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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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Friday, July 30, 2004

entry arrow9:49 PM | Ewww! Ewww!

Part of the Twilight Zone reality of having a crashed computer is that you have to go to an Internet cafe downtown to get your online fix. In this dread world, an 8-year old kid is dancing the otso-otso to a webcam while the mother chats with the leery audience of one, a foreign geezer with a day-old beard.



Disgusting.



I slept the whole day today. Maybe that's the reason why I feel so relaxed.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow9:49 PM | Ewww! Ewww!

Part of the Twilight Zone reality of having a crashed computer is that you have to go to an Internet cafe downtown to get your online fix. In this dread world, an 8-year old kid is dancing the otso-otso to a webcam while the mother chats with the leery audience of one, a foreign geezer with a day-old beard.



Disgusting.



I slept the whole day today. Maybe that's the reason why I feel so relaxed.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow9:49 PM | Ewww! Ewww!

Part of the Twilight Zone reality of having a crashed computer is that you have to go to an Internet cafe downtown to get your online fix. In this dread world, an 8-year old kid is dancing the otso-otso to a webcam while the mother chats with the leery audience of one, a foreign geezer with a day-old beard.



Disgusting.



I slept the whole day today. Maybe that's the reason why I feel so relaxed.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:31 PM | The Search for Gastronomic Delights

It should be clear by now that this is partly a food blog. Written strictly from the point of view of the consumer -- literally. If I really have to be frank about it, I'm no cook. I can't cook to save my life, although my Home Economics teacher in high school had complimented me once on a good batch of atsara. I made great pizza then, as well; but my angel's food cake was disastrous: my icing was runny, and the cake itself was lopsided, as if it had been hit by a landslide. Whenever I venture into my mother's kitchen to experiment with culinary madness, I can never do without a recipe book, each step meticulously followed, foregoing of chance and instinct. Cooking has never excited me, the way it does for many people.



Eating, however, does.



Once, in Hokkaido, enduring one of those prolonged home-stays where foreign students like me were supposed to immerse ourselves in the local Japanese culture to strengthen our hold of the language, I was asked by my hosts to cook something up from the home country, any "native" dish to be served during an international dinner. The Chinese exchange students had been going about their day (while I looked on enviously) cooking something beyond dimsum. Kaija, my Finnish friend, baked a cake which, she said, the Finns eat during the cold winter months. In panic, I called up a fellow Filipino student named Karen McDonald (an exchange scholar from Ateneo), who also didn't know how to cook. "But," she said, "I think I remember a thing or two about making chicken adobo."



"Adobo is great," I said hopefully, "Even Ricky Martin loves adobo."



We trudged through the December snow to the local supermarket where we bought our ingredients. She had called up her mother back in the Philippines, and had gotten a rudimentary recipe. We had our list of things to buy, and for other things unavailable, we used our imagination instead.



"Three pounds chicken thighs, cut into serving pieces... One and a half cup of white vinegar... One and a half cup of soy sauce... One-fourth cup of peppercorns, crushed... One teaspoon brown sugar... Five garlic cloves, crushed... Three bay leaves... Salt to taste," we intoned.



We slaved through the entire afternoon, foregoing of the scheduled snowball fight we were supposed to have. Finally, after avoiding too many disasters in our hosts's kitchen, we delivered our masterpiece a la Pinoy: brown chicken meat that looked and smelled inviting -- but...



"We placed too much salt!" Karen and I looked at each other mortified, but decided not to say anything. The adobo, we know, was just too horrible: a culinary murder. Later during dinner, we delivered it to the table and pronounced it the national dish of the Philippines, and the Japanese hosts cried, "Sugoi ne! Oishi desu ka?" then took one bite from it, nodded in small confusion, and politely scampered to the section of the table where the Chinese had their bounty of delicious food properly cooked. It is now a singular mission on my part to learn how to cook adobo. If and when I'll get the time.



When I want the best of home cooking, I go home to my mother's where Lorgie, the housemaid, can cook a mean batch of curry chicken. Her chicken curry drips with the very word "delicious." Sometimes she cooks my favorite fish dish -- fried bangus -- complete with a sauce the recipe of which she refuses to reveal to anyone. Then there's her gorgeous fern salad. There's also Margie Udarbe-Alvarez's potroast, always a worthy addition to small parties. There's also the food prowess of Patrick Chua, the city's best dentist, who -- when he is in a mood -- would invite all of us his friends to a "tasting" party, to take part in a gastronomic orgy to devour his latest version of the paella. He has so far mastered vegetarian paella, shrimp paella, pork paella... each one of them a masterpiece. And I know this to be true: they are also better enjoyed because of the company it gathers.



The ultimate lesson about eating may be: food is so much better when there is company. It is the ultimate ice-breaker. It is the key to a special kind of bonding between people. I have seen people connect because of food. That may be why I love food. It has a special kind of high, which is essentially great, taken in moderation and in step with a rigorous habit of exercise. My best friend Mark and I, for example, are people separated by our distinctive tastes for most things. He loves knowing all the tiny details about cosmetic surgery and hates classical music and ballet. I love the latter two, and would rather watch movies than listen to the latest breakthrough in Vicky Belo's world. Ours is a world where twains may never meet... but they do, because most of our days are spent in the eternal search for glorious food.



As a result, I have been accused at work as becoming dangerously "tambok."



"Rubenesque," I correct them. "Botticellic." Yet I am also increasingly satisfied with the fate of my girth. Call it coming to terms with oneself, or call it "letting go." But I now have this distinct feeling of not caring to justify myself to anyone anymore. Call that maturity.



Besides, I am always reminded of Mike Royko's famous wit in his article "Here's to Orson Welles: The End of Fitness," where he recounts that the most beautiful sight he has ever seen is Germany’s Octoberfest, where people thump their healthy bellies and drink gallons of beer and eat thousands of pork shanks, all the while laughing and being merry. And then he contrasts it with a scene at the end of a marathon, where thin, emaciated athletes gasp for breath and loll their tongues out like dogs in heat. Not a beautiful sight at all, he says



Food is glorious. And I am bent on discovering the best ones available in this small city. Increasingly, I have noticed that Dumaguete itself has taken to "dining out" like never before. People eat out more and more, and restaurants are slowly mushrooming all over to meet the demand. Maybe this is because of our increasingly busy lifestyle, which has now somewhat resembled the habits of cosmopolitan folks. Who has time to cook these days? Our hours are crunched with too much work, and so we head towards the eating places, both fast-food and fine dining. And the variety is endless, if you know just where to look. Mark and I have discovered this small chicken place near St. Paul's called Blue Man, and most days, its deep-friend chicken satisfies the deepest of appetites. There's also that unnamed place near Rico Absin's house which offers a grand a la carte dinner. Then there are the vanguards: Rosante's, Chantilly, Jo's, Lab-as and Hayahay and Chez Andre, Scooby's, the Why Not food complex, Taster's Delight, Don Atilano, Golden Roy's, La Cavitena, Gimmick, El Camino, Nerisse, Santa Monica, Nena's Kamalig... And then there are the newcomers: Wakagi, Howyang, Toppings at Sted's, Ati-Atihan...



We intend to visit them all, and report from the food front. But it's hard to be a food critic. "Why do you want to do this?" some of my friends have asked, taking note of Cameron Diaz's famous line for Julia Roberts's character in My Best Friend's Wedding: "Food critic!" as if that is the worst epithet next to being called an s.o.b.



Why? "Because I want restaurants to tremble in fear whenever I walk in, hahaha!" I had replied to them, of course as a joke.



Why? Because I want to, because I love eating out (the eternal habits of a single man about town), and because this is increasingly a vital component of local culture, which I think needs critical attention. We all want to know where the best foods are, and where the worst foods can be found. And why do we eat the food we eat? Does it say anything about ourselves? And why, despite the blandness of Scooby's food, do we still troop to its glass-encased interiors? Whatever happened to SACs and to Giacomino's? And what gives with the franchise familiarity of Jollibee's, Shakey's, and Chow King?



And, pray tell, where can Mark get his vegetarian fix? Last night, we were in Qyosko and were dismayed by the all-meat choices. We asked the waiter if they had anything exclusively leafy and green. He pointed to an entry: "Sauteed Veggies," he said. So we ordered it -- and he soon came back with cabbage drenched in mushroom sauce, peppered with all kinds of meat cuts. What a downer. If it weren't for their delicious ube shake, I'd shake my head with such dismay.



And that's the thing: too many of my friends (and acquaintances) own many of these restaurants in town, like Qyosko. So I must give leave here, folks. To Dino Ponce de Leon of Expresso, in particular, who texted me last week to cheerfully comment on the other week's essay on coffee. I give credit to him, and his good humor.



Nothing personal here, of course, just a search for local gastronomic delights.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:31 PM | The Search for Gastronomic Delights

It should be clear by now that this is partly a food blog. Written strictly from the point of view of the consumer -- literally. If I really have to be frank about it, I'm no cook. I can't cook to save my life, although my Home Economics teacher in high school had complimented me once on a good batch of atsara. I made great pizza then, as well; but my angel's food cake was disastrous: my icing was runny, and the cake itself was lopsided, as if it had been hit by a landslide. Whenever I venture into my mother's kitchen to experiment with culinary madness, I can never do without a recipe book, each step meticulously followed, foregoing of chance and instinct. Cooking has never excited me, the way it does for many people.



Eating, however, does.



Once, in Hokkaido, enduring one of those prolonged home-stays where foreign students like me were supposed to immerse ourselves in the local Japanese culture to strengthen our hold of the language, I was asked by my hosts to cook something up from the home country, any "native" dish to be served during an international dinner. The Chinese exchange students had been going about their day (while I looked on enviously) cooking something beyond dimsum. Kaija, my Finnish friend, baked a cake which, she said, the Finns eat during the cold winter months. In panic, I called up a fellow Filipino student named Karen McDonald (an exchange scholar from Ateneo), who also didn't know how to cook. "But," she said, "I think I remember a thing or two about making chicken adobo."



