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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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Sunday, January 30, 2005

entry arrow2:00 AM | We're Singing This Again?

Signs that I am graciously aging...





We Are the World is back, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Its 20th anniversary? But I still remember humming along to the song as a little kid, watching those music videos in RPN 9!



So, altogether now: We are the world, we are the children....


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow2:00 AM | We're Singing This Again?

Signs that I am graciously aging...





We Are the World is back, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Its 20th anniversary? But I still remember humming along to the song as a little kid, watching those music videos in RPN 9!



So, altogether now: We are the world, we are the children....


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow2:00 AM | We're Singing This Again?

Signs that I am graciously aging...





We Are the World is back, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Its 20th anniversary? But I still remember humming along to the song as a little kid, watching those music videos in RPN 9!



So, altogether now: We are the world, we are the children....


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:42 AM | A Heritage of Tyrannical Holy-ism*

Oh, great. The holier-than-thou's are at it again. This time sourpussing because Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ did not get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. This is from CNN.com's showbiz page:



Patrick Hynes, a married, 32-year-old father and advertising copywriter, collected 25,000 signatures on a petition on his Web site, passionforfairness.com. He sent it to the academy -- but received no response.



Disappointed by the announcement of Oscar nominees on Tuesday, the groups briefly considered boycotting movie theaters and targeting companies that will advertise on the ABC Oscar broadcast on February 27 in hopes of demonstrating some economic muscle.



"I briefly floated the idea of a boycott of Hollywood -- and certainly the Oscars -- but in the end I don't think that would be productive, so I decided against it," said Hynes, who is based in Washington.


More of this trash here.



So it finally comes down to this: a Christian dictatorship of cultural taste. Now we are truly back to the Middle Ages. No wonder they also called that era "Dark." I shudder over how we can actually live in such a time.



Although, thinking about it, I really want Hollywood to jump into the Bible bandwagon. And then to have that film totally flop. That would be Divine justice.





* "Hey, Ian! What do you have against Christians ba?" Nothing, really, except that most of them are hypocritical shitheads. And I'm talking from personal experience.






[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:42 AM | A Heritage of Tyrannical Holy-ism*

Oh, great. The holier-than-thou's are at it again. This time sourpussing because Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ did not get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. This is from CNN.com's showbiz page:



Patrick Hynes, a married, 32-year-old father and advertising copywriter, collected 25,000 signatures on a petition on his Web site, passionforfairness.com. He sent it to the academy -- but received no response.



Disappointed by the announcement of Oscar nominees on Tuesday, the groups briefly considered boycotting movie theaters and targeting companies that will advertise on the ABC Oscar broadcast on February 27 in hopes of demonstrating some economic muscle.



"I briefly floated the idea of a boycott of Hollywood -- and certainly the Oscars -- but in the end I don't think that would be productive, so I decided against it," said Hynes, who is based in Washington.


More of this trash here.



So it finally comes down to this: a Christian dictatorship of cultural taste. Now we are truly back to the Middle Ages. No wonder they also called that era "Dark." I shudder over how we can actually live in such a time.



Although, thinking about it, I really want Hollywood to jump into the Bible bandwagon. And then to have that film totally flop. That would be Divine justice.





* "Hey, Ian! What do you have against Christians ba?" Nothing, really, except that most of them are hypocritical shitheads. And I'm talking from personal experience.






[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:42 AM | A Heritage of Tyrannical Holy-ism*

Oh, great. The holier-than-thou's are at it again. This time sourpussing because Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ did not get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. This is from CNN.com's showbiz page:



Patrick Hynes, a married, 32-year-old father and advertising copywriter, collected 25,000 signatures on a petition on his Web site, passionforfairness.com. He sent it to the academy -- but received no response.



Disappointed by the announcement of Oscar nominees on Tuesday, the groups briefly considered boycotting movie theaters and targeting companies that will advertise on the ABC Oscar broadcast on February 27 in hopes of demonstrating some economic muscle.



"I briefly floated the idea of a boycott of Hollywood -- and certainly the Oscars -- but in the end I don't think that would be productive, so I decided against it," said Hynes, who is based in Washington.


More of this trash here.



So it finally comes down to this: a Christian dictatorship of cultural taste. Now we are truly back to the Middle Ages. No wonder they also called that era "Dark." I shudder over how we can actually live in such a time.



Although, thinking about it, I really want Hollywood to jump into the Bible bandwagon. And then to have that film totally flop. That would be Divine justice.





* "Hey, Ian! What do you have against Christians ba?" Nothing, really, except that most of them are hypocritical shitheads. And I'm talking from personal experience.






[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:24 AM | A Heritage of Incest





From the New York Times book review of Robert M. Polhemus's Lot's Daughters: Sex, Redemption, and Women's Quest for Authority:



Remember Lot? It's his wife we've been told to keep in mind, that pillar of salt Christ made the indelible image of failing to renounce past corruption altogether. Lot we prefer to forget. As told in Genesis 19, Lot fled the annihilation of Sodom, lost his mate because she couldn't resist a backward glance and ended up in a cave with his two daughters, who conspired to get him drunk and then seduced him.



"The Lot story is shocking," Polhemus says, "does describe offensive behavior, does probe shameful erotic secrets," which might not be so troubling were it not included in the Judeo-Christian canon. But it is; what's more, biblical genealogy traces Lot's seed through David all the way to Jesus. Ultimately, the hope of mankind, of "a new heaven and a new earth," arrives through an act of incest. The intercourse described is not iconoclastic so much as it is desperate, the price of having a future. Lot's daughters believed themselves and their father the sole survivors of universal destruction; humankind, they thought, depended on their breaking taboo by having sex with their father.



The story becomes a complex -- the Lot complex -- because its "primal interest imposes itself upon history, religion, art and individual psychology, and people in turn impose their history, experience, personal mind-sets and imaginative skills on the biblical text." Polhemus doesn't invent the Lot complex any more than Freud invented the Oedipus complex. What he does -- thoroughly and brilliantly -- is identify what has existed for millenniums of recorded history, introducing diverse examples of the archetypal transaction between a young, sometimes very young, woman and the man who, if he isn't actually her father, is old enough to substitute.


Read the rest here.



[and by the way, the new york times online registration is free]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:24 AM | A Heritage of Incest





From the New York Times book review of Robert M. Polhemus's Lot's Daughters: Sex, Redemption, and Women's Quest for Authority:



Remember Lot? It's his wife we've been told to keep in mind, that pillar of salt Christ made the indelible image of failing to renounce past corruption altogether. Lot we prefer to forget. As told in Genesis 19, Lot fled the annihilation of Sodom, lost his mate because she couldn't resist a backward glance and ended up in a cave with his two daughters, who conspired to get him drunk and then seduced him.



"The Lot story is shocking," Polhemus says, "does describe offensive behavior, does probe shameful erotic secrets," which might not be so troubling were it not included in the Judeo-Christian canon. But it is; what's more, biblical genealogy traces Lot's seed through David all the way to Jesus. Ultimately, the hope of mankind, of "a new heaven and a new earth," arrives through an act of incest. The intercourse described is not iconoclastic so much as it is desperate, the price of having a future. Lot's daughters believed themselves and their father the sole survivors of universal destruction; humankind, they thought, depended on their breaking taboo by having sex with their father.



The story becomes a complex -- the Lot complex -- because its "primal interest imposes itself upon history, religion, art and individual psychology, and people in turn impose their history, experience, personal mind-sets and imaginative skills on the biblical text." Polhemus doesn't invent the Lot complex any more than Freud invented the Oedipus complex. What he does -- thoroughly and brilliantly -- is identify what has existed for millenniums of recorded history, introducing diverse examples of the archetypal transaction between a young, sometimes very young, woman and the man who, if he isn't actually her father, is old enough to substitute.


Read the rest here.



[and by the way, the new york times online registration is free]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:24 AM | A Heritage of Incest





From the New York Times book review of Robert M. Polhemus's Lot's Daughters: Sex, Redemption, and Women's Quest for Authority:



Remember Lot? It's his wife we've been told to keep in mind, that pillar of salt Christ made the indelible image of failing to renounce past corruption altogether. Lot we prefer to forget. As told in Genesis 19, Lot fled the annihilation of Sodom, lost his mate because she couldn't resist a backward glance and ended up in a cave with his two daughters, who conspired to get him drunk and then seduced him.



