Four college poems


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WAS BROWSING through college files I burned into CDs when I found drafts of poems I intended to submit to Heights but did not. I always kept a pocket notebook with me during those days, I remember, upon which I scribbled my own verses whenever inspiration struck. I selected these four, and typed them into the format required by the college literary publication.

I couldn’t believe I wrote these drafts after reading them tonight. And I couldn’t help but cry. I’ve gained so much and lost so much. I’ve changed. I know my present self couldn’t have written these lines, mere attempts at poetry though they were. There is something fiery and wide-eyed and adamant in them that burst forth from the free flow.

Why I did not submit them, I do not remember. Nor do I recall how I was able to write them. But reading them reminded me that the unique series of choices that I and I alone have made spelled the difference between who I was six years ago and who I am now. And that spurs hope, because the same should spell the difference between who I am now and who I will be.


Dusty Path

Side by side
Our feet fall upon the dusty path.
In this garden we walk
With our backs towards the sun
Chasing our shadows—                                                  5
Shadows weaved by our hands.
Bushes near our feet, little flowers on the green,
Our eyes never meet.
But we still walk,
And our feet fall upon the path of dust                            10

The wind is cool. The garden wall
Sends the breeze back
To our faces.
Faint odor of crushed leaves
Brings our shadows to unweave,                                     15
And you leave.
And I stay
Where our feet last fell together—late time of day.
Where a shade still falls on our dusty path,
All of my hopes lay.                                                      20


Kangkong sa Kangkungan

Maputik ang daan tungo sa kangkungan
Kung saan ang isang baranggay ng mga kangkong—
Nakaabang. Nakayukyok
Sa ilalim ng nakapapasong araw
At di alintana ang putik                                                                    5
Kung saan ugat nila’y nakabaon
Nang malalim,
Kaya naman mahirap hugutin, at kapag pinilit,
Ang tangkay ay mababali.
At ang kangkong ay                                                                       10

Madalang ang mga dahong nananatiling nakatiklop
Sa bibihirang ambon ng biyaya,
Kaya ang mga dahon ng mga kangkong sa kangkungan
Ay laging nakaladlad, bukas-palad,                                                    15
Na parang bungkos ng mga kamay ng mga batang tumatawag:
“Ate, penging kendi!”
Walang gulugod ang mga kangkong.
Ang tanging mayro’n sila ay
Makunat na balat at matigas na tangkay                                            20
Na kumakapal
At gumugulang sa sobrang ulan.

Hindi tinuruang
Mangarap ang mga kangkong.
Masakit mang isipin,                                                                        25
Habang-buhay nilang hindi mararating ang magandang parang.

Sadya bang ganito—
Na kapag sumibol ka sa putik,
Hindi ka na makaaalis;
Na kapag nabulok ang tangkay ng kangkong,                                       30
Kung saan ito sumuloy,
Doon na rin mababaon?

Sa pagdaan ng oras unti-unting natitigang ang putik
Dahil sa nakapapasong araw,
Ngunit patuloy sa pagdami ang mga kangkong—                                   35
Nagsisiksikan. Nakapagtatakang
Nabubuhay pa sila, ngunit ito ay kanila nang

At tanging sila lang
Ang makababatid ng halaga                                                             40
Ng buhay sa putik at sa ulan.


To a Friend

One glance can tell nothing of her elegance.

Her handsome face outshines the rest
But you have to take more
Than a glance
To realize this—                                                                    5
And many more to have a feel of
The magnetism that either pulls you
Or pushes you away from her.

She has a very distinct
Charisma                                                                            10
But her meekness overshadows
The strength of her kind character
Which radiates from that timid
Heartfelt smile
That had me thinking how her beauty                                      15
Could evade many eyes, and
How she contains
That anxious power inside,
Despite her need of it
To guard herself from                                                           20

Conversing with her, with
Words or without,
Is wonderment and joy, plus some
Soul-tickling humor;                                                             25
She gives meaning to life, space and time
As she graciously spills her thoughts to
Fulfill your want or need
—whichever, you’ll find yourself
In awe of her overwhelming honesty and openness—                 30
And you wonder at the talent of sharing
A charming person could possess, such
A person who philosophy could not define

One glance can tell nothing of her humble elegance,                  35
And I have found out that no matter
How many glances I take, she is always
Basked in a modest light,
Endearingly selfless, caring
And genuine—                                                                     40
Admirably beautiful.

I thank God for letting us meet.
Having you as my friend is my idea of happiness,
And I think He approves of it.



Ayokong magisa
Sa tilamsik ng laway ng ina kong sobrang mag-alala;
Sa langis ng sarili kong pawis kapag paalis na ang umaga;
Sa tunog ng bel na nagsasabing, “Late ka na!”;
Sa nakalatag na mga kwadernong hindi ko mahanap ang halaga.         5

Ayokong magisa
Sa burger at French fries na walang sustansya;
Sa paulit-ulit na kanta ni Nina;
Sa pagmumuni ng sasabihin sa aking kasama;
Sa sobrang kagalakan ng iba.                                                      10

Ayokong magisa
Sa walang katapusang sinasabi sa balita;
Sa mainit pa raw na kontrobersya;
Sa di malunasang kahirapan ng aking bansa.

