Mark and I just watched American Idol on Star World -- the episode where Camille Velasco gets kicked out. It was heartbreaking, but she did choose a really hard song not totally suited for her. Some people reading this are probably thinking: That episode? I know, I know... we are so far behind here in Asia, but we have to content ourselves with being always at the tail-end. Plus I cannot believe I am actually addicted to this show, which I had managed to avoid in its first two seasons, but now I just find myself tuning in every Tuesday and Thursday like an automaton. It helps, of course, that two Hawaiian Pinays made it to the Final 12. These days, we take even the smallest crumbs just to feel proud about being Pinoys. Most of us are already bracing for an FPJ presidency.
But back to AI. This episode probably ranks as one of the most emotional in the brief history of the show. And Jasmine Trias, I tell you, absolutely rocks! What a huge heart, and what a huge talent! To sing that way even with laryngitis takes real talent! But America, unfortunately, is deaf. Nevertheless, Pinays rock! (Mark wants to add to that list Angela Perez Barraquio -- Miss America 2000! -- and Vanessa Minillo -- Miss Teen USA 1998!)
Getting the latest news about the show from CNN, I'm posting this article...
Theories flew fast and furious Thursday after the "American Idol" viewer vote went against favorite Jennifer Hudson, ranging from racism to fateful weather to teenage puppy love.
Or maybe America just has a tin ear.
While Hudson and two other singers lavishly praised by the show's judges ended up at the bottom of the heap Wednesday night, contestants who gave marginal performances were top vote-getters.
Hudson, Fantasia Barrino and La Toya London -- "The Three Divas," as they've become known -- seemed to have the best shot at taking the Fox TV contest. But they were less popular than their competition, including redheaded crooner John Stevens, a 16-year-old whose highest compliment from the judges was that he was a nice guy.
I found myself watching a movie about Ted Bundy in Cinemax.
I mean, what the...?
So I grabbed the nearest fluffy, and unwatched, DVD I had. Which turned out to be Love Actually. Yes, it's trifle, contrived, and shallow... with a lot of uncomfortable loose ends and silly turns of plot. But who cared? It was definitely better than Ted Bundy. Plus there was Rodrigo Santoro, and there was a line of dialogue I liked, from the boy who played Liam Neeson's kid: "Come on, dad, let's have our ass kicked for love!" Beautifully said.
What is it about poets? Even in the pantheon of troubled artists, poets tend to be perceived as singularly despairing and subject to bad ends. Sylvia Plath turned on the gas and stuck her head in an oven when she was 30. Hart Crane leaped from the deck of a ship at 32. Paul Laurence Dunbar succumbed to tuberculosis at 33. As if that weren't bad enough, now one of the largest studies of its kind shows that poets tend to die younger than other types of writers.
Let’s get down to one source of my anxieties these days: an email inbox full of guilt and recrimination—unanswered emails that tumble with so much need that I have to take pause and ask myself: if technology is supposed to make things easier for us (better communication, faster speed, convenience, and ease…), is dread for such ease its ultimate paradox? Convenience making way to becoming one massive traffic jam of distress? I suppose it is. I can only quote the avant-garde fictionist and über-scholar Rolando Tolentino when he replied to one of our correspondences some time ago: “Ako rin, madalas ay may anxiety na magbukas ng email dahil foregrounding of more work. Ganito na talaga ang reality ng uneven techno-world we claim to be part of.”
And yet we also know we cannot live without the Internet, or any of the technological marvels we currently call our real life. But let me qualify that a bit: we perceive such things as something integral to how we live, that even if we know deep within that we can live without them, we can only imagine the headaches with which we have to contend with in a life made much too easy by such conveniences.
