The Genuinely Wonderful Things

There are two brand-related articles that I need to piece together today, and I am in this process of free writing and decompressing my thoughts before I prepare for these two and other “adulting” errands that I need to run today. One of my recent hobbies is cursive writing or resurrecting my natural penmanship through writing instruments like brush pens and calligraphy pen holders. A more awesome and portable addition to this humble collection is the Jinhao 500 ivory medium fountain pen for beginners recommended by Jillian and Keshia of Everything Calligraphy. Just holding it and gliding the tip of this pen on paper makes me feel like every word I write is worth a million bucks. I’m converted after being initiated in this wonderful world of fountain pens, and I am even using it for basic jotting down of notes and filling out of forms (as long as the paper GSM can handle it).


Writing really inspiring messages or words using this nice pen filled with iron gall purple ink has turned into a hobby. This particular quote I wrote on my 80 GSM book paper notebook is one of the most inspirational ones I have seen online this month and it’s worth highlighting:


I had to make a lot of tough personal choices this year. One of them involved the direction I wanted to take professionally. I was cruising along in my comfort zone, finances were somehow sufficient, fun was always in the corner, and despite my simple life, it’s still far from subpar circumstances I had in life before.

My initial plans in 2015 did not pan out at all. Today is totally different from my expectations. But I am grateful that things turned out this way instead of what I had in mind. In a world of practicality, being genuine was a tough and expensive thing. When I was young, I think I already knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I always considered other people’s needs, other people’s expectations, and other people’s dreams for me.

A month ago, someone just one year older than me died of an uncontrollable illness. Her death jolted me to what matters to me, and solidly drove home the important concept that there are no rewinds. Every single day that I postpone the actionable things that will allow me to accomplish my dreams is a wasted and irreversible day. Based on that single standard alone, I have been wasting my time for a very long time now. 

A week after that, I took a leap of faith and suddenly took baby steps in the direction of my dreams. And I found it amazing that the doors just opened for me, welcoming me as if to tell me: “Where the hell have you been and what took you so long to acknowledge that this is what you need to do with your life?” All this time, it was right under my nose and I kept insisting that I fit my square peg in the world’s round hole. The moment I stopped basing my life decisions with other people’s grand ideas was the moment I started to live genuinely. I am my own person now. I am 30, what I want is crystal clear, and I am walking–nay running– towards it.

Now that I have found the things I genuinely want, I am gripping it tight and writing constantly to remind myself how hard it was to gain these insights and how ferociously I should guard them now that I have them.

Apart from these, I also made personal choices to just SAY NO to things I don’t like. I said no to people, event, and things that do not contribute to my well-being. I block off my own negative train of thoughts. I detect the triggers and firmly tell myself: you’re not going in that direction again.

This is the best part: I get to start over. Picking up the pieces after last year’s ground zero is extremely difficult. But somehow I made it. The world did not necessarily run out of problems to give me. As we speak, there are large personal challenges looming before me and my family. I am potentially dealing with major and life-changing losses. But somehow, I am managing it much better that I did before. Something in my mindset has changed me permanently. And it was a good change.

Since I had space in my life for new and better experiences and relationships, the details are happily working itself out. I was able to see the best in people and this brought out the very best version of me. It was not like before where every single day was a crazy hustle for survival, where I always look on people with guarded suspicion and a general instinct to keep myself in my shell. It’s still a struggle for daily survival but somehow I already gained the muscles and the mindset to keep going. My pace has been established. And even if it’s a very small or invisible accomplishment by the world’s standards, I know that I have made genuinely good progress in my unique race in this life. After all, you cannot make an impact or change other people’s lives if you do not begin the hard work inside of yourself.

I know that I could not have made it without my husband’s support, without the genuine desire to change things. I now fully believe that when you have the best intentions and you do your best to execute these intentions properly no matter what curveball is thrown, the world takes care of all your needs and points you to the right direction in a way that’s impossible to miss.

So, here’s a personal blog post to mark new beginnings, the pursuit of my most authentic life dreams, and the vice-like grip I have on the genuinely wonderful things.







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.


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.








