January 11, 2013
January 11, 2013 - The Pursuit

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Pursuit of Happyness”, starring Will Smith and his then 8-year-old son Jaden Smith. It is one of those movies that gives you the inspiration to forge ahead despite the difficulties and trials of life. It was the film that inspired me when I was in my 2-month internship as a Medical Representative for a local pharmaceutical company. I did not have any medical experience. I had low grades in my science subjects. But that time, 2009, I just need a job. It was scary when I started the program. Every week we were evaluated and those who who will not pass will be ousted from the training camp and will lose the chance to have a stable job during the year when the world was experiencing another economic crisis.

File:Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg

(Picture taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg)

That movie inspired me to study hard, to memorize all those medical terms and sale processes. And at the near-end of that program, only three of us survived—out of 30 aspirants. And because of that inspiration, I topped the class—despite the fact that my 2 other colleagues were nursing and business administration graduates. I was never better than them, though. They knew this medrep stuff better than I did. I just gave my all for that program because of one word: “pursuit”.

Well, that’s why I wrote this blog. I remembered all these things when suddenly the word “pursuit” came out of my mind. I was writing an article about WordPress plugins and internet marketing when suddenly that word came across. And I just stopped from typing. It hit me. The word “pursuit”, it lit a fire from within me so much so that I left my article and started writing this blog.

I think that word is very important in our life. I think we are doing all these things in life because of that pursuit—whatever it is. Why am I writing this? Why are you reading this? Why do we wake up every morning? Why do we go to work? Why do we need to study? Why do we have to rush home every dinner time? Is it for something, someone, or anything beyond? I think one word sums it all up: HAPPINESS.

We all do these things everyday, though how endless and boring they are, because we want to be happy. We want our families to be happy. If your work makes you happy then that’s your life. If that woman makes you smile, don’t let her go. If you are made to choose between your job and your family—choose what makes you happy. That’s what life is all about.

That’s what Chris Gardner (Will Smith) had as he cried and clapped his hands amid the busy sidewalk—after he learned that he was the chosen one, the only one who made it through the unpaid internship. That moment is what happiness means for me. When you are all smiling, crying and all sort of clapping—you find happiness. 

That’s why after 6 months of becoming a Medical Representative, I left the company for one reason: I’m not happy anymore. After that, I left 3 other companies because of that same reason. And now, although not everyone believes in what I do, saying there’s no future in writing, at least I do what makes me happy—and that is all that matters in life. I write because I’m happy. You? What makes you happy?  

January 10, 2013
"She’s mine, Dude!"(Photography by Dondon Luna) 

"She’s mine, Dude!"

(Photography by Dondon Luna) 

January 9, 2013
January 9, 2013 - The Headset

Today’s issue of Mike Twohy’s “That’s Life” has something to tell about life:

That's Life

(Comics copy taken from http://www.gocomics.com/thats-life)


DON’T MIX UP THE WORLD OF CONCEPTS WITH REALITY.

Sometimes, we get caught between the thin line of reality and concepts. This is when biases and prejudices are born. You may say that living in the world of concepts is impossible—it cannot be our reality—but, sometimes, you are not aware that you are already in it.

You failed to make friends because there are judgments in your heads. You are afraid to enter into commitment because of the thousand relationship failures you’ve read, watched or experienced. You don’t have the confidence to step forward because you are in the “I can’t do it” phase of your life. 

The mind is more powerful than you think it is. It can control your whole life. But if you will try to shut the whispering mandates of your mind even just for a second, you will realize that reality has billions of possibilities. It is more infinite-like than the intertwining lines of concepts in your brains.

Maybe those people are not the way you thing they are—maybe they are the friends you’ve been longing for a very long time. Maybe loving someone is not about restraining commitments—maybe it’s freer than you think it is. Maybe that one little step is the only thing you need for your life to be great. 

Reality has many potentials. It’s just sad that we are being constrained by the concepts in our heads. Maybe it’s time to take off the “headset”.

January 8, 2013
January 8, 2013 - Schulz

I was walking around the house, thinking, when I saw a newspaper (dated January 4, 2013). I sat and searched for the comics section—that’s my favorite page and the first thing I open once I get my hands on newspapers. I saw this comics strip from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and it speaks about what I had in mind:

Peanuts

(Comics strip copy taken from http://www.gocomics.com/peanuts/2013/01/04)


Anticipation. It has been my problem since childhood. I always anticipate. I always end up disappointed and frustrated because most of the time I don’t get what I expected. Linus here says it all. He may have talked about his stomach but this line speaks universally. Schulz was very good at it. He’s incredibly great in hiding lessons of life under the sweet lines of Charlie Brown or the playful thoughts of Snoopy. Well, I guess, it was because Schulz, himself, was a spirited man. 

