Frog Prince Strikes Back.

February 11, 2007

The trash bag which was probably checked out after dinnertime by Orange, my kuya’s cat, starts to move again. It’s three hours past dinner already and I have a feeling it’s not the cat. Orange, Cookie, and ‘kitten’ (my sibs don’t know what to call it yet except for its current biological stage) were already out of the kitchen door, probably kicked by my mom whose mood swings can make any cat go crazy. The noise of the trash bag during the night has been frequent since a couple of weeks ago. And I noticed that it spoils my nights of trying to seek comfort from the entertainment prime time viewing brings. We live in a small house and the living room where I watch tv is just two or three cartwheels away from the kitchen. The noise of the trash bag near the kitchen door, a beckoning of another night of thought disruption, is also the precursor of my odd wariness. 

I hear no “kokak, kokak” yet I know he’s there in the kitchen. Frog prince strikes back.  He has been inside the house twice or thrice last year and it was such a misfortune to have first discovered him in the bathroom at exactly 12 midnight. You see, the only frog I liked was Kerokerokeroppi (did I spell it right, Sanrio fans?) and my last close encounter with a real frog was six years ago, during the dissecting activity in Biology class. I remember being so grossed out that I didn’t really participate in it. For me, insects are more interesting than frogs, albeit biologists’ claim that amphibians, having survived many global changes during the 100 million years they have been on earth, surpassed even the extinction of the dinosaurs and the age of the mammals. The thing which came into mind that night when I first saw frog prince was to freeze myself, as if I saw a snake. I thought that if I moved, it would attack me. I held my urge to hit the toilet and thought of what to do next. But because I was very threatened, I ran upstairs and disturbed my then sleeping dad. He woke up to see me crying helplessly and when he asked why, he was suddenly enraged. And it’s not the frog, mind you.

 I hated frog prince since then. He was the reason why I was given a reprimand, a thing I believe I didn’t deserve on a midnight. Dad thought it’s illogical for a 20 year old to cry over a ‘petty’ thing, like seeing a frog in the bathroom, for instance. I thought that that night was the end of seeing the frog prince. Until he came back two weeks ago, and with revenge. To top that, the rest of the family has been making fun of my ’plight’, as I call it. In fact, they’ve been wondering why it’s only me who sees this frog. They wake up in the morning and laugh together at my “There’s a frog in the kitchen” note posted either on the floor or on the fridge. At breakfast, I would receive pestering frog-jokes; they wouldn’t believe in me because they haven’t really seen it. Well, my little brother did once, when he slept late on a Friday night. Maybe he thought our driving-away-the-frog-out-of-Ate’s-sight was just another adventure-packed dream. Had I been endowed with the skill of communicating with animals a la Mowgli (The Jungle Book), with an amphibian to be exact, I wouldn’t have second thoughts of speaking to this frog whose presence ruins the routine of a nocturnal beast. I had become used to reading and pondering on my papers after the Korean soaps or even the late night news. So, I don’t like the idea of a frog jumping around while I’m in a serious studying mode. I don’t want to see it while I’m making myself another cup of coffee; I don’t want to see it in the bathroom floor while peeing. What is it with our kitchen anyway, aside from the frog-can-enter space between the door and the floor, that makes frog prince come back EVERY NIGHT? Doesn’t he have a day-off, or a night-off, for that matter? 

 I wish I could shove him out but unfortunately, this frog prince does not play the game fairly. He makes sure everyone is asleep, except for me, before he happily skips from one place to another. He likes it when I start to cry over his presence, because he knows I feel defeated. And I really am. After ranting “Yawa kang baki-a ka! Gawas dinha!” in a lower volume while trying to make him come out of his damn hiding place by hitting the floor with a broom (although I really didn’t think this strategy works), I would give up and start to gather all of my studying paraphernalia up to my room. My room, by the way, had a problem: it is lit only by a small night lamp that emits red light as my kuya refused to replace the dysfunctional light bulb which was supposed to accompany me in my late night reading (that is, if I am not in the mood for studying in the dining table downstairs). Of course, in less than ten minutes, princess in distress would fall off to Dreamsville. Unsurprisingly, in the morning, I would wake up not to a happy ending, but to another morning of unfinished papers and readings.  Once, this frog prince had the nerve to bring a friend inside. Perhaps it was his sidekick; it was hopping next to him on our kitchen floor. Imagine how I almost choke after realizing right in the middle of drinking a glass of water that there were two frogs inside the house: one was bigger than the other. What was he thinking? He was acting like a paying border that had the license to bring friends and let them sleep over.  

A level-up. My hatred towards frog prince jumps to a higher degree, just as he jumps more comfortably around. 

