Unfair Expectations from a Non-Filipino Cultured Person

Where do I begin? Each time a person asks me, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” I’m always quick to reply with, “I was born in the Philippines, but I grew up in England.” And I say it with a smile. I smile because of my memories of Cobham, Surrey were probably one of the best years I’ve had growing up. I smile because I have to mask the pain I experienced growing up in the Philippines.

I’ve probably written so many England-Philippine comparisons on this blog. I won’t put you (or myself) through that. Let’s just start with memories of the past, no comparisons. I’ll leave that up to you.

Cobham, Surrey was something out of a fairytale. It had a village not far from the town centre with a stream and a watermill in between them. The stream was clear and cold and sometimes had fish and ducks. The school nearby was an international school. Children from different parts of the world learned under one roof. The differences in culture were normal. The differences in skin colour were negligible. We all knew we were different, but we didn’t care.

Cubao, Metro Manila was something out of a nightmare. The houses were clustered together like shoeboxes. The city centre was far, and to get there you needed to brace yourself with the pollution. There were no streams, only sewers, and canals infested with bacteria germinating from lumps of human faeces and sometimes rat carcass. The school was not an international school. The children were from one single culture, and I had to learn with them. They were all the same: same skin, same eyes, same religion, same mind. They all knew I was different, and that mattered much to them.

That’s just a gist of my past. However, I do want to say that university changed my perception of the Filipino people. I used to detest and loathe them. I hated the culture, every bit of it. University changed that. I respect the Filipino people, and I understand that there are assholes everywhere in the world and not just in the Philippines. If my 9yro-self knew that, he would have turned into a happier person.

***

There’s a friend of mine who is the anthesis of me. She’s a half-blood (half Japanese), she was offered to stay in Japan, and she loves the Philippines. Culturally and in belief, she is more Filipino than I am. What I don’t understand is why she thinks negatively of me when I’m skeptical about this country (skeptical, not negative, different thing). She thinks I’m pessimistic, but that’s what idealists say. She’s an idealist, not an optimist because she too is a skeptic, but just in a different way.

I’ve told her, in length, my memories. Yet she still doesn’t understand why I can’t find that affective connection to the Philippines. She told me to just accept the Philippines because I am a Filipino. This is the unfair expectation.

Here’s analogy part 1: my parents created me. They created my mind, body, beliefs etc. I am nothing without them. My parents are also Christian. And with my friend’s logic, I should be Christian and discard my belief in Buddhism because I from my parents.

Part 2: The Philippines created me. It created my mind, body, beliefs etc. I am nothing without the Philippines. Does this mean that I should love the Philippines with all my bleeding heart? No, of course not. That’s an unfair expectation. It’s unfair to be expected to love something because it is, literally, in my blood, raised me, or created me.

Dragon God

The air was thin and piercing at the highest tip of the highest mountain range. Sylorin journeyed for months to get to where he was now. He battled goblins and bandits along merchant’s paths, fought orcs in forests and giants on cliffs, and resisted powerful magics of witches and wizards. His face wore fatigue, like leather armour beaten and scratched over and over. A breath materialised from his lips as he spoke a spell he learnt from his old master. The words emerged like worms from the ground where he stood. They crept along his body and off of his one extended arm forming a large sphere in front of him. He finished his incantation and slowly opened his eyes. A dragon, larger than the mountains themselves, was before him.

“What you seek you will not find here, half-elf. Many have come to claim what I protect, and you shall not be the first. Although, you are the first to challenge a god on their own. You are either very desperate or a mere imbecile.” The dragon’s face lowered and hovered above. The snout alone was large enough to hold a small village. The dragon was so massive, the cool air of the mountain was warm to the touch. The wings attached to his enormous body never moved; magic kept him from touching the ground. His platinum scales, each as large as a house, shimmered a multicoloured spectrum, reflecting light across the mountain peaks.

