to C, & all the friends who came and went

I only had a best friend once, and that was way back in 3rd grade. My earliest recollections of us include an exchange of handwritten letters and stationery sets, conversations about home works and crushes, and Girl Scout camps. That went on until she had to transfer to another school. Even then, we still talked online and met every once in a while. Slowly, she started to drift away as new friends arrived. I lost my best friend some time in high school.

Of course, I had other friends. But none replaced old ones – that isn’t really possible, is it? Subconsciously, I’ve set a boundary as to how far these relationships could only go.

Lately, I find myself in situations where I am tempted to let my guard down. The thought of having someone (and not merely a journal) to talk to about the ugly and interesting and all the in-between details of life, of not having to be alone in your pursuit of elsewhere, of being completely known and understood and loved still. I long for this kind of connection but each time I try to take a step forward, I stop; I think I will never be ready for this kind of intimacy.

And it is this fear of impermanence that denies me such desire. Impermanence is solace to the suffering but also an enemy to the easily, more so to the overly, -attached.

But if you are fortunate, there are hands that constantly reach out no matter how far you draw back. There are people who willingly listen to the stories in your head, who insist that you go on each time you pause. There are those who look at you and see you and choose not to walk away. There are those who, even with the surge of other friendships, remember your name not out of necessity but just because.

Such souls, rare as they may be, inspire me not to forget, but rather to accept the reality of impermanence. They speak to me of the beauty of relationship despite the inevitable future separation that comes with it in different forms.

There are faces that come in mind as I write this and I am reminded of moments – happy, sad, frustrating, painful, beautiful. I am no longer friends with my 3rd grade best friend but that did not, does not and will never change the fact that she was my 3rd grade best friend. The same goes for all the friends that came and went. And I was, am, will always be that friend to them.

I suppose there will never be an end to farewells. But perhaps this human connection is worth the pain of impermanence, after all.

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reminder

written on April 29, 2016

And so I heard about you again. It’s strange how the sound of your name almost feels foreign to me now when this time last year, it was my most used, most favorite word. Memories, real and self-crafted, flood in; I find myself wanting to retrace my way back into that sea of strangers where we first and last met. But I have come so far, walking miles and miles, for me to just return again. I did it, you see. I am far from you now. You have become just a distant memory, like an old tale from centuries ago that others talk so seldom about and to which I respond by thinking, “Oh, I remember that” and nothing more. Today, you are here again, standing behind me from afar, calling out my name. I hear your voice louder. I turn around and look at you, but only for a brief moment. I smile, turn back and then continue to walk forward.

stellar stories from memory

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December, a long time ago/ General Santos City

We were traveling to my grandparents’ home from the airport. I was riding in the back of the pickup truck. I looked up and saw big, bright stars. So big and bright I thought I could reach them if only I held out my arms. I remember the inner child in me wondering if our province was in an elevated position above the rest of the world, or if the heavens drew closer to the ground in that area. Or, with the rest of the ones in the back of the pickup truck talking with one another, I wondered if the heavens extended its hands downward to reach me and me alone.

April 26, 2014 / Summer camp (Rizal)

I was walking back to our cabin when I happened to look up at the sky. My feet came to a slow halt. Above me hung what seemed like thousands of stars. I just recently read a book about how the past, in some bizarre way, could be preserved, fossilized in the stars. Surrounded with trees and mountains, and with what limited energy the campsite had, I thought, somewhere on the other end of time, a hundred light-years from then, someone else, some distant future creature, might be looking back at the preserved image of a girl, who stood alone in the middle of the darkness, awestruck with the stories the universe holds. 

November 16, 2014 / Bedroom

I lay awake in bed until the earliest hours just staring at the night sky from my window. There wasn’t much to see, only a few stars here and there. I wrote in my journal, “I am staring at a faint-lit star. I wonder whether I am staring at a journeying light or staring back into a fading history. I wish to let her know I have noticed her.

June 12, 2015 / Batangas

I stood a short distance away from the shore. It was dark. I remember there were sources of light here and there, but insufficient to illuminate most of the area. I looked into the distant night sky where a dance of lightning was displayed. Despite the cloudy skies, a number of faint-lit stars still scattered in close proximity. That night, I saw a shooting star. And then another. My heart was filled with wonder. I’ve seen shooting stars before, but not on the same night sky with lightning.

December 2015 / South Cotabato

  • My cousin and I walked outside from a birthday party and ran into the field across the house. We held each other hand in hand, turned ’round and ’round and laughed like crazies. Later, we climbed the roof of my grandfather’s tricycle and lay there to stargaze, although there wasn’t anything to gaze on. It was a starless night. But this moment just felt so stellar.
  • We had been in the province for a couple of weeks and it had mostly been starless nights. But there was one evening when my brother called me out as I was taking a bath, urging me to see the night sky. At last, hundreds of bright stars. Together with my brother and 5 other cousins, we went at the back of my grandparents’ house and laid out carton papers on the ground. One of us put the lights off, and we all just lay there – silent, amazed – until the wind blew the clouds back.

March 7, 2016 / Bedroom 

The stars in the night sky slowly faded as the sun appeared in the horizon. I posted in my social account,  I’ve always loved night stars but today I have come to love the day star — sun — in an extra special way. It’s fascinating how there are so many stars in space which are millions of times brighter than her. But to earth, to us, no other star compares to her splendor. She outshines all the others (even those which are millions of times more brilliant than her in space). I thought about that for the rest of the day, and about the people who are under the impression that they are dull, irrelevant but are just like the sun to others’ secret worlds. I suppose they are as many as a night sky full of stars.

