BIBLIOPHILE PROBLEMS

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Stage I: Booksale

This word never fails to excite a bibliophile. I wondered when I started loving this place, my memory might fail me but my bookshelf is now a proof that it has given me joy within the pages upon pages I’ve managed to take home with me. After all, who can resist great titles if the come at such an affordable price? So far that only happened when I don’t have an extra budget with me. I humored a friend by saying that Booksale is a blackhole for a wallet, but at the same time a source of happiness for our heart and soul.

It’s an indescribable experience when you find a book that is included in your “must-read-list”, and will only cost you half of its original price. These books have the same soul – same content – but have gone through a different journey. Oftentimes, that’s what makes them more special. I can’t help but say a breath of thanks for whomever decided to give it up for it to land on my hands.

Stage II: Tsundoku

It springs to mind whenever I see the pile of books that have started to get taller, stacking up on one another in my shelf. I can’t help but ask sometimes, how did they get so many? (clue: see stage one.) They bring both comfort and frustration; comfort in knowing that I found these treasures, frustration that I haven’t been reading as much as I want to or as fast as I want to. My usual line when buying yet another book goes like this: I can’t help it! These books come to me. They called me. They need a new home.

Stage III: The End

“I still continue to buy books – there’s no electronic substitute for them; but as soon as I’ve finished a book, I let it go, I give it to someone else, or to the public library. My intention is not to save forests or to be generous. I simply believe that a book has its own journey to make and not be condemned to being stuck on a shelf” – Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River

These lines from Coelho’s essay: Of Books and Libraries convinced me years ago to give some of my books away. It has now been a yearly tradition to purge my shelf of titles that I would never open again, or books that didn’t resonate with me.

Once I met up with a book seller to get a second-hand copy of Bird by Bird, and he asked me if I was a writer to be interested with it. I replied that I aspire to be one, and shyly added that for now my words are contained in a small personal space. He then told me that this is one of the best writing books out there and the copy I was buying was his own. It made curious and asked, if this was a great book why was he selling it? “Nothing.  Just to avoid being attached to material things,” was his quick reply.

I don’t think I’ll ever come up to that point of letting even the greatest books go. But I’ll continue to free some that are meant to land on someone else’s hands. Who knows? Maybe it’s the right book they’ve been waiting to come.

The end is really not the end. It's a slow realization that these stages aren't problems after all, it's just a cycle of giving back and receiving these wonders once again.

TRAVEL JOURNAL: SINGAPORE, ONCE AGAIN

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Singapore, for the second time around was different. It was more personal, more intimate. We came back to our favorite places, but also explored new ones. The train routes never fail to be traveler-friendly, we have started to memorize it like the back of our hands. The bus routes proved to be another matter; we got lost on the far end of the Tiong Bahru suburban area. Our supposed to be 10-minute-away destination extended to an hour. Mother and I ended up laughing about it, we pat ourselves in the back and say, now we know. There are moments when we learn the way through getting lost.

I found myself looking out the train window, as we pass by houses and sight I can’t help but think…can this be home? Can I call you home? I often caught myself dreaming of walking through its streets every day. It’s the first time that I admitted to myself that I am willing to uproot myself from the island I’m from, to pack my bags and head off to a different kind of concrete jungle.

Funny how I ended up buying a magazine from Bras Basah Complex, bearing words that ask the question: What would life be like if you’d never left your hometown?

I wonder if I’ll end up answering that question or if the days would bring the exact opposite. Such questions don’t have immediate answers, but I must say that Singapore met me again during the time when I desired to leave most. It was a promise of a fresh beginning. We’re 2,355 kilometers away, yet it felt like it’s where I belong.

Nowadays, I find myself being homesick for a place I have yet to call home.

TINY STORIES NO. 2: A GIFT WITHIN GIFTS

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We both laughed when I read the statement on the paper bag:

Please enjoy this extraordinary act of generosity.

In our circle of friends, I am not bragging when I say that I am the giver among us all. When February rolled in, they have begun asking me questions like

“What gift do you want?”, “Are you sure you don’t want anything specific?”, “This is your last chance, what book do you want to receive?”

I can’t suppress my laughter when a friend told me how they talked about what to get me, or how to make up for what I did for their birthdays. Years ago, maybe I would have asked them to spoil me with material things, but maybe it comes with growing up that we learn to value more of the people around us rather than the gifts they give. But I do appreciate the efforts they went through to reciprocate what I’ve done for their birthdays (a letter with sincere words is more than enough for me).

Gift giving is something that comes easy to me. Maybe it’s something that I inherited from my mother. Or a trait that I can no longer shake off. I tried not do it once or twice, but I soon realized that giving gifts is one of my strongest love language. Although once, a scary thought dangled within me.

