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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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Saturday, June 30, 2007

entry arrow2:32 PM | Bound for Canlaon


Here we go again. Road trip. Mark's driving both of us all the way to the northern mountains in this four-hour trip. We will be back Monday night. Or sooner. (And maybe even later. Whichever comes first. Ahahaha.)

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entry arrow12:43 AM | Love is a Sumo Wafer Stick



I come home after a long day, and there are two packets of strawberry-flavored wafer sticks sitting on my mantle. There's also a note from you. "For my bubu," it says. In that instant, I knew for sure where love lies: in simple things that surprise us, and which bring us out from the deadening awareness of the daily grind to remind us that we are, after all, human beings who delight and come alive at the slightest signs of love. Thank you, bubu.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

entry arrow11:59 PM | Mr. Roger Ebert is Back (and the Thumbs are Still Working)

There is a reason for rejoicing for many of us film fans these days: our sage of movie love, the great Roger Ebert whose indefatigable and passionate regard for cinema has guided my viewing habits all these years (but whose long run of Pulitzer Prize-winning essays came to an abrupt halt last year while he took to bed to convalesce from cancer), is back. He has new reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times, and I find myself acknowledging that when he left us to battle his illness, he left a terrifying void. Oh, how I missed those old days when I'd begin most of my days looking up online his reviews of new movies as well as his bi-monthly excursion through the classics in his Great Movies series. When his reviews trickled down to nothing last year, it felt as if I had lost a great friend.

Well, the old friend is back, and is up to his old workaholic streak -- and I'm happy. In his latest yearbook of film reviews, which my great friend Tedo got for me from the chilly winds of Chicago, Mr. Ebert wrote in his dedication:



Movie lover... Wow. True, it may a generic dedication he gives to every rabid fan who wants him to sign his numerous books, but I don't care. I like that dedication very much, and I take it as something sacred and personal. And coming from him, it was like the greatest affirmation of my cinephilia, way up there in my fantasies which would include having coffee with Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, or shaking hands with Steven Spielberg, or listening to Thomas Newman play the piano, or watching Conrad Hall compose his shots.

Mr. Ebert's friend and colleague, Time Magazine's film critic Richard Corliss, wrote a recent tribute to him in light of his coming back to work. In many ways, he manages to paint why there is such a fond regard for the Thumbs Up or Down Man. Here's a passage from that homage:

For Roger knows that, whatever else they may be, movies are stories people tell us; and a review is a conversation the critic has with both the filmmaker and the audience about the power and plausibility of the tale. No one has done as much as Roger to connect the creators of movies with their consumers. He has immense power, and he's used it for good, as an apostle of cinema. Reading his work, or listening to him parse the shots of some notable film, the movie lover is also engaged with an alert mind constantly discovering things — discovering them to share them. That's what a great teacher does, and what Roger's done as a writer, public personality and friend to film for all these years. And, dammit, keep on doing.

Welcome back, Mr. Ebert, (or as Mark calls him: "Si Robert Egert," hehehe.) And thank you for infecting us with this passion for great films.

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entry arrow1:26 PM | Horror Stories

The best thing from last night was the workshop I had with LitCritters Dumaguete. Because we scared the shit out of ourselves basically -- and that was, well, fun. We usually do our weekly reading and writing workshop every Saturday morning, but there was something about the batch of stories I sent last week that begged for a change of day and time.

"Since we're writing horror stories for the third batch of Originals, we're all reading horror, both classic and contemporary," I told them, "from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King."

Immediately, the idea was set that perhaps we could do an assessment of the stories by the light of burning candles, if we could not do a bonfire. Thursday evening was everybody's suggestion. That was last night.

And so we all huddled last night in RJ's room in the President's House in Silliman Campus. The air-conditioning blasted out cold, cold air, and we had no choice but to accept the chill that went right into our souls. It gave atmosphere to the proceedings. We turned out the lights, got some candles, and RJ proceeded to play some eerie music in his laptop. Lyde and Jordan were on RJ's bed, Michelle, Drigs, Odie, and I were on the floor. (Marianne, where's Marianne...) How we cringed and nervously laughed every time something creaked or crept somewhere. The President's House was an old house, its interior design of the 1960s kind that gave off a palpable sense of history, some of it as dark as the hollows of its corners. Someone said there was a ghost in the house, the little Calderon girl who had drowned a long time ago. She haunted the swing outside, and sometimes the ghost would scribble something in Crayon on the walls.

Drigs began to discuss Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows." He discussed it in a low voice, and we leaned forward to listen to the rise and fall of his voice, all attentive -- too attentive, probably. Because we were caught in the rapture of the moment, we were not prepared for the noise outside the door.

It was only when there was some strange shuffling that we all finally fell deathly silent, aware suddenly of the sound. In the chill quiet, the door moved. Something was trying to get in. And then, like a rattle, the doorknob turned, and the door slowly creaked open, and we saw the darkness of the corridor outside pouring into our little room.

We all screamed. Michelle's shriek -- high and frightful, like a wounded animal's -- seeped into my bones, and I shuddered.

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entry arrow7:59 AM | Mantra for Life

Seiri [sort]
Seiton [systematize]
Seiso [sweep]
Seiketsu [standardize]
Shitsuke [self-discipline]

Meaning comes in filling in the spaces.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

entry arrow9:04 AM | Lights Out

Last June 21, in an annual environmental event they call Lights Out London, the capital of the United Kingdom turned off all electricity for an hour, between 9 to 10 p.m., "saving roughly 750 MWh of electricity in just one hour -- enough to run 3,000 televisions for a year."



I found the whole thing both impressive and strangely ho-hum. What comes immediately to mind is that it's a great initiative for greening the earth, in a world still waking up to the challenge and reality of global warming -- and being an environmental activist, anything like this is okay in my book. But at the same time, it amuses me as something that smacks of First World conceit. Thing is, in these industrialized countries, a tiny blackout can be cause for panic and alarm. In my tiny corner of the Third World, we have Lights Out Dumaguete every fucking Sunday for the past five years, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Not to save electricity, but "for maintenance," according to the lackeys at the local energy company. That's soft-speak for bad infrastructure, really. Bastards.

[info via greening pink]

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entry arrow7:43 AM | How Things Twirl

So many things to do, so little time. Worst of all, I'm mostly narcoleptic these days. If I sit down even for just a few minutes, or lay my head on a pillow, I go off to slumberland in zero seconds flat. I should post something substantial tomorrow. In the meantime, yes, I'm still here.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

entry arrow9:47 AM | LitCritters Dumaguete No. 12



This week

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs
1408 by Stephen King
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

Last week

The Mouse Crawling Between the Walls by John Irving
Next Sunday at the Bazaar by David Evans Katz
The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros by Rosario Cruz Lucero

Last, last week

Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
Fox Magic by Kij Johnson
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Last, last, last week

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Midsummer by Manuel Arguilla
The Star by Arthur C. Clarke
The Way We Live Now by Susan Sontag

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

entry arrow8:02 AM | Hermione Gets It?

Possible spoiler alert about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows... I just scanned the Book Section of the The New York Times and it reports that a hacker named Gabriel -- in the name of Christianity -- claims to have gained access to the computers of Bloomsbury, and gotten the Holy Grail of the Harry Potter world: its ending. The rest of the Muggle world roll their eyes. In stupid English (what can you expect from an evangelical?), Gabriel writes that Voldemort kills Hermione, and Hagrid gets killed by Snape while the latter attempts to ambush Hermione and Ron as they flee to Privet Drive. Voldermort surprises them, and attacks through the Imperius Curse, and Hermione -- to protect Ron -- fights hard and then finally dies. Then, quoting Gabriel, "Harry came up, killed all the bad guys and Hogwarts against became a good place to stay and have fun." Yay.

