An Affair Like No Other

She takes off her hat and kicks up small splashes amongst the waves. She inhales long breaths of the sea air, which clear her head. Possibly the ones observing her speculate then about the manner in which delight seems to overtake her and to fill her with the joy of anticipation. And are surprised as she is by her acceptance of her fate. For in the space of time it has taken to walk from the seawall to the sea, perhaps the distance of a hundred yards, she has passed from being a girl, with a child’s pent-up and nearly frenzied need to sweep away the rooms and cobwebs of her winter, to being a woman. — Fortune’s Rocks (Anita Shreve)

I imagine that might be a bit like how I welcomed the waves at sea, sans the part about discovering desire, of course. Mine’s more of recapturing that feeling of blissful freedom every time I reunite with the sea.

It was dark. Whatever bit of light we had came from artificial sources. Even the moon and the stars chose to conceal themselves. The sea was a huge rolling mass of darkness. I was hypnotized by the sound and sight of waves crashing on the shore; I just had to see it all up close. I picked up my slippers and walked to the shore slowly, tentatively, as if every imprint I left on the sand, every step mattered. I skirted dangerously close to the water’s edge, letting small waves lap at delicate feet. The water was very warm and inviting indeed; a contrast to the slightly chilly air. I was excited. A splish, a splash. I kicked my feet playfully, delighting in the feel of both water and sand caressing my feet. I could smell the salt in the air, every breath reinvigorating both body and soul. I was awestruck as I took it all in–the semi-darkness and the rough waves, both a magnificent and terrifying sight. I decided to flirt with danger and be a little adventurous. I ventured a little further, advancing as though I would brave every wave head on, and then retreating when it almost crashes to my knees. I pulled my dress up so it wouldn’t get wet. Then suddenly I felt it–that familiar feeling of pure bliss, as if all my inhibitions fled and I was left standing there for all the world to see–real and vulnerable. I waded a little, splashed a little, laughed and smiled a lot. I almost couldn’t contain it–this love affair with the sea. 

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Originally written: June 1, 2009 (Livejournal)

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Innocent Abandon

I thought she was the epitome of youth and naiveté . She turned to me, a ghost of a gasp on her mouth and said I was radiant. And with the setting sun haloing my profile, I truly felt I was glowing from the inside out. Since we were nobodies at the party, we were free to roam the Spanish courtyard and the lawns near the golf course. As soon as I saw the turf with a clear view of an open sky, I couldn’t hold back my desire. I had to share it with someone. So, I took a chance. I told her how I’ve always wanted to walk barefoot on an open field in a gown or a slip of a dress–it doesn’t matter. I just want to feel the sharp, cool, tingly blades of grass under my feet, then lift my arms and face in praise of beauty, earth, and sky before me. I seriously thought she would think me weird. So I was surprised when she suggested that we take off our dainty heels and indulge, with as much rapt eagerness as was flowing from me mere seconds before. That was what we did. She in immaculate white, me in mermaid green. Barefoot, heels discarded beside a random bush. It was one sensually liberating moment for me.

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Originally written: September 22, 2011 (Livejournal)

Image credit: Andalucía Andaluía on Unsplash

Light of the World

*This is my tribute to all the phenomenal women in my life, to those who have and continue to inspire me, and to those I have yet to meet.

Cheers to those girls who had to grow up a little earlier than their peers. Those girls who were thrust with responsibility and old woman’s wisdom when they should’ve been playing house without a care in the world. Those girls who grew into independence and resiliency and wore them well into adulthood. I see you and admire your beauty shaped by the years of inner struggles, some still ongoing, and the battles you survived. Your brave hearts that still give, despite past hurts and coming up empty more times than you want to admit. You carry the weight of the world in your arms strong enough for burdens, but always soft for the ones you love. Cheers to you, to us, because we aren’t celebrated or appreciated enough often by those around us. But we can acknowledge each other, wish each other “Blessed be” when our paths cross, and say we are phenomenal women. We are the pillars of love, hope, and strength in a world that will always look towards our light.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (2013)

Lucky 3

I’ve always thought 3 was my lucky number. It was always my class number in school, my favorite number, one of my fixed lottery numbers, my go-to number.

I am the third child, the third daughter, the third Maria, lucky Sunday girl. My birthday is the twelfth of the first month: 1 + 2 = 3.

I look for signs in threes. If I meet my love someday, they’ll have some connection with 3.

