Life is a choose-your-own-adventure book

“I contain multitudes.” — Zooey L’Enfant in Surreal Estate (2022)

Sometimes I forget to not get stuck in a narrative–a single story in the past which I continue to heal. Who I am, who I am becoming, what I still have to offer to the world–these are stories-in-the-making, tales in constant flow. These are the best kind of stories–like the choose-your-own-adventure books I used to check out from my school library–the unpredictable ones.

I contain multitudes–layers of stories that were already written, chapters done and pages yet to be filled. I am reminded that I am a speck amidst the vast landscape of the Universe just like all of us–made of stars dancing along the same wire that connects everyone and everything since the beginning. Within me flows the wisdom of the ages and a soul that is one with the divine. Anything is possible. After all, I am the Universe too.

I STAND WITH UKRAINE

I’m tempted to just write that Vladimir Putin is the world’s most delusional and deranged prick (the deadly kind) and leave it at that. But it’s not enough. I do not want to be witness to a potential world war in my lifetime. There are some who say that Russia invading Ukraine doesn’t affect us here in the Philippines, but we need to change the mindset that what happens to one nation doesn’t affect another in the world. Even looking at it through both realist and liberalist theory lenses, we cannot deny that we are all interconnected–consequences will reach us like ripple effects of a tsunami. How will it affect us? Any major geopolitical conflict leads to spikes in oil prices in the world market. We aren’t a major player so we follow global market prices. An increase in oil prices is followed by an increase in the prices of basic goods and services. Low-income consumers especially from third world countries like the Philippines will feel the effects the hardest. That’s just one of the more immediate effects. Chaos also breeds opportunists. It’s a given that China and North Korea (both nations notorious for being backed by Russia as well) have their own agendas for expansion–it’s not impossible for China and North Korea to enact any ideas to make an aggressive move on their targeted Asian neighbors. Taiwan is an obvious first target of China given its history of China not acknowledging its independence. But taking into account China’s outright rejection of honoring the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute, our country is in a vulnerable position too. As of writing this, China is currently conducting military exercises near Taiwan. Tensions are mounting, and amidst the world’s focus on the conflict in Ukraine, China’s moves are also being monitored closely by the West.

What Putin is doing to Ukraine is not the product of overnight planning. This was years in the making. Back in 2014, when Kremlin pulled off the illegal annexation of Crimea, a shadow was already cast. And suddenly, it wasn’t a matter of “if Russia plans to take Ukraine”, but “when”. It was one of the precursors that led to the invasion and blatant violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Ukraine is a free, independent state separate from Russia, but Putin uses force in claiming Ukraine as always having been a part of Russia and justifying the means of the invasion with dangerous lies of cleansing Ukraine of Nazism and NATO influence and by default, saving the Russian people from these “threats”. He’s clearly nuts, but this kind of mindset is dangerous than it is entertaining. Prosecuting Putin and top Russian officials in the ICC (International Criminal Court) may be tricky because of technicalities, but that does not discount what they did as a clear act of aggression and violation of Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter prohibiting the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. Countries taking a stand and imposing hard sanctions on Russia, condemning Putin’s actions, and providing arms and financial aid to Ukraine may just be the advantage the Ukrainian government and people need at this time. Our solidarity with Ukraine and against acts of violence and aggression against another nation and its people can tip the scales in favor of justice. We need to be vigilant, firm, and united.

If there’s anything the current world situation has taught me is that we can never go back to what we perceived as normal–the way things were–and on a grander scale, we can’t go back to the old world order. They don’t and would not work at present anymore if we want to move forward, improve our lives, and enact changes for the greater good.

I am reminded of the evergreen Spiderman wisdom, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is us–the people, who have the power and it is time we reclaim it. We cannot afford to be bystanders and on the fence anymore. Human lives are the cost of inaction, indecision, turning a blind eye on what’s happening. We need to make a stand. Making a stand means we do not condone this injustice happening to another and to us as well.

Make a stand for giving a voice to and upholding freedom, equality, individuality and interconnectedness, sovereignty, human rights. Not just for the people of Ukraine, but starting most of all, in our home turf.

EDSA Baby

“Tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”– Bill Clinton

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution. And sometimes I forget we share the same age. I am what boomers would call an “EDSA baby”.

As someone who was only days old during the pivotal final days of the Marcos regime, I don’t have firsthand experiences and memories of what it was like. But every time I hear the song Magkaisa, I’m overcome with goosebumps and I feel as if I was there–alongside the nuns linked arm in arm, rosaries dangling along their wrists. I was there with the soldiers who stepped out of the tanks, the activists, the high-ranking elite officials who had a change of heart at the last minute, ordinary Filipino citizens waving yellow flags and holding “Marcos Suko Na” placards. I was there in spirit and empathize with what it meant for the country, for the ordinary Filipino.

