Monday, December 20, 2010

forgiving love's defective vision

once upon a time, three friends (whose identity will remain hidden to protect the innocent and guilty alike) met for coffee. much like many group of friends before, conversation inevitably steered to ‘significant-other-bitching’ at one point.

friend 1, laments that he is so tired of his partner being selfish and never considering the situation from the other’s perspective.

friend 2 asked, ‘did you not know this before you made a commitment to be in a relationship with him?’

to which, of course, friend 1 did. and, being in the safe environment of friends, admitted to reluctantly.

friend 3 offered that this may not be intentional. it is simply his partner feeling free to express himself and from his point of view, his behaviour may not necessarily be selfish or inconsiderate, it just being – well, himself.

friend 1 said, ‘if that is so, then he doesn’t get me.’

all three fell silent for a while, lost in their thoughts.

friend 2 started asking why is it that many times our lovers don’t get us and our friends effortlessly do.

friend 3 (the psychologist in the group) explained that friendship is defined by commonality while love by fascination, requiring a level of mystery – thus the unknown.

this conversation stuck with me long after the caffeine has left my system. i asked myself many times:

is this true? in a relationship, are we all doomed to spend the rest of our lives (if we’re lucky) with a person who by virtue of their love for us, will never understand us?

like many dillemas before me, i can deal with it as long as i understand it. so i tried to ponder the issue a bit more.

after much thought, i figured that when you love somebody, you’re interaction is limited to the minute distance of intimate spaces. this closeness, while allowing for perspective that reveals stark detail, can only focus on a limited space at a time and inhibits a view of the complete picture. much of which is lost and the rest suffers from the haziness of peripheral vision. love is not blind. it is just that love when actualised, suffers from tinges of myopia, sometimes hyperopia or even tunnel vision.

viewed from this angle, this short-sightedness is not an absence of empathy but a testament of one’s intimacy.

comforted by the thought, i now listen to ani difranco’s song, thinking i have the answer to her question:

‘he didn’t understand me
but i don’t know why i didn’t go
he didn’t understand me
and he had every chance to know.’

he loved you and he cannot see all of you because you are too near. but he sees you in a way no other cannot.

a fair trade-off? maybe not.

but for me, a macro-lensed witnessing of my life (warts, scars and all) is as important as affirmation i receive from those who view the soft light, airbrushed image i present to the rest of the world. believing that those warts, scars and all that i endeavour to conceal define me more than the complete picture and may not be so repulsive, when viewed with love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

rant to write

prolific. not.

i can’t write. nothing is happening worth writing about. even memories evade me.

rut. this is.

i wake up, and go through my day like it was pre-ordained. i work like a janitor fish. i clean up others’ shit and call it management advice. i do this and look at their grateful faces for the dirty work i do that somehow they think is a step forward toward their salvation. i do this all day everyday. in between, i do my own work and put it up for scrutiny of my control freak boss whose bottom-line i’m still trying to figure out after 3 years. i endure backhanded put-downs and brush-offs i know i don’t deserve.

i try to spice the hours with stolen moments of cheekiness. i check social networking sites and personal mail, thinking – ‘hey, this is getting back at you, i have a life outside of this.’, knowing full well that no amount of status’ likes will make me like the sad android that i evolved into.

when i can, i resort to bourgeois diversions. i order my dark mocha frappuccino believing that the slightest nuance in choice reflects my individuality. i have heartfelt conversations with friends over coffee or beer and regurgitate oprah or any other appropriate hollywood line, silently congratulating myself how clever i am. i go to the gym and pay for a trainer half my age motivate me to becoming more fit – not knowing that the rot is not in the flesh. i collect shoes, cd’s, dvd’s, tshirts and graphic novels and more and more feeling suspicious that this amassing of material things will not fill the vacuum in my soul. and then i smirk at how hopelessly superficial other people are.

i go home and project all my frustrations to my partner who has certainly contributed in a good share of it. i watch him pour his umpteenth drink and lament that while his intoxication provides nocturnal relief, it never really takes him away from his troubles. nor mine.

there. i got it out of my system.

trusting wholeheartedly (because oprah said so, or was it a hollywood movie?) that by letting off steam i can wax ms. congeniality again.

perhaps now i can write about truth, goodness, light and all those affirming introspective shit again.

Monday, November 15, 2010


not your sexual fantasy. but 3 books that are interesting, amusing, poignant and informative.

they hit national bookstores today.

get your copy and for starters - here's my good friend S taking it off to sell some.

more info here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

he said, he said

is there ever one story to an experience? will two people ever have the same version of the truth on what has transpired between them? will knowing the ‘other’ version give one closure? i ask this because of a guy who i dated more than ten years ago who suddenly reappeared. and this is our story. my version, that is.

2007, three years ago

giving in to one’s craving sometimes requires you to freeze your ass off.

i was thinking this as i threw my cigarette butt on the wet gutter of the paddington train station exit. it was densely and messily populated by hundreds of butts in various states of damp decomposition. it was disgusting, i thought, as i wrap my leather jacket tighter around me, willing myself to ignore the cold.

i considered lighting up another before walking to my train.

the contemplation was ongoing when it was stopped short by the sight of a couple walking to my direction. not because they were filipino (which, even at a distance, i’m sure they were), not because they were sweet (which they were), not even because the guy was hot (which i thought he was – but my taste in men is legendary in its inconsistency) - but because i was sure i once dated the man who was holding the woman so protectively as they were walking.

‘hey.’ – he said.

‘hey.’ – i said.

‘where are you going?’ – he asked.

‘i’m taking the heathrow express to catch my flight back to johannesburg.’ – i explained.

‘so you still live in africa.’ – he half-asked, half stated.

‘yes. and you are now based in london?’ – i asked, now increasingly uncomfortable that we are chatting as if oblivious of the woman in his arms.

‘yes,’ he smiled at her, ’give me a call the next time your in london’

‘will do.’ – i smiled, thinking i don’t remember his name much less any information on his contact details.

‘bye, then.’ he said.

‘bye’ – she said, seemingly impervious to the fact that we weren’t introduced.

they walked off.

