header image

HOME

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





Bibliography

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Because Some People Don’t Get Vaginas



THAT IS WHY VArt and Poetry—a celebration of and for women just in time for the annual Women’s Month this March—has become a necessity, even though the rug was almost pulled underneath our feet just a few days before things would have unfolded, in the middle of planning, in the middle of situating things, and in the middle of a creative flow that has seen the city’s visual artists and the country’s top women poets work towards a celebration that will be more than a occasion for joy.



But the show will go on, it would seem, in CocoAmigos, on March 5, 2004 at 5:45 p.m.



It will make a mark, in Dumaguete at least, in the growing advocacy for women’s rights.



It will be a night of cultural affirmation, drinking beer in the bar aside.



It will make CocoAmigos, finally, the center of artistry and local culture—an image it has been trying to cultivate since last year.



All this is a sigh of relief. Because it almost wasn’t. VDay had promised to be a gathering of the province’s top culturati and women’s activists. Imagine National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo gracing the event as a performer reads her poetry on women beyond motherhood. Literary giants Ma. Fatima Lim Wilson, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Marjorie Evasco, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, among others—who themselves chose and furnished the poems to be read in the event—will make the night sparkle with their poetry. Art luminaries like Kitty Taniguchi will show us why is it that her paintings, steeped in the explorations of women’s cultured bodies, continue to inspire us, continue to make us talk. We will be saluting, too, in the program, several of the city’s so-called Vagina Warriors—Cecille Hoffman, Phoebe Tan, and Betsy Joy Tan—for taking the cause of women in the city forward despite the odds of prevalent macho dominion.



Still, the search for a new venue is on (just in case), a little less than a week before the scheduled March 5, 2004 show. Because we need to go on, despite troubles and wishy-washy people. Because this cause is too important to be bogged down by mere accidents of finding a home for the performance. It’s been hard. How do you find people to help fight for a good cause when too many are embarrassed to even acknowledge a problem exists in our society?



In the end, this paints only too clearly how it is to grapple hard and fight for a cause nobody else wants to bother with, because the enslavement of women in our society has become so much a part of our lives people are actually scared of change. This advocacy has been termed “fanatic” at best, “pornographic” at worst.



When The Vagina Monologues was first presented in Manila about three years ago, Monique Wilson, the artistic director of New Voice Company (the theatrical group who dared to take this powerful play into the consciousness of Filipinos), lamented in her notes for the first performance of the show:



“Now this is apparently where the problem lies with some people. The word ‘vagina.’ Sponsor after sponsor turned us down because they didn’t like the title. ‘It doesn’t fit with our image,’ they said. ‘Our clients would get turned off.’ Of course, I had to respect these decisions (albeit with a heavy heart)—no matter that more than half our population are women, and they have vaginas; no matter that it talked about life-changing, life-affirming positive things; and no matter that it would change the way they would look at the world and at women. I guess these things are not as important as ‘image.’ The issues of women are not as important as, say, supporting a work that played up the stereotypes of Asian women as prostitutes—where women are docile, weak, and submissive. I guess I don’t understand...”



Three years later, a lot has changed. The Vagina Monologues now gets yearly reruns because the public can’t seem to get enough. And those who perform it consist of some of our biggest and brightest showbiz and media and literary and business and political stars. All women, of course. People like Ces Drilon, Lakambini Sitoy, Zenaida Amador, Jaya, and so on.



Three years ago, nobody could say “vagina” on TV. Ms. Wilson, going on talk shows then to convince the public this play was worth seeing, had to resort to creative means to talk about “it.” Today, because of her advocacy, we now have advertisements for women’s hygiene saying the word “vagina”—three years after the same companies behind these products turned down her request for sponsorship.



Are we seeing the same thing here in Dumaguete? Maybe. Maybe not. What we know now is that the final venue for the show is still up for grabs. We first tried for the Luce Auditorium lobby, which traditionally holds exhibitions. But we were given strange run-arounds, and we couldn’t get a date. Hayahay then, like last year? Maybe. Hayahay has always been a friendly place. And the food there is great, too. That’s a plus. But we hope we can settle with CocoAmigos, which depends a great deal on Australian owner Mike Butler



It would be great to stage it in CocoAmigos, if only to showcase the paradox of the place.



We would have enlightened the place of some inbred associations with majestic female poetry.



* * *



WE WILL ALSO Be hearing powerful pieces such as the one below, for that show. An excerpt of what we hope it will be, in CocoAmigos, or wherever):



The Hymen is There For a Purpose

By Kristyn Maslog-Levis



The hymen. It is not just a piece of tissue, thank you very much. It is there for a purpose.



It is there to protect the woman, to let her know that, hey, I’m supposed to be taken gently, not roughly. You don’t have to break me down like breaking the barriers of a castle door using a ramming rod. I am supposed to be touched, felt, smelled… kissed.



Take me slow. Enter me gently. If my vagina was a road, it would say, “Slow Down/Slippery When Wet.”



I was sixteen. It was a cheap motel. It was his birthday. He said we were going to a cottage, somewhere near the beach perhaps. I don’t know what his definition of a cottage was, but to me it looked like he meant a “motel.”



We’ve only been going out for two weeks. He was the Class Bad Boy. I was the Class Genius. Bottles of beer were there in the dingy little room, but so was fear. And the more I got scared, the more that excited him.



The pain was excruciating. Like a knife was being pushed up my vagina and wiggled around. I heard myself cry. I heard myself say no. I felt myself pulling away, to avoid the pain of his rough ramming. And then it was all over. And I was bleeding.



He looked at me, confused. “You’re a virgin?” he said, like it was impossible. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a virgin?” As if I had the time to tell him in between the pushing and groping, and the ripping of the clothes.



He smiled, proud of his trophy for that birthday. He carved our names on the cabinet top as a remembrance of that night. I still haven’t gotten around to burning that place down. Maybe one of these days, I will.



I felt humiliated, violated, and mostly confused. It hurt, but should I really feel bad? Why should I feel violated and hurt when he was my boyfriend? Wasn’t I supposed to be happy that I’d shared something special with him?



That was the start of a year-and-a-half of sleepless, tear-filled nights. I’ve always thought that non-virgins were sluts. Thus, I was one. I was “used goods”—tainted, battered, bruised, and will never be worthy of love by another man again. I had to cling on to him. He had taken my special gift.



Then Michael began acting like he owned me. I was his cow, marked by his semen. Abused by his manhood. I had no choice but to let him do whatever he pleased. Although I was battling societal pressure to be “clean,” inside I knew I was tied to him.



Escaping our city was the best thing I had ever done. And slowly I saw different points of view. I swore to myself that I would never be a victim, that I would never listen to norms, and that I would never be a prey for male predators again.



He was a slut. Michael was a whore. He just didn’t know it.



But now, looking back at that dreadful memory, I feel bad, yet also grateful. Bad that I wasted all those times acting like I was enjoying sex just so I won’t be victimized anymore. But I also feel grateful for the liberation that night brought me. The anger gave way to strength, and the strength to dominance, and dominance to wisdom, until I found love.



I am grateful that although my vagina was abused, it has survived to tell the tale and teach younger vaginas some lessons in life, while Michael’s manhood still hangs around somewhere, probably filled with puss from being with whores.



Virginity is nothing more than a mind-frame. The hymen is not just a hymen. It is me.


The Vagina Monologues, directed by Laurie Raymundo from the play by Eve Ensler, will be staged in the Luce Auditorium on 12 March 2004. Tickets will soon be available at Silliman University’s Department of Psychology. Please see Ms. Bing Valbuena for more details, or you can email me at icasocot (at) yahoo (dot) com.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, February 27, 2004

How to Exorcise a Blog (From You Know What)



Take that!





Take that!





Take that!





I hereby declare this blog exorcised. From now on, we are going to emit happy thoughts.



