Saturday, November 29, 2008

MMK... the movie in my mind, my dubai (part 5)

Job was a good man greatly blessed by Jehovah. he was healthy, rich, had many children and a good wife. then one day, all of this was taken away. his body was stricken with boils, his wealth vanished, his family perished and his loving wife told him to "curse your God and die!" Job remained steadfast however, knowing that surely, Jehovah is merciful. his unwavering faith and his strong will was eventually rewarded. his health was restored and his riches doubled. he had more children, more beautiful than before and lived 140 more years to see the fourth generation of his family. this was Job... i was not Job. God nevertheless was still merciful.

the series of events that have transpired had caused me to reach the end of my tether. i was exhausted and was in deep depression. i felt abandoned, betrayed, and dejected. i was thankful of my friends for they tried hard to lift my spirits but i was too defeated to be roused, as proven when i found myself bawling my eyes out over a plate of my great friend's prided corned beef (i miss it everyday, kay. no one makes it like you do.) i was greatly homesick and longed desperately for my family. i realized that the walls i had built for myself to shield me from the emotions of being away from my loved ones had finally collapsed. my spirit depleted and weakened, i eventually caved in.

funny how circumstances are related, to the extent that you really cannot deny a divine operation working behind it all. a last ditch effort of me in finding strength saw me emailing a friend back home. i told him how much i missed the support of family and friends. he then emailed me back and referred me to a christian website, suggesting that maybe i could find some encouragement from the articles there. upon viewing the website, a sense of familiarity came over me, a feeling i greatly welcomed. i later found out that the site was built by my cousin in Toronto, hence pictures of my family were too posted there. i was so thankful for the break it gave me that i left a comment in the site's guest book, it's first comment. that post turned out to be the catalyst of a remarkable hunt for people that involved the coordination of six churches from six countries around the world.

my cyber-presence in dubai previously involved checking my emails, blogging and searching design websites for what's trendy and new. the christian site was the newest addition to the roster and also quickly became my most visited. i checked it regularly for updates as well as new posts on the guest book, for it seems, more and more people were logging in. i was reading of posts from india, venezuela, columbia, france, ukraine, brazil, germany, russia, philippines, dubai.... DUBAI!??? i quickly checked it again. true enough, a fellow christian like myself was in dubai, and she was looking for fellow christians as well (like me). i took her name and quickly emailed my friend back home and asked him to look her up. contact info was given and a few days later, i met up with mae.

that first meeting with mae became the beginning of our christian fellowship in the desert. through God's grace and our persistence, we were able to find more and more people who were like us, searching. being an islamic state, practicing one's faith publicly other than islam, though is not sanctioned, is still highly discouraged in dubai. our initial meetings (we were already 4 by then) involved sitting by the curb on the sidewalk and pretending to chat with one another, but were in reality already praying out loud with our eyes open. none of us had a place that we could congregate in so doing it out in the street was the only resort we could manage. it was risky but we really didn't mind. for us, this weekly gathering was an addicting escape from the life and the toll living in dubai took from us.

as days went by, our humble group saw the blessings of what stubborn people "pestering" God can do. the ripples caused by that post on the website brought us to find more people from various places of various nationalities. in the end, our number blossomed to almost 30 in less than a few months comprising of pinoys, taiwanese, indians, sri lankans, malaysians, and singaporeans. we also were able to find a place to meet, at a flat owned by an indian-kiwi who does business in dubai. stable now, we would find ourselves receiving visiting christians from australia, manila, oman, saudi arabia and new zealand, all of which have heard of our remarkable story and wish to be witnesses to it. it has been more than a year since i left my christian family in the desert. since that time, they have increased in number again. some of my friends have found love in the church and have married as well. they contact me often to update me on their status and all news from them always makes me smile. in december of this year, they will be the host of a grand conference involving christians all over the gulf states. christians from saudi arabia, oman, qatar, bahrain and kuwait, all coming together to testify what God has done.

for the first time since i set foot in this country, i finally felt some form of balance in my life. despite all the turmoil happening at work and all the adjusting i was doing, i at least have a place where i could bask myself in the positive energy God and fellow christians provided, at last, my hope was being restored, and it did not come at a better time.

****
my incident with GM had ruined him in my eyes. though i have always had a feeling that he was an arrogant man, i had thought to myself that he had every right to be proud considering what he has gone through and what he has achieved. he was never shy to tell us his story and how he had climbed up the social/corporate ladder to be where he is, the right-hand man to our arab boss whose family is closely associated with the sheikh (my arab bosses were VERY influential). his story was truly inspiring. success and prestige however should never be used to lord over people, ever. his actions against me and my senior that day was something i could not swallow and from that day on, encounters with him have always been strained.

sensing that i no longer had any allegiance with GM, my senior finally opened up to me. she shared stories about the company, before the time we came in, before the company was an independent entity, before GM became GM. she told me of stories of peace and harmony and camaraderie and how all of that changed the moment power was redistributed. oh, how power corrupts is all i can say. they were difficult times, mentally and psychologically torturous since the word of one became good enough to determine whether or not you had a job the following day. she showed me a picture of the entire staff of the company before we came. she then point out those who never "made it". these were the first casualties of an imbalanced system in my company, a system solely controlled by the man who sat upstairs. my senior warned me of GM now, she never thought of warning me before since she though GM would practice enthnocentricity. obviously, she was wrong (well, i WAS chinese anyway, hehehe). sharing that rather unpleasant experience with GM though made me and my senior, didi closer. considering how in later times i would find myself sleeping over at her house, going on road trips with her, eating out, shopping with her, and being her gurl-friend, proves only how many more unpleasant experiences we shared under GM's tyranny.

Friday, November 28, 2008

MMK... the movie in my mind, my dubai (part 4)

the succeeding days, weeks, months of my dealings with SAL saw a steady decline in my demeanor, his presence sending me through a whirlwind of emotions playing between terror and panic, not really the best for someone who handles stress poorly. his project severely delayed, i almost received regular calls from him as well as emails, being reprimanded (in broken english, but harsh nonetheless) about how much all this is costing him. he barraged me with question after question, none of which i could answer for i had absolutely no information. following-through was not this company's strongest traits unfortunately. despite all my efforts to sort out the problems that plagued this project, it was too much for one person to handle. it was too much for even three people (i had my indian senior and a junior designer in my team already). my only hope now was to seek the advice of the higher ups, in the case, my GM.