‘bye.’ i said as i see him look back and give me a knowing smile.

all throughout the train ride, checking in and boarding the plane, i was bothered that i cannot remember his name. now i am the first one to admit that i have gone through a slutty phase and will not claim that i remember everybody i slept with. but i was sure this guy was, well – significant.

i kept on thinking of his name i cannot remember until the plane took-off and the seatbelts lights went off.

‘larry!*’ i muttered to myself as i suddenly remembered his name, prompting the man seating next to me to give me a quizzical look.

as flight attendants started handing out peanuts and serving drinks, memories awash giving my ritual vertigo on plane take-offs and landings a run for head space.

1999, eleven years ago
malate, manila – after the pride march

‘larry!’ i exclaimed because he punched the galvanized iron wall of an empty lot, on a dark area in one of malate side-streets. the wall made a booming sound that i was sure can be heard three blocks away. ‘what’s wrong with you?!’

larry was upset. we agreed to take a walk away from the maddening crowd of the pride street after-parties. we spent some time walking in welcome, if awkwad, silence. suddenly, he stopped. and then histrionics. after punching the wall, he stood there quietly and then sat on an nearby abandoned bench.

he’s brooding and unpredictable. also confused and messed-up about his sexuality. just the kind of guy i found so hot in those days.

‘what’s wrong?’, i touched his shoulder and dropped the ‘with you’ in the hope that it might trigger something other than silent distress.

‘what do you want from me?’

‘what do you mean?’

‘you are dating buddy. you are writing love letters to elmer.* why are you wasting time with me? what do you want?’

‘buddy and i are not in a relationship – he’s a friend. elmer is history – i can’t even explain the stupidity of waking up one night and giving in to the urge of writing him a letter when he’s obviously still with his boyfriend. but you – i want you. i want a relationship with you.’

‘i’m fucked up.’

‘i know.’

‘haha.’ – it sounded both like a smirk and pained laughter. he stood up and i followed. he suddenly pinned me against the wall, both in hands cuffing my wrists, his whole body pressing urgently against mine.

‘is this what you want?’ he was so close i smell the damp heat of his breath on my neck.

‘don’t be an idiot, larry. we’re in public.’

‘no one’s here.’ he said (or grumbled), as he grazed his cheek against mine.

‘why don’t we go back to my place and talk?’

‘haha.’ – again the smirk-laugh. he pressed on me heavier and tighten his grip of my wrists.

‘stop it, larry, you’re hurting me!’ i shouted as i pushed him away. he seemed surprised at being rebuked. he sat again on the bench. i followed and we were quiet. then he said quietly,

‘let’s go to your place’

i don’t remember the ride back home. i do remember we ended up in my bed in just our tighty whities. we lied down next to each other with my arms around him and slept. sometime in the middle of the sexless night, he left while i was sleeping. i woke up thinking that was strange, not knowing it will take more than seven years before i see him again.

2010/present day, quezon city
in my condo, in front of my macbook at night

‘so where’s my pasalubong (gift) from rome?’ a chat box popped up while i was reading friends’ updates in facebook. it was larry. i was surprised he was keeping tabs on me.

‘if you come to manila i might give you a venetian mask i bought.’ – i answered

‘how are you?’ - he asked

‘i’m OK. you?’

‘i’m fine.’

‘i see you are a father now’

‘yes, that makes me very happy’

‘it must be 2AM in london, why are you still awake?’

‘i’m doing the laundry, my wife and the kids are already asleep’

‘i see.’

‘are you happy? you still with your boyfriend, right? are you guys OK?’ –he asked

‘sometimes we are, sometimes we’re not. just like any relationship, i suppose.’

‘there you are again, philosophizing.’

‘we are who we are. but i guess that does not apply to you. you have transformed.’

‘transformed. hahaha’

‘do you miss being with men?’

‘mostly - i miss the sex.’

‘you don’t have to.’

‘i am faithful. not like you.’

‘what?! you don’t know me anymore.’

‘well, you said we are who we are. i remember you tried to juggle me, elmer and buddy at the same time.’

‘that’s your version of the story. not mine’

‘what’s your version?’

‘what’s the point? we cannot ever be.’ i was feeling a little pissed off by this time.

‘was there ever a ‘we’?’

‘you are right. there never was. but why do you insist on painting me as the bad guy?’

‘i don’t. you know what i remember when i think about you? bridges of madison county

‘what? why?’ wondering what is the relation between me and ms. streep's movie.

‘we watched it in your apartment once. we should reconcile our stories you know.’


‘because it is exciting.’

‘it’s not to me.’

‘wait. the baby is crying. i have to go.’

then, just like that, he was gone again.

i don’t know why larry and i have different versions of the story. more importantly, i don’t know why larry is interested in reconciling our versions of our story. frankly, while i know i fancy myself being in love with him at one point, what i wrote here represents all of my memory of larry. nothing more. and to me what it says is that subjected against the time and the distance between us, that ‘love’ probably was a figment of my own imagination or a product of my heart’s own deceit. better put to rest. along with everything that is left unsaid between us.

my point is, the feeling i might have found so earth-shaking before seems not even probable now. and while he has a story to paint a picture of me as he experienced it, i fail to see its import to the ‘me’ of today.

i may never see larry again. somehow, that thought does not bring any sadness. only lingering questions on the story he feels a need to tell.

*names of men i dated are changed to protect the errr, innocent.

