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Wild college years

I write this a few weeks after I’ve finished my first year of college. I broke and lost lots of things while moving out, and gained a lot more footing in reality after realizing how much of me can be tucked away in boxes–practically compartmentalized in medium-sized luggages. There is a repeating image of me, airport to airport, staring at rows of Smarte Cartes and wondering if it’s worth spending six dollars to save myself some back pain. (It never is.) I can’t express how much I’ve changed in the span of a year, and the gravity of this change alone is something I have trouble comprehending. Last year, around this time in 2018 I was traveling to America doing nothing surrounded by family: was so frightened and scared into my decision of choosing my current college over Dartmouth that I never replied to my admission offer, caused a war in a one-bedroom apartment occupied by a near-dozen people because I wanted to go to a shitty, local record store on my birthday (I picked up my Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven vinyl there), spent three weeks in America doing nothing. In the past year I’ve been in America more than I have been home, wandering aimlessly from New York to New Jersey to San Francisco to Los Angeles doing everything, but alone. My worldview on everything has drastically shifted. I feel I use myself and other people differently now, but am no less manipulative than I was one year ago — not that I ever was good at it. I can’t read huge blocks of text or spend time pouring over long threads, which is something I’m trying to reverse but frequently regret doing since I realize I learned nothing at all. I can talk over the phone but I still need some preparation and can only do so for career-related things, I can be perfectly content with being alone, I can’t hold conversations in-person and am pained if I don’t get to talk about something that interests me or something that I make with others, I think nothing in particular is as painful as undoing all of this.

I want to tell you that my first year of college has changed me dramatically. When my friends back home ask me what it feels like to be thousands of miles away, I offer nothing but complaints and give them the impression that school in the United States is nothing but an overglorified fantasy — but it’s really not that overglorified, I think. There’s no way for me to be able to express how much everything is, and how I’m still having trouble taking it in. There’s change that I can’t articulate, nor do I have any lists for or stories. It’s this deep, fucked transformation that makes me afraid to be reflective; because it’s something that has yet to settle.

My friend worded that nineteen is kind of the year when we’re fucked. Lorde has made no music describing the feel of anything past; Boyhood ends on the note of mushroom-induced, teen pretentiousness in college freshman year. Personally, I made it a note to swear to achieve a slot on Forbes 30 under 30 as a teenager (because all your achievements become significantly less impressive when you lose the -teen moniker), and given my nonappearance in this year’s Asia list – I’m falling significantly behind. I still get anxiety when I talk to people, and just spent four hours of my night having a crisis while contemplating posting myself on /r/amiugly; this is something not so different from when I was thirteen, naive, and scared of the world.

Listen: nothing is remarkedly different. I make fun of Silicon Valley tech bros and people who listen to IDLES, but I will still likely date one (either of the two personas I enumerated, but preferably a mix of the two) and almost wore my “Idles Brutalist Socialist Club” shirt out today. This is the college computer science major equivalent to who I was in middle school: thinking I’m better than everyone else because I listened to Pedro the Lion instead of Hillsong, making fun of the English majors who smoke Camels and the Economics people (according to Facebook meme groups such as “Amazon Presents: Elitist Memes for Ivy League Teens“, they’re referred to as “snakes”; I should use this term to make this droning essay more relatable so that people can actually recognize some of these jokes but that’s not up my alley). It sometimes feel as the dramatically forced directional shift in my life has done nothing but force me to reroute familiar experiences, replacing Rustan’s department stores with Macy’s with the only forced exchanged of having to treat service workers with a lot more humanity than I’m used to.

Growing up with this affirmation that I’m as naive and impressionable as I was back then is scary. Because I had room to grow back then, and it was more acceptable for a token Catholic school sad girl to be confused and hate herself. But now I have a LinkedIn nearing 500+ connections and still go through my Twitter feed liking a lot of activist-driven rants about political theory that I’m only half-assing, liking something until somebody else tells me that’s bad and going “oh” until someone tells me that that take was bad and going “oh” fully affirming my lack of mental independence until now. My Philosophy T.A. also pushes this in the academic setting, blessing me with a remarkable “just a third of a grade below the class average” grade of C+ as I blabber about my home country in ways she thinks is interesting (potentially a spot of pity, to show that her 3-sentence response to my 3,000 word behemoth is not all overt “god you fucking suck”) but really not because the goal of the paper was not to be critical or offer any new insights but be very surface-level about the readings regurgitating what we had discussed in the sections I only attended half of. Now if I’m unsure of what I stand for at any given moment, it seems like my worth as a person is inherently deducted. Now I bear this implicit weight being an international scholar from a country I miss and can’t stop missing, the only one of four in my year at a prestigious foreign school, while not understanding the white language of my philosophy readings and still being uncertain about politics – much less that of America’s.

Manila’s sky is often so blistering that I don’t recall looking at it often. I know, though, the clouds are thick and wispy at the edges – the kind you see in stock photos. Closer, at sunset, I see this image in beaches with mountains and roads at their turnstiles, steep and diving and clashing with the humid air. They’re left as thin strips, wavering and almost never there.
Skies in Connecticut are grey and unbowing. Winter is a lot less worse than I thought it would be, but also a lot longer than I expected. Sort of like how my mental illness has reimagined itself into long-term dysthymia, if you will. My favorite spot during freshman year, I tell people, would be the Yale University Art Gallery. I held a job working for it (but not in the main building, alas) during the Spring semester, and I’m proud to say that it has a beautiful contemporary art collection and a nice courtyard. (Across it is a British Art Museum which I have never stepped foot in, yet.) I say these interesting factoids: it’s just a three-minute walk from my dorm room and I go there to destress, which is false because they closed the High Street gate next to Linsly-Chittenden around mid-Fall which has made it a five-minute walk. It’s open late on Thursdays, and I love the programs there. (I have not attended one, but I did attend a film screening once.) The true answer is that my favorite place on-campus is the Starbucks on Chapel Street, especially at 5am on opening days — and best during the winter. There’s an instant intimacy about being there first thing, a desperate connection between graduate students, residents, passerby, and all. In the dead of the morning I’ve felt like the only noise; arguing with everyone, staring into my phone before making the conscious decision to skip class as I walk over to pick up another matcha latte, become someone distraught over the six-day drought of matcha powder. The last thing I did before heading to Union Station on move-out day was stop by, and call my last Uber from the school year there — a backpack and two totes strung over me, plastic carrying four too many vinyls leaning on a carry-on luggage, the driver sharing a “shit” after shoving the biggest trolley in the back of his car, quickly running to rearrange things in one of the last New Haven suns on the corner of Chapel and another street I never learned the name of.

