The Dark Shadow

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Green Bedroom, 3:21 a.m.

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. 

—St. Francis of Assisi

Three things have gone missing in the last 48 hours: my Marauder’s Map mug from Universal Studios Japan, my tiny spork (also bought in Japan), and my other spork someone gifted to me. Yesterday, I woke up and couldn’t find my sporks, which I always use during mealtime. While looking for it, my mug was still safe and sound in its hiding place. This afternoon, I discovered that my mug is missing too. I was so frustrated.
A few hours ago, I heard her complain, “Gihilabtan nasad akong butang ay! (Someone messed with my stuff again!)” as she was rummaging through her things she kept under the attic stairs. I knew she was referring to me. I don’t even use her bathroom behind the attic stairs so she wouldn’t have any reason to think I touched her stuff again.
I closed my eyes and saw red. I kept muttering over and over again, “Please, Lord. Please, Lord. PLEASE, Lord!” I was praying for peace until the red haze disappeared. How could she do this when my own stuff is still missing? I bet she was thinking it was me retaliating to my missing items. I’ve looked through her usual hiding places and came up empty. I’m scared to throw the garbage away for fear that she may have hidden them there! Lord, how did this happen? I often questioned myself. How could she even dare to do this while there are so many family members around the house now?
A few moments later, I thought she went downstairs. The door to her room squeaked open. I barely glanced because I thought she changed her mind about coming out of her room because the lights were off. A minute later, the door closed by itself. I thought I saw a shadowy figure behind it. Minutes later, I saw her coming up the stairs and into her bedroom. The lights turned on. That was odd. I thought she was in her room the whole time.

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Back at It Again

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When someone tries to bait you for a reaction, your best response is to provoke them with your silence.
—The Quotebook
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Because she continues to ignore her sister’s existence, the misguided assault on her stuff started back up again. Exasperated, she says, “There are a number of reasons off the top of my head for this relentless vendetta: 
  • I get it, I’m an easy target. She has no reason to go after our underage niece since they seem reasonably close. She can’t openly antagonize our parents either because they still have the authority to kick her out of the house. So that just leaves me as the only object of her rage.
  • Maybe this is her way of crying out for help, that she’s hungry for attention because she feels lonely inside. But I’d counter that to say that there are a number of more effective methods than harassing me. I’ve been depressed before but I was never violent or oppressive with anyone (unless they deserved it, that is).
  • Perhaps she’s insecure and jealous. Granted, I do have some one-of-kind items I love using every day. She seems to delight in using them and making me clean it. I now have to hide some of my stuff so she wouldn’t get her grubby paws on them. Life is unfair, that much goes without saying. If we even so much as touch her stuff and somehow moved it an inch out of place, she would fly off the handle but has absolutely no qualms whatsoever of taking other’s stuff.
  •  Or maybe she’s just inexplicably bored and gets antsy if she doesn’t get to destroy or mess with my stuff.
A week ago, she woke up from a dream in tears. She dreamed that she finally snapped. Her antagonist just stood there while she pummeled her face with punches and slaps and jabs. She said there was no way her sister would be as passive as that in real life as she kept boasting that she had been training in MMA for years. She was crying because she don’t want to have to result to violence. Despite her craziness, she still loves her baby sister and pray for her before she goes to bed. She prays harder for God to give her strength and stretch her patience even more.
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Beyond Exhausted

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Today my forest is dark. The trees are sad and all the butterflies have broken wings.

—Raine Cooper, HelloPoetry

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Seems like this is how she operates these days. “This too shall pass,” she would tell others in crisis. But she herself couldn’t find the strength to hold on to that belief. She often wishes she could clone herself. One to do her ubiquitous chores; the other would work on her constantly looming deadlines.

To others, it would appear that the dishes were washed and stowed away magically, the garbage cans emptied, the laundry folded and stuffed into closets, the floor swept and mopped itself clean, and the dog bathed herself. They couldn’t see the countless beads of sweat rolling off her, the hours of back-breaking work tidying up the entire house, and the putrid smells she had to contend with daily. All they could see is the finished product: the clean house, the fresh linens, the emptied garbage cans, the dishes stacked and drying, and the dog all fresh and cuddly again.