“You are no ordinary dragon. Are you Bahamut?” Sylorin clenched his ebony metallic staff in one hand and held an ancient tome of spells in another. “I have an inkling that anything I do will not even smidge your armour.”

“No mortal can kill me. This is true.” The dragon squinted, meeting the half-elf’s blue eyes. “Sylorin Armoursmith son of Lord Iangretor Armoursmith the Wizard. Bahamut is my spawn.”

Sylorin’s eyes grew wide. “Tiamat is yours as well?” He could feel his knees buckling under the gravity of the god above him.

“Yes.”

Sylorin steeled himself and shoved the metallic staff, which now seemed like a burnt twig, towards the god. Sylorin emptied his lungs with fervour, “God of Dragons, the One True Dragon, Creator of Bahamut and Tiamat, Creator of the Plains, the First Primordial of the Void. Io, I have come to claim your eyes.”

The air stilled around them. The winds themselves died and retreated for what was to come. Quiet. Then in an instant, Sylorin found himself thousands of feet above the clouds. He fell towards what looked like the land covered in sparkling precious gems. Io had engulfed material plain, yet there seemed to be no shadow below him. There was the only light in all spectrums. Sylorin, paralysed by magic, slowed to a halt on the bridge of Io’s snout.

“Kingdoms have perished trying to penetrate my armour, yet you muster the courage to claim my eyes.” Io chuckled. The air trembled, and the earth rumbled.

“His mere breathing shakes all matter around us,” Sylorin thought to himself. “I must stay on course.”

“Yes, you must never askew from your goals,” Io read the half-elf’s mind with great ease. “What do you intend to do with my eyes, half-elf? Use it to claim a throne? Or perhaps there is a woman you wish to enchant? Speak only truth for my eyes see all.”

Tales and myths about dragon-gods’ eyes were widespread across the world. Mothers read stories to their children: whoever claimed these eyes, he would turn into a god himself. Ever-strong, ever-wise, ever-living, ever more. Other accounts by ancient scriptures from scholars suggest that the eyes held the power to life and death itself. Sylorin did not desire any of these.

“Dragon-god, I wish to use your eyes to see into the past. My past.”

“Interesting.” Io released him from the spellbind, and Sylorin, though still hovering, was able to move about. “You speak of looking into the past, yet that is what memories are for.”

“Memories fade through time, and new ones grow to take their place. Memories are like mortals, I guess. They are created and die eventually. Then the young ones continue that legacy.” Sylorin looked at his hands with sombre and exhausted eyes. Scars and cuts plagued his palms and fingers as if he had dipped them into a thorny bush. “I just wish to see what I saw then.”

“You do not need my eyes, Sylorin Armoursmith. I can grant you the vision, however temporarily.”

Sylorin raised one eyebrow in scepticism. “I know there is a bargain. Nothing you gods give are free from consequences.”

“True. What I shall seek in compensation is your undying loyalty.”

“A follower? You have many. Millions of mortals fight and die for you and your children. One more loyal follower is not enough to pay for your power.”

“Again, that is true. You will be a direct servant of mine. I shall grant you powers beyond your understanding, like the ability to see past what can be perceived. In return, your life is mine.”

“It would be nice to have a purpose again. I accept.”

(Read the first part HERE)

Enigma

Every night, the battle-scarred half-elf arrived at the tavern with eyes so tired they drooped over his bloodstained cheeks. He sat alone at the corner in an alcove where the barmaid brought him his usual mug of ale, a bowl of water, and a clean rag cloth. Sylorin, the half-elf, took a sip from the mug, lapping up the froth that clung to his lips. He stared at the split moon in the night sky as memories danced through his mind.

The blood on his face came from a small band of goblins that raided a nearby temple. He was paid a modest amount to rid of them, but he hated the job. As a child, his parents taught him the ways of the spear and dagger. He was the best in his class and eventually bested his mentor. But his passion lied in music. A pang of jealousy would bolt through him each time he passed by a bard in one of his adventures. It’s too late to turn back now. You’re too good at this, and people pay you for it. 

