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Am I Dying?

Some bloke had said once that life begins at 40.

This year, I turned 41.

So, I must technically be just 1 year old by now–more than ready for the next big adventure, and taking baby steps to that great, mysterious, fantastic unknown.

Now here is what happened a few days ago.

One of my best friends suddenly just collapsed, and died a few days later.  She was 42 (just a year older than I am). We went to college together, shared birthday celebrations together, drank so much liquor together–and dangerously crept back to our homes after a few happy rounds together.  Oh, did we have so much fun when we were in our twenties.  We were so similar in so many ways–we were both Aquarians, and we loved our families so dearly.   I was proudly part of the group that took charge of her wedding.

Incidentally, I was to be with that same group that would help arrange her funeral.

She was cremated soon after; and there I was, a few feet away, staring blankly at a marble urn that contained her greyish-white ashen remains. That was my friend who was alive just a few days ago.  She’s gone now, and I barely heard the flick of her switch–she was just that.   Gone.   It was unbelievable.

I was thinking to myself:  how could a person you’re so used to seeing, and talking to or texting or having dinners with, just vanish from sight, plucked off the face of this earth like a weed some unseen hand had uprooted so swiftly, without it at least e-mailing you or calling you, to let you know in advance?

So, am I dying too?

Let me ask that again.  Am I dying?

Soon?  Can anyone tell me?

Every day since I could remember, it has become quite a disturbing preoccupation:  trying to select, from a horrific menu of possibilities, an interesting way to exit. Will there be a perversely careening bus headed for my car sometime this year?  Is there a strange virus lurking deep within my body, replicating like crazy and quietly shutting down parts of my system, until I wither and die?   Is there any relationship between my occasional headaches (few and far between) and a possible, previously unknown tumor in my brain–much like what had happened to my sister?   Is my 5-pound weight loss during the past month an indication of something I should be worried about (or could it just be, after all, the successful effect of my diet regimen)?    Does my feeling weak after a long work day have something to do with a sickness?

Or am I sounding a bit stupid now?

Sometimes, in the dead of night, I am suddenly shaken awake, from having snored too loudly, or from a bad dream.

I grab my phone and, while squinting at the bright display, start to Google things. I key in words like “non-stop cough.” Or “headache.” Or “migraine.” Or “sleepless nights.” And see if each is a symptom of something else. You’ll never know, right? I may just have cancer. Like my mother had. Or her own mother did.

Or maybe, I’m on my way to heart-disease-dom, like my father ended up in.  Why am I thinking that?  Hmmm.  Maybe, because my heart happens to skip a beat sometimes?  (Or, it could just be because a crush happened to pass by, Ian, damn it.  Come on!)

Both mom and dad happened to die right in front of me, while I was holding their still-warm hands. It was altogether painful, surreal, and expected.  We expect everyone, you and me, to depart from this world in different ways, but theirs happened a bit too soon.

So am I dying soon?

In a few weeks, I’m scheduled to board a plane.  I will be up there, in the clouds, 30,000 feet up in the air, and staring into nothingness, as has always been the case during past flights. For about a day up there, I’ll be sitting still. Reading the plane’s travel magazine from cover to clammy hands-stained cover. Watching the in-flight movies, or at least trying to, while half-asleep, half-tired and half-anxious. (Wait, so that’s already one and a half of me).   While I’m hearing the muffled sounds of the aircraft’s engine, I am also instantly reminded of these airplanes in the news:  vanishing without a trace, or being shot down by a ground-to-air missile, or crashing into a populated city due to bad weather.   All of those on board have, in seconds, turned from human beings, into statistics.  Groan.

During each flight, I move my legs, stretch a bit, close my eyes, open them, shift positions, shift to another side, raise my ass up to make my blood circulate, or walk to the airplane’s restroom to make myself busy for a few minutes at least.   As I enter the restroom, then lock the door and begin the deed, I wait.  There it is again.  The plane shakes and sways to and fro.  I could not concentrate.  I could not target my piss properly.  I just couldn’t.  I suddenly begin to feel so sickeningly afraid.  What if I get trapped in here?  What if the plane shakes so badly and I lock myself in this same cramped restroom, while everyone else is instructed by the captain to (ohmygoodnessIcouldntimaginethisreallyhappeningbutitcould) brace for impact?

Wait, I reckon while pretending to ignore the occasional shudder of the engine: Was that a creak I just heard from under my feet?

So am I dying soon?  I wouldn’t know, until I realize it’s time.

