Chapter 8: Monsoon Love


8.  MOONSON LOVE

 

Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea. Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally-changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase. Monsoons may be considered as large-scale sea breezes, due to seasonal heating and the resulting development of a thermal low over a continental landmass. They are caused by the larger amplitude of the seasonal cycle of land temperature compared to that of nearby oceans. This differential warming happens because heat in the ocean is mixed vertically through a “mixed layer” that may be fifty metres deep, through the action of wind and buoyancy-generated turbulence, whereas the land surface conducts heat slowly, with the seasonal signal penetrating perhaps a metre or so. Additionally, the specific heat capacity of liquid water is significantly higher than that of most materials that make up land. Together, these factors mean that the heat capacity of the layer participating in the seasonal cycle is much larger over the oceans than over land, with the consequence that the air over the land warms faster and reaches a higher temperature than the air over the ocean. The hot air over the land tends to rise, creating an area of low pressure. This creates a steady wind blowing toward the land, bringing the moist near-surface air over the oceans with it. Similar rainfall is caused by the moist ocean air being lifted upwards by mountain’s surface heating, convergence at the surface, divergence aloft, or from storm-produced outflows at the surface.  However the lifting occurs, the air cools due to expansion in lower pressure, which in turn produces condensation.  Like most of the countries in South East Asia, the Philippines is a throng of rain and thunderstorms.  As a Filipino, I have both an affinity and admonition towards heaven’s tears as I called it as a child.

Love is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing emotion accompanied by ferocious passion, a dry tongue and this scientifically proven postscript called hyperventilation.  Life was brought to us in a big drop and all of us, throughout history, have endured knowing that having something to eat made us alive.  But we did not stop from there.  We learned to give and to receive.  We learned to be human and humanity, like weather, comes softly or vehemently towards our head in the form of another human being or anything that our five senses can willingly assemble.  Love does not make us whole but love can make us feel perfect.  Love is in marriage with beauty and like food, love can be ingested.  The taste of love is so evocative that if it took a hundred years for us to masticate its delectable animal protein, we would.  And we do.  Until we consume it or spit it out.  By consuming love, we energize the body that even after love has long been gone; we talk, walk and breathe love.  By spitting love after savouring it fleetingly, we turn to protection, anger and bitterness because we either do not want to recall the unbearable lustiness of the experience or we simply do not want to be unavailable.  Love can also be a mother to many things like fear, uncertainty, antagonism, sin and satisfaction.  It climbs to the cranium screaming of passion and drains the awareness as it becomes fanatical every time it is cornered by imbalance and rationality.  The legion of love always holds us all in awe.  From the moment we see it coming, our lips dry up as we swallow our bucketful of saliva because static seem to have ruled our brain waves.  It is not caused by the beauty we see but by the reaction of our senses that, in many a fruitful ways possible momentarily gets muddled by what we hear in our eyes and smell in our ears. I am a product of love.  We all are.  Even if we were products of sex, the mere fact that we were brought to this life, the choice that our parents made, is more than enough reason why we are all an offspring of love.  Love begins in us as it also ends in us.  I know that too well because I have learned to love myself and have also stopped loving myself many times over.  Love, in my own opinion is intangible only because we refuse to make it a permanent composition in our lives.  It comes and goes but love exists.  If not, we have already given up on life in general.  What is there to live for anyhow? 

 

 

 

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.

–          Carol Burnett

ZAMBALES

January 10, 2011

Morning

 

The rain came at 11 in the morning and I was in bed, sick to my pits and wanting very much to yank my belly out of my body for the same reason that I wanted to bathe in the rain.  I went to the window and saw a tricycle slid through the wet weather, the reverberation coming from its gas assimilating the graceful whoosh of the wet road.  I felt a thug behind my head like a blue million miles, blinking a few kilometres per second.  My hearing couldn’t chase it because it magnified the sound of the rain and left a few traces of the rubber screech where the tricycle pounded heavily on the asphalt I can almost smell it burning.  It was spongy and almost criminal.  I continued gaping outside, the audience to absolute nonbeing cornered by my head that was paining and hankering for Advil. 

Have I moved on?  Healed from my recent heartbreak?

It has been a month since I signed up in the retreat house in Tagaytay.  Almost four months after I went to Leyte and it felt like a decade after I was in Baler, inside a paranormal tree, talking to the fairies to keep me warm from my cold and asking them for basic kindness to rule my very angry heart.  I then remembered my own words when I opened this book two months ago;   This is the year 2010 . . . my homecoming . . . when I saw and went to the Philippines four times.  The first time was back in May when my mother got sick.  The second time was when I lost my job and had to come home to refill what was robbed off from my self-esteem and self-worth.  The third time was when I found myself relieving my life back in the 90s after I fortuitously unearthed my diaries and the last time, by self-flagellation and contempt to which I saw the Philippines in various ways that I didn’t want to see it.  A Philippines that was suffocating and I, a self-made country that did not want to reconcile with the hurt that was inflicted on me.  Had it been food, I would have wanted to shallow everything without chewing it but this was pain.  I had to nibble it with rat teeth and ingest it only when it has turned into a soft mass.  I can’t help it.  I am a masochist and I like it that way.  Furthermore this is my little version of the Philippines and I have become its locale to its monsoon rains, political favouritism, greasy cuisines and ethnic profanity.

T en days ago, which felt just like ten days yesterday, was the New Year. 

2011.  Two thousandth eleven.  Even saying it sounded old and somehow, bought.  Like the universe wants everyone to realize how ailing existence is and that we are all commodities of its proven premise:  a year of economic recuperation and positivity and all we have to do is to believe.  Presuppose that this is the year will be the year of change and triumph.  A year that will penetrate the spiritual side of everyone as this will also be the year when I pick myself up from my inauspicious fate.  A year that was not supposed to be a part of this book.  This poignant expedition that should have ceased away after Christmas, after I have supposedly have gotten rid of my demons fruitfully – my little seismic activity – and called myself a brand new man.  But that did not happen.  In New Year’s Day, in the family’s annual Bingo luncheon where my father’s kin gather for an unruly game of Bingo, I found myself bewildered by all that drunken noise the entire house was making. 

“. . . and for the consolation prize, mama and I will be donating 200 pesos!”, my father’s saintly voice babbled on, as if talking to each and everyone’s devious hearts, persuading them to regard themselves for taking chances with a Bingo game – the ultimate probability cause which is so typical in this cultural empire of the macabre – as if to reduce their perpetual belief that life is a game of chance and that the unlucky ill-fated dies flat on the floor.  I wondered where my father’s mind was when he talking.  I did not see any gleam in his eyes, so I knew that his dialogue was manufactured to impress.  I admired him for being such a great party host.  I always wished I had his charm.  I wished I was the one sitting in front of everybody, a route-finder, a tiny god who was responsible for someone’s luck and hurting the rest with their wretched stars.  Instead, I bore my face on my laptop, just a few meters away from the crowd asking myself, “What the hell am I searching for this time?  Why am I sedate?  Why can’t I be happy like everyone else in this porch?”

The same questions I asked myself looking out the window, in this cold chill of a morning.  A morning when I woke up with a headache and my body temperature raging. 

Wow.  It was a brand new year indeed and I was trapped in this big house, alone in my man-eating thoughts watching the rain washing all my sins away.  I did not wonder why I was dry at all because deep down inside, I knew I was soaked to the skin.

No, I have not moved on.  I was not completely healed at all.  This love, in all its anguished rainfall, was a monsoon love that kept going back and forth since November 3 of last year. 

I massaged the back of my neck humming Mika’s Grace Kelly in my head, changing the lyrics to a French phrase I learned a few days ago:  Ce lieu est hanté.   This place is haunted. 

Secrets.  Lots of secrets. 

It has been two months since P left me for a woman.  A fine-looking smiling woman.  I saw the book that I was reading called The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and You don’t Know How by Lewes Smedes and sighed remembering a line that I recited to myself the night before over and over again:  When we forgive evil we do not tolerate it & we do not smother it. We look at the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it. Justice is moral accounting…Human forgiveness does not do away with human justice. It has a life of its own.

I began reconciling the fact that self-help books can be really comforting.  And such an enigma as well.  I conciously took the book and flung it to the ceiling.  It fell on the same spot where I took it from.  That could have been a sign.  A sign that for once, I should stop rationalizing and start listening  for a change.

It’s my birthday. 

I miss smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.”

–           James Dickey

 

 

 

September 1993

University of the Philippines, Diliman

From The Diary of the Virgin Not Pure

 

The walk did not tire me.  I got tired of accepting the fact that my boyfriend Francis was actually sleeping with a woman.  He is gay for crying out loud!  He said so himself!  His poetry said so.  His tight jeans said so!  Instead of going around for the 12th time around the main library and back, I purposely sat on the bench facing the almost-dead tamarind tree to catch my breath, wearing my cool frown for the passerby to see.  One ghastly looking freshman marched by and smiled at me, wanting, perhaps, to tame my livid stick figure sitting hunchbacked on the library stairs.  I must have looked so piteous.  Or maybe, she knew I was bleeding inside for a boyfriend who cheated on me.  Maybe she can read minds.  Maybe she was a telepathist and saw me killing myself tonight and she was smiling at me to show her condolences.

“Anong problema mo?!?  (What the hell is your problem?!?)”, I hissed.

“Wala.  Init ng ulo natin ah . . . (Nothing.  So angry today, huh . . . )”, the unsightly greenhorn laughed through her malice and hop scotched her way out of my sight as fast as she can.  Had she walked slower, she could’ve gone home that day with three lips. How can she insult me like that?  Why didn’t she just mind her own stupid walk and decided to give it a go on the plastic surgery that she has been dreaming about all through her stupid life!

I am the anti-Christ. 

The mountaineering club whose pavilion lies on pins and needles a few meters away from me had Beck’s Loser blasting on their boom box.  “I am a driver.  I am a winner.  Things are gonna change I can feel it!”  Beck rapped on, making me feel better about myself by the minute.  I rummaged through my backpack and saw the paper I wrote for my prose class and read it for the 10th time today.  I felt the itchiness of my face where a three-day old acne majestically sat and writhed to its despicable pleasure.  Twenty years old and still bursting with facial puss!  I told myself, tapping my index finger on it as if it was a dog. 

With my sweat seething through my black Giordano shirt and I began smelling like fish balls I continued reading my 1,000 word paper I called The Christening of My Evil Friend, Me.  The paper spoke about my sordid account of discovering poetry reading Emily Dickinson’s The Pretty Rain from those Sweet Eaves.  It was typewritten and had smudges everywhere.  I saw the word scourging and it was spelled as scurging.  Mess was messs and I wondered why my world had to be a sea of words.  All I really wanted to was to have a nice boyfriend and a job that would buy me a personal computer and a killer printer.  Why did I want to become a writer in the first place?  Where in the world did that come from?  I was in enrolled in a business school a year ago but blew that because I actually wanted to study literature.  I told my father that it is something that I love.  I have forgotten exactly why I said that and that was only last year.  Was it because I actually wanted to become a rock star?  Now it all felt like my life is an island of words . . . in an ocean of puke.  My paper should have been entitled Fuck You Emily Dickinson for Coming into my Life

I watched my own words moving around my white brownish paper like insects buzzing.  I sniffed it and tried to intoxicate myself with the smell of carbon matched by the scent of the chlorophyll that dashed along with the sourness of my shirt.  I craved for change.  I prayed for words to save me from pursuing my lame dream to become Kurt Cobain.  I prayed for words to take me away from my thoughts of Francis fucking someone other than me.  I watched my own words moving in and around my face, trampling around with my angry thoughts that began when I started wearing myself walking around campus.  I was so angry I could not make sense out of what I have written, thus making it hard for me to proofread.  I was so angry that I began living in a Beck song a couple of minutes before and ten minutes before that, I wanted to squeeze the life out of an ugly girl who was concerned enough to ask me how I am.

I was so angry that love had to sting like this. 

I was so angry that love, in all its sweetness and compulsive intensions to give, can break your bones and leave you wondering why you even gave anything at all, much more your time, only to be left sitting outside university libraries, pretending to edit a mind-numbing school paper, stinking by the minute and sadly smashing anger like it’s a two-timing lover.  In one way or another, I was angry at myself for being angry.

It was going to rain anytime soon.  The tall, whitish pillar, its shadow casting a languid choke above my fractioned being began to look longer as it should.  The eerie afternoon and its primal disintegration broke my absolution as I took my eyes off my paper and looked directly at the hushed merriment of the hikers on my right.  I saw their lips moving but did not hear their blabbers, or their music.  It may have been the heaven’s warning that redemption was on its way, looming and disguised as drizzle. I looked up and saw the salt-and-pepper sky and said aloud, “Oh please let it rain down.”

What time is it?

3:45 PM.  Fifteen minutes before my dense Prose class.  I folded my paper and secured it inside my knapsack.  I was not going to submit it today.  I’ll make up a story that it got lost or something.  Mr Cristobal will understand. He liked my long hair.

Halfway through the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) the rain poured down.  I did not run.  Instead, I walked even slower.  A good eight minutes later, I arrived in the basement classroom soaking wet and literally smelling like a freshly bathed dog.  I never felt as good for the last twenty-four hours as I did sitting inside the classroom with little puddles under my heels. 

The pretty Rain from those sweet Eaves
Her unintending Eyes —
Took her own Heart, including ours,
By innocent Surprise —

The wrestle in her simple Throat
To hold the feeling down   common
That vanquished her — defeated Feat —
Was Fervor’s sudden Crown —

– Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZAMBALES

January 10, 2011

Evening

My mother cooked pansit sotanghon and lechon paksiw for my birthday supper.  My sister bought ice cream.  It was a good way to celebrate my birthday.   It made me feel less useless being out of work and bumming in the most of the last two months.  My birthday also made me realize how much I miss P but I was at peace in a sense that I was with my mother and father, the two subjects of my existence here on earth.  I looked at them in their dispassion, talking about the Black Nazarene of Quaipo whose feast was yesterday and devotees from all over the country literally flung themselves to its miraculous procession.  Since the feast of the Black Nazarene in 2011 fell on a Sunday, since Friday, January 7, people began to flock to Quiapo church to hear the 1st Friday Masses and the final Novena Masses and to join the procession of the replicas of the Black Nazarene’s image from the various parts of the country, belonging to hundreds of organizations promoting its devotion.  Devotees pay homage to the Black Nazarene by clapping their hands in praise at the end of Mass performed at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.  I saw the fanatical chants and shrieks of spiritual joy on the television and somehow wished I felt the same elation that they felt.  Well, almost.

The next day, after the image arrived at the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta, the Pahalik or kissing of the image began. People lined up patiently in order to kiss the image of the Black Nazarene. In the afternoon, Holy Mass was held followed by healing services and an overnight vigil.  It also rained incessantly.

Throughout the feast, there were reports of injuries, but no reported deaths, and despite the rain, the 2011 Translacion, which began at 7:30 AM on January 9 after the Holy Mass at the Qurino Grandstand which was presided by Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, ended in the Quiapo Church and the Plaza Miranda grounds at 12:07 am the next day, after a record 15 and a half hours. The reason was the large number of people attending (7 to 8 million all in all) and the increase in the number of namamasan or active participants from the various devotional groups dedicated to the image, especially the rope bearers and pullers and shoulder holders, and the Quiapo Church float marshals and official escorts, wearing gold and maroon shirts who guarded the float (called the andas by devotees) all through the day. Another factor was the slow pace of the procession itself, the float and the long rope on which it was being pulled upon. This became the reason why Quiapo Church extended the Mass period until eleven in the evening, and after that held a Holy Hour while the image began its final stretch.

