A thank you to my ex

I have playlists for men in my life with which I have had a significant romantic connection. So far, I have three.

When I listen to the playlist of the man that caused me so much pain and doubt for five years, I can only think of how much I have grown through that period, and afterwards. I look at the progression of songs:

from the first songs he sent me, so full of hope and young love —

to the songs I listened to one year in, so full of pleading, asking him to stop the hurt —

to the bittersweet songs that I played for him as I let him go, slowly and lovingly.

My playlist for him has evolved; but then again, so have I.

* * *

I started this blog while I was with him. In fact, he is the reason I started this blog. The first words I typed in were efforts to be understood by the world at large — if he couldn’t understand me, then maybe someone else out there would.

Eventually, they became words that felt healing to me, like a cool salve that I applied to wounds that were there before even him. I communed with my past through my words, and through this process, turned myself inside out. It was painful, but joyful. I relived my trauma every time my fingers flew across my keyboard. Through this blog, I’ve written about him, about other loves, but mostly, about myself — and that’s what I have needed the most.

And because of this, I want to thank him for being the gateway to this world of catharsis; for being the initial struggle I had to overcome before I truly got to the hard stuff; for necessitating this blog that accepts my beautiful and my ugly.

* * *

Here are three songs
dedicated to each phase of our love:

The budding romance;

The suffocating love;

The ebbing breakup.

* * *

ts


Daily Post prompt: Gate

Breadcrumbs back to the Philippines

I feel like I’m trying to taste the ocean by eating a spoonful of sand. Like I’m not quite there yet, but maybe its closeness to the element at hand is good enough. Like licking little nuggets at a time will give me the full experience.

***

For the last week now, I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with my home country, the Philippines. I left it when I was three years old, and haven’t been back to visit for 12 years now.

I don’t know what prompted this powerful urge to familiarize myself with my mother culture. I guess all my life, I’ve been ashamed, but now that many aspects of my life are starting to solidify, it feels wrong not to know, and not to be able to relate.

I am heavy into context. So, of course, I simply started this reintroduction process by taking a crash course on Filipino history—the early days of island trading, the Spanish Invasion, the rebellions, and the US takeover. I’ve never been a great history student. I could never make myself feel the blood and struggle through mere words on a page—well, in my case, words on a phone screen. It felt human enough though, reading about José Rizal, feeling sympathy for one of the most beloved Filipino nationalists, struck down in his prime at Bagumbayan Field, fighting to free his country of oppressors. Imagining the love his fellow Filipinos bore for him made my heart sick.

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After hours pouring over my phone screen, going from one hyperlink to another, I decided I’d polish off my weekend making Filipino ulam, meaning ‘dish’ or ‘main course’. (No pics of the finished result! My mouth was too fast for my camera!)

 

My most recent connection with my Filipino roots was this evening, on my way home from work. A Spotify playlist of Filipino love songs. The app on my phone that usually detects lyrics didn’t work this time around; the foreign language rendered it impotent. So, I used Google Translate for what phrases I could catch.

 

And suddenly, it all became too much. I don’t know if it was the words I was translating, or my sudden realization of what I was doing, but I felt my face grow warm and tears form in my eyes. I half-recognized the futility of all my efforts and half-reminisced on what I could remember of my few visits back home.

I mentally shook my head at my naive attempts over the last few days. Did I really expect to know my country just by reading about it, eating its food, and listening to a few songs? I looked around at my surroundings.

Where’s the stiff, unwavering heat of Cebu City? Where’s that sense of being surrounded by family? Where’s my lola, fingering her rosary in mass? Where’s rice wrapped in coconut leaves? Where’s the bustle and honks of jeepneys, and the crazy backrider who spreads out his pesos on one hand like cards? Where’s the cement staircase of my father’s house in Banawa Hills, the zapote tree in the front yard?

 

I suddenly felt homesick. But, how could I feel homesick for a place that’s never really been my home?

***

As naive as my endeavors are, maybe this is how people do it. One bite, one song, one history lesson at a time, maybe I’ll find my way back to Cebu.

Feeling for the sake of feeling

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I am a sentimental person. I made peace with that fact nine years ago, when I was 15 and having my most profound musical experiences. I have always been governed by Emotions, the most flighty deity of them all.

Even my blog name reflects this. Sentimentia was created to be my own personal space to reminisce, reflect, or break out some prose. It is meant to capture thoughts that are too deep-seated and unhurried for the flurry of everyday lifemy sanctuary of makeshift wisdom.

The word “sentimental” may have negative connotations to it, as Sherlock Holmes is only too happy to say:

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(Anything you say, you fabulous man.)

Yes, if you are a sentimental person, there are some downsides:

  • Having trouble letting go of people and events and things that are meaningful to you
  • Being more emotionally vulnerable than most people; in other words, wearing your heart on your sleeve
  • Routinely being affected by music, art, film, people’s stories about their loved ones
  • Preferring the past rather than the future

In fact, quotations on sentimentality are pretty discouraging—if I were to define sentimentality based on these sayings, it would be:

“sentimentality: feeling for the sake of feeling”

It is:

“to look only at the emotion in it and at the emotion it stirs in us rather than at the reality of it…”

Frederick Buechner

… which is superficial and surface, I know.

I think about the person I’d be if I didn’t get lost inside my own head sometimes…

But then I think, what’s wrong with feeling for the sake of feeling, and to be aware of the emotion something stirs in us? I think I would go stir-crazy if I didn’t have some outlet, some way to channel these whirlwinds and storms occurring inside me. I think about the person I’d be if I didn’t get lost inside my own head sometimes; or what my memories would be like without that sunlit filter my mind applies to them; or the conversations I would miss if I weren’t the type to probe and listen and feel the person out.

There are whole worlds to be discovered. And I wouldn’t have missed out on them for the world.

So, while there are disadvantages, there are absolutely lovely benefits to being sentimental:

  • Being empathetic and compassionate to the superlative
  • Enjoying experiences (like music or sex, same thing) more deeply
  • Remembering small details about individuals
  • Being a great listener
  • Having intense sensory experiences
  • Recognizing the significance of events in your own life
  • Deeper conversations
  • Frequently reflecting and churning little bits of wisdom
  • Knowing that life is a mess full of shades of gray, and being okay with it

P.S. From what I’ve seen so far, WordPress is full of us. Keep writing, folks.

A response to Daily Post’s prompt: Sentimental