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





Bibliography

Friday, December 31, 2004

entry arrow10:28 AM | For a Few Hours More

From Naya Valdellon, for the New Year:



"To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn't realized was open."

-- James Richardson


I'd been waiting for that one poetic quote from Naya all day, to sum up everything. Thanks, Cheshire Cat.



...







It's the last day of another year. Do you know where you are?



...



My dearest Tintin Ongpin just happened to post the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, from Jonathan Larson's acclaimed musical Rent. Some illuminating excerpts from Seasons of Love:



    525,600 minutes,

    525,000 moments so dear.

    525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure, measure a year?

    In daylights, in sunsets,

    In midnights, in cups of coffee.

    In inches, in miles,

    In laughter, in strife.

    In 525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure

    A year in the life?

    How about love?



    ...



    How can you measure

    The life of a woman or man?

    In truths that she learned,

    Or in times that he cried.

    In bridges he burned,

    Or the way that she died.



Strangely appropriate for today, eh?



...



Here's Dean Alfar with the best Barbie sketch this year. He writes: "I swear, I cannot last for more than five minutes playing Barbie. They soon acquire voices and do things when Sage is not looking." Which is soooo true. (There's no permalink, so scroll down to the December 29 post, with the title "Save Me, Save Me.")



...



Just in. J. Neil C. Garcia's New Year text message, something from R. Carver:



    And did you get what

    you wanted from this life, even so?

    I did.

    And what did you want?

    To call myself beloved, to feel myself

    beloved on the earth.



Well, I feel loved. Then I must have really lived.



...



And finally, here's how you can vent your holiday generosity. If you can, of course. We have 110,000 dead so far, folks. That's a lot of people.



...



With that, I go forth into the waning hours, and make the most out of this last day. See you next year, folks! (A few hours more.) Here's to old hopes and newer resolves ... to friends and lovers ... to wine, song, and poetry ... to forgetting and remembering. Have a happy new year. Really.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:28 AM | For a Few Hours More

From Naya Valdellon, for the New Year:



"To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn't realized was open."

-- James Richardson


I'd been waiting for that one poetic quote from Naya all day, to sum up everything. Thanks, Cheshire Cat.



...







It's the last day of another year. Do you know where you are?



...



My dearest Tintin Ongpin just happened to post the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, from Jonathan Larson's acclaimed musical Rent. Some illuminating excerpts from Seasons of Love:



    525,600 minutes,

    525,000 moments so dear.

    525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure, measure a year?

    In daylights, in sunsets,

    In midnights, in cups of coffee.

    In inches, in miles,

    In laughter, in strife.

    In 525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure

    A year in the life?

    How about love?



    ...



    How can you measure

    The life of a woman or man?

    In truths that she learned,

    Or in times that he cried.

    In bridges he burned,

    Or the way that she died.



Strangely appropriate for today, eh?



...



Here's Dean Alfar with the best Barbie sketch this year. He writes: "I swear, I cannot last for more than five minutes playing Barbie. They soon acquire voices and do things when Sage is not looking." Which is soooo true. (There's no permalink, so scroll down to the December 29 post, with the title "Save Me, Save Me.")



...



Just in. J. Neil C. Garcia's New Year text message, something from R. Carver:



    And did you get what

    you wanted from this life, even so?

    I did.

    And what did you want?

    To call myself beloved, to feel myself

    beloved on the earth.



Well, I feel loved. Then I must have really lived.



...



And finally, here's how you can vent your holiday generosity. If you can, of course. We have 110,000 dead so far, folks. That's a lot of people.



...



With that, I go forth into the waning hours, and make the most out of this last day. See you next year, folks! (A few hours more.) Here's to old hopes and newer resolves ... to friends and lovers ... to wine, song, and poetry ... to forgetting and remembering. Have a happy new year. Really.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:28 AM | For a Few Hours More

From Naya Valdellon, for the New Year:



"To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn't realized was open."

-- James Richardson


I'd been waiting for that one poetic quote from Naya all day, to sum up everything. Thanks, Cheshire Cat.



...







It's the last day of another year. Do you know where you are?



...



My dearest Tintin Ongpin just happened to post the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, from Jonathan Larson's acclaimed musical Rent. Some illuminating excerpts from Seasons of Love:



    525,600 minutes,

    525,000 moments so dear.

    525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure, measure a year?

    In daylights, in sunsets,

    In midnights, in cups of coffee.

    In inches, in miles,

    In laughter, in strife.

    In 525,600 minutes...

    How do you measure

    A year in the life?

    How about love?



    ...



    How can you measure

    The life of a woman or man?

    In truths that she learned,

    Or in times that he cried.

    In bridges he burned,

    Or the way that she died.



Strangely appropriate for today, eh?



...



Here's Dean Alfar with the best Barbie sketch this year. He writes: "I swear, I cannot last for more than five minutes playing Barbie. They soon acquire voices and do things when Sage is not looking." Which is soooo true. (There's no permalink, so scroll down to the December 29 post, with the title "Save Me, Save Me.")



...



Just in. J. Neil C. Garcia's New Year text message, something from R. Carver:



    And did you get what

    you wanted from this life, even so?

    I did.

    And what did you want?

    To call myself beloved, to feel myself

    beloved on the earth.



Well, I feel loved. Then I must have really lived.



...



And finally, here's how you can vent your holiday generosity. If you can, of course. We have 110,000 dead so far, folks. That's a lot of people.



...



With that, I go forth into the waning hours, and make the most out of this last day. See you next year, folks! (A few hours more.) Here's to old hopes and newer resolves ... to friends and lovers ... to wine, song, and poetry ... to forgetting and remembering. Have a happy new year. Really.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, December 30, 2004

entry arrow5:44 PM | My Fiction, In French

Hey, look. My old story "Old Movies" has just been published in the French literary journal, Hauteurs. Well, well, well. Je suis tres excite! C'est la premiere fois que mon travail a ete traduit a une langue etrangere.





Click the cover for more details.



Thanks to Ghalia el Boustami for the translation. In the issue, she also writes about Philippine literature. She translated a story by Bing Sitoy two years ago, and did a splendid job. I haven't seen the issue yet, but I wonder how I sound in French. Hmmm...



[my french courtesy of world lingo. did you really think i knew french? hehehe]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:44 PM | My Fiction, In French

Hey, look. My old story "Old Movies" has just been published in the French literary journal, Hauteurs. Well, well, well. Je suis tres excite! C'est la premiere fois que mon travail a ete traduit a une langue etrangere.





Click the cover for more details.



Thanks to Ghalia el Boustami for the translation. In the issue, she also writes about Philippine literature. She translated a story by Bing Sitoy two years ago, and did a splendid job. I haven't seen the issue yet, but I wonder how I sound in French. Hmmm...



[my french courtesy of world lingo. did you really think i knew french? hehehe]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:44 PM | My Fiction, In French

Hey, look. My old story "Old Movies" has just been published in the French literary journal, Hauteurs. Well, well, well. Je suis tres excite! C'est la premiere fois que mon travail a ete traduit a une langue etrangere.





Click the cover for more details.



Thanks to Ghalia el Boustami for the translation. In the issue, she also writes about Philippine literature. She translated a story by Bing Sitoy two years ago, and did a splendid job. I haven't seen the issue yet, but I wonder how I sound in French. Hmmm...



[my french courtesy of world lingo. did you really think i knew french? hehehe]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, December 29, 2004

entry arrow4:28 PM | Sontag's Dead

I can't believe it. Susan Sontag's dead. Here, Naya, is the apex of why this has indeed been a terrible year. Let's not even talk about Iris Chang or Gloria Anzaldua or Nick Joaquin or Jacques Derrida anymore. Death has been merrily picking away some of our most brilliant minds. With Sontag's passing, there's no real course for this world except to steer towards intellectual mediocrity.





Susan Sontag's dead.



The first time I heard of Sontag was when I read this short story, "The Way We Live Now," for my graduate fiction class. (Read an excerpt here.) It was a metaphor of our communal response to AIDS, and it proved so powerful for me, it seriously affected my own fiction.



She was a Renaissance Woman. She also was a brilliant essayist, iconoclast, activist, filmmaker, and theater director, and she was also a brillianr reader and fictionist. Her fiction soared because it was also replete with provocative ideas. The L.A. Times writes today:



In an interview for the Paris Review, in 1995, Sontag was asked what she thought was the purpose of literature. 'A novel worth reading, she replied, 'is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It's a creator of inwardness.'




Read the rest here.



Later, I would know that she was considered "the most intelligent woman in America." I found that too limiting. She was for me the most intelligent human being in the world, at the height of her glory. I was already reading "On Camp" and On Photography by then and was too awestruck by her brilliance.



