Posted in Thought Catalog

Excellence: A word gone astray

Excellence is a powerful word. It is mentality aimed by many and used by many. It is a habit practiced by many through struggle and exhaustion. It is an attitude countless yearn to attain yet wrongly say they have failed to do so. It is a word often misunderstood because excellence is not necessarily getting 100%, rather, it is giving 100% in all that you do. Excellence is a matter of doing everything in congruence to Magis which is a Latin philosophy of always aiming for “more” under the light of knowing everything you do is for the greater glory of God. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. The key to fulfilled excellence is finding God in all that you do and simply putting him as the pivot of all your works and doings.

Somewhere in the universal archive of everything, there exists a notion that excellence is being “perfect.” This idea probably derived from how “excellence” is used a unit for measuring the overall outcome of success molded after a series of challenges and tests. Using excellence as such is like hiding the gold under layers of soil– not fully realizing the goodness of its existence. One does not need to meditate on the peaks of China’s mountains for eons of years just to realize the full essence of excellence. It simply comes when one applies it in a way that would actually motivate the soul and not pressure it. When that individual has realized that excellence gives positive stress to achieving an end, success will surely come within his/her trajectory, like leaves flowing with a gush of wind. Success is the by product of excellence coupled with firm determination, commitment and direction– where one stands tall despite failure and moves forward despite the wounds and bruises; where one selectively absorbs the criticism needed for his/her travel still having a strong sense of purpose; where one learns from the environment to further mold his/her integrity into something that can push them to where they should go. All of these merely fall under the umbrella of excellence because excellence should not be considered an end, but a means.

The hands of a clay molder can also be associated to the idea of excellence. The longer they hold the clay into a specific shape, the more the clay fits into it. Such analogy can be compared to excellence– the hands being what we repeatedly do and the clay what we end up to be. Excellence should then be applied on the hands as the clay is molded to end up with a pleasant and useful pot. On the contrary, hands that did not exert effort will end up molding a pot of lesser allure and usefulness. As Aristotle famously quoted, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It is through doing things with the best of your ability that will enable you to mold a pot that can securely hold your values and character needed in the journey to success.

Above all, the key to excellence is finding God in all things. If everyone starts looking at God to be the goodness in everything– in every atom or nucleus there is, they’d be destined to reach their end. This idea is a sister concept to positivity or optimism. It is not entirely to disregard the negative side but rather, it is to focus on the bright side despite the weight. It is only through this mentality that we can clear our minds to give space for our plans and thoughts. It is only through finding God in all things that we find the right end to our means which is excellence.


Everyone is born to be excellent. It is coded somewhere in our genes and amplified through effort and purpose.  

Posted in Thought Catalog

Heartbreaks: The Heaven in the Hell

Shattering hearts, excruciating emotional cruxifiction, the pursuit of possible escape and all the other ingredients that make up the ever-served heartbreak soup– all these bits and pieces are blended into a concoction that can cause paralyzing and deadly effects– that is the apparent extent of pain heartaches could bring.  Scientifically, heartbreaks are basically synonymous to physical pain, affecting the same region of your brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (AsapScience, 2013) thus, it has the power to affect you not just emotionally but physically as well. Emotional distress, as little as we know, could cause an individual to experience branching unhealthy side effects– a broken heart could end up being a killer if the individual is not sane enough to mend it. “When you’re deep in the mire of heartbreak, chances are that you feel pain somewhere in your body—probably in your chest or stomach. Some people describe it as a dull ache, others as piercing, while still others experience it as a crushing sensation. The pain can last for a few seconds and then subside, or it can be chronic, hanging over your days and depleting you just like the pain, say, of a back injury or a migraine.” (Laslocky, 2013) Oscar Wilde once famously quoted that, “the heart was made to be broken,” and it indeed is normal or even healthy for our poor instrument for feelings and emotions to feel unbearable pain because pain, as my high school teacher once said, is a way to know that you are still alive.

Pain has been bethroned a negative feeling by mankind. There is no denying that it is, but if we look at the brighter side of things, pain is actually more than just apparent darkness and suffering– it is, as stated above, the feeling of being human.

