Cleaning Ladies

Living in a condo unit is a privilege. With the big amount of money that I pay for my monthly rent, I get to enjoy the pool, the gym, I get to experience the clean corridors, that the garbage are taken care of, and that whenever there is a utility problem, I can always call someone to help me. But sometimes, I would notice the cleaning ladies who mop the floor quietly, or would pass by quietly at the pool area trying to make themselves as unnoticeable as possible, away from the residents. They usually look exhausted, possibly from cleaning the entire building daily. I also don’t see them resting, or if they do, they are not in places where residents can see them.

Early this afternoon, I saw one of the cleaning ladies who was about to go home preparing a bag full of plastic pet bottles. She was also sniffing what seemed to be her lunch meal if it was still okay. Maybe she was not able to eat it because of the work that she had to do for the day.

I know why she is keeping those bottles and where she is going to take them.

I was half-submerged in the pool when she passed. I was trying to get her attention but it seemed that she was trying as much as she can not to mind me. She came back a few minutes later and that was when she saw me looking at her. I smiled and said hello. She responded with a weak smile, and said that she forgot her umbrella. I waited for her to pass by again and said goodbye. She smiled again.

As she walked away, I realized that I have never seen the cleaning ladies enjoy the pool even for just a single day. Or get to enjoy the areas in the condo where they can hang out. Or be given a discount, if not a free room, in the building for doing a good job. While I enjoy the good location of where I live, these cleaning ladies would go home after 5PM and travel far and not in this building where others would call home, but they cannot.

Life can be unfair, and this is not due to people’s choices or capacity. There are complex systemic problems that need to be addressed. If these cleaning problems could have had a good access to education or job opportunities; if policies are kinder or fair; if hierarchies are not as rigid as they are, then maybe this old cleaning lady will be allowed to swim at the pool during her day off, or be rewarded a room after working for x number of years in this building. Maybe she does not need to keep the bottles and bring it with them to earn more.

Or maybe the reason why she is keeping the pet bottles is because she is more conscious towards the environment than those who live in this building. Myself included.


Spare Time


I woke up this Sunday morning thinking how fast yesterday has been, and as I try to recall what I did yesterday, I can’t help but plot out how my week will go — not just Monday, not until Tuesday, but for the entire week! Monday has not started yet but I am already dragging myself to another busy week.

Don’t get me wrong; I love keeping myself busy with work, probably watching a film or an episode of the series I am following, or scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds feeding myself with more information that I have to know. These things make me occupied, but at the same time, half of me feels like I am missing some aspects of the day, just breathing in the day and letting the day pass without any worry.

Is it because I am chained to time that I am feeling this way? With an almost 24-hour mode of work, a round-the-clock need to do things that is slowly becoming a routine: that by this hour I should be doing this, that by that hour I should be doing that, I feel agitated if I do not finish anything. If I did not meet my 20-lap average swim every other day, I feel irritated. I feel obliged to respond to my email immediately even on a weekend, even if it’s not urgent. I am being dragged to take part on something even if I know I can always say no.

baguio-2017A spare time feels like something that I need to spend because it’s a piece of time that I consider unused, an extra, and should be utilized for something useful. But doing nothing is making use of this spare time wisely.

When will I experience reading a book I so love to read for an entire day? When will I play Pokémon without any worry that I will be late for work? When will I be able to write more blogs without the need to rush myself?

To compete with time by spending every single minute of it towards something that I am obliged to do at the moment isn’t the good way to go. Rather, I must learn to make use of my spare time by not obliging myself to do something because I have to do it, but because I just want to, for myself.



I was about to get ready to sleep when I decided to listen to Jonas Blues’ Perfect Strangers and then it kicked in, along with my nightly medicine: this song could have been part of my playlist as I was getting ready for my next work/road trip north of Luzon one hot summer of April 2009. I was sitting at the office with my board shorts and light shirt copy-pasting music from my desktop, already imagining the sound of the waves, the dark, powdery sand, and the hot sun above me. I was 23, getting ready for my next monitoring trip to Santiago City-La Union-Baguio, and then after that, the endless partying at night with some random guy, getting drunk and wasted, and getting laid. Hoping that the guy I am hooking up with will be that someone who I can call my forever.