The New York Times writes:



"The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic," Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag's, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That's why even if one disagrees with it -- as I did frequently -- it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions."




Read more here. The New York Times has also compiled a compilation of her reviews and essays here.



Thank you, Ms. Sontag, for those questions.



UPDATE: Wood s Lot possibly has the best Susan Sontag archive there is in the Internet. Click here for treasures such as "Notes On Camp," and other essays by and about Sontag and her work.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:28 PM | Sontag's Dead

I can't believe it. Susan Sontag's dead. Here, Naya, is the apex of why this has indeed been a terrible year. Let's not even talk about Iris Chang or Gloria Anzaldua or Nick Joaquin or Jacques Derrida anymore. Death has been merrily picking away some of our most brilliant minds. With Sontag's passing, there's no real course for this world except to steer towards intellectual mediocrity.





Susan Sontag's dead.



The first time I heard of Sontag was when I read this short story, "The Way We Live Now," for my graduate fiction class. (Read an excerpt here.) It was a metaphor of our communal response to AIDS, and it proved so powerful for me, it seriously affected my own fiction.



She was a Renaissance Woman. She also was a brilliant essayist, iconoclast, activist, filmmaker, and theater director, and she was also a brillianr reader and fictionist. Her fiction soared because it was also replete with provocative ideas. The L.A. Times writes today:



In an interview for the Paris Review, in 1995, Sontag was asked what she thought was the purpose of literature. 'A novel worth reading, she replied, 'is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It's a creator of inwardness.'




Read the rest here.



Later, I would know that she was considered "the most intelligent woman in America." I found that too limiting. She was for me the most intelligent human being in the world, at the height of her glory. I was already reading "On Camp" and On Photography by then and was too awestruck by her brilliance.



The New York Times writes:



"The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic," Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag's, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That's why even if one disagrees with it -- as I did frequently -- it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions."




Read more here. The New York Times has also compiled a compilation of her reviews and essays here.



Thank you, Ms. Sontag, for those questions.



UPDATE: Wood s Lot possibly has the best Susan Sontag archive there is in the Internet. Click here for treasures such as "Notes On Camp," and other essays by and about Sontag and her work.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:28 PM | Sontag's Dead

I can't believe it. Susan Sontag's dead. Here, Naya, is the apex of why this has indeed been a terrible year. Let's not even talk about Iris Chang or Gloria Anzaldua or Nick Joaquin or Jacques Derrida anymore. Death has been merrily picking away some of our most brilliant minds. With Sontag's passing, there's no real course for this world except to steer towards intellectual mediocrity.





Susan Sontag's dead.



The first time I heard of Sontag was when I read this short story, "The Way We Live Now," for my graduate fiction class. (Read an excerpt here.) It was a metaphor of our communal response to AIDS, and it proved so powerful for me, it seriously affected my own fiction.



She was a Renaissance Woman. She also was a brilliant essayist, iconoclast, activist, filmmaker, and theater director, and she was also a brillianr reader and fictionist. Her fiction soared because it was also replete with provocative ideas. The L.A. Times writes today:



In an interview for the Paris Review, in 1995, Sontag was asked what she thought was the purpose of literature. 'A novel worth reading, she replied, 'is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It's a creator of inwardness.'




Read the rest here.



Later, I would know that she was considered "the most intelligent woman in America." I found that too limiting. She was for me the most intelligent human being in the world, at the height of her glory. I was already reading "On Camp" and On Photography by then and was too awestruck by her brilliance.



The New York Times writes:



"The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic," Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag's, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That's why even if one disagrees with it -- as I did frequently -- it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions."




Read more here. The New York Times has also compiled a compilation of her reviews and essays here.



Thank you, Ms. Sontag, for those questions.



UPDATE: Wood s Lot possibly has the best Susan Sontag archive there is in the Internet. Click here for treasures such as "Notes On Camp," and other essays by and about Sontag and her work.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:39 AM | Hapit Na ang Bag-ong Tuig...

... mao nang bag-o na sad ang design sa akong blog, dakong pasalamat para kay Michael Kelley, who is extremely talented in making striking, but not ostentatious blogskins. What can I say, I got bored with the old look. And life feels like melting ice lately man gud.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:39 AM | Hapit Na ang Bag-ong Tuig...

... mao nang bag-o na sad ang design sa akong blog, dakong pasalamat para kay Michael Kelley, who is extremely talented in making striking, but not ostentatious blogskins. What can I say, I got bored with the old look. And life feels like melting ice lately man gud.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:39 AM | Hapit Na ang Bag-ong Tuig...

... mao nang bag-o na sad ang design sa akong blog, dakong pasalamat para kay Michael Kelley, who is extremely talented in making striking, but not ostentatious blogskins. What can I say, I got bored with the old look. And life feels like melting ice lately man gud.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, December 28, 2004

entry arrow6:31 PM | Goodbye to Bad Juju

My brother Rey doesn't believe that numbers, or calendar years, have anything to do with anything.



I had told him one night that I was glad 2004 was almost over. "I would love to have the fresh start of 2005," I had said. "If anything, it is an escape from this horrible, horrible year."



"The year, 'ga," he replied with the precision of a knife, "has nothing to do with it. You have what you make of life."



Which is, of course, completely true. But, at that moment, how much too Jean-Paul Sartre of him! How completely, unforgivably Existentialist! That philosophy, if one remembers correctly, seduces everything to a single, deterministic maxim: that we mold or control what eventually happens to us, and that fate -- no matter how romantic the notion may sound -- is as truthful as a wayward horoscope from nowhere. We have wrought what is in the details.



On any ordinary day, I would have agreed with my brother, or with Sartre. Except that I knew, deep within my bones, that this has indeed been a horrible, horrible year. And the numbers 2-0-0-4, like the mark of the beast, had everything to do with it. Someone soon reminded me that this was also the Year of the Monkey, and I thought: "Appropriately so!" The year has indeed monkeyed with so many of us; 2004 has been a time when the irrational has suddenly become what is rational -- and worse, popular; when death, in all its manifestations, has learned to put on a grimly smiling face; when absolutely nothing made sense, like the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's breast, or the reelection of a nincompoop called George W. Bush, who now stares at me from the newsstand as Time Magazine's Man of the Year. (And so, for the rest of you who had sailed through the past twelve months with some fortune, a wink, and a smile, my envy is without limit. Learn to count your blessings.)



I do not, for one, remember being particularly productive this year. It was a year of complete existential sedation, a kind of time-off to become a zombie. Bad things seemed to crop up constantly, and without let-up. There was Yoyong and its other typhoon sisters wrecking havoc. There was the bird-flu, and the scare of SARS. There was the reelection of that imp from Pampanga last May. There were those blatant lies masquerading as election campaign promises, dissipating like thin air once the election was over.



And lives? Lives were dispensable. There were close friends who died needlessly. And now, before the year is even before, close to 21,900 people in Southeast Asia have perished, having glimpsed (perhaps hopefully) of 2005 reckoning only one week away, only to have that promise taken away by 10-meter tsunamis. Twenty-one thousand nine hundred people as of last count as this article goes to press. That's a lot of people dead in one sweep.



We have learned to mourn quite well.



Ask those who love Fernando Poe Jr., whose passing for many is still quite a shock. Ask those who mourn House Speaker Jose De Venecia's daughter, or Dolphy's grandson. Ask those who miss the visual stylings of artist Pacita Abad, who, even with a body ravaged by cancer, still took to her last commission -- painting a Singapore bridge -- like a trooper, and oversaw its completion to her last breath. Ask those who sing of composer George Canseco Jr. Ask those who still cannot believe the passing of seeming immortals like Nick Joaquin and Wilfrido Nolledo. Philippine literature has lost its grand masters.



Those who gave us the world as seen through their legendary lenses -- Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton -- have clicked away their last roll of film. Marlon Brando, our quintessential actor, has gone after our Superman, Christopher Reeve. And the Gipper, Ronald Reagan. And the soul keeper, Ray Charles. And the Reality TV queen who started it all, Mary Ellis Bunim. And the witty Spalding Gray. And scream queen Janet Leigh. And deconstruction guru Jacques Derrida. And food maven Julia Child. And Hong Kong pop tart Anita Mui. And boob king Russ Meyer. And make-up guru Estee Lauder. And everyone's controversial freedom fighter Yasser Arafat. Not even Francis Crick, who co-discovered the helix design of the human DNA, could thwart death's eventual designs. So many people dead.



