Life Quests After Graduation

My graduation from the university last April 2013 came as a glorious caesura to a chapter of my story, and left as a grim reminder of the required transition from nonchalance to the urgency to come up with a determinate plan for the future. Like everyone in the academe, my end goal is pretty much set in stone, and that is– drumroll, please– to get a Ph.D. in a field I have an interest in, in my case, computational biology or bioinformatics. Dissimilar to those who have committed the next four or five years of their lives to the study of medicine, we need to come up with a strategic plan for this choose-your-own adventure as soon as we step out of the university. If the main quest is already difficult as it is, the road towards it is also laden with optional side quests (at least for me), such as being financially adequate without lagging behind the average index for the quality of life, and finding where love, the romantic kind, can fit into the picture.

I loved science since secondary school but back then, I wasn’t decided which field of it I loved better than the rest. Instead of being a spin-off of my own volition, what I wrote on the blank inquiring about my desired degree was a product of an ultimatum prompted by the deadline of sending university applications—and as I discovered later on, of a huge amount of luck because where I stand now in the frontier of science surprisingly coincides with the path I would have chosen now. Plenty of times in the past I have engaged in delusions where I conceive of myself as someone appropriate for the medical or legal profession, but as I take my master’s degree and see how far my study habits are taking me in subjects where reading and comprehension are the only prerequisites to survive, I would now gladly admit it to the world that my brain has a distaste for hardcore memorization. My everyday desire to go to school to inflate my scrimpy knowledge on my field despite an 8-hour workday will bear witness to my rediscovered internal Renaissance.

The degree of difficulty I encountered in admitting my plans to myself, however, does not compare to that of when I was finally confronted by my parents, whom I’ve likely to have disappointed by “wasting my intellect” in deciding not to be an engineer, a doctor, or anything orthodoxly considered by the society as “successful”. As I have already told them with much tears and snot undesirably leaking out of my face, my undergraduate degree will not take me anywhere unless I temper it with Ph.D. Until then, the jobs I will be taking wouldn’t be able to contribute significantly to our familial expenses. Not to sound like a complain, but if it weren’t for my family, the fact that I will probably never earn as much as my eldest sister would have been completely fine with me. However, I am particularly aware that this is the least I could do to refund their help on the course of my rearing in the past 20 years.

And then, there’s the non-consanguineal love which occassionally finds its way in my discourses with my female friends as a recursion of smaller subtopics. These subtopics include our (1) target market (what do we lack that resulted to our singledom during our entire stay in the university; a reality extending to the present?), (2) our future career (will love be able to squeeze itself in the crevices of our lives as female members of the academe?), and (3) our success (isn’t having a family a limiting factor to pursuing science?). This discourse is often punctuated with resolution that, unless we figure out the answer to (1), (2) and (3) should be the tiniest of our worries. Our response to (1), on the other hand, often wobbles between (a) love comes to those who wait, and (b) we should actively set out looking for love. My ever-inaction on this issue will put me in option (a) by default. I used to be bothered at the lack of tinder to the romantic aspect of my life, but over time, I have grown somewhat desensitized by invasive inquiries directed to my extended singlehood. This is not bitterness, this is me contradicting the society’s insistence that a “viable” girl, such as myself, should have a relationship—leastwise a failed one—to speak of.

These are the issues that consistently plague my mind whenever it is not occupied by topics of less expansiveness and significance. Oftentimes I ask, am I meant for something great? Luckily, I am lucid enough to not spend a sizable time pondering on a question only the rolling pin of time can deconstruct and answer. Right now, I think I’d rather be open to the possibility of failure, so I can consistently attempt at being great at each kneading of life.

Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah,

You are awesome. I always bear in mind how much you do not like the word “awesome”, yet in defiance of all the reasons you hate it, I do believe that the word encompasses your entirety. It could be why you prefer not to use “awesome” to describe anything excellent, because below the level of your consciousness, perhaps you know that no other object or human being deserves to be depicted by it. (You’re now probably cringing at the second occurrence of the word and the stains of overbearing pride in that last sentence.) I say this to you sincerely and although you seem to take it to be true, I know you think you must first get a Ph.D. and a love life, or change the world before you start affirming yourself. On the contrary, the key to achieving those is trudging through life genuinely believing in it.

We have been through tough times, mostly internal battles on your identity, faith, and relationships with other people. I will stop being the obstacle that stifles your efforts to be a better version of what you are yesterday, and the lid to the bottle of your oddities which I chose to hide for my own made-up popularity game. No more shall I appraise and whittle you with respect to other people. I lend you too much to the bustle of the world, leaving no time for the activities we know we both love doing. I think we should both begin writing again and spending our prosaic time together drowning on thoughts unrelated to the opinion of others and wanting the world to bend to our needs.