And yes, I am aware that I wrote this on the 3rd day of the 3rd month of a universal ‘3’ year: 333. A year of truth, love, joy, inspiration, creativity, authenticity, spirituality, abundance, and beauty. Of blessings overflowing, wishes being fulfilled, and becoming one with the Universe. Being the light and shining a light for others.

Lucky 3, come, let’s weave our magic together.

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Image credit: Elena G on Unsplash

Confidence wears a bright orange flippy skirt

*This is something I wrote back in 2010, when I was still blogging at Livejournal. Then out of nowhere, I just remembered this post a few days ago, as if someone tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of it. I felt compelled to share it here on my WordPress site, especially after reading it again after such a long time, and realizing that the truths I’ve written all those years ago, are still very much ringing true today. It’s bizarre but in a good way.

~~~

There’s a leak in my cabinet. Whenever it rains hard (as it has been doing on and off these past few weeks), I can hear the pitter-pattering of water from the top to the middle shelf. I had to evacuate all my clothes and other stuff (yoga mat and empty perfume bottles included). This is a perfect time for a wardrobe overhaul–sort through clothes I should be giving away, and keep those that still love mon petit corps. As I was rummaging through them, I spotted my bright orange beach skirt–the one that’s so flippy, even a gentle breeze can bring it to life. It’s been two years since I bought it and I haven’t worn it even once. It still fits me perfectly. I did a happy dance and was lost in it for a while, longing very much to be a student of it again. I imagined myself walking barefoot on sandy shores–the salty sea air filling up my lungs in a most delicious way, and the cool breeze whipping my hair. It’s always a comforting reverie.

As I was very much occupied with the task at hand, my mind kept zoning in and out on different trains of thought. It would board on a station, get off at a stop, and board the next train to a new destination. It’s crazy. I remember some bits and pieces, and now I’m trying to challenge my memory. Introspection strikes again!

I’ve been re-learning a lot of things lately, and at the same time, I’ve been recharging myself. I’m letting go of the excesses.   

First stop. I realized that no matter how much you think of other people, they will almost always be self-absorbed. That’s just the way it is. As much as we are all caught up in our own affairs, I still want those who matter to me to be emotionally available. To really listen and understand what I’m saying, to take time to be really with me in the present. I’ve had enough of selflessly doling out pieces of myself and ending up unsatisfied.   

Second stop. What works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me. Different strokes for different folks, my friend. I don’t have to compete with anyone else. And I don’t have to pattern myself to what others have successfully achieved. I believe that I too will be successful and become excellent in what I do, and even then I don’t need to broadcast it. It’s enough that I know my own worth. 

Third stop. I am demanding, but I can live with it. I am not into things done halfheartedly. I want to be loved for my entirety, the same way I do with a precious few. It should be mutual. Countless times I’ve been the go-to girl when loved ones have thoughts and problems they couldn’t share with anyone else. They allow me to see them at their most vulnerable because in some little way, I can give them what they need–comfort and understanding. But as much as I know that I am capable of being their “rock”, I don’t want to be solely considered as that kind of person. I want to be there for the good times as much as the bad times. I want to celebrate with you as much as just be there to listen and uplift you. I don’t want to be excluded, much less to be noticed and valued only when you’re at your lowest and feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. I can only give so much of myself.      

Fourth stop. I thrive in an environment that allows me to just be MYSELF. A sanctuary where I can let loose all my creativity and passions, and infuse a touch of Leanesque in every aspect. I am at my best when I can nurture, inspire, encourage, and strengthen others. I am at my happiest when I could translate thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences into words that make people feel something too. I want to continue being warm and generous, and feel safe, knowing for sure that I will not be hurt in any way.   

Last stop. Never ever lose the light. For a long time, I didn’t embrace my uniqueness. It took a very special angel of a friend who calls me “little Elizabeth Barrett Browning” to make me realize that (to her especially) I am a rose that’s unique from all the rest. That my poetry is beautiful and I need not wait for somebody else to tell me that. I know it, and I can feel it in my bones. My passion lies here and that’s all that matters. 

Now, the mirror shows a girl in an orange flippy skirt, with twinkling eyes and a devil-may-care smile on her rosy lips. She doesn’t always feel like this, but now she is free.

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Image credit: frank mckenna on Unsplash 

Dream a little dream of me

I believe that our desires speak clearly to us in our dreams. It does not matter whether we are asleep or awake, whether we are fully aware of it or not.