I remember hearing a story about him when I was in High School. I don’t know if it was based on real events but It has been my inspiration until now. The story goes like this:

When Charles Schulz was just a child, he was always excluded and rejected from almost anything, especially from their football team because he can’t throw the ball—he loosely based Charlie Brown from his own childhood experience, who himself can’t kick a soccer ball. But this did not stop him from becoming somebody.

When he started drawing Peanuts, he passed some drafts to Walt Disney but he was rejected—again. But he did not stop from pursuing his dreams, he continued. He went on. And after a few years of selling his drawings from one publisher to another, he finally landed at United Feature Syndicate and eventually became one of the most famous and timeless cartoonists in the world.   

File:Snoopy wwi ace lb.jpg

(Picture taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Snoopy_wwi_ace_lb.jpg)

January 7, 2013
January 7, 2013 - 50/50

I just watched the film “50/50”, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. It’s about a 27-year-old cancer patient, Adam Lerner, and his way through cancer. It was a funny movie, though. I laughed a lot. But I cried too. I cried a lot for this movie, until it reached the credits. It’s that kind of movie where you cry and smile at the same time. I love movies like these. It makes you feel good. It inspires you to do better in life. You can fill a bucket of lessons from this movie. In fact, my heart is full so much so that I want to share it with you—at least two of them:

File:50 50 Poster.jpg

(Picture taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:50_50_Poster.jpg)

1. Life isn’t that bad. I’m always complaining about the life I have. I keep on asking why my life sucks. But try saying that to a cancer patient—with just few days to live. 

2. You can make it through life if you got a friend. Seth Rogen’s character Kyle is very important in the film. He plays the role of the easy-go-lucky buddy of Adam. Though he’s always being a jerk, always joking around, taking advantage of his friend’s condition to get laid, but he’s always there. He never left his friend. And at the near-end of the movie, when Adam was in Kyle’s apartment, he saw a book at the latter’s restroom. The book was entitled “Making Through Cancer with a Companion”—it has markings and notes. 

My Movie Notes:

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the role wonderfully. His acting is welcoming. You can situate yourself to Adam—that’s how good Gordon-Levitt did his job.
  • Seth Rogen’s wit was incredible! The movie does not need exaggerated, funny shots and musical score—his punchline and timing did it all. Amazing!
  • I love Anna Kendrick’s role, Dr.Katherine McKay—Adam’s inexperienced therapist. She’s sweet and innocent. The perfect girlfriend. Kendrick is at her best when she plays roles who are intelligent but innocent (like what she did in the movie “Up In The Air”)—her youthfulness blossoms. Plus, she’s definitely cute. 

January 6, 2013
(Photography by Dondon Luna)
January 6 
I remember a line from one of the colorful songs from “The Muppets”: It’s nice to sing a song when you have someone to sing along. 
My life has been alone for the past few years—it’s nobody’s fault but mine, I chose to live like this. But when you are around friends, it does feel better. I spent the Sunday with four of my remaining friends. We laughed. We jammed. We spent the night trying to let go of all the worries, fears, and problems. For a couple of hours, I did forget all the things that have been bothering me. I became happy. But I know that it will just be for awhile. Because it’s another morning. Another week. Facing realities is the hardest, I can say. But one thing I remembered as I became carefree yesterday—it was the line of Kermit the Frog from their recent movie: "You don’t need for the whole world to love you. Sometimes, one person (or in my case, a few persons) is enough."

(Photography by Dondon Luna)

January 6 

I remember a line from one of the colorful songs from “The Muppets”: It’s nice to sing a song when you have someone to sing along. 

My life has been alone for the past few years—it’s nobody’s fault but mine, I chose to live like this. But when you are around friends, it does feel better. I spent the Sunday with four of my remaining friends. We laughed. We jammed. We spent the night trying to let go of all the worries, fears, and problems. For a couple of hours, I did forget all the things that have been bothering me. I became happy. But I know that it will just be for awhile. Because it’s another morning. Another week. Facing realities is the hardest, I can say. But one thing I remembered as I became carefree yesterday—it was the line of Kermit the Frog from their recent movie: "You don’t need for the whole world to love you. Sometimes, one person (or in my case, a few persons) is enough."

January 5, 2013
January 5, 2013 - Wasted Time

11:40 PM. It’s almost midnight but I’m still wondering what to write for today’s blog. Actually, there were no article-worthy events today. It was just the usual routine. I woke up at 8. Took a bath. Ate my breakfast. And after that I spent the entire morning and afternoon writing 5 articles for my editor online. 

At 6 in the evening, I went to church to attend the anticipated mass. But my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking what to write. I looked around and saw two old churchgoers who were wearing “teen” shirts and shorts—they were like 15-year old’s, cursed and magically transformed into 70-year old dudes. Their clothes did not fit their balding heads and crooked wrinkles.  Then, I thought of good lessons to write about. But all I got were used lines such as "Sometimes, we are too blinded by ideals and concepts that we fail to see what’s real" and "Sometimes, we cannot accept reality so we do some silly things to cover it." But after these, nothing came out of my mind. The rabbit slipped out of my hand. I continued on. I went home and wrote another 3 articles for my editor until 11:30 PM.

