Introduction: To create a novel, Eunice Barbara Novio thought to collect autobiographical memories as well as memories from different people. She plans to incorporate the latter in order to honor them. So far, she’s collected five vignettes, of which two are presented below. The novel-in-progress is still untitled, but she anticipates “it will be a sort of journey from the Philippines, to other places she’s visited, and finally Thailand. The novel or collection of memories will incorporate the rains, the train rides, the buildings, and the memory banks and how I connect them to my present situation.” 

Manila in June

It is raining today in Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand, the June rains that always remind me of Manila.

The rainy season in June in Thailand is different to that of the Philippines. Here, it rains like crazy for an hour or two. The sky darkens. When I look at my window, I can see lightning slicing the dark clouds and rolls of thunder follows. Every time it rains, I remember the sound of trains—rumbling, heavy and persistent. Then the sky turns clear and blue again. Except for the droplets on leaves, and puddles, you wouldn’t think it had rained.

In the Philippines, rain could last for more than 24 hours. The continuous rain is called siyam-siyam or nine days of raining that oftentimes inundates our hometown in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. As a child, during the thunderstorms in June, my grandmother gathered me and my siblings in the living room, beneath the large framed picture of ‘The Eye’ of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I closed my eyes and pressed my head in her arms until the storm passed.

June was one of the harshest months that I had to endure when I moved to Manila. The rainy season always equates totyphoon season, which means flooded streets.  In Pasig where my sister and I lived, flood would be an inch up to knee-high water depending on the amount of garbage clogging the drainage systems.

Every day, I joined hundreds of stranded passengers waiting for jeepneys at the Greenfields District at Edsa Central in between Pasig City and Mandaluyong City. It is the crossroads of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard Metro Rail Station where I alighted after my class at UP Diliman. At that time, it was just a vast expanse of temporary stalls selling food, clothes, second-hand books and computer shops. I would never like the city, I guess. I could see the big rats emerging with their hairy heads, as big as cats, from the sewers. My sister shrieked upon seeing large roaches crawling on the sidewalks while we were waiting for the jeepneys going to Pasig-Palengke route. 

Good thing, I wore a durable black raincoat from my mountaineering days. It made me feel secure, warm—making me recall the embrace of his strong arms—on one of those rainy days many years ago in June in the mountains of Occidental Mindoro. 

The passing train on Shaw Boulevard Station jolted me back from my reveries. I had already mastered the traffic routes in Metro Manila. It was June 2010, my last year in the Philippines, and also the final year of my Master in Women and Development at the University of the Philippines. 

It was drizzling when I reached Quezon Avenue. From there, I usually took a bus and alight at the UP Gate in front of the Iglesia and walk to the College of Social Work and Community Development. My cellphone buzzed. He was already at the Chocolate Kiss Café. 

When I looked up, it seemed that the sky had cleared up a bit. It would not rain. I walked towards the Bahay ng Alumni. I smiled. Giggled. Like a school-girl going on her first date. There was no time to check my looks.  Anyway, I was not fond of putting on make-up even a dab lipstick. Like most students in UP, I was wearing a faded blue Levi’s, an old white shirt, slippers and a backpack with my raincoat, a laptop, and a water bottle. I wanted him to see the 18-year-old me.

We never had a date. We worked together for two weeks on a biodiversity project in the mountains of Mindoro. I thought I would become a biologist or something related to the environment. But later, I realized I couldn’t stand the long hours of waiting for the birds to appear or to listen to insects and separate the sound of one insect from another. I just wanted to bathe in the river and listen to the cascading waterfalls. I always shouted at the top of my lungs wishing to disturb the birds, but the roaring water drowned my voice. 

At night, the two of us would go out, lie down on the soft grass, and listen to our gentle breathing. Under the blanket of the night sky, we would whisper our dreams to the stars. That is, until the insects bit my face, forcing us to retreat inside the staff house.

There he was. He had barely changed—tall, well-built, from years of climbing mountains and hiking; a fine nose—prominent bridge, and the upturned eyes that lit up upon seeing me; and the lopsided smile that I always remember. His skin was tanned from staying long under the sun. You know the tall, dark, and handsome cliché? That was him. The salt-and-pepper hair (that he always had) made him look more respectable. He was no longer the rugged young man I met in the mountain. He was a respected scientist now; a learned gentleman.   He was still dashing with an air of confidence that I had known since he was a graduate student taking Wildlife Studies; I was an Agriculture undergraduate assistant of his adviser. The Barong Tagalog that he wore, he said an office uniform was crumpled

‘From waiting for you,’ he said.

