Bali’s Gates to Heaven

24 May

That travel changes a person is a concept I’ve always been indignant to accept. I never craved to catch seat sales and book a flight set still many months away from now, much less deal with all the tedious details of planning and organizing a trip abroad all because I had this thinking that traveling was an overrated endeavor. I was not convinced that hopping from one country to another could make much of an impact in my life. I mean, is it even possible for different peoples, cultures or locations to change you when you don’t even stay in one place for enough long a time? What can a week in a foreign country significantly do to you? For sure, the backpacking craze of westerners, all tied up with the keeping of one’s budget at the most minimal, the bringing of very limited number of clothes to fit in one bag for your entire trip, and the staying at the cheapest hostels where you sleep in a bunk bed and share a room with other foreigners must all be a fad, and sooner or later, the hype would die down and everyone will go back home because they miss the more comfortable, more stable life they had just chosen to leave behind. — That was what I told myself.

See, I am not a travel-hater. I do have some countries in mind that I’d be happy to see:

  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Maldives
  • Cambodia
  • Australia
  • France (Paris and Provence)
  • Tuscany, Italy
  • The Bahamas
  • USA (Utah, Arizona and Area 51)

…but I did not find NOT being able to go to these places as a missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Okay lang kung mapuntahan, okay lang rin kung hindi. I guess I can safely say I was relatively indifferent about it really. I just didn’t see how incredibly life-changing traveling could be.

Until this happened:
IMG-20180426-WA0042_1.jpg

I had the chance to visit Bali, Indonesia – the first on my list of petty dream destinations. It was all my friend Tin’s fault. She found a flight promo and excitedly asked me if I wanted to go. I told her half-seriously that it is fine with me so long as she does all the preparations because I do not have the patience and industry to arrange a vacation abroad.

AND SHE DID! THIS WOMAN! HOW COULD SHE? hahaha.

IMG-20180426-WA0039_1.jpg

Kidding aside, I really have Tin to thank for actually doing all the work to make this trip happen, because as it turned out, this Bali trip was more than a fancy vacation for me and her.

What started out as a not-so-enthusing perhaps even uncertain plan turned out to be a total shocker for me, but in a good way. I think it was the heaven’s will to put me in this marvelous place just when a very bad news was about to knock on my door — a news so bad because it was going to require me to make difficult choices for my life. Well, this trip did something to my soul that ultimately made me braver, free-er and must I say, happier now. It was in Bali where I was able to muster all the courage to let my heart finally speak its truth, raw and unadulterated, and hold on to my resolve.

It was in Bali that I got to witness the longest, most meditative sunset of my entire life, right above the open-air deck of a moving small commercial yacht – it was the grand denouement of my first vacation trip abroad.  As quiet, melancholic and soft as that very moment was, it was also so powerful it ended up being the  force that pushed me out of a crossroad that got me stuck for the longest time.

IMG-20180426-WA0036.jpg

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. – Martin Buber

And now I understand that oftentimes, that secret destination is not a place.

With its unique charm and authenticity, Bali also made me understand people’s fascination in traveling the world. It made me reconsider my previous notion on the subject, and I was just so glad to be proven wrong. It honestly made me want to travel more. I get it now. I really do.

baliOh and I forgot to say, Tin and I were literal backpackers on this trip, carrying just one big backpack and a smaller bag with us (no baggage allowance availed of in the flights). Of course it goes without saying that we also did all the cliche things backpackers do:

We stayed in a mixed dormitory/hostel with 6 bunk beds in one room, paying only Php250.00 per night (yes! Php250.00! you heard it right!)

IMG-20180430-WA0001.jpg

IMG-20180430-WA0027.jpg

We didn’t eat until we found the cheapest “warung” (Bali’s version of a carinderia) in the area. We avoided all restaurants except for one; We haggled in the souvenir shops like we would haggle in Divisoria; and we most certainly abused the free unlimited Bali coffee in our hostel hahaha.

But if there’s one thing I was truly amused to realize about the whole backpacking thing, it is that I do not need to compromise on fashion despite the cheap lifestyle we are supposed to follow! 😉 So yes, we were very fashionable backpackers — wearing fancy dresses and donning colorful, chunky accessories with straw hats to boot. Tin and I agreed that we are sooooo Asians after all! We observed that westerners were usually just on their tank tops, shorts and flipflops, uncombed hair, simple black bags — so chill-looking and so free of any first world problems. On the other hand, the Asians in Bali were always instagram-ready. LOL

I also found out that working with a very strict low budget was not, after all, a hindrance to get that perfect high-end, Vogue-worthy photo I required to have by hook or by crook in this vacation. Ah well. My worries were a joke. hahaha.

