Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 8)

8 Aug

Chapter 13: The Lunch Date

Saturday morning, at around 9. I was standing in front of my mirror. Deciding on what to wear. I mean how does one even prepare for a break-up date, if there is even such a thing? I’ve cried for four days since my last conversation with Jayson. And I ran out of tears just two days ago.  I was just happy my eyes weren’t red and puffy anymore. I was okay, I told myself. I’d be fine.

But who was I kidding right?

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if meeting Jayson today was a good idea. But I would, if only to see his face in person possibly for the last time.

And so I went…

Jayson was waiting for me right outside the Starbucks in Greenbelt 3. We would always meet first at that Starbucks before going any place else. He’d been there for forty minutes or so, but this time I didn’t care much that I was wasting his time. After all, he had stolen mine.

I saw him standing right by the wall outside the said café, and the weakness that was me totally forgot that I was supposed to be mad! I smiled. I smiled just seeing him seeing me. After everything, his mere presence still was enough to make me happy.

Hey. I greeted him awkwardly, suddenly unsure of how to properly talk to him now.

Hey. Jayson touched my cheek and then he put the few strands of my curly hair dangling along my face, right behind my ear. Are you hungry?

I’m okay. Where are we settling?

Let’s find a quieter place.

While walking around looking for a restaurant, Jayson started to small talk.

You’re too quiet. I’m not used to your being too quiet.

I’ve got nothing to say.

You always have something to say. And I’ve always loved that about you.  

How about you talk? You’re the one who’s not been telling me things, you know.

Jayson stared at me with disappointment.

It’s not like I wanted to. It’s just… It was necessary. And then he abruptly looked away. He tapped the navy blue cap he was wearing to bring it a little bit more down to his forehead. It wasn’t particularly hot that day but I noticed Jayson was perspiring.

We ended up choosing Zuni, in Greenbelt 5.

Jayson knew I’d always opt for the alfresco spot in any restaurant. He surveilled that part of Zuni quickly. Two tables occupied. One of which by a couple where one was a foreign guy. Right before I could pick a table, Jayson stopped me by holding my hand.

Not, there. Too many people.

The alfresco area was basically bare, with the exception only of the said two tables with a total of four people. But I did not argue with him anymore. I’ve got no energy to try and be all cute and get my way.

The inside of Zuni was indeed emptier, more spacious, and a little bit dimmer too. We got the table at the innermost corner of the restaurant. It was only the two of us there, although another person was eating alone at the farthest end near the door.

zuni2

This’ll do. He said. But he was talking more to himself, than to me.

Jayson sat on the chair facing the glass wall. And I sat right beside him. We ordered food. Ate a little. And the real conversation began.

___________

Chapter 14: The Revelation

So what are you going to tell me? I went straight to the point.

Janica, before I say anything to you, I need you to promise me this will only be between the two of us. You cannot tell anyone about what you will hear or know. Promise me.  

Okay? I promise.

Jayson released a big sigh. He composed himself. He held my hand. Then he began to spill his secrets out. Slowly, slowly, slowly, he made that typical Saturday afternoon too wild.

So… I asked to see you personally because I realized how unfair it was to say goodbye via text. And I do owe you an explanation. I really like you. I like you too damn much for my own sake.  And if it were only up to me, I’ll take you anywhere with me. But…

…But it’s your JOB. I already know that. There’s nothing new about that.

Listen. The job that I told you about is not my real job.

What do you mean? You’re not a real engineer?

I am. I really am an engineer, by educational background. But I am not here in your country to do an engineering job.

What are you saying?! You are not really working for that water filtration company?!

No. 

 So what do you do, really?

I am here because of the EDCA…

—And I was quite flabbergasted upon hearing him say that

Jayson kept on talking: I am not sure if you’ve heard of it. But it is the….

I know what EDCA is. I said, cutting him short. I went to law school and I work in a government office, remember?

