So I woke up in the middle of surgery...

...and other fears realized in a span of one day.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Exactly a week ago I was enjoying a non-working but productive holiday that ended when I decided to sleep off what I thought were the onset of hunger pangs at midnight. A couple of hours later I woke up with all hell breaking loose! My entire tummy was on fire!

It took all of my strength to get up out of bed and go to the bathroom for any "unloading" that might help ease the pain in either solid, liquid, or gaseous form. I also did the laying down on my stomach thing. I was rewarded for all my effort by the easing and subsiding pain in my sides. I was hoping I can just sleep the rest of it away and maybe take a halfday from work. Except the remaining pain would not let me sleep. And when I can't sleep, my mind wanders, and so does my hand. I had begun to think that this was more than just a gastric thing. After some careful prodding, I found it. My stomach was hurting all over, but there was one spot where it hurt the most: On the lower right abdomen.

I already knew then what was happening but I just told my mom that I'm going to the hospital because my tummy aches. To my surprise, she decided to accompany me. This scene was actually a rerun of an incident from mid-2007: Same scenario - me writhing in stomach pain and telling her I have to go to the hospital. I took a cab by myself to the UST Hospital emergency room where nurses immediately took lab tests of my liquids while doctors poked and prodded my stomach. Come daylight, the pain was gone (with no medication to boot) and all the doctors could say was that "It may have been appendicitis but the problem was not surgical in nature yet". I was back at the office the same morning.

Since that incident I have prepared myself for the eventuality of a repeat performance. I read up on the appendix, and pretty much understood what all the poking was about! Last week's rerun happened pretty much the same way, except my mom was with me, we went to UERM instead, and when the doctor arrived to do the poking, fears 1 and 2 materialized.

Fear #1: Yes, it's appendicitis. According to my blood tests, my white blood cells are on overdrive - they're fighting an infection and my bloody red and crusting sore right eye, which I also unfortunately contracted the day before, isn't enough to cause it. It was the only indication as none of the tell-tale symptoms materialized - my urine test didn't yield anything nasty, I wasn't feverish, they were bending my legs to check if anything would hurt and pressing my abdomen to check if it would hurt upon release. Nada! Zilch!

Fear #2: My age has become a liability. I believe the doctor's exact words were "Because of YOUR AGE and history (the mid-2007 incident), you're at a higher risk." I was 25 when I had my first run-in and I just turned 30 barely two months ago! How was this happening to me?!

When the threat of an invasive surgery became real, so did fear #3: Being unprepared to handle the expenses. When the doctor laid it down that surgery is the order of the day, my mom asked if I was prepared. Did she mean financially prepared? I just got back from Hong Kong a month ago, I just lost my phone, and was paying debts acquired months before. So, no, I wasn't She actually meant if I was mentally prepared. Oh, that I definitely was. I've thinking about this moment since the 2007 incident and was actually very calm about it.

So we opted to get admitted to the Charity Ward as we couldn't afford my own room and what got me wasn't contagious anyway. I had vomitted twice that morning: Once before they fitted me with an IV bag and once after. The second time was nastier as all I could barf out was bitter yellow bile. They stuck me with a pain killer that did not seem to work - I was still in so much pain. At least until I got to my bed at the Charity Ward to await my operation.

Maybe it was the air conditioning in the Emergency Room, but the pain seemed to have dissipated at the Charity Ward. By that afternoon, cooled only by electric fans, I started having second thoughts about going through with it as I was suprisingly feeling better. But I thought if it doesn't happen now, it's going to come back with a vengeance at some point. Get it over with now before it gets complicated. Thankfully I was able to sleep that afternoon before I had my operation that early evening.

As they were wheeling my stretcher to the operating room, I wondered what my mom thought. This is only the second time she's seen me at the hospital other than the time I was born after all! Was she more nervous than I was? Frankly I was excited! I can notch it up to my list of new experiences this year and it would relieve me of this pain and anxiety! Plus: Being stark naked under the gown was oddly liberating! I knew I was gonna come out of it okay, so I wasn't afraid of never waking up. If anything, I was more afraid of waking up in the middle of surgery!

