Sunday, December 26, 2004

Again, Mortality

I'm ill. I'm afraid it might be something I ate. I had washed my hands the day of the PSI-Asia Christmas party, though I'm afraid I may not have washed them enough. I recognize the flu-like symptoms, the weakness, the labored breathing. I hope to God it's not encephalitis of any shape or form. I'd know what it would mean if that were the case.

I'm fond of the trappings of death-- the stories of walking corpses, the jokes about their smell, the absurdity of funerals, funeral parlors and the sometimes cadaverous aspects of the people who run the same parlors. I love the grand irony, the ultimate punchline: people making a living off of the dead.

Yet for all that... I may have prayed for Death's cold embrace at one time or another, but I am not fond of dying. Not in the way such deaths occur in these parts. One is felled by a preventable disease made inevitable because he has little in the way of money and much in the way of relatives who pooh-pooh his infirmity. One is shot or stabbed to death because he stayed too long in his favorite watering hole-- perhaps because he ogled the wrong strumpet, or because he was too ardent in his videoke rendition of My Way. One dies because he bothers to tie himself to a tree in the middle of a flashflood, trying to reach out and save neighbors who would not have saved him had their situations been reversed.

All those years that could have been spent eating, breathing, discovering, sleeping, learning, copulating, flushed down the toilet: such a heinous waste, punchline to the ultimate bad joke. A wasted life because it was cut short.

* * *

Every time I fall ill this way, I wonder if my time is up. Often because I cannot bring myself to trust the Universe completely.

My childhood is rife with stories of people who got exactly what they wished for. After receiving their hearts' desire, they often found something just as precious taken away from them: neglected, unappreciated, until it was too late to take back the granted wish. Often it was freedom. Or innocence. The love of a woman, friends and family. Sometimes, it was life. This was the original devil's bargain, and one made it with the Universe every day.

A child of seventeen runs away with her lover from her constricting parents into what she presumes to be a life of bliss. The rush of young love wears off, reality sets in, and soon enough, she is poor, pregnant and bereft of family and lover. The former, she had repudiated; the latter, she lost to another woman younger than her.

A father wishes to raise his child above the muck of poverty. He exposes her to every luxury his meager wealth can purchase. And then he is surprised when the daughter disdains him, does no work in the house and cannot get by without donning the trappings of the rich.

Two friends search for God and find him on their separate journeys. They return to where their quests began eager to share with the other the face and words of the One True God. Soon, there is blood on the temple steps.

There were times I would be blessed by a Subway sandwich; a sunlit sky; a lover's kiss; the delicate hands, welcoming smile, arresting eyes, fair shouldres and creamy skin of a woman. Then I would wonder if-- having seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelled a piece of heaven on earth-- I would pay for it tomorrow with my life.

Three nights ago, I got to sing with a band and a beautiful lady. I got good reviews for my work. I won an electric water-heater built into a coffeepot. Two nights ago, I dined with my girlfriend. I am thankful for these gifts, though now that I am ill, I find myself wondering what will be taken by the Universe as payment.

Damned stupid of me to think this way.

At this point, I am supposed to make an accounting of my life and lay it at the feet of the Lord.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Fun Trivia

Firstly, Merry Christmas. If I have readers of an Islamic persuasion, just think of today as the day we traditionally celebrate Saint Issa's birth. If you area Jew, please know that he wasn't born so his followers could lynch you-- you guys have really got to get over your fear of the goy. Remember: not everyone is out to put you to the sword!

No, Jesus/Issa/Yeshua wasn't born on 25 December; we just assigned it to 25 December because--

1. his original twelve disciples weren't that big on dates. It was enough that Issa was born, lived, worked, made wild promises about spiritual renewal and rising from the dead, died and kept those wild promises in their time.

2. the early church-- which had taken on the trappings of a Roman bureaucracy-- needed festivals and celebrations to happen simultaneously with the old pagan festival dates. All the better to infiltrate, co-opt and subvert (Hmmm, reads like America). With the introduction of Christmas, the sun god Mithra was shown the door, and his religion closed up shop.

I'm with the early Christians on the thorny subject of dates. It doesn't matter to me when exactly the Messiah was born. He came, cared about humanity, made wild promises and kept them. So.

There was a time when Christianity and Judaism were more tightly knit. Early Christianity in some quarters was treated as another sect of Judaism. There were--gasp!-- Christian rabbi preaching in the synagogues. Then the early church sunk its foot root in Rome and Constantinople. For some reason, the Christian Jews folded, died out. Christianity and Judaism have since taken separate roads.

Christendom does not celebrate the Savior's birth at the exact same time. The shape of our planet and its own rotation has seen to that. People live in different time zones, so the light from Christmas morning reaches people at different times, some (Asia) earlier than others (USA, Europe).

Friday, December 24, 2004

Hello, Saori (reprised)

Dear Saori,

My family usually sleeps through Christmas morning. We're often too tired from all the before-Christmas preparations. After attending the midnight mass to honor the birth of Jesus, we wind up eating, passing around presents and going to sleep at 3:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. on your clock). It's pretty much the same, I think, for most middle class families living in the Metro-Manila area.
In the provinces, it's a little different. There is a service (or mass depending on the type of Christianity the Filipino observes) and usually a dance or party that is open to the community. At least, this has been my observation of one province.

Dancing and shows are still big in the rural areas, partly because the nearest shopping mall is far, far away. The communities are more tightly knit, because they literally have to depend on each other to make a livelihood. They have few activities outside of agriculture, the market, school or tending to livestock. They welcome any reason to celebrate and break the routine of the day-to-day activity. The influence of the city, though, is causing mini-malls, bars, coffee shops and Internet cafes to appear like mushrooms in the areas that border the can expect that some of our province-based countrymen will spend Christmas in one of those.
I am glad your father is getting better.

[My cousin] is spending time at our other cousin's home. I'm sure she misses you and she will be happy to hear that you and your father are fine.

I would appreciate seeing those pictures you mentioned. Perhaps one day I'll go to Japan to see the cherry blossoms fall for myself. In the meantime, I'm saving my imaginary money for a trip to China, to climb the mountains and visit the temples I've only seen in movies and dreams.

Do have a merry Christmas, Saori-san.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I feel awful.

I've been ringing up a third of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines--yes, we have an ECC here-- in the vain hope that tewnty of their number sign up for a workshop that's only about three weeks away.

The few calls that make it past the company's front desk are routed to and intercepted by secretaries who are paid to say "No, he isn't here." To be fair, most of them have (graciously or rudely) offered to take the faxed or emailed invitation to their bosses to look at.

Sadly nobody wants to set up a meeting with my supervisor, and nobody wants to go to a damn workshop-- even if the facilitators are Japan-based master trainer Elizabeth Matsui and Johnson & Johnson product development and management alumnus and corporate guru Beth MacDonald.

Never mind that those three days will involve exciting, fun-filled, intensely interactive training activities designed to further sharpen your already formidable motivational skills and increase your company's productivity by increasing your rapport with virtually anyone working under you.

Never mind that you will be rubbing shoulders with other leaders in business or the academe like yourself at the spacious, comfortable and well-stocked Asian Institute of Management Conference Center in the beating heart of Philippine commerce, Makati City.

Nooo. The latest applications of Neuro. Linguistic. Programming. in a motivational setting don't interest them at all. Mind control does not interest the disciples of big business!

Naaw. The money and time they're spending in Boracay or in Hong Kong are far too important to splurge on something as trivial as profitable and effective guided self-development that actually affects your students or your employees.


But I'm griping. And it's not fair of me to pick on them so.

If I were in their shoes, I'd be hard pressed myself to respond to the obvious benefits of this workshop called Masterful Manipula-- er, Masterful Facilitation.(1) I'd want to go home to my wife or my mistress and bang her (pick your meaning) silly. I'd want to go on that well-deserved Christmas leave and not worry about conferences, seminars or what have you until after the new year is well underway.