For the benefit of those who are not familiar with EDCA, this is how Wikipedia explains it:

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is an agreement between the United States and the Philippines intended to bolster the U.S.–Philippine alliance. The agreement allows the United States to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays and allows the U.S. to build and operate facilities on Philippine bases, for both American and Philippine forces. The U.S. is not allowed to establish any permanent military bases. It also gives Philippine personnel access to American ships and planes.

The EDCA is a supplemental agreement to the previous Visiting Forces Agreement. The agreement was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg in Manila on April 28, 2014.

On January 12, 2016, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the agreement’s constitutionality in a 10–4 vote. On July 26, 2016, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled with finality that the agreement is constitutional. (Author’s Note: Jayson arrived in the Philippines first day of January, and he left by July. Wala lang! Just saying! hahaha )

So you’re with the U.S. military?!

No. not exactly. I do Intelligence.

Intelligence? I asked, making sure to sound unaware.

Let’s just say I’m here to make things happen, and to help your government get the bad guys. 

How?

By being someone I‘m not.

What do you mean?

Jayson just looked at me, his eyes pleading me to draw the line on my questions.

A pause too long ensued.

There was no other question left to ask next aside from the one I had in mind, but I hesitated because I did not want to be my own unhealthy enabler.

But then again, I told myself, why not ask now, and then just evaluate later on the veracity of whatever it is that would transpire.

So I went for it. And I probed while carefully acting like I wasn’t stunned enough yet by what I’ve so far heard.

Wait, so what are you? Some kind of a spy?? And I laughed, not at the idea, but at myself. I could not believe I would ever ask that question to a real person, but there I was playing with my imagination, and yieldingly waiting for Jayson to make fun of me.

But he did not. Instead he said in a serious tone:

Well, that’s not really how we call ourselves, but yeah, something like that.

And there I was. Utterly confused and amused at the same time. I thought I needed to re-assess right away my extremely under-calculated gullibility… because why was I so willing, if not even enthusiastic, to hear more?

I continued to play along.

From what agency? the CIA?

No, but something like that.

So what is it? The NRO? The NSA?

No, but something like that. I cannot tell you what it is. Why do you even know these agencies anyway?!

I read?

That is the one mistake I made, you see – I dated a girl who knew how to read. He joked about.

Jayson, do you honestly expect me to believe what you’re saying?

I have no expectations whatsoever.

Well, okay… then why were you on Tinder? Aren’t spies forbidden from doing things that would easily expose their identities?

We are discouraged by our handlers, but it is not against the rules. We do have control over our free time. 

Handlers? I asked, once again pretending not to know what it means.

Bosses. Supervisors. He explained.

A part of me wants to call “bullshit” on all of this. After all, this kind of things only happens in the movies. But then, another part of me would get so convinced every time Jayson would use military jargons and intelligence terminologies rather naturally, and would often assume I didn’t understand him. It just feels so authentic when he does it.

Anyway below is the definition of  a ‘handler’, which i’ve known even before meeting Jayson, because, as unknown to him, I actually read lots of spy books and I love watching and re-watching lots of spy movies:

Handler: a manager or controller of a spy. Agent handler is a generic term common to many intelligence organizations; A primary purpose of intelligence organizations is to penetrate a target with a human agent, or a network of human agents. Such agents can either infiltrate the target, or be recruited “in place”. Agent handlers (or case officers) are professionally trained employees of intelligence organizations that manage human agents and human agent networks.

The skeptic voice inside my head kept on probing. Trying. Wanting to catch him on his seeming lies. Waiting to spot inconsistencies in his revelations. Praying I would not succumb to that bigger, stronger part of me that has always believed in fantastic things, and magic, and surreal adventures.

But why are you confessing you’re a spy?

I also don’t know. Maybe I just want to have at least one person in my life who knows the real deal with me. I mean my family doesn’t know what I do. Not my mom, not my sister, nobody. 

I appreciate that you chose me to be your secret-bearer and all, but it just sounds counter-intuitive to me. Spies are supposed to protect their cover, and yet here you are telling me all about it?

Am I? …I’m not giving you any classified information. Besides, if you talk about this, no one will believe you. All words, no proof. From my end, this is very easy to deny.  And as I’ve said, I am not a spy… Just something like that.