My parents didn’t talk to us much about the Martial Law years. The years preceding it were marked by economic crisis–inflation, the declining value of the Philippine Peso, and civil unrest. I know only bits and pieces like both of them being in college during The First Quarter Storm–a wave of protests against the Marcos administration during January to March of 1970, organized mostly by students calling for legislative reforms and radical social changes. The protests turned violent, leading Marcos to justify the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. My father told me that money was tight during the years that followed, that he had to queue for hours to get a sack of NFA rice. At that time, my mother was at night school and had to wait for the riots to turn into silence before heading home. I learned about how life was during Martial Law mostly through TV–documentaries and interviews with survivors. The stories about the young daughters, sons, and friends they never saw again were what struck me the most. Their stories were mired in blood–stories of unimaginable torture, mutilation, brutality, rape–an infinite list of human rights violations.

Decades later, I can see how it has become easy to lose the narrative of the people. We have become complacent as a nation, we started to deliberately forget so we could move on with our lives. In Reason in Common Sense, philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s one of my go-to history hugot quotes. It’s both a warning and advice, but I would like to revise it to fit these times we’re in: “Those who do not seek to understand the past and learn the lessons from it repeat the same cycles over and over again.”

You cannot move on and move forward with a better grasp of who you are, equipped with a better understanding of what to do next unless you’ve accepted and come to terms with what has happened before.

We thought that as a nation we did a great job with EDSA, that it served its purpose and that’s it. We thought we solved the problem and defeated the enemy, and we stopped there. But we never did make the big, sweeping changes needed to support the new world we ourselves opened and entered into. It’s like we built a new house for us without making sure the right foundations were in place. That is why revisionists find it a walk in the park to shake up our shared history.

We must not stand by and let them. Ask yourself–if not now, then when? If not us, then who? We all have the power and the choice to influence history as it unfolds.

*Photos aren’t mine. Thank you, Google.

Polaris

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons, knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you’re here
Brighten my northern sky
Northern Sky (Nick Drake, 1970)

~ My favorite Serendipity moment ~

Last week, I had a date with myself at home and watched Serendipity on Netflix–my first time ever to watch it 20 years after it was released. I love it! I picked up on some of the things I liked and also wrote a piece inspired by this movie.

I wondered why I, a lover of ’90s to early 2000 rom-coms missed this gem of a rom-com. Then at the part where Jonathan gets bombarded by Sara’s name and bits that remind him of her, it hits me–this movie came to me just at the right time. Somehow, the Universe knew it wouldn’t have much of an impact on me had I watched it when I was 15. Now is just the right time because it means much more to me than any random rom-com. It restored the believer in me.

Without revealing too much, these are the bits I like in the movie:

1. ice skating
2. Cassiopeia and stars
3. Kate Beckinsale –> my kinda girl–smart, witty, beautiful (Trivia: Beckinsale studied Russian Language and Literature at Oxford University and her accent is spot-on. I started crushing on her when she took on the role of sexy + badass hybrid vampire Selene in the Underworld films, which is my favorite vampire movie franchise. Edward and Bella got nothing on Selene and Michael Corvin/Scott Speedman. 😂😂)
4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez –> a story about an epic love that survives even decades of separation, pain, and sickness (Spoiler: The lovers end up together.)
5. Sara: Favorite sexual position? 😂😂
(Jeez. I almost choked on my Lucky Me calamansi pancit canton dinner. And I’d be tripping over myself too if someone asked me that question.)
6. Waiting in Vain by Annie Lennox
7. spotted number synchronicities: 222, 555
8. Northern Sky by Nick Drake

P.S. Dear Universe, I would love to go ice-skating again sometime. I want to glide and fly and love again, knowing that even when I slip and fall, you’ve got me. You’ve got me. Always.

Northern Sky :: Nick Drake

Serendipity

Serendipity is one of my favorite words in the English language. So is kismet and bliss. I imagine kismet and bliss bubbling away in the cauldron of my belly. All that barely repressed longing escaping through my eyes–belying a slow, delicious burn from the inside.

I heard a name I hadn’t heard spoken of for a while now. Saw 1111, 222, 555, and 1221 within the space of a few hours. Heard my name whispered like a tinkling of Tibetan bells, sweet and light in the wind–a lover’s plea. Why does something like this happen when I least expect it, when all I want is to be free?

Somebody up there must be laughing with all the energetic push and pull going on, the constant turning of Fortune’s Wheel when I haven’t even lifted a finger, moments when I doubt everything. I don’t know why the Universe is stubborn and persistent nor why I am still getting signs. And whatever happens, whatever I do or do not do, serendipity always finds a funny way of pulling me back to the center. But one thing I know for sure: I released my desires to the Universe many moons ago, and I am living in my truth. There were low moments when I struggled to get back up, but there was also sweet relief at finding peace and acceptance on the other side–a sense of victory that I pulled myself through. I needed to change the lens through which I see the world–one that’s full of hope and possibilities. It feels like waking up to gaze at the early morning sunlight drenching our garden with a rosy glow. I can make of it whatever I want. I’ll find and take joy wherever and whenever I can–joy in solitude and shared joy with those I choose to spend my time with. And I won’t hold on with clenched fists. Like floating effortlessly in calm waters or gliding on ice, I’ll let serendipity flow through me and carry my weight.

*Inspired by the movie Serendipity (2001) and the song Northern Sky by Nick Drake (1970)

#22222 #222

Northern lights + Nick Drake