What more can one say about dreadful 2004? CNN's Todd Leopold asks himself the same question in recalling a year that, for him, was a crazy collection of a "booby-trapped" 12 months. I quote some excerpts:



"What can you say about 2004? What can you say about a year that spent more time and indignation on a 38-year-old pop singer's accidentally exposed right breast than the vapidly violent dance routine, erection ads, capitalistic orgy (and football game) that surrounded it?



"What can you say about a year in which the two most talked-about movies of the year-and two of its biggest box office hits-were a violent film about a man of peace [The Passion of the Christ] and an effectively manipulative polemic about a president at war [Fahrenheit 9/11]? ... What can you say about a year that made a self-aggrandizing, strangely hair-styled tycoon with an edifice complex into a TV star [Donald Trump], and put the queen of domesticity behind bars [Martha Stewart]? ... What can you say about a year that featured Britney Spears getting married more times than Jennifer Lopez? ... What can you say about a year in which 'moral values' was revealed as some kind of bellwether, yet put How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on the best-seller list, made a cleverly soapy show about Desperate Housewives its breakout [TV] hit, and can't seem to get past a pop star's breast-revealing finale?



"I can't think of anything."



Neither can I. From so much bad juju in one freaky year.



Thus, I offer you this submission to an exorcism of sorts: a ritual to usher in a hopefully better year. Not a resolution, no. Just a checklist to summon some good metaphysical spring-cleaning of the soul.



Finish everything from this old, haggard year before the New Year even starts.



Clean the house, and make sure the laundry is out.



Turn off the TV.



Buy flowers.



Tell your mom you love her, and give dad a hug.



Apologize. To whom? To anybody you owe it to.



And try to stop buying all those pirated DVDs.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:31 PM | Goodbye to Bad Juju

My brother Rey doesn't believe that numbers, or calendar years, have anything to do with anything.



I had told him one night that I was glad 2004 was almost over. "I would love to have the fresh start of 2005," I had said. "If anything, it is an escape from this horrible, horrible year."



"The year, 'ga," he replied with the precision of a knife, "has nothing to do with it. You have what you make of life."



Which is, of course, completely true. But, at that moment, how much too Jean-Paul Sartre of him! How completely, unforgivably Existentialist! That philosophy, if one remembers correctly, seduces everything to a single, deterministic maxim: that we mold or control what eventually happens to us, and that fate -- no matter how romantic the notion may sound -- is as truthful as a wayward horoscope from nowhere. We have wrought what is in the details.



On any ordinary day, I would have agreed with my brother, or with Sartre. Except that I knew, deep within my bones, that this has indeed been a horrible, horrible year. And the numbers 2-0-0-4, like the mark of the beast, had everything to do with it. Someone soon reminded me that this was also the Year of the Monkey, and I thought: "Appropriately so!" The year has indeed monkeyed with so many of us; 2004 has been a time when the irrational has suddenly become what is rational -- and worse, popular; when death, in all its manifestations, has learned to put on a grimly smiling face; when absolutely nothing made sense, like the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's breast, or the reelection of a nincompoop called George W. Bush, who now stares at me from the newsstand as Time Magazine's Man of the Year. (And so, for the rest of you who had sailed through the past twelve months with some fortune, a wink, and a smile, my envy is without limit. Learn to count your blessings.)



I do not, for one, remember being particularly productive this year. It was a year of complete existential sedation, a kind of time-off to become a zombie. Bad things seemed to crop up constantly, and without let-up. There was Yoyong and its other typhoon sisters wrecking havoc. There was the bird-flu, and the scare of SARS. There was the reelection of that imp from Pampanga last May. There were those blatant lies masquerading as election campaign promises, dissipating like thin air once the election was over.



And lives? Lives were dispensable. There were close friends who died needlessly. And now, before the year is even before, close to 21,900 people in Southeast Asia have perished, having glimpsed (perhaps hopefully) of 2005 reckoning only one week away, only to have that promise taken away by 10-meter tsunamis. Twenty-one thousand nine hundred people as of last count as this article goes to press. That's a lot of people dead in one sweep.



We have learned to mourn quite well.



Ask those who love Fernando Poe Jr., whose passing for many is still quite a shock. Ask those who mourn House Speaker Jose De Venecia's daughter, or Dolphy's grandson. Ask those who miss the visual stylings of artist Pacita Abad, who, even with a body ravaged by cancer, still took to her last commission -- painting a Singapore bridge -- like a trooper, and oversaw its completion to her last breath. Ask those who sing of composer George Canseco Jr. Ask those who still cannot believe the passing of seeming immortals like Nick Joaquin and Wilfrido Nolledo. Philippine literature has lost its grand masters.



Those who gave us the world as seen through their legendary lenses -- Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton -- have clicked away their last roll of film. Marlon Brando, our quintessential actor, has gone after our Superman, Christopher Reeve. And the Gipper, Ronald Reagan. And the soul keeper, Ray Charles. And the Reality TV queen who started it all, Mary Ellis Bunim. And the witty Spalding Gray. And scream queen Janet Leigh. And deconstruction guru Jacques Derrida. And food maven Julia Child. And Hong Kong pop tart Anita Mui. And boob king Russ Meyer. And make-up guru Estee Lauder. And everyone's controversial freedom fighter Yasser Arafat. Not even Francis Crick, who co-discovered the helix design of the human DNA, could thwart death's eventual designs. So many people dead.



What more can one say about dreadful 2004? CNN's Todd Leopold asks himself the same question in recalling a year that, for him, was a crazy collection of a "booby-trapped" 12 months. I quote some excerpts:



"What can you say about 2004? What can you say about a year that spent more time and indignation on a 38-year-old pop singer's accidentally exposed right breast than the vapidly violent dance routine, erection ads, capitalistic orgy (and football game) that surrounded it?



"What can you say about a year in which the two most talked-about movies of the year-and two of its biggest box office hits-were a violent film about a man of peace [The Passion of the Christ] and an effectively manipulative polemic about a president at war [Fahrenheit 9/11]? ... What can you say about a year that made a self-aggrandizing, strangely hair-styled tycoon with an edifice complex into a TV star [Donald Trump], and put the queen of domesticity behind bars [Martha Stewart]? ... What can you say about a year that featured Britney Spears getting married more times than Jennifer Lopez? ... What can you say about a year in which 'moral values' was revealed as some kind of bellwether, yet put How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on the best-seller list, made a cleverly soapy show about Desperate Housewives its breakout [TV] hit, and can't seem to get past a pop star's breast-revealing finale?



"I can't think of anything."



Neither can I. From so much bad juju in one freaky year.



Thus, I offer you this submission to an exorcism of sorts: a ritual to usher in a hopefully better year. Not a resolution, no. Just a checklist to summon some good metaphysical spring-cleaning of the soul.



Finish everything from this old, haggard year before the New Year even starts.



Clean the house, and make sure the laundry is out.



Turn off the TV.



Buy flowers.



Tell your mom you love her, and give dad a hug.



Apologize. To whom? To anybody you owe it to.



And try to stop buying all those pirated DVDs.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow6:31 PM | Goodbye to Bad Juju

My brother Rey doesn't believe that numbers, or calendar years, have anything to do with anything.



I had told him one night that I was glad 2004 was almost over. "I would love to have the fresh start of 2005," I had said. "If anything, it is an escape from this horrible, horrible year."



"The year, 'ga," he replied with the precision of a knife, "has nothing to do with it. You have what you make of life."



Which is, of course, completely true. But, at that moment, how much too Jean-Paul Sartre of him! How completely, unforgivably Existentialist! That philosophy, if one remembers correctly, seduces everything to a single, deterministic maxim: that we mold or control what eventually happens to us, and that fate -- no matter how romantic the notion may sound -- is as truthful as a wayward horoscope from nowhere. We have wrought what is in the details.



On any ordinary day, I would have agreed with my brother, or with Sartre. Except that I knew, deep within my bones, that this has indeed been a horrible, horrible year. And the numbers 2-0-0-4, like the mark of the beast, had everything to do with it. Someone soon reminded me that this was also the Year of the Monkey, and I thought: "Appropriately so!" The year has indeed monkeyed with so many of us; 2004 has been a time when the irrational has suddenly become what is rational -- and worse, popular; when death, in all its manifestations, has learned to put on a grimly smiling face; when absolutely nothing made sense, like the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's breast, or the reelection of a nincompoop called George W. Bush, who now stares at me from the newsstand as Time Magazine's Man of the Year. (And so, for the rest of you who had sailed through the past twelve months with some fortune, a wink, and a smile, my envy is without limit. Learn to count your blessings.)