“Maybe he’s waiting for you to pick him up and kiss him”, a friend of mine told me over one lunch. Yeah right, I must have dropped my golden ball somewhere. The thought seems a contrast to my own reality. I am the recipient of a dozen immaterialized promises. Sad thing is, although I have had enough of it, I’m still living a life of hopes. Blame it on the Grimm Brothers. If only that frequent visitor in guise of a frog would turn out to be this guy I’ve discreetly been looking at in class the moment I pick him up and kiss him, then maybe the case would be closed. If not, I’ll submit a motion of reconsideration to the higher courts. Then things would turn out better. But like what my dad said, I am 20 years old. It’s illogical to believe in such things.  The main difference between me and the frog prince is that he hops after the promise while I just continue hoping for it, not working on several things to make it come true for myself. The act of making it come true has to be innate from the person who ‘promised’. If not, then it wasn’t really a promise at all, just a mere utterance to fill in for those broken statements, for the ear-shattering silence between individuals. Needless to say, I’m left in air, perhaps in different levels of acceleration.  

Well, I guess I have no choice right now but to get used to the way frog prince defeats me in terms of space occupancy.  He makes me become unfamiliar of the field I thought was my expertise.  If you happen to know a modern day Mowgli, please have him contact me right away before I spray Raid the next time I see him. I’ve read somewhere that amphibians’ skin is permeable to airborne gases. Inasmuch as I don’t want this to sound like a threat to the world’s biodiversity, I am desperate. I really want to discover the truth behind why frog prince strikes back.

Everyone seems to be so excited about my graduation. And almost everyday, I have been answering questions related to my future career plans and the kind of occupation I want. It’s exhausting. It’s like human nature that I cannot defy. People ask the same question in the same tone and excitement, and yet I do not have sufficient amount of guts to reveal what I really want. So I tell them the same damn thing: get into law school or earn an M.A. degree, either which comes first. That’s what’s expected of me, anyway.

 If you still think graduating as cum laude gives you an edge, scrap the thought because it’s very outdated. When you’re in the real world, or at least on your way to it, you’ll realize that it doesn’t really matter. Of course, I have known that since high school. The professors often told us that the path of one’s career highly depends on the skills, performance, and flexibility. But I got to feel the weight of the idea only lately. Time transforms, really. Way back my early college years I was often given compliments for ‘maintaining’ my academic skills. At present, things have turned horrible. You know how it is to be threatened or made fun of because you are graduating cum laude? During last week’s pre-employment seminar held at the university, speakers told stories of their cum laude friends who got their ideal jobs ten years after their graduation, at a time when almost everyone else were at the peak of their respective careers. The moment it was told, my block mates were giving me symbolic glances. One spoke “Hala ka Rang, ten years ka pa daw magkakatrabaho”, and matched that statement with a joking smile. Even in class, I can feel similar jokes, albeit in a minimal level. Now, graduating cum laude seems more to be an injury than an advantage for me. It wasn’t even part of the plan when I entered college, for crying out loud. I only think of it as a reward for being hooked on to one’s course and the challenges that come along with its major subjects. And all deities (to include multicultural beliefs) know how much I struggled to grasp a field that’s just recently emerging in the Philippines. Is that a crime? What I really want (which is what my parents do not really wish for) is to be part of the gurong pahinungod program. Even way back kindergarten, teaching was really one of my favorite ideas. But that was intensified a couple of years ago. There’s something about educating children in the peripheral or marginalized areas. Never mind that rebel-cafgu encounters will become part of the lifestyle. At least, before I die, I get to share part of my life with the people in the community. Moreover, I’ll learn the essence of life from the experience itself. Maybe I’ll find my real worth there. Who knows, it could be beyond making other people’s assignments, nursing broken hearts, or listening to rants of various degrees. How ideal of me, you might say. There’s a big tendency for me not to fulfill that dream, though. My parents are doing everything so as not to lose their daughter to the mountains.   And because I’m quite prepared for my defeat, I already have plan B. This one, by the way, has another downside. Although I could be earning from it, it will constantly remind me of my professors’ hard work in molding us to become the pioneer batch of anthropology undergraduates in Mindanao. Like how Typecast sang it, so this is how the guilt feels, it can break you down to pieces. Or maybe I’ll have plan C. Fall in love. Not necessarily one of my dreams. But like what I’ve been told, I shouldn’t plan it out. It happens.  Recent events must have been stressing me out. I’m starting to have second thoughts on just about everything. It’s like I woke up to find this character in me who plans everything. I miss my spontaneous self. Along with that, I miss the person who likes me for the real me. He might not know it, or maybe he never will, but it feels so comfortable being with him. Our connection proves that life floats in a sea of ironies.  It is the irony itself which makes it float real nice.  

