Wednesday, April 30, 2003


The Tagalog word for "saw" --the thing you cut wood and human corpse limbs with-- is strangely apt, when used to describe the travelling art teacher's situation. An image comes to mind, a saw, wearing its own teeth out, moving back and forth across really stubborn wood or human bone. It's an old and thinning hacksaw moving with the precise "one-two one-two" rhythm of a metronome and none of its vaunted efficiency-- much of the energy that's supposed to go to cutting probably winds up as heat-- the precursor of entropy --the physicist's nightmare.

I feel very much like that saw right now, moving as is my wont from Quezon City to Pasay to Cavite and then Manila, to repeat the cycle for the rest of the merry month of May. All in the name of teaching Art to adorable little tykes from 10am to 12pm. Gawd, I almost want to go back to school. I'm very glad that I'm having such a rapport with the kiddies. The ones from Cavite are quick studies. It also helps that they can laugh at my cornball jokes.

The gentle reader can now add a new point in space and a corresponding point in time (x,y) for my metaphorical saw to wear its teeth out on-- the Kids at Play headquarters at the corner of Taft Avenue and Padre Faura... Adult art classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6pm to 8pm.

Well, it's a job and it sounds lucrative. And I can get away with saying, "Look dearest, I'm a very busy man. I have classes to prepare for." Sadly, it's the preparing part that takes up-- along with travel, food and medicine-- a huge chunk of time and what will be my pay.

Something to think about the next time I take a similar job. Experience teaches the teacher.

Biyaheng Langit

In between trips to various "points of Luzon" (now I feel like a chartered jeepney) I have accepted the tutelage of one Vincent X (not his real name) on the efficacy of glazing with a dry brush and limiting my palette to a set number of warm and "old" colors. I look forward to making full use of that knowledge in my next painted works.


Watching X2 with the girlfriend tonight. Happy-happy-joy-joy! Obviously, I have not seen a movie in a long while...

Monday, April 28, 2003

Weekend Ritual

We have relatives in living in San Lazaro, Manila. They show up to share lunch and dinner with us every weekend. Despite our dissimilarity in appearance, the discrepancy in chromosome pairs, as well as their funky names, I say that they MUST be related to the family. After all, why else would the Old Man include them when he rounds up his relatives for a trip to my house? Y'know, despite the evil threat of SARS?

"Oh, Hi, King Abuk. Please pass the salt, Wind Dancer. Hmm. Yes, I think I'll try the oats. One lump of sugar, or two?"

Pop and his brother are horse-racing nerds and incorrigible bettors.

Famous Landmark

San Lazaro is famous for its racing horses and its hippodrome. It's also famous for its hospital, which used to house celebrities famous in medical circles.

Before she died, I was there to interview Sara Jane Salazar* for my Sociology 101 group paper. Essentially we asked her what life with AIDS was like. She didn't provide much information, as even in 1994 she showed signs of camera and reporter fatigue. The staff at San Lazaro were also very protective of her. We got more from Dolzura Cortez*, a Person With AIDS who also had to take up residency (or at least spend a huge chunk of her time) at the same hospital.

I was about to add Evil Dex to that list of patients. Well, not because I had a fatal sexually transmitted disease; I was going there for rabies shots. You got them cheap there. My girlfriend got herself inocculated against Mad Dog Syndrome there. But that was before the arrival of SARS. Thanks to that blasted disease, people are warning me away from that place (and malls, and trains...), nagging me so I don't go. I'll have to postpone my visit for a while.

Prior to today, I didn't see what's got people in a bind over it. After all, the death rate was only 5 percent. Typhoid --and I survived my run-in with Salmonella-- is at 33%. Most people who caught the SARS bug experienced bad flu juju. Severe SARS cases got some form of "atypical pneumonia." Five out of every hundred died, but the rest presumably got over it.

Then it hit me: SARS is suspected to be a previously unknown variant the virus species that cause the common cold. While everybody inevitably catches a cold, nobody dies of one in this day and age. That is...

Until SARS.

Okay. Point taken. But it's still just a damn cold, The epidemic will run its course, and someone will find a vaccine, or we'll develop our own defenses against it. Obsessing over one more item on the list of the many ways people die doesn't make our collective situation any better. In the meantime, I'll take my liquids, rest and vitamins. And my rabies shots soon as the family alarms go silent.

Cavite Update

Well, it's Tuesday. The kiddie classes begin today. Wish me luck.

*not their real names

Sunday, April 27, 2003

New Life Resolution:

In Kubori parlance-- "Tangina, gagawa din ako ng komiks ko."
DEX JOURNAL ENTRY 29 December 2002

Just wanted to share this. Take the mind away from avian flu.

"Year's ending, finally... I'd wanted to stay home prior to the events of yesterday, but I'm glad I was able to help my dad, his aunt, my uncle and [my aunt] make this 'Batangas Christmas Bash' a success. Thank you Jesus for [the journal], the party and the kids.