"The Lot story is shocking," Polhemus says, "does describe offensive behavior, does probe shameful erotic secrets," which might not be so troubling were it not included in the Judeo-Christian canon. But it is; what's more, biblical genealogy traces Lot's seed through David all the way to Jesus. Ultimately, the hope of mankind, of "a new heaven and a new earth," arrives through an act of incest. The intercourse described is not iconoclastic so much as it is desperate, the price of having a future. Lot's daughters believed themselves and their father the sole survivors of universal destruction; humankind, they thought, depended on their breaking taboo by having sex with their father.



The story becomes a complex -- the Lot complex -- because its "primal interest imposes itself upon history, religion, art and individual psychology, and people in turn impose their history, experience, personal mind-sets and imaginative skills on the biblical text." Polhemus doesn't invent the Lot complex any more than Freud invented the Oedipus complex. What he does -- thoroughly and brilliantly -- is identify what has existed for millenniums of recorded history, introducing diverse examples of the archetypal transaction between a young, sometimes very young, woman and the man who, if he isn't actually her father, is old enough to substitute.


Read the rest here.



[and by the way, the new york times online registration is free]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, January 29, 2005

entry arrow1:20 AM | The Bulk on the Beach

A whale just beached itself in Piapi Beach early Friday morning. I am waking early today to see it before it becomes mere bones or shredded flesh. Is this a sign?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:20 AM | The Bulk on the Beach

A whale just beached itself in Piapi Beach early Friday morning. I am waking early today to see it before it becomes mere bones or shredded flesh. Is this a sign?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow1:20 AM | The Bulk on the Beach

A whale just beached itself in Piapi Beach early Friday morning. I am waking early today to see it before it becomes mere bones or shredded flesh. Is this a sign?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:03 AM | Manila in My Vitamin C-Soaked Mind

In Manila, the first thing one notices is how everything seems to be extra-fast. My immediate comparison, of course, is always the laid-back existence of Dumaguete, where "slow" becomes the byword for everyday things.



Last week, on a Thursday, all of Dumaguete seemed so far behind me, and from above -- and through my airplane window -- just before the Cebu Pacific plane prepared to dip for the landing, I could already smell the bustle of bigger city life. Manila from the sky looked like a jigsaw puzzle, all edges and all splotches. And for a moment, I thought: "Here we go again."



This was my nth trip to the capital, and each one of them an experience in themselves. This excited me, and scared me. Nothing unusual, this mishmash of expectations; it was part of the regular emotional rush for one already so used to country life: it was part joy, and part fear. Did I bring enough money, for example, to get through Manila in one piece? This was, after all, a place where a good dinner in a good restaurant costs a small fortune, equivalent to a thousand meals in a comparable restaurant down my block in Dumaguete. And then also the horror stories each of us promdis (a hateful word) have come to believe as the facts of life in this City of Man. The hold-ups. The mobs. The Tondo denizens. Each time I think of traveling to this city, I cannot help but feel that I can live anywhere else in the world, except Manila. "I've lived in the most expensive city in the face of this earth," I have told many friends when I am in the mood of dispensing my Tokyo tales, "and loved it-and lived through it beautifully. But Manila is a challenge I don't particularly like to undertake."



Which may be why, to many of my friends' amazement, I have eschewed all opportunities to live and work there. There were those two offers from big ad agencies. There was that offer to work in a Makati bank, simply because the President read something I wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and was interested. There was that embassy job that promised P40,000 a month, tax-free. I may be shortsighted, and perhaps utterly without ambition, but I chose Dumaguete. Because my bones said I must. I remember Cheyenne, an old high school friend, telling me: "Ian, in this city, you will flower. You belong here. You will get rich here with your talents."



A part of me wants to believe that, but how do you say to people that I am allergic to all that... rush? And Manila is all rush. And rush in an environment so familiar, and yet so strangely alienating all at the same time.



One time, about two years ago, I was in Manila for several literary functions: to get my Palanca Award for a story I wrote, to attend a big book fair, and to show up for the National Book Awards where the first book I'd made -- an anthology I edited -- was nominated for a prize (and lost to the graceful Erlinda Panlilio). That was a heady first day. I had lunch with poets Wendell Capili and Marne Kilates in a fine restaurant somewhere in Tomas Morato, a stone's throw away from Diether Ocampo's house. Later we proceeded to the UMPIL convention where I met several writers I've come to regard as close friends, and came face to face with several others I've only corresponded with, and with whom I was finally able to do the process of putting faces to familiar names. Much later, after attending the National Book Awards and the book fair, I took the MRT (and assorted rides later) from Mandaluyong to Manila, to my hostel in Malate, and then there it was, the regular symptom to this Manila allergy: a burning fever, suddenly rising somewhere in the crowded confines of the Edsa station. I knew what it was: a spell that comes and goes within 24 hours. In Edsa Station, I saw the darkness creeping in around my brows. I told myself to hold on, till I could finally collapse on my hostel bed. The next day, I cancelled everything (including a dinner with Lito Zulueta and J. Neil C. Garcia), and waited for the bug to go.



It must be Manila's city heat. It must be the everywhereness of people. It must be the trudging existence of commuting and breathing-in exhaust. I don't know why my body breaks down whenever I am in Manila. And it is not because I find Manila rather uninteresting. On the contrary, I love the bursting life, the constant promise of happenings all over the place. The cultural gamut is impressive, and the list of things to do and attend is very long. Once, attending the Catholic Mass Media Awards in the Ateneo de Manila campus, where I was up against Nestor U. Torre of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (and hobnobbed with Korina Sanchez and Jamie Rivera), I went with some friends (the poets Naya Valdellon, Mark Anthony Cayanan, and Allan Pastrana, and the fictionist Darryl Jane Delgado) to 70's Bistro, a hip bar in Anonas, Quezon City, where Cynthia Alexander was playing. I wore my barong, straight into a crowd all dressed down to the very definition of casual -- and I didn't mind at all my sartorial anachronism. Later, we went to Malate and drank in some of great nasty jokes in a stand-up comedy club (and karaoke bar) where the queens seemed to be the bitchy royalty about town. Talk about variety of life. And oh, the cinemas in Manila! The choices, the choices....



This time around, for my first trip out of Dumaguete for the year, I've made my pact with my body, told it to go easy with Manila. I armed myself to the teeth with all the barest essentials. Namely, vitamins. And dietary supplements. A lot of them. Huge vitamin C and calcium and vitamin E tablets, and doses of Centrum. (I tried Pharmaton once, but soon gave up on it: it made me hungry, and it made me want to go to the toilet every other hour or so.) The regimen worked its magic, I guess: the only bodily discomfort I had was a severe sore throat, the result of a bad decision to eat chocolate crepe exquisitely named Fantastic Pinay in Café Breton, in Greenbelt. (Since Halloween last year -- when I helped myself to an overdose of white chocolate while visiting my father's grave -- I've discovered that I can no longer take in chocolate of any form. My throat would suddenly become painful and sandpapery, sometimes even resulting in a fever; this is an unfortunate thing, because chocolates are my only vices.)



The next day, early in the morning of January 14 -- and armed with an extra dosage of vitamin C and generic antibiotics to counteract the growing discomfort in my throat -- I took the taxi to Intramuros, to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts building where the Philippine Center for International PEN's Annual Convention was to be held. I belonged in the panel to discuss "Literature in a Hurry," with writers Gerardo Z. Torres, Mila Aguilar, Shirley Lua, and writing mentors Susan Lara and Marjorie Evasco. I was to talk about the state of Philippine literature in the age of the Internet. (My invitation to speak in the PEN Convention sprang from the fact that I happen to be webmaster of the biggest Philippine literature site there is in the Internet). It wasn't easy. There was the matter of speaking to writers -- old and young -- whom I have read and respected. There was the matter of two National Artists for Literature -- F. Sionil Jose and Alejandro Roces -- listening to every word I say. There was the matter of our Yahoogroups files suddenly becoming inaccessible because Yahoo! just happened to break down right that very hour we were starting our talk.



