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





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Monday, December 29, 2008

entry arrow10:47 PM | Passion

“Exactly,” Ms. Walker said. “I think we do this because we love it.”

Thus ends an article in the New York Times about ballet dancers in Columbia University trying to set up a new company free from the restraints of traditional leadership. I found the line strangely comforting. I knew what it meant to the very bone.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

entry arrow8:37 PM | Then and Now



I took this photo of Philip the Busboy, mopping under the blue lights of Hayahay only last Monday night -- but this night already seems to come from some distant part of my life. Monday night clearly marked what is Then, and what is Now for me. And I find it surprising that I can be so calm these days -- much to the surprise of my faithless friends -- but I think I have been ready for this moment for some time now. Honestly, I can't wait to get to the new year. Razceljan keeps reminding me of what I once wrote in this blog: "The days to come will be beautiful." And I sincerely believe that still, if only because I believe in hope, despite everything.

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entry arrow1:10 AM | The Shit That is Seven Pounds

I hate many treacly films that slap you around with misguided melodrama, just to wring out tears from all of us. The worst was Life is Beautiful, which tried to beautify the Holocaust with deception and lies and made it seem like child's play. Here's another one. Will Smith's new movie Seven Pounds. What a terrible movie. And to save you from watching this terrible movie, here's the film's explanation from New York Magazine's Vulture blog:

The film's story is apparently told in out-of-order flashbacks, but here's the gist: Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent. Some time ago, while out driving with his fiancée, he became distracted by his BlackBerry and turned his car into oncoming traffic, killing her and six strangers. Then, out of guilt, he decides to commit suicide by sharing a bathtub with a deadly jellyfish so he can donate his organs to atone for his sins. Using his IRS credentials (they're actually his brother's — Will Smith's character, whose real name is Tim Thomas, stole his identity), he tracks down seven strangers in need: Woody Harrelson plays a blind pianist who gets his eyes, "Ben" gives his lungs to his ailing brother (the real Ben), he gives a single mother his house, some other woman gets his liver, some dude on dialysis takes his kidney, another guy gets his bone marrow, and he gives Rosario Dawson, the movie's love interest with congestive heart failure, his heart (barf!). (One person who needed bone marrow turns out to not be very nice, and since Ben has pledged only to give his organs to "good" people, he had to pick someone else.) Anyway, yes, the film's title refers to the "seven pounds" of flesh that Ben gives to make up for killing seven innocent people. At movie's end, after Will Smith kills himself, Rosario Dawson (who finally has a heart that can reliably pump blood to her various extremities!) meets Woody Harrelson (who can now see!) and they cry.

And no, I don't believe in spoiler warnings for bad movies.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

entry arrow11:38 AM | Eartha Kitt, 81

Another one of my icons died Christmas Day, so soon after a Nobel laureate, the playwright Harold Pinter, had his last curtain call. The luminous Catwoman, whom Orson Welles called "the most exciting woman alive" in the early 1950s, finally hurried down the chimney last night.



Eartha Kitt's naughty rendition of "Santa Baby" was a purr of a Christmas come-on, and when I first heard her sing it, I was hooked. She was the original Material Girl, and influenced the stylings of the singing icons after her, including Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, and Madonna. She will be missed.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

entry arrow1:33 PM | Merry Christmas to One and All!

I can smell the nippiness in the air, and wish everybody a truly happy Christmas. This day is one of our rare chances in life when we can actually take stock of the many things in our lives that matter -- our family, our friends, our future, the assorted loves and passions that define who we are.



Make this Christmas a celebration of all that we are, and can be. Remember, we make our own happiness. "Let your heart delight," my favorite Christmas song tells us. So let it.

P.S.

