“Life is a process of endless decisions.” 

Xiao Bo-Zhi, At Cafe 6 (Taiwanse Film)

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The Curious Case of Valentines 2016

No Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Since Birth

That’s my most honest label in the world of romantic relationships and dating. Heck, that’s a confession as well.

If I was the Michelle speaking two years ago, I wouldn’t have ever admitted it. I was dead embarrassed about it. Imagine your mother giving this juicy detail of your life (instead of achievements or experiences) to her friends whenever they would ask about me, in my presence. THE TRAUMA.

Is being an NBSB a stigma? I believe it could be considered as such. Coming from a semi-conservative society of the Philippines, being without a partner for such a long time is considered a shame. Most women in the past would be married at the age of 24. My mom got married with my dad when she was 24, my dad 23. And it wasn’t even just about child rearing, it was more of just the right age to be a married person. Habang bata pa… (While still young) as what they say. Of course, there’s the promise of building a family and being able to provide while stay healthy, etc. Nowadays, I believe that the marrying age has moved up a bit to late 20s probably because of work or just this new era has promised us so much more than just marriage. There’s career growth, traveling, partying, exploring new culture and language,etc. Moreover, you can be in love and be in a long, serious relationship with your partner without being married, right?

When I was much younger (and more cynical), I asked my bestfriend if it’s possible to be mutually in love with someone without putting a label on whatever they have except for love. For several minutes she was taken aback and reflected on it also. Being a player spares you of these types of questions as a player or just a lady-charmer gives you the luck of always having someone around. Anyway, she said that it is totally possible, but without the confirmation of what the relationship is, it’s difficult to define what boundaries and rights you have with each other.  Touche.  Then there’s my question about marriage later on and my perception of it as just a legal binding of emotions and freedom. Somewhere, sometime along the road of maturity, I’ve been a witness to some really good relationships that ended up in marriage. Suddenly, marriage became so ideal to me, and the promise of being together for as long as one can manage with a partner was so appealing.

If there’s one word that I picked up from my elementary English class that stuck so much as beautiful to me, it would be companionship. For example, I believe that my grandparents shared not only years and years of love, but it was companionship that kept them together. They always had each others’ back even when they bickered everyday. I knew how much my grandfather adored my grandmother despite his constant teasing (he new grew old of this, pun yes yes), and I’m sure my grandmother was flustered the whole time.

So you see, bred from an environment, a culture, a society that fosters this type of image of love and relationship, being an NBSB is a stigma. My relatives asks me all the time why I don’t have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and my constant answer is: I DON’T KNOW. Honestly!

They say I don’t look that bad. Yeah, I’m on the chubby side, but at least I have boobs, I’m soft and hug-able. I can carry a conversation and I at least try to be smart, but uhm, yep, that’s not the formula for me. Perhaps because of my resting bitch-face? My high school friend told me some guys get intimidated with me. Frankly, I didn’t know how to deal with that statement, and I still don’t know how. I mean, come on! I didn’t have any say when the genes of my parents decided to mold this kind of face. I’m actually a really really friendly person if they only approach me! And well, fine, I can be a bit bitchy too since my tongue is kinda sharp, but only when necessary. I guess the bad parts stick to people better, huh?

Other friends have told me to go out there and explore. How? Going to clubs? Meh, don’t like crowded, noisy places and I don’t like drinking that much. How do you even have a decent conversation in a place where you’d have to yell at another person to hear you say, hi? What? The point is to be instantly close to the person, like, literally? NUH-UH. I mind my personal space, thank you.

Chats? Well, I could go with this. In fact, I’ve chatted several times with different guys and they were kinda interesting. I even had a few email correspondents. All those had been great experiences, but the thing is, I have problems with consistency. I can’t keep up with the constant exchange online unless it’s that person who becomes persistent with me. I grow tired of writing emails (because my replies are novel-length) and chats are kinda awkward when left hanging by the other person on the line.

