ten years




Hey Kids. Last December a friend asked me how long I have been blogging, so I counted, and it was only then that I realized I have been doing this for ten years now. That’s one-third of my life so far. I was taken aback both by the amazing length and seeming shortness of it. So I want my first post for the year to be a quick look back.

Writing stories, both real and fictional, came to me like a hobby ever since I was young, so when I discovered blogging I felt like I found an outlet. I didn’t realize it will be a lifelong activity and will pave the way for me to meet lots of people. I didn’t immediately realize how much blogging will help me then, and how much it will help me now.

When I started blogging, there was a community back then. We made friends. We followed each other. We read what everybody else wrote. We held meetups. It’s amazing how you meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve known them for years, and have them say the same about you, only because you both follow each other’s blogs. I made a lot of friends, some of them I’m still friends with up to now. We used to watch movies together, went out of town, went on joyrides. We used to attend parties and then get some coffee while talking about other bloggers.

They don’t blog any more. And some aren’t friends anymore.

I met my “landlord” through blogging. He was a fond reader back then and made a way for us to meet personally. He kept throwing projects at me. He offered me work. He even offered his house for me to rent (and I still live there up to this day almost 7 years later). He believed in my art. He later on became my publisher and that’s how my book came to be. I owe so much to this guy, Kuya Edsel.

I want to thank everyone who read, followed, enjoyed what I had to share over the years. From the active bloggers and commenters to the lurkers, to the Facebook sharers, thank you!

Out of everything this blog gave me, the book is what I cringe at the most. I feel like I’m proud of it and deeply embarrassed by it at the same time. If you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean. And I want to do it all over again.

I’m not going to stop blogging, telling stories, retelling stories, writing fictional stories. It’s my only creative outlet where I feel I’m appreciated. Even if the people who used to read don’t have the time anymore. Even if I don’t get any comments and views as much as I used to get. Even if I keep on paying the domain I barely use. I’ll just keep writing because I have nothing else.

I feel like I have plenty more stories to share, I just couldn’t find the time and energy right now. I hope this new year allows me to be more creative and productive. I want to try new things, post new material. I hope I get to the next ten years and then look back to this point in time and see my body of work. If you’re still reading this, marami pa akong ipopost. Wait lang.

programming

Hey Kids! I’ve been helping a friend out with programming (as in Java, Visual Basic) because he needs the basic concepts and I happen to have had a little training back in my college days ten years ago. All our discussions refreshed my knowledge and reopened old interests but also reminded me of the fact that I am really not into programming. I’d really rather design the interface than type codes that don't even work.

What’s fascinating is how the definition of the  word “programming” has evolved for me over the years. When I was in school I instantly associated “programming” with moody instructors, tedious classes, draining exams and dreaded group projects, which all came with anxiety. So from an IT student exerting 100% effort yet barely making it above the passing mark, programming is hell.

Ten years after I completely veered off the IT career path so when I hear the word “programming”, to me it now means setting my cable box to automatically record The Walking Dead while I slept so I can watch it later, or setting my phone app such that it only rings when I get notifications from certain contacts.

Yesterday though, some events gave “programming” a new definition for me. Story time!

I was brushing my teeth in front of the sink and happened to look at the fluorescent lamp above it. I suddenly remembered the time when I replaced the bulb after it burned out, noting how difficult it was to replace. After that I took a shower. As I rinsed shampoo off my hair I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, it was all dark. The fluorescent bulb burned out. Coincidence?

A few months ago I saw the trailer for Mindhunter, an Netflix crime series. When I realized it won’t be released and I’ll have to wait a few months for it, I completely forgot all about it. OneSaturday I suddenly remembered Mindhunter, and out of curiosity I searched for it, only to discover it was released the day before. Is this also just coincidence?

At first I thought these are some paranormal phenomena shit but I asked a few friends and they have a logical explanation for it: programming. The human brain works in mysterious ways, so mysterious that the brain itself doesn’t know how it works. Our brain stores information and we don’t even know we have it in the deeper levels of our memory. When I first saw the Mindhunter trailer, before dismissing the whole thing, my brain probably stored the release date (a Friday) for me, and then reminded me on the very day (a Saturday) which my brain knows is my most ideal day to binge shows.

The same thing with the light bulb. My brain probably calculated how much time is left in its life span when I first installed it, anticipated the date, and reminded me of it on that exact day. It’s a stretch but I want to believe this is how the brain truly works, and it’s amazing.

Come to think of it, the brain is a computer. So this amazing thing that it does, isn’t this programming? Isn’t this what programs are designed to do? Store data, calculate, send us notifications for our convenience?

More examples? I had a friend who wanted to diet, so every time he craves for food, he brushes his teeth. His reasoning? He always brushes his teeth after meals, so his brain associates brushing with feeling full. So even if he feels hungry, he brushes his teeth, and suddenly feels full. It works, because of years and years of conditioning.

