Essays, Lost in the World

No distance left to run

When I can’t find the words or imagery to express how I feel, I turn to film stills. I have hundreds of them saved or screen-captured into a folder on my phone, and over the last year, I’ve watched them gradually turn from quotes about love and loss, to statements about self-discovery, to lines of dialogue about escape in some form or another. (Perhaps it’s a cycle: You lose something of great value to yourself, and there’s a part of you that’s left empty. You try to find something to fill in that void. And if you can’t find it in your existing surroundings, you set out for new ones to search there.)

The need to escape is something many of us feel keenly — an escape from the banality of day-to-day living, from bad company, from a difficult situation, from an uninspiring environment, from ourselves, from all of the above, from all that and more. Some will find that escape in music, or in books, or in binge-watching films and television series and losing themselves in those fictional worlds; checking out of one reality and into another. Some will find escape in creating their own alternate realities. Some will find escape in a bed or in a bottle.

And some will find escape by literally escaping.

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Essays, Lost in the World, Non-fiction

Extra, extra

“Reg, are you free on Monday?” my Italian friend asks me on Messenger. “Yes, I am, bella. Why?” I reply. “I am trying to help my friend find foreign-looking people to be extras in a teleserye.”

She tells me the talent fee I’ll receive for being in the background for a day (the fee for afams is reportedly P1,000 more than locals get, and because I’m not with an agency, no one gets a cut), and I figure to myself that it isn’t as though I’ll be doing anything anyway, so I may as well make a little pocket money by doing nothing somewhere that isn’t my bedroom. It’s more than I’d make writing a feature for a magazine, and the money is handed over in cold, hard cash immediately after the shoot.

That, and like many others I know, I’ve always had a not-so-secret fantasy about being an artista. (I used to seriously want to audition for Big Brother to see what would happen. “Don’t,” was the advice I received from a friend who was actually a Housemate in one of the Celebrity Editions. “As in, do not. It’s terrible.”) This would be my opportunity to see what that world is really like. For that alone, I just have to say yes.

Our call time is nine in the morning, and upon waking at exactly nine in the morning, I try to back out. “Don’t worry,” I’m told, “these things never start on time; you can still make it.” I arrive at the location — an events venue in Quezon City — at half past 10 and recognize some legitimately foreign friends lounging outside the Sbarro next door. “What’s happening?” I ask. “Nothing yet,” they say, although we have all already made ourselves up and dressed in black. The scene we’re shooting today is a formal-ish function, and we were instructed to dress for a black and white party. The small but air-conditioned changing room — like a glorified Portalet — is set up on the sidewalk by the road, next to the show’s catering service, housed under a rental canopy, and a tent that serves as a holding area for other extras’ things, but not the extras themselves.

At 11:30, we are all antsy. It’s an incredibly hot summer day, and we retreat into Sbarro to enjoy their air-conditioning under the guise of buying drinks. Some of us leave to grab a bite to eat. (They ultimately do not return.)

At 1:30, we find out that taping starts in half an hour, and that we will be expected to remain on set until taping for the day ends. “Sometimes it is just a few hours,” my friend tells me. “Sometimes, it is until early morning.” But one of the main actresses for this particular show has a clause in her contract stating that she will not tape past two in the morning, so at the very least, we know the worst case scenario. This is the point of no return — do I commit the next 12 hours to this endeavor, just to sate my curiosity about what life in showbiz is actually like?

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Essays, Lost in the World, Photographs


Every 27 to 29 years or so, the planet Saturn will have made a complete revolution around the Sun, placing it in the same position that it was in when you were born. This is called Saturn Return — a tumultuous time in your life when you start to get existential crises, when major upheavals begin happening all at once, disrupting the life you were already living, that you thought you were happy with. It will make you doubt yourself. It will force you to reassess every single choice you’ve ever made over the years, everything that’s turned you into the person you are today, and make you wonder if you might have gone wrong somewhere.

Saturn Return will put you through mental and emotional hell, and after this approximately three-year period, there are two ways you can come out of it.

The first possibility is that soldiering through so many trials will cement your current path, whatever that path is. Making it through the struggle is what proves to you beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is who you are, this is what you want to do, this is your life. And this certainty, this clarity, this comfort, you fought hard for it, and it’s what will light the fire in you that will keep you going. You were right all along, so you can throw yourself completely into your life, confident in that knowledge.

Lucky you.

Because in contrast, the second possibility is that all of the questioning and self-doubt will bring you to the realization that you don’t want the life you’re living anymore. The person you are now isn’t the person you want to be — it’s the person you thought you wanted to be. The dreams you used to dream aren’t the same any longer. And this is understandably terrifying because you’ve spent the better part of your youth working towards becoming who you are, only to discover that it doesn’t feel right, and you don’t know what does.

All you know for sure is that you need a change. You’re on the brink of 30, and instead of finding security like you thought you would, everything has fallen apart. Suddenly you have to figure out who you’re supposed to be. And then you have to put that person together somehow.

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