Settling the Ketchup “Dictatorship” at Home

Today, I pause from all my work and resurrect the blog from its hiatus because I just want to write about ketchup. Don’t laugh. It’s not a funny story. I don’t even cook, but this matters a lot to me, and I think other people should know about it.I don’t write anymore these days, but for this, I am making an exception.

For the past few days, I have been tortured with the idea that my kitchen condiments have been in full support of a modern-day tyrant.Recently, the post about the horrible working conditions of workers of NutriAsia (owner and manufacturer of popular condiments like Datu Puti, Mang Tomas, UFC, Jufran, and my favorite Del Monte ketchup plus the recently buzzed about Locally fruit soda line) went a bit viral online.

This whole time, I was habitually dipping my hotdogs in ketchup stained with blood and sweat of people suffering under modern day slavery.  My adobo was filled with Datu Puti vinegar. I sometimes use Mang Tomas sarsa as my emergency viand when I only have rice left at home.

All this time, those workers making those bottles in production are made to work under 40-degree Celsius factories for 12 hours per day. People who get injured hide their injuries out of fear of getting fired. And they are contractual workers, only given contracts that get renewed every five months. There were no benefits. And the hazards were real.

I could not believe it. How can this still be going on at this time and age? Finally they mustered the courage to hold a picket line in front of the factory. A lot of people were arrested and brutally treated. Human rights activists were not allowed to go near them. And families have not been able to feed themselves as the remaining workers hold the fort and seek better employment conditions.

The infographic that circulated on Facebook was insanely disturbing. News outlets were compelled to pick up the story because it kind of made a few waves on the social media channels. An insider tells me there was a media gag on the story but they could no blatantly longer ignore the story because of the casualties, the people inhumanely arrested in the picket lines, and the horrible aftermath of the working conditions of these workers paid minimum wage for 12 hours of work. A puff piece was made but it did not gain any traction.

I never really realized that while I made the menial and basic choice of my condiments in the supermarket aisles, all of my money goes to the same pocket. And that rich, filthy pocket is enriched minute by minute with the sweat and suffering of grossly underpaid workers who are putting up with the shitty conditions because there are not enough employment opportunities out there.

So 2 days ago, I was having my usual breakfast with my husband. It was our favorite hotsilog meal. A bottle of Jufran was on the table, and I was telling my husband that in solidarity of all the abuse, we will no longer be accommodating or actively using any of Nutri-Asia’s products in our home. Jufran was my husband’s favorite ketchup.

There were some theatrics in the discussion with my husband. “How can you still enjoy that ketchup knowing how gross a tyrant the owner is to scores of other human beings like us?”

We argued over the ketchup decision for an hour. I still maintain that it was one of our best days as a couple because we have conversations that involved some depth and social involvement outside of our family unit. It was not about the usual drama you find about husband and wife such as in laws or child decisions. That kind of emotional shit is more exhausting, utterly damaging to the relationship, and usually pointless. At least, this was a substantial argument, small as the impact was to the rest of society.

I cannot bear to think that I am promoting or even sponsoring a tyrant. I want to boycott the brands by this horrible company. And I resent all those years that I have patronized their products.

My husband has his own counter arguments on the matter. He says that if I boycott the products and other people do the same, profits will dip and the company will downsize. That means layoffs. And it will make things worse for the remaining employees who are hanging on to their jobs. He tells me that my boycott, if widely spread and shared by a majority, can dent the income of the business owner and make him even harsher to those who remain faithful to their jobs.He also tells me that my other option in the market are expensive imported ketchup brands.

We lose the cost-friendly option of condiments in the supermarket and other people who cannot afford imported ketchup brands are at a losing end. Then he also tells me that if I support a foreign bottle of ketchup over this local NutriAsia monopoly of ketchup brands, I become a supporter or “tuta ng Kano” as most of the old school UP tibak kids would say.

It was a dilemma for the both of us. We laugh over it, at the incredulously intense intellectual argument that came out of a half-consumed bottle of ketchup over breakfast. But we persisted on the topic for 2 days, until he gave in. But he called it a kitchen dictatorship that I am banning NutriAsia products on our family home.He acknowledges my idealism and well, strange sense of nationalism. But he still thinks Jufran deserves to stay in our kitchen cabinet. I told him he can enjoy his Jufran ketchup and keep it in his office cubicle but it’s not going to enter our home  anymore.

I counter argued that even if we are not suffering from minimum wage, we should not forget to stand up and do something directly or indirectly for these people who are being oppressed and unable to speak for themselves.That no matter how old I get or how much I earn, I will not forget my roots. I will not let him forget it too while I am alive.

All that shit you achieve anywhere does not matter if there are still people out there being treated like slaves from the 15th century and you don’t take a stand for what you believe in.

I had classmates who went to school unable to feed themselves. Tinatakbo ang pagkain sa canteen. I saw poverty in the street as I grew up in a small barangay where killing sprees with a butcher knife were as regular as the sunrise.I don’t need manufactured immersion programs by burgis schools to expose people to assimilate the poor people’s lifestyles and somehow be more sensitive of the less fortunate people. I lived and breathed the stark poverty as my reality for almost 3 decades of life. Whatever income I had as I worked initially went to hospital bills which were unreasonably priced.

