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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Thursday, September 30, 2004

entry arrow5:24 PM | One Particular Stupid, Ugly, Toady Freak

Quick, quick!



Remember what I told you earlier about Strange People Who Comment? Go to the comments section of my post on Chris Abella. Waaaay down there.



Her name's Nina. Say hello to Nina, everybody.



(Hello, Nina!)



Good.



Now, Nina wants you to know mga flies kayo who love to swarm around the tae of a kalabaw (read: me!).



Bwahahaha! This is so precious. I inspire such devotion! I am not even deleting this. I'm not being ironic here, but Nina... I love your style, baby.



In other news: it's Hell Week in Silliman. No, Gabs, you're not the only one. So, I won't be around for a few days to regale you with tae tales. So, buzz off for a while, my dear flies. Your King Tae will come back soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:24 PM | One Particular Stupid, Ugly, Toady Freak

Quick, quick!



Remember what I told you earlier about Strange People Who Comment? Go to the comments section of my post on Chris Abella. Waaaay down there.



Her name's Nina. Say hello to Nina, everybody.



(Hello, Nina!)



Good.



Now, Nina wants you to know mga flies kayo who love to swarm around the tae of a kalabaw (read: me!).



Bwahahaha! This is so precious. I inspire such devotion! I am not even deleting this. I'm not being ironic here, but Nina... I love your style, baby.



In other news: it's Hell Week in Silliman. No, Gabs, you're not the only one. So, I won't be around for a few days to regale you with tae tales. So, buzz off for a while, my dear flies. Your King Tae will come back soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:24 PM | One Particular Stupid, Ugly, Toady Freak

Quick, quick!



Remember what I told you earlier about Strange People Who Comment? Go to the comments section of my post on Chris Abella. Waaaay down there.



Her name's Nina. Say hello to Nina, everybody.



(Hello, Nina!)



Good.



Now, Nina wants you to know mga flies kayo who love to swarm around the tae of a kalabaw (read: me!).



Bwahahaha! This is so precious. I inspire such devotion! I am not even deleting this. I'm not being ironic here, but Nina... I love your style, baby.



In other news: it's Hell Week in Silliman. No, Gabs, you're not the only one. So, I won't be around for a few days to regale you with tae tales. So, buzz off for a while, my dear flies. Your King Tae will come back soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, September 29, 2004

entry arrow7:33 PM | A Break in Chris's Murder Case

Here's a Philippine Daily Inquirer story on the butcher who got arrested as a suspect in Chris' death. A butcher. How fucking appropriate.



[via babel machine]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:33 PM | A Break in Chris's Murder Case

Here's a Philippine Daily Inquirer story on the butcher who got arrested as a suspect in Chris' death. A butcher. How fucking appropriate.



[via babel machine]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:33 PM | A Break in Chris's Murder Case

Here's a Philippine Daily Inquirer story on the butcher who got arrested as a suspect in Chris' death. A butcher. How fucking appropriate.



[via babel machine]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, September 28, 2004

entry arrow3:53 PM | More Stupid, Ugly Freaks

If you've been reading some of the comments either in Tagboard and Haloscan -- that is, if you've been fast enough to get to them before I deleted most of them -- you would have noticed that I do attract some crazies. Homophobes, rabid pedants, religious slimeballs, schizoids na walang k, and anonymous hecklers. Tsk, tsk. Of course, I take this as a badge of honor. But sometimes I think: Why the heck are they in my blog?



I'm on the third day of my diet -- and so far, no fainting spells, only tempting memories of rich food. Ginny and I have made a pact (a wager!) that we will lose 25 lbs. before the year is over. (Although I told Ginny she looks sexy the way she is. I mean, come on, not everybody can boast of a fashion spread in Cosmopolitan magazine!) I've restructured my diet na, Skyflakes and plain water being dinner, and vegetables being lunch, without rice at all; and tomorrow, I start gym. I feel thin already.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow3:53 PM | More Stupid, Ugly Freaks

If you've been reading some of the comments either in Tagboard and Haloscan -- that is, if you've been fast enough to get to them before I deleted most of them -- you would have noticed that I do attract some crazies. Homophobes, rabid pedants, religious slimeballs, schizoids na walang k, and anonymous hecklers. Tsk, tsk. Of course, I take this as a badge of honor. But sometimes I think: Why the heck are they in my blog?



I'm on the third day of my diet -- and so far, no fainting spells, only tempting memories of rich food. Ginny and I have made a pact (a wager!) that we will lose 25 lbs. before the year is over. (Although I told Ginny she looks sexy the way she is. I mean, come on, not everybody can boast of a fashion spread in Cosmopolitan magazine!) I've restructured my diet na, Skyflakes and plain water being dinner, and vegetables being lunch, without rice at all; and tomorrow, I start gym. I feel thin already.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow3:53 PM | More Stupid, Ugly Freaks

If you've been reading some of the comments either in Tagboard and Haloscan -- that is, if you've been fast enough to get to them before I deleted most of them -- you would have noticed that I do attract some crazies. Homophobes, rabid pedants, religious slimeballs, schizoids na walang k, and anonymous hecklers. Tsk, tsk. Of course, I take this as a badge of honor. But sometimes I think: Why the heck are they in my blog?



I'm on the third day of my diet -- and so far, no fainting spells, only tempting memories of rich food. Ginny and I have made a pact (a wager!) that we will lose 25 lbs. before the year is over. (Although I told Ginny she looks sexy the way she is. I mean, come on, not everybody can boast of a fashion spread in Cosmopolitan magazine!) I've restructured my diet na, Skyflakes and plain water being dinner, and vegetables being lunch, without rice at all; and tomorrow, I start gym. I feel thin already.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:28 AM | On Chris Abella

Ano ba? Another friend -- and another Christopher -- is in danger. Christopher Abella (we all know this guy as Chris or Kuya Chris or Paui or Papa Paui), father of two and husband of Mayen Foronda, is in the last stages of renal failure. He needs our prayers.



The last time I saw Chris, I was walking down Hibbard Avenue. He was riding his motorbike with Mayen. He looked cheerful.



"Hey, Ian!" he called out. "Guess what. I had a stroke!"



Just like that.



Aghast, I told him how could that be, he was too young.



"It's all the rich food in Why Not?, that's what I think," he said. And then after more casual chit-chat -- how can one have casual chit-chat about strokes? -- we parted.



Hang in there, Chris. Our prayers are with you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:28 AM | On Chris Abella

Ano ba? Another friend -- and another Christopher -- is in danger. Christopher Abella (we all know this guy as Chris or Kuya Chris or Paui or Papa Paui), father of two and husband of Mayen Foronda, is in the last stages of renal failure. He needs our prayers.



The last time I saw Chris, I was walking down Hibbard Avenue. He was riding his motorbike with Mayen. He looked cheerful.



"Hey, Ian!" he called out. "Guess what. I had a stroke!"



Just like that.



Aghast, I told him how could that be, he was too young.



"It's all the rich food in Why Not?, that's what I think," he said. And then after more casual chit-chat -- how can one have casual chit-chat about strokes? -- we parted.



Hang in there, Chris. Our prayers are with you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:28 AM | On Chris Abella

Ano ba? Another friend -- and another Christopher -- is in danger. Christopher Abella (we all know this guy as Chris or Kuya Chris or Paui or Papa Paui), father of two and husband of Mayen Foronda, is in the last stages of renal failure. He needs our prayers.



The last time I saw Chris, I was walking down Hibbard Avenue. He was riding his motorbike with Mayen. He looked cheerful.



"Hey, Ian!" he called out. "Guess what. I had a stroke!"



Just like that.



Aghast, I told him how could that be, he was too young.



"It's all the rich food in Why Not?, that's what I think," he said. And then after more casual chit-chat -- how can one have casual chit-chat about strokes? -- we parted.



Hang in there, Chris. Our prayers are with you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Monday, September 27, 2004

entry arrow1:48 AM | More National Book Awards Brouhaha...

Remember all that brouhaha over the National Book Awards? Over children's literature and chick lit? Over Mango Comics' Darna and Gelo's The Nymph of MTV? I thought the whole issue was over, but Adam David over at Elephant Still Missing still has some interesting things to say in the following comments exchange.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:48 AM | More National Book Awards Brouhaha...

Remember all that brouhaha over the National Book Awards? Over children's literature and chick lit? Over Mango Comics' Darna and Gelo's The Nymph of MTV? I thought the whole issue was over, but Adam David over at Elephant Still Missing still has some interesting things to say in the following comments exchange.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:48 AM | More National Book Awards Brouhaha...

Remember all that brouhaha over the National Book Awards? Over children's literature and chick lit? Over Mango Comics' Darna and Gelo's The Nymph of MTV? I thought the whole issue was over, but Adam David over at Elephant Still Missing still has some interesting things to say in the following comments exchange.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, September 26, 2004

entry arrow10:05 AM | Out!





JM Cobarrubias (here with Cheche Lazaro) gets the third degree in today's Sunday Inquirer Magazine. I've always admired this guy from way back in The Probe Team. And the fact that he outed himself on national television was simply amazing. Not many people I know are that brave.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:05 AM | Out!





JM Cobarrubias (here with Cheche Lazaro) gets the third degree in today's Sunday Inquirer Magazine. I've always admired this guy from way back in The Probe Team. And the fact that he outed himself on national television was simply amazing. Not many people I know are that brave.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:05 AM | Out!





JM Cobarrubias (here with Cheche Lazaro) gets the third degree in today's Sunday Inquirer Magazine. I've always admired this guy from way back in The Probe Team. And the fact that he outed himself on national television was simply amazing. Not many people I know are that brave.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, September 25, 2004

entry arrow7:13 PM | People Murder For This?

