Remembering What Is Important

DSC_3773Every time we experience something for the first time — our first kiss; our first embrace, our first love — that moment is frozen in our memory forever. Even our first view of a spectacular sunrise or a poignant sunset is indelibly imprinted in our minds. And, floating among these most-cherished reminiscences are images of the very first trip we took with our husband, our wife, our boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone very dear to us.

I have similar reflections archived in the hallowed chambers of my consciousness… scenes of two lovers walking hand-in-hand along a makeshift bamboo bridge, of an old couple whispering sweet nothings to each other while sitting on the wooden platform, of playful young pairs taking turns photographing each other by the emerald waters of the Twin Lagoons… Ooooops! There I said it: The images playing back in my mind are of Coron in Palawan.

Blessed with mangrove forests and lakes, almost untouched white beaches, pristine waters in hues of emerald and deep blue, and diverse marine ecosystem, Coron has become synonymous to P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E — a lovers’ paradise.

Coron’s Twin Lagoons, easily accessible by small motorized boat from Kayangan islet, are separated by a massive limestone wall. From my perch by the bow of the small banca, I watched in the distance as a couple played catch with the cool waters of the big lagoon. Holding hands, they jumped into the welcoming embrace of the ocean, their shrieks and cries of joy reverberated around the limestone cliffs of Calis Mountain. The pair gingerly swam towards a small and narrow opening in the wall, the only access to the much smaller “secret” lagoon. This secluded lagoon is a sight beyond words! It’s like entering a whole new dimension where only you and your partner are the center of God’s magnificent creation. This smaller lagoon owes much of its enchantment to the peace and quiet that envelopes it — where the only “alien” sounds you’d hear apart from the gentle rustling of the waters are your heartbeats. Closing my eyes, I created a mental picture of the two lovers exchanging vows of eternal love.

Ah, love. Love has inspired many wars, plays, poems, songs and tales. There is so much to love, that I cannot sum it all up into this short piece. I don’t know exactly what love is. All I know is that everyone manages to express it in the best possible way they can. And in Coron, love will always be in the air.

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Renewal

This essay was written by a dear friend. Her commentary on humanity’s moral decline is very insightful…

DSC_1499The clouds hang low on the horizon. Reddish-black smog enveloped the place in a blood-smeared haze. Blocks of concrete devoured the vegetation. Monitor lizards, wild boars, bear cats, squirrels and pheasant peacocks roaming the once pristine forests will soon be just stuff of legends and myths we read in books. The rumbling thunder cannot be distinguished from the roar of trucks that are laden with minerals extracted from the mountains. The deserted mountains will then be left with deep wounds. Wounds caused by men. Wounds that will never heal. There is no cure because men do not recognize it as an ailment.

The stench of decaying values of men pervades the air.

Unwanted children and adults alike littered the earth, and nobody seemed to care. Pseudo-wars played by children are no longer pseudo but real in the world of men bent on destroying each other–for what? We do not understand… People kill each other over petty things.

It’s all greed. People become greedy because of a hunger that cannot be satisfied. We crave for more luxurious things, destroying what we already have for free, in exchange for those that would make us seem wealthy.

But what we do not want is taken away from us… The sea swallowed back beaches into its bowels, as waves surged to claim what man has wasted. The howling wind unleashed its fury on the hapless people who can only wail in anguish. But nothing can dissuade the wind from revealing its tremendous power to man who is in fact so minute, so helpless, so unfortunate… Man in his uncaring way forgets that something is inherently more powerful. So the great wind needs to remind him to acknowledge mother nature’s might!

Man rose from among the debris, and searched for the monuments he has built for himself, but nothing remained. Then man remembered… this isn’t what he really wanted. He has sold his soul for flashy things that are irrelevant to man’s existence, yet, he didn’t find fulfillment in what he has chosen. Now, there is only the scorching heat of the sun and dry land before him.
He looked up to the heavens and asked for forgiveness.

Then he felt a drop on his face, a light drizzle mingling with his tears… rain fell piercing the heart of the earth, letting go of the strangled seeds, which man finally learned to nourish with his blood and sweat.

IANTHE MARIE BENLIRO
10 February 2011

How do I ‘unlove’ you?

Starting-Over-Again-Movie-PosterLet me start this piece with a disclaimer: I am not a film critic nor I pretend to be one. I am just among the many moviegoers who—in one way or the other—had experienced the emotional rollercoaster ride provided by the movie Starting Over Again.

