Friday, April 28, 2006

The future of family, the disregard for the past, the realizations from Palanca.


Dad’s 52nd birthday…2 bottles of red wine + Shabu-Shabu dinner = 1 full dude.

Pope got accepted to Accenture. Pau-Pau’s taking her board exams tomorrow. The future’s looking good for those two.


I texted D last weekend to make sure it was really the birthday of a high school classmate of ours. I wanted to make sure before I greeted. D didn’t reply until today.

Objectively, it’s no big deal…but history makes it more complex.

It’s seems like she’s had the “bad luck” of running out of load or messing up her schedule every time I text or we have an appointment. Then she acts all apologetic over it afterwards, trying to fish for sympathy from me.

“Martin,, sori kkload co lng :)”

I haven’t been nicely reciprocating her “kindness” towards me for a few months now. Does she deserve the cold shoulder? Probably not. But given what I’ve invested emotionally in her in the past…the loyalty I displayed amidst all the stuff in her life, the loyalty that has never wavered despite the resignation she knows I’ve had about us…well, I think I deserve more than 2 years filled with cancelled lunches, forgotten birthdays, and delayed replies.

Why should I even bother now?

Cry me a river.


He’d Rather Be Relevant is done, and will be submitted to the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature tomorrow (English division, Essay category).

Yeah, I hope it wins, but it doesn’t matter if doesn’t make it past the first round. It’s a good piece—something to be proud of. I could’ve done better, but I’m proud of my effort. It might not be to Palanca’s liking, but I’m not going to change for them. The story was told in the sincerest of ways. Formal conventions would knock it, but it’s the most honest way I could tell that story

I always say that I’m driven not by awards but by good work. Under this view, I shouldn’t be proud of He’d Rather Be Relevant. It wasn’t my best writing. I think it’s because I tried experimenting with a new style of bio-piece writing. I’m far from proficient in this new style, but it ended up being pretty good given my lack of experience. And I didn’t just choose this style just to be different. I felt it was the best way to tell the story. Doing it the classical way would be an injustice to the complexity of the message.

So at least for this piece, I change my mantra:

I’m driven not by awards but by good work, that’s sincere in its voice, and told in the way that does the message justice.

Friday 28 April 06

Monday, April 24, 2006

Artists need not be legitimized by government

THE LIST OF PEOPLE to be named National Artists came out a few weeks ago. The initial list included five names, only two of which were familiar to me. A familiar sixth name—FPJ—was also added later.

Bienvenido Lumbera is getting the award for literature. I first came across his name when Vincenz Serrano gave us photocopies of his work for English 11 and 12. I was further exposed to his works by my Filipino teachers, namely Michael Coroza and Marco Lopez. I enjoyed his pieces on Philippine literature, which he attacked both from a literary point of view and from a sociological point of view. And besides that, he stands tall in the realm of Philippine writers as someone who is quite happy writing mostly in English, ignoring the irrational voices who hold his minimal use of Filipino against him. In that respect, he’s someone an English-writing Filipino like me can look up to.

The other name is Bencab who is to get the award for visual arts. Unfamiliar as I am with Philippine art, his name I’ve come across many times before when Philippine art is spoken or written about. Little did I know that he was a kabarkada of one of my granduncles during their UP days. Apparently, my granduncle (pinsan ata ng lola ko), an architect, even has a portrait of himself hanging on one of the walls of his Pampanga home which was painted by Bencab. That’s pretty damn cool.

I’m sure the other three in the initial list were trailblazers and greats in their respective fields. I just honestly don’t know enough about them or their fields for me to comment. But much respect to them, nevertheless.

All these artists now await the approval of Malacanang.

Approval from Malacanang?

That’s bullshit. The whole situation just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Unlike Midas, everything Malacanang touches becomes rust. I immediately develop hatred towards anything they involve themselves in. And now that they’re meddling with the issue of National Artists, I pray that those eligible for the award refuse it. Their legacies shouldn’t be tainted by the moves of the administration.

Why does the list of candidates have to be approved by Malacanang, anyway?

Why? There’s no need.

The candidates have been chosen by committees whose members have the credentials to judge the merits of the initial five individuals. If they say that these five are worthy of being National Artists, then so be it. Why does it have to be approved by the Palace? What do PGMA, Mike Defensor, Ignacio Bunye, or whoever, know about art? What do they know about culture? All they seem to display is a culture of corruption.

Why do these accomplished Filipinos, who have dedicated their lives to their art that enriches our national culture, need the approval of institutions that have dirtied our culture?

It’s a shame.

The legitimacy of these artists is already spoken for by their body of work. Their greatness has already been made manifest. So what’s truly at stake here?

There’s supposedly an allowance (that is widely considered insufficient for its intended purpose of aiding in continuing artistic works) and protection of works (though property rights isn’t exactly a strong suit of ours in this country).

But the true value of being named a National Artist revolves around sentiments and tradition. To be a National Artist puts these individuals in a different class—a class where only the great artisans in our history stand. Through their works, they are true ambassadors of our culture.

That’s what this is all about.

Now to stain such a tradition with a menial affirmation from an administration of low regard is downright shameful—directly disrespectful to the artists that await approval, and an indirect slap-on-the-face to the Filipino, as if to say only Malacanang can determine who best represents the country. And for the administration to add a sixth name—FPJ—as undoubtedly a measured political move to win support is to (1) insult FPJ’s achievements in film, and (2) is sadly politicizing an important honor in our country.

Bienvenido Lumbera once wrote that the peaks of our artistic achievement in literature are in times when we are oppressed—literature serving as a ways of awakening the consciousness to fight oppression. As art is a form of catharsis and a means of emotional cleansing through expression for an artist, it can and has also displayed representative powers of influence upon society. It too can be a form of fighting the oppressors.

That’s what the whole art world is—romantically speaking, it’s an alternative to the system, to the politics, to the rational inhumanities of the real world.

Isn’t it ironic that five—or six—potential representatives of an ideal world are now being subjected to the real world politics of awaiting the word of an oppressor?


Mon 24 April 06
Ball’s in your court now, bitch!

Yesterday, the Cavite State University’s graduation ceremonies became a quite a mess. GMA being the guest speaker, a mass-com student made sure her personal disgust in the president was made known by shouting “Patalsikin si Gloria!” during the president’s speech while holding up a red banner that said NO TO CHA-CHA. Then members of two separate social organizations/unions who were amongst the crowd started chanting, as well.

Imagining GMA’s face amidst all of this brings a smile to my face.

Take that, bitch!

But seriously, there are two bitches in this story.

I’m all about making opinions known. I look forward to the day that I can go one-on-one with GMA (not in a rally but personally face-to-face) to tell her just exactly how I feel about the bullshit she does.

But this student in Cavite didn’t think this thing through.

True enough, many of her fellow graduates aren’t happy. True, many of them agree with her stand on GMA, but for them, a personal milestone in their lives—GRADUATION—was upstaged by politics!

If this mass-com student truly wanted to make a statement, she should have started a movement long before graduation to raise hell amongst the school’s admin for allowing a president they don’t like to speak in their graduation.

That’s a statement that the entire student body can be proud of. And it wouldn’t taint their graduation day.

But as it turned out, because of the brash act of an individual (who I still can’t help but commend, ironically), the entire graduating batch had to go through the disgrace of being frisked before going up on stage to get their diplomas from GMA (which is already a disgrace to begin with).

But the girl, the mass-com student, did what she felt she needed to do. The conviction was there. Kulang lang siguro sa proper channeling. Unfortunately, though she can live with her own acts, others who weren’t supposed to be affected by the acts were still hurt by them in the end.

That makes her a bitch.


But my respect for her is still there.

Now she has to go on and stand by her conviction—doing so by taking her diploma and translating it to a successful career, while being a disciplined citizen, and eventually becoming a good wife and mother.

The ball’s in her court.

If she succeeds in her own life, her acts yesterday become a moment of well-intended brashness. If she fails, her acts on her graduation day become the epitome of a pathetic life.

11:47am Saturday 22 April 06

Friday, April 21, 2006

THE BLIND MUSICIANS that I always see in the MRT stations have always intrested me. I had always noticed how they seemed to be a part of an organized group, uniformed in their standard white polos and black slacks while singing songs of Michael Learns to Rock and the like.

Earlier, while roaming around Farmer's Market, I found the group's tambayan-slash-office. It is situated in a secluded area on the fourth floor of the mall, next to the Puyat Sports bowling alley and where numerous cellphone stalls stand.