Happy birthday to my brother Edwin, and to my best friend Kristyn!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

entry arrow11:11 PM | Favorite Song No. 16 : Tell Me on a Sunday

This song is so appropriate for my now. As Hendrison Go once told me, "Our goodbyes should be as good as our relationships." And what better goodbye than a song by Andrew Lloyd Webber? I used to sing this song in college, a time when the lyrics to our favorite musicals were just glimpses into the possible dramas of our lives that seem romantic in their remoteness and distance. But we were so young then, and our lives still had to unravel. I had no idea how the song could actually soon translate to speak for me what I cannot, in fact, say now.



Don't write a letter when you want to leave
Don't call me at 3 a.m. from a friend's apartment
I'd like to choose how I hear the news
Take me to a park that's covered with trees
Tell me on a Sunday please

Let me down easy
No big song and dance
No long faces, no long looks
No deep conversation
I know the way we should spend that day
Take me to a zoo that's got chimpanzees
Tell me on a Sunday please

Don't want to know who's to blame
It won't help knowing
Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going

Don't leave in silence with no word at all
Don't get drunk and slam the door
That's no way to end this
I know how I want you to say goodbye
Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze
Tell me on a Sunday please

Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going
Don't leave in silence with no word at all
Don't get drunk and slam the door
That's no way to end this
I know how I want you to say goodbye

Don't run off in the pouring rain
Don't call me as they call your plane
Take the hurt out of all the pain
Take me to a park that's covered with trees
Tell me on a Sunday please.


But you chose Tuesday instead, at 6:22 p.m. Still, that's perfectly okay -- it was a quiet end to five long years... And so, goodbye, bubu. I do love you, strange as that may sound, and I wish you well. But that's why I did all these, for you. Someday you will understand why this December was so strange, for both of us. It was a heartbreaking decision to act just so, but someday you will perhaps understand.

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entry arrow6:46 PM | Happiness

We were talking about going to Bali, among other things.

“I want to go to Bali some day and stay for a few months,” I said—in the tone of things that acknowledged the distance of hopefulness.

“What’s in Bali?” Kent asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but I hear it’s beautiful.”

And then I paused.

“But you know what?” I began again.

“What?” Kent said.

“I don’t want this Bali thing to be a mere pipe dream.”

“What’s a pipe dream?”

“You know, those fantasies we all have about doing this or that, or going to this place or that—but they all remain just that: talk. Empty words that don’t mean shit. And in the end, you really don’t do anything. You just succumb to the boredom of things comfortable, having done nothing at all.”

“So that’s what a pipe dream is.”

“Yeah.”

“You should get out of Dumaguete,” Kent said, after a beat.

“Everybody tells me that.”

And then we stare off into space, into the skies, onto the streets, whatever—both of us suddenly mentally cataloguing the pipe dreams we have. How sweet they all sound, how full of promise, how elusive and far away.

I have been having this conversation with assorted friends for many days now, all throughout this December, often in the company of other people—the artist Razceljan Salvarita chief among them, even with Dumaguete divas Arlene Delloso-Uypitching and Justine Colburn when they can be bothered to pause from their eternally fabulous lives; and sometimes we continue to talk at the height of things happening—a lunch date with Ceres Pioquinto at Gabby’s, a brief interlude between classes at Margie Udarbe’s, a late afternoon coffee date with Aivy Nicholas at Café Noriter’s, a triple birthday celebration at Sharon Dadang-Rafols’s, an early Christmas party at Susan Vista-Suarez’s, an exhibit opening at Wing del Prado’s, over rhum coke with Jean Claire Dy and Clee Andro Villasor in Hayahay… There have been occasions of conversation when the night has already verged into the next day, and I find myself with Kent sampling balut from one of those mobile stands along the Boulevard, and there—before the midnight stretch of Tañon Strait—we would talk about this thing and that thing. We would talk, we would eat, we would talk some more and plan many things.

I don’t know what it is exactly about this December that has drawn me into a fuller sense of self, but for the first time in a long, long time, I made a conscious decision to be happy. It came from a guarded knowing that for some time now, I have felt the years pass me by like the flutter of wings, uncaptured, leaving me with that ominous, hallow sense of not having accomplished anything.

