Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tickle Me Henyo

Genius? Not really. Because I haven't thought up a witty comeback to the dismissive "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" There are some other hurtful anger-induced put-downs sent over email that still sting to this day. And I still don't have definitive pithy comebacks to those.

Too, I haven't independently worked out the finer points of fool-proofing life. When I do, I'll definitely get back to you.

Still, I get my kicks knowing that I could have hung out with the likes of Plato and Spinoza. Or debated theology with could-have-been priest friends. Mayhap I could have been a priest myself. I preach from a makeshift pulpit every day anyway.

Hmm. Dex, Fat Friar. I kind of like the sound of that. I just need to put on a few gray hairs and a really big abdominal pot (very easy if you're male and geriatric). I know I am one step closer to my ultimate goal-- to be a dangerous, if lovable and wise and charming, irascible old geezer.

Happy new year, everyone!


Take this test!
Your mind's strengths allow you to think ahead of the game — to imagine or anticipate what should come next in just about any situation. Because you're equally skilled in the numerical and verbal universes of the brain, you can draw from multiple sources of information to come up with great ideas. The timelessness of your vision and the balance between your various skills are what make you a Visionary Philosopher.

In addition to your strengths in math and linguistics, you have a knack for matching and anticipating patterns. These skills and your uncanny ability to detect the underlying blueprint of most of life's situations add to your Visionary Philosopher mind. Two philosophers who share the same combination of skills you possess are Plato and Benedict Spinoza. Spinoza had insight into how things worked in the world. He could envision a future based on the patterns he saw in life, and used mathematical logic as a structure within which to present his philosophical arguments. With that base he was able to use logic to formulate his theories. Borrowing from his linguistic strengths he wrote eloquent texts and, therefore, was able to bring his philosophical ideas and structure to the rest of the world. His story exemplifies the talents that are present in the Visionary Philosopher intellectual type.

Whatever you decide to do in life, you've got a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a wide variety of ways. You can expand your mind to understand a situation. Your strong balance of math and verbal skills will help you explain things to others. For example, if you were on an archaeological dig and discovered an object, you could probably use your deductive powers to figure out not only what the object was but also how it was used. Given your ability to put things together, you are more than capable of inventing a life plan that is in synch with your perspective on how things were, how they are, and how they might be one day.

Friday, December 28, 2007

There's Always a Girl...

Only this one's ten. She sells garlands to churchgoers in the mornings at the University before running off to school in the afternoons. She has sisters selling flowers and begging for handouts, ostensibly for milk to feed her little brother.

I'm a regular buyer. I've been one ever since I tried to set up shop on niversity grounds.

I asked her what her parents were doing while she was out making a living. Working, of course. There's a water station a good stone's throw away from where we were standing-- the idea was to imply that her mom or pop had work related to it.

Over recycled omelettes at the local co-op (this was me being generous) she asked me again why she and her sister found me doubled over in the adoration chapel months ago.

I stalled for time, rising to get us some water. I didn't realize that an old lady friend of hers had positioned herself right behind my seat. As soon as I'd risen, she'd attacked my tray with spoon and fork, dumping all my food into a plastic bag. To take home .

I laughed and shook my head.

Some things are so simple and yet so difficult to process. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

9 Mornings

They should have made this a lenten movie

I remember watching a Christmas movie in '02 starring Piolo Pascual and Donita Rose. It was a Dante's climb to salvation wrapped up in a story where love does what it's supposed to-- interest, create conflict, liberate, exalt and ... well, "make happy ever after" a viable possibility. All this happens in the space of nine days. Each beneficent stage of Piolo's transformation from a baggage-laden corporate a$$ to a genuine, loving, and ultimately whole person is marked by a mass anticipating Christmas (our local simbang gabi).

One of the high points of the movie for me was when Piolo bumps into his ex-bed mate in the same church: now she is apparently on her own climb to redemption. Donita Rose must weave some powerful form of magic if it rubs of on Piolo's floozy.

I'm notoriously slanted against big local productions-- and mind you, Star Cinema was big then, and it still is now-- but I genuinely liked this movie. In hindsight, I'm glad my friend Eline marched me into the cinema that day.

(They really shoulda made it a Lenten movie: Piolo Pascual, his name itself comes from Paschal, which pretty much refers to Easter and the Passover. Another piece of grand irony-- Pascual and Donita Rose aren't Catholic.)

When you're a writer and a youngish theatrical ham, you can't help but make correlations, form analogies, draw parallelisms. I'm no broken Piolo Pascual, and it's far too late to run into broken pure-hearted school teachers who just happen to look like Donita Rose on a dawn mass. Far too late to even try to complete the whole set of nine. But every Dante has to crawl out of the pit sooner or later, hurt but on the road to being whole.

a*moral

Say what you want about people who model their lives somewhat on the movies, but humankind defines the meanings in its lives through the stories it tells itself and the protagonists it sets up. Mayhap modeling your life to the script of Doom is a bad idea, but I'm sure, at one time or another, we all wanted to be Superman for all the right reasons.

Say what you want about relationships being "hard work" or about how "whole" you already have to be to engage in the act of genuinely loving-- my stand has always been that
  • we are all broken toys, perfect in concept but a hell of a work in progress
  • we love because we must, even if we love so brokenly:even in our broken-ness we instinctively seek to emulate our Creator;
  • love heals broken people-- I've seen this happen (and I've seen the process aborted); and sometimes, if you're lucky or blessed, love's enough.

Snippets

Photobaket

A bug is keeping me from posting photos this morning. I figure it may have sommat to do with the Christmas rush. I'm trying hard not to form another cosmic conspiracy theory off this little inconvenience. I guess I'll just have to wait to try uploading again.

'Nuff said.


They're playing my song

Nothing helps beat your broken heart than a good immersion in the music of Queen, ABBA, Gloria Gaynor or your uncle's chest of 1980's vintage music. You know I'm right-- just because you think I'm nuts, it doesn't mean I'm wrong. Ha!

Anyway they're playing my song-- they've been at it since 8pm of last night. Apparently Christmas is still the season for people on a budget to put up a wicker fence 'round a portion of the street so they can dance in it. They're doing that here, now, a block or maybe three away from where I'm sitting.

There would be a device that spewed light into the dance area and into the sky. The lights would turn and shift and tumble in time to the beat of the music. Young people in rubber slippers and clothes that sometimes didn't match or fit well would be gyrating to the music too.

For the space of a couple of weeks there would be no news of assaults, stabbings, robbery. Because everyone was too busy dancing to Queen or ABBA, Gloria Gaynor, the Pointer Sisters, the younger Madonna, and yes, the rest of the hidden junk in your uncle's 80's collection.

My 80's music collection too, it seems.

I'm making such a big deal out of this because I didn't get to see or hear this at all last year. I was (take your pick)
  • engaged with an enraged American inquiring about the whereabouts of his money;
  • vainly trying to sleep and insulate my back from the artificially generated cold in a contact center's sleeping area, while lurid sense-impressions of people trying to make out assailed my mind;
  • near-comatose somewhere else, sleeping nearly half the day away
It's refreshing to see and hear something like this-- the experience reminds you that the world continues turning in the face of all things absurd and unfair.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

His Capital Sins

(an old post from my old account)

Pride & Anger, Lust & Despair

They will no doubt be speaking of this over beer and peanuts, laughing (albeit ruefully) at their poor choice of friends. Their best memories of him will not be that he was caring or loving or kind, but that he was irritating and inconvenient.

It angers him that he cannot love on his own terms. That he has to drag other people with him in this. That it is always someone else who calls all the shots. Someone else who wins. That when he breaks they once again prove themselves right. That there is simply no room for him in their lives.

He rages against his own impotence. At the love and lust he is forced to displace. He withdraws socially and turns his anger inwards because such anger should no longer find its expression in violence in front of other people. He cuts his heart into little pieces with a dull knife and he serves it with fruit; with dark chocolate and his spleen; with a smile and his compliments. And he is still the guy who eats it. With his katsudon or his Mongolian beef bowl.

In a Christian's universe, despair is among the greatest sins. It blasphemes God by telling all and sundry that He is either a malicious manichean demi-urge who gets off seeing His children suffer in some sick cosmic telenovella or He is powerless to effect a lasting beneficent change in a person's life. The man is at a point in between bouts of creativity and lucidity where he skirts despair on a regular basis.

