Have I?

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His face keeps on haunting me; and now, I am seeing it in you. That cut on your left eyebrow that you got when you had a fight with your cousin, the dot-like mole on your upper lips that I’d like to kiss, your eyes that shows the innocence in you, and your lashes that is as dark as a charcoal and as soft as a feather. Everything.

It was a wintry night when I called you. We talked for about an hour. You sang every Ed Sheeran’s song on the phone that made me go crimson. You sang Perfect like you were taking me on a different world—utopia, I whispered to myself. It was everything.

Earlier today I took you to the place where me and my friends go when we wanted to have a food trip. We’re almost too sweet for the desserts we bought, we talked during the heavy rainfall, and I laughed at your corny jokes without even thinking how stupid my face is. I guess that’s it. That moment when you have forgotten every single thing on this universe and the cascading rain from the roof is all I hear. Not a second of my time with you was wasted.

I am allowing you to take another piece of me. I insist. ‘Cause everyone else already has. Now I kept asking myself, have I already found a love for me?

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Volunteer. Advocate. Share.

As usual, I arrived 30 minutes prior to the call time. I met Miss Jedda, the Project Pearls team head, in front of Isetann Mall at exactly 6:30 in the morning along with the other Project Pearls volunteer. We departed the meeting place at 7 sharp. Inside our service vehicle, volunteers are starting to get to know each other. That wasn’t the first time I talked to Rolyn, Patrick, and Mark. Yes, a name same as mine. Geez, I’m already inventing names. Not the kind of person whose good at remembering names but I recognized their faces, though. Mark, who’s a newbie to Project Pearls said that this isn’t his first time to volunteer for an organization. Patrick, is quiet. Rolyn, she’s quiet, too. No one’s talking aside from Mark and Miss Jedda. Well, what do you expect from us.

We stopped by a McDonald’s on our way to Helping Land, Tondo to pick up foods for children. There were other volunteers waiting for us inside the food chain, probably, they were the one’s who ordered the foods so that we could easily picked it up when we arrive.

Now we’re all set to make the kids happy.

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The driver of service vehicle we’re in dropped us at the other side of the street, telling us that we can take the footbridge to be able to get there fast. We climb the steep steps that is more or less 80 steps or so. You can almost see the whole town of Helping Land, and even the barges from Baseco Port Area. Going down the footbridge you’ll notice a lot of garbage bags, oversize bags, scavenged by children’s and old man. The program head told us that we’re not close yet to the place we will be going.

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So, we continued our walk. I get to observe from the main walkway their houses—makeshift walls from recycled roofs, decayed wood ladders, and disfigured mini houses. The ground is miry, may be last day the rain poured down or that was the natural state of their place. As we drew near closer to the place where the program will be held, there is another vehicle that carries the teaching materials, plastic utensils and food containers, and other foods that will be distributed to the kids. On my left, a woman on her late 50s was segregating garbage. What caught my attention is when I saw her separate soiled foods from the trash. Is she going to use it again for her animals? Or heartbreakingly to her family?

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Few steps more and we’re nearby the place. I’m seeing children on their widest smiles as they take our hands walking us toward where my heart will be filled with joy and love and contentment. Kids were already lined up outside. Inside, other volunteers were busy spreading jams on sandwiches, grating cheddar cheese on macaroni, unboxing juices in tetra packs, and spindling in hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks. I did the latter.

Before the program starts, Miss Jedda orients us first on what to do and how to do things when the program is on.

Each volunteers were assigned on their designated areas. I’m tasked to assists kids to help them sit on their chairs when they enter, along with their foods. After they finished their foods, Miss Jedda conducted a game. Each team will imitate the sound of an animal. Representing the ferocious felines, my team growled their loudest meows that gets the attention of kids from another teams because the kids on my team raised their paws and growled simultaneously. Yas, my team got my attitude.

A volunteer chose to celebrate her birthday together with the children. Party vibe is on when kids started to dance and enjoy the music. Games, games, and games. An hour for a game will do. Before the kids go outside they received school supplies from foreign volunteers. And that was the part one of the program.

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For the second part,  we’re going to conduct tutorials for children—English, Art, and Math, for different grade levels. All volunteers were asked to join the circle led by Miss Jedda so she can designate us on the grade level we’ll be teaching. She asked us our courses, I told her Communication, but she still assigned me to teach fifth grader students to do M-A-T-H. Why? I asked the birds on the ceiling, the worms on the ground, the Sun, the clouds, and the Heaven. Of all people to do Math why me? Nonetheless, I read the handouts they gave me and reviewed it. These kids knew better than I do. They were intelligent enough to answer and write solutions on the scratch papers provided to them. These kids have the brains but some of them are unfortunately out-of-school youth. They need support from people like us, from a person like you for them to be able to finish their education.

