Why I Still Write

When I was a child, I had never dreamed of becoming a writer. I was groomed to have an entrepreneurial mindset or to become a doctor someday.

My father, who flew from chaotic China in the early 1930’s, had high hopes that I would become a doctor. Unfortunately, his cancer arrived first.

My father’s death inspired me to write. The events before and after Papa’s death were overwhelmingly painful. Surrounded by people who could not understand me, I turned inward and sought solace in words.

I was born in a family that was frowned upon by society. As a veshya or illegitimate child, the stigma of my birth has always made me feel insignificant and invisible. Back then, my fascination with books was my only escape. As a young boy, I must have searched for fictional characters that somehow resembled my identity and who shared similar struggles.

Since I was a child, I always felt like I needed to be fixed. I was never good enough for everyone. I was never an ideal son and much less a brother. In fact, I was never an ideal friend. That was how I felt.

So I turned to fiction as it was my only hope to get a sense of normalcy and also to maintain my sanity. The written word gave me voice. Fiction also gave me a chance to confront my demons. It helped me understand myself and the world.

I still continue to write. For myself. For my sanity. And for those who feel the same way.

Losing Friends

After I turned thirty, I noticed that I have lost so many friends. In fact, I am confident that there are only two people today whom I consider as real friends. Their presence is truly a gift and a blessing.

I can think of a few reasons why I have lost several friends over the years.

1) Gossip.

I abhor gossipmongers. I cannot trust them. What is the point of saving a friendship if the other person has a wicked tongue and blithely unaware about it?

2) Emotional dust bin.

I kept my distance from certain people because I felt abused. I felt like they just wanted me to listen but showed no genuine interest to return the favor.

3) Asking so many favors.

We all have that one friend who constantly needs help. Well, I always helped. But this time, it is time to help myself first.

Ten or twenty years from now, I’d probably meet new people and hopefully gain new friends.

Right now, I am just happy and thankful that I had mustered the courage to cut off ties from toxic people.

The thrill of driving en route to High Ridge Restaurant

Several people have recommended that I should visit High Ridge Restaurant located in Bontula, Upper Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City.

What they forgot to mention was the steep and curvy road which was nerve-wracking to say the least. At that time, the road was under repair so imagine the horror!

Anyway, the place offers a fantastic view of the entire city.

The ambiance was also very relaxing. I recommend you should visit the place around 2pm like I did.

I will not go there during rainy season as the road becomes more slippery a.k.a dangerous (at least for me).

Here are some of the photos I took using my iPad 2.

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City Warrior

 

Pinching a black rubber horn,

a trisikad driver announces 

his unwelcomed arrival

in a battlefield of urban monsters.

 

Sun-drenched, calves stiff as wood,

he pedals his flimsy chariot 

alongside the blinding sparkles 

of mighty SUVs and grand sedans. 

 

His faint honking subdued

by the clarion calls 

of ravenous jeepney conductors. 

 

But all these will never cripple his spirit.

He has three mouths to feed.

And when the sun rises again next morning,

he will summon all his strength

for a promise of victory.

https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:14867

 

Imperata Cylindrica

(This piece has been published in Carayan Journal)

My father had the tremendous resilience of cogon grass. I remember my father’s daily ritual when we still owned a farm in the province of Bukidnon. Our house stood in the middle of a three- hectare farm. Its perimeter lined with Gmelina trees and coffee Arabica. If left unattended, cogon grass would sprout everywhere, invading my father’s vegetable gardens. After an afternoon nap, Papa would put on his favorite salakot, a gift from one of his Chinese friends for his sixty-seventh birthday, and bounced out of the house to check if his nemesis had resurrected. Armed with a bolo knife and a rake, he moved around with an assumed authority of an emperor.

One afternoon, Papa insisted I should join him in his routine inspection. For a six-year-old boy, the idea of cutting cogon grass was not so exciting. But Papa must not be disobeyed. Following his lead, I lumbered my way to a dense patch of grass.

Sitting on a customized stool, which he called bangkito (a smaller version of a regular stool or bangko), he would scan the entire area before he put on a pair of orange rubber gloves. After which, he would grab the topmost part of the grass, twist it, and cut it off with his bolo.

While his hands were busy, Papa regaled me with his personal adventures. He had a strong, deep voice and spoke broken Cebuano in heavy Chinese accent.

“Ako abot Manila 1932 uban ako igsoon lalaki,” he said, carefully stressing the fact that he came from China; that he and his brother left Fujian when they were in their early twenties. He had lived and moved about in several regions in the Philippines. When he left his family in China, he lost several businesses in a span of seven decades.

Within an hour, a big clump of cogon grass would pile up beside him. When he got tired at the end of the day, he removed his gloves and asked me to get the small yellow box of EMI matches in our dirty kitchen. He meticulously raked the remaining leaves into a huge pile, made a small opening in the middle, then placed some dried leaves to start a fire. A waft of white smoke would slowly rise from the heap and a familiar incense permeate the air.

My father guarded the tiny flame by fanning it with his salakot. The flame leaped, releasing the familiar aroma of smoke and brittle leaves. I stood beside him as we looked at this daily offering. He would stare at the fire, with eyes unseeing, his mind perhaps going back to an old regret, or rehearsing a prayer, or perhaps, just drifting to the country of his childhood, to a time long gone, a time I wish today I had a clearer understanding of. He did it every single day as far as I could remember. But back then, I was too young to understand and appreciate the ritual.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, we sold our farm in Bukidnon and moved back to the nearest city. It has been twenty years since my father died. His passing still feels like it only happened yesterday.

Yesterday, I visited Papa’s grave. The caretaker started cutting the grass over his tomb. In my mind, I saw my father sitting on a stool, donning a pair of orange gloves, looking at the green green grass.

Published in http://www.xu.edu.ph/images/carayan_journal/doc/CJ_Vol_3._No.1_2017/2_Ed_daquipel_cogongrass_cnf.pdf