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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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Monday, February 14, 2005

entry arrow12:01 AM | Reflections on an Empire of Passion

"Your lonely nights have just begun
When you love someone."
-BRYAN ADAMS, "When You Love Someone"

I shall start, perhaps, by admitting that in order to write this post -- and perhaps also to prepare myself for the coming onslaught of things red, heart-shaped, and Valentine -- I popped into my VHS player my original copy of Oshima Nagisa's controversial In the Realm of the Senses. And Barbra Streisand's The Mirror Has Two Faces. I reasoned that this was to get my bearings on the notion that love exists the ways love songs insist it does. After all, the questions remain: do we sing love songs because we have fallen in love, or do we fall in love because we sing love songs?

Somehow, in my quick survey, I'm tied to extremes of possibilities. There's fluff, and there's painful catharsis. Both also happen to be true -- or at least, that's how my heart tells me. Here's Barbra Streisand's, on one hand, in a scene where she lectures to Columbia University students -- hence also to us -- and she says that "when we think of falling in love, we imagine Puccini playing in our heads," which is, of course, a great lie we all gladly believe in. So why do we do this? Why do we insist in our search for romantic love when in fact it is a modern invention? "Because, we know that while it lasts," she says, "it feels f***ing great." I paused the scene, and I agreed.

But there is also this: Oshima's obsessive lovers in what may be the truest depiction of a devouring kind of love in modern cinema -- so accurate that it is, in fact, pornographic in its explicitness and truth: love and death as the only possible twins, devouring and madness as the only just recourse to the tremblings we submit ourselves to when we fall for someone else. I finish the Oshima's movie with shocked trepidation, but also with awe.

This is how I begin my Valentine.

Sometime ago, before I finally met someone to share my life with, it once amazed me that I could barely remember the last time I had a Valentine date. There were snatches of memory -- giving roses, for example, to somebody you're playing the romance tango with, or having a Valentine dinner with your old high school barkada in Santa Monica -- but almost always these recollections are trapped in the haze of college life, all things past and five years old. There were days when people came up to me to ask, "So who's the special someone in your life right now?" the way my mother asked "When are you getting married?" and I'd get taken aback, reflected a bit on my age -- past 25 years yet not in my 30s just yet (I was clinging to my late 20's like a leech) -- only to say, in a kind of bemused excuse, that I was much too young to even think of settling down, and that I had no time for such things; that I was too much consumed with work to bother with trivial pursuits. Love, for one thing (or so I thought then). I'd always thought that another person was so much of an investment of time, of feelings. For a long time, I had no heart for such considerations. My heart had been broken too many times to survive another assault. (Only to find out in the end that the heart was capable of a thousand regenerations-and given the right person popping into your life to make you glow).

I wax romantic now, and the hair at the back of my neck stand.

That is why I tell a friend, once, that this must be the case when one is a child of the 90s. We lived far too fast in our late teens and early twenties, that when it comes to love and other intimate things, we've become much too philosophical, old in our perspectives even. Our conversations drip with the casual detachment of one who has seen so much of things, have imbibed in them with passion, that by the end of the long youthful experiment, there is only a wistfulness to consider: "I used to do that...," we say, in an amused way, or "I used to do this..." Not jaded, no -- only careful, and perhaps expectant of higher things than the easy temptations of romance. We've gone beyond Harlequin paperbacks and Meg Ryan movies and Hershey's Kisses and picnics and beaches and phone calls and dinner dates. As Samantha Jones aptly puts it in our bible Sex and the City, "We want more."

So what do I know of love? I know for sure that it isn't chocolate, or red rose on a stem. I've been through the passion part in my younger days: that phase full of quickening days that surround you with excruciating wanting for someone else -- those eyes, those lips, that drowning smell. I've been familiar with the exquisite tortures of longing, bordering on the obsessive. It is a willful torture that begins at the nape and spreads to the points of your breasts, and ends as a burning in your crotch -- all of headiness that transports you to another world. My friend, the UST writer Gerald Feljandro Ramos writes about the madness for the other year's Sands and Coral: "We say I love you and the universe shifts organization around those three words we use to name possession: planets stop revolving around suns, moons reign supreme, sky becomes wider, and the space between is always filled with light, you and I become no more the persons we have been. We begin to have contempt for separation and learn to love disclosing ourselves to each other, to feel no shame or alarm in disrobing when imperfections, the whole lot of sagging, rotund, aging bodies, the disproportionate hands, stump-like legs, little obliquities of habit and habitus that reveal themselves in the most mundane occasions replace each tesseract of the ideal other we have formed in our mind."

Oh, I remember passion too well. I know it now. But, in those old, lonely days, I missed it.

I think of the above, and I cannot help but wonder: Is that love? "No, it is infatuation," my best friend Kristyn once so easily dismissed -- but that was during a time when she had been hell-bent on pursuing the single life. Last year, she got married to an Australian -- a chap named Justin -- and I remember that there were signs I was getting jealous. Perhaps because I am slowly finding out that my contemporaries' detached stance, cultivated after our years of collegiate bohemia, was also a phase just like the first one: afterwards, when we've all tasted the banal repercussions of living fast, there is indeed an urge to settle down, to get away from the rigors of hopping from one prospect to the next, from playing the bedroom roulette. And not only she: Beth as well, to an Englishman; and my Finnish mermaid, Kaija, had gotten herself hitched to a writer. I remember Kaija's promise and mine: we were on top of the Tokyo municipal building overlooking the whole city, and we remembered that An Affair to Remember cliche:

"How about it, ten years from now, we'll both meet at the top of the Empire State Building?" I said.

"On Valentine's Day?" she asked, smiling.

"No, today, on our last day together." It was June 26, 1997 and I was about to go home to the Philippines after a year in Japan.

We agreed.

Sometimes I wonder if I still should go to New York on our June 26th appointment. The deadline approaches like a kiss searching for lips. I suppose Beth and Kristyn and Danny and Kaija and Anis -- all of them bound by wedded bliss -- are only fulfilling the requisition of the greatest archetype: Plato's search for the half of our incomplete self, the way Renee Zellwegger and Tom Cruise declared, "You complete me," in Jerry Maguire. My friend, the Atenean poet Vincenz Serrano puts it more succinctly in his poem "Getting the Message": "A kiss is complete/ only in another's mouth and tongue, like how/ a writer needs a listener for the words/ to be whole..."

Ah, a kiss.

So here's to all for Valentines. It's a little sad for some -- but boy, do we somehow love its sadness. In the end, the only realization is this: even if only remembered, and even if buried in nonchalance, we're all suckers for that one passionate glance. That kiss. That touch.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich