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2016/01-05; halfway through and halfway back [Jun. 30th, 2016 | 02:20 am]
[Music |Feels Right - Godwolf]

0686molave_mikeejulianna 0161raymond_sigh
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we want to go back to where we belong
it isn't quite where we came from

It's like waking up after a very long sleep. Parts of it are like coming home after the longest journey to a familiar sight that is different in places. Other parts are like flexing a limb you thought you had lost.

I don't know how to describe disappearing- it's for people I've left behind to describe. But I can tell you what it feels like to come back.

It was January 17th last time Nante saw me. I was in his house, and he told me to stay.


I didn't, and there is a certain clarity with hindsight that told me I couldn't have.

People vanish all the time, incompletely described by where they were last seen, what they were last wearing. She got into a strange car at the corner. He was with different company. I was wearing grey.


As we lay on the floor of an unused room in his house, I think we talked about this and that. Somewhere in the conversation, I knew I wouldn't see him again for a long time.

And I didn't.


Runaways are defined as people- usually children- who leave home without permission. There is something juvenile, foolish, about running away. Nobody likes runaways. One thing I like about them though, is how people hope runaways return home, in a similar way the same people cautiously wonder if people who disappear are still alive.

One day, I saw Raymond. It was late afternoon, and I wondered what he felt when he saw me. We took the longest road out of the city, and I shot a portrait for him for something he needed, and we were silent.


There is a certain way friends look at friends. I know we were trying to look at each other that day, but maybe I didn't have the right eyes.

I wouldn't see him again either, for a very long time.


Weeks later, I said goodbye again.


Molave had been sold, and on the last day Mikee would live there, he, Julianna, and I explored the emptied-out compound. The word closest to this feeling is "sadness", or maybe "finality". Something in between those two is the word I am looking for, and that something is what the rest of that day was.

We slipped in and out of the other houses that had been recently, someone else's to stay in. But they were finally empty, and the new owners were coming.

Mikee moved out the next day.


One night I watched the moon rise, from Alice's.


Inside, Alice and Bruce chipped away at alginate molds, to get to the plaster casts underneath.


I would tell you the bodies are in the bodega, except that there is no bodega, and that if we had killed anyone, we'd be smarter about it.
But the body parts were our own, and I wish this was some awesome metaphor, but it isn't.


For some reason, Alice's talents as a prosthetic makeup artist led her from Sardinia, to Italy, to the UK, through Turkey, and finally, to a warmly lit room on an oddly cool night, where she and Bruce worked on their own body parts.
I found it strange, and beautiful, and not metaphorical at all.


Watching is something I'm not good at doing, but that night, I learned how.


I learned that molds are set so that casts can be made, and watched real hands and fingertips multiply slowly, as we waited. I watched Alice clean up, and say things like "kawawa" and "butiki" and "OH MY GOD IPIS".

Many times, she would also scream "BAYGON".

Three years in the Philippines is a long time, and somewhere between the excellent longsilog in the carinderia outside her place, and the multitude of ipis visitors exiting her kitchen sink, I think Alice became Filipino.


Every night, different body parts would be resting on the counter, and I loved seeing things take shape, knowing what they were made of, knowing whom they were made from.


These nights would happen again and again, Alice would clean up, and we'd talk, and become friends.


On a different, similar night, Alice and I went for a walk, out of Citylane and into the wild world of Oranbo, Pasig.


There's nothing there. It used to just hold an aging sports center and what used to be the deserted and overgrown capitol of Rizal province. By some greedy twist of real estate fate, it now holds Capitol Commons, and Capitol Commons is anchored by Estancia.

Estancia, the newest piece of privatized property to masquerade as a dynamic public space, is very surprised to be here.


Walking through the city, you will see how fortunes can change in a few steps. As we crossed Shaw Boulevard from Estancia, into a different part of the same Pasig, I figured it was good enough for me.


Studies have shown that a nation's corruption uncannily correlates to people's behavior with traffic rules. Studies have also shown that sometimes, you just know things without having to read about them.


We ran across Shaw. Weirdly, cars stopped, and Alice and I crossed at the crosswalk, along with everyone else. Maybe the studies were right.


People like to talk about progress as if it were something they took part in.


I find people like that funny, in a city where terrible roads can be laid next to the most beautiful towers where no one can enter.

But what do I know? I just see things.


We walked into Kapitolyo to have dinner. Alice looked through her phone as we waited for the food, and showed me book reviews for "10 Things You Should Know About Italian Women". It was very informative. Apparently, Italians like food.