Ayokong magisa                                                                        15
Sa pag-iisip ng tulang ipapasa.

Ayoko nang magisa sa problema.

Tama na!
Hayaan n’yo naman akong
Mag-isa.                                                                                  20


Atlas Shrugged: On Sacrifice


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ATLAS SHRUGGED is a book of immense proportions that has shifted my thinking significantly. In the way I assess a situation, perceive a person’s value, and choose an action, now, the first lens and yardstick that I use is the book’s philosophy. Existence exists. A morality of reason. I am, therefore I’ll think.

The chapter “This is John Galt speaking” dismantles and molds that big, solid ball of ideas. John Galt spoke for 58 pages. I listened for four nights. I realized that we use many big words without enough caution or understanding. One of them is sacrifice, which from now on I would not be too careless to utter. Below is the excerpt which has redefined my understanding of the word:

‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. ‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the evil for the for the sake of the good, but of the good for the for the sake of the evil. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.

If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions ‘sacrifice’: that terms brands you as immoral. If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty. If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a sacrifice: he is not willing to live as a slave; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of man who’s willing.

To be continued.

Age gap



The age gap between each of us, three sisters, is a source of affable teasing. When I was in college, Crissel was in high school, and Camille, in grade school. “That’s SO elem (elementary),” Crissel would mock when Camille acted immaturely; of course, with high school ‘maturity’ as her benchmark. Now that she’s in college, Crissel would mock our youngest, “SO high school.”

I also get to do the same thing when I react, “SO college,” when Crissel chats with her roommate and friends about – oh, you know – college stuff. But just for last weekend, experiencing some HS and college stuff turned out to be just the break I needed.

Saturday night was short, but it was more than what I could have wished for. I went to a benefit gig set up by my high school batchmates to raise funds for one of our batchmates, my high school roommate, who’s quite sick. I went there for her, did not expect much for myself since my closest friends weren’t attending and I am updated with most of the batch through Facebook anyway. But I saw people whom I haven’t seen in years. Eight years since high school graduation. It was something to see them in the flesh, to note the subtle and obvious differences in the way they looked, spoke, smiled. But it was even more to recognize the semblance of that feeling when you saw them, to that feeling back then on the start of a semester when you see them after a short school break. So high school.

Deliberately relived sweet college life the following day when I spent midnight to 3 am reading a fantasy novel, woke up 9:30 and read some more, took a bath 10 o’clock and had brunch at McDo Vega at 11 with my “roommates” — Crissel and Aila. :)  It was a short walk from their dorm to McDo and back, but it was a leisurely walk nonetheless. What I’d give for more of this: a summer day with sparse students in campus, a book in my hand, and UPLB breeze on my face.

Reprise, 2012


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“Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back,
only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they
were holding on to something.”

That year has passed, that year when I’ve witnessed and become the worst that I’ve witnessed and become so far. Worse years could follow, but in the spirit of turning over a new leaf, I am — just like almost everyone optimistically does — coming up with a reprise of myself.

I draw from the wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien’s character, Samwise Gamgee. Towards the end of the trilogy’s second installment, after almost handing over the ring to the Nazgul in the fort of Osgiliath, Frodo loses recognition of his loyal companion, Sam, and almost kills him. He was on the verge of losing himself and giving up on their mission to destroy the One Ring, probably because of the burden, the loss and the despair. But Sam’s faith in him was unwavering. Ever loyal and ever true, he reminds Frodo:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

“Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.

“But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something… That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

We all must hold on to something sacred in our lives. In our efforts to reinvent, re-establish, or to reinvigorate ourselves, it is easy to get lost in its novelty and excitement. And too often we failed. But not too often do we really sit down on it and fathom why.




SO, GANITO.  Wala akong kamalay-malay na nagfa-file sa isang sulok ng branch nang biglang lumapit sa ‘kin ang driver, si Kuya Boyet.  Sinundo n’ya si Manager from a conference.

“Ma’am, may nagpapabigay.”

Post-it na selyado ng tape.  May nakasulat pa sa labas, “TO: AM CZARINA BESARES.”  Galit, naka-all caps.  Sumisigaw rin yung kulay.  Sino sa Manager’s conference ang magbibigay sa ‘kin ng ganito?  Una kong naisip, “Ay, death threat?  Bakit pink?”

Love note pala.

ADJANNI GONZALES ARBON! You were my ray of light that day… Thank you.

