A Broken “Shell”

 

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A piece of a coconut shell being washed away | Waialae Beach in Honolulu, Hawai’i

2017 has been a bumpy roller coaster … for me at least because a majority of the pain that I had to go through were breakups.

How and why did I have to deal with two gay breakups in one year?

Well, to give you more context on how I put myself into the situation of being heart broken twice within 6 months, here is a TLDR (too long, didn’t read):

My first ex, who I dated for two years, broke up with me before the start of my last semester in undergrad which was mid-January. My second ex/freshman crush and I dated four days after my first breakup. My second ex and I broke up mid-June.

I bet you are thinking, “Why the hell did I choose to date right before a breakup?”

Well, I am still learning from mistakes because I should have definitely taken some time to be single before settling with any other guys. But I won’t deny that my heart and mind was naive and fixated to the fantasies and dreams I wanted.

In this growth and healing that I am experiencing, I had to ask myself:

Why do I want to be in a relationship? What was the goal?”

Pondering on those questions in relation to my identity as a gay man, I thought my desire for having a boyfriend came from feeling lonely.

Growing up, there were a lot of factors that pushed me into “gay isolation” and into the “closet.” One, I didn’t have the capital to be going out and meet other gay guys. Two, I probably didn’t have the guts because I was so afraid of meeting strangers. And three, I was fixated and comfortable to communicate with other gay guys online and through apps.

Oh god … the culture of online apps. Having to succumb to the culture felt like another battle in itself. In having to dodge my way from awkward moments and microaggressions in conversation with other guys, it became tiring to deal with guys who were in the same struggle that I am experiencing. Even knowing people out there and being able to chat with them, there was always this void-like feeling. An emptiness that is shadowed by looks and characteristics rather than personality and dignity.

Then the online app culture captured me and left me falling into a trap of desperately trying to find some “companionship.” Unfortunately, a lot of that “companionship” developed into hook-ups. At first, it was being human to fulfill human needs. But over time, the whole process became exhausting and unfulfilling. From that realization, I guess that was when I wanted a boyfriend but still for the sake of not being lonely. The fact that I came into relationships with an internalized mentality of not wanting to be lonely was probably not the best move for myself.

So … why couldn’t I feel contend with myself and the loneliness that is out there?

I would argue, particularly in the gay community, that there is definitely a lingering toxicity and ongoing trauma from “being in the closet” that continues to rave havoc. Probably starting off with the issue of being lonely …

Why did I feel lonely? What led me to be in my own bubble? Was it because I was gay?

Then it dawned on me that maybe it was because I was gay and I didn’t take the time to fully accept that. Understanding the social pressures and stress that coincide with the identity, I closed myself off with a shell. Yet, that protection came with a price as I was also hiding my true authentic self. It was self-deprecating being stuck into my own way of living. It was numbing to know that I don’t feel good as I should with the accomplishments I made or the struggles I overcame.

So I guess now I have a new goal: to love myself more. To be with myself of who I am to the most full extent. To love myself as much as I love my mom. I hope to work towards inner peace with myself and my sexuality and to say that it is ok to be single. And hopefully, my process can transcend into helping other gay guys to love themselves rather than getting stuck in the cycle of hookups and loneliness. Yet, this is all easier said than done. There will definitely be bumps in the road. But at least now, I am feeling nourish in focusing on myself and doing what needs to be done to love myself more and more each day.

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I want to take the moment to recognize my exes for the painful growth you have led me to experience. Also, the article “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” by Michael Hobbes for shining light on the issue. I would highly recommend reading it because it does a better job of addressing the issue of “gay loneliness.”

