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I Am The Goal

Good Friday.

The street next to where I live doesn’t have its usual honks and screeches. All food stalls nearby are closed, except for the bakery, making me go into forced fasting or being okay with bread. I should be going to a cousin’s house to spend the three-day break and maybe, have a swimming outing with the kids, but the non-service of metro trains and construction of major roads just make me choose home and bed. And although I have cable now that would keep me company during this time that the major local channels opt to shut off, I still can feel in the air that peace and calmness everyone agrees to have once a year– because it’s the time of the year again where you go into introspection and express your devotion to God, or be guilty for your lack of show of it.

And I am guilty.

When you’re a grown-up and assume responsibilities, you tend to have more problems to deal with and goals you focus yourself into hitting, and you make excuses for not being or for being less religious, or even spiritual. Well, if you don’t make excuses and you believe you are religious and/or spiritual, then I salute you. And that makes me question myself more- why can’t I be the same?

I used to have no goals and just allow my God to take control of my life. For me, it was always the minimum standard that I should attain for. I didn’t dream much, didn’t care if my career was lackluster, if my romance was zero, if my family would not get a better life. But my spirituality and personal show of it was somehow strong.

Then, God suddenly decided to make most things better, financial-wise. I’m still not rich but doesn’t anymore need to save up for a year just to buy the cheapest meal at McDonald’s and to have my mother take any job just to get us through. I began writing down plans and setting targets, and some of them, I have already hit. And since that fuels my belief that I can achieve anything I want to if I put my 100% into it, I work even harder for those goals. But I have to admit, I’ve become withdrawn from my religion. I have my faith, but I rarely go out there and proclaim it. And I reason that I don’t have enough time. Good thing that my default religious affiliation doesn’t fine me for it, because if it did, I would have been in serious debt now. But still, shame on me.

That’s why I’m thankful for Holy Week, not only because I get to rest from work, but also because it is something that pinches me and reminds me to think and feel His Power, to make me realize that life is not all about what I want to have, what I want to happen, but is also, and especially, about the Him in me. This day makes me think of being stripped of material possessions, desires, and ambitions, and putting myself into nothingness once again and just feel what it is to be nothing and only have faith.

I might not have the same excitement I used to have when I was a child awaiting all the TV programs about the Bible, the history of the Catholic Church, and Jesus. I might be that someone now more interested in expositions about the mysteries of the religion and its untouchable ideas.  But I will always be into fully understanding (although I know I will never) the value of faith to my existence and my existence’s value to I-don’t-know-what-yet. Some of the traditions might have died down in most places, but the significance will always remain in me. And sometimes, a moment like this is what we need to go back to humility and acceptance that not everything can be fully grasped, can be answered… not every goal is “I.” Sometimes, all we need is just a moment to pray.

Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…’  — John 14: 6

 

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why i hated the ‘how i met your mother’ finale (but not among those who hated it)

I hated that it ended.

the final episode aired in my country three days after it did in the US., and being bombarded by all those “hate” articles and blogs, i couldn’t help myself but to just read it already: how the most awesome and legendary ‘friends’ show on TV (a friend who is a big fan of  “Friends” and watches it up to now even at work would totally disagree) ended.

it was the ending i have fought against other fans. it was unexpected in a way that the writers could have gone with the more expected, predictable, and condescending one. many said they felt cheated and that they didn’t deserve the ending. but i think the series deserves more than such an ‘outrage’ because for nine long years, there’s something fun, witty, dramatic, and homey piece of entertainment we looked forward to in one of our week’s nights and that saved us from most of the crappy shows in its generation. sure, there were low moments, but it is in itself, life. it gave birth to the most memorable adjectives in TV history, and it breathed life to a unique character that was not even in the show until its last episodes but hooked us until the very end.

still, i hated that it’s over.

i hated that the show made me see a part of me in each of the characters. i hated that i have lily’s cranky and emotional strands, marshall’s sometimes passive streak to avoid hurting his friends or others, barney’s lack of commitment and egoistic air, robin’s occasional indifference (to patrice), tough facade, and love for extreme independence, and ted’s overly romantic way of seeing life. but these were also the qualities that were endearing about them.

i hated that there were various sad but real truths about friendship presented, especially toward the end and especially about how you made a friendship last or not. in my own reality, i have had friends and many of them have drifted away. maybe because of my effort or lack of it, and theirs, too. maybe because of age, of growing up. i know, there should be no excuses. but it happens in reality: not all happy friendships last. i hated that i am wishing that i could have the kind of friendship, or family, the gang in the show had.

i hated that the finale made me cry the most (and now, dawson’s creek’s finale comes second). i hated that lily did that, or how allyson hannigan made it look like real sadness and tears when she and ted did that E.T. goodbye and when she gave that ted’s-wedding-eve speech making me forget for a second how i hated how the wedding gown was so unflattering on the Mother. i couldn’t stop my tears even at the end where the younger selves of the cast were run down. oh, barney, i mean NPH, looked so young in blonde and adorable.

most of all, i hated that it will take a while before another show of this calibre comes out, before another one hooks me again and makes me laugh and cry at the same time. perhaps, the kind of friendship depicted in the series would never be duplicated because the kind most of us have today and most of our children might have in the future would be facebook-or-Internet-based, with less-to-none interaction and with self-serving purposes at most points.

no matter how much i hated this nostalgic feeling though, i am still glad i’ve met this show. it wasn’t as exciting and story-worthy meeting to tell my future kids about, but i can tell them “you know kids, in my generation, i knew this group of friends that has stayed in my memory, and this is how their story goes…” but of course, i am betting on whether kids could still be fooled to have a sit-down talk with their parents at that time and age.

all in all, as lily put it, “Thank God we finally got here.” the finale is not really the ending that we have craved for; it is merely a tribute. we wanted more only because, just like other goodbyes, it’s hard to let go, or we (including the writers) don’t exactly know how, especially of something good and happy. but the last episode’s title sums all that is about “how i met your mother” and the kind of experience it brought us along with the lessons and gags: it definitely “lasts forever.”

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(P.S. Favorite moment from the show is still “Highway to Hell” Season 8 episode, when Ted surprises Robin with dancing and singing christmas lights. Very emotional ep. I included a video of it in my previous post, but the video apparently got deleted because of YouTube’s copyright rules. Here’s another link but unclear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9O28Ewf1Do. Want to share, too, your favorite moment in the entire show or in the finale?)

 

The Lonely

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He lies down in the middle of a cold sea. He is separated from most of the islands who seem happy being close to one another. They call him “The Lonely.” His face doesn’t really show he is lonely. It is just a normal, peaceful look with his eyes gently closed. But he was already tagged as lonely, when what he really is is only alone.

It is the usual morning, and my inbox is again full with his messages the past night after I signed off for sleep. He says the past three weeks of my companionship has brought him joy and taken him back to life. I don’t quite get what he truly meant by that– back to life. How can anyone be dead and go on with the daily routines? But he says for eight years, he has been coping with depression after the love of his life died of a tragic accident. That depression causes him to leave his family behind and wander in a land where he is a stranger and everything does not remind him of her. He has also developed illnesses that until the present, he is struggling with. Now, he wants to gain his happiness back and start looking forward again to a bright future.

She, on the other hand, feeds on loneliness. She had happy times, too. The peek was when she fell in love with a boy whose interest in dark-toned stories and songs she thought reflected her. She went to places that she had not imagined she would explored– with him. She left her poems, let go of her pen just to be with him. The guilt of it she tried to endure. She let her frail heart be contained in the hand of somebody she thought the coolest guy in town– for the fact that he discovered her. Until the expected happened. He found someone else totally different from her. But she loved the experience. She is again able to write pieces that she can, only when she’s at low. She is singing sad songs to the point that she dances with them. She’s happy when she’s lonely. Only during this state that she can be true to herself. And she hates it that loneliness is underrated, for the greatest writers, scientists, and music makers were able to create the best when they’re at their loneliest. She believes lonely breeds crazy, and crazy breeds the best works that change the world.

People have a negative feel toward loneliness. Everyone seeks ways to avoid it. In pursuit of happiness– that’s the mantra of most. But the lonely creeps in them almost so often that they already manage to fake it. It can be because of a painful past that they haven’t let go of. It can be because of the present that they want to escape from. Or it can be because of a future that gives them only uncertainties. For those who embrace the lonely, though, it’s their comfort zone, their fortress. Only that sometimes, they get addicted to it that they prefer to get into its depth that kills them, instead of controlling it and benefiting from it.