It wasn't much. The blind men and women, all of old age, sat individually on various monobloc chairs. They're together but act as if isolated, none of them really conversing. I don't know how it's like to be blind, but maybe these men and women didn't even know that they were amongst others.

The area was somewhat closed-off by a table where the group's leader (not blind) sat. She is probably the one who organizes and schedules the shifts (or sets, if you will) of the ten or so performers behind her. Kumbaga, parang manager or booker siya.

I couldn't help but notice a sense of loneliness in the area. Everyone was isolated, and they--as a group--seemed isolated from the rest of the mall. I suppose they all look forward to when it becomes their turn to take the short walk to the MRT station to perform. Those situations, while singing "Paint My Love" or something, are their moments to shine.

Thankfully, they can't see the many who just pass by them without noticing. Thankfully, all they can do is hear the few who drop coins in their guitar cases.

11:32am Friday 21 April 06
McDonald's, Farmer's Market, Cubao
(Cattleya notebook)

Monday, April 17, 2006

My being Catholic is secondary—some sort of Holy Week reflection.

I FOUND MYSELF EATING BREAKFAST last Thursday while having profound conversations with the maids. They were enumerating what was prohibited and what was allowed during Holy Week. This led me to bring up a simple observation that recapitulates another one of our culture’s quirks: though we appear so conscious to the restrictions set forth by the Church, we still manage to be so disrespectful to the simple laws of our country. In theory, there are probably a lot of jeepney drivers that have abstained from meat every Friday over the past month while still spontaneously changing lanes without signaling with their tail light to pull over to the side of the road to take a piss in a not-so-secluded public area.

Clearly, there’s something wrong here.

Then there’s another paradox: the “for-show Catholics.” They’re the ones so charismatic in church every Sunday, so outwardly displaying of their “faiths” while they knowingly or unknowingly live sinful lives.

Whatever the institution that determines them, we are all still choosers of our own beliefs. We choose what we want to believe in. We have faith in the faith we have decided to have faith in. (I believe that was really redundant on my part…my bad.) And we choose how we make manifest those beliefs.

I am a child of God first and foremost, even before I am a Catholic. That’s sounds weird but it’s what I believe. Our Islamic brothers and sisters are children of God too. Sure, their God and the stories behind their faith are different than the Catholic ways, but it’s all still based on the belief in a (or several, depending on the religion) righteous God.

My affiliation to the Catholic Church—and the practices and beliefs that go along with that—is secondary to the simple fact that I believe there is a God. It is only under this perspective that I can live my life. Traditions within a religion change. Holidays of Obligations have been reduced to the few that remain; laws and interpretation of scriptures take on new angles with every new generation of Catholics. Under a tradition that has been around for centuries, there’s bound to be many angles on the basis of the tradition that have been convoluted and manipulated by man. That’s why we are fascinated—sometimes alarmed—at new takes on certain aspects of our religion (like the ones proposed in the Da Vinci Code and the new discovery of the Gospel of Judas).

I think it’s this fundamental obsession with getting the basis of all religions to a state of indisputability that leads people to stray away from religion. Or to the other extreme, it leads many to be so passionately attached to it that they become radically defensive about the religion they believe in. The obsession with religion is extremely dangerous. It’s the stuff wars are bound to be started because of. While fighting for money can be settled by simply destroying nations and taking away their money, the ensuing resentment that comes because of it is further magnified if religion is added to the mix. When you are at the point when you are questioning the very basis of one’s entire belief system, the dangers that result can be catastrophic.

Religion at times gets in the way of believing in my God. Traditions knock righteousness off the map. Corruption becomes hidden behind the masks of scripture. What I am saying may be sinful, but maybe it’s because our whole belief system and the way we approach religion is downright sinful.

I am a Catholic in that I believe that, for the most part, the Catholic Church’s traditions serve in the best interest to its believers in serving a framework to which we should live life. But that’s all it is to me—a framework. But before being labeled a Catholic, I must be labeled a believer in God.

Believing in God allows me the kind of life that transcends all religions. It is a life based in goodness and in love. Whereas belief systems, in all their nobility, can often lead us to be good because the “Church says so,” my authentic belief in God just tells me to be good. While we can wrongfully misinterpret certain aspects of tradition, a genuine belief in goodness can to do us no wrong.