Love,
Sarah

PS: You should thank SoulPancake for giving us a good first topic to write about after our long writing break.

Why I Hate Menstruating

If we exclude from the discourse its beneficial and effortless ways of checking a woman’s fertility state, that is either by indicating the egg’s cordiality to the penetration of a male sperm (aka the period of time prior to menopause) or by fortifying the evidences that point to one’s pregnancy, null emerges as the only member of the set of agreeable attributes about menstruation. Seven years after my first period, my opinion that it is a bad antic of evolution and a phylogenetic baggage has not wavered a little—why can’t the casting off the endometrium be as quick and easy as taking a leak. How much do I hate it, let me count the ways.

1. The Timing

Scientists say it theoretically comes after a cycle of 28 days, I say it’s a promise menstruation doesn’t religiously keep. Regardless of its subtle manner of hiring zits to foreshadow its impending intentions to doom all women in their specific time of the month, no one can ever be truly prepared for the instant a faulty faucet at the apex of one’s thighs is activated. (Don’t worry, you weren’t the only one who thought that sounded like a phrase lifted from an erotica piece; oh wait, was I the only one?) Somehow, it has a strong liking for striking a grand entrance in situations where no immediate solution can be performed. Unless one happens to personally witness the expulsion of the proverbial goo within the four walls of a bathroom, there will always be a stain to indicate its unwelcome arrival. When caught without the proper equipments to combat this literally bloody fight, the toilet paper/tissue becomes the ultimate tide changer as it is a woman’s only hope to temporarily arrest the fluid from making further contact with her underpants while she looks for the nearest person/store with a sanitary napkin. For those in a stalemate, however, to contact someone in a deserted bathroom seems to be the only way to save their miserable selves.

Here is a flag that women love to represent even outside United Nations Day.

Here is a flag that women love to represent even outside United Nations Day.

2. The Mess

Being a red fluid, its inherent color certainly spells MESSY with a bold typeface. Rampant are the replicas of the Japanese flag in trousers and bed sheets of varying designs. The toilet bowl and the sink become places which could pass by as bloody crime scenes, and all of these are because the menstrual fluid is tinted red, a color that implies anger at the female Homo sapiens blueprint that directed it to be independent from the urinary and the alimentary tracts. Allowing it to mingle with other excrements as though in a cloac, doesn’t seem an attractive idea too in hindsight, so what I am exactly pleading for is a slight change in its manner of excretion; a word of promise that it will stay still in the uterus unless intentionally summoned in the bathroom. Yep, just like the semi-obedient urine.

3. The Inconvenience

Those mentioned throughout the article are inconveniences themselves, and to set this category apart comes along as repetitive at this point, but as you will realize in a while, this is a bundle specifically dedicated to sanitary pads. (Uh, I don’t exactly feel comfortable using tampons. And they’re much expensive too. Neither do I feel comfortable using diapers, but let me admit that I resorted to them for three months at the onset of my first, heavy periods.) What neat little things napkins are in theory—designed for any type of woman, and can be depended upon to work in the face of a flow of whatever magnitude and direction—but, as of now, a brand that satisfies this and makes “a happy period” possible is yet to be created. The most we can do, us warriors of napkins, is keep to the art of carefully choosing the coordinates of the napkin with respect to the undergarment in question. Other important additions to our skill set are the artistries of sleeping sideways, and of swiftly rushing to the toilet bowl the first thing in the morning in anticipation of the impeded flow during sleep.

whisper

Nope, never became as happy as them during my period.

4. The Pain

This is not the type of pain Christian Grey inflicts. (Sorry, I had to get this line out of my cache of references.) Instead, this is the type of pain that would make you want to pluck yourself from your entire reproductive system. The tugging pain I feel in my abdomen every month had been nothing but a set of bellyaches impeccably timed during my period until recently, when I realized that it’s too perfectly coincidental. And that was, boys and girls, how my belief that I’m not a victim of dysmenorrhoea was shattered. It gets trickier in a bathroom setting where the menial activities of urinating and defecation become associated with the pain of menstruation. How? When the signal for the expulsion of urine and feces turns into a wrong and misdirected voluntary muscle contraction signal for the cervix. As a result, all three of our exits get strained in the process of accessing only one.