GM sat in his spacious office in our company's mezzanine, occupying practically an entire wing. he sat on a leather bound, high back executive chair, behind a large mahogany stained table, surrounded by articles that said that you are in the presence of one who has authority, and he did. he warmly accommodated me despite his busy schedule to hear my concerns. he listened carefully and pondered on the issues i laid out. he then gave me his opinions on the matter as well as tips on handling SAL (SAL was initially his client which was later on handed down to me) during that meeting, i felt safe. i was in the presence of the man who gave birth to this company and here he was imparting his wise words to me. he encouraged me and reiterated that he and the entire company will back up any decision i make. i practically could do no wrong. empowered and armed with new found wisdom, i left his office ready to face SAL again. the next few meetings with SAL proved to be less stressful for true enough, GM's words were effective in pacifying him. i was slowly gaining back my credibility, i thought. despite the snail paced progress at site, his calls were becoming less frequent, his emails, less charged. i only realized much later on that SAL was just loosing interest already with my words, for the GM was already taking matters to his own hands for SAL had raised the issue already to the gods... my arab bosses, his cousins. my GM now was changing his colors...

my dealings with SAL had to take the backseat for a while for something more pressing was at hand, not to be homeless. despite promises to help, our company decided not to renew our lease for our flat in mankhool. for the past 3 months, we have been using the weekends to desperately seek new shelter but to no avail. inquiring on pages upon pages of ads for leased flats or rooms proved to be futile for we, apparently, were not good "possible" tenants. we were single, filipino, non-arabic speaking, non-executives of mixed gender... traits considered very undesirable. the pressures from work, mouths to feed back home and the looming possibility of homelessness eventually took its toll on the relationships me and my flatmates had. we had to split up. five of them sought to take up bed spaces near our workplace, in a townhouse situated in a rather congested part of deira, hor al anz. it was a settlement populated mostly by indian and pakistani bachelors who jam themselves in compounds of almost concentration camp density. the roads were narrow and mostly lined up with cars (for those who could afford them but not parking space), and the buildings old and dusty. calls for prayer blare out from loudspeakers on minarets at every corner, the same corners where lustful men would park themselves on, eyeing on every passing individual who could be serve their pleasure. rent was cheap surely, but it was still too high of a price for me to keep my sanity.

my two other flatmates and i decided to stay put in bur dubai. it was quiet, convenient and for the most part, home already. the strain of the past few months had left my will weak and having to push myself to flat-hunt and relocate was almost overwhelming. thankfully so, the day before our lease expired, after months of searching, after fights and breakdowns, after being conned by a rogue agent, we struck a deal with a kind south african and managed to secure a studio not far from where we resided. it was a 3 meter by 3 meter room, with a detached kitchen and bath. it was ridiculously small (and expensive) but was better than having no place to go. this small space would be my home and my two other girl-friends home for the next year.

****

having sense that his clout had no lasting effect, SAL stepped up his "assault" once again. he was more agitated than ever. countless reassurances from me were feel on deaf ears as i was accused of being unprofessional, of being unethical and ultimately, a liar. to be honest, i bear no grudge against him for he truly has been very patient from the start. in fairness to SAL, he was simply pushed beyond his limits. he snapped and since i was the lone person stupid enough to receive his calls (the GM was "constantly" in a meeting), i was the only one to shoulder the full intensity of his rage. i sought the advice of my indian senior, whom i will lovingly call DIDI (love you didi, with all my heart) and she too, dumbfounded with my dilemma suggested to bring matters again to the GM. a meeting was set and with all relevant documents in tow, didi and i had (she decided to accompany me, being my senior), what was to be, the last meeting with GM.

no one can keep false facades up too long. unless founded on something solid, even the thickest walls can come crashing down like those of biblical jericho. my fateful meeting saw the unraveling of two people, of GM and myself. i was reprimanded without just cause and sent out of the office, i then overheard him screaming at my senior that he was tired of handling my "shit" and other accusations i have no memory off anymore. review of my past blog entries showed no documentation as well, i guess this was one memory i chose never to remember. all i could recall though was trembling in pure rage and frustration as i went down the stairs back to my desk. i was out of breath and a surge of emotion welling up inside me. my senior came down not long after, cussing under her breath about what an positively assholic piece of shit GM was. i could not be bothered, i was blank, broken and bewildered. she tried to comfort me but all i could muster was fake a smile and walk away. as i reached my desk, a post-it note from the reception was on my PC saying "please call back SAL immediately."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

MMK... the movie in my mind, my dubai (part 3)

"i need help in choosing fabrics", the jordanian asked. "could someone help me?". i willingly volunteered since i thought this would be a great way of learning about arabic design. also, this would mean that i would be locking myself in the design vault and have myself surrounded by materials i could only dream of handling, a thought that i particularly relished.

"i am helping the GM present to a client. he's a relative of the owners so this has to be good."

"yes ma'am. did the client leave any instructions with regards to their personal preferences? do they like prints or stripes? how about texture, did they say if they liked...."

"just give him something traditional. i really don't know. the GM just told me to look for fabrics so that's what i'm doing. since you're here, just compile your choices. ask the GM if you want. get the pictures of the furniture pieces from the junior designers as well. i have to do something else and i really don't have the time now. he will be arriving in an hour." after a few more vague instructions and a brief smile, and i was left on my own, my stomach suddenly feeling sick.

there was no time to panic. i had to draw from my mental Rolodex of inspiration and try to define a style that i have never designed for before. in an hour's time, i had to produce a list of possible fabric combinations for furniture pieces i have never seen, from a fabric library i am not familiar with, for a client i have never met. backing out was not an option since my senior's (fat) neck was on the line and so was the GM's. if there was something keeping me from throwing in the towel, it was to do my GM good. getting help was also out of the question since by then, everyone was busy doing something. i was optimistic, or was trying to. this was an opportunity to show what i was made of. i literally dove into the library (which at that point was simply a heap of fabric books scattered all over the showroom floor) and started flipping through the books like a maniacal hen looking for scraps in the sand.

the jordanian arrived a few minutes before the hour. she informed me that the GM was also busy and would not be able to attend to the client. instead, I would have to do the presentation since i chose the fabrics in the first place. with that, she was off again. i found myself sitting, head blank from what had just transpired. i couldn't make sense of it all. things were not right, i recall saying to myself. as i tried to collect myself, i heard a throaty voice say "salam alaikum" (peace be with you). SAL, the client, had arrived.

SAL, his name forever etched in my brain, was in traditional male emirati garb. he was a tall man, thick as a wall. his face was half covered in his wiry beard and his gutra, the white head covering they wear, draping on the sides of his head. he stood there and asked for the GM, to which i replied, pulling things out of my butt as i went on, was unavailable. he then asked for the jordanian. i told him that she too was unavailable but instead, i was tasked to show him the fabrics. he looked at me puzzled at the sudden change of plans. who wouldn't be? he then made his was to the couch for me to show him my selection.

i was a bundle of nerves. i believe i was so tightly strung that even a gentle breeze could have set me off. my hands tremored as i flipped through the books, SAL watching me intently not uttering a single word. i stumbled upon my words as i tried to convey the legitimacy of my choices, still, SAL said nothing. the presentation was over in less than 30mins. as i paused to calm myself down and take a seat, SAL finally stirred from his respite. "is this all?" he asked. "yes, sir." i said, swallowing my saliva. "hmmm, i don't like any of it. give me something else, something different. i have seen all of this before and it doesn't look special. it doesn't look rich." "are you looking for anything in particular, sir?" "just that it has to look special..... you're new here, aren't you?". "yes, sir." "i see. well. just tell your GM that i want something else. i will be back to see new choices." and with that last statement, SAL bid me good day and walked away.