For me personally, to be overly caught up in the Catholic conventions can easily deter me to a very immature way of life. To use a bit of the psychology I learned, I can see (and have seen) myself falling into Kohlberg’s Pre-conventional Stage of Moral Development when it comes to my beliefs—one based on rewards and punishments that the Church speaks of. Sometimes, it feels like I have to do something or else I’ll lose points with God.

To be good to get to Heaven makes God an ulterior motive. Now I know that that’s downright sinful. But to be good—with no strings attached—is what I believe is more indicative of being a child of God.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m faithful to the prayers and scriptures taught to me by my church. I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Catholic Church. But I also know that not all of us in this world are Catholics. Does that make the non-Catholics “lost souls?” Well, it’s too easy for us to say that, and I don’t think it’s our right to judge them. But I do know that for all that are apart of any religion, we are all apart of a bigger belief system—a greater belief system based on goodness as guided by a God (or Gods). And I think that that’s most important because it leads to goodness and harmony in this world.

Quite frankly, as a Catholic child of God, that’s good enough for me.


3:16pm Sun 16 April 06

Monday, April 10, 2006

And may the Buddha be my witness…
To the irritations that surround me.

A frustrated, 25 year old bloated ego, with so much she feels she has to prove, and yet lacking in any ability to prove a damn thing.

She exercises authority to the few who are paid to deal with it…an authority she acts entitled to, but the rest of the world refuses to give it her.

And may the Buddha by my witness…

To my seeing a bicycle outside the screen window…belonging to that disrespected employee; victim of unreasonable impatience from those for whom patience is a lost virtue.

He is a victim of a life being neglected, a life where no one cared.

But then I’m reminded of the first of summer, when he picked me up from the station…he proudly proclaimed that a hassle it was to study, brining no more than just stress to a student.

I realized he too has neglected himself, solidifying his worthlessness, long before anybody bestowed it upon him.

I stare a little longer at the Buddha that sits on a small chest on our living room floor…and I witness myself in a most pathetic state of solitude…sweat-drenched v-neck evident of the summer heat and a bothered mind.

I’m going off on other people when I feel more inadequate than they are…Friends I have a plenty, and yet alone is what I prefer to be…Loves have come and gone, denial is where I plead guilty…And family’s a double-edged sword…often irritation overshadowing blood.

The Buddha stares back at me…

Me being at peace because of suppression; skeletons overflowing a locked dark closet in my conscience; demons within me brewing.

I stare at the Buddha…

Jealous of his peace, jealous of his solitude…And yet I egg on the pain, apply salt to the scars…I am used to the pain, I am too comfortable being this version of me.

4:21pm Sat 8 April 06
Clipboard, scratch paper, black Bic pen

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Open letter to my dearest cousin, Cory…

The opportunity you have been blessed with is tremendous.

I’m proud of you.

I’m proud of the fact that you have chosen a field where you don’t have to degrade yourself to get opportunities abroad. In fact, your field dictates you go abroad not to run away from the country to be subordinate to foreign employers…No, you guys go abroad to REPRESENT the country and all its interests.

That’s admirable.

Among all our cousins, it appears you have taken the biggest strides to make it in this world as an individual who believes in something more than just economic gain.
Whereas, titas question your not choosing something like nursing to get to the States, you held your ground, knowing that you didn’t want to live such a life, in stead, choosing something as fascinating as International Studies, with the intention of being more.

I’m proud of you.

Among all our cousins, undoubtedly, whether you know it or not, behind your back, you were often neglected—hesitance besieges the uncompassionate few who hesitate to consider you the 13th grandchild because you aren’t of the same blood. And yet, you’ve continued on and lived your life with little bitterness.

And quite frankly, you’ve always been my favorite.

I want to be happy for you…

And I think I am…

But with that comes stained memories that I cannot forget—all of which doesn’t even involve us.

The strife between your dad and mine has complicated things. And quite frankly I’m on my dad’s side with everything. Your Ate Snooky—a cousin of mine who has done so much for me—has been doing things that I can’t approve of. Sneaky things. Stuff behind my family’s back. Lies. Manipulation. Things that have gained so much more favors for you guys from our lola, and things that have appeared to be attempts to belittle my own father, your tito, who has dedicated this part of his life to doing nothing but help you guys.