Friday, October 15, 2010

to (temporarily) change a blog title

as a child i believed that your home defines who you are. like a fixed physical space roots your identity.

now i wonder, if you move from one place to the other so quickly, will you remain intact? or will pieces of you fall off, leaving you unraveled?

i ask this because in the last 3 weeks i moved around 6 cities in 4 countries in rapid succession. for work, not for fun. and it has left me – well, exhausted.

not that i am blind to the perks of work that allows (or shall i say, requires?) you to travel. after posting travel pictures, my FB friends send me messages lush with admiration, even envy. and yet after all the high from the ‘likes’, the comments and the messages fade, i am back home and wishing i wasn’t too tired i can’t even make love decently.

truth be told, i am a horrible traveler. not just because my mild vertigo makes my head feel like its exploding in every take-off and landing. mainly because shortly after i arrive in every new city, after the relief that comes from passing through (and not being detained) in passport control, i take the quickest way to my hotel (or wherever i am supposed to stay) and try to recreate a semblance of home-ness. that ranges from unpacking my toiletries and arranging them on the sink or looking for the nearest mcdonald’s for affordable comfort food.

shameful, huh? the consternation did not hit until i stared at my mcdonald’s meal spelling out its name in some sexy language i don’t understand.

but despite my apparent lack of travel élan, there were magical moments. passing minutes stolen from the cracks of grueling work hours – like meeting a german girl on a train to berlin and chatting away for hours, or being serenaded to sleep by a long-haired british guitarist in my own room because we got stuck there together by mere chance, or stumbling into a student rally in istanbul and ogling the luscious riot police.

it is in this magical moments that i realize i can be swept away and forget who i am. that’s probably the reason for marking my territory of things familiar in a strange place. it’s like leaving the home lights on so you can remember where to go back to.

torn between the lure of the unknown and the comfort of the familiar i prayed for a sign and it came to me as a graffiti on the elevator of my last hotel:

now, i may not exactly be able to travel with my pussy, but i can sure stop being a pussy and just enjoy taking a journey and the opportunity to come back home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

God (heart) Manila

i walked from gym to home, last night.

energised by the tantric contortions of a late night yoga class, with frozen creamy drink in hand, i walked the busy streets of timog-tomas morato, reciting little poems to myself, singing little ditties, allowing headlights to provide passing spotlight to my singular performance.

i drink in the life of the street.

my poetic show was interrupted intermittently and i pause, without annoyance:

taxis slow down and honk reluctantly like a prospect to a whore; like mr. right or the hottest trick – always there when you don’t want them, nowhere in sight when you’re just wanting to be taken for a ride.

kids in skateboards try out new feats, unaware of the perilous boozy traffic, causing it even. only aware of each others’ ones-up-manship, congratulating and insulting each other in turn.

peddy cab drivers whistle and offer a ride with a smile, like their offers were more than something that involves their legs, almost hinting on an equally sweaty proposition.

my fake dvd dealer waved at me from a distance. running up to me to pitch a convincing spiel that the latest action movie of action stars from a bygone era is fantastic and actually not the shit that it is. i declined with a smile.

a child with flower leis walks up to tell me her sad story, wanting me to buy for a car i don’t own or an icon of a god i don’t believe in. for school, she says. i offered her my drink, she takes it and walks away.

i resume my act whenever i can. the sounds of the street providing accompaniment. cacophonic, discordant, oddly synchronized.

i am one with the life of the street.

and for several moments i can forget that i have to wake up in the morning to earn my keep, that while i am burdened by work – too many in this country can’t find one, that our swat teams don’t have bullet proof vests, that ‘major-major’ has found its way to popular lexicon to an irritating extent, that i am fighting the ills of society to which i am both victim and perpetrator.

i get sad then took comfort in my mother’s faith that i was created in His likeness. and since i love this city, this metropolis, this country – maybe He does, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

losing you

this is something i wrote back in college. thought i'd just post something to break the silence.

if time would go back I would find you a person of no consequence.

in my life you were the only person who can tell me, “i know you.” it did not happen in a blink of an eye. we worked on it, little by little, like pasting plaster to a beloved statue, we’ve come to cherish our shared galatea. i treated you with more warmth, love and respect than any other person in this world.

did that frighten you?

well, it frightened me.

so i started hitting you with pretentious anger, pummeling fists of hatred that were intended to be more violent than they have ever been. so there were those terrible battles of two entwined souls confused and threatened by the onslaught of fabricated calamities sure to extinguish the flickering light of intimacy. “i’m scared, let’s stop this,” – i thought. “fuck, I don’t give a damn,”- i mouthed.

why did you not hear my unspoken plea for a truce? why did you not listen to the resonance of my bruised spirit unable to halt what it regretfully started?

i lost.

did you know that?

will you ever know?

in the final exodus of understanding coaxed by fear, pride and distorted sense of self-preservation, i lost you.

and in losing the being enmeshed to my soul i lost a part of myself bigger than is worldly possible. you cannot tell me, “i know you,“ now. for i am just an insult to the person you helped into being.


if time will go back i will find you a person of no consequence.

Monday, July 19, 2010

horsing around

i’m sure none would admit that you intend to go through life just horsing around.

a few weeks ago, the inimitable merman asked me and a bunch of friends if we are interested in watching repertory philippines’ staging of shaffer’s equus. the gay bunch was busy so it ended up that it was jp, me and the merman.

to those unfamiliar with the play, i can’t be bothered to write my own synopsis so i ‘cut and paste’ imdb’s:

‘A psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, investigates the savage blinding of six horses with a metal spike in a stable in Hampshire, England. The atrocity was committed by an unassuming seventeen-year-old stable boy named Alan Strang, the only son of an opinionated but inwardly-timid father and a genteel, religious mother. As Dysart exposes the truths behind the boy's demons, he finds himself face-to-face with his own.’

deep, eh?

the truth is (and to assure you that i haven’t gone all artsy-fartsy highbrow on you), the play gained notoriety because of the lengthy scene in the second act involving nudity. in fact, harry potter’s – daniel radcliffe made headlines and billions of internet picture downloads when he took to stage as strang, announcing to the world that the boy that played potter has, err, grown up. the nudity is such that on the way out, the merman told me –‘ i hope people don’t think we paid the cost of the ticket to see cock’.

but i digress.

the reason i am writing about this is the crux of the play – at least for me – resonates with a question i have been asking myself for sometime. that is, ‘is a life without passion an acceptable loss for a life of normalcy?

actually, such succinctness and gravity of questioning was more the play’s rather than mine. when i asked my friends about it, it was framed rather lamely with ‘do you still have a goal?’ and i ask this because more and more i am thinking that lately, it feels like i have none.