Life is better when there’s balance. Embracing both the lonely and the happy is seizing all the best that there is in life. And the craziest thing about life is living all of it.

I left him a message that I unfortunately cannot continue being his companion. She is scared to be happy again. And the people do not know that The Lonely island is not anymore. He’s dead, only that he refuses to perish.

(The Lonely by Christina Perri)

Exploring the Hundred Islands, Pangasinan in Black & White

Tell me anyone who isn’t captivated by colors, and I’d say he or she is more than blind. Even the blind are fascinated by colors. I once had a job interview for a BPO company which had an account serving the visually-challenged, and one of the (tough) questions was how I could explain colors to people who do not posses the sense of sight. I don’t remember now how and what I replied, but if you’re curious, I didn’t get the job– not entirely because of my answer, I suppose. Back to colors, though.

Recently, I saw an episode (entitled “In Living Color“) of Brain Games on National Geo, and it claimed that “color is just an illusion created by the brain.” It further explained “the colors that we perceive inside our brains—and the significance that we attach to them—sometimes diverge from the wavelengths of light that exist in reality.” Sounds technically complicated, right? But watching the entire show, I could only say “creepy,” learning that our own brain was just actually fooling us and that there are certain things, and people, in our environment that we don’t know are messing with our perception of things. In short, what we see is not what we really get… especially when it comes to color, which also plays our mind. It isn’t all bad, though, as we can manipulate it, too, to our advantage. Also, the ideas pointed out in the presentation can mean that there is really no “color blindness,” only that the people with the said condition have a set of colors different from the ones ordinary people know; the same thing goes with the visually impaired who might be seeing hues that others are void of. And I could have had a more impressive response in the interview had I known these points early.

There were several other “truths,” interesting experiments, and cool games (!) presented in the episode that you would want to watch for yourself, if you haven’t, to understand more how color works, or to just pass your time exclaiming “oh, cmon.” But the thing that stood out for me was the reality that we live in color, and we hardly acknowledge the beauty of it unless we are a child receiving our first box of Crayola excitedly taking out our coloring books, a painter contemplating in front of a canvas, a lady accepting a bouquet of roses and saying yes to the giver (another trivia: red is the color of high-level of testosterone, while yellow is sex), or a photographer (professional or a wanna-be like me) detailing every single little thing, even dirt, as something significantly beautiful. And why not? Every thing that exists is beautiful. Sprinkle a little more color, then that thing will come alive.

Naturally, we are drawn to vibrant colors. The more hues there are, the more attractive the objects are. However, every shade affects our emotion and brings significance to how we view life. I love how the clean blue sky littered with white clouds on bright days calms me, how the changing of blue seas to green when I come near it elicits my sense of wonder, and how a yellow banana gives me hope for a better health. Then again, based on the Nat Geo show, I’m just tricked. But so what?

In lieu of the “color” topic, I have had two weeks going back and forth deciding for my post (like it was a more important thing to decide on than what shirt color goes well with colorful platform pumps) about an enchanting place I visited two weeks ago.  It was the waters, nature, landscape, and they would surely be laid out pretty in their color. However, this black-and-white theme has been tempting me, too. I have tried a little of it in some posts, and I’ve thought of doing an entire photography post applying only the said style. I used to be judgmental about photo bloggers who utilized the monochrome effect. I thought they were taking away the life of the scene or the subject. In contrast, I adored those who have nice, fancy cameras and color editing tools that make their works stand out. But I’ve come to know black-and-white better, thanks to blog.mingthein.com and  a walk with my camera, and to WordPress, in general. I’ve gotten hooked to the crispiness and texture the theme captures and have learned a little about what subjects go well with it. Now, I like both types of photography, color-wise. I know they say, you have to be faithful to one style so that you’ll give an identity to your blog, and that it’s either you’re black or white. But I’d say, why not black AND white?

I’m afraid my chatter above has overshadowed the subject of this post, which is The Hundred Islands Park in Pangasinan, Philippines. I wouldn’t want to showcase it less, despite using the black-white theme. Trust me you can find more than a hundred reasons to love the place if you are keen like us, photographers (wink wink). And even if there are only two colors present, the scenes are enough to signal your brain where to pop out the blue, the green, and the “wow.” And who knows? They might not really be only black and white as they appear to be.