Cellphones, for instance—but that goes without saying. I may have been one of quiet a few in the Philippines who owned a cellphone in 1997. I got my DoCoMo handset—smaller than your Nokia 8250—in Tokyo when I was studying there, but which I promptly gave away once I arrived back in the country, to a friend who had marveled at its small size. Cellphones in the Philippines then had yet to take root in the culture—and the initial sets that were available were clunky devices with antennas. Remember Nokia 5110? Or Bosch? (I can only imagine the shivers you are getting with that flash of memory.) For the next four years, I was cellphone-free. Even when all everybody could talk about was this model or that, this latest version of Snakes (Snakes!) or that, this wallpaper or that backlight… But nobody could convince me that it was an important thing. Not to have a cellphone became a mark, somehow, of the true rebel—something I always fancied myself to be. Those were simple times.
Eventually, of course, my brother, straight from Switzerland, placed a Nokia 3210 in my hands and told me it was necessary that I keep in touch with him, and the family. Suddenly, I was finding out this was a tool for expedience indeed. The high point of my so-called flirtations with cellphone culture was when I had forgotten this poetry reading I was supposed to organize. The event was set for a Friday night at 8 o’clock—and I was walking home for school that late afternoon when the owner of the bar we were supposed to hold the event in, hailed me and said, “See you tonight for your poetry reading!” That froze me. Armed only with SMS invitations, a scanner, and a printer—I was able to organize a poetry reading within three hours flat. And it was surprisingly a success. Thanks to the cellphone.
From then on, I was never one to doubt the life made so much easier with a cellphone, like a trusty gun in its holster. It is a weapon in an age where information is the ammunition. But my rebellious streak still shines through: I have never exchanged my Nokia 3210 for other, sleeker models—and my cellphone is still in its original gray casing. This is the case, even if a Motorola V60g is in my room, waiting for me to change my mind. Even if the temptations are constant to jump ship and get that new phone with a camera. But I won’t. I refuse to be part of the commodified crowd. Easily whipped to buying the latest models for the sake of owning the latest. I tell myself: I am practical. The truth may be that I am merely cheap.
The Internet is completely another story. One of my writer-friends Gabriela Dans Lee recently sent me five questions to answer while she makes head-and-toes about the Internet lifestyles we all lead.
She asks, “Can you live without an Internet connection right now? Why or why not?” My answer: my life is the Internet. I spend more hours in a day clicking and surfing than I do watching TV, reading, eating, or sleeping. There is a compulsion to log-in at least twice a day. I buy my Nitro or my Warpspeed pre-paid cards like I drink water. And when these pre-paid credits run dry in the middle of the night, I have my standby of a Globelines dial-up account to whisk me through the quickly dawning sense of starvation.
Am I addicted? In a sense, maybe. Or it may also be that modern life revolves more around the digital these days. More than we like it to be, perhaps, but it is already out there. The Internet is a savvy lover. It connects you with people you care for, or work with, hundreds or thousands of miles away. It gets you the latest information on anything, even read the thousands of magazines or newspapers or books you do not get to have in your local newsstand. The New York Times, for example. Or Amazon, from which I have grown a small library of hard-to-find volumes. I aced many of my tests in college by logging on first and getting substantial extra information regarding my exam topics a full two hours before the teacher sat us down for the grind. I’ve also built a network of colleagues by maintaining a website dedicated to my profession. It is heady, the possibilities one gets just by being online.
The first time I logged in was when the Internet was still in its baby stages in the Philippines. I was immediately hooked. Going to an Internet café cost P60 then, for every hour. I remember spending as much as P300 just for one session (this was way back in 1995) -- and never even considered that a waste of money. Now, that obsession with keeping abreast Net-wise has morphed into various pre-occupations. Consider the following, beside the everyday task of logging on to email or to surf: Blogger. Friendster. Geocities. Face-pic. Yahoo! Messenger. mIRC. MSN Messenger. OzWorld. Google.
That is, for the uninitiated: A journal or a diary, or a links machine set-up to simulate a kind of personal magazine. A network of friends and flirtations. An online profile readily on-hand for the prying eyes we all seek to unleash our exhibitionist tendencies. Three real-time chat fora, often complete with video, to act out our personal theaters. An avatar game that is seductive as a world all your own. And a library of all things possible and retrievable in the universe.
