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





Bibliography

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

entry arrow11:24 PM | James's Stick Comes to Me. (It's Not What You Think, Pervert.)

Why do they call this passing the stick?

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. What book do you want to be?

But baby, I don't want to burn. Okay, if I feel suicidal, I'd be the last copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, so this book would be lost forever. I just heard it is a current bestseller in Turkey, which saddens me about the way things are. It's a wonderful world, but sometimes it's fucked up. It's a good thing I have Julia Glass's wonderful Three Junes on my bedside table to keep me company.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I had a crush on a headless male mannequin in a Penshoppe show window once. He had the most perfect washboard abs! As for someone more literary... Tom Sawyer. It was a childhood fling.

The last book you bought is...

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. The day after she died. And Michael Ondatje's The English Patient and A.S. Byatt's Possession, when I was on a Booker Prize binge. But I am forcing myself to no longer buy books, to stay away from bookstores, at least for a while. My library is groaning from under all that weight, and I still have a lot to catch up in my reading list. And I could use some of the money to buy me some new DVDs.

Five books you would take to a deserted island...

For something close to my heart: The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. For something artsy literary: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. For something spiritual: The Holy Bible-really. For something to occupy the rest of my days: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, to see what the fuss is all about. And for something all pop and sugary, but makes me think of a cerebral Indiana Jones meeting The Da Vinci Code: Katherine Neville's eternally entertaining The Eight.

What are you currently reading?

Oh, God. Here we go... Maria Fres-Felix's Making Straight Circles -- brilliant wit, unassuming prose that surprises. Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage -- something I can't seem to finish. I don't get her at al. Doris Lessing's Under My Skin -- but I stopped when I saw an interview of her on BBC where she said Africa was so much better colonized by white people. Kapal! Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones -- to find out why this caused such a stir. Donna Tartt's The Little Friend -- which is a lovely disappointment after The Secret History. Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes -- it was too close to my Tokyo memories, and thus repelled me at first, but it's slowly growing on me. Andrea Barret's Servants of the Map -- because Tim loves her. Jeanette Winterson's Art and Lies and Written on the Body -- because I want to read some sapphic fiction for a change. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- because he is a master storyteller. Ian McEwan's Atonement -- because we share the same name. Jose Montero y Vidal's Cuentos Filipinos -- because I want to see how we lived, in microscopic detail, under the Spanish. Susan Sontag's On Photography -- which is in constant recycle. Anonymous's The Bride Stripped Bare -- because my best friend told me I should read it. Sue Miller's While I Was Gone. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- for research on style. Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- before they release the movie. The 2004 Best American Short Stories -- for tips. And Jonathan Franken's The Corrections -- because I bought it hardbound, and I told Ma'am Susan (Lara) I will finish it, by hook or by crook. There are a hundred more, depending on my mood. Depending on my time.

Who are you going to pass this stick to and why?

Myrza Sison, because I want to know what lovely people read. Timothy Montes, to see what my writing mentor is up to, reading-wise. Susan Lara, to get a glimpse of a great fictionist at work. Gelo Suarez, just to catch up. Kit Kwe, because I love her to bits. Naya Valdellon, because she is my Cheshire Cat. Paolo Manalo, because he is midwife to most of my stories.

[because james passed this on to me]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:24 PM | James's Stick Comes to Me. (It's Not What You Think, Pervert.)

Why do they call this passing the stick?

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. What book do you want to be?

But baby, I don't want to burn. Okay, if I feel suicidal, I'd be the last copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, so this book would be lost forever. I just heard it is a current bestseller in Turkey, which saddens me about the way things are. It's a wonderful world, but sometimes it's fucked up. It's a good thing I have Julia Glass's wonderful Three Junes on my bedside table to keep me company.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I had a crush on a headless male mannequin in a Penshoppe show window once. He had the most perfect washboard abs! As for someone more literary... Tom Sawyer. It was a childhood fling.

The last book you bought is...

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. The day after she died. And Michael Ondatje's The English Patient and A.S. Byatt's Possession, when I was on a Booker Prize binge. But I am forcing myself to no longer buy books, to stay away from bookstores, at least for a while. My library is groaning from under all that weight, and I still have a lot to catch up in my reading list. And I could use some of the money to buy me some new DVDs.

Five books you would take to a deserted island...

For something close to my heart: The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. For something artsy literary: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. For something spiritual: The Holy Bible-really. For something to occupy the rest of my days: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, to see what the fuss is all about. And for something all pop and sugary, but makes me think of a cerebral Indiana Jones meeting The Da Vinci Code: Katherine Neville's eternally entertaining The Eight.

What are you currently reading?

Oh, God. Here we go... Maria Fres-Felix's Making Straight Circles -- brilliant wit, unassuming prose that surprises. Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage -- something I can't seem to finish. I don't get her at al. Doris Lessing's Under My Skin -- but I stopped when I saw an interview of her on BBC where she said Africa was so much better colonized by white people. Kapal! Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones -- to find out why this caused such a stir. Donna Tartt's The Little Friend -- which is a lovely disappointment after The Secret History. Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes -- it was too close to my Tokyo memories, and thus repelled me at first, but it's slowly growing on me. Andrea Barret's Servants of the Map -- because Tim loves her. Jeanette Winterson's Art and Lies and Written on the Body -- because I want to read some sapphic fiction for a change. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- because he is a master storyteller. Ian McEwan's Atonement -- because we share the same name. Jose Montero y Vidal's Cuentos Filipinos -- because I want to see how we lived, in microscopic detail, under the Spanish. Susan Sontag's On Photography -- which is in constant recycle. Anonymous's The Bride Stripped Bare -- because my best friend told me I should read it. Sue Miller's While I Was Gone. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- for research on style. Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- before they release the movie. The 2004 Best American Short Stories -- for tips. And Jonathan Franken's The Corrections -- because I bought it hardbound, and I told Ma'am Susan (Lara) I will finish it, by hook or by crook. There are a hundred more, depending on my mood. Depending on my time.

Who are you going to pass this stick to and why?

Myrza Sison, because I want to know what lovely people read. Timothy Montes, to see what my writing mentor is up to, reading-wise. Susan Lara, to get a glimpse of a great fictionist at work. Gelo Suarez, just to catch up. Kit Kwe, because I love her to bits. Naya Valdellon, because she is my Cheshire Cat. Paolo Manalo, because he is midwife to most of my stories.

[because james passed this on to me]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:24 PM | James's Stick Comes to Me. (It's Not What You Think, Pervert.)

Why do they call this passing the stick?

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. What book do you want to be?

But baby, I don't want to burn. Okay, if I feel suicidal, I'd be the last copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, so this book would be lost forever. I just heard it is a current bestseller in Turkey, which saddens me about the way things are. It's a wonderful world, but sometimes it's fucked up. It's a good thing I have Julia Glass's wonderful Three Junes on my bedside table to keep me company.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I had a crush on a headless male mannequin in a Penshoppe show window once. He had the most perfect washboard abs! As for someone more literary... Tom Sawyer. It was a childhood fling.

The last book you bought is...

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. The day after she died. And Michael Ondatje's The English Patient and A.S. Byatt's Possession, when I was on a Booker Prize binge. But I am forcing myself to no longer buy books, to stay away from bookstores, at least for a while. My library is groaning from under all that weight, and I still have a lot to catch up in my reading list. And I could use some of the money to buy me some new DVDs.

Five books you would take to a deserted island...

For something close to my heart: The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. For something artsy literary: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. For something spiritual: The Holy Bible-really. For something to occupy the rest of my days: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, to see what the fuss is all about. And for something all pop and sugary, but makes me think of a cerebral Indiana Jones meeting The Da Vinci Code: Katherine Neville's eternally entertaining The Eight.

What are you currently reading?

Oh, God. Here we go... Maria Fres-Felix's Making Straight Circles -- brilliant wit, unassuming prose that surprises. Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage -- something I can't seem to finish. I don't get her at al. Doris Lessing's Under My Skin -- but I stopped when I saw an interview of her on BBC where she said Africa was so much better colonized by white people. Kapal! Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones -- to find out why this caused such a stir. Donna Tartt's The Little Friend -- which is a lovely disappointment after The Secret History. Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes -- it was too close to my Tokyo memories, and thus repelled me at first, but it's slowly growing on me. Andrea Barret's Servants of the Map -- because Tim loves her. Jeanette Winterson's Art and Lies and Written on the Body -- because I want to read some sapphic fiction for a change. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- because he is a master storyteller. Ian McEwan's Atonement -- because we share the same name. Jose Montero y Vidal's Cuentos Filipinos -- because I want to see how we lived, in microscopic detail, under the Spanish. Susan Sontag's On Photography -- which is in constant recycle. Anonymous's The Bride Stripped Bare -- because my best friend told me I should read it. Sue Miller's While I Was Gone. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- for research on style. Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- before they release the movie. The 2004 Best American Short Stories -- for tips. And Jonathan Franken's The Corrections -- because I bought it hardbound, and I told Ma'am Susan (Lara) I will finish it, by hook or by crook. There are a hundred more, depending on my mood. Depending on my time.

