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Forgiving 2016

I forgive this year all the horrible things it has dealt the world, from the election of my country’s president whose morals (and/or lack thereof) I loathe, to other world leaders who owe their success to a spike in fear worldwide.

I forgive 2016 the deaths of geniuses in science as well as giants in the arts and music and pop culture that I grew up surrounded by.

I forgive 2016 Brexit and the American election that yielded the rise of an idiocracy. I forgive the year its production of more horrors from Syria and social media’s grotesque underbelly.

Why?

Other than the strong feeling that my sanity rests solely on absorbing all that and keeping my cool, I have things to be grateful for and I can focus on whilst the sense of helplessness pervades around the globe:

  1. I have known more stability as an outsider in a foreign land than I have ever felt in 5 years. I am reunited with my husband and while Brexit has made our plight uncertain after 2021, we have bought ourselves time and have been luckier than some people out there trying to start lives together.
  2. I am back in theatre. I have now sung and sort of danced in front of audiences in 11 shows. Amateur performance, but it is a start.
  3. I have signed up for evening classes in Manchester.
  4. I have purchasing power again. The boost in my financial independence is much appreciated.
  5. I can create a bigger swath in 2017 with more options and more economic confidence that I haven’t felt since Metro Manila.

I am back in the game, back in the system, and I want to make waves this time. 2017 will be one big, unique adventure.

My Storybrook Evening

It was windy outside and we could hear it from inside the cafe. Leaves swirled wildly in little wind tunnels that mimicked tornadoes. Trees swayed. A grouchy grey cloud sat planted above Norfolk Square. All the regulars had gone, and so had the colleagues who were in earlier that day.

As I walked by one table, I was startled to hear an elderly man talk to no one in particular. He was looking intently at the town hall clock beyond the cafe’s thick glass walls, where it stood at atop the building across the High Street.

“When I was younger,” he said in a tired and wistful voice, “that clock would have been fixed by now. Instead, it’s been years since it worked properly.”

I followed his gaze and squinted to see the clock. It wasn’t working.

The cafe door opened as another customer left. I heard the howling wind outside and—curiously, birdsong. My imagination took over and I fancied myself a creature in a story, stuck living the same day again and again in a small town in England, unaware except for little mistakes like the town hall clock.

I walked home that evening tired physically, but psyched mentally.

That bug

A professional actress walked into the cafe today and I watched occasionally as I worked my coffee art, while she went about her business meeting.

Again, I am tugged irresistibly in the direction of the arts. In 2012 it bit me seriously for the first time and I somehow landed an unexpectedly meaty role in an amateur production. People thought I was a professional actor, but I was simply connecting dots and —well, interpreting a character. I realised for the first time that I could do it.

A year and 4 plays later, the tug had become more powerful, but real life Nasty Version 1.0 happened (“Leave the UK now!”), and all things theatre-related halted inevitably.

When we lived in Cyprus, I managed to go to an improv night in Nicosia but only thanks to the hospitality of a friendly scientist who offered that I stay with her overnight, afterwards. It was an amazing evening. An Egyptian director pointed at me and said, “I want her!” —she must’ve thought I was a member of the Nicosia youth acting club, because I was in several comedy sketches with them—and I do not look my age. It didn’t matter that nothing would come out of it there, as I could never have told anyone where I would be in a year or 5 months. I certainly couldn’t have auditioned or committed to anything produced in Nicosia because buses wouldn’t travel from Larnaca to Nicosia after 8 pm.

But, but but—- she saw me and saw potential. I was thrilled.

This year, while awaiting my fate post Brexit, I auditioned for a tiny little role in a one-night only amateur production at Guide Bridge Theatre. I got the role, and will show up in many of the scenes as a glorified extra in Act 2 as a token native for The Lost World whilst playing a vain-glorious British girl in Scene 1 (time to exercise that Received Pronunciation stuff!).

In the town’s older amateur playing group, I somehow became stage manager for a play in June (only because the seasoned theatre members were away on holiday). I pulled it off and actually STAGE MANAGED a 3 act play. It was exhausting, demanding and utterly, utterly thrilling.

Another sign has come in the form of a successful audition for this English town’s traditional Pantomime play at the end of the year—I nabbed a principal role in it, on my first audition attempt.

The bug bites again, but now the roots could grow a bit deeper this time—my residence is more solid, my role in this society slowly carving out a deeper chunk.

I want to act. I want to write. I want to be in productions. I want my creativity to expand beyond playing music and singing at retirement homes and busking and occasionally being onstage in the background.

This bug doesn’t want to go away and Manchester awaits.

Winter Remembers

7 months now. 7 months back in the UK and my first winter in the northern hemisphere since 2012, but now everything has given way to greens and leaves and flowers and that high pollen count that is wreaking havoc in my nostrils.

I walk up and down this main road into and from Glossop, to work and back.

I write it so nonchalantly, work. The joy, the sense of fulfillment at getting my first full-time job in the United Kingdom—making me a legitimate, National Insurance carrying citizen paying taxes etc etc—all that peaks as I walk up and down that road blinking up at the sunlight or bracing against the easterly wind.

Numbers, amounts, time quantified, experiences gained.

20 milliliters —- a cortado in a small glass with the double shot.

11 years since that first team in a call centre. I was desperate to get ANY job in Metro Manila after graduating from university.

1.2 kilometres into the town centre from my current home.

One year since my Costa meet-ups with Jenny and Christy.

One year since that music festival in Larnaca where I performed, and the beach busking in the evenings leading up to that night.