Sometimes it strikes me: do I live a life in order to blog about what happens to me? Does my online self define who I really am? The boundaries between the two often blur, which make me disoriented at times. I would get cranky, and I’d bid farewell to my online self “in order to get on with an offline life”—but sooner or later, I would come back to the Internet like I could not really let go. I have been through five blogs already! I have two Friendster accounts! I maintain seven webpages! I chat at least once a week! I Google like crazy! Imagine that. The Internet practically tracks my evolution as a human being. Am I pathetic? Not really. I think I like the fact that my private life edges on the public, a reverse voyeurism of sorts—but it’s a life, of sorts.
Gabby again: “How important is the Internet to you in meeting new people or communicating with people over long distances?” As important as knowing that you cannot even remember the last time you sent, or received snail mail. And Friendster? By God. The many long lost friends I’ve found again in Friendster! The whole idea is amazing—making the theoretical six-degrees of separation become more a reality, and in increasingly lesser degrees as well.
“Has the Internet changed your concept of relationships, whether platonic or romantic? If so, how?” Not radically. But love can be found in the Internet. My best friend Kristyn once made a joke for herself, and filled-out a form for a matchmaking site. An Australian chap named Justin answered. Soon they were emailing. Then they were cam-chatting. Now, they’re living happily as husband and wife in Sydney—a case of twains meeting where once it was impossible. The Internet has become a doorway for intimate things. There are good results—and bad ones. But that is only natural.
“What were your initial purposes in creating your various web accounts? What are the pros and cons of maintaining these accounts?” Because they are simply there. We mainly email and surf the Web for the various information we need; the rest—chatting or maintaining a Friendster account—become welcome diversions. The candy in the bunch.
And lastly: “Ultimately, is being aware of the opportunities for communicating over the Internet a help or a hindrance?” Both. It is a help, as I have variously intimated above. But also a hindrance by the way it has replaced a real face for a white monitor. That is its catch: to communicate online is really like maintaining a love affair via a fax machine.
And the convenience may also hurt. The ease points the way to a clogging. Chat friends demanding to be entertained in Yahoo! Messenger. Email inboxes threatening to overwhelm your miniscule Hotmail size limit. Friendsters demanding testimonials. Google flooding you with too many returns you may not, at all, be “feeling lucky.”
This is the dread I speak of. But I guess it is a dread I can learn to live with.
But one must also make an effort, I guess, to live an offline life. We are not, after all, robots.
Mom's Closet's last post leaves me very, very distressed because I remember being so delighted when Kristyn -- my bestest friend and haggot -- became part of my blogging universe. I remember when the Midnight Society first started communicating with each other electronically via e-groups (remember those?). It was great at first. But the epistolary medium proved shortlived (and tiring) for many of us in the barkada because the mere thought of "letter-writing," even if done in the convenience of emailing, invited a sense of it being... well, a "chore." I remember I would not write back to group emails for days, even weeks. It was dreadful.
But blogging changed all that because this medium fancied itself a diary, a personal newsletter, a links engine, a bulletin board, a forum board -- all rolled into one. Plus you can post pictures! Plus you can tweak the design to make it fit the very personality you think you have! It was definitely more colorful than mere email... And it proved to be fun when members of the Midnight Society (a quick aside: you're right, Shi -- whoever you are -- it is a beautiful, close-knit friendship peopled by smart, creative, driven, ambitious, questioning but open-minded, semi-ultra-liberal/sometimes-conservative, and often sexually-enlightened individuals...) would just hop all over each other's pages, taking note of each of our triumphs, defeats, birthdays, marriages, professional struggles and make-overs, trips, and trysts. If somebody was sick, we bring electronic chicken soup. If somebody has a birthday, we make tributes. And so on, and so forth. You can very well say this was something noble, if only for those of us who belonged to this group. For a while there, our blogging was a universe to itself.
