Legacy: A Fictional Story

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”

—Kurt Vonnegut

 

An old man rolled his motorized wheelchair near a grave and deposited a bouquet of white roses. He spent some time staring out at the faded letters that once bore her favorite quote from a beloved author. Slowly, he lowered his head and rested his chin on his chest in deep prayer. Some moments passed and the old man’s caretaker standing some distance behind him was worried the man might have fallen asleep—or worse. But gingerly, the old man raised his head, and without so much as a word, he started to wheel himself back to the car, but not before plucking a single white rose and tucking it in the breast pocket of his tweed jacket.

The caretaker scratched his head and wondered if the old man finally lost it. But he waited patiently by the car until the man was safely inside. He then started the car and made their way back to the nursing home. Against the staff’s wishes at the old man’s delicate health, the caretaker reluctantly drove him to the cemetery an hour ago to have the man pay his respects as he had done over the past 20 years.

Safely back in his room, the old man carefully took out the white rose and laid it next to a red envelope by his nightstand. He opened the drawer and took out an ornately carved wooden box containing his most prized possession, letters written by a lost love. He placed the red envelope on top of the box and proceeded to write to his family. After finishing, he left the box sitting on his desk drawer with the red envelope on top of the box and put the note on top of the envelope. He then quietly laid down on bed to sleep, clutching the white rose close to his chest.

An hour later, the old man passed away with a knowing smile on his lips. His small withered hands still holding on to a single white rose. The nurses and staff said he died peacefully in his sleep and surmised that he may have been having a pleasant dream. Only the caretaker seemed to notice a small tear that made it’s way pass the man’s bony cheek to splat over the side of the pillow. He knew that tear was a happy one, full of hope and meaning. With as much reverence as he could muster, he closed his eyes and prayed silently for the old man he had come to respect.

***

My Dearest,

I am an old man now. Too old and too tired to find my lost love. My children are all grown up and my wife has long passed away. Very soon, I will fade from this world too. While I was happy and lived a full life, I can honestly say it wasn’t without some regrets. My biggest one is that I did not try hard enough to love you.

I want to lay my eternal rest next to you, as I was not able to do while you were still within my reach. But social conventions say a man should be buried next to his family. So with a heavy heart, I let my children and grandchildren bury me where they may with specific instructions to include this letter and the ones you wrote to me so many years ago. I’m sorry, my love. I couldn’t burn any of them as you told me to. I wanted the love you had for me to resonate for as long as I can make it last.

I have heard of your decades years ago. And to this day, I regret that I wasn’t there with you on your final days. I should very much liked to have held your hand as you took your last breath. There is so much that I wanted to say, so much I wanted to share with you. But as fate would have it, I’d lose my nerve every time I tried.  Something or someone always seem to get in the way, a common friend who wants to be your suitor or another so-called friend flirting with you. But I confess, it was mostly my pride that kept me apart from you.

I went to your funeral and waited in the shadows long after your family and friends have gone home to mourn you in private. I laid a dozen, long-stemmed white roses in your tombstone, which was engraved  with your favorite James Joyce quote, “I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.” I picked the blossoms myself because you have always remained pure and innocent in my eyes. I hope you approve. Every year, I visited your grave and left white roses on the day of our anniversary. Yes, I know you think I have forgotten it all those years ago. I should have because I chose someone else after all. But somehow, I couldn’t seem to forget that on one glorious day in the throes of our teenage years, you let me read your diary. That was the sweetest answer I’ve been longing for all year long. I know it was a lifetime ago, but that day is forever etched in my memory as vividly as if it was just yesterday.

My darling, I am so sorry to have caused you untold pain. I should have kissed you when you when you tried to send me away because you thought wrongly that you couldn’t make me happy.  Should’ve wrapped you in a tight embrace when you returned all the letters I once wrote to you. Should’ve whispered sweet nothings in your ear to make you believe how much I wanted to be beside you always.

