Today is my birthday.

Today is my birthday and I am sad. Really, really sad. Or is it annoyance? Hurt? Frustration? I don’t know. I am not one to celebrate birthdays. I mean, yes, I greet family and friends during their birthdays but during mine, it’s just too awkward for me. Yes, I’m weird that way. I don’t want to celebrate, I don’t want to go out, meet and talk to other people because they will just either ask me to treat them or greet me and I’d say ‘thank you’ with other awkward things or gestures, or I’d just awkwardly listen to them singing to me the Happy Birthday song. I just don’t like that feeling. But this year, I thought everything will change. I looked forward to this day, even planned a bit for it. Why? Because I have someone special to celebrate with. Yes, I imagined this day with him spending time with me and my family. So what the heck happened? Why am I in my room feeling the same way that I am feeling every year during my birthday? Don’t I deserve something different? Or am I not prepared for it? Why?

Covid-19 happened. The heck with it. It hit our family. So plans were flushed down the drain. Great. Again, you would say that I am just ungrateful, not seeing all the blessings that the Lord provided me. I am not, okay? I am very much thankful to the Lord for all the blessings: healing us from this sickness, provision for my family, people remembering my birthday and sending love through their greetings… Oh, yes, I see all of those things and I try my best to express my gratitude to the Lord. But this feeling, this is different. I just don’t know how to put it into words to make sense of it. There’s just something in there inside, something going on inside the head and heart and I just can’t find the words to describe it. I just know that it’s a negative something. And I don’t like it. I don’t like it but I want to savor it while it’s here. See. It doesn’t make sense. Even to me. But somehow, it does. Right? Just humor me, please.

I want to cry. I want my tears to flow while I write. There’s too much inside and I want to let it out through those tears. But not a single one would fall. Why? Why won’t tears just fall down so that this heavy thingy inside would ease at least?

If those stubborn tears won’t show, okay, I want to sleep. It’s 2:32 in the afternoon and I feel sleepy. I am yawning now as I write this sentence. But I know that if I turn off my laptop and lie down, I will still be conscious. This is happening to me for more than two weeks now. I can’t sleep even though I am very sleepy. Even at night. Before Covid-19 happened to our family, I sleep like a princess. Whenever I feel drowsy, I just lie down and then I sleep. Sometimes, I don’t even have to make myself comfy. I can just rest my head somewhere, close my eyes, and then I slip out of consciousness. Now, it is too hard for me to find that sleep. When I do, I wake up to realize it’s still either night time or three in the morning. Why did this happened to me? Is this what they called depression or anxiety? I think no. Right? This isn’t it, is it?

It’s just here. This feeling. I just don’t know what to name it. But it’s here. I know. And it doesn’t feel good. I want it gone. I know it will fade, perhaps in a matter of days or weeks. Oh please, don’t let it be months or years. Maybe tomorrow, it will be gone and I’ll be okay. For now, while it’s here, I’ll savor it and let it do the writing for me. See, I just wrote what I truly feel. I already have six paragraphs worthy of blog. I’ll post this tonight. Wish I’d remember to. Thank you, nameless feeling.

Oh, and happy birthday, self. Happy 29th. I pray and wish that this will be the last birthday that you’ll have this nameless feeling. I pray that you will have something different next year – a positive thingy – which will do the writing for you. Maybe you’ll come up with something positive, for a change. I pray that you’ll get the desires of your heart, everything that you’re praying for ever since, everything that you deserve to have, and more. More than this. Happy birthday.

Love always,

Self

P.S. I’m posting this now. I remembered. Yay.

Kung Ako Si Kat…

Photo: grabbed from Google and edited

Kung ako siya, marami akong gustong gawin.
Marami rin akong nakikitang gusto kong baguhin.
Ang mga mali ay aking itatama,
at itutuwid ang kumakanan at kumakaliwa.
Kung ako siya, marami akong pagkakataon
na magpakitang-gilas sa panahon ngayon.
Ang mga nasa panganib ay aking tutulungan,
Ang mga nakasasalat ay aking bibigyan.
Tuturuan ko ang mga mas pinagpala
na ibahagi ang pagkaing kanilang inihahanda.
Ituturo ko rin sa mga mangmang
ang lahat ng bagay na hindi pa nila alam.
Gagawin ko ‘yon lahat
kung ako lang si Kat,
kaso hindi naman ako siya.
Paano na ‘yan? Hala…

Kung hindi naman ako si Kat,
susuportahan ko siya dapat
kasi siya ang nasa posisyon na ‘yon
pero kailangan niya rin ng aking tulong.
Mahirap maging siya,
iyon ba ay naisip mo na?
Ang magdesisyon para sa nakararami
at isantabi ang hangaring pansarili.
Kahit hindi pa siya si Kat,
Matuwid lang siya, iyon ay sapat.
Sapagkat siya ang iniluklok,
sa kanya ako’y dapat magpasakop.