Who are you going to pass this stick to and why?

Myrza Sison, because I want to know what lovely people read. Timothy Montes, to see what my writing mentor is up to, reading-wise. Susan Lara, to get a glimpse of a great fictionist at work. Gelo Suarez, just to catch up. Kit Kwe, because I love her to bits. Naya Valdellon, because she is my Cheshire Cat. Paolo Manalo, because he is midwife to most of my stories.

[because james passed this on to me]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:06 AM | Something Short to Share With Everybody While I'm Gone

Nada has a formed a twisted fascination with midgets.



No one knows why. (Except for Jason Michaels.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:06 AM | Something Short to Share With Everybody While I'm Gone

Nada has a formed a twisted fascination with midgets.



No one knows why. (Except for Jason Michaels.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:06 AM | Something Short to Share With Everybody While I'm Gone

Nada has a formed a twisted fascination with midgets.



No one knows why. (Except for Jason Michaels.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Sunday, March 27, 2005

entry arrow12:02 AM | Resurrection

When I want to ponder on the nature of God, I often cannot help but recall the stories of Gregorio Brillantes. He is perhaps one of our best short story writers -- even the greatest of them all, as poet-critic Gemino Abad once confided to me one summer night in Dumaguete, while talking shop and drinking beer in Cafe Memento. "But if not the best," he qualified, "then he is certainly my personal favorite."

For one trained as a New Critic, that is hardly surprising of Sir Jimmy, considering that the stories by Brillantes are replete with the Formalist gems of metaphor, tension, epiphany. Most of Brillantes's tales are about seeking answers to age-old questions regarding our place in the universe, regarding our search for an Almighty that will define our lives for us.

For him, the search is often futile and ripe with existential angst -- but I find that sort of narrative voice as a kind of comfort, perhaps because I am naturally suspicious of cut-and-dried, dogmatic spirituality. The best spirituality for me is one fraught with struggles and gray areas. My writing teacher, Timothy Montes, once gave me the perfect metaphor to describe such: that biblical image of Jacob wrestling with the Angel. "To know God," Tim said, "is to struggle in the pursuit of knowing."

Born in Tarlac in 1932, Brillantes has written three collections of stories -- The Distance to Andromeda in 1960, The Apollo Centennial: Nostalgias, Predicaments, and Celebrations in 1981, and On a Clear Day in November, Shortly Before the Millenium: Stories for a Quarter Century in 2000. Note the very images that run through those titles: space and an expanse of nothingness and distance, and the reach for some divine yet far away goal.

One story which I think reflect his religious themes well is "Faith, Love, Time, and Dr. Lazaro," a classic I revisit once in a while with my Philippine literature classes, because it constantly provides me with new meanings embedded within the text, and gives me insight about my own Christian faith.

In this story, Brillantes confronts the most important questions or mysteries of our lives as Christians: Does God exist? If so, what is the nature of God? I remember Tim telling me that Brillantes succeeds in telling a compelling story because he never preaches nor subverts. That he allows the reader to experience, rather than solve, the problem of God's presence or absence.

The story is deceptively simple: an aging medical doctor and his young son are called in the middle of the night to minister to a poor family, whose newborn baby has a terminal case of tetanus. The journey towards the family's home, however, seems to take on a different level when it also becomes a spiritual journey, most especially for Dr. Lazaro, whose beliefs and disbelief about God, faith, love, and time seem to haunt him with a pressurized intensity -- and all because he sees a wide chasm between him and Ben, his son, in terms of how they see life: he has lost so much faith in God and life, while Ben -- intent on becoming a priest -- seems so infuriatingly fresh and positive.

At this point of the story, I make my students try to understand the characters better by using the device of opposites to appreciate their subtleties: That while Dr. Lazaro is scientific, cold, and rational, Ben is spiritual, warm and intimate, and delicately emotional. While Dr. Lazaro is a figure of disbelief and doubt, Ben promises belief and faith. While Dr. Lazaro is old, pessimistic, and bitter, Ben is young, optimistic, and hopeful. That while Dr. Lazaro seems mechanical and "dead," Ben is human and "alive". That while Ben is the car's driver, his father seems content about being the passenger. If one can't get the metaphorical undertones, especially the last one, I don't know what will.

It is especially interesting to note how we are introduced, in the beginning of the story, to the character of Dr. Lazaro. Brillantes writes:

From the upstairs veranda, Dr. Lazaro had a view of stars, the country darkness, the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town. The phonograph in the sala played Chopin -- like a vast sorrow controlled, made familiar, he had been wont to think. But as he sat there, his lean frame in the habitual slack repose he took after supper, and stared at the plains of night that had evoked gentle images and even a kind of peace (in the end, sweet invincible oblivion), Dr. Lazaro remembered nothing, his mind lay untouched by any conscious thought, he was scarcely aware of the April heat; the pattern of music fell around him and dissolved swiftly, uncomprehended. It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body. In the scattered light from the sala his angular face had a dusty, wasted quality; only his eyes contained life. He could have remained there all evening, unmoving, and buried, as it were, in a strange half-sleep, had his wife not come to tell him he was wanted on the phone.

The emphases are mine. From that description alone, we get the sense that this man is, for a lack of a more apt term, a virtual "zombie." But why has Dr. Lazaro become like this? Well, he has lost faith in God. How so? Because of unfulfilled dreams, and the growing humdrumness of his life. Once a doctor of promise, he has instead "wasted" a life in a far-flung town, tending to common people who cannot even pay him, except in kind (like farm chicken, or bananas).

But he has also lost his faith because he has been a witness to countless, seemingly random deaths: there is a patient with cancer, whose racking pain even morphine can't assuage anymore; there is the baby who is now dying from tetanus; but most of all, there was his eldest son who, we later learn, committed suicide. From the latter, the Lazaro family "died" to each other as well: it made the doctor focus mechanically on his job, just to forget the pain, and his wife became more immersed in religion than in family.

For Dr. Lazaro, what kind of God would allow pain? What kind of God would kill a baby? What kind of God would take away a son? Is there really a God? (Many of my students invariably answer that perhaps God allowed this to happen to test their faith. I happen to believe this as well, but I pose for them another gray area: "That may be true, but tell that to a dying man in excruciating pain, or to a father who has tragically lost his child. Sir, you are in pain because God is testing your faith. Seems cruel, isn't it?")

These questions are compounded by the images and symbols that are replete throughout the story -- that of loss, distance, emptiness, and dark ominousness: "a view of the stars," "the country darkness," "the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town," a "humming of wires, as though darkness had added to the distance between the house in town and the station beyond the summer fields," "the long journey to Nambalan," "the sleeping town, the desolate streets, the plaza empty in the moonlight."

And being the quintessential Formalist narrative, the story contains several symbolism understood best through close-reading.

There is, for one, the realization that Dr. Lazaro represents a kind of "living dead." Besides the zombie-characteristic invoked in the first paragraph, his name easily evokes the Biblical "dead man brought to life": Lazarus. There is also the parallels of the baby and Dr. Lazaro -- that while the baby has actual tetanus, Dr. Lazarus, on the other hand, has tetanus of the soul: "It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body." He needs new life, we soon realize, and he needs to be resurrected from the dead. In a sense, his journey to Nambalan with his son becomes a journey in a quest for redemption: he has to save the body, to save an idea of himself and his place in the world.

But there is also that other metaphor: of God as a futile God. As a doctor, Dr. Lazaro "heals," which is very God-like, if you think about it. In one scene, Esteban, the baby's bewildered father, calls the doctor over the phone -- like the prayer of a desperate man to God. The distance between Esteban and Dr. Lazaro, through the humming of the phone wires and the resulting bad connection, is a good metaphor for the distance between God and man. Can we call God? What if all we get is a busy signal? the story seems to say. But finally, Dr. Lazaro cannot heal the sick baby, who eventually dies -- and we are left with this unsettling question: what does this say about the Great Healer?

And yet, by the end of the story, it is spirituality that saves. As the defeated Dr. Lazaro leaves the dead baby on the mat, he sees his son Ben -- the hopeful priest-to-be -- go to the baby's side, to give it the final sacrament of Extreme Unction. And he finally sees his darkness, and his son's saving light.

Dr. Lazaro epiphany also becomes ours, but his quickly ends with abortive fear. In what is one of the most famous endings in Philippine literature, we read:

With unaccustomed tenderness he placed a hand on Ben's shoulder as they turned the cement-walled house. They had gone on a trip; they had come home safely together. He felt closer to the boy than he had ever been in years.

"Sorry for keeping you up this late," Dr. Lazaro said.

"It's all right, Pa."

"Some night, huh, Ben? What you did back in the barrio -- ," there was just the slightest patronage in his tone -- "your mother will love to hear about it."

He shook the boy beside him gently. "Revered Father Ben Lazaro..." The impulse of uncertain humor -- it was part of the comradeship. He cackled drowsily: "Father Lazaro, what must I do to gain eternal life?"

As he slid the door open on the vault of darkness, the familiar depths of the house, it came to Dr. Lazaro faintly in the late night that for certain things, like love, there was only so much time. But the glimmer was lost instantly, buried in the mist of indifference and sleep rising now in his brain.

Which may be the saddest of all epiphanies. That given the chance to have resurrection, to see the salvation's light, so many of us -- like Dr. Lazaro -- quickly turn away, strangely "comfortable" in the sad, wallowing darkness of disbelief.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:02 AM | Resurrection

When I want to ponder on the nature of God, I often cannot help but recall the stories of Gregorio Brillantes. He is perhaps one of our best short story writers -- even the greatest of them all, as poet-critic Gemino Abad once confided to me one summer night in Dumaguete, while talking shop and drinking beer in Cafe Memento. "But if not the best," he qualified, "then he is certainly my personal favorite."

For one trained as a New Critic, that is hardly surprising of Sir Jimmy, considering that the stories by Brillantes are replete with the Formalist gems of metaphor, tension, epiphany. Most of Brillantes's tales are about seeking answers to age-old questions regarding our place in the universe, regarding our search for an Almighty that will define our lives for us.

For him, the search is often futile and ripe with existential angst -- but I find that sort of narrative voice as a kind of comfort, perhaps because I am naturally suspicious of cut-and-dried, dogmatic spirituality. The best spirituality for me is one fraught with struggles and gray areas. My writing teacher, Timothy Montes, once gave me the perfect metaphor to describe such: that biblical image of Jacob wrestling with the Angel. "To know God," Tim said, "is to struggle in the pursuit of knowing."

Born in Tarlac in 1932, Brillantes has written three collections of stories -- The Distance to Andromeda in 1960, The Apollo Centennial: Nostalgias, Predicaments, and Celebrations in 1981, and On a Clear Day in November, Shortly Before the Millenium: Stories for a Quarter Century in 2000. Note the very images that run through those titles: space and an expanse of nothingness and distance, and the reach for some divine yet far away goal.

One story which I think reflect his religious themes well is "Faith, Love, Time, and Dr. Lazaro," a classic I revisit once in a while with my Philippine literature classes, because it constantly provides me with new meanings embedded within the text, and gives me insight about my own Christian faith.

In this story, Brillantes confronts the most important questions or mysteries of our lives as Christians: Does God exist? If so, what is the nature of God? I remember Tim telling me that Brillantes succeeds in telling a compelling story because he never preaches nor subverts. That he allows the reader to experience, rather than solve, the problem of God's presence or absence.

The story is deceptively simple: an aging medical doctor and his young son are called in the middle of the night to minister to a poor family, whose newborn baby has a terminal case of tetanus. The journey towards the family's home, however, seems to take on a different level when it also becomes a spiritual journey, most especially for Dr. Lazaro, whose beliefs and disbelief about God, faith, love, and time seem to haunt him with a pressurized intensity -- and all because he sees a wide chasm between him and Ben, his son, in terms of how they see life: he has lost so much faith in God and life, while Ben -- intent on becoming a priest -- seems so infuriatingly fresh and positive.

At this point of the story, I make my students try to understand the characters better by using the device of opposites to appreciate their subtleties: That while Dr. Lazaro is scientific, cold, and rational, Ben is spiritual, warm and intimate, and delicately emotional. While Dr. Lazaro is a figure of disbelief and doubt, Ben promises belief and faith. While Dr. Lazaro is old, pessimistic, and bitter, Ben is young, optimistic, and hopeful. That while Dr. Lazaro seems mechanical and "dead," Ben is human and "alive". That while Ben is the car's driver, his father seems content about being the passenger. If one can't get the metaphorical undertones, especially the last one, I don't know what will.

It is especially interesting to note how we are introduced, in the beginning of the story, to the character of Dr. Lazaro. Brillantes writes:

From the upstairs veranda, Dr. Lazaro had a view of stars, the country darkness, the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town. The phonograph in the sala played Chopin -- like a vast sorrow controlled, made familiar, he had been wont to think. But as he sat there, his lean frame in the habitual slack repose he took after supper, and stared at the plains of night that had evoked gentle images and even a kind of peace (in the end, sweet invincible oblivion), Dr. Lazaro remembered nothing, his mind lay untouched by any conscious thought, he was scarcely aware of the April heat; the pattern of music fell around him and dissolved swiftly, uncomprehended. It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body. In the scattered light from the sala his angular face had a dusty, wasted quality; only his eyes contained life. He could have remained there all evening, unmoving, and buried, as it were, in a strange half-sleep, had his wife not come to tell him he was wanted on the phone.

The emphases are mine. From that description alone, we get the sense that this man is, for a lack of a more apt term, a virtual "zombie." But why has Dr. Lazaro become like this? Well, he has lost faith in God. How so? Because of unfulfilled dreams, and the growing humdrumness of his life. Once a doctor of promise, he has instead "wasted" a life in a far-flung town, tending to common people who cannot even pay him, except in kind (like farm chicken, or bananas).

But he has also lost his faith because he has been a witness to countless, seemingly random deaths: there is a patient with cancer, whose racking pain even morphine can't assuage anymore; there is the baby who is now dying from tetanus; but most of all, there was his eldest son who, we later learn, committed suicide. From the latter, the Lazaro family "died" to each other as well: it made the doctor focus mechanically on his job, just to forget the pain, and his wife became more immersed in religion than in family.

For Dr. Lazaro, what kind of God would allow pain? What kind of God would kill a baby? What kind of God would take away a son? Is there really a God? (Many of my students invariably answer that perhaps God allowed this to happen to test their faith. I happen to believe this as well, but I pose for them another gray area: "That may be true, but tell that to a dying man in excruciating pain, or to a father who has tragically lost his child. Sir, you are in pain because God is testing your faith. Seems cruel, isn't it?")

These questions are compounded by the images and symbols that are replete throughout the story -- that of loss, distance, emptiness, and dark ominousness: "a view of the stars," "the country darkness," "the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town," a "humming of wires, as though darkness had added to the distance between the house in town and the station beyond the summer fields," "the long journey to Nambalan," "the sleeping town, the desolate streets, the plaza empty in the moonlight."

And being the quintessential Formalist narrative, the story contains several symbolism understood best through close-reading.

There is, for one, the realization that Dr. Lazaro represents a kind of "living dead." Besides the zombie-characteristic invoked in the first paragraph, his name easily evokes the Biblical "dead man brought to life": Lazarus. There is also the parallels of the baby and Dr. Lazaro -- that while the baby has actual tetanus, Dr. Lazarus, on the other hand, has tetanus of the soul: "It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body." He needs new life, we soon realize, and he needs to be resurrected from the dead. In a sense, his journey to Nambalan with his son becomes a journey in a quest for redemption: he has to save the body, to save an idea of himself and his place in the world.

But there is also that other metaphor: of God as a futile God. As a doctor, Dr. Lazaro "heals," which is very God-like, if you think about it. In one scene, Esteban, the baby's bewildered father, calls the doctor over the phone -- like the prayer of a desperate man to God. The distance between Esteban and Dr. Lazaro, through the humming of the phone wires and the resulting bad connection, is a good metaphor for the distance between God and man. Can we call God? What if all we get is a busy signal? the story seems to say. But finally, Dr. Lazaro cannot heal the sick baby, who eventually dies -- and we are left with this unsettling question: what does this say about the Great Healer?

And yet, by the end of the story, it is spirituality that saves. As the defeated Dr. Lazaro leaves the dead baby on the mat, he sees his son Ben -- the hopeful priest-to-be -- go to the baby's side, to give it the final sacrament of Extreme Unction. And he finally sees his darkness, and his son's saving light.

Dr. Lazaro epiphany also becomes ours, but his quickly ends with abortive fear. In what is one of the most famous endings in Philippine literature, we read:

With unaccustomed tenderness he placed a hand on Ben's shoulder as they turned the cement-walled house. They had gone on a trip; they had come home safely together. He felt closer to the boy than he had ever been in years.

"Sorry for keeping you up this late," Dr. Lazaro said.

"It's all right, Pa."

"Some night, huh, Ben? What you did back in the barrio -- ," there was just the slightest patronage in his tone -- "your mother will love to hear about it."

He shook the boy beside him gently. "Revered Father Ben Lazaro..." The impulse of uncertain humor -- it was part of the comradeship. He cackled drowsily: "Father Lazaro, what must I do to gain eternal life?"

As he slid the door open on the vault of darkness, the familiar depths of the house, it came to Dr. Lazaro faintly in the late night that for certain things, like love, there was only so much time. But the glimmer was lost instantly, buried in the mist of indifference and sleep rising now in his brain.

Which may be the saddest of all epiphanies. That given the chance to have resurrection, to see the salvation's light, so many of us -- like Dr. Lazaro -- quickly turn away, strangely "comfortable" in the sad, wallowing darkness of disbelief.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:02 AM | Resurrection

When I want to ponder on the nature of God, I often cannot help but recall the stories of Gregorio Brillantes. He is perhaps one of our best short story writers -- even the greatest of them all, as poet-critic Gemino Abad once confided to me one summer night in Dumaguete, while talking shop and drinking beer in Cafe Memento. "But if not the best," he qualified, "then he is certainly my personal favorite."