(Snicker.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





I didn't want to post so soon after writing a poem yesterday. But Ryan's comments for that poem just reminded me of how dangerous it is to believe so much in dogma, in religious (read: moral) tenets -- I don't want to say faith -- without context. Because life, after all, is about context. To take things literally and without question, even the Bible, is to commit the biggest blunder, I think, because the things we believe in have been through the process of having been invented, enforced, remade, refined, and ultimately believed to be the Essences of things. (What we know as The Bible, for example, is actually completely different books for a Roman Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew. Who is to say which has the ultimate handle on the "True Bible," much more so The Truth?). I sure do wish, for one thing, that Ryan will have time to read on Michel Foucault's idea of social construction. When we believe fiercely in Essences, in Tenets, that's when murders and wars start: because one wants desperately to have the sole handle on Truth, so damn others for their Subversion. (Sex is a subversion, one might say, to Orthodox Christian idea of Purity Before Marriage.) The essay below is a famous article by William Harwood which details an example of how religion and social construction eventually made women second-class citizens in a patriarchial society. Context, my dear, context. I guess the questions the essay wants us to ask ourselves are these: Why do I believe the things I believe in? Is it the truth? Who said it was the truth? Should I believe him?





Gods, Goddesses, and Bibles: The Canonization of Misogyny

By William R. Harwood



IN OCTOBER 1984, America’s National Council of Chinches issued a new translation of passages of the Judeo-Christian Bible that the Council felt were marred by “male bias.” Words that were masculine gender in the original language were converted to common gender in English (for example: king became ruler; God’s son became God’s child), passages that ignored women were altered to rectify the omission (The God of Abraham became The God of Abraham and Sarah), and references to the head of the Christian pantheon as God the Father were amended to God the Father and Mother. While all but the culturally Schlaflyed [1] applauded the attempt to drag religion into the twentieth century, even at the price of altering “revealed truth,” what nobody seems to have realized is that a translation of the Judeo-Christian Bible that does not offend women is analogous to a translation of Mein Kampf [2] that does not offend Jews.



In a male-dominated world, popes, caliphs, ayatollahs, prophets, messiahs, priests, and rabbis tend to be male; but that was not always so. From humankind’s creation of the first goddess thirty thousand years ago until the retaliatory invention of male gods more than twenty thousand years later, women held the same ruling-caste status presently enjoyed by men. There was a good reason for this: just as Cro-Magnon humans were able to recognize that the cow was their superior because she sustained them with her milk (thus the cow-goddess Hera and the status of cows in Hinduism), so did they recognize that woman was man’s superior because she produced the children who ensured the species’s continued survival.



Almost from their conception, gods were perceived as the givers of life. Since only females could give life, it inevitably followed that the gods must he female. And in a world ruled by female divinities, those humans created in the Mother’s image naturally far outranked the male humans whose prime functions were fighting wars and providing their female overlords with sexual recreation.



As it was in the skies, so it was on earth. Goddesses ruled the metaphysical world; women ruled the physical. Priestesses reigned for life, often accepting homage (the original meaning of worship) as goddesses-on-earth. In an orderly world hatched from the egg of the goddess and run by her mirror image, men accepted that they had no rights and did as they were ordered (just as in the modern world there are women so conditioned to the belief that they are hereditary slaves that they give speeches urging state legislatures to refuse to ratify a constitutional amendment granting full human status to women). It is doubtful, however, that men were ever exploited by women prior to the Male Revolution of 3500 BCE [3] in the manner in which women since that date have been oppressed and dehumanized by men. There was never, for example, a female-absolutist equivalent of the sixth-century CE synod of Macon, at which Christian bishops earnestly debated whether women were human beings, possessed of “souls,” or simply soulless breeding stock whom the chief male god had given man to use as he saw fit.



Men were never private property, owned by one woman and arbitrarily forbidden from providing sexual recreation to any woman but herself. At least, they were not in the days of goddess-rule. Men accept such a designation today (or pretend to) as the price they must pay for imposing similar private ownership on their breeding women; but this, too, is a consequence of the Male Revolution. When the idea began to evolve that monogamy was either right or wrong, the ruling males declared, in effect, “We won’t annul your sexual slavery — but we’ll agree to share your captivity by submitting to the same exclusivity.” Then came the Big Discovery.



THE BIG DISCOVERY did not occur everywhere at the same time. Among the Aborigines of Melville Island to the north of Australia, it was not made until the nineteenth century CE. In some places, it may well have taken place much earlier than 3500 BCE, which is the best available estimate of the approximate date at which it became widespread. To persons who have grown up in a society in which such knowledge is taken for granted, it is difficult to convey the tremendous significance for future history of the first discovery by men that the weapon with which they pleasured their mistresses also made babies. The Big Discovery meant that women were no longer the sole purveyors of life—and therefore neither were goddesses! From being the reproducers of life, women found themselves reduced to the level of incubators, of no more relevance to the birth process than the dirt in which an ear of corn grew into an adult plant.



Men were physically stronger than women. That fact had long been known and rationalized to fit a female-dominant theology, and only men’s acceptance of their insignificance in the divine order kept them from taking over the world much sooner. Following the Big Discovery, nothing could stop them and nothing did stop them. However, the takeover did not occur right away. Compared to the Male Revolution, the Industrial Revolution was accomplished overnight. Before the mind could conceive of any change in the social structure of human society, it had first to postulate a similar change in the sky. Thus, before there could be any king reigning on earth, there had to be created a King of Heaven, a God the Father, who was the Mother’s superior and by whose impregnation she produced her children.



Men did gain political power. But power that was not hereditary was meaningless. Just as mothers had always been able to identify their daughters, now fathers wanted to be able to identify their sons. It was for that reason that men imposed upon women a logical extension of the private-property concept, the chattel-slavery that came to be known as marriage. And with marriage came the first sexual taboo: you are not to commit adultery.



Adultery was a crime against property. A woman, owned by one man, who allowed herself to be impregnated by another, thereby robbed her husband’s true heir of the inheritance that could conceivably be usurped by her lover’s “bastard” (another new concept). Had the discovery that sexual recreation causes pregnancy been coupled with the realization that births can be positively traced to those couplings that occurred roughly nine months earlier, the adultery taboo would never have been so severe. As it was, the taboo was based upon the assumption that a woman’s child could have been fathered by any previous lover, regardless of whether the coupling had occurred five months or twenty years before its birth.



Since adultery was a crime against the adulteress’s husband, an attempt to rob him of his right to pass on his property and power to his lawfully conceived sons, it followed that an act of recreation involving an unmarried woman did not constitute adultery. The generalization of adultery to include recreation between married men and unmarried women did not occur until after Siddhartha Gautama’s [4] creation of the belief that abstinence from recreation, deemed a sin by the Talmud (Nazir 19a), could somehow be virtuous in itself.



Adultery was for many centuries the only sexual taboo. Without any concept of wrong-doing, women freely grew up copulating with brothers and cousins and neighbors. At the age of eleven or twelve, those that had not been sold to husbands would take adult lovers, usually their closest relative, and recreate diligently until such time as they could demonstrate their fertility by becoming pregnant. Women who, although nubile, had never produced a live infant, and who therefore were bad breeding risks, were stigmatized by the pejorative label, virgin.





ONCE A WOMAN had given birth, an event that often did not occur until the age of fifteen or sixteen, her chances of being purchased as a wife increased significantly. Men wanted good breeders, and a woman who had demonstrated not only fertility but also the ability to survive the childbirth could expect a wide range of suitors, all of whom would share her favors until such time as her father accepted the highest bid. The first child of the marriage, regardless of how many years might have elapsed before its birth, being of doubtful parentage, would be sacrificed to Molokh or Baal or Yahweh or Allah or whichever other god had the local baby-burning concession. Following the birth and sacrifice, the wife would observe an adultery taboo. All future children could then be attributed with absolute certainty to her legal owner.



It was the abolition of infant sacrifice that led to the imposition of cradle-to-marriage joy-deprivation on half of the human race. All societies eventually recognized that, with women dying in childbirth faster than men could kill each other m war, live births were too rare to be wasted and infant sacrifice must be abolished. That meant that some new method had to be found whereby a man could be certain that the first child born to his new bride was of his own begetting. The solution was to deny unmarried girls the opportunity to bring to the marriage bed a womb that might already be carrying seed that could one day produce a cuckoo’s chick. [5] Women were informed that henceforth they were to practice total premarital joy-rejection, and that any woman who failed to spill hymenal blood on the marriage blanket could expect to he promptly executed (Deut. 22:13-21). Thus from sheer ignorance concerning the duration of pregnancy and the durability of sperm, men stole from women the basic right to decide for themselves whether an offer of sexual activity should be accepted or rejected—a right that only the recent perfection of dependable contraceptive techniques has enabled them to reclaim.