Suddenly, I realized, as I spontaneously write, that I lost the reason why I started this daily blog, in the first place: It is to remind me that I should live my life one day at a time. But because I was preoccupied with what to write, I forgot to live each second. I did not give my full attention in the mass, for instance. Anticipation is truly an enemy of the present moment. You cannot live and anticipate at the same time. I was reminded again to live today and not to think of tomorrow. I was reminded to savor each moment. It occurred to me once more that each day is important; each day should be lived. It’s just sad that I wasted one. “January 5, 2013” will never come back—gone after midnight. 

Or, on the second thought, should I really be sorry? To think it over, I did finish my job; I wrote 8 articles—isn’t it worth celebrating? I don’t know. Well, maybe it depends on how you see things. Just like the half-full-half-empty phenomenon, it’s how you perceive your day that matters. Did you make it right or not? It depends on how you look at it.   

January 4, 2013
January 4, 2013 - Why?

We hear killings in the news everyday. But today’s news is different. My friend’s uncle was accidentally shot by a raging drug addict. He was just passing by when a man started firing his gun to everyone, with no clear reason at all. 10 were killed while 10 others were injured—it’s tragic.

It’s sad to think that one’s life is ended just because a lunatic suddenly snapped and decided to kill.

image

        (Photography by Dondon Luna)

Some say, “Everything has its own reason.” But what reason can you possibly think for her uncle’s tragic death. Can we say that it’s his time? But it was an accident. Can we say that it was God’s plan? But God never wanted violence. Can we lay down the “If only’s”? If only he did not walk through that alley; if only he took the other direction; if only he had something to do that day—it’s infinite but it will not bring back his life. Besides, it was an accident so we cannot prevent it from happening. 

So, what’s left for us now if we keep on thinking these things? Only regrets, sadness and “what if’s”. What the problem is we keep on looking for the right reason why such drastic event happens when there really is none. The best thing to do during these times is to face it and move on. 

Cast some tears. Pass through the memory lane. Get a few lessons. And move forward.

(But then, I can only say these things because he’s not my uncle. What if he is? Can I still say, “face it and move on”?) 

January 3, 2013
January 3, 2013 - True Kindness

Today, I came across with a 1983 Archie classic issue entitled “Ace Place”. It was an episode when Pop Tate was thinking of closing the “Choklit Shoppe” because its fame was fading. Archie and the Gang feared that they may lose their favorite hang out place so they planned to help Pop restore his soda shop. Everyone contributed. Reggie painted the surrounding. Veronica asked her dad for free advertisements. Archie, Jughead and Betty redesigned the place.

File:Archieandrwcmc.png

(Photo taken from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0d/Archieandrwcmc.png)

It was a success. In no time, the place was crowded with customers. Pop Tate looked for the gang to thank them but he found them sad. He said, “Gee! You don’t look happy.” And Archie replied, “We’re not. Now that your store is so busy and crowded, our gang no longer has a place to hang out in!”

I realized two important lessons from reading the comics:

1. Sometimes, we get so busy and preoccupied with our works that we forget the real reason why we are doing these things in the first place.

2. Sometimes, real kindness should not expect for rewards—doing it is reward in itself. 

January 2, 2013
January 2, 2013 - Beat the Odds

9 hours of travel—you got nothing to do but to let your imagination fly. With that ample time, I sure have plenty of stories to tell you. I can share about the songs the car stereo played or the different stories of people I saw by the road. But above all the article-worthy things I saw today, one image struck me most: a red kite making its way through the windy sky.

It’s a bit odd seeing a kite flying in the second day of January—it’s too early, at least for the Filipino culture. The kite season in the Philippines is during Summer and that’s four months away from now. It is when the sky is clear and the wind is just right, not light nor heavy—a perfect atmosphere to fly. When March or April comes, the vast sky-dome of the archipelago is being crowded by colorful kites in different size variations. Filipinos are accustomed to that. But the red kite I saw this morning beat the odds. 

This morning, the sky is not in the flying zone mood. It was darkening—heavy rain wanting to get free. The wind was blowing its hardest. I noticed some trees bending indiscreetly. It was really not an ideal day to fly a kite. If an experienced kite flyer saw that red kite, he’ll probably think it’s foolishness. But as I saw it, it was steady flying. Despite the crazy breeze, it was swaying with grace. Actually, the scene was like a moving painting: with the sky gloomy gray, and the trees pale green…the kite highlighted its bright and manifesting color red. 

In a minute, I was like, “What was the kite flyer thinking?” But as I watched it, I realized something: Sometimes, you need to defy the odds in order to stand out. 

