What didn’t make the headlines in 2016:

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  • On the first day of the year I wrote a single line in my journal. It said: “This 2016, ask yourself: will this contribute to my wholeness?” The rest of the pages remain blank.
  • It is January 2016 and we are at ISA beach. I am writing a single word in the sand and I don’t even know why. The letters glisten under the sun and remain there for a few minutes until the waves come to take them away forever. I look out into the horizon, completely unsure about everything the new year will bring. “Let’s go,” my sister says so I bid the ocean goodbye and we head out to pack for our flight back to Manila the next day.
  • I spent my afternoons in a coffee shop in the south and wrote. I told myself many times that I wouldn’t make my deadlines, that I did not have the will to write my heart out, that there was no shame in giving up. I somehow managed anyway. Head bent and eyes locked on an unknowable future I found ways to make building blocks out of words. I locked my will into submission and gave permission for a book to go ahead and finally exist.
  • We drove to the beach on Galentine’s Day and ate chicken in the sand as the sun kissed our shoulders. We talked about love and, in the middle of our very obvious singlehood, we celebrated.
  • I was one of thirty (yes, thirty) bridesmaids at a wedding this year. I ugly cried my way through the ceremony when I saw the groom break down as he watched his bride make her way down the aisle. He looked at her — not the way the movies or books tell you, not with magic or mystery. He looked at her with something real and it filled the entire room. You had to be there to get it but what it looked like, mostly, was the quiet gratitude of a man in love.
  • On a Saturday morning in February we drove up north, through the complicated traffic of Ortigas Avenue Extension, to a tucked away cafe for a tiny birthday surprise. We got our hands dirty with piles of clay and built things — cups and plates and ceramic animals — only to pick them up many months later. We unwrapped our creations, hardened by the fire, and laughed at how so many of our sculpted masterpieces ended up looking like deformed private parts. We were so gloriously unaware of how much our lives would change later on and how our pottery was a slight metaphor for our well-worn friendship: a little stupid, yes, but altogether beautiful because it was crafted with both laughter and love.
  • What hit me tremendously was how hard it was to be a woman this year. Perhaps it had always been hard and I had just forgotten. Perhaps I was so caught up in the euphoria of the history we were making that when 2016 assaulted me, assaulted us, it felt like a drop kick to the soul. When the women got raped, got silenced, got denied, got overlooked; when the women got beaten, got catcalled, got shamed, got told that they were nothing, that they would always be nothing, I felt it. I felt the wind get knocked out of me. I felt the helplessness. I felt afraid to belong in this body, to carry this identity, to be woman, because I knew that it meant that I will never really be safe.
  • A broadway musical called Hamilton, and a man named Lin-Manuel Miranda, let me ride on the wings of profound genius. At the worst parts of the year, it was the music, the story, and his words that saved me.
  • In June we rode a bus at midnight to Baler, where we camped out someplace hidden. It took a single tricycle ride to get us to the ocean. At night we snuck in beers and cracked open their bottle caps with tweezers. We laughed and laughed ’til we fell asleep and at 3AM, we woke, one at a time, to the sight of a velvet freckled sky. The nighttime held the largest canvas of stars we had ever seen. It was so beautiful that we huddled together and spoke softly, knowing deep down that we were breathing in a moment that was sacred. We sat by the dock and waited for the sun to rise, watched as it painted the sky pink then orange then, finally, blood red. We lost sleep that night but knew, with quiet satisfaction, that what we had gained was God.
  • We climbed two mountains this year. The first had paved paths that travelled upwards ’til you reached a set of nets and hammocks held by steel wires, suspended in the air above the forest. We lay on them for awhile and watched the monsoon clouds turn gray. I went there with strangers but it wasn’t awkward, as one might imagine. It was pleasant and comfortable and we laughed a lot and offered to take each other’s pictures whenever we got to the pretty parts. By the time we finished our hike the rain came down and we marvelled at how perfect our timing was. The second mountain was lesser known and took us inside a muddy cave, where I stubbed my toe and broke a nail. I was with my closest friends this time so the laughter was twice as loud. At the summit we took photos and looked upon the east of the metro, shoulder to shoulder, atop a scraggy cliff. There were trees for miles and I marvelled at how far we had climbed. On both occasions I doubted I could do it. On both occasions I did it anyway.
  • Mikka left yet Barby came home. How strange to watch as the revolving door spins, over and over, for characters who leave and return. I’m young but I’m not that young anymore. Goodbyes are still hard. Reunions are all the more glorious. How lucky to love and be loved this much, that one could still ache. Quite often the thing relationships lack is the thing that makes them so beautiful in the first place: permanence.
  • I cried a lot. First for the Philippines then for the world. Suffering became real. It sprouted all over me, a desperate presence, begging me not to forget. When death came for those in that nightclub, as that young black man held his hands up in the air, in the form of a gunshot to the head in an alley in Manila, towards the crowds in Nice, for the helpless people of Aleppo. This girl — this tearless mass of a girl — wept. It was all I knew how to do.
  • September ends with a beautiful baby boy named Calix Nereo being born into the world and suddenly, we’re reminded of life. The year has been littered with so much death yet on this day we are startled back into the miracle of living.
  • What hits me tremendously, now that we stand at the end of the calendar, is how rich the year was. There were a million moments that broke my heart but there was also always someone to mourn with. I jumped from most of the edges. I gave life my glorious yes. The achievements of the year are mere wisps in the air. The real beauty was in the doing, in the caring, in the showing up because you had to, because you wanted to, because you knew you didn’t have to do it alone. The moments are plenty and precious and going back to that one line: did they contribute to my wholeness?
  • Home is not a fixed point. It’s wherever you make it to be and it can exist in multiple spaces– in that house in Alabang, the apartment in Lawton, or that person you know. I therefore conclude: love is the reality, home is the feeling.
  • One Thursday morning we piled into a small white Mazda and drove towards a beach in the north. We were found by waves and laughter, as we squeezed on a mat and lay under a fairly dotted sky. On our last night in La Union we drove an extra 5 kilometers for ice cream and sang about how being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. The boys switched gears and talked about adult stuff but we, the three girls in the back, refused. We sat in the back and swooned over our matcha Mc Flurries, laughing about the silliest things, knowing full well that it was a night to leave everything behind and stay young.
  • A dictator is buried in a place where heroes belong and something in my heart just clicks. I decide that day that I want to be a teacher. I decide then that I will take up the mantle of telling our stories. I decide then that I will champion for that which is true. I decide that I want to be brave and fearless, that I want to create beautiful things, that I will advocate for goodness, that I will move through the world with radical subversive love. My revolution, I decide, will be kind and quiet and fair.
  • It’s a new day in the history of goodness. The word I wrote on the sand that day was YES.
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