The final step in the degradation of women was not taken until perhaps two thousand years after their reduction to slave status as men’s “wives” following the Big Discovery. Not content with denying women their ancient role in creation and salvation by making the post-Discovery creator and savior both male, the phallusocracy now came up with the myth that male gods had created a perfect world which women had subsequently rendered imperfect by their culpable inadequacy. In Greek god-mythology, the first woman was Pandora, whom Zeus gave to Prometheus to be his wife as a punishment for giving man fire. Pandora was endowed with a scaled box (the sexual symbolism of which should need no explanation) and warned never to open it. She disobeyed Zeus’s admonition, and out of her box leaped disease, famine, and all of the other evils with which man has since been punished for woman’s crime.



In the Semitic version of the same myth, the humanized goddess Eve first yielded to a serpent goddess’s invitation to worship her by eating the vulva-shaped fruit that was her sacramental body and blood, in defiance of the ruling male god’s instruction to worship him alone. She then corrupted the man she had been created to serve. That only a chronic misogynist could have imposed such a fable is obvious enough. That only a misogynist culture could believe it should be no less obvious.





A RELIGION IN which all first- and second-ranking gods are male is misogynous by definition. Christianity, for example, admits females only as third-ranking immortals (“saints”), and many at its third-ranking gods, prior to their pumpkinification, [6] were themselves vicious misogynists. Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, described women as “a tool of Satan and a pathway to Hell,” while Ambrose and Augustine contributed to the world the pious belief that someone as clean as Jesus could not have come out of something as dirty as a female recreational orifice but instead magically appeared outside of third-level goddess Mary’s body without the necessity of utilizing her birth canal. While not even popes claim to he speaking inerrant truth at all times, and otherwise good humans can still he bigots, it is nonetheless significant that the views expressed by those men have never been repudiated by the Church that canonized them.



It is, however, not in the writings of “saints” but in canonized Scriptures that one must look for proof that a religion officially categorizes women as subhuman. Judaism’s position is clearly spelled out in the prayer in the Talmud that reads, “Yahweh, I thank you who have not made me a woman, an idiot, or an infidel.” Christianity’s inspired apologist for misogyny was Paul of Tarsus:



Women, submit yourselves to your men as to his Lordship. For the man is his woman’s head. Just as the community is subject to the Messiah, so are women to their men in all things. (Eph. 5:22— 24)



Women in the community are to remain silent. They are required to be obedient, as even the Torah commands. (I Cor. 14:34)



The man was not created hit the woman, but the woman for the man. (I Cor. 11:9)


Paul’s misogyny has begun to he rejected in the secular world, but in Christian churches women’s demands for full membership in the human race continue to be ignored.



The misogyny of Islam’s fanatic present-day leaders is widely known. Less known perhaps is that misogyny is unambiguously endorsed by Muhammad’s Koran:



Has your Lord blessed you with sons and himself adopted daughters from among the angels? A monstrous blasphemy is that which you utter. (l7:40)



Men have a status above women. (2:228)



Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot he found, then one man and two women. (2:282)



Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other.... Good women are obedient.... As for those from whom you fear disobedience... beat them. (4:34)


Not only did Muhammad’s male chauvinist god deem men superior to women, he declared it a blasphemy to suggest otherwise.



And how did the National Council of Churches respond to Paul’s sexism in their common-gender Bible translation? Very easily: they simply left it out.





NOTES



1. An allusion to Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-women’s-rights activist who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s.

2. “My Battle” (1924-1926), the book by Adolf Hitler in which he explained Nazi programs and doctrines including Nazi anti-Semitism.

3. Before the common era; same as BC, before Christ. CE signifies “of the common era”; same as AD, anno domini, in the year of the dominion (of Christ).

4. Founder of Buddhism (563—483 BC); also known as Buddha.

5. The cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of other species of birds, which rear the cuckoo’s young.

6. Harwood seems to be referring here to the fairy tale Cinderella in which a pumpkin is transformed into a golden coach.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, February 26, 2004

Why Jade's February 16 Post Got an Inundation of Comments, Or: Is Sex Right?, Or: How Not to Be a Tight Ass



Because those who say it's wrong

Are desperate virgins, really, who are compensating

By rationalizing God into their lonely nights.

In the end, those who cry "Wolf!"

Are wolves themselves, although they may think themselves

Sheep—pure as the wool on their backs

And heavenly as the Myths they possess:

White lambs sacred as snow, sacrificial animals

Before God's judging eyes. The key words here

Are "sacrificial" and "judging": blood and

Hell fire—the paradigms of the righteous

Among us who are quite enamored with Sin they

Reflect the darkness within and see it cast

On our mirrors, and call themselves redeemed.

Consider the Spanish Inquisition, St. Bartholomew's Day

Massacre, the Magdalene houses in Ireland --

Religious retributions for the carnal and the heretic,

And thus we know: that the strangest

Of Evil really mistakes itself for What Is Good.

Like Hitler, or Dubya. The villain never knows he is a villain.

Last night, we gossiped about Mrs. S., that teacher

In the University who used to embody Morality itself

So much she looked like a pinched virgin. And how

Last summer she almost died

On the operating table, after her husband's germ

Fled her closed vagina and traveled to her brain...

The story went that when she closed her eyes

To go towards the light, she saw the

Shadows of demons instead. And frantic, woke up,

Breathless, like

Lazarus. Today she still believes her God and in His

Goodness, but gives her students condoms: "If you

Can't say no, my dear, at least be safe," she now says.

She left her husband, too, and has grown

Plump these days, like Mary's

Little Lamb, or Bah Bah Black Sheep.

A real sheep who changed its wool! Then again,

The sheep I know out there in Tatang's

Field are never really that white, their wool

A trap of lice and dirt, and comes off gray

At most, nothing like the biblical animals

We take as objects of a faith. Come to think of

It, when the lion laid down with the lamb,

Was it to cuddle? Interspecies romance?

Sex? How do we know Sex is All Right?

So I asked God last night, "God, I'm your lamb, right?

Should I have sex? Is sex right?" And God said,

"Yo, I invented orgasm."


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Two-Faced Angara



From Belinda Olivares-Cunanan's column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:



Representative Gonzalez recalled that at that time Angara was unhappy with House Minority Floor Leader Carlos Padilla and wanted him replaced with Aquino (interestingly, both men eventually were to turn against Angara and support Panfilo Lacson of the rival LDP faction). But more significantly, said Gonzalez, Angara was then batting for Charter change, and he stressed that if this was not put in place, actor Fernando Poe Jr., who was then already being talked about as the possible candidate of former President Estrada, might come in.





* * *



Gonzalez recalled that Angara clearly raised the prospect of FPJ's candidacy as a way to threaten or frighten the Filipino politicians in Bangkok into supporting a Constitutional Assembly, or Consa. If we don't push Consa then we'll have FPJ, which will be a disaster, was Angara's logic. At that time he was batting hard for Eduardo Cojuangco, but within the year, after Cojuangco said with finality he was not running for president, Angara went all-out for FPJ and became his main supporter.



Ah, politics -- it seems to be not only a case of "temporary alliances," but also of temporary reputations. Expediency is the name of the game.



[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Skokie Swift (alias Tedo) has a great post today:



So this is what you call, compassionate conservatism. You continue to impose sanctions on Cuba just to piss off Fidel Castro, who's probably going to outlive another Bush presidency, and further squeeze the already impoverished regular Cubans, whose relatives in Florida you have to please to protect your electoral votes in November. Then, you bomb some independent state in the Mideast to show some "examples" of your experiment and justify it as part of the war against terror. Then you smoke out Saddam, whom your dad and the military complex created in the first place. Then you cut and cut and cut and cut taxes even when you are in the red and even if 44 million of your people don't have health insurance. Failing to find your WMD or Osama bin Laden, you drop a bomb by announcing that you support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage virtually discriminating millions of your own people denying them equal protection of the law. Then you raise one hundred seventy million dollars from special interest groups to bankroll your re-election and roll over your opponent labeling him as unpatriotic even as he served in Vietnam while you were soaking up the sun in Alabama. Very nice.