"Off tangent-- My heart went out to that autistic kid [at the party], a boy, with wide-open eyes, a readiness to smile and an inability to articulate in a completely comprehensible manner, exactly WHAT was going on in his mind.

"It pisses me off when people call kids like him "special" and patently attempt to hide the snickers and the scorn that come with the imagery of autistic children. I've been guilty of that more than once myself.

"Why call them [special] at all when you can more accurately call them ...autistic? Okay, he lives in his own world that's barely tethered to this one. But that's not [special or] ennobling at all-- artists are like that, and you don't see people calling them special.

"Hypocrisy everywhere I turn. No wonder Jesus blew his stack [at the marketplace]. If I were in his place, I'd blow my own stack more times than all the prophets did combined.

"Suffice it to say I feel for the boy. I gave him a wad of paper, with [some money] slipped between the pages, hoping that the kid would [one day] pick up a pen and express himself through art or writing. He promptly passed the thing to his mother. [She] probably thinks that the gift is nowhere near what her kiddie needs to get better. [And she's right. I just hope that, unlike most cynical, mercenarial mothers, she focuses on the thought behind the gift.]"
Not SARS, Not Yet

I am cautiously happy about my latest discovery: my temperature is at 37.2 degrees Celsius. Point oh-eight notches higher, and I'd be really pissed (SARS Candidate). Had the mercury stopped 270 degrees lower, I would have questioned my ability to read the thermometer (Do the words "Absolute Zero" ring a bell?).

I'm still feeling the discomfort associated with the varied forms of influenza, common cold and sadly, SARS. Dex El is still observing himself.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Enough negativity. Haveta concentrate on getting well before Tuesday. I have an art class to teach.
Coming Down With Something

Stomach cramps, muscle pain, mild fever, headache, nasal and throat irritation, slight dull pain in the lymph nodes in the underarms. Classic flu-like symptoms, and right before classes. Please God do not gyp me. Do not let me gyp myself. Classes start Tuesday. Let me teach my kids. I need the money for rabies shots and living expenses. Or is this someone's sick way of getting payback? I narrowly avoided death by typhoid so I should die via some sort of avian flu? Or survive it to miss my opportunity to teach and therefore to earn?

What, this is the Dex Lira curse again?

The Dex Lira Curse

Someone, call him God, Fate or karma speaks--
"There is a balance in the universe, a giving and taking of energy. In this universe, one gives to get, whether it's time, attention, money or devotion, for a good, service companionship, or even for salvation. It doesn't matter how high on the Heirarchy of beings you are: you are forever subject to this law. Nothing is really free.

"But while you're on the ladder of the Heirarchy (whether in its social, economic, political or religious aspects) you can always go up or down one or several rungs. You just have to give of yourself enough to get a foothold on that one rung higher than yours.

"But lemme tell you something secret, Dexter, let me whisper it in your ear:

"I won't let you get that foothold.

"Struggle and failure are the essence of your human existence. Enjoy it.


All Dex's efforts are doomed to failure or at least a pyrrhic partial victory.
Dex never wins first place, it's second, third, fourth or fifth.
If Dex wins first place he'll never claim the prize.
Dex will never be listened to seriously, someone else will invariably take credit for his ideas.
Dex is the ideal patron saint of lost causes.
If Dex joins a group, he'll hobble it. If Dex leaves a group, they'll get increased incidents of success.
Dex will never make big money.
Dex will always be laughed at or shunned for being "naive" or "cynical" or following his "own path."
For every three things Dex wants to get done in a day, he'll accomplish only one.
In one of Dex's other lives, his name was Cassandra.
Dex will always be dependent on Mom and Pop.
No matter what the task, there's always someone better, and he's always around to do it and get paid for it when Dex ain't looking.
There's always something wrong with Dex.
Dex will never measure up.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Piolo in Chains

Yes, a lot of you women probably have that fantasy, but I am not refering to Piolo Pascual, who starred with Donita Rose in the off-season Christmas-themed hit movie "9 Mornings." The Piolo in this story is my dog.

First thing my family did after realizing the ineffectiveness of "slipper training" (spare the sandal and you spoil the puppy) was to put Piolo on a leash. Upshot: at least he ain't leaving uh... "leavings" anywhere and everywhere. Plus, the risk of getting bitten is radically smaller, as you have to really be stupid or damn unlucky to still get bitten -- i.e. to venture within Piolo's reach (the length of the leash-cord).

Downside: Piolo can make these godawful pity-me-I-want-to-play whining and whimpering noises and maintain them the same way a baby can yell its head off regardless of the damage to its throat and ears. And I read somewhere that chaining doggies makes them restive... and that's not good for when some hapless youngster climbs over the gate to retrieve the ball or kite that inexplicably landed in the foyer...

I Must Really Be Stupid

Godawful pity-me noises often rouse me to action- I am either pulled this way and that by my heartstrings, or I am moved by simple annoyance. Visions of lawsuits and hospital bills swimming in my mind, I took those cries for companionship to heart and...

