TINY STORY NO. 2: A GIFT WITHIN GIFTS

in my life, tiny stories

We both laughed when I read the statement on the paper bag:

Please enjoy this extraordinary act of generosity.

In our circle of friends, I am not bragging when I say that I am the giver among us all. When February rolled in, they have begun asking me questions like

“What gift do you want?”, “Are you sure you don’t want anything specific?”, “This is your last chance, what book do you want to receive?”

I can’t suppress my laughter when a friend told me how they talked about what to get me, or how to make up for what I did for their birthdays. Years ago, maybe I would have asked them to spoil me with material things, but maybe it comes with growing up that we learn to value more of the people around us rather than the gifts they give. But I do appreciate the efforts they went through to reciprocate what I’ve done for their birthdays (a letter with sincere words is more than enough for me).

Gift giving is something that comes easy to me. Maybe it’s something that I inherited from my mother. Or a trait that I can no longer shake off. I tried not do it once or twice, but I soon realized that giving gifts is one of my strongest love language. Although once, a scary thought dangled within me.

What if I no longer have to offer? What if companionship and time is all I can offer, would that be enough?

This year, I found out that the answer to that is yes. We’re growing up, and sometimes being together is enough. Spending time with each other amidst life busyness is enough. Time itself is a gift. Being there for each other is a gesture that says: thank you. I’d like to keep you. I’m here to stay.

Dear February, I hate to say goodbye too soon. We are always three days short. There were still days when I feel listless or without the desire to get up from bed (ummm…just like today). But thank you for letting me bank a lot of good days. I hate to turn the calendar over but we must keep moving.

Three days short but He has given me more than I expect – or ask for. The gift of friends, their efforts to give back, two places that I can call home, a safe place in the form of the truest of true friends, more appreciation for art, the chance to be vulnerable and accepted at the same time.

February, you’re a gift within gifts.

Tiny Stories is inspired by the book curated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt(bearing the same title) that says: The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. This is my attempt to compile mine, something to push me to write even if there’s not a lot of words for me to grasp.

SEEING THE SIGNS AND THE WONDERS

artsy fartsy, in my life, stories of faith

These words have been long overdue. They were repeatedly contained in my prayers, written on my journal, typed through posts in social media, and stored through locked notes in my phone. Not being a wordsmith makes it longer for me to piece them together, just like what I always say: bear with me, as I try to connect the stars that formed my constellation (okay, that was too poetic). But these made me sure of three things on the art universe:


1.  A COMPLIMENT CAN GO A LONG WAY AND WARM A PERSON’S HEART IF YOU SAY IT SINCERELY
(it’s easy to tell when it’s just lip service). Mine came last January 2015. We were busy doing our vision boards when Ms. Rhiza came to our table and said: You really have an eye for art.

Being the usual introvert that I am, I did not know how to stop turning into a mushy marshmallow while fully controlling myself from letting it go to my head. In return I gave her my sheepish smile and continued working on my piece.

Those words may be simple, but in that moment it was enough to spark my passion to create art once again. It made me think that maybe there’s beauty in what I make that others can see, something that I failed to notice. Yes, what an epiphany, but Ms. Rhiza’s words during that day gave me a different perspective.

If ever you know someone who’s striving to create their own art, don’t hold the compliments in. Don’t hesitate to give away words. Remember that 1 sincere word = 1 step away from the doubts and insecurities that artists are facing everyday.

2.  WHEN THE ART UNIVERSE CALLS, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ANSWER IT.

Woman, Create called for submissions last July 2016, I quickly gathered what I considered was worthy enough to be submitted and e-mailed it with these words:

As much as I want to say something melodramatic or touching, all I know right now is that you convinced me to submit my artworks with the lines that say “artistic souls – those who may not have the label of an artist or writer but have some pieces they’d like to put out, but don’t believe it’s worth it – it is!” I’m still shy on sending them to you. The scanner at the computer shop failed me, but if ever you decide to choose one from any of these, I’d be more than glad to send another high-res copy. Keep on empowering women to create.

Months passed and there was no reply. Okay, that scanner really did a crappy job, I thought. Maybe it’s just wasn’t the art they’re looking for. Not wanting to dive into a pit of disappointment, I pushed the thought of getting published out of my mind. But just before I was able to forget it completely, an e-mail came bearing a promise:

Hello, my wonders. How art you today?