Pain is a part of life but suffering is our own creation. We get physical and emotional pain during a growth period. Pain can act as a catalyst to let us know we need to grow, evolve even. When we lose someone we love, we hurt, no matter the cause. But with acceptance we feel the pain but do not suffer.” (Lynn, 2013)

And within the world of heartbreak is pain. Pain is in fact, the core of heartbreak and the very reason as to why many associate heartaches to negative phenomena. To most people who think only at the surface, heartbreak is dubbed the end of a certain eon of unforgettable happiness– the point at which one simply must dwell in his/her well of bitter darkness and melancholy. Yet again, this notion must find a way to open its doors to the thought that pain can actually have the ability to transform an individual– that it has the power to broaden one’s view of their current suffering and to activate a train of realizations and resolves. When life juices lemons onto your wounds, you have to ease the pain, wait till the platelets do the clotting and learn from such experience.

Yet, despite its tragic nature, there is a peculiar tendency for humans to adore the tales of heartbreak. Heartaches are probably as widespread and abundant as Coke– the phenomenon happens in every nick and corner of this globe because love is everywhere and heartbreak is a mutant of love– this is the shallowest reason behind humankind’s, more specifically the Filipinos, avid fandom of such literature. This is reflected in the vast library of Filipino novels that have been written– from Pedro Paterno’s Ninay, Rizal’s Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo to Dean Alfar’s Salamanca– the past and present faces of Philippine Literature collide in terms of loving emotional dolor. Filipinos are said to be highly emotional and onion-skinned and according to a Gallop Report by Jon Clinton, the Philippines ranks as the most emotional country in the world with 60% of the respondents answering a “yes” to the questions (Clinton, 2012). With affliction comes melodrama and melodrama is a Filipino’s main dish. This is realistically reflected in the Pinoy’s love for teleseryes and melodramatic movies. Some, if not most of the Filipino population is very love-oriented– be it discreetly or indiscreetly– an attitude that has probably risen from the mishmash of emotional shows on national television– teleseryes, for example. It can then be assumed that the Filipino craving for love coupled with the tendency to be emotional and onion-skinned would inevitably lead to numerous heartbreaks. Additionally, a story would be labeled a masterpiece by how much a reader can relate to the tale. It is said that you enjoy the stories that you can either relate to or that reflect your innermost desires which explains why Filipinos are coo coo for heartbreak stories.

Other possible reasons, however, are our country’s history and patriotism– is it possible for them to love the national masterpieces of heartbreak because they are Filipino? Or is this alien mentality a result of our past invaders’ influences? One thing is for sure though– Filipinos were never known to be patriotic– indeed some are/were but most aren’t. This explains why a typical Pinoy would rather buy the Hunger Games Trilogy on display at National Bookstore than Illustrado or MacArthur; or that a typical barkada of friends would rather watch Iron Man 3 than Panday. This mentality would be a result of the “baduy” nature of Filipino culture itself or the infamous colonial mentality. We are the product of our colonial history, which is regarded by many as the culprit behind our country’s lack of nationalism. Colonialism developed a mind-set in the Filipino which encouraged us to think of the colonial power as superior and more powerful (Licuanan, N.d.) The Hispanic-American-Japanese invasion would not be the sole reason behind Filipinos loving heartbreak stories but rather, their rule simply implies that our country was molded to be a multi-cultural child who does not fully advocate nationalism, as saddening as it may sound. This then slashes off the possibility of Filipinos liking heartbreak stories because they are of native production.

The society plays a gargantuan role when it comes to constructing the general idea of heartbreak. The phenomenon exists in this world as it is– as the thought of merely having your heart shattered into pieces– but the society sprinkles this idea with specific culture-related add-ons that make heartbreak a more complicated and diverse event. There are as many types of heartbreaks as there are branching types of love, but this paper would cover the type that revolves around eros and to narrow down the parameters of heartbreak, two types will be focused on: the biased or one-sided type and the heartache that involves the choice of both parties. This juncture will then be discussing the anatomy of both types.

