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Grave of the Fireflies

14 Oct

I was browsing through Pinoyexchange.com last night  when I stumbled upon one thread that asks for the members’ top animated movies of all time. Disney and Pixar movies, predictably, dominated most everyone’s list but there were a few who listed interesting titles: Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away. I have already seen the latter and I agree that it deserves to be on the all-time list. As a matter of fact, it had won Best Animated Feature in the 2003 Oscar Awards. The former, I learned later on, is also a Japanese film. They were all-praises for the movie but they also said it is an animated movie that you wouldn’t want to watch again. Profound but haunting and depressing, they said.

Grave of the Fireflies opens on an evening in 1945, after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II; and in a train station, the young Seita dies alone. The rest of the movie tells us, in flashback, how things have come to this. Seita and Setsuko are two young Japanese children growing up in the waning days of World War II. Much to Seita’s pride, their father is in the Japanese navy, and they live fairly content lives in Kobe despite rationing and the other privations of war. When their mother dies from burns suffered during an American fire-bombing raid, a distant aunt takes them in — and conflict eventually forces the children to try to survive on their own. At first, Seita and his little sister enjoy their idyllic lives in the country, but harsh reality eventually settles in as Seita begins to understand the difficulties of taking care of a young child when both food and compassion are scarce. ~ Emru Townsend, Rovi

I checked if some kind soul uploaded it on Youtube. Luckily, there’s one. It’s almost midnight. I thought I needed some bedtime story.

If there’s anything I would like to add to all the positive reviews about the movie, I’d say that although I was not moved to tears like the others (but that was most probably because I watched it in low resolution, thanks to our reliable internet connection) it unexpectedly stirred my heart, left it unsettled, and I was still thinking about Seita and Setsuko and the war the morning after. The storytelling made it not hard for me to empathize with Seita and Setsuko and the animation certainly did not get in the way of the experience. The fear of war and its nasty repercussions on what would otherwise be a normal, free, and happy life haunted me and nagged at me… until now.

“Why must fireflies die so young?” asked Setsuko.

Nagging question.

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Motorcycle diaries #2

22 Feb

Di pa ako nakakasakay sa sleeper bus (yung may higaan, ideal sa mahahabang biyahe) pero ang sleeper tricycle nasubukan ko na.

Malakas ang ulan (baha at trapik) kaya nagcommute na lang ako papasok sa office. Pagbaba ko ng LRT ay nagkataon na ang nasa unahan ng pila ng tricycle ay itong si 760. Makintab at maporma. Bagong-bago at lowered pa ang side car. Likas na mababa ang bubong ng mga tricycle pero ang isang ito ay mas pinababa pa.

Sumakay kaagad ako para di maunahan pero pagkaupong-pagkaupo ko pa lang ay naramdaman ko kaagad na parang may di tama.

Para akong fetus–yuko ang ulo at nakadikit ang dibdib sa nakabaluktot na tuhod. Kung nagkataong umuulan ng formaline ay tiyak na pwede na akong pang-science lab display.

Naisip kong baka may ibang ipinahihiwatig ang mababang bubong.

Sinubukan kong isandal ang aking likod sa malalim na sandalan.

Wow! Ramdam agad ang ginhawa. Pahiga pala dapat ang sakay. Sleeper tricycle!

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Tuloy sa pagmamaneho si kuya. Tuloy din ang pagbuhos ng ulan. Tuluyan na rin akong nahiga at nabasa.

My baby is two months old

16 Jan

My baby is two months old! Tell me about how time flies (and I’ll tell you who you are hehe).

We christened her Natania. She is God’s gift said Kuya Gilbert who saw her on Day 0, thus the name.

The adage which says that having a baby is life-changing is now my reality. The trade-offs and new responsibilities can be daunting, especially when I think of them, so I don’t think of it that much. This way I get to enjoy it and be surprised each day.

For one, I miss four days in a week when I have to commute by train and tricycle to and from work. I only get to ride the LRT and the TODA on Tuesdays, when Natania is not allowed on the road. More so, I miss getting to ruminate about life and Kris Aquino and everything in between. And I actually miss getting to share LRT experiences on Butch Café and Facebook. It used to be my mental warm up before going to work. Now, it’s more on plotting where to pass, dealing with aberrant jeepney and taxi drivers, getting updates from the MMDA, and most important of all, arriving at my destinations alive, kicking, and with my hopes and limbs intact.

There have been big changes in my spending patterns as well.

Driving to work makes me miss trips to Mc Donald’s or Dunkin Donuts where I usually go after the LRT ride to grab a cup of brewed coffee and some food to go. I may be because I’m reorganizing my budget but for the most part it’s because this noob driver can’t manage drive thrus yet.

And then there’s gas money. A full tank costs me Php1,000 to 1,200. That would last a week if I choose to be benevolent and function as Bogart the Driver and if not, it could last up to two weeks.