For one trained as a New Critic, that is hardly surprising of Sir Jimmy, considering that the stories by Brillantes are replete with the Formalist gems of metaphor, tension, epiphany. Most of Brillantes's tales are about seeking answers to age-old questions regarding our place in the universe, regarding our search for an Almighty that will define our lives for us.

For him, the search is often futile and ripe with existential angst -- but I find that sort of narrative voice as a kind of comfort, perhaps because I am naturally suspicious of cut-and-dried, dogmatic spirituality. The best spirituality for me is one fraught with struggles and gray areas. My writing teacher, Timothy Montes, once gave me the perfect metaphor to describe such: that biblical image of Jacob wrestling with the Angel. "To know God," Tim said, "is to struggle in the pursuit of knowing."

Born in Tarlac in 1932, Brillantes has written three collections of stories -- The Distance to Andromeda in 1960, The Apollo Centennial: Nostalgias, Predicaments, and Celebrations in 1981, and On a Clear Day in November, Shortly Before the Millenium: Stories for a Quarter Century in 2000. Note the very images that run through those titles: space and an expanse of nothingness and distance, and the reach for some divine yet far away goal.

One story which I think reflect his religious themes well is "Faith, Love, Time, and Dr. Lazaro," a classic I revisit once in a while with my Philippine literature classes, because it constantly provides me with new meanings embedded within the text, and gives me insight about my own Christian faith.

In this story, Brillantes confronts the most important questions or mysteries of our lives as Christians: Does God exist? If so, what is the nature of God? I remember Tim telling me that Brillantes succeeds in telling a compelling story because he never preaches nor subverts. That he allows the reader to experience, rather than solve, the problem of God's presence or absence.

The story is deceptively simple: an aging medical doctor and his young son are called in the middle of the night to minister to a poor family, whose newborn baby has a terminal case of tetanus. The journey towards the family's home, however, seems to take on a different level when it also becomes a spiritual journey, most especially for Dr. Lazaro, whose beliefs and disbelief about God, faith, love, and time seem to haunt him with a pressurized intensity -- and all because he sees a wide chasm between him and Ben, his son, in terms of how they see life: he has lost so much faith in God and life, while Ben -- intent on becoming a priest -- seems so infuriatingly fresh and positive.

At this point of the story, I make my students try to understand the characters better by using the device of opposites to appreciate their subtleties: That while Dr. Lazaro is scientific, cold, and rational, Ben is spiritual, warm and intimate, and delicately emotional. While Dr. Lazaro is a figure of disbelief and doubt, Ben promises belief and faith. While Dr. Lazaro is old, pessimistic, and bitter, Ben is young, optimistic, and hopeful. That while Dr. Lazaro seems mechanical and "dead," Ben is human and "alive". That while Ben is the car's driver, his father seems content about being the passenger. If one can't get the metaphorical undertones, especially the last one, I don't know what will.

It is especially interesting to note how we are introduced, in the beginning of the story, to the character of Dr. Lazaro. Brillantes writes:

From the upstairs veranda, Dr. Lazaro had a view of stars, the country darkness, the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town. The phonograph in the sala played Chopin -- like a vast sorrow controlled, made familiar, he had been wont to think. But as he sat there, his lean frame in the habitual slack repose he took after supper, and stared at the plains of night that had evoked gentle images and even a kind of peace (in the end, sweet invincible oblivion), Dr. Lazaro remembered nothing, his mind lay untouched by any conscious thought, he was scarcely aware of the April heat; the pattern of music fell around him and dissolved swiftly, uncomprehended. It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body. In the scattered light from the sala his angular face had a dusty, wasted quality; only his eyes contained life. He could have remained there all evening, unmoving, and buried, as it were, in a strange half-sleep, had his wife not come to tell him he was wanted on the phone.

The emphases are mine. From that description alone, we get the sense that this man is, for a lack of a more apt term, a virtual "zombie." But why has Dr. Lazaro become like this? Well, he has lost faith in God. How so? Because of unfulfilled dreams, and the growing humdrumness of his life. Once a doctor of promise, he has instead "wasted" a life in a far-flung town, tending to common people who cannot even pay him, except in kind (like farm chicken, or bananas).

But he has also lost his faith because he has been a witness to countless, seemingly random deaths: there is a patient with cancer, whose racking pain even morphine can't assuage anymore; there is the baby who is now dying from tetanus; but most of all, there was his eldest son who, we later learn, committed suicide. From the latter, the Lazaro family "died" to each other as well: it made the doctor focus mechanically on his job, just to forget the pain, and his wife became more immersed in religion than in family.

For Dr. Lazaro, what kind of God would allow pain? What kind of God would kill a baby? What kind of God would take away a son? Is there really a God? (Many of my students invariably answer that perhaps God allowed this to happen to test their faith. I happen to believe this as well, but I pose for them another gray area: "That may be true, but tell that to a dying man in excruciating pain, or to a father who has tragically lost his child. Sir, you are in pain because God is testing your faith. Seems cruel, isn't it?")

These questions are compounded by the images and symbols that are replete throughout the story -- that of loss, distance, emptiness, and dark ominousness: "a view of the stars," "the country darkness," "the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town," a "humming of wires, as though darkness had added to the distance between the house in town and the station beyond the summer fields," "the long journey to Nambalan," "the sleeping town, the desolate streets, the plaza empty in the moonlight."

And being the quintessential Formalist narrative, the story contains several symbolism understood best through close-reading.

There is, for one, the realization that Dr. Lazaro represents a kind of "living dead." Besides the zombie-characteristic invoked in the first paragraph, his name easily evokes the Biblical "dead man brought to life": Lazarus. There is also the parallels of the baby and Dr. Lazaro -- that while the baby has actual tetanus, Dr. Lazarus, on the other hand, has tetanus of the soul: "It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood; it was everywhere in his body." He needs new life, we soon realize, and he needs to be resurrected from the dead. In a sense, his journey to Nambalan with his son becomes a journey in a quest for redemption: he has to save the body, to save an idea of himself and his place in the world.

But there is also that other metaphor: of God as a futile God. As a doctor, Dr. Lazaro "heals," which is very God-like, if you think about it. In one scene, Esteban, the baby's bewildered father, calls the doctor over the phone -- like the prayer of a desperate man to God. The distance between Esteban and Dr. Lazaro, through the humming of the phone wires and the resulting bad connection, is a good metaphor for the distance between God and man. Can we call God? What if all we get is a busy signal? the story seems to say. But finally, Dr. Lazaro cannot heal the sick baby, who eventually dies -- and we are left with this unsettling question: what does this say about the Great Healer?

And yet, by the end of the story, it is spirituality that saves. As the defeated Dr. Lazaro leaves the dead baby on the mat, he sees his son Ben -- the hopeful priest-to-be -- go to the baby's side, to give it the final sacrament of Extreme Unction. And he finally sees his darkness, and his son's saving light.

Dr. Lazaro epiphany also becomes ours, but his quickly ends with abortive fear. In what is one of the most famous endings in Philippine literature, we read:

With unaccustomed tenderness he placed a hand on Ben's shoulder as they turned the cement-walled house. They had gone on a trip; they had come home safely together. He felt closer to the boy than he had ever been in years.

"Sorry for keeping you up this late," Dr. Lazaro said.

"It's all right, Pa."

"Some night, huh, Ben? What you did back in the barrio -- ," there was just the slightest patronage in his tone -- "your mother will love to hear about it."

He shook the boy beside him gently. "Revered Father Ben Lazaro..." The impulse of uncertain humor -- it was part of the comradeship. He cackled drowsily: "Father Lazaro, what must I do to gain eternal life?"

As he slid the door open on the vault of darkness, the familiar depths of the house, it came to Dr. Lazaro faintly in the late night that for certain things, like love, there was only so much time. But the glimmer was lost instantly, buried in the mist of indifference and sleep rising now in his brain.

Which may be the saddest of all epiphanies. That given the chance to have resurrection, to see the salvation's light, so many of us -- like Dr. Lazaro -- quickly turn away, strangely "comfortable" in the sad, wallowing darkness of disbelief.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, March 26, 2005

entry arrow7:28 PM | Moon of Change

I was riding home on a pedicab from gym. It was past dusk, and the city was a beehive of people rushing home from work, or doing their shopping or dining. My pedicab passed by the Dumaguete Boulevard, and as usual, my mind was somewhere else, exhausted.

And then there it was, off the dark horizon which was the sea: a great big ball of yellowness. A strange, almost frightening, yellow moon.



Which immediately reminded me of Angela Manalang Gloria's oft-anthologized poem -- a personal favorite, because it was one of the first poetic attempts by Filipino writers in English to break free from one tradition, which was romanticism.

For me, this poem signals what may be the first signs of growth in our poetic literature. All changes for me -- good or bad -- is growth, and anyone can readily see that from Maramag and the Subidos, to Villa and Gloria, to Tiempo and Angeles, to Dumdum and Amper, to Evasco and Gamalinda, and now to Manalo and Suarez. I realize that the intermittent stages of change is often fraught with criticism from purists and (dare I say it?) formalists, but I guess all that discourse is part of any evolving literature.

