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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.

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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.

“Live with honor and follow your conscience.” — Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino

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

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Aubergine is the Warmest Color

How many of us have attempted to soothe our anxieties, forget our frustrations, and drown our sorrows in online shopping? I thought retail therapy was my mother’s thing, even vehemently denied to M that I had impulsive shopping urges, but as it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Oh, the joys of instant gratification with internet and a mobile phone at your hands, trying to be discreet in checking out your “Add to Cart” items. Sometimes, when you’re lucky to have scored a sulit purchase, the afterglow lasts longer than expected. Salamat, Shopee indeed. 🙌

I’m not here to judge–that’s perfectly understandable under the circumstances, and I am guilty of it too. I’ve bought pretty, dainty dresses I haven’t worn outside yet because I couldn’t go out on any date with a friend. What usually happens is, we’d set a date only for unforseen forces to intervene and probably save us from hidden catastrophes. It’s frustrating at times when you yearn for a “normal day” like you used to have before, but pandemic time has taught me to be more flexible–to surrender more to the flow and not force something to happen before it’s time. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Que sera, sera. 👌

I am currently mooning over a recent purchase of a bustier empire-cut style dress–deliciously flattering for petites. The fabric is soft and cool against my skin, a metallic eggplant color that makes me glow. (If there’s one thing I am now confident in as an adult, it’s in what clothes and colors I wear well.) Dresses like this one are too exquisite to just wear at home on ordinary days. (There’s no interesting/attractive non-familial person to appreciate me in it, so what’s the point??! 😂😂) Though there are some days I do wear a pretty dress while doing work and chores just because I want to raise feel-good vibrations and please my inner goddess. My style philosophy is dressing to please myself first and not someone else–style as an extension of self-expression.

I’ve also stocked up on baking ingredients and implements I want to experiment with. During my quarantine period, I reconnected with a schoolmate who’s into vegan cooking and baking. It’s an exciting new frontier for me to explore with food. And it’s a wonder too–getting to know some people from your past and appreciating them in new, delightful ways in the present. The shelves in my book cabinet literally gave out and surrendered to the massive piles of books both read and still to read. And I’ve added more to my crystals and tarot + oracle cards collection than I did in the years pre-pandemic. I am looking forward to incorporating both as I continue to fine-tune my spiritual gifts and practice.

Of course, there are those moments I’ve experienced the pandemic version of buyer’s remorse. When it hits you, it hits you hard. But then, I’m not complaining. This time around, I’m even excited to declutter–weed out old things I’ve outgrown, things I don’t want to use and hold on to anymore to make way for the more useful, more meaningful, more joy-sparking now. Let some books, cards, and CDs I’ve enjoyed move on with someone else who will enjoy them too. And on the bright side, when someone asks me out, I won’t be saying, “I have nothing to wear.” 😉😉

Personal

It’s a quarantine thing

What’s currently helping me get through my sick days under quarantine?

I drink a lot of warm Korean barley tea sweetened with coco sugar, almost drown on drinking water, order soups and meals for the family via Grab Food (feel slightly guilty not being able to cook for more than a week), listen to sentimental love songs* (Bread and James Taylor are both medicine for the weary soul), watch a lot of Crime Scene Kitchen (Joel McHale is a ham!), Hudson & Rex, ice skating tournaments** (2022 ISU European Figure Skating Championships at Tallinn, Estonia) and discovered I enjoy watching rhythmic ice dance skaters more than the soloists–there’s more fun choreographed dancing and more upbeat music (Who would’ve thought disco music and ice skating go well together? Apparently, they’re a perfect combination.). I watched Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts (20th anniversary special) twice and cried over it. And now I want to re-read the series and relive the magic. Also, I read a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction. Before we got sick, mom and I would religiously watch reruns of Buffy on Hits channel during weeknights. Sadly, they stopped at Season 2 finale when Buffy averted an apocalypse brought about by her vampire ex-boyfriend Angel/Angelus. I coped with the sudden loss by turning to fanfic and then I discovered I could binge-watch the series online for free…yes! (Let the binge-watching commence!) It’s my current guilty pleasure–re-watching Buffy and reading fanfic.

Admitting this led me back to a specific memory of reading Paulo Coelho’s By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept in 4th year high school–when a classmate who was also reading the same book for her English book report asked me whether I already got to the good part.

Me: Huh? What good part?
Classmate: The sex, of course.

Ooooh…that “good part”. I must’ve blushed automatically, but she needn’t know that she was talking to a pro who’s really good at finding out where the “good parts” are in novels. It was a secret pastime. Now, at this point in time, I’ve already read so many “good parts” that I know which ones were written well. And as a reader with omnivorous tastes, my verdict is still this: Women writers write the most satisfying love scenes with emotional impact.

*P.S. They don’t make sappy-but-feel-good love songs like they used to in the ’70s-’90s.

**My current favorite pair skaters are Charlene Guignard + Marco Fabbri from Italy and Olivia Smart + Adrian Diaz from Spain. They’re a pleasure to watch. The Russians are kinda over-the-top in technique–their skating is flawless but lack the emotion and entertainment factor.

Charlene Guignard + Marco Fabbri at the Italian Nationals 2022
Olivia Smart + Adrian Diaz at the Spanish Nationals 2022

For soloists, Ekaterina Kurakova from Poland recently caught my eye. She shines in every performance, plus she’s got a natural charm and infectious joy that makes me smile when I watch her skate. I would love to see more of her. But for perfection + flawless technique + grace, Russia’s Kamila Valieva is currently the darling of the skating world.

Ekaterina Kurakova at the Polish Nationals 2022
World’s #1: Kamila Valieva at the 2022 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia

***P.P.S. If you don’t know it yet, I am a huge Spuffy (Spike + Buffy) shipper. As in “I will go down with this ship” level. But definitely not a huge fan of Angel. If anyone’s interested, I’m your go-to girl for Buffy talk.

20+ years after this aired and I watched this on TV, I am still in love with these two! 💕
Personal · Vignettes

Rise

You don’t just grieve loved ones you lost through death. You grieve broken connections, people you once loved that you let go of, traumatic situations, lost dreams, the old versions of you. You have the right to grieve each and every one of them, to feel the sadness and heartache, to cry. And you have the right to allow yourself the time you need to heal from them. 

A lesson the Universe teaches me constantly is that everything and everyone that happened in my life–even the most painful, difficult, and confusing ones–they were all for my growth. Whenever I choose to see it that way, I see the purpose and value the lessons I take away from every person and every experience. I honor the truth of love that I received and gave away. No matter how fleeting or how much it has moved me to tears, it is always freeing to love and have loved than not at all. Nothing and no one is a waste in the grander scheme of one’s life and journey. 

You have the power to heal from any grief in your own time, at your own pace. And like that Katy Perry song, you will realize after every healing that you will not just survive. You will thrive. 

Photo by: Lea Vergara Apilado (“Undas 2021”)