Some men have approached me for my number, but I’m seriously untrusting of strangers, so either I lie about something or I just flee the scene. I also have no idea about flirting and I’m more a pare (buddy) to my crushes than a lady. The most offensive description I’ve had of my unsuspecting, unapparent femininity was that I had no sex appeal coming from no other than my own…father. Yep, that hurt a lot. I guess there’s also my non-conforming view of how a female should look like for a really long time, so I really didn’t look the part of someone who has, as my father said, sex appeal.

Nowadays, I’m more inclined to traditional ways of looking feminine like wearing make-up, curling hairs, wearing skinny jeans and dresses, and perhaps at the back of my mind this is to make myself look better, but I’m not really going for the look that I think guys would like, just things that I find pretty on me. Basically, the upgraded blooming is really puberty hitting a bit late in life without the raging hormones.

To be honest, I used to frustrate myself asking what’s wrong with me and why other people don’t find me interesting enough to make me their girlfriend. Then I’d get conscious about Valentines Day as it really is a case-in-point single-ness awareness day. My family would tease me about not having a date or getting flowers or chocolates then I’d somehow find myself watching a romantic movie even if I deny that Valentines is just another day (not even a holiday, duh), but I’d dream of my own love story anyway, afterward.

This year, somehow, I’m welcoming Valentines with open arms! WOO! That’s why I described this topic as curious. I may had been a bit bitter on the purpose of this day and the contrast it gives my sterling love-life (eherm), but this year, I dunno. I wanna do something on this day! Something special. I’ll just make it a day to do something special, but not really because it’s Valentines, you get me? I wanna get that special feeling that couples maybe giddy about during this day minus the romance and without added sour or bitterness. I just wanna spend this day positively in my own way.

So what’s the plan?

Well, my older brother said he’s gonna treat us for dinner so YEY! That’s one. Valentines is about love, so spend it well with my first love food and then family. Admit it or not, we were first attached to food through our appetites before we start recognizing the faces of our family members, so no shame to that! Also, I kinda really wanna watch this:

panahon-ng-may-tama-comikilig

Yeah, it looks corny, but I’m sure corny is the last words for these veteran comedians! I’d love it more if Jose and Wally were there, but Papa Jack is bad-ass funny in his own way especially handling lovesick, desperate callers in his late night radio show; I’ve watched Ate Gay in a comedy bar and I love him/her; then there’s Boobsie and Chuchay whose segment in a Sunday noontime show has become a mainstay, so you know they’ve got the laughs locked down. I love comedy shows! I love laughing! Doesn’t it feel so good to laugh so hard you can hear your own laugh and then laugh at it and then laugh out more?!

See? This resting-bitchface bitch actually loves to laugh. Take that, irony!

So yeah, I’m not gonna celebrate on the actual Valentines Day, but in spirit of it, yes. V-day falls on a Sunday, so I would, on any other circumstances and day, would avoid the crowd of a Sunday in malls or any shopping area. The farthest I’d probably go to would be in Guadalupe for ukay-ukay. (I miss!)

So how did this change of heart come about? Simple. Acceptance. It’s the key to everything. I really have to thank the gods for letting me experience the worst of pain for me to evolve into this more mature being. Accepting that there’s gold at the end of the horrible road is an upgrade to my optimism and belief that life really gets more amazing as time goes. Failure and death paved way for reflection and changes.

I’m very thankful also to my friends who urged me to attend Zen meditation classes because aside from the actual meditation, Buddhist teachings certainly connected with me on a spiritual level.

Nothing is permanent in this world; people, material things, happiness, pain, nature, etc. Once you start accepting this truth, it’s much easier to live. We suffer because of things we don’t have or things we cannot attain. In this case, I don’t have a romantic partner and I haven’t attained one. I’ve probably haven’t done enough good things to earn my karma for a partner, or maybe I don’t have one for this lifetime. I used to think that perhaps going abroad would open me a whole new opportunity not only for career but also for a chance at love, but what if there’s none? Then I would be in for another disappointment. So, detach. Detach yourself from thoughts of things you do not have. Live your life in the moment with good deeds and happiness. If I’m not meant to fall in love in this lifetime, then so be it. I try my best everyday to detach myself from the hope.