But, thank God, I went through the experience without too much hitches. Someone in the audience told me I had "great diction."



And then later, the fictionist Kit Kwe -- one of the most amazing young writers I know -- picked me up from Intramuros, and we drove all the way to Greenbelt where we had a great P500 dinner at a place called Soul Food. Kit had pasta, I had some steak. And green tea. With Tessa Magdamo and Eric Joven, we invaded Powerbooks where I bought Maria LM Fres-Felix's new short story collection, the brilliant Making Straight Circles.



And then the next day, I flew home.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:03 AM | Manila in My Vitamin C-Soaked Mind

In Manila, the first thing one notices is how everything seems to be extra-fast. My immediate comparison, of course, is always the laid-back existence of Dumaguete, where "slow" becomes the byword for everyday things.



Last week, on a Thursday, all of Dumaguete seemed so far behind me, and from above -- and through my airplane window -- just before the Cebu Pacific plane prepared to dip for the landing, I could already smell the bustle of bigger city life. Manila from the sky looked like a jigsaw puzzle, all edges and all splotches. And for a moment, I thought: "Here we go again."



This was my nth trip to the capital, and each one of them an experience in themselves. This excited me, and scared me. Nothing unusual, this mishmash of expectations; it was part of the regular emotional rush for one already so used to country life: it was part joy, and part fear. Did I bring enough money, for example, to get through Manila in one piece? This was, after all, a place where a good dinner in a good restaurant costs a small fortune, equivalent to a thousand meals in a comparable restaurant down my block in Dumaguete. And then also the horror stories each of us promdis (a hateful word) have come to believe as the facts of life in this City of Man. The hold-ups. The mobs. The Tondo denizens. Each time I think of traveling to this city, I cannot help but feel that I can live anywhere else in the world, except Manila. "I've lived in the most expensive city in the face of this earth," I have told many friends when I am in the mood of dispensing my Tokyo tales, "and loved it-and lived through it beautifully. But Manila is a challenge I don't particularly like to undertake."



Which may be why, to many of my friends' amazement, I have eschewed all opportunities to live and work there. There were those two offers from big ad agencies. There was that offer to work in a Makati bank, simply because the President read something I wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and was interested. There was that embassy job that promised P40,000 a month, tax-free. I may be shortsighted, and perhaps utterly without ambition, but I chose Dumaguete. Because my bones said I must. I remember Cheyenne, an old high school friend, telling me: "Ian, in this city, you will flower. You belong here. You will get rich here with your talents."



A part of me wants to believe that, but how do you say to people that I am allergic to all that... rush? And Manila is all rush. And rush in an environment so familiar, and yet so strangely alienating all at the same time.



One time, about two years ago, I was in Manila for several literary functions: to get my Palanca Award for a story I wrote, to attend a big book fair, and to show up for the National Book Awards where the first book I'd made -- an anthology I edited -- was nominated for a prize (and lost to the graceful Erlinda Panlilio). That was a heady first day. I had lunch with poets Wendell Capili and Marne Kilates in a fine restaurant somewhere in Tomas Morato, a stone's throw away from Diether Ocampo's house. Later we proceeded to the UMPIL convention where I met several writers I've come to regard as close friends, and came face to face with several others I've only corresponded with, and with whom I was finally able to do the process of putting faces to familiar names. Much later, after attending the National Book Awards and the book fair, I took the MRT (and assorted rides later) from Mandaluyong to Manila, to my hostel in Malate, and then there it was, the regular symptom to this Manila allergy: a burning fever, suddenly rising somewhere in the crowded confines of the Edsa station. I knew what it was: a spell that comes and goes within 24 hours. In Edsa Station, I saw the darkness creeping in around my brows. I told myself to hold on, till I could finally collapse on my hostel bed. The next day, I cancelled everything (including a dinner with Lito Zulueta and J. Neil C. Garcia), and waited for the bug to go.



It must be Manila's city heat. It must be the everywhereness of people. It must be the trudging existence of commuting and breathing-in exhaust. I don't know why my body breaks down whenever I am in Manila. And it is not because I find Manila rather uninteresting. On the contrary, I love the bursting life, the constant promise of happenings all over the place. The cultural gamut is impressive, and the list of things to do and attend is very long. Once, attending the Catholic Mass Media Awards in the Ateneo de Manila campus, where I was up against Nestor U. Torre of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (and hobnobbed with Korina Sanchez and Jamie Rivera), I went with some friends (the poets Naya Valdellon, Mark Anthony Cayanan, and Allan Pastrana, and the fictionist Darryl Jane Delgado) to 70's Bistro, a hip bar in Anonas, Quezon City, where Cynthia Alexander was playing. I wore my barong, straight into a crowd all dressed down to the very definition of casual -- and I didn't mind at all my sartorial anachronism. Later, we went to Malate and drank in some of great nasty jokes in a stand-up comedy club (and karaoke bar) where the queens seemed to be the bitchy royalty about town. Talk about variety of life. And oh, the cinemas in Manila! The choices, the choices....



This time around, for my first trip out of Dumaguete for the year, I've made my pact with my body, told it to go easy with Manila. I armed myself to the teeth with all the barest essentials. Namely, vitamins. And dietary supplements. A lot of them. Huge vitamin C and calcium and vitamin E tablets, and doses of Centrum. (I tried Pharmaton once, but soon gave up on it: it made me hungry, and it made me want to go to the toilet every other hour or so.) The regimen worked its magic, I guess: the only bodily discomfort I had was a severe sore throat, the result of a bad decision to eat chocolate crepe exquisitely named Fantastic Pinay in Café Breton, in Greenbelt. (Since Halloween last year -- when I helped myself to an overdose of white chocolate while visiting my father's grave -- I've discovered that I can no longer take in chocolate of any form. My throat would suddenly become painful and sandpapery, sometimes even resulting in a fever; this is an unfortunate thing, because chocolates are my only vices.)



The next day, early in the morning of January 14 -- and armed with an extra dosage of vitamin C and generic antibiotics to counteract the growing discomfort in my throat -- I took the taxi to Intramuros, to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts building where the Philippine Center for International PEN's Annual Convention was to be held. I belonged in the panel to discuss "Literature in a Hurry," with writers Gerardo Z. Torres, Mila Aguilar, Shirley Lua, and writing mentors Susan Lara and Marjorie Evasco. I was to talk about the state of Philippine literature in the age of the Internet. (My invitation to speak in the PEN Convention sprang from the fact that I happen to be webmaster of the biggest Philippine literature site there is in the Internet). It wasn't easy. There was the matter of speaking to writers -- old and young -- whom I have read and respected. There was the matter of two National Artists for Literature -- F. Sionil Jose and Alejandro Roces -- listening to every word I say. There was the matter of our Yahoogroups files suddenly becoming inaccessible because Yahoo! just happened to break down right that very hour we were starting our talk.



But, thank God, I went through the experience without too much hitches. Someone in the audience told me I had "great diction."



And then later, the fictionist Kit Kwe -- one of the most amazing young writers I know -- picked me up from Intramuros, and we drove all the way to Greenbelt where we had a great P500 dinner at a place called Soul Food. Kit had pasta, I had some steak. And green tea. With Tessa Magdamo and Eric Joven, we invaded Powerbooks where I bought Maria LM Fres-Felix's new short story collection, the brilliant Making Straight Circles.



And then the next day, I flew home.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:03 AM | Manila in My Vitamin C-Soaked Mind

In Manila, the first thing one notices is how everything seems to be extra-fast. My immediate comparison, of course, is always the laid-back existence of Dumaguete, where "slow" becomes the byword for everyday things.



Last week, on a Thursday, all of Dumaguete seemed so far behind me, and from above -- and through my airplane window -- just before the Cebu Pacific plane prepared to dip for the landing, I could already smell the bustle of bigger city life. Manila from the sky looked like a jigsaw puzzle, all edges and all splotches. And for a moment, I thought: "Here we go again."



