Ningas Cogon

…is not really something that I am for. Unfortunately, I consider myself as one. And I am about to change that.

Ningas Cogon (good starter, bad finisher) is a Filipino stereotype, more or less. I’m not saying all Filipinos are but if I am to revoke this mentality, I must first allow myself to change.

Since I believe that everything is more binding when it is written, writing and having read (afterwards) what must be done should be fairly easy. And so, here it goes.

Now is the best time to let go of the fear. I have always haunted myself with thoughts of death. One is only afraid to die because one has not learned how to live. Rewinding on my mind right now is the death book I made in college for my Philosophy class. There, I wrote a story on how I died, among other things. I cut out some pictures and pasted it on the pages of my death book. Pictures of newlyweds walking in the rain under an umbrella; of places I have envisioned myself to have visited; of love; of everything that I believe defines me. I remember asking for written eulogies–which was hard for my family. My grandmother, most especially, was aghast by the idea and told me to tell my professor that he’s sick in the head, before handing me her written eulogy. I remember writing my last will and testament, where money wasn’t really thought of and my InStyle magazine collection were one of my precious gems, along with my basketball card collection, my book of Pablo Neruda sonnets, and other things I valued and possessed at that time and age. I remember the feeling of having written how my life has completely changed the moment I first dipped my toes in the shores of the Mediterranean, and how I still want to grasp that feeling one day, before I die. And then the last few pages of the death book came to mind, and the lyrics of “That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind and Fire stood out just the way I had printed it on a piece of parchment paper, now resting peacefully on my death book.

If you look way down in your heart and soul, don’t hesitate ’cause the world seems cold. Stay young at heart ’cause you’re never (never, never, …) old at heart.

Oh hearts of fire. I must not forget that I’ve always had one and will continue to have one until I die.

Now is the best time to remember my favorite word. Passion. I must remember how I enunciated it back in senior year of my high school days while practicing for the chorale competition: an accent with a slight gasp of air on the first syllable, and then a sudden crescendo upon reaching the SH part of the word, before finishing off the second syllable. I must remember why it came out like that the first time I spoke it out loud in front of my classmates. That if I close my eyes, I would remember the first time I played Smoke Gets in Your Eyes on the piano and felt it with my heart even if I didn’t know the lyrics then. Or when I cook or bake something for the first time, eager for all my loved ones to taste it. Or the time I knew that if I were Rose in the movie Titanic, I will not stop looking for ways to keep Jack alive with me in the cold seas of the Atlantic. Or for dreaming that someday I’ll be like Jo March of Little Women,  and have my hair cut and sold to support my family should we run out of money, and never lose sight of my writings and the dream of having it published. Or when I croon La Vie en Rose as if I was singing it to the love of my life. Or the feeling I’m having right now–awake for almost 24 hours, but in no hurry to sleep, because I haven’t written anything like this for the longest time, and I want to feel and see how it’s going to end. The nostalgia of writing. The drive of ending the Ningas Cogon mentality, because I knew I’ve had it for the longest time, and I just want it yanked out of me.

What about my favorite place in the world? The city that never sleeps. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Well, I do want to wake up there like Frank Sinatra, because there’s nothing I can’t do as Alicia Keys would belt out, because it is New York. Hence, my next note to self: Now is the best time to look back at my goals and dreams, and start living it. It would be grand to work for the United Nations one day and live in Manhattan. Or I can just take a vacation there–one time when the snow is falling and Vivaldi’s Winter would play on my mind as I walk towards the rink of Central Park and try to skate. The next few times would be me purchasing my first, second, or tenth pair of Manolos and strut my way in the city like Carrie Bradshaw with the latest issue of InStyle (it is my Vogue) on one hand, and I guess anything else other than a cigarette on the other. All these, of course, is playing through my mind with the Sex and the City score playing as background music. New York gave my dreams a headstart. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I will live there one day but to see it in the flesh, oh life would be a dream!

Now what else would be good for me? Perhaps I can stop seeing the world in black and white, especially when things don’t go my way. Not everyone gets it right the first time. So if I fail at something, I must try again. When I think someone dear to me has failed me, it is just right that I give them another chance instead of me priming myself with the idea that he or she is some negative aura because of what he or she has done. This person will never be always like that as I will never always commit a mistake. I love black and white pictures and movies. I love charcoal sketches. I love both shades of black and white. But there is more to the world than this. That is why Jan Szczepanik, Hovannes Adamian and finally, John Logie Baird, all made an effort in putting color on television. Life never started in black and white. Even the primordial soup had colors.

Stop feeding on the capital sins. The problem with me is that I get hypochondriac when I come across these sins. Not only do I acknowledge it, I unconsciously welcome it. Living in these sins will stop the flow of the life that I would want for myself. Having trapped myself in what is supposedly a temporary madness is what made me scared to move on in the first place. And this, my dear self, is bad. No wonder it’s called ‘deadly!’

 And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back so shake him off! 

Florence (+ the Machine) sang those words in anguish. Now I understand, and I sing it with you.

On the first Sunday of this month, I had the opportunity to go to mass in Our Lady of Manaoag Church in Pangasinan, Philippines. The Church is known for its ivory image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and its healing powers. Countrymen–especially those from the city and the north, go to Manaoag during the holidays to share their wishes and dreams, or when they are facing great challenges in their lives. Since I came to the realization of what I have become, the miracle I have prayed for was for me not to be afraid anymore.

When the little voice inside me started getting bigger, choosing to ignore it would lead to my self-destruction. No, I am not sure if I criticized myself well enough, but admitting to myself my wrongdoings is a big step. I have opened my eyes and through what I have written, and I will make sure that I will never lose track again.

This is just the beginning. I believe this is a good start and I know that I will do better. I wouldn’t want this to be the one and only blog I have written. That would make me yet again, a bad finisher.

So I wish myself good luck as I start paving my way towards the finish line.

“Not later than next week, tell me something good,” I say to myself.