On sunflowers and glass doors… I couldn’t decide which was more ridiculous; my sunflower hat or the fact that
I had walked into a glass door I didn’t know was there because I was too busy trying to look nice wearing it with my yellow and blue dress and sandals. I could hear my dad sniggering behind the video camera while it happened, instead of helping the three-year-old me when I fell back onto the hard marble floor. His laugh was audible on the television speakers, and the rest of us laughed with him. Embarrassing childhood videos were always fun to watch—served me right for being vain, even if I was just three back then. Those were the days. My grandmother placed the cylindrical metal container on the table and called out to me, gesturing towards the chair in front of her, expecting me to sit. As I sat, she started fiddling with the locks and separated three metal bowls of food. A Backstreet Boys song was playing somewhere outside loudly as I ate my lunch. I was a first grader; my grandmother was my guardian. We would frequently stay at a house for lunch just a few meters away from my school at the time. My uncle was kind enough to lend his mother’s place to us for that purpose, but if that wasn’t available, I would have my lunch at the back of another uncle’s L300. I dug my spoon into the rice and took a bite while my grandmother stood behind me and started fixing my hair. What’s that smell? One of the ways my grandmother and I got home (my family was staying at her place at the time) was by car—my uncle’s L300, usually. Occasionally when he was using it for deliveries, we would take a tricycle. It was a 15minute ride from Grace Christian to Del Monte, so it was no big trouble. It was just more convenient to have a relative pick you up from school. Both my parents were at work in the afternoons when my classes were dismissed and wouldn’t be home till 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening; making me wait from five onwards would have been cruel for a six-year-old with both English and Chinese lessons to review for the next day. And so we found ourselves hailing a tricycle. We were no more than a turn away from home, passing by familiar streets populated by a number of squatters, some small houses and the occasional sari-sari store. A woman was outside her home, armed with a walis tingting and what looked like a circular dustpan. She was too busy scooping out canal water to notice us. Not that I would have minded under normal circumstances, but she wasn’t just scooping the water out—of course, all that water had to end up somewhere—she was also spilling it
across the street. For what purpose, I still don’t understand, and it was unfortunate that we passed by her just as she let the putrid sewer water made of who knows what spill right onto our faces and clothes, temporarily stunning us with the smell and getting us soaked. My grandmother and I as well as the tricycle driver, who cried out as soon as the swampy mixture made contact, were not at all amused at the scooper lady. She apologized, of course. Not that it made us any less stinky. Luckily, home was but a few steps away. Hello, O.B. Montessori. The first day I moved to a different school, I was nervous. Understandably so, since I was but a girl of seven years forced to enter a new school. A room full of strange, unfamiliar faces staring back at me did not help much. I stared back, and stayed quiet while the rest of my classmates chattered on and off amongst themselves. My last school had been a Chinese one, chosen because of my oriental blood. There I stayed for a few good years until, for reasons I either couldn’t comprehend or wasn’t aware of, my parents had decided to enroll me somewhere else. So there I was, donning a brand new— albeit itchy—uniform, drawing a picture about my favorite place at school for a seatwork. I drew books—obviously, that meant the library. I’ve loved books ever since I learned how to read, so that was automatic. Out with the old, in with the new. I was there for a while, standing in front of my closet and staring at my soonto-be uniform for the upcoming school year. Aesthetically, it wasn’t at all impressive. It consisted of a grey and white checkered blouse, grey skirt and dark blue vest, worn with black leather shoes and white socks. At best, I’d look like a salesclerk; at worst, a walking, dull-colored tablecloth. That didn’t matter much at the time, though. Despite its mind-numbingly lackluster appearance, it was still a symbol, of stepping up, moving on and leaving grade school behind. I was both excited and apprehensive. I looked at last year’s dark blue uniform and sighed. High school, here I come. Good-bye, Marinduque house. I had woken up to a cold room. Dazed and still considerably groggy, I looked around and saw my father in his lounge chair, wide awake and watching the news. It was around 5AM at the time and I remembered that I still had to go to school. I went downstairs and saw my aunt, uncle, cousins, grandmother and her household help. My grandmother was crying. She saw me coming
down and said through her tears, “Wala na kaming bahay.” I found out that her house had burned down, just hours before. The fire came from the retail factory next door that our relatives ran. The house and the factory were connected, so it had only been a matter of time before the fire had spread to the house as well. Faulty wiring was the reason for the now charred remains of the house, they said. Faulty wiring was the reason why our first home was lost, why we could never spend another summer there, why the one place where I spent my childhood and where the whole family gathered to celebrate Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, birthdays and everything else now existed only in our memories. Like sister, like sister, I suppose. “Magkamukha kayo,” said our aunt. I forget which aunt and from which side of the family, but it hardly mattered. We got that a lot, my sister and I. Whenever we would walk together, or whenever we would happen to be in the same room during family gatherings, somebody would comment on how much we looked alike when I was around her age. Nobody had trouble deducing that we were siblings, and nobody failed to remark about our facial similarities, despite the nine-year age gap. Each time, we would look at each other, shrug and I’d say, “I don’t see the resemblance.” Pride and relationships don’t mix. I was pissed. One week and three days, then nothing. I had known from the start that it wasn’t going to last very long; I had already had thoughts of a break-up on my mind from day two—meaning, I was already thinking of what to say when it happened—I didn’t expect much from the relationship, I’ll admit that much. But even this was below my inch-deep expectations. It wasn’t so much the fact that I liked Ian, because I was already getting over that part when he started ignoring me completely. As to why, I was utterly clueless. It had to be our classmate who had to tell me that we had already broken up—not that it was a big loss. I didn’t bother confronting him about it, I decided that I had better things to do. Finding out that I had been a part of a bet—on whether or not I would say yes to him—was what stung on my part. I should’ve seen it coming, given his track record. It was a blow to my ego more than anything else, and I resented him and my lack of proper judgment for a good two years. It was because of that incident that I swore off boys for the rest of high school—not that my bitterness lasted that long, but I wanted to stick to my word anyway. Stupid boys.