But the brain is too smart. Yes it learns, but it doesn’t stop learning. Because he brushes his teeth when he is hungry, his brain eventually associated brushing with hunger. So after meals when he needs to brush his teeth, he feels hungry again. So he eats again. The brain is too smart you can’t make it cheat itself.

This is conditioning, which I still want to associate with programming.

I used to have a special song I use as an alarm clock ring. It’s upbeat, reminds me of a beach party. Every time I wake up to this song I force myself out of the bed and into the shower, but the song puts me in a good mood and makes the daily ordeal bearable, despite feeling sleepy. But eventually my brain got used to the song and turned it against itself. It reversed the effect so bad, so that whenever I hear the song randomly, even when I'm fully awake, I suddenly get sleepy and groggy.

We don’t know how the brain works, it just works. These conditioning, programming “hacks” make our brains work for us in ways we don’t often realize or appreciate. Conditioning, association, programming, whatever this is called, it's cool.

So to end this, here’s another story!

I use a different ringtone for urgent notifications I don’t want to miss. It’s a very unusual song, something you don’t hear on the local radio. I only hear it on Spotify. When I sleep I hook my phone up to external speakers and play nature music (rain, crickets, bonfire sounds), it’s really relaxing, but when I get an urgent notification, the ringtone plays in full blast through the speakers and instantly wakes me up. Sometimes I wake up from deep sleep to 100% wakefulness that I get a headache afterwards.

One time I was about to sleep, I played random music on Spotify, but put the volume really really low, and dozed off. After a few hours, for seemingly no reason, I suddenly woke up with a fucking headache. Why? The song I use as my urgent ringtone was playing on Spotify. Despite the volume being really really low, my brain recognized the song, woke me up, and gave me a headache to complete the experience.

third world problems

So sa office, pagpatak ng 6AM kamay sa dibdib na agad at unahan sa elevator diretso sa exit para abangan yung isang ka-carpool namin pauwi. But there are days na naka-VL yung car owner (si Russell, 6-ft in height, long-hair hanggang beywang), at nade-Depress talaga kami kasi ang hirap kumuha ng taxi from Makati going to Visayas Ave tapos may dalawang stops on the way. Grab and Uber are both overpriced kapag ganitong oras, so minabuti naming mag-taxi upang hindi na namin danasin ang hirap ng ating mga kababayang nagtitiis sa MRT sa umaga.

Kaso madalas, tumatanggi ang mga taxi drivers, o kaya nanghihingi ng dagdag, o kaya papayag siya pero may passive-aggressive shit lines like "Tsk tsk tsk ang daming bababa ~BUNTONG-HININGA~." HMPFT. So it's not a good day kapag wala kaming carpool, Depressed™kaming tunay.

One hot morning, it's another NOT GOOD DAY. Naka-vacation leave uli si Russell so we're anticipating choosy/moody/irate drivers. We're wrong! Yung unang napara namin at nasakyan, pumayag agad. At hindi lang yun, very accomodating pa siya like "Sir ituro nyo na lang po kung saan bababa yung iba". Sana maraming katulad niya.

The next day was another Depressing™ day. Sana maubusan na ng VL si carpool officemate Russell. We expected the worst uli but no. Masayahin yung nasakyan namin. Walang asim, walang Bitterness®, walang alarm walang anything. Puro sweetness lang. More music trip lang siya. Hindi ko lang masyado magustuhan yung music nya like yung original version ng Papa Cologne (pero parang French or Spanish or whatever) at saka yung kantang Run Samson Run Delilah is Coming to Town whatever. Sige na lang, at least hindi kami sinungitan on this hot morning.

In conclusion, in light of recent events like Taxis vs Grab and Uber issue and yung mga taxi drivers gone wild caught on cam, I think it had a good effect in general because they started behaving as in "all eyes on me" behave, which can only mean good for the riding public.

The next day, naka-VL pa rin si carpool officemate but we have a good feeling sa mga taxi. Ang kasama ko ay sina Raymund (edad 30 pataas, athletic build, laging naka-tuck in) at si Mary Carol (edad 44; overweight; ang nickname nya ay Tirrah Curls). Haixt. Alam mo yung hihinto sa harap mo tapos bubuksan ang bintana, tapos kapag sinabi namin "Visayas Ave" eh biglang magmememake-face like similar to constipation, or ngingiwi na para bang diring-diri sa sinabi namin, or biglang roll-eyes sabay alis.Yung first two taxis na pinara namin they chose to be choosy... so nung may huminto at pumayag, sumakay na kami agad.

WHAT.
THE.
FUCK!!!

Hindi pa sumasayad ang pwet ko sa seat, I immediately knew we made a big mistake. Nagkatinginan kami ni Mary Carol at sa pamamagitan ng aking mga mata nai-communicate ko sa kanya na WE MADE A ~BIG~ MISTAKE: ang baho ng taxi.

