Essays, Journal, Photographs

Coming Home

It’s a testament to how much I love my new flat that I was actually excited to go home to it after my three weeks in Italy and Austria; my first trip to Europe since 2019. Usually I’d already be depressed on the plane ride home, and then I’d get even sadder upon settling back into my bedroom in my parents’ house. It used to take me a while to unpack my suitcase because a part of me still wanted to hold on to the idea of being away, and I’d always have this sense of ‘I wish I were anywhere else,’ which really meant ‘I wish I were back in Berlin instead.’

I think what I enjoyed most about my summers away from home was the freedom. Initially it was the freedom of anonymity, of being away from Manila in a place where no one knew who I was and no one cared. It was the most liberating feeling, especially for someone who grew up sheltered, from a family background that taught her early on to be hyper-aware of herself. In Manila, I had a curfew until I was 28. In Berlin, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and no one was ever watching.

Then I realised it was also the freedom of being alone in my own space. I’m an introvert and a homebody at heart; I loved having a place that was just mine, if only for a little while. I loved the ‘tedium’ of cooking and cleaning; I never actually thought it was particularly tedious. I still really enjoy going to the supermarket and doing the dishes. I loved knowing I could close the door behind me and just switch off.

For the first time in my life, I have that in Manila now, too.

I moved into my own flat — finally — at the end of February this year after a long and challenging renovation process, and it really is such a dream home. I always knew I wanted to write about the process upon its completion. It’s about 97% of the way, I figure that’s close enough.

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know I really enjoy telling an absurdly long-winded story, so you also already know what to expect, haha.

And I know a bunch of you have been waiting for the photos, so maybe scroll to the end for that.

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Essays, Journal

Bree Jonson and the outrageous pursuit of hope

Photo by Mark Nicdao

Sometimes I’m afraid that the sound of her laugh is beginning to fade from my memory as early as now, which is absurd because it was such a distinct, goofy laugh, and it came out of her mouth so often when we were together.

That’s one of the things that frustrates me most about the conversation surrounding my friend Bree — that so much of what heartbreakingly little noise there has been is coming from people who never had the privilege of knowing her, instead of the ones who loved her and actually knew her. That some of the loudest voices hazarding guesses at their version of her story have the audacity to make such damaging assumptions and insinuations about her character when she can no longer defend herself.

That the people whose responsibility it is to find the truth could so casually toss out words like suicide, justified by phrases like psychosocial disorder, or she was afraid he was going to leave her for Europe/another woman/flimsy excuse of the day, as if Bree didn’t have her condition fully managed through therapy and medication, as if Bree wasn’t a consummate survivor and so proud of the fact, as if Bree wasn’t one of the most fiercely independent and self-sufficient people I knew, as if Bree didn’t have so many plans that were about to come into fruition, as if Bree would ever do such a thing in the presence of her cat Atlas (let alone from a showerhead with either his chain or one of the scraps of sheer fabric she purported to call a bra, whatever the story is today), as if Bree wouldn’t first turn to the huge support system around her, as if Bree would give up her dreams over something as paltry as the affections of some guy she’d only been dating for two months and change — and what beautiful dreams they were, all within reach of her incredible talent and drive.

As if Bree weren’t excited about everything she had to live for.

Sometimes I look at my phone and still think that maybe she’s just about to text me. I don’t know why I still hope. But I do. “Hey babe!”

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Essays, Journal

Time and space

It’s been a while, I know.

Staring at my screen now, with my fingertips on the keys for the first time in almost a year, I realize that it’s because this — the written word, this space — has always been where I am most vulnerable, and I have not wanted to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is an exhausting, terrifying quality to possess in a world like the one we live in now.

The last thing I wanted was to make myself vulnerable again.

Experience has taught me that it never ends well.

It is a year to the day since I learned I’d been cheated on. Mayon Volcano erupted this morning, something I took as a sign that it was finally the right time to write again.

I want so badly to be able to write this without referencing my heartbreak of 2017, but that makes no sense. How do you write about recovering from something without mentioning that something, that someone? You can’t. I can’t.

I want so badly to free him from my narrative, because he hasn’t been in my life for nearly a year now, but that’s impossible, because he will always be part of my narrative, and the loss of him, his absence, the emptiness he left in his wake, and all the hurt, figured so significantly in the year that was my year.

That is the nature of life, I suppose. It is the nature of stories, of interpersonal relations and their endings. It is the nature of writing, and one of the perils of dating a chronic oversharer who has made words her living from the age of seventeen.

“You own everything that happened to you,” says Anne Lamott in her Instructions on Writing and Life. “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I’ve lived by those words since the day I read them. I’ve been living by them since before that, really.

You’re always going to be a character in my story now.

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