But no longer.

It has been a wonderfully busy December beyond the simple push of things Christmassy—it has been a season of people (a season of rekindling ties with old friends especially), and also a season of so much gleeful intoxication, a season of so much introspection, of looking back and looking forward, and learning from it all. Most of all, it has been a season of so much heartfelt conversations—and the unspoken heart of it all: the search, or the wish, for personal happiness.

I may have triggered the start of this unending discourse on the matter among our small band of merry conversationalists. Because sometime in the beginning of December, at the height of the long full moon, right after the celestial rarity of Venus and Jupiter forming a smile with the new moon, I shrugged off months of utter bleakness and demoralization, and finally gained the courage to tell myself: “F***k it. I deserve to be happy.”

And just like that, the previous months of venal darkness fell away. I have said this before: sometimes happiness is all a matter of decisiveness. Many of you may be familiar with how the darkness looks like: an infinity of settling into the drone of ordinary things, and becoming afraid of the small stuff, afraid to say no or to stand up for what is right, afraid to take chances or risk, afraid of becoming unloved. You end up watching a lot of television, immobilizing yourself into a grouch of a couch potato, and then you soon find yourself willing your mind to go numb as it contemplates the gathering night. You end up eating a lot perhaps, and becoming utterly fat. You end up feeling lost.

Looking back, there were many excuses I built up to postpone meeting my demon—but the one thing I felt that pushed me to such severe flirting with despondency was the fact that I had somehow, foolishly, cultivated a distance from other people. Some years ago, I had willingly housebound myself and stopped going to events and what-not, even from dinner parties thrown by good friends. I would text them my string of excuses, and eventually I had successfully blended with the shadows. Consequently, I stopped having earnest and intelligent conversations with people of like minds, of people willing to engage you in banter, wit, or playful debate. I have always loved conversation. William Somerset Maugham called it one of life’s greatest pleasures. But I had forgotten what the philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said: “Conversation is the socializing instrument par excellence, and in its style one can see reflected the capacities of a race.”

But this December, I had suddenly felt the need to reconnect—and I did. Which led to a stretch of joy that surprised even me. Also to the surprise of many friends who had long since considered me a kind of zombie. I didn’t even know that they had coined a new verb to define my condition: “to do an Ian,” which meant to disappear from everything, and be sad. It was telling. And so, for the past month, I have become manic. I dove into all manner of events and conversations, and have dared the world in various ways in pursuit of fulfillment.

And from all these December conversations, I have since come to a conclusion: what binds all of humanity is an earnest quest for personal happiness. But what is surprising is that most people really don’t have a clear idea of what would make them truly happy. And often, when they do have a clear idea, they perplexingly set too many obstacles in their path to gain an inch towards that happiness. I heard this all the time: “I can’t do this or that, because (fill in the blanks).”

I want to hurl at them this cliché: life’s really too short, and life led sadly is a life misspent. I quote another cliché: “If not now, when? If not here, where?”

When I ponder more about it, I think my December epiphany is the culmination of something that started a few months ago, after watching Chris Martinez’s wonderful film 100, which was part of the Cinemalaya Film Festival in Dumaguete. Its protagonist was dying of cancer, and in true obsessive-compulsive fashion (so me!), proceeded to map out—through the wonderfully visual device of yellow Post-Its—a road map of things-to-do, to attain the last shreds of happiness and a life well-lived before succumbing to death itself.

A few days after that screening, acknowledging my own unapologetic unoriginality, I compiled my own wishful Post-Its and posted them on my apartment’s door. I see them every day, these square-shaped stark reminders, before I go out to the world and begin a new day. They tell me that life and the attainment of happiness may just be a matter of identification and taking action. My own list is not long—going to Bali is one of them—but the items in it matter to me the most for some strange reason or other.

