Sunday, October 28, 2007

Of L.

L. is in London right now. She initiated a rather mundane YM conversation with me one evening this past week. It’s probably the most we’ve said to each other since I bailed early from her farewell party a couple of years back, somewhat uncomfortable to be in a drunken mix of exes and a current boyfriend twice her age. I saw her last Christmas around a mall in Makati. She was obviously in town visiting her father. I followed her around for a good fifteen minutes or so, making sure she wouldn’t see me. For some reason I was scared. I sent her an email a day later; she replied saying we should meet up. We never did.

I never understood why we were as close as we were. Sometimes I wonder if it was more an affair between me and her father, a chef who was amused at this young guy’s mature passion for the culinary arts. I was probably the only guy he ever liked seeing his daughter with.

When she told me she was moving away it had been months after anything. The news caught me off guard. I asked her what she was going to do. She said she found a college in San Francisco where she was going to take up sound engineering. I remember she used to love going to gigs in Malate. But I always sensed that she just needed the company of a crowd of mostly strangers. I had asked her once what she was listening to. She said she was wasn’t listening to anything.

Well, she’s still Frisco-based, but she decided to quit school, saying the sound engineering thing just wasn’t her thing. She decided to travel around Europe first before taking her next step—whatever that may be. She admitted to being confused, a little apprehensive. She insisted, though, that she’ll be okay. The fact that she’s traveling around Europe, exploring unfamiliar lands while finding herself, but being always logged onto YM says something else.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Call for critique

My two days as epal at the Ateneo National Writers Workshop has got me missing workshops in general, whether in the classroom environment or outside of it -- and I'm talking of the workshop sessions mismo, not the shenanigans outside the sessions (memories?).

So I've posted the draft of a new story, "On the Patio," here.

Looking for comments and suggestions. Please go all out with the criticism. It's the only way I'll learn anything. (My favorite Bikolana co-fellow required, the curly-haired one if in the mood, and my favorite section editor kung in a good mood lang :p. Others encouraged, even begged for.)

Feel free to leave comments sa blog or if you don't want to embarrass me, sa email ko na lang:

Would like to thank Sir Marx and Sir Egay for accommodating Sasha, Mia, and I sa Nationals, as well as Ma'am Marj, Ma'am Susan, Ma'am Beni, and Joel for pseudo-legitimizing our epal-ness.

Congrats din sa mga fellows (Drew, Khaye, Migoy, etc.) and many thanks for your patience in having us around.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Big fish set free

In response to the Erap pardon, I've posted below parts of a paper I wrote for a history class just this past semester.

Against the tide
(In response to “The Philippines: A Nation in Denial” by John J. Carroll, SJ)

THE CAPTION of the editorial cartoon published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer the day after former president Joseph Estrada was found guilty of charges of plunder was “Finally, the big fish,” as if some momentous thing had happened, as if this was finally a turn of the tides in this nation’s history.

We need not look further than what has transpired since—the very fact that Estrada is still far from any prison cell—to realize that maturity is still quite a ways away, the nation is still in denial.

History tells us that administrations’ actions are strongly influenced by their power—their hold of it. So the guilty verdict should not come as a surprise considering the shaky ground on which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo now stands. And I don’t think I’m the first conspirator to even ponder such notions.

We have never punished the man who sucked out the life of our economy during a chaotic 20-year rule. To expect us to punish an ousted president who never finished his six-year term becomes a bit of a tall order.

And while Marcos’ passed away before answering to all the questions, his wife and his children carry on the family’s political dynasty. Though it is unlikely a Filipino baring such a surname would take hold of Malacañang again, it is very realistic to believe that name will continue to be a political institution for years to come.

Cory Aquino’s presidency was an achievement in that it lasted, despite all the forces tugging at her. It is absurd to relegate the Aquino Administration as one run by a mere housewife. We should not forget the very image that catapulted her to office, her husband Ninoy, was far from innocent of playing the traditional politician’s game. And really nothing is more ‘political,’ more calculating than boldly taking on the role of martyr.

Cory had her share of talents behind the machine that was her administration. And sure we can celebrate her, but let us not begin to pretend hers was a clean six-year run.

The Ramos Administration also managed to last despite winning power by such a miniscule amount of support in the elections. We celebrate his run as one of great economic progress, much like how Ramon Magsaysay was ‘everyone’s guy.’ But similar to Arroyo, Ramos had political surplus on his side, ever since he turn-coated on us from being a Marcos man to becoming a key figure in toppling him.

The same is true for Juan Ponce Enrile, who finds himself in the Senate again after all he has admitted to doing, all that we know of his involvement in the dark years of Martial Law. In all the negativity, merely being involved during those years gave Enrile the political capital needed, from elite loyalists to Marcos’ masses. He too has a machine behind him. ...

... Perhaps we are in denial of the fact that justice can be served, as evident in the lack of will to punish the “big fishes” as well as the sorry stupidity to vote for those in connection to them. But we should not also be in denial of the inner-rumblings of the many of us who are frustrated, and who have strong inclinations to manifest these rumblings in more intellectual forms of protest, like voting, thus strengthening the very institutions we have co-corrupted by those in government over the years.

I once wrote of how our history was like photocopying the front page of a newspaper from 30 or so years ago over and over again. And we were in denial of this. Now there are signs of that photocopying machine breaking down. There is an opening now because of this momentary breakdown. It is up for the history makers of today to point the course of events to another direction, while there is a lapse in the strange inevitability history has stubbornly shown us over the years.

Loyola Heights, Quezon City
October 2007

And with the Erap pardon we regress, calling upon mechanics to fix that photocopying machine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Birthday ni Paula pics

In the mood for some reminiscing so I've posted pictures from Paula's birthday (from her Multiply) a couple of weeks ago at Blue Fin, Katipunan which was somewhat of a block reunion.

Me (after many bottles) and the still-sober celebrant.
Chef gets the hot girl; writer left to touching himself with a bottle to drown in waiting.
Paula, JC, Me, Lester, Japs

The block's original love team close to four years later. (Proof of need for hair cut.)
With Gin and Paula.
Throwback to Cubao, Dairy Queen, museums, Shakey's, filmmaking, and days when other guys were jealous of me. (Reunited and it feels so good...)

JC El Tayeck, Martin Villanueva, Japs Medina: Ladies and gentlemen, the founding members of the now-defunct Apak sa Damo Productions (minus an absent Drew Robles). Yes, we were a good looking indie team. Too bad we don't have the kick-ass output to go along with it.
Lee and I. Paula knows how to make me happy--a bucket all to myself.
Sad, angry, and happy...the range of emotions that can transpire at a reunion.
Lee, Birthday Girl, Me.
Let's break it down: 5 out of the 7 in the pic were CW majors; only one will graduate from that course, meaning 6 out of 7 in the pic will actually earn enough money to eventually move out of their parents' homes. Congrats to them. Future looks bright for all of you, mehn!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The period (meaning everything to me.)

There was a period at the end of the sentence -- I remember it distinctly. No smiley, no tongue sticking out, no nothing. A period. A finality to the statement that travels no farther than sincerity -- cemented. Once -- and often -- a punctuation mark with subliminal tama na, that's enough, don't want to talk. This one time reflecting nothing more than what was said, with the piercing urgency of what is, unconditional, true.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reading list (UPDATED)

Could no longer stand the puff-pieceness of Hornby's 31 Songs; shifted yesterday to rats gone astray, rampant disease, death because of it, widespread panic, denial, solace in the idea of suicide ... nothing like a second go-around with Camus' The Plague to keep it real.

Twigs is in town. Drinking with everyone's favorite happy-goth last night as well as with minotaurs Sha (and her mini-Moleskine), Pancho (Astroboy notebook missing), and Khaye. Joel (bigger Moleskine in tote) was there, too.

Ma'am Marj has an event this Friday in Serendra. I heard orgasmic accounts about the Fully Booked there. I'm likely to finish The Plague by then. Hope I can get some cash soon. I don't think I'll be able to resist Friday's temptation. Don't want to resist.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reading list

New Heightsers were made to lend one of their books to old members in the beginning of the year. Gian lent me Nick Hornby's 31 Songs, which is why Marie for the longest time referred to him as Hornby every time she couldn't remember his name.

I believe tomorrow's the start of vacation for the Rizal Library staff, which means no more borrowing of books for me for a little under a month (the last two library books I read over the past month were Styron's Sophie's Choice and Updike's The Coup). And my newest hobby -- photocopying old Free Press articles and Nick Joaquin essays -- will also have to take a break.

The brown leather thing I call my wallet remains empty and my birthday's still a couple of weeks away (and I rarely get anything outside of greetings anyway) so I've been relying on the New Yorker web site for my short fiction fix (read Paul Theroux's "Mr. Bones" today).

And yep, after months of basking under the fluorescent glare of my reading light, 31 Songs has finally been opened -- meaning I can get it back to Hornby by the start of second sem. (So far not bad -- but not exactly my cup of tea. Poverty tells me to read on anyway.)

* * *

NOTICE: If any of you saw (and laughed) at a picture -- featuring me, a couple of CW juniors, and another guy sitting around a Monobloc table with empty bottles and plastic kiddie party plates -- taped on the second floor counter of the lib, ask the curly-haired co-fellow. It's her fault.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Five points for Friday

Of favors and entitlement

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo invited those loyal to her in Congress yesterday to Malacanang, where they were treated with a photo-op with Manny Pacquiao. And if that wasn't enough, they each were reportedly given envelopes with as much as P500,000 as "sendoff gifts," as well as promises for millions more in the form of pork barrel. A smart move, you might say, for Ms. Arroyo needs all the protection she can get, especially after another impeachment complaint was filed against her.

An anonymous congressman who confirmed the handing out of envelopes stressed that it was not meant to influence the outcome of the impeachment complaint. "You don't kill an impeachment with that meager amount," he said.

I imagine that somewhere in Malacanang, Ms. Arroyo is awakened by this news. Kulang pa, she thinks to herself, wondering how much more she has to dish out to keep safe.

“It’s normal at the end of the session days for congressmen to be given tokens of remembrance,” said another lawmaker. “[C]ongressmen worked extended hours for the national budget. They slept very little. So it’s but natural for the party to make members feel that they are remembered.”

These are direct quotes, readers -- straight out of the Inquirer. Presenting the sense of entitlement in your public servants.

Of unrealistic brilliance

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. filed a measure to penalize cab drivers for not giving exact change to passengers, attempting to put to a stop a practice he called the "subtle hold-up," and citing balikbayans and tourists as among those who fall victim to this, a concern of his now that Christmas is approaching.

Brilliant law. Sound intent. Question:

Just imagine yourself getting off at home and you're not given change. There are no police officials around for you to complain to. You're left to take the plate number of the cab as well as the name of the cab company. You file a complaint to the police -- if you'd still have the patience. The officials hear you out, but I find it hard to imagine them actually tracking this one cab driver down.

But brilliant law. Really.

Of losing even lost causes

The Filipino-American that met with ABC officials on behalf of the Fil-Am community in reaction to the Desperate Houswives mess is now being criticized by the very people he's representing.

Other Fil-Ams say that he no longer represents the views of the community, ever since his discussion with network execs turned from that of demanding an apology to talk of more job opportunities within the television industry for Fil-Ams.

In the end, this supposed representative became a "sell-out," according to other Fil-Ams, who are still more adamant in protesting against ABC than compromising.

A lost cause deserves a lost sense of purpose if you ask me. We're all losers in the end.

Of Christmas in October

Today, Muslims celebrate their version of Christmas -- or at least that's what most ignorant minds have called Eid al-Fitr. FYI: It's the end of Ramadan (yes, that's why it's a holiday), the month-long period of fasting and restraint which a majority of the world's population partake in every year. And every year, Muslims celebrate its end in a three-day fiesta of sorts.

It was much more of a big deal when we were living in Jakarta. I kind of felt that we were partaking in Ramadan as well. Our maids would have to wake up 3AM every day, eating what would serve as breakfast and lunch for them before sunrise. I remember our Muslim classmates would be encouraged to spend lunch break in the school library so they wouldn't feel uncomfortable (and so we non-Muslims wouldn't feel uncomfortable) while we ate. Our driver used to break his fast in the evening with a couple of mint candies while driving Mom home.

