In which Wazzo finds out there’s a poem about coffee

One of the few. There’s one written in Filipino but that can probably wait for another day. This was written a million coffee cups ago.

Lament of a Barista

I wanted to say,
Come back.
The coffee is hot and
the moon has barely risen.
Stillness is a potent brew
in my paper cup and,
wishing for eloquence,
I sprinkle it with stardust.
The air is so ripe for conversation
I could catch whiffs of
places you’ve seen or paint
the skies you’ve slept under
even in my dreams.

But you were quick
to turn away as usual.

I have always wondered
what it was that kept you
from drinking with me
from the same cup:
the bitterness of memories,
the scalded tongues,
the sleepless nights awash in tears, or
the starless skies where you had
hung your broken dreams.

Your eyes have always been
the darkest, saddest pools,
haunting, daunting like
the shadow of the moon.
And they made me want to say,
Come back.
This is the perfect brew—

coffee, moonshine, stardust,
me and you.

But I did not.

I tied my tongue in hopeless knots,
stared silently into my cup,
and slowly stirred in tears
more bitter than the strongest beans.


In which I eat a poem for breakfast

Written earlier this year. Posting just because. No apologies.

An Apology

You never understood what it was
About banana walnut pancakes for breakfast
That I needed to hear about.
It’s not like you invented them
Or were having them for the first time in your life.
And what’s new about bumper-to-bumper traffic
On your way to work? It was always
The same sh*t anyway, no matter what day,
No matter what time you left.

And what was so important about
What you dreamt about last night
Or what tie you’re wearing now
Or which pen you’re picking up to write with?
So what if the little boy in the elevator
Reminded you of a childhood friend
You never saw again after you moved away?
What do I care if you think
Tea doesn’t go with milk
Or that people shouldn’t leave
Their homes with their hair still wet?

So when you tell me, “This new playlist
I’ve been listening to is growing on me”
And I play it all day until I can hear it
Even in my sleep, and I could feel
The weight of every word as though
You had chosen it especially for me,
You just shake your head,
Pull me close and, ruffling my hair,
You plant a kiss on my forehead.
“All you need to know is
I’ll pick you up for dinner at 6.
And I love you to bits.”

I don’t think you’ll ever understand
Why I take mental snapshots all the time
Or why I’m always ravenous for every morsel,
Every tidbit of you that I can find.
Pardon me if your life is not just something
I’d like to gloss over or skim when I have the time.
Pardon me if I don’t wish to just thumb through it
Absent-mindedly, like it’s a dog-eared
Back issue of a teen magazine in a hair salon’s lobby.

Pardon me if I’d rather dig in than nibble
On the edges of your life, if I’m not one to push away
The stuff that most people do not want,
if I want every single bite in my greedy mouth.
My love is the kind that rips you open
And holds every piece to the light.
It’s an insatiable beast that feeds
On what is pure and true,
What is real and magical,
What is you.

In which there’s a great deal of falling

Just a play on the word. Started out with a few lines. Then I thought, why not stretch it into a poem. And here’s what happened.

falling short
falling fast
falling through the cracks

falling apart
falling into pieces
that I thought were meant to last

falling away
falling flat on my face
falling from grace

falling forward
falling slowly to my knees
falling silent at your feet

falling out of misery
falling back to you
falling ever so freely

In which old things turn up

The thing about spring cleaning is that you get to dig up a lot of things–material or otherwise. Today, I found this poem I wrote about a year ago.

Somewhere between
our first fight
And the nth time
we said goodbye,
I lost all the words
I know for pain,
Dropped them







As we snaked our way
Through our twisted minds
And plodded through
Unbeaten paths in the
Darkness of our hearts.

Did we really think
We could find a way back
When we have confounded
Even the most lucid of stars?

The moon has fallen silent
And somewhere between
Its waxing and waning,
Has stopped pointing
Its bony finger.
It has grown tired
Of watching us
Walk around in
Hopeless circles.

Yet somewhere between
This ebb and flow of tears,
The coming and passing of years,
We have somehow grown roots—
Gnarled and knobbly, but deep.

This is home now—
This place where you and I have
Disappeared to, this place
That is neither Here nor There,
Where we hold hands
While words fall away,
Where, wandering
Under shadowy skies,
We find ourselves,
And, rambling through
Our own tears and tracks,
We stumble upon a love
That traipses and turns
And twines and trips,
But is always here
And always there and
Everywhere in between.

