Sunday, December 31, 2006

Of Time

I WILL never attend grade school again. There’s nothing profound meant by such a statement, nothing to be expounded upon, no demons to be released, no trauma that needs healing. It’s just a fact.

As this year comes to a close and I continue my second semester of my junior year in college—with senior year around the bend and the responsibility of employment looming over head—it’s the purest of facts, the most poignant of observations. The youth once dreaded, the years I couldn’t wait to flee, are now a cemented part of a yesterday no time machine can ever transport me back to.

I will never attend grade school again, nor will I high school. Freshman subjects I’ve passed so even academically dropping back a couple of years is beyond me. I will never be under five-feet tall again, nor is it likely that I’ll grow past a hopeful five-feet-seven. The days of having books and clothes bought for me are numbered, so are the days of allowance and gimmick money.

I will never attend grade school again, and as much as I’ve accepted this fact, there’s a great deal of acceptance still to grapple with, like the future, the what-after-the-present, a world full of surprises, a universe full of possibility, choices to be made, situations to be handled, all of which won’t be so elementary.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Santa Through My Years

I TELL Mom I want Santa to give me the Nikes. She tells me she understands, but asks if it would be OK if Santa would give me the blue sweater instead. She points out the sweater on the mannequin by the window.

We are in the United Colors of Benetton of the old Greenbelt—back before we could call it the “old” Greenbelt. Mom and Tita Chi-Chi brought me to the mall for me to choose what I wanted them to give me for Christmas. And apparently Mom’s a chief negotiator for Santa, as well.

A few Decembers before, we were in Mom’s home province of Antique. Never mind not having a chimney; Santa visited the house. I sort of remember seeing him sitting at the head of the table with my lolo, speaking in the local dialect. I had my head buried in Mom’s lap. I was afraid of Santa.

Fast-forward. After Christmas dinner at Tita Violet’s old house in Diliman, we come back to the Makati condominium we are renting while we’re in town for vacation. Never mind not having a Christmas tree up, nor is there a chimney; Santa had delivered my gift. It was in a Rustan’s plastic bag. I don’t remember if it was the sweater from Benetton but it certainly looked similar. Santa must’ve talked to Mom.

I don’t think I ever truly believed in Santa Clause. I guess I’ve been cursed with skepticism from the second I popped out of the womb while Dad was having his cigarette fix outside the maternity clinic.

I don’t really understand why I chose to try to believe in Santa. I’d be giving myself too much credit if I said it was because I wanted to go along with the game my parents were playing. I sometimes think it was my own way of suppressing the fast maturation that has become an unfortunate trademark of mine.

I used to avoid Santas we’d encounter in the malls. I’m beginning to believe that it’s because with each duplicate Santa I saw within meters of each other, the farfetched dream of his realness was slipping away, along with notions about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Looking back, I find my family’s hiring of a Santa from Antique rather hilarious. It’s kind of pathetic having some poor guy with pounds of clothing on roam around in hot provincial weather in a house where dust roams freely, sticking to amber bottles of Pilsen being coddled by hoards of old drunkards. The things grownups do for kids that couldn’t care less.

My titos and titas never really appreciated me as a kid. Even in dealing with Santa, I’d show the rather grownup quality of negotiating which gift I got from whom.

Now that I’m actually grownup, my titos and titas actually look forward to kicking back with me from time to time. As a kid, I was useless because I never cooperated by acting like one. Now as an adult, other adults enjoy how I can act like washed-up 40-year-olds by talking back and debating social issues over beer and crispy pata.

Before, my titos and titas would be worried if they didn’t have a Christmas gift for their second youngest and most spoiled nephew. Today, they don’t even bother to remember to get me Christmas gifts. OK, this might be a downfall. It kind of makes me wish that Santa was real.
Photos - Noche Buena and Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve. Keepin' it ghetto; Noche Buena in the garage.

Grinched. Fuck Noche Buena; I'm drunk.

Filipiniana. Last year: fancy food and celebatory china. This year: ihaw dinner, no plates or utensils; kamayan!

Girls. My goddaughter Aly, Tita Chi-Chi (not Aly's mom), and Hershey (the dog cum Tita's daughter).

Confused. Aly's getting Halloween and Christmas mixed-up. With her Tita Cory.

Miriam/Ateneo. Cory and I. The only two grandchildren born after Ninoy was shot (I think).