I finally had my eyes opened when our friends told me how much you cared about me. Your bestfriend in high school gave me some of the letters left over from the ones that you failed to return  to me when we broke up.  She said I had no idea just what our relationship meant to you and the extent of the suffering you endured because of my indifference. Even my own bestfriend told me of the lifetime of tears you shed for me. If I knew then what I know now, I would have moved heaven and earth to get you in my arms again. My honey, my dearest, my sweet . . . you were the love of my life. I just wished I have had the courage to admit that then. I would’ve fought with every strength I possessed to have you back in my life.

I know these are just words thrown in the wind but I pray dearly that you know just how much I loved you. That I still love you until my last dying breath and beyond. My only consolation right now is that I hope I would see you again soon.  This time, please let me hold your hand and I promise you, I will never let it go.

Until then, I will remain yours eternally.

Always,

J

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REVIEW-O-RAMA 2

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Mel Gibson finally learned how to hide his bigotry and misogynistic tendencies behind a good script from the Tarantino School of How to Be a Successful Racist. That said, Hacksaw Ridge was a masterfully crafted movie with all-around good acting, great dialogues, gritty visuals, and gorgeous cinematography.

Verdict: Swearing off Tarantino-esque movies, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Andrew Garfield in a drama again.
Cringe-o-Meter: 50/50. Political correctness out the window. Good thing the superb acting makes up for the racially motivated script.

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Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)

Gyun-woo has done it again! Cha Tae-hyun has a knack for playing kind, decent everyman with strong moral values. His flawless comedic timing is balanced exquisitely with his dramatic chops. This movie is not only visually gorgeous and well-acted, the narrative is also spectacularly engaging. The aerial fights scenes alone are better than the Matrix movies. Everything in this film works: the top-notch visual effects, the wonderful script, the  balanced pacing, the exceptional acting, and much more. Prepare to cry a lot because the emotional scenes will punch you in the gut harder than a cheating ex, and you’ll be picking your jaw off the floor from the breathtaking special effects.

Verdict: South Korean cinema at its finest.
Cringe-o-Meter: Zero. Whether you are a K-Drama addict, an anime enthusiasts, hard-core fanboy/fangirl, or even your average family, you will find something to enjoy in this movie.

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Annihilation (2018)

A visually stunning but pretentious film that is obviously pandering to so-called intellectuals (film critics) and feminists. The largely female cast not only panders to the feminist movement, but also gives me Ghostbusters (2016) flashbacks. While people praise this movie for the it’s take on social commentary and the thought-provoking dialogue, the narrative is hardly original as it as takes a page from Games of Thrones by killing off  a kind, relatable character early on. It’s colorful palette and gorgeous  landscapes (those glass trees are exquisite) create a jarring contrast to the eerie tone. While I had a hard time believing Natalie Portman’s diminutive size playing a military role (she’s also a biologist), I was pleasantly surprise she that pulled it off.

However, there is one angle I analyzed to death. I’ve associated the main characters to the five stages of grief: 1) denial: Oscar Isaac’s character chose to go on a suicide mission instead of facing the situation that his wife is having an affair; 2) anger: one character suddenly becomes an angry, murdering psychopath for no apparent reason; 3) bargaining: Natalie’s character volunteers to go inside the Shimmer to find out what happened to her husband and find a cure for his illness so she can apologize to him for having an affair; 4) depression: tired of struggling with her addiction, Tessa Thompson’s character’s surrenders and becomes just another human topiary in the grassy meadow. 5) acceptance: the psychologist accepts the futility of her terminal disease and mankind’s struggles and succumbed to the “annihilation” and gets absorbed by aliens.

Verdict: Reminds me of Black Swan, and I am one of the few who didn’t like that movie.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. While it is not a bikini-clad female superhero, it still manages to shove feminism down our throats.

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A Face in the Crowd

December 15, 2003, 3F, end of the hall

And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire.

