my father called just a couple of minutes after having left the house, asking if his glasses were in his room. he sounded a bit flustered. he was on his way to meet a classical pop singing group, who had approached him through a mutual friend, asking for coaching on the Filipino language. they were going to release an album full of popular, classic love songs in Filipino. the kundiman: it’s made up a good deal of my childhood knowledge of music, growing up around the company of my father’s family, mainly my grandparents and their singing peers. i don’t understand a lot of the words but i could probably hum most of them all the way through.
i think he was a bit nervous. our printer didn’t work so the guide he had prepared, a, ba, ka, da, e, ga, ha, etc. - he could not bring with him. i assured him, as he shuttled around getting ready, that he could just email it, and that a relaxed first session would do both parties good. he knew this. he has been singing all his life. in a different life perhaps he could have done it professionally. but other things happened.
i dashed out the door and in a milisecond wondered if i should have grabbed a jacket, only to discover in the next that the weather was pretty perfect. it wasn’t sunny, but the air was still, slightly warm. a hint of humidity. sense memory kicked in and i imagined myself running out the door of my grandparents’. through the garage and onto the hot pavement on a cool night in the philippines.
do you like my outfit? he asked, as i handed him his glasses. his new trainers matched his shirt. yellow. it’s really yellow! i grinned, thinking that it looked like something he would wear somewhere warm. somewhere like manila.
i could almost hear the noisy motors of a jeepney. or those birds, whose song sounds like a doorbell.
The Hanging Coffins of Sagada
The people of Sagada in the Philippines follow a unique burial ritual. The elderly carve their own coffins out of hollowed logs. If they are too weak or ill, their families prepare their coffins instead. The dead are placed inside their coffins (sometimes breaking their bones in the process of fitting them in), and the coffins are brought to a cave for burial.
Instead of being placed into the ground, the coffins are hung either inside the caves or on the face of the cliffs, near the hanging coffins of their ancestors. The Sagada people have been practicing such burials for over 2,000 years and some of the coffins are well over a century old.
where is the achievement award?
when i stop to think about it, i always find myself drowning in today’s DIY culture. the internet has given everyone a chance to be an entrepreneur and it now seems to be the default occupation. preoccupation. pre-occupation. post-occupation. through-occupation. inbetween-occupations.
i try to keep up, and i’m sure i will get it done at some point, but only by going great lengths, and i will most likely not do as much as is expected of me. for a little while i am excited by prospects of self-promotion, ‘getting out there’ - and then i actually begin to go about it and all i want to do is curl up in bed and not answer any questions about where i am going to take my ceramics skills or whether i have any weddings to photograph this summer (never again, not alone).
standing near the exit of this chapter - one more year of my degree - i can feel the wind beyond and it is totally different. already i feel out of my depth.
all around me are unread books, material for unstarted projects, notebooks that have rotting purpose of being written in. and i am terrified. not of the presence of these, but of the thought of how long it will take me, if i do, to accomplish something. or even to begin at all.