Friday, September 26, 2008

A new kind of indifferent

The other week I saw a McDo crew member outside his branch across Edsa Central, w/ family & friends around him, taking pictures of him in his clean uniform on his 1st day of work. Smiles were wide. A woman I figure to be the mother dabbed the corners of her eyes w/ a tissue. I couldn't help but smile at the day's news.

One of my favorite teachers from college required us to write reactions to 2 local columnists every week. Others dreaded the assignment; I found it a chore at times. But I insisted on the value of the exercise. 

More than just a practice of writing, it was an exercise in being up to date w/ the goings-on. And coupled w/ my insistence on presenting personal thoughts in valid analytical frameworks, I became my version of a responsible citizen -- upholding my duty to be concerned w/ the issues in an extensive way.

But I now skip the Inquirer as daily reading, & settle w/ The New York Times & The New Republic, mostly for updates on the US presidential elections -- as if those things affected me more than whatever it is that dominates the front pages of the Bulletin these days. 

The other day I watched 'the news' & listened to a comparison made between Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin & the proverbial slutty-teacher figure. "She'll win votes from those who want to fantasize fucking her!" said the 'newscaster.' A day later I edited an article where an Aquino is mentioned; I Googled to check if he's the 1 who's a senator.

This morning I arrived at work & went straight online to Yup, Pumaren's pissed as I'd thought he'd be. Headline: "2M kilos of Chinese milk sold in RP stores." I closed the window & chat with an officemate whose head rested on his desk. His wife is due in a week; the thought of providing for a kid comes w/ too much worry.

So I'm working now, interacting w/ real working people, w/ real issues, real concerns. I know, on a much deeper level, the word on the street, the sweat of the common man, his odor, his armpits all up on my face as I beg for air riding home on the train. When I ride a cab, my nods to the driver's musings are more pronounced, as if to say I finally truly understand what he means, cuz I too have all these adult obligations.

So months after graduating, I've slowly morphed into what I thought I'd never become -- apathetic, hiding behind excuses: sumusunod naman ako sa batas; may respeto naman ako sa kapwa kong tao. 

But the truth is that I've lost touch w/ the issues, the seemingly abstract conundrums that lead to the palpable grief I see firsthand. I've clumped all institutions-related problems together as a generic whole, reducing understanding to generalizations, & most unfortunately, begun to accept things at the top as as is, unworthy of my attention cuz of my smaller, working man concerns.

Sure, I'm more in touch, issues I've mused over now seemingly more tangible. But that has made me, in a way, a new kind of indifferent. And in this light, I finally, truly, get it... this... this mess.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Perfect stranger


how is thee?

I had noticed her return to YM recently, & I suppose I needed the reassurance that things aren't so bad for other people.

Hey Marts!

I'm good.

How are you?

I remember those who call me 'Marts' & in no other variation of my name. She's 1 of them. The others are a high school friend who has gone on to star in films w/ Pacquiao, as well as another close high school friend who taught me that it was OK to have a unpopular passion -- for him it was film, before it was cool in a very popular & democratic way; he's now teaching in film school, I hear.


you working na?

What's steady?

Nope, just part-time.

Break before studying again.

She was always 1 of the smarter 1s, though it's easy for people to underestimate her. I've always said she's the sweetest girl I'll ever meet, heartbreakingly sweet. And not in a weak, pushover way. She can hold her own, but she's not 1 for situations where she has to prove this. She's 1 of the few people I've met who genuinely believes in the best in people.

not so high, not so low.

part-time doing what?

law school after, right?

I see.



What have you been up to?

She was a blockmate of mine, 1 of the few Theater Arts majors before she shifted out. Our conversations, always pleasant, often skimming the deep end, were always a result of chance encounters -- a bench outside De La Costa before a test,  a walk to the footbridge, sharing the front passenger seat of another blockmate's car, the rest of them filling the back. 

working. head of writing and concepts for a new design company. 

and teaching cw sa 'teneo.

writing, really?

saan lumalabas ang works mo?