"what did he say?" asked the jordanian after, she came back from whatever it was that she felt was more important. "he said he wants something better. he didn't really say what it was, just that it has to look rich." "what did you show him anyway?" i pointed to the opened books on the table. tsk, tsk, tsk.... the sound was so clear. "you showed him these?" she looked at me with disbelief. i nodded. "no wonder he didn't like them, they look so plain. anyway, i really shouldn't be bothered. he's YOUR client now. this would be a great way for you to show the GM how well you can handle clients." and like how she had been with me the entire day, off she went again.

that initial meeting with SAL was the first of many more fiascoes, the first minute crack in the eventual disintegration of my composition. i always wanted to do people good and my training taught me that in this profession, client satisfaction is your key to success. yet through the course of my handling SAL's project, i later realized that there are times client satisfaction was only an empty ideal, a sweet promise we say in order to lure trusting people into a death trap. SAL's project exposed a lot about the company i worked for, more so the people i worked with. it was too late for me to realize however that i had already been thrown in the middle of this machine of lies, cover up and betrayal.

MMK... the movie in my mind, my dubai (part 2)

dubai sits in between abu dhabi and the 5 other emirates that make up the united arab emirates (UAE). contrary to popular opinion, dubai is not the country but only a part of a country. it is the second largest emirate in the UAE and currently is the most populated with over a million residents, 85% of which are expats.


despite being only a city, dubai operates as an independent kingdom, having its own ruling family, its own local economy and even its own local rules. this too is the same with the other emirates. national responsibility however is shared and power distributed among the seven states, a large portion though is delegated to abu dhabi and dubai for being the two largest and richest with the rulers of abu dhabi (AHU) and dubai (DXB) automatically becoming the president and vice president/ prime ministers, respectively.

the emirate of dubai is practically divided into two by the dubai creek, the center for commerce and trade since dubai, historically, was a trading station, a stop over for goods on the silk road coming in from persia and india, on route to the british empire. the two are dubai city (now more commonly called bur dubai) and deira, the twin cities.


we lived in the bur dubai district, kind of analogous to what escolta is now. formerly the most happening place in the city, it now stands as a memory of its former self, its industry drained from it and moved farther up town along the main artery of the city, sheikh zayed road. though much of the businesses have moved out, there are still a good number that remained, owing particularly to the fact that bur dubai holds many residences. this meant a steady clientele for these establishments. the number of budget hotels located in bur dubai also meant a significant number of tourists flock in this area. bur dubai is known for its banks (all lining Bank street), its electronics (along Computer street), fabrics (at mina bazaar) and its bargain shops (at Al Karama, an adjacent district, similar to our divisoria).

our flat was located along mankhool road, behind a mosque (which is dubai can be found at almost every corner, almost like starbucks). our company housed me and my colleagues in 2 flats and grouped us according to gender. the units had a separate kitchen, a living/dining room with a powder room and 1 master bedroom. called a 1BR with 1 1/2 bath, it was of comfortable size though not really meant to be inhabited by 4 people. despite the limited confines however, we managed to make it work and adjusted with what we had and with each other.

my last experience of communal living was way back in college. my friends and i decided to rent a townhouse together since it was near school. my current situation is however a tad different since now, we were all strangers. thankfully so, my flatmates were a cool bunch and we meshed well almost instantaneously.

mornings in mankhool was a foretaste of what daily life was in dubai, feverish and chaotic. being in between downtown deira and uptown new dubai, we were regular witnesses of the stampede of people as they emerged from their homes, rushing to go to work, for apparently, work was the national "sport", football only came in second. taking this daily phenomena into consideration, we had to get up extra early to catch a cab, that is, if we could find one. cabs, like most of dubai's public transport, were not enough to accommodate the multitudes who rely on them. i even recall a time we waited for 2 hours under the scorching desert heat for a ride. time and time again, this scarcity had caused us many inconveniences, more especially so when you are trying to beat the rush hour traffic, something dubai too is notorious for. on a good day, the ride would cost us AED15, around P150 one way, double that for the round trip. on a bad day, well, the sky is the limit on that one.

our office was situated on deira, near the airport and already bordering on sharjah, the neighboring emirate. the company was small then, comprising only 10 when we came in. there was the pinoy general manager, our indian senior designer and her jordanian counterpart, an indian visualizer, 2 pinoy CAD operators, another indian marketing head, an indian accountant, a pakistani projects coordinator and a pinay receptionist. notice that we were composed of primarily pinoys and indians, well, now more pinoys due to our arrival. in a blink of an eye, we more than doubled in number and being how pinoys are in a foreign land, we huddled together like sheep. to say that we were a riot is putting it lightly. a new family was formed and it gave us all a sense of belonging. in addition to our new group, we also hired a boisterous pinoy office boy whose laughter can be heard the building over! he was a welcome addition to the clique as who wouldn't want to have a jolly soul in the bunch.

the first few weeks at work saw the strengthening of the bonds between us islanders. we drew from each other support on times of weakness and loneliness. with our pinoy GM at the helm, we felt that this would really be home away from home. things will be alright we thought. we were secure, that was, until things started to go wrong.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

MMK... the movie in my mind, my dubai (part 1)

inhale, exhale... breathe, breathe.... here it goes.

it has been a year and a week since i last set foot in dubai, that city in the desert that i called my home for almost two years. rather, i really shouldn't call it home, more like, a long stop over, since i never really programmed myself to settle there. home was where my heart was and in those two years, it stayed where it should always be, with my folks.

i took a job as an interior designer in dubai through an agency here. the company hiring us was the emirate's oldest construction firm, the third largest in the land. they were diversifying their operations and since dubai was a booming city, wanted to capitalize on the potential of providing design services as well. from how the company was introduced to us, it certainly showed much promise. to add icing on the cake, the general manager, who was present during the hiring process, was also filipino. needless to say, he made us all feel comfortable and secure.

9 were chosen from the lot, only 8 of us left. the processing of our papers was quick and in just about 2 months time, we were saying our good-byes and packing our belongings already, flying off to a country where fridays were the sundays, where they fast for a month, where the summer heat can kill, and where dreams are apparently realized for a lot of pinoys. we just never understood the price we had to pay for such dreams.

our first week in dubai went about rather smoothly. all our needs were taken cared off by the company. gestures, now that i look back, were definitely the work of out pinoy boss. this further eased our concerns, more so, helped in our adjusting to the foreign land. work was also not too bad. since the company was new, and us 8, part of the pioneer team, we all were idealistic in making this company become a success and enthusiastically pitched in our inputs. the energy at work felt great. our arab boss, too was pleasant. he was a cheerful man, well educated and quite visionary, soft spoken and not intimidating at all. of all the characters we have met so far, he, i would consider would be the most inspiring. i actually still keep in touch with him till today.

