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How about a holiday in the islands of grief?

It’s been a while and I think I just need to get rid of the notion/thought that I need a reason to post here because a) I used to just post whatever I wanted, and b) I should just do that again. And the lack of updates usually indicates Too Much Shit Happening, rather than the opposite.

If I didn’t have anything to deal with, I’d probably be on here 24/7, but then again, that’s what Twitter is for.

I’m in the middle of several tornadoes (I think, anyway), but I guess the biggest, worst one is my dad’s dad dying last June 10. He had been sick, bedridden, and unresponsive for a few years, so for me, his actual death was kind of like a second mourning. Like, it still caught me off-guard, but the rational part of me is a dick and is like, “Well, why are you so surprised?”

When he was still alive, I kept thinking about how I missed him, which was always followed by the thought that I probably shouldn’t post that caption or tweet—that I missed him—because it made it seem like he was dead, even though he wasn’t. Not yet, then, anyway. Not technically.

I was in Chicago for his last birthday. I couldn’t make it home in time. And then I lost my passport and had to stay there just a bit longer. I told myself I’d make it up to him when I got back, but I don’t even remember the last time I went to go visit him. Which, frankly, makes me feel like shit, but that’s just a thing that happened that I can’t take back.

Honestly, he was one of the best, most magical people. I also think that this view of him I have is probably influenced by how highly other people speak of him. To me, he was just Tatay, my lolo who I owe a lot of myself to, who didn’t care if he ate corn on the cob messily, who cut too-tight shirt collars neatly down the middle (only to reattach both sides together again with a strip of masking tape), who liked crushing Ritz Bits and sprinkling them over Cookies and Cream ice cream, who’d rather do the inconvenient thing than hurt people he considered his family, who spoke brazenly about the things he knew to be true.

In another, less gooby, part of my brain, I’m held in awe. When catch myself being a shitty person, I think about him and how he’d probably handle the many messes in his life, in his deeply flawed, human way, and it helps me be a slightly less shitty person. When it feels so, so easy for me to give up and be lazy, I think about how those were things he never did, and pulling through feels a little easier to do.

When he started losing his memory, my dad would quiz him a little, just tests here and there.

“Who is Akira Kurosawa?”
“A filmmaker.”

“Naaalala niyo pa po ba si Ina?”
“‘Yung mahilig magbasa.”

I think there is something quite nice to be found in the thought that, to someone, you’re frozen in time forever, in theory. Tatay never really saw me get involved in art, which I don’t think is something he wanted us to be a part of, necessarily. He never knew me apart from “Reader” and “Writer,” his apo with a short fuse, funny hair, misplaced angst. There are so many things I’d like to say to him about work, our dogs. I miss hearing him laugh, even if it wasn’t usually at any of my jokes.

It’s just weird when I think about all the different versions of me he never got to know. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I miss the conversations we never even got to have. A bit of a strange feeling, I guess.

I think that’s where most of my grief comes from. He never really got to know me as I am now (or the people I’d been in the last ten or so years), and I don’t think I tried hard enough to get to know him beyond how I knew him. I still keep finding new things about him that I didn’t know about before. It’s strange and sad in a way that I suppose deaths are, most of the time.

I keep accidentally finding parallels in both of our lives. Like how he did graphic design and worked in publishing before becoming a full-time artist. Like how he painted on the side, while he waited for things to happen. And these small, probably inconsequential, discoveries—because I can’t share them with him—makes him feel both closer and farther away.

I don’t really know how to write about it “properly.” The more I think about him, the sadder about it I get. Which probably explains why I’ve been hunting for diversions. Just when I thought I’d filled every crevice of myself with stuff to do or learn or read or write or Google, a cavernous void opened up, and I don’t know what to do except to find more stuff to do.

There are waves of grief. Or, more accurately, pulses of it, which hit me when I least expect them to find me. I don’t know how to shake them off, make them go away, but lately I’ve been feeling a little bit like maybe I don’t want to stop feeling the sadness. What I feel is that this grief is all I have left of him, and I don’t want to lose that, too.

Berlin, without return (and other stories)

I think my “sickness” largely has to do with me perpetually scared of leaving a detail out. Never mind that it’s probably a minute detail that won’t matter in the long run, or that it’s likely that nobody cares about the small detail, even though it always seems important to note, at the time. Anyway, that’s my excuse re: perpetually! late travel recaps. I used to just constantly be updating people, even if it’s about dumb stuff that happened at school. I guess the internet turned very weird when I wasn’t looking? It doesn’t feel the same way to me anymore, but I guess most things rarely do.