I'm in need of a leave myself. I'm retooling my damn spiel and preparing to charge into making those phone calls tomorrow. Maybe then I won't be stuttering so much.

C'est la vie.

(1)Masterful Facilitation conducted by Elizabeth Matsui and Beth MacDonald. Workshop starts Jan 14th and ends on the 16th. In case none of the members of our local ECC express interest in ths thing, you can call these numbers or stop by the address for more details.

PSI-Asia (The Center for Leadership)
14th Floor 6780 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines
tel nos. 813-1188 813-1189 813-1173

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hello, Saori

A letter to a new friend I want to share with my readers. I hope she doesn't mind.


[My cousin] texted me and asked me to pray for you and your dad. And I will, as soon as I finish this letter.

In all my time studying other people, I have found so much to admire in your countrymen. They have their faults as well-- every nation does. But the one thing that has always touched me about your people is your resilience in the face of adversity. I have found that this resilience is common in other cultures as well, but it is most pronounced in Asian cultures: yours, mine, J_____'s and C_____'s.

I've never really seen sakura falling, except in movies or in anime. But I do understand what it means. Each blossom is like a snowflake-- beautiful and unique. And each will only come into its full beauty once, before "dying," falling onto the earth and into memory in a shower of petals. Try as we might, none of us can keep these blossoms from falling.

But we remember. And we know the cherry trees will one day, soon, bloom again.

Whether one is Christian or Buddhist, (in my case both) one cannot fail to understand these lessons:

Life is troubled, fleeting and poignantly beautiful. But the Giver of Life is always good. In the face of suffering, there is always hope; in the face of death, there is renewal.

We remember. And we know the cherry trees will one day bloom again.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ninja Christmas

The "Brr" months and the long-awaited vacation came early for students and harried University folk, which is just as well. I'm just hoping (with a wink and my trademark smirk, for show) that there isn't a catch... like school or work starting early.

When late October came, I was expecting Christmas bunting and related frippery to make their tentative appearance. I was shocked because the only gold I saw crowned the head of a visually impaired, tall and willowy blonde girl with an inviting smile; I saw her the day I helped billet my cousin at the UP International Center(1). There was no evidence of Christmas at all.

Then November came and the story was still the same.

No bunting. No lights. No tall, willowy, visually impaired blonde-- she promptly disappeared before I could return and make her acquaintance. And horror of horrors, no one was caroling. Well, someone tried-- a poor, hungry kid in Los Banos whose singing could evoke either pity or scornful laughter. I went so far as to sing with him, providing for us both the lyrics he didn't know. I handed him twenty pesos and told him to smile more. I think I only succeeded in freaking him out.

I remember thinking, Who could blame anyone for not feeling festive? Fuel prices were going up and taking everything else with them. As odious as working conditions were in mideast countries, they'd just gotten worse for Filipinos because of the war. In the face of Hollywood and massive call center-sponsored accent training, the Filipino's English was still atrocious(2).

Then there were those nasty typhoons making thoroughly felt the depradations of decades of indiscriminate logging-- legal or otherwise. And the poor Filipino lost his King.(3)

I didn't notice how stealthily Christmas snuck up on us all until I saw actual (and improvised) lights and bunting hanging on street lamps and fences the middle of December. Wonderfully, I also heard the faint report of small firecrackers-- always a good sign, unless followed by voices screaming for lost appendages. Best of all, I heard kids caroling at the gate.

Call him short-sighted, call him shallow, call him English-impaired, but you can't find the Filipino spirit wanting for resilience.

(1) I have never seen that girl again, and the inquiries of my cousin have met with blank looks. If my cousin hadn't actually see her that day, I'd think she was an aparition.

(2) Self-serving comment on my part, but I do wince in pain when I hear people talking about the "advices" they gave or took; the "furnitures" they had to sell or install... yes, I'm elitist and should be roasted in my own fat by slavering untranationalists.

(3) His corpus is resting, on display for fans and supporters at the Santo Domingo church, a stone's throw from my house. Believe the reports, my friends: the line to see this guy's remains is long no matter what the time of day.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Words for the Week
  • The Fourth Estate n. mass media

  • Big Brother n. authoritatrian leader and invader of privacy

Curiouser and Curiouser

Here's another take on just what happened between ABS-CBN reporter Dolan Castro and the cops.

A driver for ABS-CBN was caught driving drunk by nearby cops the night before Castro's fateful visit. The cops extract a confession from their catch. Castro shows up at the police station presumably the following morning and tries to, er, influence the cops holding the drunk driver to let him go. The cops say "No way" and Castro screams harrassment, bringing the force of the fourth estate behind him, and causing the concerned cops to be relieved of their jobs.

True? I hope not, for Castro's sake.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Vicarious 2

In Cubao, my favorite part of town, television reporter Dolan Castro and his camera man get shoved by policemen out of a police station for documenting what could be another case of police brutality. A suspect being held at the station gets beaten up while while in police custody. Dolan Castro was accused of obstructing justice and harboring a criminal.

I got news for Dolan. What happened to the suspect routinely happens to other suspects in police custody in these parts. It's unlawful, it's barbaric, but hey, it's "mob justice" and the suspect's probably had it coming. Besides, it's Crime's symbolic comeuppance and the Universal Filipino's vicarious satisfaction.

Vicarious. Adjective. Meaning "experienced secondhand." Because apparently we cannot get justice firsthand, being as "poor" and "downtrodden" by Large Evil Forces as we especially are. Poor us; we're such victims.

As a people, we cling to our victim mentality for dear life, as if our letting big iniquity simply pass us by entitles us to restitution. And when we find small inequity (read: inconvenience) we overreact, with wooden clubs, the hidden illegal firearm, with screaming, and the threat of bringing the fury of the patron-- be he saint, politician, cop or jueteng lord-- to bear on the perceived Doer of Evil. Even if all he did was get into "our lane," "our parking space, et cetera" first.

Those of us who believe we live in a democracy should take a second look at the individuals that make up the one we're supposedly living in. Most of us are neither aware of what a democracy is and the individual responsibilities living in one entails, nor are we mature enough to take responsibility for our lives-- individual and collective.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Vicarious 1

My Pop and I finally agree on something we can talk about in public-- we don't like Nicole Richie. Check that, we don't like Paris Hilton either. And we don't like any iteration of "The Simple Life."

It's nice, seeing purty city gals having to stick their arms in cows' beehinds-- you can even call it a symbol of the upper classes' comeuppance, if you have Class Warfare as your guiding world view-- but it gets old. And it gets old a lot quicker since you know the thrill for what it is --vicarious.

Paris and Nicole are out there making fools of themselves, whoopee. But what are we doing snickering at their antics and making bigger fools of ourselves? Look at it from any angle and we're still more pathetic than they ever will be. At the end of the day, they're still rich and famous to boot, while we're still jobless or stuck in jobs we'd rather not have. If we want to be Christian and charitable about it, they're developing-- interacting with folk and making their mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them-- and what have we got to show for our time on the planet?

Makes me wanna get off my ass and make another shot at looking for a job.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Those Dratted Moral Values

Paraphrased from a local daily-- "the perception of moral values carried the day for the Bush team."

The key word here is "perception."

Apparently it is the more moral thing to instigate and condone a war nobody needs, publicly citing self-defence reasons that don't exist. It is more moral, apparently, to lie to your own people about the "justness" of the same war. It is more moral, apparently, to directly add to the misery being felt worldwide by seizing oil that isn't yours via the same unneeded war, sparking multiple increases in the price of oil in countries that can ill-afford them. It is also more moral, apparently, to endorse the gagging of dissent, running roughshod over the dignity of your own people who just happen to be Muslim and of Mid-Eastern Ethnicity, and/or against the war.*

It is more moral, it seems, to keep the guy allied with the Gun Lobby in office.