And then there’s car wash money. Hold up. Let me explain. There’s no space for a car where we live right now so I park Natania in the premises of our parish Church. As much as I wanted to bathe her myself, it’s not doable. This costs me Php100 per car wash. Honestly, I always pray for rain so I wouldn’t have to bring her to Miguel, the car washermasher. Hehe.

And the list goes on to include parking fees, maintenance, etc. Given these new entries in my monthly budgeting, some items would have to be adjusted, like my spending for some haha, hehe, hihi, and ho-ho-hoses (I love watering plants, you green-minded you).

Truth to tell, I had almost given up on Natania. No kidding.

I took driving classes at A1 but it wasn’t a nice experience at all. I paid twice as much as I would pay other driving schools for the same course pero hindi sulit. My experience with them was bad enough to make me write a formal complaint to the management. My letter was noted and that was it. I still have two hours left for lessons but I’m not keen on using it anymore.

My first attempts to drive her through the streets of Pasay was nothing short of terrifying. I won’t forget that time when I stalled in the middle of an overly busy intersection along Libertad St., near the public market. It’s manual transmission, the engine died on me every time. Panic set in as quickly as the pile up of jeepneys, taxis, and tricycles formed behind and in front of us. I panicked all the more when they started honking like anything. They were vicious. It was like they derived pleasure in bullying panicking noobs. The more I looked helpless, the louder they honked their horns, and all the more that I couldn’t think clearly. It was crazy terrifying. Compounding my distress was the fact that I did not have a license yet. I was just carrying a student’s license. Thankfully, there were no traffic enforcers around. Amidst the chaos, I stopped for a deep breath to clear my mind and said a little prayer.

It was the most powerful thing ever as from nowhere came a knight and shining manong who came up to and said, Sir, ako na ang bahala.

Without thinking, I handed Natania over to him. He settled on the driver’s seat, started the engine, and drove Natania some 10 meters to the side. When he was done he got out and shook my hand. He was gone after I said thanks. Just like that. As quickly as he appeared.

Before I slept that night, I was seriously contemplating on the idea of handing Natania over to Bebeth, my sister. I was frustrated and traumatized. But I also prayed for clarity and for some sort of validation that I made the right decision of buying a car.

Natania’s birth certificate was signed on November 16, 2012 but I only got to take her home the following day. I wasn’t really keen on going to LTO to get a license. I’d surely be miserable in the driving test. But God whispered something to me one morning.

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It warmed me. I took it as an answer to my prayers. It was December 7. I marched to the LTO on that same day.

It has been two months now. Aside from scrapes and gashes on Natania’s right side I believe we are doing fine. We have yet to conquer NLEX and SLEX but I’m sure it’ll come. Sure there are trade offs and added responsibilities but such is life. Always moving forward.

Happy 2nd month Natania! Make your daddy proud! 🙂

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And I’m telling you… I’m going

13 Jan

Last Friday was the sweetest. It ended weeks of stressful, crippling imagining. You see? Even the way I described it was pained. Haha! No, I was just exaggerating. My US Visa application got approved on Friday! Yey! I’m going to Washington, D.C.! Yey!

I was actually unsure if I’d blog about this because some people might think I’m making this too much of a big deal. But it is! Well for me and the many people who have prayed for and with me!

To some extent, the US visa application process really proved stressful and crippling as I frequently found myself thinking how it’s gonna be if I’m denied a visa. The tickets were handed to me by the office that sponsored the trip, will I pay them the cost just in case? It was extraordinary. Here’s the story.

It started in September 2012. Doris, our Executive Director, just popped the question, “Butch, may US visa ka na?”

“Wala pa,” I said.

“Bakit?”

“Wala namang dahilan para kumuha.”

“Sige bigyan kita ng dahilan.”

I have been with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) for 16 months now. My official job title used to be Advocacy and Special Events Officer but Special Events seemed out of place so it was changed to Advocacy and Special Projects Officer. It stood for some time but given how vague it was relative to how I functioned in the office and because we are currently putting together an operations manual, I am proposing to have it changed to Advocacy and Information Management Officer. I hope I didn’t bore with that one but the short of it is I do and will do advocacy work as long as I am with CEAP.

The cause for me to get a visa was the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy conference that happens annually in Washington, D.C. It’s a gathering of educators and advocates for the cause of education. In broad strokes, it would be like a crash course on how American educators do advocacy work. CEAP is a nationwide networking office of the more than 1,400 Catholic private educational institutions, which comprise its membership. Hopefully, we’d get to network with them, benchmark good practices, and get updated on international trends that may be applied to how we do it here in the Philippines.

I was the one who wrote the proposal for funding to the Fund for Assistance to Private Education. I intently prayed for its approval. And when it got approved, my prayers even became more fervent, for visa approval this time around.