since the work load was not that heavy yet, we took the the time during our free days to explore the city and get to see dubai for the things that have made it world renowned. the chinese have a term, "swah- kaw", which translates as "mountain dog", "promdi" in tagalog slang. basing from our actions, we all looked like swah-kaw's, oogling at the vast riches this country has cladded itself with. skyscrapers stretching up into the heavens rittled the urban landscape, each one trying to outdo the other in terms of height and design. malls sprawled out in huge expanses, filling itself with brands so exclusive and so high end, the prices almost felt unreal. residential developments were everywhere, mansion upon mansion, community after community, condo after condo. then, there are the landmarks. the burj al arab, the world's tallest hotel, perched on its island pedestal, poised like the proud arabic symbol that it is, overlooks jumeirah, the high end district of dubai. flanking it were more exclusive hotels and resorts, mina al salam, al qasr, the souk madinat, the jumeirah beach hotel, wild wadi. all these, playgrounds for the rich and the filthier rich. further up the road is dubai marina and beside it, the iconic palm jumeirah, one of dubai's most ambitious reclamation projects, another symbol to arabic vision and wealth.

mina al salam in madinat jumeirah

not to be outdone however, on the other side of town, near the financial center sits downtown dubai, another residential/commercial complex set to house numerous other condo units, the dubai mall (the world's largest mall) and its crown jewel, the burj dubai, currently the world's tallest free standing structure and the world's tallest building. the burj will house offices, retail space, residences (selling at AED12,000 per sq.ft., which is about P120,000), and a hotel, the armani hotel, the first in the world.


the burj dubai

beholding all of these things, you really cannot help but get swept away by the sheer potential living in such a cosmopolitan city can bring. you set a goal that you too will have part in all of this, that with enough patience, perseverance, sweat and luck, you too will be able to enjoy all of this. the bug has bitten, dubai dreaming has officially set in.


downtown dubai, after it is completely finished

to be continued.

the curious incident of the body by the curb

while driving to my morning jog today at 530am, i found myself stuck in a traffic jam. quite unusual really since there are barely any vehicles on the road this early in the morning. to find myself stuck in a gridlock was truly puzzling.

as my car slowly inched forward, i finally found out what was causing all the congestion. i already had a bad feeling as i saw the flickering of police lights. there was a dead body (i think since i didn't really get to see it) dumped on the side of the road. not really sure if it was an accident victim, or a murder victim or a body dump, basta, patay! the cops were there.... and a SWARM of by-standers. it was the swarm, coupled with the drivers slowing down to make usisero that was causing the gridlock. who would have thought something so gruesome could be so entertaining? well, i didn't really bother to stop and watch since i didn't want to add to other people's already building agitation. it was too early to piss people off, i thought.

as i drove back home later that morning after my run, the swarm was still there and the traffic, twice as congested. i guess as people woke up, they TOO also needed to see what all the commotion was about.

this early in the morning...

i am so glad i was too tired, hungry, and sleepy to give a rat's ass. my more lucid self would be cussing his head off by now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

dubai

i received an email from one of my good friends in dubai. she was retelling me about one of her meetings held at the sky bar in the burj al arab. to those of you who are not familiar, the sky bar is that restaurant jutting out of the mast of the 7 star hotel, which now is an icon for the arab city. dining there gives one a full 360 degree view of the jumeirah area, as well as the palm island, that man-made reclamation project the kingdom undertook 5 years ago that added about 60 more kilometers to its costline.

sky bar jutting out from the mast at the upper right of the frame

the jumeirah beach with palm jumeirah, burj al arab is a dot on the upper right corner of the frame

anyway, as she was having her meeting, she noticed that all of a sudden, the patrons of the restaurant suddenly rushed towards the windows facing the palm. apparently, that day was the inaugauration of the atlantis hotel at the palm, a USD1.4 billion project, set to serve as another jewel in dubai's already studded crown. my friend found herself in the best seat of the house for as part of the celebration, the organizers spent USD40 million on a grand fireworks display.



forgive me for the almost hyperbolic dropping of monetary figures, but you should understand, in dubai, spending such great amounts are not really that unsual. why should it be when the kingdom's sheikh can shell out around USD3 million to bring his entourage of 300 to russia to go hunting. when the monthly allowance of a princess can be as much as USD5 million. when, on a single buying spree, the sheikh spent USD30 million on thouroughbred horses, spending USD11.7 million on just one horse. when dubai has spent billions more on creating the world's tallest structure exclusively used as a hotel, the world's tallest building, the world's longest billboard advertisment, the world's largest mall, the world's largest amusement park, the world's tallest apartment, the world's largest man-made marina, with many more world record breaking projects in the works. how prosperous dubai is, don't you think? money there practically grows on trees, to the point that this display of wealth and extravegance has drawn droves of people to visit this small kingdom perched at the cusp of the arabian peninsula.

they come in droves, carrying with them great expectations. wishes to be awed, to be blown away by things that are almost impossible to create or even realize, yet with enough money and sheer stubborn will, was made reality. what a dream it must be to be able to witness the splendor of such a great city. the diadem of the middle east, basking in the glory that it had made for itself.

it has been a year since i came back from my two year stint in dubai as an interior designer.

it has been a year since i last had taste of its greatness and its wealth.

it has been a year.... since my last memory of working for the world's most superficial city.

it has been a year, and i still feel bitter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

running... for life!


i seriously could not keep still. i found myself pacing my room like an expecting father waiting for the doctors to give me the low-down on my offspring!

doctor: congratulations sir, it's a baby boy!
me
: it can't be! my partner's gay! he can't be PREGNANT!!!!?

doctor
: ay! sowi! wrong patient. kabag lang pala, po, sir.

i eventually found myself doing jumping jacks and sit ups to tire myself out, just so to calm me a bit. my brain was racing at F1 speeds and i could tell my nervousness was bordering on giving me nausea. i turned on the TV and started watching nat geo, thankfully so, the topic was so brainy, it was good enough to keep me occupied till it was time for me to go.

registration for the race was scheduled for 530am. i wanted to be there by 430 since i wanted to give myself time for certain "emergencies" like a.) getting lost b.) finding parking space and finally c.) needing to go answer the holler of nature. i presumed that an hour grace period for myself was more than enough for these minor inconveniences prior to race time. by 350, i was out of the house and heading my way to meet my fate.

as per plan, minor emergency "A" happened. i got lost. though i did scope the site a few days ahead to familiarize myself of where i had to go, i neglected to consider that things look different in the dead of night. for one, ALL my landmarks disappeared in the dark. hence, i overshot the designated assembly point. no problem.... i just needed to waste some more gas to make the LARGEST U-TURN ever, taking careful attention to not miss the site the second time. since i was crazy enough to get there so early, parking was a breeze. i found a great spot just in front of the starting line, ironically, underneath a "no parking" post. i was one of the first few who registered and had enough time to take a leak. refreshed and settled, i decided to start psyching myself to game level... as if i wasn't psyched up enough!?

i changed to my racing shirt, pined my number, wore my shoes and started to warm up. i walked around and tried to loosen up my joints, my ankles in particular. as i did, i also started to look around an see the other ppl who were slowly trickling in. since this was my first marathon, i thought that it would be nice to get a feel of how the other people, the pros especially, handled themselves prior to the run. you know, just in case i could pick up a few pointers here and there :)

the racers that started to gather there were truly a diverse bunch of people. young, old, male, female, local, foreign, pro, amateur, cute, ugly, commoner, celebrity! the people watcher in me was definitely THRILLED. in no time at all, i was relaxed, calm and slowly, starting to have fun.