Hehehe. I love Dubya-bashing. I really have no respect for morons, even if they are the President of the United States.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Monday, February 23, 2004

This is it.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It's 9 o'clock in the morning. I have not had a single wink of sleep.





Later.... (7:53 p.m.)



But although I'm exhausted and sleepy, this has been a perfectly wonderful day. I cried -- in that refreshingly beautiful way bottled-up emotions come up and let loose as tears -- twice: I missed my family, and then I missed my friends. And that was how I knew this life was rich -- because I miss people who mean so much to me, and this confirms me: I cannot say my life is empty then. Later I had my TV finally fixed. It had been tinted green and red in all the wrong places for the past year, but finally I had time today to have it fixed (courtesy of my brother Edwin) -- within the day! and cheaply, too!



I'd better log off now before I get overly melodramatic.



And oh, yeah.... Philippine Daily Inquirer just inquired if I wanted to be an official correspondent for them. I said, of course! It's weird. When I graduated from college, PDI was one of the first media companies I applied to, but without any result. (I ended up editing a crummy community paper.) Now they text me -- and just like that, I'm a PDI correspondent.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Dear Aldwyn, Beth, Clee, Danny, Dinah, Eric, Jade, James, KK, Quddus, and Ted:



I have a surprise for you guys. I hope you like it.



Call it a love letter cum website to our old college days. Or a portal, at least, to this newfound friendship linked intricately by the Internet. Four, or five, years ago, each of us took our leavetakings, not really sure whether we'd meet again, and not really sure where life was going to take each one of us. Fact is, life did take us everywhere on our own: Japan, Australia, America... But somehow, we found a way to each other -- by blogging! by email! -- and all I can say is that I am so glad to have you all back to my life again, albeit vicariously.



Thanks for the friendship and the inspiration. I love you all.



With all my heart,



Ian


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, February 22, 2004

It is the beginning of the last full week of February. And the humidity is spiteful, it murders. It hurts, the way we feel the festering colds and other heat-related illnesses growing beneath our noses and palates. The sun, everywhere—on my skin, in the molecules of the very air I breathe—is a demon in my head throbbing to be sated with more showers. I have taken about six cold showers today, getting out of the bathroom barely wiping myself dry with the towel, but going ahead and strutting naked around the room, rejoicing in the brief pleasure of cold water on my skin—and yet my body still remains one giant reservoir of thirst. The electric fan does not help, even when it is turned on full-blast it shakes the paintings on the walls. The walls, too, have soaked in the temperature. They are menacing, the concrete trapping the heat in, and I feel broiled. Sometimes it is easier to be outside, like tonight, where the slight, rare breeze occasionally cools. But nothing.



I wish my world is a Condura.



In recent memory, I don't remember a February that pleased the senses. March is gentler, where the summer is more dry. February is a distorted, fickle, and sad month, something I can do without. It just might as well that it has the shortest of days. This year, though, we get one day extra.



It is God’s way of playing a joke on us mortals.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, February 21, 2004

The New York Times's A.O. Scott reviews Mark Meilly's Crying Ladies...



The movie wears its many clichés lightly and without embarrassment. If it were more tightly constructed, "Crying Ladies" would probably also be more relentlessly melodramatic.



But a movie about people who cry fake tears for money, and for complete strangers, would be ill advised to indulge in displays of overwrought emotion. Its most winning attribute is a kind of sloppy, unassuming friendliness, a likability aptly reflected in its characters.


More here.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, February 19, 2004

Love Affairs with the Right Things



Passion is the thing, the force that keeps us alive.



This is not a belated offshoot of some Valentine notions of romance—but Valentines Day did serve as a catalyst for much thinking in my part as the previous Saturday unfolded in front of me in an orgy of hearts, roses, self-conscious lovers, and satisfied stomachs during what is proving to be not just a feast for the hearts, but also a feast for the gut. In the middle of the semi-crowded City Burger along Real Street, while eating sweet barbecued chicken (all they had left were paa—the harried waiters were constantly apologizing about quickly running out of pecho, even the night was still young), I had thought: “All these for a bogus Saint meeting some death… all these in the name of love.”



Of course, I was being cynical, if only partially. My generation, steeped in Marxism and social constructivism, has been well-taught in regarding the whole Valentine exercise as a Corporate Gimmick, which has become so much like Christmas—using what was once real and touchy-feely into a simple matter of merchandise (roses, chocolates, gifts, dinner reservations at the swankiest restaurants…). But advancing age (I am 28) has allowed me to mellow a bit, taking matters a bit less seriously, conscious still of the hidden agenda of “traditions,” but finally allowing a bit of nonchalance to enter life. So we went ahead and celebrated Valentines Day. Not in some overpriced restaurant, but in City Burger—cheaper and with better chicken, and blessed by open skies and stars. There were so many stars that Valentines night.



Between the shadows, around full tables, and in the traffic of people coming in and out of City Burger, it hit me: passion is the thing, the force that keeps us alive, and sane.



It keeps us on our toes, and it keeps us going at it in the grind of life, and despite so much odds: the obnoxious banalities and sameness of days, for example, or the wrath and cunning of fat, vagina-less women, or congressmen drafting bills that promise to be environmentally unsound as to kill lakes.



I am not making any sense right now, but I will be.



Passion.



“Passion” was what made Razceljan Luis Salvarita, Bacolod-and-Dumaguete wonderkid and prolific visual artist, to strip down to his briefs two weeks ago, paint the entirety of his body white, and parade around Dumaguete City, carrying a placard that carried an environmental message to save Lake Balinsasayao.



On any ordinary day and without extraordinary circumstances, he would have been deemed crazy, or at least plucky enough to do such a stunt. Naked! And walking around the streets in Dumaguete City! The tongues about town would surely cluck.



This time, the tongues did cluck, but positively. Razcel’s near-nudity (he had wanted to go all the way, but his teachers at the Silliman University School of Communication had wisely suggested to retain the underwear—or else face up to some ordinance dictating “public decency”) created media waves, even as far as Manila.





That's Donnie Calsena putting on white paint on Razcel.





Razcel on intersection of Perdices Street.



(Photos courtesy of fellow artist Michael Angelo Alano. Click here for the story and more pictures in the Manila Independent Media Collective Website.)



What was his cause?



The wisest thing to do to answer that question is to quote, verbatim, the entirety of his press release: “We, the youth of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, appeal to the Protected Area Management Board of the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park (BTLNP), our Senators, Congressmen, and local government officials to hear our appeal to save the forests of the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park.



“We are opposed to the approval of House Bill No. 1462 which seeks to reduce the area of the BTLNP from 8,749 hectares to a mere 3,749 hectares. The Protected Area Management Board of the BTLNP has decided to allow the Philippine National Oil Corporation to use the 5,000 hectares of forest for energy generation.



“We believe that reducing the already small forest area will compromise the integrity of the fresh water supply not only of Dumaguete City but also the adjacent towns of Sibulan, San Jose, and Valencia, which depend on this important watershed area, and we cannot give up this area even for ‘development purposes.’



“We believe that this move will compromise the last remaining habitat of southern Negros’s endangered and critically-endangered wildlife like the Philippine Spotted Deer, the Writhed Billed Hornbill, the Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon, Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, the Negros Shrew, the Philippine Leopard Cat, the Philippine Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, and the Negros Forest Frog among others. We believe that the environment does not have to be sacrificed for the development and that alternative options for the sustainable development of Negros Oriental exists.



“We believe that water and biodiversity are more important than electricity. Development is important, but water is more essential. Without it, there will be no development, and no life. We appeal to our government officials to realize that they are putting out future at risk with this move to reduce the area of the BTLNP to less than half of its original size. We have less than three percent (3%) forest cover left on Negros Island and we just cannot afford to lose more. We assert our right to a secure future in an ecologically-stable society, in a world where we will not worry where our water will come from, where we will not worry about flashfloods when the heavy rains come, and where we can still enjoy the value of thriving biodiversity in living forests and not just in books.”



