My Curve

My curve is the first curve you felt when you were still a baby. The first curve you touched with your mouth looking for breastmilk. The first curve you smelled and you have been calling it ‘mother’ to remember it forever.

As you grew, you learnt about every shape of my curve whenever you saw me in front of your eyes, naked or fully dressed. That was the beginning of how you praise me from all the women and at the same time you got scared too because you heard that my beauty will not last.

Little did you know, that, my outer beauty is just a shell covering my deepest inner beauty. But you do not want to go deep into myself to explore me.

Then, everytime you saw me showing my beauty through my boldness, outspoken, persevereness,resilience, fierce,wise, charm or calm, you mocked me with your cowardness to turn me down with your power of patriarchy.

Dili, October 2018

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THE FUTURE

Child-AcacioPinto.jpg

With my childness

I lift my eyes

Looking forward

The future

Is sitting quietly

His shadow

Still blurry

With a blade in my hand

I will scratch the present

Perhaps, this way

the future

will reveal itself.

 

(Tetun Version)

LORON ABAN

Ho ha’u-nia kiik
Ha’u foti matan
hateke ba oin
Loron aban
Tuur nonook
Nia lalatak
Sei malahuk
Ho lamina iha liman
Ha’u sei koir loron ohin
Karik ho nune’e
Mak loron aban
sei hatudu oin.

VZ.

THE QUIET BOY DID BECAME A PRIEST.

Lospalos was a city of cold summer breeze when I knew him for the first time at a local middle school.

His name is Jonio. He was a friend of someone introduced to me by somebody. I barely knew him and so did him to me yet by observing him from afar had given me a perception. His facial feature made me guessing if he might have an Indian or Srilankan ethnicity gene. I should have confirmed that to him during our Biology class on genetics (but I never did until today).

Unlike many other boys who tend to be overt, Jonio always looked quiet, gentle and shown serene gesture like Siddarth Gautama after became a Budha, especially when he smiled. He had a smile that could soothe your soul.  Some girls who knew him that time told me that he was typical of ‘quiet outside, but smart inside’ person as he was also known to be a smart boy in his classroom.

According to the general opinion of our girls talk-group (which based on our random unscientific probability theory), this typical guy usually will end up continuing his study at the seminary, a school for Catholic priest-to-be. Therefore, as an advice from our girl’s talk group, do not ever think about dating this type of guy as he would turn down your expectation to make him your future husband. How silly.

That time, when a boy could study in a seminary, he would then be considered as charming and ideal future man by most of the girls in the city – since he was studying in seminary, a school for future priests, future intellectuals and religious leaders. Many Timorese famous political figures were mostly known as seminary students when they were young. So, there was a common impression that a boy who studied in seminary, if he would not end up being a priest, he might turn to a future political leader or an influential figure thus became a potential future husband if you could win his heart.

The seminary students usually would only be seen until they returned home from vacation and only appeared occasionally at the Sunday church mass with an appearance of an eloquent humble gentleman as their new look. It was indeed a style that was once not seen in some of them before they enrolled in seminary school.

But Jonio was an exception. He had possessed that eloquence and humility, even before he enrolled. After finishing middle school, I heard that he enrolled in a popular seminary school located out of the district. For us, the ordinary student, the story of seminary school as a dream school has been just like a fairy-tale. Many people would love to go and study there, but only a few were selected. It was said that the admission to seminary school was strictly selective and rigid. Thus to past the admission test (document check, written and oral test) was already an initial achievement prior to study there.

That was how I believed that the unscientific prediction in our girl’s talkgroup was proven correct. Jonio would be a priest and no girl should dream of dating him and Jonio had never been known or heard to have a crush to any girl or dating since the mid school (or maybe he did but we never notice).

If the invisible label ‘You are now a charming guy for being a seminary student’ can be printed in a salenda, then one day, I thought, when he returned to the city for the vacation, sometimes at Easter or Christmas, he too would have that scarf wrapped around his neck with a lot of congratulations and admiration stares from the girls.  And with this title wrapped in him, despite his charm, those girls would also realize afterward that one day he would be a Catholic priest (who will not marry and live a celibate life). Would he be a priest or would he not?