Honestly, there’s nothing “new” about said movie. Its storyline is not an unexplored one; in fact, had it not been for the excellent narrative flow, this film would’ve ended as just another formula flick.

There is something about this movie—no, it’s not Piolo nor Toni… Joross or Lito, maybe… but I digress—that catches one’s interest: the unraveling of the story. Being a storyteller myself, I cannot help but be enthralled at how Direk Olive Lamasan took us inside Marco (Piolo) and Ginny’s (Toni) love story, giving us an overdose of “kilig” moments and introducing us to an unorthodox kind of courtship… and from that emotional high, Ms. Lamasan jolted us back to reality by giving us a peek at the couple’s eventual falling apart—reasons unknown— and how they found each other again. But contrary to what many would expect, we are presented with an unexpected twist. No, I’m not gonna spell it out here. I am no spoiler. Let’s just say that the Marco-Ginny affair is no Popoy-Basha love tale.

You see, what made Starting Over Again stand out from the other fall-in-love-break-up-reunite formula movies is that it did not follow that conventional flow. Instead, what the movie afforded us were peeks and glances into various episodes of the Marco-Ginny love story—each scene leaving us with questions, and more questions: “what happened” or “what did he/she do” or “why are they such-and-such”. There was nothing predictable about the movie. Just when you thought you had it all figured out, the next scene would shatter your “conclusions”. It kept us interested, at times, echoing the lead characters’ demand: “I deserve an explanation!”

Each scene—each confrontation, monologue and soliloquy—were well-thought of and presented in a very relatable manner, something that is not strange to the viewer. The contemporary language and dialog added to the impact of every scene—may it be laugh-inducing or tear-jerking.

Starting Over Again, as the title implied, is a story about second chances… about moving on… about finding closure—one that is with finality; a letting go of what once was. A closure that would usher in complete acceptance of what has happened and honor the transition away from what’s finished to something new. In other words, a closure with the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.

The movie had indeed succeeded in evoking that bittersweet nostalgic feeling of finding that special someone whom we’d rather fly up into the scorching sun than get over with. It brought us back to our very own “demons past” that seemed unthinkable that time—where a lover leaves abruptly; runs you over like a train, as if you were just something to be left on the side of the curb like road kill. It reenacted our very own journey of finding closure with someone who headed for the hills and never told us why, reminding us how gut-wrenchingly difficult it was to seek closure within ourselves.

The ending of a significant piece of one’s life—a relationship, a job, a stage of life, or a way of thinking—may be difficult, yes, and even painful for many of us… but still, we cannot afford to lose hope and give up. Starting Over Again allowed us to remember the good and the bad times in our own lives, enabling us to assess these memories and just let the emotions flow: cry, laugh or jump around if we have to, but just let ourselves be. Some of these memories may still haunt and torment us, but the movie showed us that it’s just normal; and that we have to give ourselves a timeline. It can be weeks or months or ever years, but the bottomline is that: when that day comes, that will be the day when you must stop wallowing in self pity and angst and start life anew.

… the pursuit of a happy nest

Happy Jump!

Happiness comes in many forms — getting what you wanted for Christmas, finally being able to watch your favorite movie, or simply enjoying a tall caffè macchiatto while sprawled in this cozy chaise lounge here in a small coffee shop along Jupiter Street… and, happiness can also be found in the joys and blessings received by others — like someone passing the UP College Admission Test. By the way, congratulations to my neice for qualifying in a quota course in UP Diliman. Woot-woot!!!!

How about you? D’you know what makes you happy? I bet you’d be quick to reply: Of course! I know what makes me happy.

But, do you know how to be truly happy?

Y’see, i believe that in order to find true happiness, one needs to be able to realize that all the things in his life are generally good, and that he can be happy with the people already in his life and those who influence how he lives his daily grind. In short, one must see that happiness is all his positive experiences combined into one emotion. Think happy thoughts, they say. This emotion can, and usually does, bring out the best in people.

ACCEPT. For someone to be truly happy, one should learn to accept that EVERYTHING — yes, everything — happens for a reason. Cherish the good ones and discard the bad ones. Learn from the lessons of your mistakes and channel them to make you a better person.