This year’s event witnessed the very first fireworks display at the Quiapo Church and the Plaza Miranda grounds on the very moment the Black Nazarene image began to enter the church through its iron gate, which only took a few minutes before it entered the church premises.

“We have never done that. We should go to Manila next year and do all that.”  Papa enamoured towards the events of the previous day on television as Mama and I gobbled on our wicked pansit.

“A lot of people fainted.” Mama carried on, appearing casual towards the dinner conversation.

“Ayoko ngang maipit ipit na parang ipis sa prosesyon at saka, Dios mio, baka himatayin ako sa baho ng mga katabi ko! (I don’t want to be squished to death like some cockroach and God forbid I might faint from that entire body odour!) “I humoured away knowing that my dad, more than his good intentions, was again proclaiming dogma beyond his capacity.

“Sira ka talaga.  Kaya hindi ka pinagpapala.  Isa kang pagano! (Crazy. That’s the reason why you are not blessed.  Pagan!)”  Papa said.

Ay ako (Oh me), I will not be able to take the rain!” my mother butted in looking at me and tried to calculate how much commotion bubbled in my existence for being called a pagan. 

I looked at her, smiled and said, “That’s all part of the drama.  The rain and the miraculous statue.  Imagine this, salvation and your sins being washed away.  It is so cinematic!”

Pagano ka nga! (You are indeed a pagan!)” Mama said, passing the Mang Tomas lechon sauce to me.

The Black Nazarene, known to devotees as Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno de Quiapo (“Our Father Jesus Nazarene of Quiapo”), is a life-sized, dark-coloured, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ, held to be miraculous by many Filipino devotees. The Black Nazarene is currently enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, Philippines.

The statue’s original carver is an anonymous Mexican carpenter, and the image arrived in the archipelago by galleon from Acapulco, Mexico. Folk tradition attributes the colour of the Black Nazarene to a fire on the ship carrying it, charring the image from its original fair tone into its present dark complexion.

 

The image was brought to the Philippines by the Augustinian Recollect Missionaries on May 31, 1606. It was initially enshrined in the first Recollect church in Bagumbayan (now part of Rizal Park). On September 10, 1606, the church was inaugurated and placed under the patronage of St. John the Baptist.   In 1608, the image was transferred to the second bigger Recollect church of San Nicolas de Tolentino built in Intramuros. Between 1767 and 1790, the Archbishop of Manila, Basilio Sancho de Santas Justa y Rufina, ordered the transfer of the Black Nazarene to its present location within the Quiapo church.

Today, the image borne in procession consists of the original body of the Black Nazarene connected to a replica of the head, while the original head portion of the statue remains on a replica of the body enshrined within the high altar of the basilica. An exception to this setup was during the 2007 feast, where both the original head and the body were combined in celebration of the Black Nazarene’s 400 year history.

Veneration of the Black Nazarene stems from the overall importance Filipino culture has for the Passion of Jesus. Many devotees of the Black Nazarene identify their poverty and daily struggles to the wounds and tribulations experienced by Jesus, as represented by the image. Although the patron saint of the basilica itself is Saint John the Baptist, the consecration of the Black Nazarene has gained popularity because Jesus Christ is the centre of the devotion, bypassing intercession through a saint.

Devotion to the miraculous Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno attracted huge following among the populace. Popularity, initially at the northern and southern provinces of Luzon, spread over time throughout the country.  It had been, like rain, a monsoon love to all Filipinos each year as feasts of saints, among other feasts, came and went by with so much adulation and ironically, a lack of memory later.  But like love, the Filipino fidelity towards spirituality did not weather the times.