I'm still buying the book. Stupid Gabriel.

UPDATE:

I'm quoting a passage from the brilliant article by Time's Lev Grossman and Andrea Sachs on the secrecy surrounding the release of the last Harry Potter book:

On this point, both hacker and publisher share a key misunderstanding of what reading is all about. People read books for any number of reasons; finding out how the story ends is one among many and not even the most important. If it were otherwise, nobody would ever bother to read a book twice. Reading is about spending time with characters and entering a fictional world and playing with words and living through a story page by page. The idea that someone could ruin a novel by revealing its ending is like saying you could ruin the Mona Lisa by revealing that it's a picture of a woman with a center part. Spoilers are a myth: they don't spoil. No elaborate secrecy campaign is going to make Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows any better than it already is, and no website could possibly make it useless and boring.

Amen.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

entry arrow5:31 PM | How's Your Film Education? Part One

The American Film Institute has just released their 100 Greatest American Films of All Time. And these are the Top Ten...



I give myself a pat in the back because I've seen them all, hehehe. The last time AFI did this list was ten years ago. Of course, it's not meant to be definitive, but is meant to create debate and new interest of the classics in the days when America is bent on giving us such execrable horrors as Batman and Robin and Turistas. I'm ticking away to check my cinematic education. Here are the films in reverse order...

[x] 100. Ben-Hur
[x] 99. Toy Story
[_] 98. Yankee Doodle Dandy
[x] 97. Blade Runner
[x] 96. Do The Right Thing
[x] 95. The Last Picture Show
[x] 94. Pulp Fiction
[x] 93. The French Connection
[x] 92. Goodfellas
[x] 91. Sophie's Choice
[_] 90. Swing Time
[x] 89. The Sixth Sense
[x] 88. Bringing Up Baby
[x] 87. 12 Angry Men
[x] 86. Platoon
[_] 85. A Night at the Opera
[x] 84. Easy Rider
[x] 83. Titanic
[x] 82. Sunrise
[x] 81. Spartacus
[x] 80. The Apartment
[x] 79. The Wild Bunch
[x] 78. Modern Times
[x] 77. All the President's Men
[x] 76. Forrest Gump
[x] 75. In the Heat of the Night
[x] 74. The Silence of the Lambs
[x] 73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
[x] 72. The Shawshank Redemption
[x] 71. Saving Private Ryan
[x] 70. A Clockwork Orange
[x] 69. Tootsie
[x] 68. Unforgiven
[x] 67. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
[x] 66. Raiders of the Lost Ark
[x] 65. The African Queen
[x] 64. Network
[x] 63. Cabaret
[x] 62. American Graffiti
[x] 61. Sullivan's Travels
[_] 60. Duck Soup
[x] 59. Nashville
[x] 58. The Gold Rush
[x] 57. Rocky
[x] 56. Jaws
[x] 55. North by Northwest
[x] 54. M*A*S*H
[x] 53. The Deer Hunter
[x] 52. Taxi Driver
[x] 51. West Side Story
[x] 50. The Lord of the Rings
[x] 49. Intolerance
[x] 48. Rear Window
[x] 47. Streetcar Named Desire
[x] 46. It Happened One Night
[x] 45. Shane
[x] 44. The Philadelphia Story
[x] 43. Midnight Cowboy
[x] 42. Bonnie and Clyde
[x] 41. King Kong
[x] 40. The Sound of Music
[x] 39. Dr. Strangelove
[_] 38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
[x] 37. The Best Years of Our Lives
[x] 36. The Bridge on the River Kwai
[x] 35. Annie Hall
[x] 34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
[x] 33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
[x] 32. The Godfather Part II
[x] 31. The Maltese Falcon
[x] 30. Apocalyse Now
[x] 29. Double Indemnity
[x] 28. All About Eve
[x] 27. High Noon
[x] 26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
[x] 25. To Kill a Mockingbird
[x] 24. E.T. The ExtraTerrestrial
[_] 23. The Grapes of Wrath
[x] 22. Some Like It Hot
[x] 21. Chinatown
[x] 20. It's a Wonderful Life
[x] 19. On the Waterfront
[x] 18. The General
[x] 17. The Graduate
[x] 16. Sunset Boulevard
[x] 15. 2001: A Space Odyssey
[x] 14. Psycho
[x] 13. Star Wars
[x] 12. The Searchers
[_] 11. City Lights
[x] 10. The Wizard of Oz
[x] 9. Vertigo
[x] 8. Schindler's List
[x] 7. Lawrence of Arabia
[x] 6. Gone with the Wind
[x] 5. Singin' in the Rain
[x] 4. Raging Bull
[x] 3. Casablanca
[x] 2. The Godfather
[x] 1. Citizen Kane

My score: 93/100. Not bad. How did you score?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

entry arrow10:21 PM | Favorite Songs No. 12 : Kailangan Kita



Piolo Pascual first sang this Ogie Alcasid instant classic, and butchered it beyond belief. (Please do not dump infuriated comments in my Haloscan for that opinion.) Thank God, there was Gary Valenciano around to save the song around the time the movie of the same name came out. But Regine Velasquez's unrecorded version -- the only copy of which seems to be a YuoTube video of one of her concerts -- tops both: Gary's had a longing quality to it which I liked, but Regine inserts just enough pathos and power vocals to render it in something approaching glory. And thanks to a YouTube .flv downloader and a format converter, I finally have an .mp3 copy I can savor any time I want.

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entry arrow9:01 PM | Endings.

Two things -- a book and a movie -- made me think about the way endings should come for those of us who love stories. I finished Diane Setterfield's much-praised The Thirteenth Tale a little more than two weeks ago, and had initially raved about its beautiful beginning (it contained great paragraphs about writing and reading -- which tickled the bookworm in me), even recommending it to some friends. "You must buy the book," I told them. (Two did.) But then the love affair quickly fizzled for me when the magic of Setterfield's prose segued to mere plodding once she shifted gears to accommodate the twists that usually come for stories like these. In the end, I turned the last page disappointed over something that had so much promise at the start, but turned out to be a dud in the end. Still, it was an entertaining read, but it made me wonder how Setterfield came to such an uninspired last act. In my reflection, I realize that in my stories as well, going towards an appropriate and/or satisfying ending is something quite hard to do. I long to do a magic last act, such as the tearful letter from Jacinta in Dean's Salamanca. The initial rush of excitement will have generally subsided, and one's store of words and beautiful turns of phrases have become depleted or stilted. Sometimes, one finds himself in an unconscious hurry to finish off the tale, just because.

Last Wednesday, for my Film Appreciation class, I watched Giuseppe Tornatore's extended version of his award-winning Cinema Paradiso (1989). It was no longer the movie I remember loving so much. This version, released in 2003, restores the 51 minutes that Harvey Feinstein of Miramax had cut from the original film, deleted scenes that contain an extended explication of the aborted love affair between Toto and Elena. I hated the last hour so much, it felt like a betrayal. It did not belong at all to what can be considered the heart of the film, which is the original first two hours. Roger Ebert had reviewed the 2003 version: "I must confess that the shorter version of Cinema Paradiso is a better film than the longer. Harvey was right. The 170-minute cut overstays its welcome, and continues after its natural climax. Still, I'm happy to have seen it -- not as an alternate version, but as the ultimate exercise in viewing deleted scenes. Anyone who loves the film will indeed be curious about 'what really happened to the love of a lifetime,' and it is good to know. I hope, however, that this new version doesn't replace the old one on the video shelves; the ideal solution would be a DVD with the 1988 version on one side and the 2002 version on the other."