Kailanma’y di pinangarap na maging siya,
Kaya sinabi sa sariling ako’y susuporta.
Ngunit hanggang saan kaya ito aabot?
Ang pagtahimik ba’y mayroong maidulot?
Ang natitirang tiwala’y unti-unti bang uubusin,
At pag-asa’y tuluyang liparin na lang ng hangin?
Habang tumatagal, ang mapaisip ay di mapigilan.
Ano bang tunay na hangarin sa likod ng mga salitang binibitiwan?
Kung ang nakaupo ma’y mapalitan ng ilang ulit,
Mangyari kaya balang-araw na kabutihan at pag-ibig ang manaig?

(This Tagalog poem is another one of the few that I wrote about politics. My hope and prayer from the time that I became an official voter is that whoever is, or will be, in position, they will be worthy of the citizens’ support. Still praying today but not holding my breath.)

– Ruth Nuylan, Poetry

COWARDLY LION

photo: grabbed from Google

I am a gorgeous and enormous beast.
My eyes are golden; like gold they sparkle.
Some feared me and liked me the least.
But you see, I am cuddly, lovely, and gentle.

I’ll be your comrade, like I am to my friends,
When you meet me, you’ll love me instantly,
But there’s one thing that I truly regret,
It is because I am very cowardly.

I am fearful, there’s no denying.
I’m a scared-y cat, a fate I don’t deserve.
But in the wild forest, I am the king,
So I must show them, if only I had the nerve.

I envy those who are brave and valiant.
I often wonder if they’re always like that.
When no one else is around and they’re deserted,
Do tears fall down or do they curl up in bed?

I also saw others who are truly fearless.
But is courage or boldness enough reason,
To inflict fear to those who are in weakness,
And make the abusive take more damaging action?

Maybe I could do greater things than those people,
But without courage, my life is simply unbearable.
I am inadequate to serve my kingdom with this timidity,
So I met the Wizard and here’s what He told me.

“You’ve plenty of courage – I am sure,
But you also have a huge amount of self-doubt.
From me, you do not need any cure.
Have faith. Listen to what I’m talking about:

Fear is a liar for it activates the enemy.
It makes you believe that you are cowardly.
There’s none who isn’t afraid when in threat.
True courage is facing danger even when in dread.”

What the Wizard gave me is realization
That I have the Courage within me all along.
I am simply unaware throughout the journey,
That all my acts and deeds proved my bravery.

So I am standing here, strong and tall.
I now know that I’m the bravest of them all.
I fear the enemy no longer,
And what the Wizard said, I’ll always remember.

(Finally! I have finished writing this poem about courage inspired by another character in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.)

– Ruth Nuylan, World of Oz

Si Tatay, Para Sa Akin…

Importante sa tahanan ang haligi,
Ngunit hindi nabibigyang halaga parati.
Tatay, ito ang iyong tungkulin,
Ngunit marami pang iba, para sa akin.

Ika’y haligi dahil sa ‘yong tatag at lakas,
Sa ami’y ito ang ‘yong laging ipinapamalas,
Dahil lakas ka ng ating tahanan.
Kinakaya anumang bagyo ang dumaan.

Pero siguro ikaw rin ay ang bubong,
Nagbibigay sa ating pamilya ng silong.
Proteksyon sa araw at kapag umuulan,
Ikaw ang laging matatakbuhan.

Para kang bakod o tarangkahan,
Ako ay ligtas kapag ika’y nariyan.
At sa tuwing ika’y napapalayo sa amin,
Kami ay laman pa rin ang iyong panalangin.

Ika’y parang tubo na daluyan ng tubig,
Katulad ng mga pangaral na aming nadidinig,
Minsan malamig at minsan ay mainit.
Ngunit alam kong may dahilan ang iyong mga galit.

Sa tahanan, ikaw rin ang pako.
Nandiyan upang ang pamilya’y laging buo.
Magkalayo man ng lugar o magkaiba ng oras,
Ang pagmamahal sa pamilya’y di magwawakas.

Kaya naman tatay, nais kong magpasalamat
Dahil sa’yong mga sakripisyo at paghihirap,
Sa iyong mga paalala at pangaral sa akin,
At sa lahat ng mga ginagawa mo para sa amin.

Si Tatay, para sa akin, ay haligi ng tahanan,
Pero siya rin ang bubong, tubo, pako, at tarangkahan,
Kaya salamat sa Panginoon sa iyong buhay.
Salamat po. Mahal kita, Tatay.

Sa lahat ng Tatay, Ama, Papa, Daddy, Itay, Popshie…
Happy Father’s Day po. Mahal namin kayo.

© Ruth Nuylan, Poetry

WHAT LIFE BEHIND BARS TAUGHT ME

Photo: grabbed from Google

First off, I am not an inmate nor an ex-convict. I just happened to be one of the volunteers who had the privilege to visit a prison to reach out to the inmates. It is not every day that you get to spend a day with them, so I prepared myself, practiced even, on how I was going to talk and act around them. Yet nothing surprised me more than the realizations that experience gave me after visiting them. This happened years ago, but this current situation of our nation brought me back to that time, together with all the lessons learned.

Muntinlupa Bilibid Prison. It is a famous prison located in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila in the Philippines. As it has been in the news several times, I knew the place but it was my first time to actually visit inside. I went with my friends to minister to the inmates, provide them some useful goods, and give them some inspiring messages of life. I remembered being excited and nervous at the same time since I really had no idea how to interact with them.

Hearing that they were all middle-aged men and had been imprisoned for drugs and theft related offences, I was apprehensive at first. However, as we went inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the way they welcomed us. They were delighted to see us and treated us like old friends. I later learned through their own stories they yearn for interaction with “outsiders”, having been separated from their families. Some even did not have families to visit them.

We gave them simple gifts which they regarded as the best gifts they had ever received. They listened attentively to our inspiring messages and they were bold enough to say that they were moved and encouraged. Their response stirred our hearts. They have this school where they learn basic lessons and study livelihood activities. In return, they gave us some of the handcrafted items that they made as their gifts. They also performed for us, showcasing their talents in singing, dancing, acting, and the like. It was just a waste that I did not have the chance to keep the memories in photos since cameras are not allowed inside. It was truly a joy to watch! Yet, beyond the happiness that they brought to us, it was the realizations that struck me.  These realizations from that experience came back to me after the experience of being quarantined at home for a long time. With this current situation, I have realized many things that people took for granted before this pandemic hit.

1. We are free, unlike those inmates. Most of us have jobs. We can buy whatever we want that we can afford. We can go wherever we want. We can talk to whoever we want to talk to. We can do all of these, at least before this quarantine. However, we often act as though we are imprisoned – by our selfishness, anger, struggles, stress, and other things that we allow to limit us. Now, all we can do other than staying home is think about all the things that we should have done before becoming locked down at home.

2. We often fail to appreciate the people around us. That trip made me realize how much I had been blessed with in terms of my family and friends which I was not always grateful for. The feeling that those inmates have can be compared with what some people feel now, being far from their families, no way to get back home or even talk to them. Some even had family members who died that they did not even had the chance to see or grieved for. This should be a big lesson to make the most out of the time that we have with our families and loved ones, to talk to them and be with them as much as we can.

3. We own so much materially but we are hardly ever satisfied with what we have. Some people constantly complain about things that they do not have and want to have while some even do not have food on their tables to offer to the children of their homes, like those inmates who were happy with what they were given, because they did not have any choice. Most people now depend on what the government can give them. What the government provides seem like not enough for some. It truly will never be enough but still, gratitude should come first before asking for more.

4. We hardly take note of the inspiring things that happen around us. The prison visit was a humbling experience, as with our current state. Students stopped going to school, companies had ceased operations that caused jobs to halt, travels inside and outside the country were prohibited, and even giving handshakes were not allowed. With people staying at home and yearning interaction with others, simple things make us shout for joy, as if we are those inmates in prison. When we hear from someone that a mother successfully gives birth to a child, we rejoice. When we see on the news that there is one person who became well from illness, we celebrate. Simple inspiring events like these are what we did not notice before. I had visited those inmates with the intention of ministering to them, but instead, I was the one who walked away feeling blessed and inspired. Although it has been many years since that visit, it has served as a constant reminder to me, to be always grateful, especially now that I somehow experienced the feeling of being imprisoned. The new normal is coming. There are so many limitations and rules that have to be followed, but still, we can say that we are a little more privileged than those inmates. This little privilege that we have should not be taken for granted. Let us do what we can to make the most out of this privilege while we can. It is the least that we can do for those prisoners: to do what is right and meaningful, with joy, here on the “new outside” with the people around us.

© Ruth Nuylan, Random Thought

Nanay, May Tanong Ako.

Nanay, may tanong ako sa’yo.
Tinanong kasi ako ng kaklase ko,
Pero ako ay nalilito.
Nanay, ano bang trabaho mo?

Ikaw ba’y isang doktor?
Dahil ginagamot mo ang aking mga sugat.
O di kaya’y isang janitor?
Kasi nililigpit mo ang aking mga kalat.

Ikaw ba’y isang singer?
Kasi kinakantahan mo ko para makatulog.
Minsan ka bang naging titser?
Dahil ang unang salita ko’y ikaw ang humubog.

Siguro chef ka din,
Kasi ang sasarap ng iyong mga lutuin.
Kahit minsan ayaw kong kainin,
Wala akong magawa ‘pag nakita ko na ang matalas mong tingin.

Palagay ko, ika’y isang madyikero,
Kasi nahahanap mo ang nawawalang mga damit ko.
O baka hardinera ka naman?
Kasi napuno mo ng halaman ang ating bakuran.

Ikaw ba’y naging barker sa pilahan ng jeep?
Kasi kahit malayo, boses mo’y aking naririnig.
Ikaw ba’y artistang Kapuso o Kapamilya?
Kasi daig mo pa sila kapag ika’y nagdrama.

O baka sa kumpanya ikaw ang boss?
Kasi minsan ang dami mo ding utos.
Sa tingin ko ikaw ay isang sekretarya,
Kasi kay tatay, ika’y laging nakasuporta.

Ano ba talagang trabaho mo?
Ang dami ko kasing pwedeng pagpilian.
Ngunit sa lahat ng mga ginagawa mong ito,
Hindi kita laging napasasalamatan.

Pero ngayong tayo ay naka-quarantine,
Walang nabago sa iyong mga gawain,
Kaya naman hanga talaga ako sa’yo.
Salamat Nanay, mahal kitang totoo!

Para sa lahat ng Nanay, Mama, Ina, Mommy, Inay… HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Salamat sa inyong buhay. Mahal namin kayo!

© Ruth Nuylan, Poetry

Letter To My 27-Year-Old Self

September 12, 2019

Dear 27-year-old Self,

Hi! I am 3 months away from you. I decided to write you a letter because, well, I don’t have anyone to talk to. Okay, masyadong depressing and pathetic. Ito na lang. I decided to write you a letter because I wanted you to know what I feel today, at this point of my life, and to check if you still feel the same way.

I started the year right. I am consistent at that. I always start every year with a positive perspective. Sadly, the gradual deterioration of my positive attitude as the days went by is also consistent. By the start of March, I was already feeling like giving up. Yung parang nawawalan ka na naman ng gana and all the things that give meaning and color to your life suddenly become dull and boring. Today, June 2019, I see my life now as a stale TV program in B&W. Even I wouldn’t recommend to others to watch it.

Sobrang depressed and pessimistic ko, right? I am not sure about what part of my life I am being depressed about. I know some people would say I am just an ungrateful Christian who doesn’t know how to appreciate all the blessings around me: my complete family, my job, provision for us… Yes I know that I have these blessings that others do not have and I thank God for all of it, I really do. But you know, sometimes I just feel like there is more to life than all of these. I have prepared too long for the life that I’ve dreamt as a kid. I’ve been obedient to my parents, studied well at school, went to and served at church, stuck to the rules (at least near to it), and growing up, I’ve been a good girl. Always the good girl. Growing up, I’ve had dreams that are pretty much the same with what other common people have: provide a comfortable house for my parents, eventually have my own house (having a car is a bonus), and fall in love at 25 and get ready for marriage. All these dreams I thought I would get if I would just be a good girl. So I have been. Now that I’m an adult and I’m close to you already, I still don’t have my own house, my parents are still paying for the house that we’ve had since I was a baby, and the love life that was nearly there became “could’ve been”. I had that dream in mind before. That fairy tale… And then I woke up. Then I got stuck with my disenchantment. Wallowed in it and lived in the dark side of it for the many years.

So what’s my real point in this letter? I just want to check on you. Are you still on that dark side of disenchantment? Or did you change your mind and turned on the light? Have you checked your journal that holds your plans and goals? Do you have any box to check on it?

I have been the pessimist that I am for the past years and I don’t want you to do the same. I want you to be different now that you’re given a new year. Be optimistic! (Or at least try.) I know it’s not easy, given all the situations around you. But please, please remember that you have once challenged yourself to build your character. I have always said that I am trying hard to improve my character but I realized that I’m not trying. I am deigning. So please. Don’t be like me. Try harder. Be grateful. Be selfless. Go back to the things that you love and give you joy. Read your books. Write on your journal. Write your heart out. Pray harder. I hope you’re doing that already. If not, please start again. Remember that God does not give up, especially on people who do not give up on themselves. So don’t you ever.

Happy birthday.

Love always,

Self from June 2019

Note to Self

give up
don’t ever, never ever
believe in yourself
you are weak
stop telling yourself that
you can stand up again
when you make mistakes and fall down
just curl up in a ball and cry
do not
believe that you are a conqueror and
a brave, strong spirit
you are
a failure
you’re not
loved
you are
reading the wrong way. Start from here upwards.

Reverse Poetry

© Ruth Nuylan, Poetry