(Will be sharing about my Bali Trip in a series of posts! Tune in! 😀 )

IMG-20180426-WA0030_1.jpg

So here I am, climbing up one of the many temples in Bali, in an attempt to reach its gates to heaven, barely an hour after our flight has landed. I was as Asian as I could be, and as childlike as I have always been, playfully posing here and there in the hopes of getting an ANTM kind of shot.  When that photo was taken, I was not yet aware that this trip would be so much more than an expensive opportunity to do a photo-shoot.  What can I say, Bali brought me nothing but good surprises.

IMG-20180426-WA0034.jpg“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do — especially in other people’s minds. (But) When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
– William Least Heat Moon

31357622_2130165180552265_8854431283816693760_n

Advertisements

Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 6)

23 Apr

Chapter 10: Catching Lies

10.1 The Canada Conversation

Jayson had been busy at work the past week. This time around, he had to travel to Mindanao. He told me that he’d be back on Saturday but he wasn’t sure yet if he could meet me. He told me to wait for his text though, and that he’d try as much as he could to finish work early.

I have to debrief my team as soon as we come back, but I guess we will be done by noon.

Debrief your team?

I mean we still need to talk about work. Sorry.

Jayson mistook my question as me not knowing what debriefing was. When in fact I knew exactly what it meant, and in fact, I was asking him to explain to me why he was using a term that I only typically hear in action movies. But I didn’t pursue the topic. I left it at that.

Anyway, we did see each other that Saturday. I was in Greenbelt by 11am but he finished “debriefing his team” around 1pm. I didn’t mind. I could always amuse myself. I enjoyed a solo karaoke session before he finally arrived to get me. We grabbed a quick bite at Mary Grace, and then we walked around Makati for a while.

In the midst of our stroll, I got caught up with something that I do not remember anymore now, but that thing I was doing made me let go of Jayson’s hand for a while, while he kept roaming around. We might have been physically separated at that moment, but I could still see and hear him from a distance.

Then there was a foreign guy and a Filipina who came to the same spot where Jayson was standing by. Just like us, they were on a date too. They were taking photos together, changing poses upon the instructions of the girl, trying out various angles, albeit never ever getting the perfect shot. Jayson offered to take their picture for them, and the couple appreciated that.

Thanks, man! Appreciate it! The foreigner said as he shook Jayson’s hand.

No problem! Jayson responded. And they exchanged some cordial words. He was ready to come to me when suddenly the foreigner casually asked:

What country you from?

I’m from Canada. And you?

The foreigner either said UK or Australia. But I didn’t really care about where he was from. All I cared about was what I accidentally heard Jayson say. When the couple had left, I walked back to where Jayson was, and blurted out:

Canada?

Jayson pretended not to have heard what I said.

Why’d you tell the foreign guy you’re from Canada? I prodded.

He’s a stranger. He doesn’t have to know everything about me.

I am generally a confrontational person, but with Jayson I seemed to be holding back a lot. My gut was telling me to keep quiet for now, to gather more clues that Jayson had been dropping once in a while, whether intentionally or not. I am not stupid not to form theories of my own based on what I knew so far. But annoyingly enough, Jayson kept assuming I was a typical girl who didn’t over-analyze.

The Canada conversation I had with Jayson happened two years ago, around the last week of February of 2016 to be exact.

Well, I think it is soooo worth sharing with you guys that recently (2018), I bought a book entitled “Overworld” which is a memoir (true-to-life account) of a reluctant CIA Operative in the name of Larry Kolb. There was a portion there that really blew my mind — the part where his father, a seasoned intelligence officer, was giving him practical advice before he travels to another country for a job:

P_20180423_162953_1.jpg

Coincidence? You be the judge.

_________________________

10.2. Jayson’s Tattoo

I’d be lying if I say that I had never set foot on Jayson’s flat. At this point, I had already spent enough time with Jayson to finally see him in the rare occasion where he was not wearing his usual branded shirt and baseball cap.

Jayson slept at night like any typical western man. Half-naked and all that. It was the first time I saw him shirtless, and I must say, Jayson never disappoints when it comes to carelessly revealing interesting things about himself to me. It was dim, with only the lamp on the nightstand on my side of the bed lit up. Yet, when he came closer to cuddle me, half-asleep as he was, I saw, for the first time too, a tattoo on his right arm just below his shoulder.

USMC

Four bold capital letters spelled out across his bicep. Carefully concealed throughout the day thanks to his uniformly sleeved and collared shirts.