I do not, for one, remember being particularly productive this year. It was a year of complete existential sedation, a kind of time-off to become a zombie. Bad things seemed to crop up constantly, and without let-up. There was Yoyong and its other typhoon sisters wrecking havoc. There was the bird-flu, and the scare of SARS. There was the reelection of that imp from Pampanga last May. There were those blatant lies masquerading as election campaign promises, dissipating like thin air once the election was over.



And lives? Lives were dispensable. There were close friends who died needlessly. And now, before the year is even before, close to 21,900 people in Southeast Asia have perished, having glimpsed (perhaps hopefully) of 2005 reckoning only one week away, only to have that promise taken away by 10-meter tsunamis. Twenty-one thousand nine hundred people as of last count as this article goes to press. That's a lot of people dead in one sweep.



We have learned to mourn quite well.



Ask those who love Fernando Poe Jr., whose passing for many is still quite a shock. Ask those who mourn House Speaker Jose De Venecia's daughter, or Dolphy's grandson. Ask those who miss the visual stylings of artist Pacita Abad, who, even with a body ravaged by cancer, still took to her last commission -- painting a Singapore bridge -- like a trooper, and oversaw its completion to her last breath. Ask those who sing of composer George Canseco Jr. Ask those who still cannot believe the passing of seeming immortals like Nick Joaquin and Wilfrido Nolledo. Philippine literature has lost its grand masters.



Those who gave us the world as seen through their legendary lenses -- Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton -- have clicked away their last roll of film. Marlon Brando, our quintessential actor, has gone after our Superman, Christopher Reeve. And the Gipper, Ronald Reagan. And the soul keeper, Ray Charles. And the Reality TV queen who started it all, Mary Ellis Bunim. And the witty Spalding Gray. And scream queen Janet Leigh. And deconstruction guru Jacques Derrida. And food maven Julia Child. And Hong Kong pop tart Anita Mui. And boob king Russ Meyer. And make-up guru Estee Lauder. And everyone's controversial freedom fighter Yasser Arafat. Not even Francis Crick, who co-discovered the helix design of the human DNA, could thwart death's eventual designs. So many people dead.



What more can one say about dreadful 2004? CNN's Todd Leopold asks himself the same question in recalling a year that, for him, was a crazy collection of a "booby-trapped" 12 months. I quote some excerpts:



"What can you say about 2004? What can you say about a year that spent more time and indignation on a 38-year-old pop singer's accidentally exposed right breast than the vapidly violent dance routine, erection ads, capitalistic orgy (and football game) that surrounded it?



"What can you say about a year in which the two most talked-about movies of the year-and two of its biggest box office hits-were a violent film about a man of peace [The Passion of the Christ] and an effectively manipulative polemic about a president at war [Fahrenheit 9/11]? ... What can you say about a year that made a self-aggrandizing, strangely hair-styled tycoon with an edifice complex into a TV star [Donald Trump], and put the queen of domesticity behind bars [Martha Stewart]? ... What can you say about a year that featured Britney Spears getting married more times than Jennifer Lopez? ... What can you say about a year in which 'moral values' was revealed as some kind of bellwether, yet put How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on the best-seller list, made a cleverly soapy show about Desperate Housewives its breakout [TV] hit, and can't seem to get past a pop star's breast-revealing finale?



"I can't think of anything."



Neither can I. From so much bad juju in one freaky year.



Thus, I offer you this submission to an exorcism of sorts: a ritual to usher in a hopefully better year. Not a resolution, no. Just a checklist to summon some good metaphysical spring-cleaning of the soul.



Finish everything from this old, haggard year before the New Year even starts.



Clean the house, and make sure the laundry is out.



Turn off the TV.



Buy flowers.



Tell your mom you love her, and give dad a hug.



Apologize. To whom? To anybody you owe it to.



And try to stop buying all those pirated DVDs.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, December 26, 2004

entry arrow1:06 AM | Sad

My baby is in Jimalalud for his father's first death anniversary. And I miss him terribly. Oh, well. Am just going to sleep now...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:06 AM | Sad

My baby is in Jimalalud for his father's first death anniversary. And I miss him terribly. Oh, well. Am just going to sleep now...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:06 AM | Sad

My baby is in Jimalalud for his father's first death anniversary. And I miss him terribly. Oh, well. Am just going to sleep now...


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, December 25, 2004

entry arrow11:20 PM | Here's a Wish...





Merry Christmas, one and all!




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:20 PM | Here's a Wish...





Merry Christmas, one and all!




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:20 PM | Here's a Wish...





Merry Christmas, one and all!




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:19 PM | A Small Christmas

Of course, Virginia. There is no Santa Claus.



You soon grow up, you see. It is not a bad thing, this revelation -- but it is sad: it is, after all, a kind of mortality for Wonder. This is the very moment when you begin to see the world with completely different eyes. The world begins to shrink, and you begin the subtle process of coping with so much that holds this unexpected gravity. You will call it adolescence. You soon learn the various "truths" behind the fervent holiday myth-making, among other things. You are about nine years old now, or ten, maybe even eight; and you suspect things are really not what the adults tell you they are.



When your mother reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, for example, you ask her about flying reindeers and the North Pole and chimneys. Sheer improbabilities in the tropical world you know.



"Teacher says we have, umm, gravity, Mama, and that the North Pole is very, very cold. And we have no chimneys, Mama," you tell her. You don't know anybody in Dumaguete who has a chimney.



"How can Santa give me presents if we don't have a chimney, Mama?"



She shusses you gently, and tells you Santa does not like questions like that. Questions like that are "naughty," she says. "And remember that Christmas song 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'?"



You nod, and she prods you to sing it with her, "You better watch out, you better not cry... You better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town."



You grow up. If you are like the rest of us, you will soon laugh it all away as a wonderful confection -- a silly, innocent joke -- but also with this deep knowing that the tale is something steeped in delicious sincerity and sacred tradition. You know you will share the same stories when you have children of your own. Santa Clauses, you begin to realize, take on semiotics of holiday cheer: he is part of a grammar that socializes us all into a society that needs such myths to sustain itself. Santa is no different from the mumo hiding in the dark, an instrument of instilling fear, yes, but also a means to quick discipline. Santa is shorthand for delivering quick, expectant joy, and the signifier of all Christmas stories rolled into one.



You grow up. And Christmas, of course, is forever changed for you -- if still hopeful, just because. Soon it will no longer be about presents and Santa Clauses. You learn to put in their stead the importance of family gatherings, the calendar-mandated State of Joy.



You grow up.



And then, sometime in your adult life, when you are about thirty, you also begin to tango with another doubt about the meaning of all these. You have coasted similar misgivings before. In college, you have learned to spout rhetoric: "Christmas is mere invention to sustain capitalist ends. It is blatant commercialism!" You sounded so deep, so intelligent, so romantically anti-Establishment; but that didn't stop you from buying your manita her Christmas gift.



Sometimes, you remember those other moods, too, especially the spiritual ones: "Remember Christ in Christmas," you tell everybody. It is an earnest, wonderful certainty, complete with acts of waking up nine mornings straight to attend Simbang Gabi. Sometimes, you gurgle with such delight, volunteering to tell the Christmas story to a bunch of needy kids, or soliciting white gifts for the homeless. "Remember Christ in Christmas," but that didn't stop you from secretly pouting when all you got from your manito was a damn pair of cheap, white socks.



What is the meaning of all these? You look back, and the Christmases past seem so much more glorious, so much more meaningful, and so much more rendered in joyful colors. The noche buenas then seemed more bountiful, the reunions more congenial, the joy infinite. The Christmas trees in the past seemed taller, the fireworks seemed more deafening. This Christmas is too hot, you might think. When I was younger, I remember wearing sweaters this time of the year.



What happened? Have we lost the capacity to celebrate? Is this really Krisis-mas? But perhaps it is the pregnancy of all these expectations of joy. It is so high, that all efforts become a recipe for disappointment. And then you soon gripe for having not met expectation, and you hate yourself for it. It is a vicious cycle.



Then, of course, you finally begin to believe in the certainty that, whether you like it or not, Christmas is something for children. For them, it is pure, uncontaminated by adult wants. But this is a slow realization, and getting there is burdened by our efforts to exert impossible semblances of childhood happiness even to our living the graying years. Sooner or later, much of our exertions lose meaning despite our good intentions and sincere expectations.



Now, tell yourself this: Christmas will never be the same as it was when you were nine and Christmas trees were majestic in their tall greenness and their burden of tinsels and gifts.



Because, somehow, we lose that ability to see as a nine year old might: all the world an innocent, sprawling landscape of possibilities, and everything in it equally big, equally awesome, equally grandiose. That's why our memories are always big and grand and somehow adventurously intimidating -- but the confronting reality a let-down. It is the same metaphysics that dictate when you return to your old elementary school, and everything has shrunk. We grew up.