And yet the very accessibility we had to each other -- initially a good thing since all of us are geographically diversely located (nobody occupies the same city, except for Clee and Aldwyn: we live, variously, in New York, San Fernando, Manila, Cebu, Dumaguete, Tokyo, Puerto Princesa, Sydney, Los Angeles, Dapitan, and Chicago) -- also proved to be our Achilles' heel. Being online is also being public. Since most of us live in Bloggerland, we do not have the same comments-gatekeeping system afforded for LJ folks (Nada O. Nil is the only LJ maniac among us). That meant our intimate lives were also public, and thus also subject to public scrutiny. And subject to anonymous -- sometimes unwanted -- comments by strangers and/or hangers-on. (There's a word for these folks: "lurkers.")
Ryan, for instance. Ryan who has a choice of not reading us if indeed we are the children of the Apocalypse, but does!, inexplicably enough. Which is fine, really, but he abuses many of us with unwanted comments in our tagboards and haloscans. Comments that many of us take to heart even if we pretend we are strong individuals who can take sticks, stones, and hurtful words... or even bitches who "do not care" what other people say.
It would have been okay if he does his ranting about some of us in a private journal all his own (like somebody else in my blogsphere, hehehe -- but he does it discreetly, which I appreciate and secretly love, even though I've been branded a literary canon-forger! hehehe), but noooo... Ryan leaves his mark in our circle of blogship, which was first offered up as a means of communication between friends who just liked the idea of personal online publishing in lieu of letters. I can permit Mom's Closet, or whoever else in M.S. a rant in MY tagboards -- they are part of my group after all. But some other people just should learn to keep away, if they can't say anything nice.
In honor of Mom's Closet's decision to close shop, The Secret Tango Dancer will also stop dancing -- at least for a week. It is my equivalent of a moment of silence. Plus, I do tend to talk too much. I will not stop blogging, because I've done that before -- three times! -- but I always went back to it in the end. Plus, I believe blogging CAN be beyond Ryan. He will have no power over me.
And I really need the time to finish my stories, anyway.
I have a story in Philippine Graphic this week, titled "Cruising."
Yup, cruising... That one. Dougie texted me tonight: "Ohhh, something I'm familiar with..." Hehehe. Actually, this was a story I wrote in a hoot. (Imagine, for a protagonist: a Shakespeare-spouting call boy!) But now I'm thinking, the Great Nick Joaquin read this? Oh God.
The following are the fellows to the 2004 Dumaguete National Writers Workshop:
Gabriela Dans Lee
Michelle Camille Correa
Janet Lyn Alano
James Iain Neish
Marie S.J. La Vina
Lissa Gene Mata
Hedwig de Leon
Maria Gabriela Aparentado
For the incoming fellows, please email Ate Sabel as soon as possible to finalize the details of your trip to Dumaguete. The address is edith_tiempo (at) hotmail (dot) com or carmel_kate (at) yahoo (dot) com. You can also call or text her through 0917-454-4692. All fellows are encouraged to arrive in Dumaguete by May 1 or 2. The workshop starts on May 3.
The panel is composed of the following:
Dr. Edith L. Tiempo
Dr. Cesar Ruiz Aquino
Mr. Bobby Flores Villasis
Atty. Ernesto Superal Yee
May 3 to 7
Dr. Gemino H. Abad
Mr. Adrian Cristobal
Mr. Butch Perez
Mr. Alfred Yuson
May 10 to 14
Dr. Marjorie Evasco
Ms. Susan Lara
Prof. DM Reyes
Dr. Anthony L. Tan
May 17 to 21
Dr. Rofel Brion
Dr. Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta
Mr. Francis Macansantos
The list of panelists may change. For other information abouit the Workshop, please go to the website.
This humidity is a kind of murder. The way it kills you, it first invades your skin, boils everything underneath till you die in the pressure cooker of your own body. Your nose and your throat throb threateningly with the promise of summer colds -- that festering thing. You become constanly thirsty, and sometimes delirious, but there is no respite, even under the shade of a tree, even after drinking glasses of water filled to the brim with ice cubes. The heat simply will not go away; it stays and follows you around, like a bad dream, delighting in the torture of your slowly weakening body. You must have taken your 3,098,346th shower today. To no avail, still. You must have ransacked your wardrobe for the skimpiest piece of summer wear. To no avail, still.