***

I was finishing up with the dishes when the Bipolar One used a little spoon to feed the dog. I refused to wash it and went upstairs to continue working. I was way past my deadline—again! Thirty minutes later, she came up and slammed the door to her room as she went in. She turned the Wi-Fi modem off again. Two hours went by, I went downstairs to get some water. My water bottle in the fridge was empty.

I sighed. It was happening again. When is it ever going to end? What did I do for her to be this angry at me? Does she hate me watching too many YouTube videos when I’m the one paying for our Internet. What would she have done if I changed the password and not tell her?

Barely a week ago, Dad was sick. Since I worked through the night, I decided to have some breakfast. Dad woke up early as usual, but he was coughing up a storm and seemed very weak. So I offered to cook breakfast, and he went back to bed. Around seven, I was all done and had my breakfast. Dad woke up and had his. The rest of my family usually sleep in on Sundays. After we both finished eating and I did the dishes, I took a nap and woke up around noon. I guess my dad made lunch. The rest of the afternoon, he was lying in bed. I took over all the chores, deadline notwithstanding. By the time I finished all of them, it was time to make dinner. At the end of the day, I was too tired to work. I crashed promptly at ten. The next two days went by like that.

All the while, she still delights in doing little things to annoy me, like emptying my water bottle in the fridge, leaving dirty mugs everywhere, and, yes, turning off the Wi-Fi I need for work.

Lord, you know my heart. Just lift me above all my troubles. Only you can give me true peace.

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A Knife in the Back

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No parent should have to bury their child.

—King Theoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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While washing dishes, a kitchen knife fell on the floor, its metallic sound echoing against the tiles. In the movies, this is what they call a foreshadowing. Fast-forward to three days later, a room in disarray. Clothes, sheets, and pillows were scattered everywhere. A freshly laundered shirt still hanging out to dry with a massive hole in the back. She was reminded of a heartbreaking scene in which King Theoden visits the grave of his only son and heir, Theodred. She recalled seeing the devastation on his face as he broke down in tears.

***
I have a lot on my plate. First of all, let me just say that I love my family—all of them. I moved back home because I want to help out my parents with the expenses, the chores around the house, and just basic moral support. That said, for the past few months, not only was I stressed out from the my deadlines and the never-ending chores, I am also locking horns with my baby sister. While I am not one for airing out dirty laundry in public, I don’t want to hide it away either like a shameful family secret.
A quick backstory between my sister and I. We used to be very close. In fact, I had her move in with me in Cebu a few years back. She’s been having problems with our family and her studies. Then there was that brief romance between her and my long-time friend. Somehow she ended up despising me and left. I think that’s how it started. Due to fortuitous circumstances, I  decided to move back home November of last year. She followed suit in March. She finally gave up the pretense of “going to school” and went home just before we had to leave for Japan. When we left for our month-long summer vacation there, we were not on speaking terms because of a few altercations, not yet physical then. But we seemed to have patched things up in Japan. However, the second we came back, her attitude toward me changed drastically again, which prompted me to stop talking to her entirely to avoid any more trouble. Just last month,  I panicked because my laptop would not charge and I had a deadline that very night. As it turned out, she poured oil all over my battery pack. I had to clean my battery and let it dry for hours before I could turn on my laptop again. Thankfully, the problem was fixed and I resumed working. But since then, my laptop won’t go full charge, just 90%. I said nothing, but she continued messing with my stuff.
Barely a week after our uncle’s funeral two weeks ago, I woke up very early after sleeping soundly the night before. It was the first time I slept through the night in a very long time since I normally go to bed around 5:00 a.m. When our labandera, someone my mom contracted weekly to wash our clothes, failed to show up for two weeks in a row, my dad had to do the laundry right after cooking breakfast. As soon as I finished eating, I took over the washing while he had his breakfast. All I did was move some of her hanging clothes she washed the night before so I could hang Dad’s laundry.
Without warning, she erupted in rage. I found out as soon as I finished hanging up the clothes that she trashed my room,  threw some of my clothes to the roof of the garage, and cut up some of my shirts.