Dinah asks why Filipinos murder for cellphones...



I still have this Nokia 3210, which I will never ever exchange for any of those shiny new things. It's sturdy, it's very functional, it still looks sleek, and it's very user-friendly.





And I don't think anyone would want to rob me of this. Last time I checked, this phone went for a mere P1,500. That made me laugh. I am so cheap. But safe naman. (The other night, though, during a small dinner party, Bing Valbuena brought out her cellphone which was one of those really ancient things, the ones with antennas. "O--, naay mo reklamo?" she said. That brought the house down.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:13 PM | People Murder For This?

Dinah asks why Filipinos murder for cellphones...



I still have this Nokia 3210, which I will never ever exchange for any of those shiny new things. It's sturdy, it's very functional, it still looks sleek, and it's very user-friendly.





And I don't think anyone would want to rob me of this. Last time I checked, this phone went for a mere P1,500. That made me laugh. I am so cheap. But safe naman. (The other night, though, during a small dinner party, Bing Valbuena brought out her cellphone which was one of those really ancient things, the ones with antennas. "O--, naay mo reklamo?" she said. That brought the house down.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:13 PM | People Murder For This?

Dinah asks why Filipinos murder for cellphones...



I still have this Nokia 3210, which I will never ever exchange for any of those shiny new things. It's sturdy, it's very functional, it still looks sleek, and it's very user-friendly.





And I don't think anyone would want to rob me of this. Last time I checked, this phone went for a mere P1,500. That made me laugh. I am so cheap. But safe naman. (The other night, though, during a small dinner party, Bing Valbuena brought out her cellphone which was one of those really ancient things, the ones with antennas. "O--, naay mo reklamo?" she said. That brought the house down.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:43 PM | Art in a Time of Terror



I wrote this a day after I heard Chris was shot by cellphone robbers. The tragedy occupied my mind all through the day and in the beginnings of weekend. I saw Chris's shadow everywhere...



Art in a Time of Terror



Thinking back, it must have been around the time I was preparing to go see the art exhibit on show in the Silliman University Main Library this week -- a collection to commemorate Peace Week -- when I first heard via an SMS alert that my friend and college classmate Chris Misajon -- son of former Silliman President Mervyn Misajon -- was fighting for his life in an Iloilo hospital, becoming yet another statistic in the creeping reality of murderous cellphone robbers.



The Philippine Daily Inquirer/GMA News Network website had it as a breaking story: "[He] was driving with a companion on a dimly lit street when at least four robbers flagged them down... While his companion ran for help, the suspects shot Misajon and took his cellular phone." That's it. Human life for a piece of merchandise.



Later, I learned that a shotgun had been leveled at his guts.



"He was shot at close range," Eric Joven, another friend, had texted those of us who were suddenly in the grips of bearing bad news. "He was hit at the left side of his abdomen," his kidney shattered, but more than that, there were shotgun splinters all over his other organs -- the liver, the pancreas, the intestines. It took nine hours for the doctors to clean everything out. Much later, we learn from GMA-7 producer and former classmate Ahd Marco that Chris was recuperating in Intensive Care, but now he was within what the doctors called the "72-hour critical period," after which we could finally learn whether our friend's life -- as a young father and husband and as a dedicated TV news anchor -- had been spared. We have learned to count the hours.



Sometimes, it is increasingly hard to believe there could be anything less in our lives than the paramount knowledge of our daily encounters with terrors big and small. Sometimes, when we feel the burden and the weight of such grim realities in our lives, we learn to ask questions without answers: What for everything, given all these? What now?



Specifically, art. What for, art, indeed? If art is supposed to be the classic human celebration of beauty, does it have any import in times of terror?



You could say this notions of dark days was born under what sequential storyteller and Pulitzer Prise winner Art Spiegelman has called "the shadow of no towers," bearing in mind the repercussions of that fateful day in September 2001 when we knew for sure that the world as we knew it was in for some extensive turbulence. Those turbulences have indeed come true, spilling blood and guts all over the world, from Bali to Manila, from Baghdad to Madrid, from Jerusalem to Islamabad, from Washington, D.C. to Riyadh.



In his recent essay, "Writing in a Time of Terror and the (Mis)Manmagement of Grief," Filipino writer Charlson Ong writes about such repercussion on his fiction: "No doubt the events of 9/11 and their consequences have cast a shadow over our work as writers. Already, fictionists like Salman Rushdie and Haruki Murakami have responded with important works. As a nation, we have been victim to political and sectarian violence even before the catastrophe in New York. You in Mindanao have had to live with war or the threat of it for many decades. But now, our involvement in America's 'war against terror' threatens to engage us in a broader conflict."



Art does not develop in a vacuum, indeed, as F. Sionil Jose used to say. Echoing Salvador Lopez, the National Artist for Literature had continued: "The artist is first responsible not just to his art but to society as well."



Ong further writes: "Historically, conflict and catastrophe often bring out the best in artists. Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov deal with the drama wrought by profound changes in Russia at the end of the 19th century. World War II spawned such novels as Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and Stevan Javellana's Without Seeing the Dawn. The Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso's Guernica. Lu Xun wrote Ah Q during the 1920s as China suffered imperial collapse, strife and foreign aggression. So, too, the excesses of the 'Cultural Revolution' of 1960s became the subject of the new wave of Chinese cinema as well as the work of Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian. Apartheid in South Africa was the canvas across which Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetze painted their intimate literary portraits."



Thus, in the tradition of Pablo Picasso's Guernica (the Spanish artist's famous abstract, painterly thesis on the horrors of war), we now have within the very walls of Silliman University's Main Library a continuation of the artistic treatise on the meaning of war and peace in an Age of Chaos and Terror. Timely, too, because the exhibit -- sponsored by Silliman’s Peace Resource Center -- comes during the week when all of the Philippines remember the imposition of Martial Law by then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.



The exhibit is interesting for two reasons. One is its curatorial decision to juxtapose the works of established artists now working in Dumaguete with works by young amateurs -- teenagers and grade-school children, I take it, who had taken to the brush and the canvas in an "on-the-spot" art competition to celebrate Peace Week. These works -- some of them colorful doodles done with such grand passions, and perhaps reflective of the Matisse style -- are a merry insight on young people's conception of what is happening right now in our society, proof perhaps that they, too, know the gravity of things happening.



The other reason, for me, is the way the exhibit makes me see how artists render social reality. I like the way some of the works channel our pains with such subtle use of imagery and composition. I like their thoughtful provocation. Others, however, disappoint by giving something "too easy": a bludgeoning of on-your-face "message," in other words.



But this is, nevertheless, only a critic's demand. I am even ashamed to demand so much from an exhibit of good intentions. Over-all, one must only admire the way our artists have indeed lived Sionil's call, that "art must not develop in a vacuum." These works have something to say, that is important. But some just say it more poetically than the others.



Of the more seasoned artists, exhibits such as this tend to draw out the pedantic, the didactic. You know... artwork that slaps you with "obvious" message -- a clear line drawn between point A and point B. Sometimes I call this "PLDT Art," referring to the competition sponsored by the telephone company that calls for artworks celebrating "nationhood," the best of which becomes the cover for PLDT's annual phone directory.



Sometimes I call this "Obvious Art." But, really, I have no real quarrels with such art, only with their easy blatancy. What to make of Diosdado Custodio's "Let Peace Arise," for example? The title tells us enough of what the painting means to "be," including the motif of a hand breaking glass, bearing roses. Or Crystlyne Faith Gayo's "Deuteronony 30:19," which just shows us the scale of justice, licked by flame and dotted with doves with laurel leaves in their beaks? Or Helton Jerome Acahay's "Deep Within a Rifle," where a green hand reaches for the insides of a rifle, only to reveal what looks like the entire circulatory system? If poetry is supposed to be about beauty in the tangential, there's no poetry here, only a rendering of the didactic and the obvious. There's also Rene Elivera's "A Piece of My Peace," a nonetheless interesting work that still showcases the obvious: a background of dusk with a foreground of blooded barbwires suddenly revealing a rose. The talented Mr. Elivera has made more demanding paintings, of course. Just not this one.



I find that the more interesting works in the exhibit lie in their almost subversive use of the obvious, however.



Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafol's "A Bubble of Hope," for instance, may seem flippant in its use of blue and green bubbles, complete with praying hands and tulips, but the pastel rendering and the implied message that all of these are "bubbles" hint of the precariousness, indeed, of hope in post-modern times.



Susan Canoy's "Temporaryong Kalinaw" also hints at this. Hers is a work also done in strange bright pastels and in painstakingly rendered realism, and surrealism. What you have is an image of a family in dead-center between what seems to be representations of country and city. The "nice" family, however, is surrounded with balloons -- labeled "temporaryong kalinaw" -- which are almost ready to burst. I liked the feel of danger to this seemingly bright picture. That, for me, is subversive, and saves the work from being too obvious.



Jaruvic Rafols's "Black Eye Peace," too, is of that mold. He features a huge human eye in the center of widening rainbow ripples, with a pair of hands somewhere in the composition gripping at something. There is something there, a hallucinatory take of perceptions, perhaps. There's also Lord Allen Hernandez's "Unity Against Diversity," the title of which may hint of the Obvious. But Mr. Hernandez saves his work with his delicious play of shadows and color, and the use of an interesting image -- what looks like puppet figures (a man in Muslim garb, a priest, and a woman) embracing for the "light." Very interesting, but again, there is nothing new here.