Junkie (Freewriting)

There are hushed whispers inside their compound on the complaint of rising electric bills in the entire house as Bam consumed most of it from her latest hobby: the 50-inch TV screen binge watching activity which ran on all of her free time. Some of the others are joking about lobbying a virtual petition on Facebook to have her pay 90% of the bills.

She did it on weekends, evenings after work, and sometimes even the wee hours of the morning. When she was not watching, she was working. Sometimes, she thinks peeing time is a waste because it takes a minute off her favorite show. She got wind of her compound companions’ vendetta when she tiptoed by the door of her landlady’s office. The next day, she wrote a fat check amounting to Php 10,000 and it extinguished the mutiny flat in its face.

Back to regular programming… Certainly she was irked that they did not just approach her about it.


This morning, she woke up with the remote control on her hand. She opened her eyes and it was a bleary view for a few moments. She saw the teevo still on with the familiar face of a blue-eyed, fake lawyer character that she absolutely adored. This drama is getting old, though. She took one last glance at his blue eyes and switched the TV off regretfully to attend to adult matters, namely: brushing her teeth, washing her face, and preparing breakfast.

Oh, she also had to get dressed. It’s going to be overtime Manic Monday for her. Her manager just told her that the KPIs were reaching the gates of Hades. Greek references about hell from her boss definitely means that she’ll have to say goodbye to that very much planned fairy tale TV show marathon tomorrow night. She decided to concentrate on adult prep things while she still can.

For preps, it was just salted tuna straight off a can. The apartment was tiny, unkempt, and barely filled. It only had three major features: her single bed, her bean, and the large TV. All the rest of the items are purely for necessity, including the incredibly austere dipper-dominated bathroom, 10-square-meter joint kitchen and dining space, and a very lonely-looking black mat by the front door. The studio type was perfect for her needs.

Once in a blue moon, she had a guest and the neighboring apartment renters were not so discreet in gossiping about it. But 99% of the time, she was happily satiated watching her favorite characters make love on the screen, almost as if there was a menage a trois in her very bed when they make fake love.

She looked out at the window as she stabbed the tuna with her fork and placed it in her mouth like bullets adroitly being fed to the barrel of a gun. Pulling at the drawers with her left hand and opening the fridge with her foot, she sighed as she saw that her stock of food is running out on both. She’d have to literally drag  her butt to the convenience store. The last time she went out for non-work reasons was 6 weeks ago and she did not miss any of the fresh air; she almost had a heart attack hearing a biker’s warning device. She is no longer used to the outside world and the urban noise even as she stares at it from her window during breakfast.

A new startle came when the phone rang midway in her tuna stabbing ritual. She sighed, thought of running to the bathroom but grabbed the handset out of guilt. “Hello?”

“Bam! Hellooooooo! I miss you.” Bam smiled in spite of her initial annoyance. She knew who this was: Natalie, her sister.

“Hey Nat! Sorry, I was really busy with work so I was not able to catch up with you.” she managed and stared at the TV sheepishly as she twirled the phone cord with her fingers. She kind of missed her family, after all. Bam imagined her sister sitting beside the phone and curled up on the floor with her huge smile and dimpled face. They never looked alike and both reveled in each other’s strengths. Nat had the charm and admirers that will make her perfect for almost anything; at the moment, Bam had the medals and the kickass job in crunching data and doing field work for a variety of local products.

“Well I am fine. I am glad to catch you before work. Are you okay? Is this a bad time?” Nat said in an all familiar tone.

Bam liked this game. She held her breath and stayed silent. She looked at the wall clock at the top of the door and counted inwardly to herself: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

“Hello? You’re doing that counting thing again, aren’t you?” Nat cackled but it was clearly an uncomfortable laugh on the other end of the line.

“Okay shoot, what is it this time Nat?” Bam asked. She tried not to sigh but ended up rolling her eyes.

“I kind of need extra money for a project.” Natalie said carefully. As she said it, she was looking at her favorite artist’s upcoming concerts and its dwindling patron ticket availability.

Bam googled the artist at the same moment she heard the word project. The tone gave Nat away. “She’s on tour. You don’t have to lie about it. You know that.” Bam said, hurt slowly permeating in her voice. She sat by the kitchen-dining table. This call is going to take a while and traffic will wreak havoc on her later as a punishment, so she might as well be kind to her legs.