My life here could be measured in shopping malls and department stores. Manila routine is going to school, going home, and maybe going out every few weeks or so. On some weekends, the way I glimpsed the world and slipped out of my sheltered place came from these trips to malls. Never riding the ferris wheel along the boardwalk along Mall of Asia, stepping into the church beside people sleeping along stalls selling fishballs and parking lots to find a bathroom while running out of a line wrapping three times around the convention center, losing a polaroid photo on the steps of the arena after a concert at fourteen. I walk across the heat of Alabang on familiar tiles, places I haven’t stepped in since being eight, no longer having to surrender my bag at a shrinking Fully Booked.

When I arrived home, the second place we went to was the mall. (The church, then it.) Wading through wings and shining tiles, I thought about the pace of the Filipino life. Never mind the silence, the inability to confront in all these people, but the passive and all that follows. There’s no intention in the way people here walk. There’s no need to justify why we are, and where we have to go; a sore change from the urgency in metro lines and the gaze to let someone know that I’m here in century-old buildings. As we walk, we exchange the same diluted conversations: a new place here, where old people are now, money as a constant chaser.

Returning back home I know there is nothing grand. On the fifth day my luggages still line the floor of my room, and the spaces in front of my closet strewn with clothes I’ve never worn since being twelve. Even after a year away, I find all my old habits return instantaneously: there is no reason to be friendly, or even kind here in a space where everyone treats me as an enemy; there is no genuine word for respect in the Filipino tongue and this heat has taught me that I can only walk away; ingrained lessons. Don’t flush the toilet until you absolutely have to, bathe only by soaping your body and rinsing off the surface, walk over plastic bags and shopping bags and know that you do not need to exchange any works to the service workers. Compare prices, costs, and pretend you know all the people you meet.

At the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art

Manila does not care about my education, personality, or what I dream about. When I come home, everything I have proven to anyone but myself is taken away, and it is like renewal. There is nothing I can say or offer or anything that I really am willing to do anymore: listening to the faces of people I no longer know and perhaps never truly knew makes me realize that there is a leaving story here, finding that the bounds of where we came from are sometimes the most destructive things.
But these are bad things to say. Living isolated from the Philippines has done more wrong than good, and it’s probably just the initial shock of returning to all the old values that I have worked hard to erase. Greetings extend to surface value banalities (things masked as you look so bad now) that I almost would prefer white people at parties asking me how my English is so good. Sometimes, I do. In fifteen seconds you become a bit more understanding of comment sections and the tired, enlightened middle-class letting down their guard and saying there is nothing left that they can do for this country as they blame the people for never willing to be educated. And in the moment, when you see someone talk about how they’re going blind and left to find work for eight sons-and-daughters with how they greet you and never learned anything it’s almost like you understand the word about leaving. And it’s easy to say you love a country when you only say it when you’re no longer immersed in it: beyond skyways and telling yourself three-hour commutes for work you’ll never leave a dent in will mean anything to this universe, trying to find some form of justification for why I still have this meaningless, dainty dream.

I’m a child again here. And when I’m here, I always will be. There is no explaining how hard it is ingrained in me to hate the sound of doors opening and closing in my own home, or how each and every knock (if ever there is one) takes me back to meaningless repetition in high school or fistfights to the head. Nothing I can do will stop these memories or make this country understand me.
Sleeping in my bed (a mattress on the floor) and tucking myself over piles of clothes unwashed for years, asking for water like sin, finding these granular bits and pieces of a younger me and discarding everything. No one asks about what it’s like to be away for a year because all they can think about how great it must have been. No one will ever hear about what was good, because this country teaches me to say only the worst things about where my life is going: I need to convince them underneath the supermall lights that my existence and wherever I am going is a mistake and that the work I do is a blur and that I will fall again into the same promises unmade of me when I was young: be enough, eat only consecrated bread on Sundays, and say nothing back.

As I write this, I find that I’m going through all the nauseating emotions that being alone countries away allowed me to unlearn. I’ve slammed my fist down on my glass desk a dozen of times before ten in the morning – because this personal assault is the only way I know how to deal with anything here. It’s as if suddenly I understand why the lack of intervention had made me grow so much, and why I was pained by anyone back home. I can now articulate, I feel, what exactly in me has changed a bit more clearly; these are the same things that people pick at me for when I’m no longer smiling and picking up myself in the counter with more breaths than necessary, when I walk faster and faster and faster in a sea of people who wait aimlessly until they can predicate themselves on anything they perceive to be smaller, why the shift in voice and tone is signatory of fear more than my own experience. Because speaking louder and noticing the smallest of things to allow my own voice to fill all the space in the room is not what I am meant to be taught, or what I would be allowed to.