On a Christmas Eve, I finally befriended him. Thanks to his friend who befriended me so we got acquainted with each other. We were not so close as friends, but it was nice to know him in person and despite his quiet personality, he actually had a good sense of humor and also a good listener. Perhaps because of being a seminary student, he remains to be a quiet, humble and polite boy I ever knew in my teenagehood generation. I never caught or heard him cursing or speak badly to others (maybe he did some and I had not known yet).

After finishing the high school at the seminary school, I heard that he still willing to continue his study in higher seminary school and became a novice of a well known religious community in Timor-Leste.

On one occasion, I had a chance to meet him when he was delivering the child and youth Sunday school service in a village of Uailili in Baucau. I met him again at his seminary school where I dropped by as a visitor. He just had finished lunch with his friends. They had rice, red bean soup and spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch.  Among them, there was another three familiar faces of my former schoolmates in high school. I went to meet and greet them. We were surprised to see each other as if that day was destined to be a reunion day for the four of us. They told me how they managed to survive in the seminary with  those red bean soup and Italian pasta as the popular menu.

Meanwhile, in a corner of a corridor, I found Jonio  smiled, joked and laughed more when he was with his other seminarist colleagues. Yet when I greet him, I felt that he suddenly turned back to the quiet and polite boy like he usually was.  Seeing him there made me wonder if he would keep going on with his journey to be a future priest or he might change his mind in the middle of the road. Some ex-novices or ex-seminarist friends I knew who quitted in the middle of the road, later reasoned that God did not choose them – as Jesus said ‘for many are called, but few are chosen’  (or maybe it was they themselves who did not want to be chosen, who knew). Would God choose Jonio? Well, it may be or may be not. Only God and Jonio would know.

After another ten years or so, we met again, but only in a virtual world of social media called Facebook -an online book where you can find many faces of everyone in the world include your own face.  Jonio’s rank in his religious community study had raised from a novice to a Brother. We had a cliché conversation about ourselves, about his study or merely greeted each other for the birthday celebration that was notified prior by Facebook. How wonderful it is that today Facebook makes you know more about your friend’s personal identity which in the past was just as discreet as a personal underclothing.

Somehow, in the following years, we did not talk more except clicking thumb up symbol as our ‘like’ reaction when one posted a nice picture or words on the Facebook personal wall. Suddenly, it feels odd to ask the same old thing or many random trivial things to your friends through a virtual world.

Last year, I saw that he was in Manila, Philippine, one of the Catholic majority country in Southeast Asia. He studied there with his community fellows. Sometimes, he also posted some nice touristy places they visited in Manila. Mostly beaches with beautiful clear blue water and white sand like Cristo Rei beach in Dili. Anyway, I felt proud and wondering about him as well. Would he keep going ahead with his study? Only he knew.

This year, I saw him already ordained as a deacon in Manila and he looked contented when he did his liturgical tasks. On one post, it is shown him Christiniazing a Filipino baby in a church. I did not know why, I suddenly felt emotionally surprised,  touched and proud at the same time seeing him gracefully conducted his service.

Last month, I read another post about his official announcement of ordination in Fatumaca, Baucau. I could not go even though I really wanted to. I wished his ordination mass would be held in Dili. Then after a few weeks, he posted another announcement that there would be a thanksgiving mass for his ordination to be held in his home town. Again, I could not go because it is too far from Dili. I would miss out again to see him holding his first mass in his hometown for the first time and witnessing another remark of his journey in a religious path.

Well, I could only extend my virtual congratulations and best wishes in the Facebook comment box that already crowded with many other people’s congratulations words. And so, the quiet boy I used to know in the middle school had officially become a priest and yes he did.