Suddenly I was in the mood to talk. And even though Jayson was exhausted, I knew my questions couldn’t wait until the next day.

Babe, I didn’t know you have a tattoo. USMC? What does it mean? I asked as I gently touched the inked portion of his bare arm.

Jayson opened his shut eyes.

United Sons of a Martian Child. It was a tattoo I had out of a whim with my high school friends. Some kind of silly fraternity thing. We decided to get it one night when we were all so drunk. The three of us. We called ourselves Sons of a Martian Child. I’d tell you the backstory of it, but it is quite long. Maybe some other time.

Then he chuckled, and anyone else would have been convinced he was fondly recalling his fun childhood memories. But not me. This time, he could not possibly convince me.

LIE. THAT IS A LIE.

I am 100% sure that Jayson was inventing his Martian Child Story. Did he really think I was that naive?

See, if you readers must know one thing about me, it is that I have long been a user of dating websites… way before Tinder was invented, and way before phones were even called smart.

An older dating platform has indeed existed way before that. It was the kind where you log in using your desktop. The kind where it was still kinda shameful to admit you have a dating account. It was the era when taking things to the next level meant transferring from the website to Skype – not Viber or Whatsapp. And the era when men were not just within your 4 or 6 mile radius, but rather were oceans away. The way old-school dating websites operated back then was such that when two people who matched decided that they actually liked each other so seriously much, it would be time for the guy to book a flight.

In my history of using this kind of dating website way, way, back, I have come to talk to a lot of men from different parts of the world. Some of them I had remained friends with up to the present time.

There was this African-French guy who worked at Microsoft, and who built me a website for my then online business, all the way from France; There was another one from Gloucestershire who’d virtually tour me around his neighborhood during day time; There was this guy from Australia, divorced, with a daughter older than me, who wanted to marry me in an instant.

And then there were the soldiers.

I was quite drawn to soldiers ever since I could remember. I’ve had this fascination and raw admiration for men who run towards the sound of the gun. These men I met online were stationed in different parts of the globe, but all coming from just one country after all — no other than the US of A, of course. I talked to a lot of them in different times, for quite a while in each occasion. In the course of talking to them, I had come to know that there was a place in California called Twenty-nine Palms. I learned of the various stations in Afganistan, Iraq and even in the provinces of Japan. These military men would tell me about their day-to-day lives, their experiences in bootcamp, how they do combat, how to operate tanks and all that jazz. Heck there was even a time in the past when I had memorized all the ranks and titles of officers in the US Army, the US Navy, the US Air Force and , yes, the United States Marine Corps.

Truth be told, I’ve seen Jayson’s tattoo before. Except it was on another person’s bicep. And I only saw it via Skype when my bored friend living in the Californian desert decided to call me up so I could watch him cook his lunch, in a sleeveless gray shirt that boasted off his muscular arm.

Jayson was a former Marine. Could it really be?

I was discombobulated and amazed at the same time. I was nervous, and anxious, yet I found myself even more attracted to him now. The mystery that surrounded his person intrigued me to the bones. It made me want to uncover more information.

Slowly.

But more.

No, It’s not. It’s not what USMC means. I replied to him as soon as I slipped away from my internal soliloquy, and back to reality.

You know what it means?

Yes. I do.

I expected Jayson to dare me say out-loud what his tattoo actually stood for. But to my dismay, Jayson did not provoke me. I could feel he didn’t want to go there. He was not going to discuss his military background with me tonight. He was determined to lie.

You are too smart for me, lady. He said instead. Then he finished off positioning his arms around me, and he fell asleep, perhaps so intently, while giving me a warm embrace.

Image result for usmc tattoo right bicep

Not Jayson’s tattoo.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 5)

12 Apr

Chapter 8: Crancube and the Child

Jayson and I have been touring around Intramuros the whole day now. We just saw Fort Santiago which Jayson enjoyed a lot.

There was this young lad in Jose Rizal’s prison-cell-turned-museum who was playing a giant puzzle that resembled a rubik’s cube game except it was only two-dimensional. Jayson thought the boy was smart. We stood right next to him, amusingly watching him finish his round. Jayson would whisper “Ooops!” to me every time the boy would make the wrong strategy. But no matter how many mistakes the boy made, Jayson wouldn’t coach the poor child. The boy figured it out in the end. And Jayson was really impressed. He told me he could solve that puzzle in three, five seconds, and the boy did it in a few minutes… so he wasn’t so bad. I thought that maybe he was seeing his 10-year old self in that child.