You wish someone can take you away to some place cold and comfortable.
My good friends in the Midnight Society have been quite religious of late (take that, R.!), probably because of Holy Week. They have been cross-posting this really, really long Our Daily Bread-type of story about, well, faith. Much too long, I thought. I am going to sum up what they are really trying to say by quoting Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing."
Some random good news I needed badly today. This is from an emailed forward by Jose Marte Abueg:
Picture this: a young American, newly arrived in Manila, is stranded on the streets with no money. To anyone who believes all the hair-raising stories about this country, his future could be summed up in two words: "dead meat."
Yet as Brent Bartel, 28, discovered, a visitor's fate here is not determined by news reports, but by the kindness of people. And the kindness he was shown has made him rethink the popular image of the Philippines as a hostile place.
When he arrived last month to see his fiancée in the southern Philippines, it was only his second trip to the country. He recalls how, the first time he came here two years ago, his friends in Portland, Oregon, were aghast. They told the truck driver that he was going to a dangerous place -- and little wonder. News stories and travel advisories harped on about bombings, lawlessness and criminality.
Strangely, Mr Bartel's first trip was uneventful. It was the second which put him to the test. When he arrived, he found that because of some glitch, the cash machines at the airport would not accept his card. He spent most of the few dollars he had taking a cab to a motel, where he stayed prior to catching an early flight to the provinces.
The next day, after spending the rest of his cash on a taxi to the airport, he found he had been driven to the wrong building -- the correct one was several kilometres away. He had no money, he was at the wrong terminal and his plane was leaving in an hour. Desperately, he tried running there with all his luggage, but would never have made it if a cab driver had not pulled up beside him and asked if he needed a ride.
When the American explained his predicament, the driver became upset that Mr Bartel might be getting a bad impression of the Philippines. And so he told him to hop in.
But his problems were not over yet. At the airport, the gate agent told him he needed 100 pesos departure tax, and 500 pesos for excess baggage. When Mr Bartel told him that he had no money, and explained how he had been unable to withdraw any cash, the agent paid the amount out of his own pocket.
In the end, because of two strangers who stepped in when he needed the help, Mr Bartel succeeded in meeting his fiancée. They will marry this summer.
He says that he got the names and telephone numbers of the people who helped him, but only after being insistent. Reflecting on his experience in what is supposed to be a dangerous country, he said: "It's hard to imagine this kind of hospitality could be repeated anywhere else in the modern era. Maybe my story could change a few more minds as to what a great travelling destination the Philippines is."
South China Morning Post, 1 April 2004. By Alan Robles.
All love is love at first sight. Some people take longer than others before they know what they've seen.
-- Foudini M. Cat, author of The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat
Read the rest of the beautiful and witty interview here. This cat gets my... envy goat. Excerpts:
"You can love all the world but you cannot have all of it. As my mother used to say, Eat the meat on your chicken bone and don't complain because you don't have the whole chicken or you will end up with nothing. As usual, she was right. She lived in the great outdoors, but the great outdoors froze her to death."
"Cats hate water? No one told me that. Grace the Cat likes to sit beneath a dripping faucet and let the water splash onto her head. When I was a kitten, I tried to climb into the shower many times, but Warm always shut the glass door. It is the same with water as with dogs. A cat must get used to both of them. But we can swim, you know--if we have to."
Q: Does it bother you when humans, particularly Warm and Pest, try to speak cat language?
A: Pest doesn’t really try, but Warm is incorrigible. I don't mind her trying. I mind her succeeding. She speaks Cattish so badly that she says the most horrendous things. She doesn't know what she's saying! Goosefleas! Fog cream! Moon beans! Just today, Grace the Cat rubbed up against her because she was hungry. Rat toes! said Warm. Grace was very insulted.
Ayayayay. Suya kaayo ko.