I don’t know how much this stunt by Razcel can affect the outcome of such legislative moves, but as of last weekend, the author of that bill, Rep. Emilio Macias III (whom I will not be voting for in the coming elections), has told MetroPost: “The Bill is dead.”



Remarkably, passion can indeed affect change.



This is the same call for change that ignites the efforts of another person of passion from Silliman University, Psychology instructor Bing Valbuena who, together with Dr. Margie Udarbe-Alvarez, is the captain at the helm of this year’s celebration of VDay.



“Again?” some people have queried me, quietly reminding me that last year we had also celebrated VDay and punctuated it with a brash and wildly successful performance of Eve Ensler’s powerful play The Vagina Monologues in Silliman Hall, directed by Laurie Raymundo.



“And why not?” I would reply back. VDay’s motto, after all, is “Until the Violence Stops.” Violence against women, that is. And has it stopped? Coming off a year that featured, among other things, the Dumaguete Sex Scandal, one guesses that the answer is “no.”



We need VDay to remind us over and over again that this type of advocacy is necessary, that there will always be more and more people to reach out to, to inform and enlighten. Even among the educated ranks of the university, there is a particular woman—a woman!—who deems all of these activities “immoral,” and has quietly engineered difficulties for the ragtag band of organizers.



Let us see, in detail, what she considers immoral:



“VDay is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls,” so goes the official line describing the celebration, ”a palpable energy, and a fierce catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. The celebrations hopes to broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sexual slavery.



“Through VDay campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. VDay itself stages large-scale benefits and promotes innovative gatherings and programs (The Afghan Women’s Summit, The Stop Rape Contest, Indian Country Project, and more) to change social attitudes towards violence against women. In 2002, more than 800 V-Day benefit events were presented by local volunteer activists around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls. The V-Day movement is growing at a rapid pace throughout the world.”



This is immoral?



We are continuing the tradition this year knowing that part of the deal of celebrating VDay is the inevitable encounter with small minds and constricted hearts (and vaginas?). Part of this celebration, which starts February, is the staging of Ensler’s play, this time in a bigger and more plush venue (Luce Auditorium on the 12th of March), plus other activities including V-Talk, a forum on women’s issues, V-Walk, a torch parade to raise public awareness on the same, and V-Art and Poetry, a celebration of the more artistic side of the month-long event.



The fruits of passion beget change for, really, a better, more livable world.



[Thanks to Tagabukid in the City for the link]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





It’s been too hot then too cold lately, and stressful. The other day, I thought I had a fever—and immediately suspected SARS, or bird flu. But, of course not. Andrea told me I’d been putting myself in a grinder for far too long, it had to happen; that this was my tired body telling me I needed rest. So, after completing the grades for my summer classes, I crawled into my bed, and turned off the whole world.



Days end. I suppose one will have to deal with that when February finally comes grinding to a halt: all of second semester and late nights working non-stop gone with the first sign of summer sun, and the first hint of academic responsibilities still to come far, far off. But June already leers with so much expectations. I have not said goodbye to my semester just yet, and now another semester threatens.



I do not want to become part of the grind.



I remember a weekend in Siquijor with the writing fellows from Manila. We did not lack for sunshine and surf, but there was always the slowly deepening dark clouds far off in the horizon. The boat ride home on a Sunday was a little too turbulent for comfort—all of 45 minutes being tossed by the waves till stomachs turned pretzel. One of them—who had thought what fun it was to be in a real roller-coaster ride—finally succumbed to nausea. I guess summer’s end is always like that: rains come down on your parade, waves toss you like frisbee, and you get heart broken once again by a beautiful boy (a poet, as usual) who knew no better.



But how I long for summer to start now.



It’s midnight. In the safe confines of my apartment. I have to battle with more natural elements: there are ants surging everywhere at the slightest hint of food, and since I live right beside a highway, there are dusts, too. But I like it here where I live. I am infinitely happier. What fascinates and deflates me all at the same time is the wind that brings into my patio an avalanche of dead leaves, and sometimes dirty plastic bags. I do not mind the leaves. The plastic bags, though, get my environmental goat.



I’ve come to locking myself in as well these days. Almost a year ago, four days after I moved into this apartment, I went home at 4 in the morning, then I woke to some noise, to find a woman rifling through my closet. She had my clothes piled on the floor. She had short hair, and a blue dress on, and she looked crazy. The first words that came out of my mouth was an incredulous “Who the heck are you?” When she didn’t reply, I said, “Get out. Now.”



And she did.



Calmly.



Like this was her apartment, and I was the interloper.



Then I went back to sleep, just like that, but after making sure I’d padlocked the gate. Sometimes, after that, I still could not determine whether it was a tired dream, or it was real.



Maybe she was the summer telling me I needed to wake up.



What makes my heart glad in this apartment are my bookshelves. I remember how my books use to lie haphazardly upon the big straw mat on my floor for the weeks when I first moved in. I finally decided to call in someone to build me, in a day, a workable set of shelves. Now I have one that runs the height from floor to ceiling—and wide enough to accommodate almost all of my books. I am so happy. Sometimes, I just stare, while sitting down at my fold-away dining table, at my perfectly arranged books (by alphabetical order of surnames), and then I know God is in His heaven.



I really have to go to sleep now.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Cows 101



TRADITIONAL ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies and the economy grows.

You retire on the income.



CHINESE ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim full employment, high bovine productivity and arrest anyone reporting the actual numbers.



INDIAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You worship them.



PAKISTAN ECONOMICS

You don't have any cows.

You claim that the Indian cows belong to you.

You ask the US for financial aid, China for military aid, Britain for warplanes, Italy for machines, Germany for technology, France for submarines, Switzerland for loans, Russia for drugs and Japan for equipment.

You buy the cows with all this and claim exploitation by the world.



AMERICAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

You profess surprise when the cow drops dead.

You put the blame on some nation with cows & naturally that nation will be a danger to mankind.

You wage war to save the world and grab the cows.



FRENCH ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You go on strike because you want three cows.



GERMAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You reengineer them so that they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves.



BRITISH ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

They are both mad.



ITALIAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You don't know where they are.

You break for lunch.



SWISS ECONOMICS

You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.

You charge others for storing them.



JAPANESE ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You redesign them so that they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create cute cartoon cow images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.



RUSSIAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 17 cows.

You give up counting and open another bottle of vodka.



MALAYSIAN ECONOMICS

You have two cows.

You slaughter one for Hari Raya Puasa and the other for Hari Raya Haji.

Just before that, both the cows were wondering along the PLUS Highways.



PHILIPPINE ECONOMICS

You have only one cow.

So the government claims there is a shortage of cows.

The government ask grants from other countries so the country can produce more cows.

The other countries oblige.

The government divides the grants among themselves, and blames the opposition of corruption.

The people stage People Power 42.

The government is overthrown.

Then its back to the single cow.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Monday, February 16, 2004

It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.



-- Ann Beattie


[via megastina]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, February 13, 2004

Being



A reworking of old posts and old poetry for Valentine's Day



Writing, I suppose, is a conversation with self. But what if the self has turned deaf in the deluge of too much happiness? Unlike the poet Pablo Neruda, words flee in my days of inspiration. Then also there are the specifications for the eventual tango with words: I can’t hear myself “talk” when music fills my head—which is the reason why, when I must write, there must be a total silence. The silence of late nights, for example, like now: when everything else grinds to a halt, and there is only the lull of the occasional passing cars and pedicabs to account for nocturnal noise, but nevertheless adds only to the rhythm of midnight quiet. Songs assault my senses, even the softest ones—Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel,” for instance, or Karen Carpenter harping on lost loves. So when I feel the urge to do my finger dancing on my computer’s keyboards, all else must bow to an imposition of quiet.



It is quiet now, and almost midnight, too. I am waiting to finally begin my writing, caressing the beginnings of sentences like prospective lovers, aching—somehow—for the coming of the flow. I haven’t written anything for the longest time now. Nothing so much that I could give my heart to and call “something.”