So… if you really are some sort of a spy or an agent, then… is Jayson your real name?

Yes. Believe it or not, it is my real name. It is not the name I’m called at work though. And definitely not the name I’m known to the big people that I deal with here.

So what do they call you at work?

Roy.

AND I DIED. Jayson just told me that his other name was Roy. Roy starts with a letter ‘R”.

Suddenly, the Viber Anomaly which I’d long forgotten by now came rushing back to me! And it has just resolved itself as well! (click here for that Chapter) As I’ve said before, I never mentioned to Jayson the curious case of his Viber Thumbnail Letter R. Now here he was volunteering an information about him that would turn it all into a self-solving equation.

So that’s why your Viber shows a letter R instead of a J! I blurted out.

It does?

Yes! And I pulled my phone out my bag to show him what I meant.

Hmmm, he said, looking a little troubled.

_______

The night right after our meeting, Jayson’s Viber got fixed. While we were texting, I noticed that the letter R disappeared, and the thumbnail right next to his name now bore the correct letter – “J”.

_______

At the beginning of this story, I gave you, readers, the option to decide for yourself on what Jayson might really be: (1) He could be a total jerk of a guy who was having way too much fun inventing tales and making a fool out of me, or (2) he could really be the spy or the secret agent or the “something like that” that he was claiming to be.  I really could not impose upon you guys, which one to believe, because even until now, I have absolutely no way of verifying his stories.

However, that he told me his other name was Roy totally weighs in favor of the latter option. And it also gave me a little bit of faith about his genuineness and sincerity towards me.

At least I knew he wasn’t lying about one thing: his use of different names.

And maybe, just maybe, the rest of the things he was about to tell me, were worth listening to as well?

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 7)

5 Aug

Chapter 11:  Ending Inconvenience 

I couldn’t quite believe how I managed to have Jayson take me in his arms and make him sway around. All I could recall was earlier that evening, we were sharing a box of pizza for dinner, goofing around, and talking about whatever, when I suddenly felt this intense desire to make the night more magical and special than it has already been.

While we were sitting on the floor, with an open box of Yellow Cab resting coldly now on the center table ,television was on but was completely being ignored, I randomly pulled out my phone, and did the unthinkable.

Jayson, you have three minutes to spare?

Yes, sure.  What’s up?

Do you mind if I waste them by asking you to dance with me?

A little bit flushed with shame but also a little bit proud of myself for being brave, I quickly scrolled down my playlist and chose a love song to play, and then I shared my earphones with him so we could both hear the music.

Jayson was just smiling the entire time. Perhaps giggling a little bit inside. He would always tell me my boldness usually surprised him, but he would never ever complain.  As for me, I was just happy he obliged and I didn’t have to suffer a night of rejection and awkwardness.

He turned the television off to eliminate the background noise. Then he stood up and he wrapped his arms around me, and  we started moving side to side to the rhythm of my song. My heart was beating so hard while we were dancing quietly right in the middle of his living room. He was looking at me so dearly, and he was smiling a lot, and  kissing me a lot too. And there I was thinking to myself: He was it. He was the one. And that I was truly, deeply, in love with this man.

Halfway through the song, we began talking about random stuff again. And at some point in our conversation, we got to the topic of dreams and ambitions.

… Well, if I ever get the chance years from now, I think I just want to slow down, relax and run a vineyard. I’ll make some fine wine, earn some money and just stay at home more. But that’s something I cannot do just yet. Still busy running around…. And you? … Maybe 10, 15 years from now, you’re already a Senator, or a big time person at the UN, or you’ll be Woman of the Year… and then I’ll see you on TV just doing something really significant with your life.. huh?

I don’t think so….

But I think so! You’re smart, you’re beautiful, you’ll go places I’m sure!

I took my gaze away from him and blankly into to the wall and slowly inward into the future I carved in my head. Then I uttered dreamily:

I really just want a simple, happy life you know. 10 or 15 years from now, I see myself doing a fulfilling job, and having enough time to pursue my other passions, and going home to a modestly sized but pretty, cozy house right by the beach or the countryside. Maybe by then, I also have a small family of my own already – a loving and responsible husband, and two kids at most. Nothing too grand. Just… something filled with meaning and beauty and joy and love.

