Let’s call him Johnny.

Johnny grew up in a laid-back town down a countryside which teemed with fresh bounties from its farms and its seas. He was born to a poor family that struggled to make ends meet with the meager profit from the family’s small eatery in the marketplace.

Back in college in the city, Johnny would wake up at four in the morning every single day. He had to make it to his 5:00 AM shift at a huge company. He would walk his way from home to work since there weren’t several jeepneys or kartilyas (horse-drawn vehicles) by the time he left his place.

His office equipment weren’t the likes of computers or any cool electronic devices. His work was nothing prestigious. His work buddies were neither professionals nor fellow working students. Johnny worked with his brooms and dustpans in the morning, at noon, and afternoon. He was a janitor.

After his early morning shift, Johnny would run back to his place to quickly wash up, eat (sometimes), and get ready for school. There was barely time for study. His college days weren’t about “being in college” but coping with life as much as he could. Weekends also meant going home to help out at the eatery back in the marketplace.

Life demanded too much from someone who barely had enough.

After his morning class, Johnny would run back to his janitorial work. He would pick up his brooms, dustpans, and bins, and sweep around the property, in and out the building. The job was neither anything complex, nor was it something easy. Johnny would sweat all over and would need a quick rest every now and then.

He would sit on his tiny low chair holding his broom, dustpan and bin beside him. He would sit there at a corner and watch the company workers walk the grounds coming from either the building or from the gate. Johnny would follow them with a blank stare while smelling the scents of their perfumes as they passed by him.

“Lucky people, they can afford to smell good.” He would give out a heavy sigh, look up to the sky, and would soon go back to sweeping the grounds. Once done with his noontime shift, he had to run back to school again and go back in the afternoon for the last shift.

Johnny graduated with a degree in commerce from a public university but ended up performing as vocalist in several bands singing at hotels and resorts. He’s always been a music figure in his small town.

Now a retired musician, Johnny sings at the church on Sundays. He still wakes up at four in the morning every single day, this time to do his morning jog. At home, he has a total of twelve brooms, some of which he promised to give to the janitor at the marketplace.

And as if he never had enough of the job before, Johnny still sweeps the grounds surrounding his home and his neighbors’…morning, noon, and afternoon. No longer for a meager weekly pay, but merely because he thinks he has to…clean up.

Right now, one of Johnny’s kids is fondly thinking about him, so she wrote daddy’s story. In fact, it’s done.

Johnny’s daughter,







Ten Years Later

I hate the thought of having to feel weird about coming home. I have here in my flat a pair of luggage, a box, and a backpack; and it’s strange to see them all ready for my flight in the next ten days. I’m half excited, half anxious because this time, it’s gonna be “for real” and I’m bringing with me ten years of my life back home. It’s not as if I’ve been living in the other hemisphere – not even out of the country – but I’d love to exaggerate things a bit, so I will.

When I left home for university ten years ago, I had a grandiose plan. I brought with me some big dreams. I’d be this, I’d be that. And I dreamed and daydreamed of them at every chance I had. I did imagine gathering flattering titles and then landing on a really nice job in the metropolis, where I’d have to always put on corporate clothes and talk big things with big people. Sooner, I’d be rich. I was ambitious. In fact, very ambitious and it was a good thing, except that life, surprisingly or not, didn’t go as planned.

I thought…I thought…I thought of so many things…of a different kind of life – one that’s different from what’s coming home with me. 

Ten years later, what have I become?

Precisely not how I imagined it. I look at myself in the mirror and I am ordinary and life’s definitely far from grand. No titles garnered, no flattering awards, no overwhelming place that I personally own, no car, no hacker-friendly bank accounts. Oh, and not yet married, got no kids! But I managed to work for a company though small was award-winning, and where I had to look business-y when talking big things with big guys. It somehow made me richer – at least a bit richer than when I was just imagining life after school. That’s basically the story.

When I think of all those years and chances gone, it’s only failure after failure I could see. Errors, I’m made of errors. The beautiful token expected of a ten-year story turned into a rusty trophy made of brittle pieces. Many times I asked myself, “What have I done?”

Then I see my bags and boxes all packed with my story of ten years away from home. “Who have I become?” I smile a pretty one because there are so many things to be truly grateful for. I had my plans but God had a story to tell.

My purpose for leaving home was university but life took me to a maze full of right and wrong turns. I made it a point to be always different but I found joy in sisterhood, friendship, and belongingness. I prayed so hard that life be grand but I bumped into its simplicity and I felt the bliss.