You're teaching!

That's great!

SO proud of you!

It's for NGOs, so it's really internal.

I was asked to speak at her debut a few years ago, & I couldn't say much. Didn't know her thru thick & thin. Never really confided in each other our worries outside generalizations of them. At most, at times of worry, she would just be someone who was concerned but reasonable enough not to intrude. So we would chat, completely skirting the issue/s -- & there was sincerity in that.

All I said during her debut was that I wished her the best. It was short. It was honest. The most honest I can ever be.

ah ok cool.

so what's the timeline on law school.

june 09?

More like September, cos I'm not gonna be studying here.



I can try for January, but I'd rather settle in Canada first and find work before studying.


Her mother's in Canada; wasn't able to attend graduation. I don't remember asking if she was OK w/ it when she mentioned it in passing; she's close to her mother. I was concerned, though -- just didn't say so, cuz we never do.

I do remember this news coming when I was musing something existential -- a means to hide problems more trivial. She listened as usual. But didn't say anything. We parted, wishing each other the best again.


leaving our shores.

Yeah, it's fine.

I'm beginning to embrace it.

It's not like I'm not going back.

It's nice to try something different di ba? Expand your territory.

But hey, enough about that.

Look at you teaching and all that!

havent seen you in awhile but you still sound like yourself.

Is that good or bad?

that's good.

in a weird way it's reassuring.

i've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of change...

how when sincere, it's simply moving with the currents within...

and with that can come, i suppose, good or bad, a kind of pretentious experimenting.

but persons like you...

self as irrevocable, set, future and change as a reaching out...

and as expansion...

not a turning away

but a moving forward

and a growing

there's 'truth' in that.

in short, ya, good.

i don't know.

I get you. But I would've placed it in simpler terms.


i'm weird like that.

I have a close group of friends w/ whom I would say I have an intense relationship w/. Then there are many friendly acquaintances w/ whom pleasantries & small talk are the extent of it. Then there are the strangers -- those I know due to circumstances w/c have allowed for glimmers of proximity but have also hindered further cultivation. 

But it's in these kinds of relationships where cultivation would almost defeat the purpose, for their significance is precisely in those moments of chance, moments of meaningful & short-lived but sincere, symbiotic gratification. It somehow reaffirms things that often those closest to you -- say, your family -- fail to express ... like the desire for your well-being.

That's fine.

That's you.

SO how's teaching?

i generally like it.

it's tough.

but it's good.

there's something about saying something and having people hang on to your words.

kinda scary.

but in a good way. makes me mindful.

That's true.

Wow, you get to inspire and mold minds!

i wouldnt say that.

corrupt them maybe.


my boss called for a meeting...

gotta go.

just wanted to see how you were doing...

dont be a stranger, ok?


i won't be if you won't.

We won't speak in months, won't know each other's progress. I won't even think of her. And that's OK. Because there's something to be said about the perfect kind of stranger.

* * *

Ito, ang aking The Chiaroscuro Variations, birthday joke ko kay Pancho (September 17).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Heights worskshop

Congrats to the fellows of the 14th Ateneo Heights Workshop (especially April, Sasha, Wy, & Brandz), held this past weekend weekend at Casa Ibiza, Antipolo!

Many thanks to workshop director Petra Magno for inviting me over to panel for 1 nonfiction session, & thanks to the 'real' panelists on Saturday -- Ma'am Beni Santos (now my 'colleague' -- her words ... hehe kilig), Sir Egay Samar, Sir Allan Derain, Joel Toledo, Kael Co, & Waps San Diego -- for allowing me to speak (hehehe).

Sure, my 1 workshop thus far, that 3-week period a co-fellow has attributed a virus to, is a bit of a blur to me now -- 1 I'm akin to wanting to move on from & go back to at the same time (for reasons many & few, depending on how you look at it) -- but I believe in workshops. I believe in the exchange of ideas & sensibilities somewhat filtered thru the formality of the labels panelist & fellow. And I believe in the sharing of passion & wisdom that comes w/ the intimacy of the word workshop.