when i started working, fresh from student activism, my goal was to make a significant contribution to the rural poor. when i joined government, i aimed at being a part of those who introduced meaningful reforms in the bureaucracy. failing at that, i went to africa looking to regain my soul. after 8 years, i came back home wanting to retire. now, realising that i have, at least, 10 productive years in this deadly, if weary, body, i’m stumped.

i asked jp and he started essaying the ‘good’ i am doing for others. i said, that’s debatable – but even if it is true, doing good fulfils the receiver. the giver is satisfied only obliquely through some form of inverse vanity. i doubt if my goal is that.

when asked, id went on a discourse about ‘helpers’, ‘those who need to be needed’ and ‘altruists’, differentiating them in terms of social psychology and linking it to evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’. if that did not make sense to you, suffice to say this was 3 am and its either id was already too drunk to make sense or i was to understand.

j, my man of the moon, asked,’ why is it important? maybe the journey is more important than the destination.’

l, the other half of my small team at work quietly says, ‘maybe you need to define what you mean by retirement. after all, being in a place where you can afford to rest is a valid goal.'

there were others equally insightful perspectives i got from others but none of them seem to assuage the restless feeling i have inside.

and then i watched the equus and i realised it is possible i am asking the wrong question.

the thing is, i have goals. they may be not as single-minded as before, but they are there. the feeling of listlessness emanates not from its absence but from the feeling of losing passion.

in the play, Dysart, the psychiatrist, called it ‘professional menopause’. the lack of ‘worship’. something that happens to you as you become more trained. as you age, perhaps. you cease to wonder or be surprised. you think the outcome will never be good or bad but always something in between and there’s very little you can do to influence it.

sad? perhaps. i’d like to think of it as a wake-up call. my own version of raging against the dying of the light.

i know for a fact that i once had passion. that means i have a capacity for it. like riding a horse, i should be able to do it again once i been saddled up for some time. if i have to unlearn my cynicism to break it, at least the wind will be blowing against my face.

so next time, when my life’s Strang asks me and challenges my demons, ‘at least I galloped – when did you?’ – i will answer:

once, and sometime soon - i’ll race you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

eclipsed by reason

is there a reason why we choose the people we love?

jp were bored last wednesday so we decided to watch a movie. upon arrival at gateway, we noticed that gone is the usual silent, brooding and cruisy gay crowd and in its place are masses of teeny boppers and baby boomers, single ladies and partnered ones with their irate boyfriends and husbands suffering some sort of mania that is eclipse.

what is a nosy boy to do? of course, we bought tickets to find out what the hullabaloo is all about. after lining up for what felt like for ever, we got tickets to watch it after two days (!).

so came friday, armed with blankies and an open mind that this may actually turn out to be a decent movie and is more than just our dirty-old-men need to see muscular boys running around half naked, i settled down to my lazy boy chair and watched.

two hours after, i am nursing a beer thinking about the movie. not so much about it (since jp and i agreed that the best part was the lazy boy chairs in the platinum cinema), but the questions it raised in my mind.

one question in my mind is related to one of the most common themes in many romantic stories – being put in a situation where you have to choose between two people you love. (bella had to choose between pattinson’s edward and lautner’s jacob. tough choice but with such delicious options, how can she complain? the bitch!)

as the story goes, the decision was ruled by something akin to consistency theory: that is, making decisions in order to try to achieve a maximum practical level of consistency in our world. when bella explained her decision to edward (and i am paraphrasing here), she said it was because she always felt like an outcast with humans (that causes some dissonance) and her experiences with the bloodsuckers lead her to believe that this is where she belonged. thus, being ‘turned’ will result in consistency of her identity and comfort zones.

i thought that while this was such a ‘practical’ approach to deciding on who to love, it was rather unbelievable. because, seriously, in real life – do we even try to reason out the decisions we make when it comes to love? and if we make our decision on love practical, does it still qualify as love? will it be love if it is ruled by reason or worse, convenience?

my take is: when it comes to love decisions, we decide what we decide. we can intellectualise it all we want but in the end, it's like finding reason in deciding between a vampire and a werewolf: unreal and unnecessary.

Monday, June 14, 2010

moving home

'And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Giving me enough time in my life to grow up
Time, be my friend
Let me start again'

last weekend jp and i moved our home from teachers village to timog avenue.

looking back, i moved house more than 10 times in the last 5 years. i lived in a house, a hotel, a flat, my mom's place (!) and now a condo.

i don't know exactly why this is so. i guess my lifestyle and my life choices have made me into what you can call a new age nomad. i suppose had i relinquished my aversion for owning property (as it ends up owning you), i would have saved up to buy my own place. and this would have not been so. this resistance coupled with my lackluster performance in money-saving is a perfect formula for NOT owning anything permanent.

so i move house often.

i find each move is arduous, taxing and emotional. i guess because when i live in a place, albeit temporarily, i try to put a personal stamp to it. this can be as simple as putting up my own curtains or (as in the last place) re-upholstering the dining chairs. so outside of the actual drudgery of packing, unpacking, cleaning up and carrying stuff, i feel i loose something of myself to each move.

the plus side, i suppose i discover a new side of myself in each move. like being a good uncle when i moved back to my mom's place or finding joy in the sound of birds singing when waking up in the morning in the last place we've been in.

more than that, i suppose the fact that i move with jp (for the most part) makes it bearable.

so, let it be known - i moved again. but many things remain constant.

'And I've learned
That we must look inside our hearts
To find a world full of love
Like yours
Like mine
Like home...'

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

follow your road

'have you ever wondered where your road will lead you?'