5. The Smell

The smell of menstrual fluid is a mixture of fermented fish and putrefying organic matter. If only there was a way of installing a napkin that doesn’t have to be taken out until the end of the period, I’d avail of that. But there isn’t much to the dismay of my nostrils, and to the enjoyment of mosquitoes and their winged families. To make it short, it’s the extremest opposite of any pleasant scent.

Too much information? Well, that’s your mom, sister, girlfriend, girl friends, me, and all the girls in the world for you. If disruptions in our hormone production doesn’t justify our ugly temperament during that time of the month, then please re-read everything I’ve written and imagine yourself in our <insert expletive here> position.

Day Off

May tumatagas sa siwang ng aking pagkatao. Kung ano man ‘yun, hindi ko tiyak ang ngalan nito; ang pinakamalapit siguro na salitang dumalaw sa isip para mailarawan ito ay sigla. Hindi ako masaya ni hindi rin ako malungkot. Ang alam ko lang ay hindi ako kuntento sa mga naganap sa nagdaang buwan, at kung bakit, hindi ko lubusang mawari.

Madalas kong natatagpuan ang aking sariling nakatitig sa hangin ngunit walang pinagmamasdan, samantalang ang isip ay karaniwang okupado ng mga hiling na sana’y maglaho na lang nang parang bula. Walang mintis na papasok sa isang estado ng pag-iisip kung saan matatanto ang kaliitan ng katayuan relatibo sa laki at lawak ng kalawakan, at mapapaisip na sana’y lamunin na lamang ako ng lupa o di kaya’y mabura ang kabuuang folder ng sarili mula sa My Computer ng mundo. Kung pipili sa mga dumamping ideya sa aking diwa, marahil ang pinakamaganda ay ang mag-evaporate na lang nang dahan-dahan sa katauhan ng oxygen. Sa gayong paraan, kaya kong maging nasa maraming lunan bagamat isa. May kakayahan pa akong sumailalim sa pagbabago upang maging ibang materyal, na sa aking palagay ay isang higit na mas mabuting pakinabang kumpara sa kasalukuyang kalagayan.

Gusto kong mapigtas ang sinulid na nag-a-angkla sa akin sa maliit na sapot kung saan nakakawing din ang buhay ng mga taong nakaligid sa akin, at magkaroon ng sapat na lakas ng loob upang talikuran ang mga tungkulin na nakaatang sa balikat. Ayoko nang kailanganin ang mundo, at mas lalong ayoko nang kailanganin ako ng mundo. Kung sabagay, talaga nga namang madaling tuparin yung huli– mawala man ako ngayon, ang pinakamalaki lang naman nitong maibubunsod ay ang isang maliit at napakabilis na alingasngas bago tuluyang bumalik sa normal na kalakaran ang mga bagay-bagay.

Sinubukan kong tingnan ang mundo sa panibagong lente, sinuyod ang mga kaaya-ayang aspekto nila, at hinayaan silang hawaan ang pananaw na lumalason sa aking sigla, ngunit wala silang naidudulot. Sa katapusan ng bawat araw, kapag susumahin ko ang lahat ng tuwang naranasan, mayroon at mayroong babawas sa mga ito para maging bokya ang kabuuan. Lilinawin ko, hindi negative kundi zero. Laging walang natitira. ‘Di ko nakikita ang punto ng pagpapakasaya dahil wala namang kalungkutang nagpapatamlay sa aking kalooban. Ngayon ko lang nalaman na pwede pala ‘yun, ang manatiling nakalambitin sa dalawang tiyak na damdamin, kung saan walang dilig na matinding emosyon ang tigang na panamdam.

Wala akong suicidal tendencies at hindi rin ako nagnanasang malagutan ng hininga. Aba’t kung bibigyan nga ng pagkakataon, nais kong mabuhay nang walang hanggan, at makita ang pinakamataas na potensyal ng sangkatauhan sa agham. Subalit, sa ngayon, ang hinihiling ko lang naman ay ang mahayaan na bahagyang patayin ang sindi ng aking eksistensya, ang makapagpanggap na hindi man lamang isinilang, hanggang sa maging handa akong harapin ang mundo nang buong sigla at may pananabik sa nakaamba nitong sorpresa. Kung baga, day off lang sa realidad. Pwede kaya ‘yun?