Nat stuttered “Well, a-are you sure?”

“Yeah, I am. You are her biggest fan. But promise to study well, okay?” She smiled as she swiped the phone; she got an email message that she successfully made the fund transfer to her sister’s bank account.

“Yeah, I swear!” Nat said.

There was an awkward silence. They both knew that they have to talk about another thing and the concert ticket was the least of their concerns.

Bam thought of her favorite cliffhanger moments on TV shows she has watched and decided to be brave enough to break this silence.

“Soooo, how are things at home?” Bam said.

“Same old, same old…” Nat trailed off, seemingly transported to another world. “You know, I am kind of itching to click this reserve ticket button…”

Bam did let her off easy this time. “Don’t do that, please tell me more.”

“Uh, well, everything’s still the same but not quite since you moved out. I know you had to. When I grow up, I would have to.” Nat continued, “I am just floating in the middle of the fights. I have the ultra cool earphones you gave me last Christmas. They’ve stopped throwing the plates at each other. That’s a start. But they keep screaming at who pays for what and have resorted to spilling water on each other during meals. Buy me a raincoat next Christmas?” she laughed.

Bam chuckled at the dark humor Nat has developed.

“But I am holding out, Bam. I am fine and you paid for the last electric bill. That kind of shut them up for 10 days and bought me some quiet time during midterms. My final exam is next month so, can I sleep over?”

“Sure please come over, I need you here. I paid these bastards an additional 10,000 for my awesome TV so yes, you can sleep over any goddam time you want.” Bam said. She knew her school was 2 hours away but it’s better and more conducive for study.

“Oh noooo you did not! But how are things at work? Didn’t you mention that your officemates are giving you a hard time lately? I hesitated on asking about extra cash cause you said last time that you hated them and you wanted a new job.” Nat probed, but regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.

It was true. Bam thought. But we always have what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted. 

She mouthed the words but said another thing completely in keeping with the role of a good sister: “Well, I have to do my job. They can step up their game if needed. I am not supposed to budge just because I daunt people who don’t perform.” Despite the firm voice, Bam gripped the phone for strength and fought back tears. If this were a TV show, this would be the moment that they start playing a cheesy friendship or sister song like Power of Two.

“I’ll believe it when I see it! I know you’re just saying that so I won’t feel bad about the concert ticket favor. So… when are you coming home again?” Natalie asked, nay, pleaded. Her labored asthmatic breaths thickly hung on the line between them.

“I am not sure, really. I have to do something for work, so I will have to call you back,” she says as calmly as she could possibly make out. “But I will send more. We need tickets for two to that concert because I am joining you this time.”

“Wow! Yey!!! You’re so cool!”

“Yeah..I know. Sorry I had to leave you there. I’ll come and get you sometime, when I can. I am barely able to swim for myself.” She looked at the crucifix and thanked her lucky stars that her voice did not break when she said it.

“I miss you sis!” Natalie said.

“I miss you, too.” Bam said, and she meant it from the bottom of her heart. “Catch you again when work clears up, Natty,” Bam managed to say and promptly hung up the phone.

She stood by the phone for a while and checked her phone. Her last transaction was a fund transfer and the landlady’s check due to her arrogance is due in two weeks. She made another phone call to the bank and her account balance is just enough for a salsa dip. It’s four days away from pay day.

An email suddenly went through her inbox. This time, it was an invitation for a moonlighting job of making TV show reviews. Her eyes lit up and clicked ‘Confirm’ on the screen.

She rushed in her bathroom, got dressed, and grabbed her keys as she stepped out and joined the corporate world.


Traffic was a bitch that Monday. She walked back like a zombie to her apartment. The keys almost fell to the floor as she tried to make her way in.

She made a list on her black Moleskine of Fall 2015’s upcoming TV shows, got her unfinished box of potato chips on the chair, and slunk back at the beanie bag for the next marathon of a political thriller. Last season’s killing spree was a bad idea; she hopes to be sucked away into this new season without issues.

As she watched, she was scrolling her chat window for a virtual interview for her second job. As her favorite kind politician in the TV show fell to the ground on her big screen, tears fell from her eyes. She looked down at her phone screen which told her that she got the TV night job. She smiled in spite of her tears and drafted an outline for her review of tonight’s episode.

