To art is human

Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. – Banksy

I could not take my eyes off the Ruscha.

Displayed in MoMA New York, I spent a good hour just staring at it; studying every detail of it– the static, the noise, the lull, the blandness; and finally finding solace in the familiarity and oddness of it.

My undergraduate is in Fine Art, but for the longest time I was not able to find my preferred medium until after graduation, years later: not in the comfort of my brushes, but in letters.

Writing to me is like going on autopilot. It felt intuitive. Natural. Like breathing. or flirting.

I wrote for myself first, for therapy; before progressing to publishing for a wider audience. However writing as a profession didn’t make much sense to me. I derive too much pleasure from it. To get paid to meander–it seems a little to selfish.

I find that ink is usually tinged with revenge, and pain or internal conflict, being the creative lubricant. If I were happy and in bliss, I become pretty useless on picking up a pen.

I recently heard in a podcast that da Vinci’s writings showed his psychological conflicts, how he had erratic mood swings. The speaker later noted that if Leonardo was born today, modern Western medical care would diagnose him with bipolar disorder and his shrink would put him on medication to neutralize Leonardo’s moods. Frida, Beethoven, Munch and van Gogh would have their own diagnosed mental illnesses too.

I don’t know what that implies; if human society should be thankful for modern medicine; but I am also a little sad about this common acceptance for muting what makes humans essentially human.

I do not know what I’ll do if I just let my emotions sit and die inside. Emotions get cabin fever, too.

And so I paint. I write. I dance. I create. I let myself have feels. Let the feels go on overdrive. Go in a trance, create, and hopefully, return safely back to the world of normalcy.

Art is a spiritual experience. It is no coincidence why the first priests in history: the shamans, were also the first artists, dancers, singers and performers. They create chants, cave paintings and performances; coming into a trance-like state–to communicate to the gods; seeking for a successful hunt or the absence of storms.

To participate in art is like coming to prayer: a commune between the human and the cosmos. Just like the prehistoric shaman performing chants and sacred dances in the bonfire; we are still enthralled when we witness the performance of the debonair pianist in the jazz club. Or the Lady Gaga Super Bowl performance, 2017.

Or, in my case, the silent impressions of the monochromatic Ruscha, The End, 1991.

23783433_991014251040718_2782742236945379881_o

 

 

 

Advertisements

The problem with writers

“Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” – Pico Iyer

Writers are selfish creatures, master manipulators of the mind.

When you first meet them, they will hook you with their intense curiosity.

Do not mistake interest for friendship. Or romantic interest.

They’ve been known to keep people and relationships in their lives longer than they should– just because they make interesting character understudies for their next book.

They will look at you with inquisitive eyes, boring into your soul, trying to figure out your place in the plot.

They will shower you with attention, and soak information like a sponge–what you do, what you wear, what you say, and the inner workings of your mind–your drive, motivations, your dreams, your soul. What ticks you off? What makes you feel alive? 

Oysters open completely during a full moon, and when a crab sees one it throws a stone or seaweed so it cannot close again and becomes the crab’s ready meal.

Just like the oyster, be careful with the words you express when in company of a writer—they will hold on to every word you said and quote you on that, at that. They will then decide to be brutally honest, or cunningly deceiving–or both.

They will read between the lines, and if nonexistent and purely innocent, invent the words between the lines. Heck, they may even try to predict your future actions, or create and recreate plots and denouements. 

They’ve got you all figure out in their head. And if they’re wrong—isn’t that what the fiction genre is for?

You might find, in the middle of the date, the author paramour lost and elsewhere—sometimes lost in reverie; and sometimes, lost in the next table’s conversations.  They are notorious eavesdroppers who take mental notes of interesting lines and plot lines.

They will study the neighbors in question: they will take note of the man’s sweaty palms, and the texture of the woman’s hair and when it’s been last washed, the gaze, the body language—and conclude whether it is the first or the fifty-first date.

They will usually end up having their soup cold.