Over red wine last Thursday night in CocoAmigos, I asked artist Mark Valenzuela what he intended to say in "Love Affair." What I get of the painting are two blue human figures -- a Muslim and a Christian -- under seawater, bubbles drawing out their last breath. He just smiled and said, "Under water, all you have is silence." Which is interesting concept going beyond Obvious.



But the first thing that drew my attention, though, is Jutze Pamate's "The Terrorist Dogs and the Doves of Peace." The title alone sounds so much like one of those magic realist opus by some South American writer. The artwork itself is thought-provoking: two orange dogs (one prominently splashed in the foreground) with beady eyes, standing on their hind legs, surrounded -- attacked? -- by doves. I like the use of metaphor. I like the composition. I like the comical sense the work displays that nonetheless also shows an understanding of this prevalent undercurrent of restiveness, of the animalism of terror. But Pamate has always done this: his paintings have always been brilliant social commentary, but without the obviousness that mars most artists' works.



In the end, I can say that Art perhaps becomes our ultimate refuge in times of terror. Not an escape, no. It makes sense -- within frames, within measured color and composition -- of senseless times. It captures zeitgeist in its rendering of metaphors, in brush strokes (and for writers, in words), the perfect mouthpiece with which we tell our story of understanding of a troubled world. In art, we get an understanding of the latter's complexity, and perhaps of hope. For the artist, his/her art is expression of what is bottled up within us all. Conversely for the viewer, the art becomes the medium, the Rorschach ink blot, with and upon which we heap our pains. Art is necessary.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:43 PM | Art in a Time of Terror



I wrote this a day after I heard Chris was shot by cellphone robbers. The tragedy occupied my mind all through the day and in the beginnings of weekend. I saw Chris's shadow everywhere...



Art in a Time of Terror



Thinking back, it must have been around the time I was preparing to go see the art exhibit on show in the Silliman University Main Library this week -- a collection to commemorate Peace Week -- when I first heard via an SMS alert that my friend and college classmate Chris Misajon -- son of former Silliman President Mervyn Misajon -- was fighting for his life in an Iloilo hospital, becoming yet another statistic in the creeping reality of murderous cellphone robbers.



The Philippine Daily Inquirer/GMA News Network website had it as a breaking story: "[He] was driving with a companion on a dimly lit street when at least four robbers flagged them down... While his companion ran for help, the suspects shot Misajon and took his cellular phone." That's it. Human life for a piece of merchandise.



Later, I learned that a shotgun had been leveled at his guts.



"He was shot at close range," Eric Joven, another friend, had texted those of us who were suddenly in the grips of bearing bad news. "He was hit at the left side of his abdomen," his kidney shattered, but more than that, there were shotgun splinters all over his other organs -- the liver, the pancreas, the intestines. It took nine hours for the doctors to clean everything out. Much later, we learn from GMA-7 producer and former classmate Ahd Marco that Chris was recuperating in Intensive Care, but now he was within what the doctors called the "72-hour critical period," after which we could finally learn whether our friend's life -- as a young father and husband and as a dedicated TV news anchor -- had been spared. We have learned to count the hours.



Sometimes, it is increasingly hard to believe there could be anything less in our lives than the paramount knowledge of our daily encounters with terrors big and small. Sometimes, when we feel the burden and the weight of such grim realities in our lives, we learn to ask questions without answers: What for everything, given all these? What now?



Specifically, art. What for, art, indeed? If art is supposed to be the classic human celebration of beauty, does it have any import in times of terror?



You could say this notions of dark days was born under what sequential storyteller and Pulitzer Prise winner Art Spiegelman has called "the shadow of no towers," bearing in mind the repercussions of that fateful day in September 2001 when we knew for sure that the world as we knew it was in for some extensive turbulence. Those turbulences have indeed come true, spilling blood and guts all over the world, from Bali to Manila, from Baghdad to Madrid, from Jerusalem to Islamabad, from Washington, D.C. to Riyadh.



In his recent essay, "Writing in a Time of Terror and the (Mis)Manmagement of Grief," Filipino writer Charlson Ong writes about such repercussion on his fiction: "No doubt the events of 9/11 and their consequences have cast a shadow over our work as writers. Already, fictionists like Salman Rushdie and Haruki Murakami have responded with important works. As a nation, we have been victim to political and sectarian violence even before the catastrophe in New York. You in Mindanao have had to live with war or the threat of it for many decades. But now, our involvement in America's 'war against terror' threatens to engage us in a broader conflict."



Art does not develop in a vacuum, indeed, as F. Sionil Jose used to say. Echoing Salvador Lopez, the National Artist for Literature had continued: "The artist is first responsible not just to his art but to society as well."



Ong further writes: "Historically, conflict and catastrophe often bring out the best in artists. Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov deal with the drama wrought by profound changes in Russia at the end of the 19th century. World War II spawned such novels as Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and Stevan Javellana's Without Seeing the Dawn. The Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso's Guernica. Lu Xun wrote Ah Q during the 1920s as China suffered imperial collapse, strife and foreign aggression. So, too, the excesses of the 'Cultural Revolution' of 1960s became the subject of the new wave of Chinese cinema as well as the work of Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian. Apartheid in South Africa was the canvas across which Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetze painted their intimate literary portraits."



Thus, in the tradition of Pablo Picasso's Guernica (the Spanish artist's famous abstract, painterly thesis on the horrors of war), we now have within the very walls of Silliman University's Main Library a continuation of the artistic treatise on the meaning of war and peace in an Age of Chaos and Terror. Timely, too, because the exhibit -- sponsored by Silliman’s Peace Resource Center -- comes during the week when all of the Philippines remember the imposition of Martial Law by then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.



The exhibit is interesting for two reasons. One is its curatorial decision to juxtapose the works of established artists now working in Dumaguete with works by young amateurs -- teenagers and grade-school children, I take it, who had taken to the brush and the canvas in an "on-the-spot" art competition to celebrate Peace Week. These works -- some of them colorful doodles done with such grand passions, and perhaps reflective of the Matisse style -- are a merry insight on young people's conception of what is happening right now in our society, proof perhaps that they, too, know the gravity of things happening.



The other reason, for me, is the way the exhibit makes me see how artists render social reality. I like the way some of the works channel our pains with such subtle use of imagery and composition. I like their thoughtful provocation. Others, however, disappoint by giving something "too easy": a bludgeoning of on-your-face "message," in other words.



But this is, nevertheless, only a critic's demand. I am even ashamed to demand so much from an exhibit of good intentions. Over-all, one must only admire the way our artists have indeed lived Sionil's call, that "art must not develop in a vacuum." These works have something to say, that is important. But some just say it more poetically than the others.



Of the more seasoned artists, exhibits such as this tend to draw out the pedantic, the didactic. You know... artwork that slaps you with "obvious" message -- a clear line drawn between point A and point B. Sometimes I call this "PLDT Art," referring to the competition sponsored by the telephone company that calls for artworks celebrating "nationhood," the best of which becomes the cover for PLDT's annual phone directory.



Sometimes I call this "Obvious Art." But, really, I have no real quarrels with such art, only with their easy blatancy. What to make of Diosdado Custodio's "Let Peace Arise," for example? The title tells us enough of what the painting means to "be," including the motif of a hand breaking glass, bearing roses. Or Crystlyne Faith Gayo's "Deuteronony 30:19," which just shows us the scale of justice, licked by flame and dotted with doves with laurel leaves in their beaks? Or Helton Jerome Acahay's "Deep Within a Rifle," where a green hand reaches for the insides of a rifle, only to reveal what looks like the entire circulatory system? If poetry is supposed to be about beauty in the tangential, there's no poetry here, only a rendering of the didactic and the obvious. There's also Rene Elivera's "A Piece of My Peace," a nonetheless interesting work that still showcases the obvious: a background of dusk with a foreground of blooded barbwires suddenly revealing a rose. The talented Mr. Elivera has made more demanding paintings, of course. Just not this one.



I find that the more interesting works in the exhibit lie in their almost subversive use of the obvious, however.



Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafol's "A Bubble of Hope," for instance, may seem flippant in its use of blue and green bubbles, complete with praying hands and tulips, but the pastel rendering and the implied message that all of these are "bubbles" hint of the precariousness, indeed, of hope in post-modern times.



Susan Canoy's "Temporaryong Kalinaw" also hints at this. Hers is a work also done in strange bright pastels and in painstakingly rendered realism, and surrealism. What you have is an image of a family in dead-center between what seems to be representations of country and city. The "nice" family, however, is surrounded with balloons -- labeled "temporaryong kalinaw" -- which are almost ready to burst. I liked the feel of danger to this seemingly bright picture. That, for me, is subversive, and saves the work from being too obvious.



Jaruvic Rafols's "Black Eye Peace," too, is of that mold. He features a huge human eye in the center of widening rainbow ripples, with a pair of hands somewhere in the composition gripping at something. There is something there, a hallucinatory take of perceptions, perhaps. There's also Lord Allen Hernandez's "Unity Against Diversity," the title of which may hint of the Obvious. But Mr. Hernandez saves his work with his delicious play of shadows and color, and the use of an interesting image -- what looks like puppet figures (a man in Muslim garb, a priest, and a woman) embracing for the "light." Very interesting, but again, there is nothing new here.



Over red wine last Thursday night in CocoAmigos, I asked artist Mark Valenzuela what he intended to say in "Love Affair." What I get of the painting are two blue human figures -- a Muslim and a Christian -- under seawater, bubbles drawing out their last breath. He just smiled and said, "Under water, all you have is silence." Which is interesting concept going beyond Obvious.