Sylorin’s first wife, a pure woodland elf named Alora whom he met 200 years ago, showed him the light he thought was lost. The sense of her touch from the gaze she gave crushed the wall he built around him. She was a breath of fresh morning air at spring. Everything about her was perfect, but the marriage came to an end. It was his fault.

He met a human girl 50 years later in the capital city’s library. Her appearance to many was mundane, like most humans, but her abrasive nature reeled him in. They had a brief relationship before parting ways from the city. They met once years later in a carnival. That was the last time he saw her.

He stared unthinkingly out the alcove, leaning on one hand, the other clutching the ale. Every so often he would hear a burst of laughter from the patrons that would pierce through the music. It did not interest him. Nothing in this material plane interested him. At least I’m alive, right?

“You know, you could try to be a little bit happier.” The barmaid came up to refill his mug. She was a fat woman with two children and a temper to match. “You’ve been at this alcove every night ever since my father first built this tavern.”

Her father was a good and honorable man. He was Sylorin’s first friend in a long time. Sadly, age took him. Humans had unbelievably short lifespans even though 70 was considered ‘old’ in their culture.

“Being in a place that feels like home does make me happy, Fastel.” Sylorin gave a flat and very tired smile. Fastel sighed but knew what he said was genuine. He continued, “People, not just humans, find me irritable, so finding happiness would be difficult with the entire world breathing down my back.”

“You’re not that important to grant the entire world a mild irritation.” Fastel’s eyebrow cocked along with an ever so slight smile. Sylorin chuckled, but what he found funny were moments like this with Alora. Fastel sensed that he had gone back into his memories and tried to snap him out of it. “Your room’s ready by the way. I don’t know how you manage to keep paying your rent. You would’ve owned this tavern by now.”

“I’m not very good at barmaiding given that I’m a…”

“A man or a sarcastic, egotistic, anti-social, foul-mouthed–“

“I get your point.” Sylorin waved away her smart comments, stood up, and paid for the ale with two silver pieces. He took his weapons and satchel from the table when he glanced at the noisy group of travelers across the tavern. They laughed at each other, though one talked less than the others. She was a human in a blue cloak.

“They’re new,” said Fastel, “from the east.” The woman in blue had lines patterned on her face that emphasised her eyes, no weapons, and a stack of books by her. Scholar perhaps? Interesting.

Sylorin climbed the stairs to his room, armour clinking against the wooden frames, and looked over his shoulders to the woman in blue from the east. She laughed and smiled at the others. Interesting. 

A poem for extrajudicial killings

My country is going through a metamorphosis, yet what we’ll come out as, we don’t know. Vigilantes are running around shooting alleged drug pushers and dealers, wrapping them in packaging tapes, and labeling them with cardboard placards. President Duterte has accidentally spawned a band of would-be judge, jury, and executioners since his call on the war on drugs. Below is just a snippet of what my country is going through:

Extrajudicial killings are murders. Please, let law enforcement agencies do their work (and please, do that work properly).

Anyways, Spotify recommended this track by Zion.T, and I was blown away. His use of one onomatopoeia to tell different stories in different parts of his life inspired me to write the poem. From the sound of people complaining to the sound of his heart beating, I wanted to write something like that for the victims.

 

(Poem is untitled because I couldn’t think of something appropriate for it)

Words march through
Stomping to crimson gazes
Gazes turn and turn and burn
BOOM, BOOM
No longer marches
No longer turns
No longer rises
BOOM, BOOM
Spears of sounds spear and pound
Those who see the bleed
The light of life drips to mounds
The noise, plead stampede
BOOM, BOOM
Keep safe those hearts
For the day we bark
Marks the day we march

Hokkaido part 2

The early morning light brushed against the snow-capped roofs of the small village that hid at the bottom of the mountains. The sound of the temple bell stilled the air as if a spell had stopped time. The windows were frosted like a spider’s etching against the clear sky. Little huts breathed through their chimneys. The smell of wood and food slowly danced across the crisp wind, which blew lightly between the wooden walls. Like clockwork, old men opened their doors with pipes pressed between their lips. They greeted each other with light bows. The children scampered off to school at the other side of the village. The children believed that they could escape the spirit that commanded the cold if they ran fast enough. And almost certainly, one of them would trip and fall on the fresh snow, reminding them that they could never escape.