No, I am not going to leave my job to join the picket lines and hold banners and get teargassed.These things are not my style. I never joined any rally when I was in college. But surprisingly, I am really staunchly affected by this and I am reminded that I am still an iska at heart.

I won’t be supporting those products after what I discovered about how these things were made, what it actually cost just for me to enjoy my ketchup or other condiments on a meal.

It’s funny because it may seem petty to consider purchase decisions like this as a political statement. But if there is anything I have learned from 4 years of digital marketing work, it’s this: all purchase decisions are emotional decisions. It tells a message. What you buy, what you allocate your tangible resources like time and life and currency, is part of your top priorities. It speaks more about you than what you say. What you do speaks more volumes than what you say, and sometimes those two things are not the same.

So yeah, I am just posting about this in case anyone visits this space again. If you are a Filipino, let’s try to find other alternatives to these condiments. I am willing to pay 40 pesos for a ketchup bottle if it means that the workers of the manufacturer are treated well.

There is blood on our condiments, and I don’t mind owning up to a kitchen dictatorship at home because that is our family unit’s small way of showing support for those who have been wronged in so many ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Zero

It’s my third day of being a digital orphan and I was thinking that maybe there will be some massive change or lightning bolt in the sky to mark my decision. None of the sort happened. As it turns out, it’s pretty much like the regular grind before all this craziness happened. I realized that I was, in fact, orphaned a long time ago. I only acknowledged it now and ditched the illusion of family that I had been nursing before. There is no more use to deluding myself.

I remember that one time in my childhood that the Census guy came to our house in Caloocan and he tagged me as “No Family” because I had a different surname. His classification turned out to be accurate. I refused to accept it for years but the assessment was pretty accurate. I have biological roots like everyone, but after this crisis, I saw that I really have no family. I only have a mother and a sister (maybe a cousin or two); the rest are just strict relations by blood.

My husband’s family grafted me as one of their own, but prior to their arrival in my life, I am just floating emotionally. I needed to tie this loose end so that I can move forward in life.

Embracing this truth was a tough choice but it was very empowering. I continue to send help to my mom and my sister because I care about their well-being, but that’s pretty much it. I have reduced my involvement to providing funds and palpable help as needed. I am still involved in the cancer treatment options as a daughter. But this time, instead of taking full reins and compulsively handling each element of her therapy because no one wants to budge, I wholly respect the balance of nature and let the husband do the work. It’s up to him if he will lift a muscle, but I am no longer picking up the work he refuses to do as a partner to my mom. I will not regret the fund raising drive or the public Facebook posts. But I’m more of a free agent than a part of family now.

There are no more plans of going back to where I grew up. This time, it’s focused mainly on moving forward and making sure that my son lives a high quality of life. The focus is on concentrating on making the best of my bedridden state and moving forward. There is an ease with cutting toxic ties after you know that you have done everything in your power to make things work and it didn’t. This is not the most ideal of circumstances, but this time, I am finally truly free of the guilt tripping, psychological torture, manipulation, and emotional abuse. It’s my birthday gift to myself and an appropriate welcome gift to my baby when he comes out into the world this January.

When you become responsible for a little one, the tough choices that seemed impossible are no longer impossible to make. It’s much easier to say no, make tough calls, and judiciously choose between what’s helpful and what’s not for the sake of the child. There is a certain decisive power that comes with being a mother. Instead of just thinking about yourself, you think about what’s best for the child. If it means cutting all the toxic people out of your life to make it happen, so be it. No matter who they used to be or who they are, you cannot allow your baby to be dragged into a mess that he does not deserve.

For all the chaos, I am happy that it happened. There is no greater test of authentic relationships than a full blown crisis. And even if I am literally standing on ground zero now, losing my family and my possessions and my well-guarded privacy,I know that better things are coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it Rains, It Pours – The Fight for My Mom and My Unborn Child

The past few days have been quite surreal for me. Fighting for three lives now: mine, my unborn baby, and my mom. And it’s crazy. Abso-fucking-lutely crazy. I am bedridden, manually riding the waves of a full blown depressive bipolar episode, reeling from preterm labor contractions threatening to eject my baby boy out of my uterus, and deciding about my mother’s hospitalization and bulk of her hospital bill requirements as she battles for her life 3 hours away from where I am currently on total bed rest. I am only allowed to go to the bathroom and nothing else. I force myself to write a page or two of an article when my tummy is not hurting and when I am not crying. My OB gyne told me: “Your mom may be dying already.” and “You are not allowed to be stressed out for your baby.”

