I experienced waking up in the middle of the night because while I dreamed about a class activity that wasn’t in my preparation for the next day, I realized my lesson could be not enough. And so I add up on my lessons at 2 AM.

I experienced going home so late from school, not because of some late-night school programs, but because of a student who wanted to sit me down and ask for a listening ear, because her parents fought and broke platters again; or because his severe anxiety attacks again; because she feels her family and everyone around her doesn’t really care whatever happens to her; because he is being taken over by depression and contemplates on cutting himself again; because his girlfriend thinks he’s too busy for her; because her boyfriend cheated on her for some new student.

I experienced getting a knock in the faculty room to ask if Miss Bekah was there, and when I went out to see the student, she asks, “Miss, busy ka po?” And I remembered swallowing my inner cries for my impending paperwork deadlines and instead told her, “No, what’s the matter, dear?” Those moments took a toll on my sleep, but I never regretted it.

I have tossed and turned at countless nights. I have learned to always push aside my own concerns, my personal struggles, for a student who may need to have a listening ear. A comforting heart. A consoling soul. A kindred spirit. And I never regretted it.

There are decisions in my life I would always find reasons to regret making. But choosing to teach is not one of them. And I hope and pray that every teacher out there would not regret their decisions, too. That they, too, would find joy in what they do.

Happy Teachers Month!

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Pwede Pa Ba?

Posted: October 2, 2018 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Pwede pa ba

(Rebecca Plotnick Photography)

 

“Ang tagal na rin ah,” masasambit niya
matapos ang isa, dalawa, tatlong hakbang papalapit.
Malungkot na ngiti, sabay sabi ng, “Oo nga. Matagal na rin.”
Nanginginig na boses. “Kamusta ka na?”
“Okay lang ako.”
At pipigilan niya ang mga patak ng ulan galing sa kanyang mga mata.
Sa wakas, magkakalakas ng loob na sabihin
ang matagal nang hinihintay na marinig.
“Sorry. Sorry talaga.”

Titigil ang puso. “Ano?”

“Sorry kasi umalis ako ng ganon lang.
Sorry sa lahat ng pait at sakit dahil lang akala ko sigurado ako.
Sorry kasi binitiwan at binasag ko ang nag-iisang mahalaga sa’kin,
dahil lang takot akong panghawakan ka.”
At iiyak ang puso niya, pero hindi ang kanyang mga mata.
Matagal nang natuyo’t naglaho ang mga ulap ng luha para sa kanya.
Sa katahimikan, may malungkot na ngiti.
Sa gitna ng maingay na katahimikan
Susubukan niynag magsalita ulit.

“Pwede pa ba?”

Pwede pa ba? Pwede pa nga ba?
Ibababa ang ngiti. Lahat ng bubog, basag, at lamat ng nakaraan
na pilit niyang itinago sa pinakasuluk-sulukang bahagi ng puso
Lahat nagsilabasan, lahat mapanakit na nagbabalik.
Lahat hindi magpakukubli muli. Lahat ay nananakit.

“Anong pwede pa?” tatanungin niya.
“Kung pwede pang manakit ulit?
Kung pwede pang lalong palalalimin ang sugat na naka-ukit?
Kung pwede uling mahawakan ang basong basag na para durugin ulit?
Paki linaw kung alin dyan ang gusto mong maging pwede pa.”

At doon matatahimik siya. Siguro.
Gustong-gustong magsambit ng sumbat.
Gustong-gusto niyang magbitiw ng mga salita
Nang siyang umalis ay mapulaan at masaktan.
Gusto niyang ipagdukdukan at ipagpilitan
Na siya’y nagkamali sa pagbitiw at pag-iwan.
Na siya’y nagkamali sa kanyang paglisan.

Ngunit higit sa lahat gusto niyang patahimikin
Ang tahimik na boses na nagsasabing,

“Pwede pa ba? Pwede pa ba siyang bumalik? Pwede pa bang umulit?”

Bukas Ulit

Posted: August 14, 2018 in Poems
Tags: ,

Bukas Ulit

Ilapat ang masakit na likod sa kama.

Ipagdasal ang mga problema ng, at sa, sarili.

Ipahinga ang pagod na isip.

Itulog ang pagal na puso.

 

Bukas ulit. Bukas, lalaban tayo ulit.

Hyperbole

Posted: August 7, 2018 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , ,

When you promised me the world
And everything beautiful in it
When you counted for me the stars,
Told me you’d fetch and give them to me
One by one
When you said to me, “Look at the moon, how it shines”
And with a smile whispered,
“it shines because it knows I’m here for you”–
You should’ve heard how serious you sounded.

When you told me you’d cross all rivers
You’d ford all streams
Fend off my every nightmare
And help me reach all my far-off dreams
When you insisted to be the salve
For all my brokenness
To be the balm to soothe all my pain
When you sweetly said, “they’d all leave, but not me. Never.”

When you swore to be my Perseus,
sword at hand, ready to cut off and slay
all the ugly monster heads
to ever rear in my darkest nightmares

When you promised to be swifter than Hermes
and come running to my side at one beck and call
when you claim before all that, like Romeo,
you would only either have life with me
or have no life at all,

When you swore to God you’ll
Outwit the sphinxes,
Out-combat all of Odin’s Valkyries,
Defeat Ares and Athena combined in a war,
Outshine the sun god Ra as he makes his
trip around earth,
go through the gates of Hel and overcome
her territory’s terrors,
All for my sake–

When you convinced me there’s no one else
You can imagine to be with
Today, right now, until you breathe your last,
When you promised me you were sure
To be as the very air I breathe–
Always with me, perennially in my system–
To be my very shadow, never leaving my side
When you vowed to me, “I love you, always,”
You were exaggerating–
Weren’t you?

Irony

Posted: August 7, 2018 in Poems
Tags: , , , , ,
Bea Pangilinan

Photo by: John Carlo Cielo and RJ Fulache

White-washed, plain, smooth walls;
Halls of linear, brown, wooden doors;
Wards full of beds with identical sheets
Smelling of strong ethyl and chlorine.

I sat by my room’s only window—
Glass and sill cleaned a little too well
To protect me from the world’s harms out there.
I looked outside to try remembering
What it’s like to live beyond white walls.

They say I’m missing nothing at all—
Only threats, dangers, and my very death;
That my life is kept better within these walls so white,
with syringes, IVs, and the machine beeping at my side.

“This food will make you stronger,” they would say,
always, as they give me my silver-plated tray.
The IV fluid will fix whatever is wrong,
My two tablets and five capsules would heal what’s broken,
And so long as I stay inside these white walls
I’ll live, and the rest of the details would be rightly woven.

That’s what they say, what I’ve always been told.
And I could never say they’re wrong, but I guess
there’s just a lot of things that they don’t know.

They don’t know that every time I soak my hands
With alcohol to touch nothing after,
I’m being stripped not of my filth but of my joy.

And every time I eat my colorless meals,
My mind and heart cry out I’m being poisoned.
Every time they change my sheets with another dull blanket
I run out of breath a little slowly.
Every time the IV is inserted in my veins
My blood runs dry a little more.
And every intake of my prescriptions
Seems to be little deaths, part by part, little by little,
Capsules replacing my cells a million at a time.

Call this depression, or call it insanity,
But for me it’s just plaintively funny
how the institution that exists to give life
snuffs that very essence out of me.

[This is an edited version of a letter I’ve written to someone in the future. I realize I have been neglecting this blog for some time now. It’s not really because I have nothing new in life. Quite the contrary, life has had me drowning from all the salty waves and stormy winds it throws at me—and I could hardly keep my head above the surface. This letter somewhat summarizes the things I have been dealing with. There are way more than the things I’ve mentioned, of course, but at least I get to share in this platform the lessons God has been teaching me recently.]

 

JULY 29, 2018 | 7:05AM

Dear Future Person,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Life had recently kept my hands—and heart and mind—so, so full these past months. I got my life turned upside down—in the work, home, church; emotionally, physically, socially… It’s like I’ve recently gone through some major overhauling. I can tell you more of what specifically happened for the first half of 2018, if you don’t know about it yet. But in this letter I want to be raw and vulnerable. I want to tell you how I’ve really been after all the sifting and shaking and breaking. I haven’t also really paused and sat down to think about my emotions and thought processes about all this. So bear with me, as I try to share to you the lessons, realizations, and revelations I have been gleaning in this season of trial and rebuke.

For the first half of 2018, I felt confused with all the occurrences around me. I started asking whether I’m really supposed to stay where I was, or if maybe God was signaling me to go elsewhere. My desire to serve God “more” has led me to thinking that maybe God was leading me somewhere else—where I can do greater acts for Him. Where God could “benefit more” from me. Where even the world would recognize me as a great servant of Christ. Because of that line of thinking, I’ve made some very foolish and rash decisions. I got involved in a group that was proven to be unhealthy and unbiblical later on. That mistake still haunts me even now.

The accumulated stress and exhaustion of my college years and my first year of teaching took a toll on my health. 2017 has been an excessively tiring year for me, especially emotionally (and that’s another story for another time). It took a toll on my health, and I had to stop working for a while. Because of the many surrounding issues of my life, I’ve intended to also not work for at least a semester, or even the entire year. But by the last week of June I found myself getting interviewed for a teaching position in the University of Makati. I started class two days after.

Where has this all left me? My current situation leaves me grasping for breath—every. Single. Day. It leaves me begging God to please give me strength to endure the day. Because, I must say—all these shaking and overhauling have drained all my human strength. I kept asking God for a period of rest. For a time to recover and meditate and regain my footing. But He out of His divine wisdom did not give me that. Instead He has foreordained that I would face more people—around 400 from my estimation—than I did last year to teach. Frankly, I am not ready for this. I am not prepared to face a lot of people again. Not yet. I need, I feel, to recharge first. To gather up courage before I could give life and its attacks a fighting stance. Because what’s happening to me right now is that I’m terrified most of the time. I’m afraid of the burden placed upon me by having to encounter hundreds of souls on a daily basis. I’m afraid of my own heart and how it might deceive me again any time. I’m afraid I’ll make mistakes again—worse this time. I have so many fears. And these fears, they paralyze me. They make me dread the mornings whenever I wake up.

But somehow, I get by, day by day. Somehow, I manage to deliver my lessons to the kids. And it is in this time of crisis—and still managing to get through each day despite the crisis—that God’s sustaining grace is actually made magnified to me. I’ve never yet in my life had as much dread on my daily life as I have today. But I’ve also never felt the need for His grace more than I do now. And yet again God’s fresh mercies every day have never yet been so strongly, overwhelmingly shown to me as they are being shown now. What I could see that God is teaching me is that I am TOTALLY RELIANT upon His grace. Literally. That I really can’t survive a day—even a moment—without His loving arms upholding me. That I am like a puddle of water in His hands—I am without form and void outside of Him. I am a broken vessel upheld only by the grace of my loving Father. And that I have to truly trust Him on a daily basis. He’s really driving me to my knees. Showing me I need Him every passing moment.

And this entire process is humbling me. Breaking me and shaking me, yes, but also humbling me and comforting me through God’s reassuring grace. And so that’s one lesson. God is making me learn to humbly trust in Him.

Another lesson I’m learning is that God has foreordained for me to be where I am right now because this is where I can serve, love, and follow Him best that results to His glory. Do you remember the parable of the talents? It said there that the master gave to one servant five talents, to another two, and yet to another one, each according to his ability. Now, I searched up on the Greek origin of the word “ability”. And the word, [du/namis], literally means “miraculous power”; the abundance of one’s innate ability/power/strength. He is showing me that whatever lot He has given me—right now I am a city college, an ordinary church member, a non-remarkable daughter, a mundane friend—is in accordance to my intricately woven design the He Himself had made. I am given my share of talents. Why do I try to bury my share and take the talents, the portion, of others? God is teaching me to fully recognize His wisdom and to trust completely His sovereignty. And you know what? In showing Himself to be in total control, God is guiding my heart to the rediscovery of the vast beauty of the lines He has assigned and drawn to be my portion. It’s like God is waking me up from my deep slumber in envy (long story. Ask me—show me this letter. I would remember.) and showing to me once more the wonders of my own God-given inheritance. And this is another overwhelming lesson and revelation. Often, this realization drives me to tears—of sorrow, guilt, and repentance because I have so lightly regarded the work of the Lord in my life. This realization often drives me to tears—tears of gratefulness and humility, because who would not be humbled before this Almighty, All-knowing, All-loving God? These realizations are painful, but all these tears are worth it.

God is yet teaching me another important lesson in my most recent mistakes. And this is, my love for the brethren was not as strong as I thought. I’ve always thought I’ve perceived the right rightly already. With love and reverence and patience. God is showing me that I haven’t loved enough the people around me yet. That, after all, I haven’t cared for the Body of Christ enough. I haven’t loved the church as Christ would have me love His people. I’ve taken lightly the Bride of Christ. I’ve thought of her members in a quite unloving manner when I felt misunderstood by them. And God is proving to me that I’m wrong in so many aspects. This one included. I foolishly thought I’ve tried hard enough in building a relationship with these people. I was wrong. And right now God is teaching me to love more. Bear more. Understand more.

This letter got longer than how I intended it to be, but the bottom line is that, I am learning so many things right now. And one of them is the fact that despite being showered by God’s mercy, grace, and love, sometimes my heart still lacks the proper, warm, deep-seated love for the brethren. And that is what He is teaching me. Love more, Bekah. But I feel like I might forget or lose sight of this lesson often. And so, if I ever forget this lesson again, I ask that you always remind me of the great love I have been given. Because my heart can sometimes forget. And it tends to love people less.

I am writing this so that you may understand what I’ve been through, because I believe some scars I have here, I’m meant to keep. I am determined to keep going, to keep walking on the Narrow Path, every step closer to Celestial City. But sometimes, I may falter and get tired. If I do, please point me back to my only Source of strength—my Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

I am keeping you in my prayers.

 

Reby

 

| 10:58PM

How do I love thee? Let me tell you in many ways. Now, darling, I don’t know another foreign language. I don’t speak Latin, I don’t know Spanish. And I most definitely have no idea how to speak Korean. But I do have my own set of languages to tell you–I love you.

I don’t speak Italian, and I won’t be as romantic and expressive as they are. But let me tell you I love you in the way that I know how.

I would give you… A tulip. Not just because you are unique and not cliche as the rose, but because I love you with a love that I can declare out loud. And call me geeky but tulip for me is the five points of Calvinism and therefore I love you with a love founded on the truth.
I would give you– a forget-me-not. Because babe I’m telling you I will never ever forget your smile, your touch, and your every word. And I just hope your heart will always remember me too, because mine will always love you with a love that’s meant to last.

I don’t know how to use Italian, but I know how to say I love you in my own language of flowers.

Now babe, I don’t know how to make poetry in Greek, and I’ll never be as half poetic as the Muses are. But let me show you I love you in shades and hues that I can draw.

For me you are my army green. Not just because army green is my favorite color and you’re easily my favorite person, but also because you keep me calm and at peace. And dear you are my golden color, the shade above all my bronzes and silvers, the color that exceeds all the others in my Life painting. And it doesn’t matter if you think the only shade you can offer at my pallette is black. Because as dark and foreboding as it may be, I love it because it’s such a strong color, strong flavor, strong personality. And I’m telling you, our love is not just red, but a deep shade of crimson–a passionate fire that will keep alight until our scarlet hearts stop pumping our equally crimson blood.

Babe, I don’t know how to write in Greek, but I know how to say I love you in my own language of colors.

And really, Love, I’m not good at this. I don’t know how to converse in French and I’ll never be as assertive as those who confess their love in the bridges of Paris. But let me show you I love you in the manner that I can.

I met you at a public performance, and that night we were way more than 12 feet apart. Strangers back then, but I realize you were simply a friend I haven’t yet met.

As I continued to look at you from a distance I find the space between us too vast. Too wide. But somehow your wide black eyes are deep pools of vacuum pulling me closer, and closer.

Closer, until we’re just four feet apart. Things between us have become more personal now. You talk about your past, I talk about my flaws, and the words and thoughts that we give and take are now more than just an exchange of witty wordplays. They’re now getting closer, and closer, and closer.

And still your deep pools kept drawing me nearer to you. Closer. Closer. Now we’re merely an inch apart. Close enough to whisper, I love you. Babe, I don’t know how to do anything French, word or any gesture, but I do know how to say I love you in my own language of space.

See, my languages aren’t that romantic. Often, you can’t even hear them. But when I tell you again that I love you, let me show you in the best ways that I know. So how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.