The uniquely Filipino devotion to the Black Nazarene merited the sanction and encouragement of two popes. In 1650, Pope Innocent X gave his pontifical blessing with a Papal Bull that canonically established the Confraternity of the Most Holy Black Christ Nazarene (Cofradia de Santo Cristo Jesús Nazareno) and Pope Pius VII gave his second blessing in the 19th century, by granting plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before the image of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo.  History, war and political governing changed drastically over the next few centuries and today, with the advent of Skype, jet planes, miracle drugs and sexual diversity, piety in the Philippines is still very much in one piece.

“What is your birthday wish, Uncle Jon?”  my niece Apple asked in the middle of ice cream.

“I wish to finish this ice cream without getting fat the next day.”  I joshed as everybody laughed.

“No, really?”  Apple looked at me, bright-eyed and curious.  I looked at her and thought about being her age, the sore to the touch age of eleven, when I was just . . . eager.  Something that I have not felt in a very long time.

“Oh you know.  Love – peace – and all that.”  I chuckled in between the syllables knowing that none of them, sitting on the table, believed what I just said.  Then I suddenly saw the millions of devotees soaked in the Black Nazarene procession – that magnifide love for a burned statue  – the dampness and the screams of worship that roared from their hearts to their mouths – and I told myself, silently,

“I wish to be worshipped one day.  At least by the man I will love someday.  Someday.”

I smiled saying that.

 

 

 

 

January 26, 2011

In my Head

Rain. 

I then wondered where the voices of my sisters’ went after we played WAR under the madness of childhood with the agile caress of the wet season streaming down our faces while our hairs were tossed magically by the sprays of rainwater. Tasting it on our lips as we cursed the day away.

We were eternal! We were virgins.

Our tempestuous tones lost to the Angelus, our mother’s spaghetti and the way Scooby Doo shuddered against the makeshift banshees of his mighty dog life. We spent hours boring each other by the porch, awashed, giving names to sons and daughters that we’ll sire in time waiting for that smell. That spell. The smell of wet soil, that fertile smell, penetrating gloriously into the little punk in us. After we’ve taken our showers, I would go back to the porch and think. Well, thinking was actually a clumsy alibi for getting a whiff of the cloudburst’s epilogue but I would sit there, mosquitoes humming nicely around my pink feet and opened my lungs to smell the earth. A scent that I compared to an afterglow in bed, after a great coitus, as a teenager. Warm, musky, soothing. Perhaps the cosmos were playing tricks on me. They probably wanted me to nose the nom de plume of fornication at an age when a 50 centavo ice candy at Lola Ines’ store was already as good as an orgasm.

There were days back in high school when I thought the rain was a sign of something deleterious happening. A stupid runny nose amid a periodical exam, massive attacks of bad Stephen King dreams or being stuck at home feeling lazy but obeying my mother’s constant Clean this-Clean that which was annoying.  Anyway, mother rain was the ticket. I would pray hard for a storm all the frigging time! Even right there, singing the national anthem during flag ceremony every time the sky looked encouraging but merely because I wanted to elude my mathematics teacher who enjoyed seeing me wet my pants off during board work. She knew I never understood Geometry and she made sure my ruffianistic aversions drowned in her sea of theorems and postulates.  She was such a sadist.  She was the devil incarnate.

Rain became proportional neon-like visitations when I lived in Manila in the 90s. The years when hyperbole was my universe and poetry began its mark in my little life. 

The sky must have starved and turned greyer and greyer as the years fretted by. Drizzles meant an unrequited love, storm a dying love and puddles in the street to be remnants of my drunk and drugged self homing HIGH degrees of melancholy and insecurities and sleeplessness that generally defined my entire college years. Rain calmly reminded me of washing the debris of soul thirsts down the drain that remember the bad times. The heart gets darker as you grow older as my favorite film The Breakfast Club has pointed out.  It was a mindful cliché but so shamefully true; every intake, every fiber of lust, every puff, every surrender. Rain brought it all down, but then again, my favorite song changes every single day like today where from Zambales, I was transported back to drizzly Leyte to talk to my uncle Rudy who died.  To make me understand why death reduced my wishes to die numerous times in my own life.  In his rainy land.

As a ghost.

(To be continued)

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