Saturday, March 24, 2007

roller coaster

i've been eyeing my diary for a week now, but every time i get close, all i can manage is to read and review past entries, then sit or lie back and think some more, sift through myriad thoughts and feelings, hoping they'd finally settle down to the bottom, so i can make sense of them, and write about them at last. but every time i try, i either get called away or i fall asleep.

maybe writing it here the blog way would help...

it's been a roller coaster week.

on the 14th, A, L and i left for zamboanga on the last flight. we stayed over at a Network member and friend's pad in Makati for our stopover in manila for the night, as we had the early morning flight to zamboanga the next day. we had a fun time with our friend and her German stepson there, sharing a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby, and lots of laughs. when we got back to her pad, we fell asleep on the living room floor, where she spread out all the mattresses, while we were in the middle of watching The Secret (again!) projected via lcd to the wall, so our friend's stepson could be introduced to it.

on the 15th we flew to zamboanga, and another member and friend, T, picked us up, treated us to the spicy version of arroz caldo at this newly-opened roadside place, then brought us to Sta. Cruz Island, where his family had a beach property, for a whole day of relaxing, just the four of us, preparing and cooking the sea food he brought along for us, eating, talking, laughing, swimming, even meditating on the sand, and just basically doing as we pleased. T is a war photo journalist and is such a good, attentive, sensitive young man. we complimented him and thanked him and told him how lucky his wife is, who is now in Ireland working as a nurse. A, L and i talked among ourselves and decided that T is the kind of guy we wish to be surrounded our selves with from now on, even just on a brotherly buddy basis (who needs the complications with more huh?) : )

the 16th started out fine. as L was busy attending to the incoming participants, A and i fine tuned the Network's press card policy. then i went out to check my email at a net cafe downtown.

in the afternoon, though, as we were about to leave for Vista del Monte, the mountain resort we were to have our training in, things started turning strange.

first there was this female participant who wanted to bring her male friend along, for many inconsistent reasons. we already told her previously that it's not allowed as a matter of policy, but still she brought the guy. as she was talking basically with L and A, they, out of niceness, eventually acquiesced to her request, on the condition that the guy leaves early morning the next day.

still, i didn't feel good about the obviously manipulative and bullying tactic, and told A and L so. i also shared with them my feeling that we don't need members and participants like this, who would stoop to this at even this early stage of a professional relationship! and they agreed with me. i also told them that we should talk to her early the next day and ask her to leave too, to drive home the message.

as the jeepney we were riding in was about to leave, it wouldn't start, so the guys had to help in pushing it to jump start it.

along the way, the Makati friend who was with us too, suggested we stop over at Yakan Village to browse and maybe shop at the indigenous people's woven products roadside shops. it was a good thing we stopped, because our jeepney driver soon discovered that his brakes were not working very well.

so instead of going back to the jeepney, i texted L, who was with A in another vehicle, to bring us another vehicle, as i refused to have the participants and i ride a jeepney up a mountainside with faulty brakes.

after an hour or so of waiting by the roadside, A and L came along with a big, air conditioned van for all of us. aaahhh, thank God for the upgrade! we eased back again as we shared jokes and food in the van, on the way to Vista del Monte.

as it was getting dark and the van was making its way up the mountain side, the muddy dirt road eventually made it impassable for the van, so the van driver decided that he could only go that far and we had to walk the rest of the way up.

it was already twilight, with no electric lamp posts to guide our way, just the stars and the fireflies, but we started getting our bags off the vans and trudged up. i was the last in the line, in my usual offhand cool way even when under stress, while the rest were either complaining and cursing, or just decided to laugh it all off by trading more jokes. they broke off into small groups, while i trudged on solitarily.

at this point, i was considering now whether i should take my sandals off and go barefoot, as the mud was pulling me down and sticking to my sandals so, when a male participant (who was M's namesake, by the way : > ) who was helping the rest with carrying their bags, waited for me and asked if he could help. as i shared with him my dilemma, the jeep with the faulty brakes passed us by and he called for it to stop, so i could get in, along with the bags.

so i got in (beggars can't be choosers!), and after a few meters, the female participant who insisted on bringing her male friend along also got in (without the male friend, as he apparently trudged on ahead of her). so there we were with the bags, as we passed the rest along the road.

a group stopped by a sari-sari store, to buy some chicheria, and to sing karaoke, even as some tried running after fireflies, would you believe????!!! only in the philippines where you see people still having fun in a crisis situation.

as the jeep wove along, the participants we passed by waved us off saying the destination was near already anyway, so they'd just rather walk. so they walked, while we rode.

when we arrived, it was already around 8:30 p.m.