But the first thing that drew my attention, though, is Jutze Pamate's "The Terrorist Dogs and the Doves of Peace." The title alone sounds so much like one of those magic realist opus by some South American writer. The artwork itself is thought-provoking: two orange dogs (one prominently splashed in the foreground) with beady eyes, standing on their hind legs, surrounded -- attacked? -- by doves. I like the use of metaphor. I like the composition. I like the comical sense the work displays that nonetheless also shows an understanding of this prevalent undercurrent of restiveness, of the animalism of terror. But Pamate has always done this: his paintings have always been brilliant social commentary, but without the obviousness that mars most artists' works.



In the end, I can say that Art perhaps becomes our ultimate refuge in times of terror. Not an escape, no. It makes sense -- within frames, within measured color and composition -- of senseless times. It captures zeitgeist in its rendering of metaphors, in brush strokes (and for writers, in words), the perfect mouthpiece with which we tell our story of understanding of a troubled world. In art, we get an understanding of the latter's complexity, and perhaps of hope. For the artist, his/her art is expression of what is bottled up within us all. Conversely for the viewer, the art becomes the medium, the Rorschach ink blot, with and upon which we heap our pains. Art is necessary.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:43 PM | Art in a Time of Terror



I wrote this a day after I heard Chris was shot by cellphone robbers. The tragedy occupied my mind all through the day and in the beginnings of weekend. I saw Chris's shadow everywhere...



Art in a Time of Terror



Thinking back, it must have been around the time I was preparing to go see the art exhibit on show in the Silliman University Main Library this week -- a collection to commemorate Peace Week -- when I first heard via an SMS alert that my friend and college classmate Chris Misajon -- son of former Silliman President Mervyn Misajon -- was fighting for his life in an Iloilo hospital, becoming yet another statistic in the creeping reality of murderous cellphone robbers.



The Philippine Daily Inquirer/GMA News Network website had it as a breaking story: "[He] was driving with a companion on a dimly lit street when at least four robbers flagged them down... While his companion ran for help, the suspects shot Misajon and took his cellular phone." That's it. Human life for a piece of merchandise.



Later, I learned that a shotgun had been leveled at his guts.



"He was shot at close range," Eric Joven, another friend, had texted those of us who were suddenly in the grips of bearing bad news. "He was hit at the left side of his abdomen," his kidney shattered, but more than that, there were shotgun splinters all over his other organs -- the liver, the pancreas, the intestines. It took nine hours for the doctors to clean everything out. Much later, we learn from GMA-7 producer and former classmate Ahd Marco that Chris was recuperating in Intensive Care, but now he was within what the doctors called the "72-hour critical period," after which we could finally learn whether our friend's life -- as a young father and husband and as a dedicated TV news anchor -- had been spared. We have learned to count the hours.



Sometimes, it is increasingly hard to believe there could be anything less in our lives than the paramount knowledge of our daily encounters with terrors big and small. Sometimes, when we feel the burden and the weight of such grim realities in our lives, we learn to ask questions without answers: What for everything, given all these? What now?



Specifically, art. What for, art, indeed? If art is supposed to be the classic human celebration of beauty, does it have any import in times of terror?



You could say this notions of dark days was born under what sequential storyteller and Pulitzer Prise winner Art Spiegelman has called "the shadow of no towers," bearing in mind the repercussions of that fateful day in September 2001 when we knew for sure that the world as we knew it was in for some extensive turbulence. Those turbulences have indeed come true, spilling blood and guts all over the world, from Bali to Manila, from Baghdad to Madrid, from Jerusalem to Islamabad, from Washington, D.C. to Riyadh.



In his recent essay, "Writing in a Time of Terror and the (Mis)Manmagement of Grief," Filipino writer Charlson Ong writes about such repercussion on his fiction: "No doubt the events of 9/11 and their consequences have cast a shadow over our work as writers. Already, fictionists like Salman Rushdie and Haruki Murakami have responded with important works. As a nation, we have been victim to political and sectarian violence even before the catastrophe in New York. You in Mindanao have had to live with war or the threat of it for many decades. But now, our involvement in America's 'war against terror' threatens to engage us in a broader conflict."



Art does not develop in a vacuum, indeed, as F. Sionil Jose used to say. Echoing Salvador Lopez, the National Artist for Literature had continued: "The artist is first responsible not just to his art but to society as well."



Ong further writes: "Historically, conflict and catastrophe often bring out the best in artists. Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov deal with the drama wrought by profound changes in Russia at the end of the 19th century. World War II spawned such novels as Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and Stevan Javellana's Without Seeing the Dawn. The Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso's Guernica. Lu Xun wrote Ah Q during the 1920s as China suffered imperial collapse, strife and foreign aggression. So, too, the excesses of the 'Cultural Revolution' of 1960s became the subject of the new wave of Chinese cinema as well as the work of Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian. Apartheid in South Africa was the canvas across which Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetze painted their intimate literary portraits."



Thus, in the tradition of Pablo Picasso's Guernica (the Spanish artist's famous abstract, painterly thesis on the horrors of war), we now have within the very walls of Silliman University's Main Library a continuation of the artistic treatise on the meaning of war and peace in an Age of Chaos and Terror. Timely, too, because the exhibit -- sponsored by Silliman’s Peace Resource Center -- comes during the week when all of the Philippines remember the imposition of Martial Law by then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.



The exhibit is interesting for two reasons. One is its curatorial decision to juxtapose the works of established artists now working in Dumaguete with works by young amateurs -- teenagers and grade-school children, I take it, who had taken to the brush and the canvas in an "on-the-spot" art competition to celebrate Peace Week. These works -- some of them colorful doodles done with such grand passions, and perhaps reflective of the Matisse style -- are a merry insight on young people's conception of what is happening right now in our society, proof perhaps that they, too, know the gravity of things happening.



The other reason, for me, is the way the exhibit makes me see how artists render social reality. I like the way some of the works channel our pains with such subtle use of imagery and composition. I like their thoughtful provocation. Others, however, disappoint by giving something "too easy": a bludgeoning of on-your-face "message," in other words.



But this is, nevertheless, only a critic's demand. I am even ashamed to demand so much from an exhibit of good intentions. Over-all, one must only admire the way our artists have indeed lived Sionil's call, that "art must not develop in a vacuum." These works have something to say, that is important. But some just say it more poetically than the others.



Of the more seasoned artists, exhibits such as this tend to draw out the pedantic, the didactic. You know... artwork that slaps you with "obvious" message -- a clear line drawn between point A and point B. Sometimes I call this "PLDT Art," referring to the competition sponsored by the telephone company that calls for artworks celebrating "nationhood," the best of which becomes the cover for PLDT's annual phone directory.



Sometimes I call this "Obvious Art." But, really, I have no real quarrels with such art, only with their easy blatancy. What to make of Diosdado Custodio's "Let Peace Arise," for example? The title tells us enough of what the painting means to "be," including the motif of a hand breaking glass, bearing roses. Or Crystlyne Faith Gayo's "Deuteronony 30:19," which just shows us the scale of justice, licked by flame and dotted with doves with laurel leaves in their beaks? Or Helton Jerome Acahay's "Deep Within a Rifle," where a green hand reaches for the insides of a rifle, only to reveal what looks like the entire circulatory system? If poetry is supposed to be about beauty in the tangential, there's no poetry here, only a rendering of the didactic and the obvious. There's also Rene Elivera's "A Piece of My Peace," a nonetheless interesting work that still showcases the obvious: a background of dusk with a foreground of blooded barbwires suddenly revealing a rose. The talented Mr. Elivera has made more demanding paintings, of course. Just not this one.



I find that the more interesting works in the exhibit lie in their almost subversive use of the obvious, however.



Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafol's "A Bubble of Hope," for instance, may seem flippant in its use of blue and green bubbles, complete with praying hands and tulips, but the pastel rendering and the implied message that all of these are "bubbles" hint of the precariousness, indeed, of hope in post-modern times.



Susan Canoy's "Temporaryong Kalinaw" also hints at this. Hers is a work also done in strange bright pastels and in painstakingly rendered realism, and surrealism. What you have is an image of a family in dead-center between what seems to be representations of country and city. The "nice" family, however, is surrounded with balloons -- labeled "temporaryong kalinaw" -- which are almost ready to burst. I liked the feel of danger to this seemingly bright picture. That, for me, is subversive, and saves the work from being too obvious.



Jaruvic Rafols's "Black Eye Peace," too, is of that mold. He features a huge human eye in the center of widening rainbow ripples, with a pair of hands somewhere in the composition gripping at something. There is something there, a hallucinatory take of perceptions, perhaps. There's also Lord Allen Hernandez's "Unity Against Diversity," the title of which may hint of the Obvious. But Mr. Hernandez saves his work with his delicious play of shadows and color, and the use of an interesting image -- what looks like puppet figures (a man in Muslim garb, a priest, and a woman) embracing for the "light." Very interesting, but again, there is nothing new here.



Over red wine last Thursday night in CocoAmigos, I asked artist Mark Valenzuela what he intended to say in "Love Affair." What I get of the painting are two blue human figures -- a Muslim and a Christian -- under seawater, bubbles drawing out their last breath. He just smiled and said, "Under water, all you have is silence." Which is interesting concept going beyond Obvious.



But the first thing that drew my attention, though, is Jutze Pamate's "The Terrorist Dogs and the Doves of Peace." The title alone sounds so much like one of those magic realist opus by some South American writer. The artwork itself is thought-provoking: two orange dogs (one prominently splashed in the foreground) with beady eyes, standing on their hind legs, surrounded -- attacked? -- by doves. I like the use of metaphor. I like the composition. I like the comical sense the work displays that nonetheless also shows an understanding of this prevalent undercurrent of restiveness, of the animalism of terror. But Pamate has always done this: his paintings have always been brilliant social commentary, but without the obviousness that mars most artists' works.