—Stephenie Meyer, New Moon

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I miss you, my dearest friend. I find myself searching the crowd for your familiar face. For even the tiniest semblance on them of you. But as always, I see nothing. For there could never be another one like you. A whisper, a glance, or even a slight nod would have sufficed to make me believe that people still know I exist. But none came.

Your departure left me in fragments and, more poignantly, in tears. How can I survive this place without you? Without the warmth of your bedimpled smile—which always held just a hint of naughtiness behind them—the rooms seem cold and unfriendly. Without the comfort of your presence, our school seems unforgiving and harsh.

As I reminisce about the times we spent here together (as I am wont to do every now and then), I hear your laughter once more, echoing loudly  as it bounced against the walls. I was so accustomed to seeing the cocky way you walk, sashaying up and down the narrow hallway like some glamorous movie star and beaming at everyone you pass by. But then you went away abruptly, had your baby, got married, and moved abroad. And I never saw you again.

From the moment you came up to me and asked me where the administration office was, I knew we would become fast friends. I know now that I will never be the same again. As your laughter fades from the halls and your scent disappears from the room we shared as penniless students, I wonder what life has in store for me. Will I survive graduating without you? Will I have to venture out into the real world alone?

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Tiny House Dreams

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

—Henry David Thoreau

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“Four score and seven years ago,”—Okay, this isn’t the Gettysburg Address, but it was around seven years ago that I discovered the Tiny House Movement from a Jay Shafer video in YouTube. From that moment on, I was hooked!

I started dreaming of building my own tiny house. Of course, having neither land nor the money to actually do it, it has remained a pipe dream for now. In my research, I’ve looked at a hundred videos on YouTube about what I wanted my tiny house to look like. Recently, I settled on the design. Of course, of the three that I made, none of them is to scale. I never claimed to be a graphic artist or an architect.

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But it started with a simple floor plan. As someone who pees a lot in the middle of the night, it’s a pain to walk up and down the stairs. The problem with this layout is the lack of storage and very little closet space, if any at all.

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Still, I wanted a minimalist design. Lord knows if this is achievable with my current income. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Disclaimer: Again, these floor plans are not to scale. I did account for 1 inch for 1 foot substitution (1 in = 1 ft) and the insulation for the borders/walls. But the furniture and appliances are drawn freestyle.

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I’m a Victim of Domestic Abuse

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

—2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NLT)

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I’ve debated for some time whether I should take this story public or not. But first, I will preface this article by saying that my parents are two of the most wonderful, hardworking, loving, and kindest people I know. More importantly, they have never laid a finger on me. Begrudgingly, I’m talking about my baby sister.

For some context, my baby sister and I, born six years apart, were remarkably close before I offered to take her in while I was working in Cebu. At that time, I was championing for her against our family because most of them have been fed up with her constantly dropping out or switching majors in college. To ease the burden from my mom for a bit, who was paying for her very extended college education, I offered to have her join me in Cebu. We shared a room at first, but when another room opened up, I moved next door from her. After a few weeks, she started causing some ruckus in the house I was staying in, forcing my landlady talk to me about her. Embarrassed for what she has done because I never had problems in my nearly nine years of staying there, I moved her somewhere close to my workplace so I could pay her rent on my way to work. Apparently, she hated that setup because she was sharing her room with three other girls in bunk beds. At that time, she found “work” at a bookshop just right across the street from her dormitory, which we surmised to be just a volunteer gig offered by a church friend of hers who owned the bookstore. I made sure she was near enough that I could check on her from time to time and she can commute conveniently to any major mall or hangout spot. I carefully packed her stuff, bought a lock for her locker and baskets for her stuff, and gave her money for laundry. After several months, she decided to leave Cebu and flew back home. She eventually went back to school only to drop out again. One time I went home for the Christmas holidays, she was openly berating our mom for something. I stepped in to rebuke her then she turned and started attacking me with scathing words. A few days after that, she left for Davao. She didn’t even stay until after New Year’s. I found out later that she’s been telling my family that I kicked her out and threw her clothes outside the house. So that’s how it began. We clashed two times after that but it never escalated to something physical—until recently, that is.

