The Sunbaked King

Homebound: Single Guy Says Goodbye

You look at your watch. It’s 4 PM. The plane leaves at 6. You have two solid hours to roam around the airport, eat, and skim through the book you brought with you. It’s the same old routine, the road easiest to travel, the path of least resistance.

But somehow, this time, you just want to take a seat and look around.

The guy in front of you is fiddling with his laptop, muttering under his breath about how there’s no socket anywhere. He absentmindedly messes up his well-gelled hair in frustration. As he closes his laptop, his phone rings. There’s nothing but frustration in his voice. His body screams for release; his demeanor reveals nothing but resignation.

The woman two seats down is reading a greeting card from someone you surmise is her beau. Her smile is radiant and fills her face like a thousand beautiful Japanese lanterns. At one point, she tucks her hair behind her ear and giggles silently. You begin to suspect that the greeting card isn’t as long as she makes it appear; she has been reading it again and again.


To your left, a ten-year-old boy is busily punching his brother by the shoulder. You are first saddened by the sight; your brothers mean so much to you. As the scene unfolds more clearly in your sight, however, you realize that the youngster is laughing as he “mock” jabs the elder. On the older brother’s lap is a puzzle book. Clearly they are having a competition, and the younger one just lost on a question. You wait for their parents to arrive (perhaps holding two Smokey’s frankfurters), but no one comes. The brothers are all on their own.

Philippine Airlines Flight MC5 flying to Manila is now accepting passengers for boarding.

The corporate guy, just finished with his phone call, looks at the plane with a hopeful look in his eyes. It’s just work, those eyes say. There’s something beyond the islands, beyond the seas, and I will find my rest.

The woman leaps out of her seat, grabs her bag, and rushes to the front of the line. It’s been too long, that jump says. The words from the endless exchange of letters shall now become reality, the words shall now bear fruit.

The older brother takes the youngster’s bag and carries it with his own luggage. With one arm holding the bags, and the other draped around the youngster’s shoulders, the two walk the short path to the queue. They have just left their parents and their childhood behind; it’s now time to be men and move on with their lives.

You smile. A tingling sensation runs from your toe all the way to your head. As you stand, a single thought crosses your head:


The future has never looked so bright.


Filed under: Domesticated, Eros, Fiction, Yes?, Utter Joy


We are. πŸ™‚

Filed under: Utter Joy

Yearend Series 2008: The Year That Was (III)

October to December: So we’ve come to the last leg of 2008, the final quarter of the calendar year. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? πŸ™‚

There are three events that highlight this period: the arrival of family, the case of the exam, and the grand Mindanao tour.

The Arrival of Family. Papa arrived in October for an interview. He’s been under the same company for 25 years now, and it was time to move on. During this time, he resigned and accepted the offer for a new job. As it turned out, he had to return to Manila in November for almost a month of training. Imagine my surprise and joy to find out that he brought Mama with him. For the first time since I was 6 years old, there were four of us in Manila. Just swap Kuya with Kenneth, exchange Manila Zoo with Manila Ocean Park, and remove the fascination with Jollibee and TimeZone, and you’ve got the same deal.

The Case of the Exam. My second local exam, my sixth overall, my seventh technically. I failed my last exam in June, and I certainly didn’t want that to happen again. So by September, I had my schedule all planned out. Unfortunately, there was no way in hell I could follow the schedule; there was simply not enough willpower in me to charge through readings night after night after night. Sometimes the place wasn’t warm enough, I didn’t bring my jacket, something’s distracting me, I left work a little too late, I was too tired, I couldn’t understand my readings–

Excuses. It was a double whammy of faults: 1) I wasn’t studying right; 2) I wasn’t studying. Good thing the lawyers around me took me by the shoulders and shook me. Hard. With only a month to go, I learned how to study. 21 years of studying and I got nothing? Shame on me. Shaaaaaame on me.

I’m still waiting for the results of the exam. Pray for me, amigos.

The Grand Mindanao Tour. Each year, the actuaries and actuaries-to-be from all over meet up and converge in a 2-day-long seminar. Last year it was Cebu. This year, it was Cagayan de Oro. The highlight of each trip is not the 2-day seminar, but the 2-day weekend that follows it. In keeping up with the theme of the seminar (and of year 2008), we explored CDO in a way I haven’t explored anything before: we went adventurous. Risk-ploring has never felt this intense, and I’m not even talking about the canopy walk, or the whitewater rafting, or the zipline. I’m talking about the chase to catch the plane ride home.

But that’s another story to be told another time.

* * * * * * *

I intended “The Year That Was” review to occupy only one entry. As it turned out, one column’s worth of reminiscing is simply not enough. I guess one of the major reasons why I found myself so entranced by writing about 2008 is because I found a theme to encapsulate the entire year: Riskploration. Yes, it appears that the theme for our annual actuarial gathering turned out to be the perfect word to describe what 2008 was like.

Venturing in the Dark. Wading in new territories. Mixing with new circles. Meeting new friends from unlikely places. Choosing paths I would not have normally chosen. Trying out new cuisines. Dining in new restaurants. Reading my way out of Stephen King territory. Gaining newfound confidence. Feeling newfound shame and humility.

So what did I discover in my riskploring?

No matter how much pain and heartbreak the universe throws at you, there’s nothing that time can’t heal, and there’s no one friends can’t save.

Happy new year, everyone. πŸ™‚

Filed under: Yearend

Yearend Series 2008: The Year That Was (II)

May: May 10, 2008. That was perhaps the date when I first glimpsed a world that would soon suck me in. A week later, I found myself in the center of a universe I never had the chance to explore before. I was enthralled, excited, eager.

My life is standing at the threshold of a new world right now. I don’t know what’s out there. I’ve only seen glimpses and only heard sound bites, but the visions I glimpsed were colorful, and the sounds I heard were pleasant to the ear. As it was with every beginning, I’m terrified, and yet excited.

I took the leap and never looked back. Well, until now. Do I regret it? No. Do I wish things turned out differently? No. It wasn’t about the new bonds that were formed; I was thankful for that for so many reasons (a reason to shop for new clothes, on the shallow side; a reason to expand the self in relation to the other, on the deep end). Exploration isn’t so bad, as long as you know what you’re leaving behind.

June: The more I explored this new world, the more I forgot what it was that I left behind. In the process of scouting what I had missed out on, I stumbled upon an especially wonderful gem. I knew about the gem from a friend who first saw it jutting out of a rock; I knew the gem’s power to charm; I knew the gem’s magical properties. But I ignored the warnings my friend gave me. The gem was too beautiful, too irresistible. I had to have it.

The gem accelerated the process of forgetting. But when the gem decided that I was not the right owner for it, my previous life came crashing back down. The fantasy world collapsed around me. One after the other, the dominoes tumbled: a rejection for a job application I thought I aced and an exam that I knew I failed spectacularly.

But it wasn’t all gloom and doom, no matter how much I try to emphasize that it was. I transferred, both in the real world and the virtual world, and I was glad. Our office left its old home and transferred just across the hall, but it felt like we moved from Manila to Makati.

And perhaps the more important transfer: I left Multiply and created The Sunbaked King.

July and August: I didn’t realize how much of my time the blog occupied until I sifted through the archives. Nothing of note happened during July and August, but my blog contained tons of movie reviews, restaurant reviews, book lists, and TV commentaries. It seemed like I dove into blogging and stayed there, and only rose up to breathe a dose of reality occasionally (like during my birthday, which was a superb addicting dose of reality).

The blog transformed from a “stalking” device (or pa-porma device, if you prefer) to something resembling a friend. The Single Guy entries (fiction, yes) served as both my companion and cushion for those times I wondered “if only” and wondered “how come”? And for a while, it worked. And for a moment, I felt, really, really fine.

September: Check out these September entries in my previous blogs:

I’m tired. I’m confused. I don’t want to think anymore. I deserve to be alone. I think I’m meant to be alone.

My self-esteem just dropped a thousand points right now.

You know that you’re not as OK as you think you are when you start singing boy band songs and chewing various candies to console yourself.

On a lighter note, I don’t like the Smoothie Mix series of Skittles. Damn you, Cotton Candy flavor! But I ate you anyway.

Wait. That wasn’t so light a note, after all.

As you can see, September was my Waterloo month, the month that trumped all other months in terms of self-pity and defeat. But in 2008, September was a month of redemption, of recollection, of revival. For the first time in months, I felt contented. With just a change in routine, my life seemed to turned around. I had time to do everything: study for my exams, blog during nighttime, party during weekends (O, the Dark, the Dark), and bond with new-found friends. Never mind the crisis in the insurance industry; never mind the stress of the impending exams. Indeed, I felt a flash of hope that the year would end at a very high note.

And it didn’t hurt that Ateneo won the basketball championship. πŸ™‚

Filed under: Yearend

Yearend Series 2008: The Year That Was (I)

My Comeback entries (I and II) almost served as a summary of the year that was. Almost is the operative word here, because those entries never fully encapsulated what 2008 was for me. Good thing. If that were the case, 2008 would be known as the Year Love Never Really Took Flight, or, as whispered in some circles, the Year of Suck.

There’s so much more to 2008 than the fact that I wasn’t able to find a partner for myself. There is always more to life than romantic relationships. My roommate and very good friend Jeland reminds me constantly– “You make me complete” is a fundamentally wrong sentiment. You don’t need anyone to feel complete. You don’t need somebody to be happy. I say this, of course, at the risk of sounding bitter and forlorn; but the sentiment remains true nonetheless.

So what else is there? Here’s a rundown of the year that was.

January to April: There’s a reason why I lumped these months together: not much happened. Check out this entry during April, aptly titled “Holding On Steady”:

I’m neither too happy nor too sad… I’m currently in a state of neutrality. On the one hand this is good, since riding on a rollercoaster of emotions can be quite taxing on my wee little heart… On the other hand, this neutrality scares me… because the balance can tip anytime. If the gods are listening, I would very much prefer it if show time begins after my next set of exams. But knowing the universe? I have a feeling it will come much sooner.

Who knew I was prophetic? The rollercoaster did come just around crunch time, and I paid a dear price for the ride. But before the troughs and the crests of whirling emotions, of unrequited love, and of new acquaintances, there were the months January to April. I passed my December actuarial exam, Jel passed his bar exams, and we both attached some kind of title in our names. His, more popular; mine, more fabulous.Β In between exams, I took a side trip to Tagaytay and Batangas for some much-needed breaks. In between exams, I started my Restaurant Hopping and burned money in my quest to eat outside my comfort zones (meaning: Jollibee and KFC). This was perhaps the start of the realization that there are things I have not fully explored and yet could. Like the Cowardly Lion, all I needed was a little dash of courage and chutzpah.

Chutzpah was what I had when I decided to take on the responsibility of being a godfather to my friend’s newborn son. It was my first time, after all. Chutzpah was also what I had tons of when I decided to use my credit card in buying my new camera (the Canon S5 IS, bought January) and my new music player (the first-generation iPod Touch, bought April). Poverty became a recurring theme in 2008, but I didn’t care. Spending/shopping took my mind off things, and would continue to do so later on.

Things like getting sick with the poo-poo (I crawled to the hospital alone, wee). Things like feeling lazy, over-indulgent, and stupid. Things like friendships that need mending. Things like selves that need exploring.

When May came in, holding on steady was the furthest thing that was on my mind.

Filed under: Yearend