I was prepping a mango a few weeks ago for writing break snacking, slicing it into thirds, the way it was taught to me, the way my family cuts mangoes: take the fruit in your hand, hold it firmly, and slice above the pit, starting from where the stalk was. Slice as close to the pit as you can, smoothly, steadily, careful not to injure your fingers. Do the same on the other side. Into the fridge the fruit goes for a few minutes; in the tropical heat of my beloved Philippines, cold sliced mangoes were one of the the best treats.
I’d been taking a break while I figured out how to structure a final project due quite soon. The mango kept distracting me, the flavours and the smells and the textures overwhelming me with memories until I had to pause for a moment, and write to let it out.
I was, I think, fifteen or so. Hanging out with one of my favourite cousins at my grandparents’ place in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental, sorely tempted by the spread of mangoes lola had set aside to sell later, row upon row of fruit lit up by the languid late afternoon sun, the smell of ripe mangoes, lush and intoxicating, hanging heavy in the Philippine summer air. We snuck one out and ran, overflowing with giggles, to the grove of trees in the back of the house, hiding behind a punso. We murmured our tabi-tabis, peeled open that mango, small but beautifully ripe, taking turns biting into it, sticky golden juice running down our chins and seeping into our skins, forever stained into our memories.
Oh my lord, I cannot wait to go home and eat mangoes in the sun again.
It’s five years since the day we went on our first date, on what I didn’t know would be the last first date of my life.
We still say “I love you” every day, constantly, consistently, punctuating giggles and belly laughs and burps with love. A few years ago, I expressed worry, and maybe a little fear, that maybe us saying it at the rate we did would dilute what it means to say “I love you.”
You were never worried about that. Love for you just was, bubbling out like a spring, flowing endlessly every day.
And it felt safe, mahal ko, to love you like that, too.
Happy fifth anniversary, my love. You are a gift I’m endlessly grateful for, every day we’re together. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into us. For all the dates you planned. For leaning into it and enjoying how wild it is that we found each other at 22.
I can’t wait to be old with you, and in the meantime, I absolutely love that we’re growing old together.
In my childhood, there was a figure that competed for my love alongside Godzilla, and that was Hercules! The Roman, the OG, the Bactrian Buddha buddy, however you sculpt your lion-pelted demigod, I was a fan! With my cartoon-drenched childhood in mind, I present to you some of my favourite portrayals as a child, along with some interesting traditional versions that I encountered as an adult.
Kevin Sorbo first Hercules I ever knew. I got the gist of the myth from the intro to the show and the first few episodes, but (it was) these shows (and the similar live-action Sinbad) that got me all gung-ho about ancient superheroes and their big bads.
I was able to rewatch the whole main series in 2015 before it became unavailable to me on Netflix. It absolutely holds up. That isn’t saying it’s a remotely accurate historical or mythological viewing of events, but the way it smashes up everything from contemporary pop references to Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain (played by one Karl “Dredd” Urban!) is just absolutely fucking delightful. This show carries all the whimsy and fantasy of a child’s imagination (or in this case, the wonderful Sam Raimi’s) with the unmistakable awkwardness of 90s live-action TV.
This coming out amidst the live-action show was an absolute blessing. By the Gods, I was elated! Not only was the movie great, but at the time we were able to get American satellite channels, so I got to watch the animated series alongside the Aladdin series! It was wonderful! It was all much the same as the totally unrelated live-action series from above: loose relation to mythology and history to enable contemporary references, things like using Philip of Macedon to reference backwater “hicks” and “be a Gyro” puns. What a wonderful God damned time for Hercules-based media!
Now, this may have come out in 2014, but it was as mythologically confused as anything the 90s gave us! There’s nothing like watching a beefy dude smash a bunch of other dudes into the ground. Hallelujah, the Rockules hath saved us!
The thing I enjoyed the most about this movie, and I can’t speak to how this went in the comic as I never read it, was the “falsehood” of Hercules. Hercules is just a man in this, at least that’s what he considers himself, seeing nothing divine in his life. Here Hercules is just a real big dude that is good at smashing other dudes with a bunch of mercenary-buddies keeping his PTSD in check. Spoiler: Until the ending when it goes beautifully off the rails and seems to “become” the Hercules of legend!