I tried to mentally solve that puzzle too to be honest, but as much as I thought I was sharp enough, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which square to even move first and which should be next in order to piece the same colors together. Ahh. I have never played a rubik’s cube or a crancube anyway. I’d cut me some slack.

But even then, it was at that very moment that I got myself convinced that Jayson was indeed the better leader. I thought that if I would ever end up with this guy (which i was actually wishing for at that time), I wouldn’t have a problem letting him make the big decisions because I knew that between the two of us, he was the more proficient strategist and planner.

It was also then that I realized that the idea of a “woman submitting to her husband” does not, after all, absolutely repulse me. I realized I could concede to the bible on this if my partner deserves to play the part, or in other words — if he was smarter, more skillful than I am in almost everything about life.

—————

Chapter 9: Chivalry and Cab Rides

Jayson, wait up, I need to buy a bottle of water. Do you want one too?

Sure.

We entered Ministop along Cabildo Street. I took what I needed from the fridge and rushed to the counter. The cashier punched the price in the register. Before I could give her my money, Jayson stealthily handed the lady two twenty peso bills to pay for my groceries.

Jayson, It’s okay! I’ll pay for it!

No, I got it.

Jayson! come on, it’s just forty pesos.

Exactly. It’s just forty, so keep your money now and let me be the man in this relationship.

If there was one thing that Jayson did that I loved loved loved so much, it was the way he made me feel so protected, well taken care of, and spoilt all the time. Jayson would never let me pay for any expense we would incur even if I’d insist to share. Not on my watch, he would always say.

So I let Jayson be who he wanted to be in our – what he called – “relationship”. And I believe he loved this in turn about me. I was the affectionate, caring, and genuinely appreciative lady his manliness needed me to be, but I was also the clever, sarcastic and challenging bitch his nerdiness enjoyed bantering with endlessly.

I know that being a willing recipient of the byproducts of Jayson’s chivalry may go against the very core of my beliefs. What with gender equality. But I’ve long accepted to myself that when it comes to dating men, I’d have to somehow allow my expectations and preferences betray my advocacy. Just a little bit. Just for now. I mean, until and unless all guys catch up with feminism, then I’d rather enjoy the perks of Jayson’s “being the man”.

Bringing our Valentine’s date to a close, Jayson had even gone to the extent of offering me money for my taxi ride home. This time I did not accept it.

At this point, I have to clarify: It is one thing to take care of the check by giving his credit card or spare bills to the waiters or sellers or cashiers directly; it is another thing when he is actually handing the money to me.

It makes me uncomfortable although I know it basically just boils down to the same thing. Somehow, I still associate actually receiving his money with my two bare hands as asking for a dole out or some kind of allowance. As I’ve said, I didn’t want to look like I am dating him only to exhaust his funds, especially not in front of the fancily-clad Intramuros guard and the driver who I’m almost certain was already sizing me up from inside the cab!

Thank you, I really appreciate it, but I can pay for my own ride home. Besides, you already spent for everything else.

I don’t mind. I just want to take care of you.

Aww, baby. You are so sweet. Thank you, but I’ll be fine.

You sure?

Yes.

Take it anyway.

No, babe. My god! Aren’t you stubborn! And I playfully rolled my eyes on him again.

Not as stubborn as you are! then he smiled, and then he succumbed to me and he put his money back in his pocket.

He leaned in for a kiss, I pulled back a little to tease, we simultaneously smiled while our faces were almost (but not quite) touching each other, until finally, I let his lips take the plunge… and then, with my bouquet of flowers on one hand, and my heart falling faster and faster on the other, I boarded the cab marking the end of yet another perfect, dreamy night. My first ever Valentines Day Date was a blast.

Sweet Little Alfresco Spot

8 Apr

Break muna sa nobela ko. Allow me to blog about something light and happy lang for today.  🙂 I just want to share about this sweet little alfresco corner in Greenbelt that I am loving more and more by the day… or by the weekend should I say?

This is at Single Origin, Greenbelt 3. It has just recently opened. It used to be a pizzeria and I’ve only tried it once then. But ever since it got transformed into this very rustic/country kind of place that serves hefty sizes of food and nice-tasting lattes, I started to frequent this part of Greenbelt more often.

P_20180331_124817_1.jpg

As I grow older, the things that I truly love and want are starting to get more defined. I guess I can safely call myself an old soul because I feel like I gravitate towards hobbies which are not necessarily explosive and exciting but are rather slow, unpopular and quaint.

Sometimes, I wonder why unlike other millenials, I don’t have the inclination to travel the world and see as many countries as I can. And unlike other millenials, I do not covet the latest gadgets available in the market. My phone has had a shattered screen for the longest time, and my laptop has been showing some signs of malfunction but I cannot find the desire to upgrade them.

