The Weight of a Life in Wonder

personal life, reflections, travel

At certain moments of your life, the question comes, during a pause:

Selfie with “Untitled (Donkey)” by Jeff Koons, at the Moco Museum (October 2019)

What am I doing here?

What the hell am I doing here?

Of Grit and Grace

personal life, reflections

Much has been said about persistence and perseverance: how, if you are only forceful and determined enough, you could achieve whatever it is that you set your mind to.

A wall of photos and business cards (Vietnam, 2014)

For the Privileged, a Performance of the Poor

film, personal life, reflections, Uncategorized

“They’re rich, but still nice.”

“They’re nice because they’re rich.”

Jon Bong Hoo, “Parasite
A still from Jon Bong Hoo’s “Parasite”

During my freshman year in high school, my older brother and I had to be sent off to a public high school in Quezon City after my parents incurred a huge debt because of a failed business. The financial loss meant that they could no longer afford to send us to the private school near our home in Las Piñas. My aunt convinced my mom that the high school near her place had better standards than the usual public schools, and so my mom decided that we would live with our aunt and our cousins so we could study there.

As a kid, I felt that it was all a game. I imagined how that year was going to be fun, and how I’d have interesting stories to share to my friends back home once I came back to my old school.

My new classmates saw me and my brother as a curiosity. I remember how they would ask me questions about my old school–why I had to uproot myself from that life in exchange for this strange one. I vaguely remember dodging some of those questions, but what I could recall was how I found it amusing that they would speak to me in English, as if they expected me to be beyond speaking in the vernacular.

On the Kano Model and the LGBT Movement: Musings on the Intersections of my Startup and Advocacy Life

gay, lgbt, personal life, reflections, startup life, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago, my startup company Taxumo had a two-day sprint activity to assess how we can create exciting new products for our customers—the thousands of Filipino self-employed-professionals, freelancers, and sole proprietors (and many thousands more, soon to come.)

During the session, our CEO EJ Arboleda introduced to us the Kano Model, the product development and customer satisfaction theory developed by Japanese professor Noriaki Kano. The said theory advocates going beyond the functional benefits of your product and service, and assessing the emotions which you can elicit by introducing certain new features.

The theory posits that products/services are composed of either three attributes: threshold attributes, otherwise known as the “basics”; performance attributes, or the ” satisfiers”; and the excitement attributes, or the “delighters”.

For example, think of an insulated water bottle. It’s basic (threshold attribute) that the said water bottle would not get hot and still be holdable even after you put in hot water. Now, if the said water bottle also keeps your water’s temperature stable for 48 hours (versus its competitor’s 24-hour temperature stability), that could be really satisfying (a performance attribute) for you as a customer, since it boosts your enjoyment of an expected feature. But what if the water bottle also changes color depending on how cold or hot the water is? That’s a totally unexpected feature, and could be a delightful thing for your customer (an excitement attribute.)

In time, however, as people become used to the exciting feature which you’ve once offered, it sort of becomes an expected property for your product. (Think of mobile phones having touchscreens—a feature Apple popularized.)

Oddly, but perhaps with good reason, the Kano model came to mind when I was thinking about our work within the LGBT advocacy, specifically during the recent IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia) event which the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce did with the Embassy of the Netherlands in the Philippines.

The Knife They Give Us

gay, lgbt, personal life, reflections

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one evening when the ad from Without Walls Ministries (@withoutwallsph) appeared:

“Jesus never mentions homosexuality. How can it be wrong?”

I curiously clicked on the link from this organization who claims to be “a community of people who love Jesus and are on a mission to spread the gospel in our city and beyond.”

They were organizing a free conference, open to the public. The speaker is a British pastor named Sam Allberry, a man who says he experiences same-sex attraction, and now preaches about how his attraction is not integral to his identity.

It was amusing, to say the least.

To Rage Against the Dying Light

Uncategorized
PictureZambales sunset, March 2016

“Why are you so forceful?”

The words hit me like a brick.

I was talking to a friend earlier, trying to motivate him to start on his fitness routine. He had reached out to me a couple of weeks ago, saying that he had wanted to begin finally.

The thought excited me. I had always been dropping hints to my friend that his lifestyle was really messing him up–physically,  mentally, and emotionally. He had been complaining of being stressed all the time. Secretly, I was hoping that he would somewhat take my advice to heart and sort of change his ways.

Finally, he said that he was going to the gym with me to inquire about the membership rates. On the way, I was planning everything in my head, and voicing it out to him. I was thinking that all he needed was an extra push to finally make that change.

That was when he called me out.

The thing is, forceful is an adjective which I don’t readily associate myself with. But I guess that is somewhat a form of self-delusion.

The truth is,  I’ve been called various permutations of that word, in a lot of occasions, by different people.

Intense.

Obsessive.

​Extreme.

Too much. 

Granted, I understand I can be very passionate about things. Sometimes it is exhausting. It takes a lot of effort to curb my enthusiasm just so I come across as friendly or fun or, in millennial parlance, chill.

Perhaps, there is a more graceful way of doing things.

But the thing is, I am very absorbed with the things I care about. And sometimes, it does get personal. Of course, I do catch myself at times when I feel that a criticism is really just that–a way to help me improve myself, and not an attack on my character.

I am intense because I care. Because I’d like to believe that I have done everything in my power to make things happen. I can rest well knowing that I have exhausted all means to solve the problem I’m facing.

At times, it does spill over to people close to me. And I feel guilty knowing that I have a tendency to put pressure on my loved ones to become better. Maybe it’s also because I have experienced that very same pressure growing up, and that to let myself buckle under it is a terrible sign of defeat.

​ As a song goes: “When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.”

I have to learn how to master this fire and make it last for a very long time, without burning the ones I care for the most.

The Potential Project

Uncategorized
Picture

“So ephemeral is that will-o’-the-wisp, Success!” – “Half a Sheet of Paper”, August Strindberg (Photo taken during New Year’s Eve 2018)
Never enough.

​​In my unending mission to improve myself, I constantly pummel myself with this phrase: never enough.

There’s always something left to be done.

There’s always room to improve myself.

​There’s always a better way to do things.

 I’m my worst critic. I have a tendency to constantly review the things I’ve done, the words that I’ve said, and the way I have reacted to some things. ​I try my best–but despite this, I always feel that I fall short. 

Never enough.

It can be an unforgiving mantra. And I will admit that I can be very unforgiving towards myself, at times. I sometimes envy people who could laugh their mistakes off and think nothing of it. I see the smarter ones mull over their errors and charge it to experience.

I don’t. I often see failures as weaknesses of my character. I could’ve done better, but I didn’t–hence I failed.

I couldn’t learn fast enough.

I didn’t act quickly enough.

I didn’t do enough.

While the good thing is that it reminds me to never become complacent, telling myself all the time that it’s never enough can be very exhausting. And frankly, there are times when I just want to curl up in a ball and not do anything at all, paralyzed by this fear that I am setting myself up for a landslide of failures.

Sometimes I wonder how my mom did it. I remember this one night, while I was still young, when she told me: “Sometimes I feel weak too, you know?”

It was weird and somewhat disconcerting to see her that way. There was my mother, who always seemed to know what she was doing, admitting that she wasn’t as strong as I imagined her to be.

It’s easy to box people into certain facets that we see of them. I’ve always known my mom as this stern, impenetrable, invincible force that held the world together. She got shit done. That may have meant, at times, that she was emotionally inaccessible, but perhaps that was how she made things happen.

She had to be strong because people depended on her.  She was the stereotypical tiger mom.

I feel like I’ve emulated that attitude, maybe a bit to the extreme. Most moments, I would keep quiet as I try to lay out all the scenarios that could happen, planning my course of action for each possibility.

I want to be the best of what I can be. And to want this constantly is to assume that who I am is not exactly the best. The room for improvement is always ever-growing.

​I suppose the solution for this is to maintain a healthy discontentment.

The human experience is fraught with failures as well as successes, after all. Each failure is an opportunity to dust one’s self off and try again.

By not being enough, I can keep on trying. And that should be enough to make me kinder to myself.