Which brings us to fear #4.

I don't know when I lost consciousness, but I remember waking up on the operating table. I couldn't open my eyes and I couldn't feel anything but I know my arms were spread out. I don't know if they had sliced me open already and were in the middle of extracting that demanding but useless vestigial organ, but I felt the freezing cold! My chest and arms were shaking. My teeth were chattering. And I can hear! I did hear someone say that it was too cold. One even noticed that I was shivering. I panicked more at the thought of being conscious through the rest of the operation in this frigid madness not being able to do anything than being conscious as they cut through to my innards. Fortunately, that lasted only a matter of minutes and the next thing I knew I was at the recovery room, unable to feel my legs. So this was what paraplegia felt like. It wasn't a fear I had come to life but it was still disconcerting.

They told me that for the anesthesia to wear off completely so I can move my legs, I had to breathe deep and exhale. Unfortunately, since I started taking singing lessons and learned proper breathing technique, "breathing deep" for me involves the expansion of my stomach - exactly where they had just patched me up! So I had to breathe through my chest and lungs again, but I kept dozing off, so it took quite a while before I could move my legs again. When I finally lifted both knees, they sent me back to the Charity Ward where I spent the next two days recovering.

It's been a week since the operation. I'm okay now, resting and recovering at home. The staff of UERM really did a good job looking after me. Of course, my concern now is: Will it leave a scar? Will I get fat after this? That latter part is actually fear #5. Here's hoping it doesn't materialize.


Poster Boy

So I haven't even blogged about the Avengers this entire year at all, and a lot has certainly gone down already what with next year's movie certainly boiling things up. While I try my darnedest not to keep up or get affected by all the hype, it's another story when it comes to all the merchandise that have recently sprung up (riding on the coattails of the movie, of course). And since Bendis' fan fiction of the franchise is an exercise in self-torment to continuously follow, building up my collection helps keep me in the fandom.

There's really not much of a story there since I've been pretty lucky so far. Just check out how I was able to complete last year's wish list. However, there was one acquisition that I enjoy telling the story of because of its scale! It all started with this post on the National Bookstore Facebook Page.

When I found out about it, they were already announcing the winner. But I was determined to get a copy of that poster or at least a soft copy of the art. To that end, I posted a question on some of my comic book groups on Facebook asking if anybody knew where the art from the poster was. It was one of the responses that got me my first lead: the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention where it was given away for FREE!

A quick google search led me to this picture:

Which led me to this blog, and to this Facebook account! It's the only image of it that's available online. I tried to spot the signature of the artist from the photo to no avail. So I did the last logical thing to do: Contacted the owner of this very poster and offered to buy it from him, but no - I should've known better than to think a fellow geek will part with a limited edition FREE print for money. He wished me luck on the hunt, though.

While I wasn't quite back to square one, I was completely out of leads. In desperation, I posted the photo on my FB wall asking people for leads in exchange for my soul. Manny pointed out that there was a Hasbro event on the same day I posted it, which I knew about but didn't bother to go to, and guess what? They were giving away the poster for FREE! Another missed opportunity.
In one final act of desperation, I emailed everyone on the STGCC Contact Us page asking them if they still have some leftover copies that I can buy! At least tell me where they got it or who the artist was! I wasn't expecting anyone to respond, but one of them did, telling me that I can get a copy for FREE from their office! All I needed was to work out the logistics, which basically meant asking some SG-based friends to pick it up for me!

I first asked my college friend Ninay because I knew she was about to fly back here, but she got sick so she wasn't able to pick it up for me. Next person I asked was fellow geek Hec who, as it turns out, works so close to the office where the posters were to be picked up from! I was expecting just 1 copy, but Hec said there were 11 posters plus bigger ones for the Captain America movie, which I didn't care for so I asked Hec to do with them as he pleased. Another geek friend, Mark, visited SG a few days later and brought the posters back. I didn't get them from him when we met up several days later as it was raining. The next time I saw my posters and finally brought them home was exactly on my birthday just last month! How timely!