In this particular poem, Gloria still maintains some of the romantic traditions of her peers, down to the use of natural imagery. But here, she employs a twist: no longer are the moon and stars and the "fragrance of lilies, rose-released musk" (from Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido's "Sonnet to a Gardener II") mere wallpaper to evoke romatic atmosphere; they now actually take on some deeper dimension, sometimes even psychological. Like the yellow moon here, which the persona professes to be "afraid of." And gone are the strict cadence, the artifice, the blatant imititativeness, the archaic words. This was finally liberating free verse!

Yellow Moon
By Angela Manalang Gloria

I stand at my window and listen;
Only the plaintive murmur of a swarm of cicadas.
I stand on the wet grass and ponder,
And turn to the east and behold you,
Great yellow moon.
Why do you frighten me so,
You captive of the coconut glade?
I have seen you before,
Have flirted with you so many a night.

When my heart, ever throbbing, never listless,
Had pined for the moonlight to calm it.
But you were a dainty whiteness
That kissed my brow then.
A gentle, pale flutter
That touched my aching breast.

You are a lonely yellow moon now.
You are ghastly, spectral tonight,
Alone
Behind your prison bars of coconut trees.
That is why
I do not dare take you into my hand
And press you against my cheek
To feel how cold you are.

I am afraid of you, yellow moon.

There you go. Now, I'm off to a weekend of work. No vacation for me. I want all my grades done come Monday, so I can go off into the moonrise somewhere, probably Siquijor.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:28 PM | Moon of Change

I was riding home on a pedicab from gym. It was past dusk, and the city was a beehive of people rushing home from work, or doing their shopping or dining. My pedicab passed by the Dumaguete Boulevard, and as usual, my mind was somewhere else, exhausted.

And then there it was, off the dark horizon which was the sea: a great big ball of yellowness. A strange, almost frightening, yellow moon.



Which immediately reminded me of Angela Manalang Gloria's oft-anthologized poem -- a personal favorite, because it was one of the first poetic attempts by Filipino writers in English to break free from one tradition, which was romanticism.

For me, this poem signals what may be the first signs of growth in our poetic literature. All changes for me -- good or bad -- is growth, and anyone can readily see that from Maramag and the Subidos, to Villa and Gloria, to Tiempo and Angeles, to Dumdum and Amper, to Evasco and Gamalinda, and now to Manalo and Suarez. I realize that the intermittent stages of change is often fraught with criticism from purists and (dare I say it?) formalists, but I guess all that discourse is part of any evolving literature.

In this particular poem, Gloria still maintains some of the romantic traditions of her peers, down to the use of natural imagery. But here, she employs a twist: no longer are the moon and stars and the "fragrance of lilies, rose-released musk" (from Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido's "Sonnet to a Gardener II") mere wallpaper to evoke romatic atmosphere; they now actually take on some deeper dimension, sometimes even psychological. Like the yellow moon here, which the persona professes to be "afraid of." And gone are the strict cadence, the artifice, the blatant imititativeness, the archaic words. This was finally liberating free verse!

Yellow Moon
By Angela Manalang Gloria

I stand at my window and listen;
Only the plaintive murmur of a swarm of cicadas.
I stand on the wet grass and ponder,
And turn to the east and behold you,
Great yellow moon.
Why do you frighten me so,
You captive of the coconut glade?
I have seen you before,
Have flirted with you so many a night.

When my heart, ever throbbing, never listless,
Had pined for the moonlight to calm it.
But you were a dainty whiteness
That kissed my brow then.
A gentle, pale flutter
That touched my aching breast.

You are a lonely yellow moon now.
You are ghastly, spectral tonight,
Alone
Behind your prison bars of coconut trees.
That is why
I do not dare take you into my hand
And press you against my cheek
To feel how cold you are.

I am afraid of you, yellow moon.

There you go. Now, I'm off to a weekend of work. No vacation for me. I want all my grades done come Monday, so I can go off into the moonrise somewhere, probably Siquijor.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow7:28 PM | Moon of Change

I was riding home on a pedicab from gym. It was past dusk, and the city was a beehive of people rushing home from work, or doing their shopping or dining. My pedicab passed by the Dumaguete Boulevard, and as usual, my mind was somewhere else, exhausted.

And then there it was, off the dark horizon which was the sea: a great big ball of yellowness. A strange, almost frightening, yellow moon.



Which immediately reminded me of Angela Manalang Gloria's oft-anthologized poem -- a personal favorite, because it was one of the first poetic attempts by Filipino writers in English to break free from one tradition, which was romanticism.

For me, this poem signals what may be the first signs of growth in our poetic literature. All changes for me -- good or bad -- is growth, and anyone can readily see that from Maramag and the Subidos, to Villa and Gloria, to Tiempo and Angeles, to Dumdum and Amper, to Evasco and Gamalinda, and now to Manalo and Suarez. I realize that the intermittent stages of change is often fraught with criticism from purists and (dare I say it?) formalists, but I guess all that discourse is part of any evolving literature.

In this particular poem, Gloria still maintains some of the romantic traditions of her peers, down to the use of natural imagery. But here, she employs a twist: no longer are the moon and stars and the "fragrance of lilies, rose-released musk" (from Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido's "Sonnet to a Gardener II") mere wallpaper to evoke romatic atmosphere; they now actually take on some deeper dimension, sometimes even psychological. Like the yellow moon here, which the persona professes to be "afraid of." And gone are the strict cadence, the artifice, the blatant imititativeness, the archaic words. This was finally liberating free verse!

Yellow Moon
By Angela Manalang Gloria

I stand at my window and listen;
Only the plaintive murmur of a swarm of cicadas.
I stand on the wet grass and ponder,
And turn to the east and behold you,
Great yellow moon.
Why do you frighten me so,
You captive of the coconut glade?
I have seen you before,
Have flirted with you so many a night.

When my heart, ever throbbing, never listless,
Had pined for the moonlight to calm it.
But you were a dainty whiteness
That kissed my brow then.
A gentle, pale flutter
That touched my aching breast.

You are a lonely yellow moon now.
You are ghastly, spectral tonight,
Alone
Behind your prison bars of coconut trees.
That is why
I do not dare take you into my hand
And press you against my cheek
To feel how cold you are.

I am afraid of you, yellow moon.

There you go. Now, I'm off to a weekend of work. No vacation for me. I want all my grades done come Monday, so I can go off into the moonrise somewhere, probably Siquijor.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Friday, March 25, 2005

entry arrow12:55 PM | So You Want to Be a Caregiver?

I have friends who pay good money to enroll in Caregiver School. Some come from rich families. Others are professionals, and quite well-educated. One is a U.P. graduate. I know several who are known for being sosyal. I have one very good friend who makes very good money teaching other people how to be a caregiver. The one thing I have gleaned from these friends and acquaintances is this: it's not about caring or giving at all; it's about getting out of a certain hell-hole. (You have to be naive to think otherwise.) Sometimes, we even sell our souls to the Devil just to be able to get out of here. This is an excerpt from a writer-friend's blog, the URL of which I don't think I can tell everybody. Here, my friend gets a call from someone who had just come back to the country:

We met up in a Tomas Morato cafe and there he told me all the horror stories of being a caregiver, and of not lasting the six-month trial period. "I cleaned shit from strangers' butts. Old people with their poo smell and their old people smell. The Americans and Canadians won't do it, that's why we Filipinos do it. I'm a college graduate and there I was cleaning the asses of these people I didn't know and who didn't know me." One time my dear friend wiped some old man's ass clean and was ready to put on adult diapers. When he came back to the ass, the old man had defecated again, kept defecating the whole day. "It was the first time I understood the phrase, 'the runs.'"

He said that among their caregiving ranks in Canada were former public school teachers who got sick and tired of waiting for their delayed promotions and salary adjustments, who had their master's degrees and were in the middle of their postgraduate studies, but gave it all up to be like himself, washing the poo of old people and then washing the smell of poo from their hands.

"But I'm still lucky," he said. "One of my kasama when I worked as a service crew wrote to me. He's based in the United States now. To get his green card, he paid a permanent resident $5,000 to marry him. The fee's usually $10,000, but he found a kababayan, someone from his province...you'll never guess who."

His grade school teacher.

We are in such deep shit.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:55 PM | So You Want to Be a Caregiver?

I have friends who pay good money to enroll in Caregiver School. Some come from rich families. Others are professionals, and quite well-educated. One is a U.P. graduate. I know several who are known for being sosyal. I have one very good friend who makes very good money teaching other people how to be a caregiver. The one thing I have gleaned from these friends and acquaintances is this: it's not about caring or giving at all; it's about getting out of a certain hell-hole. (You have to be naive to think otherwise.) Sometimes, we even sell our souls to the Devil just to be able to get out of here. This is an excerpt from a writer-friend's blog, the URL of which I don't think I can tell everybody. Here, my friend gets a call from someone who had just come back to the country:

We met up in a Tomas Morato cafe and there he told me all the horror stories of being a caregiver, and of not lasting the six-month trial period. "I cleaned shit from strangers' butts. Old people with their poo smell and their old people smell. The Americans and Canadians won't do it, that's why we Filipinos do it. I'm a college graduate and there I was cleaning the asses of these people I didn't know and who didn't know me." One time my dear friend wiped some old man's ass clean and was ready to put on adult diapers. When he came back to the ass, the old man had defecated again, kept defecating the whole day. "It was the first time I understood the phrase, 'the runs.'"