Maybe it happens when you give him a kiss on the cheek on a January morning, after you’ve spent all weekend eating Chinese takeout and studying biology and you go to class with a feeling in the back of your stomach, maybe this is it, maybe we’re more than friends, maybe when we both watched Usual Suspects in our pajamas Sunday morning and fell into each other’s arms and it felt strange and sparkly – maybe that’s because this is it. And then he’s leaning back in his chair and gazing at that lovely girl with strawberry hair in the corner, and he texts her and she smiles and he nudges you from his seat, mouthing I’m pretty sure my Friday is booked now, with a wink. You smile back and tell him he loves sex too much, and he laughs at you and nudges you again just because he can, and you’re back to looking at your biology notes, and you’re still only friends. But the worst part is after he sleeps with her, when he comes over to your flat and slumps across your counter and asks you if you’ll make him ginger tea and brownies for his hangover, and you’ll both watch Seinfeld on the couch again because you can’t refuse him. You just can’t.” (Roman, 2013)

This excerpt from Arielle Roman’s anecdote of heartbreak descriptively depicts the underlying anatomy of a one-sided heartbreak– how there is this certain “feeling in the back of your stomach” and how your heart is even harder to understand than Biochemistry. It starts with this feeling that you and your supposed lover actually have something developing; the stage where you feel a flux of butterflies and elephants in your tummy because there is just this hope that sparks out in your mind– the hope that this could be something. Yet again, during the stage of possibly deceptive development, you experience inconsistencies that go against your fantasy– how the little things that he does to you (that melt you into a puddle of nothingness) turn void as you observe him doing the same to other women. Yet again, you still hope and end up getting hurt which is partially your fault because you expected it the first place. There is never a way to know what truly lies beyond the eyes of your lover– no knowing whatever intentions he has up his sleeves because observing his actions and sugar-coated words can never be logical enough. Roman ends her tale with “Hurt. This is one thing no one teaches you.” Which leads to the notion that falling in love is always a choice and you must always be open-minded enough to the consequences of such an act– you must accept the possible heartbreak at the end of your journey. It sometimes helps to be a pessimist.

“Jacinta wept when he entered her, her tears surviving mere moments in liquid form before being transformed into streaks of ice across her face as Gaudencio sought and found his rhythm. The act of procreation wreaked havoc with time: for Gaudencio, it was over before he knew it, his penis already retreating from its incursion into permafrost for Jacinta, it was an eternal night, ending only at the precise moment when she was about to shatter into uncountable pieces.” (Alfar, 2007)

In the beginning, Dean Alfar’s Salamanca may seem like a one-sided heartbreak tale but as the story proceeds, the two main characters actually show signs of trying to restrict their love for each other. It is clearly evident that Jacinta tries to focus on her life as a mother instead of thinking that she actually too is a wife. Same goes for Gaudencio who, being greatly aware of his past interventions, sets a distance between Jacinta and himself because he knows that Jacinta is a damaged gem that no longer is his. They both figured that they should forget their past, romance included, to keep their present lives intact. Yet again, it may have partially seemed so from the outside but there is still this enigma of regret and worries that wander in their minds– a mountain of “what ifs” and the forceful resolve of forgetting whatever sparkle they once had. Any reader would know, however, that Gaudencio and Jacinta truly loved each other despite the heck of a roller-coaster ride they’ve been through. This theory has been proven in the third chapter where they bore with each other’s presence. It was like they were physically and mentally there but emotionally absent. If felt like there was something under the blanket of this chapter– something that drove Jacinta to stay with Gaudencio and Gaudencio to take his life as a husband and father seriously. This would be the perceived long concealed love between the two. Jacinta’s love was just so unconditional that she gave Gaudencio the chance of his lifetime and chose to stay with him maybe not just because of their children, but because deep in her bosom she wanted to start a family with the man she “onced” loved. This is the most probable reason behind her “yes”.

Love is a sugar-coated monster topped with heavenly whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate chips and cherries. It is a notorious concoction of the sourest and most bitter things in the galaxy and is the most paradoxical feeling known to mankind. It is an element that is devilishly hard to understand because it defies all logic– it defies everything. It is a magical and powerful tool for peace, at the same time tool for destruction. It has the ability to hold all your emotions and feelings at the palm of its hands and crush them whenever it feels like it, on the contrary it also has the magic to color a person’s tomorrows and erase all evil on the surface of the globe. It is in par with Mother Nature as it can possess an indefinable pulchritude yet destroy lands and oceans with a seas of tornadoes, storms, floods and the like. Love is overrated but it is that essential pair of glasses one needs as they walk through life because it has the enchanting ability to magically color the blacks and whites that fall within the range of our vision.