It's not the most adventurous end that a fan has gone to to build their collection, but it's certainly the most insane I've ever done for my fandom! I still can't believe the length I've gone to for a poster! Right now, the posters (all 9 of them - I gave 1 each to Hec and Mark for their troubles) are tucked away while I figure out where to put one up in my room!

By year's end I'll probably blog about how the collection has grown, and update this entry from 4 years ago (wow!). In the meantime, Avengers Assemble!


Birthday Weekend

First of: May I just say I love how I can post to Blogspot straight from Picasa? Google FTW!!!

Anyway, so I had a very hectic weekend, which began last Friday and continued on until Sunday. I turned 30 and yes, it's a bit of a big deal. I guess what most people dread about turning 30 is the expectations - career-wise, family-wise, etc. I don't know if that was ever my problem as: a) my family has never really pressured me to be anything really; and b) I spit at the expectations that society place upon me!

I suppose I'm just afraid of getting old, of being weighed down by physical and societal limitations. I just barely started over and I'm still a work in progress. And I like it like that. I like that I'm still growing and discovering new stuff about myself and the world around me.
But the pessimist in me feels that I'm not going to make a career out of all the new things I'm re-learning (like music, singing, art, and dance for example).
And the realist believes that the opportunities that would have been available to me at 25 and under are nil at 30 onwards - even if the 30 year old me is smarter and more talented.
Yet the optimist knows that I'm going to keep trying and learning anyway - because guess what? I still can! Damn all the odds!
I suppose I just want to stay young and foolish, wide-eyed and hopeful. I don't ever want to hear myself say "I can't anymore!"
So when they say that growing old is mandatory and growing up is optional, I would rather have it the other way around because growing up comes naturally to me. I keep making mistakes and owning up to them. I keep wanting to discover and explore. I'm perpetually a kid. I'm just genetically engineered to stay young forever.
I mean, just look at me. I'm hot stuff! (Something I never would have said 2 - 3 years ago!)
Best decision I ever made was to take better care of myself: quit smoking, get a job that was fulfulling but not stressful, cut back on oil and carbs, and get enough sleep. I still have a 29-30 inch waistline and I intend to keep it that way!
So turning 30 can suck my dick cause I don't look and feel like it!

I'd say this though: I wouldn't trade what I have now for the chance to go back to my younger self.
Just look at what I have:

Finally having friends who indulge my delusions and make me feel like a star.

Finally opening my home and share my personal space with friends I've known the longest.
Finally ridding myself of the guilt with friends I felt that I've lied to for 10 years!
Finally having a healthier relationship with my family!
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Turning 30 in a Few Hours

If you've been following me on Tumblr (Or on Facebook or Twitter for that matter), you'd have probably noticed a series of photos I've been uploading daily over the past few days, starting with the one of me and my mom when I was born.
It's sort of like a countdown to my birthday, which is just a few hours away actually.
And it's not just any birthday.
I'm turning 30.

I'd like to give this entire campaign a deeper meaning like being "a look back on the past 30 years and seeing how far I've come" kind of deal but I just know it's a load of bull. I'm just an attention whore. Period.

In any case, notice that all of the pictures I've posted are scanned photos back from when digital imaging was but a dream. The thing is that from 2005 onwards, which is about when I was 23 years old, all pictures of me were from digicams already and exist somewhere on the web in one way or another. So I thought the scanned pics (most of them scanned straight from the negatives) are most likely a surprise to some people, especially to my friends now. I was interested in how people would react to old photos of me. (What part of "attention whore" is hard to understand?)

Anyway, do visit my tumblr account and go through the photos if you like.

In the meantime, in honor of turning 30, I shall leave you with a couple of photos I had taken at a studio when I turned 21, specifically so I can remember how I looked like back then in case I turned out differently somewhere down the road. Yes, I know look awkward in these photos and it's not really something I should share or be proud about, but hey! That was me at 21.

I actually don't see much of a difference between these guys and me now.
Whether that's a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
Here's to turning 30.
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4 Medals and a Trophy

Thank goodness for long weekends for the time to get stuff done and be able to blog about it. I haven't blogged in a while and this entry is one of those I've been wanting to share for the longest time.