I try because from time to time I still wish to learn what love is all about and why people go crazy with it. It must feel so nice to have someone dote on you lovingly. I know that despite this acceptance, the over-thinker me would always asks these what ifs which I find so tragic in stories. There’s that gray area of things that could have happened, but they wouldn’t because it’s not meant to be. Not in that lifetime at least.

So what’s the conclusion? Be happy, and live life to its most positive potential. Be curious of the odd and different, but have enough caution. Love yourself, love others, and love life. Remember, love always multiplies. 😀

Advanced happy love day, everyone! 🙂

IMG_20160122_225912

Hey there, 2016.

I began formulating my goals of 2015 before the year ended at 2014. It’s a few hours before it turns 2016 and I still haven’t really thought of a theme for next year.

2014 was a year of changes; a change that I didn’t welcome, but learned to embrace. The changes awakened in me a braver side, a side that welcomed challenges with a smirk.

I believe that 2015 had been a fruitful year of conquered challenges and unlocked goals. I learned more about myself this year than I ever had in any other year; therefore, I wanna continue with this kind of attitude in the following year.

My personality now welcomes changes and embraces challenges, but the greatest difficulty I’ve always had is consistency.

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It’s so easy to start something new, but it’s certainly hard to continue until the end. Self-growth is a commitment; commitment requires devotion, patience, and sticking with the plan through good and bad times. I’m glad that even though I still sometimes slip into feeling the urge to abandon something I’ve started, I can now psyche myself up to go on. I’m so glad that the two previous years have graced me with a vision in the future. Until when that future stretches to, I’m just wishing that I get to see those visions to reality before I die.

Unfortunately, I still get a strong feeling that I’m gonna die around 33 years old that now I’m somehow feeling melancholic that I’m not gonna see more of life before that. I guess this is one of the reasons why, at 27 (turning 28 in a few months), I’m becoming more eager to find out what else life has to offer for me, preferably, outside the Philippines.

Abroad.

Perhaps I’m jumping the bandwagon of my peers moving outside the country, but I now understand why most do so. A lot of Filipinos are fleeing the country to earn money and help their family, and that’s also one of my goals, but not the primarily. If it’s just living, I’m satisfied with my life here in the Philippines. The traffic, the corrupt politicians, the faulty government, the opportunist countrymen–I’m all used to that. I have lived with that, and I believe I can continue hoping that I get to see a rebirth of the Philippines with my child (if there’s a hubby, the better).

Despite the sad reality of my country, I am in love with the concept of home. My home is in my mother’s love and affection, the micro-world I built in my room, in the company of my friends and our simple preferences of fast-food, street food, and joking with random strangers, sudden touches of kindness, the smiles, etc. I love the Philippines and all the mysteries of its culture I still have to discover, but I feel that I need to say goodbye for now. I am thirsty for the truth which is out there. I wanna know more of what life can offer and how much I can fill more for a better life. I would have to say goodbye to everything that has been my comfort blanket, but I’m not going out there unclothed and unguarded. I’m sure it’s going to be uncomfortable, perhaps there would be bouts of homesickness, but I swear I’ll try to make every minute worth while.

Where do I want to go? Japan. It has always been my dream to live there ever since I was a kid–due to anime of course. I’ve outgrown the anime stuff, but I’m more than willing to come back to it and learn deeper of the country’s culture, language, and society. (Naks, mature na!)

Of course, I can’t be choosy, right? I’ll have to try in other countries also: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Korea. Anywhere is good for work since experience is priceless, but of course, since I’d be considered an OFW, might as well earn decent more than I earn here to help my family and save up. I’m turning 28, but I have no savings. HUHU. I’m in love with culture, so I wanna live in a country where I can enrich myself more with cultural understanding. I wanna learn more about my own culture through understanding others. Somehow, I now understand what diaspora is about. Whenever I would talk about the Philippines and Filipinos to foreigners, I understand a bit more, appreciate more about this home of mine and I love it just a bit deeper each time.