I enjoy listening to arguments for a 'higher level' & those who quip 'I found it fitting as is.' I enjoy hearing comments on the manipulation of time & references to Ezra Pound as much as I enjoy being resigned to just saying Wasak! & quoting from a Stonefree song.

I love how the workshop leads to somewhere for the fellows involved -- or at least earnestly wants to lead them somewhere. I love how Heights means enough for former members for them to want to come back to panel every year (this year it was Ma'am Beni, Sir Egay, Mookie Katigbak, Kael, & Waps).

And I love how Heights has lived on decades after its maiden issue in 1952, when it was but a reaction to the 'death of campus literature' (as we were reminded of by current Heights editor in chief Fid Tan during her closing remarks).

Congrats again to those involved! Next year ulit! Until then, looking forward to reading you all again!

* * *

Isa pa...

Issue includes my essay "Of Golf, Nature, and the Art of Communion" & my poem "Alone." And check out all those other names involved! Galing! Kitakits sa launch!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Middle finger, po

So my father's going to be out of a job again come October; the chairman of his company was apparently looking for a cheaper guy, & found 1.

My father & I haven't really talked in months, outside of his request to borrow money & the standard stuff: Did you eat yet? ... Hi.

When he told me about his losing his job, I consented w/ more of mere obligatory: Why? And after his explaining I even offered to ask around for openings. And that was that.

The silence officially began 1 night a couple of months ago when I discovered, for certain, that he was a fraud like everyone else. I had a hunch for years, but when you look up to someone, you hold on to the belief that that person is merely complex. Now I know there's nothing complicated about him; like I said, he's like the rest of them.

My father has begun to lash out at people. The other week it was a helpless guard in Makati. A few months ago it was me; I believe the words used were Fuck you! ... ah yes, I believe 5 times, w/ emphasis on the exclamation point, spit catapulting as the shape of his mouth pointed: YOU!

Some call it midlife crisis, & excuse the rage because of difficulties. I can't say I agree; shit happens, deal w/ it -- especially when you spent 50 years positioning yourself as the good, rational, level-headed, & humble 1, a perch from which you've conveniently criticized others for not having similar qualities.

I still believe he has a good heart. He's my father. I'll leave others to see if there's a connection between my last 2 statements. But my cousin Pope put it quite well: He's rootless. And I'd have to agree. What else can you call a man who realigns many of his values to best put himself in a better place given the situation life throws his way?

My father has lived a colorful life, done a lot of things, saved the life of the person writing this. But maybe the problem is that he never really stood for anything for himself, loved anything for himself, found glimmers of transcendence we proclaim to aspire for in settings apt for such proclamations, like Sunday mass .

But whatever -- I've begun to keep my distance, & have begun to learn how this could be best for me right now. 

And so when I'm caught in between a spat between my father & a helpless guard merely doing his job, I close my eyes not out of embarrassment but rather in prayer -- asking God to guide me not to be the kind of man the man next to me has become. Or has been all along.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ey you & other greetings

For Sasha on her birthday, I post the part of her yearbook write-up that made her cry:

"... like the way she cocoons herself to 1 corner when in deep thought, the way she giggles over a good grade or just a funny word, the way she is praised & asks in disbelief, Why?, the way she singles you out in a crowd & offers a hand, making you believe in Why not?"

Ey you. Happy birthday.

* * *

A year ago, when I told Larry what I had been reading, he said I was "such a guy."

Then he became my thesis mentor.

The following exchange between Larry (2nd place for essay, 2008 Philippines Free Press Literary Awards) & I came recently, after I asked him to comment on my latest essay, months after I put my thesis to bed & months after he had read anything serious by me

"So how'd you find my new piece?"

"Bumabading na ang aesthetics mo. Palakpakan."


"You are talking to a gay writer so that could be a compliment you know."


Palakpakan. Bow.

Congrats, Larry! 

(And thank you?)