What if I no longer have to offer? What if companionship and time is all I can offer, would that be enough?

This year, I found out that the answer to that is yes. We’re growing up, and sometimes being together is enough. Spending time with each other amidst life busyness is enough. Time itself is a gift. Being there for each other is a gesture that says: thank you. I’d like to keep you. I’m here to stay.

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Dear February, I hate to say goodbye too soon. We are always three days short. There were still days when I feel listless or without the desire to get up from bed (ummm…just like today). But thank you for letting me bank a lot of good days. I hate to turn the calendar over but we must keep moving.

Three days short but He has given me more than I expect – or ask for. The gift of friends, their efforts to give back, two places that I can call home, a safe place in the form of the truest of true friends, more appreciation for art, the chance to be vulnerable and accepted at the same time.

February, you’re a gift within gifts.

Tiny Stories is inspired by the book curated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt(bearing the same title) that says: The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. This is my attempt to compile mine, something to push me to write even if there’s not a lot of words for me to grasp.

FOR ALL THE GIRLS WITHIN US

On a page torn from a notebook was the trademark cursive handwriting of my mother, allowing words to flow on each line. Holding the promise of my name:

It seems you’re a mixture of both. Sometimes angelic, sometimes a menace. Maybe you can do your own research when you grow up. I may have always love the name, but not as much as I love you. Happy 5th birthday! With love always, Nanay.

It was the oldest letter that I have, my 5-year-old-self wouldn’t have understood the depth of it but now this is one of the closest thing that I hold dearly in my heart. In just a few sentences, Nanay told me what my name meant but more than that – what I mean to her. I guess letters will never lose its charms because they contain stories, the contain the heart of the sender, and they capture that of the receiver. It’s a simple way of saying that you value a person that much to put your thoughts in paper. And if this is the case Isa Garcia must have thought about girls or women in all shapes, status, or stages in life long enough to have written letters bounded by a spine strong enough to hold her hopes, fears, and dreams. With this we know that her book not only contains her words, but also her heart.

Two of my favorite postcards from the set

I was just a few pages through it but I already found myself nodding with agreement with Rica’s foreword; that “I am still that letter and stationery girl at heart. I am still the same person who delights in writing and putting my intimate thoughts in a card.”

It brought into memory the giddy 90’s girl in me who will stack papers of all shapes and scents just so I can swap them or exchange letters with friends. Some of those with the best designs were even kept in clear portfolios because they were too beautiful to be written at. Looking through the postcards included in this book was like relieving those days. That’s why even if OMF Lit already gave us a free copy of the e-book, I insisted that I’ll buy the physical copy. It was partly because of the postcards, and partly because I am no stranger to Isa’s writing.

I have been a reader of her words back when she was still posting on her Everyday, Isa blog. I was quite sad when she wrote her last entry for that platform and said that she would stop blogging (that was years ago, but she’s definitely back now). Her writings did not fail to tug my heart strings. There were moments when it would feel like you are talking to a long-time friend, or a soul sister who knows you well. Some words, phrases, paragraphs even would catch be by surprise because it was the reassurance that I needed at that moment. And her book is no different from that.

 It’s the letter I wish my younger self was able to read to know that she is not defined by her flaws or insecurities. It’s what I hope I told my too idealistic teenage self when it comes to love and expectations. It’s the gift of words I wanted to give those who truly need it – both for the good days and the bad. And now it is the reminder that I will keep on repeating to myself for the days that I also need to hear them. It’s for the girl in me who is terrified to jump, who likes to run away from pain, who finds herself alone, and yet reminded of the beauty of solitude and vulnerability. It’s for the girl in me who never stops dreaming of romance, and at the same time the girl who believes that the truth is important. It’s for all the girls that I have been and still am.

Found: Letters on Love, Life, and God are words that makes you remember of your true identity, words that shows you that there’s a safe place to be, words that welcomes you and makes you embrace yourself through life’s different seasons.

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I wrote this as a part of a blog tour, but all the words are from the bottom of my heart. Found is available at OMF Lit and Passages Bookshops and PCBS branches nationwide (stock availability varies per bookshop) and through their online store. It is also available as an ebook through the following: Amazon and Google Play Books.