Or is this just an unwarranted, morbid anxiety that’s just killing me very, very, very slowly?

Oh, dear God.

 

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5 Steps to Find Out If You’re Annoying

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Photo Credit: http://funzypics.funnypicturesutopia.com/board/pins/271/8506

 

 

 

The thing about people who are easily disliked is that most of the time, they do not know that they’re sending out annoying signals. So they move around and talk, assume they’re the coolest dudes on the planet, and leave the room not knowing their reputation is being knocked down flat with insults and laughter from all over.

So before taking the next steps to greatness today, try to take a breather, and do a little self-analysis with this question:

“Are you being annoying to other people?”

Here are 5 tiny bits of wisdom to help you get started:

 

1. Recognize that the world does not revolve around you.

There’s a reason why Marcos, Hitler, and Mussolini lived and died way ahead of you. It’s for you to not be like them. And try to change, as early as now while you’re still alive, this pretense that you’ll always be the leader, the best, or the hottest in your posse;  and the rest are your followers, or slaves, ready to cater to your every whim.

There’s a reason why smart asses are called that way.  So don’t be an ass, Miley.

When people look at you with this “hey, he’s interesting” stare as soon as you enter a room, take the compliment quietly, and move on.  Don’t swallow it, and let it get to your head.  There will always be people in that same room who are better, more equipped, stronger, richer, or smarter than you.  Try to claim everything, and you’ll be in trouble.  Nothing is funnier than someone sporting a stupid swag because he’s wading in too much attention.  And after all: simple is sexy.

 

2. Dramas are better seen and watched on TV — than heard.

Sharing the worst things you’ve experienced today with somebody who doesn’t have to hear them is always a no-no. I don’t know if my Facebook friends are aware of this (well, now they know), but I actually un-follow ‘Friends’ who treat Facebook like a punching bag, a drop-box for all their complaints in life (from the traffic, to rain, to an officemate, to split ends, to not having farted much today), a victim’s diary (“I hate you (insert name of ex-boyfriend), leave me alooooone!” or “Why is life treating me this way?  I think it’s time I killed myself”), or a boxing ring to thrust their personal issues versus other people out in public (nothing is more thrilling for these people than votes of approval from others, with equivalent likes and comments. Woopee. What an achievement).

Nah, I’m not having any of that.

Un-follow.  No questions asked. No matter if we’re close, or we’re important workmates or old friends.

We all have our own issues to settle.  But, we don’t need the entire world to know about that. They have their own problems, too. Spare them. If you really need to, call a friend. Or your mother. Or a psychiatrist–it could just be a mental disorder spike.

Or just jump off the roof, for crying out loud. Remember the girl who slashed her wrist, and posted the brilliant move on Facebook, to just let people know how heartbroken she was? Well, no one really cared if she squirmed to death right after her stunt. Grunge and angst are so 20 years ago. Quit the dramz. Flash that smile, and be instantly hot.

 

3. Observe yourself during conversations. How many times do you use the words ‘ako’, ‘me’, ‘I’, ‘my’, or ‘ko’?

Oh, yes. Nothing is more tiresome than having to deal with Mr. Me.    When you’re speaking with somebody and he suddenly, mysteriously turns away, either he’s running late, or it could be that he’s thinking, “Oh God, does he ever get tired of talking about himself again?”

Talking too much about oneself is one thing.  So is talking too much, period.

By just looking around, we could see more things that could be talked about than just your being an over-achiever, a praiseworthy colleague, or the whiz kid of 2014.   Talk about the weather. Talk about Bong Revilla. Or the MH17. Or okay, the Large Hadron Collider.  See how many topics or ideas are actually not about you?

If at once you realize that you accidentally mentioned these bad, bad I-me-myself words, just stop. Then, divert, and change the topic to something else that doesn’t involve you too much, or your opinion. It could be hard for self-centered you, but everyday is always another chance to behave a bit better.

 

4. When you’re just too loud, you are hated.

This is the classic way to annoy people. Just a few seconds ago, this dude beside my table in a coffee shop kept on telling his mates how happy he was that he finally got for himself the third car he was planning to buy. His voice was loud enough to be heard by the entire coffee shop. Not too long afterwards, everyone except him had furrowed foreheads.

At once, I murmured to myself as I looked at him and was feeling so sorry for him:  “Oh, I see.  His appearance doesn’t quite match up to someone who would own three cars.”  Kaya pala tatlo kotse niya. Kasi pangit.