This was my nth trip to the capital, and each one of them an experience in themselves. This excited me, and scared me. Nothing unusual, this mishmash of expectations; it was part of the regular emotional rush for one already so used to country life: it was part joy, and part fear. Did I bring enough money, for example, to get through Manila in one piece? This was, after all, a place where a good dinner in a good restaurant costs a small fortune, equivalent to a thousand meals in a comparable restaurant down my block in Dumaguete. And then also the horror stories each of us promdis (a hateful word) have come to believe as the facts of life in this City of Man. The hold-ups. The mobs. The Tondo denizens. Each time I think of traveling to this city, I cannot help but feel that I can live anywhere else in the world, except Manila. "I've lived in the most expensive city in the face of this earth," I have told many friends when I am in the mood of dispensing my Tokyo tales, "and loved it-and lived through it beautifully. But Manila is a challenge I don't particularly like to undertake."



Which may be why, to many of my friends' amazement, I have eschewed all opportunities to live and work there. There were those two offers from big ad agencies. There was that offer to work in a Makati bank, simply because the President read something I wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and was interested. There was that embassy job that promised P40,000 a month, tax-free. I may be shortsighted, and perhaps utterly without ambition, but I chose Dumaguete. Because my bones said I must. I remember Cheyenne, an old high school friend, telling me: "Ian, in this city, you will flower. You belong here. You will get rich here with your talents."



A part of me wants to believe that, but how do you say to people that I am allergic to all that... rush? And Manila is all rush. And rush in an environment so familiar, and yet so strangely alienating all at the same time.



One time, about two years ago, I was in Manila for several literary functions: to get my Palanca Award for a story I wrote, to attend a big book fair, and to show up for the National Book Awards where the first book I'd made -- an anthology I edited -- was nominated for a prize (and lost to the graceful Erlinda Panlilio). That was a heady first day. I had lunch with poets Wendell Capili and Marne Kilates in a fine restaurant somewhere in Tomas Morato, a stone's throw away from Diether Ocampo's house. Later we proceeded to the UMPIL convention where I met several writers I've come to regard as close friends, and came face to face with several others I've only corresponded with, and with whom I was finally able to do the process of putting faces to familiar names. Much later, after attending the National Book Awards and the book fair, I took the MRT (and assorted rides later) from Mandaluyong to Manila, to my hostel in Malate, and then there it was, the regular symptom to this Manila allergy: a burning fever, suddenly rising somewhere in the crowded confines of the Edsa station. I knew what it was: a spell that comes and goes within 24 hours. In Edsa Station, I saw the darkness creeping in around my brows. I told myself to hold on, till I could finally collapse on my hostel bed. The next day, I cancelled everything (including a dinner with Lito Zulueta and J. Neil C. Garcia), and waited for the bug to go.



It must be Manila's city heat. It must be the everywhereness of people. It must be the trudging existence of commuting and breathing-in exhaust. I don't know why my body breaks down whenever I am in Manila. And it is not because I find Manila rather uninteresting. On the contrary, I love the bursting life, the constant promise of happenings all over the place. The cultural gamut is impressive, and the list of things to do and attend is very long. Once, attending the Catholic Mass Media Awards in the Ateneo de Manila campus, where I was up against Nestor U. Torre of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (and hobnobbed with Korina Sanchez and Jamie Rivera), I went with some friends (the poets Naya Valdellon, Mark Anthony Cayanan, and Allan Pastrana, and the fictionist Darryl Jane Delgado) to 70's Bistro, a hip bar in Anonas, Quezon City, where Cynthia Alexander was playing. I wore my barong, straight into a crowd all dressed down to the very definition of casual -- and I didn't mind at all my sartorial anachronism. Later, we went to Malate and drank in some of great nasty jokes in a stand-up comedy club (and karaoke bar) where the queens seemed to be the bitchy royalty about town. Talk about variety of life. And oh, the cinemas in Manila! The choices, the choices....



This time around, for my first trip out of Dumaguete for the year, I've made my pact with my body, told it to go easy with Manila. I armed myself to the teeth with all the barest essentials. Namely, vitamins. And dietary supplements. A lot of them. Huge vitamin C and calcium and vitamin E tablets, and doses of Centrum. (I tried Pharmaton once, but soon gave up on it: it made me hungry, and it made me want to go to the toilet every other hour or so.) The regimen worked its magic, I guess: the only bodily discomfort I had was a severe sore throat, the result of a bad decision to eat chocolate crepe exquisitely named Fantastic Pinay in Café Breton, in Greenbelt. (Since Halloween last year -- when I helped myself to an overdose of white chocolate while visiting my father's grave -- I've discovered that I can no longer take in chocolate of any form. My throat would suddenly become painful and sandpapery, sometimes even resulting in a fever; this is an unfortunate thing, because chocolates are my only vices.)



The next day, early in the morning of January 14 -- and armed with an extra dosage of vitamin C and generic antibiotics to counteract the growing discomfort in my throat -- I took the taxi to Intramuros, to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts building where the Philippine Center for International PEN's Annual Convention was to be held. I belonged in the panel to discuss "Literature in a Hurry," with writers Gerardo Z. Torres, Mila Aguilar, Shirley Lua, and writing mentors Susan Lara and Marjorie Evasco. I was to talk about the state of Philippine literature in the age of the Internet. (My invitation to speak in the PEN Convention sprang from the fact that I happen to be webmaster of the biggest Philippine literature site there is in the Internet). It wasn't easy. There was the matter of speaking to writers -- old and young -- whom I have read and respected. There was the matter of two National Artists for Literature -- F. Sionil Jose and Alejandro Roces -- listening to every word I say. There was the matter of our Yahoogroups files suddenly becoming inaccessible because Yahoo! just happened to break down right that very hour we were starting our talk.



But, thank God, I went through the experience without too much hitches. Someone in the audience told me I had "great diction."



And then later, the fictionist Kit Kwe -- one of the most amazing young writers I know -- picked me up from Intramuros, and we drove all the way to Greenbelt where we had a great P500 dinner at a place called Soul Food. Kit had pasta, I had some steak. And green tea. With Tessa Magdamo and Eric Joven, we invaded Powerbooks where I bought Maria LM Fres-Felix's new short story collection, the brilliant Making Straight Circles.



And then the next day, I flew home.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, January 28, 2005

entry arrow8:36 PM | The Desiring

And afterward? -- What to write now?

Can you still write anything? -- One writes

with one's desire, and I am not through desiring.



ROLAND BARTHES


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:36 PM | The Desiring

And afterward? -- What to write now?

Can you still write anything? -- One writes

with one's desire, and I am not through desiring.



ROLAND BARTHES


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:36 PM | The Desiring

And afterward? -- What to write now?

Can you still write anything? -- One writes

with one's desire, and I am not through desiring.



ROLAND BARTHES


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:30 PM | The Terrible Trauma of Breasts

The tragedy revisited, exactly a year later: U.S. children still traumatized one year after seeing partially exposed breast on TV.







Click only if you have a sense of irony. (Not a lot of people do.)



[emailed in by mark cayanan]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:30 PM | The Terrible Trauma of Breasts

The tragedy revisited, exactly a year later: U.S. children still traumatized one year after seeing partially exposed breast on TV.







Click only if you have a sense of irony. (Not a lot of people do.)



[emailed in by mark cayanan]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:30 PM | The Terrible Trauma of Breasts

The tragedy revisited, exactly a year later: U.S. children still traumatized one year after seeing partially exposed breast on TV.







Click only if you have a sense of irony. (Not a lot of people do.)



[emailed in by mark cayanan]




[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:33 PM | The Dying of Dumaguete

Dumaguete is dead. Save for Joey Ayala coming this February, there's nothing much to do or see here, except gossip, or sleep. Or watch Lovers in Paris.



The measure of a progressive city lies in the way people entertain themselves. Fun and entertainment, after all, are mirrors of the way we regard ourselves. They are the icing to our cake, the rewards to our hard work, the proverbial pat in the back.