[via dirtynerdluv, who says: "i'm reading his autobiography & he breaks my heart twelve times a page," which is really something when the writer happens to be a... cat]
This is absolutely scary -- and mystifying at the same time. Although I think some mathematical equation is at work (which just proves that if I listened more to my Math teacher in high school, I might actually have learned something beside fear and loathing). Consider staring at the same number all the time you're clicking for the next guess. The symbols float! But whatever.
There will be no talk of Easter or Resurrection. I had no sleep the entire night last night -- all of the hours devoted to waking preparations for Monday's work. But I finished what I had set out to do by six o'clock in the morning (which was only a partial part of the entire to-do list -- darn!), and which made me painfully aware that I missed out on a date with my mom to see the sunrise by the beach around 5 -- darn! She texted me Happy Easter! And didn't mention a thing. I admire her passive-aggressiveness. Slept until noon, then Mark woke me with a call to remind me I had promised to go with him and his mom and sis and cousins to Cangmating beach in the afternoon. What's with people and Easter and beaches? I reluctantly went -- mindful of the mountains of work still left undone... but ended up enjoying quite a bit. Now it's dark, and I'm back home, and the long night looms with a hiss. Oh God.
A regression. I don't like the way this day unraveled. It was wasted away. I could have done so much with all that Saturday sun, but noooooo. I don't know what happened. It's just that the next thing I knew, it was 6:33 p.m., and everything was dark and just too late.
And yet, it is indeed now a Good Friday. I feel relaxed, and at peace. I am channeling Oprah. The Little Prince. The morning air. It is 6 o'clock in the morning, and it smells like the beginning. And yet I have not had any sleep the whole night. I was busy cleaning the apartment, see -- spring cleaning if you will, although it is practically summer. I don't know what it is about me, but I prefer cleaning my pad at night, when everybody else is asleep. I like the pervasive quiet, the total immersion the night brings to the task. Then again, I've always considered cleaning house a kind of meditation. So I take my time, starting midnight, and ending usually just before the sun breaks through the darkness. I take my time. Dismantling the place, to clear space. Wiping the street dust off the glass jalousies. Sweeping the floor, then mopping it. Turning everything -- books, figurines, vases, tables, chairs -- upside down, trying to wipe through the slightest hint of grime. Scrubbing Lysol on the bathroom tiles. Airing the closet. Changing bed linens. Washing the dishes. Making last minute arrangements, and seeing to it that everything is in its place. Then brewing coffee. Then sitting down just as the city begins to awaken, and breathing in the freshness of my space. It is perfectly transcendental. And I am happy again.
Things look predictably gloomy. Sunny gloomy. The sun is everywhere, as usual: but without the jump of summer. Oh God. And it's still Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow will be the Holy bowels. And I'm so freaking bored already: I'm in Friendster most of the time, in a kind of silly race (with everybody else?) to reach the 500 friends-limit. Deep inside, I'm asking myself, What the heck for? But it's like a stupid addiction. Now, I'm even adding up people I don't know at all -- and just because they look... cute. It's like returning to the womb of high school cliques -- degeneration of the worst kind. I have reached the bottom of my own shallowness.
I would like to present to you a synopsis of a compelling, but often overlooked, landscape in this country's poetry. In the last decade, and increasingly so in just the last five years, the presence of Filipino-American poetry in American Letters has been remarkable. The resume I am about to present to you is extensive (and yet incomplete) but is subordinate to the most salient and propitious aspect of the Filipino-American poetic community: the individual poetries are markedly different, indeed sometimes contradictory. And despite the disparateness of styles and backgrounds and voices, they've forged a community, a welcome counterpoint to an American poetic culture that tends --either willfully or not-- to cultivate coteries and cliques.