Pagkaupo ni Raymund sa harap, ang una nyang sinabi ay "Tirrah Curls meron ka bang alcohol" which means he can smell what we can smell. Hindi namin ito guni-guni.

Just to give you an idea kung ano ang amoy: it smells like dead fish na naresurrect after three days ngunit namatay muli. Amoy natuyong dugo at laway at mucus and other bodily fluids. Amoy lower echelon. Amoy gates of hell.

Actually I asked my friend Dante Alighieri because nakapunta na sya sa hell and diniscribe ko sa kanya yung amoy ng taxi and he was like You know what though, mas mabango pa sa dun inferno so fuck that.

Hindi na kami makababa kasi nakakahiya na kay Manong driver. Tahimik lang si Manong. Hindi nya kami tinanong kung "OK ba kayo guyze? Everything alright? Nakakahinga ba kayo nang mabuti?"

Inisprayhan ko agad ng Nenuco Baby Cologne yung bag ko sabay niyakap ko siya nang mahigpit para yun lang ang maamoy ko pero wala, hindi mapakiusapan yung amoy. Si Mary Carol sumasakit na ang ulo. Si Raymund kumakanta, ng Papa Cologne para siguro mabaling sa iba ang atensyon niya.

Nagkatinginan kami ni Mary Carol at nangusap ang mga mata. No words.

Saan galing ang amoy?
I don't know. Check mo nga kung may bangkay sa sahig.
Anong gagawin natin?
Sabihin mo kay Manong.
Ayoko!

"Sana makatulog ako at paggising ko, Quezon City na" sabi ko out loud. Hindi ko masabi kay Manong na parusa ang bawat paghinga, masakit talaga sa ilong, gumuguhit. Kapag sa bibig naman ako huminga, parang nalalasahan ko siya? WTF nasa Paseo de Roxas pa lang kami!

~Ubo~Ubo~ si Mary Carol, nakalawit na yung dila nya tapos lumuluha na siya. Pakiramdam ko susuka sya any moment eh.

"Tirrah Curls, paki-sprayhan mo nga ng cologne ito" sabi ni Raymund sabay abot ng panyo niya. Hindi na rin nya kinakaya ang mga kaganapan.

Walang tinag si Manong.

Madalian kong in-analyze ang sitwasyon ni Manong Driver. Hindi nya alintana ang amoy. Parang wala lang. Hindi nya alintana ang pagdurusa namin. Hindi nya alintana ang traffic. Hindi nya alintana ang lahat! Samakatwid animo'y kebs sya sa buhay in general.

Naisip ko tuloy, hindi bago ang amoy na ito kay Manong. Nasanay na siya, kaya malamang noon pa ito, baka since 2006. And what's sad is... baka sanay na siya sa ganung amoy hanggang pag-uwi sa bahay... baka it's not any better. Nakakalungkot ito. Let's not judge.

For his own benefit at sa mga susunod pang pasahero, gusto kong kausapin si Manong nang masinsinan, "Kyah, may dapat kang malaman. May nag-iwan ng hindi magandang amoy sa iyong taxi at hindi ito kaaya-aya sa mga pasahero. Baka ito ay makaapekto sa iyong paghahanapbuhay. Pag-isipan mo ito." Ngunit minabuti kong tumahimik na lamang dahil tuwing ibubuka ko ang bibig ko, pumapasok agad ang amoy at para akong kinukuryente sa ulo.

Pero sa kabilang banda, hindi ko na matiis. Kailangan kong makaisip ng solusyon agad-agad. Para hindi naman mapahiya si Manong driver may naisip akong paraan. "Naku Raymund parang nilalagnat si Mary Carol. Tingin ko aabsent ito mamaya."

~Ubo-Ubo~ pa rin si Mary Carol pero sumisenyas sa akin ng GAGO KA.

"Huwag kang aabsent Tirrah Curls masisira ang attendance record natin." Nalimutan ko palang banggitin, team lead ni Mary Carol si Raymund.

Nilagay ko ang palad ko sa malapad na noo ni Mary Carol at sabing "Hala mainit ka na nilalagnat ka na nga. Raymund, giniginaw na si Mary Carol, pwede ba pakipatay ang aircon?"

"Kyah, patayin natin aircon ha?" sabi ni Raymund. Tulo pa rin ang luha ni Mary Carol.

Finally: "Raymund, mainit pala kapag walang aircon, what if... BUKSAN NA LANG NATIN ANG BINTANA!!!1"

"Kyah, buksan natin ang bintana huh" sabi ni Raymund. As expected kebs lang si Kuya kaya unahan kaming tatlo sa pag-roll ng windows para papasukin ang smoky, polluted, Pasig River scented Guadalupe morning air. It felt like heaven, naappreciate ko talaga. Nilanghap namin lahat ng polusyon hanggang makababa.

In conclusion, ubos na ang VL ni Russell. The End.

Bye.
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