as the sun slowly rose in the distance, the races were assembled and divided into 2 groups. those running the 10K were in front and us running the 5k were behind. despite the race time drawing nearer by the minute, i noticed that there were still so many who haven't showed up. typical of us i guess, late for everything, even a race. the announcer however was adamant, we WILL start promptly at 6am. i was already in front of the 5k pack as i awaited the start of the run. while counting down the minutes, i decided to do an over check on my gear. number, check! shirt, check! lucky underwear, check! shorts, check! comfy shoes, check! belt bag with keys, money and phone, check! that seems to be it i guess. i suddenly felt a bit under dressed since the people who gathered around me had all these fancy looking race gear and all i had was ur typical gym get up and a small belt bag. o well, i told myself, this isn't a fashion show anyways. let's see what good their designer duds and ipods can do :)

6am. it's time. the official gave the signal for the racers to get ready.... BANG! the first shot went off for the 10K runners, sending the mob in front of us scrambling ahead. it was a fun sight to see them run off since they sprinted away with such gusto. we waited around 5 more minutes before our turn came, i guess so that the track wouldn't be so congested. the signal was given... BANG! the second shot was sounded and we started running as well.

as i advanced forward, i started to form a strategy in my head. winning was not the goal really, but outlasting was! i was running beside pros, and well, PROS (all the novices were left far behind the pack) and my pride sincerely did not want me to look like the runt of the herd. a plan is needed, i said. if i cannot make it with brawn, then i can make it with brain! within the first few minutes, i was able to concur with the voices in my head (more on that in another post) on the following points on how to survive till the finish:

1. do not run after the guys wearing the pekpek shorts. those guys are WAY beyond ur league. but do run after them if they are cute. nothing beats eye candy as motivation!
2. do not entertain the tendency to accelerate. pacing is key.
3. use the downhill to add to ur speed. i am heavy... gravity is our friend.
4. use the uphill to your advantage. i have calves of steel! hiking uphill comes naturally.
5. stopping is NEVER an option. if when crossing the street and a vehicle comes ur way... THEY have to stop because YOU are running the race!
6. having kids, old people and girls overtake you is shameful.
7. having paolo bediones (who is running behind you) overtake you is even worse!
8. taking the water bottle is a death trap.
9. to add fun (like pounding pavement isn't fun enough!), play connect the dots with fellow racers. you are the line, the cute guys running ahead of you are the DOTS. go... connect :) if you can bag yourself a date in the process, then even better!
10. finish strong. crawling your way to the finish and looking like u got robbed is like making paolo bediones win!

with my steps to success in continues playback now in my brain, i ran the course, determined that i will have fun, that i will finish and that paolo bediones will eat my DUST!!!! (my apologies to mr. bediones, nothing personal. i just needed a focal point to channel all my aggression at. you seemed to be the best subject, ehehehe.)

i got to the finish line in about 25:14 mins based on my watch, though the official clock said 29. i really couldn't care less since at that point, i was just RELIEVED that i got to finish. i finished and i didn't DIE as how my parents feared of happening. i finished with my bearings, balls and belongings intact. i finished without ever stopping to walk. i finished... and paolo bediones is NOWHERE in sight... YES! :)

i lingered along the finish line for a bit longer and watched the people start to come in, one after another. though exhausted from the run, i have yet to see one that did not look happy as they crossed. everyone, after they have recovered were in high spirits, a sense of fulfillment etched on their faces. we all congratulated each other for finishing and for a great fun run, for truly it was.

overall, despite the soreness and the fatigue, i honestly had a BLAST! it has been something i have always wanted to do and now, i have done it. i never would have imagined that i could after all these years of people telling me and me telling myself that i couldn't do it. but now i have! and i have no plans of stopping now. i want to run again! maybe run farther this time, 10k? 15 k? maybe, if God is willing, a full 42K! time will tell.


sore, exhausted, sun and wind blasted... but fulfilled nonetheless!

it's official: I'M NEUROTIC

i should be sleeping, but i kept waking up, my body cranked up already from the adrenaline surging through my body i speak, er, TYPE!

set my alarm to ring at 3am but was already up by 1:30. awake and fully alert. my head is aching still, probably since my body is trying to figure out what's the matter with me (i think part of my body is still asleep while the rest is already in full throttle). i have been trying to calm myself down but unfortunately, i have not yet mastered the technique to do so. i know this is a slight over reaction but honestly, my brain, the pituitary gland and my adrenal cortices, can't really tell the difference between a real emergency and me just stressed! proving the point that the mind really is over matter, but in my case, it's on the negative side.

so here i am, typing away, hoping that by blogging about this, would realize that i have, yet again, blown things out of proportion. i am wasting precious energy, and sleep for that matter, on something that really shouldn't be stressing me out so much. breathe, jamie, breathe.....

distraction, yeah, that's what i need. a distraction. unfortunately for me, i REALLY can't think straight, not even enough to figure out something to distract me. ugh! my head is spinning now. hmmm, that seems to be a good distraction. gosh... i noticed that i bit my nails again.

mental note: you're highly anxious. you're thumb is bleeding, btw.

i'm laughing now. this is soooooo stupid!!!!! think another morning jog, jame, just another morning jog!!!! no biggie! snap out of it!!!!!!

ok, ok... i'll be fine. i'll be fine. relax.... relax..... (blogging yoga, anyone?)

hmmm, so i guess me packing my stuff like i just got kicked out of the house is an over reaction too?

i desperately need professional help.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

i was a cloud chaser

a change of view.

a change of perspective.

to see the day from the ground up.

and behold the majesty of the firmament on high.

roxas blvd., 10:14am

legaspi street, 11:08am

legaspi street, 1:37pm

paseo de roxas, 1:56pm

eastwood city, libis, 2:06pm

eastwood mall, 2:45pm

eastwood city, libis, 5:15pm

C5, 5:46pm

32nd street, fort bonifacio, 6:10pm


starting to feel the pinch of having a major burn out, i decided to add a slight variation to my routine. talk about borderline O.C., i somehow have trained myself to have a fixed mindset whenever i work. this rigid framework i have translates to everything basically i do in the entire day, from the time i wake up, to the radio station i listen to, to the speed of my drive, to which side of the road i drive in, to where i would eat my lunch and to what time i would have to start heading back home. being a freelancer, being orderly this way has it's perks, unfortunately, it certainly takes out the joy of having a spontaneous day.

yesterday, during my drive to see my sites, i found myself looking up, something i don't usually do actually. through the tint of my car and my sunglasses, i saw the clouds from afar, churning. it looked awesome since the billows looked as if they were kneading the sunlight. you couldn't really see it unless the light was filtered out, which in my care, it was. since i was waiting for the light to change, i took a quick pic and kept it for posterity, something i do from time to time.

as my day went on however, i found myself taking more and more pics of the sky. everytime i find myself feeling restless, i stop, look up and take a pic of the sky above me. from the number of pics posted, it's obvious i was pretty much high strung the entire day. though this unusual practice of mine seemed quite strange, (i do recall seeing a few ppl looking up with me whenever i would look up, they prolly think of me crazy) it did help me a bit to calm down. it broke the momentum of my anxiety, everytime i look up and allow myself to get lost in the expanse. i felt insignificant, unimportant, lost, but these feelings were quite soothing actually. to look up was to relinquish control over petty things and surrender myself momentarily to a greater operation that involved things far beyond me and the objects that i continue to fuss about.

to look up, i exhaled. haaaaaaaayyyyyyyy..... makes me wanna add a skylight in my room.

i wonder how you can do that from the second story of a house?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

who's the man?

riddle me this, riddle me that...

i am not made of steel or stone
yet can be sharp or flat.
i am rittled with scales from end to end
to swim with? no. i was never good at that.
you cannot see me, feel me, taste me, smell me,
do you finally know what i'm going at?