Because I’ve fucked myself over in the dead of the night in the most unsafe streets in a country away. Because I’ve learned to wash, dry, cook, burn, save, salvage, and push into boxes in ten months what I was meant to in eighteen years. Because I piss without stumbling in front of seven other people and boil my own water to share and not to keep. Because I left this country knowing that I would never be happy and return knowing that those words were put in me to prevent myself from being what I could be.

But you couldn’t believe that from the few pictures I took. (Never got to finish a single roll of film.)

When I arrived at the airport terminal to California, I heard the first breath of Tagalog spoken, in person — not just on shitty Facebook videos, if you’d believe in — the first that I’ve heard in months. Suddenly waiting an hour going on two next to a tired mom, lola, and a young girl chewing off a Hello Panda packet and swinging in the domestic arrivals section of LAX was the most comforting thing in the world. I caught myself carefully listening for the little tidbits: the na, the same way I listen to myself – stumbling and never able to speak straight while leaving conversations half-fulfilled.

Everyone wants to write a book. None of my writing here will mean anything unless it’s in some sort of novel form. That’s the thing about words. I could leave them littoral, far away from the spaces I choose to let myself be in. Nobody believes in what you have unless they come with leaflets and loose words. In high school, I was the girl who said I was writing a novel. I let it live and die in a Microsoft Word document, accessed only by a .edu email I can never really get into anymore. Whenever I tried to write, my laptop would crash — or come close to it. The entire story never really left that space. I did not talk about what I was writing, nor did I ever take time to plot out what was happening or why. I sat down in long stretches of time, beginning conjectures and applauding my senior year self for writing witty, intellectual deliveries about the world around me. I did not know a thing about the world. The protagonist in the novel, of course, was me. Everyone was nameless as I chose to refer to people solely with pronouns; a choice that was pretentious and disastrous, but featherweight with how there were really only three people in the story. My biggest feat was the personification of the world into two divisive characters and myself: a telling sign to how I viewed things, and maybe even continue to view them.

I never finished the book. Never either, did I scroll back up and understand where I was in the story. I wrote about highways and looked up the composition of lakes: I wrote about women and men and young girls in bedrooms and their thoughts because it was all I could write about that would make someone feel; I can’t tell you deep things about the sky or come up with seamless dialogue that doesn’t hurt a little bit. You can’t make me write stories when I don’t know how to tell the one I’m in, at the moment. There’s no reason either to finish the novel when its useless: there’s no power to words, I’m losing the edge of being able to sell what I make in my teenage years before I lose out on the already dwindling interest in my selfhood, and I want to leave the banks of my youth in places more concealed, like this blog. There’s a story to be found here, too. It fascinates me because I can keep writing and writing, and nobody will read this until I’m dead or something great happens — and the extraneous never come here. This is my novel, perhaps.

There are no words left for the feelings here. I want to make something big. I want to be the star of it. I want to feel like I can put myself into something nice, brace myself for the overwhelming realization that I am alone in everything I do — but perhaps not without the comfort of words.

Last night, I dreamed of myself as immensely mine. Along the Library of Babel, strewn room to room with all my selfhood and orifices stripped for patronage and pilgrimage: I imagined writing over the letters, making sense of things, and penning the words down. There is no use in searching if the answers could be here, with me. And in the sunless dust I looked over at the finitely bouncing reflections and wondered what man could be in a universe where we are left with time only to think: then I caught myself falling downwards in this world that we cannot yet truly illustrate, like my chest evaporating with my hands slowly going numb as I looked up into the endless things that we could never unread. And then I knew. And then I woke and sought to see.

Sitting in Theaters with Girls

I am going to preface this by saying an outright truth: I have no personality. Unfortunately, I missed the formative phase of my life somewhere between developing object permanence and early onset scoliosis that must have been crucial for me to gather tangible personality traits aside from my present distinctive ones of: not enjoying The Office, and attending Yale. Nevertheless, I am adaptive and refuse to accept that I have peaked. Throughout my adolescence, I’ve lived vicariously through characters from movies. My outright hobbies are independent cinema and good soundtracks, sometimes with ulterior motives. This in part, is due to my bad habit of adopting hyperfixations (attributed to my self-diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a Tumblr post in 2014) and fear of discovering that I do not actually have an identity.

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chia was fifteen

I recently shared a project for a video class from last semester on Twitter. Navigating girlhood through the internet, I realized much of my maturation occurred online. (This not being a good thing, clearly.) Coincidentally, I first showed it off to the general public in a place where it could rest as another permanent artifact of the internet.

Play Chia was Fifteen (PC)

( Best experienced on PC, these three parts were also intended to be some sort of installation — but it’s also quite navigable in this web format.

It’s interesting to think about the current generations condemned to live and die on the internet. Making this, I thought a lot of Nina Freeman’s Cibele and vewn’s kittykat96. Both pieces explored blurs between reality and the online — but my experience didn’t really have that. There was a distinct boundary, and I chose to live the life I had online. I learned about the world there, found most of my friends on there to the point where I spent years talking to them through chat instead of ever conversing in real life. They were two distinct spheres and my memory only ever rests on the one left on the internet. My relationships were birthed and then killed through exchanged words, and I’ve written endless letters to dozens of people that will never be seen — that I can never talk to in-person.

As an effect, I could trace my being through cables and screens. It’s infinitely surreal and til this day, I’m convinced that I cannot be myself without this dimension. Not only was it formative, but it was where I continued to exist in. This is something I’ve taken a long time to cope with; the fact that the online did not only inform my experience but was where they all were lived out scares me. I feel this constant link and debt to it but have yet to settle on whether this is actually a bad thing.

Maybe this is really the product of life today. Perhaps we’ll settle on more narratives that exist only in this space. And for these eighteen years of words I have all the more to come.

chia was fifteen is extremely intimate and a revealing part of myself, but there’s no use in living if you do not say some things at the wrong times. I hope you enjoy, but most dearly do I hope you get to think.