Yeah?

Yeah. I replied as I pulled myself back to the moment.

Jayson looked at me again, but this time his stare said something different.

And then he embraced me tightly.  And the song came to an end.

______________

 

I couldn’t forget the way Jayson looked at me that night. It carried a sense of foreboding which, no matter how much I chose to ignore,  just wouldn’t escape me.

On the afternoon the next day, my fears were proven right. I received a rather long text from Jayson which I wished I never read.

“Janica, I couldn’t forget what you said about your dreams. You mean a lot to me, and our conversation last night got me feeling guilty. I didn’t really expect this to go this far, I didn’t plan to even have a second date with you. I didn’t plan on liking you this much because I didn’t think you’d be this amazing… but it all happened anyway. However, I don’t want to get in the way of your plans in life. And I should not have led you on. I wasn’t completely honest with you. You should know that I’m not staying long in the Philippines. I leave in June. July at most. Unlikely to ever be back. As much as I want to keep on seeing you, my job requires so much of me and it just cannot afford an inconvenience right now, or at all. I am not telling you that this would be the last time I’d see or talk to you, because I can’t. I don’t want to. But I’m hoping you ‘d take it upon yourself to stop seeing me, and to get away as far as you can from me. It is the only way to keep you on track. You are brilliant, and lovely, and you deserve to be happy. You are better off without me. ”

I wasn’t prepared for that message at all. And I didn’t know how to process all the emotions that it created either.  I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing. I was so mad and so at a loss. And I couldn’t talk. nor think. No words. Not even a hint of reason.

But I needed to reply. Clarify. Change his mind. Then like a giant wave that came crashing through the shore, a thousand and one thoughts started running inside my head all at the same time.

Eventually,  I gathered enough courage and calmness to respond:

I am an INCONVENIENCE?! You have the fucking nerve to tell me I am an inconvenience? What the fuck, Jayson! WHAT THE HELL! WHAT THE FUCKING HELL!!! 

That is not what I said! You are not an inconvenience. Relationships ARE my inconvenience. You think we’d work out if I’m away three or more years at a time?  What kind of a husband and father would I be then? Will you ever be ready to live a life of uncertainty? Because that’s all I can give you Janica… Uncertainty.

Bull shit! Don’t fuck with me! Do you know that the Philippines has millions of Overseas Filipino Workers who are away just as much? And yet their families here manage just fine! Don’t give me this shit about your demanding job! Just tell me the truth, Jayson! You’re married aren’t you? Tell me! Are you married????

I’ve told you a million times I’m not married! You’re the closest thing I have to that!

Well fuck you!

Damn it, Janica! What else do you want me to say!

The fucking truth!

It’s all the truth I can afford to tell you. My job has taken over my life. And it’s not the same as your overseas workers.

To hell with your job, Jayson!  And to hell with you! I cannot believe you made a big fool out of me! You’re a selfish person! What have I been to you all this time then? Your favorite pastime?

Can you please calm down! You know to yourself that you are not a pastime. You know it! Don’t convince yourself otherwise because you know exactly how I feel about you!

My eyes were all bawled out by this time. My emotions were high as the sky. Thankfully, a full-blown exhaustion hit me like thunder. And I was saved. I lost all the energy to sustain our first real fight. And I just finished off the conversation with this last statement:

Just tell me the real reason why you’re leaving me. And you won’t ever hear from me again.

To which Jayson did not anymore reply.

 —————-

 Chapter 12:  Prelude

It’s been three days since that fight. Jayson and I have never spoken again after that. I was still so upset and mad at him, but I cannot deny how much I was missing him too. I couldn’t help but reminisce all our good times together, and all our bad times as well. I started recalling all the past arguments we had, hoping it might shed some light about his decision to suddenly end things with me.