In the end, I can say that Art perhaps becomes our ultimate refuge in times of terror. Not an escape, no. It makes sense -- within frames, within measured color and composition -- of senseless times. It captures zeitgeist in its rendering of metaphors, in brush strokes (and for writers, in words), the perfect mouthpiece with which we tell our story of understanding of a troubled world. In art, we get an understanding of the latter's complexity, and perhaps of hope. For the artist, his/her art is expression of what is bottled up within us all. Conversely for the viewer, the art becomes the medium, the Rorschach ink blot, with and upon which we heap our pains. Art is necessary.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:25 PM | Goodbye, Chris

Dinah was crying when she called me up earlier. Saturday was a bright day, but it was also gloomy for many of us who heard the final devastating news. From Australia, Kristyn wrote this eulogy for Chris just this morning when we all finally learned he did not make it through the night. Chris died at 1 a.m. This essay will appear in MetroPost this Sunday.





Thanks, Chris



The hardest thing to do is to write about someone who is not with us anymore. Someone you thought you'd always have the chance to meet again someday. So you don't take the extra effort to correspond with them.



Then something happens. And all you can do is regret not taking that extra measure to even just drop him an email.



Christopher Misajon died yesterday morning. He was 28. But this article talks about his life and the memories he left us, not his senseless death.



Christopher was one of the wittiest guys I have ever met in my entire life (and I've met plenty of VIPs through my line of work). He stood out back in Silliman University, not just because he was the university president's son, but because he carried an air of authority around him that very few people have. I first met him during Spanish 11 class and we immediately didn't like each other. For me, he was a snob; for him, I was a childish freshman.



But wonders of all wonders, we ended up hanging with the same crowd. And I realized how down to earth he really was. I remember he almost missed his own graduation because he would rather play Duke Nukem with us. We finally managed to pull him out of the room so he could walk on that stage and get his diploma.



He was known as "that guy" who rode his bike all over Dumaguete City. But to us, he was just goofy Chris who liked his computer games and talked incessantly about "nerdy" stuff.



He was a ladies' man, that guy. He could sing, he could talk well, he was tall, he was good looking and intelligent, and he had an abundant amount of confidence. I thought he was either going to be a journalist or a politician. So it was no surprise (and a great relief that he took the road with lesser evils) when I found out that he became the newsreader for ABS-CBN, and then later on for GMA network. Christopher was born to be in the limelight. It was inevitable.



Although majority of those who knew him was automatically drawn to him, there were several people who did not like Chris. They took his honesty as arrogance and his outspokenness as conceit. But for me, the best thing about him was his honesty. He didn't necessarily put it in the nicest way possible but that's just Chris. And it was refreshing to hear someone who was not afraid to say things other people just thought about.



I was surprised to find out he got married and had a son. I always thought he would end up flying the world instead. But when I saw him with his family in SM Cebu about two years ago, I knew he was home. He had that certain glint of content that happy people can't hide and others cannot fake.



Some idiot told him one night a couple of years back that he was dispensable in the company he previously worked for. But like what I told him that one night we went out in Cagayan de Oro, Chris is never dispensable. He was made to get to the top.



We haven't seen each other in a long time, mainly because we don't have each other's contact details. And I feel a bit embarrassed writing this when I feel I really do not know him that well the way others do. But then again, Chris was someone to several people. To many, he was the face of TV. For others, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, and a father.



Sitting alone in Sydney, miles away from friends, the only way I can cope is through writing this for him. This is my way of thanking Chris for the good memories he shared with the gang and me. Thanks, Keg ... I hope you finally got your six-pack.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:25 PM | Goodbye, Chris

Dinah was crying when she called me up earlier. Saturday was a bright day, but it was also gloomy for many of us who heard the final devastating news. From Australia, Kristyn wrote this eulogy for Chris just this morning when we all finally learned he did not make it through the night. Chris died at 1 a.m. This essay will appear in MetroPost this Sunday.





Thanks, Chris



The hardest thing to do is to write about someone who is not with us anymore. Someone you thought you'd always have the chance to meet again someday. So you don't take the extra effort to correspond with them.



Then something happens. And all you can do is regret not taking that extra measure to even just drop him an email.



Christopher Misajon died yesterday morning. He was 28. But this article talks about his life and the memories he left us, not his senseless death.



Christopher was one of the wittiest guys I have ever met in my entire life (and I've met plenty of VIPs through my line of work). He stood out back in Silliman University, not just because he was the university president's son, but because he carried an air of authority around him that very few people have. I first met him during Spanish 11 class and we immediately didn't like each other. For me, he was a snob; for him, I was a childish freshman.



But wonders of all wonders, we ended up hanging with the same crowd. And I realized how down to earth he really was. I remember he almost missed his own graduation because he would rather play Duke Nukem with us. We finally managed to pull him out of the room so he could walk on that stage and get his diploma.



He was known as "that guy" who rode his bike all over Dumaguete City. But to us, he was just goofy Chris who liked his computer games and talked incessantly about "nerdy" stuff.



He was a ladies' man, that guy. He could sing, he could talk well, he was tall, he was good looking and intelligent, and he had an abundant amount of confidence. I thought he was either going to be a journalist or a politician. So it was no surprise (and a great relief that he took the road with lesser evils) when I found out that he became the newsreader for ABS-CBN, and then later on for GMA network. Christopher was born to be in the limelight. It was inevitable.



Although majority of those who knew him was automatically drawn to him, there were several people who did not like Chris. They took his honesty as arrogance and his outspokenness as conceit. But for me, the best thing about him was his honesty. He didn't necessarily put it in the nicest way possible but that's just Chris. And it was refreshing to hear someone who was not afraid to say things other people just thought about.



I was surprised to find out he got married and had a son. I always thought he would end up flying the world instead. But when I saw him with his family in SM Cebu about two years ago, I knew he was home. He had that certain glint of content that happy people can't hide and others cannot fake.



Some idiot told him one night a couple of years back that he was dispensable in the company he previously worked for. But like what I told him that one night we went out in Cagayan de Oro, Chris is never dispensable. He was made to get to the top.



We haven't seen each other in a long time, mainly because we don't have each other's contact details. And I feel a bit embarrassed writing this when I feel I really do not know him that well the way others do. But then again, Chris was someone to several people. To many, he was the face of TV. For others, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, and a father.



Sitting alone in Sydney, miles away from friends, the only way I can cope is through writing this for him. This is my way of thanking Chris for the good memories he shared with the gang and me. Thanks, Keg ... I hope you finally got your six-pack.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:25 PM | Goodbye, Chris

Dinah was crying when she called me up earlier. Saturday was a bright day, but it was also gloomy for many of us who heard the final devastating news. From Australia, Kristyn wrote this eulogy for Chris just this morning when we all finally learned he did not make it through the night. Chris died at 1 a.m. This essay will appear in MetroPost this Sunday.





Thanks, Chris



The hardest thing to do is to write about someone who is not with us anymore. Someone you thought you'd always have the chance to meet again someday. So you don't take the extra effort to correspond with them.



Then something happens. And all you can do is regret not taking that extra measure to even just drop him an email.



Christopher Misajon died yesterday morning. He was 28. But this article talks about his life and the memories he left us, not his senseless death.



Christopher was one of the wittiest guys I have ever met in my entire life (and I've met plenty of VIPs through my line of work). He stood out back in Silliman University, not just because he was the university president's son, but because he carried an air of authority around him that very few people have. I first met him during Spanish 11 class and we immediately didn't like each other. For me, he was a snob; for him, I was a childish freshman.



But wonders of all wonders, we ended up hanging with the same crowd. And I realized how down to earth he really was. I remember he almost missed his own graduation because he would rather play Duke Nukem with us. We finally managed to pull him out of the room so he could walk on that stage and get his diploma.



He was known as "that guy" who rode his bike all over Dumaguete City. But to us, he was just goofy Chris who liked his computer games and talked incessantly about "nerdy" stuff.



He was a ladies' man, that guy. He could sing, he could talk well, he was tall, he was good looking and intelligent, and he had an abundant amount of confidence. I thought he was either going to be a journalist or a politician. So it was no surprise (and a great relief that he took the road with lesser evils) when I found out that he became the newsreader for ABS-CBN, and then later on for GMA network. Christopher was born to be in the limelight. It was inevitable.



Although majority of those who knew him was automatically drawn to him, there were several people who did not like Chris. They took his honesty as arrogance and his outspokenness as conceit. But for me, the best thing about him was his honesty. He didn't necessarily put it in the nicest way possible but that's just Chris. And it was refreshing to hear someone who was not afraid to say things other people just thought about.



I was surprised to find out he got married and had a son. I always thought he would end up flying the world instead. But when I saw him with his family in SM Cebu about two years ago, I knew he was home. He had that certain glint of content that happy people can't hide and others cannot fake.



Some idiot told him one night a couple of years back that he was dispensable in the company he previously worked for. But like what I told him that one night we went out in Cagayan de Oro, Chris is never dispensable. He was made to get to the top.



We haven't seen each other in a long time, mainly because we don't have each other's contact details. And I feel a bit embarrassed writing this when I feel I really do not know him that well the way others do. But then again, Chris was someone to several people. To many, he was the face of TV. For others, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, and a father.



Sitting alone in Sydney, miles away from friends, the only way I can cope is through writing this for him. This is my way of thanking Chris for the good memories he shared with the gang and me. Thanks, Keg ... I hope you finally got your six-pack.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, September 24, 2004

entry arrow11:29 PM | Stupid Freaks

Some people are funny the way they flaunt their insecurities. They post comments on your tagboard -- which are deletable, by the way -- telling you to break up with somebody because "dili mo bagay, prangka lang." I mean, what is that? Who is he? Is he God? Is he the bodalicious arbiter of things "bagay"?



