31 May 2006

seasons of love

Three seasons have passed, and it's almost over.
Nathan Phillips Square in the winter and in the spring/summer


525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?
in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
in 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
how about love? how about love? how about love?
measure in love.

- seasons of love, rent

grange park

The park was almost deserted when we got there, save for the occassional couples strolling through the park, or some people taking a shortcut through the grass.

I ran on the playground with the reckless abandon of a toddler making a new discovery, flitting from the swings, to the slides and the seesaws. The sand slipped through my toes, and suddenly I was a child again. Out gurgled a laugh I had not experienced for the longest time -- a laugh that captured the essence of being happy as is, without knowing why, or how.

I closed my eyes and I was alone, just me on a swing and the vastness of the universe. I felt the warm breeze whisper on my face, and I strained to hear what the moon and the stars were trying to tell me.

But they were silent.

I wish I was a kid again, when I knew all the answers.

29 May 2006

the day toronto became manila

Part of my morning ritual here in Toronto is to tune in to my favorite channel, CP24. It's the ultimate multitasker's dream -- on a single TV screen, you can get the news, the date, time, weather, stocks, traffic conditions, some features (depending on what time of the day you tune in), and even a list of upcoming events around town.

Not that I'm some uptight workaholic who feels the need to squeeze every second of her day. (Okay, so sometimes, maybe I am. :P) But for the most part, I watch CP24 for the weather, so I know whether to dress in my winter/spring/summer collection. Teehee.


*****

So today, I was doing my ordinary morning ritual, except there were three not-so-ordinary things in the headlines:
  1. TTC workers were on strike today, and that meant there were no subways, no buses, no streetcars, and no way for me to go to work.
  2. There was an extreme heat alert because the temperature was supposed to go up to 33C today.
  3. There was a smog alert.

I was horrified.

Okay, actually, I clapped in glee first about news item #1, because that meant I had an excuse not to show up at the office today.

Then I started laughing because, hello, 33C is nothing in the Philippines. And their air quality with the smog alert is probaly the normal air quality back home.

*****

Then I got to thinking.

May strike din pala sa Toronto.

You always get these smug OFWs saying "walang ganyan sa States!" and trying to convince everyone else that their lives will change drastically for the better once they go abroad. For the most part, they usually succeed.

But I look at the lives of immigrants here, and I realize it really isn't all that better or easier. I've met highly-educated immigrants who've had to work blue-collar jobs in order to survive. I've met kids my age who've had to work several jobs since they were teenagers in order to get an education, whereas I have never had to work for anything until I got out of university. Even coming from a school like UP, I hardly know any working students -- much less students working two or three jobs at a time. So, maybe it isn't really a case of having more opportunities abroad, but of Filipinos back home being more passive about their future.

But, as I turned back to the news unfolding on my television screen, I saw this:

The streets were filled with commuters walking back home, and I realized for the first time how different a government-controlled public transportation system was from the system we had in the Philippines. Good samaritans picked up complete strangers from the street in light of this 'emergency', offerring rides to whoever needed them.

I watched the health department issue warnings about the heat and the smog, which ironically was still probably much better than the air quality we had in the Philippines. They even had several cooling centers open for people who were at risk from the heat.

At that moment, I realized how this so-called chaos reminded me so much of the way of life back in Manila. How was it possible that something deemed so unacceptable here was normal, everday life back home? I felt like we were being short-changed. How could we let ourselves settle for so much less?

And suddenly, I didn't know whether I wanted to laugh or cry.

things behind the sun

After spending my whole Saturday working, I wanted deserved to go out and enjoy the warm weather, so I headed out to enjoy what was left of Doors Open Toronto. It's two days in a year where buildings and other places of architectural, historical, or cultural significance are opened to the public for free. There were more than a hundred buildings open this weekend, but I woke up late (as usual) and only had a chance to see a few.