The Thirteenth Tale seems to me to be a case of a botched ending because the author has decided to rush towards the finish, while still accommodating an uninspired twist. Nuovo Cinema Paradiso is the complete opposite: it goes on and on, and does not seem to know when to stop.

Endings are crucial. I quote The New York Times' Charles McGrath quoting somebody else in understanding the value of narrative closure: "In The Sense of an Ending, a classic text of literary theory, the critic Frank Kermode says we crave endings for the same reason that some religious sects look forward to the Apocalypse — because it’s the ending that gives shape and meaning to the otherwise random events that precede it."

I'm sharing something about endings I got from Timothy Montes, and which I shared with my LitCritters a few Saturdays ago...

As in beginnings, story endings come in varied forms. The difficulty with endings is that you cannot isolate it from the rest of a story. The resolution of a conflict depends upon past events in a story.

What should be emphasized, though, is the importance of endings not only in giving closure to a plot but also in conveying a "sense" of ending. The emotional tone of the ending of a story is what readers carry along with them after they finish reading your story. Many "modern" stories are open-ended, with conflicts unresolved and characters left hanging, but the resolution lies with the tone, with the revelation of a powerful insight, or even just by the pure lyricism of the language.

A good way to imagine endings would be through music. Carlos Ojeda Aureus likens the ending of Nick Joaquin’s “May Day Eve” with the coda of a Beethoven symphony with the different thematic strands woven together in a glorious ending by tympani and clashing cymbals; some stories by Charlson Ong end like fragile concertos of Chopin, as a ballerina ends a dance with one foot in the air. Indeed, whole stories can be likened to music in architectonic design if not in effect. Let us take a look at some endings. Note the sense of finality, of tension between closure and open-endedness, of emphasis -- of a sense of a door closing.

Certain closure:
“Now we could finally lay to rest our dream of his return. It was over: the hope, the uncertainty, and the silent wait by the window for an old man leading his long weary shadow home.”

From “The Homing Mandarin” by Jaime An Lim
Closure with tail flick:
“Papa’s marker is a starry black slab gleaming with silver flecks, smooth and seamless at the top, bevelled at the edges, like a dark gem. We gather here only once a year, to collect ourselves and perhaps to celebrate another year, another change of seasons. I don’t know where they buried Moroy, although I am sure he is somewhere close by.”

From “Nilda” by Angelo Rodriguez Lacuesta

Frozen moment:
“There is an endless road somewhere, and on that road speeds a hand-me-down rattletrap bus on an endless trip, and somewhere near the back of that bus, you and I are snugly squeezed into one of the two-seater benches, with you next to the window and me next to the aisle, holding hands like schoolchildren, talking, occasionally smiling at each other, looking like we will never let go.”

From “Passengers” by Luis Joaquin Katigbak

Use of symbols and primal images:
“He walked a step behind, the bull lumbering in front. More than ever he was conscious of her person. She carried the jar on her head without holding it. Her hands swung to her even steps. He threw back his square shoulders, lifted his chin, and sniffed the motionless air. He felt strong. He felt very strong. He felt that he could follow the slender, lithe figure ahead of him to the ends of the world.”

From “Midsummer” by Manuel Arguilla

“A little green snake slithered languidly into the tall grass a few yards from the kalamansi tree. Tinang started violently and remembered her child. It lay motionless on the mat of husk. With a shriek she grabbed it wildly and hugged it close. The baby awoke from its sleep and cried lustily. Ave Maria Santisima. Do not punish me, she prayed, searching the baby’s skin for marks. Among the cornhusks, the letter fell unnoticed.”

From “Love in the Cornhusks” by Aida Rivera Ford

Repetition:
Read “May Day Eve” by Nick Joaquin where the ending is a variation of the beginning of the story. The old people had ordered that the dancing should stop at ten o’clock but it was almost midnight before the carriages came filing up the departing guests, while the girls who were staying were promptly herded upstairs to the bedrooms, the young men gathering around to wish them a good night and lamenting their ascent with mock signs and moaning, proclaiming themselves disconsolate but straightway going off to finish the punch and the brandy though they were quite drunk already and simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment, arrogance and audacity, for they were young bucks newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in their honor; and they had waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and where in no mood to sleep yet—no, caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May eve!—with the night still young and so seductive that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth---and serenade the neighbors! cried one; and swim in the Pasig! cried another; and gather fireflies! cried a third—whereupon there arose a great clamor for coats and capes, for hats and canes, and they were a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the street that the girls who were desiring upstairs in the bedrooms catered screaming to the windows, crowded giggling at the windows, but were soon sighing amorously over those young men bawling below; over those wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black and vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite ravished with love, and began crying to one another how carefree were men but how awful to be a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was, till old Anastasia plucked them off by the ear or the pigtail and chases them off to bed—while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his great voice booming through the night, “Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o.”

From the beginning


And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling in love: such a grief tore up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and looked out—looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable the window; the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his mouth—while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night: “Guardia sereno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!”

From the ending

Flashback/Fade out:
"Once it was Christmas day. They were driving from home, from the house their father had built in the country. A deer jumped the road in front of them, clearing the snow, the pavement, the fences of the fields, in two bounds. Beyond its arc the hills rumpled in snow. The narrow road wound through white meadows, across the creek, and on. Her father was driving. Her brothers had shining play pistols with leather holsters. Her mother wore clip-on earrings of tiny wreaths. They were all dressed in new clothes, and they moved down the road, through the trees.”

From “The Heavenly Animal” by Jayne Anne Phillips

The end.


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entry arrow5:20 PM | How We Bounce Back

You need friends. The best ones -- the ones who do not hesitate to carry you through the worst of circumstances and the ones who do not know the language of betrayal -- are the ones who become more than family: they are beyond blood, connected to us not by the accident of birth but by the almost sacred act of choosing. In affirming the kinds of friendships we choose to have, we elect to surround ourselves with people who affirm us, who ground us, who reflect the way we are or the way we want to be. The best of my friends, even when separated from me by distance or by the years of silence, define my life, and my very humanity. And for that, I am most thankful.

It's been a long time since I've been with good friends, trapped as I've been in the thankless tasks that govern everyday life. Yesterday, after a final (and redeeming) acknowledgment of how messed up a life can become, I've slowly rebuilt my being through a rapid succession of meeting up with friends I haven't seen for the longest time. It must have started some time ago when Warlito and Chinky chose to spirit me away from a wrenching scene of utter humiliation, and fed me cookies and cake in Sans Rival. Then the other night, I had dinner with Annabelle, Jacqueline, and Mark at the new Italian restaurant near Avenida Sta. Catalina. Then the next day, I had great lunch with Myrish, and then a wonderful dinner with Ma'am Susan. Kristyn texted me from Sydney. Kris emailed from Madrid. And Bing sent me this: "You are not alone. I ask myself the same things now. I sometimes think it must be about being 30. Beer? Let me know. I love you!" Each encounter was an affirmation of things I've forgotten about life, and with these wonderful people ready to guide me once again from the murk to the light, I know that I will be in good hands, and that I do not have to despair so much about everything.

Matud pa ni Ma'am Su, kung awayon ka, sulti, "Ngano man diay." Wisdom she got from the wonderful Betty Abregana (now Cernol-McCann).

We need friends.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

entry arrow9:16 AM | A Rant


There are two reasons to smile these days. Meet my new hamsters Cream (at the left) and Coffee. Pets are great therapy, and by God I need something to soothe my frayed nerves these days.