And we hugged tight. Kissed each other on the cheeks. For a while, it was only us amidst the crowd.

‘How many years since we had last seen each other?’ he asked, while sipping coffee from my cup. 

It has been 16 years. 

Except for an unanswered letter he had sent me before he flew to Singapore for his doctorate, no more. Until a cc’d email about conservation efforts in Mindoro found us. It was me who noticed the familiar name; his name. I sent an email and he replied. We exchanged numbers and soon we started sending a few words.

I did not know that he lived in Singapore and also stayed in Malaysia for fieldwork. I was in Kuala Lumpur for a series of training for two years. I was at the newly opened KLIA Ekspres and always disembarked at Sentral Station Kuala Lumpur. I thought I’d seen him at Ninoy Aquino International Airport or in one of the coaches of KLIA. Probably. 

We did not set any schedule to meet. He was busy finding lizards and frogs in the mountains. Some have even been named after him. I read about him in the news. He was well-known among the elite scientists in the world.

And I was still struggling. Still trying to carve a niche in whatever things I wanted to do like being a writer. I was here and there. I had never found a place in the Philippines, except for various scholarships and grants from women’s organizations that took me abroad. 

‘Why don’t you ask for another cup? When what I meant—why didn’t you find me.

Instead, he voiced it out. ‘Why didn’t you reply?’

We both seemed not to hear. In front of us was a slice of chocolate cake with a fork that we shared. Thinking of it now makes me smile because I never liked chocolate cake until now. It’s either carrot cake or blueberry cheesecake for me.

‘Tomorrow, let’s meet, please’.

It was not a request—more like an appeal. In a few days, I would leave the country. 

It was not raining when I entered his office that was almost like his home. It was housed in a large neo-classical building along Padre Burgos in Manila built before the Second World War. 

The dirty-white paint of the wall was chipping. Surely, the national government didn’t think offices and labs at the bowel of the majestic landmark didn’t need repainting. Piles of books, rickety stools, and some microscopes were on the long-tiled tables. There was an old coffee-maker with stale coffee. 

The dank and musty smell from various jars filled with formaldehyde assaulted my nostrils. There were various reptiles – snakes, frogs, skinks, and lizards in jars. One pygmy frog was labeled with a scientific name that sounded like his. 

“You wouldn’t miss its call. Like a cow,” he explained.

Later, I smelled this again when I was in the zoology room of the university. In my backyard, I sometimes heard frogs croaking when the first raindrops of June fell. 

Time stood still. He was working while we were talking. In between, we kissed. Compensating for the time we have lost, or should have done a long time ago. 

It was close to midnight when we decided to leave the building. It was a quiet night, except for the night guard on duty who greeted us. The rain just stopped. The air was cool on our skin. In this part of the city, there were still trees. We could hear the distinct calls of the birds mingling with the cicadas’ buzz.  

The crescent moon had appeared but the city lights guided us. We held hands like lovers while walking toward the Metro Railway Train station. 

It was Sunday, one rainy day in June. We stood on the last flight of the stairs at the platform of UN Avenue Station. People came and went in a blur. We held hands once more, then a quick kiss on the lips. We both turned our backs. Me, heading to the coach, and him to the life he had always known.

It was late in the evening and I have to catch the last train to Baclaran station.  It was beginning to rain again.

Memory storage

It was June 4, 2013. After undergoing a series of tests and evaluations, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and dysthymia. Dysthymia also known as persistent depressive disorder is characterized by low, dark, or sad mood. Usually, it lasts for two years or more. It could last for a lifetime. It comes and goes.  I took anti-depressants and anti-psychosis drugs, and various drugs to counteract the side effects. 

My psychiatrist also told me that oftentimes this disorder is also genetic and can be triggered by environmental factors. In the Philippines, this could not be easily detected because we refused to acknowledge this as an illness. We see it as a part of our life that will pass. We were taught not to dwell on loneliness.

My doctor, and therapist told me to keep a journal to record my moods, my feelings, and everything I can think of. In 2016, my doctor advised me to discontinue my medication because I could manage my symptoms and my attacks lessened. 