First, we climbed up the 17th floor Tower Room of the Canada Life building, which is right next to my condominium. This building's of special significance to me because it's the first thing I see each morning (or afternoon :P) as I leave the house. There's a weather beacon atop it that tells you the temperature, and flashes when rain or snow is coming. I don't think I'll ever see this building again without evoking a memory of my four-month stint here in Toronto. :)

Then, it was off to the lakeshore to go aboard the tall ship Empire Sandy and some amusement park fun at Ontario Place (which, according to Connor, should be pronounced on-teh-ree-yo instead of the way I pronounce it, on-tah-rio. Whatever. At least I sound British. :P)

And, because I'm so obsessed with my name, I just had to get my name engraved on one of those leather wristbands. It's rocker-chick-meets-girly-girl. Haha.

28 May 2006

margaritas at margarita's

Today, the weather hit the high twenties, and it dawned on me that summer is finally upon us. I can't quite believe I've already spent three seasons here -- I arrived in the dead of winter in February, and now everything is bright and colorful with the first signs of summer.

I never quite understood what it was with Canadians and their love for the outdoors (and outdoor patios). I've seen a lot of magazines featuring lists of the town's best patios, and if you walk down any street, you'll notice how most restaurants and pubs advertise their patios to attract patrons. Now, if you're from the Philippines, you'll probably wonder (like I did) what the hell was so attractive about outdoor patios -- I mean, why stay outside when there's air conditioning inside? You'll get jabar pa! :P

I think I've somehow turned Torontonian, though, because now I always jump at the chance to eat/drink/hang out at an outdoor patio -- never mind if I actually have to move indoors after approximately thirty minutes because I get too cold. Hehe. I'll definitely miss this, because once I get back to the Philippines I'll start getting jabar everytime I attempt to stay outdoors.

Speaking of outdoor patios, Iris & I discovered a small strip of Baldwin Street (1 block north of Dundas, intersecting McCaul) that is lined with restaurants and patios. I suppose this is a local hangout, because I've never heard it mentioned in any guide books -- we somehow just discovered this place while looking for Margarita's Fiesta Room, a lively Mexican restaurant that served even livelier margaritas in enormous bowl-shaped goblets. (I hope that's a sign that we're going to Mexico. *hint hint*)

*Picture: Rasperry margarita at Margarita's Fiesta Room, 14 Baldwin St. Toronto.

26 May 2006

so you'll understand

It's May 26 today.

I have less than a month left here in Toronto, and I'm terrified. A lot of people have told me I still have a so much time, or that I shouldn't be thinking of the day I have to leave -- but as each day passes, my heart grows heavier with the knowledge that I have to leave soon.

I always said that three months was just enough -- long enough to be significant, but short enough not too get too complicated. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we stayed here for four months. Since we got here, I have experienced so many things, met so many wonderful people, and discovered so much about myself.

The truth is, I don't think I will ever be ready to leave.

Leaving means I'll have to wake up from this dream and leave a lot of things behind. Leaving means I have to go back to my old life, the one I had put on hold while I was here. I'm scared that once I go back, all the things I have learned here in Toronto will be lost -- and I'll revert back to living that mundane, dreary existence. After months and months of running away from my inner demons, I know I will finally have to face my fears and make a decision.

I don't want to leave.

25 May 2006

in the still of the night

Tonight, a fit of depression almost sent me over the edge. Alone, a thousand miles away from home, I found myself wandering the streets of Toronto at 1 am, searching aimlessly for a direction.

I didn't quite understand how, or why, I got here. A few weeks ago, in what feels like another life, I was happy. Maybe it was a combination of the little, seemingly mundane things that drove me here. Or, maybe I just reached my tipping point, and I, without warning, fell.

More like crashed.

I don't know what scared me more -- the fact that I was walking out on the streets in the dead of night, or the fact that I was in such despair I needed to get out just to keep myself from losing my mind.

I found myself looking at the night sky, repeatedly murmuring "Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight" under my breath. It's funny how I wasn't even making any wishes at that time -- I just drowned myself in the rhyme, trying to calm myself down with the hopefulness of that phrase.