"Adobo is great," I said hopefully, "Even Ricky Martin loves adobo."



We trudged through the December snow to the local supermarket where we bought our ingredients. She had called up her mother back in the Philippines, and had gotten a rudimentary recipe. We had our list of things to buy, and for other things unavailable, we used our imagination instead.



"Three pounds chicken thighs, cut into serving pieces... One and a half cup of white vinegar... One and a half cup of soy sauce... One-fourth cup of peppercorns, crushed... One teaspoon brown sugar... Five garlic cloves, crushed... Three bay leaves... Salt to taste," we intoned.



We slaved through the entire afternoon, foregoing of the scheduled snowball fight we were supposed to have. Finally, after avoiding too many disasters in our hosts's kitchen, we delivered our masterpiece a la Pinoy: brown chicken meat that looked and smelled inviting -- but...



"We placed too much salt!" Karen and I looked at each other mortified, but decided not to say anything. The adobo, we know, was just too horrible: a culinary murder. Later during dinner, we delivered it to the table and pronounced it the national dish of the Philippines, and the Japanese hosts cried, "Sugoi ne! Oishi desu ka?" then took one bite from it, nodded in small confusion, and politely scampered to the section of the table where the Chinese had their bounty of delicious food properly cooked. It is now a singular mission on my part to learn how to cook adobo. If and when I'll get the time.



When I want the best of home cooking, I go home to my mother's where Lorgie, the housemaid, can cook a mean batch of curry chicken. Her chicken curry drips with the very word "delicious." Sometimes she cooks my favorite fish dish -- fried bangus -- complete with a sauce the recipe of which she refuses to reveal to anyone. Then there's her gorgeous fern salad. There's also Margie Udarbe-Alvarez's potroast, always a worthy addition to small parties. There's also the food prowess of Patrick Chua, the city's best dentist, who -- when he is in a mood -- would invite all of us his friends to a "tasting" party, to take part in a gastronomic orgy to devour his latest version of the paella. He has so far mastered vegetarian paella, shrimp paella, pork paella... each one of them a masterpiece. And I know this to be true: they are also better enjoyed because of the company it gathers.



The ultimate lesson about eating may be: food is so much better when there is company. It is the ultimate ice-breaker. It is the key to a special kind of bonding between people. I have seen people connect because of food. That may be why I love food. It has a special kind of high, which is essentially great, taken in moderation and in step with a rigorous habit of exercise. My best friend Mark and I, for example, are people separated by our distinctive tastes for most things. He loves knowing all the tiny details about cosmetic surgery and hates classical music and ballet. I love the latter two, and would rather watch movies than listen to the latest breakthrough in Vicky Belo's world. Ours is a world where twains may never meet... but they do, because most of our days are spent in the eternal search for glorious food.



As a result, I have been accused at work as becoming dangerously "tambok."



"Rubenesque," I correct them. "Botticellic." Yet I am also increasingly satisfied with the fate of my girth. Call it coming to terms with oneself, or call it "letting go." But I now have this distinct feeling of not caring to justify myself to anyone anymore. Call that maturity.



Besides, I am always reminded of Mike Royko's famous wit in his article "Here's to Orson Welles: The End of Fitness," where he recounts that the most beautiful sight he has ever seen is Germany’s Octoberfest, where people thump their healthy bellies and drink gallons of beer and eat thousands of pork shanks, all the while laughing and being merry. And then he contrasts it with a scene at the end of a marathon, where thin, emaciated athletes gasp for breath and loll their tongues out like dogs in heat. Not a beautiful sight at all, he says



Food is glorious. And I am bent on discovering the best ones available in this small city. Increasingly, I have noticed that Dumaguete itself has taken to "dining out" like never before. People eat out more and more, and restaurants are slowly mushrooming all over to meet the demand. Maybe this is because of our increasingly busy lifestyle, which has now somewhat resembled the habits of cosmopolitan folks. Who has time to cook these days? Our hours are crunched with too much work, and so we head towards the eating places, both fast-food and fine dining. And the variety is endless, if you know just where to look. Mark and I have discovered this small chicken place near St. Paul's called Blue Man, and most days, its deep-friend chicken satisfies the deepest of appetites. There's also that unnamed place near Rico Absin's house which offers a grand a la carte dinner. Then there are the vanguards: Rosante's, Chantilly, Jo's, Lab-as and Hayahay and Chez Andre, Scooby's, the Why Not food complex, Taster's Delight, Don Atilano, Golden Roy's, La Cavitena, Gimmick, El Camino, Nerisse, Santa Monica, Nena's Kamalig... And then there are the newcomers: Wakagi, Howyang, Toppings at Sted's, Ati-Atihan...



We intend to visit them all, and report from the food front. But it's hard to be a food critic. "Why do you want to do this?" some of my friends have asked, taking note of Cameron Diaz's famous line for Julia Roberts's character in My Best Friend's Wedding: "Food critic!" as if that is the worst epithet next to being called an s.o.b.



Why? "Because I want restaurants to tremble in fear whenever I walk in, hahaha!" I had replied to them, of course as a joke.



Why? Because I want to, because I love eating out (the eternal habits of a single man about town), and because this is increasingly a vital component of local culture, which I think needs critical attention. We all want to know where the best foods are, and where the worst foods can be found. And why do we eat the food we eat? Does it say anything about ourselves? And why, despite the blandness of Scooby's food, do we still troop to its glass-encased interiors? Whatever happened to SACs and to Giacomino's? And what gives with the franchise familiarity of Jollibee's, Shakey's, and Chow King?



And, pray tell, where can Mark get his vegetarian fix? Last night, we were in Qyosko and were dismayed by the all-meat choices. We asked the waiter if they had anything exclusively leafy and green. He pointed to an entry: "Sauteed Veggies," he said. So we ordered it -- and he soon came back with cabbage drenched in mushroom sauce, peppered with all kinds of meat cuts. What a downer. If it weren't for their delicious ube shake, I'd shake my head with such dismay.



And that's the thing: too many of my friends (and acquaintances) own many of these restaurants in town, like Qyosko. So I must give leave here, folks. To Dino Ponce de Leon of Expresso, in particular, who texted me last week to cheerfully comment on the other week's essay on coffee. I give credit to him, and his good humor.



Nothing personal here, of course, just a search for local gastronomic delights.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:31 PM | The Search for Gastronomic Delights

It should be clear by now that this is partly a food blog. Written strictly from the point of view of the consumer -- literally. If I really have to be frank about it, I'm no cook. I can't cook to save my life, although my Home Economics teacher in high school had complimented me once on a good batch of atsara. I made great pizza then, as well; but my angel's food cake was disastrous: my icing was runny, and the cake itself was lopsided, as if it had been hit by a landslide. Whenever I venture into my mother's kitchen to experiment with culinary madness, I can never do without a recipe book, each step meticulously followed, foregoing of chance and instinct. Cooking has never excited me, the way it does for many people.



Eating, however, does.



Once, in Hokkaido, enduring one of those prolonged home-stays where foreign students like me were supposed to immerse ourselves in the local Japanese culture to strengthen our hold of the language, I was asked by my hosts to cook something up from the home country, any "native" dish to be served during an international dinner. The Chinese exchange students had been going about their day (while I looked on enviously) cooking something beyond dimsum. Kaija, my Finnish friend, baked a cake which, she said, the Finns eat during the cold winter months. In panic, I called up a fellow Filipino student named Karen McDonald (an exchange scholar from Ateneo), who also didn't know how to cook. "But," she said, "I think I remember a thing or two about making chicken adobo."



"Adobo is great," I said hopefully, "Even Ricky Martin loves adobo."



We trudged through the December snow to the local supermarket where we bought our ingredients. She had called up her mother back in the Philippines, and had gotten a rudimentary recipe. We had our list of things to buy, and for other things unavailable, we used our imagination instead.



"Three pounds chicken thighs, cut into serving pieces... One and a half cup of white vinegar... One and a half cup of soy sauce... One-fourth cup of peppercorns, crushed... One teaspoon brown sugar... Five garlic cloves, crushed... Three bay leaves... Salt to taste," we intoned.



We slaved through the entire afternoon, foregoing of the scheduled snowball fight we were supposed to have. Finally, after avoiding too many disasters in our hosts's kitchen, we delivered our masterpiece a la Pinoy: brown chicken meat that looked and smelled inviting -- but...



"We placed too much salt!" Karen and I looked at each other mortified, but decided not to say anything. The adobo, we know, was just too horrible: a culinary murder. Later during dinner, we delivered it to the table and pronounced it the national dish of the Philippines, and the Japanese hosts cried, "Sugoi ne! Oishi desu ka?" then took one bite from it, nodded in small confusion, and politely scampered to the section of the table where the Chinese had their bounty of delicious food properly cooked. It is now a singular mission on my part to learn how to cook adobo. If and when I'll get the time.



When I want the best of home cooking, I go home to my mother's where Lorgie, the housemaid, can cook a mean batch of curry chicken. Her chicken curry drips with the very word "delicious." Sometimes she cooks my favorite fish dish -- fried bangus -- complete with a sauce the recipe of which she refuses to reveal to anyone. Then there's her gorgeous fern salad. There's also Margie Udarbe-Alvarez's potroast, always a worthy addition to small parties. There's also the food prowess of Patrick Chua, the city's best dentist, who -- when he is in a mood -- would invite all of us his friends to a "tasting" party, to take part in a gastronomic orgy to devour his latest version of the paella. He has so far mastered vegetarian paella, shrimp paella, pork paella... each one of them a masterpiece. And I know this to be true: they are also better enjoyed because of the company it gathers.



The ultimate lesson about eating may be: food is so much better when there is company. It is the ultimate ice-breaker. It is the key to a special kind of bonding between people. I have seen people connect because of food. That may be why I love food. It has a special kind of high, which is essentially great, taken in moderation and in step with a rigorous habit of exercise. My best friend Mark and I, for example, are people separated by our distinctive tastes for most things. He loves knowing all the tiny details about cosmetic surgery and hates classical music and ballet. I love the latter two, and would rather watch movies than listen to the latest breakthrough in Vicky Belo's world. Ours is a world where twains may never meet... but they do, because most of our days are spent in the eternal search for glorious food.