Oops. Sorry for hating.

Anyway: A way to find out if you’re being obnoxious is to ask a friend, “Was I being too loud?” A friend–a really good and trustworthy one–would tell you off, outright. Or shut you up. Or shush you.   And you shouldn’t take offense.   It’s not for him, but for you.

And while we’re at it: yes, it’s okay to wear loud outfits, or tote loud designer bags. Go right ahead–it’s a free country.  Just make sure they’re genuine.   Otherwise: prepare to be the next day’s blind item.

 

5.  Once people stray away from you, it’s because they couldn’t stand being seen with you.

Wearing the right clothes and grooming yourself well are half the battle.  If you’re channeling Tom Cruise but look like an extra in the Walking Dead, expect less and less people to mingle with you.  Clean fingernails and toenails are easier to manage than people who are pissed off at you for being downright dirty.

It’s also always a nice thing to be with somebody who’s in shape, and who doesn’t appear like a slimy, sweaty blob, who snorts like a seal.  It’s alright to be overweight–but a squeaky-clean version of that.  You would, at the very least, look cute.

Oh, and one more thing.  Have you checked the smell of your underarms lately?  Yes, you.


Have a great day.

 

 

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The Probinsya Life

Unfortunately, I was born and raised in Quezon City.

There’s really nothing to see in a cramped, busy city punctuated with the sounds of blaring bus horns, the temporary glitter of malls here and there, and horrible traffic jams.  This city has taught me about patience.   A lot of it.   At 41, all I could ever want is to relieve myself of all the cares that the city unsolicitedly affords me.

Elementary school gave me an idea on what to do with the rest of my life.  During summer, everyone else in school disappeared.  And when we got back together the next school season in June, I would still look the same.

And everyone else?  They were much darker.  And happier.

I would ask them where they went during the summer break.  In unison, most would answer the same way: sa probinsya namin (“To our hometown”).

Oh, right.  Yeah.  Was I so sorry for myself.  City-bred boy.  Sad, bored, city-bred boy.

Little did I know that this little frustration of mine would soon drive me to madness.

Since I was little, the allure of water–more so the kind that you can step into, submerge yourself in, stare at as the sun set from thousands of miles away–has beckoned to me.   It was not just a wanting feeling that gets satisfied after a four-day trip to Boracay.   It was this steadily growing feeling of wanting to get closer to the sea.  And growing old by the sea.  And being wrapped in a gentle embrace of wind, in the sensual feeling of sand beneath your feet, and in the sound of the sea’s rhythmic, hypnotic, calming waves.

And realizing that a day has actually happily passed as the sun disappeared from view–because you didn’t wish, at all, to take track of time.

For years, and years (and yes, seriously), I looked for the best way to settle in a house by the sea, no matter how simple or small, as long as it guaranteed quick and easy access to the ocean.  Mom and dad always knew that, but they didn’t think I was that obsessed.

A few years ago, I got my first chance to live near the beach.  I was able to strike a good deal with a housing developer in Laiya, San Juan, Batangas, a popular beach area, for a lot that I paid for in increments, without interest.  (While this is actually impossible–banks and developers offer loans as the only way to pay for non-outright cash payments, but, well–it does pay to befriend your agent!  That’s a little tip for you.  Just make sure your developer is a reputable one.)

But, there wasn’t a house on that lot yet.  So, I felt it still wasn’t the right time to move forward and begin settling there, and decided instead to use the property as investment.

So, I reverted back to my favorite hobby:  Switch the computer back on.  OLX, Real Estate Section.

I knew which drop-down menus to click or press next:  Batangas, Rest House, Beach House, For Sale.   Pressing each of these buttons was quite the thrill for me.  The feeling of looking at photos of nice beach houses (worth upwards of P15 Million–naaah) was probably most akin to the feeling of a rapist looking at a naked, big-breasted, willing, spread-eagled woman (or man, depending on preference).

But then, I didn’t wish to live in grand ones.   I wasn’t a rich businessman, or a politician with ready access to the national budget.

I lived on monthly salaries, and just always saved whatever, and whenever I can.  Another tip I could share with employees with payroll accounts (like me) is to open another account in the same bank branch.   BPI and BDO banks have flexible and user-friendly online controls, so I could easily transfer portions of my income to another account that I don’t touch.  (Or at least, not too often.)

And the bottomline was, anyway, I just simply wanted to be near the sea.