January 1, 2013
January 1, 2013 - Just Another Day

"All that begins well, ends well." I believe in his saying. I know many people do. That’s why some are getting more superstitious in the first day of the year. Today is the first of 2013. A lot of people must have done so many rituals. I know Chinese and China-influenced nations are good at it. I tried some stuff too but fate had other plan for me today. I want to start the year right. I want to change. I want to be good this first day so that the whole year will be right. But written words were not enough to remind me all these things. 

File:London Eye NYE.jpg

(Photo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:London_Eye_NYE.jpg)


Everything was going the way it was planned. We are about to attend our family reunion when I snapped, suddenly. I broke down—again. I was defeated by my pride and insecurities. All the principles I made for this year, the promises I told to myself, all gone in an instance.

When I did not get what I wanted, I stormed out. I left my mom crying. Sometimes, when pride eats you up, you forget all the good things listed on your head. It was one of those moment when emotion won over reason. I left them—just as what I did to other people who cared for me.

I wandered into the street. With nowhere to go. Just walking for hours. The sky started pouring. All I was thinking was “I screwed it up…my whole year is busted”. But as I walked, I saw a reality that opened my close-minded perspective: January 1 is just another day in life.

With all the parties welcoming the new year and TV shows packed with rewinds and predictions, I thought this day is the most different of all the days. A lot of people were waiting for this day to come, anyway. In a minute, I thought it should be different too because it’s the beginning, the alpha of 2013. Everyone should be celebrating. Everyone should be doing something different. But as I walked, I saw many things that made me realized: It’s just another day. I saw two motorists yelling at each other—their cars might have scratched each other a bit. I saw a woman being dragged by traffic officers—maybe she was caught drunk driving. I passed by a man with fresh, swelling black-eyes—literally, it looked like an 8-ball popped out of his eyes. On one corner, a man in handcuffs was being escorted by community officials with policeman’s clubs. I overheard that he stole some important stuff from his co-workers. When I went to a person I once knew, several kilometers away from our house, I found her alone—watching TV by herself. “What a New Year celebration!” I told myself.

I went home at 2 PM. My parents and siblings were long gone. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies and a replay of a post-season baseball game. I was all alone. I felt sad for a bit. I guess I regretted my storming out. I should have eaten my pride and let happiness take over. But no. I did not. I screwed up. It’s irreconcilable now. I cannot bring back and correct everything. What is done is done. If my superstitious belief is right, I’ll be screwed up this 2013. But whether it’s true or not, what I learned today is that January 1 is just another day, 2013 is just another year. People just made it a venue to make resolutions and everything. But the fact is you can choose good any day of the year. It’s just a number. It’s no different. Besides, New Year’s eve in Times Square could be closing time in the Philippines. We tend to forget that these are all just numbers separating one nation to the next, when what’s real is our life and what we do about it. As for me, today, I did not do well. Maybe tomorrow I will; maybe tomorrow will be another day and another chance for me; maybe I’ll be better—and so I hope.   

December 30, 2012
December 31, 2012

I don’t know what to write—at first. I found a scrapped notebook with a quote on its cover that says “If you wait too long for the perfect moment, the perfect moment will pass you by.”—well, I guess that’s my life’s story.  I’ve been living so much in the past and the future that I forgot to live in the present.

I have so many hang-ups in life. I used to think that I’m the protagonist in this movie God’s directing—maybe because I watch a lot of movies. I actually want my life to be like a movie. Sometimes, I forget to live in real time. Sometimes, I forget to take hold of what’s real. My eyes are like cameras searching for the perfect shot. My ears are like recorders mixing the right musical score. My mind is like a done screenplay with written past and certain ending. These were when I forgot to live.

I’ve spent my whole year being haunted by my past life. I lived 2012 preoccupied by the thoughts of what’s it gonna be like in the future. I was always sad. Never really smiled. I hurt some people—important people. I left them brokenhearted. I lived my life practically alone. Spending the rest of the day in my room. Closed door. I kept everyone away from me just because my mind was crowded with the bad things I did in the past or the frustrations I have for my future.

I did not live like the protagonists I watched. I was more like an antagonist to everyone, even to myself—at least, to the good side of me deep inside.

If only you knew the things I’ve done, you’ll not believe me when I say that I spent      10 years inside the seminary; you’ll not be able to imagine that I once dreamed to become a priest. I’ve been into the darkest kind of life you could ever think of. I am not proud of it. And now it’s haunting me. I cannot move on. It’s like my feet are always in chains. So I spent the rest of the year frowning, leaving and expecting.

Now, the clock is ticking. Tomorrow, another year begins. I’ll be 27 by October. I know it’s still young but I feel like my time is running out. Nothing’s going on in my life. I feel like it’s pointless right now. I still live in the past, sometimes in the future.