I have these big aspirations, grand plans for this year, but my motivation is nowhere. I feel kind of sad about it. And honestly, I’m scared. I would be out of work in two months, and I know I have to start the engine for my new journey this year. I’ve told most people of what I want to do this year and I don’t want to embarrass myself by being all talk and no action. Mostly, I don’t want to disappoint myself. From the traumatic year of 2013, I’ve grown a lot. I should know better and try to change some things which are not working out for me anymore. Like not continuing with my job of almost two years now because I can’t handle some people there anymore. Nonetheless, two years held a lifetime of great memories with my co-teachers, the kids, and thein-betweens of work and friendship. I love the in-between the most as those had the most laugh and jokes with my friends, the hugs and kisses from my beloved kids, and the reflections I’ve had as a teacher. It has been a year and 10 months, the longest I’ve stayed in a work. Achievement? YES! Hopefully, in the next place I work in, I can stay longer. I long for growth and satisfaction.

Can I continue being a teacher? Of course I can! But I really ought to be a better student to be a better teacher. Teaching kids had been an eye-opener to the wonders of education. I hope I can come back to the Philippines and be of more help to the children here. When I’m more secure and capable. That’s a pledge.

So again, hello, 2016. I hope we can be great friends like how I hit it off greatly with 2015. We’re in a really awkward stage right now, but I’m sure we’ll be more comfortable with each other soon.

 

Love, Michelle.

Life Advice

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life (memoir)

At the age of 27, I’m not very sure if I have lived enough to be giving life advices to a younger colleague. Nonetheless, I treasure the good and the bad experiences I have lived through the past years. Through the days of idleness, the depression, the silent tears, the struggles, the laughter, the realizations, the challenges; all these made me who I am now. I am not a a very good person, but I am much better than who I was before because of my past.

I’m sure my junior would not fully understanding my words unless she experience these herself, when she’s in her turning point and she’s doesn’t even have an idea why the universe seems to be conspiring against her at that very moment, but I hope she somehow remembers my advice that this is what makes life. No matter how long the frustration is, the landscape of our lives will change. The pain and challenge would be all worth it.

dirty shoes

Sometimes the dirtier, riskier road is the better one to take.

It’s the thought that plagued my mind today after an urge to walk my favorite green, muddy path to school made me get off the jeepney on impulse.

It’s been a while, actually.

On most weekdays, I am taken to school by my grandfather since he drops my aunt to work ever since the world began. With my aunt now working very close to our school, I have had the privellage of a “school service” years after graduating primary school. How ironic. Well, the convenience of a service has been great, of course, but I somehow feel like I’ve missed on a lot of things.

While walking to work (school) this morning (after alighting the jeep), I noticed an orange building standing tall from a distance. It’s actually just behind our school building, or I could be wrong. From my distance, my perception was askwed, so the building could have been beyond what I assume. Nonetheless, it was there. After six months of walking the same path almost everyday to work, it was the first time I’ve seen that building.

So I’m rambling about a discovered building from a distance which could be just my imagination (if I think about it from another angle), but the point I’m trying to drive at is simple, actually.

If I didn’t chose to get off that jeepney (since I paid to be dropped off a different place which was actually cleaner and safer) at that certain moment, I would never have that eureka moment. My day would have been the same, and I probably won’t bother to post this. What’s special about my days, anyways? However, this single, humble discovery brought me so much more than a mere visual. Maybe I’m just romantesizing, but isn’t if fascinating for our world to grow a bit wider every time we have a discovery? No matter how miniscule the importance is, our world shifts–somehow–because of this discovery.

The next time I walk the same path, I’d be wondering about the orange building, heck, I’d probably seek for it. So you see, my walks in the same path will never be the same again. The green grass, the brown, murky field, the tall buildings, and even the paleness or clearness of the sky is affected by that orange building from a distance. Everything changes.