The Filipino-American poetic community boasts a collective resume that includes high-profile awards and presses, academic appointments, and a dynamic record of creative production in journals and anthologies. Consider this: since Eugene Gloria's DRIVERS AT THE SHORT-TIME MOTEL was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa in 1999 for the National Poetry Series, Filipinos like Jon Pineda (BIRTHMARK, 2003 Crab Orchard Series Award), Oliver De La Paz (NAMES ABOVE HOUSES, 2001 Crab Orchard Series Award), and Aimee Nezhukumatathil (MIRACLE FRUIT, 2002 Tupelo Press Judge's Prize) have been staking new ground in the varied precincts of contemporary American verse.
Don't be mistaken. This community's work has been in the making for some time with poets such as Luis Francia, Eileen Tabios, Nick Carb?, Vince Gotera, Eric Gamalinda, the widely anthologized Jessica Hagedorn, and many, many more who have opened doors (both editorial and creative) for the current emerging group of Filipino-American poets. In addition to Pineda's debut collection, this year two other writers join the ranks of published Pinoys: Sarah Gambito, whose collection MATADORA won the Alice James New York Prize (an honor previously won by Gamalinda for his collection ZERO GRAVITY), and Paolo Javier, whose collection THE TIME AT THE END OF THIS WRITING will be published by Ahadada Books this month.
Still, this snapshot of Pinoy writers is terribly incomplete without Marisa de los Santos (FROM THE BONES OUT, which won the James Dickey Contemporary Poetry Series Award), Barbara Jane Reyes (whose playful and dark collection GRAVITIES OF CENTER was published by Arkipelago last year), Catalina Cariaga (whose CULTURAL EVIDENCE was published by Subpress Collective in 1999), and Rick Barot (a former Stegner Fellow and current Jenny McKean Writer who published THE DARKER FALL with Sarabande Books in 2002). One must count the voices of published Pinoy poets who do not have full-length collections (but may well soon): Leslieann Hobayan, F. Omar Telan, Bino Realuyo, Marlon Esguerra, Joseph Legaspi, and, again, many, many more. (note: Legaspi and Gambito have spearheaded Kundiman, an organization modeled partly on Cave Canem that will provide the first national Asian-American emerging writers' retreat this summer at the University of Virginia).
I would like to see Poets & Writers explore the dynamics of this burgeoning community, the way it it is cultivating personal and creative connections and dialogue without a homogenization of style and voice (I was informed recently by e-mail that a recent Pulitzer finalist just last week called Fil-Am poets "unstoppable"). Filipino-American writers are making notable contributions to this country's poetic culture both as individuals and as a real community. It is a group struggling with, and benefiting from, a spectrum of pragmatic, editorial, and artistic identities. Please consider an article highlighting the booming generation of Filipino-American writing. The wider notice of Pinoy poets has been a long time coming.
Kigali, Rwanda, April 6 — When 800,000 of their countrymen were killed in massacres that began 10 years ago this week, many Rwandans lost faith not only in their government but in their religion as well. Today, in what is still a predominantly Catholic country, Islam is the fastest growing religion.
Roman Catholicism has been the dominant faith in Rwanda for more than a century. But many people, disgusted by the role that some priests and nuns played in the killing frenzy, have shunned organized religion altogether, and many more have turned to Islam.
"People died in my old church, and the pastor helped the killers," said Yakobo Djuma Nzeyimana, 21, who became a Muslim in 1996. "I couldn't go back and pray there. I had to find something else."
I am roasting. It's like a spa, the whole town, enveloped now in a sudden brownout. The electricity went out at 8 in the morning, without warning. But this was nothing new. In a sense, I half-expected this: there have been talks in the papers about the power supply in the country running dangerously low, but I credited that to the necessary manufacture of panic requisite in every election season. It was the same odd thing before Fidel Ramos became President in '92. We Filipinos have grown jaded, even in our crises. Which I guess is our biggest strength, though also our one fatal weakness. Comprehend that paradox, if you will. We're like cockroaches. We will survive the Apocalypse.