Fortunately, I had help from above. Ironically, He made me learn my lesson also in a movie. I recently watched “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” from a movie channel. It’s about a boy who’s so depressed with his life that he tried to jump off a bridge. But before he could do that, something pulled him back—a thought of his pressuring family. He ended up turning himself in in a psychiatric hospital. There, he met some mentally challenged people and other depressed individuals like himself. They are all preoccupied with so many things that they forgot to live in the present moment—that includes him. He learned there that if you are not living each day, you are busy dying. The movie beautifully ended with the protagonist saying, “Live!”

    File:Funnystory.png

(taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Funnystory.png)

God continued to remind me. These last months of the year, I was re-acquainted with 4 of my old friends—they taught me about the value of living each day. One is a busy government employee -slash- professor whose each day is lived by becoming a “somebody”. Two of them, who are a couple, are trying to live everyday for their one year old baby girl—even if they got low and late payrolls. The last one, a 33-year-old, low-paid, community official, still trying his way to college, is living each day to serve others even if there’s nothing for him in return. 

We tried to get together once in a week—play cards, drink some liquors, eat different snacks, sing a little bit, and talk about what’s going on with our lives.It was when I figured out what to do for 2013: I must live life one day at a time. I will blog about it everyday to remind me not to live in the past or think about what to come in the future. I’m a writer, I do articles for a living so why not do a blog that will explore what it’s like to live each day. It’s kind of exiting. It’s like what Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” 

File:Forrest Gump poster.jpg

(Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forrest_Gump_poster.jpg)

Tomorrow is another day so I must leave it like that. Today is what’s important.

I like what an actor, I forgot his name, did before he died of cancer: He made a slogan that says, “BE HERE NOW!” It’s a perfect motto for those who wants to live the present moment. And I also want to end this blog with it—it’s kind of summarizes what I want to do tomorrow and for the rest of the year:

LIVE (be) IN A CERTAIN LOCATION (here) IN THE PRESENT MOMENT (now).

July 13, 2012
I Prayed on a Wood

By Dondon Luna

All eyes were darted towards him. Amidst the lingering silence of the room, they waited for words to come out from his quivering furrowed lips. There was no reason to hide his old age—it was blatant: his hairline was thinning and had turned to ghostly white; his back was sloping a bit, making him 1 inch shorter than he used to be; most of his skin gave an image of a crooked dry soil like the desert; his eyes were watery and white specks had eaten the inner sides of his eyes. He was old, and he was about to speak in front of a hundred strangers.

He was perspiring hard. Sweats ran off over his wrinkled and ancient skin. He has been doing this for ages, but this limelight was different—he was about to tell a secret from his uncommon past life, an epoch-old story that had been kept hidden beneath the caress of his closet.

He slowly wandered his weary eyes, closely examining the room, the unfamiliar faces and the old routine—his head was faintly shaking. The hush was already growing into a deafening whisper, so he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened his eyes again and began his story:

 

It was 1944, a moon-lighted night on the mountains of Quezon province. He had forgotten the month and the day, but in the lobes of his memory this story is so vivid and clear. The tale started as they tried to escape from the wrath of the inhumane Japanese infantry. He was 16 years old then, carrying an old rifle, and ready to pull the trigger anytime. He was only 12 when his father enlisted him to the guerrillas of Southern Luzon. Since the occupation of the Americans, his father had been a member of the Filipino rebels. He never had a normal childhood. His mother left them when he was 3 years old. Since then, he and his father lived in the swamped mountains of Lucban, Quezon, always running, hiding—anxious of what tomorrow would bring.

He never had a chance to go to school. He traveled barefooted each night as his father’s troops evacuate from one nest to another. And as his father engaged in war, he would hide himself behind an old touted tree or a massive rock to protect his scrawny lean body. Literally, he had lived all his life in the jungle, a Tarzan-kid. He never went down—he was innocent from all the advances and developments happening below the forested hills, naïve of the life outside the bounds of the mountains. His knowledge was limited to guns, the guerillas, the Japanese and the frequency radios commanding their every move.

On the third year of the enemy’s occupation, their leader assigned him to convoy a group of people routing to the left side of the mountains, to a safer cave 70 feet from the ground. He remembered how the radios had spoken: the whole town has been ransacked by the Japanese. Townspeople had taken their usual escape from a miserable fate—the forest. The guerrillas acted as their compass and life vest. To cover all the people, they would segregate into smaller groups. Being the youngest, and since there was no one who wanted to escort a group of villagers who called themselves Devotos, he was forced to walk by them—most of the guerrillas have lost their faith to any divinity whatsoever—indeed, the war had changed them in a number of unfathomable ways.

There were four Devotos: a 60-year old lady, a mother in her 40s, her twenty-year old son, and a middle aged man with a crippled right hand. They were carrying a long and bulky rectangular kind of glass-walled box—at least, it was how he saw it the first time he met them burdening their shoulders with it. They were all scared and worried. He saw horror in their weeping eyes.