As a result, I have been accused at work as becoming dangerously "tambok."



"Rubenesque," I correct them. "Botticellic." Yet I am also increasingly satisfied with the fate of my girth. Call it coming to terms with oneself, or call it "letting go." But I now have this distinct feeling of not caring to justify myself to anyone anymore. Call that maturity.



Besides, I am always reminded of Mike Royko's famous wit in his article "Here's to Orson Welles: The End of Fitness," where he recounts that the most beautiful sight he has ever seen is Germany’s Octoberfest, where people thump their healthy bellies and drink gallons of beer and eat thousands of pork shanks, all the while laughing and being merry. And then he contrasts it with a scene at the end of a marathon, where thin, emaciated athletes gasp for breath and loll their tongues out like dogs in heat. Not a beautiful sight at all, he says



Food is glorious. And I am bent on discovering the best ones available in this small city. Increasingly, I have noticed that Dumaguete itself has taken to "dining out" like never before. People eat out more and more, and restaurants are slowly mushrooming all over to meet the demand. Maybe this is because of our increasingly busy lifestyle, which has now somewhat resembled the habits of cosmopolitan folks. Who has time to cook these days? Our hours are crunched with too much work, and so we head towards the eating places, both fast-food and fine dining. And the variety is endless, if you know just where to look. Mark and I have discovered this small chicken place near St. Paul's called Blue Man, and most days, its deep-friend chicken satisfies the deepest of appetites. There's also that unnamed place near Rico Absin's house which offers a grand a la carte dinner. Then there are the vanguards: Rosante's, Chantilly, Jo's, Lab-as and Hayahay and Chez Andre, Scooby's, the Why Not food complex, Taster's Delight, Don Atilano, Golden Roy's, La Cavitena, Gimmick, El Camino, Nerisse, Santa Monica, Nena's Kamalig... And then there are the newcomers: Wakagi, Howyang, Toppings at Sted's, Ati-Atihan...



We intend to visit them all, and report from the food front. But it's hard to be a food critic. "Why do you want to do this?" some of my friends have asked, taking note of Cameron Diaz's famous line for Julia Roberts's character in My Best Friend's Wedding: "Food critic!" as if that is the worst epithet next to being called an s.o.b.



Why? "Because I want restaurants to tremble in fear whenever I walk in, hahaha!" I had replied to them, of course as a joke.



Why? Because I want to, because I love eating out (the eternal habits of a single man about town), and because this is increasingly a vital component of local culture, which I think needs critical attention. We all want to know where the best foods are, and where the worst foods can be found. And why do we eat the food we eat? Does it say anything about ourselves? And why, despite the blandness of Scooby's food, do we still troop to its glass-encased interiors? Whatever happened to SACs and to Giacomino's? And what gives with the franchise familiarity of Jollibee's, Shakey's, and Chow King?



And, pray tell, where can Mark get his vegetarian fix? Last night, we were in Qyosko and were dismayed by the all-meat choices. We asked the waiter if they had anything exclusively leafy and green. He pointed to an entry: "Sauteed Veggies," he said. So we ordered it -- and he soon came back with cabbage drenched in mushroom sauce, peppered with all kinds of meat cuts. What a downer. If it weren't for their delicious ube shake, I'd shake my head with such dismay.



And that's the thing: too many of my friends (and acquaintances) own many of these restaurants in town, like Qyosko. So I must give leave here, folks. To Dino Ponce de Leon of Expresso, in particular, who texted me last week to cheerfully comment on the other week's essay on coffee. I give credit to him, and his good humor.



Nothing personal here, of course, just a search for local gastronomic delights.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, July 29, 2004

entry arrow6:59 PM | A Week Verging on Collapse

Ordinarily, you should find me now in the worst of mood -- angry, despondent, depressed -- with the kind of demeanor that would suggest the end of the world as we knew it. For a while there, I was even tempted to title this entry "How to Be Stupid." Just because.



That I still smile and go about my days in a perfectly civil -- one might even say "cheerful" -- mood is testament to how my mother raised me: to be able to live through instances of panic in the very vestiges of grace. "Grace under pressure," some might call it: the ability to be coherent and calm when everything else around you collapses like Jell-O. And not just one bad thing happening, but many things -- a cascade of bad luck that will have you wondering what in the world did you do to deserve this kind of karma.



"Don't worry too much about it," Kim, a friend, texted me a few days back. "It's, like, the universe having LBM."



"What?" I texted back.



"Like, you know, it's painful and all, but really it's just your body doing its duty to repel the toxins inside. So you get LBM."



"What has the universe got to do with it?"



"It's rearranging itself to give you a smoother cosmic ride later. Yin, yang. You're feeling its pangs of change. It's a good thing actually. Your karma is being cleansed."



You have seen that notion -- grace under pressure -- manifested in the very worst of beauty pageants. Some die in the harsh glare of the spotlight; some glow in it. "Like Miriam Quiambao when she tripped during Miss Universe," Mark helpfully put his two cents in. Right. He went on: "Remember what she did? When she tripped, she immediately swooped up in a kind of graceful embrace of the situation, put her arms to the air in a queenly wave, and then relished in everybody's applause." Right again. But that's Miriam Quiambao. I am not in a beauty pageant.



But life recently has been a kind of an LBM trip.



And yet, here I am. Breathing freely, completely in control.



Last Saturday, readying a lecture I was to give on how to make killer resumes for a bunch of graduating Engineering students, my computer suddenly died on me. Just like that. One minute I was typing, the next minute the monitor just zipped out and turned into a lifeless blackness. I played with the power supply, turning the computer on and off, thinking I could jumpstart the thing and hopefully have it up and running again. It didn't.



Then the sickening thought came: my computer crashed. All my life's work gone in a second -- my short stories, my essays, my school files, my pictures, my music, my thesis--



"My thesis!" I yelped.



There was a mad scramble for my Thesis File, papers flying everywhere. But there it was inside the envelope, a good hard-copy of my M.A. thesis -- all two hundred and sixty-five pages of it -- ready for perusal and graduation within the current schoolyear. I heaved a giant sigh of relief.



Off to the shop my computer went, while I berated myself on always postponing getting a backup system. Sometimes when your instinct tells you something is on fire, it is best to get off your bed and run.



Wednesday night, going home after a long day of teaching, and looking forward to watching Spider-man 2 later that night, I arrived home and fished for my keys in my bookbag -- only to bring out a broken keychain, with all my keys spilling everywhere. After a brief panic, I had all keys accounted for. Except for one. The key for my pad's front door lock. I could not enter my pad, and already the afternoon was fast drawing to a close. There was a drone of traffic everywhere, and the daylight was dimming.



"'Nong Den, help!" I screeched on my cellphone. "Where can I find a locksmith at this time of day?" My brother Dennis is my eternal savior. He has always been the smart one in the family. Finally, he suggested the one near Aldea. "But he seems to have disappeared from the area, if I remember correctly," he said. "If you can't find him anywhere there, you might try this one other guy near Orchids in Daro."



Orchids in Daro? I crossed my fingers instead for the downtown guy. But the Aldea Key Guy was gone when I came screeching to a stop, alighting from a pedicab which was as slow as a dying turtle (slowed down some more by the crawl of Dumaguete late-afternoon traffic). Later, I found out he had transferred his little booth across the street, beside Veterans Bank.



Stop. The idea here is how to avoid being stupid.



Do bring the locksmith home to click open your stubborn lock. Do thank him profusely, and even give in to his outrageous charge of P150 for the effort. Later, do come inside your pad with a sigh of relief and plan to get a new padlock fast before Lee Super Plaza closes. It's 6:30 in the evening, and time is running out. Go out, and just try "locking" your door with the old padlock by hooking it through the eye, and never really clicking it shut. Run to the hardware section of the department store. Pay the pedicab P10 to get there as fast as you can. Tubod, after all, is never safe. (Once you witnessed a brazen individual race off with your neighbor's Dalmatian in broad daylight.) Think twice about the lock you want to buy: do not give in too easily to the sturdiest looking one. Not even when it costs something like P119.75. Why? Because when you come home, you will find out that the padlock is much too big to fit in the eye. So curse yourself, and plan to race to the department store again, this time to buy a smaller lock. When you get out of your pad, do not get too frazzled. Because if you do, you will notice you have locked yourself out with the old padlock again. Scream. You cannot figure out why you are so stupid in the first place. You run to the locksmith again -- by paying another pedicab another P10 -- and confess your stupidity. Let him smile at you, and tell him you'll meet him in your place while you run to the department store to buy another lock. Make sure this padlock is small enough, and cheap enough. A P35 lock is okay. Then run back to your place, meet up with the locksmith, and replace your old lock with relish bordering on craziness. Pay him another P50. Get inside. Do not look at yourself in the mirror.



The moral lesson for the week may involve these: (1) always burn your importnat files on CDs; and (2) always make sure you have an extra key for your apartment door.



Have a back-up for everything.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:59 PM | A Week Verging on Collapse

Ordinarily, you should find me now in the worst of mood -- angry, despondent, depressed -- with the kind of demeanor that would suggest the end of the world as we knew it. For a while there, I was even tempted to title this entry "How to Be Stupid." Just because.



That I still smile and go about my days in a perfectly civil -- one might even say "cheerful" -- mood is testament to how my mother raised me: to be able to live through instances of panic in the very vestiges of grace. "Grace under pressure," some might call it: the ability to be coherent and calm when everything else around you collapses like Jell-O. And not just one bad thing happening, but many things -- a cascade of bad luck that will have you wondering what in the world did you do to deserve this kind of karma.



"Don't worry too much about it," Kim, a friend, texted me a few days back. "It's, like, the universe having LBM."



"What?" I texted back.