You read my mind. The school lobby was crowded, as is usual during dismissal, with varying degrees of noise from annoying grade school kids, who were either yelling at each other or running around, just begging to be scolded by the security guards. I was glancing at the paintings and drawings created by the art club posted around the lobby with Genica when she started a conversation. It meandered to various topics, which I didn’t mind much, because her company was always enjoyable. It wasn’t everyday that you met someone with whom you had similar opinions on almost everything. We had no trouble relating to each other, and we were both aware that we were regarded each other as very close friends. Best friends, even, since we spend most of our free time with each other, talking of just about anything under the sun. We had never talked about our best friendship though, because although I treated her like a best friend, there was still a slight possibility that she didn’t feel the same way. Experience with past friendships had taught me that assumptions would only lead to misunderstandings, and thus I kept quiet about it. She was telling me about an upperclassman who had seen us together on various occasions and inquired if I was her best friend. At this point, I grew quiet and merely nodded for her to continue. Her answer was that she treated me as her best friend, but then she didn’t know if the feeling was mutual. Fancy that. She then asked if I did, and happily, I agreed. As we hugged on our official best friendship, I couldn’t help being thankful that we were so alike. Unusual, but interesting. The first time I heard his name, I was somewhat perplexed. It was unusual, to be honest. Storm hadn’t registered as a masculine name for me at first, because it would usually bring to mind my favorite X-men heroine and it made me wonder why he even agreed to be called as such by his peers. Eventually I found out that it was a family nickname, and that everyone in his family had a weather-related moniker (with the exception of his mother), a tradition that had started with his dad. Rainey, Drizzle, Rainbow and Snowie were his sisters’ nicknames, and in spite of my amusement, I had to admire their creativity, amongst other things. Palpable attributes, things which may be observed whether from close proximity or from a reasonable distance. Apparently, good looks ran in the family. I have my moments.
The spotlights blazed overhead. While I felt little to no apprehension, my palms were clammy. I started fiddling with the orchid brooch my best friend Genica had given me—I had pinned it to my blazer, and for the day and occasion I considered it my lucky charm—as I watched my other best friend Christian recite his piece. I ran through each line in my head, again and again. I would’ve bitten my nails if I hadn’t grown out of the habit. A pause ensued as my friend Christian finished his piece and walked back to his seat. The speaker read the intro for the next contestant, and a nearby door opened to my parents who as usual, came in late. Relief surged through me and I took a deep breath. Not too late, at least. Mom gave me a wave and I smiled to both of them as I stood up. Taking my place onstage, I made my bow and recited my piece. “Ladies and gentlemen,” it starts, and smoothly, the words flow out. My piece was about the men and women who serve the country, day in and day out, risking their lives in the process. Most of whom live and die anonymous with barely any recognition for their work, as opposed to celebrities whose pictures are plastered all over magazines at the slightest provocation. The former earn barely enough for themselves and their families, while the latter earn millions talking in front of a camera in all their glamour. I ended it with a thank you and I took another bow with as much grace as I could muster. I walked back to my seat with relief. Christian high-fived me. I glanced at my parents’ faces, saw their smiles and gave one of my own at my mom’s thumbs up and my dad’s proud grin. A few minutes afterwards I saw them leave, and I was satisfied enough not to care if my performance earned me a medal. It was enough that they had seen me and liked what I had to show them. It was enough that I had experienced another elocution competition and my performance had gone off without a hitch. I had had fun, and the bronze medal I wore around my neck at the end of the day was merely the icing on the cake. Just another movie day…not. The theatre was cold and I shivered in my uniform. The movie wasn’t all that interesting, but I was trying to understand the story—which wasn’t that difficult, since it was supposedly an action movie for kids who were into sci-fi —but the chill was distracting, and thanks to the cold drink and my old habit of chewing ice cubes, I was colder than ever. I was starting to regret leaving my long-sleeved blazer in my bag back at school, which was reasonable enough at first, seeing as it was such a hot day. In hindsight, I should’ve known that theatres had the air conditioners cranked up. My slacks were enough to protect my legs, but my arms were exposed, and soon enough it was too uncomfortable to ignore. My date noticed though—it was a date,