*I won't deny that Islamic extremists are constantly trying to destroy the USA; I'll grant getting rid of Saddam was a good thing. But scurrying around like frightened rats is every time Osama Bin Laden airs a video on Al-Jazeera is exactly the response he wants. Saddam was a pariah even to his fellow Muslim heads of state before the war; now he's a martyr. Catholics in pre-9-11 Iraq were at least tolerated: now there are reports of them being actively threatened with bodily harm, simply because they're Christian. Many of them are headed for the border, knowing full well that it was a shmuck purporting to represent their Evangelical Separated Brethren who started this mess. Thanks a lot George.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Today, I eat my metaphorical shorts. My sister direly predicted a Bush win. But I held on to my optimism and my belief that given enough time and information, Americans could see past their parochial nationalism, and vote the guy eating paste out of office. I was wrong.

While Bush was busy eating paste, his lieutenants were campaigning at the grass levels.

They were in churches and synagogues, reaching out to rural/suburban evangelical America --who apparently number more than the city-bred liberals I feel a spiritual kinship with-- raising the specters that haunt them close to home. Manifestations of Liberal Evil such as Gay Rights and the erosion of "Moral Values"; the displacement of the American Jesus(1) from His temporal American throne. They were also online, blogging and webcasting, raising the other specters that haunt white America: tighter gun regulation; the prospect of another unforseen attack by Islamic militants; the neutering of American military and economic superiority in the world stage.

Having lost the presidency and both majorities in congress and the senate, Democrats must deal with certain hard facts even as they lick their collective wounds.

1. A large portion of America is in love with "God." In this age where Creationism and rabid Christian fundamentalism can find more than a foothold in the rock face of American society, Democrats must learn to talk more about God-- however they perceive Him. That, in my book, is the only way they will reach some understanding with the segments of America who think of Democrats as amoral and godless purveyors of The Satanic Agenda.

2. A large portion of America is still parochial. It's too easy to parse the world into Us vs. Them or Moral Clarity vs. Moral Relativism. It takes a mind that is open and privy to events happening in the world-at-large to even begin to grasp the increasing complexity of that same world: one that consists of interdependent nations. This handicap, plus George's unwavering categorical pronouncements (and George Dubya's likeability-- because the bastard is likeable) may have kept Americans from appreciating the more nuanced Democrat stand vis-a-vis Iraq, or the "War on Terror."(3)


The damage has been done: Bush and Cheney have another four years to screw over the rest of the world. Or maybe not. If some analysts are to be believed, a second Bush administration may be (gasp!) more centrist.

The strutting, belligerent teenager (George Dubya) has already beaten his father by being given an uncontested second term. He has nothing else to prove now, so his military adventurism may be curbed. Too, his last misadventure in Vietraq is bound to siphon away US funds, so another unilateral invasion against a perceived "evil state" may be too costly.(4) Citing the same costliness, the United States will be forced into a mode more open to negotiations-- they will still have to depend on states like China when dealing with problem states like North Korea.

Interesting. Let's see what the next four years wll have in store. I'm praying Bush stops eating paste and starts wising up before he nukes the world.

(1) They forget that Jesus was not American. Judaism and Christianity were born in the East. He has been continually used as a rallying symbol by the people who have appropriated Him to justify their agendas-- note the Crusades.

(2) Too, Ralph Nader may have taken away the votes that could have gone to Kerry. I guess I may have to eat my own arguments against voting on the basis of "winnability." But then with an election as important as this one, with an opponent as monolithic as the Bush Campaign Engine, perhaps my original "vote for who you want" argument need not apply...

(3) Notice too, how easy it is to light a fire under the average American-- simply wave the flag.

(4) Apparently governments don't look at cost in terms of human lives ruined and lost, but they will heed cost warning signs in terms of money. How nice.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Advice for the Living on the Day of the Dead

Happy All Saint's Day. Drive carefully, and do stop by the graves of loved ones passed away. Now is a good time to forgive your abusive Dad or Evil Step-Mother and get on with the rest of your lives-- their ghosts need not haunt and hamstring you past today. I got a better idea. Why not stop by the graves of your loved ones immediately after today, so you won't get caught in the memorial rush next year?

And if you're rich and living aimless lives, try not to turn your grandaddy's mausoleum into a disco. It's. Not. Cool. Find your own venue for All Saint's Day debauchery. You can afford it.

Oh, And for My Friend R.--

If you do not get your shit together you will lose that girl. I repeat: You. Will. Lose. That girl. You've had that coming for the better part of a year. I'm only opening my trap about this now because she specifically told me not to speak of it a long time ago.

Pare, she loves you. But she understands if you will not commit-- she isn't waiting on you forever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Marv & Me

Magtira, Marvin aka Babin, Marbino, Bhin. Pioneer developer of M.A.R.V. (multiple archetypal roleplaying variants) roleplaying games.

Most of you probably don't give a rat's ass about Marvin Magtira. Why should you, if you don't know him? But for the first thirteen years of my life, he was special to me. He was my best friend. He was the only kid in my neighborhood who was willing to be my friend when everybody else laughed in my face, trashed my toys or called me stupid names because I was "ispokening dollar.*"

High on our own youth and imagination, we were going to make comics that would shake the world. We had been drawing comics since age five (1979-80), first in each other's notebooks, later on stapled sheets of bond paper. We made many characters, trashed many more and plagiarized Marvel and DC (it was one or the other back then) like crazy. Comics started getting difficult in our teens when we were suddenly concerned with crafting believeable, truly original stories.

Marvin introduced me to your vaunted roleplaying games probably long before the first D&D player's handbook became popular on our shores. We played without dice; without rulebooks; without end, it seemed. Our only "rule" was to trust the storyteller implicitly when either of us took upon himself the storytelling role. We mixed role playing races and worlds, experimented with time travel-- common stuff now, but defineitely in embryo in the local consciousness at the time. We didn't know what we were doing--we were too busy loosing our imaginations and having fun to name the activity until '85, when we started calling it "Dungeons" (just "Dungeons" because one of us saw a D&D print ad and the other guy tried one D&D game). My other friend Strahdeus and I started calling it M.A.R.V. in '92, when we tried to document what we were doing, to thresh out the axioms we took for granted when mixing role playing settings.**

M.A.R.V., as a game and as a marketing hook, will not benefit myself, Strahdeus, or Marvin. The last being prematurely dead and the first two being too poor, too slow and inept to capitalize on the idea.

The path our lives were taking began to bifurcate. I'd grafted to myself some college friends in the early- to mid-nineties. Some time before that, he'd decided to accept Jesus as his personal savior, and was in the throes of a new convert's missionary zealousness-- and that partly drove me away. But Marvin is nothing if not devoted to his friends, as the long line of mourners whose lives he enriched will attest. (Here, an old woman who found in Marvin a sympathetic listener. There, a child who Marvin played with when no one else would play with him. And here, the woman he so wanted to introduce to his once-best friend.) He made the effort to stop by the Lira house in Quezon City to see me, even when he lived many kilometers away: ninety percent of the time, I wasn't around.

If he had a fault, it was that he'd later fallen in love with clubbing and motorbikes. Not that each was intrinsically bad. But both were an unnecessary drain on his funds. Add that to the other incidentals that go with clubbing and bikes: bad crowds, debauchery and danger on the road-- it was that last that did him in, in mid-May of this year.

I didn't make it to Marvin's burial-- it happened on the same day my father-confessor figure and oldest Los Banos friend, Neal, arrived from a disastrous stay in Thailand. A week later, I lost my cel phone to robbers and con men... penance for missing the final necrological rites, perhaps.

There are days, like today, when I miss him.

Even if the defunct duo of Babin and Dex never make comics or roleplaying games to shake the world, the world still owes Marvin some of the recognition it's given to Dex. With this entry, I hope that part of this debt is paid.

*"English speaking." This term was in use in the '70's and was used on me partly in awe, though mostly derogatively, with great relish.

