Color This Street Pink

If Padre Burgos were alive today, would he have resented having this street named after him?

Imagine an archer’s bow, and that is what P. Burgos St. is to the bow string that is the main thoroughfare known as Makati Avenue. Stretching less than a kilometer end to end, P. Burgos is a study in contrast. Bounded in the north by Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, a church built in 1620 by the Jesuit Pedro de los Montes, and in the south by a mongrel of a bar café named incongruously “Moulin Rouge”, these two establishments represent the tension that exists between the old and new P. Burgos, which essentially is a tug-of-war between the spirit and the flesh.

To be sure, not all of P. Burgos is debauchery exemplified. From the north, where the Catholic church lies, is a very ordinary neighborhood whose main draw is “Friends and Neighbors”, an eatery established in the 1970’s by Aling Virginia, a Bicolana with a genius for cooking up Filipino comfort food. Also considered a pioneer establishment is “Insular Bakery” which continues to this day as a more sophisticated version of itself with fancier offerings than the mainstay “pandesal” that it started with at its founding in 1967. Between these two local notables, are a string of small business such as a barber shop, a money changer, and an optical store among many others.

South of Kalayaan Avenue, P. Burgos was developing into an entirely different creature altogether. It became the destination of choice for expatriates and tourists, mostly male, out for a good time. Helped in no small way by former Mayor Lim’s crackdown in the 70’s on girly bars and strip joints that lined A. Mabini and M.H. del Pilar Sts. in Ermita, Manila, P. Burgos acquired its reputation as the center of the flesh trade in Makati. Unlike Manila however, Makati was more hospitable to the establishments that mushroomed in response to the booming demand for the unique services that it provided a well-heeled and pleasure-seeking clientele whose plush offices were conveniently close by.

Today P. Burgos, or at least the lower third of it, is a strip of bars, restaurants, hotels, and night clubs that are open 24/7. Amidst the gaudiness are a few exceptional places that people go to not necessarily for sex, drinks or food but for the atmospherics perfect as backdrops for selfies and Instagram posts. The 50’s diner-themed “Filling Station” is a destination that has attracted an enthusiastic following among millennials and Gen Z’s and for good reason. The place is a hoarder’s paradise, filled as it is with relics from the 1950’s be it a Wurlitzer jukebox in one corner, an Esso gasoline pump in another, and where the ceiling meets the wall dozens of signage of motor oil to genuine Ford parts. There’s also a 1960’s Cadillac front end occupying a place of honor not far from a life-sized figure of Elvis Presley playing his guitar.

If not for the influx of Korean businesses and church groups in the early 90’s, the seedier end of P. Burgos would have crept inexorably northward to accommodate a booming trade in entertainment and then some. What the Koreans brought with them as it occupied a stretch of P. Burgos real estate were Korean restaurants, groceries and its Methodist faith which together became a buffer between the conservative north and the libertine south. Today, this stretch of P. Burgos is home to an imposing Korean Methodist church which for the meantime sits next to a cabaret featuring ladyboys in cancan costumes performing chorus girl routines. This juxtaposition is P. Burgos’ equivalent of the Korean demilitarized zone where a thin line separates belligerents in perpetual standoff.

This is what P. Burgos is today and will likely remain the years to come. There is equilibrium here where contradictory forces can coexist peacefully each minding its own business. It is a street shared by priests, shopkeepers, pastors, pimps and street walkers without a trace of judgment or condescension from all sides. In a sense, to the cynics among us, it is the embodiment of liberal democracy at its best.


What’s Next?

I’m at that point of my life once again. My mind races through multiple thoughts at once. I can’t help but feel hopeless. I can’t help but throw a pity party for myself while soaked from the incessant and heavy rain. The enthusiasm from my youth, lost again. As the days pass, I feel more unstable and unsure. What’s next for me?

As I get by, I try my best to focus on my hobbies. However, my mind still goes back to the inevitable and the mistakes I’ve made as I crawl my way through this period. It consumes me. It paralyzes me. The silence takes me to the ugliness of my reality. I hate the uncertainty. It takes my mind to my own undesired conclusion. I still have my long pile of books that need to be read. I’ve got my unfinished writing just sitting on my desktop. I have my camera stored away. At least I don’t feel withdrawn from friends. I keep trying to make plans with them to distract me from my own cruel mind.

It’s going to get better, of course. I don’t know when and I don’t know how. Life’s like this. I may be young but I do know some things about how funny our lives work. No matter how hard life gets, there will always be some goodness that will happen. Despite my mind taking me to thoughts of a painful finale, they’re thoughts. The ground I walk on, the places I go to, the music I hear, the things I feel, the food I eat, they’re real. What I sense and the sliver of hope, it’s what keeps me going. So what’s next?