Before I set up a fundraising campaign for my mother in Go Get Funding (https://gogetfunding.com/bedridden-pregnant-woman-with-bipolar-disorder-and-hyperemesis-gravidarum-needs-financial-assistance-for-moms-advanced-endometrial-and-cervical-cancer-therapy/) and seeking Vince’s help to post it at When in Manila (http://www.wheninmanila.com/please-help-me-save-my-mommy-and-my-unborn-baby-writer-seeks-help-to-raise-funds-for-moms-cancer-surgery/), I was living in a quiet cave. I only switch on my Facebook account once a year and was content in living like a hermit and spending my days on Twitter and on this personal blog.

This week, I was compelled to connect to so many people because I need to raise funds to save my mom’s life. This week, I pestered everyone I can pester. Kinapalan ko yung mukha ko because I needed to do it to raise funds and save my mother’s life as she crumbles to an advanced stage of multi-organ cancer. And with all this stress, I also endanger the life of my unborn child. At 4.5 months, I am now having contractions that threaten miscarriage or preterm labor.

Are there even words to describe what I am currently going through? I thought that I already lived a hard life these last 30 years; I did not really know that it will get EVEN HARDER now. It never ends. I always had to work my way up when I was young, always starting at a disadvantage.  It never gets easier. And for this particular crisis, lives are on the line. 

I lost all my appetite for food. Even my favorite spaghetti fails to cheer me up. I did not even bother opening a book to try to escape and make myself feel better. None of my hobbies are enough to cheer me up. I am listless, like a zombie. I am alive externally but I am very much dead on the inside.

At night, I stare at the ceiling and think, what on earth can I possibly do in my bedridden state to make things easier for my suffering mom? What on earth can I possibly do to reverse this situation so that my unborn child can have financial freedom in the future?

I am thinking both about the consequences of the past and the implications on the future while handling this very present moment of crisis. 

I have all these things running like stocks and investments before all our savings got used up in this financial crisis. What use is knowing where to invest your money when you no longer have any money left to invest in your accounts because it all goes to the here and now?

It all just felt meaningless to me– all those years of juggling six jobs and making an effort to reverse the tide of a never ending stream of financial bondage. 

Waking up every morning and feeling broken in different places is not a good environment with which I am to nurture a growing fetus. I am losing weight instead of the required 2 kg gain per month. I am losing my mind and I am having the worst of my mood swings but I am not allowed to take any medication because it’s fatal to my baby’s heart.

I cannot even begin to express how painful these are, all happening at the same time.

I started seeking help from strangers after my husband and I spent the last of our savings and childbirth money. You might think, “don’t you have an immediate family to do this for you?” That’s the thing. My stepfather has a heart condition and he can die ahead of my mom if we stress him out. I tried a financially stable aunt last June and she promised to help me out. But she did not deliver her promise when she arrived. She psychologically tortured my mom and made her do household chores during their vacation even when she knew that the doctor explicitly stated that my mother should have some rest. And she even said she regretted spending 40,000 during that one time my mother came to visit her on a Christmas vacation. The truth was, my mom borrowed from a credit card to fly there and spend 9 days with her because she did not want to make her younger sister spend Christmas alone in a foreign country. She thought they were welcome to stay with her. On her sister’s mind, they were liabilities who made her spend 40,000 pesos even if it was her who invited them there. Worse, she even forced my mother to pay up a long standing debt when she is reeling with cancer and unable to report to her work at the culinary school. I was so offended that even when we were already in so much financial trouble, my husband and I worked to pay off the 54,000 pesos that she wanted my mother to settle during this crisis last month aside from my mother’s medical emergencies. I stopped asking help from her after that.

“Go to PCSO or PAGCOR or charity institutions.” I went that route and there is a long list of paper requirements that I cannot personally attend to because I am in bed, three hours away from my mom’s barangay where some clearances need to be acquired. And she is losing her life by the day. If I wait for the approval before I get her operated, she will die before I get the check from PCSO or PAGCOR or wherever. So I turned to fund raising, to knocking on stranger’s doors– the digital equivalent of begging so that she can have a few more months to live. These days, I feel exposed and naked digitally as I explain our situation. I was frustrated with the existing situation, worried about my mom’s welfare, worried about the baby, worried about life. 

I am overwhelmed with the support that I was not able to count on from my own flesh and blood. At the same time, I struggled to make sense of why this had to happen.

And it still does not continue to make sense. I don’t think it will ever make sense, to be honest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Talk Regarding Facebook, Lifebit, Adult Tantrums, and Privacy

Warning: There’s a Game of Thrones spoiler at the end of this post. Read at your own risk.

I never really came clean about how I turned from active social media user to a semi-digital hermit. Something happened this week that reminded me why I chose to go back to the social media scene with a different approach. A lot of people still wonder why I have a personal Facebook account that I only use a few days a year and deactivate for the rest of the time. I have a work-only Facebook account that I use for liking brands, researching, saving links, and curating articles from websites that I like. Considering that I am a senior writer for an entertainment blog site like When in Manila and much of my professional work consists of promoting content online to as many readers as possible, I am not making much of an effort to gain a lot of followers again for this personal blog.

The truth is, I got tired of the prevalent judgmental, parinig-laden, and mob shaming culture that has become social media in the Philippines. You don’t confront people these days like adults. You just attack them with snide remarks on status updates and gain a tiny mob of friends who have time and are willing to make fun of the object of your scorn.

I am pregnant right now, and motherhood kind of forces a woman to grow up faster. You become responsible for another human being and it changes you and how you see the world.

Years ago, I was like that too. I was young and reckless. I would speak my mind and word vomit on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. A few months before I got married, all my accounts got hacked. At the time, I was gaining a lot of Twitter followers and had some traction in promoting this blog on its old Facebook page at the time. Some of the people I started out with in the blogosphere in 2010 are now pretty established and I am happy for them. On my end, I was not thinking things through, I was not careful about my online security and everything was wiped out. I only created a new Facebook account in 2014, a few days after I got married and I was paranoid enough not to add too many people in it. It was a hard lesson to learn but it was a good learning experience, nonetheless. 

I tried going back to Facebook at the end of 2014 and use it normally again. ButI guess the tipping point that really made me shun my old way of doing things was when an ex-bestfriend self-destructed on Facebook through her mismanaged mental condition. It started small. At first, I was just disturbed by how she was spilling my secrets and taking my statements out of context on her Facebook posts by quoting me without my permission. Then she started liking all my photos and status updates and making a chat box out of the comments section. She added my Facebook friends, even those people she does not personally know. She made me very uncomfortable. I talked to her via PM requesting her to respect my privacy and not do things like quote me or take me out of context when I confide things to her. I stopped trusting her. It was painful because she was my friend since we were in fifth grade and I had to restrict her from my accounts. I was concerned for her. I was undergoing therapy myself and I did not see any reason not to invite her to join me to have therapy sessions so that she will stop humiliating herself on her Facebook wall. People message me and tell me how she is being the object of people’s talk during reunions. I tell her about it. I tell her to ease off on her social media usage but she kept on, posting 22 hours per day and beyond what was normal for even active social media users. She was also spending her time idolizing some guys and even making remarks like “I will rape you” on her Twitter account. It was super alarming.

I was wondering, too. This girl lives with her parents. Where are her parents? What is her family doing about this disturbing Facebook wall? Nobody from our schoolmates cared enough to talk with her. Ako lang yung naglakas ng loob to have some real talk with her. And when this whole thing exploded online, I was the bad person for doing so.

Despite the risk of being called a pakilamera to their family problems, I called up her older sister because I was worried about her. Her sister told me she was embarrassed with her sister’s posts on Facebook. I had support so I had therapy and I felt no shame admitting it. We were positive that I can take her to my therapist, too. Sadly, my friend took it the wrong way. The next day, she was making parinig on her Facebook wall. She chatted with people who hated me in high school, flirted with a guy that I dated before, and did her own version of a demolition campaign on her Facebook wall against me. Suddenly, she was buddies with the person who betrayed me in high school. Unlike the rest of us who are earning our keep, she did not have a job and she had all the time in the world to ruin me.

I am not entirely fault-free in this event. Because I was unwell, I commented back and it was a foul and long comment that humiliated her. I deeply regret na pinatulan ko yung mga parinig niya, not because she harmed me after but because I think I should have just quietly blocked her and move on from my life the way mature adults do. At the time, I was just as immature as she was. I should have handled it as maturely and gracefully as her sister did. I was the one with the therapy but I did not act any better. But I was not used to it and I felt like I needed to fight back.

After that single long comment full of vitriol, I blocked her on all of my accounts. She did not stop, though. I think she spent another month attacking me with full name dropping on her wall. It was a nasty falling out. She spent her birthday attacking me. People who do not know us well from our old school started messaging me about her posts after that. After I blocked her, I had enough grounds to file a police blotter against her at the time. She could have gone to jail if I took the time to file it in her barangay. We knew where she lived and it was not really that hard since I am married to a lawyer. We had screenshots of her posts and even witnesses from as far as Facebook users in Singapore. She even dissed me on her Twitter account. I spent my time reporting all of the posts mentioning my name but the damage has been done. Despite that, my husband and I decided not to press charges. We were both unwell. What good will it do, anyway? She goes to jail for what she did but it does not fix the fact that she irresponsibly used her social media to malign me and attack me.

For more than a year, I did not speak up about this even when our schoolmates wanted me to issue a statement. I only wrote about it now because it does not hurt anymore and I had a more objective look that also showed me what my faults were in this event.

To be fair, I was the one who made the irate comment and blocked her. After all, I truly considered her my friend and for all those years that I did, I don’t think putting her in jail is the solution to her clinical depression. (My concern for her well-being still stands and I genuinely wish her well.) So anyway, people who like the chismis feasted on all of my biggest and deepest and darkest secrets for a month or two because she used them and announced them on her Facebook wall after she got hurt that I blocked her.  We had around a thousand common friends on Facebook because she previously added my friends who are not really her friends in real life. Even my husband’s lawyer friends saw her posts.

Here is an interesting thing: Out of the 1,000 common friends we had on Facebook, only three or four people messaged me with concern when she started the attacks on her Facebook wall. I figured there were also five others na biglang nangumusta sa akin and they were also concerned but did not know how to approach the subject.