PERSEVERE. Although things may be hard to handle at the moment, you need to understand that whatever bad experiences you’re having now can contribute to the overall lessons that this life wishes to impart to you… and yes, to ultimately make you a better person.

SACRIFICE. View hardships in a positive light. I know, I know… How can you NOT think of desolation when you’re already down to your last penny and the rent is due tomorrow? Well, accept that happiness isn’t really free. You have to earn it and work doubly hard to keep it. The price for happiness is having to suffer and having to question events that occur during one’s life. People need to be able to adapt to their surroundings so that they can get the best out of them.

EXPERIMENT. You can’t live your life in fear of what can go wrong. You just need to go out and live your life to the fullest and know that you’ll be happy, even if something doesn’t go the way you planned.

LOVE. The best kind of happiness is knowing you are capable of caring for someone without the promise of being reciprocated. Care enough for the people you love and aspire for the best FOR THEM, and not what YOU WANT for them. Return every act of kindness afforded you. To me, this is the basest form of happiness — an unspoken agreement between people, affirming each will do whatever they can to make the other person happy; and in the process, you, yourself, will be able to enjoy the moment and be happy.

Lastly, we must be conscious of the fact that happiness may come and go like the seasons. This awareness of its fleeting nature will help us enjoy every moment filled with happiness, and remind us that every tear-jerking or unnerving event we have to endure is well worth it.

Well, in the mean time, here’s wishing you all the happiness in life! Merry Christmas!

… put no trust in the morrow

News about someone dying, a family member, a friend, or even some random acquaintance , can be very humbling — it makes you reflect on your own mortality. Most times, it also compels you to look back at the life you shared with the deceased… and, more often than not, gives you that eerie I-should-have-spent-more-time-with-him/her kind of feeling.

For me, a death in my small social circle reminds me of a personal tenet: Carpe diem.

Seize the day. Yes. But what does ‘carpe diem’ really mean? Simply, it exhorts one to enjoy the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future — literally to ‘pluck the day’.

During the 1st century BC, the Roman poet Horace wrote, “Seize the day; put no trust in the morrow.”

When we follow our dreams, we enable our selves to live with passion every day. We are at our happiest and most fulfilled when we are truly present in day to day undertakings, no matter how tedious the tasks may be. When we show heartfelt gratitude for the things we have in our lives, we see the subtleties life presents us and transcend beyond the mundane societal pressure forced upon us all.

The notion of living for the moment crops up over centuries of poetry, including in the writings of Shakespeare, Milton and Byron.

Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal. -- Elbert Hubbard

Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal. — Elbert Hubbard

Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” written in the 1600s, has been called the ‘carpe diem’ poem.

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

— To His Coy Mistress, Andrew Marvell

We read here that the narrator urges his love to submit to his embraces before “worms shall try / That long-preserved virginity.”

Every day, indeed, has a purpose.

Live with a dream. Live with adventure in our heart. Live knowing that our enemies cannot stab us in the back if we have our arms stretched out wide in an embrace. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Dance, sing, explore, learn, love… hard and well.

Shatter me.

On my way home from the office, I looked up the horizon — which, from my vantage point along Makati Avenue, comprises the posh condominiums of Rockwell PowerPlant — and witnessed the full moon rising. It was so magnificently perched on top of the tallest building in Rockwell that I soon found myself literally sprinting just to reach home as fast as I could, for me to capture the scene.

Alas, when I got to my building’s roof deck, she already flew away and hid among the clouds. I suddenly felt a pang of melancholy that I lost the desire to shoot, ‘cept for one photograph.

Packing my gear away, I began the slow descent to my own little world on the 9th floor. As I stowed my camera bag on top of the cabinet,  a paperback fell. I absentmindedly picked it up, and by some stroke of serendipity, read these lines:

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”

“Wha–!” I almost blurted out… I was really dumbfounded. Is Fate trying to tell me something, or is this just one weird coincidence?

I’d rather not venture a guess….

Here’s the photo, by the way:

DSC_8006a

… and the book that fell? It’s Shatter Me by  Tahereh Mafi. I haven’t read it… maybe I should?

What’s eating you up?

Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last
But dreams come slow and they go so fast
You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you’ll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies…

WHAT and IF are two words as harmless and as non-threatening as words can be when used separately. Put them together side-by-side and they become a specter… having the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.

What if?

What if?

What if?

Regrets do gather and collect like old friends… to relive your darkest moments.

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