I cannot however let a weekend pass without visiting a nice coffee shop.

P_20180331_125124_1.jpg

But who can blame me right? My coffee shop escapades are the best down-time! It gives me an ample time to contemplate about life, read a book leisurely, write on my blog, review the things I’ve done the past week, and it’s the chance to have a one-on-one talk with myself for when I feel down, sad, or lonely. Hanging out in cafes allows me to push the reset button of life. For someone like me who believes she is more prone to melancholy, this is a very crucial savior of an activity.

 

It also makes the need to finish pending work on a weekend more tolerable. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as burdensome as it actually is because once in a while, some lovely birds will sing my stress away, and sometimes, some handsome stranger would share the long table I occupy and would start a random cute conversation. I mean, I don’t mind pausing work if that’s what the universe serves my plate! haha

P_20180331_125316_1.jpg

I especially love cafes that love my kind of music. Serve me latte and play some Bossa Nova, or those soft, dreamy 80s love songs that take me to some kind of wonderland — and I am yours forever! I cannot fully describe the love affair I have with coffee shops, especially the one with perfect alfresco spots!

P_20180331_133806_1.jpgAlmost done with coffee! Almost halfway through with my current book!

P_20180331_125446_1.jpg

Spending some alone-time in coffee shops is such an underrated recreation. More people should do it, and they should do it more often. 🙂

 

 

 

Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 4)

5 Apr

Chapter 6: Stuffed Bears and Sign Board

 

“Why is this man not texting me today? He texted me yesterday, he texted me the other day. I’m pretty certain he is in Manila right now… so WHY THE HELL IS HE NOT TEXTING ME TODAY?!”

I thought it was so foul that of all the days he could pick, he particularly – and probably intentionally – chose this day to go missing on me again. I looked at my phone one more time. There was nothing. I probably looked at it a hundred times more until I finally released a heavy, disappointed sigh, accepted defeat, put my phone back in my bag, and went on walking along Greenbelt 1 where storefronts were all decorated with hearts and cupids and too much red, and side stalls and kiosks were teeming with unreasonably expensive teddy bears and roses.

Tomorrow is Valentines day. And this man I am supposedly seeing doesn’t care. Sure we’ve only been going out short of two months, but come on now —– Tomorrow. Is. Valentines. Day.

Pissed-off was an understatement for what I was feeling that night. In my mind, I was already ready to “break up” with this guy I was not even in an official relationship with.

And then my phone rang.

Hello babe… how are you?
I’m good. Just strolling in the mall. What’s up?
Nothing really. I’m just finishing up with dinner.
I see.
So I was wondering if you wanna go out with me tomorrow? I’d like to spend my Valentines Day with you if you don’t mind.

I took back all the hateful words I had already told him in my head. All the angst in me was instantly taken over by so much unconcealable delight that I was sure he could see me smiling from ear to ear even though we were just on the phone that time.

Yes, Of course! I thought you’d never ask!
You panicked, didn’t you? Wish I could see your face right now haha!

Jayson loved petty games.

Do you wanna go anywhere specific? I asked.

I would really like to see a place with some historical and cultural significance. No more malls for me, unless that’s where you wanna go.

Alright well there’s only one place like that in Metro Manila — I think you’re gonna love Intramuros!

———–

February 14 came sooner than I anticipated.

Jayson and I have agreed to meet first in a coffee shop in Makati before heading to Intramuros together. At exactly 8 am, he was at Starbucks waiting for me. I endeavored to beat him at it but I ended up being 20 minutes late. In my defense though, it had taken me a while trying to look like the finest lady in town. As early as 6am, I’d been trying on one outfit after another until finally I pieced together the perfect ensemble that I thought he’d find attractive, while at the same time would look chic and “un-stereotype-able” to the prying eyes of the public.

Recently Updated7

Makati was rather accepting of pinay-and-foreigner couples, but now we were about to exit the bubble that is CBD and I wasn’t sure how the ordinary people of the outside world would perceive me to be. It has always been my issue, you know. I never wanted to look like I was dating this foreign guy for his money. Sometimes I would even wish I could hang a massive sign board on my neck saying “Excuse me. I make my own money and I have a law degree!”