I was wrong to believe that this decade-long adventure was all about beating expectations and chasing dreams. Nobody told me I was to live a story to make me understand who I am, accept what I am not, and be grateful for all that there is.

Thank God. It’s been lovely. Now, fly me home.



Ten Years Later

A pair of house slippers

It’s one of my father’s several obsessive-but-not-compulsive house rules that we shouldn’t be running around the [tiny] house barefoot. Not for any superstition but apparently for hygienic purposes, since our house is mostly made of decorative walls, thus punched with hundreds of holes welcoming dust and soot into our humble abode twenty-four-seven.

Yesterday, I woke up the first time to a mild migraine – probably a result of having had a huge mug of brewed coffee the previous night. Coffee is always a good idea, but a huge mug is just too much for my acid tolerance. After two more hours of late morning slumber, I woke up to a beautiful dream, which enticed and charmed me with such peace you get only out of living in an island where life, in general, is simpler; but also where time is slowed down, magnifying each encounter with nature, making life grandiose rather than abandoned.


In my reality, that place where everything is simpler is where I come from.  That place is home.

In this country of 7, 107 islands, I was born and raised in one of the smaller puzzle pieces of land somewhere in the middle of the map. My sock-shaped home-island prides its beaches, which offer a palette of earth tones for their sands; lush mountain peaks, water cascades of varying degrees of majesty and angst, caves hidden in rain forests, canyoneering sites; not to mention the bounty of fresh seafood and the world-famous lechon, and last but never the least, the mother of all festivals in the country, Sinulog.

All those I looked away and walked away from, nearly a decade ago. I left home for college and for some other bigger plans. That was at least how the young adolescent in me took it at the time. Little did I know that life would take a rather unpaved path and set things off on an entirely different play. All of which, honestly, took me by surprise, both the good and the bad way.

So, my island dream and its extremely romantic ending kicked my butt out of bed. I was suddenly dragging my travel luggage out of the bedroom corner, laid it wide open on the floor, and unpacked the smaller travel bags I’ve stored inside it. Then, I pulled out all my corporate clothes from my old wooden dresser and started sorting out which ones would go to the luggage and which ones would have to stay in the dresser. The same process was repeated for another huge heap of daily outfits. Another round for those clean clothes I didn’t unpack earlier from the laundry bag.

After about an hour of sorting, I filled up my luggage with enough clothes as well as a bed cover, towels, pillowcases, shawls and a pair of Myanmar bags. Those were about everything I could squeeze in; otherwise, my luggage might choke them all out!

I kind of cringed at the sight of my severely scratched luggage, not for its scratches but for where it will be headed to, soon – home. This time though is not for good yet, not until a few more months at university.

But the real deal is that those clothes I packed up will be flying home with me, will stay there and will have to wait ’til I come back, not long. And in God’s perfect time, I will bring them out again and wash them; put them on plus a few sprinkles of eau de toilette; and finally tour them around a new maze of small roads and highways – around a city where, as a small-town kid clinging behind mama, I used to hustle dodging bigger humans along dusty narrow walkways, feeling lost and not minding anyway because mama’s grasp was locked around my wrist, tighter than a handcuff.

It’s going to be a new place, a rather smaller metropolis, but closer to home – where I can watch mama and papa gracefully grow old together, savoring the precious gifts of a simple life they hold dearly. Home, where mama would make me a glass of milk, and papa would remind me again and again to wear my own pair of house slippers. 🙂

Coming home soon,

A pair of house slippers

Kissing Your Promise Goodbye

image “Maybe because some things have changed.”

Nah, it’s not some things, love. Everything has changed.

You wrote down your promise, now I have to tear it up. Every strip I make of it will bear every bit of hurt that lingered – the hate that wakes me up midday and midnight, the joy that steals me from what’s real now, the stories we’ve made, and the last few questions that will perhaps remain unasked. All of them gone as I kiss your promise goodbye.

Because we are now at the end of our forever. This is where I let all of it go – the dreams we daydreamed together, the so many nights we skipped sleeping, the so many days we chose to rather spend alone than spend with the rest of the world, and all the times rather spent to sweet nothings.

Now, I free our love, let it fly somewhere out a space we will never know of and from where it will never find its way back to us.

Thank you for every bit of everything. It was worth a story after all. But it ends here, now. And I leave here my tiny hopes for us I’ve been holding for a while. And the only thing that I have to offer now is peace, and a wish for you. May you find the love you’ve long been looking for.

Loving you in silence,

Kissing Your Promise Goodbye

19 Sobering Truths About Friendship You Need To Accept In Your 20s

This is just about everything I’ve been feeling. I am normal. Lol!

Thought Catalog

1. The people who you thought would be there for you when it counted are not always going to be there. Sometimes because they quite literally cannot be there, other times because they just don’t want to (anymore).

2. The same will go for you – you’re not always going to (want to) be there for people who need you too.

3. Some of your friends will be more successful than you. And you will be more successful than some of your friends. And this will change over time depending on everyone’s life situation, path, and sheer dumb luck.

4. You will feel like people you’ve known for years don’t know you at all anymore (and you don’t know them either). You will also feel like people you’ve met for five minutes just “get you.” And it’ll be a strange, complex feeling you’re not quite sure how to handle all…

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19 Sobering Truths About Friendship You Need To Accept In Your 20s

One night love

There’s that place that exists between the real and the almost real. Like limbo but not exactly. Like coma but something else.

You’ve had those moments when you share a slice of time with a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger doing nothing memorable, just being there with him or her who must be feeling the same way as you do – weird, but satisfyingly good.


Here’s a story.

It was a long ride all the way from a northern beach town back to the metropolis and the night, although a little too humid, was charmingly peaceful. Everyone was dead tired but not necessarily quiet. It was six hours between the better life in the countryside and the frenzy in the unrelentingly noisy city. My plan was to have the whole time all to sleep. And I did. Only, not entirely.

My head hits something…hard. Bones? Never mind, didn’t hurt anyway. [goes back to sleep]

Heck! Here goes the sleep head-banger, looking f**king stupid, sleepily bobbing my head like a lousy rock star on a high. And it’s hurting my neck big time! [goes back to sleep]

There, there, better now. Not so bumpy and my heavy head finding a place to rest. Whose shoulder is this? Anyway…[goes back to sleep]

[A bit awake and squinting] Asphalt. Lamp posts. Ah, the national highway. Although the entire ride probably looked the same but pretty sure we didn’t hit the express way too soon.

Now this is seriously hurting my neck. But good enough and far better than get my head banging like an annoying doggie car accessory.

Wait, what??? Am I leaning on someone’s shoulder?

Oh. Yeah. This is weird. Ummm, that okay kind of weird.

You’ve had those moments too when it feels like the universe has gone lost in its own mechanics, protested against its own plans. You will notice that something is out of order because every second is supposed to have been planned, timed, and is supposed to be familiar to your senses. But like a watch suddenly malfunctioning, mistakenly switching gears and mixing up time, there are those moments when the universe seems to lose grip and get things out of their proper places and timing. I think that’s exactly when spontaneity happens. Like when love comes in the form of a shooting star. Enchanting, surreal, amazingly beautiful…and always just passing.

[In silence, of course] Hey! Thanks for the shoulder. Good enough for a not-necessarily-soft pillow for the rest of the ride. I mean, I really appreciate it.

I’m quite sure you can feel my head moving up and down to the beat of your breathing. Or perhaps the strands of my hair pressing against your neck. The way we are now, our heads a little too close, I can almost feel my thoughts slipping through the pores of my scalp, being pulled by your neurons. But I just have to be greedy, I can’t share my thoughts with you. Because right now, they are the most precious secrets I hold. And if you’ll get to them, that’s as good as seeing me naked.

Brake. We had to stop for a toilet break. I woke up to the excitement of having to be able to run to the toilet. Sure you know how that feels. But I had to ask first, “Where are we?”; and you said, “Some place in your heart.”; and I asked again, “Yeah?”; and you said, “Imagine that. The whole van fits in your heart.” I couldn’t find a good answer to that so I smiled, rather more like a smirk, and went back to sleep. Well, I was hoping you knew I didn’t. Oh, and I forgot to pee?

The clothes I’m wearing now is this seemingly deep sleep and I’m being very careful not to wake up. Because this sleep is the only thing that’s keeping you from seeing me in my naked form and from getting to my little secret with a lifespan of just this night.

If I wake up, that’s like giving away my little secret to the only person who’s not supposed to know.

Hey! Tonight, I love you. But when this ride ends, this story will also be over – most likely. I’ll be wide awake, reality will pull me out from this “spontanium”, and everything will go back to normal. Like I’ve never loved you and as if you’ve never loved me back.