Fortunately, my true friends did not buy all that crap she threw my way. They remain my friends up to this day even if it’s hard to talk to me with my hermit ways. And contrary to what she said that I only had five real friends, it turned out that I had so much more. 🙂 Hundreds. Offline. Her attacks helped filter out the true ones. 🙂

We went our separate ways. Months later, a favorite teacher of ours died and I submitted photos for the ceremony, pictures with her and our teacher during our wedding. Those were happy days, after all. Days after, she reached out and followed my husband on Instagram. We were scared. We did not want her to attack us again, so we blocked her. We couldn’t take any chances. She may have had her therapy and that’s good, but I can’t go back for sure. It is one thing to forgive a person but it is another to trust them again. You don’t say mean and insulting things like “Ako lang ang nagtitiyaga sayo na friend mo” on your wall, tell them about my illness and therapy, and expect me and my husband to just forget about it. It was already enough that I did not press any legal action.

The truth is, I had more real friends and it goes beyond Facebook. I hated Facebook after that. I hated what it did to her and to our friendship. At the time, the feature where Facebook can confront a depressed or mentally disturbed friend was not yet available. It came in too late. That was February 2015. The feature for depressed Facebook users came in a few weeks later, I think.

April 2015 was the month I decided to contribute articles to When in Manila. It was one of the happy days of my life then. I was recovering from my depression and my major falling out with my ex-bestfriend. I thought I was already safe now that I blocked this girl from my accounts. I was wrong. I started posting things to market my new When in Manila articles. There were naturally injected hashtags from the brands and I needed to make them for the sponsors, specifically for sponsors in the Boracay trip I made with my sister in law.

Another “good friend” from media took offense at my posts. She spent around 6 weeks mocking my Instagram captions and like the other girl, used her Facebook account to make parinig. She even used to tag her gym buddies para pagtulungan ako in the comments section. I knew it was me. She made sure I knew it, subtle as her digs were. My husband kept telling me I was just being sensitive but she’s a smart writer and she just did it out of spite or something.

Unlike my other unemployed ex-friend, this girl had a kickass job as a writer and was even taking a gruelling master’s degree. I consider her among my nearest and dearest. I read all of her blog posts. I was a fan and a friend at the same time. I was really hurt and shocked when she did this to me because I even introduced her to the guy who eventually became her longtime boyfriend. I did not really mean to hurt her with my posts but she took offense at them anyway. We were VERY CLOSE. She was the type who my parents adore and love to talk with. It was not just surface friendship! She could have just easily messaged me on Facebook and called me out about my “bothersome” posts but she chose to humiliate me publicly instead. Who gets offended with hash-tagged captions about Boracay’s sand and a bed and breakfast hotel? I actually needed to do it for the article because my gracious hosts requested it.

I was really hurt because she took a swipe at each sponsored post and made fun of me. I know that there is a not-so-secret gap between journalists and bloggers, but I never imagined that she of all people would fall for that at the expense of our friendship. After that, she still texts me nonchalantly like she did nothing of the sort. I treasured this friend since 2006 pa, but I decided to block her on Instagram and Facebook so that I won’t have to see how she twists her captions to hurt me deliberately. I was close to her boyfriend, too. But I decided that I did not need this kind of bullying behavior anywhere near me. This time, I made no more comments confronting her like I did to my other friend. I just stopped meeting with her. I just stopped reaching out and that was the end of another long-term friendship. We both let it fizzle out. It’s really hard to go back after that kind of falling out.

You know, when people end romantic relationships, they have enough excuses to buy themselves ice cream and binge and bitch about it to their girl pals. But when decades of friendship crumble because of irresponsible Facebook usage, you don’t have as much liberty to grieve about it. So I spent my time offline paying my respects to my dead friendship and thinking about what I need to change to stop these things from happening again. Facebook is supposed to CONNECT people, not break them into pieces. 

I took a long and hard look at my relationships at the time. There were just three things in my head then: I was a bad friend. I had horrible close friends. I trust too easily. (Or it was a bit of everything, I guess.)

So I focused on writing for When in Manila and it’s been thirteen months of meeting new awesome people. I found something that genuinely makes me feel fulfilled and happy. I made new friends who understood the social media marketing aspect of writing. I found people who don’t judge me. I found people I can safely tell my secrets to. The world became good again. I found something that works. I regularly met with people I can be my real self with. Life has been pretty good. And things became stable enough to allow me and my husband to become soon to be parents.  My therapy sessions eventually stopped because I learned to manage myself better. I have no more medications and it was a change for the better. I have so much to thank for these days. And I had so much time to think.

Recently, I supported a friend’s project. He made an app called Lifebit. It was a quest-based diary of your life. I figured that I had a chance to start over with my social media experience using Lifebit. I started using it this year and the experience has been really good. Walang basagan ng trip dito. There were quests and you get points when you do the tasks on the quest. Gamified life logging. It was really fun to use and I FELT SAFE for the first time in years. No random bullying or picking of fights. No nitpicking. No spilled life secrets. No drama.