 

Chapter 7: Cannons and Cobblestones

 

I was expected to be the tour guide of Jayson in Intramuros, all rehearsed to deliver the story behind every monument and every old building we were about to visit. I had even thought of giving him some cool trivia on Philippine History. Well I tried. But on our third stop, we both realized that he was better off just reading the historical markers of the sites because well, i clearly sucked at being a tour guide and all the more so as a historian. I would keep inventing stuff when I didn’t know what to say anymore and he would always catch each one of my wonderful concoctions about the happenings of the past – not because he knew the real deal – but because I couldn’t hide my hysterically cunning grin.

We walked atop the famous Intramuros stone wall. We walked and walked and talked, and we kissed every now and then, and then we’d walk again. A few more minutes of treading that 20-feet-high brick-laid pathway, he suddenly turned to face me, and he halted me to a still position. He grabbed both my hands with both his hands and then he gave me orders.

Look up! Look up in the sky !
And I quickly looked up in the sky as instructed.

What now? I asked out of confusion because there was nothing up there really but the sun that was starting to blind me.

Let’s play a game!
Ok?!
What is the year engraved on the bricks of the pavement we’re walking on?
There’s actually a year engraved on the pavement?
Yes! On almost every brick actually! So what’s the answer?

Having no clue at all, I just responded with the year of my birth which is 1989.

Ah close! It’s 1981… or 1861… depending on your orientation.

I looked down to see the answer for myself, and true enough there were 1981 engravings – or 1861 if you read them upside down – on most of the red bricks on the floor.

P_20180403_192802_1.jpg

Jayson was quick to throw me a smile filled with teasing condescension. 1-0, in his favor. Ugh. I’ve been to this place a number of times. How come I’ve never noticed this before?!

After savoring his quick moment of victory, Jayson suddenly changed mood and uttered something on a more serious note:

You’ve got to be more observant of your surroundings, Janica. Mindlessness can kill you.

———–

A few more steps along the muralla and we finally reached a wide rectangular open ground with cemented triangular planes here and there, and some uneven elevations. There we found the iconic 12 Spanish cannons strategically positioned against the indented parapets of the Old Manila fortress. Boy, did Jayson get excited upon laying eyes on these ancient toys! He speedily headed towards one of them with me in tow. As we got close to his cannon of choice, Jayson eagerly decided to give me a crash course on this particular artillery:

He talked about the engineering behind this weapon, as well as its assembly line. He explained to me how it works using principles of Physics I did not understand. He identified its various parts like the bore, the muzzle, and the reinforce whatever. He then blabbered about its history, its development throughout centuries, its various kinds and its more modern versions. I’m quite certain he told me more but I honestly had a hard time imbibing all the information. I gave up on him as early as when he started spewing Engineering jargons but I guess my acting prowess ( read: consistent nodding with occasional jaw drops, followed up with lines like  “Is that so?”, “Oh, really?”, “Wow, that is nice”) encouraged him to go on and on and on.

As he wrapped up his first lecture for the day, all I could ask him was:

How did you know all these stuff? You use cannons and cannon balls in your water-filtration job?

Oh yes. We use them as pipelines that’s why we are one of a kind,  He said in jest and I took it as a cue to playfully roll my eyes. Haha no babe, I just read a lot.

——–

Our next destination was the Bahay Tsinoy.

Jayson had particularly requested to visit a museum. Luckily for me, one of my friends had randomly told me a couple of months back about this Chinese museum which she really loved, located in the heart of the Walled City. And so I decided to take Jayson there. I thought it was the closest and most convenient to go to anyway. We braved the scorching heat of the day and walked the streets of Intramuros in search of it, only to find it still closed the moment we got there.

Since it was almost noon and we were getting hungry, we decided to go eat first and then just come back later.

I thought it would be interesting for Jayson and I to try Ristorante delle Mitre. I was convinced he’d love the cultural underpinnings of this holy diner.

The food on the menu of Ristorante delle Mitre were named after bishops and priests. And statues of saints and other sacred icons and representations were the primary decor. Those life-size religious figures were literally in every corner of the room, making you think that they were perpetually watching your every move. If you ask me, this made eating there very uncomfortable. And this made kissing there really awkward as hell.

Right after lunch, we decided to stroll aimlessly and see more of Old Manila for a while. Then we agreed that it was time to return to Bahay Tsinoy.

Well, after having walked along similar-looking cobbled streets, I found myself ultimately unable to remember our way back. I looked behind me, and side, and behind me again hoping to recall where we’ve been this morning and he patiently waited for me to figure it out.

Let’s go that way. 

I don’t think that’s the right way. 

It is. It is.

And so he quietly followed me to what I would soon realize was indeed the wrong direction.

Ok. You’re right. We’re lost now. Wait. Let me open Google Maps on my phone.

No need. He said rather softly.