"Like, you know, it's painful and all, but really it's just your body doing its duty to repel the toxins inside. So you get LBM."



"What has the universe got to do with it?"



"It's rearranging itself to give you a smoother cosmic ride later. Yin, yang. You're feeling its pangs of change. It's a good thing actually. Your karma is being cleansed."



You have seen that notion -- grace under pressure -- manifested in the very worst of beauty pageants. Some die in the harsh glare of the spotlight; some glow in it. "Like Miriam Quiambao when she tripped during Miss Universe," Mark helpfully put his two cents in. Right. He went on: "Remember what she did? When she tripped, she immediately swooped up in a kind of graceful embrace of the situation, put her arms to the air in a queenly wave, and then relished in everybody's applause." Right again. But that's Miriam Quiambao. I am not in a beauty pageant.



But life recently has been a kind of an LBM trip.



And yet, here I am. Breathing freely, completely in control.



Last Saturday, readying a lecture I was to give on how to make killer resumes for a bunch of graduating Engineering students, my computer suddenly died on me. Just like that. One minute I was typing, the next minute the monitor just zipped out and turned into a lifeless blackness. I played with the power supply, turning the computer on and off, thinking I could jumpstart the thing and hopefully have it up and running again. It didn't.



Then the sickening thought came: my computer crashed. All my life's work gone in a second -- my short stories, my essays, my school files, my pictures, my music, my thesis--



"My thesis!" I yelped.



There was a mad scramble for my Thesis File, papers flying everywhere. But there it was inside the envelope, a good hard-copy of my M.A. thesis -- all two hundred and sixty-five pages of it -- ready for perusal and graduation within the current schoolyear. I heaved a giant sigh of relief.



Off to the shop my computer went, while I berated myself on always postponing getting a backup system. Sometimes when your instinct tells you something is on fire, it is best to get off your bed and run.



Wednesday night, going home after a long day of teaching, and looking forward to watching Spider-man 2 later that night, I arrived home and fished for my keys in my bookbag -- only to bring out a broken keychain, with all my keys spilling everywhere. After a brief panic, I had all keys accounted for. Except for one. The key for my pad's front door lock. I could not enter my pad, and already the afternoon was fast drawing to a close. There was a drone of traffic everywhere, and the daylight was dimming.



"'Nong Den, help!" I screeched on my cellphone. "Where can I find a locksmith at this time of day?" My brother Dennis is my eternal savior. He has always been the smart one in the family. Finally, he suggested the one near Aldea. "But he seems to have disappeared from the area, if I remember correctly," he said. "If you can't find him anywhere there, you might try this one other guy near Orchids in Daro."



Orchids in Daro? I crossed my fingers instead for the downtown guy. But the Aldea Key Guy was gone when I came screeching to a stop, alighting from a pedicab which was as slow as a dying turtle (slowed down some more by the crawl of Dumaguete late-afternoon traffic). Later, I found out he had transferred his little booth across the street, beside Veterans Bank.



Stop. The idea here is how to avoid being stupid.



Do bring the locksmith home to click open your stubborn lock. Do thank him profusely, and even give in to his outrageous charge of P150 for the effort. Later, do come inside your pad with a sigh of relief and plan to get a new padlock fast before Lee Super Plaza closes. It's 6:30 in the evening, and time is running out. Go out, and just try "locking" your door with the old padlock by hooking it through the eye, and never really clicking it shut. Run to the hardware section of the department store. Pay the pedicab P10 to get there as fast as you can. Tubod, after all, is never safe. (Once you witnessed a brazen individual race off with your neighbor's Dalmatian in broad daylight.) Think twice about the lock you want to buy: do not give in too easily to the sturdiest looking one. Not even when it costs something like P119.75. Why? Because when you come home, you will find out that the padlock is much too big to fit in the eye. So curse yourself, and plan to race to the department store again, this time to buy a smaller lock. When you get out of your pad, do not get too frazzled. Because if you do, you will notice you have locked yourself out with the old padlock again. Scream. You cannot figure out why you are so stupid in the first place. You run to the locksmith again -- by paying another pedicab another P10 -- and confess your stupidity. Let him smile at you, and tell him you'll meet him in your place while you run to the department store to buy another lock. Make sure this padlock is small enough, and cheap enough. A P35 lock is okay. Then run back to your place, meet up with the locksmith, and replace your old lock with relish bordering on craziness. Pay him another P50. Get inside. Do not look at yourself in the mirror.



The moral lesson for the week may involve these: (1) always burn your importnat files on CDs; and (2) always make sure you have an extra key for your apartment door.



Have a back-up for everything.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:59 PM | A Week Verging on Collapse

Ordinarily, you should find me now in the worst of mood -- angry, despondent, depressed -- with the kind of demeanor that would suggest the end of the world as we knew it. For a while there, I was even tempted to title this entry "How to Be Stupid." Just because.



That I still smile and go about my days in a perfectly civil -- one might even say "cheerful" -- mood is testament to how my mother raised me: to be able to live through instances of panic in the very vestiges of grace. "Grace under pressure," some might call it: the ability to be coherent and calm when everything else around you collapses like Jell-O. And not just one bad thing happening, but many things -- a cascade of bad luck that will have you wondering what in the world did you do to deserve this kind of karma.



"Don't worry too much about it," Kim, a friend, texted me a few days back. "It's, like, the universe having LBM."



"What?" I texted back.



"Like, you know, it's painful and all, but really it's just your body doing its duty to repel the toxins inside. So you get LBM."



"What has the universe got to do with it?"



"It's rearranging itself to give you a smoother cosmic ride later. Yin, yang. You're feeling its pangs of change. It's a good thing actually. Your karma is being cleansed."



You have seen that notion -- grace under pressure -- manifested in the very worst of beauty pageants. Some die in the harsh glare of the spotlight; some glow in it. "Like Miriam Quiambao when she tripped during Miss Universe," Mark helpfully put his two cents in. Right. He went on: "Remember what she did? When she tripped, she immediately swooped up in a kind of graceful embrace of the situation, put her arms to the air in a queenly wave, and then relished in everybody's applause." Right again. But that's Miriam Quiambao. I am not in a beauty pageant.



But life recently has been a kind of an LBM trip.



And yet, here I am. Breathing freely, completely in control.



Last Saturday, readying a lecture I was to give on how to make killer resumes for a bunch of graduating Engineering students, my computer suddenly died on me. Just like that. One minute I was typing, the next minute the monitor just zipped out and turned into a lifeless blackness. I played with the power supply, turning the computer on and off, thinking I could jumpstart the thing and hopefully have it up and running again. It didn't.



Then the sickening thought came: my computer crashed. All my life's work gone in a second -- my short stories, my essays, my school files, my pictures, my music, my thesis--



"My thesis!" I yelped.



There was a mad scramble for my Thesis File, papers flying everywhere. But there it was inside the envelope, a good hard-copy of my M.A. thesis -- all two hundred and sixty-five pages of it -- ready for perusal and graduation within the current schoolyear. I heaved a giant sigh of relief.



Off to the shop my computer went, while I berated myself on always postponing getting a backup system. Sometimes when your instinct tells you something is on fire, it is best to get off your bed and run.



Wednesday night, going home after a long day of teaching, and looking forward to watching Spider-man 2 later that night, I arrived home and fished for my keys in my bookbag -- only to bring out a broken keychain, with all my keys spilling everywhere. After a brief panic, I had all keys accounted for. Except for one. The key for my pad's front door lock. I could not enter my pad, and already the afternoon was fast drawing to a close. There was a drone of traffic everywhere, and the daylight was dimming.



"'Nong Den, help!" I screeched on my cellphone. "Where can I find a locksmith at this time of day?" My brother Dennis is my eternal savior. He has always been the smart one in the family. Finally, he suggested the one near Aldea. "But he seems to have disappeared from the area, if I remember correctly," he said. "If you can't find him anywhere there, you might try this one other guy near Orchids in Daro."



Orchids in Daro? I crossed my fingers instead for the downtown guy. But the Aldea Key Guy was gone when I came screeching to a stop, alighting from a pedicab which was as slow as a dying turtle (slowed down some more by the crawl of Dumaguete late-afternoon traffic). Later, I found out he had transferred his little booth across the street, beside Veterans Bank.



Stop. The idea here is how to avoid being stupid.



Do bring the locksmith home to click open your stubborn lock. Do thank him profusely, and even give in to his outrageous charge of P150 for the effort. Later, do come inside your pad with a sigh of relief and plan to get a new padlock fast before Lee Super Plaza closes. It's 6:30 in the evening, and time is running out. Go out, and just try "locking" your door with the old padlock by hooking it through the eye, and never really clicking it shut. Run to the hardware section of the department store. Pay the pedicab P10 to get there as fast as you can. Tubod, after all, is never safe. (Once you witnessed a brazen individual race off with your neighbor's Dalmatian in broad daylight.) Think twice about the lock you want to buy: do not give in too easily to the sturdiest looking one. Not even when it costs something like P119.75. Why? Because when you come home, you will find out that the padlock is much too big to fit in the eye. So curse yourself, and plan to race to the department store again, this time to buy a smaller lock. When you get out of your pad, do not get too frazzled. Because if you do, you will notice you have locked yourself out with the old padlock again. Scream. You cannot figure out why you are so stupid in the first place. You run to the locksmith again -- by paying another pedicab another P10 -- and confess your stupidity. Let him smile at you, and tell him you'll meet him in your place while you run to the department store to buy another lock. Make sure this padlock is small enough, and cheap enough. A P35 lock is okay. Then run back to your place, meet up with the locksmith, and replace your old lock with relish bordering on craziness. Pay him another P50. Get inside. Do not look at yourself in the mirror.



The moral lesson for the week may involve these: (1) always burn your importnat files on CDs; and (2) always make sure you have an extra key for your apartment door.



Have a back-up for everything.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, July 28, 2004

entry arrow1:59 PM | Christian Sex Poem of the Week

We won't fall into bed 'til we're legally wed!