Until finally, after months and years of searching, I laid my eyes on what seemed to be the house I would want to see myself in, for the rest of my life.

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And no, it’s nowhere near grand.  It’s just a small house.  Near a beach.

Not a spectacular beach, even.  There’s, well, sand, and there’s water, too.  It’s not even white sand.   And the waters aren’t even close to cerulean or emerald.

It’s a beach.  A simple one.  It’s everything I ever wanted.

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Finally, I’ve found what my future looks like.  No blaring buses, but birds.  No pollution, but fresh, clean breezes blowing straight from the ocean.

I’m naming the house after my mother.  I’m having it painted yellow, and white.  She was that way when she was still alive–full of energy and cheer, a light that shone so brightly in my heart, and still does, years after she said goodbye.

The house’s name shall be Lily.

And she will be my life project.  Probably the last big one I will ever get to fulfill in my life.  It will take me some time to fix Lily, as it’s been standing there for a few years.

I will make sure to savor each minute of re-building, decorating, fixing, re-arranging, and landscaping Lily.  That might take an entire lifetime.

But, that’s alright.  I ain’t rushing.

Here is where I’m seeing myself truly grow into an older, happier, version of me, together with trees I will forever be watching until each one grows strong and mighty;  a family that will always be a source of strength;  a beloved one who is a true wellspring of patience, and yes, probably a few handsome golden retrievers to have nice, long chats with, until darkness falls.

Thank God for this beautiful chance to experience life, all over again.   City-bred boy finally gets his wish.

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REVIEW: Harina Restaurant, White Plains, Quezon City

Why, in heaven’s name, haven’t I opened my blog and created a few new entries?

Why?

Apologies are in order–I have just been quite busy focusing on work, and this new project which has actually been squeezing my savings, and my sanity, dry. (Of course, I will share that one with you soon.)

I was so glad to realize that I have a bit of time to do this right now! It actually feels like seeing your high school crush all over again–my fingers tremble with excitement, my eyes are fixated on each word that I type, my heart beats extra (or maybe because I had a venti cup of coffee?).

Well, I’d like to share that it’s been raining so bad these past few days, and while I type this I am looking out my storm-battered window, thinking of what best to write about. Right now, in the midst of this rain, I am imagining teleporting to a restaurant somewhere in the White Plains area, where they serve truly simple yet memorable comfort food.

It’s called Harina.

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There wasn’t a customer in sight when my friend and I went in a few months ago. (I hadn’t blogged for that long!)

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Apparently it was a dead time, but the kitchen was still abuzz with so much activity.   The girls were busy baking different sorts of goodies, and you could see all of these even right outside their window.   After all, they take pride in calling Harina  an artisan bakery.

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The interiors were quite basic, and yes, homey, and so country.

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Dainty wallpaper.   This suits our dearest lola’s room best, yes?

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As we could see, Harina does baked goodies, apart from their a la carte offerings which we tried out a bit later.

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But we were first attracted to the smell of bread…

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… which we also ordered for dessert, for trying out later.

IMG_1627Lookie here.   Though I’m not huge on muffins, these looked yummy to me.

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My friend and I got a pack each of garlic bread sticks.  It was an exciting, flavorful intro to our main meals.

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And then, we settled on one of their wooden benches, and a nice fellow took our orders.

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For starters, we had great-tasting soups.  I had cauliflower, my friend had vegetable.  Both were simply excellent.

 

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I ordered iced tea, and they served it in a mason jar–charming.   The drink itself was just right–nothing special, but nonetheless refreshing.

 

 

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And then it was on to our main orders.  This is their pesto pasta with grilled cajun chicken.  P250.00.   The taste was authentic, and not at all oily, as I’m accustomed to experiencing in other restos.   Quite good.

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Jett, my friend, had linguini with Spanish chorizo and peppers.  P250.00.   His was truly delicious!  Yes, notches better than what I ordered.  The chorizo tasted straight out of a Spanish deli store–the flavors were rich and just right.   We were just staring at each other while munching on forkfuls of this.  It was that good.
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Dessert was this cinnamon bread we got from the bakery.  It was fresh and fluffy alright.

 

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I would highly recommend this to families and health-conscious individuals who appreciate honest-to-goodness good food in a comfy, quiet setting.

Best if you come with a reservation too, as I heard they’re quite packed during busy hours and weekends.   Their number is 352-6721.  Even better to come here before or after your ornamental plants-shopping–the area is rife with plants for sale, and landscaping services too.

Happy eating.