If you’re wondering why you’re suddenly receiving this e-mail, surprise – the planner of wonders is coming out real soon, and your contributed works of 5 months ago made it into this book. I thank you for opening up portals to your universe through the works you have given me just for this planner to not be a source of my vanity (in terms of art, design etc.) It is truly a great privilege to get to know you a little bit more through art and poetry, made sincerely for whatever purpose you have wished it to serve back when you first created it.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
Poetry by my friend Val

Surreal. I re-read the it just to sure I wasn’t dreaming, that it was really happening. And it did happen. Another amazing this is that my friend’s poetry was chosen to be published too. We were both quiet about it, not wanting to spill anything unless we were included. We celebrated this milestone together, exclaiming how these was just a wish when we spent time on our Tumblrs. We were both astounded that at the right time, God honors even the littlest dreams, or the most silent of prayers. And this leads us to the last part of the story. This may seem like a cliché but that does not make it any less true:

3.  IT MAY TAKE A LONG TIME, BUT SOME DREAMS DO COME TRUE AND PRAYERS GET ANSWERED.  It may just be a page, and maybe a word or two but it was quite a big deal for us. It was a testimony in itself. There’s a note sitting on my phone for a long time now, partly confession but more of a realization.

WomanCreate_4


Poems x collage artworks by yours truly published in the Woman, Create planners.

The truth is, I felt small that time. Some artworks were placed on centerfold and whole pages, then there was mine…quietly waiting on the sidelines and would probably go unnoticed if you flip through it faster than a blink of an eye. Yet there was a quiet voice inside of me saying – you might feel tiny, but aren’t all universes made up of a billion stars to create galaxies so beautiful, to light up the dark night sky? And I knew. I knew that we were all stars, no matter how big or small our artworks were. No matter where our words were placed. We weren’t made to shine on our own, but rather be collectively put together to shine brighter.

These words are also my long note of thanks for the two women who greatly influenced me to keep on creating art– though they may not be aware of it that time. For Ms. Rhiza, whose words of encouragement made me see my art in a different light. And for Marika, who could have filled the book with her own artworks but was gracious enough to give space for other artists to grow. ❤


And oh, my art and I made it to the centerfold this time. Hihi :’)

To those who have bought/supported the creation of this planner, thank you. You didn’t buy just a mere book, but you’re carrying our hearts within those pages. It is our hopes and dreams translated through words and pictures. Let’s continue inspiring one another to leap into wonders everyday.

TINY STORY NO. 1: STRANGER THAN FICTION

chapters and pages, in my life, tiny stories

2016-07-27 04.26.15 1

“You should stop reading fiction books and start reading these titles.” Mother said as she pointed to the stack of books in her workstation, bearing titles like Talent Is Not Enough, The Path to Wealth, and more business like words that doesn’t fascinate me enough to pay 10 seconds of attention.

“It’s different for everybody. My inspiration isn’t rooted in those kind of genres.” I quipped. Cutting the conversation short, just in case it would just turn into another argument or debate that I might be forced to engaged in.

I tend to put my thoughts in a back burner until I’m sure that they’re good enough to be served. The rest of the words here might be what I hold back during that day.

The truth is, I can’t imagine a world – or a life – without fiction books. How can I? When at a young age I was able to visit Wonderland and Oz? I fell down the rabbit hole and followed the yellow brick road that led me to the joys of reading. After meeting the characters from these worlds, it has been a never ending journey through different stories.  Nothing melt my heart more when I landed on the Sahara desert and met the Little Prince, up to this day I am one of the people who believes that he would return (or maybe he’s laughing with us through the stars). I can go on and on, but I just refuse to deprive myself of the escape that Narnia, Middle-earth, and London Below can provide. Don’t deny that you’re still waiting for your acceptance letter at Hogwarts.

It’s not just about the worlds, it’s also more of the comfort of words. The unexplainable experience of being soaked of endless feelings, of not wanting a story to end, of crying because you’re favorite character has died, of holding them close to your heart just like how you would a family or a friend. Sometimes they even help makes sense of this life we’re living in. There’s so much that these pages can contain.

So if my mother, would come around and ask me to give it up once again. My answer would always be a resounding no. Fiction is forever.

Tiny Stories is inspired by the book curated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (bearing the same title) that says: The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. This is my attempt to compile mine, something to push me to write even if there’s not a lot of words for me to grasp.