You see, one of my issues in high school was that I never got to be awarded anything. I tried joining drawing and writing contests but never once placed. Blame it on the amount of great talent we had in Community of Learners. We're a small school, mind you, so it's easy to get noticed if you're brilliant in one way or another.

It's also easy to feel mediocre and unimportant.

It didn't help that I played no sports nor was I academically gifted. I loved doing productions and plays but I'm always relegated among the red shirts. I never really shone at anything!

This frustration was among the reasons I chose to delay college after junior year and fly to Canada to finish my high school (and ideally my life) there.

It was a good call on my part.

About 2 years later, I came back to Manila and enrolled in DECS' home study program. Upon graduation, I clenched my very first medal: 3rd honor (among hundreds of graduates). Not bad considering I didn't have any tutors at all. I would've been first honor and the other two above me would have been Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Sadly, schools are only allowed one of each and since our school had "regular" students as well, those titles belonged to them. A little trivia: Our first honor was actress Dimples Romana.

After that little victory, I knew I was ready for college. So off to UST I went. I had so many plans and things I wanted to pursue, but there was one I did not realize I was even decent at: Debating! Which gave me my 3 other medals.

I had encountered debaters my freshman year mostly because of my political activities. By my sophomore year, I decided to give it a shot and voila! There I was representing Communication Arts (CA) for 2002's AB Debate Series! I was winning my rounds and inching my way to the finals and snagging the 3rd best speaker slot.

However, my promising debating career had to give way to my career in student politics, which was bubbling by then. I won my first election and was holding other positions, so I didn't have much time to debate anymore. I did represent CA again in my junior year though - as a cheerdancer! We placed 1st runner-up!

By the end of my junior year, everyone expected me to run for the student council - an opportunity I've been waiting for since freshman year but ultimately turned down to run for CASA instead. I guess my campaign was bolstered by my winning my first and only trophy: Best Male Presenter of the very first Junior AdQuest, which happened the weekend before the start of campaign season.
Best Male Presenter, 1st Junior AdQuest (2004)
I had never felt like a break out star before or since - getting recognition, earning medals, winning elections. I was on fire!

My last two medals were from senior year. I had to represent CA again for the 2004 AB Debate Series because we had a shortage of members needed to complete the roster. I was awarded 7th best speaker, which is way below the 3rd I won the last time I competed, but it was just deserving. I wasn't training after all, and there were others who did really great during that tournament.

My last medal was for representing my college, the Faculty of Arts and Letters, in the 2005 Crossfire Debate Competition, which was a debate show televised around the campus. Our team managed to make it to the finals but lost to UST High Shool. Again, it wasn't a big loss because we weren't training for it as hard as the other team did, but we gave a good debate. I couldn't have asked for a better round to cap off my career and my college life.

(L-R: 3rd Honor, HS Grad 2001, DECS RESPCI; 3rd Best Speaker, AB Debate Series 2002; 7th Best Speaker, AB Debate Series 2004; Finalist, Crossfire Debate Tournament 2005)
This is definitely a case of "it will come to you when you're ready". It took some time but I got there. I have 4 medals, which I've been meaning to frame for the longest time that I only got around to doing now, and a trophy to display in my room.

Yes, they may not be the ultimate awards, but I did get the ultimate reward: Confidence not to feel mediocre and unimportant anymore. Don't know if and when I'll be able to snag medals and a trophy again, but I'd like to celebrate what I have.


Cheater, Theater

Everyone knows that I've been pretty much watching what I eat because as we grow older, our metabolism tends to slow down and yes! I am a sizist. I do not care for big bellies at all. Of course, it would be nice to pair up my conscious dieting with calorie-burning activities but I'm too much of a wuss to engage in anything physical (except dancing).

In any case, I decided yesterday while I was at the mall that it was going to be my cheat day. I've been a good boy for quite a few weeks actually and successfully cut my beer and rice intake down, so I thought why not. So I got a pair of Hawaiian pizzas from Pizza Hut, a regular serving of curry-flavored fries from Potato Corner, a donut from Gonuts Donuts. The encore was a Miguelito's Fried Ice Cream, which I've been curious about for years but never tried. What I thought was a meager conservative serving at P40 turned out to be this:
That's "fried" chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles, some choco chip cookies, and solid slabs of white chocolate all topped with oozing caramel syrup. I couldn't finish it. I wanted to puke halfway through. I was pretty disgusted at myself.
In other news, I caught Atlantis' production of the Tim Rice/Elton John musical Aida last Thursday night (right as the storm was brewing) courtesy of my good friend Ingrid.