He said that among their caregiving ranks in Canada were former public school teachers who got sick and tired of waiting for their delayed promotions and salary adjustments, who had their master's degrees and were in the middle of their postgraduate studies, but gave it all up to be like himself, washing the poo of old people and then washing the smell of poo from their hands.

"But I'm still lucky," he said. "One of my kasama when I worked as a service crew wrote to me. He's based in the United States now. To get his green card, he paid a permanent resident $5,000 to marry him. The fee's usually $10,000, but he found a kababayan, someone from his province...you'll never guess who."

His grade school teacher.

We are in such deep shit.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:55 PM | So You Want to Be a Caregiver?

I have friends who pay good money to enroll in Caregiver School. Some come from rich families. Others are professionals, and quite well-educated. One is a U.P. graduate. I know several who are known for being sosyal. I have one very good friend who makes very good money teaching other people how to be a caregiver. The one thing I have gleaned from these friends and acquaintances is this: it's not about caring or giving at all; it's about getting out of a certain hell-hole. (You have to be naive to think otherwise.) Sometimes, we even sell our souls to the Devil just to be able to get out of here. This is an excerpt from a writer-friend's blog, the URL of which I don't think I can tell everybody. Here, my friend gets a call from someone who had just come back to the country:

We met up in a Tomas Morato cafe and there he told me all the horror stories of being a caregiver, and of not lasting the six-month trial period. "I cleaned shit from strangers' butts. Old people with their poo smell and their old people smell. The Americans and Canadians won't do it, that's why we Filipinos do it. I'm a college graduate and there I was cleaning the asses of these people I didn't know and who didn't know me." One time my dear friend wiped some old man's ass clean and was ready to put on adult diapers. When he came back to the ass, the old man had defecated again, kept defecating the whole day. "It was the first time I understood the phrase, 'the runs.'"

He said that among their caregiving ranks in Canada were former public school teachers who got sick and tired of waiting for their delayed promotions and salary adjustments, who had their master's degrees and were in the middle of their postgraduate studies, but gave it all up to be like himself, washing the poo of old people and then washing the smell of poo from their hands.

"But I'm still lucky," he said. "One of my kasama when I worked as a service crew wrote to me. He's based in the United States now. To get his green card, he paid a permanent resident $5,000 to marry him. The fee's usually $10,000, but he found a kababayan, someone from his province...you'll never guess who."

His grade school teacher.

We are in such deep shit.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:21 AM | American Idol?

Bubu,

You know I love you so much, and I only have the deepest respect for you. But frankly, my dearest, Mikalah Gordon is so ... yabag.



Don't get me wrong: I love her assertive, can-do personality. And she is blissfully bubbly. But the way she sang Barbra Streisand last week and Diana Krall this week was a test of sheer willpower: her voice was shrill and agonizing, and I had to keep my hands from covering my ears.


That said, I remain,

Your baby.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:21 AM | American Idol?

Bubu,

You know I love you so much, and I only have the deepest respect for you. But frankly, my dearest, Mikalah Gordon is so ... yabag.



Don't get me wrong: I love her assertive, can-do personality. And she is blissfully bubbly. But the way she sang Barbra Streisand last week and Diana Krall this week was a test of sheer willpower: her voice was shrill and agonizing, and I had to keep my hands from covering my ears.


That said, I remain,

Your baby.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow12:21 AM | American Idol?

Bubu,

You know I love you so much, and I only have the deepest respect for you. But frankly, my dearest, Mikalah Gordon is so ... yabag.



Don't get me wrong: I love her assertive, can-do personality. And she is blissfully bubbly. But the way she sang Barbra Streisand last week and Diana Krall this week was a test of sheer willpower: her voice was shrill and agonizing, and I had to keep my hands from covering my ears.


That said, I remain,

Your baby.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Thursday, March 24, 2005

entry arrow11:50 AM | A Simple Life

I never read the Youngblood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer anymore. It had its heyday so many years ago, when it was still young, and sent a thunderbolt through my generation of writers: imagine, an Op-Ed column by you in the nation's biggest newspaper! We took the bait: it was supposed to showcase all our concerns and opinions on current issues as young people. I wrote about two articles for this section, and my friend Marge about five. One of my favorite articles was Chris Anthony Ferrer's Musings on a Stone, which I still teach in my Essay Writing class as an example of inspired writing.

Then, the section began to become predictable. All those angst-ridden articles about crushes, about lost loves, about unemployment, about fathers... Blah blah blah. It took its toll.

But this recent article by Kitchie Canlas -- a 25-year old instructor, for almost five years now, at a state college in Pampanga -- caught my attention. Maybe because it hit close to home. It's about well-meaning young teachers in a time fraught with so much financial difficulty. After reading it, I understand for sure why it is that almost half the enrollment now in my own university invariably are Nursing hopefuls.

Is there any hope for a country when even teachers have to feel the pinch?

I was just watching the first part of "TV Patrol" minutes ago. Two news items got my attention and made me turn on my computer and write this stuff. The first one was the alleged corruption attending the purchase of equipment for the Light Rail Transit. The other one was the planned strike of a transport group that was demanding another increase in fares.

I asked myself why there is so much corruption in the government and why so many transport groups want to increase their fare. And it led me to think of my life, which is a living testimony to how hard life is today.

I am an instructor at a state college in Pampanga. My net income every month is P9,000. This may be reduced by P188 next month because I availed myself of the P5,000 cash advance offered by the Government Service Insurance System (through the e-card). Every month, there are deductions in my pay for tax, PhilHealth, policy loan, emergency loan, and life and retirement insurance.

I take a tricycle to school, which costs me P25 one way. After work in the afternoon, I hitch a ride in my colleague's van, which saves me an equal amount.

I eat packed lunch. I spend about P50 for my snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I go to the same school for my graduate education every Saturday. However, I spend more on this day because I can't get a free ride going home and I buy snacks and lunch from the canteen. In my three classes, I spend money for photocopying the readings, especially when I am the reporter for a certain topic.

In my work, I usually make handouts to facilitate the teaching-learning process. For these, I spend approximately P200 monthly. There are times when I give quizzes or exams and some of my students don't pay for their photocopying bills simply for lack of money.

I have just downgraded my Smart postpaid plan to P500 from the previous P800 so that starting next month my monthly phone bills will be approximately P700 (because most of the time, there are other charges on top of the plan).

I stay with my parents and so my meals are basically free. To help them out, I pay the monthly electricity and water bills which add up to about P1,800, thanks to the ever-increasing purchased power adjustment. I do not give money to my parents regularly though I do so to my unemployed sister.

Almost every month, there are additional deductions from my salary for death aid, help for a sick colleague, etc. Another strain on the pocket is buying gifts for friends who celebrate their birthdays and contribution to friend's relatives who die.

I rarely buy things for myself and I do not buy expensive things. Twice a month, I usually buy a pocketbook for P35 in Angeles City. Going to Angeles and back costs P52. The last time I bought a shirt at a "tiangge" [flea market], it cost me only P50. I do not eat at expensive restaurants; I normally spend only P80 for my dinner when I eat out.

I cannot itemize all my other expenses, but from my experience, I can safely say that I am living a simple and comfortable life. Despite this, I am one of so many people who count the days before receiving the next salary. I get mad whenever there is a delay in payment. There have been many times when the money in my coin purse (I do not use a wallet) was not even enough to pay the tricycle fare to school. And there have been times when I had to ask or borrow money from my mother.

Whenever I find myself in such situations, I wonder how some of my colleagues cope when they have babies who regularly need to be fed costly milk. How about the others who have children who go to school? How about those who live in apartments on which they have to pay rental? How about those who earn less than I do? And how about those who do not even have jobs?

And then I begin again to wonder, like I did when I heard those two news items on TV, why there is so much corruption in the government and why many transport groups want to increase the fare. I think and I realize that the continuous increases in prices of oil and other basic commodities led these groups to plan a strike. And I begin to wonder if this is also the reason there is so much corruption in government.

Ordinary government employees like me need to eat and have basic commodities, just like the President and other high-ranking officials and politicians. However, if I compare the way I live my life with the way they do, there's a very big difference.

I try my best to make my students learn because that is my foremost responsibility as a teacher, but I feel sad and disappointed whenever I see this very big difference in the way I live (which may be the same as how these public transport drivers live) and the way these prominent personalities live. Which makes me wonder why additional burdens are being laid on our shoulders through the imposition of new taxes when teachers are the most honest taxpayers in this country.

Anyway, I can still smile because my conscience is clear. I do my job well and there's my family to fall back on whenever my salary is delayed.