In case everything I’ve said wasn’t much of a preamble (which, let’s be honest, the entire paragraph hasn’t been very adequate), this post is going to be about Berlin. Which was a trip that happened in August/September, and which I’d posted about previously. I have other plans for my stories from Berlin and elsewhere, but in the meantime, here are some favorite moments.

“Berlin, Without Return…” by Voxtrot

Just realized that I’m gonna need another post, though… We were in Berlin for a fairly long time, so this is going to be fairly long, but still incomplete. (Sorry! In perpetuity!) I think I’ve gotten better at editing myself, though. I can’t say if that’s at all accurate.


Lollapalooza for New Order and Radiohead — right after Prague! Likely the reason we went back to Berlin early-ish. I’m so not equipped for whole-day festivals, even as the youngest member of our party, so I’ve learned to pick my battles and just show up when I want to.


First day with my dad and brother. We didn’t catch a lot of acts and mostly went for New Order, to be honest. Which was worth it, obviously. The highlight is them playing “Temptation,” because it’s my dad’s favorite New Order song, which was a late discovery for him, presumably because he was a new dad in the ’80s and could not, therefore, partake in the era’s cultural joys, since he was too busy trying to look for ways to feed his growing brood.


He skipped out on Radiohead the next day, and predictably, I whined about not being in the mood to go (I am always “in a mood” when I get stressed out on vacations—again, sorry in perpetuity), so my brother went to watch without me. But, I ended up taking the bus to Treptower Park and catching the latter half of their set. It was way less stressful than when we watched them in Florence, probably because I wasn’t trying to fight off angry Italians.

The Berlin Wall — which we met at various points of the trip (photos in another post, I guess?), but this part is from when we went to the Topography of Terror. Basically, it outlined the rise of the Third Reich, and I was mostly alarmed at the parallels and echoes to that of our current situation. A mix of fascination, and sadness, and dread. Would love to have a place like that here, the land prone to forgetting.


Boros Bunker — The Boros Bunker was built in 1941 as an air-raid shelter that was subsequently occupied by the Red Army to house POWs, and then used as a fruit warehouse (earning its once-upon-a-time name, “banana bunker”) and then transformed into a sex den/fetish club, among other things. It’s now privately owned and houses part of the Boros art collection. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures, and you’re taken on tour in small groups, so someone’s always potentially watching. Beautiful space and collection, must-see if you’re there and can manage to get a reservation! (Info here.)

Beng’s exhibit — in conjunction with Berlin Art Week, my sister’s residency culminated in a group exhibit with her residency mates. Very proud of this baby bean.


Sherri, Nathan, Antonia, Carmo, Isabel, Imogen

Berlin Art Week — For Berlin Art Week, we only caught ABC and Positions.







Bauhaus Museum — again, no photos allowed, and the place was a little bit on the small side, but the exhibits had a wide range and you got a free audio guide that had a buttload of information. Beautiful building, too.



Allied Museum + German-Russian Museum — We first went to the Allied Museum, which was full of so much paraphernalia and ephemera from the Allied powers but then a lady who was working there said they had a sister museum that focused on the German-Soviet war in the ’40s. It was located in East Berlin, so we took a bus, and even though they’ve been pretty much a united state since the ’80s, being in a pretty suburby area of the east side was still an eerie feeling, for some reason.



Tempelhofer Feld — A pre-war airport that’s no longer operational, Tempelhof Airport is now used as a recreational site, where people can skate, walk their dogs, fly kites, and have picnics. In 2015, it was announced that the airport building itself was to be used as an emergency refugee camp.




The Berlin Airlift Memorial was close by.

Buchstaben Museum — where old signage goes to die. They were in the middle of moving from their previous location, but the place still held its charm. By paying for the full fee, you’re given a ticket that’s redeemable within a year, I think, so you can come back. (Info here.)

I’m probably going to put up a different post or something on this place; I took so many pictures.





Berlinische Galerie — one of the more contemporary art spaces, I feel like. There was an exhibit on Dada, as well as a few unfamiliar-to-me names. The place looked small-ish from the outside, but there was so much to see inside, as well as a couple of smaller exhibits/shows, which was great. We actually found this place by accident, sort of.

Beng and I were supposed to meet up with our parents and brother at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, but we pinned the Jewish Museum to the map instead. Luckily, they still had time to change their route (and we went there afterwards).



Someone asked me how I liked Berlin, and I said that I probably liked it more than New York, which was a big claim to make (I ♥ NY, etc. etc.) but was true at the time. Even with this long post, which is painfully incomplete and, as it is, very, very succinct (by my standards!).