Literal Commitments

I have been having issues with work-life balance, and understanding what to prioritize in my life. Aside from the constantly-shifting mental state that comes with being a teenager, I’m getting accustomed to the bigger picture of things: what it means to seize opportunity, what metrics actually matter, and what it means to learn.

In other words, I dropped my first class. It seems irresponsible, and maybe it is–but it was a computer science 200-level class that was taking upwards of 20 hours each week that I didn’t feel was really rewarding at this point in time. I still fully intend to be a computer science major, but I’m currently embarking on several projects and preparing for what is perhaps the fullest months that Developh will undertake ever since its founding in 2016. I’m engrossed in Philippine politics, and am working with several campaigns that have also affected my sleeping schedule since I’m working around the clock. Over-all, it’s an interesting experience that I think shifting my major classes will be worth for.

There are some things I want to do in exchange:

  1. Be consistent and persistent with my work at Developh–something that I consistently want to do, but just as frequently have worries about in terms of sustainability, teams, motivation. I am almost certain that the path I’m taking in this little student group is something I want to do for the rest of my life. The greatest thing for me to do would be to constantly build towards it.
  2. Make at least one commit a day, I’ve lost so much of the dev energy I’ve had in previous summers and it’s impacted my excitement for code. I’ve been getting into this for the past week, and the feeling of it as a passion rather than just as an obligation has been returning.
  3. Get serious about studying computer science as I’ve picked up the holy grail textbooks, and am looking things up in advanced for classes that I’m excited to take. Another version of this is that I’m relearning things with my current stack (since I’m still functionally operating at the knowledge I had when Web 2.0, shiny gradient-filled [not the lava lamp kind, but the bevel and emboss kind] were still a thing), learning more things about full-stack development, taking lead, and actually putting into action agile dev practices. I’m also immersing myself more in a broader dev community and it’s making me really, really happy.
  4. Write. I had an attempt at a weekly goal, which didn’t work out–so now I’m trying for at least twice a month. I have a huge backlog of videos I want to edit, film in need of putting together, design that I want to make just for me, and words I have to put out that are eagerly there and waiting, especially for the angst to transfer onto a more creative and expressive outlet as opposed to my papers.
  5. Understand why I believe in the things I do, which is a really convoluted thing. I’m bad at admitting the faults of the people I follow but easy to shoot my own belief down. There are thoughts that swim around my head that never get out because they deviate from the conversations and networks I choose to immerse myself in, and I have a habit of conforming and viewing these sociopolitical/ethical thoughts as bad of me to consider. I want to get a firmer grasp on things now that I’m more bound to reality than I am specific people, and a big part of that is looking for reason, history, context, and conversation.
  6. Get a work ethic.


It’s just a small goal of mine to be a type of person that I can view as objectively good (as much as possible), or someone who just tries. I’m not there yet, and I’m still inconsiderate and abrupt and volatile–but I’m taking these months to think of my actions, the years I have spent in life and what I have ahead of me and the value I put in the uncertainty of knowing. These are times when I need to step out more and understand that life is beyond face-to-face human connection when it’s a dimension that grounds us too much, especially since I’m living in a bubble. There is a greater world I need to see through other’s experiences, the things they’ve decided to write down and show and document for the world that we don’t let ourselves digest as much. There is creation inside of me waiting, I think, and I don’t want to lose sight before eighteen.


Pinkerton, home, floods

The next three thousand words are selections of writing I did for a class I had this Fall. I am slowly learning, and hope to return with better pieces to make the most of this. A lot of my writing dealt with religion, home, and expectation. If you read this blog, you’re probably used to that. Thank you for following my journey from my first “chapbook” (not really) to my first college works.

The title comes from the fact that I did delete a Pinkerton reference in the fiction piece, somewhere in the attempt to copy Borges (we read a lot of Le Guin and Borges–the comment was that there was too much extraordinariness in the listing of lives and beings, and I agreed, we have to dwell somewhere more common at times) but without the experience and knowledge to actually understand what a worthwhile life is like, but I’m getting there. I don’t really spend much time publishing or sending out things (I don’t do this at all), but I’ve been writing a lot lately, so here.

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Love as repetition

Incomplete, last update: 2/6/2019 11:44AM

How do I tell you that I think I fell in love with someone on Skype. Their screen name revived by the spam message I accidentally sent, everything unanswered and rewinded. Like I spent my teen years thinking I was better because I lived in another world in my room, listening to 8tracks playlists by all my past lovers. I closed my eyes and listened to the Ending of Dramamine.
My hair is the longest it’s been in years. We bleached it thrice but I couldn’t get it to gray. It’s the darkest and thickest it’s been in years. I wanted so badly to make it wither and gray, anything but how it looked then.

Did anyone ever send you a death threat in BBCode? Or maybe the war we started in phpBB. No amount of trying to get myself to like what you love will fix this.

Do you wonder what you would be like if you were a kinder person? Not anything amped up, just kinder. Forgivable in every sense of the word.

Looking at myself in the mirror with my skin tearing red and my body defeated and slump into the corner of the room to push my body against and against the force of gravity and against and against everything you ever thought of me and I can see the bones on my neck again and I wonder why I hadn’t done this sooner.


I cried the most when I lost all the dreams I wrote down on my Notes app. I think I had over a hundred there.

(I am driving the car and you know I told you I would never drive except for this.)

Newfound Interest in Snowstorms

I became a girl alive three weeks into class. Even before I left Manila, I fell into this annual sick mess. Like when you can’t breathe you pray to just remember something you have had for your whole life, over and over and over, with every little glimpse at having that again being some cruel joke until it subsides and you think nothing of it. I am so sick I could die. I am so sick I could wait and wait to be okay again and endure it all.