* image from [LINK]

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inspired by this post written by Ms. Conchitina Cruz

In nursery, I wore to my birthday a red dress which I never saw again. In kindergarten, I once went home without an undergarment because I soiled it with my bowels. In the first grade, “constellation” was my favorite word. In the second grade, I literally threw off bills amounting to around 200 pesos in a random backyard. At seven, I religiously watched the lives of our next-door neighbours from our largest windows. Although I never had a friendly relationship with any of the kids of their household, I felt distraught with grief when they left a year and a half after. In the third grade, “twitched” replaced “constellation” in its prime spot. In the fourth grade, I kept a tally at the back of my English notebook the exam scores of those whom I thought stood a chance against me. At ten, I was pretty much convinced that I don’t have a shot at writing after my editorial on “TV violence and pornography” was met with a disapproving speech from my sister. In the fifth grade until the first few months of first year high school, I was dead set on becoming a journalist. In second year high school, I had a small talk with a pedicab driver who drastically altered my perspective on science. In third year high school, I lost two watches. In fourth year high school, I cried nightly for a span of three weeks after being inappropriately felt by a fellow FX passenger. I have something to say about each of my classmates in all the classes I’ve taken thus far in college. I believe that committing academic dishonesty in a quiz is more deplorable than cheating in a long exam. I like discovering pieces of paper inserted in between pages of books. When unsettled, I look at the lamppost right outside our house or stare at the sun until my eyes feel tingly. There is only one topic which I am particularly sensitive about. I would like to think I’m lawful neutral in my character alignment. I am still drinking milk for breakfast to this day. There are three manners by which I eat flavored chips. I never finished my first game on the PlayStation 2 despite having to play through the story twice. When I see a very thin sheet of water, I usually stop by to observe its slow disappearance. The overfilling of the next door neighbor’s water tank always lead me into thinking that there is an actual dribble of rain outside. I always notice where a thanks is due, and remember when it is not said where it should have been. But if given a choice, I prefer ‘salamat’ to ‘thank you’. When someone asks me for direction, I tend to be more verbose than when I engage in small talks with grownups. Thanks to the sharp corners of my desk, there is a constant bruise on my right leg. When I bathe, I sometimes pretend I’m sight-impaired or a Nobel laureate delivering an inspiring speech. Everytime I see a crack on a wall, I feel like I’m one step closer to death. Phone calls on our landline, on the other hand, are what I associate with other people’s death. I believe that respect based on seniority is a piece of nonsense—everyone should be treated with respect by default. I have a habit of scanning my room for any movement before I sleep. I’d rather feel hungry than full. I never forget the faces of individuals I am introduced to, and if I don’t greet these people, it’s because I think it would be too presumptuous. I always mutter at least one curse under my breath when commuting. My preferred mode of transport for the day depends on the level of thinking I would like to adopt. Even though it will cost me my night’s sleep, I have difficulty in holding myself back from reading disturbing Wikipedia articles. But it will take a lot of persuasion to convince me to watch a suspense or horror film—I’ve only watched one and some may even contest that it does not belong to that genre.

Pagkahumaling sa Fliptop

Medyo may pagkapihikan ako pagdating sa musika. Hindi ko masyadong tipo ung mga mainstream, at lalong hindi ko rin gusto kapag dumadami ang nakakaalam sa mga artist na ayon sa panlasa ko dahil para bang sa paningin ko, parte ng apil nila ang pagiging hindi ganoong kilala. Kung pihikan ako ngayon, siguro ay maituturing ko namang elitista ang sarili ko noon. Sarado ang tainga ko sa ilang mga piling genre partikular na sa hiphop.

Ang unang pumapasok sa isip ko noon kapag binabanggit ang hiphop ay mga kantang pulos tungkol sa pakikipagtalik, pag-o-objectify ng mga kababaihan, pagkalango ng alak, paghithit ng marijuana, at kung ano pa. Itinatak ko sa isip ko na kahit kailan ay hindi ko tatangkilikin ang ganitong musika na walang ibang mensahe kung hindi ang pagpapalaganap ng isang bobong kamalayan. Ang bumago sa aking makitid na pananaw ay ang pagka-diskubre at pagsubaybay ko sa Fliptop Battle League noong dalawang taong na ang nakakalipas. Mula sa isang featured video na naisipan ko lang panoorin, naubos ko sa isang upuan lahat ng mga laban na naka-upload sa channel nila noon.

Noong naririnig-rinig ko pa lang ang Fliptop, akala ko labanan siya ng trumpo. Parang Beyblade lang.

