Sign of the times

Whenever I’m having a hard time, I feel like time moves at such a slow pace. I will it to be faster, just so I’d be over it. The sooner I overcome difficulties, the better.

Which is why I can hardly believe I’ve already spent 8 years here in Manila. I can’t fully grasp the concept of having spent my last teenage years and early 20s working my ass off but with nothing to show for it.

Time is relative. It can both be slow and fast at the same time. You never even know when a moment ends and when another one begins. They just blend into one another.

How, then, can you make each moment count? How can a moment be special when all of them are?

Moving Again

In the past 8 years of my college+med school life, I have moved 8 times. Every year, I lived in a different room, a different building, a different barangay, a different place. I have gone from Malate, to Ermita, and back and forth again. I’ve tried living in dormitories, condominiums, and apartments. I’ve gone from living in buildings that are freshly built to places that have already existed for many decades.

I’ve moved my life around so often, but I’m still not used to it. I still feel sad and a little bit lost whenever I move.

Now, I just moved from Phi Dorm to the PGH Dorm because the accommodations are free. If only the PGH Dorm is not limited to interns, I would have moved here earlier. Nanay doesn’t have work anymore and Tatay only earns a little. We have to make ends meet. I was not even supposed to go back to PGH because we couldn’t afford it. However, I pleaded with them and told them I’ll be moving to a place with no rent just so I could go back to school.

Moving has always been hard for me. I find it hard to pack my life into some boxes and bags. I feel like I uproot my life time and again whenever I have to move. It feels like a part of me would remain in that place forever.

I always leave with more stuff than I originally started with. I accumulate a lot of objects and knickknacks, making it hard to pack my things. Every year, I have to sort out things I could throw out just so they would fit into the bags and boxes I have. I leave pieces of me behind, literally and figuratively.

I guess it’s bittersweet whenever you move to a new place. I never did get used to it, even when I started moving at 12 years old. It is still partly painful for me. I wish I had some sense of permanence in a place, but I can’t seem to have that.

Maybe I just want to have a place I can call home.

White Papaya

Ever since she could remember, Sofia has dreamed of a life outside of her dusty old town. A more extravagant lifestyle. Travels around the world. Material things no one in the town had. Making a big name for herself.

Everything more than what she’s used to.

As she sat outside contemplating her idyllic life, something caught her eye. She stared at it quizically, then rubbed her eyes to make sure what she’s seeing is really there.

It was a white papaya.

“That’s very strange,” she thought.

She had never seen a white papaya before. Their papaya tree had borne plenty of fruits before, but this was the first time she saw a white papaya.

She rose from her seat and walked towards the papaya tree, her gaze locked at the white fruit.

When she reached the papaya tree, she hesitated. What if this was a trap?

Her curiosity got the better of her. She touched the papaya, which then glowed.

She didn’t run away even though she wanted to. She was frozen at her spot.

When the glowing disappeared, a man dressed in white appeared from behind the papaya tree.

“Hello there, Sofia,” he said.

Sofia could not respond. She was too shocked to.

He continued. “I heard your pleas and came here to grant them. All you have to do is take my hand.”

She finally found her voice. “Why should I trust you? Where will we go?”

The man chuckled. “Of course you can trust me. You were the one who called me, remember?”

“We’re going to a place where you can have the life you’ve always wanted. You’ll be famous and more.”

Sofia was still unsure.

“You don’t have to live this simple lifestyle anymore. Come with me and I’ll show you what you’ve been missing.”

After a while, Sofia took his hand. The duo glowed and then disappeared.

The white papaya was now gone.

Spelling Bee in Kindergarten

Because of the pandemic, schools are closed and students are forced to attend classes at home. Here in our town, public school students are given modules and tasks to be done at home. The guardians would only have to drop by the school bimonthly, lessening the exposure of both the parents and the teachers to each other. Nowadays, we don’t know who’s infected and who’s not.

Two days ago, Mama Min and Raprap went to the elementary school to get Raprap’s modules. He’s currently in 6th grade, despite not knowing how to read or accurately identify letters of the alphabet. Kim has been tutoring him for the past two days.

In today’s session, Kim was trying to teach Raprap how to say and spell the word because, I remarked on how hard it was to teach beginners weird words like that. You know, words that are spelled differently to how they’re being said.