aquamarine starts

February 11, 2007

While blogs serve usually as a medium for showcasing works of creativity (sorry for the functionalist tone), I am utilizing this one as a site for therapy. Years of trying to practice an academic tone in anthropological writing sure has put the creative writer (this can be contested, of course) in me to a halt. A teacher has told me, through the infiltrating cigarette smoke he was creating one afternoon, that it is highly possible to write academic papers albeit one’s inclination is creative writing. Another professor, a non-smoker this time, substantiated that statement, saying that the creative writing bias can be an edge because description is essential in ethnographic writing. But I really can’t put it to work. If the two cases were elements placed at the end of a continuum, I would say that it’s hard to be in between. Although some insisted that I don’t have to take things in a dichotomy, I felt like there’s a need to, especially after the 50-page disaster I wrote last summer also known as manuscript. It was hard to get over with. I needed to find my place in anthropology and that required my effort to write in the academic tone.

 

Except for some journal entries that ranged from rants or raves on the university life to conversations with the guy I often sat next to in the jeepney, what mostly came out of my pen were 1) notes of comparison between theories on the social lives of things and biographical objects 2) biographical sketches of some park photographers, and 3) my theoretically informed notions regarding the case. My working time often starts right after the Korean soap on prime time television – I don’t know why it keeps me up – and ends when my caffeine-derived energy drains. There even came a point when my parents felt the need to drag me to the doctor to see if I was still okay. I guess I was. I survived that semester. My block mates’ ways of survival varied too. But that can be discussed in another entry. Ü so much for making a great deal out of my newly discovered writing mode.

 

So what brings me back to my old style? I used to think it was dark, cynical, and not to mention, very corny. But these are my roots, and it’s part of this complicated individual known as Ara (to my profs and acquaintances), or Rang2 (to my close friends), or Kett (to my krabby patty), or ter (to my blockmates), or mangkukulam (to my little brother), or best friend (to a lot of people). And after a long time of pondering upon it, it’s about time to celebrate my roots. I’m reminded of Sir Montes, my Comm1 professor. He said he would be glad to have me in his CW class. How would he react if he finds out I’m taking CL instead for my elective? Or what if I accepted his invite back then and really shifted to BAE? Would things be different? Sigh.

 

Never mind. I feel good about my course any way.

 

A few weeks ago, I went to the beach. In the midst of our hectic schedule – deadlines to meet, organizational plans to materialize, professors to consult, papers to pass, and classes to attend – a friend and I managed to sneak away from the intoxicating university life, from the noisy streets of the city, and from the people whose faces we were so sick of seeing. Cheri opted to leave her beau for a while and I was more than willing to skip my MST class for an overnight stay at the beach. I missed sitting on the shore while the waves touch my feet, or sitting on the dock and watching the city lights from afar. Cheri and I took time to escape (from my family and relatives who attended my dad’s birthday) and watched the sunset on the beach – a Very calming view. And as the sun went down, the buildings across the sea started turning its lights on. Then we walked towards the dock and talked about stuff (and as usual, my visual acuity problems gave me a hard time walking on the ruined dock.) – from family updates to love life (which, by the way, I’ve got nothing to share about, so it was Cheri’s story I tried to analyze) to my jokes (yes, I still am not giving up my joke box queen title)Ü We hit the waters early in the morning with my cousin. The experience was just very relaxing. It revived the water baby in me.

 

I just wished I had time to look for my Tori Amos cd and brought it with me to my overnight stay at the beach. Then it would have been a perfect retreat.

 

 

 

there was utter silence, dimness

i could read fragments of pain and angst and frustration

and guilt and infatuation. they cling to your thoughts

tonight

like entities wreaking havoc

onto a wonderfully crafted web, the same web

which used to enfold that blood pumping organ you now diagnose as

bro..ken

you sing songs that sound like translations

of the fatal tension

between your stubborn love and her lame excuses –

set of words that both make you alive

and strike you to death

i was wrong. we are indeed substitutes

for the xsquared that left her and the ycubed she sought

sweet, romantic concepts of existence and assurance from

everybody’s subsumed by this equational shit.

december mishaps. how could you seep through the wires

and send down tidbits of illusion into what

every one else thought of as a mere machine

and the next minute unscrew the hinges and bolts

leaving this system broken. dripping. falling to unwanted pieces.

just like how she broke you apart.

how long will it take for you to heal. for this machine to wait?

because somewhere else tonight

another being licks scars of a wounded heart

love is an infinite regress.