No Swan Song

There is an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before they die. Whether this is scientifically true or not does not matter, as “swan song” has become a metaphorical phrase or a poetic term that means giving a final gesture or performance before saying goodbye.

A few weeks ago, I thought of ending it. Not my life, silly. I meant this blog.

After 7 years and 7 months of blogging, and after writing more than 700 posts, I just thought it was time for me to sing my swan song.

It is not that I have declining readership. In fact, last month was the most successful month with regards to number of visits, ever since the inception of this blog. It’s not also that I am losing my fire to write nor I am running out of ideas. On the contrary, my desire to write burns intensely as ever, and my ideas of what to write overflows from my brain like a bad bout of diarrhea.

But it might be those same reasons that I considered ending this blog. Seeing that my readership and followers are constantly increasing, I have this almost compelling urge to check my blog stats to see if I could break my previous stat records. Maybe I can get another 100 or 1000 more visits a day? Or maybe I can get another 100 new followers or more? I also experience intense anticipation of how many “likes” could I have on my new post or the next one. The craving to get more, more, and more.

I have not earned a single cent from blogging anyway, and I made that conscious decision to be that way. No sponsors, no ads. So that’s not even the issue.

Don’t get the idea that I am one of those elite bloggers who have a gazillion readers and followers. I’m not even close to that category.

Desiring to have a busy blog traffic and getting people to “like” your articles can be good, but it can wear you down as well. Like a bad itch or addiction. Plus the persistent pressure to outperform myself and the constant pursuit to please. Writing should de-stress me, not stress me out.

And that’s the reason, I thought I should end this blog. At least I am ending it on my own terms.

However, as I was writing my swan song, I realized that I still enjoy writing. Never mind if hundreds of people are reading my articles or it’s just me. Never mind if several readers push the “like” button or none. I don’t need to write for the approval of others. Never mind if my last post was a week ago or a month ago. No pressure.

I came back to the realization of my basic reason why I started this blog. I blog because I want to and for the simple joy of writing. Nothing else.

I guess my swan song article will remain unpublished. Together with some other 18 or so unpublished posts that will remain in my draft bin.

Swan song anyway, is just a myth.

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(*photo taken in Boston Common)

 

Garden of the Gods

This is the Garden of the Gods, a national natural landmark in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Five years ago when we went to Colorado, we planned on visiting this place, but a wild forest fire that closed the roads leading here, prevented us on going. Then two years ago, while visiting Colorado once more, we planned on going again. But heavy rains and hail stopped us.

This year, no fire or rain or hail can prevent us from finally visiting this place. Not even rush hour traffic.


This place, is one of the top visitor sites in Colorado. It is a geological wonder with incredible rock formations.

This place was purchased by Charles Elliot Perkins, a man who lived in Iowa. (Because I live in Iowa, of course I have to mention this.) But he donated this land to the City of Colorado Spring in 1909, so everybody can enjoy this wonderful site for free.

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Some of the rock formations are massive. Some are not so massive.

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And some are thin and delicate, with some rocks even dangerously wedged waiting to crash down.

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Though the rocks are already wonderful to see, the light from the setting sun added magic to the show. Note the colors of these rocks change from red, to orange, to fiery yellow.

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Of course, the sunset is in itself a spectacle to witness. Certainly this is a place to spend some moments of awe and silence. A befitting name to be called the garden of the gods.

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It might have taken us several attempts to visit this place, but it was sure worth the wait to finally see this impressive landmark.

From the Garden of the Gods,

Pinoytransplant

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Marcha ng Patay

Sabihin na lang natin na hindi ko paborito ang subject na English noong ako’y nag-aaral pa. Hindi rin naman ako lumaki sa isang tahanan ng mga Inglisera. No spokening dollar in our house. Hindi naman sa nosebleed ako pag-Inglisan na, but English is not my strong suit. (Uy English ‘yon ah!).

First year high school nang sumali ako sa Cadet Officer Candidate Course(COCC), dahil gusto kong magkaroon ng ranggo bilang estudyanteng kadete. Isang hapon, habang ako’y nag-rereport sa isang commanding officer, buong lakas ng boses na sinabi kong “Sir, I want to be in the marching corps, sir!”

Biglang nagtawanan ‘yung mga nakaranig. Lalo na yung mga estudyante ng higher years. May isang grupo pa nga ng mga 4th year na halos gumulong sa lupa at maihi-ihi sa katatawa nang marinig nila ang sagot ko. Halos matunaw ako sa hiya.