 

FOR THE GIRL WHO DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO COOK

in my life
howtocook

photo grabbed from hookedonhouses.net

First, you are not alone. If you think that you’re a glitch to the feminine species who seem to be equipped with natural skills in whipping up food that tastes good, I repeat you are not alone.

Second, there’s actually hope for you. Society seems to align us into a stereotype that cooking should be innate in a woman, but trust me cooking maybe a talent for some. But sometimes, it’s a skill to be learned.

I know, because I am one of those girls.

It all started with the dislike of the wet market. I was young and maarte, (there’s no other word that more accurate than this) whenever Nanay would ask me to accompany her in the market I would just end up making faces because this wet mud never stops getting to my slippers, and eventually my feet. One of my consistent pet peeve is squishy feet. After a few more tries, we both got the idea that the situation made me an irritated person, so mother ended up with kuya for company. If my memory serves me right, I know it worked pretty well because he would always come home with a live little fish or shrimp to play with (sorry Finding Nemo fans, but that’s the harsh reality we all have to deal with). While I was left alone with my books, dolls, or whatever I may fancy doing during that time.

Eventually, Kuya was the one trained to do the cooking. It was like the natural flow of activities: go to the market, clean the fishes, sort the vegetables, and then cook for lunch. On the other hand, weekends meant that I need to finish my school works. I became the resident geek who prioritize her studies, while my brother took the role of the cook.

It was by the book learning from me; once Tiya asked me to take charge in cooking rice. Ha! A cooking assignment! I can do this!  I can’t remember how old I was back then, and I also can’t remember the next step after the rice has been washed. Should I put water in it or not? I haven’t read anything about rice before. I debated for 5 minutes whether to put water or not. Well, there’s no water in it whenever we eat rice. So I guess, it doesn’t need any.

Apparently, I wasn’t gifted with enough common sense to know that it needs water to boil and to be cooked. A few minutes later a weird smell rafted through the house. The rice wasn’t saved from being burnt and I stayed away from the kitchen. Up to this day, it was still one of my classic childhood stories.

Years later the only thing I became confident in cooking were pizza rolls and hotdogs. The egg was still a mystery because it always end up scrambled (can’t help it if it’s too attached to the frying pan you know).

When I was in college, I made a strawberry panna cotta. I saw a recipe on a magazine and decided to give it a try. I followed it step by step but it seems that I end up putting too many gelatin leaves. Lo and behold, it wasn’t even edible! Hahaha! I can laugh at it now, yet that day I felt like the recipe betrayed me. Frustrated even that I spent two-days-worth of allowance for that.

There was also a time when Hong Kong style noodle was one of my favorite foods, so I tried making my own. I fried the pancit canton and came to realize that it actually takes a different noodle for it to be achieved. I resumed at just buying at my favorite kiosk in the LRT station.

From then on, I started calling the act as “experiment” and not cooking. At least if I fail, it wouldn’t be so bad since it was meant to be an experiment anyway. Experiments can’t always end well.

So, you might wonder why I am telling all these. It’s because lately there have been some developments in the Department of Kitchen Experiments. I am now learning how to cook – just a little, nothing extravagant. If I open a restaurant now the menu would be comprised of sautéed vegetables, adobong sitaw, and baked macaroni. Thanks to the rice cooker, I can now be tasked with the sinaing, and thanks to an easier recipe I was able to make an edible panna cotta (I almost cried when I found out that it can be eaten).

I came up with this principle that if I really really really love eating it, I should learn how to cook it. And that’s a real challenge since I do love to eat (if that isn’t obvious yet). Right now, I am acquainting myself with different pasta and fried chicken recipes. These thoughts actually came to mind when I finished eating the spicy Buffalo wings I made for launch. Yes, it’s a proud moment for me because I can finally cook edible food!

To the girls who don’t know how to cook but who wants to learn, yes it is possible. You may start from scratch – or should I say burnt? – And might even surprise yourself that it can end up delicious after all. Go for the simple recipes first, like the Buzzfeed ones that unexpectedly shows up in your feed, or maybe ask your brother/mother/sister/whomever better than you.

If your family shies away from being the taste-testers, go bring it out to your friend or colleagues (just make sure their hungry so it would taste yummy. Haha! Kidding. Or maybe not). Do not merely eat, but familiarize yourself with the flavors that food can bring.

