Sometime in the late 1970s
I am born somewhere in New Jersey. I remember thankfully little of the 1970s, aside from waking up in a crib with a baby bottle nipple in my mouth, a trip to Disneyland in a stroller, riding a hovercraft in Canada, and being babysat by my aunt and cousins. At some point I am brought back to the Philippines. My Tagalog is terrible.
In nursery, they punish you for being bad by putting you up on top of the blackboard cabinets where you cry. I don’t remember being bad, but I got put up there anyway. I cried.
In kindergarten, I am made to write the numbers 1 to 100 on a piece of graphing paper. I am unable to get them straight. My math skills are still moderately poor to this day. Teacher’s astronomy lesson about the nine planets, however, enthralls me to no end, especially with the new pictures from Pioneer and Voyager.
Ateneo Grade School. Prep Maginoo. When teacher tells us that Dumbo’s mother’s name was Mrs Dumbo, I correct her and say it was Jumbo. She ignores me.
1 Dao. I’m a sickly child, and get hospitalized on two separate occasions for pneumonia and dehydration from a stomach bug. The family also spends several months in San Francisco. I remember a foggy morning walking with dad and my brother to the bus stop. In August, someone named Ninoy Aquino is assassinated as he descends from his plane. I hear a lot of Freddie Aguilar music for a long time afterwards. It is the first idea I get that President Marcos is not entirely like what the TV makes him out to be.
2 Arayat. At some point they find out I’m good at interpretive reading.
3 Kalantiao. Also concerning reading, Dad catches me sneaking through his old copy of The Sensuous Man and gives me a classic childhood belt whuppin’.
4 Ifugao. The EDSA Revolution which ousts Ferdinand Marcos and frees the Philippines from tyranny provides an extended summer break. When I come back to school, I am now at the “long pants uniform” intermediate level. Mr. Aguilar is a fun teacher. I befriend Bambam and Raffy on the basis of our enjoyment of Sierra adventure games. My sickliness results in extended absences from school, and when I come back I am teased incessantly by 4th grade bullies for having “AIDS.” I’m also teased a lot for my strong American accent, even by teachers, especially shop teacher Mr. Aboaoag and Araling Panlipunan teacher Mr. Umali.
5 Intramuros. I become a Star Trek fan. My Language class skit under Mr. Santos is extensively Star Trek themed. I begin to become disillusioned with my father. Mr. Acot teaches us the basics about sex. Problems with Filipino language class lead to a failing mark.
6 Del Pilar. Rather than repeat 5th grade, I go through to 6th grade on waiver status, which means I must maintain a higher standard. I do so. I am now in David Hall, the intermediate building. At one point, I try to make a full-size aquarium for my science class project. I drop the aquarium while trying to lug it to class, and it breaks and spills sand and water and dead fish all over the school driveway. The following week, I wise up and just get a light, sturdy fish bowl.
7 Brebeuf. Mrs. Jose, formerly a kindergarten teacher, teaches the class a bit like a kindergarten class. There’s a cute girl named Myra at Science Camp on Mount Makiling. My standard casual-day wear is high-waisted slacks and a tucked-in button-down polo. With sneakers. The elementary graduation ceremony is a grand affair in Loyola Stadium, with the kids singing a song called “Kapayapaan.”
Ateneo High School. I’m in 1K. I’m into role-playing games a lot, and befriend Gino. Now 13, I undergo the family rite of passage: scuba diving lessons. I am certified after my first checkout dive at Anilao. Our teacher is Mr. Saramosing. I start realizing that I can’t just coast through English classes on stock knowledge like I did in elementary.
Second year high school: 2J. I get punched in the eye by a classmate after I respond to his teasing with a mild racial epithet. I don’t fight back. Later on in the infirmary with ice on my eye, I find that he was on disciplinary probation and that he will probably be suspended or expelled. The guilt sticks with me for years.
Third year high school: 3J. My friends start to find other interests — girls, specifically — but I am still a Star Trek and RPG geek. Days With The Lord seminar awakens my Catholic spirituality. I spend a lot of time staffing at DWTL retreats, mainly as an excuse to get out of the house and stay overnight at school with classmates. I finally figure out that I have been wearing my pants way too high. At one point I am able to grow my hair halfway down to my shoulders; as long as I’ve ever gotten it. I fail Filipino language class yet again and must take a remedial summer course.
Fourth year high school: 4J. I start learning about girls at various chaperoned soirees. I try to carry on a silly correspondence with April, a girl I met at one of these gatherings, but she never writes back. ROTC requires that I shave most of my head. I am put in an advanced English Creative Writing class. I join the Glee Club, and find that I like singing. I start as a baritone, but later become a bass. I befriend another Raffy. Our computer sciences teacher is also a Jesuit priest with a strong Eastern mysticism bent, who teaches us about pranic healing and psychic projection as well as WordPerfect and DOS.
First year of college. I don’t make it into my first choice, Physics with Computer Engineering, so I settle for Communication Arts. I meet a girl, also a Star Trek fan. We fall in love, and remain steady all through college and for years after that. She has no landline phone at home, and lives in Parañaque, while I live in Greenhills, so some weekends I call her dad’s cellphone and we talk for hours on end. This practice runs up a rather large long distance bill, which I must pay Mom out of my meager savings. My barkada calls itself the Lonely Hearts Club or LHC. Mandatory ROTC means my hair stays mostly short, but I join the Ateneo Martial Arts Training Squad, or AMATS, which generally means I get to stand outside of the normal marching drills.
Second year of college. Mostly due to my girlfriend’s witness, I decide to take a leap of faith and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, becoming a born-again evangelical Protestant Christian. I hide this decision from my parents, however, and am a “closet Christian” for years. I join The Guidon, Ateneo’s campus newspaper, as a graphic designer, take a crash course in design and layout, and find that I am good at it. I rejoice that this will be my last year of mandatory ROTC.
Third year of college. I get better at graphic design. Peer loyalty gradually shifts from LHC to Guidon editorial board, but my girlfriend and I still try to keep up with our friends in the LHC. Requisite Jesuit Philosophy and Theology classes ensue, and I find that I’m actually better able to handle theological issues from my external viewpoint as a Protestant. I learn some Spanish, and begin to discover this thing they call the Internet.
Fourth year of college. I take a summer course to lighten my last-semester load, and intern at a production house doing Media 100 video editing. I decide that my future is in video editing. I become Graphic Design and Photography Editor of The Guidon. My girlfriend is Associate Editor, and is therefore my superior. There are fun times. I start learning to drive, and find that I am incredibly bad at it. I start my first web page on Geocities and get my first free email account. Our final thesis presentation takes the form of a Star Trek skit. In my shame, I reflect that perhaps I have just come full circle.
I graduate from college. My celebration dinner turns out to be a disappointment because of sailboat regattas. I take a job at a post-production house in Makati as a Media 100 video editor. In August, I decide to move out of my parents’ home and live by myself in Parañaque. It’s a turbulent decision which goes against the cultural standard, and stuns my family. I live in a tiny room in Parañaque for some years after that. I am no longer a “closet Christian.”
Status quo. Living in Parañaque, working in post-production, loving my girlfriend, worshipping at Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Alabang. I take care of a lot of stray cats in the village.
Lured by the promise of the dotcom boom, I leave post-production to join an internet startup. That same week, the bubble bursts, the company flounders, and we are acquired by a Singaporean conglomerate. After about four months of timecards and patronizing HR team building exercises, I shift back into the video post-production industry, doing DVD authoring for a new video archiving company started in part by my girlfriend’s father. I moderate the politics and religion forums for Pinoyexchange.com. I join my family for a diving trip to Palau. Between jobs, I discover weblogs and start my own. I am able to purchase the domain name brownpau.com.
Status quo. Living in Parañaque, working in video archiving, loving girlfriend, worshipping at Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Alabang. I take care of a lot of stray cats in the village. Indeed, it is while I am feeding two kittens that my roommate tells me that two planes have flown into the World Trade Center. At around the same time I am wondering if I should move to the United States to pursue continuing studies and greener pastures. My brother moves to California.
When the video archiving company closes down, I decide to make a jump, and I move to Washington, DC. I live with my uncle for six months and begin working for a web consultancy in Dupont Circle that services smokefree causes. I worship at the First Baptist Church of Washington DC and join the choir as a bass. Later that year I move to Baltimore and begin studying Digital Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
My girlfriend of eight years now, who has lately been having doubts, breaks up with me. I am shattered.
Baltimore is a lonely and desolate place which I dislike, but at least Little Italy is a lovely neighborhood, and the old artist whose third floor I am renting is a nice man who has two cats, one of them a fat white Persian named Pandora. I meet a girl named Amy at the Christian art students’ group. I spend Christmas in San Francisco with my brother.
Amy and I had decided to be just friends, but later in the year we realize that we are in love with each other. We tentatively commit to the long term. I graduate from MICA and receive a Digital Arts award. For a few months I am commuting to and from work between Baltimore and Washington, but the stress is too much, and I move back to Washington. I also visit my brother in Chicago and see Wisconsin Dells. I take Pandora off my old housemate’s hands and she becomes my cat. I return to worship at First Baptist DC. Amy stays in Baltimore to finish college. For Christmas, I go home to Manila for a few days and meet with my ex-girlfriend to pick up my old stuff still with her. Nothing is rekindled.
Amy graduates from MICA and moves back to New Jersey. She begins her Masters degree in New York. We visit each other every two weeks. I continue working for the same consultancy in Dupont Circle. Mom comes to visit and meets Amy for the first time. I vote for John Kerry. He loses. I visit the family again for Christmas, with a New Year dive trip to Verde Island.
Status quo. Living in Washington, working in web development, worshipping at First Baptist DC, loving Amy, visiting each other every two weeks. I join my family in Chicago for my brother’s graduation from his MBA. Another Christmas visit to Manila, with a dive trip to Malapascua Island, Cebu.
I leave full-time work to become a part-time freelance web developer. I propose to Amy. She says yes. Wedding plans are prepared. She moves to DC, taking up residence in an apartment in SW. Freelancing doesn’t go so well.
Freelancing gives way to a job hunt as things wind down with my previous employer and Amy and I prepare for marriage. I spend two weeks contracting with a downtown design studio before accepting an offer from a weekly news magazine. Amy and I are married. We move into a cozy 1BR downtown apartment in the same building I been living in. We are happy. The cat is happy. I bring Amy to the Philippines for the first time after Christmas, with a few days in Hong Kong on the way back in 2008.
Work goes well, marriage goes well. I get my wisdom teeth out in the summer. Around the same time I inexplicably get tendonitis in both shoulders such that my arm mobility is severely limited, with pain and stiffness. Injections of Triamcinolone acetonide and weeks of therapy restore enough mobility for me to live normally. We vote for Barack Obama. He wins. We go to the Philippines again, with a few days in Tokyo on the way back in 2009.
After returning from Manila and Tokyo, we see President Obama inaugurated. In the Spring we visit London, and in the summer we visit Amy’s grandma. We decide to take advantage of the economic downturn and become homeowners, buying a condo in suburban North Virginia, and moving into it in the Fall. After Christmas we skip our traditional trip to the Philippines in anticipation of my brother’s wedding the next year.