It's crazy, I know. Sometimes, I think I really may be crazy, too. I'm so good at pretending, and at hiding things, that I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know if my emotions are real anymore. I don't know if I want to exist anymore.

I suddenly realized how alone I was. I existed in a world where most of the people I talked to were faceless names behind a computer screen. I walked these city streets as another anonymous face in the crowd. I lived a life of solitary existence, where only I knew I existed.

Twice, I passed a homeless man standing on a street corner, baseball cap outstretched for spare change. Strangely enough, he didn't ask for money when I passed him. Instead, he looked me in the eyes solemnly and told me "Nice to see you again" as I passed him the second time. I should have been scared, but there was something in his gaze that enveloped me and made me feel safe again. I found myself smiling back at him, and in doing so, we acknowledged each others existence.

Somehow, that smile meant a lot. Here we were, two souls unknown & forgotten in the place we lived in. That brief moment meant that I wasn't alone, even if it was only a homeless man who could see me.

Tonight, I felt small and insignificant, but that smile was a single ray of hope for me. And I hope that if I hold on long enough, one day, I will no longer need someone else to be able to smile again.

*postcard from PostSecret

23 May 2006

a million little pieces

you are the loneliest girl in the world
taking your hits as they come
you are the loneliest girl in the world
and tonight you’d fall for anyone
it’s in the way you fall down to bed
it’s in the way you cry when he’s not looking
you are the loneliest girl in the world
i’ll watch you die a thousand times again
-loneliest girl in the world, cary brothers



I watched you as you stood there, looking out the window.

I wondered what you were thinking.

I waited silently for you to say something that would somehow justify all this, something that would make me understand why we were here.

Finally you turn and say something.

Something.

Something so inconsequential that I cannot even remember what it was you said. All I remember is that I froze at that moment, and a blinding realization hit me.

This is not what I want.

Then, as time started moving again, all I could remember were the voices, consuming me. The gaping hole inside me started expanding, gnawing at my insides until they could eat my soul away.

I watched as you walked out the door, and I remember I said something, but what it was I could not remember.

Then I curled up on my bed and stared numbly into nothingness.

Waiting for the voices to consume me completely, until I shattered and broke into a million little pieces.

the early bird gets bored

Victoria Day is a holiday in Canada, so us sunshine-deprived concourse creatures attempted to spend a whole day outdoors. What follows is a totally random entry about a totally random day:
  • We "rid" (hahaha. word of the day! I blame it on waking up too early!) the ferry over to the Toronto Islands. Unfortunately, we had the bright idea of heading over there at 9am -- the island was almost deserted and thirty minutes into the trip, the city girl in me was dead bored and feeling glum.
  • We walked the endless boardwalk from Ward's to Centre Island followed by a large procession of bugs.... only to find out the bike rentals were still closed. Boohoo.
  • Got bored and tired and lazy, so just as the attractions on the island were beginning to open, we were already heading back to the city to pick up Gautam. Hahaha. Loooosers!
  • Talked about FOBbies, CBCs, and exes while binging on chicken wings at The Rex.
  • Got drunk on wine while playing Huang (how do you spell it anyway? Basta, it's the Chinese version of 123 Pass!). I loved Michael's "You haven't finished your glass, MISSY!!!!". :P
  • Somehow managed to win this game called Pee On Your Neighbor's Space (or that was what I think it was called) even if I never understood it. It's called the no-strategy strategy. Ehe.
  • Cooked an everything overcooked dinner (at least we tried! :P), where we discovered someone's financial status. *evil grin*
  • Late night date. ;)

Haha. So much for that outdoors thing -- I think I really am a city girl at heart.