(it's the second day im continuing writing this. i've asked my self many times if i really want to see this through... but i have to. if only to make sense of it all and to clear my head. so i trudge on...)

so we arrived late at night at Vista del Monte, tired and hungry, with some even cranky. as buffet dinner was being laid out, one of the participants, D, suddenly informed us that he can't find one of his bags anywhere.

we asked everyone, and looked, and looked again in all the places we've looked, and then some more nooks and crannies. but nada.

as we ate our dinner, everyone offered their own conjectures; mainly that it must have been stolen somehow, either from the van to the road, or from the jeep, when we were passing bags out. still, we exhausted all ways and tried to contact one of our members in the city, who organized the transport.

there was mostly no cellphone signal though! it's a good thing that T found a place at the back of our little cottage on a hill that allowed for cellphone signals, so everyone brought their cellphones there.

after having exhausted all conjectures and contacts, we went back down to the session hall to finally have dinner.

during dinner, we started the weekend training with a round of self-introductions, which quickly put the group at ease (despite earlier fiascos), as some people really made funny self-introductions. i was the last to introduce my self.

as A started orienting us on the weekend training, J, a large dark man seated to my right, suddenly fell off his chair! the gayish person to J's right was as surprised as i was. but instead of my clamming up and just staring, he shrieked, "ayyyyyy, ok ka lang dyan???" : S

my first thought was that his chair must have given way underneath his weight. when i saw him clutch his stomach though, i became concerned and bent down to try to help him up. but then i thought that if he was having a heart attack, helping him up might not be a good way to help him.

by this time, everyone had crowded around us, and two or three people took over and edged me out in all the commotion. it was almost funny. nobody really knew what to do, but everyone advised. lift him up, no don't lift him up. is it a stomachache? no, some heart attacks begin with a stomachache. when they asked J how he was feeling, he was able to mumble that it must be his gallbladder acting up as he had just been to the doctor the past week and was diagnosed with that problem.

finally we decided to have all the guys, roll J into a mat as gently as they could, then lift him up as prone as possible, gingerly bring him down the little hill where the session hall was, to the road where, thankfully, the jeep with faulty brakes was still parked!

after much group effort, J was finally placed in the jeep, which now became a makeshift ambulance. A and T decided to go with J, while the rest of us remained.

A took me aside and we quickly discussed that going on with the program and schedule we've prepared for the night wouldn't be a good idea. so we decided that i conduct a quick calming and meditation session, instead, after all the day's "series of unfortunate events" (as our Makati friend called it), and because everyone was now just so tired and ready for bed.

so, i had to do it. i didn't feel prepared to, as i've always considered my meditations a very intimate and private matter. also, we haven't done meditations in our trainings, ever. it sounded weird-- journalists meditating??? : S but i had to do it with the group, leading the group, this time, because of the day's events, and so i just went in and followed my gut.

we held hands and started breathing deeply, in and out, as i guided them and asked them to breathe in peace and breathe out un-peace. when i felt the group energy calming down and stabilizing, i guided them through a meditation imaging a small, warm fire in their hearts, and imagining the fire sending out a golden yellow light embracing, protecting the whole group, as the same fire sent out golden yellow, then orange, healing light beams to J, and A and L, and the driver of the jeep, as well as the jeep, to heal J, and to protect them all from harm, as they made their way to the nearest hospital down in the city.