*** Continue reading

Hokkaido part 1

Ken found himself falling back towards the ground. His ears turned deaf though they worked a few seconds ago. It had snowed heavily the night before, making his landing softer yet still unpleasant. Light snow drifted onto his face as he stared at the grey sky. Birds scattered across the space, probably startled by the noise. Definitely because of the noise. This might have been the first time he’s had a lie down in days. Hiking in the middle of the snow with little sleep wore him down even more. He couldn’t get up if he tried. He couldn’t stay awake if he tried. The snow around him slowly turned red as too his white scarf. The breath forming from his mouth looked like it came from an old train. The engine ran out of coal; the steam grew less and less until finally, it stopped. Ken’s eyes, unblinking, looked at the sun peeking behind the clouds. No rays reached him.

***

Continue reading

A Life Update (just in case you care)

I have no idea where to start. Should I bore you with specifics? Should I strain myself to interest you? In all seriousness, each time I write something I get this faint fear of being unheard. This will probably get two or three views by the time I publish this. A part of me says it’s due to how clumsy of a storyteller I am, and another part tells me that most people don’t really care about what I write. It’s unfortunate that these two parts are true. Yet here I am, giving lesser fucks to people who don’t give any. That sounds impossible considering that a person can’t have lesser apples than a person that has none. I’m rambling again. Here’s my laundry list of thoughts with no restriction nor refinement.

  • I got a job as a teacher. I’ve been teaching for 10 months. It’s pretty uneventful. Kids these days aren’t so keen to break collective thinking. They’re either too engrossed in it or they don’t care. Getting kids interested is the most difficult thing I’ve done in teaching. I’m not good enough as my professors. Maybe I will be one day if I continue teaching.
  • I passed the civil service exam. Hooray, I guess. I over-prepared myself, and now the company I work for gives me professional level subjects to teach. It’s a double-edged sword. I get paid more, but there’s less demand.
  • I just took a graduate studies exam at DLSU. If I pass, I’ll be taking Political Science come January. I’ll be shifting to Asian Studies as soon as I can. I honestly have no interest in local politics. I couldn’t choose Asian Studies from the get-go because they only offer it on the 1st and 3rd term. January is the 2nd term.
  • I also applied for the scholarship program. Hopefully, I get in that too.
  • DLSU has a double degree program tied with Osaka School of International Public Policy where students can earn an MA in International Public Policy. It’s been one of my short terms goals to study abroad for grad school. My mother felt undetermined about my decision and asked that I get my MA here in the Philippines. DLSU answered my prayers.
  • I still have plans to go abroad. Whether for work or for study, the Philippines has nothing for me. It’s too small for the Clan (I mean that in a negative way). Australia or New Zealand is still an attractive option, although I’ve been leaning towards north-east Asian countries lately. The Asian cultural diversity and liveliness is intoxicating. Manila doesn’t have that. It’s too westernised.
  • I decided to study for the GRE and/or the GMAT. It’ll be useful to have since I’ll be attending grad school. Also, bragging rights. I looked into tutorial rates and holy shit are they expensive. $1,500??? Are you kidding me? That’s a term’s worth of tuition!

Now the acads stuff are out-of-the-way.