You might not end up a chef, but it is equally satisfying to cook something good for yourself. Or maybe someday, you can gather the people you love the most and say:

Come one, come all, a feast has been prepared for you all.

P.S. And if you need an extra push go watch Ratatouille or A Hundred Foot Journey. It has served as a foolproof cooking inspiration for me.

SIXTEEN YEARS GONE

in my life

Once I was seven years old, my mama told me,

“Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely.”

Once I was seven years old

It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger

Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker

You’re a bright young girl who seemed to be born with rose colored glasses. Most of my memories of you had already crumbled with time, but I also have vivid ones that I would never forget. There was the time when you didn’t hesitate to join an acting competition at school; a tear-jerking moment was needed to be shown, as you pretended that the doll was your mother. The crowd scared you but behind stood Nanay, cheering you on. Seeing her standing there was enough to melt the nervousness away. I could no longer remember if you won or maybe another person gets to take home the prize, still you were happy that you didn’t back out.

I’ve also lost count of the days that you pretended to a contestant from Little Miss Philippines. Your relatives would always coax you to perform, and now it makes me wonder where did you get that showy part of you? How they would laugh when you said that your talent is to eat a live and breathing chicken. I’m sure there’s video of you somewhere, walking on your kiddie pool with one hand waving in a pageant-like manner. You’re a real life Olive straight out from the Little Miss Sunshine movie. And when asked the famous question of what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer was consistent: To be a doctor.

Yes, you may be a shy girl at times but when the situation calls for it, you become a fighter. Remember that time when you jumped off the stage to avoid being “tagged” in a game? Although I can’t really figure out if it was a 20-second-act of bravery or stupidity; you landed wrongly and eventually earned your first scar on the knee. Back then, you were so grade conscious that you cry whenever you do not belong in the top of the class list. Though more than the medals you’ve earned it felt like pedaling the bike on your own was a greater achievement.

Once I was eleven years old, my daddy told me,

“Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely.”

Once I was eleven years old

Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me

‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me

But just like in every story, a climax was bound to happen. The first part was too much of a buildup, isn’t it? Now there’s no easy way to recount how the walls started to crumble. How the puzzle pieces doesn’t fit anymore. You were eleven, still a bit young to understand it all. It was too difficult to listen through the screams or to see through the tears. Up until now maybe you still wrap them through metaphors.

Books had been your escape.

You just buried yourself page after page of all the books you can hold on to. No regrets on that though, for they have been your constant companion in life.

You read The Diary of a Young Girl and was inspired by the vulnerability of Anne Frank. Her own honesty pushed you to start your own journal. These pages held your secrets, your frustrations, and your joys. They had been your outlet from then on. Years later and you still consider paper as one of your best friends.

There were triumphs and failures. You gained some and lost some in the long process of growing up. But if I were given the chance, I’d like to be there for you when you thought that you weren’t good enough to create art. I wish I could have told you that we are all moving in a different pace, that the fruitfulness of others in their craft doesn’t mean that yours can’t be good. How I wish that I could be there when you compared yourself to others and decided to give up. I would have shaken you with a reminder that comparison only robbed you years and years of practice that could have made you grow. But maybe, just maybe, it was also a part of your artistic journey.

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

Before the morning sun, when life was lonely

Once I was twenty years old

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

I was writing about everything I saw before me

Once I was twenty years old*

So dear 7-year-old self, this has gotten longer than I expected. And quite frankly I don’t know how to end it. If we were in a coffee shop together, I know that we could spend hours telling each other stories (Yes, there’s still a lot to be told than these paragraphs). Reminiscing about the experiences that we went through.

Honestly, I don’t know if you could look me in the eye and tell me of how proud you are of what we’ve become (that may be a dangerous train of thought, but right now maybe we’re just a little bit lost). If there’s one thing that I admire about you that would be courage. Your boldness to pursue the things that you wanted, even if you encountered roadblocks ahead. I’ve lost that muchness over the years.

Still, hope remains in my heart that we are making a comeback. Your 23-year-old self is about to go out of the woods. Maybe this phase is a way to be brand new. Maybe being stuck in a rut is also a time to heal from wounds. A time to be more honest with myself.

As we go forward, please lend me that courage. Let my childlike heart beat again.

*Lyrics from Lukas Graham’s Seven Years