Wherever you go, always remember that you have to go back. This is one of those strange inalienable truths no one tells you, because sooner or later, as you lose yourself in whatever jungle you've found, you will know this is true.


We walked back home after dinner, and under the fake lights of a fake business district full of fake people, I saw Erwin Romulo.
He had just left as Editor in Chief of Esquire Philippines, and I asked him where he had been.

"Around," he replied. Something like that. I think I caught him during a disappearance.


Beside him was Lav Diaz, someone else known for disappearing, and gut-kicking 8 hour films that shake your soul, while wringing your bladder.


It was nice to see people whom you think can't possibly really exist.


As we waited at a stoplight, Alice talked.


I love hearing from her until now, about her family, and about the places she goes, this time, on her own.


One afternoon, I had work with James. We were on some rooftop in Makati, and I was trying to be okay.


As time passes, the people you can be not okay with will grow fewer and fewer. I am very lucky to have James.


When the models and their handlers left, we stayed on the roof and watched things grow dark. He asked me how I was, and he knew. I told him anyway, and he nodded.


Santi's house has always been open. It's the most beautiful thing about him, next to the way he smiles when he's not telling you something, or how good the entire house smells when he cooks dinner at midnight.
The front door is open, because he knows only the right people come in without knocking.

I happen to hate knocking, and love him. He knows this too.


Sometimes, I am there to drive him. It's not because the night is dark and full of terrors. It's not because Cubao eats its strangers. I just like driving, and I love Santi.


You will know this in your own way: at night, if you aren't alone, you will gather.


We did just that at Santi's.




There is a curtain Santi pulls back after his work as a designer ends. Behind it, sketches, sewing machines, tubs of beads and lace appliqués, a scarily realistic mannequin.


There are things you don't have to see to know what someone does, to know who someone is.


I found myself at Future that same night, after months of being elsewhere. It was brighter than I remembered. Drunker also.


In a corner, James and Mafia.


Inside, something more familiar: music.






Cenon, Mav, and Bruce.


The lights were different.


But Future doesn't really change, if you yourself do not.






Inside, the lights came on.


Nobody leaves Future with a fight, mostly because we know we can always come back.


It's something I wish more things could be, for those who go away.



Kiko and James.

I heard it was James' birthday. Happy birthday James.


I hope we grow without growing old. I remember nights, years ago, when I thought nothing could possibly end. I was too young, too strong, to invincible to know better.

Now that age, that funny thing only older people talk about, creeps up on me, I know what it is to feel tired.


But I'm glad we only feel tired at sunrise.


I'm also glad we get tired, together.

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As Alice and I grew close, we began to see each other in the daytime. If you know me, and my irrational fear of seeing people I don't like in the light, you will know that this is significant. One day, I went to visit. It was morning, and Isabella was there.


Sneakily, Alice's house is permanently lit in a way that suggests it's a hotbed of sin.


This is completely false. We just happen to be strikingly beautiful, with strange hours.


I stayed until nighttime, and felt her fall asleep beside me.


Not everyone will let you see them sleep.


As Alice slept, the documentary we had begun to watch together played. It was Man On A Wire, the story of Philippe Petit, the tightrope walker who walked between the World Trade Center towers on August 7, 1974. He, and a group of close friends set out together. Only he walked across. In the end, only he went on with his life.


There are parallels in other people's stories that nobody wants to face. It doesn't mean they aren't there. It also doesn't mean you know exactly whose story parallels yours.


I was back at Alice's the next day, in the daytime, jokingly cementing the friendship.


Paul was there too, working on latter versions of the casts Alice and Bruce had previously made.


Paul runs OS Accessories, and these were for his collaboration with Alice.


They imagined silicone hand chokers literally choking you, little pillboxes made out of lips, and other normal everyday things.


Watching someone you know do something you know nothing about is very cool. It's oddly intimate, like seeing a magician practice in private before a show, or seeing a chef concoct the week's menu.


Outside, Paul smoothed down an ear, and set off a dust storm.


It was just another day at 43 Hilltop.

This is how you get there. When you enter the village, the guards will ask you where you're going. You will tell them you're heading to 43 Hilltop, and they will squint at you. Reply, "bibisita po kina Alice," and add, "yung Italiana." They will let you in. Arriving at Alice's, she will ask you if they gave you trouble. After you say no, you will learn that everyone thinks she's either a prostitute or a spy, and you two will laugh.