  • I’m a pretty outspoken sexual person. I have no shame in talking about the partners I’ve had or even the time I was raped (never wrote about that. I’ll keep a mental note). All my friends know that I’m pansexual. What’s that you say? According to Oxford, “Pansexual |panˈsɛksjʊəl, -ʃʊəl| adjective, not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.” Still don’t get it? My attraction towards people, whether sexual or not, is bound by nothing except for one–their personality. If a person’s personality clicks with mine, I wouldn’t care if that man or woman’s straight, lesbian, gay, or transsexual. Why should I be put off by a person’s dangly bits if we can satisfy each other fully? It just doesn’t make sense but oh well.
  • I know my sexuality, but I’m still confused with my gender identity. My pansexuality has little to do with my gender. At least I think it does. Think of a tomboy lesbian with female tendencies in a male body, that’s what I think I am.
  • I had a thought a few months back. If my future kids were straight, I’d be disappointed. Weird huh? I want gay kids. It’s still discrimination, and it’s something I have to learn how to get rid of.
  • I told my father that I’m going to grad school in Osaka in the near future. The Japanese embassy asks for a bank certificate, showing that I can financially support myself. When I was on the line with my father, I told him how much it was. He laughed. That really pissed me off. He just laughed when I was talking about funding for my education. I kept my head. He is the only large source of income for me and my mother. Again, this shows that we are in his clutch.

That’s it for now?

Winning Another Battle isn’t Usually Good

Tomorrow marks the third week of being clean. This is also my third, and hopefully succesful, attempt in quitting cigarettes. I can’t tell you how fucking difficult the first week was. Winning another battle isn’t usually good. Why? Fighting again means that I made a choice to put myself in that low position.

I fucking hope this fucking cycle stops. It’s seriously depressing.

Giving in to Social Pressure

A few weeks ago, my mother and I decided to visit this new supermarket 15 minutes from where we lived. I have a thing for groceries. There’s a certain way how products are placed. Each display entices the customer to buy something that they don’t need. It’s this placement of products that interests me.

Our original plan was to go food tripping in UP Town Center, the new place for food, fashion, and other things. Katipunan is known for its variety of restos and cafés. It’s literally a university town, and most of the students are from wealthy families looking for a dish or cup to satisfy their taste buds.

We crossed to St. Marc Café to get some appetisers. I suggest you order their matcha latte and the matcha Daifuku Chococro. Those were AMAZING.

We walked in and out of shops, looking at stuff we would never buy. I saw a Fujifilm X-T10, and the price made me realise that it almost costs as much as my mother’s surgery.

I mentioned earlier that a lot of the students come from well-off families. Classes were canceled that day (I think) and a number of them went to UP Town. I dressed pretty normally and pretty decently, decent enough to blend in I suppose.

The only thing I ignored were my shoes. I wore Crocs that day, not the obviously hideous ones that everyone hates (I own a pair and still use them btw) just a different type.

I don’t know why but I was overly conscious of my feet. Was it because it had holes on the sides to allow easy breathing? No. I hate closing off my feet to the air, so having my trotters tread true was the least of my worries. What was it then? Was it the shoes themselves?

I caught myself looking at these students’ shoes. Adidas, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Puma, Onitsuka. Canvas, synthetic, leather. High-top, low-top, slip-on. Red, white, blue, yellow. As I saw more and more of these amazing shoes, my feet felt more and more naked.

I knew no one cared about what shoes I was wearing. I knew no one was looking at my feet. No one was telling me that I had terrible taste in casual fashion. Yet the sensation ate me away. Invisible eyes were ridiculing me of how stupid I looked. It felt like I was transported back to when I first arrived in the Philippines, a person who chose to be different then outcasted and judged.

We walked into a sneaker store with shelves on shelves of NBs that I’ve never seen. One pair caught my eye. It was simple, comfortable, and not that heavy on the wallet. I love NB; I think NB makes the best-looking sneakers. I’ve always wanted to buy a pair, but stores never had my size. This store did. So I bought them.

I love the style, they were fairly “cheap,” they were simple and unobtrusive (which I look for in a shoe), and super comfortable. But I felt guilty. I felt guilty buying these shoes even though the only con was that I spent money. I bought them because I wanted to feel good. A social anxiety coupled with nakedness fueled by a materialistic solution gave birth to this guilt.