One truth, I think, becomes this: it is okay to embrace the smallness of festivities. It is the adult way to be. Take it from a Judy Garland song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. And let your heart be light.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:19 PM | A Small Christmas

Of course, Virginia. There is no Santa Claus.



You soon grow up, you see. It is not a bad thing, this revelation -- but it is sad: it is, after all, a kind of mortality for Wonder. This is the very moment when you begin to see the world with completely different eyes. The world begins to shrink, and you begin the subtle process of coping with so much that holds this unexpected gravity. You will call it adolescence. You soon learn the various "truths" behind the fervent holiday myth-making, among other things. You are about nine years old now, or ten, maybe even eight; and you suspect things are really not what the adults tell you they are.



When your mother reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, for example, you ask her about flying reindeers and the North Pole and chimneys. Sheer improbabilities in the tropical world you know.



"Teacher says we have, umm, gravity, Mama, and that the North Pole is very, very cold. And we have no chimneys, Mama," you tell her. You don't know anybody in Dumaguete who has a chimney.



"How can Santa give me presents if we don't have a chimney, Mama?"



She shusses you gently, and tells you Santa does not like questions like that. Questions like that are "naughty," she says. "And remember that Christmas song 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'?"



You nod, and she prods you to sing it with her, "You better watch out, you better not cry... You better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town."



You grow up. If you are like the rest of us, you will soon laugh it all away as a wonderful confection -- a silly, innocent joke -- but also with this deep knowing that the tale is something steeped in delicious sincerity and sacred tradition. You know you will share the same stories when you have children of your own. Santa Clauses, you begin to realize, take on semiotics of holiday cheer: he is part of a grammar that socializes us all into a society that needs such myths to sustain itself. Santa is no different from the mumo hiding in the dark, an instrument of instilling fear, yes, but also a means to quick discipline. Santa is shorthand for delivering quick, expectant joy, and the signifier of all Christmas stories rolled into one.



You grow up. And Christmas, of course, is forever changed for you -- if still hopeful, just because. Soon it will no longer be about presents and Santa Clauses. You learn to put in their stead the importance of family gatherings, the calendar-mandated State of Joy.



You grow up.



And then, sometime in your adult life, when you are about thirty, you also begin to tango with another doubt about the meaning of all these. You have coasted similar misgivings before. In college, you have learned to spout rhetoric: "Christmas is mere invention to sustain capitalist ends. It is blatant commercialism!" You sounded so deep, so intelligent, so romantically anti-Establishment; but that didn't stop you from buying your manita her Christmas gift.



Sometimes, you remember those other moods, too, especially the spiritual ones: "Remember Christ in Christmas," you tell everybody. It is an earnest, wonderful certainty, complete with acts of waking up nine mornings straight to attend Simbang Gabi. Sometimes, you gurgle with such delight, volunteering to tell the Christmas story to a bunch of needy kids, or soliciting white gifts for the homeless. "Remember Christ in Christmas," but that didn't stop you from secretly pouting when all you got from your manito was a damn pair of cheap, white socks.



What is the meaning of all these? You look back, and the Christmases past seem so much more glorious, so much more meaningful, and so much more rendered in joyful colors. The noche buenas then seemed more bountiful, the reunions more congenial, the joy infinite. The Christmas trees in the past seemed taller, the fireworks seemed more deafening. This Christmas is too hot, you might think. When I was younger, I remember wearing sweaters this time of the year.



What happened? Have we lost the capacity to celebrate? Is this really Krisis-mas? But perhaps it is the pregnancy of all these expectations of joy. It is so high, that all efforts become a recipe for disappointment. And then you soon gripe for having not met expectation, and you hate yourself for it. It is a vicious cycle.



Then, of course, you finally begin to believe in the certainty that, whether you like it or not, Christmas is something for children. For them, it is pure, uncontaminated by adult wants. But this is a slow realization, and getting there is burdened by our efforts to exert impossible semblances of childhood happiness even to our living the graying years. Sooner or later, much of our exertions lose meaning despite our good intentions and sincere expectations.



Now, tell yourself this: Christmas will never be the same as it was when you were nine and Christmas trees were majestic in their tall greenness and their burden of tinsels and gifts.



Because, somehow, we lose that ability to see as a nine year old might: all the world an innocent, sprawling landscape of possibilities, and everything in it equally big, equally awesome, equally grandiose. That's why our memories are always big and grand and somehow adventurously intimidating -- but the confronting reality a let-down. It is the same metaphysics that dictate when you return to your old elementary school, and everything has shrunk. We grew up.



One truth, I think, becomes this: it is okay to embrace the smallness of festivities. It is the adult way to be. Take it from a Judy Garland song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. And let your heart be light.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:19 PM | A Small Christmas

Of course, Virginia. There is no Santa Claus.



You soon grow up, you see. It is not a bad thing, this revelation -- but it is sad: it is, after all, a kind of mortality for Wonder. This is the very moment when you begin to see the world with completely different eyes. The world begins to shrink, and you begin the subtle process of coping with so much that holds this unexpected gravity. You will call it adolescence. You soon learn the various "truths" behind the fervent holiday myth-making, among other things. You are about nine years old now, or ten, maybe even eight; and you suspect things are really not what the adults tell you they are.



When your mother reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, for example, you ask her about flying reindeers and the North Pole and chimneys. Sheer improbabilities in the tropical world you know.



"Teacher says we have, umm, gravity, Mama, and that the North Pole is very, very cold. And we have no chimneys, Mama," you tell her. You don't know anybody in Dumaguete who has a chimney.



"How can Santa give me presents if we don't have a chimney, Mama?"



She shusses you gently, and tells you Santa does not like questions like that. Questions like that are "naughty," she says. "And remember that Christmas song 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'?"



You nod, and she prods you to sing it with her, "You better watch out, you better not cry... You better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town."



You grow up. If you are like the rest of us, you will soon laugh it all away as a wonderful confection -- a silly, innocent joke -- but also with this deep knowing that the tale is something steeped in delicious sincerity and sacred tradition. You know you will share the same stories when you have children of your own. Santa Clauses, you begin to realize, take on semiotics of holiday cheer: he is part of a grammar that socializes us all into a society that needs such myths to sustain itself. Santa is no different from the mumo hiding in the dark, an instrument of instilling fear, yes, but also a means to quick discipline. Santa is shorthand for delivering quick, expectant joy, and the signifier of all Christmas stories rolled into one.



You grow up. And Christmas, of course, is forever changed for you -- if still hopeful, just because. Soon it will no longer be about presents and Santa Clauses. You learn to put in their stead the importance of family gatherings, the calendar-mandated State of Joy.



You grow up.



And then, sometime in your adult life, when you are about thirty, you also begin to tango with another doubt about the meaning of all these. You have coasted similar misgivings before. In college, you have learned to spout rhetoric: "Christmas is mere invention to sustain capitalist ends. It is blatant commercialism!" You sounded so deep, so intelligent, so romantically anti-Establishment; but that didn't stop you from buying your manita her Christmas gift.



Sometimes, you remember those other moods, too, especially the spiritual ones: "Remember Christ in Christmas," you tell everybody. It is an earnest, wonderful certainty, complete with acts of waking up nine mornings straight to attend Simbang Gabi. Sometimes, you gurgle with such delight, volunteering to tell the Christmas story to a bunch of needy kids, or soliciting white gifts for the homeless. "Remember Christ in Christmas," but that didn't stop you from secretly pouting when all you got from your manito was a damn pair of cheap, white socks.



What is the meaning of all these? You look back, and the Christmases past seem so much more glorious, so much more meaningful, and so much more rendered in joyful colors. The noche buenas then seemed more bountiful, the reunions more congenial, the joy infinite. The Christmas trees in the past seemed taller, the fireworks seemed more deafening. This Christmas is too hot, you might think. When I was younger, I remember wearing sweaters this time of the year.



What happened? Have we lost the capacity to celebrate? Is this really Krisis-mas? But perhaps it is the pregnancy of all these expectations of joy. It is so high, that all efforts become a recipe for disappointment. And then you soon gripe for having not met expectation, and you hate yourself for it. It is a vicious cycle.



Then, of course, you finally begin to believe in the certainty that, whether you like it or not, Christmas is something for children. For them, it is pure, uncontaminated by adult wants. But this is a slow realization, and getting there is burdened by our efforts to exert impossible semblances of childhood happiness even to our living the graying years. Sooner or later, much of our exertions lose meaning despite our good intentions and sincere expectations.



