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How We Begin

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A hotel room in Singapore, 2013

This is how we begin:

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I Did A Thing

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A still from “Delia & Sammy”, a feature length finalist in CineFilipino 2018

Okay, indulge me please.

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Bookends

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I am writing this as I’m taking a break from packing all my belongings in a large suitcase, seeing all the things I’ve accumulated over the past few years. I am moving out of my unit this end of April–the end of my two-year lease in this studio and a four-year stay in this building.

It’s strange and a bit surreal to see all my possessions unravel, the way my whole life is summarized by the objects and trinkets I’ve accumulated.

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Begin at the End

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Indonesia, 2012

Time.

Recently, a friend and former colleague passed away in his sleep, much to the surprise of all of us he left. He was young—in his early 40s. You could say there still was more to life at that age.

But life goes on. We amble forward.The inevitability of death shouldn’t be that surprising, when one thinks about it. At times it comes quietly; sometimes, violently.

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A Softer World

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“”Little Children on a Bicycle”, by Ernest Zacharevic (taken during my first visit to Penang, Malaysia in 2013)

I’m lucky.

Before I begin to even delve into the many things that I feel lucky to have (which is not the intention of this post), I understand that it sounds as if I’m smug about the privilege that I have.

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Counting Down the Days

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A blur

Where did the year go? (And how many people across the world are saying the same thing?)

Truth be told, there were times when I’d remember a memory (the Coldplay concert in Taiwan, for example) and realize that it happened just not too long ago.

A few days, a few weeks, a few months back.

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Higit sa Salita

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Yogyakarta, 2012

Dear Ate Belle,

​Kamusta? 

 Alam ko na wala namang point na magsulat ng sulat sa mga patay. Pero iniisip ko, siguro, kapag pwede na ang mag-time travel, madadala ko itong sulat na ito sa’yo. O baka, merong makakabasa ng sulat na ito sa future, at magta-time travel siya para ipabasa sa’yo.

Mahigit isang taon na nung nawala ka. Minsan, nakakalimutan ko na wala ka na. Kapag nagluluto ako, o nagtitiklop ng mga linabhan, o naggo-grocery, iniisip ko kung paano mo ginagawa ito dati para sa amin. 

Siguro napakareductive na isipin na ito ang mga bagay na nagpapaalala sa akin nung buhay ka pa. Sa makakabasa, siguro iisipin nila na napakababaw ng perception ko tungkol sa’yo, na ang naiisip ko lang ay yung mga panahon na naninilbihan ka. Na nagsisilbi ka.

Pero para sa akin, dun mo higit na ipinakita ang pagmamahal mo. Doon ko pinakanaramdaman ang pagmamahal mo sa amin. Sa serbisyo. Na inalay mo ang buhay mo para sa amin. Marahil, sa tahimik mong paraan, ipinakita mo na mahal mo kami. 

Kasi hindi ba, ganun talaga ang pag-ibig? Na wala iyon sa salita, kung hindi sa gawa. Sa araw-araw na pagpaparaya, na pagpapatuloy, na pagpupursige. Marahil, ang malaking aral na naituro mo sa amin ay mas matimbang ang pag-ibig na ipinamalas sa gawa, mahigit pa sa salitang binitawan dala ng bugso ng damdamin.

Naiisip ko, para saan? Para saan ang lahat? Karapat-dapat ba kami sa pag-ibig na binigay mo? Minsan iniisip ko na hindi kami siguro ang karapat-dapat nakatanggap ng pagmamahal mo. Siguro may ibang tao na mas deserving nuon. 

Ngunit, siguro, hindi mo naman inisip na may kapalit, na sa bawa’t inalay mo, may nakaabang na kabayaran. Kahit na nanilbihan ka bilang kasambahay, alam ko na hindi mapapalitan ng kahit anong halaga ang buhay na ibinigay mo para sa amin. 

Gusto kong matuto kung paano magmahal katulad mo: na kahit nakakatakot, ay patuloy na nagbibigay. 

Ate Belle, iniisip ko na yakap kita ngayon. May isang hibla sa kawalang-hanggan na magkayakap tayo, at hindi iyon natatapos. Sa isang hibla ng kawalang-hanggan, hawak mo ang kamay ko. 

Mahal na mahal kita. Nami-miss kita, Ate Belle. 

Paalam muli,
​Evan

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Let’s Talk About Depression

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Siumou Chow’s “Solitude”, taken during a 2014 trip in Penang, Malaysia
Recently, comedian Joey de Leon got a lot of flak because of his insensitive remarks about depression.
Yung depression, gawa-gawa lang yan,” he flippantly said, and asked people to not support anyone who claims to suffer from it.
He has apologized since. A lot of rebuttals have also been made online. The incident became a necessary springboard to give this issue wider attention.
With all the noise (albeit welcome), I felt that adding more to the buzz would be futile. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I needed to talk about my experience. I needed to own up to what I felt, and make people who feel the same way know they’re not alone.

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Of Growing Up, Getting Along, Letting Go, & Being Grateful (An After-Birthday Post)

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Thanks Shaira Luna for this photo 🙂

After four years, my good friend friend Adele and I finally met again, like the old days.

She was attending Muni’s zero-waste lifestyle meetup this afternoon in Makati, and since my Saturday morning was free anyway, we thought we should meet over coffee. (The coffee part was actually a surprise for her since, unlike her, I was never a big fan of coffee. Frankly, I still am not the expert on it, but I’ve realized that mornings are much easier to survive with a cup or two.) 

