25 May 2014


Word is slowly getting out, mostly via my mom's Facebook status updates, but I thought I'd wait until I'd told most of my close friends, superiors, and colleagues before making any kind of announcement here.

I'm leaving the country in about a month and a half to attend graduate school in Singapore.

A few years ago, I started to feel that I needed to learn more about my field, but I didn't want to jump from company to company to do that, so I started looking at graduate programs and scholarships. Since Philippine universities didn't offer the kind of thing I was looking for, I figured, why not look outside, check out the programs in other countries, and maybe land somewhere all this Mandarin I've been studying might actually come in handy?

I didn't get a scholarship, but I did get into a good school. I understand that going will mean joining the legions of young adults with student debt, but given my age and the other plans I have for my life, this is a now-or-never thing. I'll just consider it an investment in my future, including the part of the near future that will involve working the debt off.

There is some hope for a scholarship, but it basically requires out-nerding everyone in my program to come out with the top GPA. I've never been the most insightful, original, or hard-working student, and I won't be surprised to meet classmates who know much, much more than I, but I have more motivation to chase grades this year than I ever have in my life.

I have a little over a month left to work things out with banks, get all the necessary paperwork done, and pack my bags. As far as my emotions are concerned, the last is the biggest deal right now.

I've often mentioned that I never fully unpacked in my current apartment; now I can say that it's mostly because I believed in the chance that I was simply going to leave again. All the stuff I never bothered to arrange just stayed in a huge pile on the floor; now, I just have to put everything back in a box.

I recognize, though, that "everything" is basically the past six years of my life, however you'd like to frame it — the first half of my 20s, the post-college wandering, the passage into adulthood, etc. — and all the associated heartache, triumph, and growth. I now have to decide how much of that I get to take with me — how much will be necessary and comforting, and how much will only literally and figuratively weigh me down.

Knickknacks will be wrapped in newspaper and cushioned with clothes I no longer wear. Appliances and furniture will be sold off to add to my small pool of funds. (Does anyone want a ref? A twin bed? A small cabinet? A drop-leaf table with matching chairs? A small rice cooker? A toaster oven? Modular Stack & Rack shelves in white?)

The diaries are going to be sent home, along with a prayer that neither my parents nor my lola will take it into their head to crack any of them open. I recognize that, like the diaries I left behind when I went to college, the diaries of the past six years must now enter my poorly hidden archive at home in Kalsangi. You can only carry your past around for so long.

Most of my books will be sent home, too, with the hope that those, someone will read. But as with my old diaries, seeing my books' spines on my shelf today calls back the version of myself that first read them. I've actually done a bit of rereading in the past few weeks, and it's easy to see that I can't make room for everything, however much I love it, on the shelf I'll be allotted in a month or so.

Off the top of my head, the things that I do plan to bring are a much, much smaller collection of books, a piece of sea glass from Sarangani Bay, the same photos of my family and friends I've had since my days at Eliazo Hall, my small collection of postcards, my ocarinas, some card games, my craft knife, and maybe a small bag of LEGO. I know those things aren't exactly necessities, and I expect I won't have a lot of time to make brick creatures or annoy my roommate with the shrill high D in "Danny Boy". But I know I'll like having those things with me.

I'll like having Cris with me, too. He was awarded a full scholarship to a different program, but at the same university. I know I can't expect to see him all the time, with all the nerdery I intend to take on, but I think living and studying in a different country with him will add new dimensions to the growth of our relationship. The adventure I'm about to go on seems even grander, knowing I get to go with him.

(For those of you clutching your pearls, we applied for slots at the dorm, and only married couples get to cohabit.)

I really can't express the gratitude due to my family for their support. Barring (great-)grandchildren/nephews/nieces, they haven't laid any demands or expectations on me, but I so want to make them proud.

Wish me luck.

19 May 2014

The Universe of Us

Scientists say the human body is home to some 100 trillion microbes, which make up what they call a microbiome; we are a universe to innumerable tiny living things that do things these scientists are only beginning to understand.

Families, they say, share a microbiome, and so do couples. When you share a home, meals, a bed, and occasional bodily fluids, there's bound to be some intergalactic multiculturalism, or whatever the word is. The more varied your microbiome, the better — plus points if you own a dog.

This is the reason, I guess, that my immune system freaks out whenever I go home; my germs don't think it's home anymore.

With you gone for the last two weeks, I fancy that the problems I'm having with my gut are my microbiome missing its other half. This spate of gastrointestinal troubles is because the balance of germs we've built up over the past couple of years is suddenly out of whack; the world of 200 trillion creatures has suddenly been ripped in two. Organism 75GXB in my large intestine is missing his wife and kids Organisms 82FCE and 79AAA to 79ZZZ, currently on vacation in my favorite part of your belly.

This isn't just gas, I tell myself. I'm half a universe waiting for you to come back.