I told Nanay that I found it interesting that she taught me the spelling of coup d’├ętat when I was still 5 years old. I even vaguely knew what it meant. Many years later, I can still remember how amazed an aunt of mine was when I spelled the word correctly (and not the Filipino spelling, which is kudeta). I asked her why she taught me that (Was it a current event? Something she saw on the television?), and she said it was to prepare me for the kindergarten spelling bee.

Well, that’s too bad, I said.

Sure, I knew how to spell that word, but it didn’t come out in the spelling bee. Instead, I lost because I heard and spelled red instead of bread.

The moral of the story is: it doesn’t matter if you know the spelling of complex or difficult words. If you aren’t able to hear well, you’ll just end up losing to someone who’s nearer to the teacher. You’d then walk away with tears in your eyes and unwanted candies in your bunched-up palms, the dream of becoming the kindergarten spelling bee champion getting crushed beneath your tiny feet.

17 October 2020 0124

sobrang nanghihinayang na ako sa sarili ko at sa kung anong nangyari sa akin. i was a writer. emphasis sa was. i loved writing stories, essays, at kung ano ano pa. since elementary to high school nagpe-presscon na ako for feature writing. may pressure, oo, pero i never felt like i was forced to do it. i also loved reading. super. pag english at andaming pinababasa sa aming stories and novels, babasahin ko talaga sila and i’d finish them, compared sa classmates ko na sparknotes o summaries sa internet binabasa.

in contrast, i didn’t like the sciences or math. sure, i was good at them, but that was that. they didn’t spark joy, not like writing did. they felt like requirements lang. i’d study because they were required.

pero kasi, galing akong pisay. required na science o tech itake namin sa college. if we don’t, pababayarin kami ng malaking amount. i come from a poor family, so i was so scared na baka pagbayarin kami. di namin kaya iyon. kaya i followed the rule. i took up intarmed. sabi ko sa sarili ko, magiging doctor ako in 7 years lang. ang bilis lang noon compared sa ibang tao na normal track itetake nila. after ng 7 years, makaka-trabaho na ako at maiaahon ko na pamilya ko sa kahirapan. diba, sounds like a good plan?

pero hindi ako naging masaya. grabe rin demand ng intarmed kasi overload lagi kami sa units para lang mapaiksi course namin. i didn’t enjoy anything anymore. i couldn’t write coz wala na akong inspiration. i couldn’t read coz i didn’t have any money to buy books at kahit man may pera ako, wala akong oras basahin sila. kahit na i did my best to study, wala. noong high school, kaya ko pa. ang ganda ng grades ko. noong nag-start na ako sa college, bagsak na ako sa lahat no matter how hard i tried. hindi ito ang “feeling ko bagsak ako kasi mababa scores ko”. i was literally failing. tapos andami pa nangyayari sa personal life at family kong problema. wala, i was spiralling down.

patagal na ako nang patagal sa college kasi i’m burnt out. na-delay na ako dahil ‘di ko na talaga kaya kaya nag-leave of absence ako. it really took a toll on me, especially clerkship. sa clerkship kasi literal nagiging alipin ka ng hospital. basta nasabi ko na siya sa isang youtube video ko so di ko na uulitin dito kasi ANG HABA NA NG PINAGSASASABI KO.

i tried to take up reading and writing again. i really did. but they didn’t spark joy in me anymore. ang sakit. i tried (and try) to write. walang lumalabas. i force myself. kung may malabas man, sobrang shitty ng quality kasi my heart’s not in it anymore, no matter how hard i try. and try hard i did. sobrang mahal ko iyan noon eh. ayoko mag-give up, pero it’s not the same na talaga as before. for reading, kahit bumili man ako napakaraming books sa booksale, di ko na naeenjoy magbasa. kahit sobrang nipis ng libro. kahit YA novel para madali lang basahin. i read the first few pages tapos wala, di ko na kaya. i get tired. reading can’t hold my interest anymore. i can’t immerse myself na. i tried (and still try i swear) my best, pero wala nang nangyayari.

hindi ko alam paano ko matatapos ang med kasi sobrang behind ko na. andaming kailangang i-memorize. andaming kailangang intindihin. kahit ilang beses ko sinusubukang mag-aral, nothing is sticking. it was easy noong high school. kahit tambak ako ng maraming aralin for different subjects, kaya kong aralin. like i said earlier, i got good grades. ngayon, kahit basic topics, hindi ko ma-grasp.

sobrang sakit sa akin na i’m just a shell of who i used to be. hindi ko na alam anong gagawin. i’m turning 24 na and i’m more lost than i was 10 years ago. hindi ko na alam anong patutunguhan ng buhay ko.