My life's a mess, although if you look at me now, you will think that I look like I'm in control -- but that's a facade that fool so many people. I'm really, really good at bottling things inside -- but when the volcano has to burst, you will see me as the very illustration of dejection. And it takes me a long time to recover. That's in my nature. I try to fight it, but I tend to really wallow in my sadness. The problem is, my struggle is subtle, and nobody sees anything wrong at all. They still see me as somebody who laughs, who works hard, who smiles a lot, who can carry on good conversation. They don't know anything.

Let's start with something minor. Do you know what they say about "honesty being the best policy"? Bullshit. Tell people what you really think ("I insist," they would say) -- and you evoke drama of the direst kind. These days, I find myself living on tiptoes. Or on the edge of constant disappointment. It's not a nice way to live.

I think the first crack in my armor was when I was assigned many weeks ago to do this freelance thing and I had to travel -- only to be told much, much later that all my expenses (except for food) will not be reimbursed. What? I told myself. I never did get around to finishing that project. Hey, you don't take care of me, so here's air, I shrugged. I had no idea that that would be the start of my current and prolonged season of disappointment.

The start of the current semester was the first major blow. I just came off a hectic -- but beautiful -- May. I did so many, many things that month (I traveled a lot even!), and was pleasantly surprised by what I could do given all that stress and restricted time. And then, we had a faculty meeting, and I was basically "accused" of something that was actually positive to begin with, and if there was any negative side to it, the fault was with somebody who did not do anything about it when we had the time. I know I'm not making sense here...

But let's just say, without being too specific about anything, that I drafted some plans for an important event, submitted it for approval (which never came), waited for official action from the top (which never came), was told to preside meetings and shared plans about the event(where nobody really listened to what was being discussed), and managed to pull off the event despite everything. I had prophetically told a friend four or five months ago: "Pusta ta, nobody's giving anybody the go-signal. Mag-panic lagi ta ani, and in the final analysis, it will be me who will be scrambling to fill the void, and it will also be my head they will offer to the chopping block at the end of everything."

How true that was.

In that meeting, I was basically reprimanded that I did not share the plans for the events at all. (I wanted to shout: But I tried to! I gave the plans, but nobody read it! Or approved it! And nobody came to the scheduled meetings! And when we had those last minute meetings, nobody listened! But I did not say anything. I couldn't.) My world crashed, I think, that afternoon. I knew how hard I worked last May -- I did not even get any sleep. And the hard work was telling in the fact that with those duties officially assigned to me, all of them went off without a hitch, and even exceeded expectations. I was later told that the positive items highlighted by the participants in their final evaluation were all for events handled by me.

I cannot reconcile that with this image of myself in that meeting: somebody reduced to tears and accusations. That was the first time I ever cried in a meeting. Something died in me that day: the drive to do something good. I told myself: Hey, you try to do something good, you get crucified.

The stake to my heart was driven even deeper when friends whom I trusted gave me extra drama that I did not need in my life then and now. (Only to be glibly retorted to by one with something like, "Drama is good! Embrace drama!") I fumed. There were also friends whom I asked to help me out. They gave me promises -- but bailed out in the end, giving me only excuses. I accepted their reasons with just a shrug, but I silently told myself, Hey, I'm not trying to count anything here, but what happened to those time when you asked for help, and I came to do your bidding? And now I ask for your help, and you give me excuses? One of them had the temerity to say, "The problem with you, Ian, is that you don't delegate." I just smiled, but inside I was shouting: Delegate? I do delegate! I delegated something to you, didn't I? And look at what you're doing to me! You're excusing yourself at the last fucking minute! Of course, I don't say anything.

The betrayal of friends, I think, can run deep. I've always had a personal policy of saying "yes" to everything people ask me, especially those whom I consider my truest friends. So when they abandon you, it hurts.

I learned so much about myself and about life last summer. These day, I find myself slowly crumbling inside. I can't help but shake the feeling that too many people are taking small bites out of me with their demands and what-not. I'm passionate about many things, and given the right environment and support, I am a dynamo.

Some time ago, this was the eve of my brother's departure back to Switzerland, I broke down -- in the middle of the Boulevard -- when another minor crisis hit and I managed to shout what was always in my head: "I'm tired of pleasing everybody! I'm tired of saying yes all the time because I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings!" Because I really am. I barely sleep these days because too many people expect too many things of me.

Right now, I'm finishing my MA and teaching with an overload and currently in the process of revising my syllabi for three major subjects, and so when people text or write me something like, "Buti pa si ___, you have time for him, and with me you don't" (an actual text message I received at 2:30 in the morning while I was trying to finish my workbook for research writing), I want to shout: I'm trying to do the best I can to accommodate everybody! It's hard. Time flies by so fast, and soon another day is gone, and I find myself scrambling to finish things.

To top it all off: Somebody stole my cellphone.

I just wish people were generally magnanimous and unselfish. I just wish that I can get support when I need or deserve one.

In the meantime, life goes on, and still I find myself trying to do the best I can.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

entry arrow12:47 PM | Meet Shahid


... our new crown-tail betta (what troglodytes call a fighting fish). We named him after Shahid Kapur, the Bollywood star. Just because.

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entry arrow10:51 AM | Virgin Labfest 3



The Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino Inc., The Writersbloc Inc., and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, supported by The Japan Foundation Manila

present

Virgin Labfest 3

Now on its 3rd year, the Virgin Labfest opens this June 28 and will run until July 8, 2007 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Virgin Labfest (VLF), a festival of new plays (untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged) by both emerging and well-known playwrights, directors and actors, is now enthusiastically looked forward to by artists and audiences alike. This year's festival boasts a repertoire of 15 short plays in five trilogies as the main exhibition list. One of the trilogies features contributions of playwrights from Thailand, Singapore and Japan. Another independently produced trilogy of plays has been added to the festival-totalling the entire festival to a treat of 18 short plays. Full-length plays will also be featured in a series of dramatic readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P200 (for plays to be shown at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute & Bulwagang Amado Hernandez) and "Pay What You Can" (for play readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino). For more details, please contact Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-3661, or the CCP Box Office at 832-3704. Visit our website for schedules.


MAIN EXHIBITION LIST

Set 1 - INTERNATIONAL NIGHT
A compilation of plays submitted by foreign playwrights. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 28 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM), July 7 (8:00 PM) and July 8 (3:00 PM)

Narumol Thammapruksa' He-Me-She-It
Directed by Jaime del Mundo
A poetic improvisation where a newcomer, an alien/stranger both influences and terrifies the members of an undisclosed remote town

Haresh Sharma's Lizard
Directed by Nicolas Pichay
A surreal and inertly violent depiction of a Singaporean household whose scheming, double-dealing, and at times cruel transactions negotiated with each other makes for a rather intense sala-set drama

Yoji Sakate's Noh Play, Three Sisters
Directed by Jose Estrella
This is a moving ghost story and a touching memorial to the ravages of war and the significant resonance of War in Theater


Set 2 - MADADRAMANG PAMILYA
Features household drama far from telenovela fare. Skeletons in the closet, in-house rebellions, and family decisions that just have to be made. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 29 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM), July 5 (3:00 PM) andJuly 8 (8:00 PM)

Debbie Ann Tan's Teroristang Labandera
Directed by Yoshi Toshihisa
A funny and yet disturbing destruction of class and racial stereotypes, this comedy may seem to say more than just being wacky

Dennis Teodosio's Bagahe
Directed by Rito Asilo
A short, intense conversation between a son and his dying father torn by the need to migrate and the need to define home

Lani Montreal's Looking for Darna
Directed by Khryss Adalia
About three generations of women painfully coming to terms with a reality that renders many women helpless and silent.