They have tendencies to exaggerate for dramatic flair; and exclude unimportant details because they are boring. They will paint the day with descriptions—they can skillfully describe a cheeseburger like they would describe sex, and in turn describe sex like it is the last meal of their life.

And yet, oddly and selfishly, writers do not reciprocate.

They refuse to give back as much as they take in. They are fiercely private, putting up glass walls to protect themselves; to keep control of their identities; to protect their stories. They do not wish to be at the mercy of the listener, unwilling to be subject to another storyteller’s liberties.

No other human finds comfort in ambiguity than a writer. They live for the ‘what-could-be’s and ‘could-have-been’s. The notion that there is no current conclusion is very beautiful; it gives us hope that we can always rewrite a better ending in the future. That’s how writers feel a sense of control in our lives, how we make sense of the world, by tricking ourselves that we take charge of the stories.

Fleeting

I remember this two-hour train ride somewhere from Connecticut to New York. I was talking to this guy about Philippine cacao beans and da Vinci’s mood swings and weighted-average cost of capital, and there was a moment when he was looking at me with this silly expression of ‘this person is really cute’. I kept thinking about it because I wouldn’t understand how someone would look at me that way, especially that I just spilled coffee all over this stranger’s suit a few minutes ago; and more so because he was listening with great intensity as I was talking about something so mundane as corporate finance.

I collect stories of spontaneous encounters and treat them like fairy tales. Once I got up the train, I knew I would never encounter the soul again; but there is something so romantic about fleeting moments. It makes me feel more human; brief reminders that I will never be in complete control of life and fate. At the same time, fleeting moments make me feel immortal; I would be forever entrenched in someone’s memory when I taught them something, when I was young, curious and feisty.

 

“People are impermanent. Remember this and you’ll be just fine,” is well tattooed on my mind; something I say to delude myself.

What a naive way to protect myself. I don’t think I believe in it, anymore. Having been around the world and back–in solo travel and spontaneous trips–you meet so many people but realize that authentic connections rarely happen in life.

People come and go, but that’s alright. Every human encounter touches another’s life story–whether they stay or not–you will never be the same again. Maybe it’s okay to be a little selfish and want them in your life for a longer while.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 10.11.31 PM

The Runaway Bride Stigma

‘If you’re so bold, jumping on cliffs without a flinch, why do you hesitate at love?’ 

That statement from a friend sounded more like a mocking dare. Like, ‘I bet you can’t do that!’

There’s nothing quite as painful as suppressing a much-needed eye roll. I know he means well, but with equal weight I also feel he deserves more like a punch in the face.

I wanted to be more mature and philosophical as I recalled Art of Stillness.

‘Look at the household cat. By the look of his constant look of boredom, he portrays to the humans a life of monotony; if not for the occasional betrayal of evidence in the form of mutilated bird and rodent corpses here and there that tells us of murders our feline friends in their daily lives.’

‘And—that’s why you never want to get married.’

I will always be the villain in their eyes. I’ll always have that runaway bride stigma carried with me. I don’t blame that it’s not so difficult for people to forget that time when, a month before the wedding day with all the preparations set, I did a 360. No wedding is going to happen.

Not my proudest moment. But my friends bring it up occasionally, just to make fun of me . I’ll always be that ‘runaway bride’, ‘girl who’s afraid of commitment’, ‘guarding her freedom like her life depended on it’.

And then there’s this urban legend about me bringing ‘bad wedding luck’ to couples.

Hmm. maybe that’s why despite all the wedding posts on Facebook, I never get an invite.

Ten years ago I was that annoying manic pixie dream girl with paint splatters in her clothes and rolls of film in her bag. You know, the type who used to poop fireworks and rainbows as well.

I was always in a relationship. Jumping from one long-term relationship to another; the kind that lasts for years and years that people start thinking we’re going to eventually end up together. And then I jump the gun and surprise everyone. At the last minute, I realize that it wasn’t really something I wanted. For some reason, when my relationships get close to marriage, I bail out. Queue in intense disappointment from family, friends and loved ones.

The caveat with labels and stigmas: Oh, she’s the straight-A’s stellar girl; that one’s the problem child and this one’s the alpha female. The problem with assigning people (or your own children) labels is that they will tend to live up to that label, until they fall short of your expectations and you assign them a new one.

And probably that’s also my issue with boyfriends and girlfriends: they assign you to their version of a ‘perfect mate’. But in the end, people don’t truly get to know their loved ones’ souls. They dream of ‘perfect’, but perfect is shallow. They have no interest in knowing your complexities, and they pay the price with heartache.

Look at Tom and Summer.

‘You overshadow me and don’t give me a chance at the spotlight‘, an ex said. What a big amount of bullshit. It’s been a recurring theme in my relationships, men make it out like it’s a sprint marathon; and their expectations are as lofty as their egos.

I remember years ago, I got into a bad fight with one of my exes. I got a business award and he surprised me with a large bouquet in the awarding ceremony. I thanked him, but was really busy talking to other people all day. When we got home, he went all out on me because I didn’t ‘thank him enough’. I think he wanted me to swoon and keel and maybe cry a little.

That was one of the early red flags that it wouldn’t work; but unfortunately I let it pass and it ended up to be a toxic three-year-relationship with constant validation and insecurities. It’s shocking to see he started as being supportive and encouraging at first but ended up with so much resentment.

Somehow, it still had to be about him. He assigned me his concept of what I should be–and frankly, I can’t just be benched to the supporting cast.

You outgrow people. People understand, but unfortunately most exes don’t.

It’s always hard to break up with someone, more so your long-term partners. I never break up with someone unless with good cause. You started pushing them to become better versions of themselves and years down the line you end up pulling most of the weight. Most of the time, you realize that you have outgrown this person you once thought would be your life partner.

The older you get, the shorter the relationships become because you finally realize what you need; and what you can and cannot tolerate.

Maybe there will come a time when we meet that person who doesn’t make it like a competition. A person that, as Pico Iyer put it, a companion that is strange and familiar all at once; with enough change to quicken my mind, and enough steadiness to give sanctuary to my heart. A soul who feels like home and adventure all at once. Someone who gets your impulsiveness and fosters your curious spirit; a partner-in-crime who is as steady as a rock and with the same brand of crazy.

Until then, the world has enough curiosities to keep me fascinated — and a four-year-old boy who made me feel what unconditional love feels like.

home and adventure in love.jpg

Love and dating in the Tinder era

I caught up with a previous guy I dated before. Amazingly, this guy still chose to be friends with me– I’m not friends with majority of my exes.

I met him while I was in Paris for two months and dated briefly; until you realize that you’re different when you’re on holiday and when you’re home; and that means you would not date some people otherwise if you were on real-life mode.

A few months later and 10,000km apart, I’m now giving this guy dating and relationship advice.

Sure, he would still give his usual spiel that I should come and live in Paris instead (he has 200 different reasons, none of which were thoroughly convincing). Then in surrender, he would confide how it’s difficult to find a real relationship nowadays–despite his numerous matches and options at hand nowadays.

This is coming from someone who’s a 6-ft. tall doctor with dashboard abs and a jawline that can cut things. and French. 

After coming from two half-decade relationships with no breathing time in between, and then being suddenly single; I don’t know how to navigate the ‘modern dating scene’ anymore (hence, I’m really not the best person to ask for love and relationship advice).

It seems that love in the modern era is trickier, muddier, murkier. Online dating has made the dating game a numbers game. Those dating apps are supposed to make things easier, but harder at the same time. Everyone’s suddenly commitment-phobic, hooking up is normal, and everything is all about instant gratification. There are now several relationship statuses created by millennial dating; a spectrum of greys that were once just black-and-white: Casual dating, ‘just hanging out’, laissez-faire, FWBs, Cuddle Buddies, Hotline Blings, one-sided relationships, on-again, off-again couples… a lot of these definitely didn’t exist the last time I was last single.