- pauline wilson

i have passed by SLEX more than 10 times this month.

i traversed the highway for different reasons: to escape the city, to perform social obligations, to be with my partner, to rush in aid of a friend.

always. always i find myself back to where i started.

i'm starting to wonder if this pattern is an analogy to my own life's journey.

so i ask the question dear adele asked,

'should i give up
or should i keep on chasing pavements
even if it leads nowhere?'

and i ask my own question: they say each of us have to find his own path. how do you know it is yours if you don't know where you want to go?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

remembering the tinman, epilogue and in defense of the accused

eleven years ago - johannesburg, by the lake westdene

yesterday morning i had the most perfect day.

it's one of those sunny and cool african autumn morning . it was quiet except for the sound of the wind kissing the leaves of the trees and the birds carrying on a symphony not unlike the jazz band in mellvile the night before. i was lying on the grass in the garden. a pussywillow (or is it poppies? cattails? he called them "fairies" to my endless amusement) landed on my cheek.

i'm stoned. smoking my ciggie. a cup of warm lemon tea next to me. i'm still feeling a little tingly from the good sex last night. and i watch my man reading le carre's the constant gardener next to me. smiling, chuckling quietly to himself and wiggling his toes on the grass. he looked away from his book intermittently as if to check i was OK and not floating away like the faeries. he asked me if i was content. i just smiled.

i was happy. it can't get better than that.

but as i am writing this, M is in a plane on his way back to the uk. he arrived jo'burg last thursday and he stayed with me for the weekend. against my better judgment i brought him to the airport. managed not to cry in the airport. but bawled shamelessly in the car on the 45 minute drive back to town.

i'm hurting.

i dont regret it though. knowing how terrified i am of the airport goodbye's we decided to talk before we left the garden. i told him 4 things:

1. i thanked him. told him he came in a very trying time in my life. and what he gave was probably exactly what i needed the most.

2. i lied. the night he arrived i promised him i will stop loving him from that point forward. (this is because he insists i shouldn't. he said he didn't want to cause me pain.) but i admitted i will continue love him for some time. and he shouldn't be afraid. it comes with no demands.

3.that it's ok that he doesn't love me. when i think about how he treated me and how generous he was of his affection. (i.e. when he arrived in jo'burg the first thing he said was "you realize i'm here because of you", kissing me in a mall to thank me for a going away CD gift, holding my hand whenever we are on our way home each night this weekend and holding me tight, looking to my eyes with his as moist as mine and kissing me at the airport, etc.), i think its a very good standard for a person who is not in love with me. i told him even for a person who will say he loves me - how he treated me was not a bad barometer at all. it's just that we had too little time.

4. that i hope we can be friends too. that i hope we will find a way to keep in touch and inform each other about the major developments in our lives. because i'll always wish him well.

he was silent for a while. and quietly he said he was amazed at how grown up i am at handling this. he told me 3 things:

1. that our "relationship" did him good. before us he was inclined to say that the last 2 months he had in africa was shit (he wanted to stay till the end of the year but his college booted him out primarily because he's too white). but that's not accurate anymore. he said he's a better person because of us.

2. that he will miss me but he hopes that i don't. (when i asked why, he said again he doesn't want me to be hurt)

3. that if i come to the uk and he's there we should hook up and he'll introduce me to his parents.

so you see i feel there's nothing left unsaid between us. but it still doesn't stop this mammoth weight in my chest from pressing down. so i wrote him today to say i'll have to stop writing to him for a while till i get to the point when i won't be so hurt by losing him so soon.

you may think i'm optimistic about thinking we will keep in touch. the fact is i realize people lose their way all the time. in the airport the only thing i said to him is just in case we don't make good of the "let's keep in touch" thing - he should have a good life. and he should remember that i will always wish him all the best life has to offer because i think he deserves it.

so don't worry about me. he was a good man. and even if sometimes he doesn't think so, he's a good person to love. i think about the rather unfortunate situation we found ourselves in and the countless times when it's so much easier just to be nasty to each other. i'm amazed that we stayed kind and treated each other with a great deal of respect and affection. although this is probably the first time i'm not the one who's doing the "leaving" in a relationship, i think i too am a better person because of him.

as i was waiting for the bus this morning, what he called "fairies" were flying all over the road. thought it was strange but it gave me a great deal of comfort.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

remembering the tinman, finale

i started this series early 2009 and lost interest in finishing it. last month, a mutual friend told me that M got married recently. i thought, that’s a good reason to finish this story. to close the book symbolically, so to speak.

although much can still be told about this affair that spanned more than 2 years across 2 continents, i thought i should end with the start of the end. we met again a few times after this episode in london, but i never felt the same way about him after this.

for those who are interested, the story started here.

ten years ago, london – by the river thames

cranes. i noticed these modern apparatus as i look at the london city skyline. they spring from the gaps of ancient buildings that seem to be oblivious of their presence and are complacent of their places in this world. the city was replete with these giant mechanical limbs with what seemed to be an effort to resist its limits. wanting to grow bigger. newer. greater. i look at the metal arms reaching out to the grey skies and feel something within me calling out its affinity with their spirit. i, too, would like to reach out and burst away from myself.

i think the cranes are doing a better job.

i turned to the street musician who kept on playing his poignant song despite the drizzle in the cold grey afternoon. tourists passed by and acknowledged his efforts with loose change without really looking at him or listening to his song. he punctuated his rendition of don’t let me be lonely tonight with ‘thank you!’ every time a coin dropped at his guitar case spread before him. i wonder what’s more important to him, for people to give him money or listen to his song. his voice was more kenny rogers than james taylor. i’ll be damned if that gives me a clue to his motivation. besides, i’ve got no loose change.

framing him was hms belfast. the gargantuan ship seems world weary from war yet resentful to be docked forever in the river, humiliated to be transformed from peacekeeper (or more accurately war-keeper?) to mere tourist bait.

people, boats and the river moved on and we kept to our places– the musician, the warship and me. lost in a world that moves too fast.

still, his mournful crooning and the ship’s silent resentment provided perfect backdrop for the way i’m feeling. i sit in one of the benches by the river sipping the cappuccino i got from a nearby street-side café and tried to ignore that my cigarette is increasingly harder to smoke as it becomes wet from the rain. i have an umbrella in my bag but i didn’t bother to open it. what’s the point? i’m wet already. nothing beats the sitting in the rain-sipping cappuccino-smoking-moping combination when you’re feeling blue anyway.

i put out my already dying wet cigarette in my paper cup realising too late that i wanted that last sip of cappuccino.


i tore my gaze from the musical tableau and turned to look for something cheerful. an asian couple was kissing passionately framed by the tower bridge, like us, unmindful of the rain. unlike us, however, their entwined form presented a picture hallmark cards are made of. i felt the equal parts sinking and bursting sensation in the pit of my stomach.

it’s not fair for my 7 wonderful sunny days in england to be ruined by one single event. i met with M. and today it started raining.

the night before

after having dinner at my friend’s flat in wimbledon, M and i took a walk to have some privacy.

can you believe this?’ he said pointing out to a picture of a flat for sale for a hundred thousand pounds as we passed by a real estate office. ‘i hate these people tying themselves up for life for a piece of property.