April 2016 / Marinduque

It was a quiet town with too little electricity supply. I went to bed as early as 8:00 PM. I felt far from the world that night, felt lonely although it was exactly what I came there for in the first place. To be detached from everything. But perhaps that night I was lonely for a different reason – I felt detached from everyone. I got up later to use the comfort room that was located outside the house. Outside, there was only darkness and the echoing sound of crickets in the distance. I looked up at the night sky and there hung countless of tiny sparkling dots. In that instant, I felt comforted in some strange way. You are not alone, said the One who held the stars together.

October 2016/ Jomalig, Quezon 

I was in an island that was 5-hour bus ride, 6-hour boat ride away from home. An island that seemed isolated from the rest of the world. Limited electricity supply, just like most of the provinces I’ve visited. I was in the rooftop with a friend, our backs against the bench. A number of fireflies in the air, like scintillating stars in motion. The universe looked down on us, as if telling us in a majestic voice, behold! We stared, of course, the ardent spectators that we were. It was almost impossible to find an empty spot in the skies. It was the first time I saw the milky way in such clarity. I kept exclaiming, ang ganda, never satisfied enough to say it just once, as if I needed to get the words out again and again, or else I’d explode. Eventually, there was none left, only silence. An overwhelming sense of wonder, and peace, and belonging engulfed me. For the longest time, I did not wish to be elsewhere. I wanted so badly to be there, in that moment, and to just stay. Under the stars, I thought, what a strange thing to be infinitesimal in the entirety of the universe, and yet be the greatest in all creations of the universe-Maker. If people are so fascinated with the stars, or with anything beautiful in the world, then there is no reason for them to doubt their own beauty and worth. Living, breathing souls are much more wondrous than these.

August 2017/ illusory house

I had a strange dream that took place in an imaginary house – imaginary, because I don’t recognize it in existence in the actual world, or I haven’t seen it yet, if it does, which makes it valid for me to refer to it as an imaginary place at the moment.

There was a man washing the dishes in the sink, while I stood by the kitchen door. We didn’t talk for some time, although it seemed like we were both aware of each other’s presence. This man, oddly enough, is one that I recognize in reality. He is merely a churchmate whom I’ve never even spoken with, but spoken about once or twice with other churchmates who had a crush on him. Needless to say, I was bemused by his sudden appearance on my dream.

A little later, the night sky was filled with shooting stars. Hundreds of them moving unhurriedly across the sky, almost like fireworks bursting in slow motion. They seemed so close I thought they would fall on me, but they faded as soon as I tried to reach my hand out. I called the man and told him about the stellar display of night sky, but he didn’t seem to hear me. I just kept staring at the sky. And then, I woke up. #

(note: this post is constantly subject to revision. revisit this page for new memories.)

share your stellar stories to cortes.sheresh@gmail.com

the greatest unrequited love

There is a Man I know whose love remains a baffling mystery to me.

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In the past months, I have been kept awake until the earliest hours of day by a single question – why do I wander away from this? This love that has pursued me since time immemorial, this love that has chosen to rescue me even when I was undeserving, this love that has constantly stayed even after I strayed. One could only dream of such love; how dare do I reject this?

The answer came to me one cold evening of March. It was nothing intricate, nothing difficult to understand. It was as simple as anything could be. So the months of staying up late have been reduced to a single, 6-word answer: I did not love Him enough.

Tears started to form. Of course, I love Him!,  a part of me attempted to justify itself.

I spend my quiet moments with Him, I talk to Him on a regular basis, I read His Word, I participate in the ministry. Of course, I love Him.

Of course. Of course, you do, I told myself. Just not enough for you stay. Confronted by this truth, my heart broke. How many times have I told Him, I love You, when what I truly meant was I love the pieces of You. I love that He is forgiving, that He is merciful and gracious, that He loves me. But when it came to the part that asks for the evidence of my affection for Him, that which requires obedience, I take a step back. And then another, until I look back and realize a great distance has already separated us. It’s like being in a relationship only for the pleasure, without any commitment.

Sure, He was my greatest love. He used to be, once upon a time, during the earliest days of our relationship. But as time passed, trivial things have started to settle in my heart until He lost His place. But this is another story.

I was reminded of what He said in John 14:24,

He who does not love Me does not keep My words.

That night, I went through my previous journals and found this entry dated November 18, 2015:

When we wrangle over doing what God says, that isn’t an obedience problem but a love problem.

A train of thought. So what happened? I asked myself. Why have I grown cold? Why have I loved this Man less than I did before? What factors could have played part that lead me to this love problem with the Man I gave my “yes” to? 

And, as if He was just right there with me, I was pointed back to my recent journal. The last entry had been written months ago. The last ones were short-length ones, with one-liner notes under verses.

Of course, it did not happen in an instant. It was a gradual process of falling away, He told me.

Those times when I would hurry through the day, opening my Bible just to console myself that I did my duty. Those times when I would choose to write about trivial musings rather than fill my thoughts with the knowledge of Him. Those times when I would choose to just slumber because I needed rest (only to wake up still exhausted the day after). All these played part in increasing the distance between us.

The truth is I don’t love Him enough because I have lost track of who He is. The mind forgets and is in constant need for reminder. And I deliberately chose to forget.

So why does this Man still perseveres in pursuing me despite all these? I do not know. Why does His love still stay even after I have strayed countless of times? I do not know. The human mind could only comprehend so much.

I have slowly found my way back to Him, spending more and more time re-discovering who He is, and knowing new truths about Him. I am slowly re-learning to truly mean the words when I tell Him I love You. 

There is a Man I know whose love remains a baffling mystery to me. I could spend my lifetime trying to love Him with all my heart and yet I could never, even once, tell Him I love You more, not even, I love You too. But it doesn’t matter, does it? All He asks for is my obedience.

Such love that asks nothing but for you to remain. Remind me again why have I wandered away from this?