Seeing life through rose-colored glasses

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. Apologies to the three, maybe four readers who are still around for not updating. I apparently have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to these things. ūüėõ

This isn’t much of an update, but I wanted to share this extremely raw a cappella recording of La Vie En Rose that I did for a friend who’s recovering from an accident as a little feel-better-soon gift. Whenever I hear this song, I can hear Audrey Hepburn in my head explaining that it means seeing life through rose-colored glasses, and I yearn to see¬†Paris.

Be warned, it’s extremely raw, uploaded straight from my phone, so you can hear all the pops and whistles on it. Still, in the interest of keeping things real, here you go.

Hope you like it. ūüôā

Lost In The Dreaming

Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes

This place is all the places I have ever loved. Skies, libraries, houses, malls, paths, gardens. The air is clear and I am home.

– Luis Katigbak


I’m having a difficult time writing this, just as I’m having a difficult time trying to process how I feel right now. A few days ago, I received some horrible news: a friend of mine who’d been struggling with health issues in the past few years had a massive stroke, and hope of recovery is slim to none.

Luis¬†and I¬†first met back in college during a fiction writing class. He’s a brilliant writer, never afraid to take little pieces of his heart and soul and arrange them into something of heartbreaking beauty¬†on the blank page, always able to reach into the ether to find that perfect word, that perfect turn of phrase, to make a story live and take form. Many of my peers and mentors would say¬†that Luis is the best writer of our generation, and few, if any, would question it.

He also loves music, loves it so much that even during the quiet interludes in a conversation, you could catch him swaying his head to some unheard beat, eyes unfocused, a tiny, secret smile on his lips. I was always half convinced that Luis had the music of the spheres playing continuously in his head, a low-key soundtrack to his life. Music is so much a part of his life that he established two major magazines dedicated to music reviews and writing and short fiction.

But beyond all that, Luis is a genuinely good human being, one of those few lucky souls who brings light and happiness wherever he goes. He radiates a quiet kindness and good cheer, looking for all the world like a young, Asian version of Santa Claus, with his ruddy face lighting up whenever friends are near. I could have been having a really bad day, but just running into him between classes would already boost my spirits. Luis is, as they say, good people.

My favorite memory of Luis was from, oh, about 15 or 16 years ago. A massive meteor shower — the Leonids, I believe —¬†was happening¬†that evening, so a bunch of us decided to go back to our old university to watch it. The school¬†was built on a huge¬†tract of land in the middle of the city, and there were plenty of obliging fields to sprawl on for the show. We’d come armed with food and drinks and blankets and were just settling in when a drunken man wobbled toward us and started harassing us.

We were arguing with the man — the troll, really — when the campus police arrived and asked us to accompany them to the campus headquarters. Luis and JB and a few of the other guys volunteered¬†to give a statement, but it didn’t end there. It turned out that the troll was an off-duty police officer who had a substance abuse problem, and that he was carrying a loaded firearm in the waistband of his shorts. Luis and the others ended up spending the night waiting at Precinto Nueve, one of the outposts of the Philippine National Police, giving more statements and fielding questions. When he and the others finally rejoined us, the sun was already high in the sky and they’d missed the whole thing, but he just laughed and shrugged it off and said that he’d turn it into a story someday.

I last saw him two years ago, when he came to the apartment I shared with two of our common friends. His illness was already pretty advanced by then, and he’d had several major operations to try to regain his eyesight, which had rapidly deteriorated since he’d gotten sick, but the operations just made things worse instead of arresting the¬†decline. I remembered him saying that he’d given up on going out and watching movies because he couldn’t see anything two feet past his nose; going to the movies had become a futile exercise, like listening to the radio while sitting in front of a flickering¬†light. He’d been having trouble seeing well enough to write, and I think it was that more than anything else that took the fight out of him. Luis lived to write and read. But he still put up a brave front, talking about mutual friends and frenemies and the bright, shiny memories of our youth, as the noon sun slanted across the windows and turned into the golden light of late afternoon.