I love Berlin, and I didn’t even have Sarie‘s magical Bon Iver-Vincent Moon-Michelberger craziness. Berlin seems to be a city that’s always changing—you know, doomed to be the place that’s “always becoming, never being”—but I hope to come back to it at some point, even though I probably wouldn’t recognize it.

The Sunday Currently Vol. 36

Just checking in, sort of. Been mostly busy with work stuff and moving into a new room stuff, and most of my free time is spent watching t.v. while trying to figure out this painting thing. I loved reading about Wayne Thiebaud’s process with his art, which is basically more of an experimental, process-based practice than a conceptual or more cerebral approach. Like looking at shadows, and looking at colors and how they sort of interact with each other and what happens when they do.

Anyway.

Reading

About to finish a light YA novel, The Sun is Also a Star. It’s cute, but I don’t know yet. I hope this isn’t me growing out of YA (because I love YA), but I can’t help but think of the inevitability of baby relationship breakups, and it’s hard for me to completely root for these romances when all I see is THE END OF THE LINE. I don’t know when this happened either.

Thinking of bringing some books to a short trip we’re taking this week… they’re probably not going to be YA. I need to be less jaded, I think, when I do pick up another one and give whatever cute romance they have the justice (i.e. fuzzy feelings) it deserves.

Writing

Last wrote about Pauses of Possibility, a group show at the Lopez Museum, for CNN Life. Not a lot of people really click on art stories on the site, To Be Honest, but I think it’s important to document them, anyway.

Listening

My Spotify Daily Mix 1, which Sam has noted is kind of the most accurate reflection of your person. I agree. (Artists on mine include Julien Baker, The National, Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus, Wilco, American Football, The Mountain Goats… I mean…)

Watching

Not currently watching, but I think it deserves a mention: Thirteen Reasons Why is pretty amazing. I know like two people who hate it, lol. But I felt like it’s an important show… I do want to know what other people think, though. I know it’s a really touchy subject and at the risk of sounding completely insensitive and tone-deaf… I want to know if people who are closer to the subject matter feel like it’s a good representation of it, or if it completely missed the point, or if it’s emotionally manipulative and is Actually Bad. I know they consulted with a lot of people closely, but you know…

Full disclosure: I hated the book. I remember this feeling distinctly, at least. I feel like the series addressed some aspects of the book that I hated, but I still want to know if it’s a Bad Show, good parts (e.g. actors, soundtrack, etc.) aside. Please comment, or if you don’t feel like doing that: email or DM me on Twitter. I’m really curious + I do feel a little iffy about it, despite enjoying it as a viewer.

Thinking

I don’t know, man. I think my brain short-circuited and all I can think about now is how I have to finish this so I can take a shower.

Smelling

Let’s not get into that.

Wishing

That new skills were easier to acquire and don’t require practice and patience.

Hoping

Scientists figure that out in the future.

Wearing

Pambahay

Loving

MY FILING CABINET. A godsend for a paper h0 like me.

Wanting

Momentum! Motivation! Follow-through!

Needing

… Momentum! Motivation! Follow-through!

Feeling

Nervy, but I’m p. uncertain about what.

Clicking

Not so updated, but here’s my Pocket account.

The Sunday Currently was originally created by SiddaThornton

2017 Qtr. 1 Book Roundup

I had this post—a book roundup for the first quarter of 2017—scheduled for today*… Clearly noted down with a more optimistic view of the amount of books I’d have read in 2017. Well, my friends, it turns out that I’ve only finished four (3 in January and 1 in March!) in that period of time, so this post is going to probably be short and sweet, despite my decided wordiness.

Note: I’m still probably going to finish with the rest of my Capsule Book Reviews for 2016’s books… Coming to a blog post in the next millennium, maybe.

01 — Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Clothing of Books

This is actually a very short piece—an originally-Italian speech translated to English—in book form. I pretty much read and finished this on my plane ride from New Jersey to Chicago. I bought it in McNally Jackson (♥) after reading Aldrin’s best-of list for 2016, via CNN Philippines Life. Essentially, it’s about book covers and how, ideally, they should reflect an aspect of the book accurately, but also stand out on the shelves (i.e. make money), but also—ideally—involve the authors in some way. She mentions a book of hers whose cover she dislikes so much, she needs to fight the urge to rip it off every time she’s asked to autograph it. The book in question, of course, is never named or shown.

02 — Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white

Bought this collection of poetry in Volumes, a bookstore in Chicago, upon the recommendation of Leena/justkissmyfrog, and I finished it in one sitting (as I was waiting for a show), and will likely re-read it. Even this page is white is largely about “everyday racism and colonialism in Canada,” which is where Shraya is from. It definitely opened up facets of racism that I don’t think I’d previously considered before. I’ve lived in a pretty racially homogenous environment all my life, so even if I am technically a “PoC,” in the loosest definition, I definitely did not grow up with all these considerations that actual PoCs struggle with.