The first two weeks or so at Yale (and many, many other colleges in America) are an add/drop period, they call it shopping period here. Your classes aren’t finalized until the period finishes but you have to keep up with all the work for all the classes you choose to attend. Being sick and walking around campus with your head spinning and holding back the urge to start coughing out one’s guts for 5 minutes straight is quite possibly my worst experience here so far. The time my mental state lets me go is where my body fails me, and it’s like 2019’s opening trick on me. But it’s okay.

Homesickness usually kicks in around the second semester of your freshman year. You are apparently too busy going around and getting overwhelmed with everything that college freedom has to offer, but I spent much of the Fall doing nothing. I’m starting to get these periods where I wake up in the middle of the morning (I try to sleep at least 6 hours a day now) in a panic, remembering fragments from the dream I just left and then thinking–thinking about the most inane of things. My mind often goes to the fact that I am here. That this was what I was thinking about a year ago, waking up wondering if I would wake up here. Past me must be so disappointed that I’m spending Friday night walking back to my dorm at 10:30PM combing through my Letterboxd “to watch” list to see what my plans for the rest of the night are.

Last night I was thinking about my homesickness. I’ve told so many people that I feel this immense sense of regret (that is completely irrational) about being away because I am no longer really part of the country. The moments where I get to speak a full sentence in Tagalog reading out my essay in English 120, the little bits of Taglish that slip out and I have to say sorry for, or the times when with full intent we converse–apologetic to those who don’t get the bits of slang we say, combed through high school and computer shops and living the life I have lived. These are all my little bits of self that keep me put together. They’re why I continue to walk out, seeking those little pieces of home, my language the only secret I can truly hold in this school where nothing of my culture is taught.

Whenever I check the weather to decide how many layers of clothes I should wear (currently, it’s usually 3-4) I also check on Manila. I could tell you easily how my days go, how everything is methodical. My day is filled with meetings where I can’t wait to move to the next, where I’m often left wondering why I do the things I do–I exchange apologies and “next times” with people who cancel and people who I have to cancel on. My interactions are filled with me trying to find the right words, arranging them as clean and easy as everyone here has bene taught to do and wondering why it’s so difficult to express my thoughts if I don’t intonate in the same way as them.

I can show you a picture of my schedule, the rare times I speak in class to hit that participation cut-off and feign interests and say thank you and go out to buy food and refill the bathroom supplies. And I could ask you in return for yours. But nothing will ever let me see the things I want to see. The slow erosion of the unfinished concrete wall across Daang Hari, the feel of my bedroom with the mattress on the floor in the dead of the nighttime–my air conditioner set to 18 degrees and the ring it does that reminds me to switch it off every 15 minutes. The way the skyway looks and how Manila Bay is now after the cleanup, how food is just better in every single stall and where I don’t have to have empty conversation with workers who just want me to leave. The sky there, where it’s hotter and easier to breathe and where I can speak this secret language and be on the right time again. I still get notifications for gigs that play in Mow’s even though I’ve never been there. I like to think a lot of the things I’ve missed that I can never really experience again, taken away because of age and circumstance and parents and maybe everything at once. It won’t be the same when I come back at twenty-four (or later), and it will really never be okay to me that there are these things that I will ever only experience as a tourist, as a visitor, as someone returned but not home.

I have a long list of everything I’ve ever wanted to go to and do that I’ve compiled since sophomore year of high school. A lot of them I couldn’t do anything about. There are just these lists of things that you will never be able to do again–because they’ve been closed down, because the experience has changed and management moved over, because you’re not with the same people you wanted to experience that thing with, because you’re coming back to your country with people asking you a list of what you want to do for the ten days you really get to do anything like you’re the tourist now and I just answer nothing, really. And you see no one but everything at the same time. Because I’m coming back to the country with a carer and a degree at a school that wasn’t truly my first choice robbed of experiences that I wish I had at eighteen and most things I know will be gone. There will be new things, but there’s this anger in me that this list is something I kept in a plastic folder hidden in my drawer that I cross things out of every few weeks or when I hear something in the news. I just wanted to listen to music and see these pieces that will never be there again or take that class or go on that day that everyone has marked down but me–to have been like this and been there and now I can’t help but to picture myself during the break and think now of how I can’t go back as the person I was. I can’t give a fucking list of what I want to do because everything I’ve ever truly wanted to do was gone.

There will be new things, but that list of no’s is there. I can head to New York today or watch a show alone in Philadelphia, I can bring you here and we would share the same experience because we’re both strangers to this country. But you can’t bring me back to my home and let me have a temporary stay and act like what we have to do is mine. And for this I’m most homesick. I will never truly understand what it meant to live there, in that time. I will never let anything fall apart in that way again. I never knew I didn’t like leaving.

Someone told me that as an international, America is the winning team. San Francisco, wind and hills and fat paychecks. My friend tells me that billionaires earned it at all. I can’t find the same common ground on jokes. I can’t lie on the ground yet for the problems of a country that is still unwelcome to me. How do I sound white on the phone? Where can I find someone who listens to some similar, generic trash as me. You exchange your favorite foods like the only way we can tie ourselves back to the country is through overpriced restaurants in New York, I want the word for my food to mean the same as it did back there for for eighteen dollars less.  Can my voice get any more of the American accent but still feel so detached? Tell me the best way to let you know that I can be everywhere and nowhere at once. Told a boy about how I played League of Legends in a computer shop that had papers posted up every three feet about how you’re not allowed to expose your genitals, for a quarter an hour. And yes, League of Legends has its own server in the Philippines. We exist. She’s Only Sixteen is like my secret recommendation but what everyone is tired of back home. Our President is the murderer and yours is, too–but you’re louder for less bodies. Do you really think billionaires got there by hard work only? Is it ethical to be that rich? Your jacket could feet an entire town. Not everyone who works hard moves forward in life. We’re in the Ivy League and all we know is how to lie to ourselves. You want to be a billionaire one day too. How do I.