Despite my working conditions getting worse by the months as I’m walking on scalding eggshells, me being in a pinch with my boss, and my insecurity blooming while I feel myself digging further into my shell, this musing was a breath of fresh air. It’s like a crack from this shell which gave me a bit of light and a view of the other, brighter world.

Definitely, I’m proud of my muddy shoes today.

“Making Sense of Suicide with Sylvia Plath” (quotes)

I wasn’t certain what I was going to do, as I had no skills and nothing to offer but an expensive college degree. I know Smith got you places, New York and Cambridge and all that. But it’s come to mean less, college. They start companies at nineteen and become billionaires and buy bowling alleys. I don’t want to generalize, but unless you come in the form of a Sylvia Plath app, these tech kids probably don’t care much about you.


But getting older is actually not so awful. One of the good things, for instance, is the growing ability to make sense of the past. What I see now at forty is just how easy it was, with no purpose other than feeling good and making money, to become unequivocally lost.


Henry looked at me, and I got it. He wanted his wife to be more than just a stripper. He wanted her to be a story. He knew what I didn’t yet, which is aside from birth and death, stories are everything.


I wasn’t interested in dancing, though,” she said.
“Just being looked at?”
“Adored,” she said.


My father would tell me about how some people survive hardship, while others, inevitably, don’t. How in those situations, no matter how much I like thos people, it is important to create distance. How a drowning man will pull you down with him, even if he doesn’t want to.


I want Henry to have a had a good ending; I know he didn’t have a good ending; I’m back at the beginning wondering how he ended. There’s the guilt, of course, because maybe I could have done something. But also, my chemical makeup can’t believe that the blissful oblivion could be better than laughing in the bathroom with me.


I’ve figured out after all these years, is that I don’t live quite as largely as the two of you did. I don’t feel as much, and that makes life survivable. When I’m wandering around in the night, I don’t go all the way to the edge. I can make it all blank and just wish for things.


So here’s what I wish for you, poet genius. Here’s what I wish for Henry, the friend I didn’t save. I wish that you were correct about the whirling blackness. That the oblivion was, in fact blissful. And that, in the dark space, your dried up heart–withered from overuse–finally found the blood you were looking for. So that as the air seeped out of your lungs, the rest of your body was able, finally, to bloom, to burst, to blaze.

 

Katie Crouch, “Making Sense of Suicide with Sylvia Plath” (essay)

Dependency

So my student and I had this question in our TOEFL speaking practice about relationships of parent and children. He shared that his mom was the strict type, so he could never be friendly with her even until now that he’s a parent himself. Moreover, his daughter is flying to the US to study, so his relationship with her could potentially change, either for the better or worse. He said that his daughter is closer to her mom, and they have the friendly type of parent-child relationship (like my mom and I). He’s the stricter parent, but he said his daughter looks up to him, therefore he’s confident that she’ll miss him when she goes to America. This dad confidently feels that they’ll have a closer relationship when she comes back.

Well, at least that is the hope.

Along our conversation, I was suddenly hit by this sort of loneliness which I think I’d have to endure once I become a parent. As my student said, the conflict which teens go through is not only suffered by them, but of the parents as well. This is the period of parenthood which all parents must bear with their child’s growing independence, or what some may interpret as “rebellion”.

A co-teacher shared that parents, on the first day of class (nursery or kindergarten) have a bigger tendency to show signs of separation anxiety rather than the child. This is one of the main reasons why children have a harder time adjusting to the new environment. If the parent is not willing to let go of his or her child’s hand, then how will they let go as well? Children can only feel comfortable in a new place or to a new person once their parents say, “It’s okay. Don’t be scared.”

Of course, it’s understandable why parents would be like this, right? For many years, they will be the child’s strength, their eyes, hands, feet, mouth, everything. Suddenly, after a few years they start to stand up on their own, walk on their own; know how to not call their mom or dad to be guided. Most parents feel proud, and at the same time, I guess a bit lonely too? This tiny human who came from your own flesh, growing more and more capable; more and more capable of living without them. I know it sounds kind of negative, but I think we all have that mixed feeling of liking a person’s dependency to us.

I’d attest to that, personally.

I’ve always felt that my parents, particularly my mom, wanted us to grow up not depending too much on them (or her), but more to our own skills and capacity. Because of this, I grow up not liking other kids who depend too much on their parents for their school projects; it felt unfair. On the other hand, as I grew stronger with my independence, I felt more and more people depending on me. It was an unfamiliar feeling, however, I didn’t hate it. I like helping others, especially if I really like that person, so their dependence on me affirmed my strengths as a person. In addition, taking care of a person feels good, no matter how difficult it could be. So I once thought, “Ah, is this how it feels to be a mom?”

*sigh*

However, in life, we all must walk separate paths, right? Families or lovers alike. It’s the truth of life. A painful or precious reality?

Whichever it is, this hot-pot of emotions and questions, make us human.

Ahhh….life.

“Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Friends, work, and writing

Friends: you love them or you hate them, or sometimes you’re just kinda lukewarm to them, but that’s better than not having anything between each other at all.

きょうは めちゃ たのしかった!
(Yesterday was super fun!)

I met up with my good ‘ol college buds over dinner and coffee. I believe I have recently written about the friend whom I have a falling out with but has reconciled recently, right?

Okay. Yesterday was really nice because there was not a single bad nerve between us. We were laughing all over, being loud while giggling in-between, and it was like college all over again. Of course there’s the lingering questions regarding his “dark period” which he apologized to me about, however, I think that would be saved for another time.

The thing is, I tried to summon the matter out of him, but he didn’t want to talk about it with my other friends. Through experience, I know that the only way to extract the answers from him is through patience and trust that he trusts me enough to talk, I shall have to wait. However, I am good friends with another of our mutual friend whom he’s having issues with and I’m again sandwiched between people I really love who probably hates each other.

This is not the first time I’m in the gray area between my friends’ quarrels. It’s not that I have no loyalty, but I believe in point of view. Also, I don’t want to lose both their companies, and I’m thankful enough that they still want to be my friend despite my inconsistencies.

Anyway, I certainly missed my friends. I’m so happy that we all have stable jobs (eherm for me because not yet), we are happy enough to be able to laugh when together, and we’re still the same old crazy lit folks back in college.

To be honest, being with my college friends gave me a high as the situation in my workplace is still something I cannot comprehend.

In all my past workplaces, I was able to establish friendship in less than a month. Yes, friends. In the school, it’s going to be a month in four days, yet my relationship with them remains as “colleagues”. I told my good friend, Joanna, that they are probably not my “kind of crowd”.

It’s not that my co-workers are mean to me (although I can feel one of them not liking me very much, or I probably don’t matter enough to be  given attention), they are actually pretty nice and funny, but I think they’re not the kind of people I’d be hanging out with after work.

As arrogant as it may sound, there is a “crowd” that I hang out. Ironically, I can’t define these kinds of people because my friends have diverse personalities. It’s a matter of compatibility and impression maybe? I don’t know.

It feels horrible for me not to be able to control the situation in my environment, so despite my progress with the work, I can’t completely feel the achievement because I feel stuck with my relationship with the people I work with. I’m probably the one with the problem because I can’t seem to open up to them. The awkwardness of unfamiliarity gets to me.

Oh well, it’s only been a month. I’m gonna stay positive. I want to make at least one friend here in the school because I wanna stay here for a long time, I swear.

On a [final] side-note, it’s flattering that most of my friends who write well are still urging me to go back to writing. Maybe it’s just my fantasy, but that makes me feel that they believe in my skills, even if I’ve been on a long-term cool-off with writing for a while now.

Of course I want to be able to write again. I want to stop being afraid of what I would read on paper, I want to stop being concerned of my content. I just want my creativity with words to flow again.

*sigh*

Anyway, as I always say, がんばります!