Set 3 - XX AND X
The most unsettling and disturbing compilation of the season. We enjoin you to widen your understanding, come in with an open mind and expect the unexpected. Warning: Hindi pang-isip bata. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 30 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM), July 5 (8:00 PM) and July 6 (3:00 PM)

Dr. Auggie Arcenas' Séance
Directed by EricK Castro
A quiet yet intense confrontation between a fortune teller and her customer that becomes a battle of wit and a revelation of small cruelties and hypocrisies.

Allan Lopez' Kasaysayan
Directed by Victor Villareal
A rather macabre rendition of capitalist barbarism and a gruesome exploration of the weird, horrible patriarchal ways of the bourgeoisie

George Vail Kabristante's My Padir is an OCW
About an aging transvestite's bizarre association with a young dancer who harbors a family secret.

Set 4 - ANG PAGDADALAGA AT IBA PANG REBELASYON
Provides another take on forbidden loves, sexual desire and the fruits it reaps, both good and evil. It is also 3 variations on a theme: Spring's awakening! Tanghalang Huseng Batute, July 1 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM), July 6 (8:00 PM) and July 7 (3:00 PM)

Argel Tuason's Kuyom
Directed by John Abul
About a young boy's exposure to exploitation and cruelty, rendered more complicated by the environment he finds himself in, a world of gay impersonators

Arlo de Guzman's Three Unsent Letters
Directed by Nor Domingo
An epistolary drama about a man's awakening to love and betrayal. Letters that have not been sent become monologues of despair and a sense of renewal at the same time

Layeta Bucoy's Ellas Inosentes
Directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio
About two sisters whose innocent conversation and unmalicious observations of a household not quite their own reveals the violence and inhumanity of the adults around them.

Set 5 - CHILDREN'S PLAYS
Bulwagang Amado Hernandez on June 29 (3:00 PM), June 30 (10:00 AM / 3:00 PM) and July 1 (3:00 PM).

Rene Villanueva's Bertdey ni Guido
Performed by the Dulaang Sipat Lawin Ensemble
Directed by George de Jesus III
Offers a wonderful juvenile perspective of the relationship between the personal and the political, made more marvelous with music and dance

Niel de Mesa's Mga Obra ni Maestra
A hilarious and biting play about three young children with superpowers and are heavily conflicted between saving the world or fulfilling the grueling, tedious domestic duties that their parents have ordered them to do

James Cansanay's Kung Pwede Sanang Ipagpalit ang Tatay
Directed by Catherine Racsag
A strange but fascinating fable about a young boy who mistakenly traded his father for a toy


INDEPENDENTLY PRODUCED FEATURES

IDENTITY AND POLITICS
Bulwagang Amado Hernandez on July 6 (8:00 PM), July 7 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM) and July 8 (3:00 PM).

Job Pagsibingan's May Bumubulong
Directed by Christian Bautista
About two brothers battling for the right to claim property and lineage and revealing the fragile and uncertain state of any one's identity

Dennis Teodosio's Pobreng Alindahaw
Directed by Delfin Ilao
A short but hilarious allegory that starts off like a folktale for children, but the issues laid down by two dragonflies and a butterfly turn this otherwise comic fantasy into a serious look into one's personality.

Rogelio Braga's Sa Pagdating ng Barbaro
Directed by Nick Olanka
Performed by the UP Repertory Company
About a small town that witnesses a suicide, an open secret military operation in a Muslim community nearby, the coming of a stranger with a suitcase that contains a secret, which no one will ever know, and the numerous white lies of a woman


PUBLIC READINGS
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, 7:00 PM

Glen Mas' Games People Play (June 29)
Rene Villanueva's Baby B. (June 30)
Tim Dacanay's Teatro Porvenir (July 6)
Malou Jacob's Huling Salubong (July 7)


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Monday, June 18, 2007

entry arrow9:48 PM | Ash


It's funny now how we dared name you after a beauty queen -- Aishwarya Rai -- thinking you were a girl. We did not know how to tell between girl and boy dwarf hamsters then, almost a year ago, especially not you and Sush (whom we named after Sushmita Sen), because you were both so small and so frail-looking when I first saw you in your dirty cage in that God-forsaken pet shop. Our first thought was to rescue you both, give you a better home. And we did. We really didn't know how to fix the question of gender, but we knew how much we loved you. We just lost Ushka then, that sweet guinea pig, and we had shed buckets of tears. So when I took Mark to the pet shop, I just had to buy you: you beckoned the way love snares -- into a quiet surrender that grows into embrace. How you both grew up so fast. The tiny bites you gave us in the beginning soon turned into a trusting knowing of our scent, and soon you played in your wheel, on our bed, on our palms. Later, we realized you both were boys and so we decided to shorten your names to Ash and Sush, because they sounded better that way. Some time ago, Sush died, and you were left all alone. We thought you'd quickly follow because dwarf hamsters get so used to their companions that we figured solitariness would not be something for you. But you thrived instead. You became an even sweeter boy, and everyday we would look at you and realize that in your tiny body contains all human capacity for loving. But today, you got sick the way Sush did. I don't know when this will end, but I look at you and I can't help but cry over how frail you look, how small and emaciated. It's strange to me to consider now how we are able to love furry little things like you, but does it matter if we know the answer? This is enough, this stirring inside that contains an unarticulated definiteness. Thank you, Ash, for being our baby. Good night, sweet prince.

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entry arrow8:46 PM | Memories of a Sunday


How strange some days become, and how they can defy expectations. Sunday, yesterday, did not start out well: as usual, Dumaguete was plunged into its usual Lord's Day blackout. I first noticed the absence of electricity when I woke up to the feel of stickiness on my skin as the morning dragged on. There was complete quiet. The electric fan had stopped long before. Then, almost grudgingly, I stood and began my day, and what started as a minor decision to wipe the kitchen counter became full-blast house-cleaning. By noon, the house was clean, I was happy, and I was ready for lunch. Mark and I had late lunch at Le Chalet (where we took pictures, see one above), then proceeded to the newly-opened National Bookstore over at Silliman Avenue, then bought a new betta we named Lagoon (because it was blue). The day was bright and sunny. It was beautiful, the way all Sundays should be.

[photo by the vegan prince]

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

entry arrow9:22 PM | For Father


I almost forgot it was Father's Day. But here's something for Papa, who died ten years ago, when I was still young, and he had never known me for everything that I was, or am, or have become. I regret that. Papa and I never had the closest of relationships: I was a certified Mama's Boy (she and I share the same birthday, and I am the youngest child), and when I was growing up, he wasn't there. He was somewhere else trying to make a living, or so he said, and came back to our lives when we were mostly grown up and had learned to be our own private Oedipuses. People used say I look like my father -- and I would recoil from that. Used to hate the fact that I carried his name. Today, I have grown mature enough to take that as a compliment. "I am my father's son," I tell myself now. Now, so many years after his death, I regret not giving myself the chance to know him better. Such was my guilt that I tried to bridge that void by writing a short story largely inspired by him. (That story, "The Hero of the Snore Tango," won second prize in the Palanca in 2003.) My brother Edwin tells me that Papa was a great man, undone by the strangest circumstances, and mostly because he stuck to a code of personal integrity and honor. I wish I had known his story more. A few years ago, Sir Krip (Yuson) and Sir Jimmy (Abad) invited me to submit a poem to their anthology Father Poems. Here was my take of Papa's memory:

How to Believe in Ghosts

For Fermin B. Casocot

Because, father, there was no chance to believe
In the impossible: the freshly-dug earth, now
Your home, was mute as was usual, turning away
Even the last howl of mourners coming near.
Their black grieving did not understand, as we did, that
Ties which bound could come loose as the grass that
Would feast on your memory six feet above could, as
Ground swallowed-in the digging for mortal remains.
We are told, as the funeral flowers wilted in the sun, that
Memories should be immortal, but we prayed for no ghosts.
The dead should not speak. We prayed, instead: father, we
Forgive you, for you have sinned. And the burial
Became growing silence as we soon dispersed for lives spent
In battled reflections, the muteness of years bearing down
On children struggling to forget by the bottom of
Beer bottles, or the occasional want for punish. Soon, we
Come, year by year, to some bidding, somehow,
For holy days kept precise—that last excuse—to
Listen to some eternal knell your spirit might tell.
Our candles now burn low to capture some
Semblance of closing, the way the ghostly smoke
Wisp among flowers, down to the carabao grass kept
Trim. We wait, and we wait. And life and silence
Become memories built on flimsy hopes, as they must,
To resound to a kind of winged believing.
And then we learn persistence, by the passing
Of days, that even the living must learn to reclaim
Their dead, to Live, to now close
The prayers with which we can finally love
Our dearly departed.