 

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A Happy Belly

I can feel my stomach expanding as it continues to be filled with nourishment and happiness. Here are some recommendations of restaurants I been to within Honolulu, particularly around the strip of Waialae Street. I will embed Yelp links to their name and put the dollar signs I believe are more appropriate than what Yelp gives them:

  1. Sweet Home Cafe ($$) – A Taiwanese hot pot.  Definitely come here with a group of friends to chow down on a variety of food you will cook in front of you. If you stay after an hour, they will serve you a giant bowl of dessert! Make sure to be prepared with an empty stomach.
  2. Zippy’s ($) – I like to think of Zippy’s as a fusion of Panera Bread and Denny’s … but it is “less healthy” than Panera Bread yet way better than Denny’s. It is a cute chain restaurant where you can either dine in the restaurant or where you can order your food to-go. They also collaborate with the Napoleon Bakery which has scrumptious pastries like a coconut turnover. Their Korean Fried Chicken plate is to die for!
  3. Leahi Health Bar ($$) – If you need some energy boost, then this place is where you have to go. Their selection has a variety of green smoothies and kale salads that will not only leave you full but also feel energized and ready to conquer the world.
  4. Rainbow Drive-In ($) – It has similar vibes as In & Out. They have a wide selection of plates that will contain macaroni salad/slaw, rice, and a meat dish: Beef patty, Shoyu Chicken, Mahi Mahi, you name it. I would recommend ordering something and then eating it at the closest beach. I did it with a friend and it was amazing!
  5. Koko Head Cafe ($$) – A very hip, modern breakfast place that sometimes has a long line. Luckily, my friends and I when there was hardly any line. Their selection has a fusion taste between Japanese, Hawaiian, and Korean food. You can get light plates from their Breakfast selection like their omelets or heavy plates from their Brunch selection like their skillets.
  6. Island Brew Coffeehouse ($) – Another hip, modern space but more of a cafe. I would recommend coming here for their sandwiches and coffee. I had a Hawaiian Honey Latte with cinnamon added on top and I immediately fell in love. They also have acai bowls and FREE wifi. Visit one of these cafes with friends to study, catch up, or do work.
  7. Koa Pancake House ($) – This restaurant is actually behind Koko Head Cafe. Sometimes when there is a long line at Koko Head Cafe, people would come to this restaurant. This place doesn’t let you down. Not only are their prices way cheaper but their service is one point with how fast they are able to dish out their plates. Plus, their food is fulfilling and delicious. If you are looking for something relatively basic and chill, then this is the restaurant for you.

 

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Thursday, June 22, 2017 – Island Brew Coffeehouse. Hella Hipster Shot with my Passion Planner and my 12 oz Hawaiian Honey Latte (I wish I got a bigger size.)

 

As much as I would love to give more recommendations, having to spend so much money eating out came with a heavy cost. Fortunately, a friend (looking at you Shiming) and I went grocery shopping. A tub of yogurt, a bag of granola, and some berries have been my staple. Regardless of the monetary circumstances that I always kept in the back of my mind, my belly is happy!

I would love to know more recommendations of Hawaiian restaurants since I do plan to potential visit again and might even study.

What are your favorite Hawaiian eateries/restaurants?

Heating Up

Safe to say that Hawaii has been treating me well … for the most part. Aside from the delicious food and amazing company (thanks, Kepa, Chantal, Shiming, and Leimaile), the heat and humid caught me off guard. On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, I made the mistake of not drinking enough water, napping without the fan, and not eating enough food (the lunch I had wasn’t fulfilling). All of those symptoms added up to a migraine headache. Oops …

But I am better after eating a scrumptious breakfast meal the next morning. I was so energized that I made my way to University of Hawai’i: Manoa. The campus was beautiful and spacious. My visit was so enticing that I forgot to photograph my adventure (Also, I didn’t want to look like an obvious tourist). Instead of heading to the admission center at the college, I went straight to the East-West Center, an organization that focuses on bridging the gap between the United States with Asian Pacific Regions through research and dialogues. My discovery of the center was recommended by friends who also notified me about their Graduate Degree scholarships. As I could learn and read more about the center’s mission and organization online, I decided to talk to a representative to hear more details and potential advice about the scholarship.