Now, tell yourself this: Christmas will never be the same as it was when you were nine and Christmas trees were majestic in their tall greenness and their burden of tinsels and gifts.



Because, somehow, we lose that ability to see as a nine year old might: all the world an innocent, sprawling landscape of possibilities, and everything in it equally big, equally awesome, equally grandiose. That's why our memories are always big and grand and somehow adventurously intimidating -- but the confronting reality a let-down. It is the same metaphysics that dictate when you return to your old elementary school, and everything has shrunk. We grew up.



One truth, I think, becomes this: it is okay to embrace the smallness of festivities. It is the adult way to be. Take it from a Judy Garland song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. And let your heart be light.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, December 21, 2004

entry arrow4:38 PM | Something Crispy for a Birthday Girl

For my darling Kristyn in Australia...





You're right. Yum, yum... Merry Christmas, and a Happy Birthday! Hehehehe...




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:38 PM | Something Crispy for a Birthday Girl

For my darling Kristyn in Australia...





You're right. Yum, yum... Merry Christmas, and a Happy Birthday! Hehehehe...




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow4:38 PM | Something Crispy for a Birthday Girl

For my darling Kristyn in Australia...





You're right. Yum, yum... Merry Christmas, and a Happy Birthday! Hehehehe...




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:31 PM | Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have no idea what to post about this week, and about Christmas, too: my lechon-laden head does not spring with writerly impulses this time of the year. It is much too busy calculating the gifts still to be bought, and what to wear for another day that's rainy one moment and sunny the next, considering a wardrobe that basically accommodates only an abundance of sun. So I'll write, stream-of-consciousness style, about the first Christmas image that pops into my head.



Fruit cake.



I don't get fruit cake at all, or why people insist on giving them out as Christmas gifts. When did this become a tradition? Naglihi ba si Maria sa fruit cake? ("Joseph," she probably said, pregnant and bored waiting for the Star of Bethlehem to shine on her stable, "Joseph, be a dear and take the donkey. I want some ... fruit cake.") Often they come in the most dazzling of wrappers, and one year I received one enclosed in the cutest little wooden box tied up with red, green, and gold ribbons. I kept the box and threw away the cake, but not before I told the giver, "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" and did the beso-beso tango. But really now, can't anyone just be the normal unimaginative gift-giver and give out handkerchiefs or wallets or ties instead? Or books. Any book would do just fine.



Fruit cake. Sliced, their brown crumbly presence betrays tidbits of unrecalled fruit-meat, and all I can really think of in comparison is bad meatloaf, just add the tangy flavor and the smell and taste of liquor. Fruit cake is the Filipino eggnog.



Christmas for me, I think, begun with fruit cake this year -- my mother calling me up one silent, holy night, and saying she was sending over some batches she got from her sister in Canada. "Please, don't," I frantically said, "I don't have a refrigerator in my pad, and the ants are quite ferocious here."



"So eat them as soon as you receive them," she said.



"Ma, I'm on a diet."



"Nobody in their right mind diets on the holidays. It's stupid. Anyway, I'm sending you some." Nobody argues with fruitcake-giving mothers on Christmas.



I ate one or two slices, each piece sliding into my throat like lead. Later, I gave one batch to a friend. "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" she said, squealing just too nicely, then gave me the beso-beso tango.



Fruit cakes.



But when did Christmas really begin for me this year? That is a little hard to answer, since I am the type of guy who insists on playing Christmas songs in July, just because I can. My CD players blares out Amy Grant singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" much too-early in the year. And when I do feel a bit depressed, there's always her cover version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," which is probably the saddest, sweetest Christmas song there is. I listen to the lyrics and cry like a nut. In July.



Or perhaps Christmas began when I first heard a Dumaguete store play Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song" (or Carol Burnett, or Ray Conniff, or Andy Williams, or Mahalia Jackson...) at the start of the Ber months? Or when I first spied a Christmas window display? Or when the first public decorations came creeping into our consciousness?



Or when I went to Dr. Rico Absin's annual Christmas dinner last Wednesday to ogle at the lights, eat the "best of Negros cuisine," and listen to Luis Alandy warble a version of "Pasko Na Sinta Ko"? Thank God, it didn't rain that night. I was talking to Patrick Chua, my dentist friend, who was sitting beside Moe Atega as some feeling-diva of a fat guy (three costume changes in all!) hostaged us all with a spattering of new age tenor-rific songs and uncalled for Broadway melodies. Otherwise, it was a beautiful evening.



"This is overkill," says Dr. M.



"I tell you, this is death not by boredom but by Josh Groban."



"You know, if a terrorist drops a bomb right here and now, there would be no doctors left in the city."



"Or most professionals," P. said. "Or most Katsila."



"Jesus, I didn't know Dumaguete can be social pala."



"Are we having a good time ba?"



"I think so. Are we?"



"Maybe we can go to the kitchen to see if there's wine."



"I don't want to go. There's a dancing Santa in the living room. He scares me."



"Oh, look, the diva's finished singing."



"Okay."



It is a cold December, a freak of recent memory.



Outside, the cold batters the asphalt roads and the skies are in turns slate-gray and blue, subverting what we would otherwise have called the holiday "festivities." Sometimes it takes a little convincing of ourselves to believe in that last word -- "festivities" -- when all we really want to do is sleep and surrender to the chill.



True, we still breathe and move, and our Christmas trees are already out and overburdened with tinsels. Our Christmas lights are in place in their niches all over our house-beams and walls, or perhaps all over our lawn trees. Our mothers or wives, too, have finished their plans for noche buena -- and have detailed the battle sketches to combat the mob in the supermarket.



The ingredients for the holidays are in place, indeed -- but festive?



No, sleepy.



We do not seek to venture out as much, except perhaps to buy those darn "exchange gifts" for some generic Christmas parties. And so we trudge through the puddles and the mud to jostle our way inside Lee Super Plaza or Cang's, and spend some holiday cheer waiting in line -- forever -- for the simplest purchases, or for gift-wrapping services. Our patience runs thin as Bing Crosby sings "I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas" in the store's PA system.



In parties, too, we ban our diets and gym priorities, and take in the ultimate truth: 4,000 calories on the average for the entire Christmas season, not counting the 3,000 for New Year. Our girths are happy.



Or perhaps all these just might as well: the cold has certainly banished those annual Christmas beggars from pounding our doors searching for answers to their calls of "Mamasko mi," as if holiday generosity is easy to dispense. (It's not.) The other year, my mother insisted on giving out used clothes to The Knockers (how we called these people), instead of money. Later in the day, she found her bag of rummage all over the garbage can down the road. Also, I had my last out-of-tune child carolers from three days ago (when the sun broke through for a while), and they had given me, ambush-style (and just as I was preparing to go out and buy another blueberry cheesecake for another Christmas party), that now-traditional rendition of "Jingle Bells," the lyrics murdered, and with tansan percussion in place of musical accompaniment. Oh lordy, lordy.



There is no escape save for the cold. Cold is salvation, no matter the lethargy it brings. The bed has now become my faithful companion, and to snuggle under our heavy blankets has become the mission for the day. Everyday. It's really cold. And yet somehow it is also a cause for rejoicing.



It has been such a long time since I've felt a chill for the Christmas season. In recent years, what we've had was summer carried over to the last month of the year. Last year, I wrote in this space that "we wake up to these December days, and still feel April or May: the sun's still too hot -- where is winter solstice when you need it most? -- and no amount of Christmas songs from the CD player can create the kind of cool Christmas of nostalgia. I remember thicker clothes and sweaters and the welcome chill of December nights. These days I still parade publicly in my shorts. My dream Santa now wears a red Hawaiian shirt and puruntong. It doesn't look good."



This time, Santa's back in his red, fur-trimmed suit. And I now get to wear my cold weather wardrobe -- something I haven't done for a very long time. Rainy season weather is quite fashionable. You wear your best boots and your best long-sleeved shirts and your best jackets, with your best black umbrella. So Giorgio Armani, tropics-style.



It's Christmas. Might as well dress to the nines. Did I begin with fruit cake?




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:31 PM | Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have no idea what to post about this week, and about Christmas, too: my lechon-laden head does not spring with writerly impulses this time of the year. It is much too busy calculating the gifts still to be bought, and what to wear for another day that's rainy one moment and sunny the next, considering a wardrobe that basically accommodates only an abundance of sun. So I'll write, stream-of-consciousness style, about the first Christmas image that pops into my head.



Fruit cake.