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I did not tell my parents to avoid another conflict, but I did show somephotos to my siblings. My ate told my parents because they were concerned for me. Obviously, my parents confronted her, but she just ignored them and kept singing to herself. I let it slide and didn’t talk to her, which seemed to anger her even more. My mom used to complain to me about her attitude because she’s been disrespecting our mother for years. I called her out on it one time, which ended in a massive shouting match after. She even attacked our dad because he took some of her dried clothes off the hanging racks a week before this happened. Still, she wouldn’t back down or even apologize. I had to change the locks on my room to avoid any more thrashing. She also threatened physical harm for “locking her door,” which Dad did, not me. “You mess with my door, I’ll mess with your face,” she kept saying over and over again while having trouble getting into her room. Eventually, it gave way before she almost destroyed her own door. After finding out shortly that it was Dad who checked out her room, she gave me the old stink eye, muttering curses under her breath if I dared to mess with her stuff again. I chose to ignore it and continued working on my computer.
So this is what I have to deal with every day. Needless to say, I’m beyond exhausted. The struggle continues today. She seems to relish messing with my stuff, like emptying my water bottle and putting it back in the fridge, taking some of my weekly food groceries, and this:
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A few days ago, our mother bought three bottles of honey: one for me, one for our dad, and one for her. As usual, she took hers to her room. But then she also took some of mine and hid my bottle in the cupboard. My dad just found out my bottle last night.
To be honest, I would love nothing more than to get out of her hair and fly back to Cebu to resume my life. But I’m afraid that without my stuff to take her rage out on, she would turn her fury to our parents. That I cannot take. I’m not scared of my sister at all, but I am concerned for my parents. Plus, I made a promise to my siblings to stay put. Until my ate and kuya come home for good, I can’t leave our parents alone. My brother-in-law said my sister could be suffering from schizophrenia. I don’t think he is off the mark. If we had money to spare, I know my parents would have her treated for this. Until then, this is what I have to endure daily. I’m not disclosing this to extract sympathy. It is what it is.
***
Whatever happens in the future as things continue to escalate, she has no regrets. Although she knows she has not accomplished much in life, she takes pride in making sure the floor is swept and mopped, the dishes washed and stowed away, the kitchen counter is wiped clean, the garbage bins are emptied, there are fresh sheets on the beds, and some bills are paid off. Her only wish is that if people bump into her parents, she implores that they offer them kind words. They have been through enough already.
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The Boulder

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Bedroom, July 25, 2017 3:52 a.m.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

—Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

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For some time now, I have this image in my head. I seem to be walking on a beautiful country road. To my left is a line of trees lightly swaying in a gentle breeze. To my right is an open field with a carpet of green grass and wildflowers. It reminds of the scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie when Frodo meets Gandalf on the outskirts of Hobbiton.

Up ahead, there is a bend in the road. I know very well that this is a path I’m destined to walk on. But blocking the way is a huge boulder sitting in the middle. I understand somehow that I needed to get past it to move forward. This boulder has a name, it’s called Unforgiveness.

Every day, I pray for God to give me strength to overcome it. Little by little, I chip away at it until it became the size of a wooden crate, small enough for me to jump over. However, I find out quickly that I couldn’t. So I continue with my labor, carving and chiseling away at the rock in front of me. After much work and prayer, it finally shrinks to the size of a soccer ball. Buoyed by my selfish pride and sense of accomplishment, an idea strikes me. I can just roll the rock to the side of the road then I can go on my merry way.

The problem is, it rolls backward, gathering bits of dirt and moss along the way until it grows back into almost the size it was before. Because of all the dirt and slippery moss on it, it’s now harder to break. So not only was my way blocked again, I am now farther away from where I started. Lord, give me strength.

***

Just before I was going to publish this,  an incident unfolds with the object of my unforgiveness. It looks like this builder is not going away anytime soon. I tried, I really did. But I’m exhausted—physically, mentally, and spiritually, so help me God.