Thank you anyway for that little infinity. Somehow I wished it was real, but the most it can be was to be almost real. It may never be in the intentions of fate to make it last. But isn’t it beautiful enough that our little infinity ended in a way that no one had to hold back a tear?

I loved you that night,

One night love

Dreams under renovation

I had the answers back in kindergarten…but they were neither right nor wrong.

It doesn’t matter where I am: under my blanket, in the shower, aboard the metropolis train, walking to my office, guiltlessly devouring nutella sandwich at our lone table at home, or out somewhere a space only I knew of. My kindergarten teacher’s question would haunt me like a creepy mischievous shadow, “When you grow up, what would you want to be?” And in like a snap, I’d see an imaginary canvass, white and clean. Empty.

I had the answers when I was a kid – a pocketful of confident answers. And I must have told my teacher of them with a wide grin unveiling my carefree broken smile. Now that I’m a grownup, I would usually catch myself in chunks of introspection and retrospection, and how the thoughts weave themselves together often throws me a full-blown smack kicking me out from my own life. Mind-boggling realizations, often irritating, but a fairly good way to kill time.

At this point in my life, where [perhaps] I’m supposed to have already figured what I would want to do for the next half a century, I’m only finding myself stuck with a fair display of options, not with a headstrong decision. Admittedly, I would want to become all of my many options: a fashion designer, a wedding planner, a businesswoman, a novelist, a marketing director, a professor, a performer, an actress (kidding), a photographer, a surfing champ, a painter, a diva, an all-genre dancer, an interior designer, a genius and all other versions I’ve imagined of myself. But fine – there’s no way I can be everybody, that’s absolutely and regretfully understood.

I recall the main point of Dr. Meg Jay’s book, The Defining Decade. It implies that the twentysomething stage is so crucial in the sense that the decisions one makes at this twentysomething period are what would stir up all the succeeding decades of one’s life. It may not apply to everyone but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Reading that book added a lot of pressure to my self-evaluation. In fact, it got pretty scary I wanted to shred the pages to stick-thin strips and burn them all to ashes without a chance for revival. Scary because if my kindergarten teacher would come asking me again, “When you grow up, what would you want to be?”, I would only see myself laying down the cards – my many options for my future (which has now arrived as the present); one card representing each of my dream figure – and I’d stop there. “I don’t know.” Bad news is I’m most likely just a few days away to my future. Maybe even too late to figure my shit out.

Such an anxiety-infected circumstance ain’t new but is rather ironic coming from someone adored for being smart, gifted, multi-talented. That’s the picture (with no intentions to brag, just a little bit) and perhaps the problem of indecision rooted from the burden of having multiple choices. I recall an artist mom mentioned that to me and I also recall agreeing to it right then and there. My family, friends, workmates and my boss recognize my skills and it does flatter me to know so. How could I not feel grand about being praised, sometimes even overly? My heart would swell up, but true as well that the praises would oftentimes make me lose my breath – and palpitate. Maybe it’s just me, but they often come in as overwhelming I could barely handle. Then that would set me off questioning myself again, “So which one do I do best?”…”I don’t know.” But I honestly want to do all. But knowing that I just can’t, there is then the fear of missing out on all the others in favor of one. Or two.

Then there were Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, name the all-time geniuses. They were all over the early society, each of them an authority in almost all disciplines, the renowned in every profession. They were everybody that they wanted to be. Nah, never mind, my argument would surely come invalid though. Apparently, I’m no genius, end of story (and that’s f$@#-all-geniuses frustrating!). 😀

Now, after many times of skimming through my brain lobes, nodes and membrane – I actually just mean my thoughts – I realize I have been looking only at my dreams with the challenges prerequisite to them, but not at every possibility that could unfold like a red carpet that would lead me to my glory days. Because honestly, I doubt my own gifts. And I bow down to my fears, which is equally the same as poisoning my enthusiasm for my dreams. Of course I know all that. I apparently, have this mistaken love for my own fears.

Tomorrow I still won’t have it all figured out. But the thing I’m quite sure of is that I don’t need a time machine to go back to kindergarten and collect the answers I once had. No, that little kid didn’t know much, not even enough. Perhaps a few more twists and turns, then I’ll get myself an answer as to who I would want to be for the most part of my life.

It’s a whole new world I’m in now, totally different from my playfully colorful kindergarten. And it looks like I’m going to need a whole new set of answers.

Wish me well, folks! 🙂
Love, Ayna

Dreams under renovation