Ramadan's end was a blast for us. The food was awesome, though that probably has more to do with Indonesian cuisine than Islamic culture -- I don't think spicy lamb and rice cakes are a part of Muhammad's teachings. There's a Muslim community that frequents a mall near where we live in Paranaque, where some of them run a few food establishments. I'm thinking about checking it out, expecting to see some good food -- or a lot of cheerful people at the very least.

Of coups

A coup is developing. No, not one involving the military and our president.

I'm thinking smaller scale, and I'm involved. I can feel it. And I don't mind it so much. Necessary evil, I think. To light a fire under their asses, I said.

Means that you're in it for the right reasons, I said. But the right reasons haven't exactly led to the best results. Yet. I manage to wake up in this position because of that "yet." I hold on to it, strangle each any every one of those fuckin three letters.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sex doesn't make us happy (daw)

So one of those weird (yet interesting) survey results were released over the past couple of days, this time by our National Statistical Coordination Board, claiming to be a look into the current state of the nation and its people.

The results: family, health, and religion are the most vital aspects in our pursuit of happiness, while sex, sports, politics, and cultural pursuits are the least important.

Where do I begin? Let's start at the top.

If family is so important, it's unfortunate that so many of them have to be broken apart, simply because there aren't enough decent job opportunities within a province -- or the country -- to keep them together.

If health is so important, it's downright sad that most will have to find make-do measures of maintaining it. Health care is too expensive, and all the best practitioners are no longer with us in our own hospitals anyway, choosing instead to serve Jane Smith in California or John Doe in London.

Religion's always been important (hard to argue against God on this one) but it's too bad we often fail to maturely question within our faith, instead succumbing to piously passive beliefs which seem to hinder us from solving urgent problems -- like overpopulation.

Now the bottom four.

The Inquirer reported cynicism in the NSCB official who released the results, saying that the official suggested that the respondents were perhaps too shy to express their true feelings about sex. I'm going to have to agree with this official. The shyness is cultural (allusion here also to my point about religion), but I think it's safe to say we all want to get laid.

As for sports, one need not look further than Manny Pacquiao to realize that there's something dishonest about the respondents. An entire nation -- wrongfully, by the way -- pins its hopes on a boxer. Kids emulate their favorite NBA stars in their local liga while former PBA players (and referees!) hold positions in government. And we to claim that sports isn't important? Please.

And if politics is so unimportant in our happiness, why do we fuel the evil monster that it is to bring about unhappiness in our lives? Sometimes I wonder if we actually love being depressed, have become addicted to oppression and whining about it.

Perhaps the only completely accurate finding of this survey is how cultural pursuits are of least importance to us. (And I commend the respondents for not counting the acting in soap operas and the singing in Sunday noon time shows as cultural pursuits.) It is our deficiency in this regard, after all, that has bred the rather stagnated -- some would say regressive -- culture that we now have.

And just when I thought this survey had some level of truth, I discover that it is based on a poll of a mere 167 respondents -- 167 respondents who actually wanted to take the survey. Maybe it's fitting that attempts at finding the pulse of the people are as flawed as the people themselves.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Desperately, hypocritically pathetic

Okay, I feel compelled to write this, even after my piece (“Global Filipino Image,” co-written with Trish Elamparo) in the August issue of Katipunan, even after dedicating my column (Memoir)izing that month to it as well. The Malu Fernandez mess broke days after that issue was released. I kept mum. Now, talk of perception yet again, taking on hilariously desperate proportions, bringing about ironies from both here and across the Pacific.

In a recent episode, Teri Hatcher’s character on the highly successful television show Desperate Housewives demanded proof of diplomas from doctors attending to her, taking a jab at Philippine medical schools and Filipino doctors in general.

Filipino-American doctors in the United States are now using legal means to make sure the show and its network are punished. On the local front, government officials have gone as far as to ask Filipinos to boycott the show. This one line on this entertaining show has also got many pundits, columnists, and those of us without regular venues for expressing opinion voicing their views as well.

Painful truths always get people worked up. I’m worked up over people getting worked up about it, especially because I’m guessing that getting worked up will likely lead to nothing in the form of solutions. Nevertheless, here’s my take.