To be honest, it wasn't that good a show as I expected. Don't get me wrong: The musical performances were still great, but coming from someone familiar with the soundtrack, that's to be expected. I guess I enjoyed it because I was experiencing one of my favorite soundtracks live. I'm not certain if anyone not familiar with the music would appreciate it as well.

Ima Castro had the vocal chops, sure, but I never once believed that she was an enslaved Nubian princess. Nor did I believe that Myke Salomon was an Egyptian military commander. Nor did I believe that they were ever in love with each other. Of all the main players, I only believed that Rachel Alejandro was a ditzy Egyptian Queen who eventually comes into her own.

Alas, even the supporting cast didn't fare any better with the exception of Alys Serdenia who was very captivating as Nehebka (She would've made the perfect Aida IMHO). Rachel's own father Hajji failed to convince me that he's a diabolical architect. Also: There was one note from one of his character's repertoire that I was really looking forward to hearing live (which, done right, would've had the same impact as Wicked's Defying Gravity). That fell flat, but that was far from the most unforgivable part of the show.

That honor fell to Josh Santana as Mereb whose performance kept making me cringe in my seat. Everytime he speaks, I felt like I was watching some campus play, which would've offended me if I paid for my ticket. Same goes for watching the male chorus members dancing as Egyptian soldiers. I can't tell if it's the choreography or the execution because the Nubian scenes (which involved the same actors in dual roles) were performed quite beautifully.

I guess the spectacular set design and the rousing vocal numbers (The Dance of the Robe and The Gods Love Nubia come to mind) were the saving graces of this show, which is not really saying anything because I've always known Atlantis to be uncompromising. Well, I hope they ironed the kinks out. That was their very first show anyway, which was more for the benefit of the press.

Lastly, I caught the matinee of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber earlier today. Again, thanks to Ingrid. My first time to watch anything at the CCP Main Theater and I have to say: Anywhere you sit there would be okay. The sound carries through and you can still make out the performers' faces even if we were seated to the side 4-5 rows from the back.

Pic c/o Ingrid
We got in a tad late and missed the first song, but we saw everything else. Eight performers did select songs from Webber's long repertoire, among them Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, among others I'm not quite familiar with (which I shall now rectify). My favorite part was the Cats medley, which closed Act I to roaring applause.

The show felt short for a revue. I wanted to hear As If We Never Said Goodbye and Ingrid wanted to hear Unexpected Song but I guess it's okay. We had a couple of encore performances, which left my palms quite numb from all the applauding I had to do.

So that's been my stormy last few days. My only drama was my laptop's power brick dropping to the floor as our house got flooded (again). Yes, it was charging. Yes, it short circuited. Yes, it's now useless. Yes, I got a replacement already.


Final (ly) Fantasy

    As always, this is a long overdue blog. Not because I've been putting off writing it, but because I had only about an hour ago met the condition with which I intended to herald my writing this entry.
    I finally finished Final Fantasy IV Advance on my Gameboy Micro.   

    As most things concerning me and my geek cred go, this is one of those long time coming scenarios.
    Try about 11 years.
    I had already explained the significance of this game in one of my YouTube videos, but I'll break it down for this blog anyway. Cue magic sparkles and sprinkler music.
    So 11 years ago I was an American-born Filipino bumming around in Canada at the home of my cousins - one of whom just happened to be a huge Backstreet Boys fan, especially of Nick Carter (as all teenage girls at the time were). I can't quite quote the source but there was a rumor that circulated about Nick playing a character called Cloud in an FF adaptation. As my cousins had a SNES unit, they went ahead and rented FFII (which was what FFIV was known in North America) from the local cartridge shop not knowing that Cloud was not in this version of the game.