Thinking of him now, lost in The Dreaming that he loves so much, makes my heart hurt. He is loved by so many, and so many of us are praying that he comes back from this, but I am no stranger to loss from a protracted illness, and I fear that wishing¬†him back¬†when I know he’s so tired is selfish of me.

But I will never stop waiting for that story.


20 April 2016: Luis Joaquin M. Katigbak crossed over today, a few minutes past midnight. May his soul rest in peace.


And now, for something completely different.

I know, I know. I haven’t been a very good blogger this past year. But honestly, there’s been so much going on and I’ve been so overwhelmed that I just wanted to retreat and take stock of things before posting again.

So. To the three, maybe four, readers who still follow this blog, hello again.

I’ve been sorting through the photos I took last year trying to choose what to post, so expect a few new items to appear here soon. But for now, as I said above, here’s something completely different.

A few people in my life know that I love to sing. I love music, all kinds and all genres. As long as it resonates with me or has a good melody, I’m all over it. I’ve been known to listen to the same album — heck, even the same¬†song — over and over for weeks on end, which, needless to say, drove the people around me absolutely batshit crazy.¬†But I regret nothing.¬†Ha ha.

My love affair with music took a backseat when my mom was dying in 2006. Mom was a coloratura soprano who would constantly sing around the house; I have many memories of her singing¬†kundiman and arias ¬†with our piano teacher on Saturday afternoons while we kids played in the shadow of a giant¬†duhat tree on a small hill near our house. We didn’t have very many neighbors at the time, and the sound of her voice would carry from the farm almost all the way to the highway, which was a good 10-minute walk from our street.

Mom was so good that she was offered a full scholarship to the UST Conservatory of Music to study voice and music theory, but she declined because she was already pregnant with my sister at the time. Between working full time and taking care of three bratty kids, there wasn’t much time for formal classes, but she always welcomed an opportunity to sing, even if it was just singing along to the radio while she worked from her home office.

She loved to hear me sing, and always encouraged me to do so, but I always felt so awkward and inadequate next to her powerhouse of a voice that I hardly sang in her presence. Dad also sang very well — and still does, to this day — and that did not help to make a painfully shy kid any more confident in her singing abilities. I ended up singing my heart out with friends at my college¬†tambayan, and even performing in public quite a few times during poetry readings, and later, at friends’ weddings. I sang everywhere and anytime, and I loved it.

But still, I never felt comfortable singing for my mom. Even when she was dying in the hospital and begging me to sing for her, I would always hem and haw and find a way to get out of doing it, something that I would later come to bitterly regret. She used to ask me all the time to sing two songs in particular, which I will not name here, and I would oblige her on the rare occasion. Looking back, it was a horrible thing to do to a dying person. Now, ten years after her death, I still wish I’d granted her request more often than I had then, and I still feel a tiny twinge in my heart whenever I perform for a crowd of strangers.

I lost my voice, almost literally, after she died. Music no longer held any appeal. I remember recording a song at 4am on my tiny mp3 player two weeks after we’d lost her. I stopped singing or even deliberately listening to music for a long, long time after that. I lost my voice to guilt and regret and to the treacherous voice inside me that always told me I would never be good enough.

But that was then.

These past few months I’ve found a community of wonderfully strange people online who have become my friends, and they’ve encouraged me to start singing again. I’ve been taking tentative steps towards putting music back into my life, and they’ve witnessed the struggle and the sometimes horribly pitchy recordings that I sent them while I was getting my confidence and my voice back.

Some of those recordings will never make it past that small circle, but now I’m starting to feel confident enough to let the world at large — or, you know, you three or four lovely, lovely weirdos still following me here –hear my voice again.

All this is really just to say, here’s my latest recording, and I hope you’ll like it, and thank you for still being here.