Note: Fiction 🙂

Laughed Out Loud (Freewriting)

Note: Fiction =) (I previously got some question if my free writing exercises are personal ones. Nope. The whole freewriting exercise has a life of its own.)

I can still hear her laughter echoing in my mind. It’s not the innocent or pleasant peals of laughter that sound like a cherub’s. It’s that uninhibited glee that a girl can only belt out within the hearing range of another girl.

Sweat was dripping on the floor from our foreheads as we did the next set of the Youtube video exercise routine. The lady in the video was in an air-conditioned room, sported a six-pack and was doing all the push-ups with no sweat while talking non-stop with instructions for the rest of us mere digital mortals.

“You can do it! Come on!” She beckoned to us.

At that moment, she laughed. It was a laugh loaded with her post-baby weight gain, uncertainty of paying the rent next month, and making friends with a weirdo just to help cut rental costs in this standard condominium in the business district. She huffed and I wondered what it will be like when my laughter becomes loaded like hers in time.

I said “We can do this,” which I purposefully said to assuage her and myself about the exercise and about our unpaid rent.

“I don’t know,” she replied as we were told to lie in our exercise mats which are now a little damp with our sweat.

We bent in awkward positions to keep up with the video. I can see her huge butt. It felt weird to be doing it beside someone I have not known for more than a year. But it had to be done. We had our own reasons. The Nutella jar was lying somewhere in the eastern side of the 20 square-meter flat. The most fragile of us are the most prone to emotional eating sessions and this needs to be burnt one way or another.

I tried to make it natural. “Rent needs to be paid soon. Tough, huh?” It’s been two months and while I understood the extent of her needs, I can no longer keep on pretending that it’s not hurting my wallet to cover for her.

Suddenly, she looks like an undisturbed aerobics expert when I looked at her from the corner of my eye. All of a sudden she was catching on to the aerobics as if her life depended on it. After the third or fourth leg raise, she finally spoke. “Somebody needs to clean the balcony and the bathroom, too.”

I belched inwardly. It was my turn to concentrate on the next set of exercises, the Pilates scissors-like movement. It became an instant favorite. I lost my appetite for exercising and the Nutella jar seemed more inviting.

“This was not a good video. Highly inappropriate for our skill level, I think. Let’s call it a night” I muttered.

“Yeah,”  was all she said.

I looked at my tummy pooch. She looks at her milky breasts and giant butt. The exercise set ended. She laughed again with that loaded laugh. I laughed along with her. We were just the same. Lying in our mats, we laughed out loud and stayed that way for a while.

When she went inside the bathroom to clean up, I finished off the whole Nutella jar and made the check for the month’s rent with fingers crossed.

Fine (Freewriting)

“I’m fine!” he said to me with a loud emphasis on the last word, similar to the firm and resounding effect that a gavel has in the courtroom on a day humid with suspense and unknown things. I headed for the basement through the mall escalator and felt the artificial wind on my face.

As I approached the nerd mecca, I watched some people as I walked. There’s this lady who was fumbling through her shoulder bag. A man who draped his arms around his wife, presumably. There was a bunch of guys who were in the comic bookstore, still on a San Diego Comic Con high. There are kids on the arcade playing those really fun dance games that can suffice as moderate cardio activity. There was this creepy sales guy who seem to successfully wave the brochure about the latest city high-rise in my face despite my most desperate attempts to avoid it. It’s a weekday but there were still so many people on this mall. I wonder if they are all fine, too.

And I felt the instinct of counting, determined in finding a 3-column ledger at a nearby ubiquitous bookstore to make some records from receipts. I wanted it to have just the right type of paper that will sit well with my gel ink pen. I took deep breaths, sucking in my gut while my eyes perused the shelves of school supplies. Today, walking past the shelves felt like being in an endless maze of merchandise but it was not. I joined the swarm of people swimming in the bookstore, all of our heads wading with our own thought bubbles and purchases. I wonder if the bookstore people were fine.

Fine is a special word. It’s what people say when they are wearing a smile on their faces and have souls dancing indicated by that magical twinkle in their eyes. It’s what people say when, disenchanted with the world, they look forlorn into the distance with no more expectation of good things or turning of fortune’s tides. It’s what people say when they do not want people poking around into the vicissitudes of their thoughts or their sorry or sordid business or state of life affairs.