       This was also around the same time I discovered fantasy books, so my head was constantly swirling with knights, dragons, magic and all these things. Also, my experience with console games at the time was limited to sidescrollers. I have heard of Role Playing Games, but it was always in the context of pen, paper, and dice games that the kids from my high school never invited me to play.

        Given these conditions, a kid like me discovering a console RPG with a story rooted primarily on medieval fantasy was the closest I got to my own Neverending Story. I was hooked from the start and it helped that I got to hog the SNES all day because my cousins were at school. Since we only had the cartridge for about a week, I was on that game from the moment I woke up until when my cousins came home. I got through the torture of waiting by reading more books and creating my own world.

     Keep in mind: This was a time when walkthroughs weren't readily available online so I really had to navigate my way through the game with no help at all. It was both frustrating and liberating, and every level I succeed in just drove me forward.

    Sadly, I never got to finish the game. I guess I took too long figuring some levels out and I think we also had to return the cartridge earlier than expected as we were set to go on a road trip to Seattle (which in itself was a fantasy journey for another time). Though I remember I got as far as the moon, which was more than halfway through the game.

     Flash forward to late 2008. I can't remember why but I was obsessed with getting a Gameboy Micro, the 20th Anniversary Edition even. I'm no hardcore gamer, but I guess it was for people like me that the GBM was made for. I got mine brand spanking new at Greenhills for a fraction of the mall price with two free cartridges to boot (which was a complete surprise). I had done no prior research as to which games were available, but when I saw the FFIV Advance cartridge there, I had the inkling that it was the game I abandoned 9 years prior.

    True enough it was. There's a reason why it had changed numbering but I'm not gonna get into that. As soon as I got home, I started playing it and eventually got farther than where I left the SNES version. For some reason I still didn't get to finish it. I think the levels got too hard.

        Sometime later I got an EZ-Flash IV game cart, which opened me to 2gb worth of GBA roms, including an RPG specifically made for the Advance: Golden Sun and its sequel The Lost Age, which got me through the bleak period of 2009. Then last year I loaded the game cart with all the FF Advance roms, including FFIV, but for one reason or another, still neglected to finish the game. However, I did finish FF1 and the real FF2.

     Then we come to 2011, specifically last March when, on the plane to my Canadian vacation, I decide to start playing FFIV again from the beginning with the express purpose of finishing the game at the same place where I started playing it. It would've been dramatic and poetic.
    Except that I failed.
    Then life and other priorities took over and I found myself only weeks ago deciding to level my characters up so they can defeat the final boss once and for all. As I do this and my characters keep discovering new powers they didn't have before, it dawned on me that maybe it's not them but me who wasn't ready to win yet. I didn't work or prep them hard enough for the final battle.
    Earlier, as I was contemplating what to do with the rest of the night, I decided that I wasn't going to let another day go by that this game remains unfinished. I have confronted and vanquished my own personal demons and have learned to live with and let go of the past, including the dark, idle days of 11 years ago. It was just time.
    So there I was in battle with Zeromus the final boss of FFIV. There were times when I thought I would lose and start over again, but ultimately I prevailed with all my characters alive.

    As I watch the cut scene afterward I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. After all, these were characters I've known way before I was a fan of the Avengers or the Wheel of Time. I guess there's still some drama and poetry to the timing what with my recently invigorated sense of self-worth and confidence.
    It's done. I finally won.


Blame Canadia

This past week, I've been editing and uploading the videos I took of my trip to Canada last month. I've so far updated my Youtube channel with the first half of the trip and I plan to finish everything by this week. The thing is I haven't really seen the extent my footage until I finally sat down and compiled them together to tell the story of the trip.

It's been fun recalling what those two weeks have been like, and I think it's about time that I put this blog together. I've been meaning to write this since the last day of the trip but I just kept putting it off. Not anymore.

A lot of my friends know that I've spent a couple of years in Canada - particularly the years before I went to college in UST. This leads people to assume that I'm as Canadian as Robin Scherbatsky is. In actuality, I'm an American owing to my birthplace being California. The only reason I was in Canada was because the only family I have in the States are those of my father's, and being an illegitimate child, the potential for drama is just ludicrous.
It's all right there!