I have been so busy being in love. Five months now. Perfectly on the dot, too: Valentines Day marks half the year.



Poems have been easier to produce, like the Romantics, say, Fernando Maramag and his ilk. All of mine are sappy and dripping with sophomoric moaning for the flutter in my chest. There are stories in my head begging to get out. Essays, too. And deadlines beckoning. And still I do not do anything except pen down silly sonnets. But what was it that Mom Edith Tiempo once said? “Even when the writer just sits, he is writing.” I wish to believe that, but I know I cannot let it be the rationalization for this laziness. I must write.



First poem I wrote for M., it was something cute-cheesy:



all these in short, and shorter days,

the smell of your skin on my skin

cataloguing the indiscretions

of your secret tongue and my lips,

fevering for what holds: flicker of

eyes, brush of lips, scent of hair,

fire of touch, folds of clothes

signifying abandon. our lives,

you and i, denying the counting sun.

we are both, after all, eternity.





Eternity? Is there eternity now? My room now is a dark glow: somewhere around here, a lamp casts everything else in yellow softness. Everything’s in perfect order, in their places. The few magazines I have are stacked on the green sofa, categorized by name. My files are in their immaculately labeled purple envelopes, also stacked in order of importance on the low shelves near my apartment door. My books are arranged alphabetically on their shelves. The floor has been swept, and every corner wiped or brushed clean over the last weekend. The only hint of disorder is my desk a few feet away, but I let it be that way—the way the Japanese values the slight imperfection, Zen-like, in any piece of art: the perfection of a teacup, for example, marred intentionally by a “chip,” or a dent in the base.



I wrote something else in October: “The beginning of a letter in my head I’ve heard from somewhere else, I don’t remember where, yet it bears your face: ‘Do you know how much in love with you I am? I have fallen in love with you without taking a single step.’ I carry a mounting elation that borders on a certain sadness, close to tears as it seems: to have seen your face yesterday while I was walking home was enough of heaven—and enough of dangerously longing dreams that tell me I must touch your face, soon, or crumble in my silence. What is it of you that captures? Your eyes, perhaps, but they tell me nothing, except that you do not really see me yet, but I see you, and I can only dream of running my fingers through your hair, and touch your face, gently, the way the moon touches the night waves.”



Yet perhaps that is the eternal dream for lovers. The romance of bridging the distance between.



Now, on my bed, M. drapes a body falling deeper into sleep. I am so used to M.’s presence now; it has become what is normal. I can no longer sleep well when there is an absence beside me. Watching the still form toss and turn, I vaguely remember M. taking me to the fiesta karnabal in the vacant lot beside GSIS. We were two fools oblivious to the grime of the rigged games, and the bored looks of the browned hawkers. The “circus” was ho-hum. The “horror chamber” ridiculous. The “ferris wheel” nauseating. I would not take the “Octopus” ride because the metals were creaking and I was convinced that any minute then, the screws would come loose, crushing all passengers to their deaths. Or that if I sat on one of those contraptions, I’d get gangrene from the rust. But we were happy, like jaybirds in spring. Later, M. took me to the new bakery near St. Paul’s, and made me eat pastries. Has it been five months? It might as well be years. Being in love beats getting bored with life in this ridiculous little city.



January, I remember tumult and mildly trying times, as there should be, and I wrote this:



What I would give

For the kiss to be new again,

That same trembling that colored

That night, that bed—

Would fade as the yellow roses

You gave three nights later did.

Today, we speak volumes of

Tomorrows but always, now,

With the knowing smiles that we

Live only for moments, these stubborn

Minutes of utter conviction in an us,

—and love, that dainty,

dreadful thing, is nothing

More than you and I, trapped

In a shell, praising naked skin,

But knowing nothing more

Except this denial of days and nights

So slow they become old, and nothing.



But here we are still, and perhaps I must rest assure on the longevity of things, like love. Now, M. snores, just a bit. I laugh. The night continues. My mind, after the day’s delirium and portfolio of unfortunate love poetry, takes time to settle from its drugged waking sleep: everything else, yes, is a heady brightness, or incandescent colors this shade of smiling green.



But nothing really matters except that secret smile slowly breaking on your face. Love has become its own literature.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





In response to Nada O. Nil's call for certain truths....



<1> I am, at heart, a deeply conservative person... who just happen to hate the sight and airs of another deeply conservative person -- especially if they do not get the joke. Being conservative should not mean you allow your mind to shrink and stop asking "Why?," or even more deliciously, "Why Not?" <2> I want a son. Through "natural means." Ehem. I will call him Sebastian. <3> Sometimes I think being alone is underrated. I value my personal space so much it hurts. <4> There is so much stupidity in the world. It's a wonder I still love it. <5> When I was a kid, I dreamed briefly of being a kept man. <6> Sometimes, when I write and finish something, I get this strange feeling that someday, somebody's going to discover I'm a fraud... that I can't write to save my life. <7> Two recurring dreams bother me most. (A) One is where I walked in the light of a full moon down a dark road. There's a boulder round the bend in this road. And I know something is there, behind it, waiting for me. Then I wake up.... (B) Another is where I have somehow missed a whole class in high school (sometimes it's Pratical Arts, and sometimes it's Filipino), and yet nobody knows about it, and I still manage to graduate, but with the fear that somebody's going to find out and make me go back for another year. It's a variation of another dream about not being able to finish some homework. <8> I wish I have dreams of being naked in the city instead. <9> I can't stand the idea of casual sex. I hate fellatio. <10> I have a phobia of landline telephones ringing. <11> I am not a Formalist/New Critic. <12> I think Danny Zialcita's and Joey Gosiengfiao's films are the Bomb. <13> When I was a Physical Therapy student, I handed in a midterm exam answered in ini, maine, maine, moe. <14> I once had *****.


Do tell us your six-cents secrets, as well. Happy Valentines Day, everyone!


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, February 12, 2004

28, Eric, is a wonderful age. It is when you have more money to splurge on your personal pleasures, and it is not from your mother. In fact, you don't even live with mother anymore. Living with mother when you're 28 is the absolute hell, you've come to believe. Like being Bondying, like being in a Freudian horror drama. But you soon realize, beyond the days past the birthday, that there is an unease about you with regards the meaning of life, something we all thought was always a sophomoric occupation, but there you go still, asking questions, but this time more silently, as if to ask aloud is to belie the adult you are supposed to be. "Questions dilute the process," we are told, and we nod, just because. You soon think this is strange because you've always thought that getting older affords you better understanding about how things go. But no, there are more questions, you realize, and no ready answers -- but you never take that much to heart anymore: you know that life is all about living by the skin of your teeth. "Making plans," we are told, "is our way of making God laugh." We are also told: "Don't sweat the small stuff." We don't really know what that means, but you nod anyway because there isn't really anything else you can do. 28, Eric, is also when you sit tight and watch the fruits of the early years bloom, or wallow longer in shadows. It is a heady year, not so much because there is so much more to enjoy, but also because you sense the gravity of the last two pulling you closer and closer to abject denial of age--30, after all, says Queer As Folk's Brian Keaney, is death. 28, Eric, is the beginning of our dying.



Make it a wonderfully fulfilled death. Happy birthday, Eric.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Movie in Mind #2: Five Easy Pieces





Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is aggravated and exasperated by meaningless rules. The scene is in a diner. A live-by-the-rules waitress (Lorna Thayer) stubbornly refuses to serve him a plain omelette (with tomatoes instead of potatoes), a cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast, because she dryly explains: "No substitutions."



Bobby Dupea

I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee, and wheat toast.



Waitress

(She points to the menu) No substitutions.



Bobby Dupea

What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes?



Waitress

Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two -- a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.



Bobby Dupea

Yeah, I know what it comes with. But it's not what I want.



Waitress

Well, I'll come back when you make up your mind.



Bobby Dupea

Wait a minute. I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee, and a side order of wheat toast.



Waitress

I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast...an English muffin or a coffee roll.



Bobby Dupea

What do you mean you don't make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don't you?



Waitress

Would you like to talk to the manager?



Bobby Dupea

...You've got bread and a toaster of some kind?



Waitress

I don't make the rules.