Shraya is a prolific artist, having released writing, music, and visual explorations. A recent favorite of mine is a photographic essay on her and her mother called Trisha.

03 — Stephen Collins’ The Giant Beard That Was Evil

I love this strange and fascinating story, which I believe I got off a rec from Sanne/booksandquills. The Giant Beard That Was Evil is a delightful, somewhat somber but still plenty silly, graphic novel. Although there are many themes in this book, the one that stuck out to me was how the fear of the unknown affects people, their lives, and those around them. It’s charming, beautifully drawn, and at turns a little philosophical, and the end was perfect, though not something I expected. Is this burning an eternal flame?

04 — Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

I started this in January, but really only got into it in March, I think. Although I appreciate the book’s unfortunate timeliness, i.e. in terms of how systems in place grab hold of women and attempt to control their bodies, and how they live, and what they can do—in the name of morality and holiness and “what is right in the eyes of God/religion, I think I was unable to suspend my disbelief at how much the worldview of that particular time flipped in such a short span of time.

Perhaps it’s naivete on my part, because the future, dystopian world that Atwood imagined in 1985 (when The Handmaid’s Tale was released) does look a lot like how it does now, even though our so-called progresses probably shouldn’t have allowed these things to take root at all. I’d like to say that I think that this horrifying, cruel future seems “impossible,” but on the other hand, certain world events have been making plot points look like terrifying possibilities.


I’m in the middle of several books—awful habit—and will hopefully have more to report when I check back in at the end of June. What have you guys been reading and enjoying?

* I don’t actually follow my schedule for blog ideas, so surprise!

Making sense of all the little pieces I’ve scooped up in my hands

The thing with staying up late and pulling all-nighters, now that it’s about seven years post-graduation, is that it takes me about two days of focused sleeping to somewhat recover, and now it’s Sunday and all I’ve done is clean paint palettes. And buy a filing cabinet for my “files,” I guess, but even then, I had to be roused from my midday nap.

You couldn’t have found a more surprised person than me, discovering on Friday that it was, in fact, Friday.

And now, I’m awake, and we have no internet connection at home, and I was in the mood to write and maybe vegetate in front of internet-reliant television. Alas.

I’m in the process of retrieving a replacement for the passport that I lost, and it’s been a weird little struggle (mostly because of aforementioned tiredness, and also, sure, procrastination on my part) but it feels like a small concern when the person you’re beside at the notary office lost hers because she was imprisoned by her employer in Saudi. It isn’t the most productive action, to compare, but how can you help not comparing? Especially, when the “ordeal” you’re going through is partly self-inflicted inconvenience.

So, anyway, the passport thing. It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to leave whenever you want to, and the people around you understanding why you need to, and it’s jarring to realize that you can’t actually leave this country, because you had been careless about the thing that let you leave.


(This is what I look like on most days. Ahhh!)

A few weeks ago, my best friend asked me if I was happy, and I think I remember saying “yes,” but I think I’d like to amend that answer now and say “I’m not sad” instead, which feels more accurate an answer, and may seem alarming, but mostly isn’t. I just feel stuck, which is typically what I feel right before I spiral into something else, but I think I’m handling it better this time around.

(It also feels weird to whine about these kinds of things. I always feel like someone reading this is going to dismiss all of it as a stupid privileged person problem, and maybe all of it is just that, but I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud is all.)



I do, however, feel grateful for all of the breathing room our new house affords.



It still feels weird that we’re old enough to get drinks with each other—even though it’s been that way for eight years.


We went to a Bench fashion show, and Ziggy Savella showcased a new collection, and my sister and I both died because we wanted everything, despite potentially unflattering decisions. (Mostly on my part.)


Beng, Noah, and Raymond, in a rare uncharacteristic moment of petting a dog.


Noah, a sleepy baby. Noah, a needy baby + Tara.


Isa, best friend who asks the hard-hitting questions, haha.


I literally could spend the day watching Noah sleep.


When you just need a moment at work + catching the light before leaving!

Speaking of work, this was from about a year ago, on our first cover story shoot at CNN Philippines Life:

This is the longest I’ve stayed at an actual job, and I don’t even know if it counts because it’s just a part-time gig, and I’ve taken a few chunks of time away, but I’m still grateful to be around great people, and to have been able to write about things I like and things I didn’t know I liked, and that I get some semblance of freedom within the office and outside of the office, plus other corny stuff, et cetera.