I couldn’t think of a reason other than one. And if anything, recollecting our other fights in the past just made me miss him more. See, Jayson’s ability to handle my very potty mouth every time I get upset or angry, is a quality so unique and rare. He seemed to have mastered what all the others couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Jayson figured out the trick in dealing with my worst. Jayson would never leave in the middle of an argument. He wouldn’t try to give me space, hoping to calm me down first. He knew that never worked. Therefore, what he’d do is to keep “engaged” in our fight in order to give me the opportunity to air out all the feelings I have. He always had a head-on response to my every attack. He never ran out of words to say, and he would never ever try to shut me up. He just gets me. Except that he never really took my angry self seriously and never did he let my rude words get into his head. He would just play along so well, he’d pretend to be on this lovers’ quarrel with me even though we both know it wasn’t really the case.  One time, while we were in the middle of a heated argument (or so I thought) I called him a jerk, among other things, and I made a very offensive, yet quite clever of a remark. I was waiting for him to say something equally mean, but instead he said “Touche, babe! That is so witty, I like it!” and he chuckled, and I could see how truly amused he was of my play of words.

“What are you doing! I thought we are fighting!”

“Oh, right! I forgot!  and then he’d start to laugh. “Ok.  ahem. ahum. carry on!”

And then I would start recovering my normal temper – against my childish will, mind you — until there was nothing else I could do but throw a pillow on his way.

“Well i’m sorry, you’re too witty I lost my focus!”

That was when I realized that Jayson was never really flared up as I was. He was just giving me what I needed – a platform to take my emotions out.  He’d patiently wait for me to finish spewing fire, but occasionally, he’d forget his role and would crack the corniest jokes in the middle of the skirmish he had carefully preserved just for my sake. So I always just ended up surrendering to laughter too. And I used to be so annoyed at this but I also knew at the back of my head, that this was exactly how I wanted him to deal with me.

And so I thought the relationship I had with Jayson was so ideal. He was my perfect match – and I mean that not in the naïve sense of the words….

But now he was gone, and I couldn’t fathom why. I couldn’t point to anything that I must have done to piss him off or make him lose interest just like that. As I’ve said, I thought everything was going so perfectly well. And Jayson never saw me in a bad light. He only saw the best in me all the effin’ time.

Married to his job. It’s always been his job. He loves his job more than he loves me, or anyone for that matter actually! An engineering job in a water filtration company. Tssss. Subic Samar Palawan. Intramuros. The canons. Strong sense of direction. An engineer making sure to run every morning? And do some heavy lifting? Away all the time. Spanish-speaking American.  Passing himself off as Canadian. Smart. Wealthy. Cautious. A US Marine. Well, wait now — Why was there a book about Philippine topography lying around in his apartment? No. That’s crazy. You’re crazy. That only happens in movies. Stop. Don’t think about him. Work. Move. Distract yourself.

The distraction came too soon. My phone suddenly buzzed, snapping me out of obsessively analysing Jayson’s peculiar behavior and situation.

I miss you. I shouldn’t be texting you. But I miss you.

I forced myself to ignore his text. It was a task I was so unwilling to do. But I knew better than be too available for him. So I just kept quiet.

Guy’s stubborn though.

He kept on texting me in the next succeeding days until I couldn’t not reply anymore.

 I miss you too 😦 Why did you have to send me that text a week ago? 😦

It was necessary.

I don’t understand.

It’s complicated.

I’m not stupid, Jayson. I can understand your reasons if you just tell me what they are.

I know. Do you still hate me?

What do you think?

I really don’t want you to hate me.

You know what it’s going to take.

Janica. Come on now.

What are you not telling me, Jayson?

Not here. Are you free on Saturday? Let’s have lunch.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 

 

World So Wild

5 Aug
If all the kings and all the leaders
Could see you here this way
They would hold the Earth in their arms
They would learn to watch you play

IMG20180429140337Children are often asked what super powers they would want to have. When I was young, I would always say I’d like to have invisibility powers because I wanted to be able to do mischievous things and get away with them every single time. haha.But as I grew older, I started to fantasize more and more about being able to fly, and being able to look down from the sky.