Bobby Dupea

OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelette, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.



Waitress

A number two, chicken sal san, hold the butter, the lettuce and the mayonnaise. And a cup of coffee. Anything else?



Bobby Dupea

Yeah. Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.



Waitress

(Spitefully) You want me to hold the chicken, huh?



Bobby Dupea

I want you to hold it between your knees.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, February 11, 2004

This is just too heartbreaking for comfort. From Jojo Robles' column in the Manila Standard....



On Sept. 4, 2002, Dr. James Philip Cruz, a young pediatrician working as chief resident at the Philippine General Hospital’s pedia ward, sat down at his desk, prayed and began writing an e-mail.



Cruz had just completed another long, tiring day at work attending to the poor children who were literally dropping off like flies before the eyes of the hospital staff. There was no epidemic or anything like that. It was just a “normal” day at the government-run PGH, the chronically cash-strapped, undermanned and overburdened hospital along Taft Avenue



The doctor was inspired to write that day because he had witnessed yet another poor, malnourished, sick child die for lack of the most basic of antibiotics, because the parents could not afford the drugs. He was going to send the letter to four of his friends, whom he felt had the resources to spare for the children dying daily under the hospital staff’s care.



Philip’s heartfelt, plain-spoken appeal for anyone to come to the aid of the sick children at PGH was like the proverbial shot heard around the world. Everyone who had an e-mail address, it seemed, had received a copy of the poignant letter. Well-meaning people, business enterprises large and small and fund-raising organizations from all over began calling Philip’s personal cellular phone and the offices of the Give-A-Life Foundation, a private group that had adopted the PGH pedia ward as its beneficiary.



It was a fund-raiser like nothing anyone had ever seen hereabouts. Eventually, Philip’s letter would bring an estimated P30 million in donations to the pediatric ward of the government hospital — and much-needed aid, comfort and new leases on life to the thousands of impoverished children who rely solely on PGH for free medical care.



As for the young doctor who started it all, he would become a minor celebrity, on a first-name basis with big-shot businessmen, show-business persona-lities and media practitioners. All of them wanted to see for themselves how bad things were at the hospital. And all of them coming away convinced that something should be done.



And the cycle of helping the poor children of PGH would start all over again.



It would have been a storybook ending to a young man’s quest to do a bit more than what was expected of him, had it ended there. But it didn’t, and thereby hangs another, infinitely more tragic tale.



Today, Dr. James Philip Cruz is in career limbo. Despite his having completed his four-year residency more than a year ago, he cannot practice medicine as a full-pledged pediatrician.



The reason is simple: PGH, the hospital of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, will not give him a clearance certifying that he has completed his residency training....


Continue on if you want to hear this sad, sad tale.



[via elephant still missing]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Never

ever

mix

work,

brewed

coffee,

no sleep,

and

wild

unbridled

sex.

Just

take

my

word

for

it.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Another good, surreal follow-up, after Terri Carlin's mammary outbursts, to the strange spiritual state of America. (In a country where the Left Behind series is a grand bestseller!) ...



Last Friday, on the Los Angeles to New York American Airlines Flight 34....



"We were just at the beginning of our flight," said passenger Jen Dorsey, "The pilot came on to greet everyone and give his comments for the morning, and he said he'd recently been on a mission trip, and he'd like all the Christians to please raise their hands,"



He said, 'If you are a Christian, raise your hand.' He said, 'If you are not, you're crazy.'"


Passengers were "shocked," said passenger Karla Austin... Some reached for their mobile phones and others used the on-flight phones, she said. [From CNN]



Post-September 11 jitters and Puritanism? But I expected this. It's the end of the world, really.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, February 08, 2004

What the....?!



Mood: Funny

Listening to: Janet Jackson's "Again"



So this is the latest in the crazy, very surreal public fall-out of Janet Jackson's Boob Scandal. From Rolling Stone Magazine:



... A Tennessee woman has filed suit against the pair [Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake] as well as halftime show producer MTV, broadcaster CBS and parent company Viacom. Knoxville native Terri Carlin filed a proposed class action lawsuit in a U.S. District Court on Wednesday, charging the accused with causing her and "millions of others" to "suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury." The suit reportedly seeks billions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages....


Geez. And I thought that the Philippines, with the coming elections, is a crazy circus.



This is what happens in a country that has slowly become a Nation of Righteous Pricks, with George W. Bush as moronic President, of course. To refresh everybody's memory of what happened (as if anybody needed to be reminded!), this is the original footage....





And here's an innocent Muppet treat for all of you righteous morons out there:





Get a load of that, Miss Piggy!



I mean, come on. American television has never been exactly Puritan of late. I find the whole brouhaha in America smacking of the hypocritical, really just a new version of patriarchy's old tradition of demonizing the female body. (Which is why I am co-directing our college campaign of The Vagina Monologues this year...) "Ian," you can say, "there were children watching!" Well, so what? Maybe it's time kids learn that hypocrisy is something one learns. And it's not as if Super Bowl Sunday is a religious event. (I take that back: football IS the American religion.) And it's not as if the game is innocent by itself -- all that not-so-subtle, implied man-on-man violence....



Seriously, what's so evil, so outrageous, or embarrassing, or injurious about the female mammary gland, for Christ's sake? We all sucked on it one time in our lives, remember? But I bet Terri Carlin gets "seriously injured" and "embarassed" every time she gets to see her naked body in the mirror. "Oh my God! A breast! Two breasts! On me! Quick, get me a lawsuit against God for creating me like this! I'm suffering outrage, anger, embarrassment, and serious injury already!"



I like Assorted Weirdness's take on this one:



Outrage? No, I wasn't outraged because Justin Timberlake ripped her bra cup off. I thought it was a stupid thing to do on live television, but I wasn't outraged...



Embarrassment? The only embarrassment I suffer from is right now is that I'm really embarrassed and ashamed to admit I'm an American because of uptight fuckwits like Terri Carlin. We're not all like her, or Michael Powell, or the uptight conservatives in Congress who are screaming for an investigation. I think they want the investigation just so they can rewind and replay over and over again that shot of a naked booby. We're not all like these people. Unfortunately for the rest of us, these are the people that scream the loudest about this sort of thing and the media leeches onto them and replays it ad nauseum so the rest of the world thinks we're all that uptight.


So there. Enough already.



[link and pictures courtesy of goluboy]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, February 07, 2004

I know this is a bit too early for next week's madness and romance, but I just couldn't help it...





And it was at that time... Poetry came

to find me. Don’t know, don’t know from where,

it leapt, winter or the river.

Don’t know how or when

no, not words, not

voices, not silence,

but I was called from the street,

from the branches of the night,

suddenly, from the others,

in violent flames,

or coming back alone,

I, without a face,

it touched me.



I did not know how to say, my mouth

no names,

my eyes

were blind,

and something began in my soul,

fever or lost wings,

and I made it alone,

deciphering,

that fire,

and I wrote the first, vague line,

vague, without a body, pure

nonsense,

pure knowledge,

of he who knows nothing,

and suddenly saw

the sky

unlock

and open,

planets,

pulsating spaces,

perforated shadows,



riddled

with fires, flowers, flights,

the revolving night, the universe.

And I the smallest thing,

made drunk by the great void,

starred,

in the image, likeness

of mystery,

felt myself pure part

of abyss,

turned with the starlight,

my heart broken loose in the wind.



      --"Poetry" by Pablo Neruda

      from Memorial de Isla Negra


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, February 05, 2004

On Rehearsals of Discomposure



I once wrote during a very lengthy (and difficult) examination in Graduate School that the reality of today is that Existentialism—as put forth by Sartre—has become a popular brand (although not always known with the same terminology), just like any commercial commodity, packaged and media-sold under the catchy name of “Generation X.” I also wrote that “angst” seems to have become a bottled elixir of emotion that people buy by the six-pack as they toast the familiar chronicles of anguished existence.



Most people today, especially those who have cultivated acute sensibilities concerning "self" in relation to others, as well as a capability for minute examinations of blind destinies, share varying sense of this existential dilemma. One way to measure this is through the undying popularity and patronage of angst-themed literature that range from the sublime to the pathetic. My library alone bleeds with titles and authors such as these.