Like you always do.


Night fell, and as we packed up ears, lips, and clawing fingertips, we decided against putting them out on the driveway to dry. The guards were already doing their best with coming to terms with who we weren't.


Friends are friends. They stay friends over the longest periods of time, across inconveniences like oceans and timezones. They will not necessarily know where you've been, because that is not what friends are for- instead they are there, welcoming you, when you come back.

They will also be there for you, when the time comes for you to go.


One night, Regina invited us over for her despedida. She was leaving to be a stranger somewhere, which is a luxury few people in Manila seem to have.


There was few of us, which was what she expected. The water was warm, which was what she liked.


There are so many strange and beautiful human things about this girl I love. Because I love her, I know these things will come to you too if she loves you back. So I will tell you nothing.


We don't come together with people we love to defend ourselves. I'd like to think loved ones come together to let their guards down.




Tita Milette sat with us for dinner, and asked us about exes and the correct size of pichi-pichi from Amber's. She was as warm as the water she left us to wade in.


Alice and David were there, along with Bruce.


So was LJ, someone I loved long ago.


Do you know how all funerals are goodbyes, but not all goodbyes are funerals? Work with me.


People who have parted ways will come together, to part ways together. This is how love works.


This is how Regina said goodbye.


It's so difficult to return when you don't know how deeply you've been gone. Everyday I came back, little by little. Everyday, they came back as well.


One night, I went to Mike's in Cubao Z.


Alice was there, and so was David.


I loved how summer was ending, but as the nights grew colder, the rooms I entered grew warmer.


We had pizza (Shakey's) and Alice didn't mind (even though she was Italian).


I suppose this is what life can be now. It's quieter than the life I left. It's warmer too. It's smaller than I thought, but I've never felt more certain that it's big enough.


My mom still glares at me, when I kiss her on the cheek and scramble out the door at the weirdest times.

"You're hanging out with the worst people! Go to sleep! Maybe you'll still grow!"

But I am.


David's boyfriend Taha arrived. The pizza has a certain pull, really.


A very specific peace will come over you when you've found something you don't have to fight to keep together.


There are no people to impress, there is no attention to vie for. There are no apologies to entertain, and no rankings to manoeuvre. There's just people, and the friends they sometimes let each other become.


I don't miss the life I once had.


I just remember it vaguely, and accost it politely when I bump into it these days.


But my nights are mine again, and the best people have somehow stayed.


After dinner, a light digestif.


We're a sophisticated dinner crowd. Don't even.


The movie that night was Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, which was an excellent exercise in us yelling at Grace Kelly for either being flawless, out of touch, or exactly us.

I may have been the only one yelling.


Never in my life have I known silence the way I know it now.


It's a beautiful thing with the right people. You can sit, and look at each other, and know.


Something built into Cubao Z is its terrible ventilation. We've choked many plants to death from smoking, so in a moment of concern for the future, Mike invited us outside, so we could smoke there.


David and Taha had gone, so it was the three of us left, with Maggie the cat peeking from the (rear) window.


Across us, Mic's place glowed yellow. She was still awake, but we knew she'd have come if she wanted.

That's what I've figured out about the best kind of friendship. You will stop asking, because you know what the answer sounds like.


Back inside, Maggie wasn't dead yet.


Alice, however, almost was.


As I return more and more to the places I used to go to, people ask why I bring my camera around again.

I used to think my camera was there to capture everyday life, something I had grown more and more tired to even go through- it isn't. It's there for when the everyday gets interrupted by something worth remembering, and I just want to remember more things now.


We said goodnight, and I went home, knowing that I'd wake up the next day, something I never appreciated until very recently.

(I've given up many people and many things. Let me keep my cigarettes.)


You will never know the last time when it comes, unless you are lucky enough, or brave enough to ask.


LJ had gone, and come back to leave again. He asked me out for dinner, which turned to drinks at his place, after a meal he made himself.
I told him helpfully that all I could make was still scrambled eggs and ramen, so we both knew that he made the right decision three years ago.

There are so many things I want to say. There are so many ways I want to tell them.
In this older body of mine, where an older heart pumps older blood, I can look at an older love with new eyes. I can find the right silences to put between us, because the many things I want to say are for myself.


I have always loved too late.


Maybe in this new life things will be different. Maybe in these modern times where the strangest things stay the same, and the surest things disappear, I will know the right thing at the right time.