I have an ambivalent attitude about my childhood. There are memories that leave a hint of smile while some glimpse I view with remorse.

There used to be a storage house in our backyard; the roof I used to climb so I can be be left in  peace, find solitude in the midst of screaming children getting charged from the momentary freedom from school. I would spend the afternoon in the comfort of the cold steel roof underneath; the lush leaves of the mango tree served as a screen from the heat of the summer sun, with a tattered copy of Les Miserables from a neighbor's garbage pile. I have always associated those hot summer noons as a marked fragment of my childhood, salient and earnest. It was how I wanted my childhood to be remembered.

To say that I yearn for my childhood is an overstatement; to say I detest it is a hyperbole. I have an equal share of nostalgia of playing patintero with only the full moon as the guide; going to the nearest creek with friends who knew how to swim just so I could paddle my feet against the cool of the rushing water; playing fantasy power ranger/ghost fighter with wooden sticks and kitchenwares as weapons; making excuses not to go to church just so I wouldn't miss the Sunday morning cartoon shows; creating lousy bubbles from crushed gumamela flowers; getting chased by a pack of dogs.

I am often struck with how much memories of those younger days I can still remember. I recall getting my first copy of the unabridged Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale book, where the little mermaid did not get the man of her dreams, rather dissolved into air and how ostracized I felt when my playmates won't trust my early take on literary criticism.

But then, children's literature is always taken with a pack of sugar. Some things become bitter as one grows up. I realized, the games played weren't always fascinating since my lousy eye-hand coordination made the team lose, much to despair and annoyance of Salome who has captured the enemy's base for the tenth time; the creek wasn't always pleasant to those who could not swim; make believe worlds were often crushed by wounded knees, betrayals, and friends turned enemies for life; cartoon shows were filled with lives I cannot live because our parents would get angry if we didn't get to read the assigned pages in the encyclopedia for the day; the neighbors shouting, cursing for picking the best gumamela in her garden.

The last time I went home, I walked over to the vacant lot we used to go and play. There were still a lot of kids there, sons and daughters of those who I have probably played house with. I found myself suddenly jealous of the time when things were as simple as running in the fields, catching dragonflies, and the slow and deep breathes in between. There was no hope, and there was no regret. There were just me and the little world we played in. I was once one of those kids. And someday, one of those kids will probably be in the same shoe I am now, miserable, too critical of even my own happiness.

But for now they have the disheveled playground, the rusty meat loaf can for tumbang preso, the wind brushing through the gaps between their fingers, the sloppy necklace made from santan flowers. Those are enough. Because the curse of being a grown-up is not actually about losing the carefree days of the past but finding out that some things you thought you knew was so completely different from what you had always believed in.

No bridegroom

Last year, I cried, definitely bawled, when I watched a youtube clip titled "It could happen to you." More than a year later, now a full-length documentary, I may just have wept like I never did before.

The internet can probably give a better summary of Bridegroom than I can. You'll probably see its accolades and some critic reviews over the web. But scrap the things you will read online. Go watch the youtube video. Then, watch the documentary. Show it to your mom, to your partner, to your friends. Because there are stories meant to be told. This is one of them.

Small things

People always say it will go like this: you stay up until the wee hours of the night, hurting; you will probably wake up at three in the morning with the sudden urge to just scream into your pillow; or grab a tub of ice cream, wait for the pizza to be delivered and start the first few minutes of Before Sunset only to realize you have memorized the film by heart.

But sometimes, it's somewhere between nine or ten in a Sunday morning and you're standing by the sink waiting for the boiling water to make your tea to ease last night's hang-over;  the neighbor's children starting to play outside; and the smell of dusty metropolitan sunlight and the earl grey tea makes you think of him, and the sudden realization that you could be preparing hot water for two, while he is waiting in your bed, in your old shirt; and that makes you like him more so much you don't know what to do with the cup in your hands.

That which haunts us

Every year, my father would end our visit to our late grandfather's tomb in a certain tradition. A few minutes before we leave, when the rest are packing empty plastic containers and discarded cola bottles, he would go to the back of his father's tomb, light a candle, and, from our point of view, talk to the dead. And it has always bothered me. If indeed  it was a one-way conversation, what could my father be saying to his own father; what untold stories could he be carrying for two decades now?

My father is not a very vocal person. It is very seldom that you see him show emotion, very rare to see him talk about his personal circumstances. If any, he is good at showing disappointment. He is a very stiff man, known in his school as an authoritative figure. I cannot remember a conversation with my father where we were even barely open and vulnerable. Aside from law school questions, recent political issues, and how-to's of eating healthy and staying out of trouble, I barely carry a fatherly conversation with him.

But I guess what bothers, or probably fascinates, me the most is the chance that, in all these years, my father has been confiding with someone who has already crossed the other side; speaking of words that he never had the chance to say when lolo was still alive; or telling tales of his personal demons which came after lolo's death he can never tell a single living soul. While I will probably never hear the other end of the conversation, there is a certain sadness, or fear, that I might end up like him. In thirty years, I don't want to come out, introduce a better half, tell stories I should've told when possible, to a piece of cement with a name engraved on it. I don't just want to seek peace with the dead; but to be in the same thread as every breathing, aching, hoping humans.

It has always reminded me of the last scene of Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love. Whispering secrets in a hole in some sacred temple in Cambodia, covering the same thing in mud, and forever sealing those words, hoping that by finally getting those words out of the system. all the sadness and aches will subside, trapped in the holes forever. Only the walls of the temple know the secret, of the longing that comes with it, the horror that comes with longing. Long after the person has died, after the secrets are no longer of importance, the mud which held the secret will continue to cling in those small pockets of air trapped, as if holding on to prevent the gloomy forebodings from winding its way back.

Sometime I wonder if he got the act from my grandfather. Did lolo do the same act of seeking peace with the dead? Are there so many lives we hide from our loved ones that we, when the other end is dead, seek peace by bursting with all the words that we should've said when we had the chance? Are we so deprived of meaningful connection with the living that we need the illusion of another side to unburden our chests of whatever weights it carry?  Do I have to do the same when the time comes? Is it some kind of family tradition to hide things? Or is it human nature to not act when needed, not speak when necessary, and pretend the world is breathable despite our chests tightening from all the emotions held from within? 
My father always reminded us not to be afraid of ghosts and ghouls. But he never mentioned that it is those unspoken words and unreleased tensions that will haunt us until the end that we should be afraid of.