This is not a good time to ask him for counsel. But make no mistake: He will crawl out of this funk.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Let’s Talk About Ants

(From my old multiply account)

They were high on my list of annoying vermin, right up there with mice and rats. In my old apartment back in the day, you couldn’t leave food on any flat surface for five minutes without a swarm of red ants descending on- and systematically dismantling- your snacks for transport to the nearest colony.

It drove me nuts.

You couldn’t bug bomb the place because the apartment was so small. Sooner or later enough droplets of leaded poison would find their way into the fridge, or your cabinets, or settle on your plates and utensils, upping the risk of pesticide-induced grief for the people living in it. Besides, bug spray was freakishly expensive for a couple on a budget fighting a protracted war with ants.

You also couldn’t seal every tiny entry point the little critters trafficked in and out of, because they’d always find new entry points into your home.

Barring calling the good people at Mapecon (Manila Pest Control) and shelling out a small fortune, the only viable alternative for me was to find a human-safe alternative to bug spray. My alternative was Perla.

Yes, the soap.

I’d have chunks of it floating in my atomizer—one shake and you were ready to combat the Red Menace.

The best I could do was of course, fight the commie ants to a standstill. At least I got better results in that war than the US did in Vietraq. The soap solution was so foully basic that ants died in uncounted numbers and it took them hours to reestablish the chemical trails that led to their food supply. By that time, the food was gone—secure in our bellies, safely in the fridge or on its way to Manila Bay via the sewer.

Fun Ant Facts: Society

As in the act of loving, you can’t wage war on someone and not pick up some of that someone’s traits. Having set aside a good portion of my time fighting ants, I’ve learned a thing or two about them that have made me replace irritation and hatred with bouts of wonder and, of all things, humor.

Ants are the perfect communists. Their whole lives, however brief, are devoted to a single role assigned to them by a controlled throwing of genetic dice. There are no dissident-artist-conscientious-objector ants: each ant “knows” its function and will perform it to the best of her ability.

Sure, no ant will walk through fire by default. But given a big enough incentive—say, a truckload of exposed milk chocolate— ants will go over danger, under it, around it and sometimes through it to get to that sweet reward, almost regardless of how many of their number die in the attempt.

They’re like the mainland Chinese— there’s always more where they come from (my apologies for the racial slur, but the comparison is apt).

Amazingly, most every ant—worker, soldier, HiveQueenis female. The only male ants on the roster are drones: expendable Toms, Dexes and Harrys whose sole purpose is to provide the Queen the necessary genetic material from which to form the multitude of eggs she regularly lays. Do they provide her with entertainment as well? Perhaps— the drones are after all, the only ants with wings. I’m almost sure there’s an ant Queen somewhere chuckling at the thought of the poor drones flying around and banging their heads like impassioned moths on a fluorescent coil, or drowning in a basin of water laid under a similar light source.

Fun Ant Facts: Language

Despite what my readers will think, I don’t have the monopoly of being able to speak to ants. You can speak to ants too: bug-bombing them is as good as saying “I hate you all! Don’t bother me again!” Not that they really care what you feel about them. Except maybe the Queen, who gets a kick out of the idea of you fighting a losing battle against her numberless troops.

Of course my conversations with most ants are like really thick chocolate being slowly pushed through a sieve. Meaning is …felt, tasted and smelled, rather than deciphered from sound and writing.

You can tell how far food is by smell—either by the scent if the food itself or by the scent of the chemicals the other ants in front of you deposit to mark the supply trail.

“Hello, Friend.”
--“Hello, Friend.”
“How far to the sugar pile?”
--“Close. Just keep to the trail.”

The language is rather crude by human standards— you can’t debate the nature of Platonic Love versus Eros in it— but the combination of smell, taste and touch gets the basics across.

I need you.
“Need help?”
Yes.
“I’m here. Always.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Miss...

...little children caroling. Really caroling. Because they like the activity and not because they desperately have to fill their bellies. I've only begun to see them wandering the streets and visiting houses today.

I used to have a smiling face and a few coins reserved just for them. I was a lousy caroler, you see. And despite that my own memories of Christmas caroling were good ones. I'd be a fiend if I were to deprive today's little kids of that. We've made them give up so much already-- things like interacting with neighbors, actual physical activity outside the schools...