And yet, people still yearn for that real connection. You can tell by the shared ThoughtCatalog articles complaining about the same thing. We all want the same, real thing. Everyone just pretends to not give a damn.

Modern dating is just like Game of Thrones. There’s just too many characters to keep track of, and you seriously can’t get attached to any of them, because you know nothing so good would last too long. Love in the time of Tinder is a lot like love in the time of cholera.

I’m not saying finding love on Tinder or online dating websites is not possible. Some people swear by it. It was an easy choice to disconnect for me. I needed that spur-of-the-moment, unpremeditated element. That real and rare connection. I need to see the madness in your eyes. I just need to know if we’re the same brand of crazy.

Hang in there, Bastien. It’s all a struggle for us.

Why Do We Travel?

I had lunch alone again.

I was sat in a little Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, staring at my pho and contemplating why I keep on doing this. Why I continue to put myself into uncomfortable situations.

Coming from a country with strong social ties, traveling is done with family or friends. Traveling alone is unheard of–especially for a (gasp) young female on a quarter-life crisis.

Who’s going to eat lunch with you? Who’s going to make sure you won’t get lost? Who’s going to take your pictures?!?!?!

It all felt liberating, to be able to do everything on my own. Eating alone and mastering selfies were the easy part of the equation. But having the patience of a small bladder, I found bearing through long queues alone the hardest. To occupy my time, I often engage in idle chitchat with other tourists in the queue. I’m usually lucky enough to have an American in front or behind me, as they are usually the most talkative and do not hesitate in telling me their life story a few minutes later.

So, really, why do you travel?

Screen-Shot-2015-08-19-at-11.20.41-PM

I am chasing my dreams, pursuing my happiness, I tell myself. Traveling will enlighten me. Traveling will make me happy. I do not need superficial and material possessions to validate my being.

And yet I know this is not totally truthful. I, just like most travelers, am sold to the myths of travel. No studies prove that traveling makes any of us happier. Our desires are shaped by romantic consumerism–they are neither personal nor natural, but ideas shaped by modern Western thought on humanist, capitalist and romantic myths.

Traveling is the new vanity. Traveling entails cost, and thus, it is a commodity–the hottest in the market of beard-growing hipsters today.

If I was Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a rich Italian merchant, in the 14th century– which will make me adore my husband more– a trans-Atlantic cruise or my oil portrait painted by one of Italy’s greatest masters? Similarly, an Egyptian royal would never think of going on a holiday to satisfy his desires. He would rather dedicate his life to building himself a pyramid.

We are all in the bandwagon of experience-based consumerism and it’s so hard to get out of the fluff. The tourism industry ought to thank our new freethinking philosophy. The capitalists we hate so much are earning so much from us, as well.

After engaging in a ten-minute monologue, I am brought back to reality of my piss cold pho.

When life throws you egg yolks, make leche flan

Anyone who knows me know how much I love leche flan. Who doesn’t love leche flan? I am an avid fan and still think that the creme brulee still pales in comparison, especially our Nanay Juaning’s leche flan.

image

Origins of many of our favorite desserts in the Philippines started with the basic concept of supply and demand. Egg whites were used to make mortar back then for constructing Spanish baroque churches and forts. When mixed with quicklime, it is a very strong adhesive for construction.

What would you do with the surplus of egg yolks? Make desserts of course! You know that famous saying, ‘when life throws you egg yolks, make flans’? That’s exactly what they did. Thanks to them well-loved desserts such as the leche flan, brazo de mercedes, etc. were born. Seriously I’m just using ‘etc.’ cause it makes me sound smarter but I can’t think of any other dessert on top of my mind.

There are so many things I blame the Spanish for: such as the evil Spanish Inquisition, our mañana habit and our financial ruin. But there are some things to be thankful for, such as the flan.

(This is a reblog from my old blog in Tumblr blog back in 2012)