I took a picture of the shoes I bought. I don’t know why I did it. Probably because I felt so good. I felt so great that I didn’t realise I had created an emotional crutch. I wish I had bought these shoes under better circumstances. I feel guilty yet safe each time I wear them. It’s like alcohol really. It comforts you and kills you.

IMG_20150813_165603

My Old School

I’m not sure how many of you here are new readers, but let’s just say you all are new. A bit of personal backstory again (lol since this is a blog and I’ve probably written this a dozen times), I am a full-blood* Filipino and a Filipino in citizenship. If you’re not from the Philippines you’d think it’d be strange if someone tells you that having those two traits is a curse. Well, it kinda is. I say kinda only because there are Filipinos that are proud to be Filipinos or Pinoy as they call themselves. I am not that, in fact, I don’t know what I am.

I do love my country, but I hate the people that run it. I do love my friends (who are incidentally mostly half-bloods) but I hate a lot of the locals. I consider most of the local popular culture jologs (dirty, cheap, corny) so I stay away from it.

My professors would tell me that I’m a total prick for labeling things that are an essential part of the Pinoy identity. But I’m not Pinoy. I don’t keep smiling when hardships come. I don’t commit to Bahala na si Batman (which is kinda the equivalent of que sera sera). I don’t find Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera attractive. I don’t use colloquial slang because it feels like I gargled mouthwash that’s made of acid.

Now you’re wondering, “Where the hell is he going with this? I thought this was about his old school!” We’re getting to that part. Be patient, young grasshopper. Below is a new video that ACS Cobham uploaded to YouTube showing the campus.

That’s my old school. The White House was where I first got my taste of real quality education. It housed us Kindergarten kids until we got to 1st grade in the brown buildings you saw in the video.

The White House now known as Heywood House

Now why the strong negative emotions towards Filipino culture and whatnot? Culture shock. At ACS, we were taught at a very early age that being different was normal. We had different skin colours, accents, languages, religions, and even food. The kids who were left out were the normal white kids. Talk about irony.

We knew we were all different, but we were kids so we didn’t give a shit. We’d sing songs, hold hands, throw toys, build toys, run around etc. because having fun was more interesting than looking at each other’s differences. I had so much fun learning while just being myself. Being different. I loved it. Then my father made a stupid life choice.

The culture shock I got from Filipinos when we returned was immense. I hated every local to their core until I reached uni. I brought my idea of being different was normal and severely paid the price. The normal I saw was conformity. Everyone acted the same, looked the same, thought the same, believed in the same religion, ate the same food, and I was the precious little blue flower in the garden of weeds.

I studied first at OB Montessori. I thought I was in a zoo. I literally thought I was because I’ve never seen that tone of skin colour. I’ve had African classmates and teachers back in ACS, but I never saw a dark-skinned Austronesian. In fact, I never saw a dark-skinned Asian. Which is why I thought that I was Chinese and that the Philippines was a province of China (but that’s for another blog post.)

Now the racist thought of being in a zoo was spawned from mistreatment not only from my classmates but also from my teachers and the staff. They hated that I was so outgoing, so disconnected from the system, a loose cannon in their highly militarised institution of good students. I transferred schools until I ended up in a homeschooling program.**

HSP was where I finally felt I was among people who understood what it meant to be different from the flock, to be a wolf in field complying sheep. Unfortunately, wolves are threats to sheep so we huddle as a pack to protect each other. Then uni snapped me out of it. I’m not a wolf. I’m a human being.

ACS wasn’t just an international school whose facilities were amazing. It creates beautiful human beings, sometimes too beautiful that people get scared. I don’t know what I am but somewhere along the way maybe the beautiful child from my past can show me. Maybe.

*There’s no such thing as a pure-blood Filipino. What I meant by full-blood was the typical Chinese-Spanish-Filipino blood.
**It was called HSP but we still reported to a school to take tests.