Yeah, I have been there and done those, but even if I did not survive my early 20s well, I must say that I have enjoyed every piece of it. I just could not believe that I have been that young guy craving for parties and going out and spending hours with friends at wee hours, cruising as much as possible and literally being out there, even if I myself was hypocritical about it. But it seemed that those days were the days when I just wanted to tick that box and boast at the world and say, “ yeah, I have done that.”

That was eight years ago. Almost a decade ago.

In a few days, it will be 2017. My priorities have changed. Heck, I have a happy and stable relationship, and my priorities have changed. Even my daily chores and things to do have changed as well: I am more focused at work and in spending more with people that are dearest to me the most, not craving for having a big group of friends or that feeling of wanting to belong to a group. I can let go of things easily. Which is a good sign of maturity. But I have lived my life full during those years: no what ifs, no could haves.

Today is 31st December 2016, the last day of 2016. Have I lived 2016 fully? I believe so. But I also feel like I am becoming younger than my physical age. I still love playing Pokémon on my past time. I still daydream and my mind just flies whenever, thinking about taking out my wand to jinx someone. I am still that 15-year old boy who becomes giddy over a new toy, or that 21-year old emo who sings and dances alone at 2AM in the morning to the tunes of Whitney Houston. I still enjoy going to the beach and traveling like that 25-year old guy craving to explore the world. But there are new things that have changed (or improved): I started to think about settling down and of marriage, of investing for the future, of having my own family – things that a 32-year old guy would do.

My body may be frail and is getting older, but my mind still couldn’t figure out what age does he really is. Mental. It’s probably not that bad at all.

Extinction.png“Anthropocene”. I first encountered this term back in 2003 in my Geology and Biology class when we were discussing different epochs. Two words popped out of my mind upon hearing the word: human civilization, and climate change. Last night’s podcast could have possibly confirmed these two.

Anthropocene started when varieties of snails in Italy die, leaving only one species of snail to dominate the area. This was a sign of the rise of industrialization and humanity’s global impact, unbalancing global ecology. The term anthropocene was described in geologic nomenclature (as the term was first proposed to the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geologic Society of London to be adopted as a legitimate geologic division) as a period when humans have completely harnessed its influence in the world, controlling world’s resources. And we see it everyday: as more and more humans are born and human society’s become more established, as cities and megacities are built, we produce more waste, and exploit a lot of finite resources. Ergo, thousands of animal species become extinct every year, or around 3 species per day. Just last month, the last of Rabb’s fringed-limb tree frog died, wiping its entire species off the planet. When agriculture started in the US, 7,000 varieties of apple can be found, but since only 100 species are commercially grown for human consumption, the other 6,900 species will most likely to go extinct in the next 25 to 50 years.

It’s interesting and somewhat disturbing to think that as we engage passionately on human affairs, we devoid ourselves from doing something to save ourselves from an impending extinction. Many scientists are predicting another great extinction is at hand, but contrary to the mysterious extinction of the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous – Tertiary period, this next great extinction is certainly human-made. More than the increasing threat to a global nuclear war between Russia and the US, storms become more treacherous and natural calamities become far worse than ever. It is Nature finding its way to bring back its balance.

As the podcast ended, I wondered what would be the next epoch after Anthropocene, or whether we are still here to define that next epoch. It may probably be the end of the world in the next 100 years or so, I will never know.”There is too many of us,” as Jane Goodall would put it, suggesting that we should find a way to reduce the number of people in the world. It’s a scary thought, but it makes sense, unless we start figuring out how to balance this power that we have as humans with Nature. Governments must begin to plan way ahead, similar to how the Norwegian government is collecting seeds from around the world and keep it at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. We need begin to mind the world we live in and live harmoniously as part of the global ecology.

We already are at the last few minutes before Earth’s time strikes 12. We don’t have much time left.


Few months ago, a good friend of mine bid goodbye after five years of living here in this wonderful city. I was surprised that she suddenly decided to move; she was doing well in her job and she has been considered one of the movers in this part of the world. But she had to leave. I didn’t know why she decided to go until I had a catch up with her before her flight.

People who get to work with her would call her “Dragon Lady”, “Slavedriver”. Some would hate working with her because of her tough dispositions and her very strict work ethic. I was not an exemption to her touch of toughness when we had a misunderstanding or two. She would demand for me to show up in ungodly hours to do something for her, such as preparing materials for the following day’s activity. But at the end of the day, I would understand her, thinking that she was just eager to finish something that needed to be done.

Everything changed when we had a small conversation on the day of her flight. She told me that the reason why she had to leave was because she was the only one working in her family, and her two boys are growing up and their tuition fees are becoming more expensive. Moving out and moving to a new place would mean earning few more — sufficiently enough for her family’s subsistence. She admitted that she was not sure whether her new job would give her enough satisfaction at work, but she had to move.

That day, I got to know her a little bit more. I understood why she had to be tough at work. Her dedication to her family reflects her passion and her resilience at work. She might face a lot of criticisms because of her strict work ethic and overly stressful work schedule that stretches over weekends, but that day, I understood why.

Sometimes, it’s very easy to insult or mock people simply because they are either doing something out of the ordinary, or simply because people do not like their attitude. Calling someone names because we don’t like the kind of work that they do is easy, but that will not stop the person from doing what they have to do, especially if they are eager to improve themselves and to change themselves for the better.

I was having breakfast with a friend last week. In the region, some people would make fun of her for her mediocre performance at work. I would shrug off these comments whenever I hear them because she was a friend. Over breakfast that day, I was happy to hear that she is planning to enrol in an English language course and go back to college and finish her degree. She said that she is doing these because she is really passionate with this opportunity and she wants to prove to herself that she can make a better improvement of her self.

I thought, instead of bullying this person, why not help and support her?



iyamTo be fair, I wanted to watch Tuviera’s “Imagine You And Me” (2016) to follow up on what happened with the AlDub hype since it started a year ago (which all began, interestingly, a day after my birthday last year). Aldub’s media sensation took over the Philippines and many Filipino communities worldwide for a number of months until all the dust has settled, and we saw in Kalyeserye how hard Eat Bulaga tried to sustain the kilig and the magic of the series on TV. “Imagine You and Me” came out at a perfect time as a culmination of the accidental love team’s first year of success.

I didn’t really set a very high standard watching the film earlier today. I know that the film will bank on the success of the love team and the chemistry of the two that they even will not extend their arms to meet the demand of their characters. It was a pretty formulaic plot: a no-boyfriend-since-birth (NBSB) hopeless romantic girl falls in love with a guy who she met at a park after retrieving his mobile phone and stuff from a thief. Their backstories are not really that important to sustain a layered story: she being an OFW yet would have more time walking in the park and daydreaming that does not really give justice to the difficulties of living in a foreign country, much more to a province of Como; while he is a stepson of a widowed Filipino caregiver who was in the process of moving on and has decided to end his ‘waiting’ in Como. Honestly, you won’t really bother thinking about these plotholes too much as all these were smothered by all the kilig and comedic moments and the glossy portrayal of the city. The film also tried to inject two more twists in the story but then again, it happened so fast that the film neither has enough time to wrap around these loose knots nor provide a more substantial backstory of why these things happen. There was this one memorable scene of a long take, however, which I think was a good devise to put the theme of “destiny / coincidence” central to the story.

The turn of events of “Imagine You and Me” made me feel that it was too surreal to happen in real life. The filme was done too glossy that it felt escapist and too romanticised, contrary to how AlDub evolved on TV: its relatability, simplicity, and the ordinary-aspiring-artista-falling-in-love-with-a-celebrity formula was completely gone in the film. It did give justice to the sensation that is AlDub, but for someone who doesn’t follow the hype, the film feels a little rushed in terms of story development and there were few twists and turns that were like “how did that happen?”
220px-thatthingcalledtadhanaWhich makes me miss “That Thing Called Tadhana”. This 2014 popular-due-to-word-of-mouth film became such a hit not only because of its breakup hugot lines but also because it neither promises a romanticised ending nor a happy life ever after. It has its similar charm like that of “Imagine You and Me” and the centrality of the theme of destiny and tadhana are also present. Contrary to “Imagine”, “That Thing”‘s Baguio was a good plot devise to show the progression of moving on, and the film showed the gradual evolution of moving on and that subtle falling back to love. “Imagine” made us travel to Como, but it was not a plot devise: it was not even utilised well in the plot (SPOILER ALERT: Andrew proposed to his ex-girlfriend in Manila, so why Como?).