I'll give you three guesses as to what I did. Yeah. Right the first time. Lemme give you a gold star.

"Here, Piolo, let me loosen the knot so I can take you for a walk-- ARRRGHHH!"

Piolo on Top

I am sure, that in some former life, that dog was someone I irritated to death.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Culture Crushed

Well, issue 10 of Culture Crash Comics has finally come out, and I'm happy to report its everything they said it would be. Everything, but on time. Looking at the glossy cover, the vastly improved art, James and taga-Ilog monopolizing the articles, and even (GASP!) the formerly non-existent advertisements, I think to myself...

...I wish I didn't quit. But then again I could not simultaneously (a) help churn out great comics, (b) make my sorry attempt at graduating (well at least it ...worked), and
(c) fend off the harpies forever feasting on my liver and spleen. Yes, harpies: Mom and her longing to see me ensconced in an office working for someone I will hold in vast contempt because (among other reasons) he has he power to fire me; my father, girlfriend and sister, advocates and disciples of the "Real Job" and the school of early 20th century economics.

I miss the work. I miss my friends. I miss the fans. I even miss the lousy hours. I did not miss the lousy pay, and neither did I miss the definite lack of the democratization of opportunity one comes to expect from a three-man joint venture.

I'm not making any sense, am I?

It's the Dexter Lira curse happening all over again. Every time I leave any group, my leavetaking heralds its monetary, political and social success. Today I saw a great comic book put together by my friends and former workmates. While I felt elated for them, I also felt envious, left behind, obsolete.

There. I said it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Cavite Adventure

I left Piolo the Maybe-Rabid Dog to the tender mercies of my family, their raised voices and their swatting slippers. I decided to show up at the Kids at Play Office along Taft Avenue. A good friend of mine had previously recommended me to Kids at Play as a warm body to fill the position of "Facilitator"-- kiddie teacher and part-time nanny. I mean, what the heck, right? I've been unemployedsince January, and I certainly needed the money for rabies shots and living expenses. Besides, I love kids. As long as I don't bite them, spit in their food or eyes, or get foamy at the mouth, everything should be fine.

(Seriously, I don't think I'm rabid. Piolo has not exhibited all that nasty rabid behavior since he sunk one into me weeks ago. If anything, he's less bitey now. Still, I'm getting those shots...)

Like the title says, the teaching/babysitting gig happens in Cavite; in one of those Aloha Kumon Centers that have cropped up over the past few years. The kids like me, I like them (keep your minds outta the gutter, you pervos!), and the parents seem to approve of my UP background, if not my hair and taste in clothes. So I really don't forsee problems except how the Aloha people are supposed to bring in more of the adorable little tykes within a week from today.

First lesson: the line is your best friend...

Monday, April 21, 2003


I may be rabid. I hope not, but there is always that possibility now that I have positively been bitten by my dog and wounded by the bite. I know what you�re thinking: wait a few days, see if Piolo (my dog) gets highly aggressive and foamy at the mouth. According to the American Center for Disease Control and other related websites, the observation period is ten days. Sadly, Piolo defines the world around him by what he can repeatedly sink his teeth into: slippers, furniture, his own manure, my arms and legs. Every time I get bitten, the observation period necessarily gets reset.

At the very least it's inconvenient; it's expensive and painful at worst. You steer clear of the dog for a week and a half; when you're unguarded, he jumps you. Wait ten more days. While I observe the dog, I must be careful about my hands and what they touch: sneezing into a hand may transfer contaminated mucus and similarly contaminated droplets of saliva onto it and possibly (because I live in a culture that takes meals and interacts with hands) onto other people. I dare not kiss my girlfriend or otherwise exchange fluids with her for fear of my becoming a vector. Anti-rabies inoculation (preventive post-exposure prophylaxis, they call it) costs a tidy sum and must be administered via muscle injection over a period of some twenty-eight days.

I do have a choice of not putting up with it, but the alternative is my having to suffer a very unpleasant death and infecting everyone around me while I'm at it, via the sharing of food and spittle.

'Ah,' you say. 'You should have had your dog inoculated against rabies.' Yes, I know. You don�t have to kick me as I'm already kicking myself.

It takes anywhere from ten to sixty days for rabies symptoms to manifest themselves in humans. When they do show, it's always too late. Wish me luck. See you in 60.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Auuugghhh! How does one edit this effing page?

I've tried fiddling with the Template and the Settings. Here goes nothing...

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Heyo. I'm finally taking my friend Ian's advice and setting up my own blog. I'm still unclear as to what use this thing will be. One can easily perjure himself, commit libel -- essentially get in trouble --for any screwy thing he writes and makes public. I keep wondering what possible good can come out of allowing everyone who stumbles on this blog a vicarious participant in the trials and travails of your personal existence. Can one give to them anything of real value? Can they help you? Do they even care?

Still, this shamless fruit of my feelings of self-importance exists, thanks to the good people at Pyra. I signed up for it, and I'd like to keep it around. I still don't know why I want to do this. Check back with me and maybe I'll have an answer.