IMG20180429140604It must feel totally liberating to be able to look at things from a bird’s eye view; to somehow feel above and beyond the mundane. To see skyscrapers as though they’re all of the same height, and to fail to recognize the superficial differences of the people walking beneath me.

Birds on flight only see things as one. They see the situation in a whole-picture kind of way. Not by piece, not by individuality.  A characteristic I always attempt to embody, but which I fail at once in a while.

IMG20180429140447

It must be the greatest escape too! You know, when you just feel so done with what’s happening around you… you just flee and be alone up there. And be happy by yourself.

Fly. fly. fly.

Fly without a specific destination.

Fly without time restriction.

And only momentarily resting in the branches of the tallest of trees.

Ah it must be lovelier to be alone when one’s a bird.

IMG20180429140512

Why, that’s just me and my silly dreams.

 

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The closest I’d get to being a bird is probably by being inside a nest — man-made at that. haha. But i’m not complaining. 🙂

While these photos are obviously staged and curated, I was happy to pretend it was all real.  I twirled, and danced, and let my skirt do the flying instead. haha.

IMG20180429140419Maybe someday I’ll grow some real wings. Who knows? 😉

IMG20180429140744Until then… I’ll just stay inside my  head.

 

–Pictures taken in Bali, Indonesia.

Bohemian Heart

1 Jul

Bohemian: a gypsy; a wanderer; A person, musician, artist or writer who lives a free-spirited life and who believes in truth, freedom, passion and love.

There is something about the bohemian lifestyle that beckons me. I love that it encourages discovery of the real meaning of life on earth, and pursuit of the non-traditional concept of happiness. I love that it revolves around the concept of creativity. And so, I try to edit my adult life into something like it. My current situation might not (yet) allow for total liberation from society’s rules and standards, but slowly, I am easing my way into this scarily inviting world of colors and soulfulness and vibrance and freedom.IMG-20180426-WA0014_1.jpgWhen I learned that I failed the bar exam, I was in this bohemian-inspired restaurant called La Laguna Beach Bar in Canggu, Bali. I guess it was out of God’s grace that I was put in this place at that supposedly difficult time, to remind me of who I really am, and who I really want to be, and to preemptively block all the potential self-doubt and self-pity a human being like me might feel in times of “failure”.IMG-20180426-WA0016.jpg

I wouldn’t lie, I cried for around 30 minutes upon learning of the results of the bar exams. But I was also honestly really okay after that. It didn’t even take me a day to grieve this “failure”, and I have this moment to thank for it. As I’ve said in my previous blog, my trip to Bali somehow served as an eye-opener to me for reasons too complex and existential to fully articulate. All I know is, I am ready to fully embrace a life defined by me and me alone, and to choose the path that I must thread with my heart – bohemian as it is- leading the way.IMG-20180426-WA0013_1_1.jpgI have decided to NOT take the bar exams again this year. I just truly feel that it is time to drop this baggage fully now. I have struggled in this line for the longest time. As early as six years ago, I already know this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I persisted for the sake of the people I truly care about and love. But I am exhausted. And the exhaustion is not coming from a good place. And so I figured, it is not really worth it anymore. Our time on earth is limited, hence we must use it with intention and purpose.IMG-20180426-WA0018.jpg

IMG-20180426-WA0001_1.jpgReally, my failing the bar exam I do not consider a rejection, but rather a clear redirection — a chance to finally pursue my real passion, my real dreams. I may not know where to start right away, I may even be a few years behind my timeline of goals now, but all these don’t matter.  Today I am not a lawyer, but this fact doesn’t really hurt me one bit, for had I been one, I might probably have been hindered from discovering and doing what my heart really wants to do.

My week-long trip to Bali was my vehicle to finally let myself go. It gave me sufficient time to contemplate and reflect. It provided me the opportunity to decide… and decide without external forces — no family, no relatives, no friends, no colleagues, no nosy neighbors surrounding me physically. All I have is myself, (and Tin who has been nothing short of supportive of whatever makes me happy), and strangers from all over the world coming together to pursue the same thing: freedom — from the chains of the society and the bars erected out of overvaluing money and reputation. No one there is concerned if you are a CEO, a Manager, a Dr., or an Atty. No one there actually cares what you do for a living. All they care about is whether you are, in fact, LIVING. And if you show them how you do it in your own, unique way, that is enough for you to be an inspiration to them.