Posted 00:58am (Mla time) Mar 24, 2005
Inquirer News Service

There you go. The original article can be found here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:50 AM | A Simple Life

I never read the Youngblood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer anymore. It had its heyday so many years ago, when it was still young, and sent a thunderbolt through my generation of writers: imagine, an Op-Ed column by you in the nation's biggest newspaper! We took the bait: it was supposed to showcase all our concerns and opinions on current issues as young people. I wrote about two articles for this section, and my friend Marge about five. One of my favorite articles was Chris Anthony Ferrer's Musings on a Stone, which I still teach in my Essay Writing class as an example of inspired writing.

Then, the section began to become predictable. All those angst-ridden articles about crushes, about lost loves, about unemployment, about fathers... Blah blah blah. It took its toll.

But this recent article by Kitchie Canlas -- a 25-year old instructor, for almost five years now, at a state college in Pampanga -- caught my attention. Maybe because it hit close to home. It's about well-meaning young teachers in a time fraught with so much financial difficulty. After reading it, I understand for sure why it is that almost half the enrollment now in my own university invariably are Nursing hopefuls.

Is there any hope for a country when even teachers have to feel the pinch?

I was just watching the first part of "TV Patrol" minutes ago. Two news items got my attention and made me turn on my computer and write this stuff. The first one was the alleged corruption attending the purchase of equipment for the Light Rail Transit. The other one was the planned strike of a transport group that was demanding another increase in fares.

I asked myself why there is so much corruption in the government and why so many transport groups want to increase their fare. And it led me to think of my life, which is a living testimony to how hard life is today.

I am an instructor at a state college in Pampanga. My net income every month is P9,000. This may be reduced by P188 next month because I availed myself of the P5,000 cash advance offered by the Government Service Insurance System (through the e-card). Every month, there are deductions in my pay for tax, PhilHealth, policy loan, emergency loan, and life and retirement insurance.

I take a tricycle to school, which costs me P25 one way. After work in the afternoon, I hitch a ride in my colleague's van, which saves me an equal amount.

I eat packed lunch. I spend about P50 for my snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I go to the same school for my graduate education every Saturday. However, I spend more on this day because I can't get a free ride going home and I buy snacks and lunch from the canteen. In my three classes, I spend money for photocopying the readings, especially when I am the reporter for a certain topic.

In my work, I usually make handouts to facilitate the teaching-learning process. For these, I spend approximately P200 monthly. There are times when I give quizzes or exams and some of my students don't pay for their photocopying bills simply for lack of money.

I have just downgraded my Smart postpaid plan to P500 from the previous P800 so that starting next month my monthly phone bills will be approximately P700 (because most of the time, there are other charges on top of the plan).

I stay with my parents and so my meals are basically free. To help them out, I pay the monthly electricity and water bills which add up to about P1,800, thanks to the ever-increasing purchased power adjustment. I do not give money to my parents regularly though I do so to my unemployed sister.

Almost every month, there are additional deductions from my salary for death aid, help for a sick colleague, etc. Another strain on the pocket is buying gifts for friends who celebrate their birthdays and contribution to friend's relatives who die.

I rarely buy things for myself and I do not buy expensive things. Twice a month, I usually buy a pocketbook for P35 in Angeles City. Going to Angeles and back costs P52. The last time I bought a shirt at a "tiangge" [flea market], it cost me only P50. I do not eat at expensive restaurants; I normally spend only P80 for my dinner when I eat out.

I cannot itemize all my other expenses, but from my experience, I can safely say that I am living a simple and comfortable life. Despite this, I am one of so many people who count the days before receiving the next salary. I get mad whenever there is a delay in payment. There have been many times when the money in my coin purse (I do not use a wallet) was not even enough to pay the tricycle fare to school. And there have been times when I had to ask or borrow money from my mother.

Whenever I find myself in such situations, I wonder how some of my colleagues cope when they have babies who regularly need to be fed costly milk. How about the others who have children who go to school? How about those who live in apartments on which they have to pay rental? How about those who earn less than I do? And how about those who do not even have jobs?

And then I begin again to wonder, like I did when I heard those two news items on TV, why there is so much corruption in the government and why many transport groups want to increase the fare. I think and I realize that the continuous increases in prices of oil and other basic commodities led these groups to plan a strike. And I begin to wonder if this is also the reason there is so much corruption in government.

Ordinary government employees like me need to eat and have basic commodities, just like the President and other high-ranking officials and politicians. However, if I compare the way I live my life with the way they do, there's a very big difference.

I try my best to make my students learn because that is my foremost responsibility as a teacher, but I feel sad and disappointed whenever I see this very big difference in the way I live (which may be the same as how these public transport drivers live) and the way these prominent personalities live. Which makes me wonder why additional burdens are being laid on our shoulders through the imposition of new taxes when teachers are the most honest taxpayers in this country.

Anyway, I can still smile because my conscience is clear. I do my job well and there's my family to fall back on whenever my salary is delayed.

Posted 00:58am (Mla time) Mar 24, 2005
Inquirer News Service

There you go. The original article can be found here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow11:50 AM | A Simple Life

I never read the Youngblood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer anymore. It had its heyday so many years ago, when it was still young, and sent a thunderbolt through my generation of writers: imagine, an Op-Ed column by you in the nation's biggest newspaper! We took the bait: it was supposed to showcase all our concerns and opinions on current issues as young people. I wrote about two articles for this section, and my friend Marge about five. One of my favorite articles was Chris Anthony Ferrer's Musings on a Stone, which I still teach in my Essay Writing class as an example of inspired writing.

Then, the section began to become predictable. All those angst-ridden articles about crushes, about lost loves, about unemployment, about fathers... Blah blah blah. It took its toll.

But this recent article by Kitchie Canlas -- a 25-year old instructor, for almost five years now, at a state college in Pampanga -- caught my attention. Maybe because it hit close to home. It's about well-meaning young teachers in a time fraught with so much financial difficulty. After reading it, I understand for sure why it is that almost half the enrollment now in my own university invariably are Nursing hopefuls.

Is there any hope for a country when even teachers have to feel the pinch?

I was just watching the first part of "TV Patrol" minutes ago. Two news items got my attention and made me turn on my computer and write this stuff. The first one was the alleged corruption attending the purchase of equipment for the Light Rail Transit. The other one was the planned strike of a transport group that was demanding another increase in fares.

I asked myself why there is so much corruption in the government and why so many transport groups want to increase their fare. And it led me to think of my life, which is a living testimony to how hard life is today.

I am an instructor at a state college in Pampanga. My net income every month is P9,000. This may be reduced by P188 next month because I availed myself of the P5,000 cash advance offered by the Government Service Insurance System (through the e-card). Every month, there are deductions in my pay for tax, PhilHealth, policy loan, emergency loan, and life and retirement insurance.

I take a tricycle to school, which costs me P25 one way. After work in the afternoon, I hitch a ride in my colleague's van, which saves me an equal amount.

I eat packed lunch. I spend about P50 for my snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I go to the same school for my graduate education every Saturday. However, I spend more on this day because I can't get a free ride going home and I buy snacks and lunch from the canteen. In my three classes, I spend money for photocopying the readings, especially when I am the reporter for a certain topic.

In my work, I usually make handouts to facilitate the teaching-learning process. For these, I spend approximately P200 monthly. There are times when I give quizzes or exams and some of my students don't pay for their photocopying bills simply for lack of money.

I have just downgraded my Smart postpaid plan to P500 from the previous P800 so that starting next month my monthly phone bills will be approximately P700 (because most of the time, there are other charges on top of the plan).

I stay with my parents and so my meals are basically free. To help them out, I pay the monthly electricity and water bills which add up to about P1,800, thanks to the ever-increasing purchased power adjustment. I do not give money to my parents regularly though I do so to my unemployed sister.

Almost every month, there are additional deductions from my salary for death aid, help for a sick colleague, etc. Another strain on the pocket is buying gifts for friends who celebrate their birthdays and contribution to friend's relatives who die.

I rarely buy things for myself and I do not buy expensive things. Twice a month, I usually buy a pocketbook for P35 in Angeles City. Going to Angeles and back costs P52. The last time I bought a shirt at a "tiangge" [flea market], it cost me only P50. I do not eat at expensive restaurants; I normally spend only P80 for my dinner when I eat out.

I cannot itemize all my other expenses, but from my experience, I can safely say that I am living a simple and comfortable life. Despite this, I am one of so many people who count the days before receiving the next salary. I get mad whenever there is a delay in payment. There have been many times when the money in my coin purse (I do not use a wallet) was not even enough to pay the tricycle fare to school. And there have been times when I had to ask or borrow money from my mother.

Whenever I find myself in such situations, I wonder how some of my colleagues cope when they have babies who regularly need to be fed costly milk. How about the others who have children who go to school? How about those who live in apartments on which they have to pay rental? How about those who earn less than I do? And how about those who do not even have jobs?

And then I begin again to wonder, like I did when I heard those two news items on TV, why there is so much corruption in the government and why many transport groups want to increase the fare. I think and I realize that the continuous increases in prices of oil and other basic commodities led these groups to plan a strike. And I begin to wonder if this is also the reason there is so much corruption in government.