*Executive Hug!*


Something we can embrace



“WHEN WE SAY things like, “people don’t change,” it drives scientists crazy. Because change is literally the only constant in all of science. Energy, matter, it’s always changing, morphing, merging, growing, dying…

“It’s the way people try not to change that’s unnatural. The way we cling to what things were instead of letting them be what they are, the way we cling to old memories instead of forming new ones, the way we insist on believing, despite every scientific indication, that anything in this lifetime is permanent.

“Change is constant. How we experience change – that’s up to us. It can feel like death or it can feel like a second chance at life. If we open our fingers, loosen our grips, go with it, it can feel like pure adrenalin. Like in any moment, we can have another chance at life. Like in any moment, we can be born all over again.”

-Grey’s Anatomy, Season 7 opening episode


Cristina marries Owen

One Sunday in Ala Creme


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I GO TO FOOD whenever my spirits reach a terrible low. That’s why you can tell by the measure my second chin (God forbid — third) if I’m succumbing to the stress and pressures of work, personal stuff, and life in general.

~ o ~

To taste a piece of worldly heaven, one need not go farther than Pampanga. Ala Creme simply has the most delicious food I have ever indulged on in my entire life. It’s so good it more than makes up for their remarkably poor customer service. It’s a cafe whose main attraction is its collection of utterly delectable desserts, mainly cakes and crepes. The Sinful Chocolate Cake lives up to its name while the taste of the Caramel Banana Walnut Crepe I just consumed will forever be etched in memory… But even the full meals it serves are divine I can’t even begin to describe the two I’ve had so far: Crispy Beef Ribs and Steak Ala Creme. Oh Ala Creme, you take my heart (and cash, inevitably) away!

The Steak Ala Creme (that was) and the Caramel Banana Walnut Crepe

~ o ~

Today is my most unproductive day (1)away from home, (2) since college (qualifiers very important, haha). I did not get out of bed ’til 1pm. And when I did, I just spent it on the phone and on watching Fringe, the TV series I’ve been recently hooked to. I did not eat ’til 7pm (yep, this is my first meal for the day) but when I did, I binged. Sloth and gluttony, I know. Sins one commits for the sake of instant gratification or for temporary highs.

~ o ~

“Points of view… It doesn’t really matter if they’re never quite the same. We have our rules in different ways, we play the games of different folks with different strokes and keep our points of view.”

One Weekend At Home


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Three Little Kittens :)

A word whose meaning has multiplied hundredfold in significance since the start of my employment. Now I see again how I remain a little girl in the midst of a harsh world, and how home is still the refuge that my occasionally scared heart seeks.

I like my work. I admit I used to dread being fielded out (I sincerely admire the work an account officer does, though). But all that turned out to be just fear: “false expectations appearing real” (borrowing the words of one speaker during our graduation rites). The people I’ve met in the branch and RMC are quite kind and accommodating. Some are even quite cool considering their age. They make the environment feel like an extension of the Commonwealth training center where I found friends in my co-trainees.

But that doesn’t completely lift the burden brought about by work. I never dreamt of working in a bank, much more being in marketing, but here I am now. Sometimes I can manage the pressure, but there are times when I just wish that escape were a responsible choice, or that I could just ‘drop’ a job or ‘retake’ an assignment, or even just leave it and deal with an ‘F’ at the end of an evaluation period. During those times, a long weekend at home is just what I yearn for.


Got home three-and-a-half hours later than planned.* Nothing new there. I never succeeded in finishing my housekeeping (or dormkeeping) on a Saturday morning. I was supposed to meet with my sister in SM San Pablo, 5 pm. The mall opened October 1, and I couldn’t accept the fact that I haven’t even been inside it since then. I’m not really a mall-goer but I’d like to see for myself this new “development” in my city.

I arrived home 9 pm. Too late. It was good that the following day, we were again running late for mass, so we just decided to attend the next one on schedule and spend the time to see SM.

It was small, as my sister described it. You could easily memorize the shops after one round of looking around, as my sister described it. I asked my sister before going there if there was a Starbucks shop, but I didn’t believe her when she said there was none. And so I looked for Starbucks, but this was what I found:

“Sabi sa’yo, Ate!”

Overall the excursion was fun, despite the poor lunch at Classic Savory’s and the disappointment regarding Starbucks and the number of shops. Thanks to my sisters for injecting the fun into series of frustrations.


When it comes to joke time, I’m known as the corny, weird, and slow one ever since my high school days. Maybe because I’m overly rational and/or use logic at the wrong moments. Guess where my sense of humor comes from? Haha. Whenever I go home, I get at least one joke in my back pocket to bring back to my non-home place. Some of the ‘astig’ ones I never forget are “kangkong-tomato-meron-pang-potato” and “tagabitbit-ng-puto-bumbong.” For this week, it’s “Kitty Purry.” ROFL!

* To those who don’t know yet, I was assigned in San Fernando Pampanga after the MAP training, but in the meantime I’m in Malolos for a particular account. I go home to San Pablo on long weekends, or when I could afford it.


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