Saturday, April 26, 2008


Quiapo Church. The man next to me has a purple shirt barely covering his entire gut; my standard white is drenched over my slimmer frame. Beads of sweat drop like tears from above my eyes. From the side entrances, the sun dares me to come back out; I resist, my calves burning enough as it is.

I take out my rosary, the 1 I always keep in my right pocket. I had heard someone I admired did so too; my religious affiliation gives the practice some sort of legitimacy.

I’m on my 14th or so Hail Mary; am interrupted by the opening proceedings of the noontime mass. Everyone stands, save for a few elderly folks scattered here & there. I remain seated; try to finish the rosary before the start of the would-be distracting homily.

I had been walking around all morning. From the LRT station, I footed the many blocks leading to Divisoria, stutter-stepping at each intersection where vehicles show little care for a limping kid. On some blocks, I duck & contort my body; construction materials were being unloaded from trucks.

168 was a bit too overwhelming. Too many shops; didn’t know where to begin. I’m not a good shopper, save for when I absolutely know what I’m going to buy & from where; I’m a guy. Fifteen minutes & I was out of there; I had cooled off enough in the AC.

Reverted back to the original plan: Quiapo. Why? Clearing of the mind. I’ve done this a few times over the past couple of years. The area’s dissonance helps drown out the internal howling.

Refusing to retrace my steps to Recto, I got lost. Was in Chinatown, but I didn’t know where to proceed. I circled around the same block twice unintentionally. Familiar signs called for my approaching, only for me to find out that all the signs in the area are alike—red & yellow—w/ many shops having similar names.

I thought I was close to the place Vince took us for a beer & stuffed squid a couple of months ago. I remembered it was near a bridge over an estero. I walked over. Wrong bridge. Different estero. I took another turn.

I finally saw the LRT line & the mess of jeepneys, tindahans, & crowds underneath it. It looked familiar. Carriedo. A sign by the stairs to the station confirmed this. I knew where I was going, my mind free of grids, parallels, & the retracing of wrong steps.

I started walking to get lost on many levels. For an hour & 45 minutes, I was. But when I found my way again, I returned to a familiar place—where stalls led to the proper buildings, signs read the right names, & the mind was free from the confusion of physical direction, but now vulnerable to the kind of internal waywardness I was trying to escape.

The thoughts aren’t really profound, rather petty irritants. Worry blurs into paranoia: J-O-B (Will I find 1? Will the pay be enough? What’s enough?), a pending notarization (Will the attorney be around tomorrow?), cedula renewal (Where’s the barangay office anyway?), Sagada escape plans (Will we make it? Is she happy? How can I make her so?).

By the time anyone reads this, it would’ve been a few days after Quiapo, a day after my father’s 54th birthday, w/c means I would’ve already gotten drunk, & would’ve either avoided confrontation or would’ve gone after him again.

Evenings w/ Dad have gotten a lot less eventful, w/c is a good thing. We had already reached screaming obscenities at each other, debating silly political issues, & even worse, what we believed, w/c is often too disparate for Dad’s comfort.

The other night, we talked about things still silly, but things that wouldn’t raise arguments. (Yes, Music and Lyrics is a terrible movie. Yes, Will Smith was good in The Pursuit of Happyness. No, I haven’t seen Mr. Trinidad’s car in a long time either; yes, he probably sold it.)

No talk of being jobless; he gets that I want a break. He occasionally prods about where I’m at mentally. He doesn’t do that much, but he knows he has to occasionally, to sound interested. We’ve cried over this before.

Sometimes I lie awake, moisture building up in my eyes. (This is when I hold her the tightest.) Then sometime later in the day, in some common area of the house, I’d see Dad, my tears now dry. I acknowledge his presence, but I don’t say a thing. It’s easier this way—his way & mine no longer crossing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The fuckin' heat has got me thinking about snow.

Photo albums tell me that I’ve seen snow quite a number of times before I became a teenager. I haven’t seen snow since.

Truthfully, only 2 instances remain in my graying accounts. In 1 of those business trips my mom used to take in her prior corporate life, I remember tagging along, but I don’t recall to where. I was probably 6 or so. We stopped over in Japan, & I’m assuming that this entailed a transfer from 1 airport terminal in Tokyo to another cuz we actually had to step outside.

And there it was: snow.

I don’t remember anything about textures, flakes floating from light blue expanses onto icy surfaces. I remember the color, though: unmistakably white, screaming white; I shielded my eyes from the glare.

“Take a deep breath,” my mom told me, & I did—white vapor emanating from my nose & mouth w/ each exhale. And this is where the memory ends.

The only other snow sighting I still remember takes place on the way to desert land. I think I was 11, it was a couple of days after Christmas, & my family & I were driving from LA to Vegas. Along the way, around the city of Barstow, specks of white peppered the brown, rocky terrain on either side of the road. As is the case in relative-hosted vacations, schedules were nonnegotiable; we did not stop to throw snow balls at each other.

In Vegas, in the back gardens of our hotel, a snowman stood out in the cold, complete w/ top hat & cane. My cousin & I rushed to its snowy side, threatening to start a war. As we bent down to make our little bombs, I broke down in laughter to hide my disappointment.

We were digging our cold fingers into moist speckles of Styrofoam

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Playing games

Imagine: GMA announcing that she will not attend the Olympic Games opening in Beijing (w/c is what some other democratic leaders have at least been requested to do)—her protest against the situation in Tibet. (Olympic organizer: “Did we even invite her?”)