We will not heave [sic] sex; this is what we have said.

We're not falling for the old standards; we'll tell you that now.

It's not bad! Don't have a cow!

Virginity rules so we're protecting our rights,

Our bodies are treasures; we won't give 'em up without a fight.

Sex is serious; perversions we won't allow.

Abstinence is the way ... it's your right ... decide now!



Posted by a thirteen-year-old virginity enthusiast in the News section of the Virginity Rules website)





[via nerve]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:59 PM | Christian Sex Poem of the Week

We won't fall into bed 'til we're legally wed!

We will not heave [sic] sex; this is what we have said.

We're not falling for the old standards; we'll tell you that now.

It's not bad! Don't have a cow!

Virginity rules so we're protecting our rights,

Our bodies are treasures; we won't give 'em up without a fight.

Sex is serious; perversions we won't allow.

Abstinence is the way ... it's your right ... decide now!



Posted by a thirteen-year-old virginity enthusiast in the News section of the Virginity Rules website)





[via nerve]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:59 PM | Christian Sex Poem of the Week

We won't fall into bed 'til we're legally wed!

We will not heave [sic] sex; this is what we have said.

We're not falling for the old standards; we'll tell you that now.

It's not bad! Don't have a cow!

Virginity rules so we're protecting our rights,

Our bodies are treasures; we won't give 'em up without a fight.

Sex is serious; perversions we won't allow.

Abstinence is the way ... it's your right ... decide now!



Posted by a thirteen-year-old virginity enthusiast in the News section of the Virginity Rules website)





[via nerve]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, July 27, 2004

entry arrow1:55 PM | Crash

By the way, my computer crashed last Saturday. It just went poof! All my life's work gone in an instant. (Thank God, I printed out a copy of my thesis. That would have been a disaster if I didn't.) And Tuesday's terribly hot, like a headache. I just walked out on one class, because nobody read Paz Marquez Benitez's "Dead Stars." Sigh. If you see me on the street, give me a smile. I need it.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:55 PM | Crash

By the way, my computer crashed last Saturday. It just went poof! All my life's work gone in an instant. (Thank God, I printed out a copy of my thesis. That would have been a disaster if I didn't.) And Tuesday's terribly hot, like a headache. I just walked out on one class, because nobody read Paz Marquez Benitez's "Dead Stars." Sigh. If you see me on the street, give me a smile. I need it.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:55 PM | Crash

By the way, my computer crashed last Saturday. It just went poof! All my life's work gone in an instant. (Thank God, I printed out a copy of my thesis. That would have been a disaster if I didn't.) And Tuesday's terribly hot, like a headache. I just walked out on one class, because nobody read Paz Marquez Benitez's "Dead Stars." Sigh. If you see me on the street, give me a smile. I need it.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, July 25, 2004

entry arrow9:44 PM | Why Pinoy Cinema Flounders

This is another one of those "Philippine cinema is dying" articles. I subscribe more to Ed Cabagnot Jr.'s more provocative claim: "It is, in fact, dead." From the Manila Times, we get:



While others are just waiting for the industry to just die, at least one living national artist is hopeful that the local film industry would catch up. Movie director Eddie Romero insists that the industry can make it, for as long as the government supports it. "We are the most heavily taxed film industry in the world," he says. "It's very expensive to produce a movie these days. We need tax incentives for the raw materials needed to make a movie. If I were to make Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon today, it would cost the producer P40 million. He would have a hard time getting his investment back. Taxes would reduce any profit he might make."


True, true. But I also blame another thing: the sheer incestuousness of the Philippine film industry, which has people becoming movie or TV stars mostly not out of sheer talent, but for the fact that he or she is the son or daughter or niece or nephew or what-not of this and that. Try tracing the family tree and sex lives between our local celebrities -- what an interesting, crisscrossing web you will make.



The incestuousness does not even stop at the familial. It goes on to the creative level: meaning to say people in the industry has a habit of lionizing mediocre talent, just because.



Take director Joel Lamangan, the most inept, boring, talentless director in the history of film. (And take note, I'm not just talking Philippine film.)



Why does anybody even think he's good? His movies are soooooo bad they're like celluloid tissue paper meant solely for shit. And yet so many movie people consider him the incarnation of Lino Brocka!



Huff, huff...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow9:44 PM | Why Pinoy Cinema Flounders

This is another one of those "Philippine cinema is dying" articles. I subscribe more to Ed Cabagnot Jr.'s more provocative claim: "It is, in fact, dead." From the Manila Times, we get:



While others are just waiting for the industry to just die, at least one living national artist is hopeful that the local film industry would catch up. Movie director Eddie Romero insists that the industry can make it, for as long as the government supports it. "We are the most heavily taxed film industry in the world," he says. "It's very expensive to produce a movie these days. We need tax incentives for the raw materials needed to make a movie. If I were to make Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon today, it would cost the producer P40 million. He would have a hard time getting his investment back. Taxes would reduce any profit he might make."


True, true. But I also blame another thing: the sheer incestuousness of the Philippine film industry, which has people becoming movie or TV stars mostly not out of sheer talent, but for the fact that he or she is the son or daughter or niece or nephew or what-not of this and that. Try tracing the family tree and sex lives between our local celebrities -- what an interesting, crisscrossing web you will make.



The incestuousness does not even stop at the familial. It goes on to the creative level: meaning to say people in the industry has a habit of lionizing mediocre talent, just because.



Take director Joel Lamangan, the most inept, boring, talentless director in the history of film. (And take note, I'm not just talking Philippine film.)



Why does anybody even think he's good? His movies are soooooo bad they're like celluloid tissue paper meant solely for shit. And yet so many movie people consider him the incarnation of Lino Brocka!



Huff, huff...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow9:44 PM | Why Pinoy Cinema Flounders

This is another one of those "Philippine cinema is dying" articles. I subscribe more to Ed Cabagnot Jr.'s more provocative claim: "It is, in fact, dead." From the Manila Times, we get:



While others are just waiting for the industry to just die, at least one living national artist is hopeful that the local film industry would catch up. Movie director Eddie Romero insists that the industry can make it, for as long as the government supports it. "We are the most heavily taxed film industry in the world," he says. "It's very expensive to produce a movie these days. We need tax incentives for the raw materials needed to make a movie. If I were to make Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon today, it would cost the producer P40 million. He would have a hard time getting his investment back. Taxes would reduce any profit he might make."


True, true. But I also blame another thing: the sheer incestuousness of the Philippine film industry, which has people becoming movie or TV stars mostly not out of sheer talent, but for the fact that he or she is the son or daughter or niece or nephew or what-not of this and that. Try tracing the family tree and sex lives between our local celebrities -- what an interesting, crisscrossing web you will make.



The incestuousness does not even stop at the familial. It goes on to the creative level: meaning to say people in the industry has a habit of lionizing mediocre talent, just because.



Take director Joel Lamangan, the most inept, boring, talentless director in the history of film. (And take note, I'm not just talking Philippine film.)



Why does anybody even think he's good? His movies are soooooo bad they're like celluloid tissue paper meant solely for shit. And yet so many movie people consider him the incarnation of Lino Brocka!



Huff, huff...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, July 24, 2004

entry arrow5:34 PM | Just One of the Reasons Why I Love Her







From the New York Times:



During Shock and Awe I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's* personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families of Baghdad, I wondered, 'Does Jesus understand collateral damage?'


A perfect excuse why New York celebrates Meryl Streep Day today.



* You know, Dubya the Monkey.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:34 PM | Just One of the Reasons Why I Love Her







From the New York Times:



During Shock and Awe I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's* personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families of Baghdad, I wondered, 'Does Jesus understand collateral damage?'


A perfect excuse why New York celebrates Meryl Streep Day today.



* You know, Dubya the Monkey.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:34 PM | Just One of the Reasons Why I Love Her







From the New York Times:



During Shock and Awe I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's* personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families of Baghdad, I wondered, 'Does Jesus understand collateral damage?'


A perfect excuse why New York celebrates Meryl Streep Day today.



* You know, Dubya the Monkey.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, July 23, 2004

entry arrow7:28 PM | Crazy Bushies Boo Linda

Casino ejects Ronstadt over 'Fahrenheit' praise.







Land of the Free? Blah.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:28 PM | Crazy Bushies Boo Linda

Casino ejects Ronstadt over 'Fahrenheit' praise.







Land of the Free? Blah.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:28 PM | Crazy Bushies Boo Linda

Casino ejects Ronstadt over 'Fahrenheit' praise.







Land of the Free? Blah.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, July 21, 2004

entry arrow7:56 PM | Why My Japanese is Bad

I often wonder how people, in the cusp of adulthood, manage to grasp the intricacies of second languages, when they already are way beyond the instinctive drives they once possessed as children (that golden age when we took to learning new tongues like duck takes to water).

 

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks, so they say. How much more language?

 

Which is perhaps why I sometimes find myself becoming grateful for having had a solid background of English gleaned from when I was a child (my elementary school teacher Ms. Bennie Vic V. Concepcion was thorough in her approach to the language). This is something I take for granted (and I shouldn't) in a world increasing demanding English to be the lingua franca for the way we live.

 

And yet, teaching as I do in a Dumaguete university, I know that there are still others who stumble through grammatical incomprehensibility: I still find the occasional student still struggling with the lows and highs of English speaking -- especially in terms of grammar, and increasingly in terms of vocabulary, too. I have been asked once, "Sir, what is a 'slave'?" Which does not lead me to wonder anymore why it is that I have been often accused of sporting a supposedly high-falutin diction -- an accusation which, I think, speaks more about my accuser than it does of me. (Here is a generation, after all, who thinks that World War II was all about the Vietnam War.)

 

And then I also see those Koreans, those Chinese, and now those Iranians invading our shores, their accent as thick as their determination to learn Americanese. The sheer effort they exert to learn the nuances of the Queen's tongue!

 

But what drives us to learn a language? And can "drive" -- one might call it "motivation" -- ever be enough?