With all that said, it is now evident that heartbreak results from a mutation of love– the kind of mutation that rearranges or deletes sections of the genetic map of feelings that make up an individual’s heart. Love, as described above, is a very complicated thing and it would be illogical to say that it can never cause heartbreaks. It is like saying that a person taking Calculus can never have any failures. However, despite its complexity, heartbreaks and failures happen for a reason– reasons that can transform.

Within the pits of hell which we associate heartbreak with, there lies a library of realizations and resolves that arise only when one has gone through the worst. The most golden transformation blossoms from the most excruciating and difficult experiences– that is the heaven in hell.

“Eh ano nga kasi ang problema?”

“Gusto mo ba talagang malaman? Ako! Ako yung problema! Kasi nasasaktan ako kahit di naman ako dapat nasasaktan. Sana kaya ko nang tiisin yung sa akin na nararamdaman ko, kasi ako namili nito diba? Ako yung may gusto. Sana kaya ko nang sabihin sa iyo na masaya ako para sa iyo, para sa inyo. Sana kaya ko. Sana kaya ko, pero hindi eh. Sama sama kong tao kasi ang totoo, umaasa pa rin ako sa piling mo. Sana ako pa rin.Ako na lang. Ako na lang ulit.”

“Alam ko.”

“She had me at my worst. You had me at my best. Pero binalewala mo lang lahat yun.”

“Popoy, ganun ba talaga ang tingin mo? I just made a choice?”

“And you chose to break my heart.” (Valdez, 2007)


Love gives chances and heartbreak is just the beginning; a loop in a roller-coaster trajectory. Love or life in general will always have chances in store for everyone, but they are not unlimited, in fact, they are as precious diamonds and gold. It is a matter of learning why these chances came in the first place and why life even bothered to give you another lemon. In the tale of love, however, chances arise from heartbreak, be it mild or severe– they always arise from downfalls. Also embedded in love are myriads of choices– choices that must not be taken for granted because there is no knowing they might be the last bundle. Valdez’ One More Chance dramatically tells the story of how Popoy and Basha held on to that “Spider’s thread” of their disintegrating love and how they managed to climb out of emotional turmoil and regrets realizing fully, after days and weeks of separation, that you see the true value of what you want and need when it is no longer with you. Love will always have chances, but they are like comets that only dance through the night skies in long-year intervals. When it shows you a door, open it because love changes what is probable and makes unlikely things possible (Condie, 2011). You will never know you love something dearly, until it’s gone. And the greatest thing is having it back.

“ “I want a child from you,” he said. “Son or daughter, it doesn’t matter. Only from you and me. Someone to remind me of what is precious, of what I’ve foolishly discarded without understanding, without respect, out of selfishness. Give me this and I will annul our marriage.”

“Why would I want to do that?” laughed Jacinta, deflating the tension brought about by Gaudencio’s absurd request. “ (Alfar, 2007)

Heartbreak makes you know the things that are precious and the things that you probably took for granted. “You’ll value something more when it’s gone,”– this cliche maxim is indeed a golden and true piece of knowledge but it is often taken for granted itself. In the excerpt from Dean Alfar’s Salamanca above, Gaudencio, his main male protagonist, was illustrated to be a creature of mad lustful appetite, even having a procession of men and women waiting to join him in foreplay, and this he did amidst his marriage with Jacinta who patiently waited for his homecoming back in Tagboaran. Gaudencio’s long and wicked list of lustful to-do’s is basically like a drug– a drug that deteriorated Gaudencio’s soul only to make him realize the importance of having a healthy spirit. He had what he needed– Jacinta, his writing skills and the hope of bright  tomorrows but he chose to turn things around by brushing off the feeling of contentment leaving Jacinta to suffer from his selfish and carnal cravings. After his long sinful journey however, he somehow came to a point there his sexual experiences no longer had the thriving ecstasy it once had and thought of what would have become of him and Jacinta if he hadn’t engaged into his self-centered adventure. That moment marked the explosion of his bitter regrets, making him come into the thought of weighing the value of his lustful interlude to his possible life with Jacinta, realizing that latter would have been more fruitful. And alas, he then returns to face sour rejection from Jacinta and tries to penetrate through her rigid walls of anger. In the end, Jacinta may have half-heartedly accepted his request but their eon of parenthood was romantically bland– the type that lived only to raise children and create a leaving and not because they love each other. Yet again, the underlying messages and feel of the chapter says otherwise. Bottomline is that heartbreak is an eye-opener to branching things and one of those things is the value of the gem you once loved and want to love back. Pain makes you delve into the past and collect the essential patches of memory that you need to ponder on in order to learn.