 

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Lucap Wharf, the entry point to the islands. Where you register at the local Tourism office (P80) and find a boat and accommodation and sign up for activities. Of course, there are outside spotters whom you can bargain with.

 

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Boats loitering the area. The tower is one of the prominent spots that visitors could climb before; now, according to the trike driver, it was with electrical wires, so don’t attempt.

 

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Arriving late afternoon, we immediately ventured into our first set of islands. There are two sets of service boats: P800 for the three most popular (and populated) islands, and the other P1400 for islands-all-you-can.

 

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I asked one of our boat guys if he was still amazed of the sights, he said he’s used to them. But I think this boy above, who was the son of our main guide, still had that sense of awe.

 

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And who wouldn’t be delighted by the eerie yet inviting scenery tempting you to explore what is behind and beyond it.

 

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Quezon Island: one of the three main islands where swimming is ideal because of the absence of big rocks in the water. The other two are Children’s (ideal for children’s swimming) and Governor’s, where you can climb to a 126 steps cemented stairs to have a glimpse of the stunning islets.

 

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Being only four to five hours away from Manila, the place is a favorite location for mermaid-themed movies and TV series.

 

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This was once the house of local TV’s “Big Brother.” The sign wasn’t anymore there, but Kuya is (spot him).

 

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This was one of the roughest part of the sea where our middle-sized boat almost jumped up and down. The guide said the other side, not so far from where we were, was already part of the South China Sea.

 

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One of the highlights of the trip. Seeing the sun set so close I could almost reach it. Maybe I was overreacting, but the hues, the feel, the mystery of how it was there and how I was here made me shed some tears. I watched the sun till it disappeared from my sight.

 

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Some caving the next day.

 

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The Bat Island. The bats were outside their cave and basking in the sun but asleep,  mimicking the twigs and leaves of the almost-barren tree.

 

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This kid, eight. Sunshine. That’s her name. While we put on helmets just to see the view underwater, she effortlessly jumped to the big ocean and into the surface below playing with the fish which also seemed to enjoy her company. She also accompanied me in some short trekking and in the shallow waters while laughing at my inability to swim. I jokingly bribed her P20 to get my camera from the boat, but she insisted P50. I refused and had her brother get it for me, and then she raced with him to get it ending up crying when her brother got the camera first, but the brother pissed by her crying gave it to her eventually. She settled for P20 (seriously, it was part of our tip; she and her two brothers went with her father who was our boatman/guide; when we finished the tour, her mother was waiting for them in a pedicab full of souvenir items; she was also waiting for us and sold us some; the simplicity of their life despite the apparent day-to-day struggles that have made them stick together as a family is one miracle these days). She enjoyed being my photographer. I asked if she had Facebook and thank God, she didn’t know it yet. But I hope she would not be content of where she was; seeing her assertiveness and strong will, I have faith she’d go great places.

 

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One of the activities: helmet-diving. Since scuba diving needs certification first, we settled for this, and it was nonetheless breath-taking. I am scared of the deep water, do not know how to swim, and do not want to die. My brave friend motivated me to do it, saying “we’re already here, what is there to be afraid of.” I screamed “a lot” in my mind, but the next thing I knew, one of the diver-guides pushed me already while the other held my helmet for a while as I descended, maybe noticing that I forgot the instructions. And there it was– absolute beauty. Fish coming to my direction, Nemos, big clams I tried to touch, the sand underwater that my feet could still feel, the sounds below even if the pressure was paining my ears, the thrill that overcame my fear. It was love. At first dive. But I had to go up to scream how I was feeling that time.

 

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And then, I got kissed by a fish. Or my helmet.

Baguio’s Finest

Baguio in the Philippines is a popular destination for tourists and fresh produce buyers. The city’s six to seven hours north of Manila. And it was my first time to visit the city a month ago. I was lucky to catch the last week of its Panagbenga (Flower) Festival. The parades were over, but a friend told me it was just fine to miss them since I might not be able to handle the crowd anyway. It was still pretty crowded because of bazaars, exhibits, and shows and because of the fact that it’s a touristy area. I, together with my co-worker, checked out most of the common spots through commute and a lot of asking. Many have been written and shown about Baguio, but since it was my first visit there, all that the place allowed me to experience in two days were definitely unique. The cold, the houses by the cliffs, the pine trees, the touch and smell of the wind, and the way it calmed my system make me want to come back there soon.