Like my headache, I felt heated with a passion during my conversation with the representative (Shoutout to Vicki!). Our conversation led me to imagine myself to continue learning subjects that spark my intellectual curiousity. My visit left me with a smile on the potential idea of attending the University. Upon my trip back to my friend’s house, I was making mental notes of other potential campuses. My list might include UCLA (I am thinking about you, Center for Ethnocommunications) and San Francisco State University (the “mecca” of Ethnic Studies). After settling down, I immediately started to do my research and saw UH: Manoa’s American Studies in which led me to see faculties like Vernadette Gonzalez and Joyce Mariano who incorporated some degree of Filipino/Filipino American Studies into their research. Reading the biographies at those faculties got me thinking, “if they can do that, then I can definitely do the same thing.”

So now I am considering graduate school … But I know I have a lot of research and soul searching before working on any documents. If you are a professor or a current graduate student, I would love to connect and chat about your process of deciding a program and how you came to the conclusion of those who accepted you.

Yet, I have to remind myself that I am still on vacation. Luckily, various beaches have gotten me to cool down and enjoy the moment as much as possible. But that won’t diminish my excitement as I would gaze beyond the horizon of the sea, thinking about what might await in my journey.

 

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – Location: “China Walls,” Hawaii Kai

Was have you been heated about? What is a goal you are eager and motivated to work on? Leave a comment below.

 

A Queer Man Coming Home

As a queer Pilipinx American, it is difficult to come to terms with “love” towards my father. As of Sunday, June 18, 2017, marked as Father’s Day,  I couldn’t stop thinking about how I, a closeted queer who will live under the same roof with his (conservative?) father, can express his affection towards someone that embodies being stoic and macho. In thinking about strategies to handle the situation, there is a lot of factors that had to be considered.

One factor of this process is definitely having to redefine “love.” My father upholds the mainstream, heteronormative view of love as he sometimes teases me about being the man of any relationship to support his loved ones. Having to grow up into his perception definitely showed a lot of challenges because of internalized battles of me fighting against the mold with standards that I am not comfortable with. Despite those taxing battles, the mold should be challenged to incorporate more queer perspectives.

Another factor is upholding what my father and I do have and going off from there. Despite his stubborn reactions and his dismissive remarks towards certain ideas, he is still my father which is a privilege I shouldn’t take for granted. Hopefully, one day he and I will try to come into terms of what truths we both hold.

 

As my dream trip to Hawaii started off on Father’s Day, having to be surrounded by a whole new area outside my parent’s house reminded me of a life that felt free and less complicated. No longer was I condemned by parental supervision or having to go back into the closet. In Hawaii, I can act, behavior, speak, breathe, laugh, love as queer as I want. Having a body of water that stretches miles upon miles away from me and my parents helps to make it possible … Yet, I know that having these partitions are not sustainable. Since I am planning to live with my parent’s house for a year to save money and to pay off my student loans with the income of my fellowship job, I definitely have to reconcile the close proximity to my parents, especially my father.

Having to live back to my parent’s house might provide an opportunity to heal and work out the concerns I have. It is time for me to stop making excuses about needing to escape from reality, pain, and hardships.

 

A kasama (friend) gave me the advice that spaces are not always permanent. Space itself changes and the people who lives in those spaces change as well, including us. The advice echoes into my noggin because of how it alters the framework of “running away” or “moving on” that I was stuck in. The advice gave me the power to envision a queer space in my house that I can try to create with the hope that the changes will allow my parents to change.

There is a long road ahead of me in tackling this issue. With the goal of rekindling my relationship with my parents, I hope to arrive in a space that is safe, fun, and caring for everyone at home.

Rejuvenate

New day, new me!

I decided to rejuvenate my previous blog that was once called “Alaala – Rey’s Philippines Journey.” The blog showcased my experience studying abroad in the Philippines back in Fall 2015.

My decision to utilize my old blog again to not only maximize what it can become a “way of life” blog but most importantly, using this platform as space for me to share my critical thoughts, opinions, and questions. After graduating from undergrad and moving into a new chapter of my life, my experience living back in my parent’s house felt like it was missing something. The proximity of my friends was definitely a factor but I won’t say it was the only one. I believe it was the intellectual discourses that I had back in college with my peers and mentors.