One of the better advices that I got in 2012 was from Blue, a former co-teacher. Well it wasn’t really an advice but something I picked up from our stream of subconscious. We were talking about where life took us right after we quit teaching in 2004. It was a chance meeting in Legazpi, Albay in August. He writes down his dreams and wishes and it just happens he said.

I have not done much traveling outside the Philippines. In fact, I’ve only seen Vietnam and that’s it. Traveling to the US as a tourist is on my list and spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square has been an obsession since 2007. I tried the exercise. And prayed for it.

I opened and closed 2012 in Davao City. I was sent there on January 2012 for the International Conference on Mining at the Ateneo de Davao University and I spent the last days of December 2012 also in Davao for the emergency CEAP Caucus on CHED’s Memorandum Order 46.

My US visa approval got me excited all the more because I am opening 2013 in the US! The conference happens on January 27-29. We’ll leave on January 25 and will be back on January 31. If the same pattern holds true, who knows, I MIGHT have to spend the last days of 2013 in the US as well!

Again, thanks to all who prayed and threw in their support. Thanks to Doris, CEAP, and FAPE.

Yes, it’s a big deal. It’s extraordinary.

My ex’s wedding and other adventures

8 Jan

I took up running again one day before the wedding. My running and rowing routines got sidetracked during the holidays and I must admit that the extra pounds gained hurt. It was an emergency effort to make myself feel good to look good for the wedding. Anyway, I was running along the bay when I overheard this father tell his kids this when I ran past them:

Tingnan nyo. Kapag mabilis tumakbo, umaangat na parang lumilipad.

Wow. My self esteem took a somersault. I didn’t look around though to verify if it was me they were talking about or not. I was certain it was me. And it was enough to lift my spirits.

I have only been to the Bamboo Organ once or twice in the past. I have faint recollection of how the Church looks like and zero idea on how to drive there. Naaaks! Yes! I am already able to drive Natania around, tapang-tapangan style. And being a noob driver, I tend to follow bus and jeepney routes. I was told though that the way I was planning to take would take me a thousand years. So I Googled and asked some more. I’d be coming from Quezon City and the best route I finally determined was through Coastal Road. I captured the route via Google maps just to be sure.

It was my first time to drive Natania through EDSA beyond Buendia Ave. It was also my first time to drive her through Coastal Road. I believe I did fine as a first-time motorist on these roads, albeit the countless cars and motorcycles overtaking me.

The only major major hiccup, however, was that I (repeatedly) missed Las Piñas exit from the Coastal Road! It didn’t help that I asked Rowie, a former co-faculty, to ride with me so I’d have an extra pair of eyes! She didn’t see it too! Well, she actually blamed me for not being attentive to signs but I reminded her, like most of those who ride with me, that my eyesight is far from 100%. I could only read so far and in that instance when I was able to see the sign, it was already late. Too late in fact. I was running at 60kph then and I feared that even the slightest swerving action would send us to eternal life. To my horror, I had no choice but to drive the whole length of the newly-opened Cavitex (Cavite Expressway) all the way to Kawit, Cavite!

All’s not lost though. Cavitex, I discovered was a smooth drive and it has a nice view of the open sea. And best of all, there were not a lot of cars! That’s when the speed monster in me kicked in. The signs say 100kph speed limit and I’ve not even tried running at 80kph! So I stepped on the gas. And then some more. And not before long, I was already hitting 100kph! I was freaking with my lady! Well, not really. While I was jubilant over the additional milestone, she was telling me about how she drove on freeways in the US. (Cue: Don’t tell me not to fly, I simply got to. If someone takes a spill it’s me and not you. Who told you you’re allowed to rain on my parade?)

A chance to turn around came came when we got to Kawit, Cavite. I scrambled for my wallet again as I’d be paying toll fees for the 3rd time. I didn’t mind it though. I was still ecstatic over the speedometer needle pointing at 100kph! And I was raring to do it again! It felt good!

I missed Las Piñas exit again on the way back. But please don’t judge me. I saw the sign but the road where I was supposed to exit was obscure that I mistook for a road under repair. Defeated, I pulled over to the traffic enforcers nearby. I was told that the nearest U-turn is way beyond the toll gates going to Baclaran. Thankfully, when the traffic enforcer heard from Rowie that we’ve been paying toll fees like anything and that there’s a wedding that we are attending, he let us do a counter flow. I said thanks from the bottom of my heart and quickly closed the windows to mute the subtle insinuations for snack money. We got to the Bamboo Organ at 3:00 PM, fully compliant to what the invitation said.

Interestingly, towards the end of the reception program, the newly-weds led those who stayed in opening our souvenirs. It was intended that way so they could see their guests’ reaction.

Everyone got a bag that contained either a lady’s or men’s underwear that had different inscriptions. Here’s what I got when I opened mine.