That is why truly cosmopolitan cities meticulously cultivate a sense of culture, a sense of fun, because without that particular function, any city easily becomes an anonymous dot on the map of boredom -- a virtual cultural ghost town. Humdrum cities like Cleveland and Detroit, for example, took pains setting up world-class symphony orchestras to distinguish themselves from the industrial grime that had become their reputation. And New York -- that great town -- would not be the hub of the world without its restaurants, its theaters, its museums, its ballet, its dance and drama companies, its Shakespeare in Central Park. Even Cebu, of late, has been pushing its cultural possibilities.



The road to civilization is essentially a journey towards the institution of cultured pleasure.



Then again, this is Dumaguete, where progress is essentially a four-letter word, where there is a 2:00 a.m. statute of limitation on any idea of fun, where anyone can run for mayor on the platform of non-performance and flatlining of progress, and win hands down. Every night, at 10 o'clock, the sirens screech its appeal for curfew; it has gone beyond that, I think; it has become symbolic of cultural decay.



I used to have an idea of a Dumaguete beautifully combining a graceful old charm with contemporary sensibilities. Lately, there are gnawing doubts, the way one casts adverse suspicions over a dried-up old maid, an old fart, a dinosaur, a relic that the train has left behind.



Lately, there are only these: a crawl of traffic that defies logic and any semblance of order and safety, crumbling asphalt streets, and an invasion of grime and smudge that decorate haphazard buildings and that ambushes you for measly peso coins for "watching over" your parked motorcycle.



We used to talk about Dumaguete as being on the verge of a cultural renaissance, as being on the throes of becoming our own tropical version of the Riviera. There had been signs, and it had looked it. There were nights in the Boulevard when, upon the invitation of humidity and the moon over the harbor, we used to sit out of Nene's North Pole Emilia drinking iced tea, or outside Lighthouse next to a table of Bacolod brats who had boarded a Pajero for a three-hour trip just to bask in our atmosphere. (Both are gone now; Emilia is an empty shell.)



We had a litany of choices: On the far side, Happy Days (now CocoAmigos) beckoned with promises of unpretentious revelry, and we drank to that, toasting proprietress Tina and her 50s cafe-inspiration. Limelight (now Mamia's), somewhere in the middle, was a memorable flash-in-the-pan, when it had meant French dinners for Valentines Day (something the hoi polloi didn't quite know what to do with), occasional stand-up comedy by Manila clowns, or brushing elbows with movie stars with whom everybody pretends so hard not to notice. Everybody knew where to get their Thai food (Le Chalet, and the now defunct Sawasdee), their fillet mignon (Don Atilano), their spicy chicken wings (Giacomino's), their fish kebab (SACs).



The Thai food is gone, and so has the fish kebab and the spicy chicken wings. Limelight is a dark hole where once you could have drowned in the tempo of techno music flooding the place. Lighthouse, in the meantime, is an assembly of plywood and construction noise and will soon become a local incarnation of Shakey's -- an idea not so bad, but you are welcome to have that token cringe of knowing that the commercial has finally taken over what had been a very personal, intimate place. Nobody remembers Happy Days anymore, or any of the shadowy upstarts that followed it and disappeared without traces.



Last night, driving around the city with my friend Gideon, I couldn't help but long for that time when the streets were necessarily alive. Now, there were only potholes and unfinished cement roads to greet us, and an uncharmed silence.



We drove through the already dark streets, past 9 p.m., and the buildings were sad. They were empty, unrented, ridiculously gaudy, so much like a botched up facial plastic surgery. The Orient Garden building, which once thrived with so much life and good food, has imploded in its latest incarnation: a so-so boutique that also sells cellphone accessories. On the corner of Silliman Avenue is a nondescript shop that sells school supplies. What had once been an imposing corner place, the old Manila Bank, has been "spruced up" in horrific, geriatric beige -- perhaps a perfect metaphor for its new existence -- a Veteran's Bank. In the meantime, pawnshops and shoe stores (I mean, shoe stores?) have become a puzzling epidemic.



And worst of all, the cultural emptiness, the unmarked nights in our calendars. There are no more Shakespeare plays in Silliman's amphitheater, and when great shows do invade (like Mindanao State University's Sining Kambayoka a few months ago), there's only a handful of people in the audience, a yawning gap that saddens.



The persevering Manolet Teves tries his best. So do Bing Valbuena, Village Bookstore owner Danah Fortunato, artist Kitty Taniguchi, and writers Ernesto Yee and Bobby Villasis. The other day, artist and professional bum Razceljan Salvarita and erstwhile photographer Donnie Calsena were thinking of doing a poetry reading.



Most of the time, many of them are met with a strange indifference.



Where are the film festivals? I remember seeing Lino Brocka in person for the first time introducing Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang to a new generation of movie audiences in V-Cinema (now a parking lot). My former film professor, Jonah Lim (an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right), tries his best: he has been bringing in Eksperimento, the independent film and video festival, every August to Dumaguete. But we used to have a lot more of that: film festivals sponsored by the governments of Japan, France, Spain. And while the attendance to Eksperimento is still a bit wanting, it is miraculously growing year by year. But can anybody say, "Dumaguete International Film Festival," in the vein of Sundance or Cannes? (The veteran actress Evelyn Vargas-Knaebel -- who loves Dumaguete -- can, and has been egging some people to help her with that dream.)



Where are the art exhibits? The challenging new plays? The orchestral concerts? The chamber music presentations? Where are our writers?



What has Mayor Perdices done to make this truly a University Town? For that moniker to matter at all, one does not just take in statistics of student population numbers, or the number of schools and universities within a stone's throw of each other. One must up the intellectual quotient a bit.



But enough sourpussing, already. I guess it is just back to watching the new American Idol on TV. That's what we do in Dumaguete.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:33 PM | The Dying of Dumaguete

Dumaguete is dead. Save for Joey Ayala coming this February, there's nothing much to do or see here, except gossip, or sleep. Or watch Lovers in Paris.



The measure of a progressive city lies in the way people entertain themselves. Fun and entertainment, after all, are mirrors of the way we regard ourselves. They are the icing to our cake, the rewards to our hard work, the proverbial pat in the back.



That is why truly cosmopolitan cities meticulously cultivate a sense of culture, a sense of fun, because without that particular function, any city easily becomes an anonymous dot on the map of boredom -- a virtual cultural ghost town. Humdrum cities like Cleveland and Detroit, for example, took pains setting up world-class symphony orchestras to distinguish themselves from the industrial grime that had become their reputation. And New York -- that great town -- would not be the hub of the world without its restaurants, its theaters, its museums, its ballet, its dance and drama companies, its Shakespeare in Central Park. Even Cebu, of late, has been pushing its cultural possibilities.



The road to civilization is essentially a journey towards the institution of cultured pleasure.



Then again, this is Dumaguete, where progress is essentially a four-letter word, where there is a 2:00 a.m. statute of limitation on any idea of fun, where anyone can run for mayor on the platform of non-performance and flatlining of progress, and win hands down. Every night, at 10 o'clock, the sirens screech its appeal for curfew; it has gone beyond that, I think; it has become symbolic of cultural decay.



I used to have an idea of a Dumaguete beautifully combining a graceful old charm with contemporary sensibilities. Lately, there are gnawing doubts, the way one casts adverse suspicions over a dried-up old maid, an old fart, a dinosaur, a relic that the train has left behind.



Lately, there are only these: a crawl of traffic that defies logic and any semblance of order and safety, crumbling asphalt streets, and an invasion of grime and smudge that decorate haphazard buildings and that ambushes you for measly peso coins for "watching over" your parked motorcycle.



We used to talk about Dumaguete as being on the verge of a cultural renaissance, as being on the throes of becoming our own tropical version of the Riviera. There had been signs, and it had looked it. There were nights in the Boulevard when, upon the invitation of humidity and the moon over the harbor, we used to sit out of Nene's North Pole Emilia drinking iced tea, or outside Lighthouse next to a table of Bacolod brats who had boarded a Pajero for a three-hour trip just to bask in our atmosphere. (Both are gone now; Emilia is an empty shell.)