The box they were carrying seemed heavy. At first, he had no idea what was inside it. Although he tried to catch a glimpse each time they stop to rest, still he cannot figure out what was lying in the box—the moonlight was not helpful either, it was being blocked by the sturdy thick leaves above them. All he can see from his vantage point was an elongated silky cloth cover.

After a mile of walk in the middle of the sullied terrain, lady luck was suddenly on his side; he got the chance to see what was inside the box when the man with the crippled hand tripped. The box wobbled and the covering cloth altered, exposing some details. He intuitively caught the crippled man. This gave him the opportunity to feed his curiosity. He finally saw the thing inside the transparent box. What he found out back then was disappointing for him. He saw a wooden carve of a bearded man, sleeping or dead—he had no idea. The thought that all the while he was guarding a non-sensical wooden sculpture was so disappointing.

Growing up, he was thought that everyone is going to die; what differentiates a worthwhile living from a non-sense existence is the way he dies. Fighting and dying for freedom is an absolute dream for people like him. Ever since he carried his rusting rifle, he readied himself for the inevitable—having a principle in his heart that he was doing the noble thing for the country. But knowing that that night could be the end of everything for him, he wished he could die heroically for the country. However, it was upsetting for him having the knowledge that he was combating the total darkness, the dangerous forestry, and the possible attack of the enemy just for a piece of wood which was totally alien to him.

The thought gave him the sudden impetus to leave the four and join his father in the east side of the mountain where they were defending the documents and files of the municipio. For him, that was worth dying for. Nonetheless, he gave them the benefit of the doubt and asked, “Who’s this?”

Santo Sepulcro,” the mother hardly stated with heavy breathing interruptions. She said it as if it was a real person lying and just sleeping in the box.

“It’s Hesukristo, my son,” the gray headed old lady added—there was hardship and crisp on her every word. It was the first time when it came into his senses that a real aging woman was with them. In their seemingly endless journey, all that mattered to him were the path they were taking, the echoing sounds of gunshots far away, and the shadows of every tree in their trail. Aside from the box, in which he was so curious about, he never thought of them. But when the old lady spoke with hardship, he became suddenly aware that she was really thin, petite and very weak—and she was actually burdened by the huge box which he estimated weighing 300 pounds. As an innocent gesture, he offered to carry the side of the old lady.

“No son,” the aged lady hesitated, “we need you to guard the way of Santo Sepulcro.” He then distanced himself from the group without a word and readied his rifle, keenly opened his sharp ears, and examined every part of their track—just like what his father had taught him.

As they tiredly walk another half mile, he cannot but wonder why those four people exerted so much energy and time just to keep safe a piece of wood. Actually, he realized that it could put them in danger; the heavy wood slowed them down—he can feel the enemy was fast approaching, he can hear them inching nearer and nearer from where they were. He was sure that the Japanese will catch them because of their slow pace. The box was very visible, it can catch attention especially that the silky cloth and the glass flickered each time the moon rays tapped the box—it was an open invitation for the enemy. All these facts led him to accept their doomed destiny in the hands of the Japanese. They’re close and death was marching with them, he thought at that time.

The four started murmuring repetitively, “Lord, help us and save us. Our Father who art in heaven…” as they passed through wild grasses that scratched their bare legs, sharp stones that sore their feet, and dirty mud where blood-sucking leeches jumped for their flesh—not to mention the pain their shoulders bore. As he pondered their unfortunate scenario, he felt a bit of sympathy. He swayed his eyes left and right until he saw a fitting place to hide. 

“In here,” he shouted. The four altered their direction and followed the boy with the gun. As they sat down, though there was nothing homey in the place—same wild dirty earth, he remembered—he felt the comfort it brought for the quartet, all of them holding their aching shoulders as they found their places.  

Suddenly, they heard a loud explosion from afar—it echoed in the stillness of the mountain. They covered their ears. The mother started crying. Her son rushed by his mother’s side and comforted her. Her tears were like summoning the war to stop. Meanwhile, the boy aimed his rifle to nowhere, searching for a target—there was nobody in the dark surrounding. With a ready gun, he also eyed his four companions. Their breaths were heavy and fast.

“We cannot carry that thing forever,” he cannot avoid saying, seeing them so tired and aimless, “the Japanese will eventually find us because of that. Without that box we can reach the cave faster.”

“We cannot leave the Santo Sepulcro,” the old lady whispered, with sobs interruptions, “I understand, son, that you don’t know Him. But for us, he is our life.”

For a moment, he thought that they were crazy. He cannot imagine depending his life on a wood. Despite the obvious doubts in the boy’s eyes, the old lady continued, “every summer, the town gathered and gave praise to God in front of this image—praying for bountiful harvest, for healing or just to thank Him for giving us life.”

“My hand was cured because of Him,” the crippled-hand man interrupted.

“It doesn’t look anywhere near being cured,” stating the obvious, the boy raised the query.