Yet, I am not discrediting the fact about having intellectual discourses with my family. Allowing critical conversations would involve having to incorporate dealing with intergenerational differences and language barriers. Even I am still learning how to navigate conversations with those particular circumstances.

With the time being, I thought it would be great to have those intellectual discourses through sharing my thoughts and opinion on this blog. This method shouldn’t demand an immense amount of labor or immediate attention from others because I believe I can allow my clouds of thoughts and concerns be frozen in “time” within the virtual world.

My goal for this “new” blog is to give myself a (virtual) space to express my ideas that don’t have to be molded into the performativity of social media like Facebook and Tumblr. In the long run, I hope to become a better writer through this experience.

Also, I hope to make this more interactive. So I will leave a question after each post. For example:

What was the last time you “revamp/rejuvenate” a project? Was it successful? What would you do differently? Or what did you do differently?

OR

What questions/topics you have come to face today?

Leave a comment below 🙂

The End?

Day 149: December 21, 5 days after returning to the States

After spending a total of approximately 144 days in the Philippines studying abroad, my experience was truly life changing. Within the 5 days after coming back, it definitely felt weird going back to my “normal” life in the Bay Area with a changed mindset.

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UP Lantern Parade (Dec 14)

Since it have been a while since my late thorough update (6 Things), let me give a quick run down of what happened until I boarded my plane back to the States. Here we go:

  • November was dedicated for preparing for my finals that were on the first week of December. My finals consisted of a class group projects, essays, 2 presentations, and oral exam.
  • On November 12, I traveled to Intramuros for a concert that aims to spread awareness of the Stop Lumad Killing movement. It was an amazing night were I met so many inspiring activist. Plus, I got to chill with a Fil-Am from Seattle in Binodo (aka Lucky Chinatown). Unfortunately, the night ended on a sad note where I had to be stuck in a taxi cab with a misognynist, heterosexist driver who tried to rip me off.
  • November 13 was the Paris Attack
  • Between Nov 16-20, it was the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in which was a big long week summit for government officials around the Pacific Ocean discussing over free trade and what not. There was a lot going on during that week with protestors trying to bring awareness about the Lumad Killing and ending US imperialist globalization (Junk APEC) and locals complaining about the atrocious traffic that kept on building due to closed streets reserved for the government officials. It was overwhelming to be part of that mess.
  • But aside from APEC, from Nov 17-20, I had the opportunity to travel to Baler, Aurora as a class field trip. It was a beautiful place where I learned a lot about the impacts of tourism. My precious post (Photo Essay about “Home”) talked about a glimpse of how I internalized my experience there.
  • On November 28, I went to see one of my Lola’s service. She was a cousin of my grandpa on my mother side. It was my first time meeting relatives from my grandpa’s side. Though it was a bit sad attending a service, I was welcomed with hugs, smiles, and kisses from my relatives.
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Lola’s Service (Nov 28)
  • On Dec 7, a friend introduced to me to Kadamay, an organization that addressed issues related to Filipino urban poor communities. Part of my day was going to sites of the urban poor to be expose of the institutional oppression they have to endure.
  • After long nights of typing essays and preparing for presentations, I spend most of my time seeing friends, family members, and colleagues before I traveled back to the States.
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At Eastwood City with Suzzie (Dec 12)
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With some amazing BC 197 classmates helping me out with a film production. Shoutout to Christine and Noraida (Dec 13)
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Dinner with Fil-Ams in Binodo. Shoutout to Heather, Amee, & Nicole (Dec 15)
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With the “Nerd Herd” for the last time. Thank you so much Anthony, Draego, Maria, & Caitlin for making my experience a blast (Dec 14)
  • On the second to last day I left, I was able to see UP’s Lantern Parade on Dec 14. It was a magical, empowering experience with so many lively people. I thought it was a good end to a life-changing experience.
  • Before heading on my plane, there was an “immigration” issue which made me have to rebook my flight. After spending approximately 15,000 pesos (~$317), I was able to board on my plane.

