close up photo of albatross bird
Photo by Jean van der Meulen on

One time I was hanging out with friends and we started playing a game called “which person reminds you of what bird” (or vice versa).

My friend Jef told me that I reminded him of a bird called an egret. Though I know what an egret is and I’ve actually seen one strolling across the mangroves at my father’s property in Indanan, Sulu (Southern Philippines), I’ve never seen one up close.

So I decided to look for egret photos online.

Actually, Jef could be an animator – his observation was spot on.

I did look like an egret!

Not literally, of course, but in the way that Alex the Lion in Madagascar kind of looks like Ben Stiller, for example. I (also) have a long neck, bulbous eyes and a long beak (in human terms, pouty lips, not acquired genetically but from a freak accident on a bus when I was 12, in which I hit my face on a steel-backed seat when it lurched after the driver had suddenly slammed on the brakes).

The egret has a deep intelligence – it uses its feet to round up prey before it selects what to eat with its pouty lips. Viewed in profile, it looks haughty and mean, standing proud and seeming to know everything. But when you look at it directly, its neck retracted, its eyes pinwheel-curious, it actually looks quite naïve and child-like, qualities that many people love.

Sadly, most egret photos online feature the bird on its side, which I think is not its best angle (Peach Quebral, Future Egret Stylist).

Another good friend, Annie, once observed that whenever I was seated before the piano at a performance, my legs were always twisting to one side, as though I wanted to fly away.

Annie could be an amazing novelist – her observation was super spot-on!

I did feel that way each time I sang in public.

I didn’t want to be there, but I had to, somehow.

I don’t want to be here, but I have to, somehow.

There is a thin line between love and hate. Over the years, I thought it was empty philosophy, but according to the astute American environmental lawyer Marshall Eriksen, love and hate actually have anatomical underpinnings: the part of the brain that makes you feel all gooey inside is right next to the one that also makes you well up with hatred and resentment.

What I’m trying to say here is that I am not and never was a chirpy, positive-thinking bird that accepts where it finds itself. My smiles hide a brain that continually calculates and calibrates my environment. I don’t think twice, but three, four, five, a million times. I am not interested in staying because – well, I’m a bird. I’m always wanting to fly away.

You may think I’m haughty and know everything and I annoy you because I’m dismissive of everyone and have an opinion about everything.

Well, I am an egret. I can fly ever so slowly but powerfully over and above the sea. I see and know everything. Many years ago, I told other people’s fortunes and these predictions actually came to pass.

And I see another vision forming. It’s sad, but well, life is life.

I can’t apologize for who I am. I say sorry all the time for every little thing – but never for being me.

I am an egret who looks mean because that’s what you want to see. But I hope that one day, you will negotiate that hairline shift that separates love and hate and look at me from another angle.

The same angle from which you saw me for the very first time and thought: what a beautiful bird! I hope I can see her again.