** What we had was so good, we got our siblings and neighbors' kids into roleplaying. Our adult neighbors promptly named their subsequent kids after us.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Occasional Epiphany

To readers of that 48 Rules of Power book making the rounds these days, I have only this to say:

The free and unbridled exercise of power is ultimately self-defeating. In time one realizes that the whole point of accumulating power-- whether through martial systems or other paths-- is the ability to put it aside. In the end, it is the exercise of love that is important. No, not the sappy production of sentiment; but actual exclusive attention, regardless of the inconvenience, to the physical-, psycho-social-, and moral needs of the ones you care about.

Why else would an all-powerful God set so many ridiculous limits on himself?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Wake

Her full name is Germana Araneta Sebastian. She's Dex Lira's grandma on his Mom's side. She's dead.

Her corpus is lying in La Funeraria Paz, along G. Araneta Avenue in Quezon City. It's one jeepride away (going towards E. Rodriguez) from the intersection of G. Araneta- and Quezon Avenues.

The Funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, 28 September. Interment will be at the Heritage Park, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, immediately following the Funeral Mass in La Funeraria Paz?s North Wing Chapel.

Dex will-- because he's comitted to rushing a project for Gawad Kalinga through all of Sunday-- be at the Funeraria for most of Monday, and Tuesday morning. Yes, he'll most likely be around for the burial.

Catholics, other People of the Book and members of other strains of Christianity who believe in the efficacy of prayers for the dead are warmly enjoined to pray for the deceased. Christians of the Protestant/Evangelical persuasions, as well as members of the Ecclesia of Christ, are as warmly enjoined to pray for the living.

Please be assured that your simple presence and your prayers afford us much needed comfort and solace. We will not forget you in our hearts and in our own prayers.

Thank you.

Granny's Dead

I think she died in the night. My sister pulled me out of the room a few minutes ago to tell me that Granny may not be breathing. I tried to move her arm but it was stiff. While Mom tried to rouse my doctor brother, I put a saucer to granny's nose: no moisture. I couldn't be sure, though, as her breathing had been weak lately, and there were tubes providing her with oxygen and


My brother's awake now. I think he's looked Granny over. She's gone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Night of the Living Dex

No rest for the wicked: Happy Martial Law-niversary

I promise, no pontifications. I've already dosed my readers with well-meaning exhortations to Never Forget What Happened 32 Years Ago in articles predating this one.

I spent the 32nd anniversary of the national bludgeoning of human rights waiting for a corpulent cop at Manila's Police Station 7. Mom had "pimped" me to the station commander as "the best graphic artist/computer systems expert/copy writing editor you can get on a budget," "the perfect guy to fix the holes in your communiques to Command." Which meant she had eagerly put her friendship with the station CO on the line just so she could get me decent employment.

Road to hell

I'm poor enough to appreciate her help, but then I can't forget the last time she did this for me. I wound up in Camp Crame. I was being paid well enough at the time (tax free) but the longer I stayed, the less meaningful my job became. It didn't help that there was always, looming over me like an oppressive shadow, the threat of screwing up Mom's friendship with Police General X. In Crame, I learned my first lessons in Complex Human Relationships in an Office Setting. While I found my short stay to be instructive, I have no plans of repeating the experience. (1)

Mumm Ra, The Ever Living
They say you're getting old when you begin to enjoy the company of children, or such chores as feeding chickens, more than you do making money. I see my Dad feeding chickens and I can feel his smile from where I'm lying down-- in the living area, a good ten paces from our backyard-- and I know this piece of urbanite folk wisdom is true. I must've been born old, as I've always found the baggage that comes with the relentless hunt for moolah problematic, and unhealthy doses of the preoccupation itself, atavistic.(2)


(1)I did dip my toes into it, in part to not make my mom look like a windbag. I guess I shouldn't have bothered, as I have only probably made another mess of things. Painful feeling, when expectations are not actualized for any reason, valid or otherwise.

(2)And yet the meanest monk will welcome money, especially when it comes out of someone else's pocket.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Granny is Dying

Her cervical cancer, previously in remission, has come back with a vengeance. As usual, the timing stinks.

"Dear Disease, The next time you decide to flare up, please show my family the courtesy of appearing during times of plenty; not when everyone on these islands is existing hand-to-mouth. Thank you. Love, Dex."

I'd feel like flaying key people in government for flushing the country down the toilet if I didn't have a hand in it myself: everyone who walked into a Starbucks or who carelessly left the tap open, did, even if to a miniscule degree.

The point is moot, of course. There is little else I can do but stay by Granny every chance I get until she passes or death is staved off for another short, if indefinite, period. Which means I must weather Mother's constant admonitions to "fix your life," "help yourself" and "find a stable job." I almost find the sights and smells of Granny's makeshift sickroom a visual and olfactory feast in comparison.

I never liked sickrooms. I never liked being in them, seeing them nor smelling them-- especially smelling them. There is something unsettling, if morbidly honest, about being around a person who is literally being eaten away by disease. I love a good campy horror movie as much as anyone, but real sickrooms hit too close to home.

This is how it ends, young man. You grow old, your organs begin to fail or maybe the cancer begins to develop. Or maybe you trip over something and you break yourself on the staircase or get hit by a crazed biker. It's always something like that.

I know, you're afraid. That's what you get for laughing in my face all the time. You think your preoccupation with cataloguing all the names of my instruments was going to save you or your Granny from me? I'm Death. I've got all the pathology degrees. Look: even after your Granny goes, "Necrosis" will still be your favorite word; It'll be right up there with "sepsis" and "gangrene." And "necrotising arachnidism." When I take you, you'll still be laughing in my face so you can show your audience a brave front. You can take a little comfort in that.

But for your sake, I'd rather you take comfort (and maybe some responsibility) in this-- I'm a mirror and a reminder. Every time I take somebody, you will look at me, and see yourself. All life is precious-- but what have you done with yours to prove it?

I'll be back soon enough. Expect a pop quiz.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


My blogging friends will have noticed the dead silence from my corner of existence. My excuse is that I've been busy. I still read your blogs, by the by. I'm really sorry that I cannot be as present to you guys as proper friendships require me to be. I promise I will make amends, as soon as my life receives the mending it needs.

More Changes

I'm overhauling the Big Bodega again. While the original split (Bodega, Fringe Living, Dexterian Lit) answered some of my needs, it's raised some problems as well.

For example: Philosophy has always been a complicated subject that's a little hard to process, ergo to write about. Worse, it threatens to bore readers half to death. Bodega simply cannot keep up with the output of Fringe Living, which has become my de facto home page.

With any luck, I'll have solved this and other problems, while giving my blog a new look.
Tai Chi Can Be Funny

I had always been interested in the martial arts, having myself seen iterations of American Ninja (Michael Dudikof) as well as the better-written, better choreographed The Hunted (Christopher Lambert, John Lone, and one Badass Samurai Guy). I'd been a fan of Kurosawa films as well as such classics as Kung Fu (David Caradine), its Legend Continues revival and The Green Hornet (Bruce Lee). Heck, back in the 80's, you'd even catch me watching Smiling Proud Wanderer Sunday mornings on Channel 9.

Lousy reasons for the interest, but one usually starts out that way-- "nerdy guy develops a sudden interest in Karate because he was beaten up by an ex-nerd who specialized in Tae Kwon Do".

I dipped my toes in various martial arts programs only to drop out or get pulled out by my parents. I got clobbered in Tae Kwon Do for lollygagging (Mom pulled me out). Scheduling kept me away from a classmate's Karatedo tutelage. Couldn't afford to go to India and find someone to teach me Kalarippayat... Years (and lots of martial arts names) later, I found Tai Chi.