Piece of advice, take care

This is me right now: I’m on my desk, catching up on some Doctor Who episodes and some movies that has been on my watch-later list while struggling to make it through the rest of the week with what’s left of my payroll. Some might think, “look at her, she’s not even doing anything at work right now!” Yes. It does look like that, but I’m still driven by my anxiety and fear masked as integrity and principles – I won’t just watch something when I’ve got a backlog of job orders and e-mails. If you’ve seen my state in the last two weeks, you’ll see a frenzy of anxiety, pain, sickness, and staying late in the office. I think that this slow week at work is fine. I knew this would happen.

The last two weeks was when I really needed the pieces of advice I received from my boss – take care of yourself first and have a life outside of work. It keeps workers away from being miserable and aggressive towards their colleagues.

Within those two weeks, I’ve managed to power through an upper respiratory tract infection (according to the doctor) and painful dysmenorrhea, along with exhaustion, both mental and even physical, from staying late at work for a few days straight.

I’m the type to feel a sense of guilt when I can’t report for work (even when I was a high school student). Feeling nervous, I played worst case scenarios on what could happen to me if I get back and what co-workers might say while I wasn’t around. The anxiety led me to realize that in taking care of myself, it’s just not about taking Vitamin C everyday, drinking cartons of orange juice and filling my belly with chicken soup when I’m experiencing some kind of cold. In the stressful and competitive industry, it’s important to find your inner peace and happiness in the middle of the seemingly impossible deadlines and toxic co-workers. Besides, what good could my sickness do if I won’t be as productive with the risk that my officemates will catch what I have.

Then there’s overtime work. I’ve never met anyone who feels excitement at the thought of working overtime – I’d stay from them if that’s how they think. But we’ve all got that usual 8 hour shift every day – finish everything that can and should be finished then clock out at 5 pm. That creates a healthy balance between work and life. However, sometimes the work load is too much and the deadline is too close. Filing that overtime form becomes necessary to meet deadlines. Working until the evening is exhausting and sometimes personal things can get in the way like coming down with something. Better pause for a moment and take care of yourself, who else will?

After surviving the long and agonizing hell week, Friday nights and Saturdays are salvation. I’ve got a life to live that will keep me happy and positive. No matter how much fun work is, no matter how much work feels like a perfect fit for everything I studied and stand for, time with friends and family are still what will bring me to a healthy state of mind. The long hours didn’t seem so bad after all once I’ve completed them. Plus, there was always something to look forward to, dinner and bowling with friends and acquaintances, lunch and photography sessions with a close friend, even lunch with my parents and their friends as they talk about topics I currently didn’t have any interest in. The thought of the time I spent with these people lifted my spirits making me ready to face another week at the office.

The point of this is that the two pieces of advice I learned is more important and helpful than ever. Take care of yourself first (physically and mentally) and have a life outside of work. Each person can have different ways to follow the advice to continue to be a better and fun person to work with. Take a rest day if you need to, have a self-care package in your office drawer full of the things you might need (biscuits, paracetamol, sanitary pads, dark chocolate, midol), make time to hang out with friends after work or during the weekends, watch good movies – anything!

Just take care of yourself and be happy – you’re more fun to work with that way.

A (Photo) Walk to Remember

As someone currently feeling confused about what to do with a Communication Arts degree in the competitive and exclusive environment of media and agency industries, I’ve looked at my camera as a tool for some kind of business and an item to meet some requirements. That was back when I was still attending Photography 101 classes. After graduating, with my introvert self and the anxiety of carrying something expensive along the streets of the metro, I never really found the use for my camera anymore. I wasn’t shooting scenes with it, I didn’t go out to take pictures of my surroundings, and I certainly didn’t push through with some serious photo shoot sessions with some friends. I even thought about selling my camera instead for two reasons – I wasn’t using it as often as I’d like and the money would definitely help me in paying for some other things that I need.

I did plan on posting these pictures sooner but after all the demands from the office (which is another post for another day), I didn’t have the energy to post it after it happened.

A little back story, I actually invited myself for a photo walk with a friend. He wanted to test out his new camera lens with his friends and I just blurted out that I wanted to join – I was half-kidding when I said that. I didn’t actually think he would bite. And so we were on our way to a Saturday of taking pictures of wherever our feet will take us. I wasn’t very helpful with him in giving photography tips. Honestly, I may have taken a course on Basic Photography, but I forgot all the details and the technical names of the parts of the camera. I just know what they are for. But taking a photo walk with him was a breath of fresh air. I got to use my camera again and I got to awkwardly hang out with a friend. Here’s a true confession since I doubt he’ll find himself in this space of the internet, I used to be so infatuated with him – the kind where he’s constantly on my mind, and that version of me would be floating on cloud 9 if she knew that she’d hang out with him again – just the two of them, er, us.