“Imagine You and Me” will be remembered by many fans as the film that cemented AlDub’s influence in popular Filipino media, but it’s not a film that will sufficiently trigger relatable events in someone’s life. They could have made the film more grounded, and more layered, so that it can last more than AlDub’s lifespan.

Ok, now where’s my DVD copy of “That Thing Called Tadhana”?


Listening to the Veneration Gospel during the Veneration of the Cross Mass this Good Friday afternoon, my attention was caught at the scriptures of how Peter denied his affiliation with Jesus thrice. I would understand how difficult and lethal it was to become one of Jesus’ disciples during His time as His mere existence was being condemned by the Jewish priests, hence Peter’s denial of his discipleship in order to save his life. On the contrary, Peter’s denial of Jesus shows his weakness in professing his faith, and raising his life and owing it up to the Lord.


Denial of Peter (Caravaggio, 1610)

Peter’s denials show us the bitter end of being human, of how we can become vulnerable at times in contrast with how Jesus professes His faithfulness and faith in humanity that He has given up His life for us. But Peter is no exception as we all have become like him many times in our lives and has denied Jesus’ existence. We have denied our faith to Jesus and has succumbed to our fear due to uncertainty. Our faith became weak that it became easy for us to give up our faith.

I, too, has become Peter at some point in my life and denied Jesus. The first one was back in high school when I became very interested in Wicca. I became so bored with Catholicism that I wanted to try a new religion. Being young and curious back then, I just went and tried to do the spells and the rituals, but that put me farther away from God. I worshipped other gods and imagined myself being in a higher position — only to find out that I became weaker and less focused. Years later, I came back to the Lord.

The second was when I was struggling with my sexuality. It was very convincing for me as a young gay man to discount from believing in God because of the opposition and rejection that I get from the priests at every homily, the pressure from some of my friends who denied our sexualities and told us that being gay was wrong, and living in secrecy inside my home. It was tough to live and I would always question my faith, and so I thought leaving my religion was an easy way out. I was wrong — shifting from a believer to a non-believer was even more difficult. Every time I deny God, I experience this pain inside me like a red ant was pinching my heart, a regret that kept on haunting me. One day, I had a eureka moment — it was not really necessary for me to reconcile the irony between my religion and my sexuality; that despite the Catholic priests denouncing my existence, my faith in Jesus should be stronger. Jesus taught me to love God as I loved my neighbor, and while tolerance is not a good trait in being an activist, letting things be and traversing the difficult route and win the non-believers’ support by arguing within the same level of understanding of where they were coming from became my pathway towards enlightening other people.

The third time I denied God came from the pressure of my peers. As an activist, it is a rule of thumb to take things from a human rights perspective. Unfortunately, many people who do not believe in human rights come from the right wing who are most of the time, religious fanatics. It is very easy to get swayed and to denounce my faith, especially when you are asked to reconcile your faith with what you fight for. But then again, I realize that some things are better left as they are, and face their arguments one at a time.

Through these different experiences, I came to learn that denying my faith is denying my history, my values, and my heritage — the roots of my personhood. These things defined me, and has continued to define me, and denying my religion or making that drastic shift to be away from my religion is both unhealthy and unwise.

Similar to Peter, when Jesus came back from the dead, despite Peter’s fear of seeing Jesus again, he still went to see him. Same thing with life — we fall down, we fail, and we give up, but we must never give up our faith. We must never deny who we are and where we came from. Whether we believe in God or not, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, or belonging to any other religion, believing is not something that you force yourself into — you just let it happen.