Deep inside my heart, I do know and I would like him to know that I felt so happy and proud of him and wish him for the best in his journey being a priest. May he continue to be the chosen one.

                  ***

Salenda = a Timorese typical woven clothes scarf

To fr. J.

BELINDA AND AN ADVICE OF BEING YOUTH AS A GIRL

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Meriam Belina until today is still a popular Indonesian actress and singer since I was still studying in kindergarten school in 90s era.  She has a beautiful Indo look that catches every eye and performed very well in every acting role in the movies she starred. Even today, she still plays in some Indonesian TV series that I have lost interest to watch. At the moment, she must be doing her life well in Jakarta, Indonesia while I am remembering him from Dili, Timor-Leste.

In 2000s, hundreds miles away from Jakarta, I met Meriam Belina’s doppelganger from Lospalos, a post administrative of Lautem Municipality of Timor-Leste. She was a popular girl I saw at school on our seventh grade. She has a fair skin, slender figure and a brown highlighted silky long black hair. Her long facial feature, nose shape, brown eyes and her smile almost resemble Meriam Belina on her youth version. People could even say they both were sisters if they took picture together. People called this girl Belinda.

First time getting to know her, I told her she looks like Meriam Belina and her name too was almost same. She laughed and has her cheeks blushed a pink shade.

Belinda to me was kind of a free soul and an easygoing girl who loved to enjoy life’s present blessing without having to worry about tomorrow’s burden. It was commonly known by other girls that time that she dates several boys for fun. Something which was considered bitchy by many girls.

On our adolescent time and being high school students, I remember one of friend retold me on her advice about youth time. She said, ‘my friend, our youth time happens only once. Therefore, you have to enjoy it for the best as you can. On dating, she then said ‘girls, date as many boys as you can and do not dwell on sadness of having a break up. You may have many boyfriends and exes when you were young but later you will end up with one man only or two if you are lucky, depend on how your destiny will be.’

While being taken by her bold advice, I did realize that that time, one of girl’s common talked problems (only among girls) was how to deal with dating and breaking up with boyfriend. Many took days to move on after break up. Some were wondering if they would be able to find a good man, if they might end up marrying a good man or marry the love of their life.

While fantasizing about the right man or prince in the armor suit to save us the damsel in distress, we did not realize that apart of dating a boy there are so much more for girls to pursue for the future. Studying and learning various knowledge and skills are very important means of preparation for the future.  However, I found that not all girls are lucky enough to have the chance and opportunities to continue explore the opportunities to learn and work. Many of girls in my youth era either ended up marrying and getting pregnant in a young age by their own choice or forced by some circumstances. Some marry to save the family reputation without proper mental preparedness and has to marry for the sake of saving their and the family’s reputation as being pregnant without marrying is culturally a shame.

Those wishes, I think, are the influences of popular romances and culture where woman are destined to wait for the right man is very strong belief among young girls. In a culture where patriarchy is dominant, a man is seen superior being while a woman – despite of her achievement – will be still underestimated and should not be more superior to men in society’s normative judgment. Today in my adulthood, I just realized how important it is that our youth generation needs to have a proper guidance from the society, from the world about how to enjoy their youth accordingly.

One day I met Belinda. She is already a married woman with two or three kids and a loving husband (as I perceived in her social media display). Every time I met her, she reminded me of her advice about youth and dating. She might be ended up marrying a right person and live happily who knows. However, nowadays, I think her thought is indeed still relevant. For girls, it is very important to not dwelling on the break up grief but to enjoy their youth through a meaningful and careful way. Moreover, as I would like to add, it is important for girls in their youth to explore as many opportunities as possible by studying and learning more and it society has great contribution to empower them through proper guiding and support.

#youth #memory #girls #empoweryounggirl

AL

Dad’s Wrist Watch

Time flies. Time moves forward. Time rotates on its axis inside a wrist watch, my dad’s wrist watch.
Two nights ago, that wrist watch witnessed how I spend time with my dad. As the flow of time is irreversible, what can you do to enjoy each moments of its flow? 
One of my answer is to listen to folktale. Two nights ago, I spent time with my dad and his folktales. He had some folktales he got from the ancestors. 
There are few that I remember most; a tale of Cockatoo princess, a tale of two brothers, a tale of a dead brother and the tale of Matebian mountains. I haven’t been able to record or rewrite them. But I remember how the tales go on.
I love to hear those tales over and over again but dad said folktales are meant to be told at particular occasions only such as during harvesting time or during traditional cultural gathering. So, I have to wait for another occasion to hear another tale. It can be an old tale or a new one. 
My dad left and time flies away but those tales remain in my mind.
#noteoflife

Congratulation

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Congratulation is a word we said to please or to support other person or something because of any progress that has been made.

Sometimes that progress can be any small thing or even some big things. Sometimes, the progress can be about something that just started, going on or something that has been done.

Nevertheless, a progress is something relative for which to somebody it is significant but to other may not always the same. This depends on every individual who perceives and feels it.

Sometimes, the word ‘congratulation’ itself has rather became a cliché as we often use it for something insignificant. However, to perceive and to feel that something is truly significant or not is somehow depends on every individual.

To me, the word ‘congratulation’ is a precious gold coin. Thus I would love to reserve well my gold coin and will only give it to somebody or something that deserves it when I could perceived and felt that the thing that was done did have a value or significance for me to give away my precious-gold-coin and that its significant is not only imply to me but also to everyone regardless of how small or how big the impact is.

-Pássabe, Oecusse (Timor-Leste)
June 14, 2018

Gentlemen’s Hangout in Maubisse.

Two men on sunbathing chat in Maubisse, Timor-Leste

‘My Brother’

‘Yes’

‘What a beautiful morning, is it not?’

‘Yeah. It is indeed.’

‘The sun rays are nicely warm.

‘Yeah. It is.’

‘Let’s do sunbathing with these lovely babies of ours.’

‘Sure, my brother. They will love it.’

‘My dear brother…’

‘Yes.’

‘Something is bothering me.’

What is it? Do tell me. 

‘I received a news that a relative from my wife’s family has just passed away.’

‘Oh poor you… Sorry to hear that. So why it bothers you?’

‘I do not have enough money to submit for my family clan’s contribution. May I ask you to lend me some? Please do help me’

‘Oh man… No worry. I’ll see what I can do for you later. But now, let us enjoy this beautiful sunbathing first.’

Maubisse (Timor-Leste), September, 2017.

Nina’s Death

Monday night, at around 8 pm

Nina just passed away

After hospitalized for seven hours

For drinking certain milliliters of poison 

From a bottle of  battery water.

The medicals tried their best

But ended up unsucces.

‘Nina passed away?’ The father asked. 

‘My Nina passed away?’  The mother asked.

‘No, this is impossible!’

‘This cannot be!’

‘Ninaa, our beloved Ninaa…No…’

‘You cannot do this to us, your parents. 

You cannot leave us like this, oh my dear, my only beloved daughter. 

How can you  do this to us, my dear?’ 

‘Lord, have mercy on us.’

***

Nina, an adolescent girl. She was the only girl among her two brothers sibling. She was on her last semester of bachelor at a local university in Dili. 

On the night of her death, the whole family and relatives were shocked. They said on her last day she did not appear to act odd at all. 

In the morning she still went to the nearby shop to buy electricity credit cards for pre-paid electricity at their house. Everything seemed normal.

She did not say anything strange or harsh to anyone either. She went on quiet and serene. They said she had been a quiet girl since she was a little girl and the most quiet girl in the family. 

Now, the family are all shocked and confuse on why she ended up her life that way. They said, they have no idea why Nina did so. She did not say anything at all during the day before she was hospitalized. 

Now, they said they do not know why at all.

But I do not believe them.

Nina has a secret she kept or the family has a secret to keep. 

Nina…

May her soul rest in peace.

Dili, 2 July 2018.