30 April 2013

In which there are 9 songs and then some

Summer 2014 is barely underway yet it has already taken so many unexpected twists and turns. And so my summer playlist is reminiscent of those surprises—pleasant or unpleasant—and of the last few summers. Some songs are for me; others are for the people who have figured significantly in my life in the past couple of years, rain or shine. The playlist is half indie folk, half songs that refuse to grow old, and half songs that you sing to yourself in the dark. (And if you don’t know what’s wrong with that previous statement, then maybe you shouldn’t have passed Math class). So if you’re expecting a hipster list or a top 10 or a trending kind of thing, stop reading now; and go bore yourself with something else like retweeting other people’s garbage. These are MY songs for MY summer. And if you don’t like them, go make up your own. I’m sorry that there are no videos or links. Maybe next time, when I’ve figured out how everything works here or at least when I’m no longer just pretending to know what I’m doing with my blog. And now that we’re done with all the intros and disclaimers, here are the songs in no particular order.

1. I Need Fun in My Life (The Drums)  The song is an antidote to itself. If you need to inject some fun in your life, just listen to this one. And remember, “The less you own, the more freedom you have.”
2. Breezeblocks (Alt-J)  Not for the breeze. Not for the blocks. Not for the breezeblock that you sometimes feel like dumping on someone’s head. Not for any or all of those things. But for the cool vocals and the breezy vibe. You have to admire the restraint in this song, despite it being about someone pleading desperately for a loved one to stay.
3. No Rain (Blind Melon)  “And I don’t understand why I sleep all day / And I start to complain that there’s no rain / And all I can do is read a book to stay awake / And it rips my life away, but it’s a great escape, escaaaa-ape, escaaaaa-ape, escaaaa-aaaa-aaaaa-ape”
4. Walrus (She’s Only Sixteen)  (Once-a-little-grade-schooler) Roberto Seña sings “Takin’ in another sip of vodka / Everything’s so Frank Sinatra” and suddenly it’s sunny. Besides, what could be more summery than a mental image of a cinnamon brown, moustached, long-tusked walrus lying on the ice?
5. Home (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)  Just to remind myself that wherever I may go this summer and in my life, home is wherever I am with the people I love.
6. 5 Years Time (Noah and the Whale)  (Sun + Sun + Sun) + (Fun + Fun + Fun) + (Love + Love + Love) = 5 Years Time and possibly forever.
7. Shiver (Lucy Rose)  A daily dose of Lucy Rose is good for the soul because some summers can actually make you feel cold inside. Sometimes. But sometimes they can make you shiver in a different way.
8. Bloom (Paper Kites)  Some loves spring forth in the summer. But the best ones stay in bloom long after the summer has gone, no matter how many summers had passed. Senti lang.
9. Banana Pancakes (Jack Johnson)  Technically, the song’s about a rainy day. But why not? The thing that really bothers me about this song though is that it’s totally unnecessary. I mean, why would anyone want to go outside in the rain when Jack Johnson wants you to stay in bed while he makes you banana pancakes? I’d be like, “Whatever you say, Jack. And just keep singing.”
10. Wouldn’t It Be Nice (The Beach Boys)  Most old folks would go for Kokomo as a classic Beach Boys summer song for obvious reasons. Well, I’m not most folks. If you’ve seen 50 First Dates, you’ll know why this is here. If you haven’t, go watch it and you wouldn’t have wasted your summer.
11. Only Love (Ben Howard)  I’d listen to this again and again if only for Beautiful Ben Howard’s beautiful voice. “Show me love love love / Watch me fall apart.” And because I believe that love can melt even the hardest and iciest of hearts. Come on, we all know what happened to Anna.
12. Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole cover)  This is not a song. It’s a ticket for you to fly Over the Rainbow direct. Fasten your seatbelt.

13. Overdrive (Eraserheads)  Para sa mga nag-aaral mag-drive.
14. Greenback Boogie (Ima Robot)  Para sa mga nagtatrabaho pa rin.
15. Unwell (Matchbox Twenty)  Para sa mga nagsasakit-sakitan, lalo na sa mga estudyante kong nagpapaalam mag-Health Services madalas bago mag-Math.

I’ve yet to hit the beach; and I’ll be spending the next few days here at my hometown where the bodies of water are mostly occupied by freshwater fish. But maybe when I do get to taste some sea and sand, I’ll write about songs for beach-ing or that thing you do when you frolic scantily-clad in the sun. Meanwhile, I believe that the last track on this playlist should be Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life. If only to wish that, this summer, we may all get some sunshine and be nourished by it. That we would find our place in the sun and be able to keep it. That we may see love clearly and our hearts may be warmed by it. And if summer teaches us a thing or two, may we learn it and learn it well and live it long after summer has ended.