‘M, why are you so angry

what?!’ he asked getting angrier.

since you arrived, throughout dinner, and now. all you did is complain about things. the underground, the people of london, the bus driver, my friends. we haven’t seen each other for almost three months, can’t you just chill and be happy?

i don’t know what you are talking about.

we continued walking in silence until we passed by a churchyard.

let’s go inside and sit on the grass.’

we sat in silence for a short while. after a few minutes he reached out wihtout a word. he kissed me without saying anything. soon things got heavy and he was pinning me down on the grass, dry humping me in the dark. i pulled back.

someone can walk by anytime,’ i said feebly.

you look so hot with your blonde hair. reminds me of a korean footballer i saw on the telly,’ he said reaching out for my hand and rubbing it against his distended crotch.

let’s go back to the flat.’ i said standing up.

we went back and fucked the whole night. at one point he smoked a cigarette and bent over an open window. i entered him from behind, thinking i didn’t really like him. anymore.

the morning after

she thought you are coming to stay and will refuse to leave,’ M was explaining why his girlfriend whose living room in greenwich we were sitting at won’t meet me.

and you believed her?’ i asked, fighting back the urge to hurt him. if only to make him feel the pain i was feeling inside. i don’t know what was more hurting, the idea that he thinks so lowly of me or that the prospect of me insinuating myself into his life is so frightening for him.

i didn’t. but i didn’t know what to think. and you always were so hectic about us. i don’t know...’ his voice faded mid-sentence.

again, the silence.

i was thinking that after my detached thoughts during sex the night before, the morning seemed to offer a different picture. when he woke up, he invited me to see where he lives (with his girlfriend), took me to greenwich where he showed me the maritime museum, the meridian and cutty sark. then we had lunch at the weekend market before we went to his place. we were having one of those once familiar bromance-with-benefits time that showed definite glimpses of the reason why i fancied myself in love with him. until he had to talk about his girlfriend and how he might get married. which was fine, only he felt he needed to justify this by saying hurtful things.

‘i think i should go,’ i said - getting up to leave. ‘i’ll let myself out.

he also got up and caught up with me at the door, and touched my arm.

don’t be like this.’ he said, when i stopped, trying to catch my eye.

and exactly how should i be like?’ i said without looking at him.

i waited for a few seconds, when he didn’t answer i pulled away.

‘goodbye, M.

as i was walking to the train station i felt i wanted to burst out of myself. i thought, i can’t see my friends like this, i should wait, take a walk till i calm down.

i took a train to westminster, and took a walk by the river thames.

i noticed the cranes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

one song, glory?

tell me, did you want to be a rock star?

like millions of boys (and girls) before and after me, i wanted to be a rock star once. ok maybe not a rock star of the led zep, ac/dc, aerosmith genre. more dylan, amos & difranco. you know, the singer-songwriter vibe.

i was thinking of this erstwhile fantasy because because last friday, my former band had a reunion gig of sorts in a place where it all started.

here’s the back-story:

i was working in an NGO that was exploring various ways to educate and campaign on issues and one path that was explored was through music. they hired a staff known for his musical abilities to be a musical director (although his ‘official’ title was ‘popular educator’) and bought a complete set of instruments and sound system for a band. one night, they gathered all those who fancy themselves musical and got them to do their stuff with the instruments. fancying myself as a back-up singer, i tried backing somebody in U2’s ‘with or without you’. the musical director took the mic away from the lead singer and gave it to me. he then declared i was the vocalist of the band.

we had a good run, our band. we performed in big places like PICC (for the former president erap) and quirino grandstand (on one earth day). unexpected places like on top of a moving truck (on a campaign against constitutional change) or in an inhabited island (for a environmental youth group in el nido). in expected places like basketball courts (in bulacan) and artists’ watering holes (in quezon city). in far flung areas like a farming barrio (in nueva ecija) or in a mountain (in ifugao).

there were memorable performances that can measure up to any audition tape in american idol. once, while performing in a townhall in kidapawan, all the speakers started burning (literally) and conked out. i went down to the audience, asked the band to continue playing (using their own amps) and asked everybody to sing chapman’s ‘baby can i hold you tonight’ with me. (think bette midler in 'for the boys' candlelight ps. i love you' scene. diva, against the odds-like.)

some say i had stage presence. one evidence of this is on one performance in a beach in albay, a fisherman came up the stage gave me a flower and kissed me on the cheek. the band (all straight boys by the way) stopped unbelieving. i motioned for them to continue playing and threw the flower back to the audience. ok, (for those old enough) it was reminiscent of b-list singers getting leis from paid audiences in 70s noontime variety shows. but the band didn't let me live it down for more than a year.

in our heyday we were approached by every major recording company of the time – sony, bmg, wea – you name it. while the band accepted offers to talk (for the free beers) not one was seriously pursued for the fear of selling-out. losing integrity.

time passed.

i left the NGO to join government and had not time for the band anymore. one by one, they also left. the band had various incarnations and renaming. until it was too difficult to keep it going.

in the pre-departure briefing on my way to volunteer in rural Africa, we had an exercise in listing down who are we leaving behind that we will miss. the band ranked third to the family and bestfriends’ first and second.

last friday, i was reminded again how much i miss them.

whenever people tell me i should be doing something related to the arts, i smile. i wish i did. but i have been doing this NGO/development stuff for 20 years. this is what i am really good at as opposed to something i can potentially be good at. after all, how many of us turned out to be the person we wanted to be when we were growing up?

in my time in the band, i wrote one song. i performed it once. we never recorded it. i can’t even remember the melody nor all the lyrics now.

so much for the singer-songwriter fantasy. or to borrow from ‘rent’:

one song
a song about love
from the soul of a young man, a young man

i’ve grown old.