I took it up in '97 because I didn't want power-tripping jackasses taking out their frustration on me during training. There were other reasons, of course: I wanted to be unique, as everyone else had fallen in with (point system)Tae Kwon Do, (beat-you-with-my-phallic)Arnis, (I'm-as-stiff-as-you'll-feel)Karate and that combative derivative of Aikido that passes here for the real thing.

In the Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan, I felt I could grow in power without being a jackass myself. I had hoped that by the time I'd become a master, I would be above such tempting concerns as "kicking butt and taking names."

But being the smartypants that I was, I went looking to condense the forms and transitions I was learning into something easier, simpler-- a shortcut to "mastery" (kick butt, take names) I was determined to find with minimal injury to myself. It was possible theoretically, anyway: there were only so many ways that human limbs and torsos could move to transmit energy used for lifting, throwing, attacking and parrying.

Not knowing that I was really asking for a crash course in human kinetics, I spent a month observing boxers, stuntmen, fighters, Chi Gong practitioners. The month passed and I woke to the inanity of what I was doing--

Take the formal and artistic elements out of Tai Chi and you end up with modern kickboxing. Emphasize the legs, and get Tae Kwon Do, Sikaran. Involve the arms and get Karate. Emphasize holds and throws and clothes-grabbing, you get Judo. Drop the holds, throws and kicks then you get boxing. I might as well have signed up for any of these other martial arts classes.

I stopped Tai Chi training in 2001 because I either had financial or scheduling difficulties. And it was so hard to find a teacher who wasn't based in Manila. (Didn't want to go all the way to Luneta Park to get ragged on by an irate Tai Chi practitioner). I was happy to note in the beginning of 2004 that some of my Los Banos friends had become interested Tai Chi as well-- my pal Homer's even graduated to the sword forms.

Me, I've found a teacher again, after all this time. And I'm plodding along, like I'm supposed to.

I've been unable to log on for some time now. I'm afraid that my Trusty Laptop may have contracted a disease. Or the PLDT server may be finicky.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

On Fringe Living with Dexter Lira

I must be nuts...

...He's not the devil; he's us. And "us" is where we should start if we want to fix the country's woes.

Click me and read the whole article.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Missed it.

I missed a miracle tonight. The spirit may be willing, but if you oppress the body enough, wills without Christlike discipline tend to cave under the pressure.

All this is to say I'm home, recovering from self-inflicted damage, when I should be somewhere else communing with (gasp) Jesus and my fellow man.

I'm sorry, Jesus. I'm sorry Ron, Eline. I'll make it up to all of you next month.

Y'see, I've been going on and off to the Cross prayer meetings in Makati. They're good people, apparently more concerned with sharing how God's touched their lives than with training and equiping footsoldiers en masse in the jihad against apostasy. It also helps that a good number of attendees are Catholic, like me.

I know, I know. Prayer meetings --artistic no-no, unless you want to be a... a gospel singer. Case in point: Side A. An artist's work generally loses its edge when said artist finds God because he's too damn happy. Most art is born from need and happy people don't have any. Except maybe the need to annoy everyone else with blow-by-blow accounts of how they became happy. [2]

But artists are also people (earthly, mortal) and like it or not, most people have a bigger need to connect with the divine, (i.e., not people, earthly or mortal). Hence, the prayer meetings. I'm a mortal person with a need for peak experiences first and foremost-- Art's been a b!tch to me lately.

It's not so bad. There have been people who've done "happy art" who have thrived doing it-- I've found the most moving, least clich� "happy" praise songs in a contemporary Catholic's repertoire.

[1]Maybe not so like me. I'm probably the only Catholic-Buddhist there, sheep with wool the color of tea leaves representing a flock of one.

[2]People on prozac apparently have little need for anything else, except maybe more prozac.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Win it, Kerry.
Win the elections and make your refoms before Uncle Sam loses any more friends and brave young men and women. Please.
I can see the headlines now...
Australia Slams RP Troop Pullout
locals respond with hissy fit; lawmakers threaten Aussie import ban

We get like this every time somebody overseas says something even remotely unpalatable about us. I remember that hissy fit we threw when Claire Danes complained about the roaches. Ban her movies, we wailed. Then there was that row over how ours was high on the list of corrupt governments and unsafe countries. We protested to high heaven. Of course, we don't flog other Filipinos who complain about how this country is poorly run. Why is that?
Sheez. If there is any Philippine diplomat, congressman, law enforcer or government executive who bothers to read this...
Get it through your heads: until we are the new fat heavy swinging dicks in terms of economic and (ha ha!) military power in our region, our hissy fits will be just that-- hissy fits. We're so prone to throwing tantrums, we forget what has to be done. We keep doing this, then we may wind up alienating important trade and military partners. It's enough that we officially, diplomatically, "agree to disagree." We can always give our critics the finger in the privacy of our own homes.
You want Australia to eat its words? Ask it the same question we should have asked Uncle Sam: "Where are the WMDs? Not in Iraq? Then may we ask what you are still doing there?" You want the rest of the world to put us off the kidnapping watchlists? Do your damn jobs!

You want our saber-rattling to be taken seriously? Then have the wit to stick to this long-term goal: "a safe and poverty-free Philippines within the next 20 years."  We'll have the necessary clout; you'll have your place in the history books; you may even be amply rewarded for your pains. Help us do this, and I can guarantee all of it happening for us.*
* Do this, and I can also guarantee we'll be too busy nation-building and getting rich to rattle sabers or make futile hissy fits.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Tonight I found out why some men choose to be gay. It's almost too easy to cop out of a relationship with a woman-- by nature, beguiling but utterly alien-- and find comfort in someone who is utterly familiar: another man.

Hijo de p_ta.

Plug the Hole

Filipinos are very good at stopgap solutions. Like stopping gasoline leaks with chewing gum; jerry rigging viable televsion antennas from wire hangers; closing wounds with superglue; discovering more uses for toothpaste than manufacturers ever intended...

Maybe all this ingenuity has something to do with a dearth of material and spare parts-- necessity being the mother of invention, and all. But I've noticed the not-so-obvious downside to the Filipino's vaunted ability to do a MacGyver wherever he is. An environment in which everything is damaged, jerry rigged or in short supply also fosters a mentality of limits and, of all things, a strange complacency --

"So what if my line of buses is full of obsolete junkers? I can still make 'em run with chewing gum and hold 'em together with scotch tape, safety regs be damned. I ain't paying for new buses. Puwede na 'yan."

I'd like to see Filipinos shaken out of that complacency, someday soon.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Some Good News for a Change

Angelo De la Cruz is home. And at least one Philippine presidential administration showed the world it can look out for the interests of the people who count-- the people who put said administration in office in the first place. Take a bow, GMA. But make note: I'll buy your belt-tightening recommendations in your upcoming State of the Nation Address only if you take a pay cut.

An eight storey building keels over in Tondo, Manila. Power lines are cut, dust and debris fly everywhere... and no one is hurt!

Apparently, the cops in Manila were informed beforehand that the ricketty building was going through its preliminary death-throes. They cleared the street, ordered neighboring establishments closed and kept out the gawkers. When the building finally fell, there was no one around for it to squash.

Efficient cops? Here? Shocking! 
As I write, Manila police are keeping watch over the rubble, to keep away thieves. Mayor Atienza's also putting together a task force to investigate the collapse. There is a renewed interest in building safety laws and practices-- and it's about damn time.
Better stow those Canadian immigration forms away. There is hope for this country yet.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Won't Need To Rant and Fulminate for a Week
If you're an avid fence-sitter in world events, you simply cannot ignore the weirdness that is going on in the great US of A, also known as the Average Filipino's Second Country(1). I once called it Nova Roma and I'm right to do so. It's a sad fact of life that if someone sneezes in the American halls of Congress, our administrations previous and present commence:
1. rolling over and salivating (the lapdog stance);
2. shaking in their collective boots (the Don't Hurt Us WTO stance);
3. indignant but polite namecalling and vituperation (the toy saber rattling and popgun brandishing stance
Those of us who wish for even a partial understanding of American politics are most enthusiastically enjoined to visit this site: and load up the flash animation ("This Land"). Pictures say more than  a thousand words, so look it over and understand why I won't have to rant about America for a week.  
Ah, Blogging Bliss!
Notes: (1) Canada running Second, Saudi Arabia and Japan running neck and neck as third country of choice. Notice that the majority of countries listed here are hostile to Filipino immigrants and prospective workers. Canada, God bless her, is so vast and empty that they're practically letting everyone in.     