I miss you, Papa.

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entry arrow2:41 AM | Favorite Songs No. 10 : Missing



I hated this song (particularly the Todd Terry remix) by Everything But the Girl the first time it came out. Hated, hated it, because I did not understand its tune, or what it was all about. (That was when techno and house were still making their presence felt in our lives.) We were in college, and I was still in a confused haze about what I really wanted, or what I liked. But there was Ana. Ahh, Ana. Ana B. Ana Maria Borja. She owned the CD player in Gallogo, and she took command of the music selection whenever the barkada was around (which was always) and we all went about preparing food for our constant meal times. (I bought the Coke. The rest cooked.) She had this Everything But the Girl CD, and every effing morning, she played it. And played it. And I got used to the tune. And couldn't get the song out of my head. Until now, it's still there. The Last Song Syndrome in Eternal Rewind. But I'm not complaining anymore.

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entry arrow2:36 AM | LitCritters Dumaguete No. 11



This week

The Mouse Crawling Between the Walls by John Irving
Next Sunday at the Bazaar by David Evans Katz
The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros by Rosario Cruz Lucero

Last week

Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
Fox Magic by Kij Johnson
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Last, last week

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Midsummer by Manuel Arguilla
The Star by Arthur C. Clarke
The Way We Live Now by Susan Sontag

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

entry arrow11:29 PM | Delicious Villain


Just saw the last installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. Never planned to see it since I didn't see Dead Man's Chest, but there was nothing to do this weekend and Mark casually said, "How about this movie?" So saw it we did. Nice enough movie, nothing much to crow over, but I got somewhat entertained. I'm bothered with one thing though: every time there's a scene with the villainous Davy Jones -- a pirate with the face of an octopus -- I couldn't help but think: Mmmm, he looks delicious. Barbecued squid 'to.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

entry arrow7:52 PM | For a Limited Time Only

... or: Once Upon a Halloween. I really shouldn't be posting these online, but what the hell, I too can make fun of myself once in a while. This was one Halloween when all was well and dandy. Mark came as a Dead Guy (I wanted him to dress up as Paris Hilton, but no go), and I came as Bella Flores.



The scariest thing may be this: those clothes are Mark's mom's clothes (she gleefully raided her closet to dress me up), and the makeup is courtesy of Love, Mark's sister, hehehe. And my brother Dennis -- the straightest arrow this side of the world who cannot even pronounce the name Gloria Gaynor without getting a headache -- drove us to the party. I think my makeup shook him up, hehehe.



This was all of us during those heavenly days when everything was well among friends, love-wise, and we used to party a lot in Laurie Raymundo's old front yard in Silliman Village. We all dared each other to wear a costume on Halloween, and I think I upped the ante more than anyone else. How typically theatrical of me. That's Laurie after diva ol' me, then Bing Valbuena, Mark, Aileen, Wendy from Canada, Margie, two others, and ... my God, I forget his name.

Expiration date for this post: three days. But really, ain't I the Vamp?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

entry arrow2:26 PM | More About Hari

There are some things in life -- the cyclical ones, like a birthday or an annual program -- that make you pause about the nature of time. That it flies, for example, or that it is short.

It's June once again, and because I am quite close to many of the people involved, I get amused by the idea that it is Hari ng Negros time again. Has it been almost a year since Mark was given the title in a close fight among 24 candidates from various towns and cities of both Negros Occidental and Oriental? Has it been a year since he was proclaimed "the Wielder of the Sword of Malaspina, the Guardian of the Gates of Margaha, the Protector of the Golden Salakot and the Defender of the Code of Calantiao"?

Perhaps for Michael Ocampo, an old friend and the chief organizer of the annual male pageant set in Canlaon City, the prospect of a fifth year -- a paper anniversary -- may prove an occasion for wistful recollection, and maybe even wonderment. Because the male pageant, increasingly one of the most respected of its kind in the country, has grown from its almost humble beginnings when it was simply known as Ginoong Canlaon, and with only a handful of young men vying for the honor. Ambition and a sense of difference have geared the pageant towards a different path, and now Hari ng Negros attracts not only some of the best specimen of Negrense manhood, but also some formidable men and women from the top tier of Philippine culture and society (Patis Tesoro and Ado Escudero have been judges). "A lot of people in Manila has really taken note that Hari ng Negros is a pageant where winners don’t only have bodies or looks, they also have brains," Michael told ABS-CBN News once. (He's talking about Mark, of course, who wasn't your regular muscled candidate but got the sword through sheer mental brilliance and a cute smile.)

Like what I've said before, Paulo Mirasol, the candidate from Bacolod, seemed to embody for me the best chances of making it as the next Hari ng Negros. What did I say about him? "He looked fit, actually looked good without being cocky about it, and seemed to display confident charm and intelligence," I wrote.

Somebody from Negros Occidental should make it this year. It has been four years of the Hari sword being in the hands of Oriental winners (Canlaon first won it through Emmanuel Labirua, followed by Guihulngan's Reiven Bulado, Dumaguete's Paul Brett Orozco, and Jimalalud's Mark Fabillar), and maybe it's time to share the honor with the other side the island.



Hopefully Mr. Bacolod will give Occidental a bigger chance for getting that sword this year. Most of the Occidental candidates seem very strong, good-looking, and fairly competitive, and they would include, in my estimation, Nick Michael Garbanzos of Bago, Andrew Briz of Toboso, Mark Angelo Benjamin of Pulupandan, and Marco Angelo Ongsinco of Sagay. Giving the Oriental side a fighting chance are Jake Ragada of Amlan, Barry Escalona of Bayawan, Christopher James Solamillo of Dauin, Kenji Colacito of Manjuyod, and Wilfred Placencia Jr. of Sibulan. The rest seems forgettable, or just did not get into my vibes of things. Interestingly, four of the candidates (Sagay, Manjuyod, Dauin, and Sibulan) are Sillimanians, the highest number ever from my university, I think. (Saint Paul University Dumaguete, Catholic school that it is, has the more formidable position of having produced two winners already.)

The Hari ng Negros candidates can be viewed at the pageant's Friendster account, where you can vote for Mr. Photogenic. Adding your favorites as friends will propel the one with the highest number of Friendsters into the Top Ten. The show is slated on July 1 in Canlaon City.

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entry arrow12:18 PM | Because We Understand Your Language, But You Don't Get Ours...

Bisdaks unite!

Brown Cup Coffee Shop, Asiatown I.T. Park, Lahug, Cebu City, 01 June 2007 12:53 P.M.

Guy 1: Bai, welcome to Cebu. Here to visit Daisy?

Guy 2: Ha ha! Shut up, pare. I was texting her kanina, teasing her about her Boracay pics sa friendster niya. Tapos she replied na amaw daw ako. Pare, what’s amaw?