we kept the breathing exercises and the fire and golden yellow light and orange light imagery going over and over, for at least three or four more times, this time also sending protective energy to all our loved ones left at home and at work, as well as our selves, until a palpable group energy of stabilization and calm was felt... then i slowly guided them back into themselves, and coming out of the meditation refreshed, relaxed and renewed.

after the meditation, we enjoyed a few moments of silence as we came out, and then people started talking again, about J, about the day, but with less anxiety, just wanting release.

soon after, participants were assigned to their cottages, the males in one cottage, the females in another, and everyone picked up their bags and trooped further up the hilly terrain to reach their respective cottages. A and i climbed up to our own, which was nearest and overlooking the session hall.

it was nice and warm-looking, like a bungalow type log cabin, but the decor and arrangement inside threw us off. the two front doors were colored violet (!). when you entered, you get an eerie sense of being dislocated, because all the furniture (the sofa, the bed, etc.) were all facing away from the door and towards the back of the cottage. it was like you're coming in through a back door, which were really the front doors! still, the effect was cozy, although one gets a sense of some sort of twisted mind arranging the furniture and furnishings.

heads of animals lined the wall, alongside sea shells and fishing nets and faux flowers. there was no separate bedroom. the four-poster bed stood right against a big open window with billowy white cotton curtains. A and i decided we were NOT sleeping on the bed, especially after i saw some dirt falling off the ceiling into the bed.

the bathroom and toilet had two doors. one can enter it from the shower and exit at the other end right into the kitchen, or from the toilet and exit through the shower end.

anyway, after we deposited our bags, explored the cottage and claimed our individual spaces (we decided to sleep on the sofa), A and i thought we should go to the other cottages and check out how the participants were.

but before we left, i checked my cellphone for messages, and a Yahoo Messenger message from my sister, sent hours before, just came in, telling me that hey, my son paolo slept over with them last night, etc. and etc., and oh, by the way, my car was burglarized.

the burglary news was bad enough, but the way she announced the news to me upset me. typically her, too proud to admit her mistake. we had an agreement that when im away, i borrow their driver to bring my kids to and from school, and they can use my car in between, but that at the end of the day, my car is to be parked at my home, for safety and security. she breaks this agreement just this one time, and look what happened!

still, i had no time nor energies to stew on this too much, as i was much too far away. the best i could do was to text her back to tell her to coordinate with my car insurance agent, as the car had comprehensive coverage anyway, and i'm sure the burglary is covered.

so, anyway, back to A and i. we left our cottage to visit the participants' cottages.

we first went to the guys', as we found some of them standing outside, talking under the moonlight. when we asked them how they were, they said most of them didn't want to sleep in their cottage, but had already made arrangements to sleep in the women's cottage nearby. when we asked why, they showed us to see for ourselves.

the cottage was bungalow type too, except that as soon as you opened the door, there was this wide and deep square hollow right in the middle of it, supposedly an entertainment den, with a billiard table at the center. but the way it was set up, it looked more like the setting for a wake, with the billiard table as the coffin, and the two candelabras alongside it adding to the wake-ish effect. around the hollow and in the balcony, benches and mahjong tables were set up, exactly like how they would be set up in a typical Filipino wake!

when i checked one of the bedrooms, i cringed. the wallpaper was old, with a pale ivory background and vines and leaves designs; the bed was the old four-poster type again, with deep green silk cover, but the immediate impression it made on me was that it was like one of those rooms in the Dracula movies.

A and i tried re-arranging the billiard table at a diagonal position, and removed the almost ceiling-to-floor mirror on the wall fronting the window, which again gave the impression of dislocation. we tried to joke with the guys about it but their minds were made up about sleeping in the women's cottage that night.

the women's cottage looked less foreboding, although it still had violet doors like ours, and a hollow rectangular den in the middle. if one were sleepwalking, one could easily fall into these "dens" and hurt one's self.

the women's cottage overlooked a deep dark ravine, though. when one bent forward to feel the air, it felt thick and strange, like suddenly peeking into a totally different dimension.

or maybe it was just our overactive imaginations and tired bodies acting up. by that late hour, we were all already exchanging ghost and other supernatural stories, and everything around us suddenly looked scary. someone commented it's like The Blair Witch Project, Pinoy-style.

after we got back to the cottage, A and i couldn't sleep. so we spent the early hours after midnight just sitting on the stairs talking, while i texted and called L for updates on J. thank God, they at least reached the hospital and the emergency staff were taking over now. apparently, it was indeed a gallbladder problem.

A and i only went to sleep when we felt too tired to talk further.

i had a strange, almost comical dream. i dreamt that i was being featured in the center spread of a local newspaper, as an international author now, having published my third best-selling book (in reality, i've only published one book, and another one still being published.) in the middle of the whole spread, though, was not a picture of me, but of a handsome young man in his twenties, dashing and sophisticated-looking like in those GQ and Hugo Boss ads. the pictures and feature stories on me surrounded the poster guy's big picture. my feeling from the dream was that this guy was supposed to be my boy toy (!!!).

that was the funny part for me, because in real life, i've never really "digged" those types of men, especially younger men.

*******

anyway, the group meditation session must have done its work. the next two days were very enriching, especially in the group discussions. someone suggested that the experiences of the first night together shocked us out of our comfort zones, that we couldn't help but bond quickly. : )

also, good news! D's lost bag was found the next morning; in the front seat of the van he rode in on our way up.

*******

the rest of the week was still roller coaster for me, though.

as the training went on, i was emailing with M's mom via my cellphone, her sharing with me her concerns and worries about M's life direction, and my trying to assure her that she has done the best she and her husband could, and to trust that how they have brought up M will stand him in good stead now that he is being tested in his work life so...

at the same time, my graduating students were also texting and emailing me, about their endterm requirement, because i was due to submit the list of failures by the 19th, and a lot of them still haven't submitted their projects. so we agreed that they should at least email me their projects by midnight of the 18th, with hardcopy to follow, just so i have a basis for deciding who to pass or fail.

after the training ended on the 19th and we went back to our hotel in the city, i scrubbed my self clean in the shower, trying to shake off any remaining "vibes" from the strange mountain resort. i slept a long and deep afternoon nap, to wake up in time for dinner. T, again, in his usual gallant and attentive way, treated us to a sumptous seafood dinner at this posh Chinese restaurant. we thought we were having dinner Dutch treat, but at the end of the evening, when we were about to ask for our bill, we learned that he had already paid for them! ohhhh, God bless T, for being sooo good to us all!!!

then, he brought us to this spa named Tropical Spa, as we expressed our wish of having a spa massage before we left zamboanga for manila the next day. and, as is usual with T, our wish were his command. although we insisted on paying our way for this one, though. : ) still, God bless T again for being our real-life genie!!!

*******

back in Bacolod, i barely had time to unpack and put my things back in the closet. i was pushed back into teaching mode, with people from work texting or calling me for assistance, or for new projects to work on. im not complaining, though. it feels good to be needed and missed, always. : ) and the extra income trickling in from these various new small writing and documenting projects sure is welcome anytime!!! : )

i also had to attend to having Bea's Belle gown finished in time for her graduation last Friday; i am proud i decided to splurge on it for her. other children only used old flower girl gowns for the presentation, Bea beamed and glowed from being the real Belle of the ball, though, so to speak. : ) it's an investment on memories, for my children to treasure and look back on from time to time when they grow up, i always believe.

by the way, Bea earned a Gold L and the "Most Well-Behaved" Award. Gold L means your average grade for the whole year is 95 and up. : )

*******

then, A, L and i had a meeting again, and they shared with me how our next training this 29th has been cancelled because of a series of calls and events that made them decide to cancel it, as well as rethink our methods and directions, in the way of professionalizing it more... i could sense their fear and anxiety, though, and i reminded them of not over-reacting but to address each challenge that comes up one at a time. and not to operate from a consciousness of Fear and scarcity, but from Abundance. we're good, and i trust that we have something of unique value to offer, competition notwithstanding (although i don't see it as competition; how can others compete with you when your value is unique?)

