Weak lungs and Rippingyarns

I had asthma when I was a kid. I was too young to remember the severity of the attacks, but I do remember being fed some concoction that involved buntot ng butiki and dahon ng kalachuchi. I don’t remember the taste at all — maybe it wasn’t that bad? I dunno.  

When I started school I realized that I preferred staying indoors. I didn’t mind missing the outdoor fun. I was always the most useless player in a game anyway. The only “sport” I excelled at was hula-hoops. I swear, baks, nobody could ever beat me at hula-hoops.

I stopped having asthma attacks so I thought I was able to outgrow the disease. At 17, I started smoking.

At first I would smoke secretly in the unlit backyard of our boarding house. I learned from friends that there was a “correct” way to smoke, and I took that as a challenge. I bought cigarettes by tingi — one or two sticks at a time from the takatak manong at Philcoa — and I endured the mosquito bites in the dingy corner of our bakuran while I trained my lungs to accept nicotine.

The first few puffs made me feel woozy. I wanted to gag and my brain hurt pretty bad. Eventually, after multiple tries, my lungs started to welcome the drug. I learned the right technique too, drawing the smoke into the right track in the throat and holding it in before blowing it out. I loved it.  

At one point I was smoking at least one pack a day. Sobrang lala. It wasn’t even the “cool” factor that got me into the habit. I was engaged in a high stress commitment and I didn’t have the self-discipline to not rely on caffeine and nicotine.

One day I woke up and I couldn’t breathe. It had happened before but this time I was alone. Nobody was around to help me and all I could do was repeatedly bang my arm against the wooden wall (an admittedly futile call for help) and think relaxrelaxrelax tangina relax. I thought for sure that that was the end of me. It probably lasted for only a few seconds but it felt like a tortuous eternity until my breathing stabilized. I decided to quit smoking. I was 21.  

But I would still smoke every now and then, even after that incident. Rarely though, maybe 10 times in the last few years. Most of the time it’s because I’m seeing a guy who smokes and — have you ever tried smoking? Nicotine tastes like shit unless your tongue is also infested with that shit. It’s gross.

Anyway, I haven’t smoked in a long time. A few months maybe. Say three.

Recently I started wheezing and coughing again. The doctor said it could be bacterial infection. I was prescribed with antibiotics and I am also back on the puffer. I hate puffers. C once told me I look cute when I’m using the puffer. To him, cute = vulnerable. Whatever.

The other day my phone died while I was driving home from the gym. I didn’t want to listen to the radio so I set the dial to Audio CD and hoped that I had a good disc on. It was Insomnia & Other Lullabyes by Cynthia A.

Manang Cynthia reminded me of high school. I wasn’t a smoker then, but I once caught a classmate mid-puff in the washroom. The same classmate also brought weed to the dorms but I chickened out when she offered. Classmate and I never became close friends but we kept each other’s numbers. In college, whenever she would visit QC from Baguio, she would hit me up and we’d share a bong. I haven’t talked to her in a long time. Maybe I should. Maybe not.

Now why am I even sharing all this. I don’t know. I’m wheezing as I write this. I’m looking at the puffer, wondering if I should start shaking it. Maybe I should. Maybe not.

Just don’t smoke nicotine, kids. Nakakapangit. And don’t date people who smoke. They’re soooooo — emphasis on soooooo — not worth it. Charaught.

This was a free writing attempt. I wrote this a few days back when I couldn’t sleep because my lungs felt like they’re about to give up. Hayayayay.

The featured image is of Joni Mitchell taken by Doug Griffin. Rippingyarns is another Cynthia A album that sounds better in the title.


  1. bessclef

    I used to smoke din pero socially lang, dahil lang talaga sa soro sisses ko na naninigarilyo. I quit when I left them. Siguro, overall, I smoked for less than 6months of my entire life. I never really liked it. And, yes, you’re right, ang ew makipaglaplapan with someone who smokes. Also, I saw some old people who smoked a lot and I don’t want my skin to look like theirs when I’m old. Take care, baks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Na-shookt ako sa salitang “laplapan” hahaha. Pwedeng peck-peck lang? Ay, sheght, that sounds even worse! Haha. Mabuti at hindi ka talaga naging smoker. It’s a terrible habit; walang gains at all. Masama sa kalusugan, nakakapangit ng skin, masakit pa sa bulsa. Kung stress relief lang naman maghanap ka na lang ng ka-peck-peck, charotz. 😂

      Thanks Bess. Ikaw rin ha, take care! 😍

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mitch

    Aw, I like reading this kind of writing. Your thoughts are raw and unbidden and it’s just beautiful.

    I had asthma as a kid, too, so I never really liked any physical activity. My kind of sport was jackstones. Haha. Although I can do hula-hoops, but for sure, not as good as you.

    My father was a heavy smoker. He used to smoke a pack a day but it had come to an end when he had mild stroke. He had to quit, cold turkey. It must be extremely hard for him but he is faring well. I’m glad you stopped it too.

    I have to laugh at your parting lines. I know a guy who ended things with a girl he liked because she smokes. I never could understand that because I don’t mind people smoking. That is, as long as they stay away from me when they’re doing it. But I’ll take your word for it. I’m not sure I’d like to find out how nicotine tastes like.

    I enjoyed the read, Jolens! 🙂

    P.S. I love Joni Mitchell! It made me smile to see her face on your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Aw, thanks Mitch!

      Happy to hear your dad’s doing okay. Must’ve sucked for him to quit just like that. I hope he continues to recover.

      Does your mom smoke too? I personally don’t know any smoker + non-smoker couple, but hmm, maybe that could work too.

      Don’t take my word for anything, haha. Maybe you’ll enjoy the taste of cigs one day, who knows. Just keep in mind that they’re also very unhealthy and highly addictive. And the most profitable product of tobacco companies are not the cigarettes but the smokers themselves. So let’s not become one of them, haha.

      Yay, you love Joni too! Apir! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mitch

        I hope so too. Once, my mother reprimanded him when he sneaked out to smoke a stick. I think he did not do it again.

        My mom smokes after she eats dried fish to get rid of the taste and it’s only a few times a year. I think it could work. Haha. My father has to go out of the house when he smokes though.

        Haha. Maybe, although I don’t think I’ll ever try it. I agree completely. My God, people make tobacco companies richer and richer. Haha. We shouldn’t indeed.

        Apir! Which Joni Mitchell’s song do you like best? I love her voice but the lyrics are gold. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jolens

          Ah, thank you for such a beautiful question! Hahaha. My go-to answer will always, always be “A Case of You” — it’s just gorgeous, isn’t it?

          But I like many of Joni’s songs. My favorite album is Blue, but I also love Both Sides Now and Clouds. I’ve been trying to learn her songs on guitar but I never get them right. Joni plays off-tune, I think, and my music skills are so basic I can’t even follow the rules, much less break them. Haha.

          Anyhoo, what about you? Which Joni songs do you like? Aaaah, I’m so happy to meet another Joni fan! ❤ 🙂 ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mitch

            Awwww. I love that song best too! It’s beyond gorgeous. I usually start my day listening to it.

            Same here. I like Clouds, Both Sides Now and Blue too. It’s always my wish to learn how to play a guitar but that particular thing never took a liking to me. Haha. At least you have the basic skills! I’m sure you can learn them if you put your mind to it. 😀

            Aside from A Case of You, I also like All I Want, River, I Don’t Know Where I Stand – Argh. Actually, I can like all her songs. She’s just divine!

            We can start a Joni Mitchell cult. Hahahaha. ❤

            Liked by 1 person

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