Friday, February 26, 2010

the tragedy of the gay gardener & the fag flower

the longer i observe human interaction, the more convinced i am that there can never be balance in a relationship.

recently, i went out with a friend because he wanted to talk about relationship woes. it’s a talk that kawadjan would call ‘processing’.

here’s a snippet of the conversation:

i feel i’m not getting what i need from this relationship,’ he lamented.

but isn’t the joy of love in the giving?’ i asked.

yes, but i want some consideration

isn’t that something in return?’

i guess…

i told him i heard that in a relationship, you take on a particular role: you’re either a gardener or a flower. the gardener cannot really expect much from the flower except, well – to be pretty. on the other hand, the flower expects the gardener to tend, weed, water, fertilise so it can get to full bloom.

he immediately knew his role.

the thing is, in a heterosexual relationship these roles are usually ascribed by society. the woman is the gardener in the home but the flower everywhere else. the makes for mostly a straightforward guide in hitting the balance in a relationship. in gay relationships however, we precariously navigate the role playing and, in my experience, most want to be taken care of. most, if not all, of us in queerdom want to be the flower.

i know i'm courting real unpopularity in saying this but here lies the rub: despite the comparatively clear cut assignation of heterosexual roles, i have yet to encounter a relationship where i say, this looks like a real give and take. what hope do we have for balance in a gay relationship when these expectations are, at best, blurred and at worse, totally non-existent?

i live in hope that what this means is that we take turns being the flower.

after all, the allure of the tragedy can only last about as long as the flower in bloom before it wilts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

party of friends

most people party with friends.

but is it possible to become friends just because you meet in parties?

last weekend G (yet again) threw one of his fab gay parties. and like many of his parties before, it was filled with wonderful, interesting and beautiful people.

as i mingled with the guests i realised that there was a set of people without whom the party would not be complete. a set of 'usual suspects' if you like. many of these usual suspects i have spent some time talking to while dancing, while posing for a picture, while smoking in the corridor. and it dawned on me that i know some really intimate details about many of them - their insecurities, lost and secret loves, relationship neuroses, HIV status - the list goes on.

and yet despite this seeming intimacy, i doubt whether they will call on me if any of them is in trouble. more telling, i know i wouldn't.

at this point you might be asking, what is the point?

to tell you the truth, i really don't know. except that i don't usually want to know about someone else's life unless i'm intending to be part of it. and the unfamiliar situation makes me feel - phony.

my friend id with the usual brand of merciless wisdom tells me (and i am paraphrasing here) - 'friendship taxes our time, our emotions, our life. we can only really have a finite amount of these to give. ergo, a finite amount of friends.'

is this true? have i reached my share of friends that i have been rendered friendship-challenged?

that party, j (a cute and unavailable guy) told me in front of his bf, 'i missed you.' i rolled my eyes thinking we only really met 2 times before - all in a party setting. he's really sweet. but 'miss'? really? so i said with the sweetest smile i can muster, 'i didn't.'

OK - bitch, maybe. but not a phony.

maybe i cannot invest as much to new friends as i usually do to old friends. but maybe this is OK. after all, dancing and drinking and dressing up are all like pizza. with good friends they're fantastic. with others, less so - but pretty damn good nonetheless.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

maybe next time

i never felt discriminated against as a gay man. if anything, it somehow worked to my advantage.

in my experience, people expected a level of idiosyncrasy when you‘re gay that allows you to get away with things most people won’t. struggling as a young weird boy, i became ‘normal’ even ‘relatively behaved’ when i became gay. add to this, i never even felt the torturous sexual preference confusion nor did i experience the trepidation of ‘getting out of the closet’ in the transition. maybe because i am still attracted to the opposite sex (a ‘pansexual’ in a matter of speaking) that there is no feeling of once living in lies or betrayal but more opening up to all the other options available. most gay guys will smirk at the idea. i don’t care because i don’t refer to myself as such. for now i am gay because i am with a man. and it is a happy situation. so to me being gay was, well, gay.

that was until monday.

last sunday, my partner jp was admitted to a hospital for an initial diagnosis of dengue, amoebiasis and acute sinusitis. (three in one? trust him to go big time in everything.) at first, the nurses and doctors seem not to know what to make of me, so they ignored me. so i decided i will assert myself and just tell them that (in not so many words) – hey – i am his next of kin, we are a gay couple. while some were a bit embarrassed, most accepted it nonchalantly. mentally, i was already applauding my countrymen and women for being open-minded.

then monday happened.

a day of being plugged into a drip with nothing to do except to sleep and watch blockbuster re-runs on tv is making jp fidgety. osmosis of feelings that happens with couples started getting me restless. so i called for the doctor to find out why we haven’t heard what was the diagnosis.

after hours of waiting and many nervous nurses getting out of our room feeling totally helpless, the consultant for infectious disease arrived with the fellow – the doctor who i have been talking to – cowering behind her. (apparently, there is this very formal hierarchy among doctors: consultant, fellow, resident, intern. this heirarchy is not to be violated. in the hierarchy – the nurses can’t even discuss test results!) she could’ve been my grandmother. she sized me us from head to toe.

so what do you want to know?

we’ve been here for more than a day and nobody has talked to us to confirm the initial diagnosis from the testing clinic or provide an alternative explanation.

well, we are still testing for dengue and the tests are just part of the whole picture. we also try to observe the patient to come up with the final diagnosis,’ she looked back to the fellow to confirm,’where’s the spouse of this man, anyway?’

that would be me.’ i said, softly but firmly.

she looked at me smiled and with a raised eyebrow asked, ‘how long have you been together?

eight years, po.’