We had a litany of choices: On the far side, Happy Days (now CocoAmigos) beckoned with promises of unpretentious revelry, and we drank to that, toasting proprietress Tina and her 50s cafe-inspiration. Limelight (now Mamia's), somewhere in the middle, was a memorable flash-in-the-pan, when it had meant French dinners for Valentines Day (something the hoi polloi didn't quite know what to do with), occasional stand-up comedy by Manila clowns, or brushing elbows with movie stars with whom everybody pretends so hard not to notice. Everybody knew where to get their Thai food (Le Chalet, and the now defunct Sawasdee), their fillet mignon (Don Atilano), their spicy chicken wings (Giacomino's), their fish kebab (SACs).



The Thai food is gone, and so has the fish kebab and the spicy chicken wings. Limelight is a dark hole where once you could have drowned in the tempo of techno music flooding the place. Lighthouse, in the meantime, is an assembly of plywood and construction noise and will soon become a local incarnation of Shakey's -- an idea not so bad, but you are welcome to have that token cringe of knowing that the commercial has finally taken over what had been a very personal, intimate place. Nobody remembers Happy Days anymore, or any of the shadowy upstarts that followed it and disappeared without traces.



Last night, driving around the city with my friend Gideon, I couldn't help but long for that time when the streets were necessarily alive. Now, there were only potholes and unfinished cement roads to greet us, and an uncharmed silence.



We drove through the already dark streets, past 9 p.m., and the buildings were sad. They were empty, unrented, ridiculously gaudy, so much like a botched up facial plastic surgery. The Orient Garden building, which once thrived with so much life and good food, has imploded in its latest incarnation: a so-so boutique that also sells cellphone accessories. On the corner of Silliman Avenue is a nondescript shop that sells school supplies. What had once been an imposing corner place, the old Manila Bank, has been "spruced up" in horrific, geriatric beige -- perhaps a perfect metaphor for its new existence -- a Veteran's Bank. In the meantime, pawnshops and shoe stores (I mean, shoe stores?) have become a puzzling epidemic.



And worst of all, the cultural emptiness, the unmarked nights in our calendars. There are no more Shakespeare plays in Silliman's amphitheater, and when great shows do invade (like Mindanao State University's Sining Kambayoka a few months ago), there's only a handful of people in the audience, a yawning gap that saddens.



The persevering Manolet Teves tries his best. So do Bing Valbuena, Village Bookstore owner Danah Fortunato, artist Kitty Taniguchi, and writers Ernesto Yee and Bobby Villasis. The other day, artist and professional bum Razceljan Salvarita and erstwhile photographer Donnie Calsena were thinking of doing a poetry reading.



Most of the time, many of them are met with a strange indifference.



Where are the film festivals? I remember seeing Lino Brocka in person for the first time introducing Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang to a new generation of movie audiences in V-Cinema (now a parking lot). My former film professor, Jonah Lim (an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right), tries his best: he has been bringing in Eksperimento, the independent film and video festival, every August to Dumaguete. But we used to have a lot more of that: film festivals sponsored by the governments of Japan, France, Spain. And while the attendance to Eksperimento is still a bit wanting, it is miraculously growing year by year. But can anybody say, "Dumaguete International Film Festival," in the vein of Sundance or Cannes? (The veteran actress Evelyn Vargas-Knaebel -- who loves Dumaguete -- can, and has been egging some people to help her with that dream.)



Where are the art exhibits? The challenging new plays? The orchestral concerts? The chamber music presentations? Where are our writers?



What has Mayor Perdices done to make this truly a University Town? For that moniker to matter at all, one does not just take in statistics of student population numbers, or the number of schools and universities within a stone's throw of each other. One must up the intellectual quotient a bit.



But enough sourpussing, already. I guess it is just back to watching the new American Idol on TV. That's what we do in Dumaguete.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:33 PM | The Dying of Dumaguete

Dumaguete is dead. Save for Joey Ayala coming this February, there's nothing much to do or see here, except gossip, or sleep. Or watch Lovers in Paris.



The measure of a progressive city lies in the way people entertain themselves. Fun and entertainment, after all, are mirrors of the way we regard ourselves. They are the icing to our cake, the rewards to our hard work, the proverbial pat in the back.



That is why truly cosmopolitan cities meticulously cultivate a sense of culture, a sense of fun, because without that particular function, any city easily becomes an anonymous dot on the map of boredom -- a virtual cultural ghost town. Humdrum cities like Cleveland and Detroit, for example, took pains setting up world-class symphony orchestras to distinguish themselves from the industrial grime that had become their reputation. And New York -- that great town -- would not be the hub of the world without its restaurants, its theaters, its museums, its ballet, its dance and drama companies, its Shakespeare in Central Park. Even Cebu, of late, has been pushing its cultural possibilities.



The road to civilization is essentially a journey towards the institution of cultured pleasure.



Then again, this is Dumaguete, where progress is essentially a four-letter word, where there is a 2:00 a.m. statute of limitation on any idea of fun, where anyone can run for mayor on the platform of non-performance and flatlining of progress, and win hands down. Every night, at 10 o'clock, the sirens screech its appeal for curfew; it has gone beyond that, I think; it has become symbolic of cultural decay.



I used to have an idea of a Dumaguete beautifully combining a graceful old charm with contemporary sensibilities. Lately, there are gnawing doubts, the way one casts adverse suspicions over a dried-up old maid, an old fart, a dinosaur, a relic that the train has left behind.



Lately, there are only these: a crawl of traffic that defies logic and any semblance of order and safety, crumbling asphalt streets, and an invasion of grime and smudge that decorate haphazard buildings and that ambushes you for measly peso coins for "watching over" your parked motorcycle.



We used to talk about Dumaguete as being on the verge of a cultural renaissance, as being on the throes of becoming our own tropical version of the Riviera. There had been signs, and it had looked it. There were nights in the Boulevard when, upon the invitation of humidity and the moon over the harbor, we used to sit out of Nene's North Pole Emilia drinking iced tea, or outside Lighthouse next to a table of Bacolod brats who had boarded a Pajero for a three-hour trip just to bask in our atmosphere. (Both are gone now; Emilia is an empty shell.)



We had a litany of choices: On the far side, Happy Days (now CocoAmigos) beckoned with promises of unpretentious revelry, and we drank to that, toasting proprietress Tina and her 50s cafe-inspiration. Limelight (now Mamia's), somewhere in the middle, was a memorable flash-in-the-pan, when it had meant French dinners for Valentines Day (something the hoi polloi didn't quite know what to do with), occasional stand-up comedy by Manila clowns, or brushing elbows with movie stars with whom everybody pretends so hard not to notice. Everybody knew where to get their Thai food (Le Chalet, and the now defunct Sawasdee), their fillet mignon (Don Atilano), their spicy chicken wings (Giacomino's), their fish kebab (SACs).



The Thai food is gone, and so has the fish kebab and the spicy chicken wings. Limelight is a dark hole where once you could have drowned in the tempo of techno music flooding the place. Lighthouse, in the meantime, is an assembly of plywood and construction noise and will soon become a local incarnation of Shakey's -- an idea not so bad, but you are welcome to have that token cringe of knowing that the commercial has finally taken over what had been a very personal, intimate place. Nobody remembers Happy Days anymore, or any of the shadowy upstarts that followed it and disappeared without traces.



Last night, driving around the city with my friend Gideon, I couldn't help but long for that time when the streets were necessarily alive. Now, there were only potholes and unfinished cement roads to greet us, and an uncharmed silence.



We drove through the already dark streets, past 9 p.m., and the buildings were sad. They were empty, unrented, ridiculously gaudy, so much like a botched up facial plastic surgery. The Orient Garden building, which once thrived with so much life and good food, has imploded in its latest incarnation: a so-so boutique that also sells cellphone accessories. On the corner of Silliman Avenue is a nondescript shop that sells school supplies. What had once been an imposing corner place, the old Manila Bank, has been "spruced up" in horrific, geriatric beige -- perhaps a perfect metaphor for its new existence -- a Veteran's Bank. In the meantime, pawnshops and shoe stores (I mean, shoe stores?) have become a puzzling epidemic.



And worst of all, the cultural emptiness, the unmarked nights in our calendars. There are no more Shakespeare plays in Silliman's amphitheater, and when great shows do invade (like Mindanao State University's Sining Kambayoka a few months ago), there's only a handful of people in the audience, a yawning gap that saddens.



The persevering Manolet Teves tries his best. So do Bing Valbuena, Village Bookstore owner Danah Fortunato, artist Kitty Taniguchi, and writers Ernesto Yee and Bobby Villasis. The other day, artist and professional bum Razceljan Salvarita and erstwhile photographer Donnie Calsena were thinking of doing a poetry reading.



Most of the time, many of them are met with a strange indifference.



Where are the film festivals? I remember seeing Lino Brocka in person for the first time introducing Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang to a new generation of movie audiences in V-Cinema (now a parking lot). My former film professor, Jonah Lim (an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right), tries his best: he has been bringing in Eksperimento, the independent film and video festival, every August to Dumaguete. But we used to have a lot more of that: film festivals sponsored by the governments of Japan, France, Spain. And while the attendance to Eksperimento is still a bit wanting, it is miraculously growing year by year. But can anybody say, "Dumaguete International Film Festival," in the vein of Sundance or Cannes? (The veteran actress Evelyn Vargas-Knaebel -- who loves Dumaguete -- can, and has been egging some people to help her with that dream.)



Where are the art exhibits? The challenging new plays? The orchestral concerts? The chamber music presentations? Where are our writers?



What has Mayor Perdices done to make this truly a University Town? For that moniker to matter at all, one does not just take in statistics of student population numbers, or the number of schools and universities within a stone's throw of each other. One must up the intellectual quotient a bit.



But enough sourpussing, already. I guess it is just back to watching the new American Idol on TV. That's what we do in Dumaguete.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, January 26, 2005

entry arrow8:24 PM | Excuses, Excuses...

These are excuse notes from parents (including original spelling) collected by schools from all over America.



My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.



Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.



Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.



Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.



Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.



John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.



Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.



Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side. Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.



Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the shits. [words in ( )'s were crossed-out.]



Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.



I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because I don't know what size she wear.



Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.



Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.



Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.



Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.



Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.





Ah, the fun we teachers have.



[emailed by myrza]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:24 PM | Excuses, Excuses...

These are excuse notes from parents (including original spelling) collected by schools from all over America.



My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.



Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.



Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.



Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.



Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.



John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.



Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.



Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side. Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.



Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the shits. [words in ( )'s were crossed-out.]



Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.



I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because I don't know what size she wear.



Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.



Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.



Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.



Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.



Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.





Ah, the fun we teachers have.



[emailed by myrza]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow8:24 PM | Excuses, Excuses...

These are excuse notes from parents (including original spelling) collected by schools from all over America.



My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.



Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.



Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.



Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.



Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.



John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.



Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.



Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side. Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.



Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the shits. [words in ( )'s were crossed-out.]



Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.



I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because I don't know what size she wear.



Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.



Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.



Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.



Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.



Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.





Ah, the fun we teachers have.



[emailed by myrza]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, January 25, 2005

entry arrow9:52 PM | Fresh Oscars in the Air

[turning off TV]





Oh my God. Oh my God. Catalina Sandino Moreno just got nominated for Best Actress. Her fresh turn as a Colombian mule in Maria Full of Grace was so understated, and yet full of quiet tension, she had to snag at least a nomination. The rest? The usual suspects of Hilary Swank of Million Dollaw Baby, Imelda Staunton of Vera Drake, Annette Bening of Being Julia, and Kate Winslet of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In a historic rematch, Swank will probably get the Oscar (M. says because she has great fashion sense), but I want Bening to win because ... well, I still can't forget her "You smell like Catalina" line in Postcards From the Edge.





But where's Neve Campbell from When Will I Be Loved? Or Julie Delpy from Before Sunset? And for the supporting players, where's Meryl Streep from The Manchurian Candidate? The amazing cast (composed of Regina King, Sharon Warren, and Kerry Washington) of Ray? And Irma P. Hall of The Ladykillers?





Virginia Madsen's supporting actress recognition, for Sideways, is particularly giddy because she's been around forever, she even got slashed to pieces in the original Candyman. But, oh, I so wanted Sandra Oh from the same film to get a nod, too. Oh has been a constant source of inspired performances, from the days of Double Happiness, to her supporting turn as the best friend in Under the Tuscan Sun. But, nevertheless. There will be other movies. At least, here, she got good press coverage, too. (She must feel terribly left out though, together with Paul Giamatti, to be one of two cast members out of four who didn't get an Oscar nod.) Who are the rest of the supporting best? Sophie Okonedo as the Tutsi wife from Hotel Rwanda, Natalie Portman as the American prostitute in London in Closer, and Laura Linney as the beleaguered wife in Kinsey. Who will win? Cate Blanchett, because she gives an ethereal Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. And because Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love robbed her of her Oscar when she played the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth.





And yet, it's really a lean year for female actresses. The Best Actor race, on the other hand, has a herd going on a stampede, thus, many great performances have been laid to waste in the wayside. Virtual reel roadkill. This is Jamie Foxx's year, however, getting both leading and supporting nominations in Ray and Collateral, respectively. He will win, of course. The Oscars will want the same kind of teary/jazzy acceptance speech he gave at the Golden Globes. Some friends are ecstatic that Titanic's Leonardo DiCaprio, deprived of a nomination for that movie, is now back in the nomination roll, with a spirited performance in The Aviator. Sometimes I want to remind them he already got a nomination from way back, as the retarded boy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. In that movie, he played Johnny Depp's brother, but now, they are both facing off each other, awards-wise. Depp was last year's surprise but most welcome nominee for Pirates of the Carribean; this year, his performance in Finding Neverland as Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie is more muted, but that, nevertheless, got him this latest nod. Everybody loves a beautiful bad boy. Clint Eastwood is also here for Million Dollar Baby, but being a multinominee (as director and as producer for Million) may hurt his chances. Not that I care. He has already gotten recognition as auteur, anyway, for Unforgiven. Thank God, he wasn't nominated as well for his original score. (How talented can you be ba?) And Don Cheadle of Hotel Rwanda ? Not your typical leading man, at all. He will probably be happy for just getting nominated. Cheadle is a welcome nominee, him being the consummate professional (watch him steal most of the films he's been in, like last year's Ocean's 12). Paul Giamatti of Sideways was supposed to be a shoo-in last year for American Splendor, but that speculation went nowhere. This year, that went nowhere again. Poor guy. (And why Clint Eastwood instead of him?)





Let's not talk about Foxx for his supporting actor nomination anymore. Alan Alda's nomination for The Aviator was something nobody saw coming. But it makes perfect sense, and the old man's been around for so long. Sideway's Thomas Haden Church and his real-life story of obscure TV sitcom talent now hot film property will carry him, and probably give him the Oscar, but if everything is right in heaven, Morgan Freeman will win for Million Dollar Baby. (Heck, he played God once, in Bruce Almighty, and did the role well. I hope God enjoyed that performance, too.) Why Morgan? Because his is that acute, effortless performance that gives definition to grace in movies. Consider his star turn in The Shawshank Redemption, or even in something like Driving Miss Daisy. That's perfection. Clive Owen, on the other hand, has gone a long way, from that dreary Holocaust film Bent, to this biting playboy in Mike Nichols' Closer. Oh, but where's Peter Sarsgaard for Kinsey? This is his second snub, after his brilliant performance last year in Shattered Glass. And where's Freddie Highmore of Finding Neverland?



Where's Kevin Bacon's reformed child molester in The Woodsman? Or Christian Bale's thinning insomniac in The Machinist? Or Javier Bardem's cheerful suicide in The Sea Inside? Or Al Pacino's famous Shakespearean Jew in The Merchant of Venice? Where are the musical renditions of Bobby Darin for Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea, or Cole Porter for Kevin Spacey in De-Lovely? And somebody just asked me, where's Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Alas for poor Jimmy, comedy still gets no respect in the Academy.





Martin Scorsese, the greatest living director, should get his Oscar now for The Aviator. Like what Leo said, "This is the longest practical joke, not giving him an Oscar." True. He has given us gems like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Mean Streets. Even his lesser efforts like Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence, The Last Temptation of Christ, Casino, and New York, New York are still virtual masterpieces. Really, it's about time to give this film master a break. Consider the others in his company: Alexander Payne still has years of productive work ahead, and judging from the roster of films he has made (such as the brilliant Election), there's no sign of him slowing down creatively anytime soon. So goes for Taylor Hackford of Ray (who also gave us the surprising 8 Mile, and the dreamy Wonder Boys). As for veterans Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby and Mike Leigh for Vera Drake, recognition may be enough.



And finally, we get to the Best Picture nominees. Which is a showcase of glaring omissions. Where's Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the Cannes Palme D'Or? He took it out of the running in the Best Documentary race, hoping for a Best Picture nod. The gamble did not pay off. So did Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2. Him chopping it to two movies may have proven to be box office bonanza, but straddling it between two Oscar years perhaps forfeited his chances at full honors. Where's Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ? The movie was not that good. It was only controversial. Where's Brad Bird's The Incredibles? Confined to the Best Animated Feature ghetto, together with Shrek 2 and -- I can't believe it -- Shark Tale. (Shark Tale? That horrid film?) So finally, we have Million Dollar Baby. The Aviator. Sideways. Ray. And Finding Neverland. I do not get the last one at all. It's an admirable film, yes, but Neverland is not Oscar material. It meanders, it makes pa-cute, but there is no backbone at all to this handsome picture. Take it from me, come February 27, The Aviator will fly over them all.



[the complete list of nominees can be found at the Oscar website]



If you were wondering, did the Philippines get the nod at last in the Best Foreign Language Film category? We sent Mark Meilly's Crying Ladies. We ended up crying with nada instead.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow9:52 PM | Fresh Oscars in the Air

[turning off TV]





Oh my God. Oh my God. Catalina Sandino Moreno just got nominated for Best Actress. Her fresh turn as a Colombian mule in Maria Full of Grace was so understated, and yet full of quiet tension, she had to snag at least a nomination. The rest? The usual suspects of Hilary Swank of Million Dollaw Baby, Imelda Staunton of Vera Drake, Annette Bening of Being Julia, and Kate Winslet of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In a historic rematch, Swank will probably get the Oscar (M. says because she has great fashion sense), but I want Bening to win because ... well, I still can't forget her "You smell like Catalina" line in Postcards From the Edge.





But where's Neve Campbell from When Will I Be Loved? Or Julie Delpy from Before Sunset? And for the supporting players, where's Meryl Streep from The Manchurian Candidate? The amazing cast (composed of Regina King, Sharon Warren, and Kerry Washington) of Ray? And Irma P. Hall of The Ladykillers?





Virginia Madsen's supporting actress recognition, for Sideways, is particularly giddy because she's been around forever, she even got slashed to pieces in the original Candyman. But, oh, I so wanted Sandra Oh from the same film to get a nod, too. Oh has been a constant source of inspired performances, from the days of Double Happiness, to her supporting turn as the best friend in Under the Tuscan Sun. But, nevertheless. There will be other movies. At least, here, she got good press coverage, too. (She must feel terribly left out though, together with Paul Giamatti, to be one of two cast members out of four who didn't get an Oscar nod.) Who are the rest of the supporting best? Sophie Okonedo as the Tutsi wife from Hotel Rwanda, Natalie Portman as the American prostitute in London in Closer, and Laura Linney as the beleaguered wife in Kinsey. Who will win? Cate Blanchett, because she gives an ethereal Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. And because Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love robbed her of her Oscar when she played the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth.





And yet, it's really a lean year for female actresses. The Best Actor race, on the other hand, has a herd going on a stampede, thus, many great performances have been laid to waste in the wayside. Virtual reel roadkill. This is Jamie Foxx's year, however, getting both leading and supporting nominations in Ray and Collateral, respectively. He will win, of course. The Oscars will want the same kind of teary/jazzy acceptance speech he gave at the Golden Globes. Some friends are ecstatic that Titanic's Leonardo DiCaprio, deprived of a nomination for that movie, is now back in the nomination roll, with a spirited performance in The Aviator. Sometimes I want to remind them he already got a nomination from way back, as the retarded boy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. In that movie, he played Johnny Depp's brother, but now, they are both facing off each other, awards-wise. Depp was last year's surprise but most welcome nominee for Pirates of the Carribean; this year, his performance in Finding Neverland as Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie is more muted, but that, nevertheless, got him this latest nod. Everybody loves a beautiful bad boy. Clint Eastwood is also here for Million Dollar Baby, but being a multinominee (as director and as producer for Million) may hurt his chances. Not that I care. He has already gotten recognition as auteur, anyway, for Unforgiven. Thank God, he wasn't nominated as well for his original score. (How talented can you be ba?) And Don Cheadle of Hotel Rwanda ? Not your typical leading man, at all. He will probably be happy for just getting nominated. Cheadle is a welcome nominee, him being the consummate professional (watch him steal most of the films he's been in, like last year's Ocean's 12). Paul Giamatti of Sideways was supposed to be a shoo-in last year for American Splendor, but that speculation went nowhere. This year, that went nowhere again. Poor guy. (And why Clint Eastwood instead of him?)





Let's not talk about Foxx for his supporting actor nomination anymore. Alan Alda's nomination for The Aviator was something nobody saw coming. But it makes perfect sense, and the old man's been around for so long. Sideway's Thomas Haden Church and his real-life story of obscure TV sitcom talent now hot film property will carry him, and probably give him the Oscar, but if everything is right in heaven, Morgan Freeman will win for Million Dollar Baby. (Heck, he played God once, in Bruce Almighty, and did the role well. I hope God enjoyed that performance, too.) Why Morgan? Because his is that acute, effortless performance that gives definition to grace in movies. Consider his star turn in The Shawshank Redemption, or even in something like Driving Miss Daisy. That's perfection. Clive Owen, on the other hand, has gone a long way, from that dreary Holocaust film Bent, to this biting playboy in Mike Nichols' Closer. Oh, but where's Peter Sarsgaard for Kinsey? This is his second snub, after his brilliant performance last year in Shattered Glass. And where's Freddie Highmore of Finding Neverland?



Where's Kevin Bacon's reformed child molester in The Woodsman? Or Christian Bale's thinning insomniac in The Machinist? Or Javier Bardem's cheerful suicide in The Sea Inside? Or Al Pacino's famous Shakespearean Jew in The Merchant of Venice? Where are the musical renditions of Bobby Darin for Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea, or Cole Porter for Kevin Spacey in De-Lovely? And somebody just asked me, where's Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Alas for poor Jimmy, comedy still gets no respect in the Academy.





Martin Scorsese, the greatest living director, should get his Oscar now for The Aviator. Like what Leo said, "This is the longest practical joke, not giving him an Oscar." True. He has given us gems like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Mean Streets. Even his lesser efforts like Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence, The Last Temptation of Christ, Casino, and New York, New York are still virtual masterpieces. Really, it's about time to give this film master a break. Consider the others in his company: Alexander Payne still has years of productive work ahead, and judging from the roster of films he has made (such as the brilliant Election), there's no sign of him slowing down creatively anytime soon. So goes for Taylor Hackford of Ray (who also gave us the surprising 8 Mile, and the dreamy Wonder Boys). As for veterans Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby and Mike Leigh for Vera Drake, recognition may be enough.



And finally, we get to the Best Picture nominees. Which is a showcase of glaring omissions. Where's Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the Cannes Palme D'Or? He took it out of the running in the Best Documentary race, hoping for a Best Picture nod. The gamble did not pay off. So did Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2. Him chopping it to two movies may have proven to be box office bonanza, but straddling it between two Oscar years perhaps forfeited his chances at full honors. Where's Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ? The movie was not that good. It was only controversial. Where's Brad Bird's The Incredibles? Confined to the Best Animated Feature ghetto, together with Shrek 2 and -- I can't believe it -- Shark Tale. (Shark Tale? That horrid film?) So finally, we have Million Dollar Baby. The Aviator. Sideways. Ray. And Finding Neverland. I do not get the last one at all. It's an admirable film, yes, but Neverland is not Oscar material. It meanders, it makes pa-cute, but there is no backbone at all to this handsome picture. Take it from me, come February 27, The Aviator will fly over them all.



[the complete list of nominees can be found at the Oscar website]



If you were wondering, did the Philippines get the nod at last in the Best Foreign Language Film category? We sent Mark Meilly's Crying Ladies. We ended up crying with nada instead.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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