“Pepe here cannot move the rest of his arm in the past,” the old lady disrupted, “but after he became a devotee of Santo Sepulcro last Holy Week, he was able to move it.”

“I believe He cured me,” said the disabled man while touching the side of the wooden box.

“When my boy was an infant,” the sobbing mother entered the conversation, “he had this sickness. I thought he was going to die. I prayed hard to Santo Sepulcro in our church to heal my son, and when I went home he was there crawling actively again,” then she kissed the hand of her son.

He suddenly felt the envy of not having a mother to caress his tired soul. He, then, turned his eyes on the old lady, “how about you? What’s your story?”

“Son, my life is enough to thank God. When I was a little girl, I first experienced the terror of war when my father was a Filipino soldier fighting against the Spaniards. I thought the war would end after the Spaniards left the country. I thought everything will go back to normal, but the Americans came—my father kept on fighting. We lived underground and in the mountains. My mother would cry each night, thinking about my father. He died eventually while in the battlefield. My mother died with a heart attack after that year,” she stopped for awhile and closed her eyes. Then with a quaint smile on her face, she said, “With my experience, I never thought I can live this long—this is something I should be thankful to the Lord.”   

Silence followed her narrative. The wind made a creepy whoosh sound. Suddenly, he felt a sharp object at his back. When he turned his head he saw a Japanese soldier pointing his bayonet on him. The soldier shouted in Japanese, he knew it meant to drop his rifle. Scared, he obeyed. Another indifferent shout compelled him to raise his arms and kneeled, sobbing a bit. Two other soldiers emerged. The cry of the mother grew louder, the embrace of her son tightened, the crippled man raised his arms, and so did the old lady.

At that moment, he knew he was going to die.

The soldiers were mockingly laughing. One opened the box and took off the clothing. He was about to pull the trigger on the wood when the crippled man ran over to stop him. The man was shot straight on his chest. The cry grew louder, the sobbing was getting faster.

The two soldiers took the mother and son. They pushed them in front of who appears to be their captain. Without hesitation, he stabbed the mother on her stomach and then the son on his chest. They both stumbled to the ground—blood creeping and joining the soil. The captain, then, aimed his gun on the old lady. She was calm as if she long accepted her death. He fired his gun which violently threw the aged woman.

It was his time to die. The captain walked near him. He was trembling in fear. He turned his head on the wooden image of the bearded man in the box. He closed his eyes and began repeating in his mind the murmurs he heard from them, “Lord, help us and save us. Our Father who art in heaven…”

The captain positioned to pull the trigger. He closed his eyes and accepted his fate. Then suddenly, he heard a gunshot fired from behind. The captain fell over in front of him. He opened his eyes, he saw the other two Japanese soldiers raising their hands—their guns were on the ground. He widened his view and saw guerrillas surrounding them. He saw his father with gun in position—he was the one who took the shot. He ran to him and enveloped his arm around him.

“It’s over son, it’s over,” with a faint smile on his face, his father said while tapping his back. He smiled back at him and puffed a sweet breath of relief.

After a portion of silent breathing, the reverie was over. He was back from the trance and in front of the hundred—he was old again. The same thick sweat raced off from his hair down to his semi-pointed chin. After his last phrase, the silence was deafening. All their eyes were still fixed at him. There were silent tears among the women. Deep but quiet breaths were simultaneous. It’s time for his last words.

“Let’s not forget those four. They had given their lives for what they believed. Let them be models of how we should be living our life—a life that has meaning and purpose. If it weren’t for them, our feast of Santo Sepulcro had been long gone. For me, I will remember that night with them forever—because of them, my life has never been the same; because of them, I am who I am today.” 

He took a last look at the audience and left the lectern bit by bit. He strode slowly to his old chair facing the people. They all stood and recited something aloud. When he was back to his place, a young man, wearing the same long white robe like him, went near and whispered, “Father, I was blessed by your sermon.”        

May 14, 2012
LARAWAN (My First Novel)

January 7, 2012
A Lonely Article by a Frustrated Writer

By Dondon Luna

I want to be a writer. It has been my dream since I was a 12-year old seminarian—I believe it started when I first watched “Shakespeare in Love”. I loved the way how “Wil” blurted out flowering words about tragic love in that movie and writing it using the old feather-pen—so classy. Since then, I told myself that I will become a writer someday. However, it turns out that when “someday” came I’m still dreaming to become one.

Yes, you may say I am a frustrated writer. I had published dozens of articles and short stories in my seminary days, but those were only published in our newsletter which barely a hundred people can read. I had written six stage plays but it’s only for our school presentations. Others may call me a writer but I don’t feel it. I look upon those individuals who have authored tons of books or have their own websites of well-read blogs—for me, they are the true writers. I just want to be my hero, Nicholas Sparks, who had published “authentic” best-selling novels that had become blockbuster movies, eventually. I just want to be Og Mandino or Paulo Coehlo who have inspired the whole world by their innovative words—why can’t I be like them?