As an adult, I really enjoyed this version of Heracles that I encountered during a course at UofT (Intro to Classical Mythology.) I had never really delved into the actual created mythos of Heracles as much as I had just been ambiently aware of the myth without having had read particular takes on it*.
Being introduced to this comedic take on Heracles, as a foil to the bumbling Dionysus, was a pleasure. I was really taken with the ancient, Golden Age recasting of characters. It was nice to see ostensibly pious people treating their myths as playthings and using them almost lightly, instead of the typically associated tragedy of the era.
Age of Mythology (totally cheating, it’s a back-door plug for how great this game is)
This is… absolutely cheating. Heracles just technically shows up, but the actual strongman-badboy of the game is Ajax in the campaign. Age of Mythology was an early 2000s RTS, the first 3D game by the makers of Age of Empires (Ensemble Studios) and it absolutely stole my fucking heart. I was obsessed with this game, playing it hour after hour, running around at times with my laser bears, but mostly just swapping out my god powers over and over to make ents show up. The game is straightforward, it’s an Age of Empires game with monsters, it was to that series was Total War: Warhammer is to Total War. Here’s your cavalry, here’s your archers, and here’s a minotaur’s horn in your guts!
The semi-reason it’s here is that the game actually had an in-game encyclopedia, which I would spend as much time in as I did the actual game. I learned a lot of really digestible, simply laid out myths from Norse, Egyptian and Greek legend thanks to this game. This is a game I will always treasure, and it even saw a remaster within the last couple of years. They added in an extra Hellenic-esque Atlantean culture with The Titans expansion, and a Chinese culture via a DLC for the remaster. Unfortunately I know nothing of the latter, but the reviews are very poor, which is disappointing.
This summer is turning out to be much more introspective than I had anticipated. It might have something to do with the fact that we’re not seeing much sun over here in Toronto – but what with the near-constant threat of rain so far, coupled with my predilection for jumping into puddles, I’ve found myself taking some very long walks in the rain. I still feel like a balloon about to drift off at any moment, but it has been better.
My planner is actually helping to anchor me, no surprise there. This little book has been my personal buoy, reminding me that I can’t let go and drift away because I have responsibilities to things that are bigger than myself. That I am part of families. That I have friends. That I need to keep myself well, because I have people who love me and are invested in me, and vice versa.
Throughout all this, I was thinking back to when I was in undergrad and I realised that my golden number was five courses. Any lower, and my grades dipped; the semester I only had four courses, I really struggled to keep my grades up, and during my penultimate semester when I only had two courses, I had more trouble than I should have had. It turns out that I thrive as a person on a certain stress level. With that in mind, and also remembering that I’m just about on the cusp of getting back to normal, I’ve signed myself up for more things.
Maybe it’ll help? I’m not sure yet. But the constant white noise of grief has been overwhelming, and I hope that immersing myself in tasks and duties helps me to bear it and move forward.
This is what greets you when you enter the cemetery.
The Museum lobby, from the 2nd floor.
By Day 2 we had hit our stride — waking up early-ish to grab breakfast at the nearby McDs, back to the apartment to eat while we watched cartoons, and then leaving for the day’s adventure at 11AM. Day 2 was a bit cloudier, and the wind far brisker, so we decided to head up to the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a cemetery that was a good 45 minute walk away from our apartment. We eventually made it there, but what we hadn’t realised was that of those 45 minutes, approximately 25 would be “walking” up incredibly steep roads. Toronto is fairly flat, so those inclines felt more like hiking than walking. Packing water and apples to munch on was a lifesaver.
We explored the cemetery for a little while (I saw my first gopher!) and headed back to the city centre for the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, which both Mikaius and I were pretty stoked to explore. And, entry is free if you’re under thirty! Score! There were four major galleries to explore: World Cultures, Decorative Arts and Design, International Art, and Quebec and Canadian Art. These were in different buildings, linked together by underground galleries, which was great because (a) it kept us out of the cold, and (b) there was no breaking the moment by having to step out of the Museum to get to the other buildings.
More than anything, being with Mikaius and exploring that wonderful place felt so much like home to me. We were in no particular hurry, we were going home together afterwards, and it felt like a preview of what we eventually want our life together to be like.
Afterwards, we went for dinner (a chocolate and banana crêpe for him, pork shoyu ramen with hand-pulled noodles for me) and a late-night walk around our neighbourhood. There was a bottle of white wine and two different kinds of chocolate waiting for us at home, but we wanted to take advantage of our last night in Montréal, so a walk was had. About two or three blocks away from our place, we saw the most adorable bookstore, Librairie Astro. It’s owned by the kindest and warmest old lady, and she told us a little bit about the history of the neighbourhood, as she had been there 30 years. She also stepped out onto the street with us and pointed out which restaurants were good (“There’s a constant line outside that one for a reason”) and gave us ideas about exploring the city. More ideas for next time! We were so engrossed in the conversation that the other employee had to remind the old lady repeatedly that it was closing time.
Mikaius bought me a $5 surprise box of books from the lady, which we were very excited to open when we got home. And that was how we spent our last night – having chocolate and white wine, Netflix on in the background, tearing into the surprise box and laughing our asses off at the old books it contained.
We intended to go to the Bata Shoe Museum on August 25th, as it’s been on Dani’s list for quite some time. However, it seemed that every time we intended to go, our hearts were elsewhere. So, instead, we made our way through Philosopher’s Walk at campus and passed by Bata on our way to visit Kanto for a bit of lunch. With our bellies ready, we set back out towards… wherever our feet would take us. Our last little bit of the trip was Harbourfront. We enjoyed the views, an adorable bulldog, and for a brief moment we sat by the water down away from where the ferries are. We mused about the condos around, and how much we’d like to have one. Our dream is one facing out to the Lake. It may not be an ocean or even a sea, but it can be beautiful sometimes, and it could be home. When finally rain began to drizzle down, we caught a street car to Union and made our way home.
August 30th was Dani’s first time going to the CNE. We went down to Union, and caught a street car that would take us to Exhibition. We met up with a group of friends and had a great time along the way. Dani and I spent quite some time gawking at our one-day-hopefully homes along the Harbour Front. Unfortunately, this day was not one of our better ones. I didn’t listen to Dani’s advice to print out a menu that went along with contest medallions we’d gotten from the newspaper for small discounts at the food vendors. The result was frustratingly and desperately trying to find the proper page on my phone, making myself feel like a tool and Dani feel not listened to.
The day never really got back on track, and I had ruined her first time at the CNE. We walked around, our friends played bingo, I took a shot at winning a big stuffed toy. Didn’t win it.
We went to the pavilion with the big retailers and Dani got me a rad purple TMNT tank top. We also noticed that an airline was sponsoring all sorts of little South East Asian retailers, and we walked around it, eventually finding a Philippines booth. We got ourselves some nice little mini parols made of capiz for Christmas, and I’m excited to put some lights in ‘em and make ‘em like little lamps. After that we sat for a while with our friends before wandering back out to find food. The place was overcrowded, so we ended up with just a beavertail to tide us over.
Like I said, the day never quite got back on track, but the last thing we did was find the marketplace with smaller set-ups. It was something I was looking for all day; I have good memories finding kitschy shit there. It might not be the saviour, but it sure perked up our spirits. We strolled and gawked at everything, from movies, comics and assorted geekery, to a real cool lamp place, with beautifully crafted hanging lanterns. We admired some glassworks and rings around the place, and I was completely taken by a dried meat place and wanted to buy all of it but thought better. There was this great place selling all kitschy Christmas stuff, related to comics, cartoons, movies, etc. The highlight may have actually been a booth selling honey, though. Dani was as smitten by this honey, particularly the cinnamon flavoured one, as I was by the dried meat. We got ourselves a jar of the honey, and Dani convinced all our friends to do the same. And then, we made for home.
On the first of September, we met with Dani’s friend Kenneth. In exchange for some baked goodies, we were getting professional quality headshots done for our resumes and whatnot. We met up with him around 3pm, and we went off to the UofT campus. We took photos here and there, and came across another one of our friends, Tomas. Between the four of us, we were all starving. I dragged everybody across campus and out to College Street so I could get my precious Italian soda from the Tea Shop 168 just off College. From there, it was on to Kanto! We filled ourselves with dinuguan, bangsilog, sans rival cake and calamansi iced tea. Completely filled ourselves! Back up to Finch and Kenneth dropped us off at home to finish our day together.
September 10th was a bit of a reunion for us. The end goal of the day was to find a piece of graffiti we had “lost” a year prior. We had been walking around the AGO when we took a picture of a great piece of street art, but the photo became corrupt and wrecked. With a little internet help, I found out where it was again and was determined to find it.
We start the day by heading out to Lola’s Kuisina in Etobicoke to deal with some paper work from Dani’s Kapisanan work. I’m not a big fan of driving, I hate it. I’ve been in a few accidents, and the anxiety of having to deal with it makes long, unfamiliar drives nerve-wracking for me. Eventually we found the spot, and we headed back, getting caught in traffic along Finch on our way to Downsview Station. We arived in good time, though, and went off to St. George. A quick visit to Financial Aid Office, a walk over to the K and off we went to find our graffiti. And we finally did! Just across from the AGO, this whole time, sat our little doggy friend. Unfortunately, someone has since put their ugly spraytag across it, but it’s mostly untouched. With that found, we went home for the day and got some rest.
We gained an empty house, as my parents went away for a vacation on the 4th of September. For Dani and I, that meant all our time together and a good few nights. Both Saturdays into both Mondays after the 4th, we got to have our own little abode. Finding the graffiti fell in this time slot, and we also made time to visit some bookstores during the first week of classes (grabbed some Folio books relevant to my program!). We spent a lot of time playing around with a Nintendo Monopoly set that I had bought years ago and never taken out of the shrink wrap. We made some rules for loans from the bank, to draw out the game, and we kept it going for almost two weeks. Dani spent most of her time puttering around the kitchen making amazing food. We went through three whole chickens, each one salt-roasted, and with the last two we got creative. We had marble potatoes and smashed potatoes to go with them, the smashed potatoes lasting across the final two chickens. The creative part was Dani’s curiosity; she made us sriracha quesadilla and used the bones and leftover parts to make us a delicious, hearty, chicken broth for our own sort-of-ramen. Also on the food list was a pumpkin pie custard with vanilla cake (unbelievable and easily my favourite custard and pumpkin thing!), pan-cooked chicken & cheese sandwiches, red-bean-bread French toast, along with a multitude of things that have flown from my mind! It was a revelatory time of treats and meals!
When August rolled around, Dani and I really kicked into gear some particular things we wanted to see before the end of summer. We started that with a picnic on Victoria Day at Downsview Park, where, invited by some of our friends, we spent the evening atop a hill, enjoying cake and drink. (03/08/15)
Part of Dani’s work with the Kapisanan involved working with Carlos Celdran for a play called “Livin’ la Vida Imelda”. I wasn’t actually sure I’d be able to see it, as it was the last day or so of its cycle, and I was deep in the midst of exam season. I’m thankful I got to! I met up with some friends of ours, and we watched the bizarre story of Imelda Marcos. The play was insightful, touching on elements of society, politics and playing through it all with dignity and comedy in just the right portions. Got home late that night, but it was worth it just seeing how happy Dani was being part of it all, and I still killed those exams the next week. (06/08/15)
August 9th was a huge day for Dani, as it was the finale of her efforts for Kultura. I went down with one of our friends, while others had to pull out. The food was fantastic, the music was great, and the atmosphere was friendly. A detour to a Best Buy and then home for me. Not a busy day, but a good day.
Immediately after this came my exams, rolling in like storms: August 12th and 17th. I didn’t feel prepared for either, despite the best studying efforts of my life. I knew one I’d pass, but the other was an execution. Until I got the results back at the end of the month, I was convinced I was doomed. Pulled down B+s, though, and I couldn’t be happier.
With exams and Kultura out of the way, Dani and I had August wide open. Dani has been hard at work trying to find a part-time job now, so being able to take her out into the city for these excursions has been really nice. Having these days out gives me a rest from the oncoming semester, and her a rest from the rigors of job hunting. Our first step was seeing the Bloor Viaduct. Unfortunately, due to bad timing, that didn’t happen as it was supposed to on August 20th. We got to Denny’s, had some mediocre food, and went straight home. Saving the day was our friends, telling us to meet them in the evening, we went back downtown from home, and enjoyed Riverdale Park. Why? Because our friends are dorks like us, and they realized it was used in the movie “What If?”, that we all enjoyed. We ended that night at Kinton on Baldwin Street, and I still love their chicken ramen above all else. That night I realized how much of a lightweight I had become: with a stein and a bit of Sapporo, and nothing but ramen in my stomach, I was flushed and red, and happy as a clam.
Dani loves Al Purdy, he is her favourite Canadian poet. I remember when she first told me about him, and she showed me his poem “Lament for the Dorsets”. I’m not good at appreciating art, I don’t really do interpretation or anything of the sort. Seeing Dani’s love of art and what goes with it, though, is a glimpse into something greater for me. When things Al Purdy comes up, she lights up. On campus we have a small statue of Al Purdy, and she’s seen it, over and over. We discovered after our initial trip to Cabbagetown that it once hosted the famed poet. To that end, there was both a lane named after him and a plaque in his honour.
So we made it our duty to find them on August 23rd, and in the process we visited the Bloor Viaduct. This bridge was important to Dani, as it is featured in one of her favourite books, In The Skin of a Lion by the Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje. We made sure to make Broadview Station our starting point for the day, and luckily came across a McDonald’s before the viaduct, because I was starving. The view was fantastic. Toronto is a great city, and it has done a wonderful job of keeping greenery within its borders. Unfortunately we didn’t know how to get down to the paths underneath it so we could look up at the viaduct, but we got lovely shots from it.
Broadview was good placement, as walking from the viaduct to Cabbagetown meant passing by St. James Cemetery. What a coincidence! That’s number three of our cemetery visits this summer. It’s been a real successful summer for that! St. James wasn’t as old, it seemed, as the other cemeteries, and so was a bit busier, and not as peaceful to go through. None the less, there were stones to see and sad places to find.
From there we went into Cabbagetown and found the lane and plaque. We had no real intentions after this, our day had hit its purpose. That didn’t stop us, though. We decided we didn’t want to go home yet, so Dani picked directions and we walked. We found ourselves at the Eaton Centre! We didn’t realize how close things were, that we were practically on its doorstep, it seemed, walking in that wonderful heat and bright sun.
We went to Bloor and found ourselves once again heading down Church St. for a visit to Eliot’s Bookshop. Before we got there, we found ourselves musing about how small Toronto sometimes feels. Once more, we realized how close we were to Eaton Centre. It was funny how that kept happening, and how homey it makes the city feel. We meandered around until our hearts were full, and we went home. A very successful outing.
We’ve always wanted to cook a whole chicken, it’s just a thing that Dani and I have wanted to do. We like cooking together, usually treats and smaller things, and on occasion we’ve made soup or larger dishes. We went for a relatively simple thing for our experimental chicken, a salt-roasted chicken with a lemon sauce and little itty bitty steamed potatoes. What a discovery it has been! So simple to make in a pinch, Dani and I have come to rely on it when we just need a nice quick chicken with a crisp skin and a nice tang. (01/07/15)
The second of our cemetery visits placed us on the far end of Toronto, or so it seemed, out in Cabbagetown. We visited the Necropolis, a rather large and very pretty cemetery out in the East end of Toronto. The walk itself was, once again, really fun. We passed down Church Street, which gave us a chance to jump into Eliot’s Bookshop. I love when we get to go into little bookshops (or even big ones, like BMV!). Eliot’s is this adorable thing as tall as it is long, with piles of books all over the place. It smells like books, without smelling musty. I think every time I’ve been in there, I left with something.
When we finally got to the Necropolis, the weather was just right, with heat pouring down and the sun beaming. The whole thing was well shaded, so it was really comfortable there. We went to and fro, looking at the stones and monuments of the dead, and I acted as a personal mosquito catcher for Dani, getting bitten up and down my arms and legs, while she didn’t get bitten at all. On the way to it, we mused at how cute the houses were in Cabbagetown, all these old little things that cost more than we could figure, and how some of the shops around looked like they were from a boardwalk or main street from decades ago. (06/07/15)
On a day which I can’t quite remember the date of, we went and saw Inside Out over at Dundas. It was after one of my classes, we stocked up with Smoke’s Poutinerie and Popeye’s Chicken, shoved it all into Tupperware and made our way there. What a movie it turned out to be! My heart broke watching just the Lava intro! I’m a sucker for Pixar, and this was no exception. Dani still starts up the Bing-Bong song to tear out my heart. (21/07/15)
July was a kind month for us, and with Dani’s mom out of town, I was able to steal away a few nights with Dani. July 12th, 18th and 24th, I got to spend the nights, study for my midterms and wake-up for fun little McDonald’s breakfasts. Always a burrito and Egg McMuffin for me, and a McGriddle for Dani. Stealing away these quiet and comfortable little nights are the highlights of the summer for me. (12+18+14/07/15)
(The next group of posts will be a 5-part series from Mikaius. Learn a little more about the city of Toronto, student life at UofT, and how it feels to eat your way through the summer from CSDD’s reclusive editor, Mikaius!)
From April 2014 to May 2015, I was stuck in purgatory. I had graduated from Seneca College’s little diploma program of Liberal Arts, without any intention of carrying it further. After graduation, I tried getting into trades and figuring out what I wanted to do, but I spent a year in that stateless way, not knowing what the status of my application was. In the end, I decided to carry my diploma further. May 2015 marked my return to school: I was now attending the University of Toronto at the St. George campus, taking some Classics courses as a visiting student.
Before my first week of classes, I was able to get a few days of Dani to myself. These kinds of sleepovers are always the best. If we can swing them, we get an empty house to ourselves, and we cook and cuddle to our hearts’ content. She had just finished a four month Hell-semester at school, though, never getting the sleep she needed. So for the first day of our long weekend, I put her to bed and left her to nap undisturbed while I went out with some of our friends to watch Age of Ultron. The next morning, we made ube French toast! It was amazing. (05/05/15)
The week after, as I said, my classes started. Nothing complicated this time, just a 100-level Classics course. Not a single new tidbit of information for me, but it was what I needed, something I could breeze into and through as I got back into academic-shape. Dani has always made sure to show me the buildings where my classes are on campus. UofT used to seem so big and intimidating before I started there. I wouldn’t say I know it like the back of my hand now, but I certainly know it well enough to walk end to end quickly and know which subway stop pops up where. That first day of class, I took a looooooooong route to where my building was and kind of wandered off track, back and forth. Google Maps wasn’t working well and without it I have the navigation sense of a deaf bat.
I’ll be frank, I hated that class. It was summer, it was 100-level, no one taking it knew a damn thing about Antiquity, and it was all things that had for so long been known to me, that I can’t help but think of it all as “common knowledge”. The better part of taking this course, however, was it was only three days a week, and campus is close to where Dani was doing work with the Kapisanan. This meant that after my days of class, on absolutely beautiful and stunning Toronto summer days, I’d get to waddle over down College Street to Augusta Avenue and pay her a visit (along with paying a visit to all the delicious food places there). The two months that I took this course gave us tons of days together, just walking around and visiting places. (11/05/15)
During that first half of the summer, Dani and I got to go for a nice little walk over at High Park for Victoria Day. All in all, it was a good day, we walked through the little wooded area before meandering off to Ten Editions just off St. George campus, and concluding our day after riding up and down Spadina on the street cars. We went to a little book store called Ten Editions for a bit, walked around that area for awhile. I think we got ice cream, I can’t really remember what we ended up doing around there, just remember riding the street car. (18/05/15)
Later in the month we finally did something we’d been toying around with, in part because it was relevant to my courses, Friday Night Live at the ROM. What a wonderful night! We got there good and early with our pre-bought tickets (we even got to be front of the line!), so it was like our own private night there. We tried on some armours and outfits, dug up some dinosaur bones and strolled around the Hellenic and Italian ancient art exhibits. When the place got loud, we got out, and concluded that wonderful night. (22/05/15)