SEEING THE SIGNS AND THE WONDERS

These words have been long overdue. They were repeatedly contained in my prayers, written on my journal, typed through posts in social media, and stored through locked notes in my phone. Not being a wordsmith makes it longer for me to piece them together, just like what I always say: bear with me, as I try to connect the stars that formed my constellation (okay, that was too poetic). But these made me sure of three things on the art universe:

1.  A COMPLIMENT CAN GO A LONG WAY AND WARM A PERSON’S HEART IF YOU SAY IT SINCERELY (it’s easy to tell when it’s just lip service). Mine came last January 2015. We were busy doing our vision boards when Ms. Rhiza came to our table and said: You really have an eye for art.

2015 Vision board. Image on the center was an illustration by Cla Gregorio, cut out from Scout Magazine.

Being the usual introvert that I am, I did not know how to stop turning into a mushy marshmallow while fully controlling myself from letting it go to my head. In return I gave her my sheepish smile and continued working on my piece.

Those words may be simple, but in that moment it was enough to spark my passion to create art once again. It made me think that maybe there’s beauty in what I make that others can see, something that I failed to notice. Yes, what an epiphany, but Ms. Rhiza’s words during that day gave me a different perspective.

If ever you know someone who’s striving to create their own art, don’t hold the compliments in. Don’t hesitate to give away words. Remember that 1 sincere word = 1 step away from the doubts and insecurities that artists are facing everyday.

2.  WHEN THE ART UNIVERSE CALLS, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ANSWER IT.

Photo grabbed from the Woman, Create facebook page.

Speaking of doubts and insecurities, one of the hardest thing for artists to do is to show their work without the fear of misinterpretation or criticism. When Woman, Create called for submissions last July 2016, I quickly gathered what I considered was worthy enough to be submitted and e-mailed it with these words:

As much as I want to say something melodramatic or touching, all I know right now is that you convinced me to submit my artworks with the lines that say “artistic souls – those who may not have the label of an artist or writer but have some pieces they’d like to put out, but don’t believe it’s worth it – it is!” I’m still shy on sending them to you. The scanner at the computer shop failed me, but if ever you decide to choose one from any of these, I’d be more than glad to send another high-res copy. Keep on empowering women to create.

Months passed and there was no reply. Okay, that scanner really did a crappy job, I thought. Maybe it’s just wasn’t the art they’re looking for. Not wanting to dive into a pit of disappointment, I pushed the thought of getting published out of my mind. But just before I was able to forget it completely, an e-mail came bearing a promise:

Hello, my wonders. How art you today?

If you’re wondering why you’re suddenly receiving this e-mail, surprise – the planner of wonders is coming out real soon, and your contributed works of 5 months ago made it into this book. I thank you for opening up portals to your universe through the works you have given me just for this planner to not be a source of my vanity (in terms of art, design etc.) It is truly a great privilege to get to know you a little bit more through art and poetry, made sincerely for whatever purpose you have wished it to serve back when you first created it.

Poetry by my friend Val

Surreal. I re-read the it just to sure I wasn’t dreaming, that it was really happening. And it did happen. Another amazing this is that my friend’s poetry was chosen to be published too. We were both quiet about it, not wanting to spill anything unless we were included. We celebrated this milestone together, exclaiming how these was just a wish when we spent time on our Tumblrs. We were both astounded that at the right time, God honors even the littlest dreams, or the most silent of prayers. And this leads us to the last part of the story.

This may seem like a cliché but that does not make it any less true.

3.  IT MAY TAKE A LONG TIME, BUT SOME DREAMS DO COME TRUE AND PRAYERS GET ANSWERED. 

It may just be a page, and maybe a word or two but it was quite a big deal for us. It was a testimony in itself. There’s a note sitting on my phone for a long time now, partly confession but more of a realization.

Poems x collage artworks by yours truly published in the Woman, Create planners.

The truth is, I felt small that time. Some artworks were placed on centerfold and whole pages, then there was mine…quietly waiting on the sidelines and would probably go unnoticed if you flip through it faster than a blink of an eye. Yet there was a quiet voice inside of me saying – you might feel tiny, but aren’t all universes made up of a billion stars to create galaxies so beautiful, to light up the dark night sky? And I knew. I knew that we were all stars, no matter how big or small our artworks were. No matter where our words were placed. We weren’t made to shine on our own, but rather be collectively put together to shine brighter.

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These words are also my long note of thanks for the two women who greatly influenced me to keep on creating art– though they may not be aware of it that time. For Ms. Rhiza, whose words of encouragement made me see my art in a different light. And for Marika, who could have filled the book with her own artworks but was gracious enough to give space for other artists to grow. ❤

And oh, my art and I made it to the centerfold this time. Hihi :')

To those who have bought/supported the creation of this planner, thank you. You didn’t buy just a mere book, but you’re carrying our hearts within those pages. It is our hopes and dreams translated through words and pictures. Let’s continue inspiring one another to leap into wonders everyday.