Firstly, officials in government should be advised to cease all this complaining about being insulted and embarrassed. How dare they condemn a bunch of comedy writers and network execs when they themselves insult and embarrass us Filipinos with their shenanigans while claiming to be leaders and public servants.

Secondly, I suppose Fil-Am doctors do have the right to feel irked, but to blow this thing out of proportion through legal means is quite childish, as if there aren’t other problems to dwell on -- and that's all we ever do: dwell. Being a doctor is an honorable profession but these doctors should also not forget that they can be -- rightfully or wrongfully -- accused of being escapists, moving to become practitioners in a nation whose healthcare system is far from being as miserable and talent-drained than the one in the country these doctors supposedly pledge allegiance to. American scriptwriters think of a line and these doctors are insulted? Well, how would they react if this blogger -- a full-blooded Filipino -- said that they had no right to fight back for a country and a people they’ve turned their backs on by migrating?

Thirdly, it’s a comedy show for crying out loud! Fictional! They thrive by creating caricatures, and in case no one has figured it out yet, caricatures are based on stereotypes that aren’t completely without truth. Turn to any Filipino sitcom and you’re bound to see a Filipino-written script taking jabs at the Chinese, the Indians, the Muslims, and even the Arabs (thanks to what Osama and Saddam have contributed to the news which has influenced pop culture). Given how we reacted to Desperate Housewives, as well as to the New York Times editorial last year and to the Claire Danes comment years before, we would be less hypocritical if we gave thanks to the Indian government, for example, for not reacting to Bitoy-bylined sketches on Bubble Gang.

We are so quick to react to negative images of our country projected by foreigners, but as Marites Vitug of Newsbreak said when I asked her about global perception for my Katipunan article, “Perception is reality.”

So quick are our government officials to give responses to statements -- made under a fictional premise in this case -- which weren’t meant to grab their or anybody’s attention in the first place. Still, when questions are posed to these same officials, when answers and accountability are demanded of them, the rhetoric becomes passive, relentlessly evasive.

So “angered” we citizens become -- at least the ones not grounded in reality -- under the spirit of supposed nationalism when foreigners say something negative about our countrymen. But the anger just doesn’t come out when we commute to work, when another bus cuts off the one we’re on, leaving a child selling sampaguita helpless, shocked in the middle of it all.

I’m ending this with how I ended August’s (Memoir)izing entitled “Problematikong Persepsyon” (written in Filipino in recognition of Buwan ng Wika): “Ngayon, umiiyak ang isang sanggol sa harap ng bahay ng kanyang pamilya sa tabi ng riles. Nagpapatayan ang mga batang miyembro ng gang sa Tondo dahil walang pag-asa ang buhay at wala silang alam kundi maghanap lamang ng mga mababaw ngunit delikadong trip. Nagrereklamo ang isang babae dahil pumila at tumayo siya ng limang oras para lamang makaboto ng kandidato na sa tingin niya ay magiging mabuting pangulo, ngunit nabalewala ang kanyang pagsisikap at pagtindig dahil nakatira ngayon sa Malacañang ang isang pangulong di-umano ay nandaya sa eleksyon.

Totoo ‘to. Walang biro. At isang kapwa mong Pilipino ang nagsulat ng kolum na ito. Anong reaksyon mo? Anong masasabi mo? At higit pa rito, anong gagawin mo? Anong gagawin natin?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

So La Salle won the championship ...

... and talk to turns to redemption, destiny, and history. And what must be one of the saddest entries into the record books is the two straight losses of UE after what had been a season of perfection in which they were clearly playing in a league of their own -- before the finals, of course. And thus ends a season of exciting oddities in which TV announcers had to express their thanks many times to Studio 23 for the extended air time, as if Studio 23 had anything better to show. Games went down to the last second, overtimes were aplenty.

It was a season when two out of five (La Salle over Ateneo) got you to the finals, 2-0 in the regular season still tied you with whom you beat (Ateneo over La Salle), and 14-0 lost you the championship because of rust, they say, inexperience, they say. It was a season in which 12-point averages got you into the Mythical Five, and little brothers -- looking confused -- are sent to recieve the award for you, which incidentally's shaped like something out of an African tribal artifact exhibit. It was another season of losing teams' dominance in cheerdancing, as well as the dominance of small-ball offenses and pressure defenses. It was a season of Nonoys, Marcys, Jervys, and JVs; Yuri's cousin's a student of my father in La Salle; a Villanueva killed the Eagles in the Final Four.

Coach Black was as energetic as he's ever been; I'm reminded of his scary self screaming "no basket! no basket!" when Rico's put back was a millisecond too late. Dindo Pumaren looked unfazed for most of the year, blowing out opponents by 10, 20, 30; but I can't help but remember the camera in the huddle, a play needed to be drawn out, and him taking the entire time out to come up with who would inbound the ball. Championship coach Franz, on the other hand, seemed always in control, for he had those numerous assistants doing the jumping around for him along the sidelines.

I don't know how to end this without letting my disappointment show like those old, grey-haired die-hards in blue I promised never to become -- my bank account and sanity excludes me from that club. I'll just close this with another oddity which I can't help but feel concerned about while smirking: the Lady Eagles won the championship and their celebratory bonfire was held in the covered courts.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Birthday ni Charz

Oo nga pala ...

birthday rin ng baklang sherpan,

ang pinaka-wasak na creative director sa Ateneo ...

Charz Mendoza!

Birthday ni Carmel

Happy Birthday, Mel!
(She truly looks like Jada but I can't seem to find a picture of her -- you're all just going to have to trust me.)

Kitakits sa birthday ni Peralta ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

At the MRT Station (and other money musings)


A man stands in line with little silver Rizals tucked away just outside his ear drum, crest of helix anchoring it with the aid of melted hair wax and the stickiness of dry sweat. Rizals upon Rizals, aligned, stuck closely together, whispering sweet nothings to one another, cuz each one's conceited in that way, talking to his own likeness. I wonder if they'll bother to whisper something to the man himself, perhaps a thank you, or a how are you?, maybe remind him of their lost brother in the right side pocket of his trousers, inform him of his untied left shoe, his unzipped zipper.


A maid in Hong Kong celebrates Ninoy's victory in a mock online election for OFWs, edging out Rizal and Bonifacio. She had chosen Ninoy cuz she still remembers her mother talking about him, saying something about his wife who would eventually become president. She had chosen Ninoy cuz Bonifacio's just too ugly and Rizal sooooo last century. She takes out an envelope, stuffs a letter in it along with a P500 bill. The address on the front of the envelope reads Where I Should Be in Home, Where You Are. Another Ninoy's returning home, but it's not him who does the sacrificing this time, not him who becomes martyr.


I ask you if you can break my P100, five P20s is my request. You refuse, saying you'd rather have five bills than one. But it equals the same amount, I argue, it makes no difference. Still, you insist no, saying five is still better than one. Quantity over quality, you say. Whatever you say, I say, and I'm left now waiting in the rain at the trike station, waiting for the driver to exhange my P100 to something smaller, something for the trike, the two trains, and nothing more than that.

Sa Set ng "Multo ng Kahapon"

We were given the choice to either write a paper or make a film as our final group project for history class. My group, consisting of four economics majors and this one creative writing guy, chose to do a film (though I pushed hard for what I thought was the easier route--paper!).
So the better part of September weekends were spent shooting Multo ng Kahapon, our film about the comfort women during the Japanese Occupation. I took directing credit and shared the byline of the script.
Below are some random pics from our shoot taken by groupmate Abu Magbanua. They're telling of how amateur we were.
(Nikki couldn't remember his lines; Chill constantly needing to feed them to him.)
(Chill and I spent a better part of the shoot waiting around for actors to show up.)

(She's supposed to be dead, by the way.)
(I didn't know my groupmates well, so I couldn't be as direct and surly as I would've liked. Notice the forced smile.) (Lighting: not bad for amateurs. In preparation for a rape scene. Krista was supposed to look nonchalant in an eerie way.) (Japanese soldier stabbing comfort women cuz he didn't come ..? Hey, I didn't do the research.)

(Epitome of pathetic: amateur equipment means having to record voiceovers using the camera, and doing so in the bathroom cuz it's the quietest spot we could find.)

We screened the film last week. Our abilities didn't do script justice. Oh well. Good thing hardly anyone save for our professor attended the screening.