****

i was browsing youtube last night for clips on john williams, a famous hollywood composer. to be honest, i am not quite familiar with the name and it would be safe to assume that most of you are not as well. apart from serious music and movie buffs (both of which i am not), i sincerely doubt that the mere mentioning of his name would even create a flicker in the light bulbs in our heads.

so what is it about john williams, anyway? well, despite his name sharing the same level of familiarity with, lets say, augustus zabriskie (who, after i googled the name, was apparently a civil war dude from jersey... like i care), he is, as for my research, actually very famous! very VERY famous, so famous that his resume involves him working the movie industry's greatest movers and shakers. even greater, that his body of work involves creating the music for movies that are probably the icons of their time, and with that, he inadvertently also composed the soundtrack of our lives (those who were born early enough to know these movies, that is).

don't believe me? watch these two vids of SOME (underline SOME) of his works...





i swear... i found myself saying "OMG! he did THAT!? and THAT AS WELL?!" so many times, i just shut myself up and kept my comments to myself. amazing, particularly because i really did grow up listening to these pieces. i heard them, hummed them, pretended to be conducting them, and by golly, even sang them out loud on certain full moon nights! undeniably, his works have indeed left an impression in me. so deep, some pieces move me to tears (the theme from "schindler's list").

and why shouldn't they leave an impression? music already on it's own is a powerful force, combine this with a fantastic movie and you have a double whammy combo-meal galore! william's work not only was able to utilize this amazing tool, but was also able to successfully translate the movie into notes, and chords, and rhythm, and scale. he did this so perfectly that it is almost impossible to separate the movie from its score. can you honestly not think of "jaws" without hearing that ominous crecesdo? or can imagine darth vader and star wars without hearing "the imperial march" playing in the background? more so, hitchcock's "psycho" and that shower scene without hearing violins screaching to janet leigh's gruesome end?

to say that williams is a genious is like saying britney spears is kinda trashy... a gross understatement. john williams IS the man!!!!!

NB: this post was instigated by another post care of richie, who so timely posted this vid. it definitely gave me lots of cheer on the time i needed it the most.



performed a cappella by the dudes at moosebutter, here is canadian dancer, corey vidal, lip synching all 4 voices in this amazing and very amusing clip. for the lyrics, visit the site at moosebutter. hilarious!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

the awakening

i decided to wait awhile before addressing you. i knew from experience that if i jumped in too fast, too soon, that i would loose all focus and ultimately, loose control over the situation. i did not want that, never again. i know that you are cunning and calculated, that you are manipulative and very opportunistic. your approach is never bold nor direct, but instead, subtle and very discreet. your methods are as despicable as ever and i hate you with every fiber of my being for being that way since you always seem to come out of nowhere.

i take great offense in how you just suddenly barged in to my parade and pretty much ruined a happy streak. how inconsiderate you are. how rude. here you are, an unwelcome visitor, demanding that i acknowledge your presence. despite my efforts to show you my utter disinterest and displeasure, you still persisted. you are truly arrogant and it sickens me that i have once had you lord over me. you were a cruel, unforgiving monster.

you preyed on my weaknesses and thrived on my insecurities. you said that i was not good enough, nor will i ever be. you scoffed at my ideals and dismissed them to be unrealistic. you shot down my dreams and declared them to be worthless. as wicked as you are, you too were a great actor for you fooled a many. you charmed your way under people's suspicion by your wit and your feign state of enlightenment. they thought that you were wise beyond your years but you only were telling them things they wanted to hear... playing the tune that was pleasant. if only they knew this was how you trap them. if only they knew what kind of seed you are sowing into their virgin fields. if only they knew the kind of corruption you introduced. if only they knew...

but i knew. my eyes were eventually opened. God made me see, He made me see you for what you really are, a deceiver, a liar, a snake, a parasite. i was weak because you made me weak. i was impotent and sick and lonely and miserable because you made me believe that i can never be of any value except to be your slave. But God made me see, and when i finally saw.... i became free.

i rejected you and everything that you had me believe. i purged myself of your lies and your influence. it was not easy to rid myself of you for you were wise enough to ingrain your poison deep into my being. as much as i hated wasting more time on dealing with you, i had to give myself time to heal, time to rebuild myself again.

it was a good many years and lots of hard work paid off. i am happier, more content, more at peace. though the times with you were indeed the darkest of my days, they now stand as a distant memory, a reminder of where i have been and where i should never ever again go. knowing you was something i regret and a lesson i will keep close to my heart.

i will not allow myself to fall again. not to you. never again to you. you may be back. you may be stronger than before, meaner than before, more cocky than before, but i assure you this, so am i.

a race for life

i am turning out to be quite an adrenaline junkie nowadays. not to misconstrue with people who engage in rather extreme activities like, let's say, bungee jumping or even more extreme, dancing while pretending to apply deodorant for the entire populace to watch, my definition for the term is by far more conservative.

i registered to join a marathon not too long ago. i said registered since the marathon will be this saturday and i have yet still to fully convince myself not to chicken out.... like the typical coward that i am. now before i completely discredit myself, allow me to state my case on the matter since, i for one, do not believe that my lack of courage is the only issue at hand. there is for the most part, the issue of me keeping myself alive! no exaggeration there, despite my propensity to roll into high drama! though i don't believe i am suffering from anything seriously fatal except probably for some idiopathic maladies related to my stress, this did not seem to fully convince my folks when they accidentally stumbled upon the waiver form i was to fill up, as part of the registration.

mother expressed her concerns first.

mom: "what's this 5K thing? you're joining a race?!"
me: "yup!"
mom: "i'd rather you not. it's dangerous! and 5K is far! it's like...um, FAR!"
me: "don't worry too much. i have been training to increase my endurance. besides, i don't really have to run all the way."
mom: "but still, i think its dangerous. you could DIE!"

like with all dotting moms i guess, the impending demise of their children always play in their minds. sometimes i even wonder if my mom dreads the day or anticipates it with relish since she brings up the topic of me dying more often than what i would really feel is necessary.... hmmm (i think i should sleep with the lights on now...).