And just before I could take my phone out my bag, he reached for my hand and took the lead. First, he quickly gave me a rundown of the NAMES of all the streets we must turn at and pass through. Then he wasted no time correctly navigating the place until finally, we were standing at the front door of Bahay Tsinoy again.

Have you been here before, Jayson?

No! it’s my first time.

So why do you know the place so well?

Just good with directions, ma’am.

P_20160214_165122

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 3)

31 Mar

Chapter 5: Samar, Seafood, and Salvation

Jayson didn’t reach out for two days. By this time, I had already learned how to be okay with his intermittent texting and disappearing acts every time he was out of town. I had also started to anticipate and expect his ready excuses upon his return.

Jayson would usually tell me where he has been right after he’s been there, but rarely before he goes there. This time though, it seemed like he was missing me just a little bit more because he has sent me a text informing me where he currently was:

Down south in the Visayas.

We had dinner as usual as soon as he got back. After settling down in a corner table of an alfresco restaurant, I initiated the conversation, and chose to talk about his recent trip:

So you were in the Visayas?

Yes. Our company is looking to take a new project there.

Really? It seems your company is aggressively expanding. You’ve got potential clients all over the Philippines.

Something like that, yeah. But it’s not definite yet.

Which province in the Visayas were you at?

Somewhere south. But when I texted you I was in Samar.

I see.

I’m really hungry. Let’s go order now.

Jayson ordered some seafood to devour that night. While in the midst of experiencing the deliciousness that is a platter of shrimps, clam shells, squids and mussels, we got into talking about a Jewish friend of his who wouldn’t eat this kind of dish because they are not considered kosher. Said friend used to convince him about going strictly kosher too but Jayson would always engage him in a debate about it. Jayson thought that going strictly kosher was baloney since according to the bible, God actually declared that it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of it. I’ve heard my father refer to this verse before when I was still a little girl as he explained to me why Christians eat pork . So yes, I was familiar with what Jayson was trying to say. I just nodded in agreement, intentionally trying not to prolong the conversation about God and the bible, lest I bitch about how sexist I actually thought the bible was.

I talked about how salivating the shrimp was instead.

After our seafood dinner-cum-bible study session, we parted ways. A few hours later, just before I was ready to dive into my bed for my much-coveted slumber, I received a text message from Jayson but instead of just the usual good night and sweet nothings, I found myself reading a long quotation of verses from the bible. After the cited text from the book of Matthew or whoever it was that authored the topic of safely eating this or that, he followed it up with his own annotation.

I’ll be damn honest here – I really liked Jayson… but this revelation about him almost threw me off the wall. I was a little disconcerted by this sudden indoctrination and all. I never took Jayson for a religious man. And I never thought he read the bible regularly, but he actually had a bible app installed on his phone. I didn’t know what to do for a second. Should I reply to his eager text or should I just pretend that I was half-asleep already and my brain wasn’t in the mood anymore to process his five-page electronic essay?

Ahhhh….. But of course! the ever-accommodating side of me prevailed, and I decided to indulge him that night. I asked follow-up questions, I challenged some of his logic, disagreed on some of the things he said, agreed on others, and pretended to be curious myself about the biblical verses he just sent me, all in the hopes of fully convincing him I was the kind of woman he could talk to about anything under the sun. Perhaps I overdid it, perhaps I was too good at faking interest in what he was lecturing me on. Or perhaps he just needed someone – anyone – to hear him out. Whatever the reason was, that specific conversation I had with him marked the beginning of our many late-night virtual bible lessons… and this would eventually extend in our day-to-day face-to-face interactions.

Jayson’s favorite topic to discuss from the bible is salvation. He would repeatedly (and perhaps unknowingly on his part) talk about how God would forgive all the sinners on earth come judgment day for as long as these sinners repent and believe in Him in the end. He would tell me that it didn’t matter how big or small our sins were, all of us could still be saved, and that this fact made him really happy. I don’t recall anymore the exact biblical passages he would send or tell me, but trust me when I say that there was not a scarcity of them in the course of our “dating” life.

Whenever our conversation would start to gear towards the topic of salvation, my law-school-trained-and-debate-hungry mind and mouth would automatically shut up, and this would quickly be replaced by my feeling a little sorry, worried, confused and shaken for him. It felt like I was dealing with an entirely different person – not the funny, witty, sharp and light-hearted Jayson I was used to. It was like his sentiments were coming from somewhere deep down inside, like he was actually holding on to this verse all his life, like it was the only source of hope he had. As he spoke of being saved, his eyes would throw a piercing blank stare so far it might have well reached a mile, yet it would protrude so inwardly too at the very same time that the only conclusion I could make was that it was his soul doing the talking now.

