For scribblers like me, this is the perfect time to blog because Filipinas is entering a scary but exciting new phase of governmental leadership.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
No, nobody’s preventing me to write about President-Elect Rody Rodrigo (please, enough with that idiotic “presumptive president” tag). The reason why I couldn’t blog about him is because…
…I couldn’t write anymore. I just couldn’t. Writer’s block? Probably. Whatever this is, it’s the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had ever since people started calling me a writer. But this is a case in which the problem is not just about writing but about reading as well. I couldn’t even concentrate finishing the recent John Grisham I’ve purchased. And the last Stephen King I’ve read took me forever. It came to a point when I was forcing myself to read. All sentences register blankly. My mind keeps floating somewhere else as I leaf through pages. I had to read each and every word aloud just for me to understand what I was reading. It’s that bad.
Because of this malady, I have to disappoint quite a lot of people. And that includes Manila-based theater group Tinik ng Teatro (TNT), The Quezon Province Heritage Council (QPHC), our country’s militant Hispanic community, my family, and most especially myself.
The dream of every writer is to have at least one book published in their lifetime. I almost had that opportunity a few years ago, but nothing came out of it (prior to that, I was already hurting when a magazine opportunity went pfffft). That is why, out of sheer desperation, I accepted Tinik ng Teatro’s invitation three months ago to write a coffee table book about its colorful history. I should have declined considering the fact that I have already committed myself to the San Pedro City Historical Council (SPCHC), and that my personal troubles were already seeping in. Because of that, I couldn’t accomplish the task without affecting its quality, something I abhor. To make matters more difficult, I’m still a prisoner of wage slavery. I work the night shift for a multinational conglomerate in shifting schedules, usually at night. I hate what I’m doing there, the hoary people I’m with, but I had to because it’s my only bread and butter. With five kids to feed and a wife who has left employment to become a full-time mom, you could just imagine the travails of an ambitious writer with patriotic tendencies.
Speaking of patriotism, I could’t keep pace anymore with the members of the QPHC. Not wanting to treat it merely as a social club that I could swagger around to people’s faces, I had really wanted to contribute more to its vision and mission, but I just couldn’t because of my abnormal office schedule. I volunteered to that group’s president that I will blog about its events. But even in that simple task I failed.
And then there’s my family’s financial status that has been bugging me each time I attempt to write something. We’ve been in terrible financial straits ever since my wife was forced to stop going to work (don’t let my family’s out-of-town trips fool you into thinking that we’re well-off than you). With our debts ballooning, we eventually lost the house we’ve mortgaged eight years ago, adding to my vexations. This financial pressure is one reason why I couldn’t even pay my dues with QPHC. Hilarious.
I was once active in the struggle to have the Spanish language brought back to the Filipino mainstream. Any article I encounter online degrading our Filipino History, one that is based on our Hispanic identity, would have immediately received an online beating from me. I take joy and pride that many in our “clique”, including one well-known constitutionalist, have considered me as Señor Guillermo Gómez‘s successor. Of course there is no person living today who can replace let alone duplicate what Señor Gómez had done for the country, but words like that was an additional motivation for me to carry on the national identity struggle with much gusto. But with the way things have been going in my mind lately, that will seem highly unlikely anymore. I’ve been quiet for a long time in that quixotic struggle, anyway.
So to TNT, QPHC, and to the Hispanic community, I would like to apologize for letting you all down. Feel free to curse at me. I deserve it, really.
Lest I forget, I just came off a two-week physical therapy to treat my reflex neurovascular dystrophy. This painful condition has been been giving me severe discomfort whenever I sit down and use the keyboard and mouse even for just a few minutes. This has been going on for the past few years which started to worsen about two years ago. Unfortunately, PT didn’t work. My hands, fingers, forearms, arms, shoulder, armpits, and upper back are is till in total pain even as I write this sorry blogpost. So just imagine the kind of hell my body goes through each and every time I buckle down on my office cubicle for a lonely eight-hour night shift surrounded by annoying schleppers and the most unbearable philistines who don’t have an inkling as to the root cause of why we’re all there in the first place.
The preceding paragraph reminds of what I believe is the worst contributor to my sorry mental state: my shifting night schedule as a wage slave. I’ve been a clock-punching night shifter for more than a decade already, having been employed in various companies; I didn’t fare well in all of them and have had issues. Not that I care, but my heart simply doesn’t belong to employment (“I am not like them. I am divine. I was meant to work with my intellect, not with my hand. I sweat aesthetically, but since they do not see, they think I am a sloth,” says José García Villa). I just had to do it because of my family. And for the past five years, I’ve been facing EDSA’s horrendous traffic, sometimes waiting for the world to die inside a bus for three hours just to get to the office (there’s no freaking way you’ll be able to make me take the more vicious MRT). Unfortunately, such a routine has taken a severe toll on both mind and body to the point that I no longer wake up without a headache, nor could I sleep six hours straight. And whenever I’m awake, I feel sleepy most of the time and feel dreamy and teary eyed at the sight of the afternoon sun. There are times when I just sit on the bathroom floor after a tiring shift, thinking of all those things that I needed to write but couldn’t because of my circumstances, so I end up helplessly and unconsciously chuckling alone, the echoes of my snickers bouncing off creepily against the tiles, with showers of water streaming down my face… or were those tears?
Maintaining three blogs, nay, struggling to keep awake just to read and write has become an inoperative endeavor through the years. With ideas piling up every day but without enough time for me to channel them out resulted into stress which in turn led to frustration. They’re all dammed up right there (points to the temple), but they couldn’t get out. My tired mind feels like an empty glass pitcher that’s been gradually filling up with water, then placed inside a freezer until it freezes and expands, breaking the pitcher in the process.
Taking into account all of the above and mixing them all up together, the result is a mind that has been sapped of its verve to write. Creativity has been stymied. All that is left is frustration. Whatever creative wittiness, spunk, or humor I may have had in the past, they’re all gone.
How I miss those days when I could blog several times in a month. There were even times when I could blog almost every day. They may not be of top quality compared to other seasoned writers/bloggers, but the point is that I was productive compared to today. I still want to write about so many things. In fact, I’ve been cooking up some short fiction, but couldn’t even continue beyond character development. Several blogposts have already been lined up for this blog and my two other blogs, but they continue to remain in the back burner because of the above-mentioned reasons (excuses?). I could no longer remember the last time I wrote poetry. No rhyme. No verse. Not even the blank type.
Shucks, I just couldn’t go on like this anymore.
Both my ambition and status have consumed me. In order to save myself, all that I yearn for now is a permanent vacation, with trees and flowers, crisp-cold rivers amidst cold a mountain air, perhaps a touch of morning sea breeze…
And fireflies at night.
I have come to a point in my life when I could no longer believe in myself. I now doubt my abilities and even question myself what I really wanted to do in my life. To my ego’s delight, I was once tagged as a budding young historian. But that was long ago. Looking back, I find that all laughable. Hilarious even. How can I be an efficient historian when I am wasting whatever skills I may have in an office cubicle each and every freaking night for the past decade when I should be connected in the academe and doing more research? I couldn’t even find time to answer that proud online historian who thinks that he is right and the likes of Nick Joaquín and León Mª Guerrero, who both had lived in a Filipino tradition he had never experienced, are wrong. But I’m done with arguing online. Years of doing that with Hispanophobes brought me nor my advocacy nowhere. I see no hope for this fight in sight. Even Claro M. Recto’s motivation to struggle for the good cause (ha de amar la lucha por el puro placer de luchar) now feel like dead leaves falling slowly to the ground. I am sorry.
Working in the academe or applying for a newspaper job is no longer an option considering the fact that I have five children to raise. I’m not from a rich family. I’ve been on my own since I’ve become a young dad of two kids and I’ve never depended on anyone, not even on my parents whose espousal I couldn’t even save (and that adds more to my anxieties). The study of history is not a trifle matter. It is certainly not a hobby. Like all forms of art, it requires full attention and concentration, inspiration even, especially since much of what is written about our history is a farce. Historical research requires constant care and passionate patience, much akin to the construction of beguiling verses. I used to practice that while alternating between office work or helping out in day-to-day household chores, something I could no longer continue doing because of the above-mentioned reasons. I’m so burnt out already.
No, I do not blame my family. No one can deny that I care for them so much. That is why I’m doing this. I choose them over my dreams.
In a poem, Manuel Bernabé wrote that if you have left your dreams behind and your passion is dead, you are old (…si has renunciado al vuelo de tu quimera en flor… y se ha apagado el fuego de tu última esperanza… entonces, eres viejo). Then so be it. I am old. But for the record, I have given up on writing…
…because it’s writing that has given up on me. Why should I continue courting a damsel who does not love me?
I am now closing this blog. For good. My other blog will follow soon. Because of our debts, I’ve been wanting to shut down my family’s travel blog too but my wife said no. It’s for our children’s childhood memories, she said. Besides, traveling is part of their education. She is correct. Besides, they have to see for themselves whatever beauty is left of the countryside before this country completely goes whack. So from now on, my wife will handle that blog (just bear with her, please, coz she’s not a writer). What I cannot leave behind at the moment is the SPCHC because of two things: I still have a contract with them, and I owe the family of Mayor Baby Catáquiz quite a lot for helping me out when my wife had a life-threatening childbirth two years ago. I still have one more project to accomplish with the SPCHC. But after that, I’m through.
To the very few people who have been following this blog, I am sorry. And thank you. I will not delete this blog. I’ll just let it stay here online to rot, and to remind everyone that failure and losers are a stark reality. If I may add, I am specifically drawn towards Marvel’s Jessica Jones TV series which I have just finished watching with my three boys. Jessica once tried it out as a superhero but ended up like me — a failure (we are both of us pieces of sh*t). And what Jim Carrey in the film Bruce Almighty had said was very apt for myself. To paraphrase him: “I’m pushing forty, and what have I got to show for it? I’ve hit some kind of a ceiling here. There’s an anti-Pepe barrier I can’t get pass.”
But no, I do not mean to discourage, nor do I beg for pity. I am just exposing a sickening truth to the much-accepted fantasy that “all dreams do come true, just don’t give up”. That is not true. God knows how hard I have been trying to do that. You may go ahead and say that I never fought hard enough — despite my revelations in this final blogpost, you still don’t know nor do you feel what exactly I’m going through. I did struggle to achieve my dreams. Countless times. But there’s a barrier that I just couldn’t pass. And that barrier’s made of steel. I’m just flesh and blood. I’ve given up on this world. We’re not going to be here forever, anyway. This life is just a phase. I’ll just focus on how to get my family go through this difficult phase as safely and as happily as possible…
I really don’t ask for much. Just a chance to have my wife and children go through life with the least physical pain. That isn’t much to ask, is it? But in this bloody country, when a millionaire has a cold he goes right away to a fancy clinic in New York. And me, I can’t even afford to have my head examined.
—F Sionil Jose (through Godo in “The Pretenders”)—
So, if I do not mean to discourage, then what? I guess the moral of my sob story is this:
Also, sacrifices had to be made. No matter how I’m repulsed to being an employee rather than following my heart, I cannot give it up. It’s for my family. I have to choose family over anything else. One just cannot have everything in the world.
To my only true friends in the world (Arnaldo and Señor Gómez), I am sorry for failing you. I just can’t do this anymore. Lo siento mucho.
So what’s next for me after blogging/writing? I don’t know. They say ignorance is bliss, so I might as well go towards that path. But as much as possible, I will stay away from social media (I have not been using my Facebook account that much, anyway; you’ll see nothing in my Twitter account but weird AlDub tweets, and I’ll be inactive there after my 37th birthday). Maybe contact some old friends and hang out, and try to act like an ordinary mortal. I’ll stop thinking too much. Just happy thoughts. If there’s one thing I’m sure of right now, it’s this: my family will never turn our backs to the much-hated truth that has already been ingrained to our souls: that we Filipinos are Hispanic, and we manifest that identity through our Catholic faith.
Will I ever go back to writing? Well, reading and writing are two things that I really love doing. But with the state of mind and body that I am in right now, I couldn’t tell. So it’s maybe or maybe not.
I’ll just let God lead me the way.
Gracias y adiós.
“Feel free to curse at me. I deserve it, really” I will not curse you, you do not deserve it.
No Pepe, gracias a ti….gracias a tí pude redescubrir que…
“cuando la voz de Cronos, con acento apagado,/ resuene señalando una nación en ruinas:/
Aquí existió un país florido y encantado/ que en honor de Felipe se llamó Filipinas.”.
Cuando vengas a España, a Castilla, a Madrid o Alcalá de Henares estas formalmente invitado a una tapa de jamón y un vaso de vino…y si tu familia viene también está invitada contigo.
Un abrazo muy fuerte
Fortune favors the brave Pepe. Keep the faith, eveything will fall into its right places. I’ll miss your blogs as I’ve been reading yours and Arnaldo’s all the time. Lolo Uweng’s to guide you through 🙂
It may just be the end of ONE road though. Life offers a lot -roads that may lead you back to better days.
I share your thoughts about debts issue. Sooner, we will overcome. We’re fighters in Jesus’ name. Keep your faith in Him, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
Thanks a lot for your great amount of dedication, putting up and maintaining this truly wonderful site. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless the work of your hands.
Suelo seguir tu blog “Alas Filipinas” y lamento mucho que estés atravesando por momentos difíciles. Ojalá desde España pudiera ayudarte pero, al igual que tú, soy una persona humilde.
Es curioso. Tenemos la misma edad y nuestras dudas existenciales son muy parecidas. Lamentablemente no puedo ofrecerte ninguna posible solución, todavía yo no la he encontrado. Lo que sí hago es mantenerme motivado. Sé que soy una persona capaz, sé que las épocas negativas, incluso en las que no se ve un final, terminan.
Quienes tienen verdadera capacidad e inquietudes suelen dudar mucho de ellos mismos. Ven el mundo y su entorno cercano de forma más detallada y son conscientes de lo que carecen. Es importante tenerlo siempre muy presente, no auto-castigarse y recordar la siguiente frase de Buda:
“Tu peor enemigo no te puede dañar tanto como tus propios pensamientos. Ni tu padre, ni tu madre, ni tu amigo más querido, te pueden ayudar tanto como tu propia mente disciplinada”.
Espero que en un futuro la administración pública española se acuerde de nuestra gente en Filipinas y defienda como debe la identidad hispánica. Desde España hago todo lo que está en mi mano para que así sea. Personalmente soy optimista, la verdad sobre la historia de España se va abriendo camino, lentamente pero con firmeza.
Te escribo en este blog porque me permite contestarte sin necesidad de estar registrado en ningún servicio web (Google, etc).
Muchos ánimos, Pepe. Necesitamos a gente como tú.
I just stumbled on this as I was googling “chavacano”. I really enjoyed your post on Cavite and sad that you are temporarily putting a stop to your writing. I wish for you and your family better days ahead. Keep the faith and go back to writing when life gets a little easier. Thank you!
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I actually discovered your wife’s travel blog (now removed) maybe two or three years ago, What got me interested is how you and your family find something enjoying, interesting and historic in even the most ordinary places. To me, that is real traveling. You are a very good writer, and I can almost feel how you were feeling while writing this end to your blog. I underwent the same crisis and found the same realization and acceptance of my fate. I was not the superhero I imagined myself to be. But I am the Big Hero to my youngest. I guess success is relative. Two years has passed since you wrote this last article of yours. I am sure that you are in a better situation now and that this last blog is now but a phase in your life. It was well-written. – from a fellow Adamsonian
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