Mamihlapinatapai (O Paano Manghuli ng Sandali)

By Mara Lagunday

Alam mo kung ano ang maganda?

Iyong sandali ng pag-aalinlangan bago ang unang halik.

Siguro kung artist ako, gagawin kong libangan ang pag-iipon nun. Maghahanap ako ng mga mukhang bago pa lamang nag-iibigan. Gagala ako kung saan-saan: sa madidilim na sulok ng mga eskinita at parking lots, sa loob ng mga bakanteng silid-aralan, sa likod ng mga puno, pati sa pasilyo ng mga simbahan at monasteryo.

Magtatago ako at hihintayin ang pagpikit ng kanilang mga mata, ang unti-unting paglapit ng mga mukha sa isa’t isa. Tapos maglalakad ako nang dahan-dahan, tahimik, papalapit sa kanila at isisilid ang sandaling iyon sa isang maliit na garapon.

Kapag nakabuo na ako ng koleksyon, ipapakita ko sa buong mundo sa pamamagitan ng isang eksibit. Bawat isang garapon, may kwento.

Ito, nahuli ko ito sa pagitan nina A at B noong ika-12 ng Disyembre, 2008. Hindi sila magkasintahan. Ang alam lang nila, isang araw noong nakalipas na buwan, bigla na lang silang naglakad nang hawak ang kamay ng isa’t isa at nang hindi nalalaman kung bakit.

Simula noon, tuwing magkasama silang maglakad, lagi na silang naghahawak ng kamay (at bumibitaw sa tuwinang may makakasalubong na kakilala nila). Minsan, binabakas pa ng hintuturo ni A ang pekas sa kamay ni B.

Magkahawak-kamay silang naglalakad noon habang nagkukwentuhan tungkol sa napurnadang unang pag-ibig ni A na siya raw nagturo sa kanya kung paano ngumiti tuwing kukunan siya ng larawan (hindi raw kasi siya ngumingiti bago niya nakilala ang una niyang pag-ibig). Nagkumento bigla si B tungkol sa ngiti ni A, kung gaano siya naaaliw sa isang aspeto nito- kung paano mas mahaba nang bahagya ang ngiti sa kaliwang bahagi ng mukha niya.

Hindi na maalala ni B kung kailan niya ito unang napansin…

Ito `yun. Nahuli ko ito sa pagitan nina A at B noong ika-12 ng Disyembre, 2008. Hindi sila naging magkasintahan, ngunit mayroon sila nitong pinagsaluhang sandali.

Ito ang regalo ng Panginoon sa sangkatauhan.

Mamihlapinatapai (Or How to Capture a Moment)

You know what’s beautiful?

That moment of hesitation before a first kiss.

If I were an artist, I’ll make it my hobby to collect those moments. I will look for couples who are newly in love. I will look for them in places where they may be found: in dark alleys and parking lots, inside empty classrooms, behind the shades of trees, even in the halls of churches.

I will hide and wait for the moment when they close their eyes, and their faces gravitate toward one another. Then I inch closer, slowly, quietly, and when I am within reach, I will capture that moment and keep it in a jar.

Once I have a decent collection, I will show it to the entire world through an exhibit. Each tiny mason jar has its own story.

This? I captured it between A and B on the 12th of December in 2008. They weren’t a couple. All they knew was that one day in November, without knowing why, they started holding each other’s hands.

Since then, every time they walked, they held hands (and promptly released them whenever they bumped into someone they know). Sometimes, A would even trace the scars on B’s hand with his index finger.

They were holding hands when they talked about A’s first love that never came to fruition. This person taught A how to smile in pictures. B then started talking about A’s smile, how she finds one aspect of it endearing–how he smiles with the left side slightly longer than the right.

B could not remember when she first noticed this peculiar thing.

I captured this between A and B on the 12th of December in 2008. They did not end up together, but they shared this moment.