Antique side. The Villanuevas (Dad's side) left early so epal kami ni Dad sa Villavert family (Mom's side) picture.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Commitment to Christmas

I HAD the profound explanation all figured out. I formulated it while waiting in line for cabs, while sitting in the LRT, while going through the motions. I absorbed the feeling of frustration of those around me, ignoring the ones who were actually happy and carrying shopping bags with gift wrappers sticking out, ignoring theories like extraordinarily hot weather for December.

I came out with the following: Whereas before Filipinos caught up in the daily grind of work would find any reason—like Christmas—to rid themselves of frustration, to momentarily cleanse themselves of the cutthroat, third-world reality, Filipinos in 2006 are too exhausted to even attempt to revive any semblance of Christmas cheer because of the daily grind which has seemingly been tougher due to the country’s situation.

But then I told a friend, Audrey, through text, after interviewing her for an article due the day after Christmas incidentally: “if ur one of d few I know who actually feels d christmas spirit,let me in on d secret.”

She replied: “Ts a choice,martin,a choice to feel d spirit of christmas! Im too old to bliev in jst plain feelings.Thos r 2 mercurial.Decisions hav mre dpth nd cmitment to it.”

Sounds less romantic, more pragmatic if anything, but perhaps such is the mindset one must truly have during the holiday season.

So I’ve come to conclude that despite the fact that I have to edit a bunch news articles on the 24th and 25th, despite the fact that economic difficulties have cancelled the family tradition of a grand Christmas feast, despite the fact that there are people I care for who aren’t in the best of places emotionally right now, I will make the conscious decision to not only feel but perpetuate the Christmas spirit.

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to all!
Photos - Wednesday 20 December. Shakey's, Katipunan.
Christmas lunch of the original disciples of Father Javellana of '08.

Seated, left to right: Dru, Gin, Cindy (sort of sitting), Leigh, Ina (all the way from Naga), Lester, Japs, Me. Standing, left to right: Marcee, Cindy (sort of standing), Carmel, Lee, Kelloggs. Also there: Xander and Dru's girlfriend, Bianca (both taking pictures), as well as JC, Angelle, and Edsel (all came late).


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Home’s Hope

MY father attended a La Salle faculty Christmas party last week and came out with a pretty good story.

One of his fellow part-time professors proudly told everyone that he encouraged his students to get out of the country. “If you can find a way to escape, take it!” The sense of hopelessness was overwhelming and he felt he was imparting wisdom into his students.

The reactions from the faculty ranged from calling the professor “too radical” to merely laughing the statement off. (Jokes deserve laughs, right?) Regardless, the part-timer found few who agreed with him.

My favorite response wasn’t my father’s—who said, “My son’s stand is that he’s not going to sell out”—but it was that of another professor who said the things that the part-timer was teaching his students were wrong. This professor alluded to La Salle’s slogan to tug on the heart and mind of the misguided alum cum teacher: Lasallians, she proclaimed, are meant to be “Christian achievers for God and country.”

Indeed, the part-timer’s statements are treasonous in both the Lasallian sense and most especially the Filipino sense. And giving up on the country is turning away from the culture and heritage God has given us to be a part of to help mold for the better.

My father used me as an example of a youngster who has yet to give up the fight. Contrary to popular belief, I interact with many of these youngsters everyday in the Ateneo. And I think there are plenty more—many of which are probably students in that misguided part-timer’s class—that have an even greater vigor in them. It’s a vigor that says NO—we will not leave, NO—we will not give up on home’s hope.

Much needs to change in our collective consciousness as Filipinos—we all know that; we’ve known it for years. But it takes many with a collective, pigheaded resolve to live out those changes. Well, that much-needed stubbornness exists in the youth today. I know it does.

All I ever ask from those Filipinos who have given up hope is to not take the hope that many of us still have away. You may call us stupid but allow us to be. Allow the pains of reality to bite us in the ass if that’s what the future holds. And if that time does come, don’t you dare say I told you so, for if that time never actually arrives, those of us who have never left will cordially invite you to come back home to the motherland and share in a brighter future.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It has sort of been a week of reunions…

THE book launch of Magis volume 2: writings on learning, striving & serving, reunited various members of Queena Lee-Chua’s creative nonfiction class of a couple of semesters ago.

Quite a few had contributions to the book. We all asked each other to autograph our copies of the book, which is weird if not funny because my involvement with the project is a mere couple of mentions in the preface.

It was nice to catch up with everyone.

Bernice Mendoza is now studying at the UP Law School, and so is JV La Chica.

Miko Samson’s taking up law at the Ateneo Law School and Jacy Sim is currently working as a copywriter.