Who are you Alex, you ugly freak?



This world is crazy.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:29 PM | Stupid Freaks

Some people are funny the way they flaunt their insecurities. They post comments on your tagboard -- which are deletable, by the way -- telling you to break up with somebody because "dili mo bagay, prangka lang." I mean, what is that? Who is he? Is he God? Is he the bodalicious arbiter of things "bagay"?



Who are you Alex, you ugly freak?



This world is crazy.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:29 PM | Stupid Freaks

Some people are funny the way they flaunt their insecurities. They post comments on your tagboard -- which are deletable, by the way -- telling you to break up with somebody because "dili mo bagay, prangka lang." I mean, what is that? Who is he? Is he God? Is he the bodalicious arbiter of things "bagay"?



Who are you Alex, you ugly freak?



This world is crazy.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, September 23, 2004

entry arrow1:32 PM | Chris Needs Our Prayers!

To the guys of the Midnight Society.



Bad, bad news in. A good friend of ours -- Chris Misajon -- is fighting for his life after being shot by robbers for his cellphone. The story is in Inq7.net.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:32 PM | Chris Needs Our Prayers!

To the guys of the Midnight Society.



Bad, bad news in. A good friend of ours -- Chris Misajon -- is fighting for his life after being shot by robbers for his cellphone. The story is in Inq7.net.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:32 PM | Chris Needs Our Prayers!

To the guys of the Midnight Society.



Bad, bad news in. A good friend of ours -- Chris Misajon -- is fighting for his life after being shot by robbers for his cellphone. The story is in Inq7.net.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow3:07 AM | Literatura

Finally, I got around to uploading the latest issue of Literatura Magazine.





So here you go, the winning entries to this year's Palanca Awards. Enjoy the feast. More coming soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow3:07 AM | Literatura

Finally, I got around to uploading the latest issue of Literatura Magazine.





So here you go, the winning entries to this year's Palanca Awards. Enjoy the feast. More coming soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow3:07 AM | Literatura

Finally, I got around to uploading the latest issue of Literatura Magazine.





So here you go, the winning entries to this year's Palanca Awards. Enjoy the feast. More coming soon.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, September 21, 2004

entry arrow10:55 AM | Hot Christian Romance

Umm, what? Christian romance novels?



Apparently, yes.



Try this. Fabio gazes into her eyes, and she melts in his arms. And then, with quivering lips, she tells him softly, "Honey ... honey, honey, honey ... we're late for prayer meeting."


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:55 AM | Hot Christian Romance

Umm, what? Christian romance novels?



Apparently, yes.



Try this. Fabio gazes into her eyes, and she melts in his arms. And then, with quivering lips, she tells him softly, "Honey ... honey, honey, honey ... we're late for prayer meeting."


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:55 AM | Hot Christian Romance

Umm, what? Christian romance novels?



Apparently, yes.



Try this. Fabio gazes into her eyes, and she melts in his arms. And then, with quivering lips, she tells him softly, "Honey ... honey, honey, honey ... we're late for prayer meeting."


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Monday, September 20, 2004

entry arrow11:32 PM | Sabi ng student ko, "Who's Marshall? And why does he have a law?"

It's September 21 pala tomorrow. Manuel L. Quezon III writes about Martial Law in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:



Martial law was a great divide; even today, it separates all that came before, from all that has come since. Our history before 1972, when you think of it, represents the profound influence ideas and intellectuals can impact on a nation. The history of the Philippines since martial law has been marked by the steady bankruptcy of ideas and those who propagate them in our society.



The ideas -- and ideals -- of the propaganda movement; the motives and motivations of the revolution; the adaptation of the heritage of both in our attempt to reclaim our independence; the great thoughts that tried to give meaning and relevance to independence once reestablished in 1946: our country's story has been the story of thoughts, of ideas that moved the sectors that constitute our nation.



But after 1972, ideas and the intellectuals and ideologues who make them have increasingly been sidelined in the story of our national life: not least because so many intellectuals sold out or were deluded into supporting the dictatorship. The dictatorship, too, in wrecking the economy and turning us into a nation of overseas workers, virtually liquidated our middle class as a moving force of national development, and guaranteed that fewer and fewer Filipinos would have the capacity to be inspired, much less motivated, by ideas. Even people power, as we have seen in the 21 years since Ninoy Aquino's assassination, has never been fully formed, made truly workable, as a motivational idea. We have tried to make people power part of our lives, but its principles are so vague, its applications so unclear that we have gotten to be unsure if it was ever a real thought at all. People power was-is-perhaps, more of an emotion than a genuine idea.


The complete article is here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:32 PM | Sabi ng student ko, "Who's Marshall? And why does he have a law?"

It's September 21 pala tomorrow. Manuel L. Quezon III writes about Martial Law in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:



Martial law was a great divide; even today, it separates all that came before, from all that has come since. Our history before 1972, when you think of it, represents the profound influence ideas and intellectuals can impact on a nation. The history of the Philippines since martial law has been marked by the steady bankruptcy of ideas and those who propagate them in our society.



The ideas -- and ideals -- of the propaganda movement; the motives and motivations of the revolution; the adaptation of the heritage of both in our attempt to reclaim our independence; the great thoughts that tried to give meaning and relevance to independence once reestablished in 1946: our country's story has been the story of thoughts, of ideas that moved the sectors that constitute our nation.



But after 1972, ideas and the intellectuals and ideologues who make them have increasingly been sidelined in the story of our national life: not least because so many intellectuals sold out or were deluded into supporting the dictatorship. The dictatorship, too, in wrecking the economy and turning us into a nation of overseas workers, virtually liquidated our middle class as a moving force of national development, and guaranteed that fewer and fewer Filipinos would have the capacity to be inspired, much less motivated, by ideas. Even people power, as we have seen in the 21 years since Ninoy Aquino's assassination, has never been fully formed, made truly workable, as a motivational idea. We have tried to make people power part of our lives, but its principles are so vague, its applications so unclear that we have gotten to be unsure if it was ever a real thought at all. People power was-is-perhaps, more of an emotion than a genuine idea.


The complete article is here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:32 PM | Sabi ng student ko, "Who's Marshall? And why does he have a law?"

It's September 21 pala tomorrow. Manuel L. Quezon III writes about Martial Law in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:



Martial law was a great divide; even today, it separates all that came before, from all that has come since. Our history before 1972, when you think of it, represents the profound influence ideas and intellectuals can impact on a nation. The history of the Philippines since martial law has been marked by the steady bankruptcy of ideas and those who propagate them in our society.



The ideas -- and ideals -- of the propaganda movement; the motives and motivations of the revolution; the adaptation of the heritage of both in our attempt to reclaim our independence; the great thoughts that tried to give meaning and relevance to independence once reestablished in 1946: our country's story has been the story of thoughts, of ideas that moved the sectors that constitute our nation.



But after 1972, ideas and the intellectuals and ideologues who make them have increasingly been sidelined in the story of our national life: not least because so many intellectuals sold out or were deluded into supporting the dictatorship. The dictatorship, too, in wrecking the economy and turning us into a nation of overseas workers, virtually liquidated our middle class as a moving force of national development, and guaranteed that fewer and fewer Filipinos would have the capacity to be inspired, much less motivated, by ideas. Even people power, as we have seen in the 21 years since Ninoy Aquino's assassination, has never been fully formed, made truly workable, as a motivational idea. We have tried to make people power part of our lives, but its principles are so vague, its applications so unclear that we have gotten to be unsure if it was ever a real thought at all. People power was-is-perhaps, more of an emotion than a genuine idea.


The complete article is here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:13 PM | Swiss Chocolate and Gmail Invites

I have bags of Swiss chocolate in my pad.



Oh God.



By the way, I never knew there was a premium on Gmail invites. Everybody wants one. I have four invites left. Any takers?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:13 PM | Swiss Chocolate and Gmail Invites

I have bags of Swiss chocolate in my pad.



Oh God.



By the way, I never knew there was a premium on Gmail invites. Everybody wants one. I have four invites left. Any takers?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:13 PM | Swiss Chocolate and Gmail Invites

I have bags of Swiss chocolate in my pad.



Oh God.



By the way, I never knew there was a premium on Gmail invites. Everybody wants one. I have four invites left. Any takers?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:02 AM | Why you shouldn't hate Marc Gaba.

Secondcup rounds up the current state of literary critcism in the Philippines.



[via psychicpants]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:02 AM | Why you shouldn't hate Marc Gaba.

Secondcup rounds up the current state of literary critcism in the Philippines.



[via psychicpants]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:02 AM | Why you shouldn't hate Marc Gaba.

Secondcup rounds up the current state of literary critcism in the Philippines.



[via psychicpants]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, September 18, 2004

entry arrow1:27 AM | eXperim[E]nto!





I saw this film, Dutch filmmaker Van Paul Ruven's Maxima's Miracle, last night at the Luce Auditorium (imagine that!). It was the closing film of the three-day eXperim[E]nto Film Festival, which is now on its second year in Silliman University.



The Dutch film was strangely so-so. I expected so much more.



The best film I saw this week was a Spanish short by Martin Rosete titled Revolucion (Revolution). It was cheeky and intellectual, and cheeky about being too intellectual. And all it stars is an old man, a claustrophobic room with one window, a bed, a wardrobe, and a table.





Brilliant!


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:27 AM | eXperim[E]nto!