Between your family and mine, too many things are left unsaid…
Thank-you’s come few and far between;
apologies virtually non-existent.

The result of which is a helpless lola who should just be enjoying her twilight years rather than being caught in between family conflicts, a bitter tito of yours who has felt betrayed in the form of my dad, and another tito of yours who denies even having a brother in your dad.

And to think, none of this involves us.

It’s all them.

You have done nothing wrong.

And in all my tireless pleads of defense on your behalf, it appears that the people we are associated with leave the bigger imprints on us.

My dad still loves you…I’m sure this is obvious to you by the way he’s putting aside his bitterness to help you the best he can with this opportunity of yours.

But it’s a stained love—not because of you, but because of doings of your family.

I love you.

But it too comes with so much weight because my loyalties lie with my dad as I’m sure your loyalty is with your own father.

They ask us to separate ties from actual doings…but I guess we both know that it doesn’t work that way.

You will probably never read this…maybe you will.

Well, good luck in the States…

Looking forward to seeing you when you get back in a month or so.

As a countryman, as a Filipino

I’m proud of you.

As your cousin

I want to be happy for you…

And I think I am…

I just wish I could FEEL that way.

From a family member bitten by the poisons of reality…love always,


10:41am Thu 6 April 06

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

National Prostitution

ON MY WAY from the Ayala MRT Station to Greenbelt 1, I couldn’t help but notice a number of young Caucasians—greasy hair, in their late 20s/early 30s but dressed like high schoolers with their cargo pants and Airwalks—walking hand-in-hand with young Filipinas with their powdered, pale faces that contrasted their natural kayumanggi which could be seen in between areas actually covered with fabric (clothing only covered the “essentials” from the view of many a foreign manyak).

The Pinays would be endlessly giggling while staring at their partners with longing eyes. The Caucasians would, in turn, continue telling their baduy jokes while piercing the Pinays with their lustful eyes, reveling in the fact that “the mack” that never worked with the girls in the States was actually working wonders here in Manila.

This is a familiar scene in these parts…

Try heading over to the posh Greenbelt 2 and 3 on a typical Friday night. Amidst social climbers and superficial yuppies (with their dress shirts “choreographed” to the perfect roll-up as if to say, “yeah, I have a decent Makati job…I’m the man!”), you’ll notice many Japanese businessmen walking with up to three young Filipinas who are all dolled-up looking like skanks.

This reminds me of my Cousin Kathy’s friend from the call center she works for…

Her friend is a young Pinay—educated, working-class, far from being an elitist but far beyond poverty—who has an American boyfriend. Apparently, they’re committed because the guy and his family have petitioned her to migrate to the States. So you would think that they’re in it forever…

But the girl has insisted on holding off marriage until she goes to the States. Why? I mean, the guy’s American so getting married here wouldn’t hurt her chances of migrating. Well, the girl insists she wants to get married in the States. I don’t know if the guy knows this (probably not), but her reason (which she has confessed to her friends and family) is that it’s easy to get a divorce in the States—something she’s taking into consideration.

Ah ha!

The truth!

Love and romance aside, the primary motive behind being with the American for this Pinay is to get to the States. After that, if love fails, at least na sa States na siya. Her concern isn’t so much the marriage or their relationship; it’s getting Stateside. And by the way, her family approves of this nonsense.

Cleverness, street-smarts, abilidad we talk of such traits as being strengths of our people. And even when it’s used immorally, such traits mentioned in a humorous tone become our scapegoats for not changing for the better.

Who are we trying to kid here, man?

It’s stupid. We’re conniving without knowing that the only people we’re fooling are ourselves.

And all this to be with a foreigner who we expect to be our one-way ticket to a better life? That’s national prostitution.

True love? I’m sure there many stories of true, authentic love between foreigners and Pinoys. And I’m sure those stories outnumber the ludicrous stories. But such romantic tales are stained in my eyes just by observing situations like the ones I mention in this blog.

Through Western media, we always hear of American mothers telling their daughters to marry doctors or lawyers…

Here, it seems more and more nanays are hoping for their daughters to marry foreigners.

And we all know the reason, right?

That may be clever, that may be smart…

But that’s not cool, man…

That’s beyond ghetto…

That’s straight-up HO.

4:16pm Mon 3 April 06