The message will come. Maybe in cryptic fragments, maybe in a series like a comic strip or fantasy saga, or maybe it will appear whole, which can be inspiring and intimidating at the same time. But the point is, that our desires become manifest in dreams. And it is up to us whether to leave it as nothing more than a dream and get on with our lives as usual, or something that can take root in reality and create a life of its own–with our help of course.

I dreamt of you more than once already and every time, you always felt like home. I dreamed you into being and you were there when I least expected it. And though I have built a cozy home for myself, softened some edges with time, thought I couldn’t possibly have room for anyone else, you came. You are my moment that felt like Fate.

I know now that I want to keep on building with you if you share the same dreams too. Let’s take this waltz and not look back.

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Image credit: Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Bayabas memories

Saying I had a rough night was an understatement. I’ve been having rough nights for quite a while now with sleep eluding me and thoughts circling my head like sharks going in for the kill. Insomnia is a lonely friend.

When I finally got up and found my way to the water cooler, a sharp, familiar scent rooted me to the spot. Insomnia may have slowed down my reflexes, but it hasn’t dulled my mind…yet. On instinct, I kept going through file cabinets of memories in my head, searching for the connection to that specific scent when the image just showed itself–bayabas. There was indeed a bowl of bayabas on the dining room table.

Bayabas is the native term for guava where I’m from. It’s a small, round fruit with pale green skin that’s sometimes smooth or uneven. It grows in the tropics. When you split one open, the flesh is white with small pinkish seeds that dot around the center. They remind me of teeth marks on a mold. When I was a kid, I used to bite straight into the middle because it’s the good part–it’s crunchy as an apple minus the juice, and with the seeds of a raspberry that’s unavoidable but edible and that also won’t get you teased by your elders that if you swallow them, you’ll grow a tree inside you. I think Filipino aunts and uncles used to say that just to get a kick out of teasing the kids. (Kidding aside, if anyone can relate to this experience when you were a kid, do tell me!)

What I love the most about bayabas is its scent–the sweet smell of just ripe bayabas that’s still a little bit firm. Not too soft and not overripe that it turns sickly-sweet and mushy. It always reminds me of childhood–we used to have a bayabas tree in our backyard, and at Nanang’s (1) where the ripe ones just fell off from the tree. When the fallen are bruised or split open, their perfume would follow you all the way from the old pig farm (2), past the langka (3) tree always swollen and smelly with fruit, the Indian mango tree where they say the white lady (4) hangs out at night, past the outhouse, and finally to Nanang’s back door which leads to the kitchen. When I was a kid vacationing at Nanang’s and would find myself heading back to her house at night, I would always run the entire length when I’m by myself or with younger cousins, nieces, and nephews. When I was with an elder, I would simply hold their hand and close my eyes until we got past the mango tree. Because even if it was just one of those old aunts’ stories to scare the kids, nobody in their right mind would want to see a white lady with Sadako hair and bloodshot eyes dangling from a tree when they’re all alone at night.

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(1) Nanang was my paternal grandmother. My father is Ilocano, and their term for mother is “Nanang”. In Tagalog and Ilocano, “Lola” is the term used for grandmother, but since my generation grew up always hearing our parents, aunts, and uncles call our grandmother Nanang, nobody thought to call her otherwise. Nanang has always been Nanang–the core, the endearing Apilado matriarch who drew us all together. She was the reason I have fond memories of summers and holidays spent at my father’s childhood home.

(2) Nanang used to run a small piggery. On one of my memorable summer vacations as a kid, I got to see a new pig mama nursing her litter.


(3) Langka is jackfruit, a tropical fruit with sweet and sticky yellow flesh found typically in Southeast Asian countries. In the Philippines, it’s mostly used in creamy desserts like halo-halo or ice cream, and with coconut milk as a savory dish. Nanang’s langka tree usually has 2 or more of these huge fruits hanging and like bayabas, the scent is always sharp and cloying when overripe.

(4) There is always a variation to the White Lady story. I can’t remember who specifically told us these stories when we were kids, but it must’ve been Nanang and my aunts. In one story, a cousin saw a white lady hanging out on the swing by the mango tree. One version describes her as “nagkukuyakoy”–swinging her legs back and forth while sitting on a branch. Another version from an uncle describes her as looking lost, and when my uncle approached to help, he saw that her feet seem to have vanished and she was floating! This last version though, seems questionable depending on whether said uncle was sober or not at that time. But what’s always consistent with the “sighting” stories is that the White Lady always has long, black hair, dressed all in white (duh), and doesn’t make any sound. It might be better that way though. Imagine if she actually talked…well, that might make a far more interesting story too now that I think about it…