Balang Araw

Balang araw, mauupo tayo sa buhangin ng sarili nating dagat. Sasalubungin natin ang bukangliwayway habang dinadampi ng hamog ang inaantok pa nating mga pisngi. Sasawayin pa rin natin ang dalawang batang hindi mapigilan magtampisaw sa tubig. At mahigpit pa rin ang kapit ng ating mga kamay.
Hindi man kasing lawak ng dalampasigan na ito, o kasing laki at ganda ng bahay na tinuluyan natin, basta tayo pa ring apat. Ikaw, ako, at ang dalawang batang habangbuhay na magiging bata, na habangbuhay din nating mamahalin ng buo at lubos.
Balang araw.

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Nothing Special

Dear Sam and Jared,

I write to you with the undying hope that you will someday learn to read. This one’s for the two of you.

This morning, I was woken up with the smell of Tender Juicy hotdog, garlic rice, and the sweetest greeting from your mother: “Happy father’s day, babe!!!” As I opened up my eyes, I was greeted by your mom’s still amazing smile, and heart shaped hotdogs and rice (which your mom insisted I shouldn’t take a photo of). I was looking for you two, but you weren’t there.

You were downstairs, doing your usual routine. I gave both of you a kiss, but you did not kiss me back. You did not greet me. There were no surprise gifts, not even a Hallmark card. This was just another day, nothing special.

In fact, you two were just like that on mother’s day, Christmas, New Year, and pretty much any ‘special’ occasion, including your own birthdays. We greet you with a hug and kiss, bake you a cake, and let you blow the candles. We burst shot that very moment and pray for a decent capture of a smile, so we can convince Instagram and the rest of the internet that you are especially happy on that given day. But the reality is, at least for you, it was just another day, nothing special.

It’s almost ironic that children who are stereotypically labelled as ‘special’ can’t even distinguish a ‘special’ occasion. No matter how much you adorn the house with garlands and colors, no matter how spectacular the fireworks, no matter how tall the Christmas tree, how big the cake, how much hotdogs there is to the sweet spaghetti, it’s just another day, nothing special.

Some people might see you two as hard to please, unhappy even, on ‘special’ days when you just seem indifferent.

If only they can see your faces during bath time. All it takes is a timely-paid water bill, a huge container like a vat or a cooler, and a water hose. Your smile would be wider than a that of a kid who got all the presents he wanted on Christmas morning.

If only they can see you, Jared, watching your mom intently as she flattens that roti dough, cooks it in a little butter until slightly crispy, and serving it on your favorite plate. Then you carefully hold two ends of the plate with your two hands, and touch the flat bread with your thumb every five seconds to see if it’s still hot. And when it’s ready, every bite is pure joy.

If only they can see you, Sam, running towards the kitchen counter the moment you hear the sound of a spoon swirling around on the inside of a pitcher, mixing instant iced tea. You eagerly get your glass and sip and giggle. Then you sip and giggle some more until I tell you not to play with your food and drink it all the way (yeah, dad is a kill joy at times).

You see, today was nothing special. Because it’s not just all about the third Sunday of June and the breakfast in bed, the redundant greetings, and the stereotypical surprise gift of a necktie which I will probably never use. It’s those everyday small things. Those simple things that make our mundane everyday better than any special day. 

Because you two are the only reason why I’m included in father’s day. More importantly, you two are the only reason why it’s a HAPPY father’s day.

Love,

Dad

How I Met My…

It was twelve years ago; on a cold, windy night similar to this; on a ship bound to Cebu.  I was a nerdy college boy with braces, carrying a guitar, trying to remember the chords and the lines of a Spongecola song, with a bunch of flowers hidden in my back pocket, looking at the door. She would open it soon, and I will begin strumming and nervously singing. The nerves got the best of me, and things didn’t exactly pan out as planned. But on that night, I finally expressed my true feelings for a best friend; my first love.

 

A montage of fastfood dates, movies, and jeepney rides later, I found myself crying in the cold breeze of Tagaytay. Don’t judge me. I was young and juvenile, and I thought it was the end of the world. If you know me well today, you’d think I would have done a “nagmahal, nasaktan, nag-travel”. But that JD twelve years ago was practically a travel virgin. I was actually a little scared of travelling, more so travelling alone. So I did what I thought at that time was the best thing to do – get a job.

 

My first job was perfect. BPO. Travel. If you’re from the industry you would know. It paid pretty decently. I met a lot of new people, and even dated once in a while. Although I was initially doing it out of bitterness and heartbreak, I soon fell in love with that job. And I learned so much about travel while I was at it.

 

The next three years meant I was single for three Valentines days. Honestly though, I vaguely remember how I spent them.

 

I may have spent them with friends, most probably drinking at the balcony of a cheap apartment somewhere in J.P. Rizal.

 

I may have spent them with family. Typical mall dinner, pretending to be stoic about every bug-bitten couple, holding hands, flowers, chocolates, movies, and every cliché in between.

 

Or I most probably may have been alone, flicking the remote to Cinema One to find out if John Lloyd and Bea was playing, and immediately flicking to Jack TV, settling for South Park, pretending to cringe at the sight of Popoy and Basha making juvenile promises at the UST school grounds in the rain.

 

I may have had friends and family and TV, but the reality was I was alone, like all single people feel during the love month. But what I didn’t know is that 2009 is the last year I would be alone, and not just on Valentines.

 

I remember how excited I was around this time that year because in less than two weeks, I would ride the airplane for the first time in my life and, coincidentally, it was a trip to Cebu. I vividly remember the first time I stepped on the sands of Bantayan; my first sniff and bite of ngohiong (which I would discover later on that wasn’t the best yet); colourful jeepneys with route codes unlike in Manila; and walking inside our Cebu office for the first time (it was partly a business trip).

 

The office almost looked exactly the same. The same computers, the same phones, similar carpets. And then I saw her. She was wearing jeans and a white shirt. She had long black hair, and her eyes looked at me cheerfully. Then she smiled at me as if we have been friends forever.

 

I instantly forgot about my ‘best friend’ and how I cried on the phone when she got married a year ago; I instantly forgot about getting wasted every night for two weeks before deciding to move on and get a job; I instantly forgot about the jeepney rides to Project 8, the night classes at PUP main, and the 15-peso lugaw dates; I instantly forgot being the newbie shy nerd in the office trying to improve himself, not just to fit in but also to bitterly show a better face should I get the chance to meet her again; I instantly forgot about me ugly-crying at a chilly roadside, waiting for the bus home, contemplating whether I should ride it or stand in front of it to die. That moment, all the pain and bitterness was gone.

 

What I didn’t realize is that the pieces of my heart were no longer scattered around Tagaytay, Sta. Mesa, and Quezon City. I found it whole in Cebu, carefully held by this woman smiling at me. I fell in love again.