It won’t cause even the slightest ripple in the world stage, but imagine it nevertheless—the kind of irony/hypocrisy such a move would represent: an elections cheater w/ an administration tied to extrajudicial killings condemning a government’s violent violation of human rights.

Imagine: GMA pulling out our athletes from the Games altogether (a thought that has crossed the minds of even some Americans of their own athletes), as if real medal contenders from other nations would care (remember our dismal showing in the last SEA Games): Asia’s “most corrupt” making a supposed stance in favor of morality.

Why imagine? Cuz it’s funny to think about. Cuz GMA has shown this thick-skinned capacity before—from illicit phone calls to made up laws to apologies for things she still insists she didn’t do; a few months ago, GMA received a human rights citation in Spain.

The Olympic torch barely made it out of Europe, caused a stir in San Francisco. The Dalai Lama is “demonized” by Chinese authorities; still, he supports the Games. He is now in Seattle, the torch in Argentina.

The price of rice increases; “No rice shortage,” the cabinet insists. Price of bread rises as well. Congress is a house of administration lap dogs, the Supreme Court the dwelling of loyal whores in gowns. In Malacañang, the squatter of all squatters remains, conjuring up the next save-face attempt to appear like she stands for integrity. The previous paragraphs: a backhanded suggestion/dare.

* * *

Nagbabasa naman ako

Recent reads: Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (from April), essays by Seneca, Montaigne, Kenko, & Virginia Woolf, Gelo Suarez's Dissonant Umbrellas (from Marie).

I see why so many people love Bovary, but I'll suspend judgment cuz I was reading it while studying for finals; enjoyed Seneca, Kenko, Woolf, but Montaigne can be a pain; Dissonant was trippy & a headache at times, but I'm guessing that's part of the point.

Currently reading: Ian McEwan's Atonement, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (from April), The Likhaan Book of Poetry & Fiction 2002 (from April)

Atonement I'm enjoying, Joyce not so much; Hitchhiker's is my commuting read cuz it's not so taxing on the head; 8 poems into Likhaan & I'm liking it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Middle ground

Here's an excerpt from a draft for an essay I've been working on. Yeah, brain fart. (I've been reading Seneca for crying out loud!) But believe me, it's going somewhere. At least it's supposed to. To the minotaurs: this is part of a reworked workshop piece; guess w/c 1.

"I am told, in this selfish world, that empathy—common understanding—is the cure for conflict. There is, they tell me, a proverbial middle ground where we can all live. Over the course of over-analysis and the institutionalization of living-well formulas, a warp was invented where I living in a gated subdivision while you living on the streets need not be a paradox where one is guilty and the other jealous. In this warp, animosity is not a word. The human spirit can transcend; if only we would reach out to each other, and even before helping, attain full knowledge of the other’s situation.

"There are signs of the human desire to understand the other. Consider when we read stories: everyday readers coast along pages like they do in life, treading along singular moments of aliw, latching on to characters that they can oh so relate to; the discerning readers seek to understand the most complex of characters, even the most scathing of villains. We seek an explanation because our hope lies in the fact that there’s always an explanation for when good was derailed, when the Samaritan’s heart turned into that of a Hannibal.

"Too easy, I think, to describe those like the latter as being sympathetically mature. I’d say conveniently placed in the pecking order, if not deranged altogether. If only we understood, they say, what Islam entailed, we would be fairer in our judgment of them, wouldn’t be so afraid. Furthermore, others will argue if only Muslims could understand where we were coming from as Christians, so they would convert to do things our way, the right way. On the other side, the Muslims are saying the same things about us.

"The middle ground is not a place rather a void, a point where one perspective is blinded from the other and vice-versa. And what we are left with is an illusion of an imagined Utopia, some purgatorial space disguised as Heaven.

"Think about that person down the street, that police officer by the bridge, that man driving your cab. Never mind how he looks, what he tells you. Through conversation and your keen discernment, you will understand him—but only while shackled by what you would like to project him to be. He will never be understood."

* * *

Torch passing

Had the pleasure, over the past few months, because of an invitation extended by the 2007-08 senior editors, to be involved in an advisory position in the selection of the 2008-09 Heights editorial board. I read the applications & was part of the panel of interviewers for all the candidates for the 3 executive positions as well as the candidates for the English & Filipino staff editors.

We (JPaul, Audrey, Kat, Joey, & myself) had a spirited conference (most candidates brought forth strong cases for themselves) about our appointments this past Monday & as made official thru a circulated email from JPaul, our appointments have been finalized:

Fidelis Tan, editor in chief
Petra Magno, associate editor
Panch Alvarez, managing editor

Marie La Viña, English editor
Wy Ong, associate English editor
Brandz Dollente, Filipino editor
Walther Hontiveros, associate Filipino editor
Elie Javier, art editor
Migs Mercado, associate art editor

Stef Macam, design editor
Sel Uy, special projects head
Angelica Candano, special projects head
Jay Alim, secretary general
Julio Julongbayan, secretary general

We are quite happy w/ next year’s team & are confident that they, along w/ a strong cast of returning members, will continue the rich tradition of Heights w/c I am proud to say I was once a part of as member & now as an alum.

Congrats to all!

Homeless pugs!

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, w/c is a whopping 4 months ago now, Sasha & I cut short our silly reminiscing & witnessed the birth of a little pug we for some reason decided to name Dalao. Little Dalao, now renamed Tryrone by Tita Chi Chi, along w/ Tyra, Georgia, & the rest, looks to find a new home w/ new loving humanoids (Sasha umiiyak sabay tapon ng yosi).

Here are the pics. Text me if interested, or email at