I received a text message from my mother early this morning from the Philippines. The ever warm concern in her voice is evident as I read her message half awake, asking me if I’m OK, if it’s safe where I live because if not, she would rather want me home.
What happened to the voice that ever propels me to move forward, why so sudden it calls my retreat? She must have been watching the news lately about some overseas Filipino workers in Libya trying to flee the country in siege and the worsening insurgency situation where many Filipinos are trapped and some are even held hostage in their work place calling for help. But more than that, I understand where the sudden fear of my mother coming: The recent earthquake in New Zealand left our family in deep sadness with my cousin still missing among the rubbles of the CTV building that collapsed during the February 22 Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake. We are in agony after days of waiting and still with no official confirmation if she’s been found. I feel for my Aunt. I feel for my mother who must be so scared back home thinking of my safety being away from home and alone, which made her send that message calling my retreat to return home.
I replied reassuring her I’m OK and not to worry, and rather asked her to pray that I would do well on the very important event in my journey as an artist on March 5 that would mark my first attempt in trying my chances in the Art field with my scheduled whole day appointment at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a group interview. My mother never made me feel she ever doubted what I’m capable of doing even as I was just starting to draw at 3 when she taught me my first art lessons at home drawing flowers. She made me believe at such a young age that my gift could send me somewhere to some doors that would open great opportunities for me. She is the voice that continue to propel me in my journey.
But today, when I read her text message, I am turned between listening to her voice that once fueled my young imagination to reach this doorstep where I am waiting for some hand to open the door for me, and the voice calling my retreat to come home. My will is being tested to move forward or withdraw from the journey I started to trod long ago when she first handed me a pencil and a paper that made me draw my way to this chance within reach.
My mother’s message shows to prove her unconditional love. Love that is not measured by how much accomplishment I take home, for more than anything, she’s more concern of my safety.
The voice of my mother remains a powerful propeller of my journey – it is the voice that sends me to distances trying every chances. But it’s also the voice that could call my retreat to return home.
I wrote this piece to understand the depth of her message. I wrote this piece to reassure my mother I am safe.
I delight watching things from their outset,
I am soothe to see the genesis of things.
They remind me of the child, the curious eyes
Ever sparkling within.
I see beauty in simpleness of anything even at their lowly outset,
For they possess the genuine truth of precious purity.
They remind me of my beginnings
Like the water glorybinds(kangkong) growing wild in the marshes,
They bring back memories of the backyards
Of some houses I lived as a child.
In some quiet afternoons during my untamed moments,
I would sit motionless in a corner facing the swamp in our backyard
Listening to the soothing sounds, the slightest of movements
In the still water at one o’clock
When the world in my young mind
Takes a nap with my mother on her siesta.
I would sneak out of the house through the backdoor
To celebrate the joy of my earliest found solitude
In the company of nature ~
Befriending the dragonflies hovering over my head,
The birds nestling in the reeds,
The snails petiently taking thier journeys from one rock to the next,
While my mind quietly travels to the unknown future
Interrupted by occasional sightings of the gourami
That stir the still water creating tiny ripples on the surface.
But the highlight of the afternoon is the rare sighting of the mudfish(dalag)
Making that splash and swashing sound and wild movements
In the dense growth of the water glorybinds as it swims back to the bushes of reeds,
Where the water of the marshes is knee deep and the herons(tagak) nest.
That magical moment of brief beautiful chaos tickles purest joy of childhood madness.
Cherished memories from my genesis ~
My earliest form of entertainment: my humble version of television,
Or a theatre; watching a movie or a concert ~ my idea of a grand show
Happening in our backyard in an atypic stage, in a silverscreen of water glorybinds
Where the dragonflies, the frogs, the birds, the gourami, the snails, the herons, the mudfish
Are the stars, and I, their sole audience.
The show ends with the voice of my mother calling my name at four o’clock.
That’s when the curtains drop,
The world wakes up,
As I walk back home to the door of my genesis.
Jeques, 2010. From his “Traveler’s Soliloquies poetry collection.
Jeques, 2010. From his Traveler’s Soliloquies poetry collection.
Click images below
to see hightlights
of my recent home-coming
and fun-filled vacation
to my home land:
I came home to celebrate Valentines with her. I have been thinking lately and some thoughts are worrying me being unattached too long, single since birth and loveless in my 30’s. A question frequents my thoughts recently. I once was asked this question by an old lady and I used to I find it really funny.
“What’s wrong with you?”
But that was 3 years ago, and it’s only lately that the question really sunk in, “Is there really something wrong with me?”
So here I am, home to find out. And the way to get the accurate answer is to go back to the real roots deeply rooted to the love of my mother and here gathered some initial findings. I maybe single, unattached and worried but one thing is sure, I am not really loveless and never been for I am loved by my family, I am especially loved by my mother. Maybe I just really have high standards set for love, and loving. And it’s my mother who raised the bar too high, I wonder if there would ever be someone who could hurdle it.
What is there left to write,
When my sense of home has faded.
Fallen souvenirs pirouette in the air ~
Leaves dancing downwards ~ like specter.
The ink must wait, and rest til winter is over
(My spirit retires to quiescent under the covers)
Things freeze like the trees, even the lake dozes.
As wakeful hours become less and less,
Mind loses its bluntness,
The page speechless.
Distance drained my veins bloodless
Even the pulse of my pen ceases.
I’m losing grip of the eidolon of home,
It’s warmth I no longer recall.
Like the trees losing their leaves to autumn,
The hands of memories that used to lift me,
For a time, fail to save my spirit to fall.
I let the cruel wanton winds to take me;
I trust the higher will would be kind.
I write my thoughts in the palms of the season,
I trust them to come back in time.
When my sense of home fills me up again;
When revenant of home,
Jeques, 2009. From his “A Traveler’s Soliloquies” poetry collection.
Chicago. 15th October, 2009
When I’m absent minded, please remind me. I’m sorry that I’m here but my mind is somewhere hovering in a place never known to you. Forgive me for not making you feel my presence, or if you’re ever aware I arrived. Perhaps to you, I’m just another head to add number to your dwellers. In case you don’t, it’s been three years now.
Three years of traversing your grounds trying to belong, but still get that same cold look in the eyes of your locals, like when I arrived, every time I try to find familiarity – still but a stranger struggling to blend to your intricacy, too complex for someone like me who grew up in a place where everyone I meet in the streets are relatives or at least somebody else’s I would surely know. But if you live that life too long, it’s tiring. It’s easier to get to know other people, than to delve with the person that resides in the confines of your ribs. I longed for anonymity, but when you gave it to me, I’m not sure if I would have still wanted it.
Here I am a dweller in your patch of the earth taking you in, but like the air, I just breath you to exhale again, unable to entirely assimilate you into my system. Every day remains to be like fast-moving scenes just passing, slipping my hands leaving me detached no matter how hard I try to take hold of the moment. I’m like a guest attending an event but not formally introduced to the host, if you would ever understand my kind of uneasiness being here. But I have to admit I should take much of the blame for our estrangement. You took me as a tenant, but still think of myself just a transient tourist taking snapshots that I would eventually bring home. I have to confess, I didn’t find the home I look for in your manicured fields. Your towering reeds of spires are just too much for me, I shrink to a muted element that would not fit to your structured collage and forever scares to be left out in the fast lanes of your speeding races, like a peculiar yarn in a loom afraid that your unforgiving modern living would soon prey on me and isolate me from the weave. This fear comes from my job caring for the casualties and losers in the races of your city. I can sense raw defeat in their eyes every day. I don’t want to be counted when I’m useless in a shelter awaiting for your mercy, God forbid I would be wheeled there one day against my will, like a dotard with nothing to share about my past and forgotten, leaving no signs – not even a frass – to prove that one time I walked this path to conclude my story. I asked for anonymity, but not that kind of ending. I need this brief anonymous moment to cast off some misleading marks I allowed time to grow like moss in my fecade so I could resurface defined and genuine like a gem from the dunes of myth. In that way you will not count me as just another head to add number to your dwellers, but a valued yarn in your loom that would add an interesting pattern to the elaborate colors of your city.
I have issues I need to come to terms with for my hesitance to permanently rest my anchor in your celebrated grounds, for I remain a dreamy oar sailing above your surface finding my way like in the misty lake in the morning. I think about another place. Soon I will sing to you his songs, tell you his stories. I will be showing you his doodled images I bind in the pages of my heart while I was awaiting for that day when I have to leave the same arms that pushed my frail vessel that brought me here. But for the moment, let me enjoy this while I prepare the things that I brought from home that I wanted you to see. My maker is aware I longed for anonymity, he searched a place for me and find you to conspire with – this is the fruition from that conspiracy. Forgive my torpid response when you fold your cold arms around me on my arrival, I faked my smile for I was overwhelmed, even thought of sailing back and retreat. But I am here. I should be here.
When I’m absent minded, please remind me. Forgive my shortcomings, I take the blame for my willful alienation that kept me withdrawn this past three years. I didn’t really gave you the chance. I stayed remote for my need to reconcile my past with the present to resolve internal turbulence for a dreamt smooth sailing journey ahead. I need this moment to delve with the person that resides within my ribs that took many masks imposed for him to wear to please people that made him altogether forget who he really is. I need to peel the layered superficialities accumulated over the years to uncover and pick myself out of the half-truth heaps, if I have to start it right with you.
And when I’m done with this transient anonymity, I will wear my true skin, flaws included, walk your streets and find kindred spirits in the eyes of your people I meet, because I belong.
This piece marks my 3rd year in America, my 3rd year struggling as a foreigner trying to fit in the molds of Chicago and not forgetting my roots.
Jeques, 2009. From his “Traveler’s Soliloquies” collection.
Here I am pursuing
In endless circles
On and on
Where’s this circular course
Where’s this ring going?
Like the fan blades
In the dining,
Grating, squeaking in the ceiling
Like the propellel
At the boat’s rear
My mother once showed me
Stuck in my memory
Of things turning
Around an axis
I did my laundry
The other day,
And lost myself
With the motion
Of my clothes spinning,
So did my head
Juggling with thoughts
As the Wheels,
The clock running
Round in circles
Where is it going
When it ends where it begins?
I hear an alarm
Of high pitched signal,
My laundy is done.
The machine pukes
My clothes smelling the scents
Of spring and renewal
Like my mind
Finding new meanings:
The fan in the dining
Brings me air
Of homey comfort
Makes beef stew rice topping
Tastes like what my mother
Used to feed me
From my distant memory of home.
The propellel at its rear
“Mamang” directed my young mind
In my first boat ride
Brought me faraway,
Closer to my destination.
As the Wheels,
The clock running
Round in circles
And me pursuing
This ring course,
That some day,
My nephews and nieces
Would grow up
* “Mamang” a name we call our mothers in some regions in the Philippines.
(Jeques, 2009. From his A Traveler’s Soliloquies poetry collection)