now, though my mom's argument was not really anywhere near solid (like most of her arguments, really), it definitely did not do my confidence level any good (most especially the part of me dying). realistically of course, i do know that even with all the training in the world, i can never reach the endurance level of a KENYAN (realistically???). i don't think i can even reach the level of a kenyan even if he was starving! but still, i thought to myself to at least give it a try, now while i am still young and able and well, healthy i suppose. isn't it really the trying that matters the most, i thought.

not even having to recover from my talk with mom, my dad pops in and has a go on the issue as well.

dad: "what's this waiver? you're joining a race!?"(how come it sounds so much like a surprise?)
me: "yes. i'm joining a marathon, not really a race, RACE."
dad: "but you don't run! you just lift weights. so what now, just because you think you're fit, you think you can run a marathon already?"
me: "you need not worry! i just want to try it out and see how well i will fare"
dad: "but you need training! this is highly taxing, running. and you're not built to run. running is only suited to two kinds of people, those who are in track and field and those who are into basketball!...."
me: "but...."
dad: ".... you don't even do either! my friend was a runner, you know, and he said that you have to train rigorously for events like this. he knows, he was a professional, they even sent him to china to compete! he said you have to eat right, not too much, nor too little! some get carried away and eat too much, they then can't run and just fall down because they were too heavy!"
me: "i know, but..."
dad: "some don't eat at all, like you, those just faint out of exhaustion! some even get rushed to the hospital! then you have to drink right as well!, you recall allan? my other friend? he plays basketball and out of his entire team, there's only 8 of them still ALIVE! all because those who died drank COKE after they played. coke is full of carbon dioxide and when you're tired, you need oxygen! those idiots never thought of it and just reached for the coldest drink.... there! patay! they would practically need an ambulance to follow you around."
me: (my mouth stayed agape for a few more minutes after that, in absolute disbelief of the conversation i am in. it's only a freaking race for goodness sakes! i'm not running for president!!)

my dad, bless his twice infarcted heart, scrimped no detail in informing me of my possible, painful, disgraceful doom, if by some chance i still decide to join. i really did not understand that pep talk i just had. part of me was trying to rationalize that my folks were just concerned for my well being. part of me on the other hand questions their rather unorthodox way of showing their "concern", by ripping me into shreds.

needless to say, you cannot last long in this family without learning to take things in good humor. though i was practically massacred, i still was able to smile and collect my thoughts, more so, hold on to the idea that i will still run. i started it, training for it, might as well run it. so yesterday, i officially joined and am now in possession of my race pack. though there is a sense of pride i feel for pushing through with my decision, however gruesome my end will be, i still however could not shake off the dread, my gathering anxiety, for the upcoming event. being the worry wort that i am, being care free and having fun are ideas i have yet to fully embrace.

so now, i train. i train almost every morning, running laps around the quirino grandstand. i really have no idea how much i have run or how long it has taken me but i honestly don't want to concern myself with it. i really just want to run. i'm still having second thoughts but i'll leave that for now as well, i just want to run. i want to run and show my parents, and myself, that i can run 5K.... and live to tell all about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

TGIF

ah... saturday. the weekend again. can't really remember when it was the last time i looked forward to weekends after a harrowing week at work. seems like a super long time ago. i guess this is one of the things freelancers will always never get to enjoy, weekend dreaming.

i had a semblance of social life last night (or so i tried to convince myself) when i went out to dinner with my high school friends. one of my friends, lor, came back for a visit after permanently transplanting herself and her entire family to the lion city, singapore. it has been a good 7 or so months already since we last saw her, and almost a good YEAR since the gang had a dinner together, so naturally, we (well, just one of us actually) found this to be a great opportunity to hit two birds with one stone.

i got to makati rather early since i also wanted to make full use of the day. did my rounds first at my sites in legaspi village, checked up with the clients, then went to glorietta to make a RARE luxury purchase... i went and bought running shoes. (you do know that this post is now veering off tangent, BRACE YOURSELVES!)

i was supposed to be heading off to the new balance store at the ground floor but found myself lost in a torrent of people crisscrossing the corridors of glorietta. i forgot it was gimmick night and people just got out from work. nearing the point of my claustrophobia threshold, i quickly got myself to the first store i could see that had enough room and OXYGEN for me to breathe... the athlete's foot. wonderful! even at the verge of loosing consciousness, i was still efficient!

after collecting my bearings inside, my attention was drawn to the rather attractive display of NB shoes that lay before me... even made more attractive since they bore a sign that said "10% OFF". i found myself suddenly under a beam of light shining down from heaven with angelic singing emanating from above. recognizing probably that i was hooked, this rather cute sales clerk moved in for the KILL!!!

"sir... new balance po! 10% off po yan, bagong mga model!" (as if i can't read!!! no need to reiterate the obvious.)

well, since he already made the effort to sell, i proceeded to ask regarding what shoe to get. i told him i'm a pronator but am not flatfooted. he then proceeded to measure my feet and after some calculations and MORE sales talk, he introduced me to NB 1224. THE running shoe that was perfect for me, apparently. great cushioning, support, weight transfer, stability and other technical details that kinda just breezed through my head. in fairness to the shoe, it felt very comfortable indeed and delivered all the necessary details i was looking for. my sales clerk, together with a crowd of other sales ppl now around me , proceeded in their spiel on the pros of this particular shoe. they tried to drown me with more facts about how this would improve my running, yada yada yada but at that point, my brain was only gearing to one singular focus... PRICE. taking into consideration that with all the features this shoe had, i can't believe it doesn't come with batteries, more so, that it can RUN for me, i was bracing myself for the impending dent on my wallet, well, my card really. Lord only knows i'm not as liquid as i used to... hell, i'm practically coagulated.


"so, magkano?" i asked. my guy paused, smiled at me and gave the price. honestly, if i were probably my cranky, fickle, chinese self, i would have immediately walked out of the store since with prices like that, man, i'd rather eat! but i wasn't and i don't think my current running shoe will last me a 5k, so, with not much struggling, i willingly surrendered my card to the credit gods.... i now am in possession of my most expensive pair of footwear. i think i will run with it wrapped in plastic....