Freedom Dolls Initiative and the people I met there.

Two years since I was my younger sister’s roommate back in the Philippines, biding my time until I was reunited with the husband in Cyprus.

The numbers float along as I walk with an apple in my hand, limping from the 7.5 hours at work on my feet.

The fresh leaves and the greenery and the budding flowers are very nice and lovely but they try to cover the years and memories all piled up in my head.

In contrast, winter—–ahh, walking up and down the same road in the winter.

Winter and the naked trees. Scarred trunks, exposed nests, craggy trunks, bare hillsides, moody and cold people hunched as they make their way from Point A to Point B.

Winter remembers.

Winter broods and ruminates and blends nostalgia in with the loss and the bewilderment at decades slipping on by, right underneath my nose.

Winter recalls, nods and sheds a tear with me—shudders from the wonderment of my ever-lengthening hindsight, and shares the poignant regrets and beautiful but distant joys.

Today, in the glare of the sunlight, everyone’s faces were upturned, ruddy, bright and active.

But in the winter, with the harsh winds all around, I looked people in the eye during that brief encounter on the road home—and I nodded, beamed, smiled, said “Hallo!”—because when the whole wintry world reminds you of what you have gained, lost, loved and lived through, your smile is at its brightest.

You reach out with as much warmth as your hard-won humanity permits.

The less time we have left in the world means that we can only make it that much better for those who share it with us—even strangers on the walk home.

 

 

When good people adore their leader and forgive him anything in the name of banishing their biggest fears, the power he wields is amplified several times over.
THIS LINK is a quick summary of one of the most infamous power grabs in the last century.
An excerpt:
“Many middle-class people, alarmed by the obvious failure of DEMOCRACY, decided that the country needed a strong government.”
Yeah, this is how Hitler rose to power in a Germany surrounded by dissatisfaction and fear (and thus hate). 1930s Germany.
One quick look around the world and you will notice the rise of a fad of nationalist popularity. It explains Putin and Trump. Very DIVISIVE—-I have met Russians who LOVE Putin and I have met Russians who LOATHE him.
Trump supporters I have only seen online but the numbers (and the news) say that they exist. They’ve just made him the Republican presidential candidate (despite Ted Cruz saying that God had anointed him the chosen candidate). On the other hand I have met Americans who abhor what Trump stands for.
If the anti-establishment feels in America are as strong as the ones in the Philippines, then the paragon of establishment that is Hillary Clinton is going to be in deep trouble come the American elections in November.
Yes, I believe in good people and good intentions, but history has taught us that good people who mean well have also given men like Hitler power.
I see my FB newsfeed awash in political declarations of support for a Filipino presidential candidate who would kill criminals. He says “criminals”, but I say it’s ALLEGED criminals because they are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and there is a wild danger in letting one person decide on another’s guilt or innocence like that.
I see my newsfeed full of staunch, hopeful and fervent support for this man and I feel that this must have been how the minority felt in 1930s Germany when they watched one man grab more and more power with his charisma and rhetoric, pushing the boundaries more and more between decent and indecent, between right and wrong—and on the shoulders of decent, good, hardworking people who are afraid and disenfranchised.
I am going to have to avoid my newsfeed until my stomach stops churning.
This is going to be a bumpy ride, Philippines.

Autobiographies

I now have a lovely little pre-loved hardbound book written by one of my favourite thespians in the UK: Julie Walters. Her book is entitled That’s Another Story, and she is her usual witty, self-deprecating self.

I often find a lot of comfort reading about the ups and downs of people I admire and respect from afar. Two of Stephen Fry’s books languish in Cyprus, awaiting my return, for instance. William Shatner’s book was a great delight to pore over as well.

I have a little daydream where I have afternoon tea with Julie Walters and she has a grand time talking to me about the stage and working with Michael Caine and Liza Minnelli etc etc etc and being Mrs. Weasley, of course—or accepting her Bafta award inebriated in 1984—the same year her co-star (Educating Rita) Michael Caine received a Bafta from none other than Audrey Hepburn—at the same event…!

She just comes across as a real, down-to-earth girl from Birmingham and I wish we could have a nice chat over digestive biscuits and stuff. Ahh, daydreams.

Nah—I suppose the autobiography will do. But I have things to prove, bubbles to burst, strength to regain, dignity to aspire towards and re-discover and I am so happy that the charity shop had good old Julie’s twinkling eyes looking out at me the other day.

If you’re reading this and you have a long way to go before this year ends, I hope there is someone/something bigger than life keeping you from the edge and helping you put things in perspective.

And if me and thee are friends in real life, I have probably thought of you with much fondness, nostalgia and pride by the time you  come across this. I have a list of friends’ names I say to myself when the isolation gets a bit much.

Be safe out there.

Wrens

In 2007, a random stranger approached me with a clay carving of a wren. Before I saw that lovely round little Passerine shape, I had never given wrens a second thought.

She said that it was an experiment, to see how far her collection of birds would go around the world, if she handed them to travellers she encountered that year. I remember nothing else outside of seeing the wren disappear into one of my boxes back in Metro Manila, as my 13 years of living in the city had to be packed up and stored.

Wrens are beautiful little creatures. They are so small, but they sing their tiny little hearts out.

It is 2016 and my thoughts wander back to that wren in the box, out of sight, its trip around the world cut short.

I know exactly what that box feels like. You sit in there, trying to summon made-up conversations with a lion named Aslan.

I saw a wren in a tree yesterday. Outside, on a branch. It’s a complicated song, whatever it is. I’d rather be outside too.