In which I wax poetic and sentimental after seeing “10 Shocking Photos That Will Change How You See Consumption and Waste”


The day you left,
I looked at photos
Of crushed cars
In dejected piles,
Discarded cell phones,
Old circuit boards
That had served their purpose,
Broken glass scattered
In dangerous heaps,
Shredded steel
That had lost its grit.
And finally, a tattered
Photo of you and me,
Grinning wildly,
Bed hair (and morning breath)
On tousled sheets.
I took one last look
At our dishevelled bliss,
Our tiny, once-happy
Plastic bubble before
It burst in front of me.

The day you left,
I folded all your clothes
And cramped them
In the suitcase you brought
When you moved in
But you didn’t take with you
When you went out
To see the world again.
I pried your reluctant books
From the defiant arms
Of my weather-worn shelves
And laid them to rest
In stackable plastic boxes.
But the music CD’s
Refused to leave
Their esteemed place
By your side of the bed.
To this day, they are stationed
There like faithful soldiers
In plastic and paper cases,
Their singing the last thing
I hear before I drift off to sleep.

The day you left,
The sky held its own
And the sun still shone
Until dusk tiptoed in.
Then I hung a purple star
And a tinfoil moon
By our small window.
And I drew pictures
Of the world
You were going to see
Without me.
Then I drew one of you
Grinning wildly,
A star in one hand,
The moon in another.
And finally, one of me
Curled up in a suitcase
No one was going to take.
In my hand, a photograph.
My eyes, metal scraps
Shedding slivers of steel.
My heart, a shard of glass.

12 April 2014

In which I immortalize my former aerobics instructor and good friend

*I wrote this piece over a decade ago. It was supposed to be for my defunct column in Manila Bulletin. For some reason, I changed my mind about letting it see print then. Seeing it after more than 10 years, and having been advised by a friend who has read it and deemed it worthy of a read, I decided to post it. Randy Quioc, whom will you will read about much later in the piece, celebrates his birthday on April 18.


I’ve never been a big fan of my face. With siopao cheeks that would put Judy Ann Santos’ and Lyn Ching’s to shame, and a forehead so wide I could type an entire thesis on it, my face simply fails to meet the world standards for beauty.

My mother has always given me the impression that I have a face that could launch at least one ship; and I almost had myself convinced. But then I learned about the expression, “a face only a mother could love, and that was a real wake-up call for me.

For a while, I seriously moped about this; and every day I found more facial features to lament about, like my virtually absent chin or my double chin (which kind of contradict each other actually). The line “You can’t face a problem if the problem is your face” kept ringing in my head. I started looking in the mirror less and refusing to have my picture taken unless I was really, really prepared for it.

I looked at other girls and wondered why God had blessed them with a face that could turn heads and make hearts beat faster, while I was stuck with mine—a face which even I wouldn’t remember if it were on somebody else’s head. I began to take interest in beautiful women (and I mean this in a totally non-sexual, non-romantic way) and their lives. And I learned that many of them weren’t too happy about their looks either, no matter how beautiful they were. And I realized that they, too, cried at night, sometimes over even more serious stuff that I’d ever cried about. I always thought (and I believe some psychological research exists to support this) that the world was kinder to beautiful people, and that they, therefore, had things easier and led happier lives. But that’s a big subject for argument right now.

All things considered, I believe I have every reason to be happy. School was never too difficult for me. My family is intact and well. I have friends (though their idea of term of endearment for me is stick insect). I don’t have two left feet. I can eat like a pig and not look like one. And though my heart’s been badly broken on several occasions, God has made up for it big time. And if all that means having to wear my face, I’ll take it any day of the week and all of my life.

Randy Quioc, my favourite aerobics instructor, likes to tease me about being bitter about things that his imagination contrives for him, like the make-believe unrequited love I have for a certain boy and (of course) my contemptuous schemes to inflict serious physical injury on his girlfriend. But, for all his sass and often tongue-in-cheek takes on life (especially mine), Randy has taught me one of the most important truths I’ve learned in my life. And despite myself, I am eternally grateful to him for this and I will always remember him for it—Bitterness is next to ugliness.


Note: Randy teaches the 5:30 p.m. aerobics classes at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Ateneo, Mondays to Thursdays. If you’re after some fat-burning grooves interjected with pseudo-words of wisdom and lousy attempts at humor (often at my expense, don’t worry), show up one afternoon. You can take the spot he always reserves for me. I haven’t used it in months. But don’t believe anything he tells you about me.


12 November 2003