Ever since I moved back home and she decided (yet again) to give up the pretense of going to school, we have been locking horns every so often. She continues to verbally abuse our parents despite me calling her out on it a couple of times. At first, I’d find my laundry thrown off the roof, my shirts torn, and my things disappearing one by one. One time, she even trashed my room. While I got some of my things back (Dad found my sporks in the garbage pile at the back of the house), she still held some hostage or she may have dumped them somewhere else.

Christmas Day last year, I was unaware that my family was tying to stage an intervention for her until it was about to happen. I’m sure she was thinking it was my idea in the first place. We all prayed for her and everything. It was scary. She acted like she was possessed or something. She went wild—kicking our dad, pulling my sister’s hair, and shoved me and our mom at one point—trying to escape. But after she calmed down some, we thought things are finally going to change. After we got home, she seemed mellow and back to her old self for a little while, though some of my stuff still ended up missing from my room and she continues to verbally abuse our mother. Little did I know what she had planned for my computer then (pouring water all over it). I guess our family intervention did not work after all.

So here we are in 2018, still at a loss on how to handle her angry, resentful, and vindictive behavior. I understand why our mother didn’t call the cops on her—because it will definitely put a permanent taint on her records—but if our prayers and pleas no longer appeal to her (my sister literally got down on her knees, crying and pleading with her), how else can we make her understand the pain she has caused and face the consequences of her actions?

Now I am not perfect. I gave our parents and siblings the same sort of grief at some point in my life. But ever since then, I tried so hard to make up for it by taking good care of the house, helping out with the bills, and serving our parents. I know the pain I’ve caused was unforgivable so that’s why making the decision to move back home was an easy one for me to make. Absolutely, without any measure of doubt or hesitation, I would sacrifice my life for my family. If that meant taking the brunt of this abuse, so be it. I’d wear that target on my back willingly because I know it’s not my baby sister I am fighting with, it’s the spirit of hatred, resentment, and vengeance inside her that we need to vanquish.

Some people might dissuade me from posting this, but having spent half my life being afraid of what the world thinks of me, I realize that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who else would? While I fear for the people judging my family unfairly and questioning how us children were raised, I can no longer hide behind this like it’s some dirty, shameful secret in our family. It is not my intention to throw my baby sister under the bus or play the victim card at all. I simply want to raise awareness that violence—in any way, shape, or form—is completely unacceptable. When “fighting fire with fire” is counterproductive and “fighting fire with love” is ineffective, the only thing that remains to be done is offering this entire situation up in prayer and surrendering them to God. Vengeance is His, so I should no longer have to worry about this, right? I’ve suffered enough, my family has suffered enough. It’s out of our hands now, so help me God!

Disclaimer: As I write this, I am reminded that my plight is inconsequential compared to others. Over the holidays, I found out that a former classmate’s brother was in a coma from a motorcycle accident and a former work colleague and friend’s father was suffering from another health crisis. I find myself tremendously blessed to have both my parents still with us and in relatively good health. Not to mention, some of my stuff had been found and returned safely. Silver lining indeed!

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The Last Straw

Bedroom, January 8, 2018, 11:20 p.m.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

—Edmund Burke

After cleaning the house all day and taking a shower, I sat down on my desk to eat my early dinner and watch some YouTube clips–as was my routine as soon as I’m done with work–only to discover my laptop drenched in water. I immediately cleaned it up as best as I could and let it drip-dry sideways. She has done it! My worst fear has happened! I tried so hard. I didn’t post anything sensitive or dark on my blog because I want a fresh start in 2018 and do away with all the negativity. In fact, I was working on uploading a series of posts about our trip to Japan last year. Then this happened.

As soon as she arrived, I confronted her. I couldn’t take it anymore. Not this time.

I screamed, “Nabuang naka? (Have you lost your mind?”) She said something sarcastic that just flew over my head. I found myself grabbing a fistful of her hair. She did the same—but hard. I kept screaming at her. “Undangi nako! (Cut it out!)” I just wanted her to stop provoking me.

She started punching my face—something she was threatening to do for a long, long time. Dad stepped in. I let go of her hair after clumps of mine already fell on the floor I just finished mopping an hour ago. She’s still hanging on for dear life. Dad had to push her off me before she finally let go.

I cried once more, “Undangi nako!

She cried back, “Undangi sad ko! (You cut it out too!)”

“Why are you doing this to me? I never took any of your stuff!” I told her.

At this point, Mom chimed in to defend me. “Wa na baya mi nanglabot nimo, ha! (We haven’t been touching your stuff!)” We as in “me.” It’s painfully true. I stayed as far away from her stuff  I could for some time now.

She yelled as she was making her exit upstairs, “You just don’t what she’s done!”

What did I do? Because I wouldn’t wash the cups she’s been drinking out of for the past two days? I chased her up the stairs. “I’ve had it with you! You’re no longer my sister!”

“Yeah? Well, you’ve stopped being my sister a long time ago!” she spat one last time as she slammed the door to her room and locked it.

Dad wanted to call the cops. I secretly agreed but didn’t say it out loud. Not because I was afraid of her or felt unsafe, but because I wanted her to get a major reality check. She has to understand that there are consequences to her actions. Mom, obviously, didn’t think it was worth calling the cops over.

I don’t know what else to do, what else to say. If there’s a word for “beyond exhausted,” I was that a year ago. I tried so hard not to cry in frustration but the tears just wouldn’t stop coming. Looking back, I woke up to this exact nightmare barely a month ago of us fighting again, only it’s the reverse. Just as I predicted though, she did most of the punching. In the meantime, clumps of hair are still falling off my head.

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A Potterhead Goes to Japan

You’re a wizard, Harry!

Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Ever since I picked up my very first paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at a local bookshop, where I paid PHP 229 ($4.50) almost two decades ago, I have been a devoted fan. I first read about this book in a magazine. Then I saw it some time later at the bookstore and bought it. Thus began my love affair with J. K. Rowling’s magnum opus. Year after year, I saved enough of my allowance—being only a poor student then—just to buy the latest book. I just got my hands on the fourth book, the thickest one in the series at that time, when the first movie was announced. I was beyond excited. I was the one who introduced my family to the magical world of Harry Potter, and they joined in the fandom wholeheartedly.

Looking back at it now, I’m glad I picked up that first book, though I thought it was pretty expensive at that time. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would be lucky enough to visit the Wizarding Word of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. Having gone through four rides already, I felt my skin tingle in anticipation for the first time as we were walking through the Forbidden Forest toward Hogsmeade.

Then I spotted the towering, majestic Hogwarts castle in the distance. I was instantly transported back to when I first read the book. Sure, I was way past my childhood when I discovered Harry Potter, but I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve about the open her presents under the tree. My eleven-year-old niece, who shares my birthday, was just as excited.

After the longest queue we’ve ever had (easily over an hour), we finally get to experience the ride. It was breathtaking! Though I understood very little as Harry, Ron, and Hermione spoke in Japanese the entire time, it hardly mattered to me as I was so lost in the moment. Much sooner than I would’ve wanted, the ride was over and the spell ended. Still, I spent my last remaining yen to purchase these ultra-expensive-yet-worth-it souvenirs:

I had such a lovely time overall in my trip to Japan, but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction will always be my most favorite memory. One that I will cherish for the rest of my life! And just like “Mischief managed,” the adventure ended and I went back to being a Muggle.

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A fleeting glimpse at a madwoman’s universe of mental chaos…