 

In the book Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching edited by Sandra Lee McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger, Mary McGroarty writes: "Recent research using multiple indicators of attitude, including gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture, has shown that these variables together shape attitudes, which in turn affect and are simultaneously influenced by ability in a language. Furthermore, it is not so much the type but the intensity of motivation that makes a difference in successful outcomes of second language study...." 

 

I totally get this notion -- articulating the why's, or why not's, of taking a second language to heart -- in the very personal level. Sometimes, when a stranger finds out that I have been to Japan for an extended period of time, the question that is ultimately asked of me is this: Can you speak Japanese?

 

I would always reply, in a guarded tone: "Well, conversational Japanese, yes. Ask me how I am today, and I can tell you: Genki deshoo." 

 

But then, after adding to that a few more vocabulary and a spattering of passable sentences, my Japanese dies an ungraceful death. Today, for example, I cannot understand what goes on in NHK (the Japanese cable channel) to save my life -- but I also have the feeling that given time to oil my tongue and my memory, a semblance of pseudo-gibberish Japanese will come out. "It never really goes away," an American friend told me once, "It's like riding a bike." Nevertheless, the ultimate truth of the matter is this: my command of Japanese is bad.

 

Why is my Japanese bad? This confounds many, since I have "maintained" this reputation of being a know-it-all, a study-wart. I go around, sometimes, to confound people with a passable command of colloquial French. "You are a multilingual?" people would ask me. I would shrug and say, "Oui" -- more out of bemusement, of course. When I went to Japan, I made it a point in my agenda to learn Nihonggo, because learning another language, I thought, would be… nice. I was already 22 then, well past the peak with which language-learning is easy to do. So I studied Japanese. In one session alone, I was able to learn a whole semester's worth of Nihonggo back in Silliman. There were indications for success. I was very motivated. And the momentum and the rigid schedule (classes took the whole morning, starting from 8:00 a.m., daily) made sure that it was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The conventional wisdom also went that it is so much easier to learn a language when you are immersed in the very culture of that language. I was in Japan, I thought; this would be a piece of cake. To be able to survive for a year there, after all, I needed to learn the language fast.

 

Then: After two terms of Nihonggo, I dropped out. Possessing a considerable command of the language by that time, I found that language can be something that can ebb away. And so it went.

 

My Japanese is bad.

 

Why? Because I found there was really no need to speak it, even given the fact that I spent almost a year in Tokyo, where I took up two intensive classes just to learn the language (under sensei Murano, who was ever patient in guiding a German, a Dutch, a Finn, a Thai, an Indonesian, and a Filipino into the intricacies of "bird-speak," as the class jestingly referred to Nihonggo, as well as the complex understanding of the kana -- the hiragana, the katakana, and the Chinese kanji).

 

Confounding that with the fact that there was total immersion in the culture: everyday I woke up to the "chatter of birds" as men in my dorm trooped to the shower to prepare for another school day. Outside, all the signs are invariably in Japanese. And again, everywhere there is the jabber of slant-eyed people saying hello, bidding goodbye, asking each one the puzzlements of weather. "Ohayo gozaimasu!" "Sumimasen!" "Honto, ne ... Muzukashi deshoo?" 

 

To no avail.

 

Sometimes I think the reason for this is the fact that my University -- the International Christian University in Tokyo -- was American. And every year, it "imported" foreign students like me (we were called OYRs -- or One-Year Regulars) to augment its population and to create an international atmosphere on campus. Of course, when the OYRs get together, the language of bonding and of understanding each other becomes English. Seldom did we speak in Nihonggo, except during exercises in class. Then again, even our Japanese classmates demanded we speak to them in English, perhaps to better their own faltering way with it. And while many of the classes being taught in the University were in Nihonggo, there was also an ample number of subjects being taught in English. Plus, the sprawling University is a community in itself, with a supermarket, libraries with Internet access, a post office, etc. English was spoken everywhere. Eventually you learn there was no need to learn a new language, even if that "new" language is the native tongue being spoken by everybody else around you.

 

And somewhere near the end of the second term, I realized that the initial resolve to learn Nihonggo was hollow. All I wanted to have in Japan was to have an extended vacation in the guise of "scholarship," never really to learn "language." I wrote in my diary from that period: "I'd rather be in Disneyland, or in Kichijoji shopping." 

 

I am talking about motivation here, and how motivation is really qualified by many other factors (McGroarty mentioned gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture), including "intensity" of that motivation. It isn't really about "intrinsic" or "extrinsic" motivation, because I had both. (There was even "instrumental" motivation.) There was a perceived "want" within myself to learn Nihonggo, and I knew I could be "rewarded" with a better life in Japan if I learned the language. But both "motivations" came to naught. I had a good teacher, too. And I can very well say that my classmates were a fascinating bunch.

 

So what happened? I quote McGroarty again: "Instructional obstacles come about not because students have different types of motivation but because some students are relatively less motivated by any combination of integrative, instrumental, or other orientations. Having no clear purpose and no strongly felt reason to learn another language, such students are unlikely to expend the effort required."



Students such as me.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:56 PM | Why My Japanese is Bad

I often wonder how people, in the cusp of adulthood, manage to grasp the intricacies of second languages, when they already are way beyond the instinctive drives they once possessed as children (that golden age when we took to learning new tongues like duck takes to water).

 

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks, so they say. How much more language?

 

Which is perhaps why I sometimes find myself becoming grateful for having had a solid background of English gleaned from when I was a child (my elementary school teacher Ms. Bennie Vic V. Concepcion was thorough in her approach to the language). This is something I take for granted (and I shouldn't) in a world increasing demanding English to be the lingua franca for the way we live.

 

And yet, teaching as I do in a Dumaguete university, I know that there are still others who stumble through grammatical incomprehensibility: I still find the occasional student still struggling with the lows and highs of English speaking -- especially in terms of grammar, and increasingly in terms of vocabulary, too. I have been asked once, "Sir, what is a 'slave'?" Which does not lead me to wonder anymore why it is that I have been often accused of sporting a supposedly high-falutin diction -- an accusation which, I think, speaks more about my accuser than it does of me. (Here is a generation, after all, who thinks that World War II was all about the Vietnam War.)

 

And then I also see those Koreans, those Chinese, and now those Iranians invading our shores, their accent as thick as their determination to learn Americanese. The sheer effort they exert to learn the nuances of the Queen's tongue!

 

But what drives us to learn a language? And can "drive" -- one might call it "motivation" -- ever be enough?

 

In the book Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching edited by Sandra Lee McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger, Mary McGroarty writes: "Recent research using multiple indicators of attitude, including gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture, has shown that these variables together shape attitudes, which in turn affect and are simultaneously influenced by ability in a language. Furthermore, it is not so much the type but the intensity of motivation that makes a difference in successful outcomes of second language study...." 

 

I totally get this notion -- articulating the why's, or why not's, of taking a second language to heart -- in the very personal level. Sometimes, when a stranger finds out that I have been to Japan for an extended period of time, the question that is ultimately asked of me is this: Can you speak Japanese?

 

I would always reply, in a guarded tone: "Well, conversational Japanese, yes. Ask me how I am today, and I can tell you: Genki deshoo." 

 

But then, after adding to that a few more vocabulary and a spattering of passable sentences, my Japanese dies an ungraceful death. Today, for example, I cannot understand what goes on in NHK (the Japanese cable channel) to save my life -- but I also have the feeling that given time to oil my tongue and my memory, a semblance of pseudo-gibberish Japanese will come out. "It never really goes away," an American friend told me once, "It's like riding a bike." Nevertheless, the ultimate truth of the matter is this: my command of Japanese is bad.

 

Why is my Japanese bad? This confounds many, since I have "maintained" this reputation of being a know-it-all, a study-wart. I go around, sometimes, to confound people with a passable command of colloquial French. "You are a multilingual?" people would ask me. I would shrug and say, "Oui" -- more out of bemusement, of course. When I went to Japan, I made it a point in my agenda to learn Nihonggo, because learning another language, I thought, would be… nice. I was already 22 then, well past the peak with which language-learning is easy to do. So I studied Japanese. In one session alone, I was able to learn a whole semester's worth of Nihonggo back in Silliman. There were indications for success. I was very motivated. And the momentum and the rigid schedule (classes took the whole morning, starting from 8:00 a.m., daily) made sure that it was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The conventional wisdom also went that it is so much easier to learn a language when you are immersed in the very culture of that language. I was in Japan, I thought; this would be a piece of cake. To be able to survive for a year there, after all, I needed to learn the language fast.

 

Then: After two terms of Nihonggo, I dropped out. Possessing a considerable command of the language by that time, I found that language can be something that can ebb away. And so it went.

 

My Japanese is bad.

 

Why? Because I found there was really no need to speak it, even given the fact that I spent almost a year in Tokyo, where I took up two intensive classes just to learn the language (under sensei Murano, who was ever patient in guiding a German, a Dutch, a Finn, a Thai, an Indonesian, and a Filipino into the intricacies of "bird-speak," as the class jestingly referred to Nihonggo, as well as the complex understanding of the kana -- the hiragana, the katakana, and the Chinese kanji).

 

Confounding that with the fact that there was total immersion in the culture: everyday I woke up to the "chatter of birds" as men in my dorm trooped to the shower to prepare for another school day. Outside, all the signs are invariably in Japanese. And again, everywhere there is the jabber of slant-eyed people saying hello, bidding goodbye, asking each one the puzzlements of weather. "Ohayo gozaimasu!" "Sumimasen!" "Honto, ne ... Muzukashi deshoo?" 

 

To no avail.

 

Sometimes I think the reason for this is the fact that my University -- the International Christian University in Tokyo -- was American. And every year, it "imported" foreign students like me (we were called OYRs -- or One-Year Regulars) to augment its population and to create an international atmosphere on campus. Of course, when the OYRs get together, the language of bonding and of understanding each other becomes English. Seldom did we speak in Nihonggo, except during exercises in class. Then again, even our Japanese classmates demanded we speak to them in English, perhaps to better their own faltering way with it. And while many of the classes being taught in the University were in Nihonggo, there was also an ample number of subjects being taught in English. Plus, the sprawling University is a community in itself, with a supermarket, libraries with Internet access, a post office, etc. English was spoken everywhere. Eventually you learn there was no need to learn a new language, even if that "new" language is the native tongue being spoken by everybody else around you.