Bed

Peaceful. They’d say being in bed with the one you love would be peaceful.

Looking at them at such a close distance- it’s more intimate than fucking or doing an open surgery.

Even while they lay there beside you, asleep.

As if they trust you enough that you won’t do them any harm. And you won’t.

Stored only in my memories now, the days and nights we’d spend in bed together.

Even as the specific details fade, the feelings invoked remain. The feelings I had when I laid in bed with you.

Sorry

I don’t even know why I hold on to my regret so badly. You’ve already accepted my apologies a thousand times over. I’d like to think you’ve really forgiven me, like what you always say. I guess it’s me who can’t forgive myself.

First of all, I didn’t even realize how toxic I was back then. You also didn’t point it out. Or maybe you did? I was just too wrapped in my selfish own world to listen closely to all you said.

I knew our relationship was imperfect, but I thought we could work it out. When you decided to leave, I was caught off guard. I was heartbroken for a long time. I saw you flourish and I thought, “why isn’t that happening to me, too?”

Well, I eventually realized that I was the one that was preventing you- and myself- from flourishing.

All I knew was I wasn’t actively trying to hurt you, but I did, and I let the guilt wash all over me every single day.

So I continued to punish myself. I tell people I’m trying to be better, but deep inside, the guilt was eating me out. I was trying to be better, don’t get me wrong, but my thoughts towards myself were ugly. I thought so low of myself that I pushed people away, thinking it was for their own good.

You stayed anyway.

Out of all the people in the world, you became my number 1 refuge, whether you knew it or not. I was, and still am, lucky to have you. This only added to my guilt, though.

Up until now, I think I’m still preventing myself from reaching my true potential. I don’t want this anymore. I want to be better.

Regret is an ugly feeling. It takes over your life if you’re not careful. This was what happened to me, and I’m still trying to climb back up the huge pit I dug for myself and jumped into.

So, I am finally releasing my pent-up feelings through writing this. I hope I’ll be able to forgive myself. I hope I’ll get to move on with my life.

Social Media Dependence

I know I’ve grown dependent on social media, even when I was drowning in hospital and med school work. I’ve been spending more time on my phone now that I have free time and don’t have any freelance work to do. Even when I attend conferences, I would find myself absent-mindedly scrolling the continuous feeds of social media sites. Yes, even when I should be listening closely. Whenever I try to study, I’d make social media my break, and before you know it, my study materials have already been forgotten and I’ve been on social media for hours already. I’d say I’ll not touch my phone and transfer to my laptop, but I’d still open my social media sites there. A conservative estimate of the time I spend on social media would be 6-8 hours, and I feel like I exceed that sometimes.

I know that my social media scrolling is already unhealthy. I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It detailed how social media sites are taking over our lives and companies are taking advantage of that. Unsurprisingly, that did not decrease my social media use. I think I’m already bordering on addiction.

I need to change this, I thought for the nth time. Today, I actually followed through. I turned off the WiFi on my phone and slept most of the day away so I could take my mind off scrolling. I am now using my laptop and I haven’t opened any social media sites. It’s so hard because I’m craving social media. Some part of me is saying that I can go on social media just a bit for a reward, but I know if I go online, I’d go on a downward spiral again.

I think that social media is now a modern drug. It triggers our brain to secrete dopamine, which is the reward chemical. This makes us crave it so we would feel the rush again. Because of this, we would become dependent to it. Our body will look for that sensation again and again. With our world today, being on your phone all the time is already normalized. Case in point, my parents are even on their phones more than me.

I know I’m not the only one feeling the social media craving. This is why I became curious about the studies on social media addiction. According to Hawi, N. and Samaha, M. (2016), social media addiction is the compulsion of using social media sites. Users exhibit signs of addiction like tolerance, conflict, withdrawal, relapse, and mood modification. I admit I’ve had all of these symptoms in the past. People use social media sites for social interaction, self-interaction, and identity (Kietzmann, et. al., 2011). People with low self-esteem are also more likely to use social media and get their validation there (Steinfeld, et. al., 2008). What do you know? It IS me. It sucks that this is true. In the study mentioned previously, that of Hawi and Samaha, the proponents had university students in Lebanon answer questionnaires relating to social media use. The results showed there was a negative correlation of social media use and self-esteem, meaning those with low self-esteem tend to use social media more. There was no significant difference between females and males in the use of social media.

