I look young. Get over it.

I’m a 25-year-old guy and I stand 5’2”.  That’s small even by Filipino standards.  Well, there are those rare times when I see a smaller guy and I can’t help but stare, thinking, How the hell can he be shorter than me?! And for that brief moment, I feel like I’m having a really good day.  

Being small comes with its pros and cons.  When I was a child, there were kids who will always pick on me because I’m tiny; and there were those who will always defend me because, well, I’m tiny.  I was always the one at the front of any line arranged by height – flag ceremonies, dance numbers, school parades… you name it.  I was the one always getting teased as partner for the smallest girl in class because, “You make the cutest couple, midgets. Ahahaha!”  

My first time joining a quiz bee, I had to go to town a day before the event.  I was to be fetched at the terminal by my teacher, who was late for about twenty minutes.  A kindly lady noticed me and smiled.
“Where are your parents? Have you travelled here all on your own? What a smart boy!” she said.
I said yes, then added, “I’m already in fifth grade.”
“Oh. That makes sense, I guess.” She looked disappointed, as if it was my fault that she mistook me for a gifted five-year-old.  

It’s fascinating to observe people’s reaction when meeting me for the first time.  They assumed I was a grade-schooler when I was in high school.  They asked me what high school I was attending when I was actually in college.  When I started working, bus conductors perpetually asked me for a school ID to give me the mandatory discount for students.  And even after four years in the corporate world, some people think I’m either an intern or a fresh-grad.  

My favorite moment so far was when we went to Hong Kong on a company trip.  In our free time, my friends and I decided to visit Macau.  As we entered a casino, a security guard stared at me, shook his head, and pointed to a large sign that say something like, “Under-18 not allowed.”  After some explanation, he finally let me in – only to be spotted later by another security guard patrolling the building.  I had to pull out my passport to prove that I was twenty-two.  

I’ve accepted a long time ago that I’m a little guy.  But it doesn’t mean that I’m just a little guy.  In fact, I have learned to use it to my advantage.  I learned to feel amused rather than insulted by curious comments.  I even take them as compliments (I really look young, no?).  I am so much more than my stature.  After all, there are many great names in history who are vertically-challenged, Jose Rizal included.  

By the way, I have three brothers and three sisters.  On some holidays, when everyone’s at home, you may hear us laughing because, “The seven dwarves are together!”

I hate confrontations.

But lately I’ve been wondering whether I should talk to my brother. In fact, I’m tempted to punch him in the face and tell him to go to hell! That will probably set him on a rampage, which will give our neighbors something to talk about for the next month or so. I can handle that — because I don’t give a damn about what people might say.

What I can’t handle, though, is the possibility of him killing himself. I’m not sure if drug abuse did enough damage for him to consider suicide. I mean, I don’t even understand how his mind works this past couple of years.

At the end of the day, he’s still family. And you don’t throw away family for nice.

the party’s over

I don’t believe in quarter-life crisis. That is, until I turned twenty-five and I didn’t know what to call that Im-sick-of-my-job-I-wanna-quit-but-I-kinda-enjoy-it-too-so-I-might-have-to-stay-here feeling.

So, yeah, quarter-life crisis is real. I guess. It could be my mid-life crisis if I’m unlucky enough (knock on wood).

I’m an auditor. On my worse days, I convince myself that it’s entirely possible to just abandon everything and take a dive for a total career shift. Like, enter show business. Haha! Do you watch PBB? Neither do I… Or be a professional tambay na suma-sideline sa lotto, hoping to become a millionaire someday…

Or be a writer. I’d really love to be a writer. But I heard most authors die drunk and penniless. It’s rarely a real job. Unless you consider journalism, which is out of the question because I don’t plan to be murdered by some good-for-nothing politician. I’m like Tyrion Lannister, I want to die at the age of 80, in my own bed, surrounded by gorgeous ladies – or something like that.

My point is, I can always dream about doing something I love. But in reality, I don’t have much choice but to love what I’m currently doing. Because, technically, it’s what I’m good at. I used to say that nothing, and I mean nothing, can make me stay in the audit industry for another tax season. Then I finally decided to start applying for the same job abroad. Let’s be honest – I’ll probably still be overworked there, but at least I’ll earn better. And I’ll get to visit places I’ve never been.

I just hope that someday, when I have enough money and spare time to spend, I’ll still have the energy to pursue what I really wanted to do.

As of now, I can say this about my stint with the firm: The party’s over.

Or is it?

a rainy weekend for dear sonny

Sir Sonny passed away half an hour ago, said a message from my favorite professor.  It was Thursday, at 9:34 in the evening.

I was in the office working my ass off when I received the news.  I was even planning to work in the coming weekend.  Scratch that!  I was definitely taking the five-hour bus trip on Saturday morning to see my mentor for the last time.

He was always clear about his funeral:  No eulogies.  Why waste beautiful words about someone who can no longer hear them?  He did not want it.  And to be frank, he did not need it.  Whatever praise he deserved, he must have heard already.  Whatever he did not hear, he must have felt.  He was a humble person, but he knew his value.

As for those who expected to deliver a long-winded speech about how great a man Sonny was, well, their sentiments would be better expressed intimately.  Without microphone.  To a small group of friends and relatives attending the wake.  While looking them in the eye and being sincere in every word.