I had psychotherapy for three years until I was able to manage my symptoms. It was a long and arduous journey toward healing. 

According to Dr. Mary Lamia, a clinical psychologist, and a book author, emotional memories are the result of cued recall. These can be anything from dates, events, smells, sounds, or places. These could evoke memories, both pleasant and unpleasant attached to the experience. These memories also trigger depression; for me, it is dysthymia. 

I reviewed basic brain anatomy. In an updated textbook of Introduction to Psychology by Charles Stangor, I learned about these two important parts of my brain that work together to bring me back to memory lanesthe hippocampus and the amygdala.

The hippocampus helps in forming associations so that the different parts of memory can be later retrieved as a single event. It is also responsible for turning short-term memories into long-term memories. These include spatial navigation, learning, and creating new images. Hence, it connects certain emotions and sensations to these memories. Here comes the amygdala which is involved in processing emotional information and making basic responses to things associated.

In a study of Richter-Levin and Akirav in 2000, titled Amygdala-hippocampus dynamic interaction in relation to memory, published in PubMed, stated that “The amygdala is the most notably involved brain structure in emotional responses and the formation of emotional memories. These brain structures (amygdala and hippocampus) are activated following an emotional event and cross-talk with each other in the process of consolidation.”

I think I have to process first the personal feelings and emotions attached to some persons before I fully understand what I am going through. Sifting through my memory bank is difficult. 

I have a 500-megabyte hard-drive to save my works, the students’ grades, manuscripts, drafts, photos, and movies. I always forgot to create folders for each. I only remember the keywords and the working title I used to save them. I only have a specific folder labeled ‘NEWS’ for various online news where I am a correspondent or a regular contributor. The human brain can hold more than the gigantic memory of any computer.

My brain is like that. Scattered. Data everywhere. I am oftentimes left groping in the darkare these figments of my imaginations; are these real; am I even real? 

I had not been home for three years. No one supported me when I decided to work abroad. Of all places, why Thailand? Because it was more convenient here if I wanted to move to a third country. My grandmother, and my spinster aunts wanted me to stay. My mother was a migrant worker in Africa for 35 years. Migration would mean a prolonged absence in our small family. My grandmother said that only burials brought as together as a family.

On June 11, 2011, I left the Philippines for good. I experienced the worst flooding in Thailand starting June until December 2011. The rain was continuous. I lived alone in an apartment. I lost count of the days that it was not raining. It was the worst La Nina that ever happened in Thailand in recent history. The biggest dams in the northern region, the Sirikit and Bhumibol Dams were overflowing. When the rain stopped, water from the dams around the country was released.  More than two-thirds of the country was inundated There were times that I just stayed home, but never wished of coming home to the Philippines. 

At night, thunderstorms would awaken me. I covered my head with my pillow until the storm passed or until I fell asleep.

Recently, I find it difficult to remember some events, things, or even numbers. Until now, I don’t remember my phone number. But I remember the Bangkok Train Station Routes (BTS) and the bus numbers to get me to my destinations despite going there only twice a month. There are also times I forget my passwords. Remembering important information seems difficult than forgetting those memories that have been stored in the hippocampus.

There is more to the June of long ago. Every day, I’m creating more memories. Some are short-term. Maybe some would remain for a long time. It is up to my hippocampus and amygdala to decide on that. 

The rain in June, the smell of the earth, of the metal, and the stench of the city after the rain are overpowering. The rumbling of the train drowns the tapping sound of the rain on the metal roof of the coach. The city never sleeps. Anywherein Seoul, in Kuala Lumpur, in Hong Kong, in Taipei and Bangkok.


Eunice Barbara C. Novio is a Thailand-based freelance journalist. She is also an English for Foreign Language (EFL) Lecturer at Vongchavalitkul University in Nakhon Ratchasima. Her articles have appeared on Asia Correspondent, America Media, and the Nation. She is also a contributor to the Bangkok Post and Thai Enquirer and a stringer to She is a two-time Plaridel Awardee from the Philippine American Press Club. Some of her poems are published in the Philippines Graphic, Sunday Times, Dimes Show Review, Blue Mountain Arts, Ha(y)naku, and elsewhere. Her first poetry chapbook O, Matter was translated in Thai. It is currently available in Thailand.