People say them with different tones, in different colors, and under different contexts, and as such, it is one word yet it means so many things.

When he said he was fine, I immediately knew that he was not. And the way he said it meant that he will not be fine for a while.

I tried to be okay with that. I felt something sink in my stomach and I knew that it was not the fried chicken we ate for lunch, yummy as it was. It was something so much heavier than that. Probably, it’s the fact that I cannot put back the genuine fine status on the one person who I wanted to be the most fine of all the happy and fine people in this planet.

I wrote I’m fine on the back of the ledger as a reminder. Even if he is lying about being fine for his sake and for my sake, I think I am really fine with that. Really, I am. I have to.

And I realize that there is one more kind of “I’m fine.” It’s the kind that fights for its survival and thrives when it’s done with a team.

I’m getting there, and so will he. We’ll be fine. We’ll meet each other there.



Writing for Writing’s Sake

“By the same token, the amateur—that is, lover of—the game does not suppose  that because he can catch felt on catgut three returns out of five, he is just a lucky break away from Wimbledon. He does it for the doing. Because although it’s hard to get revved up for it, once you start the momentum carries you; because you get better when you work at it; because the effort makes you sweat and it feels good to have done it. I think we ought to think of writing more like that.” -Janet Burroway

This is just one of the best metaphors I have read about writing so far. I used to just read the novels that I like and think that it will teach me the techniques. All those years, I think I have been doing it all wrong, because professional novelists are good at making their craft appear easy and seamless; you will not know the extent of the mechanical labor required behind the scenes to make it happen. I had the desire but I was looking in the wrong places.

And since July is the month for showing Papertowns the John Green movie, I am throwing in another quotable quote from Green that supplements this mindset from Burroway. “Each story is written by a person who is inescapably themselves and for me the process of writing is about trying to escape that self, trying to inhabit a different world, trying to get out of that prison of consciousness that we’re still stuck in for the whole time that we’re here.”

I have been writing since I was a little girl. Strictly speaking, I have been keeping a diary for the last 21 years and I still have one at home, offline and only available for my husband’s (and doctor’s) eyes. My only regret is that I did not get to keep some of my sloppy childhood writing, although I highly doubt that there’s much good in re-reading how I felt paralyzed at P.E. class after seeing my crush.

I have been writing for 21 years and I am still an amateur to many genres I want to explore. Instead of feeling feverish and impatient (like I did for the last 5 years), I decided to step back and change my approach. I decided to be more kind to myself, writing-wise. I loosened up my expectations and let the words flow.

Success stories in writing are anomalies. Usually, the aspiring writers do not have much and they have to take supplementary or odd jobs to get by. The real aspiring writers get depressed and they hit rough patches and they keep constructing pieces until they hit pay dirt.

When I was working as assistant editor for a publishing house, they were so careful about throwing around the word “writer,” giving it the sacredness that it deserves. And I laud those people for being like that because it helped me to set high standards on who is a writer and who is a “writer.”

For my own self-assessment, I was not good enough for the authentic writer title even though I write FEVERISHLY, OFTEN, and EVERYWHERE. 🙂  But like what that Burroway quote states, no one gets laughed at for not being a writing legend. We don’t get shot in monuments for loving writing for writing’s sake and producing content to express that love.

Sometimes, I get lucky that people like what I write in different places. However, I realized this: other people liking what I write is a mere bonus to the gift of writing, which is writing itself. There are pieces that I write for certain purposes.

But there is this writing that is like a virgin forest, unsullied to what others think and stashed away in my drawer for mental safekeeping. I use ink and paper for that, as I have always done when I was a little girl. I used to have a typewriter to play with before the age of computers and I cannot recall the numerous attempts to try a manuscript but I always ended up throwing it away after the first chapter. 

Well, I am turning thirty now so I spend less time throwing my time and my creations around. And who knows, maybe the next chapter 1 will have a chapter 10 to it… I am just full of optimism. And if I fail to earn the title real writer in this lifetime, I died happy because I did what I loved the most, that thing which I will continue doing even if nobody paid or asked me to do. 🙂