are you not afraid that this is related to the disease... a relationship like yours are usually afraid of?’, she said slowly as if looking for the right words, but still smiling

immediately i knew she was referring to HIV&AIDS. i said, ‘jp was tested in november and he tested negative’ looking to jp to confirm, ‘but if you want to test again to rule out the possibility, please do so.

we exchanged a few more words before she left, but throughout the conversation all i can hear over and over again in my head was this - the disease a relationship like yours are usually afraid of.

i told jp about this and he was calm at first and then later on felt angry he wanted to leave.

i told my friends about it and they were all asking me why i didn’t i say anything. having work as an HIV&AIDS professional in south africa (where the problem is incomparably bigger than in the philippines) for 5 years, they all knew i could have responded to her in kind in terms of epidemiology, health care ethics, rights – the works. i didn’t.

when i reflect about why, here is what i said, ‘my first reaction is to defend jp, to think of his welfare – i need his doctor to be on my side and i don’t want to antagonise the person who can possibly make him feel better’

i explained this to my friend id and she said with a knowing look, ‘you allowed yourself to be discriminated against because you feel you are lesser a person and in a lesser relationship because you are gay.

it hurt but it also rang of the truth.

here i am mr. activist, mr. let’s advance-the-rights-of-everybody, mr. i’m-so-pretty-smart-cool-all that, and faced with discrimination i fold.

maybe if i re-examine my own assertion that i’ve never felt discriminated as a gay man i’ll have a better chance of understanding and dealing with discrimination when i experience it.

if i allowed myself less self-bullshit, maybe next time i’ll be prepared.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009: my year in pictures

as i look back to the year that was 2009 . i thought of many ways do a year-end post.

i decided i'd make it simple - just share with you some significant things that happened last year.

the first thing will have to be celebrating new year in sagada. going back there after 9 years (when G & i celebrated the turn of the millenium), i had a chance to see how much the place changed and how much of what was important remained the same. much like the people i reconnected with when i got back from africa.

i also spoke of the role of civil society (that is, the non-profit sector) in development in the asean people's forum in bangkok in february. living it is one thing, trying to discuss it with people who are non-profit development workers themselves was like, well - selling nips to the kids in charlie & the chocolate factory. tough crowd.

here i am signing an agreement in washington on behalf of some network to facilitate a civil society campaign project in asia. in one of the schmoozy dinners some of the representatives from other countries had an animated discussion whether we (the non-profit sector) have indeed made it to the negotiating table of powers in the world. i somehow spoiled the fun when i said - 'personally, the issue of whether or not we have the power is incidental. the more important question is whether what we are doing is contributing to preventing a labour leader from being killed or a women's group activist from being discriminated or a HIV activist from being ridiculed.' they were silent and looked at me reproachfully. (i am thinking they were thinking - there goes the 3rd world activist again with his dream world) oh well. my dinner was gourmet inedible anyway.

i had the opportunity to visit prague for a conference - the most beautiful place i have ever been (imagine a vineyard in the middle of the town!). most gay boys wondered if i stumbled into the bel-ami boys. sadly, errr, no. but the absence of the smooth gay porn demigods did not take away anything from the lovely, lovely city.

for a while, i volunteered with task force pride representing rainbow bloggers. here we had a die-in in the middle of BED's ledge in commemoration of the international day against homophobia (with the rest of the clientele thinking we have gone stark raving mad). unfortunately, the demands of my day job made me opt out of the TF later. thus dousing my hopes of being the philippines answer to harvey milk. just kidding.

in may, jp and i celebrated his birthday by going to the crater of taal. it was his first volcano while it was my first crater. we also ziplined in picnic grove. i have many fond memories of sharing many firsts with my life partner in tagaytay.

one of the most memorable places i've been in last year was the bencab museum. in august 3 gay couples made a road trip to baguio. very chilled getaway. we spent the time in the road discussing whether we think harvey keitel is fuckable enough... (or maybe that was just me justifying my lust for the bad leiutenant?)

in september i finally travelled overseas with my longtime friend E. i have always imaagined it will be a blast to travel with her and i was right. stockholm was memorable not because it was pretty (which it was) but because i was there with her. here we were pretending to be interested in some british guy's talk of human rights situation in colombia (while there were colombians in the audience. absurd? don't ask!) our pretending only went too far as 20 minutes and then we left our dinner tables in favour of cam-whoring.

en-route back to manila, E & i stopped by a couple of days in amsterdam to do 'tourist-y' stuff. we enjoyed shopping most of all (H&M is god's gift to the budget shoppers wanting to still look up to date). we also spent almost a day in the street market (they have tiangge's in holland!) but realised that the things that we want there were beyond our budget. it was fun to compare the stalls with the ones we had in the philippines, anyway.

early december, i finally landed in paris (which every self-respecting gay boy should visit) for a series of meetings. meetings that lasted much shorter than the travel (this is the story of my life, by the way). i was with E again and it was fun. we went all the way to paris to walk the fashionable champs elysees only to find.. mud. (i swear i am not making this up). but the significant thing about paris is that the friends i met in south africa almost a decade ago flew in for a night out (!) - one from chad, the others from canada & london. here we did our obligatory group pic inside a ID photo booth in the paris metro. i love these guys.

and then, (despite my resistance) i turned 40. here - i am flanked by my former girlfriends who managed to accept (even celebrate) my sexual preference transition and remain friends. G & jp threw the party for me. bff & bf wanting to make you happy - what more can a guy ask for?

for christmas i rented a resort of some sort in quezon city for my whole family. the kids (these include my brothers, mind you) had a blast playing games in the swimming pool. it was a good way to reconnect and re-affirm ties that bind not only because of blood and shared history.

speaking of shared history, the gang had a party between christmas and the new year. we all had a rough year and it it was a comfort that friends you had when you were young remain to be there.

and then for the new year, G threw a 2010 countdown party in his condo. fun and gay. perfect way to toast 2009 and welcome the new year.

so what's the verdict for 2009. it was a tough year of transition and finding my feet. it was challenging to balance a relationship, keep my friends, hold on to my job and maintain my various involvements. over-all, i have to say, it was a pretty good year.

so 2010, hit me with your best shot.

i'm ready.

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