Since I am on bedrest during my first trimester of pregnancy, I had time to watch some really good TV shows. There was “What is the best moment on TV this week?” quest on Lifebit where you are actually allowed to relay your favorite scene. I got hooked with Game of Thrones recently and I answered that quest after watching the latest episode on HBO. Imagine my shock when I got another parinig post on Lifebit about how they hate spoilers. First of all, the quests were fair game. I wish they had that feature where you can choose not to view “TV Fan” quest posts so that you will be free from spoilers. Even my own friend who created the app makes a lot of spoilers on most of my favorite TV shows because he watches them ahead of me, and I never took offense cause it’s part of the quest or game. It’s not the end of the world when you find out about it. When it was my turn to do the quest, I got a backlash? Why? Is it because I am not “cool enough”?

Granted, I could have delayed my post by 3 or 4 more days in consideration for the other users. But what I don’t understand is that the person felt compelled to make parinig instead of use the private, discreet, and maturely adult Chat button to say “Hi Helen, can you hold off on the Game of Thrones quest spoiler?” I could have apologized to her immediately and made adjustments on my TV Fan quests for her. (But seriously, if they did not want spoilers at all, they could have just erased that feature and not have that as a quest task. It’s part of the game anyway. You have a realtime log of your Lifebit photos, supposedly.) I hardly knew anything about this person but that single post of parinig was more than enough motivation for me to keep my distance. I did not really know I had to walk on eggshells even on some startup social media app where I have less than 50 followers. Yet, here we are. The worse part? She has a young kid. This kid is probably emulating what she sees in her parents, absorbing the very dregs of this immature stance and growing up thinking it’s the norm. And this is what she sees: passive aggressive attacks, directionless rants, mob mentality, and zero mature conversations.

Having a baby on the way makes you feel SCARED for the future more than most people. You want the best possible environment for your child. You encounter people like this online and you just pray that things will turn out okay for your little one when he or she goes out into the world. This world is the one he or she is going to meet soon and what can I do to protect him or her from this whole circus? I can’t keep my little one away from the computer for far too long.

If these events do not compel you to rethink your social media choices, I don’t know what will. Have we really turned into online savages this time? When you feel upset, do you really need to make parinig on your status instead of confront the concerned people directly? Does everyone really have to know about that douchebag who dissed you at work today, the asshole who made your job difficult today, or that know it all in your life who brags without balls? If you keep on making that person the subject of your posts, what an uninteresting life you have. You cannot even deal with your shit and you use social media as your public toilet bowl. GET A BLOG OR SOMETHING.

What is so bad about directly calling out someone for his or her bullshit anyway? That’s what mature adults are supposed to be known for. Some people, on the other end of the spectrum, call you out on your bullshit in broad daylight. They seem to enjoy the attention and publicly shame you. I don’t know about these people, but I think the direct messages and chat boxes exist precisely to call out people on their bullshit without humiliating them. Retain the humanity and dignity of that person, at least.

After this week’s incident, I sadly realized that it’s not the platform. It’s the PEOPLE using the platform who choose to have an automatic response of attacking people and things passive aggressively on their social media accounts. They choose savage methods instead of opting for a mature direct confrontation. It’s people’s PERSONAL CHOICES to use social media in this way that leads to falling out of even basic online civil relationships. That even if you had something as properly designed as Lifebit, you still cannot ensure that you will not be harmed by random strangers whose timelines you follow. This, I no longer miss on Facebook. This, I do not support at all.

I used to join the mayhem. I liked posts of people who like making passive aggressive statements. I make my own parinig whenever I want before I got hacked. That was years ago, before all this crap happened. I used to contribute my own brand of vitriol in this super judgmental social media age. Not anymore. I’m so DONE with it. I wish that hacker who hacked me will hack all the accounts who make toxic poisonous environments out of social media networks. I can’t keep on living like that and raise a child with that kind of behavior anymore. It takes so much courage to look at what you really are as a person and make the necessary change. For me, it has to go, along with the juvenile things and behavior I had in the past. I want my kid to stand a better chance at life and the change begins here and now.

And here we are, wondering why the progress of this country is at a snail’s pace. We cannot even conduct our own affairs properly and we expect big changes to happen?

Certainly, I will stop posting on Lifebit about my favorite TV shows given that one incident so as not to be on the receiving end of another parinig post. It’s fine. You hate spoilers and I value you as a person. I just do not like how you served that preference instead of have the balls to directly talk to me about it.

But my time for silence regarding this issue is over. It’s time to speak up against these bullies and immature people who think that just because they have a gadget and a platform, it already gives them a right to create a mob, belittle others, and pass value judgments on even neutral things like hashtags of a Boracay vacation.