EJ Gamboa and Alex Taylor are of course graduating in a couple of months. EJ’s currently the Sports Editor of The Guidon and President of the Loyola Mountaineers and Alex is busy with her thesis and her involvement with the Loyola Film Circle.

As juniors, Angeli Aquino, Cindy, and I can still delay the after-graduation stuff and senior thesis stress.

We workshopped these contributions in class and I can’t wait to read everyone’s published drafts. I bought four copies of the book—three for Christmas gifts and one for myself.


AMICA brought Justin on campus Wednesday afternoon. He’s still studying in film school but has recently moved back to the Katipunan area with his two sisters studying in Diliman.

It had been a while since we’ve all hung out together so Amica, Justin, Liana, and I took advantage and skipped whatever we had that afternoon just to sit around for an hour.

High school is not a physical place, a campus—somewhere that you eventually forget to visit. High school is a state, an emotional place one returns to with others who have shared in that past which has allowed everyone to become the persons they are today.

To relive or to try to rekindle a bit of the old days becomes a menial, almost childish thing, for when you’ve grown up together, simply sitting on a college bench talking about the stupidest things becomes an uplifting experience. It’s uplifting in the spirit the others’ presence reciprocates with your own because of the past you’ve shared and the important years you’ve stood side-by-side through.

The emotional state of “high school” just kicks in whenever, wherever, for as much as many of us have changed years later, the spirit of the bond holds a certain permanence.
Photos - Intramuros with Father Javellana, Ginny, and Cindy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hypocrisy, Ironies, and Real Families

SADLY, this is a vague retelling of a true story that’s a little too familiar and a little too close to home.

The loving nature of family is a concept some asshole made up centuries ago before family ugliness and destruction was perceived to be more than physical abuse.

(Let A = a husband and father; washed-up corporate type whose success earlier in his life seems like so long ago.

Let B = the ninong; a born hustler as opposed to businessman; rich because of real estate.)

A is still doing OK despite not having held a job in awhile. A criticizes B’s managing ability and B’s grasp on customer service—relating it to B’s provincial upbringing—despite the fact that B’s condominiums throughout Metro Manila are always at full capacity.

A few years later, A’s not doing so well anymore. Loans and loan interests spiral A’s economic situation out of control. Desperate—if not hypocritical—A goes to B for help because despite B’s supposed poor, provincial-style business savvy, B’s still rich.

B, because of his being the ninong, offers A a deal that would take A out of the economical rut he and his family is in. The offer is supposedly made out of love. A shows off the love and generosity of his ninong.

The next day, after consulting other family members within the banking industry, B backs out of the deal he had offered A. A is disappointed. A reverts back to his critical views of B. B is now the hypocrite, says A.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Saturday Scorpio Story

HSCOPE:SCO: Try not to go
heads up against an
authority figure. Otherwise,
you might end up winning
the argument but losing out
on your career.

I read this message on my phone while I was on the MRT on my way to December’s press. I was going to spend a good part of my day with “authority figures,” or at least those higher in rank than me in the magazine. Such rather menially pathetic omens merited my constant pondering.

So as the hours in our makeshift pub room went by, I skipped back and forth between quietness and pleasantly safe jokes. Every time a suggestion needed to be made, the six lines of the text horoscope nibbled away at me. In fact, I found myself giving more comments and suggestions to the Art & Lifestyle Editor as oppose to my editor in News & Current Affairs. I figured I couldn’t get in much trouble bothering a girl I don’t even answer to.

By the time press was over—this is something like 8PM—I thought my tongue-biting self was home free. Not so. I was asked to accompany my editor and the Operations Manager to sell our November issue at an alumni homecoming.

We’re talking 10 or so hours since I had received the horoscope. It was getting late. It was raining. I was dead-ass tired from mostly waiting instead of editing. And we didn’t even have the credentials to enter the event. Just imagine three youngsters dressed in slippers and denims looking lost in a sea of professionals who had graduated from college some twenty years ago.

Nevertheless, the three of us bonded, got to know a little bit more of our lives outside of work. I suppose with comfort comes honesty, so my criticisms of the magazine began to spill out. The Operations Manager had my back; she too had numerous concerns and was willing to put them out there. The News Editor—my boss—remained relatively quiet, as if somewhat taken aback. (My arguments were valid—shit, am I losing out on my career? Or am I just paranoid?) Good thing our rather talkative Marketing Director showed up; he made sure I had nothing more to say.