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Wow. Umaangat, parang lumilipad.

My ex’s wedding

6 Jan

I was at the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas City last Thursday… for my ex’s wedding. No, I wasn’t a gate crasher. My presence there was authenticated by the invitation that bore the inscription: G. Butch Evarola. And Yes, there wasn’t a scene, against the expectations of some of our friends. By “scene” I meant that part in the movies where the priest asks the congregation “Mayroon bang tumututol as pag-iisang dibdib nina Juan at Juana?”; then the star-crossed partner appears just in time to shout “Itigil and kasal!” and then the token collective gasp of the crowd. No such thing. I was there to witness and to join the celebration.

I must admit though that I gave in to what the occasion allowed for exes: a moment to reminisce and ponder on what might have been. I allowed the first tear drop when I saw her walk down the aisle. I caught and wiped the second one when upon the altar I saw her with the groom and the song That Should Be Me played in my head. But I quickly snapped out of the melancholia, enough to stop the third.

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Ruby and I were a “love team” back in the day. We met in 2002, when I was accepted to teach at St. Mary of the Woods School in Makati City. What started as kantyawan led to something serious in 2003, which I fondly called then as Happy Elevens. On our first month together, I asked my students to greet her “Happy 1st Eleven!” Then 2nd Eleven on the next. But there was no 3rd anymore. I choked. I wasn’t exactly proud of what I did to her, not even in the way the breakup was called.

When I finally regained consciousness (and decency), she had already become The One That Got Away. A part of me wanted her back but I knew deep inside that we really weren’t meant to be.

We eventually got back to where we were before the Happy Elevens and the bad breakup… as good friends. We parted ways when I decided to leave my teaching job but we made it a point to go out every November to celebrate our birthdays (6 and 19). That was good enough for us and we kept it that way.

God knew better. She was destined for someone that is not me. She deserved to be walking down the aisle on January 03, 2013… towards the man who completes her. And I am thankful to have witnessed this celebration of love.

Again, congratulations and best wishes to Mike and Ruby!

Video

2013 is a time to JUMP!

2 Jan

Happy new year! Wow! It’s already 2013! How was your 2012? And how has it been so far into the new year?

As for me, my 2012 rocked! In many things and in many good ways! I know I haven’t posted about the places where I’ve been or the new things that I was blessed enough to have or the new people I have met or worked with but I PROMISE to slowly write about them in the next days. I also owe this to Paz, one of my best friends who is now based in New Zealand with her beautiful family, who, in one of her email asked me to tell her the highlights of the new places I have been to so she can live vicariously through me. Paz, when she was still single, used to travel a lot so I know she’d appreciate my stories. And I hope you would, too!

Speaking of promises for the new year, I have to admit that I am one who also creates a list of resolutions and wishes for the new year. And while I was reflecting on my list for 2013, I thought it serendipitous to have opened a tweet from @Maria_Ressa this morning. It said:

2013 is a time to JUMP!

With the Tweet was a link to an article by Ms. Arianne Serafico of posturaproject.com. She wrote about her TEDxKatipunanAve experience where she was invited to talk about Using Creativity for Nation-Building, along with other Modern Day Revolutionaries. Her main point wasn’t about tips and tricks on how to become a revolutionary because as she said, Revolutions are not no one-size-fits-all. What she spoke about instead were 5 Things You Should Stop Worrying About If You Want to Start a Revolution (in parentheses are my notes from the lecture). The list goes:

1. I am not the best in my field. Who am I to start a revolution? (Anybody can start a revolution. It all starts with the thing that you are most passionate about. Do something about it. See it through to the end.)

2. I don’t think my idea is big enough yet. (Small revolutions are as important as the big ones. Start with personal choices. Commit to it until it evolves into convictions.)

3. Can I actually change the world? (Revolutions are not about YOU. It is not about power but of empowering others.)

4. There are many problems to solve–where do i even start? (Many problems mean many opportunities to become changemakers.)

5. How do I start a revolution? What’s the best way to go about it? (No step-by-step guide. No manuals. JUST JUMP! DO IT!)

Needless to say this but Arianne was a joy to watch and listen to. Moreover, what she shared stirred something in me and spoke to me on a personal level. For example, when I was my turn to meet and greet The Maria Ressa during her book launch, I let it slip to her that I’ve always wanted to join Rappler.com as an intern. She said, “Why not?” I scrambled for a good reply but all I was able to come up with was, “Naah. I am already old.” She looked at me and said, “Contact me.” I never did. I have worries.

Anyway, for 2013, I pledged to claim and start my own revolution. Like the 400 or so audience of that particualr TEDx I clenched my fist, raised my arm, and recited:

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At the end of the Arianne’s article was a hope for the readers to find her talk a good and empowering use of their. For me it was. And I hope for you too.