Does it feel good to work for something for big 0s that people near you could never use? When I give back, is it going to be a charity thing in my name and for the Filipino people that I’ve been so far from? Is my philanthropy learned from effective altruism classes, reports placed on my desk, second-hand smoke, and the noise outside of the people keeping close with full intention? Do I become someone else’s person, continuing to do things I don’t believe in when I got here because of the very fact that I dared believe?

One of the most frequent fights I had with an ex was because we didn’t know what it meant to be alive. I don’t know what it means to be alive if others around me can’t be alive, too–and I latched on to this belief and way of seeing the world. More than this circle or bubble and group and school and something as insane and irrational as love for one person, perhaps even moreso–is love for everything. What can you even do?

Maybe this is why I’m always in a state of crisis.

The rules for student employment allow me to work up to nineteen hours a week, which I do my best to reach. (I’m currently searching for a job to help me hit the nineteen, just a few hours away–when every hour counts.) I find it sort of incredible how we’re a paid a few dollars above minimum wage, and how it in itself is an insane amount of money for someone coming from the world I come from. I get a break from thinking and requests and people I can’t fully commit myself to. I wake up every morning at 4AM to go out and try to find some semblance of routine that isn’t this.

To maintain some sense of self, I decided to start making monthly playlists. Here is January, and this is how February is going.  I write down my favorites again in paper, like the last time I did when I was in ninth grade and writing love letters in yellow pad and slipping them into schoolbags. I write little goals again that are the same as years ago, “step out of your comfort zone” when it’s more like enter this war that is not yours. “Be a more welcoming person,” when I have to switch my tongue with every person I speak to. “Give this (at least) the chance to be the best years of your life,” but it is there. It’s getting there and I have no idea why.

New Haven is beautiful and it feels so weird to be in a city that can be namedropped by a song. It feels like I don’t hear my name that often anymore. It’s unfamiliar and not golden and I am average and I walk by Broadway in the mornings for no reason at all and into the “dangerous” part of the town when the sun is rising in the winter and I repeat the name of the state while not knowing where it is on the map because it’s how I call myself now and how everyone knows me.

The other day, before any words could even come out of my mouth, a stranger followed up their question with a “wait, do you even speak English?” and I almost wished that I couldn’t.

It isn’t a leap year

Hello to a new year. It’s no new though, but it’s also weird thinking that a manmade construct gives us a new slate when the operational or academic or anything timeline doesn’t follow it either–but it’s a mindset thing as always, I guess.

There are weirdly vivid times that come into my head when I’m doing work at my computer and just stare at the timestamp in the corner. I move the cursor, hovering gently over the month (paying no mind to the seconds passing by), thumbing over the calendar months til I find dates with nothing on them (not hard to get to) if I happen to be on Windows, and just sitting there like a captive to the passing of something I feel so behind of. It’s pretentious: to be paralyzed, and suddenly lose all focus as if I’ve already lost the year and time itself when I could just simply continue. But it is never that simple. Read More

2018 top albums!

I just finished off my first semester of college this Tuesday, and can pretty confidently say that one of the biggest things that got me to be able to go through everything is music. I’ve mentioned it in the past and still joke about it every now and then, but one of the most exciting things to me about going to school in America is the fact that I can go to shows (!!), see artists that I’ve been listening to since I was a kid after countless years, and immerse myself in incredible local music scenes. (Not to say that it isn’t prominent in the Philippines, though.)

Given an abundance of free time (at times), I’ve been more closely immersing myself in new releases instead of just listening to whatever like I have in the past. I’ve never realized how critical it was for me to be with people interested in the same kinds of music–or any music, for that matter–at all. It’s just something I can so easily slip in and out of between days and everything I do. Before I get back on the grind of things, here’s a little self-indulgent list of albums that came out this 2018 that I’ve been loving, in no particular order.’

Joy as an Act of Resistance. by IDLES

Though my furthest exposure to punk has been pop punk, I’ve heard tons of people talking about how amazing this album was and decided to give it a listen. Colossus is quite possible one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard and it hooked me in ever since that dramatic “goes and it goes and it goes” mixed with the abundance of religious imagery in its lyricism. Deeper into the album is a lot of confessional lyrics that aren’t normally touched on, from stillbirth to toxic masculinity. This is such a gorgeous listen to even if you’re not heavy onto the genre–because wow, it will convert you. Definitely listen in order as well. (Anyway, if you’re not listening to an album in order on the first listen you’re doing it wrong.) The raw energy, honesty, and emotion in this album is ridiculously infectious.

There is a scene of me nodding my head to this album and getting a bit to into it in a random Barnes & Noble Cafe on a Wednesday afternoon that exists somewhere out there.