Bago magsimula ang bawat laban, laging may kaakibat na intro music ang pagpapakilala sa bawat kalahok. Kahit ilang segundong preview lang ang laging pinapatugtog, lubos akong naenganyo hanapin ang mga kopya ng ilan sa mga kantang iyon sa internet. Kung pangit man ang bakat sa akin ng hiphop noon, iyon ay dahil maling anggulo nito ako nakabilad. Sabi nga ng iba, “Real hiphop is underground.” Kadalasan, sa parehong tono at liriko nakadepende ang totalidad mga mas sikat na porma ng musika, samantalang sa hiphop naman, ibang iba ang karanasan ng pakikinig dahil mas nabibigyan ng atensyon ang lirikong nakasaliw sa isang constant na beat. Kaya minsan napapapikit na lang ako para lubos kong maunawaan ang nais ipahiwatig ng emcee.

Noong una, inakala ko na freestyle lahat ng kanilang pinupukol na linya sa isa’t isa. Sa katagalan, napagtagni ko na ang bawat salitang lumalabas sa kanilang bibig ay bunga pala ng matagal pagsusulat at paghahanda para sa laban. Malas na lang ng iba na nakakalimot paminsan-minsan ng kanilang mga banat dahil wala silang ibang magagawa kundi mag-freestyle nang sa ganoon ay maiwasan ang choking o ang pagkakaroon ng mahabang dead air. Ang talagang nagtulak sa akin na maging tagahanga ng modernong balagtasan na ito ay ang pagiging middle ground ng mga liriko nila sa prosa at patula. Kung baga, parang free form poetry na mas hitik sa references, rebuttal, katatawanan, at higit sa lahat, panlalait. Minsan ko nang naisip na sana’y mas umaangkop sa mga kasalukuyang isyu ang pinag-uusapan nila pero natanto ko rin na ang mga pamimintas nila ang mismong salik na nagbibigay ng aliw sa Fliptop at sa iba pang pang-international na liga tulad ng Grind Time at King of the Dot. Likas na rin naman talaga sa mga Pilipino ang ganitong estilo kaya nga patok na patok sa atin ang mga comedy bars at ang mga personalidad tulad ni Vice Ganda.

Si BLKD, ang future ng hiphop! Tiyak na hindi square root of negative one ang rapping skills niya. (likhang sining ni Antoni Tudisco)

Magka-iba ang kumikiliti sa akin sa English at Filipino conference battles. Sa Filipino, mas hilig ko yung mga on point, witty, nakakatawa, may wordplay at gumagamit ng mga hindi karaniwan na references. Ilan sa mga paborito kong emcees sa division na ito ay sina BLKD, Loonie, K-Jah at Tipsy D. Kinakatawan siguro ng linyang ito galing kay BLKD sa laban niya kay Mel Christ ang mga katangian na nais kong marinig sa mga sinasambit na bars ng mga kalahok sa liga:

“Dahil ang tula ko ay deadly / Pumapatay, kumikitil, pumapaslang—3 ways! / Huwag ka nang umasang magr-resurrect ka pa after 3 days / Dahil hindi ka na tatalino kahit sa 3 wise men sumabit / Mga linya mong nakakaantok parang 3-o’clock habit!”

Sa kabilang banda, ang pamantayan ko naman sa English division ay sina Protege, Skarm at NothingElse. Kumpara sa Filipino division, malaking bagay para sa akin ang angas at confidence sa mismong pag-deliver ng mga kataga at linya. Mas tipo ko yung mas malalim kesa sa patawa. Ito ang isang banat galing kay Protege sa laban niya kay Diaz sa King of the Dot 2:

“See, out of 64, you probably have 8-bit like a phase out cartridge chip / Like your brain is, played out, with not enough space for some creative sparks to fit.”

Mataas ang replay value ng laban na ito. Kahit na hindi ito kanta, ito ang LSS ko sa kasalukuyan.

Lumaki ang respeto ko sa hiphop matapos mapadpad ang aking tainga sa mas kaaya-ayang sulok nito. Bagaman may mga musika talagang hindi ko pa rin magawang pakinggan, kanyang-kanyang trip pa rin yan at syempre, walang panlasang nakakahigit pa sa iba. Sana mas umunlad pa at lumawig ang impluwensiya ang ang hiphop scene dito sa Pilipinas. Dahil sa totoo lang, kung tatanggalin natin ang mga kabastusan sa Fliptop, mas nakakatulong pa ito sa pagpapayabong ng creavity, di tulad ng mga local TV shows dito sa atin na puro generic ang istorya. Ito ang makabagong pasalitang literatura para sa mga takot at ayaw makulong sa konserbatibong pamamaraan ng tuluyan at panulaan.

At ngayong habang wala pang bagong uploads si Anygma para sa mga pagtutuos sa Ahon 3, babalik-balikan ko muna ang mga videos ng mga laban na tumatak sa akin.