It’s not as if we’ve never had any free time over the past four years. I would admit that I could’ve easily gone all the way to Quezon City just to see her–I’ve been in her part of town a couple of times over the past four years, and I could’ve just messaged her and set up dinner. She probably thought the same way whenever she was in Makati for an event or two. 

But we never did.

The point is: it’s okay. 

Maybe that’s growing up: you become okay that your friends and loved ones live separate lives, and you realize that the true test of your relationship is how you will always have something to go back to when you meet again, whenever that may be. 

When I saw her again, I felt genuinely happy just talking to an old friend–finding ourselves sharing what has transpired in our lives all those years we’ve never seen each other. We may have gone through a lot of different experiences apart, but somehow, we know how to come back to our familiar place/space. 

It’s not the same with all of our friends. Some have grown distant, and some have grown away from our direction. Some relationships we’ve learned to let go of, if only because they have become unhealthy for us. We mourn some of them; some of them, we cheerfully cut out. 

I celebrated my birthday this week thinking about the connections I’ve had over the past three decades, and realized how I’ve managed to survive a lot of things I’ve never thought I would’ve survived, with the help of people around me.

(Not to say that my life has been supremely difficult: I know many others who have experienced harsher things than I have, and I would say that life has been generally kind, despite the anxiety and depression I battle with at times.)

I’m thankful for the people who have helped me go through the slumps and pits. Often I wonder what I have done to deserve all the help I’ve received in life.

I am very lucky. I know I’m not exactly the easiest to get along with, and I could be awkward and weird at times. But despite how I am, there are people who choose to put up with me and try to understand me. There are people who believe in what I can do and who I can be. 

Some of those people I haven’t been very kind to, if only because I didn’t know any better. I’ve been a jerk (that’s one thing I learned a few birthdays back.)

So what am I trying to say, really? 

I guess what I sincerely want to say is: sorry and thank you. I’m sorry if, at one point in your life, I’ve made you feel awful, or I’ve caused unnecessary hurt to you. I’m also thankful that you have shared a part of your life with me. 

I hope that when we meet again, we’ll find that place of familiarity too, no matter how long it has been since we’ve seen each other. I hope that we’ll discover the good we have done to each other’s lives, and share the lessons we have learned. I hope that we will find ourselves in better circumstances. 

​Until then. 😃

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A Life More Valuable: Overthinking Mikhail Red’s “Birdshot”

You might have heard about (or a permutation of) the popular trolley problem in your Philosophy class. 

It goes like this: 

A speeding train which lost its brakes is about to hit five people ahead. They won’t be able to get out of the way in time. There is, however, one option to rescue all of them: you, the driver, can pull the lever, and redirect the train to another track.

The only problem is that, there’s a child playing at the other track, oblivious to the possibility that a train might hit her. Choose to save the five, you kill the girl; choose to save the girl, you kill the five adults.

Who should you save? What is the most ethical thing to do?  


​In Mikhail Red’s mystery-thriller film “Birdshot“, the ethical dilemma is not about who should live–all the lives that should’ve been saved are already dead. But the moral quandary is nonetheless troubling.

Two crimes are revealed in the story: the kidnapping of farmers on their way to Manila to file a case against the landlord of their farm, and the murder of the haribon kept in the eagle sanctuary. Officer Domingo, one of the leads in the movie, was tasked to solve the kidnapping first, but as he digs deeper into the case, his superior pulls him out of it and assigns him to the second case, much to his frustration.

When he insists on solving the kidnapping, his partner officer Mendoza sternly warns him: “What if you find out something that you’re not supposed to discover?”

It’s not only Domingo who grapples with the issues of an insatiable quest for the truth and the problem of blind obedience: Maya, the girl who shot the eagle, realizes the conflicts that both present as the film progresses. Repeatedly, Maya’s father Diego tells her that she doesn’t understand anything, and it is true–the gravity of her crime eludes her. Despite her ignorance, she is not exempted from suffering the consequences of her crime which, it must be said, she only committed in the first place because she was obediently following her father’s advice that she needed to fend for herself.

It is Domingo, however, who must answer these questions: who deserves justice the most? Which life has more value?

​One might easily say that it’s ridiculous to compare an animal to people. I guess what exasperates me is that the film drills how ludicrous Diego’s predicament is–that he is made to prioritize solving the eagle’s death over the disappearance of the farmers. Thoughtlessly, one might say that it should not even be a choice at all. To many, human life takes priority over an animal’s.

My kneejerk reaction is, I would most likely agree–I would immediately save people over an animal. But this shortsightedness, to only prioritize what we feel is within our in-tribes (whether our families, our community, and our species) is perhaps what has created the problem in the first place.

When one thinks about it, the murder of the farmers in the film is the result of this shortsightedness: that the landowner’s needs take priority over the farmers’.

It is devaluing the other that makes it easier to destroy them. 

​In a reality of limited time and resources, ascribing value to certain things helps in increasing efficiency. We learn how to “better” spend our hours and money on things that create “more” for us. But is it this very problematic way of ascribing value and putting people in hierarchies the very thing that is creating more problems for us?

You might say that this is futile overthinking. Some would even argue that value is lost when everything is given equal value.

​Yes, I think Domingo should’ve focused on solving the kidnapping first. But the disgust over not being made to do that should not be because he is made to choose the other case–it should come from how both lives are not seen with the same value.

Birdshot is being shown nationwide from August 16-22, as part of the official selection of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Another interesting read: How do Buddhists answer the trolley problem?