climbed a mountain, conquered it, then moved on to the next peak. Pretty soon he had a mountain of a list of mountains he trekked. He wants more.

He was quite convinced of the experience.

A white-striped brown hamster stepped inside the wheel. It has grown too big for it but it ran its heart out anyway. It ran and ran all night and only stopped for a nibble and a sip of water. Didn’t even give its white hamster partner any chance to take its turn. After all, it was only needed for mating.

It was quite convinced of its necessity.

I find myself in an air-conditioned office for the upteenth time. I dream of a pretty girl in Canada who was once a heavy smoker every weekend. I have mountains of plans to follow her footsteps but all I can do today is read the daily preachers on the social networking site. I occupy my chair like a hamster occupies the wheel.

Sitting here, quite convinced that I have to.

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A Routine Reflection on Routines

You know what they call drinking on Fridays, right? They call it “unwinding.” The connotation is something like, Monday to Friday, you stress yourself out, working on your job, a trapped robot among hundreds of trapped robots along a kilometer of conveyor belt. But then on Friday night, you get a screwdriver and unscrew all your nuts and bolts, get out of your metal shell, and sit on a table in a bar a complete breathing human being for once. And then you look at the inviting golden bubbles of your cold bottle of beer and drink it. All the problems sorta melt, dripping at the back of your head, vaporizing into nothing at least for that night, and you’re free. That’s “unwinding” for you. For us.

But that’s the thing with routines. Even the part where you unwind after a routine is part of the routine–you tend to realize that after a few drinking sessions. You realize that somebody’s fooling you and having a good laugh at you. Even that blissful moment of drunken freedom is actually part of your role as a clunking robot. You can say it’s even the last stop at the conveyor belt before it enters the machine, goes around, and begins the cycle once more.

Routines are our lives. Well, at least for some of us, like me, for example. If you’ve got a creative job then good for you. Or it may also be the case that your job’s really not creative at all, but since you’ve got very low standards and expectations when it comes to creativity, you’re satisfied with your job as it is. If you’re that kinda guy, you’re lucky and I envy you. Continue reading

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