REELING BACK TO THE ORIGINAL TOPIC OF THIS POST.... my apologies for the sudden detour.

it was good seeing familiar faces again. faces that have been there from long ago, from a time when our lives was just about school and passing to see another school year. though we don't see each other as often as we want to, it doesn't really bother us so much since we all know, we are all just there.

our dinner started with catching up on what is the latest in our lives, as it always does. lor is settling well in singapore. she now prides herself for having fun now for a change since she used to hold quite a reputation for being a sheltered workaholic, a news much of us took into delight. conversation eventually moved to gossiping and finally, a walk on memory lane. don't get me wrong though, nostalgic walks for us means we talked trash about people back in high school, we are not really a pack of saints, though our school prided itself of upholding very christian virtues.

last night's dinner though had a new addition to the normal catty comments and loud laughing. we actually had a serious topic, courtesy of yours truly. we were all of age and i just wondered what our prospects were for the future, business wise, family wise and well, relationship wise. well, lor is now investing to buy a home. another friend will be starting a teaching job soon. she already has a son so her priorities are pretty obvious. us boys in the other hand, well, we all seem still floating. just work and work. it seemed that the boys and i had the same feeling that we wanted to invest in security and until we feel we are ready and secure enough, cannot afford to get ourselves distracted... even with possible relationships.

at the end of the night, as we all parted to go home, i felt a sense of peace. not really sure why. maybe because meeting my friends from way back made me realize that i'm not so peculiar as i thought i was, and in a way, made me feel less alone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

what a full moon can do

strange what happens when i let my id and ego run amok while my superego takes a break.

i was walking home this evening along the streets of tondo after finishing my workout. tonight was a good workout session as i got to do a lot. sure it took me around 3 hours to finish but at least i felt not a minute of it was wasted. anyways! so there i was walking in the deserted streets of my ghetto neighborhood, veins surging with enough testosterone i presume, to straighten me out, when i happened to look up into the night sky. oh my, i recall saying to myself in my most manliest of tones, the moon is full tonight, and it was beautiful. out of the (midnight) blue, i found myself singing under my breath while dimly lit jeepneys and 18 wheeler trucks pass me by....



"somewhere out there, beneath the pale moon light, some one's thinking of me, and loving me tonight...." with matching vibrato pa!

it was either the effect of the full moon on my already blood-deprived brain or this was just me finding an opportunity to sing one of the few songs i know, since, well, the situation was just PERFECT for a musical number!! i say, it was a little of both.

like in all things unusual with me, i can often trace back the origins of my peculiarity with my upbringing. in this case, how my yayas, bless THEIR many souls since i think i had a battalion who handled me as i grew up (none could last long enough. i was told to be quite a gremlin), would park me in front of a disney cartoon, hoping, praying that it would be sufficient to keep me still long enough for them to do their "normal" yaya duties.

so there i was, impressionable me, my tabula rasa subpsyche slowly absorbing the lessons of the world through the instructions given by wizards and puny kings, by talking mice, ducks, dogs, deers, owls and what ever other animal that stowed away in Noah's ark, and by princesses who SING at every chance they get! the latter probably the cause why their stepmothers would sinisterly plot their untimely demise (we all know these tales have been sugar coated to be more GP). like an unknowing participlant in a top secret brainwashing program by the US government, i eventually succumbed to the subliminal suggestions and made the weird connection between cartoons, and that they were a metaphor for real life (even before i knew what a metaphor was). valuable lessons and slivers of wisdom were soon derived during these formative years and habits, odd practices and a different perspective in life eventually formed.

cha-nis mik-hi maw!

so now, it's no surprise that people find me more animated than your average human being, that sound effects and weird gestures are part of my normal vocabulary and expression, that i quote lines made popular by talking animals like they were passages from the Bible, and why, on certain RARE occasions, i suddenly would just burst into song.

no wonder on my last trip to sagada, i had this incredible urge to suddenly bolt out running unto the edge of the precipice, with an orchestra gearing into a crescendo in my head and sing... "the hills are alive!!!!! with the sound of muuuuuuusssiiiiiic!"

blinders

i tried to meditate last night, in conjunction with my evening prayer. after two stressful days and two sleepless nights, i really wanted to expunge all that crappy residue of working like a dog out of my system. i retired early. took a warm bath. lathered myself with moisturizer (indulgent now, are we?). turned the a/c on and turned down the light. i sat ala-indian on my bed and took careful attention that my posture was right and comfortable (my pilates instructor would not take it well to know i slouch still). i took deep breaths and loosened up my neck, shoulders, arms, and wrists. with palms facing up, i opened my empath centers to channel in the pluses and channel out the minuses. i was to be one with the universe and commune with God... i closed my eyes and.... well, conked out.

****

"you know what, we should get you those blinders they use in kalesas so that you can focus better next time." teased uncle philip in chinese. he would often tell me this back when i was little and the clan all still lived under one roof. i really never understood what he meant by "focus" nor how pieces of leather squares secured around my face would do anything to help it. of course the adults found this comment rather amusing as they laughed at my expense, none of them really taking the effort to explain to me what was so funny. so like in a lot of occasions in my life, i was left to figure things out on my own.

i would think that uncle philip was referring to my rather short attention span back when i was a wee li'l lad, that and my irrepressible curiosity about everything. everything else, that is, except for what was demanded of my attention. you see, i was quite the curious cat and was easily distracted by things that were constantly happening around me. how could you fault me, really? try living in a multi-story house inhabited by 5 families, not counting my grandparents and regular visits from relatives from the boondocks. i was practically bombarded by stimuli! you obviously cannot expect me to zone things out and pretend i was in a remote part of NEPAL and getting jiggy with it with hermit monks, right?

true enough, this curiosity became the thorn in my mom's flesh whenever she would tutor me. pushed to the end of her already frayed tether, she had no choice but to opt in using TORTURE to keep my mind from wandering. the stiffer, less feathery, more painful end of a feather duster was her tool of choice. with that sinister weapon so neatly parked by her side, she would instruct on how rain is made and listens carefully if i followed. the slightest deviation from the lesson and her hand inches nearer the bamboo pole, jolting my already wracked senses to scramble for the right words. of course, mother never enjoyed doing what she did, but like all things chinese, she was just being practical and efficient, and back then.... pain was considered a very good teacher. how else can u explain why us chinks came up with SO many techniques in torture, enough to make the spanish inquisition feel like an english tea party?

thankfully so, my folks soon gave up the use of coercion and left me on my own to discover the world around me. i soon was able to connect how books could aid in my quest for knowledge and amusement and how they helped to explain so much, more than asking my supposed-to-be omniscient relatives, more so, our over superstitious helpers, on the ins and outs of the cosmos. needless to say, the older i got, the more curious i got and since i was still left to fend for myself, any information, relevant or not, was too good to be wasted. i became an indiscriminate tidbit sponge. in no time at all, i knew a bit about everything, even the stuff that i am not supposed to know (i was blessed apparently with very good hearing as well, much to the surprise and frustration of my folks who would secretly gossip in the shadows).

one would think that with having accumulated so much that i have finally found myself to reach some point of gnostic nirvina, yet that could only be too far from the reality of things. all the data i have gathered through the years, all the connections i have made with them, all the questions i got to answer and all the questions i have yet to answer has left me, and my poor brain, in a chaotic, incessant state of synaptic firestorm. this was partly the reason i would believe why i conked out last night, and why i SERIOUSLY cannot pray in silence, for the very second i close my eyes or the very moment i start to meditate to be quiet, i find myself in a sea of noise, all of it coming from my head. enough to really conk me out!

though i can say i don't really regret having this rather overwhelming mental operation, i reckon i would need to learn how to manage it better, if not, find the "off" switch and use it every now and then. despite how embarrasing it is on certain occasions (especially with God, sorry po, tinulugan ko Kayo), i can't imagine what my life would be like if i did exercise the use of "blinders", as uncle philip so suggested. how boring and utterly uninteresting life must have been, not to be able to look around and explore and wonder about the world.