 

And somewhere near the end of the second term, I realized that the initial resolve to learn Nihonggo was hollow. All I wanted to have in Japan was to have an extended vacation in the guise of "scholarship," never really to learn "language." I wrote in my diary from that period: "I'd rather be in Disneyland, or in Kichijoji shopping." 

 

I am talking about motivation here, and how motivation is really qualified by many other factors (McGroarty mentioned gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture), including "intensity" of that motivation. It isn't really about "intrinsic" or "extrinsic" motivation, because I had both. (There was even "instrumental" motivation.) There was a perceived "want" within myself to learn Nihonggo, and I knew I could be "rewarded" with a better life in Japan if I learned the language. But both "motivations" came to naught. I had a good teacher, too. And I can very well say that my classmates were a fascinating bunch.

 

So what happened? I quote McGroarty again: "Instructional obstacles come about not because students have different types of motivation but because some students are relatively less motivated by any combination of integrative, instrumental, or other orientations. Having no clear purpose and no strongly felt reason to learn another language, such students are unlikely to expend the effort required."



Students such as me.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:56 PM | Why My Japanese is Bad

I often wonder how people, in the cusp of adulthood, manage to grasp the intricacies of second languages, when they already are way beyond the instinctive drives they once possessed as children (that golden age when we took to learning new tongues like duck takes to water).

 

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks, so they say. How much more language?

 

Which is perhaps why I sometimes find myself becoming grateful for having had a solid background of English gleaned from when I was a child (my elementary school teacher Ms. Bennie Vic V. Concepcion was thorough in her approach to the language). This is something I take for granted (and I shouldn't) in a world increasing demanding English to be the lingua franca for the way we live.

 

And yet, teaching as I do in a Dumaguete university, I know that there are still others who stumble through grammatical incomprehensibility: I still find the occasional student still struggling with the lows and highs of English speaking -- especially in terms of grammar, and increasingly in terms of vocabulary, too. I have been asked once, "Sir, what is a 'slave'?" Which does not lead me to wonder anymore why it is that I have been often accused of sporting a supposedly high-falutin diction -- an accusation which, I think, speaks more about my accuser than it does of me. (Here is a generation, after all, who thinks that World War II was all about the Vietnam War.)

 

And then I also see those Koreans, those Chinese, and now those Iranians invading our shores, their accent as thick as their determination to learn Americanese. The sheer effort they exert to learn the nuances of the Queen's tongue!

 

But what drives us to learn a language? And can "drive" -- one might call it "motivation" -- ever be enough?

 

In the book Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching edited by Sandra Lee McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger, Mary McGroarty writes: "Recent research using multiple indicators of attitude, including gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture, has shown that these variables together shape attitudes, which in turn affect and are simultaneously influenced by ability in a language. Furthermore, it is not so much the type but the intensity of motivation that makes a difference in successful outcomes of second language study...." 

 

I totally get this notion -- articulating the why's, or why not's, of taking a second language to heart -- in the very personal level. Sometimes, when a stranger finds out that I have been to Japan for an extended period of time, the question that is ultimately asked of me is this: Can you speak Japanese?

 

I would always reply, in a guarded tone: "Well, conversational Japanese, yes. Ask me how I am today, and I can tell you: Genki deshoo." 

 

But then, after adding to that a few more vocabulary and a spattering of passable sentences, my Japanese dies an ungraceful death. Today, for example, I cannot understand what goes on in NHK (the Japanese cable channel) to save my life -- but I also have the feeling that given time to oil my tongue and my memory, a semblance of pseudo-gibberish Japanese will come out. "It never really goes away," an American friend told me once, "It's like riding a bike." Nevertheless, the ultimate truth of the matter is this: my command of Japanese is bad.

 

Why is my Japanese bad? This confounds many, since I have "maintained" this reputation of being a know-it-all, a study-wart. I go around, sometimes, to confound people with a passable command of colloquial French. "You are a multilingual?" people would ask me. I would shrug and say, "Oui" -- more out of bemusement, of course. When I went to Japan, I made it a point in my agenda to learn Nihonggo, because learning another language, I thought, would be… nice. I was already 22 then, well past the peak with which language-learning is easy to do. So I studied Japanese. In one session alone, I was able to learn a whole semester's worth of Nihonggo back in Silliman. There were indications for success. I was very motivated. And the momentum and the rigid schedule (classes took the whole morning, starting from 8:00 a.m., daily) made sure that it was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The conventional wisdom also went that it is so much easier to learn a language when you are immersed in the very culture of that language. I was in Japan, I thought; this would be a piece of cake. To be able to survive for a year there, after all, I needed to learn the language fast.

 

Then: After two terms of Nihonggo, I dropped out. Possessing a considerable command of the language by that time, I found that language can be something that can ebb away. And so it went.

 

My Japanese is bad.

 

Why? Because I found there was really no need to speak it, even given the fact that I spent almost a year in Tokyo, where I took up two intensive classes just to learn the language (under sensei Murano, who was ever patient in guiding a German, a Dutch, a Finn, a Thai, an Indonesian, and a Filipino into the intricacies of "bird-speak," as the class jestingly referred to Nihonggo, as well as the complex understanding of the kana -- the hiragana, the katakana, and the Chinese kanji).

 

Confounding that with the fact that there was total immersion in the culture: everyday I woke up to the "chatter of birds" as men in my dorm trooped to the shower to prepare for another school day. Outside, all the signs are invariably in Japanese. And again, everywhere there is the jabber of slant-eyed people saying hello, bidding goodbye, asking each one the puzzlements of weather. "Ohayo gozaimasu!" "Sumimasen!" "Honto, ne ... Muzukashi deshoo?" 

 

To no avail.

 

Sometimes I think the reason for this is the fact that my University -- the International Christian University in Tokyo -- was American. And every year, it "imported" foreign students like me (we were called OYRs -- or One-Year Regulars) to augment its population and to create an international atmosphere on campus. Of course, when the OYRs get together, the language of bonding and of understanding each other becomes English. Seldom did we speak in Nihonggo, except during exercises in class. Then again, even our Japanese classmates demanded we speak to them in English, perhaps to better their own faltering way with it. And while many of the classes being taught in the University were in Nihonggo, there was also an ample number of subjects being taught in English. Plus, the sprawling University is a community in itself, with a supermarket, libraries with Internet access, a post office, etc. English was spoken everywhere. Eventually you learn there was no need to learn a new language, even if that "new" language is the native tongue being spoken by everybody else around you.

 

And somewhere near the end of the second term, I realized that the initial resolve to learn Nihonggo was hollow. All I wanted to have in Japan was to have an extended vacation in the guise of "scholarship," never really to learn "language." I wrote in my diary from that period: "I'd rather be in Disneyland, or in Kichijoji shopping." 

 

I am talking about motivation here, and how motivation is really qualified by many other factors (McGroarty mentioned gender, age, language background, type of school attended, and local youth culture), including "intensity" of that motivation. It isn't really about "intrinsic" or "extrinsic" motivation, because I had both. (There was even "instrumental" motivation.) There was a perceived "want" within myself to learn Nihonggo, and I knew I could be "rewarded" with a better life in Japan if I learned the language. But both "motivations" came to naught. I had a good teacher, too. And I can very well say that my classmates were a fascinating bunch.

 

So what happened? I quote McGroarty again: "Instructional obstacles come about not because students have different types of motivation but because some students are relatively less motivated by any combination of integrative, instrumental, or other orientations. Having no clear purpose and no strongly felt reason to learn another language, such students are unlikely to expend the effort required."



Students such as me.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:51 PM | Cappuccino Attack!

There is this coffeeshop in the bottom of Lee Super Plaza -- Dumaguete's current (and only) shopping Goliath  -- where I go to when I'm itching for a cappuccino break.

 

Here in the bowels of the shopping center, only a coffee-bean's throw away from my cup of Tipsy Mocha (which costs P38.00, but today it tastes suspiciously sour), one finds the incessant hum of shoppers colliding with the stacks of groceries and the creaks of shopping carts and the shrill of shopgirls' voices.

 

This is Consumer Heaven: Lee Cimbali, which adjoins Breadworth to make a coffee-bread-pastry-sandwich retreat, tucked in an open corner of Lee's Supermarket. Somehow my tumbler of "coffee" affords me a keen sense of observation. This is what I see: the empty -- sometimes harried -- looks of matrons and teenagers counting change in the counters reflect a circus of money, and the impersonality of juice Tetrapacks, stainless steel cans, baked beans, baby formulas, packed meat, loose vegetables, batteries, and leaking ice cream. The sounds they make, however, drown my contented quiet as I sit by this elongated table (it is shaped like a large brown amoeba) on my precariously high chair. This table is so much better and so much more comfortable than the others, which are merely decorative barbells.

 

I adore drowning in the noise: it is in this sanctified disquiet that my brain truly works on an inspired speed. My fingers itch to write, and my senses become eager to devour a newspaper here, or a book there. There are other people here, too: people I see so many times in the same place that I suspect they are my secret sharers. I do not understand our penchant to busy, noisy commerce. Yet, I also remember my love affair with the corner spot of Scooby's Silliman where, between its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, one also sees an endless drama of people and traffic.

 

Writing about this fascination for coffee-while-sitting-and-staring-at-sidewalk-and-street-traffic once in another newspaper, I said: "How do you tell what a Dumagueteno really is? By her walk. By his stare. She commands the pace of a turtle, and he locks your look with a penetrating gaze that goes beyond polite -- essentially basic irritants for the uninitiated, who thinks of walking as a hurried exercise, and of staring as a social no-no. Why do you think Scooby's Silliman has become the success it is now? Besides its Internet cafe and iced tea, it is its big paned windows that have earned its place as Dumaguete's Fishbowl. From behind its comfortable observation perch, everybody can watch the world go by. 

 

"It is the small-town attitude that's basically the root of such behavior. Dumaguete may be a city and may be the capital of Negros Oriental, but a thin line separates it from the small town it was in its inception ... Why do we stare so? We stare because it's entertainment. With only one theater running in the city, there's nothing much to do really, except stare." 

 

This table in Lee Cimbali is my favorite spot now. I've been here three times today -- punctuating my visits to a nearby gym. Coffee culture has, of course, slowly embedded itself in the consciousness of many in this country. When I go to Cebu, Bo's (or Starbucks) is always a certified stopover from a night in Ratsky's. In Ayala, it's Oh George! And then there are those people I know who would come back from Manila on a visit and talk of Starbucks like they would a rock concert. An American comedian rightly put it when he talked of this growing fascination of cafe culture: "Starbucks is taking over the world." (And keeping everyone up late into the night.)

 

We embrace coffee culture the way we embrace fashion. It is fashionable, it is THE trend. Although it is a trend that is taking its time in Dumaguete. (I know a businessman in Dumaguete who once told me: "Why should I go to those cafes when I can get instant coffee at home?" A sure sign of a philistine, of course, but oh-so-typical for many in the city.) And does anybody even remember the sad demise of Silliman Ave. Cafe, which the habitues (like me) had once nicknamed SAC's? Today it is a massage parlor.

 

Nonetheless, coffee-drinking (and being seen doing that at the same time) is catching up on the rest of the population. To be seen sipping your menthe latte or your frappuccino after a late-night partying seems hip. (The coffee also helps keep awake the beer-laced mind, I suppose.) My friend Kristyn thinks it is tres French. Me, I just like coffee.

 

Cafe Memento, a few steps away from El Amigo, may have been the forerunner of the coffee culture in Dumaguete, although I should not really forget the regrettably forgettable Expresso. Memento still makes the best brewed coffee, I think (although the place has sadly gone to seed -- and those clueless waiters!). The bigger, trendier SAC's, for a while, had diverted everyone's attention. Remembering now: it was not so much the SAC's coffee that attracted me (although the caramel frappuccino was great), but the crepe. I swore by SAC's hazelnut crepe. I'll miss that hazelnut crepe! But SAC's is gone. In Don Atilano, meanwhile, the menthe latte is gratifying, and the iced coffee in Cafe Tropini, plus its view of the Boulevard, somehow make up for the fact that there's not much to order there that's different from nearby Chicco's or Le Chalet.

 

This morning in Lee Cimbali, while sipping Mocha Locca (P27.00), my friend Sally strolls in and gets her Black Forest Mocha (P37.00). "Hello," I say. 

 

"Hey, thought I'd find you here," Sally says. 

 

"How are you?" 

 

"Was here earlier, but I had to come back." 

 

"Really."

  

Sally sighs. Her mocha looks delicious. "There was this handsome guy who came in, ordered Black Forest Mocha, and sat two tables away, right there, right near the entrance." 

 

"Really." 

 

She sighs again. "Yes. He rather had a longish hair, beautifully unkempt, as if somebody's hands had ruffled those dark brown tresses. His frame was lean, and his clothes J. Crew-ish. Abercrombie & Fitch would have made him a twink." 

 

"Really." 

 

"But it was his sad eyes that arrested me. I always fall for men with sad eyes: this one had it in a huge erotic appeal. Even his lips were petulant and deliciously rebellious. And when he sipped his straw, it was the most beautiful thing I've seen since Jude Law took a dip in a bathtub in The Talented Mr. Ripley." 

 

"Really." 

 

"Yes, really." 

 

"And what happened next?" 

 

Sally sips again. "Sadly even coffee has to end -- gulped down. He went to the downstairs' hardware department, and I went out to lunch. It was the saddest parting."



We were coffee comrades, and we went back to watching the world go by.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:51 PM | Cappuccino Attack!

There is this coffeeshop in the bottom of Lee Super Plaza -- Dumaguete's current (and only) shopping Goliath  -- where I go to when I'm itching for a cappuccino break.

 

Here in the bowels of the shopping center, only a coffee-bean's throw away from my cup of Tipsy Mocha (which costs P38.00, but today it tastes suspiciously sour), one finds the incessant hum of shoppers colliding with the stacks of groceries and the creaks of shopping carts and the shrill of shopgirls' voices.

 

This is Consumer Heaven: Lee Cimbali, which adjoins Breadworth to make a coffee-bread-pastry-sandwich retreat, tucked in an open corner of Lee's Supermarket. Somehow my tumbler of "coffee" affords me a keen sense of observation. This is what I see: the empty -- sometimes harried -- looks of matrons and teenagers counting change in the counters reflect a circus of money, and the impersonality of juice Tetrapacks, stainless steel cans, baked beans, baby formulas, packed meat, loose vegetables, batteries, and leaking ice cream. The sounds they make, however, drown my contented quiet as I sit by this elongated table (it is shaped like a large brown amoeba) on my precariously high chair. This table is so much better and so much more comfortable than the others, which are merely decorative barbells.

 

I adore drowning in the noise: it is in this sanctified disquiet that my brain truly works on an inspired speed. My fingers itch to write, and my senses become eager to devour a newspaper here, or a book there. There are other people here, too: people I see so many times in the same place that I suspect they are my secret sharers. I do not understand our penchant to busy, noisy commerce. Yet, I also remember my love affair with the corner spot of Scooby's Silliman where, between its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, one also sees an endless drama of people and traffic.

 

Writing about this fascination for coffee-while-sitting-and-staring-at-sidewalk-and-street-traffic once in another newspaper, I said: "How do you tell what a Dumagueteno really is? By her walk. By his stare. She commands the pace of a turtle, and he locks your look with a penetrating gaze that goes beyond polite -- essentially basic irritants for the uninitiated, who thinks of walking as a hurried exercise, and of staring as a social no-no. Why do you think Scooby's Silliman has become the success it is now? Besides its Internet cafe and iced tea, it is its big paned windows that have earned its place as Dumaguete's Fishbowl. From behind its comfortable observation perch, everybody can watch the world go by. 

 

"It is the small-town attitude that's basically the root of such behavior. Dumaguete may be a city and may be the capital of Negros Oriental, but a thin line separates it from the small town it was in its inception ... Why do we stare so? We stare because it's entertainment. With only one theater running in the city, there's nothing much to do really, except stare." 

 

This table in Lee Cimbali is my favorite spot now. I've been here three times today -- punctuating my visits to a nearby gym. Coffee culture has, of course, slowly embedded itself in the consciousness of many in this country. When I go to Cebu, Bo's (or Starbucks) is always a certified stopover from a night in Ratsky's. In Ayala, it's Oh George! And then there are those people I know who would come back from Manila on a visit and talk of Starbucks like they would a rock concert. An American comedian rightly put it when he talked of this growing fascination of cafe culture: "Starbucks is taking over the world." (And keeping everyone up late into the night.)

 

We embrace coffee culture the way we embrace fashion. It is fashionable, it is THE trend. Although it is a trend that is taking its time in Dumaguete. (I know a businessman in Dumaguete who once told me: "Why should I go to those cafes when I can get instant coffee at home?" A sure sign of a philistine, of course, but oh-so-typical for many in the city.) And does anybody even remember the sad demise of Silliman Ave. Cafe, which the habitues (like me) had once nicknamed SAC's? Today it is a massage parlor.

 

Nonetheless, coffee-drinking (and being seen doing that at the same time) is catching up on the rest of the population. To be seen sipping your menthe latte or your frappuccino after a late-night partying seems hip. (The coffee also helps keep awake the beer-laced mind, I suppose.) My friend Kristyn thinks it is tres French. Me, I just like coffee.

 

Cafe Memento, a few steps away from El Amigo, may have been the forerunner of the coffee culture in Dumaguete, although I should not really forget the regrettably forgettable Expresso. Memento still makes the best brewed coffee, I think (although the place has sadly gone to seed -- and those clueless waiters!). The bigger, trendier SAC's, for a while, had diverted everyone's attention. Remembering now: it was not so much the SAC's coffee that attracted me (although the caramel frappuccino was great), but the crepe. I swore by SAC's hazelnut crepe. I'll miss that hazelnut crepe! But SAC's is gone. In Don Atilano, meanwhile, the menthe latte is gratifying, and the iced coffee in Cafe Tropini, plus its view of the Boulevard, somehow make up for the fact that there's not much to order there that's different from nearby Chicco's or Le Chalet.

 

This morning in Lee Cimbali, while sipping Mocha Locca (P27.00), my friend Sally strolls in and gets her Black Forest Mocha (P37.00). "Hello," I say. 

 

"Hey, thought I'd find you here," Sally says. 

 

"How are you?" 

 

"Was here earlier, but I had to come back." 

 

"Really."

  

Sally sighs. Her mocha looks delicious. "There was this handsome guy who came in, ordered Black Forest Mocha, and sat two tables away, right there, right near the entrance." 

 

"Really." 

 

She sighs again. "Yes. He rather had a longish hair, beautifully unkempt, as if somebody's hands had ruffled those dark brown tresses. His frame was lean, and his clothes J. Crew-ish. Abercrombie & Fitch would have made him a twink." 

 

"Really." 

 

"But it was his sad eyes that arrested me. I always fall for men with sad eyes: this one had it in a huge erotic appeal. Even his lips were petulant and deliciously rebellious. And when he sipped his straw, it was the most beautiful thing I've seen since Jude Law took a dip in a bathtub in The Talented Mr. Ripley." 

 

"Really." 

 

"Yes, really." 

 

"And what happened next?" 

 

Sally sips again. "Sadly even coffee has to end -- gulped down. He went to the downstairs' hardware department, and I went out to lunch. It was the saddest parting."



We were coffee comrades, and we went back to watching the world go by.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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