I don't get fruit cake at all, or why people insist on giving them out as Christmas gifts. When did this become a tradition? Naglihi ba si Maria sa fruit cake? ("Joseph," she probably said, pregnant and bored waiting for the Star of Bethlehem to shine on her stable, "Joseph, be a dear and take the donkey. I want some ... fruit cake.") Often they come in the most dazzling of wrappers, and one year I received one enclosed in the cutest little wooden box tied up with red, green, and gold ribbons. I kept the box and threw away the cake, but not before I told the giver, "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" and did the beso-beso tango. But really now, can't anyone just be the normal unimaginative gift-giver and give out handkerchiefs or wallets or ties instead? Or books. Any book would do just fine.



Fruit cake. Sliced, their brown crumbly presence betrays tidbits of unrecalled fruit-meat, and all I can really think of in comparison is bad meatloaf, just add the tangy flavor and the smell and taste of liquor. Fruit cake is the Filipino eggnog.



Christmas for me, I think, begun with fruit cake this year -- my mother calling me up one silent, holy night, and saying she was sending over some batches she got from her sister in Canada. "Please, don't," I frantically said, "I don't have a refrigerator in my pad, and the ants are quite ferocious here."



"So eat them as soon as you receive them," she said.



"Ma, I'm on a diet."



"Nobody in their right mind diets on the holidays. It's stupid. Anyway, I'm sending you some." Nobody argues with fruitcake-giving mothers on Christmas.



I ate one or two slices, each piece sliding into my throat like lead. Later, I gave one batch to a friend. "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" she said, squealing just too nicely, then gave me the beso-beso tango.



Fruit cakes.



But when did Christmas really begin for me this year? That is a little hard to answer, since I am the type of guy who insists on playing Christmas songs in July, just because I can. My CD players blares out Amy Grant singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" much too-early in the year. And when I do feel a bit depressed, there's always her cover version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," which is probably the saddest, sweetest Christmas song there is. I listen to the lyrics and cry like a nut. In July.



Or perhaps Christmas began when I first heard a Dumaguete store play Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song" (or Carol Burnett, or Ray Conniff, or Andy Williams, or Mahalia Jackson...) at the start of the Ber months? Or when I first spied a Christmas window display? Or when the first public decorations came creeping into our consciousness?



Or when I went to Dr. Rico Absin's annual Christmas dinner last Wednesday to ogle at the lights, eat the "best of Negros cuisine," and listen to Luis Alandy warble a version of "Pasko Na Sinta Ko"? Thank God, it didn't rain that night. I was talking to Patrick Chua, my dentist friend, who was sitting beside Moe Atega as some feeling-diva of a fat guy (three costume changes in all!) hostaged us all with a spattering of new age tenor-rific songs and uncalled for Broadway melodies. Otherwise, it was a beautiful evening.



"This is overkill," says Dr. M.



"I tell you, this is death not by boredom but by Josh Groban."



"You know, if a terrorist drops a bomb right here and now, there would be no doctors left in the city."



"Or most professionals," P. said. "Or most Katsila."



"Jesus, I didn't know Dumaguete can be social pala."



"Are we having a good time ba?"



"I think so. Are we?"



"Maybe we can go to the kitchen to see if there's wine."



"I don't want to go. There's a dancing Santa in the living room. He scares me."



"Oh, look, the diva's finished singing."



"Okay."



It is a cold December, a freak of recent memory.



Outside, the cold batters the asphalt roads and the skies are in turns slate-gray and blue, subverting what we would otherwise have called the holiday "festivities." Sometimes it takes a little convincing of ourselves to believe in that last word -- "festivities" -- when all we really want to do is sleep and surrender to the chill.



True, we still breathe and move, and our Christmas trees are already out and overburdened with tinsels. Our Christmas lights are in place in their niches all over our house-beams and walls, or perhaps all over our lawn trees. Our mothers or wives, too, have finished their plans for noche buena -- and have detailed the battle sketches to combat the mob in the supermarket.



The ingredients for the holidays are in place, indeed -- but festive?



No, sleepy.



We do not seek to venture out as much, except perhaps to buy those darn "exchange gifts" for some generic Christmas parties. And so we trudge through the puddles and the mud to jostle our way inside Lee Super Plaza or Cang's, and spend some holiday cheer waiting in line -- forever -- for the simplest purchases, or for gift-wrapping services. Our patience runs thin as Bing Crosby sings "I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas" in the store's PA system.



In parties, too, we ban our diets and gym priorities, and take in the ultimate truth: 4,000 calories on the average for the entire Christmas season, not counting the 3,000 for New Year. Our girths are happy.



Or perhaps all these just might as well: the cold has certainly banished those annual Christmas beggars from pounding our doors searching for answers to their calls of "Mamasko mi," as if holiday generosity is easy to dispense. (It's not.) The other year, my mother insisted on giving out used clothes to The Knockers (how we called these people), instead of money. Later in the day, she found her bag of rummage all over the garbage can down the road. Also, I had my last out-of-tune child carolers from three days ago (when the sun broke through for a while), and they had given me, ambush-style (and just as I was preparing to go out and buy another blueberry cheesecake for another Christmas party), that now-traditional rendition of "Jingle Bells," the lyrics murdered, and with tansan percussion in place of musical accompaniment. Oh lordy, lordy.



There is no escape save for the cold. Cold is salvation, no matter the lethargy it brings. The bed has now become my faithful companion, and to snuggle under our heavy blankets has become the mission for the day. Everyday. It's really cold. And yet somehow it is also a cause for rejoicing.



It has been such a long time since I've felt a chill for the Christmas season. In recent years, what we've had was summer carried over to the last month of the year. Last year, I wrote in this space that "we wake up to these December days, and still feel April or May: the sun's still too hot -- where is winter solstice when you need it most? -- and no amount of Christmas songs from the CD player can create the kind of cool Christmas of nostalgia. I remember thicker clothes and sweaters and the welcome chill of December nights. These days I still parade publicly in my shorts. My dream Santa now wears a red Hawaiian shirt and puruntong. It doesn't look good."



This time, Santa's back in his red, fur-trimmed suit. And I now get to wear my cold weather wardrobe -- something I haven't done for a very long time. Rainy season weather is quite fashionable. You wear your best boots and your best long-sleeved shirts and your best jackets, with your best black umbrella. So Giorgio Armani, tropics-style.



It's Christmas. Might as well dress to the nines. Did I begin with fruit cake?




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:31 PM | Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have no idea what to post about this week, and about Christmas, too: my lechon-laden head does not spring with writerly impulses this time of the year. It is much too busy calculating the gifts still to be bought, and what to wear for another day that's rainy one moment and sunny the next, considering a wardrobe that basically accommodates only an abundance of sun. So I'll write, stream-of-consciousness style, about the first Christmas image that pops into my head.



Fruit cake.



I don't get fruit cake at all, or why people insist on giving them out as Christmas gifts. When did this become a tradition? Naglihi ba si Maria sa fruit cake? ("Joseph," she probably said, pregnant and bored waiting for the Star of Bethlehem to shine on her stable, "Joseph, be a dear and take the donkey. I want some ... fruit cake.") Often they come in the most dazzling of wrappers, and one year I received one enclosed in the cutest little wooden box tied up with red, green, and gold ribbons. I kept the box and threw away the cake, but not before I told the giver, "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" and did the beso-beso tango. But really now, can't anyone just be the normal unimaginative gift-giver and give out handkerchiefs or wallets or ties instead? Or books. Any book would do just fine.



Fruit cake. Sliced, their brown crumbly presence betrays tidbits of unrecalled fruit-meat, and all I can really think of in comparison is bad meatloaf, just add the tangy flavor and the smell and taste of liquor. Fruit cake is the Filipino eggnog.



Christmas for me, I think, begun with fruit cake this year -- my mother calling me up one silent, holy night, and saying she was sending over some batches she got from her sister in Canada. "Please, don't," I frantically said, "I don't have a refrigerator in my pad, and the ants are quite ferocious here."



"So eat them as soon as you receive them," she said.



"Ma, I'm on a diet."



"Nobody in their right mind diets on the holidays. It's stupid. Anyway, I'm sending you some." Nobody argues with fruitcake-giving mothers on Christmas.



I ate one or two slices, each piece sliding into my throat like lead. Later, I gave one batch to a friend. "Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!" she said, squealing just too nicely, then gave me the beso-beso tango.



Fruit cakes.



But when did Christmas really begin for me this year? That is a little hard to answer, since I am the type of guy who insists on playing Christmas songs in July, just because I can. My CD players blares out Amy Grant singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" much too-early in the year. And when I do feel a bit depressed, there's always her cover version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," which is probably the saddest, sweetest Christmas song there is. I listen to the lyrics and cry like a nut. In July.



Or perhaps Christmas began when I first heard a Dumaguete store play Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song" (or Carol Burnett, or Ray Conniff, or Andy Williams, or Mahalia Jackson...) at the start of the Ber months? Or when I first spied a Christmas window display? Or when the first public decorations came creeping into our consciousness?



Or when I went to Dr. Rico Absin's annual Christmas dinner last Wednesday to ogle at the lights, eat the "best of Negros cuisine," and listen to Luis Alandy warble a version of "Pasko Na Sinta Ko"? Thank God, it didn't rain that night. I was talking to Patrick Chua, my dentist friend, who was sitting beside Moe Atega as some feeling-diva of a fat guy (three costume changes in all!) hostaged us all with a spattering of new age tenor-rific songs and uncalled for Broadway melodies. Otherwise, it was a beautiful evening.



"This is overkill," says Dr. M.



"I tell you, this is death not by boredom but by Josh Groban."



"You know, if a terrorist drops a bomb right here and now, there would be no doctors left in the city."



"Or most professionals," P. said. "Or most Katsila."



"Jesus, I didn't know Dumaguete can be social pala."



"Are we having a good time ba?"



"I think so. Are we?"



"Maybe we can go to the kitchen to see if there's wine."



"I don't want to go. There's a dancing Santa in the living room. He scares me."



"Oh, look, the diva's finished singing."



"Okay."



It is a cold December, a freak of recent memory.



Outside, the cold batters the asphalt roads and the skies are in turns slate-gray and blue, subverting what we would otherwise have called the holiday "festivities." Sometimes it takes a little convincing of ourselves to believe in that last word -- "festivities" -- when all we really want to do is sleep and surrender to the chill.



True, we still breathe and move, and our Christmas trees are already out and overburdened with tinsels. Our Christmas lights are in place in their niches all over our house-beams and walls, or perhaps all over our lawn trees. Our mothers or wives, too, have finished their plans for noche buena -- and have detailed the battle sketches to combat the mob in the supermarket.



The ingredients for the holidays are in place, indeed -- but festive?



No, sleepy.



We do not seek to venture out as much, except perhaps to buy those darn "exchange gifts" for some generic Christmas parties. And so we trudge through the puddles and the mud to jostle our way inside Lee Super Plaza or Cang's, and spend some holiday cheer waiting in line -- forever -- for the simplest purchases, or for gift-wrapping services. Our patience runs thin as Bing Crosby sings "I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas" in the store's PA system.



In parties, too, we ban our diets and gym priorities, and take in the ultimate truth: 4,000 calories on the average for the entire Christmas season, not counting the 3,000 for New Year. Our girths are happy.



Or perhaps all these just might as well: the cold has certainly banished those annual Christmas beggars from pounding our doors searching for answers to their calls of "Mamasko mi," as if holiday generosity is easy to dispense. (It's not.) The other year, my mother insisted on giving out used clothes to The Knockers (how we called these people), instead of money. Later in the day, she found her bag of rummage all over the garbage can down the road. Also, I had my last out-of-tune child carolers from three days ago (when the sun broke through for a while), and they had given me, ambush-style (and just as I was preparing to go out and buy another blueberry cheesecake for another Christmas party), that now-traditional rendition of "Jingle Bells," the lyrics murdered, and with tansan percussion in place of musical accompaniment. Oh lordy, lordy.



There is no escape save for the cold. Cold is salvation, no matter the lethargy it brings. The bed has now become my faithful companion, and to snuggle under our heavy blankets has become the mission for the day. Everyday. It's really cold. And yet somehow it is also a cause for rejoicing.



It has been such a long time since I've felt a chill for the Christmas season. In recent years, what we've had was summer carried over to the last month of the year. Last year, I wrote in this space that "we wake up to these December days, and still feel April or May: the sun's still too hot -- where is winter solstice when you need it most? -- and no amount of Christmas songs from the CD player can create the kind of cool Christmas of nostalgia. I remember thicker clothes and sweaters and the welcome chill of December nights. These days I still parade publicly in my shorts. My dream Santa now wears a red Hawaiian shirt and puruntong. It doesn't look good."



This time, Santa's back in his red, fur-trimmed suit. And I now get to wear my cold weather wardrobe -- something I haven't done for a very long time. Rainy season weather is quite fashionable. You wear your best boots and your best long-sleeved shirts and your best jackets, with your best black umbrella. So Giorgio Armani, tropics-style.



It's Christmas. Might as well dress to the nines. Did I begin with fruit cake?




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Monday, December 20, 2004

entry arrow1:26 PM | Shameless

The Irish daughter had not been to the house for over five years.



Upon her return, her father cussed her: "Where have you been all this time, you ingrate! Why didn't you write us, not even a line to let us know how you were doing? Why didn't you call? You little tramp! Don't you know what you put your Mum through?!"



The girl, crying, replied, "Sniff, sniff ... Dad ... I became a prostitute...."



"WHAT!? Out of here, you shameless harlot! Sinner! You're a disgrace to this family. I don't ever want to see you again!"



"OK, Dad -- as you wish. I just came back to give Mom this luxury fur coat, title deeds to a ten-bedroom mansion, plus a savings account certificate for 35 million. For my little brother, this gold Rolex, and for you Daddy the spanking new Mercedes limited edition convertible that's parked outside plus a lifetime membership to the Country Club..." She takes a breath. "And an invitation for you all to spend New Years' Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera, and...."



"Now what was it you said you had become?"



Girl, crying again, "Sniff, sniff ... A prostitute, Dad! ... Sniff, sniff."



"Oh! Be Jesus! You scared me half to death, girl! I thought you said a 'Protestant.' Come here and give your old man a hug!"



[an emailed forward from Margie]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:26 PM | Shameless

The Irish daughter had not been to the house for over five years.



Upon her return, her father cussed her: "Where have you been all this time, you ingrate! Why didn't you write us, not even a line to let us know how you were doing? Why didn't you call? You little tramp! Don't you know what you put your Mum through?!"



The girl, crying, replied, "Sniff, sniff ... Dad ... I became a prostitute...."



"WHAT!? Out of here, you shameless harlot! Sinner! You're a disgrace to this family. I don't ever want to see you again!"



"OK, Dad -- as you wish. I just came back to give Mom this luxury fur coat, title deeds to a ten-bedroom mansion, plus a savings account certificate for 35 million. For my little brother, this gold Rolex, and for you Daddy the spanking new Mercedes limited edition convertible that's parked outside plus a lifetime membership to the Country Club..." She takes a breath. "And an invitation for you all to spend New Years' Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera, and...."



"Now what was it you said you had become?"



Girl, crying again, "Sniff, sniff ... A prostitute, Dad! ... Sniff, sniff."



"Oh! Be Jesus! You scared me half to death, girl! I thought you said a 'Protestant.' Come here and give your old man a hug!"



[an emailed forward from Margie]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:26 PM | Shameless

The Irish daughter had not been to the house for over five years.



Upon her return, her father cussed her: "Where have you been all this time, you ingrate! Why didn't you write us, not even a line to let us know how you were doing? Why didn't you call? You little tramp! Don't you know what you put your Mum through?!"



The girl, crying, replied, "Sniff, sniff ... Dad ... I became a prostitute...."



"WHAT!? Out of here, you shameless harlot! Sinner! You're a disgrace to this family. I don't ever want to see you again!"



"OK, Dad -- as you wish. I just came back to give Mom this luxury fur coat, title deeds to a ten-bedroom mansion, plus a savings account certificate for 35 million. For my little brother, this gold Rolex, and for you Daddy the spanking new Mercedes limited edition convertible that's parked outside plus a lifetime membership to the Country Club..." She takes a breath. "And an invitation for you all to spend New Years' Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera, and...."



"Now what was it you said you had become?"



Girl, crying again, "Sniff, sniff ... A prostitute, Dad! ... Sniff, sniff."



"Oh! Be Jesus! You scared me half to death, girl! I thought you said a 'Protestant.' Come here and give your old man a hug!"



[an emailed forward from Margie]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, December 17, 2004

entry arrow1:16 AM | Hey, Jimmy Boy. Here's Another Dude!

Whaddya know. Abraham Lincoln was gay. This is from a very recent New York Times review of the new, and very controversial, book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by historian C.A. Tripp:



The subject of the 16th president's sexuality has been debated among scholars for years. They cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. Now, in a new book, C.A. Tripp also asserts that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.


And this, ladies and gentlemen, was his lover, the aforementioned Mr. Speed:





Good lord. Alexander the Great, arguably the greatest military general in history, was gay, too. Won't surprise me if most great men turned out gay. Just ask Shakespeare.




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich