BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

for the twenty-something

(Giane, my smart German-looking student, sent me this essay circulating in the Internet. Some are true for me, some are not. The ones that struck me most are the ones I italicized).

They call it the "Quarter-life Crisis." It is
when you stop going along with the crowd and
start realizing that there are a lot of things
about yourself that you didn't know and may not

You start feeling insecure and wonder where you
will be in a year or two, but then get scared
because you barely know where you are now.

You start realizing that people are selfish and
that, maybe, those friends that you thought you
were so close to aren't exactly the greatest
people you have ever met and the people you have
lost touch with are some of the most important

What you do not realize is that they are
realizing that too and are not really cold or
catty or mean or insincere, but that they are as
confused as you.

You look at your job. It is not even close to
what you thought you would be doing or maybe
you are looking for one and realizing that you are
going to have to start at the bottom and are

You miss the comforts of college, of groups, of
socializing with the same people on a constant

But then you realize that maybe they
weren't so great after all. You are beginning to
understand yourself and what you want and do not
want. Your opinions have gotten stronger. You
see what others are doing and find yourself
judging a bit more than usual because suddenly
you realize that you have certain boundaries in
your life and add things to your list of what is
acceptable and what is not.

You are insecure and then secure. You laugh and
cry with the greatest force of your life. You
feel alone and scared and confused.

Suddenly change is the enemy and you try and
cling on to the past with dear life but soon realize
that the past is drifting further and further away
and there is nothing to do but stay where you
are or move forward.

You get your heart broken and wonder how
someone you loved could do such damage to you
or you lay in bed and wonder why you can't meet anyone
decent enough to get to know better.

You love someone and maybe love someone else at
same time and you cannot figure out why you are doing this because you are not a bad person.

One night stands and random hook ups start to look
cheap and getting wasted and acting like an idiot
starts to look pathetic.

You go through the same emotions and questions
over and over and talk with your friends about
the same topics because you cannot seem to
make a decision. You worry about loans and money and
the future and making a life for yourself and
while winning the race would be great, right now
you'd just like to be a contender!

What you may not realize is that everyone
reading this relates to it. We are in our best
of times and our worst of times, trying as hard
as we can to figure this whole thing out.

Send this to your twenty-something friends...
maybe it will help someone feel like they are
not alone.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

job description: guardian

Barely awake, I struggle to get out of bed. It is Saturday, just about the only day when there's no work, affording me the luxury to sleep as much as I want to. But not this time.

Mom and Dad are in Uncle Sam's territory, probably having their usual lovers' quarrel up there in the Empire State Building, having their snapshots taken in front of the White House, strolling along Ellis Island to have a full view of the Statue of Liberty or simply enjoying their grand vacation.

I am the appointed temporary caretaker of the house, which has two younger beings (so grown up I don't know why our parents call them, ang mga bata).

I am thrust into this obligation because I am the only older sibling still staying at home.

And so I steel myself to get up. It is only 10:30 a.m. and on a Saturday morning, 10:30 a.m. is to me, just about 6 a.m. My brain is still in deep slumber. A cold shower washes away my sluggish state but not my sense of duty. And so I oblige.

I have to bring my 13-year old sister to the doctor because she has these small, red, ugly dots all over her back. It's something like Chicken Pox but not quite. It looks more like pimples, the embarassing kind which makes you want to stay home when you have them and you're going to be meeting your highschool crush or when you know you'd be face to face with Rico Blanco.

We reach the hospital and as we make our way to the doctor's clinic, the shrieks, cries, shouts, laughter and wailing of children reverberate in the hallway. They're so noisy they make me want to turn back, dash to the car and go back to bed.

But I can't. In fact, I have to endure the annoying environment for one hour. We are obviously late so we have no choice but to fall way behind the line.

Children, mostly below five years old, are all over the place. I entertain myself by watching a fat little girl in white shorts, flowery red shirt, pig-tails and all. She has a huge sandwich on one hand, an apple in another and a Tetrapack orange juice snuggled in between her thighs.

She devours on her food, gulps on the juice and then runs back and fourth down the hallway, impatiently waiting for her turn with the doctor. Five minutes more of doing this, she suddenly turns red and her eyes turn bigger than usual. She holds her tummy and runs to her mother who knows better.

The mother takes out a plastic bag, puts this in front of her daughter's mouth and waits for the dam to open.

Gross. I look away, take out my MP3 player and try to disappear into the world of U2, Bob Marley, Nina Simone and Rico Blanco.

Thirty minutes more of waiting and we finally have our turn. I am sitting in front of the doctor trying to act motherly, or at the very least like a guardian. (That is my official title in my little sister's school functions).

Little sister has this and that, I say to the doctor, also my pediatrician soon after I was born.

No, she's not allergic to medicines and to any specific food and no, she has not been doing something out of the ordinary, I try to say with authority.

Little sister has hand-foot-mouth disease, the doctor says after examining her back.

"What!!????" I panic. "Foot and mouth disease?!!!"

No, the doctor says and laughs. Not that kind, he says.

It's some sort of a virus which will be gone in five days if she drinks all the medicines. While explaining this to me, my mobile phone suddenly rings. A businessman wants to be interviewed. I excuse myself and talk to the source for a while. The doctor calls me again. I have to stop my interview.

After one hour, we are buying medicines worth P1,000. The money for groceries has been diverted to curing hand-foot-mouth disease.

We have nothing more for the week except sardines and Lucky Me and the occasional adobo that our grandmother would cook for us once in a while. Instead, we have P1,000 worth of medicines for curing hand-foot-mouth disease.

Three days since that day, little sister's back is slowly returning to normal. My temporary role as mother will hopefully, temporarily stop, too.

Or so I thought.

This morning, little brother wakes me up from a deep slumber. He has colds, cough and flu. What does he do? He asks me.

I throw the question to myself. What do you do, Iris?

My dutiful side tells me: Wake up, wake up and act like mother again.

Hay, ang mga bata...