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Urong

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Bedroom, 2:06 a.m.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

—Psalm 91:11 (KJV)

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Today at two in the morning, I was sitting up in bed praying in the dark when I heard a thud on the roof. I brushed it off and continued praying. Then I heard noises in the attic. A few minutes later, I felt—rather than saw—a shadow moving outside my window. It entered the bathroom to my right. A chill immediately went up my spine. I kept praying as I could feel it creeping toward me. Suddenly, a glorious warmth spread across my back like a comforting hug. This happened many times before so I know that my guardian angel came to my rescue again. The shadow vanished instantly, chased away by my mighty angel. Feeling relieved, I stretched out on my bed and threw my blanket over me, still praying.

Not long after, I heard my sister whimpering next door. She often said she gets urong, scary nightmares local lore believes are capable of killing people in their sleep. Since I hardly remember having urongs myself, I asked my angel to check on her. He was gone for just five seconds. He didn’t speak to me or anything but I had a distinct feeling that she was okay now. I finally felt at peace as everything settled down. I thanked God and my angel for protecting me. I asked him again to patrol the house and stand guard for further attacks, but everything was quiet now. I finished my nightly prayer and drifted off to sleep.

Three hours later, I was jolted awake by a warm beam of light on my face. I grabbed my cell phone on the nightstand next to my bed. It read 6:35 a.m. I thought it was still too early for me to fully wake up (especially since I slept so late) so I closed my eyes and eventually fell sleep again. All seemed right in the world. That is, until I wake up and face reality again.

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Review-o-Rama

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The K2 (2016)

A young woman involved in a political scandal falls in love with her bodyguard who has a dark past.

Pros:
Cute leading man. Okay, I’ll admit this much.
Good soundtrack. A couple of songs stand out.
Kick-ass action scenes. That is, apart from the lead pausing to make sure his enemies see him before attacking.

Cons:
Damsel in distress. Ugh! I can feel the feminist flag hitting between the eyes, and I’m no feminist!
Paper-thin plot. I don’t buy the male lead’s sudden affection toward the female.
Over-the-top acting. OMG, those fake laughs!
Zero chemistry between the leads. No, I don’t care to elaborate.
Lazy editing. Are those long pauses really necessary?
Nonexistent character development. So why did the leads fall in love again?
Gratuitous slo-mo. Enough to give Michael Bay a run for his money.
Confused script. Tries hard to sell innocence and naïveté but falls flat.

Verdict: Will not be watching Healer anytime soon.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. Might not finish this drama.

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Goblin (2016)

A general from the Goryeo period is cursed with immortality as a goblin until he finds his bride who happens to be an orphaned high schooler. He ends up living in the same house with her along with a grim reaper who shares a complicated past with him.

Pros:
Amazing chemistry between the cast.
Talented actors.
Great soundtrack.
Excellent expositions in flashback sequences.
Top-notch costumes and wardrobe.
Witty dialogues.
Awesome special effects and animation.

Cons:
Age gap. Yet another young girl falling for a much older guy cliche
The emotional scenes didn’t give me enough “feels.” I’m sorry, it doesn’t.
Too much star power. Despite the ensemble feel, Gong Yoo’s “je ne sais quoi” shines through, and I’m not even a huge fan.

Verdict: On board the Gong Yoo train so soon after Train to Busan. Choo-choo!
Cringe-o-Meter: Minimal. This was a delightful fantasy-drama series.

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Dramaworld (2016)

An American girl obsessed with Korean dramas gets sucked into her favorite series. She ends up falling for the male lead, throwing the whole Dramaworld into chaos.

Pros:
Intriguing premise.
Surprisingly witty dialogue. “Why do you tape over your car logos?” “What logo?” gets me every time.
Pokes fun of itself and at Korean drama clichés. Drunken piggyback rides, bitchy side characters, manipulative mother, etc.—it’s all there!

Cons:
Acting is cringeworthy.
Male lead is sometimes hot, sometimes not. It’s quite confusing!
Eric from Twilight. I didn’t know he speaks fluent Korean. Still, he’s from Twilight!
Predictable ending. No surprise there!

Verdict: The premise was promising but the execution was terrible.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. Twilight-level, even.