“I guess I loved you in that way. So what if you were flat-chested and had a dick? It was like having a relationship with any girl. Except the sex, of course. It all seemed to fall into place. You made me feel needed whoever I was.” (Vergara, 2001)

Heartbreak makes you realize the limits and rules of love; it makes you think outside of the box. The line above may seem to be a very camouflaged and typical dialogue in the graphic novel but it actually has the potential to be a Nobel-prize definition of love. Relationships are not all about sex and the “hoity-toity” (kilig) sensation– there is a deeper and more worthwhile underlying feel to it– it is the feeling of being needed, being someone, and feeling belonged and protected. This is Mature love– love that has reached self-actualization, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In Carlo Vergara’s One Night in Purgatory, Casey, the apparently straight man in the novel, had countless relationships with women only to realize after myriads of heartbreaks that Deio, his supportive long-time best friend was no different from the girls he romanced with. Love is not bound by sex because it has only two biological types rather, it is bound by the attitude and personality of the lover, be it a male, female or queer. What heartbreak led to here was Deio realizing that there are more to men than having that extra limb.

“I’m sorry Eric. I never meant for this to happen. Bill and I just… we fell in love. The fault is not with you, Eric. It’s with me. I’m really sorry. You ought to meet Bill. You’ll like him. He’s very nice. Oh, and do you know what he gave me last night?”

“Last night I dreamed of you… And it was so wonderful because in that dream… I saw you SMILE. I love you so much, JEN. Please take care. -ERIC” (Alanguilan, 1994-1996)

Heartbreak makes you realize and learn from your mistakes. Gerry Alanguilan’s Wasted is a very tragic tale about a Jen who betrays her boyfriend Eric for a coworker who she said was just a “friend.” The grief-stricken Eric then goes berserk, killing all the people that annoy him as he straddles long town. This juncture of the paper will focus on Jen and how she caused Eric to be the lunatic he was in the story. Jennie was a traitor– an inconsiderate and heartless woman who basically played with Eric’s feelings. Eric was more like a temporary romantic interlude to her pursuit of “true love.” She clearly wasn’t contented with Eric while the latter deemed their relationship golden and “ever-lasting.” To his dismay, he was left for an apparent coworker which switches his psycho-killer mode on. Basically, Jennie is the root of all the gory mayhem in the novel because she was the one who betrayed Eric in the first place. In the end, as she sees Eric’s heartly written letters to her, she crumbles up inside sinking in her own sea of regret. The most dangerous and violent monsters might actually have the softest and most caring heart because they are the ones who experienced the greater amount of loss which equates to the ounces of pain they experienced. From then on, Jen would learn to never betray again because of what Eric had done– killing innocent lives and causing chaos just because of his bitter pain from losing Jen. Some may even blame it on Eric being too sensitive but honestly, the lion would have been tamed if you never removed it from its leash.

“This is heartbreak. This is how it curves its way into your veins and twists its teeth into your neck and it isn’t anything like self-pity or weak but it’s the hollowness in your eyelids and that emptiness in your throat and someone’s always going to tell you that you shouldn’t hurt like this, but it’s okay.” (Roman, 2013)

In a nutshell, the mentality that heartbreak is a gift from the underworld must be eradicated because in reality, it is a gift from the universe. Embedded in heartbreak is pain and as what an age old adage of the universe goes: when there’s no pain, there’s no gain.

Yet again, one must always be vigilant. True it is that as long as there is love, there will be heartbreak– but it can be avoided. One must condition their minds to the fact that love is never logical and there would always be a pandemonium of thoughts and emotions that stir up inside of us. They must accept the event of possible heartbreak at the same time live their lives to the fullest. They must never love too much for the trajectory of love is always unforeseen.

The key is to embrace heartbreak and pain as your teacher and to be ready and strong at all times– to brace yourself for the duo’s unexpected slaps on the face. The key it to understand heartbreak and why the universe allowed such a phenomenon to exist in the first place.

It is a matter of being ready, sane, understanding and strong– to possess the ability to read between love’s scrambled lines.