I don’t care that much about your fancy vacation, your family photos, your international hard-to-pronounce scholarships, your high end product collection, your master’s degree, your favorite food porn posts, the artistas and influential people you rub elbows with, and the “perfect life” you paint yourself to have on your account. It’s your business and you can make a shrine out of your wall for all I care. But when you cannot even do basic things for human beings like maturely call out on someone’s bullshit through discreet means like messaging, you are not worth anything to me. Kahit ano pang title ang meron ka sa pangalan mo, it does not matter if you use your account to mistreat people or do some unjust power tripping at other people’s expense. I may have spoiled a single episode of your favorite show. But you spoil social media with your existence in it. UNCLE BENJEN STARK IS ALIVE. DEAL WITH IT.

The world does not end. The world goes on. The online vitriol continues. But it leaves with a haunting question that I think every person ought to answer at some point in time: how nasty are you willing to get on social media? Can you really take a cold, hard, and long look at yourself in the mirror and tell the future generations that you did everything in your capacity to make this world a better place? You need not look far or make life-changing discoveries to do so. Even a small decision not to contribute additional crap in this already poisoned universe is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answered Prayer

Today, I received great news. The unexpected and great pieces of news are always the best gifts.

I kind of half-expected the worst case scenario for a certain thing and it did not turn out to be so bad after I finally faced the issue this morning. At this age, it’s pretty easy to be jaded and expect the worst in things. It is a form of self-protection mechanism.

There’s one more thing. Three days ago, I also got a Kindle for a Christmas present. My husband knows me all too well. It’s been on my wish list for years! Haha. As if this year wasn’t good enough already. I could have bought it earlier it but I hardly make myself a priority. I’ve been trained to put others’ needs first. For a change, I kind of started to love myself more in the latter part of the year and doing so has done a lot of good things to my general health and well-being.

After a long leisure reading drought, I started reading fiction again. You know that a thing genuinely makes you happy when you’ve been doing it since you were a little girl and you never get tired of it. Beautiful tapestry of words on paper and electronic paper. I can stay up for hours reading if not for the slight signs of aging and unhealthy lifestyle. I’ll be working on that soon.

This is one of the few days of my life where I am not too intense or on edge and I am relishing it very much. Cutting back on coffee has really helped; I think certain small decisions amounted to a big improvement and I will always be thankful for that.

This year, I also realized that the things I wished for as a little girl came true. In my present and annual hibernation, I had more time to count my blessings and it was a good use of my days. And by this, I do not even mean the material things. It was 90% intangible.

I spent a lot of time in the past brooding over things that are no longer of consequence. In retrospect, it all seems so trifling and I allowed it to disturb my peace of mind. These days, whenever an opportunity to rob me of my peace of mind occurs these days, I just always ask one question: “Is it worth it?” And most of the time, it’s not. It makes it easier for me to let go of that disturbance.

This was a year of change. And if there were only two words to describe this year, it would definitely be Answered Prayer.

 

 

 

 

The Shaky Scribe

I take a look at myself, a left-handed person with sweaty palms and shaky hands, and the calligraphy nibs and brush pens. If I were to judge my ability based on my existing situation, it would be have been an ill-suited hobby. Fortunately, I did not judge. 😀 I am a judger by nature so I am always working to overcome the tendency to do so.

At the outset, it’s quite daunting. You need concentration (not the chief quality of someone with my illness), a steady hand, and full muscle control on the fingers to sustain the upstrokes and downstrokes of calligraphy as a hobby or as a sideline or as a way of life.

But it found me.

desiderata-go-placidly-amidst-the-haste

I previously toyed with the idea in my head but never got around to dragging my butt out to attend a workshop or actually do something about it.

By chance, I went to this really nice resort (Aquaria Waterpark in Calatagan, Batangas) for a writing assignment some weeks back and they had basic brush calligraphy lessons in the event.

I gave it a try despite my condition, in spite of the voices in my head telling me that it’s not exactly a good fit for me. I am happy I took that risk on that day.

Some random dude even laughed at my drills because it was shaky. I almost wanted to give up on the brush at the time but why would I waste an opportunity to learn something new just because he decided I was not doing so well on it? If there’s anything I have learned this year, it’s this: it’s not going to taint my humanity one bit if I fail. It’s okay. It’s part of being human. It’s part of improving over time.

It was an involuntary shake; my hands are already suffering from medical side effects so drawing a straight upward line with just the right amount of thickness is a Herculean challenge. I took solace in the downward strokes and crawled through the others. Somehow, I managed to make it.

It was a very trifling thing but it made me so happy and I started to practice daily since then. 🙂

I think the calligraphy thing became more than just a thing as the days went on. It’s not yet poster or invitation scrawl quality. And honestly, I am not even after that.

It’s something I can do without my hands on the laptop keyboard and eyes on the computer screen, for a change. I usually do things for clients and it gets tiring to keep looking at this screen, pleasant as it may be 70% of the time.

It’s still refreshing to write on a piece of paper, whether it’s an essay, a diary entry, or a couple of words in swirly font. Nothing beats the thrill of that.