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

More Silliness

I got this quizz off Tobie's blog. Online quiz results are often visually incompatible with my other blog's layout, so this winds up in the Big Bodega. Apologies. Couldn't Resist.

Your Years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Family Line
Dated Cho Chang
You are well known for The best witch/wizard Hogwarts has ever seen!Wo0t!
Percentage of student body you shagged - 29%
How do the staff and students feel about you Huh?Who's that?
This cool quiz by lady_ameily - Taken 155975 Times.
New - Kwiz.Biz Astrology

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Words for the Week

mess n. 1. A state of confusion and disorderliness
fix n. 1. a difficult situation 2. something craved ("I need my coffee fix!") 3. the act of putting something in working order again (repair, remedy) 4. A determination of the location of something ("I've got a fix on that Borg cube, Captain!")
faux pas n. [from French, "false step"] (fow'pa) A socially awkward or tactless act
voyeur (vwoyoor) n. [from Old French French, "one who lies in wait"] 1. A viewer who enjoys seeing the sex acts or sex organs of others 2. An obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects
debacle n. [from Old French "de-bar, unbar"] (day+bawkle) 1.A sudden and violent collapse 2. A sound defeat 3. A total, often ludicrous failure  
rendezvous (rawn+di+voo) n., v. 1.A meeting planned at a certain time and place 2. A place where people meet 3. A date; usually with a member of the opposite sex (tryst) 4. (v.) to meet at a rendezvous

raison d'etre [from French "reason to be"](rayzone+detra) n. reason or justification for existence 

Some words sourced from The American Heritage� Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright � 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Bodega Bits: Mess

Bring Back Ben & Jlo
No, let's not.

Old news, but it's been on the local late night talk show replays. This has been Jlo's third marriage? I've lost count. It's been great as food for voyeurs and paparazzi, because of its high entertainment value. I'm wondering though: are we all getting our kicks, betting with ourselves yet again on another Jlo mariage going bust, because Jlo's previous marital messes are a sign that our own lives are comparatively better?

With respect for Mark Arthony's kids and Dayanara Torres's pain, I hope Jlo manages to make herself happy.

But what do I know anyway?

Lost in Vietraq
What more needs to be said about the Angelo De la Cruz mess?

Philippine support for this half-assed US war waged for nothing (pittance of US aid for us, supposedly the US ally in the Pacific; weapons, where?) = bad idea. Sending troops to US-occupied post-Saddam Iraq = further ticking off the very polarized and militant locals who, thanks to US abuse, have every right to be ticked off = bad idea. I'd go with the argument that one shouldn't encourage terrorists by capitulating-- but we, as part of the Coalition of the Willing, terrorized them first, in principle.

I won't pretend that Saddam would have been unseated, or the world would be safer from crazed zealots even if the war wasn't prosecuted (make note, the official raison d'etre for the war wasn't unseating Saddam). I'm glad Saddam's gone, nevertheless: though the cost may involve Iraq evolving into a very Talibanized militant Islamic State.

Let's just get De la Cruz and our boys back home. Shoulda sent a civilian contingent without the trappings of the military draped about them instead.

Related links: &

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Allow me a Little Silliness...

What kind of Final Fantasy Character would I be?
by TheBlueParadox
Your Name/Handle
Your Hair StyleBeautiful Flowing Blond Hair Beautiful Flowing Brown Hair Beautiful Flowing Red Hair Beautiful Flowing Black Hair Beautiful Flowing Silver Hair Beautiful Flowing Gold Hair Beautiful Flowing Copper Hair
Your Clothing StyleFlowing Clothes/Lots of Frills
Your Weapon of ChoiceCunning
Your MissionMission? I'm here to get paid.
Your Role in the FantasyTrue Hero:"We leave together."
Created with the ORIGINAL MemeGen!

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Attractive People Parity Principle

After poring through pages of text and pictures --uploaded in a near-fruitless attempt to encapsulate the individual essences of my friends-- I realize that beautiful people will always gravitate towards beautiful people. Though the attraction is contingent on how concerned groups of people define beauty, one cannot deny that it is present and working, if subtly, most of the time.

This is very much apparent when one observes high school cliques: the jocks are always together; ditto the cheerleaders; ditto the class womanizers; ditto the stylish gay people. This is apparent in my own post-college universe as well.

Many of Bonsai's friends are visually pleasing specimens of humanity and par for the course, she's one herself. It also doesn't surprise me that Bonsai's and Zhiyel's worlds are connected by a bridge of visually pleasing mutual acquaintances. Other factors no doubt come into play to allow this to happen: Bonsai and Zhiyel both live in Lilith-ville, both are well-off and both operate in related trades (Bonsai's in advertising; Zhiyel is a freelance visual artist). But I've seen enough of this like-like grouping to keep me from denying the connection.

Beauty is...

Beauty is, of course, more than skin-deep. Every culture has its token standard of the aesthetically pleasing and every individual has his own take on what applies to the set of "all things beautiful." Taken farther than "a desired visual impression or image" or "the qualities that give pleasure to the senses" these meanings may be attached to beauty:
  • "complete"
  • "simple"
  • "subtle"
  • "sublime"
  • "perfect"
  • "pleasing"
  • "efficient"
  • or
  • "whole."
Conversely, "ugly" can be associated with the appropriate opposites--
  • "incomplete"
  • "garish"
  • "loud"
  • "gross"
  • "imperfect"
  • "displeasing"
  • "inefficient"
  • "deficient"

Segue to Ugly

Ugly people are also drawn to beauty, of course. But "ugliness" carries with it some very nasty baggage. I am reminded of that fairy tale where the Beast is constrained by his own needs --find love, break curse-- to keep Beauty hidden away in his lair, until she miraculously develops actual love and the corollary erotic attraction towards him. The odds of this are nil, and he knows it: as human as he once was, it's not the case now and neither is she going to believe it if he sat her down and told her his whole sob story.

It's harder for people who are acutely aware of their "ugliness" to approach beauty without being hurt by simply knowing the defects that divide them from the beautiful. The constant and nagging comparison is simply too heavy to ignore, and it deterimentally colors their feelings, perceptions; skews their decisions... and the outcomes of whatever course of action they take.

Action: An ardent "ugly" (read: poor) suitor may be put off by the simplest dismissive gesture from the "beautiful" (read: rich) pursued, even if the gesture is of the most transient nature. The disparity between wooer and wooed (present since the beginning of courtship) plays on the suitor's mind and demoralizes him. Outcome: He loses the girl by default to a rich rival.

The point: apparently this is also truth-- to attract something one must become it. When attracting the beautiful to yourself, attempting to ignore your own defects is apparently more costly in the long run than transcending them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

My Life In Brief(s)
Fiscal Recovery

But how could I be robbed in Tatalon when I live there fergodssakes? Well, I was robbed at the border of Tatalon and Talayan and those creeps probably weren't Tatalon natives...

Read the full story here.

Lost & Listless in the World of Words

Apparently, the only time my work merits notice is if it wins contests and makes the news somehow, somewhere. Then it's back into the bowels of obscurity until I can win another one: par for the course. But knowing this, I still can't help but feel a little...

Read the full story here.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Some Poems

Every poet experiences this.

Some poems a poet isn't prepared to write. It's not because these poems are hard to engineer. He knows that on other days he can pull line after rhythmic line to make the ladies swoon, or the mothers weep. The skill is there; just not the heart to put the themes to his usual mercenarial use.

