Under My Stars*

Stars are strangely alluring, aren’t they?

I rarely see stars anymore, and maybe that’s why I’m thinking about them tonight. I spent a good chunk of my early teens just marveling at their beauty. I wrote poems about them too, but what young girl didn’t? The cool ones, probably.

Four years of my youth were spent in a boarding school carved on a slope of a mountain. Our kubo-style dorm rooms were connected by stairs and bridges, and from our verandas we could see the sprawling veins of the city and the quiet bay that hugged its contours. We were far from everything else but we were so close to the stars. At night we could just lie on the road, use our sweaters as blankets and admire the glittering debris of the universe above us. It was magical.

But that wasn’t enough for me.

I wanted to get even closer to the stars. So sometimes, when the skies were clear, I would climb up the dorm roofs for the extra height. It was illegal, actually. The school didn’t want the students breaking their bones and risking contusions. We weren’t allowed to climb the roofs, the trees, not even the veranda rails.

But I still broke the rules. I mean, didn’t we all?

My roommates taught me the “tricks of the trade.” The crime scene should always be on the cottage closest to the water dispenser (this will makes sense in a bit). I must also do it at night because, as one of them said, “thou shall not break the rules in broad daylight.”

The most difficult part was making sure that there were no adults around. The kuya guards were the “enemy.” They didn’t have a regular route for their roving duties so I waited until I was certain that they were in another dorm. But once the site was clear, everything else was easy. I climbed up the veranda rail, I used my scrawny little arms to lift my 90-lb frame, and I carefully tiptoed to the middle of the roof until I found a good spot to sit on. The best part was when I could finally hug my knees, look up at the night sky and grin at my stupid victory. Mischief managed, I thought to myself.

I climbed roofs with other friends too, but mostly I did it alone. Some nights I would just lay down, close my eyes, and drown in the pale-blue-dot existential symphony around me — the howling wind, the rustling trees, and the humming silence under this cosmological canopy.

I was alone, and yet I wasn’t.

The horror stories in our school involved the typical cast of characters, from the screaming Tiyanak to the chain-smoking Kapre. Stories about these creatures weren’t just folk tales to us. We heard the Tiyanak wail during rough windy nights and we held classes just beside the Kapre’s favorite Acacia tree. We lived among these beings. And even though rational thought belied their existence, we still respected (and feared) the sacred spirits that lurked behind the mountain’s crevices.

Whenever I was on the roof, I could feel invisible eyes glaring back at me from the darkness. It crept me out when the wind would howl louder than usual and the stars could no longer give me solace. I can see you iha, said the Kapre in my now-praning imagination. Ano, yosi tayo?

Well fuck no, Manong. I’m outta here.  

Climbing down the roof was an even bigger challenge. By this time I already lost track of where the guards were. I needed a lookout so I would wait until I see a fellow student filling their mug from the nearby dispenser (see!). My lookout would scan the surroundings and give me the go-signal to climb down. I would thank them, give them the finger-gun if they’re cool, and then I’d go back to doing homework. Fun.

I was caught a few times but I never got seriously punished for it. The kuya guards usually just warned me about the tree snakes that could sneak from the adjacent foliage. It was an effective scare tactic, but the fear would eventually subside and I would go climb roofs again.

I just loved the peace, man, and I loved my stars.

But my friend G did not share the same fascination for stars. She preferred looking at the sky when it’s a little brighter, like during the transitional moments when the sun rises or hides.

“Stars stay the same throughout the night,” she told me. “I think the sky is most striking when its beauty is fleeting.” (She later made a painting using rust, as in kalawang, and the work was just as exquisite as it was ephemeral.)

So it got me thinking — what was it exactly that I loved about the stars? What did I find so beautiful about the night’s monotonous splendor? To be honest, man, I didn’t know.

“Sure, they’re static,” I told G. “But every now and then you see a shooting star, and there’s also beauty in the uncertainty of its arrival.”

Psh, that’s bullshit. I haven’t even seen a shooting star ever, as in ever. But now that I think about it — isn’t there beauty in permanence too? Isn’t that what we all long for? We settle on careers, we settle with people, and we struggle through a system that constantly ebbs and flows — isn’t permanence then the ultimate goal?

Ten years later and I am still light-years away from that goal, from that certainty. Many things have changed too. I didn’t become the writer I thought I was going to be. I also began to question the elitism of the art world, which may very well be the inevitable evolution of my decade-long distrust of rules.

But I still love my stars, for whatever reason that my limited language could not express. I still look up at the sky every now and then, I steal glances whenever I can, and often I wonder: why don’t stars fall when I’m looking?

Will I ever see a shooting star at all?


The featured image is a study — or a draft, in writing terms — for a piece that is a literal (and admittedly stupid) interpretation of the final lines of the song Two-Trick Pony. Nakakatamad bunuin ‘yung totoong piyesa e, so ito na lang muna.


*Apologies to Kate Torralba

19 thoughts on “Under My Stars*”

  1. Abangan mo po Orionids Meteor Shower pag October. Pag peak nila madali makakita ng shooting stars! Mga 11pm (Pilipinas time) ako nakakakita sa bandang East or Northeast. Minsan pag pinapalad nakakatatlo akong shooting star. Haha. Gandaaa. Pero huhu. I still don’t why I really love my stars too. Pero ineenjoy ko nalang. Hindi naman siguro laging kailangan na may dahilan. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaah sigi sigi, abangan ko ‘yan this year! Sobrang malas ko lang talaga sa mga ganito. Either busy ako or sobrang pagod kaya nakakatulog. Minsan nakakaligtaan ko lang din, haha. Sana this year suwertehin. 🙂

      Truly, ‘di nga naman kailangan ng dahilan. Naba-bother lang ako kapag tinatanong kung bakit tas, shet, ba’t ‘di ko alam? Hahaha. 😀

      Like

      1. Haha. Akala ko nga nung bata ako jinx ako kasi lagi nalang maulap/maulan pag may meteor shower. Wagas maka-timing. Kung kelang may kakaibang ganap sa langit. Tapos sayang pa kasi pedeng mahiga sa may bubong namin noon. Mas masarap sana manuod. Naku sana makanuod tayo this year!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Uy ako rin malabo mata ko! Last time na nag-stargazing ako parang blurred ‘yung langit, parang “low resolution” kumbaga. Kailangan ko na talaga ng bagong antipara, haha.

      Nagsasalamin ka ba? Malabo mata mo since bata ka pa? Napaisip tuloy ako kung baka childhood nostalgia lang ang dahilan kung bakit nami-miss kong tumingala sa mga bituin.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lumabo lang talaga mata ko kasi mahilig ako magbasa. Naalala ko pa nga dati, kahit nasa dulo ako ng room namin, kita ko pa rin yung board. Ngayon, nasa unahan na ako pero hindi ko pa rin kita kapag walang salamin. Hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember my ex-girlfriend seeing a shooting star for the first time and she was so amazed ^_^ been seeing lots of it since I was a kid but the feeling is the same every time. And I still make a wish until now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Umakyat kami ng bundok isang beses, tapos nahiga kami saglit, pucha ganda ng Milky Way bago magbukang-liwayway! Mga tatlong shooting stars ang nakita ko! Hindi ako makapaniwala! First time kong makakita ng shooting star, hindi lang isa, tatlo pa! Yung iba kong mga kasama, mas maraming nakita kesa sa ‘kin. May intervals lang sila, mga few minutes, minsan sabay-sabay pa! Iba-iba allure ng langit sa ‘kin depende sa mood at kung sunrise o sunset o gabi, pero all the same, ang ganda-ganda ng langit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaah sana ako rin makakita nang marami! At true, iba-iba nga ang allure ng langit. Hay. Nakaka-miss tumingala lang nang walang ibang iniisip. Choz arte haha. 😊

      Like

        1. Hahaha, winner! Ito ba ‘yung sa GMA? Balita ko nanalo daw ‘yung regularization case CA? Nice. So naghahatid din nga yata ng epiphany ang langit. Jusko kailangan ko ‘yan sa hirap ba naman ng buhay oo. 😂

          Liked by 1 person

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