So here are the photos that I liked.

I liked holding my camera again and taking pictures of just about anything. The photo walk felt like a hobby and not another class assignment. It was refreshing. Sure I rejected a lot of photographs but at least I still got to share some of the pictures that I liked.

Right now, I don’t plan on selling my camera. I did get to help another friend of mine a few days ago as she got started with taking up photography as a hobby. I’m sure I’ll be joining her in different kinds of photo sessions soon. Photography is a lot more fun right now. I just gotta get out there, point, and shoot.

Corporate pen

She sat, she stared

Her eyes towards nothing

Everything shifted

She was in a void,
didn’t dare move

She sat, she stared

Looking down at all her work

   ‘the system demanded these’
she’s a part of it,
done her routines

She sat, she stared

A pen – for the outside

 Beyond the grey city
She was happy here,
how’d she feel there?

She sat, she stared
All the words

written not for her

not with the pen for herself
couldn’t even get the hand to move

She sat, she stared

her hand on her work

   furiously writing, quickly sliding across the pages –
for the big ones
for her survival

She sat, she stared
her hand – mindless

Hollywood Fairy Tale

A few weeks ago, I joined an essay contest to win a trip to the Oscars next year. The prompt was something like “Who won best director and why do you think he won?” This captured my full attention because I’ve seen the movie (which makes me qualified to answer that) and I just love films so much that Hollywood is a destination on my travelling wish list.

With the help of my dad, I thought of how to answer that question and make it stand out from the rest of the entries. Should I consider getting technical given my background on filmmaking? Or should I just write it as an avid moviegoer who likes escaping by watching movies? How should I write it? I checked the website and it said 200 words maximum. At first, I had 299 words which I definitely had to cut down. I was left with 200.

Once I was ready to enter, I couldn’t paste the whole thing. They meant 200 characters, not 200 words. They wanted a text message not an essay. Imagine the frustration of having to cut 5 paragraphs to 2 sentences. I’m a copywriter and my own personal project was the most extreme case of editing I had to do. With 200 characters submitted and no one to see my 299 words, I decided this is the perfect place to show anyone the essay in full. So here it goes: 

Waiting in line to buy a ticket to the movie that I waited weeks to see, I overheard a gaggle of girls who just came out of a previous screening noisily express their disappointment over how Seb and Mia didn’t end up together in the movie. That really spoiled it for me and I took my seat in the theatre in a dark snit.

My mood lifted quickly enough though as the opening scenes unfolded, realizing as I did that very moment that I was in for an exhilarating ride into the lives of two brilliant actors whose characters come achingly to life under the tutelage of a gifted storyteller, Damien Chazelle.

Seb and Mia’s reality became my reality as I drew analogies aplenty in the ups and downs of my own life – middle fingers upturned in my daily commute, deadlines met and missed, pitches sold and rejected, the spilled coffees on an immaculate blouse and countless other mishaps both big and small that punctuate my days at home and at work. But in the middle of this ordinariness, there is also music, romance and laughter and ultimately a longing for a life lived happily ever after. Life’s like that.

That the story was told in such highly stylized fashion only added to the magic of the moment. And in his genius, Damien managed the nearly impossible: tell reality in the idiom of fairy tales.

Towards the end of the movie, I no longer cared that I already knew how the story would end – I was having too much fun. But Damien wasn’t through with me yet. In a directorial masterstroke, Damien juxtaposed “what might have been” with “what is” and brought “La La Land” to a profoundly moving denouement that made his winning the Oscar almost anti-climactic.

A New Space

Staring at the monitor, mindlessly typing whatever pops up in my head. I’ve started things like this before, abandoning it eventually.

What makes this different? Well, I’m definitely different now from what I was a year ago – even five.

Maybe the problem was the obligation I made up in my head; starting things like this felt like something I had to do. What were even the chances someone would see these?

This will be different, I say every time. In my adulthood, this is a safe and open space. No obligations, no pressure – just little nuggets and slices of my perspective through out my time. I’ve got things to say, everyone does. And I’m sick of bottling it up, carrying the weight in my heart and in my being.

This is my free fall. Whatever happens, this is the safe space. This is for my own personal posterity.

Shall I begin?