There are a lot more to showcase, but below are some of the things that delighted my sight.

PARKS, PLACES, & PINE TREES

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Burnham Park. stroll, bicycle, boat your way to a stress-free afternoon as the lovely trees and calming breeze embrace you.

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People are waiting from morning for a show of the stars of a hit pre-afternoon TV series. The stars came out in the evening.

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Lourdes Grotto. The place, which also serves as a retreat center, is Jesuit-owned.

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The sights at the Mines View Park.

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Mansions as stunning as the question of how they were built just along the edges and cliffs, and the fear for earthquakes.

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The Baguio Cathedral.

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The Botanical Garden.

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Wright Park. If you want to enjoy some horse-back riding. We witnessed somebody falling hard, though, when we passed by it on our way back from the Mansion.

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I gave myself a thumb-up, too, as it was my first time to ride a horse without falling, although I did it with a guide. Nevertheless, a thumb-up. (but no same smile as the kid’s)

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The path leading to the Mansion. Who’s mansion? The president’s, when he or she is having some time off.

COLORFUL BUYS

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A mix of delightful, delicious, religious, random, and sometimes obscene stuff for sale. Most are from Session Road.

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Baguio Night Market, Harrison Road.

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BLOOMS, BEES, & ALL THAT’S BEAUTY

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We’ve also visited other sites like the PMA camp, Tam-awan Village, and the markets. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery ran out. The first two were also interesting places despite their distance from the city proper. And if you want to try fresh, affordable vegetables, fruit, daing na bangus, longganisa, and others, then don’t miss out Baguio’s big market.

Summer has kicked off, and I think the sunny smile of the flower above should convince you enough that Baguio is one of the destinations that should be in your list.

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bayside. the pleasing warm breeze on your skin. the light air kiss-brushing your hair away. the calm waters seemingly mirroring the stars of the coming evening. the play of bright-to-dark orange in the horizon. the perfectly contoured visage of the lone Mountain from afar. and its lover Sun on His way down with rays so blinding they’re beautiful.

and then there’s the people. crowds of them. so, you realize you’re not alone. or you are alone.

parks and baysides can eat up a solo stroller. last sunday on my home from a nearby province, i decided to drop by this mall by the bay and get some snack. i knew it would be a crowded afternoon with families, groups, and romantics “enjoying” each other’s company. still, i thought it would be a good chance to have some sunset-viewing. but being surrounded with people who, beforehand, knew they came because they wanted to feel fun, forced me to question my own purpose for being in the same place as theirs, and eventually, my own purpose in the place called life.

but is it a sin to not have a purpose? i’ve heard of setting goals, aspirations, and dream-boards to get what you want. my school echoes to always strive for excellence. to be successful. to be happy. but why do we, humans, crave for “happy”? why do we need to be happy? is it not okay to just experience things as they are? or is happiness only a trick to escape the usuals and to gear us up for misery?

science might have an answer. but what does it matter? i came only for the sunset, and i stood amazed of it.

Wedding: The Barrio Way

We were supposed to take the bus which would leave before dusk, but since we were aiming for a cheaper cost, we waited for the 8 PM schedule (don’t ask me why it’s cheaper; i don’t know either). I have traveled before. Even on a plane. So what’s an eight-or-so-hour ride to the hometown of my mother? Vomit. That is. But I’m a three-year old kid, so it would not be that gross. Consider my mother’s.

That pukey situation did not kill my excitement, though. For months, me and my sister had been so excited looking forward to have a change of environment, temporarily leaving the provincial feel of our home to go to, well, another province. But it would be different. There would be my other cousins, my aunts and uncles, my grandmothers, and my great grandmother. It would be a riot. Especially for my great grandmother who, although loves our presence there, hates to be bothered with even the littlest noise, and me and my cousins would make a lot of big noise because we had missed each other and we would play a lot. And there would be a wedding. Since the bride’s house, where the reception would be  held, was near the sea, there would be beach time, too (big smile on my cute face). And that was why we came. The beach. Noo, i meant the wedding. My Ate was a flower girl. And I? I was there for the beach. I didn’t envy her at all.