Favorite track: Television

Be the Cowboy by Mitski

Probably on almost everyone’s top lists, but for good reason. The amount of raw energy, the variety of emotion, and the overall atmosphere of the album that settles me into this dark, somber mood for reflection but picks me up as if I can face the world. Mitski shares words that we see in all of ourselves, daring us to pick up our pieces and reflect on our lives along her. From the crescendoing introduction in Geyser with its static unsettle to the electricity and forwardness in Remember My Name as she sings “I need something bigger than the sky”–Mitski has given girls like me and so many countless others a musical masterpiece that ties in so many themes on loneliness, vulnerability, and how all of this is okay and wonderful. That losing is something necessary yet something below ourselves that we can always pick ourselves up from. I think of how I can’t stop myself from dancing alone to Old Friend in my shitty dorm room, thinking of love and things above me and the world ahead of me, or how my roommates ask me to tone down the volume when I first found the album and played Nobody on repeat as if all the lyricism about smallness made me whole again. It may seem like a surface album about love and all that to many others, but Be the Cowboy is about love, acceptance, and the self; it’s such a necessary entry and an album I desperately needed. A lot of criticism is starting to surround the album, and I just can’t help but think of lines like “Maybe I’m the same as all those men / writing songs of all they’re dreaming.” Mitski didn’t have to give us these words, but she did.

Favorite track: Old Friend / Me and My Husband (can’t choose!)

Million Dollars to Kill Me by Joyce Manor

I have adored Joyce Manor in ways I can’t really explain ever since their self-titled release, and I feel like this album comes close to it. Another of their twenty-minute-or-so entries with my favorite album art of them to date, this album just gives me the soul and spirit taking me back to summers I never had. The whole ride feels like a raw group of friends making music of the world they live in; there’s no deep metaphors or complex analogies necessary–it’s just growth and fun and dumb things and I find myself in love with this approach. It’s a lot softer and more freeing than their previous releases, and definitely not for everyone who initially loved their S/T as it’s nowhere near as fast (it sounds like they transitioned into a poppier sound–I’ll always prefer their old, frantic screamish stuff but ‘yaknow), but I couldn’t stop keeping this piece on repeat after going through it. The songs blend in together lovely and take me into this subtle upbeat ride–something that not lots of music can do. Joyce Manor always has that kind of sound that makes you want to live through something–not something that one thinks about too hard but just lives through, if that makes sense. This record falls in line with that, fun listen, no deeper meaning to that.

Favorite track: Friends We Met Online

what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you by awakebutstillinbed

This is. My absolute favorite emo release of the year, I’m positive. Female-fronted awakebutstillinbed and their debut extended play is just phenomenal; everything in this reminds me of my emotions at their extremes–the most vulnerable parts of myself where I allow my entire self exposed in the face of everyone, empty afternoons where I crumble into this personal, boiling anger at the world that at times comes inexplicable. I am in love with Shannon’s vocals though it might not be a sentiment that everyone shares, but there’s just something so haunting about the lyricism in stumble taking you back from this light narrative about love and regret to “I know I’ll stop breathing one day / and I’ll never be able to justify the ways that I lived my only life / I just want something to feel all right“. On the surface, it does seem totally incoherent and senseless, but in introspection of how we feel–it is what it is. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve revolved my entire self-image about things I shouldn’t have let myself wait for. The album shifts from slow, painful dynamics to straight on switching to lines calling for self-forgiveness; the transition from stumble to fathers best shows this. Another thing: I’ll never forget how I felt the first time the album title was uttered in the line of life; it’s built up in a way that I beg you to properly take in by starting from the very beginning.

Emo albums always sound intoxicatingly desperate and filled with complaints, but maybe it’s a bit of what the world needs. (Also, the interlude here is incredible.)

Favorite track:  life (the world around me fades!!)

The Joy of Loving by Joyd Parker

Oh my god. Oh my god. I came across this from the third track by chance while trying to get on iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook’s artist page, and I am so, so happy that I stumbled across this. The mix of experimental spoken word in the song, the screams, all the lyrics about things that hit the deepest parts of myself that I never knew could be put into words until this song pulled it off. This is such a wonderful screamo, emo, whatever album that rolls off a lot of frustration and angst about god and being–things that I am so fond of. In this six minute masterpiece, they pull together so many things that just gave me an experience for an album produced in a bedroom. The rest of the album is amazing as well, and is such an experimental, sleeping masterpiece that I can’t wait for the world to see, even if I could only get this work out to just a handful more people. Wow. I played this album on repeat with pauses in between, trying to take it in. I am looking forward to everything else this band will come up with and this is the greatest thing I have found this year.

I’m still trying to find the words to explain why this hit me so much.

Favorite track: I wrote Haikus About Communism in Your Hotel Book 

Sunset Blush by Kississippi

Kississippi put out my favorite emo-adjacent album with soft indie rock vibes. I first came across the band with Dogmas from their We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed EP, and this album follows through with everything I’ve loved from it. Mostly a portrait from loss and severance, Sunset Blush to me opens up an end not commonly explored: disappointment at how things could just never fall into place, loss of hope after doing everything possible. The mellow sounds throughout the album, how the lyrics come so easy and are just that kind of album where I don’t have to look up the lyrics because it comes after just a single listen. This album is like a lot more palatable Be the Cowboy that’s still on the stage of loss for me; there’s something about the entire sound that makes me feel like I’m there, so intimate and close in a way that all the other indie albums–the same narrative of spilling out a story, girls talking about life and everything–couldn’t do as well as this.

Favorite track: Shamer

7 by Beach House

The most frequently-used term that I’ve heard for Beach House is “immersive”, and there’s no better word that I can imagine. I constantly feel like I’m being taken to new places, breathing in times and memories that aren’t mind, and scraping my own self for pieces of my story that can compare. This is music that I’ve played walking back to my dorm room at early 6AM when the sun is barely rising after pulling off an all-nighter, and could just dream to. Also, I still don’t know how to distinguish Beach House songs by title–but that doesn’t stop it from being a good album.