21 May 2006

yonge street

i walked down the street today,
a street traversed many times without thought.

i watched as the street basked in the afternoon glow
of a sun
starting to hide behind the clouds.

i walked down the street today.
i watched people pass me by
the old lady carrying her bag of groceries
a man walking a big gray dog
the couple holding hands
(i wonder how she hooked him)
a group of tourists, young
walking into a souvenir store.

i walked down the street today.
i looked into store windows
little shops of clothes and shoes
dollar stores smelling of dust and must
i watched as people of all colors
(some chinese, some indian)
looked for their future in this place.

i walked down the street today.
i watched people pass me by
and wondered, which one of them was like me.

i watched people laugh, talk,
go about their daily lives,
walking past without a thought.
their time seemed infinite.
and i think,
maybe none of them are like me.

i walked down the street today
like i had done countless times.

i walked down the street today
except today felt like goodbye.

20 May 2006

the mystery meal

The original plan was to watch Cirque √Čloize, that acrobatic troupe from Montreal currently touring in Toronto. Unfortunately, by the time we got around to actually attempt to buy tickets, they had sold out. So we ended up at the Mysteriously Yours dinner theater instead. (Thanks to T.O. Tix, we got $45 tickets for just $15!)

The show is an interactive play, where you can have dinner and actually interact with the characters of the show. Instead of watching actors on stage, they're all around you -- talking to you, sitting at the table with you, and some even hitting on you. ;) It was amazing how real it felt -- one minute, we're in a restaurant expecting to see a play, and the next, we became part of a studio audience about to watch a live radio show. We had a chance to meet the radio actors, the station manager, and even the owner of the station. My favorites were Rose Bud, who said she liked my top, and Mr. Wurst, who invited me to go with him to a beach in the Philippines! Haha.

Then, just when you've met all the employees of the radio station, someone dies. It's murder... and it's up to you to figure out who did it. Coolness. It's almost like Cluedo, except you're dealing with real people.

The highlight of the show, however, was Randy the composer, who was trying to convince us the whole night that we should be his backup singers. Chuwariwop. He must have had the hots for Iris. ;) Teehee.

17 May 2006

tonight i can write the saddest lines





I have never felt emotions as strong, or as painful, as this before.

Four months.

It's gonna be hard to let go.

14 May 2006

up on the roof

They sat out on the terrace, two bodies huddled against the cold night.

It was drizzling slightly as they watched the lights down below. The city, awash with all the lights and life. The sound of shouts and laughter drifted up slowly, along with the pum-pum-pum sound of bass coming from the clubs nearby.

They were silent even as they talked, two strangers sitting in the dark. Their conversation was littered with small talk, punctuated by a swig of a cocktail, or by a shiver in the wind.

It was nothing then.

But, for a moment, she felt a terrifying stab of fear this night would mean more than it was supposed to.

12 May 2006

floored

I have a big, wide, stupidly cheerful smile plastered on my face today.

Today was my birthday.

I normally don't celebrate my birthday (I've always believed making too much of a fuss over a single day can only set you up for disappointment), so I wasn't really expecting anything today. Maybe a phone call from the parents, and some text messages and emails from friends. Besides, I was all the way out here in Toronto -- I didn't expect people to actually go out of their way to greet me.

My day started out routinely, without any of that happy-happy birthday mood. I woke up at 1pm, freaked out because I was soooooo late for work, and decided to work from home because I was too embarassed to show up in the office at 3pm. (Yes, Michael, I do still have an ounce of shame :P).

So, there I was working at our dining table and feeling kinda off since I hadn't seen an real live person all day. (I start getting depressed whenever I go a whole day without talking to or seeing an actual person because I feel like I'm in the twilight zone.) I was about to launch into my nobody-loves-me moment, when Iris got home, greeted me, and handed me a plastic bag -- gifts and greeting from the Toronto and Manila officemates.

I was floored.

It's always been a tradition for the Manila team to give a team member a "surprise" on their birthday, but this time I really was surprised. Thank you so much for the birthday card, you guys.... laugh trip yung mga birthday wishes niyo! I'm trying to find my Torontonian papa, just in case Sweetie Cow will never learn to love me. ;) And thank you for the sweetie cows, Cheng! I will call them Sweetie Cow and Sweetie Pao, and they will live happily ever after...

