My apologies again, guys, for not updating for a long, long time.

I have been working on another blog entitled “Isip-bata, Isip-katha” (Childish mind, Creative Mind). It has been a long and tiring battle. Struggling to post frequently is not my description of blogging. Still, I achieved first place! 15 entries were passed, and yet I prevailed!

Life has gone really fast. Time has escaped me once more. I realized that with this pace, you have to treasure your victories. I need to embrace my life as it is. Not asking for more.

Farewell for now...

I promise I’ll write sooner.

          Have you ever heard someone having Dyslexia for numbers ? Well, if you haven’t, then you should now believe. I think I’ve been struck with this impairment.

          It’s no goolahoo or magic trick. I’ve been diagnosed, well, by myself and it’s serious. I can’t seem to stand numbers anymore. What was once to me easy peasy, seems to be a bunch of scribbles and lines that make nothing more than a piece of abstract and that makes me furious.

          It commenced that one gloomy Monday night. Our teacher in math had given another assignment and I was burning the candle. I could have solved all of them with ease as I usually do (I love Math.)

Have you ever done origami before ?

Well, if you haven’t … You definitely should. The urge to make a three- dimensional animal or flower from just a scrap of paper has raised the number of origami makers by millions. I admit, me myself is a victim of the amazing craft.

As soon as I touched the smooth texture of the paper, I knew I had to fold it. As soon as I traced the pattered creases I made on the paper, it immediately turned into a wonderful swan. By the second I finished another work of art, I just needed to make another one, more spectacular. By the time I mastered the ropes, every paper found in my hand, in whatever condition it may have been, was beaten to perfection.

Origami means “folding paper” but I warn you dear folks, it isn’t easy as just bending the paper back or forth. The models you see on the internet may seem easy and I viewed  it once the same way too. But that was before the seemingly simple heart fold came to me as just an orderly list of steps in which I attempted to understand.

You know what’s wrong with me ?

I can’t seem to finish anything I started but if I do it would take extreme measures and would result in scribbles and fast nothings. From projects to articles, the same rules apply. Pardon, adoring fans, I am not that perfect.

In fact, I have done those acts in my blog. Remember the famous and first sequel I wrote, Black Valentines, in which I promised that would be “thrilling and exciting”?
Black Valentine

Well, thrilling and exciting it is surely NOT. With an unfinished ending and seemingly gripping plot, it grabs the award of the “Most Biggest Fail in Journalism EVER” if there ever was that kind of thing.

"The moment the wheels of the huge airplane gave a deafening thud and the whole craft shook , I knew.

I knew that time never can go backwards. I also knew that I could not redo the past. That dreams and hopes will never bring me back to where I want to be or I should be.  That time and the whole entire world only goes in one direction, forward. There are no return trips or refunds so you got to enjoy the scene while it lasts.

Amidst a huge shadowy swamp,a nervous eye opened, then followed by million others.  A deafening silence then... BAMM!  One fleeting second, they are all gone, forced to leave.

Their bountiful home was once filled with lush biodiversity, the sky filled with endless foliage of treetops and songbirds, the waters swarming with blurs of rainbows as hundreds of fish swim by and the land on which mighty elephants roam and tigers prowl has been a gloomy place since man cast a shadow over them.

Broad daylight strikes and man keeps trudging on in the name of progress and survival, mindlessly destroying and weaving a dangerous path for all of them. Yet still they continue, knowing the consequence, but never caring.

The world on which once they lived on was never the same as mountains and mountains of trash cover the mighty land and encompass even the highest mountains giving no space for the panthers and zebras to lurk. The oceans that many moons ago were so blue was now reeking with oil and the skies that once carried us fresh air was now filled with the stench of pollution.

*I'm sorry I haven't written in a while now. School has eventually taken it's toll on me and it has not given me the time to brainstorm nowadays. But anyways, there is this essay writing contest that will be held at Iloilo, Philippines. And so, I need to prepare for the essay should be about Green Chemistry and I don't know anything particularly about it. Hmmmpphhh...

So, the selfish me decided to take advantage of this blog. How ? You may ask ? It's simple. I need a place where I can post my studies/discoveries online about the said topic. It has to be readable from my mobile phone so I can review while I'm there.

Then I thought, why not post it here and nag my boring life to my readers ? Accordingly, that's 
why I'm here blabbering, blabbering about days here on earth.

Hence, without further ado and gibberish, here's my long and very tedious research.*

It’s near guys. I don’t know what to feel. Should I be excited? Should I be nervous? Or should I do nothing of the above and act that nothing important will happen and be the pretender I am?

  Hmmm.. I’m not quite sure with the last option but I’m still not convinced. What to do? What to do? Wait, I’m getting really ahead of myself. Let me tell you what this fuss is all about.

So, the announcing of the overall top 10 should be 2 days from now. Yeah, yeah, what do you care? Well, for starters, I’m that kind of person who dreams big and strives to hit the mark. As  far as people would say, I’m your ordinary apple shiner, brown noser, the darling, the favorite or whatcha call it ? The teacher’s pet.

Wai ! Your “shocked face” is on. Oh, here comes that annoying voice that reminds you of that old school memories.

“Do you remember that kid that just irks your nerves and tells the teacher EVERYTHING? Seems like every time the teacher wanted something they were always the one to do it? Not just that but every time the teacher left the class they either announced they were leaving or looked at their “A” student as in a way as if “let me know, who when…”

Strumming strings. Fingers falling perfectly on the  smooth wood forming the all to familiar arrangement. Sweet voices mingling with the melodies. All of these things pleased me as I watched in amazement.

I was in my room . Then, my classmates sang with the magical instrument . The distinct sound they made lured me to the clutches of the guitar. Pretty soon, I was strumming and singing with bruised fingers and high spirits.

My sister was patient enough to teach me the ways of this stringed instrument. And from experience, I can say that it was damn hard. Deep scars were evident and scattered about my soft, baby hands.Patience was really a big problem since I would always pout and cry in frustration. But that did not stop me. 

All day, the guitar was found in my eager hands. I just can’t get enough of the way I mimic the sounds made by my favorite artists. I was flabbergasted by the way my fingers automatically found their places at the carved piece of wood. My life was filled with music as I continued to strum and strum through life.

Through sunrise and sunset, I’ll keep singing and playing the guitar. I doubt I’ll ever stop. There’s just something about way my fingers hit the strings that touches the innermost of my being. It seems like the waves of sound speak directly into my heart.

For guitar lovers everywhere, what do you think? What is this incredible link I feel between the guitar and me?

Hdog was any ordinary dog you can see wandering in the roads. But as the famous line from the Little Prince goes “I am just an ordinary fox. But If you tame me, I’ll be different than any other fox,”. In my limited understanding, I’ll  strive to tell you how this blue-eyed puppy captured my heart .

I remember when I first saw him. He was laying there, suckling on his mother’s breast, as helpless as a blind caterpillar munching on leaves. My heart immediately went out for him. I looked deep into his eyes and held his supple skin close to my arms. He whimpered and I held him tightly, whispering him lullabies. His blue eyes met mine and we looked into each other for a long time. I held him long after that. Dazed and amazed.

Time passed. Still, that perfect connection grew . He would run as fast as lighting with his brawny legs. His fur growing dusty brown.  Time was against us. But time made this love grow stronger.
Whenever someone would threaten to hurt me, he would come bursting, showing his fangs. Never will he stop growling and barking until the stranger leaved. I was scared at those times.  But as those moments passed, those same vicious teeth nudged me and licked me as I cried. He would twirl his lanky body around me. Looking into my sad eyes, questioning me. I always remember those moments.  Those moments that showed his unending love for me.

His looks were not completely stunning, I admit , but neither was mine. People would look at me in disgust, thinking of how I could love an ugly dog.  “All of you people are scarred on the inside but as may say , uselessly beautiful  , but this dog, this dog is amazing on the inside ’”, I would boast.  They would just stare at me, dumbfounded, and then running off with their expensive perfume and  flimsy clothes.

I know these feelings are shared throughout the world to people whose hearts were tamed. I know that many people also ask these questions. I know that I’m never alone.

Now again, as he looks into my eyes again, through those wondrous eyes. And as he cries with me during lonely nights. And as I pat his matted brown fur . I know that this ,splendid but ordinary, gentle but hardworking dog stole my heart and it was apparent that I also stole his.

Everyone in the neighborhood I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye, and where the other should have been was a gaping hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot has appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Stray cat on the road
His tail has long age been lost, leaving only the smallest stub, which he would constantly jerk and twitch. Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby striped-type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders with thick, yellowing scabs. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. “That’s one UGLY cat!!”

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If ever someone picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor’s huskies. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. From my apartment I could hear his screams, and I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly’s sad life was almost at an end.

Ugly lay in a wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front. As I picked him up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. “I must be hurting him terribly,” I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear.

Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring. Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

Looking outward
At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply.

It was time to give my all to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me, I will always try to be like Ugly.

Inside Pandora's Box

Staring into the crowded mall, I thought of the never ending if only’s. If only I had studied. If only I had listened. If only I spent more time learning. Lots of "If only's" festered through my mind like flies to abandoned food.

Stop! Time for analysis. I studied for the Quiz Bowl of the 8th National Dental Month. But why did I not win? And here it comes again, ladies and gentlemen, the if only’.

A whole new world opened. A world of fantasy. A world where I can do anything.  It almost seems like a genie's lamp was rubbed.  Where if only’s became reality. Fairytales and unicorns raced through my mind with those annoying two words.

My mother always told me to ‘think outside the box’.  In my perception, outside the box of unbounded imagination. We can’t think everyday of what could have beens, but what we can actually do. Stop taking a trip down to memory lane and forget your regrets. We have to move on.

What can I do? I thought as I finally become aware of my surroundings.  Well, I could start studying.  I could realize my mistakes.  I could probably tell my mom.  I, I, I don’t know. Arggghh!  I can’t think of anything . Beaten by my own anguish, I decided to take a peek inside the box.

Success! Yes! People are congratulating me. They are surrounding me. My mom's so proud of me. My teachers surround me with the widest smiles. Fellow students peer at me with secret envy.  I was so joyful.  I look down and see milk spilt across the clean tiled floor. Crowds screaming. Wait! Milk? This is so not part of my fantasy.  I blinked the mist away.

The real world crashed into me again, this time reaching inside the box of my imagination.  And milk! Was that irony from the saying "Don't cry over spilt milk"?   Was that even supposed to be funny? My mind barred me from probably the best moment of my life for such a corny joke! How could ....  Wait!  I need to move on. The world has to keep on spinning. Dreams have to keep on coming. Thoughts have to be analyzed.  People need to keep living and …. My mother is impatient to go home and she needs me. Now.

Oh well, maybe I can battle with my mind next time I raced to the car parked outside. With a huge sigh, I sat down.  Okay, here's more time to think.  But there are just so much more to do. So many reports to make. So tiring. So frustrating. I have to work fast.  If only I had a little more time ….. . Damn! For all that the if only’s are back again.

Wipers . I loved to watch them . Watch them move lazily from left to right . They always cheer me up during boring rainy days . How they just move perfectly and constantly .Just staring , dazing , so hypnotizing .

It was a haze . My father was still laughing . Happy . We drove through the winding roads , singing songs. Suddenly , it rained . Oh yes , it rained . The wipers went up and I was filled with so much joy . I watched undisturbed. What came next was a blur . Yet still all I saw was those wipers , moving so joyfully .

                                                    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I struggled . Why ? The police men were doing all their best to gather some information . I saw their face filled with impatience . I tried . I fought to know .  But why above all I wanted to see , I saw those wipers.

                                                       _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Now , as I have grown with age . I had struggled to bring back memories . And yes , for all my hard work , I still don’t understand . They told me that my parents died while a shower of bullets hit them. But why?

Why as I remembered , why as I fought as I grew with age I saw this . I saw those wipers again moving , dancing ,  but now they came to a stop . A stop so loud , it echoed through the mazes of my memory. A stop that left me clawing , gasping for my life .

A Backyard dog
I don’t remember much from the place I was born. It was cramped and dark, and we were never played with by the humans. I remember Mom and her soft fur, but she was often sick, and very thin. She had hardly any milk for me and my brothers and sisters. I remember many of them dying, and I missed them so much.

I don’t remember the day I was taken from Mom. I was so sad and scared, my milk teeth had only just come in, and I really should have been with Mom still, but she was so sick and the Humans kept saying that they wanted money and were tired of the "mess" that me and my sister made.

So we were crated up and taken to a strange place. Just the two of us. We huddled together and were scared, still no humans hands came to pet us or to love us. So many sights and sounds, and smells! We are in a store where there are many different animals! Some that squawk! Some that meow! Some that peep! My sister and I are jammed into a small cage. I can hear other puppies here. I see humans look at me. I like the little humans – the kids – best. They look so sweet, and fun, like they would play with me!

  All day we stay in a small cage, sometimes mean people will hit the glass to frighten us, every once in a while we are taken out to be held or shown to humans. Some are gentle, some hurt us. We always hear "Aw, they’re so cute! I want one!" But we never get to go with any one. My sister died last night, when the store was dark. I lay my head on her soft fur and felt the life leave her small thin body. I had heard them say she was sick, and that I should be sold at a "discount price" so I would quickly leave the store. I think my soft whine was the only one that mourned for her, as her body was taken out of the cage in the morning and dumped.

Today, a family came and bought me. Oh, happy day! They are a nice family, they really, really wanted me! They bought a dish and food and the little girl held me so tenderly in her arms. I love her so much! The mom and dad say what a sweet and good puppy I am. I’m named Angel. I love to lick my new humans. The family takes such good care of me, they are loving and tender and sweet. They gently teach me right and wrong, give me lots of good food, and lots of love. I want only to please these wonderful people! I love the little girl and I enjoy running and playing with her.

Today, I went to the veterinarian, it was a strange place and I was frightened. I got some shots, but my best friend the little girl held me softly and said it would be OK. So, I relaxed. The vet must have said sad words to my beloved family, because they looked awfully sad. I heard "severe hip dysplasia", and something about my heart……I heard the vet say something about backyard breeders and my parents not being tested. I know not what any of that means, just that it hurts me to see my family so sad, but they still love me, and I still love them very much.

I am 6 months old now. Where most other puppies are robust and rowdy, it hurts me terribly to move. The pain never lets up. It hurts to run and play with my beloved little girl, and I find it hard to breathe. I keep trying my best to be the strong pup I know I am supposed to be, but it is so hard. It breaks my heart to see the little girl so sad, and to hear the Mom and Dad talk about "Now might be the time". Several times I have gone to that vet’s place, and the news is never good. Always talk about congenital problems. I just want to feel the warm sunshine and run, and play, and nuzzle my family. Last night was the worst, the pain had been constant. Now it even hurts to get up and have a drink. I try to get up but can only whine in pain.

I am taken in the car one last time. Everyone is so sad, and I don’t know why. Have I been bad? I try to be a good and loving dog – what have I done wrong? Oh, if only this pain would go! If only I could soothe the tears of my little girl. I reach out my muzzle to lick her hand, but I can only whine in pain. The vet’s table is so cold. I am so frightened. The humans all hug and love me, and they cry into my soft fur. I can feel their love and sadness. I manage to softly lick their hands. Even the vet isn't so scary today. He is gentle and I sense some kind of relief for my pain.

The little girl holds me gently and I thank her for giving me all her love. I feel a pinch in my foreleg. The pain is beginning to lift, and a peace descends upon me. I can now softly lick her hand. My vision is becoming dreamlike now, and I can see my mother and my brothers and sisters in a far off green place. They tell me there is no pain there, only peace and happiness. I tell the family goodbye in the only way I know how – a soft wag of my tail and a nuzzle from my nose. I had hoped to spend many many moons with them but it just wasn’t meant to be.
"You see" said the vet, "pet shop puppies do not come from ethical breeders!" The pain ends now, and I know it will be many years before I see my beloved family again. If only things could have been different.

I stirred.

My eyes retracted to the bright light beaming in front of me. I could not see clearly. I looked outside, through the tinted glass, only to see a young filthy girl just sleeping near the side of the highway close to the busy marketplace. She stretched, rose and looked at me. A long wistful look. I tried pointing her out to my friend Karen, but I was pulled back by my barely conscious mind. Sleep fell upon me once more.

“Malapit na tayo, Hannah,” Karen said. I woke up, and by reflex, looked outside. I expected to see her, hoping we had not gone far, but she was gone. I couldn’t shake away her haunting eyes. I know she was still there, giving the same long looks .
As we neared our alma mater, Alabel Science High School, I hastily slung on my backpack. I got out of the carpool. Dreading another tardy mark, I hurried about wishing that the first bell would not yet ring. As I took the first step inside, the bell rang loudly, reaching the far ends of the school site.

“Puttttt Puttttt!,” A loud noise jolted her from her sleep. She was thankful she survived through the night but now she had other problems, like a car honking loudly at her face. A new blue car came into view. She quickly got off her feet and carefully folded the soiled piece of carton that had helped her through the rough cold nights. She felt hot and sweaty and decided on a little walk.

This is her playground, the busy streets of General Santos City. It was a beggar’s paradise. Many people meant much money for her to beg, much for her to steal. She knew that money was very important for survival. It is here where she could find a hundred stalls willing enough to give scrap food. It is here where she could scour a lot of booties in garbage bins. Yes, this is paradise for her. Nothing is more important than begging and stealing, not even going to school. She thought school made no sense.

She found herself walking aimlessly through the streets and finding a spot to beg . After hours and hours of waiting, a kind generous heart approached her. He held her gaze while guiding her hands to hold a plate filled with such delicious things. She smiled. It was the best day of her life.

She stood up and walked with a proud grin on her face. She found a discarded clean cellophane and emptied the contents of the paper plate. She tied up the loose ends of the cellophane and continued to beg.

Through the heat and fumes, she waited patiently for lunch time, her ecstasy building at each passing minute. She wiped all her sweat with her tattered clothing, keeping the hunger to herself. Time passed like seconds as she slowly opened the cellophane contents to savor the moment .

A painful punch landed on her cheek . She fell and bled. Through her blurry sight she saw a couple of boys picking up her treasure. That was when everything went black for her.

She blinked and she saw it was nighttime and she was still there lying on the floor bathe with her own blood. She didn’t bother to stand. Her life was a spiraling mess and she was tired of always trying to fix it. She wished her life were different.

“Putt! Putt! Putt!” Carpool’s finally here. Another long, tedious day finally ended. Brain-wretching algebra problems, drearily long lab reports and mind-numbing science experiments has eventually taken its toll on me. Dragging my feet I boarded the van. I closed my eyes. Sleep was a welcome relief.

But my subconscious mind won’t let me rest. Three essays and one oral report must be done before midnight. Must set alarm at 4:30 so wont be late again. So draining. So frustrating. So exhausting. I wished my life were different.

"Hannah, malapit ka na bababa.” Karen shook me awake. I stirred. It was getting dark. I could not see clearly at first. I looked outside, through the tinted glass. The carpool parked at our drop off point. I got out and weaved my way through the busy market place.

A feeling of unease came over me. My foot hit something sticky and my eyes met hers again. Blood drenched she looked at me from the ground. A long wistful look. I called for help.

Maybe my life need not be different. Maybe I should be thankful my problems and challenges are lighter. Maybe if I try harder life can be better for her too.

(Hannah Cartojano is a first year high school student in Alabel Science High School. She won 2nd place in the Feature Writing Contest in the National Schools Press Conference in Tagum City last February 2010.)