This freaked me out a lot. This also made me wonder what kind of past this man has had. I even quickly entertained the idea that I was probably dating a legit crazy person! It was a good thing (or was it?) that this episode on salvation would only last just a few minutes or so each time: It didn’t brew up enough panic in my head for me to actually probe deeper and further into his history. I guess I was also scared to pry.

In the end, I was just really thankful for the rest of the days that we were normal, secular human beings who ate and kissed and held hands.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 2)

29 Mar

Chapter 3: Cover Story

Ever since our first meeting, I noticed how Jayson has started to text me more regularly – daily even. I mean, he would still go missing for a few days once in a while but at least now, he would endeavor to tell me beforehand of his anticipated travels. He didn’t want me to wonder why he hadn’t texted. He also didn’t want me to think he was flaking on me for good. Little thing, yes, but I appreciated this gesture a lot… while at the same time I wondered what could he possibly be doing in his job that he couldn’t send me a text for a few days at a time. I mean, so what if you traveled out of town? It is not like you lose your mobile phone signal in the provinces right? But I killed the thought and convinced myself it was way too early to demand for so much.

As far as I know, or as far as he made me believe, he would make sure to ask me out whenever he was back in Manila. So yes, Jayson and I have gone out on a few more dates, and boy was every date great and fun!

Jayson was definitely a man of colorful stories. Every time we saw each other I learned something new and interesting about him:

He has talked about his parents, his sister and nieces, and his friends back in the US. He shared about the little rift he has had with his sister because he was always the good son – achieving great feat academic and career wise, while his older sister has always been involved in a lot of troubles.

Once, he showed me pictures of his pet Elsa – a Siberian husky he named after the character in Frozen because he said it was his nieces’ favourite movie. He showed me photos of him driving his truck while Elsa was right by his side at the passenger’s seat. He showed me pictures of California where he resides.

He told me he got Elsa before he was sent to the Philippines because he wanted some sort of family in his house waiting for him whenever he returns from an overseas assignment. He had hired a dog-sitter to look after Elsa and sometimes the sitter would send him pictures and videos of the dog. He said his job has made life a little lonely for him, but now he was thinking if he did make the right decision of getting a dog that he would just leave behind all the time.

He has told me that his job required him to be away from home a lot. He also said he’s lived in more than thirty countries already. I asked how that was possible and he said he usually gets assigned in one country for 6 months or less (but never more), then he’d move to another country for a fresh 6 months, and so on. He has been working for this water-filtration company for around 15 years already. He said it was founded by a very good friend of his that was why when such friend asked him to be a part of it, he couldn’t say no. That was also why his dedication to his job was that great.

Of course, being the upright woman that I am, I made sure to ask the most important question of all: I asked if he left any girlfriend or wife back in the U.S. He said no with sufficient resolve, although, he shared that he almost did get married way, way back but he and his fiancée broke up months before their wedding because of  – guess what – his job.

 

Chapter 4: The Viber Anomaly

In the course of our hanging out, I had asked Jayson to install Viber because I find it much easier to communicate there. I had this impression that he never used this messaging app before. He did install it right after I asked him to. When he tried to send me a test-message via such app, I noticed something strange.

See, Viber puts up this default thumbnail showing the first letter of your Viber-registered name when you don’t upload any picture as your profile image. Jayson did not upload a picture of him in the said app. So what I was supposed to see in my phone, right by the left side of his name, was the default purple letter inside a gray tile. Oddly enough, the thumbnail that appeared was a letter “R” — when it should’ve been a “J”.

Probably just a Viber glitch. Or a bug. I told myself calmly.

I did not mention this anomaly to him. I actually forgot about it for a while. But looking back, this little technical glitch actually gave away two crucial things which I had chosen to ignore:

  • He has used the app before, otherwise Viber would not have recorded or captured the first letter of his name; and
  • He’s had another name.. and it wasn’t “Jayson”, that’s for sure.

While this is something I decided not to ever bring up in our conversations, I later on discovered the real explanation behind the curious letter “R”. Funnily enough, a story that would come from the horse’s mouth itself was what would birth sense into this anomaly. And he didn’t even know I had put the puzzle pieces together in my mind.

I guess it is also worth noting here that this Viber anomaly is significant in one other respect:

Of all the incredible but unverifiable things he has told me and would soon tell me about his life – the story about his name/s is one of the very few things I am sure are true; And believe me when I say that in this account, a single truth would matter so damn much already.

 (TO BE CONTINUED)