To conclude the day, we had a photo-op. Miss Jedda said her “thank you” to everyone who helped her made this outreach program possible.

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Project Pearls is not a fancy outreach ministry; it is nothing large or grandiose; it doesn’t compete or seek for glory. They just simply want to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and hold the hands of those who hurt.

How fulfilling it is to help the underprivileged children of the Philippines, one by one. Helping them to have a better life through various outreach programs of Project Pearls.

Breaking the cycle of poverty is almost impossible. But poverty doesn’t have to be permanent especially for children.

Being a part of this organization really helps me to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children in the Philippines…without politics, religion, race, national origin, economic status, age, and gender. As long you’re willing to offer your 100% self to serve the children and give them happiness, Project Pearls Philippines is more than happy to have you.

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To The Guy Who Broke My Heart Without Even Knowing It

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I was always a fiercely independent person. I am the only child of my parents. Their son who, eventually, turns out to be a daughter; by heart. My parents had been separated for almost thirteen years. So my mom raised me all by herself.

She raised me well; my mom taught me how to aim high—how to keep my grades and my future intact. She made sure I was self-sufficient, and thanks to her, I never depended on anyone. Those struggles honestly turned my heart into stone.

Growing up I have had a lot of boy crushes . I discovered that I’m into boys when I was a second grader. The initials of their first names were predominantly “J” or “M” and that was purely coincidental. I didn’t tell anything about my crushes to my mom. (Everybody in my family knows that I’m gay and they accepted me for who I am because my grandma would always tell me that whatever makes me happy they just go along with it.) Not because I am afraid, or I am shy. But mostly because I don’t like them to know who my crushes are.

The time I come out as a gay to my family, my mom already fed me with the harsh realities. To make me strong, she said.

Since then I was practical enough to avoid toxic guys—those guys who mocks you in the street, guys that always asks for something and sooner or later will made you wait for nothing. Though my mom didn’t tell me about boys like you. I don’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for not warning me that sometimes, the good-looking guys are most of the time the guys that won’t do me no good—that’s the kind of thing I learned as I grew up. And if it weren’t for this guy, I never would have known the truth, that I could be broken. So thank you for the lesson.

You weren’t a bad boy, but ironically, that was the problem. You were such a great guy—kind and intelligent and so…different from all the other guys I’ve met who were spoiled and self-entitled. Thank you for teaching me to be less cynical on the aspect of love. Thank you for showing me that not all guys were selfishly shallow. But most importantly, thank you for restoring my faith in love; the love I told you that I was kinda hoping for so long, that a guy like you will come into my life.

Perhaps you knew how I felt. Perhaps you didn’t. Even to this day, I’m still not sure if you ever liked me like I liked you. We would talk about every single thing when we’re eating together on our favorite go-to fast food chains, no matter how small, how solemn, or how shocking our topic is. We discussed everything together, whether it was something as austere as political matters or something as hilarious as punny memes. We shared our dreams with each other, and laughed about over our big plans for the future. Finally, I had met someone who was as passionately driven as I was, and you felt the same way, too.

Basically, we became each other’s person, the one who we could always talk to—that person we thought would never leave. Most especially for you to talk to in times you were not you, in times you were someone else. For indeed, just for a moment, what we had felt like it would last forever.

That night after we ate at a food chain located near 9th Avenue, I wasn’t aware what you were thinking that exact moment when I was talking about my plans for the coming schooldays. I didn’t know that you were leaving your hometown and wandering round the nearest province in South. The night after you left, our classmates begun talking about your disappearance. They told me about you, that you were unconscious that’s why you were rushed in the hospital, make no mistake: I was not surprised. After all, even before meeting you, I was a person whose living my whole life spontaneously. Though I am really concerned about you.

I’m beginning to lose my mind. I am hearing not a single melody in the air, just the sound of the wind and the leaves it touches. And that sound isn’t enough to comfort me. I need to hear your voice whispering in my ear saying you’re okay.

Days passed by, finally you went to school, after much observation with your change—it’s sad how you went from being that guy who’s eager to share all of his stories with me to a mere stranger—I realized: You were broken. I am shattered. After all we were all shards of glass scattered on the ground that can’t be fix by anybody.

I thought that you had begun pulling away little by little. Until now, I don’t know what is your reason. Maybe there is really something that bothers you in your head, that there is a lot happening in your mind that you can’t explain. Maybe you were really tired of yourself, or maybe sick and tired of life, itself. That would have been cruel, yet highly unlikely—because I see how determined you are even though you felt like the world is against you.

In the end, you broke me, but only for a little while. You showed me more about life and love than I ever imagined. My old self shattered but I learned how to pick up the pieces again. You were a lesson learned—that love with someone was possible, after all, as long as I learned to love myself first. One day, my new self emerged, stronger and wiser than ever. I never would have improved without you.

Please, know that I am always here for you no matter what life throws at you. I hope you know I have always and will always be here for you. One day things will be better and not as hard as they are now. I hope you always remember how much I always want to be there for you.

So to the boy who broke me temporarily but who allowed me to fix myself permanently: From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

J.

A Game of Trolls

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I was able to score a ticket from my friends, who were an intern at PETA to watch A Game of Trolls, last September 30, 2017. The day before the show, my friend asked me to look for people who wanted to watch the play, because she had a lot of tickets. Some have their valid reasons on why they can’t go, and few, I think have reservations. Fast forward on the day of the show, I went to PETA by myself. How about those tickets, right? I don’t give a damn. Well, let’s not give a damn. Right at that moment I get to conclude that since then on I’m A Strong Independent Gay and I didn’t mind it at all even though I’m all alone.

A Game of Trolls focuses on the Martial Law era in the Philippines. I wasn’t born during those years, but I did grow up hearing stories from my grandparents and my teachers, people who rallied against the regime and grew up watching the many documentaries about Martial Law, and now on different social media platforms. Though I may have a third person perspective, I know better than to call those years and the regime the “Golden Years of the Philippines”.

The attack of the musicale is very millennial. Undoubtedly, people of all ages enjoyed the show. It expresses the truths and shows us that some lies still perpetuate until today. But with people who still seek to speak and tell the truth, there is hope for real change to happen and for lies and fake news to end.

A Game of Trolls, is the story of Heck, a troll whose indifference makes him the perfect keyboard warrior for Bimbam, the manager of a ‘call center’ that runs an online pro-martial law campaign. His lack of attachment to any belief can be used to make him unleash callous words to anyone who comments against the martial law days. Ghosts of Martial law victims haunt him from the internet cloud, where they fear being erased as people slowly forget their stories. The encounters forced him to reflect on his own beliefs and his relationship with his mother, a former Martial Law activist.

Beside me was an old woman, more likely on her 60’s. I sometimes look at her and found her tearing up at times. That. I can say is how you engage with the spectators.

A Game of Trolls wasn’t just a musicale, it was a lecture adequately delivered through art without having to compromise on telling straight facts. No trolling for truth, as blatant as they could. Slow clap for the actors and actresses, especially Myke Salomon and Miss Gail Billones. Kudos to Miss Maribel Legarda for creating such beautiful and freeing show.

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A Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why

Before I read this book I was a happy person.

The back-and-forth narration of this book pave way to let the readers inhale the story of Hannah Baker. Dual narration made the plot an honest story to tell; to understand what was going through Hannah’s mind and at the same time getting the reaction of a person, Clay Jensen, who is very much regretful because he didn’t get the chance to help her. I like that the characters in this novel are caught up in the middle rather than on the issues themselves. Even though Hannah Baker admits that the decision to take her life was entirely her own, it’s also important to be aware of how we treat the people around us. We do have an impact on the lives of others; that’s undeniable. To think that suicide has such a stigma attached to it that we feel we’re going to offend that person by bringing it up. We must rather let them feel offended than losing them to suicide.

People like Hannah Baker needs to know that they can talk to someone they can resonate with without downplaying their emotions.

“When you hold people up for ridicule, you have to take responsibility when other people act on it.”

4 STARS.

Check out my goodreads account: Mark Razo

A Book Review: Carry On

Carry On

Hoping that this book will have a sequel.
As soon as possible.

Two things I loved about this book:
1. It has a PLOT.
2. So much kissing and kissing and kissing.

Carry On puts me in such a wonderful mood and let me tell you that, even if the romance takes time to appear, when it does, it’s hard not to notice it.

As in, you will love Simon & Baz.

I’m going to die reading this book over and over again. Aleister Crowley, I’m living a charmed life.

5 STARS.

Check out my goodreads account: Mark Razo

A Book Review: I’ll Give You The Sun

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Since I’ll Give You The Sun is told from the alternating perspectives of twins Noah and Jude. I felt like I was drawn to Noah’s struggling-in-life-kind-of-narration throughout the story. However, that didn’t change the course of the story for me. I think the significance of telling the story in alternating perspectives is the point that since we all have our own opinions and views on a particular matter , just like Noah and Jude, it is always important to see things differently. That we need to see both sides of the coin. Maybe I liked Noah’s narration because he has this ‘Invisible Museum’ on his mind. Or maybe you liked Jude’s narration because she had her grandma’s bible where she got all those beliefs from her. It’s the twins differences and narration that made this novel a grand story to share.

Quoting this line from the book where Noah said that “If Mom died, the sun would go out.” When you’re done reading this book you’ll get to conclude that the ‘sun’ for Noah and Jude means everything. And that ‘everything’ taught me something and that is to understand love, identity struggles, loss, betrayal, and the complications of family, even deeper.

5 STARS.

Check out my goodreads account: Mark Razo