I had tried writing a novel of my own. A year ago, while I was still unemployed, I finished my first manuscript about a suspense-thriller love story. I’ve searched the internet for “call for submissions”. I submitted my work to a “romance” publication. After months of waiting, I failed. They rejected my story saying it’s not their kind of material. I also submitted it to other publications which publish free concept writings but I received not a single response. My inferiority complex grew stronger. I was beginning to think that it’s not my thing.

I have failed a dozen times. When I went out of the seminary after ten years of solid response to God’s call, I tried writing a screenplay about Martial Law days (even though I was not even in the heads of my parents back then) and submitted it to a well-known TV station. But it did not turn out well. I guess it’s not how it goes in TV productions. I also submitted two screenplays to an award-giving body for “indie films”.  After six months, I looked at the list of manuscripts that had been chosen and I was not surprised when my name was not there—I am beginning to think that God was punishing me for leaving the seminary.

 

I just really wanted to see “by Dondon Luna” printed on a book displayed at the near entrance of a bookstore. Maybe my byline name is not that appealing, I thought. Maybe I should change it to “R.K. Luna” (my true name is Raymond Kristoffer) like “J.K. Rowling” who had been one of the most successful, famous and richest writers in the world. I keep saying to myself that my surname is a writer-material. I can become the next generation of famous “Luna” (following Juan and Antonio Luna who had their own field of excellence). But then again, that’s just in my head. In reality, I am nobody. I just pretend to be someone. I am the same person who owns a laptop bought through a loan and who waits for my neighbor’s internet wireless connection to open.

I also tried the World Wide Web. I blogged. Actually, it was my ex-girlfriend who encouraged me to write online. So I did. It’s about the philosophical way of seeing our day to day experiences (I graduated AB Philosophy, anyway). In the beginning, I was so enthusiastic and excited. I posted 15 blogs. I put a flag counter to tally net users who visited my blog site and it reached 600 views in the Philippines, not to mention 60 views from the US. But when I looked at other pages of famous bloggers, I felt so little seeing their view reached millions. I was frustrated and lie-lowed from blogging—in the dark alley of my loneliness, I sadly thought: when will my dream start to become a reality.           

When I got a job as a Training Instructor (marketing division) in a preneed company, I got the chance to write for online article teams during my free times. Yes, I got paid from writing short articles about “How to Grow Taller”, “Hair Implantation”, “Best Power Saw”, “UK Van Insurance”, “Famous Party Organizers in Miami” and even “Escorts in Sau Paulo”. I earned 50 pesos per 500 words. I realized then that I finally becoming a writer. But my fantasy was cut short when I was repetitively fired by various internet writer firms because of my poor English grammar. Besides, even though I earned from writing, nothing’s changed in my life—still, I am always short a week before the payday. I was frustrated because I was beginning to think that a true writer is someone who gets his living and luxuries from writing (perspectives are indeed changing as you grow old).   

Actually, I was blessed in my job as part of the marketing division because our AVP has entrusted me to write the copies of our ad, the press releases and the write-ups of our products—for a while, I was thinking that I am living my life as a writer. However, the write-ups I was making do not have my name on them. So again the “by Dondon Luna”-syndrome of mine kept climbing in my head—making me sadder and sadder; I still wanted to have a published novel or even just an article in a well-known newspaper—I just badly wanted to see my name published.

Why? I asked myself and deep inside I found the answer: I wanted to be famous. I wanted to redeem myself. I wanted the people I knew to see me on top. All these year, I’ve been struggling. Since the day I went out of the seminary I became nothing. I used to be the illustrious seminarian in our province. But now, people in my place disliked me because I did not pursue priesthood. In addition to this, my two younger brothers are becoming someone. One is taking up Law, the other Medicine. Someday they’ll become Atty. Luna and Dr. Luna. Me, I’ll never be in the same level as they are. We are living in the same roof and it hurts me each day watching them read books about penal codes or clinical anatomy while I am in front of my laptop, waiting for words to come out as the little thin-black cursor flashes.

But one day, as I read the newspaper, I came across an inspiring line—I forgot who wrote it and what the article was about—that says, “You can build a happy life on the foundation of your own nature”. I realized then that why should I keep on looking at unreachable stars—why should I keep on comparing my life with other people. I have my own life—I am unique. I may not be a famous writer but I sure help my company to market our products through my writings. I may not have a high status in our family but what’s important to me is I’m doing the one thing I love: writing. I may not have millions of followers in my blog account but I have my loved ones who always believes in me. I can be happy with the life I have. I don’t need to look for more.  

Inferiority will dissipate and frustration will crash if I start loving who I am and what I have right now—count your blessing, as the song goes. Who knows, when I become contented and keep doing what I love, maybe someday fate will be favorable to me; maybe someday the spotlight will be mine.      

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