Guy 1: It means you are cool, charming.

Guy 2: Ah okay.

Ahahaha!

[from himantayon]

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entry arrow10:03 AM | Finales

David Chase is a genius of going against expectation. The final scene of The Sopranos, no matter what the disappointed diehards say, is taut, tense, and true. Spoiler ahead, if you have yet to see the final episode...



Our favorite television, because we grow with them, sometimes become a kind of family, especially when they don't self-destruct in our faces or diminish itself with each passing season like Ally McBeal did. So here's a little rundown of some of our tear-filled finales.

Carrie and the girls in Sex and the City...



The Babylon boys in Queer as Folk...



The Central Perk gang from Friends...



The Fisher Family in Six Feet Under...



And so I wonder. What do we do when Heroes or Lost is finally over?

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entry arrow9:15 AM | No Cellphone

Oh, by the way, for those who've been trying to call or text me for the past few days, I'm sorry but my old and trusty Nokia 6020 has been stolen.



Who would want to steal a 6020? Then again, it was quite durable, and I really liked it. I wasn't really one to go crazy over the latest models. And now, my old phone's gone. I'm trying to retain the old number though. I should get another phone soon. Updates later.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

entry arrow11:15 PM | The LitCritters Manifesto

We believe in several key principles that are the foundation of our approach towards writing, reading and critiquing. They are...

1. To be a writer, you must read; critical reading of texts helps improve awareness and implementation of writing techniques.

2. To be a writer, you must write, and write for submission to any number of markets open to your texts.

3. Speculative Fiction is a valid and vibrant form of literature that deserves equal emphasis in the reading and writing of texts.

4. Everyone is entitled to their own well-informed and well-expressed opinions.

5. When a text is critiqued, it is an evaluation of the text and not an evaluation of the character or behavior of the author.

A draft

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

entry arrow10:27 PM | Affirmation

Maybe it is time to be counted. See that banner on the left? That's my version of Independence Day. "But you have always been out," you might say. Which is, of course, right. But this blog never was -- I never considered this a gay blog simply because it wasn't, even when it used to host banner images that ran the gamut of GQ and Icon, even when some things courted the racy. For the most part, it was something more for Philippine literary snobs, demons, and angels than anything else. But something happened. Somebody trolled a dearest friend and issued forth homophobic threats. Somebody else called him a "bayot" in a tone so condescending it curled my blood. I thought later: maybe that's what we get when we cloak ourselves in comfortable silence, refusing to acknowledge who we are. So that's why I'm coming out again, with this post, because there really is a war going on, and I want to prove my courage by being a good soldier. Below is an old, old pseudo-fiction I have never published or posted anywhere. Read it, and know where I'm coming from.


He missed autumn. The last time Gerry saw autumn, he was leaving Stockholm in a hurry and the brown leaves became just a blur from outside the train windows. Now there are no more autumns for him, only a choice of heat—humid heat—or cold rain. Tonight it rains, in spatters. Even when it’s not raining, it rains.

There are always thunderstorms, too. In Manila, most especially—a kind of crackling that jolts through Gerry’s bones like a nightmare. The thunder that brewed for a long time inside him was, however, mute. He had once thought that, if he could get a change of place, he could hide in New York for a while, he could run away from it all and delay the acknowledgment he did not care to make, except perhaps as tentative constriction around his throat, absently searching for the wayward swollen lymph node.

Gerry tells me he was so afraid.

The other day, he accosts me in the hallway and tells me he just received a letter from Samuel the other week. “Samuel just does not understand,” he complains. “He has lived a full life: a house in Nice and now Spain, a Nathan by his side, a ripe old age. Would I, too, have that?” He realizes it is so easy to say things are all right—“but just you wait until an ex-lover calls you up with some interesting news, then feel the crash of the whole world dropping on your shoulders,” Gerry says.

Last weekend, Gerry’s best friend in high school dropped by his place for a visit. The guy, a joe named Justin, had earned a few days off work. A dreary job, really: as sales supervisor, Justin gets to travel the length of Northern Mindanao on a new pick-up he’s careful not scratch, or else he gets “Justined” by the hawks in the company. The future was bleak, Justin claimed, but then again he was wearing sunglasses when he said that. Sunglasses at 6 p.m.! Didn’t quite get the point, until Justin pulled it off to convince me he had been crying.

Justin had been dumped again, by the love of his life, simply because he was not Chinese. But Justin had also grown rather fat, which was not a surprise. Gerry, on the other hand, had grown a little belly. An embarrassment, he said, but he still had his little resolutions intact: to go to the gym, to go on a diet, to jog. One of these days, he said. “The physical is the best asset for people like us,” Gerry tells me. Beefcake. But Justin was a cow. “I look like a cow, don’t I,” was what Justin actually said. Gerry began to say no, but to his horror he also began to laugh. This fed Gerry’s embarrassment even more, which escalated into an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. Such were the horrors of honesty.

That was Sunday evening.

The TV was broken, so we had one of our usual heavy talk instead. On Gerry’s bed—a nice bed, and soft, too. Justin kept standing up to pace the room. “Are we happy?” he asked Gerry. “Is anybody happy?” Gerry answered back, “And what is happiness anyway except an over-hyped standard to make us all miserable?”

“A cookie right now would make me happy,” Justin said.

“Sorry, I don’t eat after six,” Gerry said.

Justin voiced concern about Gerry’s being gay and how Justin didn’t even bother to “hide” it from everybody else. “You talk so openly about being gay,” Justin said, “but you must know that this is a macho society we live in. How are you supposed to succeed in life with discrimination being hurled at you? How will our friends react?”

But Gerry saw through his disguised concern. Later he said he always knew Justin to be a guy who valued other people’s opinion over his own happiness, or his well-being even. Gerry began to reply reluctantly: “I cannot be friends then with people who can’t accept me for what I am. What has changed? Nothing. That they know I’m gay? But I’ve always been gay ever since the first time I met them.” Justin persisted: “You don’t understand... these people are not as accepting of your choice as I am. How will you gain respect if people know you’re gay?”

And then the dam burst. Gerry began telling him things I never even thought he was capable of thinking about. He told Justin: “Before I went to Stockholm, I had a two-year relationship with Ben. When people asked us what was the nature of our intimate togetherness, I told them we were just best friends. That was our cover, our deception. But if there is one thing we should know about other people, it is the fact that we should never underestimate their intelligence.”

Gerry said people are not stupid. People see things we think we are not showing. When people see smoke, they always assume, correctly, that there is fire. That the only thing we gain from deception is the fact that people will then start talking, and talking often leads to disrespect. “When Ben and I were telling people we were just friends, they laughed at us behind our backs,” Gerry said. “When I finally ‘came out’ and told the truth, I inadvertently cut off the chance for the gossip to grow because there is no more gossip to talk about. The truth is already out there. The best chance to live a good life is to be honest about it.”

In Stockholm, Gerry continued, he spent his free time reading up in the library about the nature of his "illness," i.e., homosexuality. Yet what he found out was that many of the prime movers of history and civilization were gay men and women. People like Shakespeare, like Alexander the Great, like Julius Caesar, like Oscar Wilde. They “succeeded” because they transcended petty talk about gender and instead went for a greater glory.

“A friend once told me,” Gerry said, “that it takes a strong and courageous man to be gay. It takes strength and courage to live under a predominantly heterosexual world fearful of even the slightest deviance because it undermined their own identity. I sure would like to think I’m strong and courageous. So I choose to be gay.”