Favorite track: Drunk in LA 

M A N I A by Fall Out Boy

This is probably cheating, but technically the album was still released this year so I’m plopping it in! Fall Out Boy has stuck with me ever since I first listened to it in middle school in a hazy summer in a place that is no longer the same–the band itself coming in different forms to millions and millions of people since the mid-2000s. The thing is: many people drift away from Fall Out Boy, severing their pre-hiatus and post-hiatus selves, praising the former and calling the latter anything but praise. Like many “still in love” fans, I’m in awe of the evolution of MANIA–I felt it ever since I sat down excitedly upon the album’s rolling Spotify release, hearing the vocal run at the beginning of Heaven’s Gate, saw adoration in the maturity of Patrick’s vocals where I literally sat back at my chair, stunned, and giggled because I was so surprised. That first listen to the Church-Heaven’s Gate combo, to hearing Stay Frosty kick in brought me back to that summer in a different lens. I walk the same places in a wholly new way, and I am immersed in something familiar but in an entirely new nature. I am so, so utterly in love.

This is a pretty biased view, perhaps because this band is entwined in a lot of nostalgia for me–but then again they were nominated for a Grammy for this album for the first time since their entry into the scene with the Best New Artist one. There are some misses in the album, but even Young and Menace gets more pleasant the deeper you dive in.

Favorite Track: Church

The Yunahon Mixtape by Oso Oso

Oso Oso is the emo-adjacent gateway that brought me into the midwest emo side of music that has helped me a ton throughout this year. Starting from the pastel hues given off by the album cover of the popular dgadsgk in Hong Kong, The Yunahon Mixtape is such a delightful, upbeat album that gives me such positive energy and vibes. There’s something about how diluted the vocals are, the continuously resonant sound, the drumwork, and everything that perfectly piles up the album into this indie-esque exploration of emotions, living, and love. This reminds me a lot of almost a counterpart to Sunset Blush, with nearly every song here maintaining more of the colorful energy. It’s as fast and as true as it needs to be, its lines filled with passion and intent. Even on tracks with “sparser” vocals like shoes (the sneaker song) hook you in with the “when we sing our song the words never need to rhyme” in between a chorus of ooo’s and aaah’s; there are so many songs here about living and love that mean everything to me, and this is definitely worth a listen. I’m sure you’ll find a song or two (or maybe the whole album?) that you’d love to make yours.

Favorite Track: great big beaches

Now Only by Mount Eerie

My heart fell apart over and over again while listening to this. Now Only connects to Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, albums dedicated to the death of his wife. It’s filled with poetry, melancholy, and just absolute anger and disbelief at the world in the midst of loss. The way Mount Eerie handles death, holding its carcass in his arms with the unwavering commitment to sending a message about how futile and unfair the world can feel when it rips something so wonderful away from you hurts. I’ve closed my eyes and played this in full so many times in the summer, memorizing the narrative in Tintin in Tibet from the casual pain tearing in from “You don’t exist / I sing to you though” to Phil recounting, in such beautiful imagery, this trip he had with his wife in Vancouver Island in the midst of a story crushing her death and instead letting the fact that she was alive and there resound greater than anything else. Many albums try to portray that things happen for a reason, and that there are greater meaning to things, but Mount Eerie confesses that nothing can resolve death, and that there is no greater reason or deeper meaning that could come out of someone no longer being there–a thought that isn’t commonly shared today. At the bottom of everything, the whole album is a whole symphony about how unnecessary the loss of life can be; that one can exist with loss, but confesses that without it, life would be so much better. And in some cases like in this beautiful narrative, it is.

Being that the album is an incredibly personal recount, to fully appreciate, you must read the stories and interviews and comments left about the music. This is music that isn’t just meant to entertain us, but this is someone’s life and loss in a transcendent form that we don’t deserve. The least one can do is see the true meaning behind the things here. I urge you to.

Surviving with what dust is left of you here
Now you will recede into the paintings

Favorite track: incredibly difficult decision but Tintin in Tibet!

That pretty much wraps up my top albums for the year! I’m not as updated as I’d like to be and I know there are tons of other interesting releases this year (Foxing’s Nearer my God, the new Carseat Headrest, the abundance of T-50 albums that don’t really hang around my wavelength)–but this is the collection that I had to list down. If this list helped you expand your taste a bit or rediscover something you may have forgotten this year–I’ve done my job!

Without music, 2018 wouldn’t have been the same for me. This was the first year that I spent consistently listening to music (I go on some weird droughts at times) and it was an interesting rollercoaster; though it seems like 2019 will be even more interesting–so here’s to more obscure videogame soundtracks to guilty pleasure pop hits and long-awaited spins.

November 13, Tuesday

You are busy. 
Preparing for something, waiting for something, getting somewhere.

I place the most selfless thing that I have made for myself scribbled on the back of a workshopped poem. It is a love letter addressed to myself, signed from myself. It is unsealed and vulnerable. It is hastily written in pen from a conference where I had to pretend to be someone. It is the rawest thing that I had ever known.

For the first time in a long while, I ate well. There is a Starbucks in the corner that I visit in early mornings and late afternoons; yesterday, my emptiness echoed into a lecture hall, and then a library, and then the guards checking my bag as I stretched back to my dorm. My nightly fixation is how the drone of my stomach is equivalent to a bomb: that is, it is atomic and resonant and pierces everyone’s ears, that is, it is likely disregarded and forgotten by everyone else in history but the people it has directly inflicted, that is, I exaggerate and wince at the thought of me clutching a stomach fueled for days on cereal every other day and a bag of kale chips that one time. 

Last night was different, though. I waste twenty more dollars. I wash all my bowls and utensils for no reason and unseal the others while discarding the sushi containers. I clean my room and study for a test I am unsure I will take. When I put things inside of myself to make sure that the body is still there, I am sure that one day I will feel it when it is freed.

There is a dream where I lay in bed and I watch her knees on the ground with the growing lacerations and scraping at the neck.

I take care of this image. I become her.

I become everything I ever wanted to be.