Ordinary government employees like me need to eat and have basic commodities, just like the President and other high-ranking officials and politicians. However, if I compare the way I live my life with the way they do, there's a very big difference.

I try my best to make my students learn because that is my foremost responsibility as a teacher, but I feel sad and disappointed whenever I see this very big difference in the way I live (which may be the same as how these public transport drivers live) and the way these prominent personalities live. Which makes me wonder why additional burdens are being laid on our shoulders through the imposition of new taxes when teachers are the most honest taxpayers in this country.

Anyway, I can still smile because my conscience is clear. I do my job well and there's my family to fall back on whenever my salary is delayed.

Posted 00:58am (Mla time) Mar 24, 2005
Inquirer News Service

There you go. The original article can be found here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Wednesday, March 23, 2005

entry arrow5:36 PM | Why Women Rock



Moments, Merely has some answers for you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:36 PM | Why Women Rock



Moments, Merely has some answers for you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:36 PM | Why Women Rock



Moments, Merely has some answers for you.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:52 AM | Cuaresma!

I'm very sacrilegious.

Elsewhere.

Not in Blogger. Noooooo.

In the meantime, I really think I should be getting back to fiction writing right about ... now. Happy Holy Week everybody! Don't get too much sun, and record that Pasyon, if you can. That one you will hear may be the last of that kind of oral literature.



And seriously now, Pink Idiocy, who loses faith because of blogging? It's like saying you lose weight because you smelled a flower.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:52 AM | Cuaresma!

I'm very sacrilegious.

Elsewhere.

Not in Blogger. Noooooo.

In the meantime, I really think I should be getting back to fiction writing right about ... now. Happy Holy Week everybody! Don't get too much sun, and record that Pasyon, if you can. That one you will hear may be the last of that kind of oral literature.



And seriously now, Pink Idiocy, who loses faith because of blogging? It's like saying you lose weight because you smelled a flower.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow10:52 AM | Cuaresma!

I'm very sacrilegious.

Elsewhere.

Not in Blogger. Noooooo.

In the meantime, I really think I should be getting back to fiction writing right about ... now. Happy Holy Week everybody! Don't get too much sun, and record that Pasyon, if you can. That one you will hear may be the last of that kind of oral literature.



And seriously now, Pink Idiocy, who loses faith because of blogging? It's like saying you lose weight because you smelled a flower.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Tuesday, March 22, 2005

entry arrow5:09 PM | Dead Links Are Bad Headaches





[emailed in by andronymous]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:09 PM | Dead Links Are Bad Headaches





[emailed in by andronymous]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





entry arrow5:09 PM | Dead Links Are Bad Headaches





[emailed in by andronymous]


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





Saturday, March 19, 2005

entry arrow1:25 AM | Welcome to Real Life

If you want a nice, sugarcoated message about the reality of your Graduation Day, do not read further. Bromides never worked for me.

There is a moment sometime during the end days of March that leaves anyone -- especially jobless 21-year olds who mistake aimless sniggering with profundity -- breathless with the anxiety of having to do absolutely... nothing. These are the doldrums, complete with dog day afternoons that stretch and continue one after the other, not yet quite the summer but already bearing the likeness of the season: dryness and dust, eternal sunshine, heat, and perspiring nights. School's over. For the most part, there are only a few options to choose from: planning a summer getaway somewhere (in particular, for the Holy Week ahead), or resigning to the reality of having to hog the couch and becoming its potato, and knowing, by heart, the TV schedule for the next two months.

For college graduates, it is perhaps a little bit more terrifying. Real life is about to begin -- and after the lechon, the handshakes and congratulations, and the not-yet-dry ink spelling your name on the diploma, there is that slowly sickening realization in the pits of your stomach that your four (or five) years of having the perfect excuse to party are finally over, and there is just no sidestepping the notion of demanding responsibility suddenly falling onto your hands. You're an adult now, and by God, people actually expect you to have a job.

A job.

In a time of war and utter restlessness. Where the future holds a nurse's cap, and nothing else.

"I hate the realities of March. Caesar was murdered in March," my friend Aivy texted me. "Nothing good ever happens in March."

Last Sunday:

"What are you going to do now?" I asked another friend (and former student), Jun, who had just graduated. We were still in our semi-formal wear. And we were in that delicate balance of celebration and sobriety in Mamia's, right after some school's commencement ceremonies. As usual, Dumaguete's restaurants were like beehives of hearty congratulations mixed with silver clinking against china. Food was everywhere.

"I don't know," Jun finally said, "maybe I'll just bum around for a while."

I told him, in that wizened voice survivors adopt, that all I really knew was this: the first six post-graduation months are scary. Not to sink the feelings of the guy, but to arm him with knowledge of the usual things. After all, one shouldn't be a champion of false send-offs, but rather of guarded hopefulness -- not cynicism, but a general assessment of the way things really are.

Until now I still thank, from my heart, my dentist friend Dr. Patrick Chua who had given the advice I go back to now and again after my own graduation: "Just do things slowly but certainly. It can be very hard in the beginning. It takes an average of five years to create a semblance of a career," Patrick said. "Always try to do what you love best. But sometimes you find yourself doing things you never thought you'd be doing. Get this, though: sometimes the way to your dreams is finding another."

He didn't say those all at once, of course. I gathered the thoughts from our sometime conquests of the nocturnal life, over beer, over Vienna coffee, over Rosante pizza, over paella. His words grew on me.

I vaguely recollected my own graduation party six years ago. I had barely gotten out of my toga when it was suggested that perhaps it was time that I lived on my own. (My family always had an independent streak. But I take it as a point of pride that after the day I graduated, I never even asked my family for a single centavo.)

I remember the lump of fear and uncertainty in my throat. Responsibility felt so heavy, my shoulders sagged. There were questions racing through my mind, all of them unanswered. How shall I live on my own? How does one start paying utility bills? Or rent? Where do I get a damn job? For the next six months, jobless and losing hope and anxious of feeling so much like a stranger in the family home, I stretched the P60 in my wallet forever and made penny-pinching an art.

When I got my first job with peanuts for pay, I grabbed it like it was a glass of water being dangled in front of a desert wanderer. Yet that was also when I started learning about how life worked: that there are actually people out there who believe in you even if you don't, that people do help other people just because they feel like doing it, that somehow, when you're about just convinced there is still something deeper to sink to in the quagmire when your life's bottoming out, miracles happen.

(Dear God, but I'm beginning to sound like a piece of bromide myself.)

But there is a manual through life, actually. We learn -- if we remember the literature our English teachers in college taught us in the classroom -- that life is all about the fulfillment of an archetype: the journey, or the making, of the hero -- so much like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars becoming a Jedi, or Harry Potter becoming a wizard, or a young Juan de la Cruz becoming a successful young man.

The journey goes this way: We all come from the "womb," from the "cave," from a comfort zone in a stretch of innocence. Call it Luke Skywalker as a young boy in Tatoine, call it Frodo in the Shire blissfully ignorant of destiny, call it Dumaguete, call it childhood, call it Mother, call it the family home.

Then we get the hint of crisis, the first portal to our call to adulthood, the first glimpse into a world beyond our innocence: C.S. Lewis called it Narnia behind the wardrobe, Lewis Carroll's Alice called it the rabbit hole into Wonderland, J.K. Rowling called it Platform 9 1/2 into the Hogwarts Express.

The hero, us, then ventures, fearfully but resolutely from the comfort zone, to travel through the "dark forest" -- call it encountering Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter getting a lightning scar on his forehead, call it Jesus being tempted during 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, call it the vexations of high school life, or call it battling adolescent zits and hormones.

Along the way, the hero encounters strange beings while training to become the young knight -- call it becoming a Jedi, call it carrying The One Ring to be destroyed in the fires of Mordor, call it surviving college, call it a writer's workshop, call it the agonies of first love.

Then there is the final battle, the final test -- call it acing the final (or the board) exams, call it the Bar, call it penetrating the maze to blow up the Death Star, call it Oedipally killing the father a la Darth Vader, call it submitting a story to the Palanca Awards.

And then the hero finally emerges victorious -- scarred, but triumphant. Cinderella gets her Prince, Aragorn becomes king, we become lawyers, teachers, doctors, CEOs, fathers, mothers.

This, for me, becomes a source of great comfort.

We all follow our myths. Myths are truths -- they are the paradigms of our hidden lives coded into our stories to make sense of the varieties (and vagaries) of human experience. Almost all of us still live through the process of journeying to become the hero; almost all of us still face our battles, our inner demons.

There are days, though, when we waver from the quest, when the going gets too tough, so it is always helpful to be reminded of the ultimate prize that can be won in the little game called persistence.

My mother, bless her, just sent me a card that said she missed me, and reprimanded me for not calling her for some time now. I'm taking the independence thing a little too seriously, she said. The card she sent says, in part, "When you are going through a difficult time, you may wonder if you're making the right choices. You may wonder about how things will turn out if you take a different road...," in the end, when you follow your heart to the dogged end, the hero suddenly becomes you.

Happy Graduation Day to all you students out there. It's a tough life, but really, that's how diamonds get made. (Oh, great, a bromide again.)


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich