Thursday, June 16, 2016

"To gain everything, you must first lose everything"

I found myself staring at the top of the chiffonier which hoisted the trophies I earned growing up.

It was past two in the morning, after a few weeks of literally having nothing to do, my body has turned the wee hours of the night as the busiest of my day. Where my mind enters its most active state, bringing me to different realms of imagination - both realistic and fantasies. 

For a couple of minutes, I was just staring at those fancy ornaments I have collected from various contests I participated, suddenly I caught myself smiling. I looked closely on the golden plates that were attached at the foot of every trophy, each plate was a label of what I have earned. Plates that reminded of how it was and how I was back then. It was the moment that I have found myself, after a long while, to begin writing again. 

I was full of talent as a little boy. I knew then that I was unlike any other, I was at its urest definition, amazing, modesty aside. I was far off from being mundane and my mind was set to never be one, my thoughts have always been full of ideas, exactly why I earned every right to represent on various competitions; photography, arts, speech, civic, culture, I had everything on my belt. Time has flickered right in front of me, like a flash of a camera, I started to grow up. Then the once a little boy has learned how to be a fine young man, with demeanor that of a scholar, with manners that of a well-bred gentleman and with language that of a conservative fellow. 

Surrounding me were people who are great at what they do, equally talented individuals who inspired me to hone my own, a family who pushed me to become better everyday and so I achieved all the rights that I can brag, mentors who always thought I was going far, really far. 

I had gone far. All the talents and the diligence I have nurtured as a young boy all was given credit to the ethics I had when I started working, the value I gave at what I do is a reflection of my rigorous and strict training back then. My career went on full swing at a relatively young age, I was at my best. 

I turned into a stage where I felt like I could conquer the world. 

I started to prioritize what I wanted to have, everything else came in secondary. As a young man, I fantasized the independence I have long sought for, the chance to prove to the world that I can now be on my own. I wanted  every aspect in life to be filled up, money, career, relationship.

But when you're at the top, like a mountain peak, from there, it is going to be downhill. 

I was blinded by greed, by wanting to rapidly accelerate having the things I wanted to have. Blinded by the illusions that I need to be aggressive of the moment so I can get to where I wanted to be as quickly as I can. Blinded by too much optimism that I can conquer the world. Too much blindness that it has made me forego of what I have and instead, shifted my focus on what I wanted to have. 

Like a snowball rolling down from the top of the mountain, things have started to intensify and everything was down the slope. In exchange of the earthly and fleeting pleasures that I wanted to have, I went to see beyond what I already posses. In the end, everything I wanted to have turned out unworthy of the reckless leap I made.

In wanting to have everything, I lost everything.  

And now my plate is empty, but as the Buddha said, to gain everything, you must first lose everything. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Not done dreaming, yet.

Today, I faced the morning half-awake although I came from a beautiful slumber. It was an unusual routine for me having to battle with the morning rush for work's sake. Two minutes before logging in, I got the chance to view what the world looked like from the 26th floor, I said, 'Ah, yes, this.'

It was one of the days when I needed to fulfill my job on a site I personally prefer. This is Makati. This is the closest I can be to the kind of day I would love to have an encounter with. I have basically lived in the north and I knew fair enough this wasn't my turf.

But this is my idea of a corporate job I would rather have in the absence of a choice, a whole stretch of avenue tiled with sky scrapers at every corner. People in sharp business suits and the look and feel of being at this spot, but connected to the world at the same time.

It was time for lunch when I decided to head out with just a P100.00 bill on my pocket. I had no idea where this would take me or if this would take me somewhere, but I still went on with the flock of people spreading towards different directions. I didn't know who to follow, this was relatively a whole new world for me. But I admire the idea of being there, of not knowing where to go in a place I have always wanted to be in. So I walked under the tunnel, crossed the streets not minding where I'm heading next but just merely following the impulse I was feeling that moment. I randomly met a friend under the tunnel who I haven't seen for years and it helped me gain some comfort of the new place although I wasn't feeling anxious with the change at all. I think it's the human nature to find comfort in something that's familiar. A quick hello and I headed back with the flow. I finally felt the need for lunch so I gave myself a quick meal, alone - something I was never fascinated about. But I got the fondness to do it more often, when chance mandates, to make lunch by myself as a merry moment. I was gently observing what's going on while the rest of the people from the  buildings around were having lunch as well, I was looking at their faces. They were all talking, however, I could not hear a thing of what they were saying, I saw them speaking but to me they all appear mute, all I could hear were noises from the sum of all their talks, simultaneously. And that's all right, I enjoyed the vibe in that rushing moment.

So I glanced out and still feeling blissful of the idea of finally being able to walk this street. After finishing my meal, I headed out again for some stroll and I saw one tower who's shadow was leaning against me. I stared bottom up. I realized I was there because I dream a dream only a few had dreamed of, a dream that's unlikely possible for someone as neophyte as I am, but I dared and having the courage to dream that dream has taught me so much, in fact has brought me to here today. But looking at that tower, something dawned on me. I am not done dreaming yet. For some, not to be contented is a not-so-pleasant remark, but I take it as being hungry for what is better. And I think that is something we need to instill within us, to not settle for what is available, but to use what is available as a stepping stone to reach greater heights, all because we deserve the best things in life.

This affirms, if you still don’t have the best things in life, then it only means there's still room for things to get better. That’s why we keep on dreaming.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Forgiving and Forgetting

It's very easy to own our mistakes and be sorry for it. It costs only a fraction of pride to actually stand up and apologize. But when we do something wrong to others and even to ourselves, it involves two different process. To forgive, and to forget.

Quite a number would say that we can forgive, but we cannot forget. But I think it is imperative that we do both. Fulfilling just one of the two makes the process of healing, incomplete. We can forgive, but we are always haunted by fear that the same mistake can happen against us again, and so we cannot defy being self-securing. That is why forgetting is necessary.

The most challenging part is that both processes are non self-induced. Forgiveness is something that is asked from us, whilst we can forgive without the others asking for it, the holistic concept of forgiveness is knowing one's fault and having the courage to admit it by asking pardon. And so we need to wait until one actually asks for it, we cannot give what isn't asked. That is very fundamental.

But when we have already asked for forgiveness, who triggers forgetting? Is it he who have sinned or he who had been sinned? I say both. 

Asking for forgiveness is easy, or maybe not for others who deem self-valor important of one's identity. But forgiveness need only be uttered by the words 'I am sorry'. Forgetting about it is an entirely different story. To forget, one needs to understand what we are sorry for and what our mistakes have caused. To forget, we need to understand that it is our dire responsibility to burn it in the past, asking for forgiveness would really not suffice. What do we need to do is to leverage from what or how they see us due to our wrong-doings and overcome their expectations by helping them rebuild the confidence they had for us. We do not ask for forgiveness and expect things to be forgotten paramountly, we make it happen. We acknowledge our shortcomings and we show improvements on this part, even the little things like the smallest gesture have tremendous waves of change. 

If we had sinned, we take significant actions to make things better. That is one step to make things worth forgetting. We manage their perception on us by showing that we are better than what we have shown ourselves to be. And so everything becomes just a part of a past with lessons that are more important than the effects. We do not expect them to forget it by their own selves simply because we already initiated apology. 

Forgiving  and forgetting does need to be grand, nor does it require to be self-degrading to prove how truly sorry we are. One thing though is essential, courage. The courage to gain peace and to lose pride. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

What being random means

Maria Theresa  ...
Hi Dannie! 

Are you okay? 
1:36:48 PM
you seem to be quiet lately 
1:36:52 PM
1:1 session - for what's on your mind? 
1:37:07 PM
or just for laughing trip? 
1:37:12 PM

I was sitting next to empty chairs today and only a few reported to the place where my desk stands. My mentor dropped me a chat message and I was caught a little bit surprised and actually made me ask myself, was I okay?

There wasn’t much going on with me lately and my being silent was sort of due to that ‘lack’. Sure I had little things that I wasn’t very comfortable with, but was it the reason why I had these one-step-back moments?

If it wasn’t for her checking up on me, I wouldn’t probably have the urge to write again.

Probably because I sit next to some huge bay windows spanning through the entire floor and when I throw a glance outside, it keeps me questioning myself for some more.

What do I really want to do? How can I do the things that I want to? What do I want to be?

The problem with being such a big dreamer, wanting to reach for the stars instead of the moon is that there are just so many things to dream of, with the difficulty in weighting which one is heavier and which can come as a plan b. 

Moving away from the endless fuss, it feels just great that you have a few people around you that sincerely checks how you are out of a random blue. More than anything else, what I am truly grateful for are the people sitting next to you checking how appetizing your lunch looks like, your boss asking you for your next travel destination, your peer checking on your plans for the weekend and another one brining you in some food or a mentor that invites you for a 1:1 just for the fun of it. 
These are why I appreciate the random in people. It is in random that the purest form comes to life. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Game Plan: To start again from where you left

The glares of the sun started to crawl from my window, escaping from the blue sheets that tried to partition me from the rest of the world. I was in a deep slumber, but the glares were so furious in entering my eyelids and so I was awaken to something I thought would be a fine morning.   

As a routine, I immediately grabbed my iPad and checked what ‘news’ is in store for me that day. In the social networking realm, ‘news’ are more likely to be in the form of instagram post, tweet or a facebook update. But I tapped the mail icon first thing that morning and eventually led me to a series of unread emails.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Please find attached a letter from the counselor, communicating the official and final result of your application for the Scholarship.

I have consciously prepared myself for this day. And a certain rush of blood has started to flow in my face, the rest of my body were shaking. My family and close friends were more excited about this day than I was. Weeks before, they solicited updates from me, but I could give none as it was not due for results release yet… Not until this morning.

I tapped the attached file on that email; the letter looked very surreal, as if it was one of those I have seen in the movies, from Hogwarts perhaps, only that it was online.  It had the logo on the upper left, the date and my name in bold letters above my home address.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Thank you for your application for the Scholarship.

The selection process was very competitive due to the high number of applications received and we only have a limited number of awards available. Unfortunately, your application was unsuccessful.

I have always assured myself that I am prepared for whatever the email will contain. Right after I had my interview weeks before, I tamed myself to accept how my application will be judged. I was self-guarded because they say that the lesser you expect, the lesser pain you will feel. But I proved everyone who said that wrong.  No wall could ever be enough to protect us from the emotions that we are hoping to shield ourselves from, and in my case, the frustration. Emotions are hand crafted to be too powerful and we should never under estimate them.

I showed the email to my parents who gave me strength in the midst of I, quitting the application process as it was the most tedious, effortful and costly application I have ever made in my life. My family and friends got my back on this which made everything more manageable. My sister even booked me a 5-star hotel accommodation when I had to take the professional English exam as one checkbox to the lengthy list of requirements. My friends offered their hand and time to gather my academic records from miles away. The learning manager from my work even bid me an hour of her ever busy schedule and enclosed me in a meeting room as she mentored me on how to portray myself in front of my distinguished panel of interviewers. Albeit I tried to keep it a secret, I have received an overwhelming pour of well wishes and prayers. They knew me too well that this was a dream I have always looked upon – gaining a prestigious master’s degree in an international university.

I walked steadily up the stairs, heading back to my room where I was initially poised at; I stared back at the glares from my room window which awoke me that morning. I sat on the edge of my bed and unconsciously, there were drops falling from my eyes though I was feeling and thinking blankly.

I don’t understand where those tears came from; I knew for sure that I have buckled my belt so tight prior to that day.


A few weeks ago, I was in cloud nine when I received an email from the same saying that my application, along with my proposal was shortlisted for the awards across the high competition of applications, and I was due for final interview with a set of interviewers coming from well respected organizations.

I carefully weighted my options on what to wear for that interview. I decided to wear something that would speak of who I was. Young, fun but straightforward. I wore a plaid long sleeved polo in the streaks of blue, red and white, a pair of khaki trousers and wrapped myself up with a black coat.

I was there 20 minutes ahead of my schedule only to find out that the sessions were delayed for not less than an hour. Parallel to me was a guy who waited for almost the same as I do on that couch, he was sharp and I could tell immediately that he must have had years of work experience in contrast to my two years. I was right. He was a manager for nine years in a health care government agency. He was vying for the same award, I was competing with a manager. How else could I not be intimidated? We had short conversations, bits of chat to help us both be at ease while waiting. You see those movies when they have a frame shot on interviewees waiting for their names to be called on the reception area? That was exactly how it was.


When it was my turn to face the panel, I started with a smile and the smile has kept me company all through out. Our conversations were very smooth and I could say that I threw them a good impression of I, being a young boy with big dreams. My mentor, as I mentioned earlier gave me a premiere view of myself, of reaching for the stars instead of the moon, of being young and thirsty for learning. That was how I was planning to sell myself right there. The forty minute exchange of views and opinions was well tucked. It could have been the best interview I have ever experienced, with cherry on top, if it were not for that fatal one last question which I have already thought of but could not find the perfect answer.

I’m not quite sure if that one last hit had me bleeding and if it overpowered the rest of the thirty nine minutes I have been working so hard to raise the bar. Maybe it was that fatal, I assume.

I remain hopeful still though, that with a paper I projected for a noble cause, I can make it through.


The glares from the window pane have started a descent of angle as the sun was starting to go up high. I could do nothing but think of the money we have spent, of everybody’s efforts to pull the strings together, of almost three months of working and writing that application and another two months of waiting, skipping weekend fun with my friends all because I need to focus. Most importantly, how much I have invested myself on a dream I share with everyone who believes in me. But this failure is actually wryly imperative to the universal concept of this dream.  The dream remains constant, of course, but the failure only explains that the ‘how’ part of reaching for the dream might not be the one defined for you. The dream is still there to be caught, but you have to go back to base and think which game plan to use. This is where the cliché line ‘Life is a big battle ground’ comes into sense.

Well I also thought that if this wasn’t the game plan designed for me to reach that dream, then why do I have to go too far only to fail when I could have failed earlier in the game already. The answer is:  because I have to understand what the failure was for and to explain to me why this game plan is the wrong one. Had I failed early in the game, I must have been just bitter with failure itself not clearly understanding the logic behind, but having fought the game until the farthest I could; I saw what the entire game plan was all about and understood why it wasn’t for me.

That last question in that interview got me scared about my application and got me summoning myself, the responsibility was just too enormous to handle, though I was optimistic that I could bear it, I have to make a reality check if that kind of responsibility was something I was up for.


Now I still don’t know which game plan is the one written in the stars for me to reach that dream. But at least I got one in the list crossed out. I’ll probably start from there.

P.S. Dear family and friends who gave me the chance to prove myself, this entire event might not be the most grandeur of them all, it actually is just mundane if you look at it, but I give my warmest thanks for the support you have unconditionally offered no matter how big or small this affair is. Your well wishes are everything I need to know that I still have the best things in life.

Note: The anonymity of the scholarship program is preserved due to the author's will to not cause any misunderstanding of their selection process or promote biased view of the scholarship program. The communication from the organizers are only snippet of the entire letter. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chasing the Dance Steps: Flirting and Emotions

Love is all about gambling and soon enough you will realize how many gambles you have had made. Over a love that didn’t blossom, a love you wish you had made and a love that you are lucky enough to have. It wasn’t after a few weeks back that I assumed being anti-relationships. And let me make an early disclaimer that I do not mean to let you feel that you made the wrong choice in the event that you are currently in a valid relationship (not a pseudo one). As a matter of fact, relationships make us whole.

But you do have to understand that relationships are something that you cannot earn overnight. And people needs to understand that relationships are not a result of a premature attraction, at least it shouldn’t be. It usually starts with that little yet deceiving feeling of being so excited to see that one text message, or trying to prolong the exchange of texts and playing the game of who replies the last as a benchmark of who is the reacher and who is the settler.  This phase usually is important to build the framework of a budding romance. It may be built; it may somehow be destroyed by unforeseen events, such as an earthquake of one’s thoughts and suddenly had a realization for whatever its worth, of being unprepared for the battle. It always is just between the two. 

So you liked someone. And you got exactly the signs you need to assume that you have the right to play the game. You know exactly what I mean. And it keeps running that way, the spark never leaves and this phase is just the most beautiful of them all. Of chasing, of trying to understand what the other thinks but doesn’t want to ask for the fear of being too pushy or appear rushing. And you got yourself the self-acclaimed state of feeling the most wonderful feeling on earth. You got to establish this mutual liking without having to say the exact words to put it formally. And then suddenly, just in the middle of the course you still are trying to take, it stops right there. Sometimes, you are given an advisory note (your consolation). Sometimes not and you have to figure it out for yourself with the bitter feeling of not deserving an explanation for the unsolicited jerk-ness if I may coin. Either way, it doesn’t make a clear sense why that has to happen. It just did. You want to get mad, but now you regress to that stage of assumptions and realizes, you never really had the right to, in the first place.

And you were told to remain friends, perhaps. And to just sit right there and be calm as if nothing that’s too important to mind happened. What an insult to how your brain and heart functions. As if the world mocks you, saying ‘hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles’. 

This is exactly why I understand the people who are too pessimistic about these premature affairs. Others just don’t have one basic sense, sensitivity. When you start playing with feelings, do bear in mind that you are liable for it because it takes two to tango. Just as in the course that it is not even valid to say that you came unprepared and somewhere in the crossroads, you realize you aren’t ready to play the game of cards. What happens to the one you left hanging? Thanks for your time? It was wonderful while it lasted, until…’.

You see, there are no retreats in real life. Once you placed your foot forward, the dance starts. We choose the dance we want to dance and the dance partner we want to dance with. But if you just had a cold feel just as soon as the music has already started and when you already have both poised yourselves in front of each other, then what a coward you are, needless to say, you do not deserve to be on the dance floor.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Slave from a Hideous Society

Have you ever found yourself sitting on top of your bed, staring at the glares that your screen is illuminating towards your cornea? Have you ever tried to be breathing blankly in a quiet room where the silence sounds like a thin monotonous tone which to me is like that of which a brass produces, that annoying tingle that usually signifies you are deaf.

I'm not quite sure if this is normal, although I am certain that this is too early for a mid life crisis. I'm losing track. 

This is just one of those days when you get to be so tired of the things you constantly need to do, neglecting those that you want to. But I am not new to this, I have been trying to live with it for the past couple of years and yet, I haven't gotten myself to be immune with it. 

It's crazy how you tried to make yourself believe that this was a good choice from the start, and all you have to do is to believe in yourself. Nah, such a fool to be too idealistic. They will always just be an idea in the end. And now that you have walked too far from the starting point, you wonder if there's still a chance to turn your back. And if you do, which path will you take? Now that you know that you have done nothing but to persuade yourself! 

Well maybe you were just a victim, well maybe you didn't had a choice.
Well maybe because there were no other roads to take, practically.
 Fair enough.

But what do you do now that you are at the crossroads? Truth is, a choice is not to be made if one shouldn't be considered as an option in the first place. 

Escape from it? I tried. But I soon realized that it escaping a problem doesn't solve it. During exams, you just have to skip the difficult parts for a while, but you have to come back at them eventually.
I had the chance. But I didn't. I endured it no matter how reckless those life changing moments were. 
But a battle is not without an end. 

Your mind may tell you otherwise, but your heart knows when to quit.