Sherwood Anderson. James Baldwin, especially Another Country and Giovanni’s Room. Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X: Tales From an Accelerated Culture, the book that first popularized it all. Bret Easton Ellis, especially Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction. Alex Garland and The Beach. David Leavitt and his gay-themed self-explorations. Jay McInerney, especially Bright Lights, Big City. J. D. Salinger and his angry The Catcher in the Rye. John Updike and his Rabbit books. John Steinbeck. D. H. Lawrence. Ignazio Silone. Franz Kafka.



And, well, even Ethan Hawke.



Almost all of us, it seems then, are caught up with the subject of our existence (and the questions of its meaning, or lack thereof)—all because we are challenged by the notion that, as Sartre put it, “man is nothing else but what he makes for himself.” This is an uplifting notion, if also a scary one.



The glut of literature devoted to examining existentialism’s many facets and questions shows that isolation, estrangement, and alienation have become the common spiritual themes (spiritual in the Paul Tillich sense that they seek answers to age-old philosophical questions) in our age. Who hasn’t, but the basest of human beings, embarked on internal journeys exploring and questioning the metaphysical absurdities of life, the death of ideals, or the unshakable thought that, like ants, we are insignificant dots in the eyes of the universe? Reading these literatures is like traveling on a road to self. They magnify our questions, and sometimes our fears and insecurities--and through their insights, we may understand ourselves so much more.



Nathan A. Scott Jr.’s Rehearsals of Discomposure: Alienation and Reconciliation in Modern Literature tries to pin down these questions on the bases of four renowned authors (Franz Kafka, Ignazio Silone, D. H. Lawrence, and T. S. Eliot) whom he believes are the representative figures of modern literature’s alienation theme. At best, it is a very personal work that tries to passionately illuminate the philosophical beauties of these authors’ body of work. It is also a very heady, difficult read.



According to Scott, one of the most compelling traditions of sensibility in contemporary literature is best identified by three terms: isolation, estrangement, and alienation. The works of Kafka, Graham Greene, Djuna Barnes, and W. H. Auden has what he calls “an underlying unity of temperament and experience which is consistently organized into a description of the contemporary tragedy in terms of dereliction [abandonment or neglect], estrangement [hostile alienation], and exile, not in terms of an alienation within a stable world, but in a worlds where ‘things fall apart,’ where ‘the center does not hold,’ where man’s deepest tension is not social or economic but a metaphysical anguish.”



Kafka, Silone, Lawrence, Eliot, and their likes write without a naive innocence, only too painfully aware of the dissonance and incoherence in contemporary life. All of us feel this way. You must notice how sometimes our lives take on unexpected twists and turns, as if it is guided by some unseen hand, and we can only watch and witness how we fall into endless questions almost always beginning with “why.”



Why is this? Our age is defined and has been shaped by “wars and rumors of wars,” by demonic hierarchies of power and wickedness in high places (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, George W. Bush, and Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky have made us jaded), and by a disintegration of traditional faiths. I would think that the latter matters most in our age where “the center doesn’t hold” (the phrase is from Auden, by the way). In Japan, I once asked my Japanese best friend Toshihiro Murata what faith he believes in. This was his cryptic reply---and which he says was typically very Japanese: “I go to a Shinto temple on my birthday, to a Christian church on Christmas, and to a Buddhist temple on New Year’s Day. What faith do I really believe in? I don’t know and I don’t care.” I thought back to my first reading of Wataru Tsurumi’s The Complete Manual of Suicide, which was an unprecedented bestseller in Japan. Last night, I read Scott’s words again and all I could see was the bleakness of life for the ordinary Japanese, living a fast, faceless life, and without an anchor to ground them.



Scott presents three dimensions of this sensibility in which various definitions are given of what it means to live apart in the modern world. The first level is an absolute isolation which expresses itself in terms of what Harry Slochower has called a “sense of cosmic exile,” which is sometimes nihilistic. Examples are Kafka, Sartre, William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren.



Slochower’s definition is most apt: think of yourself alone in space, claustrophobic inside some shell of a space station, looking down at earth, imagining and seeing what life bustles on its surface, and then relating yourself to that life, and finding out how very far away you are from everything.



What exists between you and living is a total vacuum, and there seems to be no immediate bridging of that gap. An attempt to do so may mean you being sucked to bits by the unmerciful vacuum of space. Stories say that living alone in space creates mad men, or at least disoriented men. But it doesn’t mean that living a solitary existence in space alone defines a cosmic exile. One may be surrounded by people yet still feel hopelessly alone, living seemingly on the jagged outskirts of society. Ellis’ American Psycho is a perfect example of this nihilism. In film, we see this in the psychotic tendencies of Robert DeNiro’s character in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.



The second level is a relational estrangement, which is an agonizing sense of isolation from the modern community. This is the realm of Silone, Malraux, George Orwell, Rex Warner, Ernest Hemingway, and Dos Passos.



The third level is an ontological solitude which often gives rise to melancholy. This is how Scott defines it: “The fact that I am I and you are you, and we are ontologically discrete factors between whom there is finally void and separateness.”



Let me illustrate this through a physical theory I learned from a movie (the term of which I forget at the moment), but I remember that it goes this way. Between two objects (or people), there is a distance. One can attempt to “bridge” that distance by one coming halfway through that distance. You proceed half of the way, and still there is another half right before you. You proceed on another half of that halfway, and still there is another halfway before you. In the end, you come to a realization that there is an infinite number of halfways between two objects or people. The jarring conclusion is that there can never be a real closeness between two objects or people. What is there is a distinct, unbridgeable division.



All of us are cursed to be separate. And, according to the poet Mallarme, “We were two; I maintain it.”



Readings can be so sad, and yet also so wondrously enlightening… and always both.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Call all the recent politicization of this blog a result of certain dread for the coming elections. (And pardon me for being delinquent: I have just been too busy lately...) But here's an excerpt of a very incisive, insightful column by Conrado de Quiros about the prospects of coming years... and he is so right. I don't always agree with him, but he has my vote if he ever runs for a Senate seat:



"I'll tell you what's going to happen in the next 18 years in this country," a friend of mine told me last week. "Fernando Poe Jr. will be the president for the first six years, Noli de Castro for the next six, and Bong Revilla for the last six. Brace yourself, pards, we will be old men before the light of reason dawns once again in this country."



I must confess this possibility had lingered at the back of my mind. Or at least the possibility that Poe will be followed by De Castro as the next president. Revilla had not yet loomed in the horizon then, but he has so now. My mind simply refused to accept it, or articulate it. I did express the thought of what to expect if Poe and De Castro became president and vice president, respectively, in a blank column, and got deluged by assenting voices -- though largely from the middle class. I know that because they communicated through e-mail and cell-phone text messages.



The prospect is alarming. And not just for Malacañang but for the Senate and the House as well. It is not inconceivable that the future Senate would be populated by Revilla, Robert Jaworski, Loren Legarda (if or when she goes back to being so), Rudy Fernandez, Herbert Bautista, Lito Lapid, Joey Marquez, Paquito Diaz, Korina Sanchez and Kris Aquino. Not only is it not inconceivable, it is very probable. The people above are variously senators already, have expressed a desire to be so and are being egged to be so.



I must confess too I did not see this coming after the first EDSA People Power revolt. The "snap election" in 1986 quite apart from EDSA People Power I itself, was a gratifying thing, despite its awesome tragedies, notably the murder of Evelio Javier. It was an election that went beyond a choice between Corazon Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos, it was a choice between freedom and tyranny, life and death. That would soon birth a world where elections would be a choice between one set of clowns and another, well, this is the Philippines.



Someone did ask me last week how something like this could have happened. My answer is that it is the (absurdly) logical conclusion of what we call, completely accurately, the "politics of personality." What is the "politics of personality" really, particularly when applied to elections? It is the choice between people who offer charm rather than vision, who offer charisma rather than conviction, who offer personality rather than rationality. But that answer itself raises the question of where the politics of personality comes from....


And people still wonder why so many dream of getting out of this miserable circus?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





GO TO OLDER POSTS GO TO NEWER POSTS