one thing pissed me off, though, when A shared that her husband told her that a fellow volunteer colleague of ours told him to "watch out for me" because i share our Network's stuff with C, a co-national coordinator in another project, whom A does not see eye to eye with. it made me appear as a spy and a betrayer of sorts. if this is true, then i am saddened, especially because it's not even a half truth; as everything i do relay to C, i inform A and L every step of the way, and because of the "partner" -relationship between our project and theirs. the sadder thing, though, is we're all supposed to be in peace work together, and a basic principle of peace work is to do no harm.

gossip is harm, a tangible form of cultural violence, in fact. and look what they're doing.

i've volunteered to be part of these projects because the work has heart and meaning for me, and when i involve my self in something, i involve my self fully, heart, mind and soul. it hurts deeply when people spread lies about you and malign even your intentions, behind your back!

so i did the most effective thing ive learned to do to counter bullshit like this--another principle of peace work: bring it out into the open, on a level playing field.

i emailed the colleague who supposedly spread the malicious gossip, as well as A and her husband, and L and C, and asked for clarification.

so, let anyone who has anything truthful to say speak out now.

the next day, though, A called me up, and told me that her husband says what i did was the wrong thing to do!!! it's because he said he felt attacked and that we should just have met together to talk it over.

that pissed me off even further. how dare they have the gall to tell me i'm "wrong"???!!!

in the first place, i know already, from their culture at the other project, that meeting together and talking things over never really worked, because they mostly talked from their heads and not their hearts.

the second thing is, so far, from what i know of everyone concerned, nobody really meets together all at once on matters like this (they are too busy, who has the authority to call for a meeting across projects, etc. blah and blah and blah political yak yak), unless they are pushed to do so, and the email was precisely intended to be that push.

third, who says talking face to face is the only way to bring matters up? A started saying that but i cut her off and reminded her that people have all their different and individual styles and we should respect that. just because it's the way that they're accustomed to in their culture doesn't mean it's the right way!

also, i've always felt that writing it down is the best way, because the words are all there for everyone concerned to see. in talking, human nature being the way it is, people have a tendency to twist their words according to their audience, and to even deny that they said such a thing.

fourth, i know this is right; i, at least, have the courage to lay all my cards open on the table. what are they afraid of? if it's true, then admit it, apologize and move on. if it's not, then deny it, clarify and move on. why shirk and shrink in fear? what have they got to hide?

fifth, i probably have had more experience with bullshit than any or even all of them combined, and i already know this is the best way always, to call a bluff, gossip or an outright lie right in the bluffer's/gossiper's/liar's face. at the very least, it stops the bullshit right then and there. at the very best, it opens up doors for more sincere, heart-to-heart dialogue, if people are ready, open and willing, and it deepens relationships and turns them into more authentic ones.

traversing these murky, chaotic roads are always confusing and scary, but i have grown familiar with these roads, and have developed clear seeing from these, so to speak. in other words, i know my way around.

and by God, i have decided long ago, that excuse me, this lady doesn't take shit anymore, and if anybody makes the mistake of dishing it out on me, i take it right back to where it belongs!

i trust and respect A, and even her husband, and that colleague who supposedly spread the malicious gossip, and C and L. we are all souls on a journey, is always how i see it. i have no problem with any of them, personally. and i don't bear grudges or keep resentments boiling.

but shit has to be called shit when it rears its head, and has definitely got to be stopped.

*******

amidst all these, the Chair of the Philippine Board on Books on Young People called and then emailed me, to tell me that at least two publishers have made a bid for the publication of my winning story and the winning illustrator's art, and that both the winning illustrator and i have to make a decision soon as to which publisher to give our rights to, as time is running out.

so Serj (the winning illustrator) and i have now been emailing over the weekend, to discuss the decision at hand.

*******

so here i am now, more than a week later, back in my old life, yet in many subtle but powerful ways, i am not the old me any more.

a new friend in my DailyOM community messaged me, "i'm going on a marathon this weekend. what's new?"

i told him, "oooh everything new; or everything old, suddenly turning new!!!"

he hasn't replied since.

heehee. me and my cryptic messages again.


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