Well, I'm off tonight. More work needing to be done and all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This only happens in the movies

You can skip this entry if you're in no mood for "emo" drivel.


I saw all my exes today. And it's funny that being cuckolded, stabbed in the chest, played and flat out told to f_ck off and being shunned hasn't really changed my regard for any of them.
The first of my exes I carry on with as if we were still a couple, except that there is nothing sexual whatsoever between us. She was my best friend before we became an item and even after our mutual betrayals, I still believe she's a soulmate. But she still waits for her American beau to take her away from this third world country to a place where her ambitions can be realized. And she loves him in her way. And that's enough.

My second ex wasn't ready for a commitment when I asked for it. We were rebounding from prior relationships but I was pretty much ready to devote myself to her. To be harsh, she played me. But I saw her smile at the wedding today and for a moment I forgot just what kind of hell she put me through. (You can tell how painful a life period is by the strength of my poetry at the time, and the number of blog entries I wrote discussing the dynamics of relationships.) All I knew when I saw her smile and when she held my hand in greeting, was that I loved her, that I would always love her and that was enough.

My third "ex" isn't even an ex. Just a good friend who I found beguiling, enchanting-- someone who also had goals and social resources that were related to my own. She helped me find my "missing" Manila-based Jap community, helped me set up Studio D and helped me buy my cel phone's SIM card. I made her a video once, where I basically said I was crazy about her. Fat lot of good that did. I didn't need for her to be coupled with me, if she didn't want it. I just needed to be around her, to learn from her. She obviously didn't see it that way, and has talked about me being a pest to my other friends over beer and sisig. I saw her today, at the same wedding, and I couldn't hide my smile.

The last of my exes likely leads a double life now, having an alternate instant messenger handle that periodically changes. Not her standard practice. I didn't mean to hurt her so. She loved me at a time when I was decathecting from my third ex. Despite all my protestations she never truly believed I loved her. We push-pulled breaking up (her idea) making up (my idea) until she just got fed up, I guess. I wanted to do right by her. I still do. Half the things I did for my old office I did because I wanted to help her, because they made her happy. Among them all it is her I miss the most: she had the sweetest laugh. I can still smell her shampoo every now and then. I remember what it felt like to kiss her lips, her soft hands, her forehead. To hold her close to me by her waist. I saw her tonight and she was very beautiful.

My exes are all at parties tonight, or at home or with friends. Meantime I'm in Cubao, looking for printer ink, typing this because I remember how I loved them, how I miss them--my latest ex in particular.

* * *

I can't keep carrying them with me. There are enough monuments to them dotting the landscape of my memory. Sooner or later, I'll have to let them go, to make room in my heart for someone new. Or at least make more room for me. But not tonight. Not yet. I want to hold onto them at least until the year ends. I don't know what that'll accomplish but it's just something I feel I have to do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blinkered

If you've been trying to reach me on my cel over the last couple of days, then you undoubtedly will have gotten frustrated trying to do so. My cel battery has been dying over those past few days. It died completely yesterday. I don't have my charger, and my directory of important numbers has always been in my phone. It's easy to find others who can assist-- theoretically.

My apologies to you all.

Exhausted


Made another mistake in a long line of these. Still shocked, still processing the night's events. Bottom line: I was lucky, probably we all were. I can't make this right immediately but I will when the time for it comes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

rock

There is a piece of polished masonry I've been carrying since late August. It was part of an office building that had likely been demolished a month before that time in the Ortigas Center area-- the facade, perhaps, or the floor. I'd seen pieces of this dark, marbly substance. I remember telling myself what a shame it was to waste these pieces. They would have made a good trophy base, name plate, sign or paperweight. I picked a good-sized bit of dark building-facade rock (wikipedia calls it a conglomerate) and took it home with me.

This was sometime after August. I don't remember the exact date. (I admit I have that problem with death anniversaries and birthdays too.) I do remember that there were strange colors in the clouds at five in the p.m., traffic was decent and that later on in the evening the moon was a sickly, lurid red.