I didn't expect anything from someone in Toronto -- but Mylene, thanks so much for the gifts. Mukha ako lalong Latina sa earrings! Hola! And Iris, thank you for the lovely CD, which I seriously thought I was choosing for you. Hahaha.

And lastly, thank you to those who called/emailed/texted/blogged/Friendster-ed me on this lovely day.

Merci beaucoup!

And so I still have this big, wide, stupidly cheerful smile plastered on my face.

11 May 2006

hello, world

Hello, world.

I have never met a person working in the IT industry who has not encountered this phrase at least once in their lifetime. On the contrary, most people in the industry would laugh fondly upon hearing these words, and would reminisce at the significance these two short, seemingly meaningless words hold for them.

You see, for an IT person, this phrase marks a beginning. You remember the day you typed these two words on your keyboard, compiled, ran... and watched in awe as these words scrolled across the screen. It's almost bewildering, how you made that happen. The cursor blinks expectantly, challenging you to do more.

And so it begins. You are sucked into the whirlwind, seduced by the prospect of how much you can do.

And so this essay begins.

In two days, I will turn 24. The past twenty-three years of my life I have never given much thought to turning a year older. I always thought of birthdays just as any other day in my life; thinking of it as a special day seemed to put too much pressure on people. On me, too. I didn't like how on birthdays, you were expected to be happy, as if all the problems in the world would cease to exist just because you were born on this day.

Yet this past week, I've found myself mulling over my birthday. Not on purpose -- somehow the thought just seemed to creep in during those split-seconds the world would pause to let me breathe. Perhaps it's because I'm halfway around the world right now, away from the comforting familiarity of home. Living here has allowed me to view my life in Manila through a looking glass – it’s funny how that can put things in a completely different perspective. My problems, worries, and anxieties seem to have grown infinitely smaller, and sometimes I wonder whether I really should have spent that much time and effort on them.

I got to thinking of the past twenty-three years, and what I have done with it. It all started out rather ordinarily -- I went to school, got a degree, and got my share of those adolescent moments that we always look back and smile giddily about. Then, real life happened.

It has been a roller-coaster ride ever since. The past three years have been spent with me trying to carve my own niche in the corporate world. I have worked feverishly, but I have also been the slacker. I have been the eagerly helpful employee; I have been the haughty worker at the other end of the line. I have been the over-achiever; I have been the mediocre wage-earner. I have fallen madly in love, and I have fallen out of love with my work.

In a moment of clarity, I realized how much IT has influenced my life.

Some would say that's a bad thing, how I let my career shape who I am. Sometimes, I believe them. Maybe it is true. Maybe I have concentrated too much on my career that I have allowed the other aspects of my life to flatten out. But I think of where I would be today if I had not taken IT -- and I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

In this past year alone, I have experienced so many things I never would have thought I could do in a single year. I have had the chance to travel and fall in love with cities that previously had only existed in my imagination. I have had to make big decisions on which opportunities I would take, and which opportunities I would let pass me by. I have had a chance to live independently in another country, and I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of doing. I have crossed paths with people from places far and wide, and it has broadened my horizons so vastly that I cannot think of living life any other way.

I guess, somehow, that fate just had a roundabout way of making things happen. I always dreamed of this life, but I never expected I would get it this way -- in a rush, when I least expected it. But it's here. I'm here. And I don't think I would be as wondrous, and as grateful, as I am now if I had not gone through all the past twenty three years of my life in the manner that I did.

So what do I do next? What lies ahead?

I don't know. Like many other twenty-somethings undergoing their quarter-life crisis, I am lost as ever. But, for the first time in my life, that doesn't scare me. It only means that my life isn't over yet. There are more moments to experience, more challenges to tackle, more mountains to conquer. It's okay not to have the answer, because sometimes it's the question that matters.

I don't know where I'm going, but I know I will get there, one day at a time. And each day, I will face life with all the optimism I can muster, and say the words that a computer has taught me.

Hello, world.