This is God’s gift to mankind.

Photo and translation by Jen Jalandoni

Five Years and Ten Minutes

“You never told me what happened between you and, well, you know…”

I smiled as Robert took another drag from his cigarette. Robert was a security guard. I hadn’t seen him for five years. He and his dog were my companions most of the days I spent outside this school. For the longest time they thought I would cause a ruckus somehow. The day Robert “figured me out,” as he would say, he became more cordial. He started offering me cigarettes when all the teachers had gone. The dog, however, never really liked me.

“She’s here, you know. I saw her come in,” said Robert.

I didn’t know what to say to this.

“Then maybe you get to find out the answer to your question tonight.”

I finished my cigarette and headed in. On the gate hung a banner: “Welcome back, Class of 2008!”

As I stepped inside the campus, the memory of the first time I saw her came flashing back. She was a freshman; I was a senior from a rival school. Her school was hosting the inter-collegiate Battle of the Bands, and I was performing for one of the competing groups. We met backstage. She was one of the production assistants handling “outsiders” like us. After we took the stage and played our cover of Matchbox 20’s “Unwell,” small talk led me to asking her out.

Our first date was the stuff of legends. I think some people still  believe that we did the trademark “Titanic pose” on a balcony on that date.

I started seeing her almost every day after that. I would stay outside the school gate for a couple of hours, waiting for her to finish her tutorial sessions. And then I’d get ten minutes of conversation with her…If I were lucky. Her driver would come by and pick her up, always on time. I’d have one last cigarette with Robert, then go home and think of her all night.

Every moment I spent with her was better than the last. It got a little scary, to be honest ,and I figured it was too good to be true. I was falling in love with her. And she told me she was, too. We shared our deepest fears, our greatest wishes, and our wildest dreams. We were going to see the world together.

It was perfect. I was hoping against hope that there wasn’t a catch somewhere.

There was.

I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to be told the things I was told that day.

“You’re ruining her life. She has so much ahead of her. What does she even see in you?”

“She deserves better.”

“She’s just humoring you.”

I wanted to know if she believed the things her family told me. I wanted to hear her say it. So I waited for her, like I always did.

She didn’t come.

And for a week I waited—and hoped. But she never showed up again.

I never got an answer to my question, “Is it true, what they said?”

But fate has a funny way of fucking with you when you least expect it. Our band got hired to play an intermission number in their batch’s reunion. I didn’t think it was possible to feel so many emotions at once, but there they were. I wanted to say no, but a part of me really wanted to in the off-chance that she’d be there. I convinced myself by saying that I could always use the extra money.

As I walked around the campus, I could see so many stories—lovers reunited, friends reconnected, old hatred dissipated. The food was mostly good. Some people even stopped me and said they remembered me: “You were the boyfriend, right?”

“Yeah, I was.”

“Yup. Was.”

“Nope. Haven’t heard from her.”

It was finally time to play. Before I could stop myself, I said, “This one’s for you. You know who you are. Wish you were here so we can talk. Wish you weren’t so you won’t see me make a fool of myself.”

Awkward laughter from the crowd.

The night deepened and the crowd started to thin. I was talking to the few who stayed. She was here. Was she still here? Probably not.

I stepped out of the gates and lit a cigarette.

“Hey.”

I turned around and there she was.

“Hey.”

“What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you since…”

“The usual.” I smiled. “The band’s still together. We’ve been playing everywhere. We just signed an international contract. You?”

“Well, I’m a dentist now. Your teeth are going to go bad with all that smoking, you know.”

“Then I’m lucky I have you to check them for me, yes?”

“Maybe. I’m moving to London some time next year.”

“Oh.”

We stood there awkwardly. There were so many things I wanted to say, so many things I wanted to ask. I felt guilty for blaming her for suddenly disappearing from my life. And now that she’s here, now that we’re talking, they all seem like bullshit.

We stood there in silence for what felt like forever.