The point is I kept it because I wanted to remember: my little conglomerate held its own against the wind (a good paperweight), and I liked looking at it, gently touching it with the tips of my fingers. Its dark hue, its pockmarks, the small embedded imperfections, its points and varied textures--sharp, rough, smooth-- these things comforted.

It's just sad that, as events force me to accumulate new junk, this rock (and my memories) finds itself unused, corwded out, hiding in more and more obscure locations. I reached for it, in a dark bag full of wires and cheap electronics, and it nearly cut me.

It's sad because I don't want to simply throw it away.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent Sunday

I’d almost forgotten what these were like. Most Christian sects wait for Christmas, have special services as a run-up to the big event. Catholic priests get away with wearing purple, and Catholic churches get away with hanging purple candles on wreaths, with each candle signifying a Sunday in the run-up to Christmas.

We are reminded that the Christian’s life is spent in longing for Jesus to return. I remember quite vividly spending time lined up with the other Catholic schoolboys squinting at the sight of the priest lighting the first of the Advent candles during the morning assembly.

Incidentally I had thought the priests were crazy when they instructed the congregation to ask of Jesus “Come, Lord; do not delay.” Was I the only one thinking that that meant the end of the world?

The 12th commandment (#11 Being Thou Shalt Not Get Caught): Thou shalt not let thy kids read the Book of Revelation until they can live with cognitive dissonance. Heck, Thou Shalt Not Let Them Read the Bible Without Thy Supervision.

Baaaah Humbug!

Last year, I hardly felt Christmas. I was sleeping 12-16 hours on the weekends, running my life according to the demands of the Great Bundy Clock. There were no Advent Sundays as far as I was concerned. There was only the prospect of buying pizzas for my team and roses and sweets for the girls in the neighboring team. There was post-Christmas Christmas with my friends (dramatically fewer than the year before).

These days I feel Christmas trying to weasel its way into my consciousness. Sapping my will with pretty lights and sappy songs. Each night I hide in work or cable teevee to keep out the three Christmas Ghosts.

Oh no, Santa. Oh no, Jesus. You won't find me in a celebratory mood.

Not until some things have been set right.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Curs, Few

Yesterday’s events were interesting. As best as I could determine, this was how it went down. Around lunch yesterday Senator Trillanes walks out of his own mutiny trial, gathers a few followers and media people, marches to the Manila Peninsula Hotel and holds a press conference. While his rhetoric (and that of general Lim) does not specifically incite people to overthrow the government, it did ask everyone to support the call for President Arroyo to step down.

Government forces give the “rogue Senator” until 3pm to surrender. The deadline passes, nothing happens. At about five or six pm an armored personnel carrier trundles its way into the Manila Pen lobby, followed by soldiers wearing gas masks. It’s over by seven. But by then the government announces a curfew in effect from 12am to 5am.

And like an idiot savant with a megaphone I wideband everybody I can reach. I don’t relish the idea of being detained in any way shape or form by cops. In my thirty-plus years of existence, that’s already happened. It wasn’t pleasant but it makes a good fireside story— I’ll talk about it some other time.

We already know this— we’re being led around by a few curs. The good news is that there are more of us, and we can make the right changes at the right time if we just get our act together. And maybe one day we wouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by a few curs and their curfews.

Diagnosis

To my mind there are a few reasons why Gloria is still sitting in MalacaƱang despite her unpopularity.

  1. Fatigue. People are sick of overthrowing a corrupt government only to replace it with another corrupt government. We’re that way because—
  2. We’re really not ready, despite what the activists keep saying. This is because as a people we never learn. Every time we mount an EDSA we drop the ball, thinking smugly that our part’s done. So we let the same jerks back in office to mess with us all over again—the same ogres wearing different skins. Corollarily—
  3. We’re still hung up on heroes. Since no one fits the bill, we don’t really trust anybody. We can’t really trust anybody. Everyone’s fallible, tainted. Unheroic. Trillanes may have had his heart in the right place, but in the public eye, he doesn’t have enough moral clout to get everyone out of their homes and into the streets. After all, he did mount a coup (one that failed), and is therefore suspect in part because of its failure. We don’t need a hero who’ll do everything for us; we need a symbol to rally around, and after that we need to determine our own fate. To be our own heroes. To watch our government and keep it honest.