A poet's angels don't make inroads into that dread territory, not when the poems speak of loss, however evitable, from unexpected quarters.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Shaman is Alive and Well
More Bull Cookies from Dex

People who claim that I'm a bum are only partly right. If "bum" is defined as someone who regularly does nothing that is regarded as "productive" or socially desirable, then everybody is a bum for at least a few hours of every day.

Yes, lawyer boy, you are also a bum. When you sleep. When you go to the bathroom. When you duck outside for your favorite smoke. When you're boinking someone, 'cause seriously, don't you have anything productive or socially desireable to do?

BUM. It's the not just the Tee Shirt

I've noticed that people who toss that epithet around tend to have some nasty assumptions about the people they describe: lazy, boorish, uneducated, uncultured, mean, dirty... While those assumptions may be accurate most times, they don't reflect well on the character of epithet-tossers. My choice words for them: cold, unfeeling, dismissive, (yes, lazy) reductionists who cannot be inconvenienced to confront the other guy's basic humanity.

Still, I've been where the epithet-tossers come from. A lot can be said about personal responsibility. After all, many of humanity's great big screwups can be traced to personal hubris. "You dig your hole, so you lie in it."

This Is All Greek To Me

Some simplistic, bowlderized examples--

Cause: someone was too lazy to begin work at a crucial part of his lifetime, say between the ages of 20 to 35. Effect: he finds it more and more diffcult to find the job he wants, as these are being farmed out to younger blood.

Cause:"I just want a little peace," said the leader of post-1920's Germany. Effect:"A little 'peace' of Russia, a little 'peace' of France. A big chunk of Poland would be nice too, while I'm at it. Nothing like the annexing of foreign countries to prop up der Fatherland's pride and economy!"

Cause: In despite of a boatload of prompting, Trojan Paris does not surrender Helen to Menelaus, Helen's proper husband. Too bad Paris seemingly forgot Menelaus's brother happened to command the thousand-ship-strong Greek Navy. Effect: After ten years of war, Paris and his brother and nephew are killed, their home city is razed, their women are sent to the slave ships. And most of the other principals involved in the Trojan War come home--

1)in body bags (Achilles, his best friend Patroclus; Ajax the lesser, Antilochus);
2)ten years delayed (Odysseus);
3)to be chopped up by his wife and her lover (Agamemnon, Cassandra);
4)not at all (Ajax the greater, and other Nameless Greeks Who Died En Route)

[Digression: Menelaus & Helen come home to Sparta unscathed. Wise old Nestor survives his long sea voyage. Aeneas, lucky Trojan bastard, gets away safely to have his kids found the Roman Empire.]


In really primitive societies, the titles of doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, priest, weather analyst and sometimes even head of state were encompassed under the blanket term "shaman." It was to him or her that the tribe turned when something was wrong with the crops or when the war council wanted the go-signal to unleash hell on deserving tribal enemies.

Harassment victims of elemental forces and other nasty denizens of the spirit world were also brought to the shaman for relief. Since the scope of the spiritual oppression encompassed areas as diverse as physical and mental illness, death, injury, familial disputes, love concerns, vermin and rotten luck, pretty much everybody in the tribe came to the shaman.

Today, the shaman has seemingly been killed off by the fact of life called specialization�. After all, you can't possibly arrogate upon yourself responsibility for the total well-being of the tribe, when the tribe's members number in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. The workload alone would kill you. Check your Bibles-- even Jesus had to flee from a crowd of supplicants, and he already had several areas of specialty: medicine, education, social reform and spiritual well-being.

You can still see the shaman today, of course. National Geographic special features aside, you'll find him plying his trade pretty much everywhere. The doctor will never admit to performing shamanic functions when he comforts and treats a patient. The priest, representing a highly structured religion, will choke on his own bile before comparing himself with the shaman, the fortune teller and the witch doctor-- even if they all perform the dispensation of pyscho-spiritual wellbeing. And if you feel like dispensing with your faith in modern medicine, you can take a road trip into any of our rural or depressed urban areas to visit the neighborhood herbalist.

In my experience, you can also find the shaman in the hard-luck friend you always run to for counsel, even if you know he's in deeper doodoo than you are.

Specialization happens in all societies, but, unless I'm wrong, happens faster and on a greater scale in urbanized areas. It's a statistical thing-- more people crammed in one place means more people with highly specific needs crammed in one place. Sooner or later, the number of these people increases to the point where you can't leave their needs unadressed. Your experience as general practitioner is simply not enough and so, you're forced to abandon developing your other areas of study.You are forced to increase your skill, knowledge and experience in something more specific.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

How's this for a header?

Monday, June 07, 2004

Dex El Won't Be Phoning Anyone Anytime Soon

I've been complaining about being blocked for weeks. Well, nothing lights a fire under a sluggish writer than robbery, murder, or any form of urban recidivism that touches him personally.

I've been relieved of my phone, people. Please erase this phone number 09162218481 from your phones' memories as it is no longer in use by yours truly.

Those of you who worship Kali may now start praying for some good old fashioned six-armed relief, for my sake. I'm kidding. I'm just having problems accepting this really bad cosmic joke--

Dyologs stole Dexter's phone.
Letter to Antoinne and Sammy

Dear Antoinne, Sammy--

You've both inquired as to how I've been. I've been remiss since I have neither replied via sms nor via email.

I've been hiding out. Again. I know, it looks like the usual Dex response to a problem, not being around to ask for or receive help. But it's not that world-shaking, all things considered. What I've been over the last week or so is... BLOCKED.

I can't write worth a damn and it's affecting my work. Speaking of which, the check hasn't arrived, and that too is thoroughly irritating me. It's been a week since the end of May.

I'm so miserably blocked I'm rambling here, contrary to my stated mandate for the new Big Bodega.

Anyway, Sammy, here's what you wanted to know--

Words of the Week and all related articles will be appearing here, occasionally spilling into Fringe Living. Philosophy, Politics and Language will be discussed in The Big Bodega as well. Movies will be reviewed, if at all, in Fringe Living. At least that's the plan. I'm praying I can stick to it.

Thanks for asking after me, pals.

With Love,

Dex El
The Big Bodega

Sunday, May 30, 2004

My Life in Brief(s)

Ian's Sizzling Pusit and SisigHaus

I am upset. Upset because that damn videoke machine won't respect me. It gave me a low score. (85!) Sacrilege! Blasphemy! Desecration! Profanation! (There goes my Words for the Week column!)

Yes, Ian's having us compete for a bottle of liquor by making us sing until we're hoarse...

Read the full story here

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Birth Pains

No, nobody's pregnant. But this blog will be less about my life than it will be long and hopefully interesting commentary. This means you can more easily search the whole morass for articles that caught your eye-- or your ire.

I've managed to restore the Haloscan commenting script on this thing, all the better for you to throw verbal rotten vegetables (or virtual roses) at me for opening my big mouth and putting my foot in it.

So where is all the inane stuff (that is, if you guys don't already think my ideas are inane) going to go? What about the stories, the little life vignettes?

They still have a place on blogspot. Specifically--

Dexterian Lit for fiction and poetry;
Fringe Living for the 4-11 on what I'm doing.

Keep the mouse clicking on this space for commentary.

Honestly, I don't know how I can pull it off, but I really feel the need for an overhaul.

Make your comments. I appreciate them.


Friday, May 28, 2004

I don't look like this much anymore... (sigh)  Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 22, 2004

you are violet

Your dominant hues are red and blue. You're confident and like showing people new ideas. You play well with others and can be very influential if you want to be.