“Hey, listen. I need to ask you something.”

“What is it?” she said, her eyes locked on mine.

“Is it…”

A honk. It’s that goddamned driver.

“I have to go.” She blushed and looked away.

“Five more minutes?”

“I can’t. You know how he gets.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

“Probably not.”

She turned and started walking toward her car. But I couldn’t let her leave without knowing, so I shouted, “Is it true, what they said?”

She froze, her hand lingering on the car’s door handle. She looked at me, tears streaming down her face. She went in and shut the door.

They drove off. I lit another cigarette.

Robert appeared by my side a few moments later. He put a hand on my shoulder. I could feel tears on my own cheeks.

“Ten minutes. Just like back in the day.”

“Yeah. Some things never change.”

“So you never told me what happened between you and, you know…?”

“Well, there are some questions that you don’t really get to find the answers to.”

And for the first time in five years, I was content. I tried to pet the dog, but it still hated me. I wanted to decline the cigarette that Robert offered, but I couldn’t. I wanted to know the answer, but I still didn’t. I bade goodbye, and started walking home.

Some things just never change because they are never meant to. Some things you get answer to, and some things you just never do.

Photo by Elaine Tacubanza

Edited by Jen Jalandoni

Interview with an Ugly Vampire

Profile: Constantine A., The “Ugly” Vampire

By Ivan Walker

Constantine is not really what you’d call ugly. He has a slightly long face and a strong jaw line that’s lopsided, which gives the impression that he always has his head cocked to one side. It doesn’t help that when he talks, his lower lip leans toward the same direction. He has a high and straight nose bridge but with bulbous nostrils. His hair, swept to one side, covers the left part of his wide forehead. And he has the dullest hazel eyes I have ever seen, probably owed to the fact that he’s dead or because he never blinks.

At best, Constantine looks average-looking. With his greyish-green tweed jacket he wore with his white shirt and blue jeans, you could easily mistake him for a human, except for his deathly pallor, the kind you only see in people inside coffins or those who are on their way in one.

Ever since their existence was made known to the public and with the Vampires-Humans Peace Treaty being signed two years ago, prominent vampire personalities have been featured in different news outlets and online portals as ambassadors of their race with relative success. Now that people are more used to the idea of vampires walking among them, which they have done for centuries without us knowing, we put a spotlight on one vampire whose claim to uniqueness is how ugly he is.

* * *

Constantine A: Is this your first time interviewing a vampire?

Ivan Walker: Yes.

CA: Are you afraid?

IW: A little bit. Is it that obvious?

CA: I can see your jugular vein throbbing at a faster rate than the norm.

IW: (I instinctively covered my neck with both hands in a protective gesture.) Sorry. My mom is freaking out too.

CA: You and your mother have nothing to worry about. Before going here, I drank one of those lovely packs of blood your office sent to me early this evening.

IW: It’s a comfort to hear how much they care about both of our well-beings. Let’s start while you’re still full then. How did you become a vampire?

CA: I’m always appreciative when people skip the small talk. Well then, I became a vampire because of a dare. My mother, my creator, had a reputation of choosing only exceptionally beautiful people to turn into vampires. Traditionally, vampires believed that we are superior to humans. Extremists even believe that we’re gods. And all gods should be beautiful.

But through the ages, that extremist belief slowly died but the reverence in beauty remained. And there is a practicality to that. As you probably already know, we don’t have hypnotic powers as portrayed by some of your literature. Our representatives have repeated it over and over again in their press releases. So my mother believed that being attractive was the next best thing. A lot of vampires share this belief.

On July 20, 1827, during the Reckoning Day, I got turned.

IW: What’s the Reckoning Day?

CA: It’s sort of a vampire “holiday,” as you’d like to call it, where families gather every 50 years to commemorate the first recorded event of a vampire going up in flames under the sun. My mother’s siblings teased her about her beautiful children and dared her to create an ugly vampire. Shallow and pettish being that she is, she wanted to prove that she could do it.