So 13 years ago, I flew way up north where people are apparently afraid of the dark to stay with my Grandma, my aunt and my cousins. Thew idea was for me to finish high school there. Halfway through that, we discovered that due to me being of the stars-and-stripes and not of the maple leaf, I really shouldn't be studying or even living in Canada.
Who's an illegal alien on account of being American? Only me.

Eventually I was deported back to California where, in the most awkward of situations, I had to stay with my oldest half-brother's family who I had only met the year before. It also just happened to be my 17th birthday. What a lucky kid right? How many people can say that they got to spend their birthday on two different countries?

At the time, a younger half-brother was about to get married and dad was flying over from the Philippines. He laid it down: I couldn't be at the wedding and I can't stay with his family any longer. So he somehow arranged for me to come back to Canada while all the adults on both sides of my family figure out what to do with me since going back to Manila was not an option.
I was the Ryan Lafferty to my dad's family.

So I stayed in Canada for about another year or so. Not studying. Hiding from Canadian immigration. Doing nothing productive with my life but daydream, write and draw. Though I did come up with some of my best stories during that tumultuous time. How many American-born Filipinos are in Canada and how many can say that about themselves?

 I haven't renewed my passport since it expired 8 years ago. What a difference a long time makes.

Eventually, when things were going nowhere, I decided to just quit the whole thing and come back to Manila. By this time, I had become more angst-ridden. The thing I hated most about the whole mess was how everything was a matter of circumstance. So, no, I don't really blame Canadia (as my friends fondly call it).

It's been 11 years since that dark period and I'm proud to say that I managed to pick myself up and got my life together. When I found out earlier this year that I was going back to Canada to accompany my grandmother, the bittersweet memories of those years came rushing back. Yet I was excited. After all, I haven't been out of the country since then.

All set! Not quite.
 Of course, no out-of-country trip is ever complete without my American citizenship giving me trouble. This time with Philippine immigration. At least I know it was my fault and not circumstance.


See you at the Rainbow Bridge, Cowie

I wish this was the blog about how spectacular my recent trip to frigid Canada had been but it's not.

This is the blog about my dog, Cowie.
The one who passed away a couple of days ago.
I've often heard of stories about dogs who get depressed when their master had been gone for a long time. In any of the stories I've heard, the dog ultimately lost the will to live.

Yet I've been told that you can talk to your dog and assure them that you will be back. And against all sense of reason, they will understand.

I had the talk with her before I left. If she understood, there was no way for me to know. But I thought it would be enough.

Apparently not.

When I arrived at the house last Monday morning, she was the first thing I wanted to see. I expected her to meet me at the gate, wagging tail and fussing over the luggage I brought with me. Two calls later and she still wasn't there.

Finally, my mom came out and told me she's been weak, frail and not eating for the past few days. She said to go see her and let her know I've come back.
So I did. There she was under my mom's bed, but for the wagging tail, nothing else let me know that she was happy to see me again. She was so thin and fragile but I had to move her to my room.

She was born in that very same room 10 years ago. That's when I found that my dog just decided to give birth in the comfort of my bed. I thought the little disgusting sac was stillborn but she cleared it up and that's when I got a clearer view of her first pup: A precious little white thing with splotches of brown and black that reminded me of a cow. Hence the name.

Ten years later, on the floor of the bed is where she would take her final breath after days of dehydration and malnutrition.

Perhaps she thought it was her fault and that I abandoned her.
I couldn't help thinking the same. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I abandoned her. Maybe I shouldn't have been gone for so long. After all, two weeks is a long time in a dog's life.

