Monthly Archives: April 2013


“I have done it again. //One year in every ten/I manage it–//A sort of walking miracle…” – Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath

July 2007. December 2009. June 2011. December 2011. April 13, 2013.

Insignificant details for you; significant to me since these seemingly arbitrary information refer to the times I ventured out to have a tattoo.

And yes, as Sylvia Plath said, “I have done it again.”

Thorn from a pomelo tree used as a needle for Apo's tattooing

Thorn from a pomelo tree used as a needle for Apo’s tattooing

This time, the design takes the backseat. The priority, the star, is the artist who rendered the tattoo. Ever since I found out that an M.A. classmate had her first and second tattoos in the legendary hands of Apo Fang Od/Whang Od, I have wanted to experience it — the traditional method of tattooing, the high-altitude thrill of meeting someone for the first time and allowing her to inflict pain and violence on me, and the long commute rewarded by the sight of rolling greens and low-hanging clouds.


February and March rolled in, and I had yet to have a solid plan when it came to turning that desperate wish into a reality.

Finally, things fell into place. On April 12, my friends and I went up to Buscalan, Kalinga to spend the night at our host’s place. On April 13, we were tattooed by Apo. An hour after our session, V and I trekked back to the lowlands, took a two-hour long bus ride to Bontoc, another five-hour bus ride to Baguio, and another six-hour bus ride back to Manila. Piece of advice: Do not commute heavily right after you have been tattooed. Another piece of advice: Do not go on a trek back to the lowlands right after a sleek rain. And yet another piece of advice: Try not to endure the draining commute and brave the mountain trek to the highlands with you wearing office attire.



Let me rattle off phrases to sum up my experience:

bus rides. Kat and Kyra. more rides. trek. longer trek. a dip and a swim in a cold lake. guide. yellow bag gleaming like a ripe fruit. cute native piglets running around. community. rice terraces. adobo. huts. sky. clouds. heady night cap. terror and thrill. ink. thorns. wooden sticks. sound and fury of wood on skin. blood. a smile, a swoon, an embrace. parting. motherfucking pain with every jolt and jarring caused by bus rides.

Photo by Kyra Ballesteros

Apo Fang Od pounding away

Apo Fang Od pounding away

“I have done it…” by embracing Apo and feeling I was reunited with my grandmother. I have a strong affinity toward grandparents, and every moment spent with an endearing one turns my heart into a ball of fluffy cotton candy. Grandparents, orphans, nice children, ducks, cats, native piglets, and dogs are the only ones that succeed in touching my heart. Imagine my giddiness when I was able to embrace Apo Fang Od. There was that grace and that silence that fell over me like a touch of a song.



Grace is Apo's niece and Apo's apprentice. I'm luck to have been tattooed on by the legend and by a legend to be.

Grace is Apo’s niece and Apo’s apprentice. I’m lucky to have been tattooed on by the legend and by a legend to be.

After the tattoo sessions with us, it was back to the grind and hum of daily life for this larger than life little lady.

After the tattoo sessions with us, it was back to the grind and hum of daily life for this larger than life little lady.

As I was writing a message on the logbook after my session, I wept. The thought that I was able to meet Apo just sank into my thoughts and I realized that out of all the days of the year, I had just experienced exhilarating pain and that rare occasion of pure rest in the arms of a stranger who feels very much like Home.

Me bursting into happy tears while writing a message for Apo and Grace

Me bursting into happy tears while writing a message for Apo and Grace

Under the clouds and surrounded by greenery, we rode on a motorcyle — the first part of our pilgrimage back to Manila — and I was already planning my trip back to see Apo again.


It would be nice to find myself resting on this landing again.

It would be nice to find myself resting on this landing again.

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Why we (nearly) deserve a reality tv show production made out of our lives as housemates

Why we (nearly) deserve a reality tv show production made out of our lives as housemates

My housemates and I have the most interesting conversations almost every night.

Here’s a smidgen of an introduction. M has ADHD and treats medications as her BFFs. She is attracted to bouncer-type men. She is a great cook, and her bath regimen takes one hour minimum. G has a high pitched voice, sings well, and has a strict mom. She is attracted to true-blue hot gays and has had her heart broken by a couple of ’em. She’s sporty having taken up capoeira and dragon boat racing sessions. V is a mommy’s girl, is devoted to her friends from another tv network, and will kill to have a baby of her own stat. Her mom is this very classy lady who might as well grace the pages of Philippine Tatler’s society section, and V is the ‘prodigal’ daughter who tries and succeeds in acting as jologs as possible. She is also a great cook and can beat ambulance drivers in mean road rage driving. And the fourth is yours truly.

It’s not as if we’re mightily best friends. From time to time, there is discord mostly sown by me, perpetrated by me, and walked out on by me. (Yes, I only learned to use the useless act of walking out on my housemates) At other times, we talk about mundane stuff, mostly about the cats in our house, mostly about ugly people (Yes, because the last time we checked ourselves in the mirror, we looked like the polished cast of The Bling Ring), at other times about what two out of four of us should cook for dinner (during which M would launch into her cooking show persona giving cooking instructions to an invisible studio audience), at other times about our stupid neighbors.

We’ve shared a lot of ups and downs with the ups having a couple of ‘highs’ there, the downs seeing us crawling on walls and reeking of Red Horse beer). We’ve gone through scarring travails of dieting and exercising only to realize that we will never ever going to look like our idols (me as Natali Portman-slash-Keira Knightley-slash-Andi Eigenmann; G as Cristine Reyes; V as Sam Pinto; M as Nigella Lawson).

One particular night, the saga (or should I say the season or episode?) played on. M asked what our song was for her if we could encapsulate her in a song. I told her that she’s Seal’s Kiss from a Rose. G is M2M’s ohmyprettyprettyboy song (I forget the title), V is Olivia Newton-John’s Let’s Get Physical.

And because this blog is mine, here are their songs for me as relayed via SMS (Yes, because those slowpokes needed the night to think it over)

M: Ok ang kanta ni G sayo is Maneater hahaha at ang kanta ko sa yo ay I Wanna Settle Down by Kimbra hahaha and since you’re (insert condition here) dapat dalawa so yung isa ay dixie chicks landslide….

Me: Well technically landslide isn’t Dixie Chicks’, it’s Fleetwood Mac’s. Wehehe. My OC side wants a song for itself. You owe her daw.
Wait and whose Maneater are we talking about? Hall and Oates or Nelly F.’s? #OC

M: Hall and Oates

Me: Really? Kimbra? Why?

M: Kasi you like doing chores. Song ko for myself is One Headlight.

Me: Oh, but the Kimbra lyrics malayo sa chores, haha! I’m claiming Muzzle and Down by the Water and Black Sheep as mine.

M: At saka Talk Show Host ako.
At other times, we just lounge around on the couch and needle one another. Or poke fun at Wonton the black cat by cuddling him and passing him from one housemate to the next for a round of cuddles and the occasional uber tight squeezing. My cat, Timon, always gives us this look implying that we are crazy old animals, turns her back on us, and walks away to look for any possible exit out of this frenzied animal house.

another guilty pleasure

I am proud of my guilty pleasures.

The latest guilty pleasure I indulged in was the trilogy called Millennium written by Stieg Larsson. Thanks to two friends who loaned me the books, I am now a Millennium trilogy fan. Never mind the books’ dragging parts and clunky sections. Beyond these, the books have become special to me because of its Danish histori-political details, suspenseful tenor, and the arresting female protagonist, Lisbeth Salander.

I know myself, and I know that most of what comprises Lisbeth Salander’s character resembles my facets. Tattoos, fascination for varied and totally unrelated subjects, and excess baggage aside, Lisbeth is also stubborn, is socially inept, and is able to temper and control her emotions to her advantage. She is crafty and when angered, she can get violent.

Here’s how Larsson pegged her:

“Salander never forgot an injustice and by nature she was anything but forgiving.” Same here, oh, yes, same here.

“Donít ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, sheíll get a bigger gun.”

“He felt that he had to find Salander and hold her close. // She would probably bite him if he tried.”

“It doesn’t matter how good the enemy’s weapons are. If he can’t see you, he can’t hit you. Cover, cover, cover. Make sure you’re never exposed.”

“Consequently, it was up to her to solve her problems by herself, using whatever methods she deemed necessary.”

Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004. My respect toward Larsson intensified after learning that he used his books to criticize systems and units that tolerate sexual violence against women. Weeks after finishing the Millennium series, I chanced upon Angelique‘s blog entry that contained a letter from Stieg Larsson to his partner, Eva Gabrielsson. (Read Eva’s account of Stieg’s final days and the letter here)

After reading the letter in which he said the name, Eva, many times, I found the whole experience and gesture touching and terrifyingly real yet unreal. I claimed the letter in that instant. It was as if he was referring to me (also), to an(Other) Eva that hungers for his words. And I realized this: There are only two people who when they call me by that name enthralls me. Stieg is the third.

To end, here are more quotes from the trilogy:

“Don’t call me crazy.I’m a survivor. I do what I have to do to survive.”

“But she wished she had had the guts to go up to him and say hello. Or possibly break his legs, she wasn’t sure which.”

“Normally seven minutes of another person’s company was enough to give her a headache so she set things up to live as a recluse. She was perfectly content as long as people left her in peace. Unfortunately society was not very smart or understanding.”

“Salander leaned back against the pillow and followed the conversation with a smile. She wondered why she, who had such difficulty talking about herself with people of flesh and blood, could blithely reveal her most intimate secrets to a bunch of completely unknown freaks on the Internet.” >> Touche! 🙂

“I am what I am…I ran away from everything and everybody. I should have said goodbye.”

“You walk around feeling like a teenager and immortal your whole life, and suddenly there isn’t much time left.”

“Stark raving mad.”

“There is nothing to talk about…I’m just a freak that’s all.”

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bane of my heart

Every year, I celebrate the day marking Kurt Cobain’s death.

There was a time I bought a lump of cake and lit a candle for him. Another time, I shut myself inside my room and played Nirvana records the entire day.

Yesterday, I honored the Man Who Stole My Heart and Kept It in a Heart-shaped Box. I will remain a fan and a paramour. Just so you know, Kurt baby, “I’ve been drawn into your magnet tar pit trap.”

(photo courtesy of

i wish i were that cigarette you're smoking with gusto

i wish i were that cigarette you’re smoking with gusto