Even in sleep, I knew something was wrong when the electric fan in my pad just stopped whirring cold morning air onto my naked body. I vaguely remember raising my head, and cursing NORECO. But the growing heat made me even drowsier. When I came to, it was already 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and the streets, everywhere, were humming with portable generators lined up along the downtown sidewalks, futile in the onslaught of the summer heat. True, they made possible for the lights still being on temporarily , but what we needed now was the cold comfort of air-conditioning.
There is no air-conditioning anywhere, only a wall of oven heat that overwhelms. I feel thirsty, and I feel dead and shriveled, like a raisin left out in the sun for much too long. There is no ice cream I can buy, or halo-halo to quench my thirst. All the counter girls can say is a litany of: "There is no ice," or "We can't work the machine," or "We can't open the freezer" ... Why? Why? Why? Mark tells me the lights will come back on at 5, which is one hour and an eternity away. He sits in the next PC busy with his new Friendster account: he is inviting people, even strangers, like crazy... and it is almost a joy to behold, like watching a kid become lost in a candy store--
And just like that, the power comes back on. It's like an orgasm. My God, my skin can actually taste the slowly rising vapors of cool air in the room. My day, so late into the afternoon, can finally begin.
You can smell it, almost: the anticipation in the air for the holy days. I write this on a Tuesday, on the last day for living it up till the mandated piety of the next few days comes and makes Christian believers of all of us. Some have already begun by practicing some kind of restraint on pleasures. Like Coke, or chocolate. My friend Anita is saying she makes the Holy Week as an excuse to go on a diet. “The perfect way to prepare for the bikini summer,” she grins. I shush her misplaced reasons, but we both laugh. Some have already begun by extolling, too, the virtues of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, crying out how this movie has “absolutely” changed their lives. “It shows, in graphic detail, the pain Jesus had to go through to save the world!” one friend gushes.
I merely raise an eyebrow. I want to be cynical just to prove a point.
But, yes, of course, I know the drill, and my faith. I know.
“Jim Caviezel is hot,” someone texts from Australia.
I tell my texter Jim Caviezel got struck by lightning while making the movie. I ask her: “Answer this: was that a divine message of sorts?” She meanders, but we both agree: Jim Caviezel is hot.
There is almost a kind of panic everywhere. At the nearest video store, more than the usual number of people are lining up to bring home films the way squirrels, and what-not, hoard food for the coming winter. I swear, as well, that my mother is stocking up on groceries. “What’s going to happen, Marms?” I ask her. “Is the world coming to an end?” She gives me that look, and shrugs: “Who knows? I’m just preparing for anything, a contingency, just in case everything in the city will be closed.”
I don’t believe her, of course. Dumagueteños of late have shown an interesting tendency to celebrate Holy Week in more secular ways. Like taking to nearby resorts and calling it a Black Saturday well spent. Only the coming Friday, it would seem, would be the true showcase of descending quiet. The rest of the Holy Week will be business as usual.
I’ve always liked Holy Week. It is like the Official Start of Summer, the way Memorial Day is for Americans, I guess. The enjoyment is mostly secular, you must forgive me—the way it adds quiet to a life in whirlpool, for example, or the way its caloric days make me fall in love with someone, like a clock, five years running. The universe runs that way, I guess. Right on some cosmic schedule. And yet it is also a way of reminding me of what is important—and we all do need some reminding: our forgotten faiths. Or reflections, as well, on how piety can be dangerous, taken to the extreme.
I am the Vapor Trail... random, brutal, love master.
My exact opposite: The Backrubber, deliberate, gentle, sex dreamer.
I am the Vapor Trail. Here today, gone today. Am I in a relationship now?
What about now?
Vapor Trails can be highly charismatic people--unpredictable, confident, and magnetic. I'm experienced. I know how to handle myself in a relationship, and many people appreciate that. Many people, all in a row.
I've had my share of blissful beginnings, to be sure. But things almost never turn out how I'd like, do they? The problem is I'm never happy with someone for an extended period of time. Relate to the following:
Vapor Trails especially need a guy who will laugh at their jokes. They're also the most likely male type to be haunted by serious regret.
FACT: A few of my exes, the ones I was best to, will always love me. Nice going for me!