We arrived. And everyone seemed busy already.

My family was on the groom’s side. Just like most cultures (I’m just guessing since I’m only a kid), it is the groom’s party here that should prepare everything and spend for everything (I hope that this tradition remains when it is my time to wed, that is, if weddings are still a thing in the future). On the eve of the wedding, the group already went to the bride’s home. A small red truck plus a jeepney carried for them pigs, chairs, gowns and suits, utensils, decors, and of course, the gin, which I know only because I had seen it with my father. It was amazing to see the willingness and cooperation of everyone.

The wedding’s eve was not only meant for the preparations. I learned that it was also part of the tradition to have a sort of a dance party or a small ball the night of its eve. This would also be an opportunity for the soon-to-be husband-and-wife to start collecting money- like gifts- from attendees. And here, it didn’t matter if the groom saw the bride the night before the occasion. It wasn’t a bad omen. Just one good night of fun. And no fancy dresses were even required. We just danced.

The freezing cold woke me up early the next day. Despite that, I enjoyed the view of the sea at the back of the cottage one good relative provided us. But my Ate enjoyed it more because instead of readying herself for the church- getting dressed, make-up, and all- she still had the guts to join our cousins jogging by the beach and savor the fresh breeze along with the view of the sunrise-kissed seascape. And I? I had to drink my milk.

Off to the church.  It was a simple wedding. The number of people though, present here is much less than the number of people who ate at the free dinner the previous night, and I was guessing even less than the ones who would come after the church ceremony. It was generally quiet. Maybe because the officiating priest threatened  reminded the parents to control their children. I didn’t really see who cried and who didn’t in both parties, except for one ring-bearer who, if was not making a sudden yell, was giving a sudden shriek. I didn’t really care. I was playing somewhere, except when my mother was able to control me, especially toward the end of the ceremony. How come there was no you-may-kiss-the-bride declaration of the priest just like how it is in the movies? I guess it was the photographer’s task. Anyhow, while my mother carried me, tired from roaming around the church, I contented myself watching the couple and the entourage do some interesting, sometimes awkward, poses the cameraman instructed them to do. Creative, nonetheless.

Feeling hungry, I was already pestering my mother on our way back to the bride’s house, the reception venue. A line of makeshift tables surrounded by some red and white balloons, paper flowers, and other decorations that made the area somehow glow with color greeted the visitors. Some were not invited, but they came anyway because these days, as my aunt put it, it is rare to hold the reception in the bride’s house, even  in this seemingly old-fashioned place. Most were joining the bandwagon, and more practical way, of bringing the celebration in a cozy restaurant. Or they just don’t get married at all. The number of “eaters” was overwhelming making the place crowded that you could already lose your appetite. But who would have thought the food was tasty? I wanted cake, though, but my mother insisted it was only for the couple (and the mustache man?).

After the food, dancing started along with other activities common to any Catholic weddings. We had ice cream outside the area, so I didn’t get to see the entirety. We came back and witnessed only the throwing of the garter and afterwards, the speeches. But now, I saw who cried.

We headed back to our cottage to prepare for the next part. The swim. I didn’t know how to yet, so I just played at the shallowest part of the water. It was clear at this part of the year since the beach was not yet crowded by many people who dirty it. We actually owned the sea that day. We were the only ones there. I was still begging my mother to stay but she just told me we would come back the next day. Little by little, I am beginning to learn lies.

After half-a-day of rest, we packed again. This time, we had to go back home. I might not anymore remember this occasion in the future since my brain is still that small to retain memories. But I know, somehow, a part of it will remain in me. It might not be the details, but the feel of it. Something will always make me seek this place of “happy.” With the sea, the breeze, the warmness of people. With family- the very reason why my Uncle Rio and now-Aunt Fe married, for the rest of their life.

Hello, 2014: 14 (Un)Posted from 2013

 

 

 

 

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quezon.manila.camarines sur.ilocos.rizal.bohol.PHILIPPINES.

i’m ready for you, 2014.

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