Also, I guess calligraphy represented something more than ink being placed on paper. It represented a defiance of the gravity that beckons me to just passively remain put or stagnated. I have witnessed a person stagnate before. Whenever I am inclined to feel lazy, I just think of her and I am prompted to keep moving. It represented the hard accomplishments wrought in silence and in pain. It represented beauty, the elusive and simple type. It represented a lot of inner battles fought with the echoing scars that only a selected few will ever see.

Most of all, it represented the present moment, because you cannot even create a basic curve or simple straight line without focusing on what is, momentarily flushing out the pains of what was and the anxieties of what will be. 

I bought new colors for brush pens at a local bookstore 15 minutes from home a few days after the workshop in Calatagan. A week later, I met with a friend and she gave me a complete set of nibs. She tried before and it was just collecting dust in her house for two years. She decided to give it to me. It meant a lot when she did. It signaled to me that I can actually continue this hobby and no one can tell me what I can’t do. That I am my worst enemy.

The stage is set. Left-handed, shaky-handed me is really doing this for a new hobby. Apart from this new discovery, I am doing things now that I never imagined I’d be able to do before.

I had to close some doors. At first, I wept for what I lost. But so many more doors opened up to replace what I decided to let go. And it kind of fell into place. It made sense why things had to happen the way they did. It made sense and I knew I was back on track and I am everyday grateful for that.

Empowering. And as such, I went on to sign up for other things this week: a body training regimen, a few MOOCs, and meetups for cutting edge topics that deeply interest me. 

I rarely wrote in this blog for 2015. But this is the year that really nailed it as far as a deeper knowledge of myself and a higher level of improvement is concerned. This is the zero bullshit year where I got to know myself and engaged in new and better ways of looking at the world. The ground was never steady. It kept shaking, just like my left hand when I try to imitate the calligraphy exemplar. But I was able to draw lines where they are required. I was able to create. For that, I am massively grateful.

I fought for the precious minutes I am typing this down. Possibly, the next post will be next month/year. This blog is scattered with all thoughts, dingy in the older pages, and introspective in the recent ones. Even so, it’s still here. I am still here.

And just as I have fought for the time to write here albeit intermittently, I will find time to continue being the shaky scribe that meditates quietly in her cave with scrawls manufactured from a tapestry of thoughts, brush pens, and nibs dipped on ink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Mind Monologue

I can no longer remember the last time I wrote here. It felt like ages. I haven’t written offline, either. And it made me sad. Something happened which made me want to stop writing. Then, I realized that I am doing myself a great disservice: not doing what always felt like my source of strength in good times and in bad.

The funny thing is that I have been writing everywhere for various causes, reasons, and platforms except here for the last few months. It’s sad. I mean, I totally love this blog and now there seems to be digital cobwebs on it because I have not posted anything despite the numerous things that happened to me.

This blog is really a jumble of things. It does not have a targeted set of readers (but surprisingly it draws in board exam takers up until this point) and it’s not fixed to a single theme of topics. It’s a smorgasbord of thoughts, ideas, dreams, feelings, reviews, and whatnots. And I have content that goes way back 2004, with posts that make me cringe and shake my head in disbelief. I do not delete those silly posts no matter how silly they were. They were footprints of the person that I was, a part of what made me who I am now.

Like a good hangout which feels like a second home, this blog is where I always keep coming back. When I am elated, when I am wounded, when I am neutral and filling out a pocket of time in between tasks and life hacks. It’s that place where I create just for the sake of creating and the reward for me is the creation itself.

After several months of introspection and a few spells of anxiety, I underwent massive paradigm shifts. I look at things pretty differently these days. It’s both good and bad. Good, in the sense that there was a lot of internal growth. Bad, in the sense that I find it hard to regain my footing again with this new way of seeing the world– the old ways and methods of survival no longer work in this new terrain that I am in, and it terrifies me sometimes.

How am I going to cope with all these major changes? I seem bombarded with changes recently and I am happy to report that my bouncing back rate has improved considerably. I have bigger problems now but I seem to be getting better at centering myself amidst it.

But what am I going to do next? This is my most pressing question.

I have to keep moving because life does not stop when you feel confused. And in my panic and sheer drive to answer this question, I ended up turning to retail just to amuse myself while I try to figure things out. That resulted to some strange and funny purchases this month: a cross stitch kit, a crow quill pen and an ink, a bunch of adult coloring books, and online courses from Udemy given their Black Friday ten-dollar blowout.

Yeah, that was really a strange bunch of things to buy.

Too early to ask myself if this is a midlife crisis as I type this out in the middle of the night, way past my bedtime. All I know is that I have to learn to be more kind to myself because this self is some form of engine that cannot afford to break down, not for a few years at least. There are people counting on me to maximize whatever is left of my sanity. 🙂 

They always write articles about depersonalization syndrome from excessive internet usage. That dehumanizing feeling is not an alien concept; it really happens. And it happens so often, even if you are not on the internet!

Sighs.

I am going to let myself be sucked in by the vortex of my cross stitch pattern, adult coloring books, and quill pen for the meantime. And since those are self-imposed tasks, I might as well blog about the experience later. Or maybe I’ll find something else, we never know.