Disrespect? Homophobia? Gerry said: “Let me tell you this: There was one night when I went out with our friends to one of the local bars in the city. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and over a game of Ice Breaker, we began telling ourselves the stories of our lives. Then I told them I was gay. There was the requisite moment of silence, the predictable comments of ‘What a waste!,’ but then they began telling me it was good I was being honest to them since it gives them a chance to know the truth first-hand and not have to deal, with ignorance, with other people who approach them to gossip about me. ‘Now that we know, we now know how to defend you since you are our friend.’ That made me feel good.”

In the end, disrespect can only be gained if one does dishonorable things, Gerry said. “Look at me. Am I, or do I look, dishonorable? Do I need to wear a bra and make my mother cringe in shame? Do I go around telling men I want to suck their cocks? No. If you have a hold on a certain personal dignity, you have the respect of people regardless of whether you’re gay or not.”

For almost two years now, Gerry has been out of the closet to almost everyone. Everybody knows about his sexual orientation, and so far, he says he has not received any instances of discrimination. Only instances of homophobic jokes among friends who know no better. And when people do ask him about certain things, he says he makes sure he tells the truth.

But right now, I told Gerry, our friend Bert, who is also a gay man, is being laughed at by some people. Why was this? He is good looking, and was once a prominent figure in campus. Yet people disparage him. Why? “Because everybody knows he’s gay,” Gerry said, “and his tragedy is his denial. He forces himself to project an image that he’s straight. Again, like what I said before, if you tell people lies, you gain only their disrespect.” I think of Bert: when he passes by, people make catcalls and call him Berta—and he can only blush in anger.

“And here I am,” Gerry said, “openly gay, and people look up to me. See the difference?”

Being gay is not the issue then? Justin asked.

“What is the issue is how one lives an honest life, and how one works hard that really matters,” Gerry said. “So no one can scare me with their concerns over how I would fare in a macho society. I do not care for reputation. I only care for character. I live life on my own terms, and according to the presets of my happiness. One cannot live a lie and say that he has lived,” he finally said.

Gerry made a speech, all right. In the end, Justin could only nod. “You are happy,” he said. “And I envy your sense of self-worth.” There was a sadness in Justin’s eyes, swallowed up by the layers of body fat that were the manifestation of his many insecurities. Poor Justin. Poor heterosexual Justin. As Gerry said, it takes a strong, courageous man to admit he’s gay. Justin was definitely not gay.

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entry arrow12:33 PM | LitCritters Dumaguete No. 10



This week

Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
Fox Magic by Kij Johnson
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Last week

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Midsummer by Manuel Arguilla
The Star by Arthur C. Clarke
The Way We Live Now by Susan Sontag

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entry arrow12:22 AM | A Glimpse of Things to Come

For a few weeks now, I've been fiddling with the camera which my dear brother Edwin gave me before I left for India. My constant muse has always been Mark -- but, of course. I'm still tweaking some of those photos I took of him recently for a possible show, but in the meantime, here's one that he has posted in his blog...


This one's inspired by the photography of Sakiko Nomura, whose iconic black and white photography seemed to me to be both subtle and raw at the same time.

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entry arrow12:05 AM | Paris Grows a Brain

"I used to act dumb. That act is no longer cute."

Paris Hilton to Barbra Walters, on wisdom courtesy of a jail sentence


Precisely why I've always hated her. Paris was never dumb. It was an act, which proved quite profitable for her but really was a disservice to girls everywhere who thought it was cute, and dumbified themselves to become their own versions of Paris Hilton. See? Prison was good for her.

[quote from cnn.com]

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Monday, June 11, 2007

entry arrow9:40 PM | Dog Shit Country

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Mahatma Gandhi

... and the video below, although shot in China, can very well be Korea or the Philippines, home of the beloved asoscena.



Your dog, your dish. Sick bastards.

I had a dog once named Sugar, a large furry dog that was the very picture of sweetness and loyalty. Technically, he was not really my dog, but Candy's dog. When I was a little boy still starting in grade school, we lived for free in the house of Mother's old friends while they worked in the United States and their house largely stood empty except for their little girl and her half-sister, her half-sister's husband, and their frisky toddler who was capable of tiny terrors. They must have no inkling on what to do regarding domestic management, because the family came to us for help with a strange proposition. We were very poor then and in need of friends' charity, and so when Mother was asked to act as housekeeper and Candy's yaya, she said yes, and it was quickly agreed that we all moved into one part of the big house somewhere in Bantayan, a northern borough of Dumaguete. Candy's older half-sister Josie was a fairy tale figure -- the Evil Queen from Snow White, or one of Cinderella's stepsisters. Those years were one of the brightest and the darkest of my life, haunted with the specter of this older woman preying on me. She picked on me because I was small and a runt-skinny, I was young, I was a boy, I was poor, and my poor family lived under the caprices of her mercy. She was hell, and she must have relished it.

All I had to turn to for my secret grief was Candy, who was my age and my fellow survivor in Josie's psychological games. Both of us, in turn, turned to "our" dog Sugar who kept us company and played with us. The drama came to halt one day when tensions between Candy and Josie finally came to head, and Candy's parents promptly came home from California to right things. As one last form of revenge, Sugar was summarily sent to the workers building the Mormon church in the neighborhood, and was promptly slaughtered as fodder for carpenters and masons.

That was one of my earliest skirmish with horror. There are still rare nights when I wake up from some dread, hearing Sugar's terrified whine filling the air of my nightmares, begging reprieve. There was none for him, and that day, a long time ago, I believe a part of me died, the part where innocence was. Childhood for me ended that day.

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entry arrow1:06 AM | Enumerating Evil

"I ... listen to everything from Basil Valdez to Justin Timberlake. Anything except the kind of emo-metal crap and today's nauseating brand of pop-rock -- it's just enough to chip away at one's sense of tolerance. I know it sounds bigoted but we must urgently engage in affirmative action against atrocious music. All the evils of the world can be traced to bad songs. Bad songs cause mental pollution, which can lead to social injustice, disrupted traffic systems, terrorism, environmental degradation, government corruption, and Kris Aquino."

Lourd de Veyra

[via the wily filipino]

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

entry arrow10:31 PM | Shirt Judgment for Paris Hilton

This photo was taken by my best friend Kokak in Sydney, which she promptly emailed to me to blog about. She wrote, "[This is] Australia's answer to the Paris jail issue. Displayed in a very popular store for young people. Which one do you want to wear?"



I'd wear this: "Who cares about Paris?" But really, that girl deserves the bite of real life via jail time. She's been overly pampered all her life, and getting off scot-free from various shenanigans because of Dad's money.

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entry arrow4:24 PM | The Red Balloon

One of the best movies I've ever seen is a short film -- only 34 minutes long -- about a boy in Ménilmontant, in Paris, and his red balloon. Those who have seen Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon will have no recourse but to be immediately taken in by the simplicity and power of the film (the story here), practically a silent movie (there is no dialogue, only incidental sounds of Parisian life and the beautiful score by Maurice Leroux). You can read it as a simple -- even fantastic -- story of a strange friendship, the harshness of a cold world, and the magic that can happen to save us from it.

This is the beginning of the award-winning film...



The succeeding clips can be seen here, here, and here.

I'm thinking of this film again because I've been tasked to teach Film Appreciation for Silliman University's College of Mass Communication this semester, after a period of about five years. This is the first film I want my students to see, to make them feel the power of great cinema and erase any speck of Hollywood trash from their heads. I'm taking over the class from Jonah Lim who's intending to leave academe behind to pursue filmmaking full-time. Teaching film aesthetics was my first foray into the academe, and in a sense I've come full circle, I guess. I'm excited over this, because I do miss my old fondness for cinema (the college years are still the best years for any cinephile -- I was president of the university's film society!) -- and I want this class to be my reintroduction to an old love.

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