P_20180426_133528_1.jpgWhat I want is a passion-driven life. I want it beautiful, I want it colorful, I want it simple, I want it to inspire others,  and most importantly, I want it to be designed by ME. I’ve always felt like I have not fully explored my creative side because I’ve been too busy pursuing the things that were traditionally perceived to be more important. But now, I have the chance to start following my heart more, and to be more in sync with my inner being.P_20180426_132947_1.jpgWhatever you feel within you as your calling — whatever makes you feel alive — know in your heart that this excitement is all the evidence you need to have your inner passion become a reality.  This is precisely how creation works… and it is that energy that harmonizes with the Tao.P_20180426_141059_1.jpgTwo days before coming back to Manila, I was already resolved to tell my parents about my decision not to take the bar exams again. I expected a familiar dramatic dinner scene. I didn’t think it would be easy to break  it to my parents, nonetheless, I was prepared to stand my ground. But to my great surprise, when I did finally tell them, they did not stop me anymore. No bargaining, no crying, no compromising, no convincing me otherwise this time. I guess my parents’ sudden, unexpected “blessing” was just an indication that it is finally the right timing for me to quit a time-consuming endeavor that sucks the soul out of me. As they say, when it is meant to be, it won’t be much of a struggle.

I am now a free, wandering gypsy, so to speak. I am now at home. 🙂

At the center of your being you have the answer; You know who you are and you know what you want. – Lao Tzu

P_20180426_132914_1-1.jpgThis is Tin in her own stylish bohemian outfit, with the tasty truffle omelette, and the toasted bread served with the most delicious butter i’ve ever tasted thus far —> all good things in one table! 🙂P_20180426_141542_BF.jpgAnd this is me — after crying — eyes so puffy and red — but still unstoppable and more than willing to take pictures for this blog haha 😛

You see, for most people, taking the bar exams again after failing the previous one is a very brave thing to do, but in my case? NOT taking it again is the bravest act I’ve ever done for myself so far.  🙂P_20180426_141928.jpgA lot of friends and colleagues have been telling me that I seem to be getting more “beautiful” lately. Hmmm thank you very much! but I think that it is my soul that they are seeing. Perhaps my aura has lightened up? It must have, because I am truly happy where I am right now. And I am also happy to have before me the big universe of the unknown: Yes, I do not know where life will take me from here. I do not know what lies ahead. But I will not face this uncertainty with fear. Rather, I am facing it with so much excitement —  and faith that someday I will end up exactly where my heart wants me to ultimately be. 🙂

As a friend once said, I have taken the first step to the right direction when I decided to stop walking towards the path I know I don’t want to go.

In light of all the things that have transpired, this bohemian-themed restaurant will always have a special place in my heart. To some it is just another instagram-worthy spot in Bali, but to me it stands as a symbol of the next turning point of my life.P_20180426_141234_1.jpg

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It cannot be any better than this. I cannot believe the magic of being at the perfect place! It converted a so-called “dark” time into a “redefining” moment.

See, I was scared of failing the bar exams because I was worried of how I would react to failing for the very first time in my academic life, but luckily, I turned out to be just fine.

I was in a happy place. In a lovely place. 🙂

 

I could still remember the last statement I told my dad at that dinner table that night I asked them to allow me to take charge of my destiny. I said ” Papa, I do not need to be rich. I just want to be happy.”

and he said “O sige. Ikaw na ang bahala”. And just like that, I am now free. 🙂

IMG-20180426-WA0012_1_1.jpgListen to her voice,

hear it echo through creation.

Without fail, she reveals her presence.

Without fail, she brings us to our own perfection.

Although it is invisible it endures.

It will never end.

-Tao Te Ching.

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:
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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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! 😀 )

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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

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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:

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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.