In a study by Blasco, R., Cosculluela, C., and Robres, A. (2020), they surveyed students in a university in Spain. They found that younger people were predisposed to social media addiction. They also found that anxiety increases when social media use decreases in people who use social media excessively. For me, this is alarming because a lot of people worldwide have already been conditioned to rely on social media.

It has been estimated that smartphone use worldwide would balloon to 6.8 billion people in 2022 (Ericsson, 2017). Social media site users have also skyrocketed, with Facebook having 1.52 billion daily active users and Twitter having 2.32 billion monthly users as of December 2018 (Settanni, et. al., 2018). I think more companies would exploit these facts and the general population wouldn’t know any better.

However, not all hope is lost! In a study by Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., and Wang, Q. (2019), they developed a self-help intervention program. Their results showed that the intervention was effective in reducing social media addiction, improving their self-esteem, and improving academic performance. I hope that more intervention programs specifically tailored for social media addiction would be formulated for different societal subgroups. God knows how much that would help people.

13 September 2020 10:15 AM

I just woke up and saw on Twitter that Pemberton, the US Marine who killed Jennifer Laude in 2014, has left the Philippines.

He was pardoned by Duterte last week despite protests from the public. He said it was because of Pemberton’s good behavior. Never mind that Pemberton murdered Laude just because she was a trans woman. Never mind that he did unspeakable things to her before finally killing her by pushing her face into a toilet bowl until she was dead. Never mind that he never apologized to the family of Laude.

Panelo, the presidential spokesperson, said that killing someone is better than doing and selling drugs. A human’s life is less valuable than drugs. Imagine that.

What an administration.

9 September 2020 12:35 PM

Kim took her law school entrance exam earlier at SDSSU. She passed the preliminary stage 2 days earlier. She said she didn’t take the test seriously because she didn’t really want to apply; nanay forced her. I don’t know why nanay is so persistent on her applying to law school. Anyway, the entrance exam was composed of a general test with 60 items and 4 essays. Out of the 150 applicants, they will only get the top 40.

I miss rambling to Darren. I don’t want to disturb him, though, because he’s studying for the board exams. That’s why I’m rambling here.

We had sushi bake for lunch. It’s our first time to try sushi bake from shokudo. It’s meh but I think it’s better than tookhung. You don’t really have a lot of choices when you live in a far-flung place. It’s a miracle two people are even selling sushi bake here. That’s why it’s not surprising that it’s not really up to par with the city-made ones.

The sushi bake was paid for by Nanay’s friend, Ruwilyn. The sushi bake cost her Php 650 for a tray. It’s payment for the law school entrance essay Nanay made for her husband, Jimmy.

The Philippines is still a wreck. The COVID-19 situation has not improved. New cases and deaths are still being reported every day. As of yesterday, 4 pm, there are a total of 241,987 confirmed cases and 3,916 deaths. Even though our country had the longest lockdown in the world, spanning several months, this has not curbed the spread of the virus. The government keeps on blaming the people, even though studies show that Filipinos have been the second most compliant citizens in the world in terms of following health protocols. Also, the unemployment rate has been rising, businesses are shutting down, and more people are now in poverty.

The government has other priorities, though. After shutting down ABS-CBN, they have now fast-tracked the establishment of DITO Telecommunications, a Chinese telecommunications company. They would also be the only company allowed to build on military properties.

The DENR is also dumping a lot of dolomite sand on Manila Bay so that people who can’t afford to go to Boracay can see white sand (their words, not mine). This is receiving backlash because of the environmental implications. Dolomite can harm your body when inhaled. It is also hazardous to the ecosystem because it is a foreign material. It was also revealed that the Cebu government was not informed that dolomite was being shipped out in large quantities to Manila. The place where the dolomite was extracted is now ruined. Even DOH issued a health warning, though they retracted the statement later on and said that it’s okay to inhale in small quantities.

In the social media world, there has been a battle going on about Filipinx and Pinxy. Fil-Ams have been pushing for these terms to be used, and recently, they have been added to the dictionary. There was a backlash because Filipino is already a gender-neutral term, which refers to anyone who is a citizen of the Philippines. There have been a lot of arguments about this on Facebook and Twitter, making social media more toxic. Well, at least Aunt Julie is back, right?

A lot of things are going on in the world and I feel so heavy emotionally. President Duterte said he needs a vacation. I think we all do.