If someone hits you across the face because he lost his temper, and then he apologized later on for losing his temper, do you forgive him?

What if the next time he loses his temper, he throws a plate at you? Do you forgive him again? He can’t help it sometimes, he pleads, certainly you understand. But he promises not to get angry easily, he will try to be more calm, he promises.

And then he hits you again, without thinking. Without even batting an eyelash. It just happened, he explains. He couldn’t control his hands whenever he loses it. He’s just human, he says. Everyone gets mad, everyone. Even you, of course. So, do you forgive him?

Everyone loses his temper from time to time, we are all humans after all. Yes, yes. Valid point. But not everyone hits people when they lose their temper. Not everyone throws things. Not everyone twists your arm when they get annoyed. Not everyone threatens to strangle you in your sleep or put rat poison in your coffee. Everyone loses their tempter from time to time, yes. But not everyone resorts immediately to violence.

When he says sorry for being angry, do you soften? When he kisses your hand, gently caresses the side of your cheek that he slapped, does it make things better? He knows he’s wrong, he almost cries. He hates himself for always getting mad, he kisses you again and again and again as he says sorry. Sorry for his bad temper. Sorry for having short patience. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

But he will never apologize for hitting you. For making you wear cardigans even though it’s warm because you don’t want people to see the bruises on your arms. For making you nervous every time he raises his voice. For making you flinch every time he raises a hand, even just to ruffle his hair out of frustration. And he will never apologize for making you forgive quickly, without thinking. For making the word sorry code for “let’s forget about it.”

Sorry is not for the time he got angry, it is for when he hit you, for when he reduced your existence to your skin he could burn, the hair he could pull, the bones he could break.

Everyone gets mad. But he can’t use it as a pretext to violence. He can’t weaponize his feelings to shoot down someone else’s. Because he is not entitled to violence just because he felt like using it. And you are not compelled to forgive him just because the word sorry exists.

How to Say Sorry

You do not say sorry when you can’t say, “I don’t want to sleep on the couch tonight.”

You do not say sorry as a substitute for I love you. Sorry means you understand that something broke, I love you means you can fix it together. That you will fix it together.

You do not say sorry just to shut someone up. You do not say sorry as a knee-jerk reaction. You do not say sorry when someone is crying. It is not a pacifier for a broken heart that needs an explanation.

You do not say sorry five seconds later, when she isn’t even done speaking yet. You do not say sorry five years later, when she has long been finished talking and has heard nothing since other than the sound of you walking away.

There is a prerequisite to apology. The word sorry does not exist in a void. And you do not shout it out into a black hole.

It needs the intensity equal to a kiss so passionate it removes all the bad taste of yesterday and makes your lips bleed. It needs the force equal to the pull of two bodies coming together for the first time. It needs to stop time. It needs the harmony of every beautiful sound you’ve ever heard—the whistle of a kettle at seven in the morning signaling that tea is ready, her audible intake of breath that turns immediately into a smile when she sees that you’d been watching her sleep.

Sorry does not exist in a void. It is a wagon that you fill with your laughter captured in photographs. So when you say it, you bring everything that brought you together in the first place. You drag along the happy days and leave behind the bad nights. You let them fall behind.

Because you do not say sorry and say goodbye at the same time.


FlatlineDid you know that when someone has a heart attack, that part of his heart dies? It stops receiving oxygen, so it stops pumping blood. A part of the heart actually ceases to work and exists only as scar from then on. So people who’ve survived multiple heart attacks could honestly say that only 70% of their heart is working. But the rest of the heart continues to work, it does what it needs to do to survive. It keeps beating. It acts like it’s still whole.

I’ve never had a heart attack. But every time you cheated on me, it felt like I did. Maybe it’s the reason I couldn’t breathe every time you told another lie, another excuse, another one of your I’m-Sorrys that you stack in a cookie jar. I always thought I was strong enough to handle heartbreak, but I never considered whether my heart could endure it. Perhaps this is why after the nth time, I can’t take you back anymore. Not because I choose not to. But because my heart could only take so much before it completely gives up.

And now all I can hear is the long beep when my hope flatlined.

Artwork by Jethro Lacson

Why Two Poets Shouldn’t Date

It will seem exciting at first
Ideal even
When two people, too in tuned with life
And love
And random ordinary things
Decide to get together
They will bare their souls to the world
They will call it art
And it will be beautiful
It will be inspired
Will move people to tears
To create their own meaning
Out of ordinary things
And love
And life

But two poets dating
Is a recipe for disaster
Tragedy personified
Like handing each other a grenade
When they first meet
And pulling the pin the moment they kiss
They are going to explode–
No one survives this

Eventually they will talk about how the coffee tastes
Bitter, cold, weak
How it no longer serves its purpose in keeping them awake
And they will know
That it’s really not about the coffee at all

They will keep talking about coffee
When they mean something else
They will keep talking about something else
When they mean coffee
But no one will talk about coffee when they mean just it

A fight is never just a fight
It is desperation in more or less a thousand words
And three drafts later
Because they won’t be able to find a word
That accurately sums up their misery

They will start dissecting each other with metaphors
Until they can’t recognize their own flesh and bones
Until nothing is real about them anymore
Because all they see is only one half of the simile
The flowers and clouds and colors and a thousand other things
But never the person behind it
Not the one they fell in love with

The Type by Sarah Kay (Filipino Translation)

Last week, a few of my former students from iAcademy invited Words Anonymous, a group of spoken word artists I joined a few months back, to perform in their event. Since it was essentially a Buwan ng Wika celebration, the pieces needed to be in Filipino. And because I am a shitty writer in my own language, I opted to translate an English poem instead of writing one from scratch. The following is my translation of Sarah Kay’s The Type. I apologize in advance if it doesn’t live up to the feels of the original.

Kung ikaw yung tipo ng babaeng pansinin ng mga lalaki
Hayaan mo lang silang tingnan ka
Pero wag mong ipagkamali ang mata sa kamay
O sa bintana, o sa salamin
Hayaan mo lang silang makakita ng isang babae
Malay mo hindi pa pala sila nakakakita ng katulad mo dati

Kung ikaw yung tipo ng babaeng gustong hawakan ng mga lalaki
Hayaan mo lang silang humawak
Kasi minsan, hindi talaga ikaw ang inaabot nila
Minsan, bote ng alak, minsan pinto, minsan tinapay, minsan ibang babae
Pero ikaw lang yung unang naabot ng kamay nila

Wag kang magkakamaling mag-isip na isa kang tagapangalaga
O musa, o isang pangako, o biktima, o panghimagas
Babae ka, buto, balat, ugat, litid, buhok, at pawis—babae ka
Hindi ka binubuo ng mga talinhaga, ng mga paumanhin, ng mga pagdadahilan

Kung ikaw yung tipo ng babaeng gustong hagkan ng mga lalaki
Hayaan mo lang silang hagkan ka
Ensayo nila yun buong araw para manatiling tuwid ang pagtayo nila
Kasi sa kabila ng ebolusyon, hindi parin ito natural sa kanila
Nakakangalay parin sa kalamnan pag pinipilit nilang ituwid ang kanilang mga braso at gulugod

Iilang lalaki lang ang gugustuhing matuto kung anong pakiramdam
Na bumaluktot sila na korteng tandang pananong payakap sayo
Umamin sa sarili nilang wala sa kanila ang anumang sagot sa hinahanap nila
May mga lalaking gugustuhin kang hagkan na parang ikaw ang sagot
Hindi ikaw ang sagot
Ikaw ang tanong, hindi ka isang tula
Hindi ka palaisipan, hindi ka isang biro

Kung ikaw yung tipo ng babaeng gustong ibigin ng mga lalaki
Hayaan mo lang silang ibigin ka
Pero ang iniibig ay iba sa umiibig
Kapag ikaw ang umibig, para itong pagtuklas sa karagatan matapos kang masanay sa pagtampisaw lang sa tubig sa kalsada

Wag kang mag-aksaya ng oras na mag-isip kung ikaw yung tipo ng babaeng sasaktan ng mga lalaki
Kapag iniwan nya ang puso mong umaalingawngaw, matuto kang umawit kasabay nito
Alam ko, mahirap biglang hindi mahalin ang karagatan matapos mo itong matuklasan
Kahit pa iniwan ka nitong humahangos
Pero mabuting patawarin mo ang sarili mo sa nagawa mong mga desisyon
Yung tinatawag mo paring mga pagkakamali na dala mo sa pagtulog sa gabi

At, alalahanin mo ito:
Alalahanin mong ikaw ang tipo ng babaeng patuloy na naghahanap ng espasyong matatawag mong sa iyo
Pero ikaw mismo ang espasyong iyon
Kaya hayaan mong gumuho ang mga rebulto
Babaeng kang kayang lumikha ulit nito
Dahil babae kang pinanganak para lumikha