Now she's gone.
The hardest part is going through my old routines and realize she's not there anymore.
Having to wake up on my own every morning because she's not there promptly at 6am poking her nose and her paws in my face, making sure I'm up.
I still set aside leftovers from lunch and dinner only to realize she's not there to lap them up heartily.
I keep expecting she's still there outside the bathroom door waiting for me to finish, but no she's not there.
Just like she's not there when I come home from work. Yet I'm  still careful when I open the door because she might be behind it just waiting to pounce on me and pull me down just so she can lick my face.
She's not there when I open a bag of bread loaf. Wherever she is in the house, whenever I open that bag, I just know she'd come running. I'd tear up the first slice, throw each piece up in the air, and she would always catch them. If I give her an entire slice, she would lie down, piece of bread cupped in both paws, and munch it like a regular person.
What I miss the most is when she just sits down, one paw stretched, waiting for me or anyone to shake her paw. I don't know she picked up that habit but she's the only one of my dogs to have done so.

Her passing marks the end of the dog era in the house. After losing four dogs in two years, I took me a while to muster up the courage to watch "Marley and Me". When I finally did early last, she was there while I cried over that movie. Now she's not here as I cry over this entry.

You stuck with me the longest, and I'm sorry that I wasn't around for the last two weeks of your life. Thank you for everything and goodbye. I love you.


Journeys Part 3: The Narnian Chronicles

*The last of a three-part series.

Long overdue. That's all I can say about this blog post and about having only read CS Lewis' seven-book series just now. Being a fantasy and mythology nut, Narnia has always been in my periphery but I have never ventured there. I remember the first time I even heard of it was sometime between 7th grade and 1st year high school when Pog and Duffie were talking about it. Of course I couldn't relate.

Fast forward to a decade later and the movie version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe came out and blew me away. Since then, I've always wanted to read the books but it's either I find loose volumes that would be missing a book or two or the complete boxed set would just be too expensive.

Then Prince Caspian came out and I loved it.

Then Voyage of the Dawn Treader came out and I loved it.

After three movie adaptations, I finally thought it time to play catch up. Funny thing is I made a spontaneous decision to finally buy all seven books when I spotted them at National Bookstore Santa Mesa while doing some Christmas shopping last year. I wanted to get my oldest niece started on building her library and I thought Narnia would be a great place to start. But when Dawn Treader came out, well, my niece got the complete Hunger Games trilogy instead.
She finished those books in a week's time!
My journey through Narnia started early December and lasted until late January. Narnian fans would chastise me for this but I read the books in the order of how the edition I bought were numbered - chronologically. Yep, unlike die-hard Narnians I know, my travels began with the Magician's Nephew.

What I discovered was a world that was as familiar as it was mysterious. Here was a fantasy world that was a welcome break from all the grim fairy tales of modern high fantasy series like the Sword of Truth, A Song of Ice and Fire, and (yes, I admit) even the Wheel of Time! I keep wanting to explore more and more of this land that Aslan the magnificent lion created every time I close a chapter. More so when I finish a book!

Narnia was also the last in a list of things that I missed growing up and made up lost time for last year. That list includes playing Final Fantasy I and 2 and reading Weiss and Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight - both similar works of high fantasy! Also on the list is reading Watchmen and The Catcher in the Rye.

I don't know how or why I missed these things, but I guess that explains how I managed to hold on to every bit of youth I have left: I still have a lot of stuff to make up for and so many experiences to try! Case in point: My recent trips to Ilocos and Clark with some very close friends elicited moments of pure, seething unadulterated enthusiasm on countless occasions! Like being transported through Calormen, Archenland, the Eastern Ocean and the northern realms of Narnia, I often found awe wherever I went. Thankfully I still have the energy to wander and explore.

I'm glad I didn't grow up soon enough. Else I never would have appreciated Narnia at my age. It would've been nice to have cheerful memories of growing up with the books but that's okay. That just means I still get to be a friend of Narnia. Afer all, I actually like my trip there better than my travels to Middle Earth or Hogwarts.

One last thing about my trip to Narnia was that even if I didn't pick up the Christian themes as much, the books have given much to think about faith. I have to believe that there must be a reason why fate brought me on that journey only recently. If I didn't miss out on this great adventure growing up, I probably would've never thought to introduce Narnia to my nieces and nephews.

That's right. Having finally finished The Last Battle as soon as I got home from my Ilocos trip, I finally gave my books way to their rightful owner: My niece who would later share it with her younger siblings and cousins. They get to grow up having read the books and I can only hope that they become better persons for having read such an insightful and (most importantly) magical story!