given the fact that my movie companion and I were mutually interested and attracted to each other… it just wasn’t official yet because neither of us had confessed. Storm suggested that we share his blazer, which luckily was big enough for the both of us. Finally warm, I moved closer—thankfully, the arm rests could be retracted; otherwise it would have been an awkward position —biting my lip, trying to ignore the clichéd butterflies in my stomach and wondering why the warmth was reaching my face so quickly. If the cold was distracting, then the close proximity and the fact that we were sharing body heat made it next to impossible to concentrate on the movie. Not that I minded, and especially not when he held my hand and the butterflies mutated into vultures. At the end of the day, I still consider it a hundred and eighty pesos well-spent. Chocolate makes everything better. Not bad, I thought to myself as I looked at the mirror, as my other self stared back at me, eyebrow quirked while I did another once-over. There was no harm in checking for anything amiss, was there? Of course not. My make-up had been applied, I was wearing my gown—one of the strapless kind in old rose; not exactly the color I would have preferred under normal circumstances, but this one felt right as soon as I tried it on at the store—and my hair was done, not a curl or strand out of place. My vanity was satisfied, but couldn’t resist preening at the job well done as I glanced at the mirror for the nth time. I looked appropriate for the occasion, to say the least. Prom wasn’t something I especially anticipated as a school activity, but it occurred to me that I might as well enjoy myself; it wasn’t often that I got to dress up. Never mind that it was Valentine’s Day (which I thought was a terribly clichéd coincidence, by the way; holding prom night on the 14th of February. Tsk.) or that I was a nominee for Prom Queen; I had no expectations. It was bound to be boring, just like last year, I thought, but at least my friends were there. Several bouquets, a box of Lindt dark chocolate, a three-piece pack of Ferrero Rocher, a ribbon, a crown, hundreds of photos and a much-awaited confession later, I had a new favorite holiday—besides Christmas, of course. It’s been a good year… Summer, finally. I was free from school, from responsibilities (concerning grades, for now, anyway), and I was moving on to college in a few more months. The latter gave me no little anxiety, though I opted not to worry about it till I had to. Why ruin the mood? I had gotten a medal from graduation—from the Elocution Competition, apparently they had to engrave
my name on the medal first—I was top student in class (not that it mattered much, but still an achievement), whatever bruises my pride had acquired during my previous years had healed (a certain boy had finally apologized after two years), I was in a more satisfying relationship and I was going to a good university once classes start on June. After years of obscurity in O.B. Montessori, school year 2008-2009 had been a surprise to me; it was certainly more eventful than I imagined it would be on the first day. Life was pretty good. On New Year’s Resolutions and Procrastination “I don’t know how you’re going to wake up tomorrow” said my dad, who up until I entered the room had been comfortably asleep on his La-Z-Boy lounge chair. “I’ll manage,” I mutter. I glance at the wall clock—almost half-past 11. It’s not like I haven’t been up this late on a school night before. Within minutes I hear my dad’s snoring, and I get back to work on my laptop. Never again, I told myself. One of the things I resolved to do for the New Year was to make a conscious and painstaking effort not to procrastinate, no matter how tempting or distracting everything was. I’ve attempted to drop the habit countless times over the course of my life, and there had always been a voice in my head that would constantly warn me against putting off more than I could handle at the last minute, only to be ignored time and again. It would only be given notice once the fun is over and I would be forced to face reality, along with its dear companions—guilt and regret. Only then would I swear to avoid television, Facebook, Tumblr and every other similarly distracting website—every attempt of which so far, I regret to say, have proved futile. Still, to stop trying would be to admit defeat; I’ve managed to kill bad habits before, like chewing on my fingernails and being late to class —except under unforeseen circumstances which would make it unavoidable —and so the war against my laziness continues. For how long this is to go on is still unknown, and the fact that everyone else seems to sympathize with procrastination makes the challenge all the more formidable. However, win or lose, let it never be said that I did not put up a fight—regardless of how pathetic the attempt may have been. As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”