Your saturation level is lower than average - You don't stress out over things and don't understand people who do. Finishing projects may sometimes be a challenge, but you schedule time as you see fit and the important things all happen in the end, even if not everyone sees your grand master plan.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the html color quiz

Today: listening to Shaggy and Marvin Gaye; Color It Red
Missing: old friends

Dex El Phone Home (1 of 3)

There was a time when the only phone I wanted was big and studly, a real man's celphone. It would have been heavy, blocky, simple and utterly functional to spite the Nokia-toting freaks and showoffs out there. Yes, laugh all you want at my oversized black or olive-drab, military issue, highly radioactive phone. I can still bean you with it, sterilize you when I make a call, or bludgeon you to death with its manly antenna, har har har!

Trouble was, those phones were being phased out faster than a Poison groupie can drop her trousers for Nikki Sixx (Does anyone reading even remember Nikki Sixx?). Nokia had done what the other European and North American cellular geniuses forgot-- break into the Asian market with phones that were actually designed for human hands. And with the coming of the almighty GSM technology, I had to adapt, lest I find myself totally out of touch with the world at large.

Then I lost my Motorolla. Stylish, manly and cumbersome? Gone. And much to my great pain, I joined the millions of my countrymen who measured the status of their lives by the numbers on their Nokia phones. The really hideous irony was I grew to like my Nokia. The interface was intuitive (today's new in-word), it bothered to corelate whoever was SMSing me with his phone number, and it was so easy to send an SMS message that made sense to dyologs and people who respected me enough to sms me in complete, comprehensible sentences. The reasons why I professed to detest Nokia-- highly identified with jologs, fragile, poor signal reception, girly-- were (almost) forgotten as I was seduced by a color screen, polyphonics and MMS technology. I had become like my countrymen, whose celphone choices were limited to Nokia and... nothing follows.

Then I took a bold step, trading in my 3530 --nice number to measure my life by (a Nokia 7650 or a 6600 with a Plan means I've "arrived")-- for Kervin's moderately priced Sony Ericsson. It's sleek, chic and metro� (my new celphone catch-phrase, as opposed to "manly"), is almost as intuitive as the old Nokia and carries more features to boot. If I can't have my real man's� celphone, those models having crossed over into the realm of pure thought, I can at least live free of one more jolog association with this one.

Ah, what bliss! Let Freedom� ring!

"real man's ____" is a registered trade mark of Evil Dex's Evil Comedy Hour, Ltd.
"sleek, chic and metro" is registered trademark of Evil Dex's Evil Comedy Hour, Ltd.

"Freedom" is a registered trademark of the Bush Administration

Dex El Phone Home (2 of 3)

My unhappy sim called, trying to speed up repairs to his home. I do not blame him, but, as calls like his often are, his request for an audience was... inconvenient. Besides rushing to meet a very dead deadline, I was busy trying to bilocate between a funeral for a friend and the airport arrival of another friend. I'm going to have to come back down to Manila soon, if not make some calls from here.

At any rate, our plumbing leak has been plugged up. All that's left is to fix the water damage to our neighbor's (my unhappy sim) wood floors and ceiling. I wish Engineer-san give me an estimate of how much it's all gonna cost already, so Honey and I can space the money we'll be spending.

Update: Apparently, Engineer-san has much better things to do than schedule repairs and make estimates. Far be it from me to waste his time.

Honey and I will have to go find her trusty construction guy, Mang Mario. He charges P500 per day, but no one can fault him for his craftmanship. As long as you can keep him busy and provide him with free lunch and coffee, you'll get your money's worth in workmanship; speed; fair estimates; and sound advice from a master carpenter, mason and plumber.

Dex El Phone Home (3 of 3)

Honey tells me, over the phone, that last month's money from my publicist client didn't land in her bank account. She's gone over her bank records with a fine toothed comb, but despite the diligent search, the P3500 he owes me has not been found. I am ...mildly miffed. At the evry least, this means that this month's P2500 will not make it to Honey's bank account either. I have to go home and clear this up with him. He's been silent of late. No calls, no encouragement, no new assignments, nada.

I am assuming he is

a) extremely busy;
b) mildly miffed at the missed deadline (can't be helped);
c) shopping around for another writer.

He pulled a Houdini on me two months ago, in the heat of election fever. Events found him in places as far as Guam. Thanks in part to his diligence, Senator Enrile will most likely warm his chair for the next six years. For reasons of Christian charity and justice, I hope the old prune actually pays him for services rendered. Soon. At the very least, that may motivate my publicist to actually pay me.

I won't take it against him, if he's busy with option c. But he should at least honor his side of the bargain and pay me. It's quite possible that he (or a flunky of his) may have deposited the money in the wrong bank account, due to somebody's clerical error. But I am almost certain I gave him the right number, since I checked. I still have it saved on my phone.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Monday, May 03, 2004

Got Nothing Better to Do

Ian "got this off Nikka." Thought I'd try it myself.

1.Go into your LJ's [blogger] archives.
2.Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3.Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4.Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Dex's result (at least the one that made most sense)--

We're often afraid that every frank and open discussion about The Almighty is going to degenerate into Biblical, Q'uranic, apocryphal and gnostic verses flying fast and thick across the dinner table, producing nothing but frayed nerves and a splitting headache for all concerned.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Quijano de Manila is Dead

I expected it would happen soon enough, but when I saw the tribute in the Inquirer, it caught me by surprise. National Artist Nick Joaquin has passed away at the ripe old age of 86. He died Thursday morning, of a heart attack.

For those who don't know him--or know of him-- because they didn't take their Humanities classes seriously, here are the important things to know about the newly-dead:

Nick Joaquin was a Filipino, a journalist, storyteller and playwright who lived through World war II and Martial Law. When he wrote (in English, under the pen name Quijano de Manila) about people and events, his writing was clear, and only lightly spiced with humor and irony. His readers often felt that what he wrote about transpired before their eyes . When he wrote stories, however, his English took on a lyrical and (some say) Spanish-mystical quality. It was no less clear, but it grabbed you by the throat and took you on a kaleidoscopic stream-of-consciousness rollercoaster that left you in a kind of reader's ecstasy. You didn't notice until a lot later (refrigerator moment) that the paragraph you've just read spanned two-to-four lucid pages.

This was a man who loved Manila and made it a setting for many stories. If you ever wound up reading them, you'd know why. You'd be tempted to fall in love with Manila yourself.

One of his most widely-read stories, The Summer Solstice, was turned into that movie with the horrid trailer, topbilled by Edu Manzano, Dina Bonnevie and Rica Peralejo. Two other stories stand out as "required reading" in any Philippine school with a decent Humanities course: May Day Eve and The Woman with Two Navels.

I've never met him. But Joaquin, along with such Philippine luminaries as NVN Gonzales and F. Sionil Jose, taught me how to write.
Two results from a quiz I got off Tobie's blog...

What kith are you? Find out here.

The eshu wander the entire world, following the path of their own fate. They get to wherever they're going at the best moment, and the trip is always exciting. They live for adventure and the new; the moment for them is always now, and cowardice is shameful. Eshu have an extremely personal sense of honour. They follow their paths with style and flair, sampling each new culture and quickly blending in with the locals. The wanderings of the eshu are legendary; probably something they've seen to themselves, as the eshu are consummate tellers of tales. Indeed, they learn through their tales, gaining experience both through the telling and the achieving of feats of legend. They often see themselves as the central characters in some grand play, be they hero or villain they play their parts to the hilt, no matter the cost or how reckless the action. They'd rather go out in a blaze of glory that will fuel stories for centuries to come than live in ignominy. Besides, as changelings, they'll simply be reborn.

What kith are you? Find out here.

Once upon a time, these dark fae were charged with frightening children into being good. They delight in the funerary and run-down, ancient things, but most of all, they love secrets. They have very keen senses, and are quite skilled at putting what they know to good use. If you can pay the price, there's very little a well-placed sluagh doesn't know. Several members of this kith number among the world's best spies and burglars. While not all of them are even interested in these paths, other changelings tend to distrust and dislike them. For solace, many turn to the Restless Dead, finding more comfort and sympathy from them than from the living.