And this may sound cliché, but we really should say things when one is still alive.

No music band.  Funeral is a solemn affair, not a spectacle.  Personally, I could have played a bamboo flute and performed a heartbreaking song about loss.  And God’s eternal grace.  But I doubt I would be thinking about him so much as about myself – about how well I played the damn instrument and made the audience cry.  No.  I came to pay my last respects, not to be a show-off.  I’m glad music was not allowed.

And of course, no gambling and drinkingWhich is a bummer, actually, given our provincial predilection for lambanog and a deck of cards.

When I arrived at the funeral, the college secretary showed me a stack of pictures from Sir Sonny’s drawer.  Among them was a shot of my graduation.  Which also marked the day I stopped living with them.  Since then, I’ve only visited him a few times.  Too few, I realized.

I feel like I owe him a eulogy.  A good one.  Even if it’s against his will.  But then again, he just wanted me to learn the value of education and hardwork.

I think I did, Sir.  Rest in peace.

*Uhm, I hope this doesn’t count as eulogy…  Oh, it does?  Please don’t tell him I wrote one.

i remember…

 

7:57am

I’ve heard people recount their earliest memory happening when they were three.  I’m a little late.  I don’t remember anything earlier than the age of five.

It was supposedly a normal day.  Playing with the neighbours’ kids.  Getting into a fight with my siblings.  No, I don’t fight with the other kids, otherwise, they won’t let me watch TV — we have no TV at home.

Anyway, it was around ten in the morning, I think.  I can tell because the sun was already getting hot but my stomach wasn’t rumbling yet.  I was on my way to my grandmother’s house next door.  Suddenly, a jeepney stopped by.  Which was weird.  Because jeepneys followed a certain route.  Unless someone with heavy packages requested it to go a certain way.

An elderly lady, the one who sold cooked shrimps, smiled at me and shouted in Tagalog, “Your father’s here!”

I knitted my eyebrows.  That couldn’t be.  My father was abroad working as a carpenter.  For our family, “abroad” means Saudi Arabia.  He’s one of those folks commonly referred to as OFWs*, or as our government put it, “new heroes”.  Or so my mother said.  I did not know him except in pictures.  I knew he wrote some letters to mom, but I didn’t know how to read yet.

Then a tall man alighted from the jeepney, grinning.  Suddenly, i was in the air.  He was like one of those daddies in TV who throw their kids in the air and then catch them.  I cried.  No, not the dramatic kind – the frightened one.  I don’t know why – it was really dumb.

He put me down.  And my younger sister ran towards him, laughing, saying “Tatay!” (Dad) over and over.

8:26am

Ok, that took me 29 minutes to write.  I’m still struggling with putting words into paper and checking my grammar at the same time.  And sorting out the imagination from the memory.  Business English is far easier for me.

*OFW means overseas Filipino worker

And my father’s not really tall.  I know that now.

recipes that made me, well, ME

[This is a response to the Weekly Challenge of DailyPost <http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/weekly-writing-challenge-recipe/>.  I’m very new at this.  Will appreciate feedbacks.  Thanks!]

2 tsp instant coffee

a pitcher of hot water

sugar, if available

During my pre-school years, I had no idea that kids should drink milk.  Milk is for babies!  And it doesn’t even taste good, anyway.  I grew up in the province drinking coffee every morning, sharing a pitcher with my parents and five siblings.  You must imagine how bland it was.  Every drop tasted like hot water with a hint of bitter and sweet.  But it was normal for me then.  So now, twenty years later, whenever I put too little coffee and too much sugar in my cup while rushing things at the office, I still think of home.  And of how it feels to be fully content.

a cup of rice

and nothing else

When I was in grade school, I started living permanently with my grandmother and my aunt, in a house ten meters away from my family’s.  My aunt is an old maid.  And so in time, she treated me as her own child.

There were times when we had nothing to eat but rice.  My aunt would usually tell me to go to my parents for lunch.  I always declined.  That’s embarrassing!  I mean, how would you feel going to your neighbour for meals?  My aunt would laugh at me and say, “But they’re your family.”  I never had the courage to say, “You’re my family, too.”

And I often ended up looking for soy sauce to match the cup of rice.  Yum!

1 scrambled egg

an imaginary birthday cake

and an overflowing cup of mother’s love

I’ve never had a birthday cake until I was 21.  That’s right. Twenty-one.  (Special thanks to a special girl – but that’s another story.)  Cakes were just not part of my rural life.  Or my birthdays.  As far I can recall, “Happy birthday” greetings had always been enough for me, especially because our family is not an expressive bunch.  We don’t say cheesy things like “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” to one another.  Hugs are awkward for us when you’re past the age of five.

My birthday usually falls on the first week of classes.  That’s why I love books – because they seem like a part of me.  And that’s also why I never had a party, because all the money my parents earned (or borrowed from merciful lenders – bless them!) was spent on school supplies.

On days like that, my mother would prepare my comfort food. Scrambled eggs!  And I can have it all by myself.  No need to share.  Good days, good days…

these days

…check my phone, just in case;

go to bed, dream of you,

that’s what i’m doing these days 

-rascal flatts

SO INSTEAD OF WASTING TIME, I CREATED A BLOG!

and this is my first post

-justgab