So a lot has happened within the November and beginning of December. If I would to use three adjectives to describe the last month in the Philippines, they would be:

  1. Bittersweet
  2. Thought-provoking
  3. Exhausted

Each moment offered a whole new perspective for me to learn, reflect, and grow. It did sadden me having to face the reality that I have to go back to the States after meeting so many wonderful people and build strong connections with them. Yet after reflecting on the numerous memories made throughout my adventure, it was enlightening to think about my progress from being lonely to being part of an international community. I have been bless to encounter the people I have met as they all offered various insights and ideologies about anything related to politics, drama, hobbies, etc. It was through long nights of endless, deep conversations or over a table of delicious food that strengthened the bonds I made. Despite my love to connect and learn from others, it was exhausting to keep on socializing and running on very little energy. Knowing that I had a long bucket list to do before I leave, I had to learn to be content with what I have experience and not to over extend myself. Though I could have been to Palawan or Boracay, I know in the future that I will come back and finish off my bucket list.

As much as I love to glance over the comforting aspect of my trip, I don’t want to sugarcoat the discomforts I experienced. Aside from culture shock, there were a lot systemic and institutional issues that hindered my experience. In short, issues stemmed from colonization, imperialism, feudalism, globalization, etc. This constructs a web of complex problems that have been embedded and shaped the structures in the Philippines.

Despite the harsh, sad reality of what is going on in the Philippines, I channeled a lot of that negative energy into inspiring myself to fight against those oppressions. There is still a lot for me to learn and unlearn about the Filipino’s history and culture. But now back home, I promise myself to continue to stay connected and work with other Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, locally and internationally, to make the Philippines a better place for all.

Technically, this is the end of my Philippines’ trip. But I feel like this is only just the beginning of something much greater.

 

… And somethings did not change. 🙂

Photo Essay about “Home”

For my Art Studies 141: “Photograph as Art” final project, we were assigned to synthesize and construct an art project related to our class field trip to Baler, Aurora. I took this opportunity to combine key lessons I learned about photography as an art form with the culture shock is that I experienced back in my “homeland.”

So what is culture shock? It is defined:

noun [mass noun] the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” (Wikipedia)

After leaving for most of my life in California, it is not surprising that I experienced a lot of discomfort being in a completely foreign environment. Having to adjust and cope the Philippines’ culture and way of living for five months was a constant battle.

Even with my previous experience in traveling to India for three weeks, I thought I would easily manage to create some sort of strategy to cope over culture shock. But the reality was that I simply could not completely adjust.

So after reflecting on what is holding me back, I started to realized that there was a disconnect. Within the scope of supermodernity (which was only briefly covered in my class), my professor coined the term, non-places, a word to describe “spaces with no shared identity or common history.” In connecting the term to my experience, I started to realize that the Philippines was my personal non-place. As a Filipino-American studying abroad in the Philippines, it was a given that I just couldn’t easily assimilate to my Filipino culture and heritage because of how my American identity detaches me from trying to embrace the culture.

This disconnection stirred a lot of issues for me in not only getting use to the style and codes embedded in the Philippines’ society but also gaining a sense of “home” within the space. Throughout most of my time being in Quezon City, I tried searching and creating spaces for myself in which I could identify as “home.” With many failed attempts, I began to realize that I had to redefine my perception of “home” because of how it is near impossible for me to recreate my American perspective of “home” within a Filipino space.

My art project aims to redefine what a “home” is through my experience of feeling and being displace, both in the United States and in the Philippines. I juxtaposed two photos, one taken while I was living in the States and the other was during my class field trip to Baler. I focused on particular subjects to help my audience to see the comparisons and contrasts from experience within two different culture. Also, I added a long haiku to further illustrate some of the thoughts and feelings that I had to negotiate.

Feel free to send me some feedback or questions. Enjoy! 🙂

My art project is called:

“I am Asian in America and American in Asia!”

 

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