We called it a night at 11. I left the group in search for something to bring my day to close on a high note. Mag:net Café. Hymn of Siren revealed their new guitarist—the hot one I’ve been praying for them to get. Cindy got me in for free. (I’m with the band—hanep!) Korinne was there too. Two bottles downed. Nothing like music, beauty, and booze to set a paranoid mind at ease.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


…………………Cheers, reports say.

Judge hits his gavel; no more requests are entertained.

………The convicted stood still, blank-faced, but blushing. Filipino policemen and American servicemen engage in a tug-of-war. The three acquitted are rushed out and flown away a mere three hours later.

Outside, protestors genuinely or blindly cheer the verdict—the line between concrete justice and abstract nationalistic are blurred.

……………"Nicole" raises her right hand in victory.

…………Somewhere a script is being written,
producers are on the phones.
……Justice (pseudo or otherwise) has birthed
tomorrow’s box office hit.

……………("Nicole" raises her right hand in victory.)

Our epic hero tradition has found its new muse.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Five Shots of Something


WE workshopped the first five pages of all our scripts for drama class under Glenn Mas. My one-act play, tentatively entitled “Lies and Loss, Finding Them,” took the life out of the room. As most submitted witty, dialogue-driven comedies, I submitted a dreary, introspective piece which was monologue-heavy.

True to my intent, listeners to the reading of my script appeared to flirt with depression. A classmate and a friend—one who wrote a commendable comedy set in Ireland—wasn’t too drawn to my piece and said “I think you were trying to be Palanca-ish again here.”

In workshops, people can critique and bash my work and what’s written on the page—that’s fair game. And I’m not sensitive to that stuff. But I couldn’t help but leave with a sour taste in my mouth after the “trying to be Palanca-ish” comment. That’s somewhat an attack on me as oppose to my script, isn’t it?


ATE Geraldine is a former teacher—had once taught biology and chemistry in the University of the East—and still spends a few nights a week tutoring students as far as the Cubao area. She attended high school in Marikina and has a college degree from a nearby polytechnic university. She now wakes up early to get to her stall in the Marikina Public Market before 5AM. She leaves at 9PM but gets home later on those nights she commutes to a tutee’s house.

I asked Ate Geraldine why she stopped teaching. Her answer treaded on the vague, the generic. The usual stories of family issues are tossed about. I sensed that there was more to it but I didn’t want to pry.

Labor trials, I realized, have with it different layers of the concept “laborious.” The work could be hard, I suppose, given a busy day. But during my first day of ALTP (Alternative Labor Trials Program), it was the interpersonal dimension that proved to be somewhat laborious.


TEXT message says that a “rebel issue” of the Philippine Collegian was released. I’m in the library going through my philosophy notes. I immediately forward the message to my editor, then leave to start working on the update.

The next day, the news breaks on the Inquirer. I’m at the Fine Arts Department conducting an interview by phone with a lawyer in Makati about legal ramifications.

I’m in the car after dropping off Lola. Copies of the November issue are in the backseat. I’m exchanging texts with the lawyer for clarification. My editor is also texting me as she’s finalizing the second of two parts of the article about the Collegian that we’re co-writing.

The next day classes are canceled. Our press is postponed until next week. More time to work on the article. The writing continues. News never stops.


IT was an anti-climactic typhoon; the prolonged weekend has been a dry one. There was much hype about this typhoon. I guess we’re all still experiencing a bit of the Milenyo hangover.

I turn on the TV, read the papers. I swallow my previous sentiments. It’s as if a giant bowling bowl had rolled across Bicol. It was anti-climactic for us in Metro Manila. Other places, another story.


GIGO’S been acting (and blogging) in a rather melodramatic tone over the past few months. He’s been an easy target of jokes as he goes about seemingly fishing for sympathy.

Gigo texted on Saturday. He’s father had passed away. I remember him mentioning his father undergoing emergency bypass surgery a few months ago. Maybe we’ve underestimated the weight on Gigo’s shoulders all this time.


MV recommends…

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Woody Allen – clever and witty scriptwriting at its best.
Scarlett Johansson – in this role, she proves that cute, quirky intellects with glasses can still exude sex appeal.

Shameless Plugs…

OUT NOW: The November issue of
KATIPUNAN—my first as Editorial Assistant—featuring the first of a two-part piece I co-wrote about the Collegian stand-off, as well as a report on the prostitution industry in KTV and videoke bars, an investigation of Ateneo’s ranking of 484 amongst top universities in the world, a feature on Guimaras’ long road back, and a look into the world of gambling among students.

ALSO: Posted a story I wrote a year ago on my FictionPress site (see links) entitled, “Coping.”