Putris, malay ko ba na ang bigkas sa corps ay kor at hindi korps! Marching corpse? Pinagmarcha na ang patay!

Buti pa ang Tagalog, ang salitang aking kinamulatan, ay madaling basahin at bigkasin. Bawat letra ay iisa lang ang bigkas. Ang a ang laging a, ang e ay laging e, ang ay laging o. Hindi pabago-bago. Ang gago ay laging gago. Hindi geygo, o geygow, o gahjo.

Sa English, ang dami-daming paraan ng pagbigkas at pagbasa sa letra o salita. Ang a ay pwedeng ah, as in apple (apol), o pwedeng maging ey as in apron (eypron), o eh, as in hat (het). Nakaka-geygow talaga.

Minsan may mga letra na hindi binibigkas, o kaya nama’y iba ang pagbasa. Tulad ng salitang colonel. Kung ang bigkas mo dito ay kolonel, ay nagkakamali ka. Ang bigkas daw dito ay kernel. Tinamaan ng magaling, nasaan ang letrang R sa colonel? Isa pang example, ang salitang cache, ang bigkas ay hindi ka-tche o kaya ay ka-shey. Ang tamang bigkas raw ay kash.

May iba pang salita na kahit parehong spelling, pero iba ang pagbasa depende sa ibig sabihin. Tulad ng lead (to go in front), and bigkas ay lid.  Pero ang lead (metal) ang bigkas ay led. Ang bass (low, deep sound) ang bigkas ay beys. Pero ang bass (type of fish) ang bigkas ay bas. Sinong hindi mage-geygow?

Hindi ko akalain na darating pala ang araw na titira ako sa lupa na ang salita ay Ingles. Noong isang araw ay kausap ko ang kaibigan kong Englishman. Akin siyang pabirong sinisisi sa wika na kanilang inimbento na nagpapahirap sa ating mga Pilipino. Hindi niya tuluyang inako ang sisi. Sabi niya hindi raw mga Englishmen (British) o kahit mga Amerikano ang may kasalanan. Sisihin daw natin ang mga Pranses (French), dahil karamihan ng salitang mahirap bigkasin ay hugot sa salitang French.

Totoo nga naman dahil ang salitang corps, colonel at cache na aking nabanggit ay French word ang pinagmulan. Pero may mas mahihirap pang salitang galing sa kanila. Tulad ng coup d’etat. Pero kahit mahirap itong basahin, dahil sa daming coup d’etat na nangyari sa ating bansa, ay sanay tayong mga Pilipino na bigkasin ito, ku-de-tah. Isa pang salita, ang hors d’oeuvre na ibig sabihin ay appetizer. Kung ang basa mo diyan ay horse de over ay baka akalain nilang karera ang usapan. Ang bigkas daw diyan ay or-derv.  Anak ng tokwa, panghimagas na lang pinahihirap pa.

Pero dahil gusto ko ng French fries, French toast, at French kiss, ay mapapatawad ko ang mga Pranses.

Meron ding naman tayong mga pinahiram na mga salita na ngayon ay bahagi na ng salitang Ingles. Tulad ng boondock, mula sa ating salitang bundok. O kaya ay kilig, balikbayan at barkada na nasa Oxford English dictionary na. Pero siguro kapag binasa ng Kano ang barkada ito ay bahr-key-duh.

Nung nasa first year college naman, sa aming English literature class, ay pinatayo ako at malakas na pinabasa ng aming libro. Tungkol sa mythology ‘yung subject. Aking binasa: At the beginning there is only Chaos.

Naghagalpakan ang buong klase, kahit hindi naman ako nagpapatawa. Hindi ko naman ginagaya si Jimmy Santos mag-Ingles. Pati ang aming guro ay namula sa kakapigil ng kanyang tawa. Bigkas ko kasi sa chaos ay tchaos. Tangenge talaga! Kung hindi mo rin alam ang bigkas diyan, ito ay keyos. Na-geygow na naman ako.

Subalit kahit na nakasama ako sa parada ng mga tanga, at sumali sa marching corpse, pero nang mag-marcha na kami noong high school graduation, ay tumanggap naman ako ng mga award na Excellence in Math at Excellence in Science. Wala nga lang Excellence in English. At kahit pa chaotic (tchayotik) ang aking Ingles noong college, pero noong graduation na ay sinabitan naman ng medalya dahil nakatapos nang may honor na “cum latik.”

Sa ating buhay, huwag sana nating husgahan ang mga “bobo” sa English. Hindi lang ang pagsasalita ng Ingles ang basehan ng kaalaman at talino ng isang tao. At huwag din naman nating tawanan kung balu-baluktot mag-Tagalog ang isang tao. Maaaring Bisaya, o Ilokano, o iba pang katutubong wika ang kinamulatan nila, at ibig sabihin nito ay higit sa isa, o dalawa, o tatlong wika ang alam nila. Kaya’t lamang pa rin sila.

Diretso o bulol man ang iyong Ingles, ay ayos lang. Buti pa, maghalo-halo na lang tayo sa Chow-King. Or should I say Kaw-King?

(*Isinulat para sa buwan ng wika)

 

Barn and Silo

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(*photo taken with an iPhone during my morning run)

Story behind the photo:

Few months after we moved to Iowa in 2004, we were scouting for a permanent place to live in. We found a vacant lot for sale, whose front view is the above photo. We fell in love with the place and the view, a typical Iowa landscape of farm, barn and silo. However at that time, we were not ready to buy, and somebody else bought the property and built a house there. We were crushed.

I could have been waking up to this view every day! But it was not meant to be.

More than a year later, we found a house less than a mile away from this lot, with such an impressive view as well (maybe even better), which now I wake up to. To this I am very grateful.

Moreover, I can still enjoy the view in the above photo, when I go on my morning run.

View Through a Battle Shield

I sat quietly surveying my field of vision like a pilot of a battle tank. And I realized that I was looking at a killing field. It mostly happened last night, but it was veiled in the darkness. I had no idea that it was this vicious, until I saw it in the morning light.

In front of my eyes lay several casualties. Perhaps in the hundreds. They were all dead. Crushed and mangled. Their innards scattered on the battle field.

Life is short. I know for them it is shorter. And it just become even shorter. Life can be unfair sometimes.

All they want is freedom. Freedom to live. Freedom to propagate. Freedom to roam on a beautiful warm summer’s night.

But I want my freedom too. And my freedom to roam clashed with theirs.

I don’t like it. Nor did I plan it. It was not my intention to annihilate them. No, not at all! They were just in the wrong place, and in the wrong time. Or was it me that was in the wrong place and in the wrong time?

Dang it! My windshield is splattered with dead bugs again!

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Gang-gang, Ging-ging, Gung-gung

Kung ikaw ay Pilipino o lumaki ka sa Pilipinas, ay sigurado akong may kakilala kang Bam-Bam, o Bong-Bong, o Che-Che, o Don-Don, o Jun-Jun, o Nene, o Ning-Ning, o Ping-Ping, o Toto. Siguro idagdag mo pa sina Mac-Mac, Mik-Mik, Mimi, Noy-Noy, Jan-JanLan-Lan, Lot-Lot, Jojo, Pen-PenTin-Tin, Ton-Ton, Kaka, RaraNana, Nini, NonoGang-Gang at Ging-Ging. Lahat ng mga pangalang binanggit ko ay mga kakilala ko.

May kilala rin akong Gaga at Gung-gung. Marami sila.

Bakit nga ba tayong mga Pilipino ay mahilig sa mga pangalang inuulit? Siguro ay makulit lang tayo kaya’t gusto natin ng inuulit-ulit. O kaya nama’y sobra lang tayo sa imahinasyon na gumawa ng makwela o mabantot na pangalan? Pero kung tutuusin uso na ang pangalang inuulit panahon pa ni Lapu-Lapu.

Hindi lang pangalan ng tao, kundi kahit mga lugar sa Pilipinas, ay may pangalang inuulit. Gaya ng Taytay, Iloilo, Guagua, Wawa, Tawi-Tawi, Sanga-Sanga, Hinulugang Taktak, at Mount Hibok-Hibok. Ako naman ay lumaki sa may Balik-Balik. Ang kulit ‘no?

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Meron din tayong mga pagkaing Pilipino na binigyan natin ng pangalang inuulit. Tulad ng kare-kare, bilo-bilo, tibok-tibok, pichi-pichi, kwek-kwek at poqui-poqui. Hindi po bastos ‘yung huling putahe, lutong Ilocano po iyon.

Siguro isama na natin pati tawag natin sa mga hayop. Mula sa maliit na kiti-kiti, hanggang sa malaking lumba-lumba. Andiyan din ang paru-paro, gamu-gamo, batu-bato, sapsap, at plapla. Pati nga bulaklak, gaya ng ilang-ilang at waling-waling. Bilib ka na?

At siyempe pa, pati maselang bahagi ng ating katawan, ang tawag natin ay inuulit din. Hindi lang kili-kili ang tinutukoy ko. Pati ti__, pek__, at su__. Awat na?

Aking nabasa na hindi lang daw ang wikang Pilipino ang mahilig sa mga inuulit na salita. Ang ating wika ay nagmula sa pamilya ng Malayo-Polynesian na mga lingwahe. Ang mga wikang ito ay may hilig na magdikit-dikit at magkawing-kawing ng mga kataga upang gumawa ng mga bagong salita. Maraming pagkakataon, inuulit ang unang component ng salita. Kaya siguro may Mahimahi sa Hawaii, at may Bora-Bora sa French Polynesia.

Kaya kung pinangalanan kang Pot-Pot o Keng-Keng, ay sisihin mo na lang ang ating mga sinaunang ninuno at mga tatang. Anak ng teteng talaga!

Kadalasan kapag ang isang salita ay inuulit ay tumitindi ang kahulugan nito. Kumbaga sa Ingles, ito’y nagiging superlative. Tulad ng kapag sinabing ang husay, ibig sabihin ay magaling. Pero kapag sinabing ang husay-husay, ay ibang liga na iyon at maaaring genius na ito. Kapag laksa, nangangahulugan ito’y marami, subalit kapag laksa-laksa, siguradong matatabunan ka na ‘nun. Kapag sinabing ang pangit mo, ay baka nagsasabi lang sila ng totoo. Pero kapag sinabihan kang ang pangit-pangit mo, ay insulto at away na ang hanap nito. Brod, tara sa labas!

Mayroon din tayong mga salita na tuluyang naiiba ang kahulugan kapag inuulit. Tulad ng bola, ito ‘yung isinu-shoot sa goal. Pero kapag bola-bola ito yung tinutusok at sinasawsaw. Baka iba namang tinutusok at sinasawsaw ang nasa isisp mo? Fishball tinutukoy ko ‘Te. Kapag sinabing turo, maaring tungkol sa maestra o sa paaralan. Pero pag-sinabing turo-turo, ay karinderya na ‘yan. Kapag halo lang ay parang walang dating sa akin. Ngunit kapag binanggit mong halo-halo, ay maglalaway na ako, dahil miss na miss ko na ‘yan.

Maari ring inuulit ang isang salita para ibahin ang verb tense ng isang pangungusap. Tulad ng hawak, ginagawang hawak-hawak para maging present participle tense. Kung baga sa Ingles, dinadagdagan ng –inglike hold to holding. Suot ginagawang suot-suot. At ang salitang bitbit, kahit inuulit na ito, pero uulit-ulitin pa rin.

Example: Bitbit-bitbit ni Pepe ang patpat at tingting.

Meron din naman tayong mga salita na kapag hindi inuulit ay walang kahulugan. Gaya ng sinto-sinto na ang ibig sabihin ay baliw. Ano naman ang ibig sabihin ng sinto? Medyo baliw? O kaya’y guni-guni na ibig sabihin ay ilusyon lang. Ano naman ang ibig sabihin ng guni? Kalahating ilusyon lang? O kaya naman ay kuro-kuro, na ibig sabihin ay opinyon. Ano naman ang kuro? Walang opinyon?

May mga salita ding inuulit, na tayo lang mga Pilipino ang tunay na nakakaintindi, dahil kasama na ito sa hibla ng ating kultura. Tulad ng tabo-tabo, pito-pito, tagay-tagay, at ukay-ukay.

Bilang kunklusyon, maaaring sabi-sabi at haka-haka lang ang mga nilahad ko dito. Maari rin itong bunga ng aking pagmumuni-muni o kaya nama’y guni-guni lamang. O siguro ito’y mga kuro-kuro ng isang kukurap-kurap at aantok-antok na pag-iisip. Kaway-kaway na lang kung inyong naibigan. At huwag namang bara-bara at sana’y hinay-hinay lang sa pagtawa, at baka mapagkamalian kayong luko-luko at luka-luka. Salamat po.

(*photo taken in Bagac, Bataan)

 

 

Deer Run

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. It was a beautiful summer day.

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As usual, I spotted many deer along the way. But unlike before, where they were too fast and scurried away before I get close, this time they seem to stand still and let me take their photo.

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There’s even two in one shot.

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Even the rabbits were not bounding away, as I was approaching.

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I even stopped to smell the flowers.

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Or maybe taking photos was just my excuse to stop and take a breather, in completing my 5-mile run.

And here’s one deer that even crossed my path. I was able to capture it in action.

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Just like the slogan of John Deere: nothing runs like a deer. Have a good day!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Shades of Lavender

In my last post, I told you of our misadventure of driving more than a hundred miles just to be disappointed. The lavender field was just an illusion.

Today, a friend of ours took photos in our backyard. We don’t need to go that far after all.

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They may not be the real lavender flowers, but their shade of color is close enough.

(*photo credit cashQ, horticulturalist: missus)

Figments of Lavender Field

Few weeks ago, my family visited a 90-acre field of wild flowers. It was actually a farm land before, but the owners turned it into a natural prairie. Here in Iowa, the state gives incentives through federal conservation program wherein the government will give yearly rental payment in exchange of farmers turning their agricultural land into a prairie or a wooded area. This is one way of reclaiming industrial lands into natural habitats for the wild life.

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Wanting to see more beautiful field of flowers, my wife checked on a website and learned that there is a lavender farm here in Iowa. She envisioned that it will be an expansive gorgeous fields of lavender flowers. Besides, the farm is located near a scenic route, the Loess Hills, which is included in the National Scenic Byways of America, meaning it is a must-see drive. Since we have not seen it yet, so we drove to it last weekend.

The lavender field is about two hours drive away from our place. Here in the United States’ midwest, two hours drive is nothing. At least when we say two hours drive, we mean we’re really driving mostly at maximum speed limit. Unlike in other parts of the world, like in Manila, two hours drive means a distance you can get to in twenty minutes but you’re stuck in traffic for two hours.

After finishing our Sunday morning chores, we packed the family in the car and drove. My college-age daughter, who is home for the summer, was not even feeling well that morning due to menstrual cramps, but we drag her anyway so she won’t miss it. She just brought a pillow and laid down in the backseat.

It was a relatively cool day for a summer, as it was cloudy and even had intermittent showers. In fact we encountered some heavy rains along the way, which to me, just made the trip more interesting.

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As we approached our destination, we passed by an overlook area. It has a tower where you can view the surrounding scenery. My daughter was feeling better already at that time, that she got off the car and also climbed the tower.

When we came to a nearby town just minutes to our destination, we decided to stop for lunch first before heading to the place. We discovered a nice old diner. It has a 1960’s theme, or perhaps they just did not change it since they opened. We found out that this diner was a major hub even back in the days, as it was near a major train station.

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When we continued on our trip, we got lost as our GPS directed us not to the exact site. Yes, I gave the verdict that the GPS was at fault, and it cannot defend itself. We phoned the farm’s number and it re-directed us to its location.

Finally we found the place. As we were pulling into their parking lot, we saw the field in front of us and it was nothing like what we imagined or expected. It was a dud. A let-down. A disappointment.

No stretches of beautiful lavender. No expansive field of wonderful flowers. Instead, it was a patch of drying bushes. In its defense, perhaps we were just expecting too much.

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As we already drove for two hours, so we still went down and checked the farm, including the small shop they have in that place. We did not tarry though.

We then decided to drive further in a road that has a sign “National Scenic Byway.” It was said that this scenic byway, the Loess Hills, has a unique terrain, formed by windblown silt, called loess. No other place in the world except the one in China, where there are higher loess hills formation than this place in Iowa.

After driving for some time in this said scenic byway, we admit that they were interesting, but we’re not utterly impressed. Maybe because we have already driven from US coast to coast, and we have seen more stunning scenic byways. We turned around and headed for home.

We passed by a small town that has a number of antique shops on our way home. The last time we were there was more than 10 years ago (see previous post). My son who was less than 3 years old at that time, accidentally knocked down an antique mirror sitting on a floor at one of the stores. The mirror fell on its face and shattered the glass into several pieces. I ended up paying $200 dollars. Since I paid for it, I took home the wood or board where the mirror was mounted. $200 for a piece of board!

They say that breaking a mirror will cause seven years of misfortune. I don’t think so. What followed was several years of bliss living in Iowa.

This time we did not shatter any mirrors. Just shattered expectations, I guess. After that last stop, we came home after almost 6 hours on the road.

Have you had any similar experience? Going to a place that did not live up to your expectations? Did we just wasted a day and some gallons of gas? I don’t want to believe so. For even if the destination was less than spectacular, we still spent some quality family time together.

Life is a journey. Sometimes it is not the destination that matters. But it is the joy of experience, discovery, shared moments together, and the eventual precious memories during the travel, that really matters.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)