I saw this film, Dutch filmmaker Van Paul Ruven's Maxima's Miracle, last night at the Luce Auditorium (imagine that!). It was the closing film of the three-day eXperim[E]nto Film Festival, which is now on its second year in Silliman University.



The Dutch film was strangely so-so. I expected so much more.



The best film I saw this week was a Spanish short by Martin Rosete titled Revolucion (Revolution). It was cheeky and intellectual, and cheeky about being too intellectual. And all it stars is an old man, a claustrophobic room with one window, a bed, a wardrobe, and a table.





Brilliant!


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:27 AM | eXperim[E]nto!





I saw this film, Dutch filmmaker Van Paul Ruven's Maxima's Miracle, last night at the Luce Auditorium (imagine that!). It was the closing film of the three-day eXperim[E]nto Film Festival, which is now on its second year in Silliman University.



The Dutch film was strangely so-so. I expected so much more.



The best film I saw this week was a Spanish short by Martin Rosete titled Revolucion (Revolution). It was cheeky and intellectual, and cheeky about being too intellectual. And all it stars is an old man, a claustrophobic room with one window, a bed, a wardrobe, and a table.





Brilliant!


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:04 AM | The Grim Sign of Troubled Days

I was doing my rounds of blog hopping over the weekend, when I came across a couple of brilliant posts by two writer-friends -- the poet Paolo Manalo, who is the literary editor of Philippines Free Press, and the sequential lit master (and new Palanca winner) Dean Francis Alfar.



They were both talking about the state of the professional class in the Philippines -- and how we have come to such seismic shifts in our expectations of success that no longer do we want to be doctors or lawyers or engineers or teachers. What do we all want now in a society eaten to its very core by mismanagement and corruption?



We all want to be the next Mark Herras.



These are Dean and Paolo in their own words, copied verbatim from their own weblogs.



Dean writes:



Over dinner at Little Asia along Tomas Morato (selected by our youngest gourmand Ralph for their delectable Boneless Tilapia in Honey-Mayo Sauce), the gang and I engaged in talk about jobs like the old farts that some of us are becoming.



I grew up during the time when, when thinking about a stable future for their children, parents would insist on a certain hierarchy of professions. Tier One: Doctor, Lawyer; Tier Two: Architect, Engineer, and so on. It was drummed into my head that these were the jobs that guaranteed financial independence and a good life, along with respectability and a very high position in the social strata.



In fact, I was so brainwashed by their conviction that I moved through my formative years convinced that I needed to be a doctor or a lawyer. Nothing else would do. My little talent with words was considered of interest but of no real import or relevance to real life. When I applied for college, I landed a pre-med quota course at UP Diliman, which would enable me to make my final choice between law and medicine. Later, I came to my senses when my unhappiness became too much to bear and I abandoned the prescribed path, stunning my three parents (my mother and stepfather called in my biological father from the US so they could triple play me). My final choice was to go where my heart led me, and they all forecast doom, misery and inevitable poverty.



A few days ago, I began to gather information on how well these high priority professions pay.



I encountered an architect who works for a small firm with competitive pay. Only a few years younger than myself, he had the title of Senior Architect. His monthly salary is just around the same amount a fresh graduate working in a call center would make. Starting architects make as much as I would pay a Junior Designer in my own company.



With doctors, you need to be very well-connected or wealthy in the first place. For example, to have a clinic in the new hospital along Ortigas, you need to plunk down P10 million, in addition to other expenses. Or you work as an employee for a company like Clinica Manila with a stunningly low monthly wage augmented by your P300 consultation fees. Or even worse, you can work for the small derma clinics and make much less.



With law, unless you're into Tax Law or Corporate Law, your monthly take-home for the many rungs of the ladder is nowhere near the promised bonanza. I know of a trial lawyer who struggles to make ends meet: his salary is barely enough to support himself, his wife, two children and payments on their home. Unless you create a niche like my brother, it's going to be long and hard road.



It is not much different for other professions. For example, a new policeman makes around P12k a month, with incremental raises as they get promotions, all the way to the rank of Director which makes around P40k.



A manager at a resto chain makes around P15k, while it is minimum wage for staff-level positions and their equivalents (salesgirls, promofolk, waiters, and the like).



Insurance promises gigantic windfalls if you are a killer salesperson with incredible connections. Then you get to drive around in a Jaguar. Otherwise, you experience life in feast-or-famine mode.



Teachers continue to get underpaid compared to the private sector. You can spend years as a consultant in consultancy firms at around P12k-P15k. Think your MBA can help you? At one point in time, a brilliant acquaintance of mine with an MBA from the requisite impressive US school was making around P30k. Another MBA holder is currently jobless and is willing to work for peanuts.



Professional writing is not much better. You can freelance and get a word rate, averaging around P1.5k-P2.5k per article for magazines from the Summit Group, or be employed by a company with copy requirements for around P15k-P20k. Pure creative writers who dream of living off publishing royalties in the Philippines have to produce a large number of best-selling books in a short span of time, in an industry where print runs are generally 1,000 copies (with big print runs at around 10,000 copies).



The tech industry had its heyday with the bubble of irrational exuberance. At one point in time, designers could command up to P60k, with managerial salaries over P100k. Those days, of course, are gone, with a few sterling exceptions.



Advertising and marketing companies exist in an odd space. On one hand, if you are a creative, you are pretty much taken care of. If you consistently do good work and bring in awards, your pay will grow as you climb up the pyramid, earning anywhere from P30k to P80k and even higher. However, in the same industry, rank and file (and account executives) operate along the same low pay level: start at around P8k and progress to the twenties.



Creatives also do well in similar industries (acting, directing, production). Actors can do TV series and get around P50k per episode or do TV guesting at around P10k to 15k (they get bigger paychecks with films). TV advertising directors can make from P80k upwards. MTV directors can charge along P100k+, depending on the producers -- but if you're new and unheard of, chances are you'll be doing it for much much less, if you're tasked to do it at all. Composers begin at around P30k for a jingle if you're friends. Food stylists can make a killing, given the fact that so few of high caliber exist -- they charge P7.5k-P25k per plate (per layout). While starting photographers make around P5k-P10k per shoot, big name photographers play at P150k+ per day (there's also cutthroat competition for the wedding market).



For me though, nothing beats having your own business. The risks and headaches are terrifying, but everything balances out. Your small business can grow and take care of your future. Owners of restos, retail stores and other small businesses can pay themselves what their books can afford.



At a recent job fair, the organizers were forced to extend their hours and days to accommodate the thousands of people looking for work. Growing unemployment is a reality, with thousands of new graduates joining the ranks of the jobless every year. Openings are biased towards those who matriculated from the "top" schools: UP, Ateneo and La Salle. But having a diploma from those schools is not a guarantee of a job, much less good pay.



What does all this mean? When my daughter is of the appropriate age for such things, I will tell her: (1) Whatever you choose to be, make sure you like it. Find a job that fits you or, if it does not exist, create it. Follow your bliss but manage your own expectations. (2) You do not have to be a doctor or a lawyer or a corporate person to be comfortable. Define what makes you comfortable and work to achieve it. Do not buy in the previous generations' flawed reasoning spawned by the need for social positioning. (3) Do not undervalue your creative abilities. Contrary to what I was taught to believe in, words or a good eye for beauty CAN feed you. Develop your skill sets in language, writing, art and similar lines. (4) Look at starting a business. Even if, like me, you don't think you’re a businessman, you could be surprised. (5) The good life isn't about money, so that shouldn't be your number one priority. But if you want to be able to travel around Europe, barefoot and carefree for three years, you need to be able to pay for it. (6) Abolish the notion of job hierarchy from your mind. As long the people holding jobs maintain their values and principles, no one job is intrinsically superior to the next. Apart from that, I really don't know.




And Paolo writes:



Yes, 'tis the season to be Starstruck once more. It was only a few months back when Anj was convincing us all to go to Broadway Centrum for the first Starstruck. During its first weeks it had no audience and they had to pay people fifty pesos to watch it. Then they stopped paying the audience because soon fans clubs emerged and the lines were so long they had to tighten security.



Now, Piercing Pens observes that many teenagers are desperate to dream, believe and survive to be the next generation of Filipino superstars. These past few years, their ambition in life has shifted from becoming astronauts, engineers and doctors to becoming caregivers and cultural entertainers overseas. Now they hope to be movie and television stars, veejays and noontime show hosts. As Rolando B. Tolentino put it clearly during a symposium where we were both speakers. There's a shift from intellectual investment (puhunan) that one gets from proper schooling and education to a more physical puhunan: one's looks, body and manual labor over one's intelligence and wealth of knowledge. The example he cited was Hero Angeles from the star search show from the rival network. A UP student, Angeles didn't rely on his education but banked on his physical appearance that now guarantees him better financial gain and puts him in a better social position. If land was a sign of power during our Spanish colonial past, then education during our American colonial period, now it is the body that is used as capital. This all ties up with Tolentino's theory of the Philippines as a sexualized nation, where the only thing maybe preventing our economy from collapsing are the remittances from the overseas Filipino workers, most of them using their bodies in service-oriented or manual work.



It's a lack of faith in the Philippine educational system, especially when a college degree from a Filipino school or university fails to secure a career with better pay and better living conditions. So many unemployed college graduates find themselves accepting call center and other outsource labor jobs from multinational companies that it seems to be an undergrad's rite of passage. Either after graduation or a few semesters before graduation, a student (from these exclusive schools and prime universities in Metro Manila) finds he or she has to get this outsourcing job, part time at first then slowly, slowly after so many class sessions are missed, completely leaving school and then living the night shift or that of a contractual worker just to get some financial advancement.