I visited a friend that night. We had a lengthy discussion about opening a shop to sell spectacles and didn’t notice the lateness of the hour. As I was walking home, my mother, who was walking the opposite direction stopped and asked for directions to St. James Cemetery. She appeared distressed but still a sight to behold. I offered to walk her there because I didn’t want to leave her alone in her state. It is also very rare that a lady would look in my direction, with good reason as you can see for yourself, so I wanted to be in the company of this beautiful woman as long as she’d have me.

She talked very little and occasionally sobbed as we walked to the cemetery. I respected her mourning by not asking questions. When we got to the grave of her supposed husband, she sobbed harder and louder. I remember being at a loss on whether I should put my arm around her, or possibly even hold her hand. She quieted down after a few minutes and then she put her head on my shoulder. And then she faced me.

I was scared when I saw her face in full. There really was no other way to describe it. She looked dead, but still incredibly beautiful. I was startled when she kissed me, partly because of her cold lips but mostly because I have never been kissed before. I was frozen. And then she started kissing my eyes, my cheeks, my face, and finally my neck. And the rest, as they say, is history.

IW: We’ve already heard a lot from the likes of Charles Raleigh, Mary Celestine d’Ivri, and other vampire ambassadors on what it’s like to turn into a vampire. Other than the physical changes, what other transitions did you have to go through?

CA: For me, it was adjusting to the culture of vanity. I was never fascinated with my looks, even when I was human, because there was nothing impressive to see. But for my beautiful brothers and sisters, and my mother of course, they could put any teenager to shame with the inordinate amount of selfies they take.

We’ve shared that we are capable of greater speed and strength than the average human, but what they don’t like disclosing during interviews is that if we get hurt or maimed or even scratched, those physical manifestations are permanent. And you know permanent for us means centuries.

IW: So it’s like in the movie “Death Becomes Her” when Goldie Hawn had that hole in her stomach?

CA: Yes. Very much like that film. And so, this combination of vanities that they already had when they were alive and beauty being an advantage to attract humans consumes vampires.

It is not unknown to us that some vampires would willingly burn themselves by walking in daylight just because they have injured their faces or bodies. They would rather die than be ugly.

IW: It’s true that I’ve never seen an ugly vampire.

CA: Present company excluded.

IW: I refuse to comment on that. (I nervously laugh at this point.) But yes, all the vampires being interviewed on TV are beautiful, even the men. I’m actually obsessed with Mary Celestine. She is beyond stunning. Whoever decided to make her one of your representatives was spot on. I mean, really good job. She is basically a goddess. For vampires like her, what lengths would she go to maintain her allure?

CA: Most vampires I know have other vampires dress them and put on their make-up just like your celebrities. I know of some who have surgeons but they only perform very minor surgeries on account of our inability to heal.

IW: How about you? Do you have any beauty rituals?

CA: None, except maybe that I own a headless mannequin custom-made to my measurements. I put my clothes on it before I wear them. So I guess I do have some vanities.

IW: That is surprising. Also, I’m glad I finally got a smile out of you. Those look like really sharp fangs, by the way.

Given that you’ve gone through a lot of fashion eras, which one was your favorite?

CA: I don’t think I have a particular favorite era. But I had the easiest time dressing myself during the 1920s because the clothes were just like a revision of what men wore in the 1800s.

IW: And what was the hardest era to dress for?

CA: The hardest era was definitely the sixties. I wasn’t comfortable with all the psychedelic prints, tight pants, fringe vests, and the general flamboyance. But the hippies were almost always high so they’re easy preys. Dressing like them helped me blend in.

During the Summer of Love in ‘67 and Woodstock, I told people that I have this new drug that had to be administered through their necks. A lot of vampires feasted during those times.

IW: What fills your immortal time? Do you do anything for recreation?

CA: Like we keep repeating, we’re not immortal. We’re just very articulate zombies who can die a second death. I even believe that our “immortality” is such a waste because we spend half of our time sleeping.

And to answer your question, I’m a licensed embalmer at a morgue. I’m also taking classes, night classes, on medicine and forensic science to become a coroner.

IW: You’ve come full circle then. Is it hard to find a job as a vampire?

CA: It was actually easier finding a job when we were underground. I’d usually tell employers that I already have a morning job so I can only work nights. I look like I’m always tired anyway so they believed me.

But now once they know I’m a vampire, they ask so many questions. There’s a lot of paperwork you have to sign and requirements you have to submit. They’re very apprehensive hiring vampires when the job involves working with humans. At least at the morgue, they don’t have to worry about me sucking the clientele’s blood.

IW: Do you watch vampire movies or TV series?

CA: I do. “Interview with the Vampire” is actually one of my favorites because it’s the first mainstream movies that tried to see the other side of vampirism. We have been in discussions with the government for decades now about the issues of “living” in the open and announcing our existence. The public did not know this, but when the movie was released, we were at the tipping point of the Vampires-Humans Peace Treaty.

The most far-fetched thing I’ve watched about vampires is “True Blood.” We don’t have sex like that. In reality, we almost don’t have sex anymore. We can’t really afford to direct the limited amount of blood we have to something unproductive. And for female vampires, they don’t want to ruin the shape of their vaginas for temporary pleasure.

I have no comparison between human sex and vampire sex because I was a virgin when I got turned. But when I did find someone willing to lay with me, I almost regretted it. I’ve never felt so vulnerable.

IW: In your almost-200 years of existence, what is the craziest thing you’ve seen?

CA: The crazy memories all kind of meld into each other that you’re never sure if it even happened that way. The thing that I’m remembering right now is during the Great Depression, I saw a frail, withering-looking man slumped on the street in one of those Hooverville towns. He beckoned me and told me he was looking for me. He wasn’t in his right mind anymore. I knew he’s dying so I took advantage and fed on him. Then people slowly started coming out of their shacks and surrounded us. I don’t know why I didn’t run. I could’ve easily outran them.

Then I realized they weren’t looking at me. They were looking at the man. They thought I was one of them, that I was just the first one to act on what they’ve been thinking of doing. Then the man shouted, “He is my son! He is my son!” I carried him in my arms and escaped the mob.

Once we got to a secluded place, I continued feeding on him. Then he stroked my head and said in a feeble voice, “After you’re done, don’t forget to take me to your sister. She also needs to eat.”

Status Update

Hello, you guys. Here I am again, trying something new. Last time I did a whole series of fashion posts which went way better than expected so thank you for reading those. It was a blast. This time I’m going to try my hand at fiction.

It’s daunting because for fiction, you’re basically creating a new world from scratch. It feels god-like, but also really scary. You have to bring life to characters by just imagining their history, problems, and insecurities which may be totally different from you own. And on top of it, the reader has to feel something. So no pressure, I guess.

I should really get to work. Here’s a very short story about Kim, Jordan, and breaking up in the era of social media.

A cryptic tweet, how typical. I wonder if any of my friends will reply to it. I kinda want them to, but at the same time I don’t, which really contradicts the whole idea of tweeting about it. You still follow me on Twitter so I hope you read it. But if I’m being honest, my “official” breakup tweet is more for me than anyone else—to start coming to terms that it’s actually over.

When did we start talking about important life events in tweets and status updates? It’s as if we have this fear that if we don’t let people know of the things we do, then they didn’t really happen. If I erase all traces of you in my social media accounts, does that mean our relationship wasn’t real?

My pride never allowed me to tell you this, but toward the end, I felt that you liked my posts and photos because you only felt obligated. Then that obligatory likebecame an obligatory “I love you,” an obligatory date, an obligatory kiss. Well, at least now you don’t have to do those things anymore.

I don’t want to see your posts, but I don’t want to appear that I can’t handle you moving on with your life either.

I scrolled through our messages on Facebook—all 20,755 of them—from the very first time we chatted. How many of those were because of a fight?

I should delete all these. But then I think if I read all of them again, I could find the exact moment when things started to go wrong. I want to know the time stamp for that.

That’s the last thing I see in our conversation. It’s glaring at me, taunting me with its finality.

“Seen” is such a weird word. How can it stand on its own like that? I want to be that word. I want to make sense on my own. I don’t want to need some other person to validate me.

But what I really want is for Facebook chat to sense what we actually feel. If it worked that way, instead of merely saying “Seen,” this is what you’d see in your chat box:

I wish our break-up were more poetic or romantic. I want to tear up love letters but all I have are text messages and call logs. I want to burn photos of us, see it slowly turn into ashes, and let the smell be the only memory that lingers. But all I do instead is angrily click “Delete” over and over again, fighting back tears as I remember those captured moments. I’m afraid of finally deleting the last photo because then everything will be as if it never happened, like a status update I failed to post.

Edited by Allan Policarpio and Elaine Tacubanza

Images via, via

10 Days of Quitting You

Day 1. I did it. I finally had the guts to end this. After all the years we’ve been together, we’re over. I feel relieved, as if a bullet that had been lodged in my body for so long has been removed. Yet I feel incomplete in its absence. This will take some getting used to.

Day 2. I hope you’re fine without me. I know you’re fine without me. You were always better at showing the world how unfazed you are, as if nothing is ever wrong in your life. I remember the first time we broke up, none of your friends could tell anything was wrong. You seemed to not have a care in the world. Looking back, maybe you really didn’t care what happened to us. Maybe it was for my sake that I made myself believe that you were only pretending to be okay

Day 3. The hardest part so far is not being able to talk to you, though we weren’t even speaking the same language anymore toward the end. But at least we still had the chance to try to understand each other. I wanted to handle this like adults and still be civil, but I guess you don’t want that. All those snide remarks and “inspirational” quotes  you post online about girls breaking your heart? I’d rather you blocked me on all your accounts instead.

Day 4. My friends told me that they are happy we finally broke up. Happy for me because they always thought our relationship did more harm than good. I wanted to defend our relationship and tell them of great moments we had, but I can’t remember any happy memory of us at the time. All those years and I couldn’t even muster one memory of you making me happy. I’m sure it’ll come back to me.

Day 5. So this is what freedom feels like. No more worrying about what you’re going to say on what I want to do, who I’m with or where I’m going. No more listening to you say that my dreams are impractical (read: stupid). Do you know that when I start doubting myself, I hear it in your voice?

Day 6. I’m alone right now and I badly want to talk to you. I’m constantly wondering what you’re doing and if you wonder about me the same way. I’m starting to question if breaking up with you was a mistake. If you talk to me right now, at this very moment, I would probably take you back. And this is the thought that keeps me from talking to you. I want and don’t want to be with you anymore.

Day 7. I can’t believe it’s just been a week. It feels longer than that. I started thinking about how things went wrong. When did I start to lose myself and just merely became your girl? I’m just a shell of what I once was, but I’m taking bits and pieces of myself back. It will be a long process, just like how you leached the life out of me slowly but surely through the years.

Day 8. Guess what? I’m writing short stories again. You always thought that writing to make a living was stupid. I know it’s going to be hard and I’m still far from being the next Genoveva Edroza-Matute, but at least I’m doing what I love.

Day 9. Remember that guy who courted me for so long? You always made fun of him behind his back. He has a girlfriend now. I saw them today and they seemed like a happy couple. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I broken up with you sooner and got together with him. He is such a great guy and everyone has nothing but nice things to say about him.

Day 10. At what point did I stop loving you? At what point did I stop loving myself?