And what's better than answering calls and troubleshooting during those harrowing hours of the graveyard shift? Superstardom. After all, the only requirements seem to be that you have to be young, willing and be present. No talent, no experience necessary as long as you have an image that can be worked on by a good PR team. If fortunate, success and upper social mobility happen immediately. If not, oh well ... at least you had your fifteen minutes of fame.



So who needs school? And who wants to work in cubicles with a faux American or English accent, or clean as you go as a service crew in fastfoods when you can be the next packaged image for a whole new generation to adore. And then someday ... politics!




All I can do is nod, and sigh a very troubled sigh.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:04 AM | The Grim Sign of Troubled Days

I was doing my rounds of blog hopping over the weekend, when I came across a couple of brilliant posts by two writer-friends -- the poet Paolo Manalo, who is the literary editor of Philippines Free Press, and the sequential lit master (and new Palanca winner) Dean Francis Alfar.



They were both talking about the state of the professional class in the Philippines -- and how we have come to such seismic shifts in our expectations of success that no longer do we want to be doctors or lawyers or engineers or teachers. What do we all want now in a society eaten to its very core by mismanagement and corruption?



We all want to be the next Mark Herras.



These are Dean and Paolo in their own words, copied verbatim from their own weblogs.



Dean writes:



Over dinner at Little Asia along Tomas Morato (selected by our youngest gourmand Ralph for their delectable Boneless Tilapia in Honey-Mayo Sauce), the gang and I engaged in talk about jobs like the old farts that some of us are becoming.



I grew up during the time when, when thinking about a stable future for their children, parents would insist on a certain hierarchy of professions. Tier One: Doctor, Lawyer; Tier Two: Architect, Engineer, and so on. It was drummed into my head that these were the jobs that guaranteed financial independence and a good life, along with respectability and a very high position in the social strata.



In fact, I was so brainwashed by their conviction that I moved through my formative years convinced that I needed to be a doctor or a lawyer. Nothing else would do. My little talent with words was considered of interest but of no real import or relevance to real life. When I applied for college, I landed a pre-med quota course at UP Diliman, which would enable me to make my final choice between law and medicine. Later, I came to my senses when my unhappiness became too much to bear and I abandoned the prescribed path, stunning my three parents (my mother and stepfather called in my biological father from the US so they could triple play me). My final choice was to go where my heart led me, and they all forecast doom, misery and inevitable poverty.



A few days ago, I began to gather information on how well these high priority professions pay.



I encountered an architect who works for a small firm with competitive pay. Only a few years younger than myself, he had the title of Senior Architect. His monthly salary is just around the same amount a fresh graduate working in a call center would make. Starting architects make as much as I would pay a Junior Designer in my own company.



With doctors, you need to be very well-connected or wealthy in the first place. For example, to have a clinic in the new hospital along Ortigas, you need to plunk down P10 million, in addition to other expenses. Or you work as an employee for a company like Clinica Manila with a stunningly low monthly wage augmented by your P300 consultation fees. Or even worse, you can work for the small derma clinics and make much less.



With law, unless you're into Tax Law or Corporate Law, your monthly take-home for the many rungs of the ladder is nowhere near the promised bonanza. I know of a trial lawyer who struggles to make ends meet: his salary is barely enough to support himself, his wife, two children and payments on their home. Unless you create a niche like my brother, it's going to be long and hard road.



It is not much different for other professions. For example, a new policeman makes around P12k a month, with incremental raises as they get promotions, all the way to the rank of Director which makes around P40k.



A manager at a resto chain makes around P15k, while it is minimum wage for staff-level positions and their equivalents (salesgirls, promofolk, waiters, and the like).



Insurance promises gigantic windfalls if you are a killer salesperson with incredible connections. Then you get to drive around in a Jaguar. Otherwise, you experience life in feast-or-famine mode.



Teachers continue to get underpaid compared to the private sector. You can spend years as a consultant in consultancy firms at around P12k-P15k. Think your MBA can help you? At one point in time, a brilliant acquaintance of mine with an MBA from the requisite impressive US school was making around P30k. Another MBA holder is currently jobless and is willing to work for peanuts.



Professional writing is not much better. You can freelance and get a word rate, averaging around P1.5k-P2.5k per article for magazines from the Summit Group, or be employed by a company with copy requirements for around P15k-P20k. Pure creative writers who dream of living off publishing royalties in the Philippines have to produce a large number of best-selling books in a short span of time, in an industry where print runs are generally 1,000 copies (with big print runs at around 10,000 copies).



The tech industry had its heyday with the bubble of irrational exuberance. At one point in time, designers could command up to P60k, with managerial salaries over P100k. Those days, of course, are gone, with a few sterling exceptions.



Advertising and marketing companies exist in an odd space. On one hand, if you are a creative, you are pretty much taken care of. If you consistently do good work and bring in awards, your pay will grow as you climb up the pyramid, earning anywhere from P30k to P80k and even higher. However, in the same industry, rank and file (and account executives) operate along the same low pay level: start at around P8k and progress to the twenties.



Creatives also do well in similar industries (acting, directing, production). Actors can do TV series and get around P50k per episode or do TV guesting at around P10k to 15k (they get bigger paychecks with films). TV advertising directors can make from P80k upwards. MTV directors can charge along P100k+, depending on the producers -- but if you're new and unheard of, chances are you'll be doing it for much much less, if you're tasked to do it at all. Composers begin at around P30k for a jingle if you're friends. Food stylists can make a killing, given the fact that so few of high caliber exist -- they charge P7.5k-P25k per plate (per layout). While starting photographers make around P5k-P10k per shoot, big name photographers play at P150k+ per day (there's also cutthroat competition for the wedding market).



For me though, nothing beats having your own business. The risks and headaches are terrifying, but everything balances out. Your small business can grow and take care of your future. Owners of restos, retail stores and other small businesses can pay themselves what their books can afford.



At a recent job fair, the organizers were forced to extend their hours and days to accommodate the thousands of people looking for work. Growing unemployment is a reality, with thousands of new graduates joining the ranks of the jobless every year. Openings are biased towards those who matriculated from the "top" schools: UP, Ateneo and La Salle. But having a diploma from those schools is not a guarantee of a job, much less good pay.



What does all this mean? When my daughter is of the appropriate age for such things, I will tell her: (1) Whatever you choose to be, make sure you like it. Find a job that fits you or, if it does not exist, create it. Follow your bliss but manage your own expectations. (2) You do not have to be a doctor or a lawyer or a corporate person to be comfortable. Define what makes you comfortable and work to achieve it. Do not buy in the previous generations' flawed reasoning spawned by the need for social positioning. (3) Do not undervalue your creative abilities. Contrary to what I was taught to believe in, words or a good eye for beauty CAN feed you. Develop your skill sets in language, writing, art and similar lines. (4) Look at starting a business. Even if, like me, you don't think you’re a businessman, you could be surprised. (5) The good life isn't about money, so that shouldn't be your number one priority. But if you want to be able to travel around Europe, barefoot and carefree for three years, you need to be able to pay for it. (6) Abolish the notion of job hierarchy from your mind. As long the people holding jobs maintain their values and principles, no one job is intrinsically superior to the next. Apart from that, I really don't know.




And Paolo writes:



Yes, 'tis the season to be Starstruck once more. It was only a few months back when Anj was convincing us all to go to Broadway Centrum for the first Starstruck. During its first weeks it had no audience and they had to pay people fifty pesos to watch it. Then they stopped paying the audience because soon fans clubs emerged and the lines were so long they had to tighten security.



Now, Piercing Pens observes that many teenagers are desperate to dream, believe and survive to be the next generation of Filipino superstars. These past few years, their ambition in life has shifted from becoming astronauts, engineers and doctors to becoming caregivers and cultural entertainers overseas. Now they hope to be movie and television stars, veejays and noontime show hosts. As Rolando B. Tolentino put it clearly during a symposium where we were both speakers. There's a shift from intellectual investment (puhunan) that one gets from proper schooling and education to a more physical puhunan: one's looks, body and manual labor over one's intelligence and wealth of knowledge. The example he cited was Hero Angeles from the star search show from the rival network. A UP student, Angeles didn't rely on his education but banked on his physical appearance that now guarantees him better financial gain and puts him in a better social position. If land was a sign of power during our Spanish colonial past, then education during our American colonial period, now it is the body that is used as capital. This all ties up with Tolentino's theory of the Philippines as a sexualized nation, where the only thing maybe preventing our economy from collapsing are the remittances from the overseas Filipino workers, most of them using their bodies in service-oriented or manual work.



It's a lack of faith in the Philippine educational system, especially when a college degree from a Filipino school or university fails to secure a career with better pay and better living conditions. So many unemployed college graduates find themselves accepting call center and other outsource labor jobs from multinational companies that it seems to be an undergrad's rite of passage. Either after graduation or a few semesters before graduation, a student (from these exclusive schools and prime universities in Metro Manila) finds he or she has to get this outsourcing job, part time at first then slowly, slowly after so many class sessions are missed, completely leaving school and then living the night shift or that of a contractual worker just to get some financial advancement.



And what's better than answering calls and troubleshooting during those harrowing hours of the graveyard shift? Superstardom. After all, the only requirements seem to be that you have to be young, willing and be present. No talent, no experience necessary as long as you have an image that can be worked on by a good PR team. If fortunate, success and upper social mobility happen immediately. If not, oh well ... at least you had your fifteen minutes of fame.



So who needs school? And who wants to work in cubicles with a faux American or English accent, or clean as you go as a service crew in fastfoods when you can be the next packaged image for a whole new generation to adore. And then someday ... politics!




All I can do is nod, and sigh a very troubled sigh.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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