This December, I started things rolling for their realization, and I am happy, even for just that. Starting things rolling. No matter how far out those dreams may be.

Because I refuse to just have pipe dreams now.

Which may be my mantra for the New Year.

Hopefully it will be your mantra, too.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

entry arrow1:01 AM | Today is Global Orgasm Day!

FROM THE WEBSITE: The mission of the Global Orgasm is to effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible instantaneous surge of human biological, mental and spiritual energy.



WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction and places where violence is used in place of mediation.

WHEN? December 21st, at 12:04 Universal Time (GMT). In the Philippines, that's 7 p.m.

Have fun! And burst that energy barrier!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

entry arrow10:48 PM | Adventures in a Grown-up Christmas

There are several personal traditions—some of them merely the sweetest of Christmas superstitions—that I need to keep, to make sure my yuletide cheer comes to some kind of reality. In the final analysis, they really mean nothing; but I am only a man, and we are given to expect works of wonder in the intricate divining of possibilities.

I don’t know if it’s the same with you, but for many people I know, it has become increasingly hard to breathe in the holiday spirit in our “grown-up” state of things. “Grown-up” means a weary jadedness that calls for seeing reduced luster even in the most brilliant of Christmas lights. “Grown-up” means incapability to enjoy the simplest signifiers of the season, because the very call for “peace on Earth and goodwill to men” is tempered by the news we see on CNN and the rapacious venality of everyday people we encounter in the string of our lives. “Grown-up” means the surrender of the childlike.

And then, of course, there are the other adults among us who do not help matters by being very generous in sharing a common plaint of (1) the utter “commerciality” of the season, (2) the endless foot traffic through the asphyxiating malls, and (3) the extensive shopping lists they bear, lists whose soundtrack is the shrill shrinking of credit cards maxing out.

“I so can’t wait for December to be over,” all my friends say.

Where is the “merry” in Merry Christmas? And the “happy” in the Happy New Year? (Eventually, some evangelical friend would also chime in, and complain about missing the “Christ” in Christmas.)

One answer: they’re there in the recesses of our memories. They exist as earnest flashbacks to faraway childhoods when the only care we had of the world was the mystery inside assorted boxes wrapped with glinting red-and-green paper and ribbons.

“What did ninong give me?”

“I shook the box, and it sounds like a new toy car.”

“How many gifts do we have under our tree?”

And so on and so forth—our childish wonder fleeting from the gleeful noise of family reunions to the splendid avalanche of gifts to Christmas lights to the heartening display of noche buena (complete with queso de bola and ham) to the sound of carolers murdering the lyrics of “Winter Wonderland” (while ungraciously handing out the inconspicuous white envelope to Dad, a call for instant holiday hold-up charity). How we delighted in the little Christmassy things. But Christmas is for children, so we are constantly told when we grow up. And we believe that now as we assess our conflicting embrace of the annual festivities—how we used to be so delighted, and how tiresome everything is so suddenly. Then we realize, bit by bit, that we had crossed an invisible line the moment we came of age and had come to accept a denial of Santa Claus without too much of a horror: and suddenly, Christmas becomes reduced to a testy quest to recapture those long-gone moments when we were young and were easily impressed by the tall (and plastic) Christmas tree standing by the window, a green hulk of a thing pregnant with decorations and lights.

Admit it, we do; we want to relive those old joys despite it all.

Much of our holiday anxiety and assorted sadnesses (e.g., suicides, so the popular statistics say, spike in the depths of December) spring from the fact that for most of us, the quest to recapture what we remember fondly of Christmas has become increasingly futile. Childhood and old Christmases suddenly seem like a foreign country from where we are forever denied entry.

Thus, it has become so easy to become unmerry under the mistletoe.

But still most of us trudge on, true to the quest, never mind how quixotic the goal may be. And we all have our own secret formulas to recapture a little bit of the past. For one strange friend, it is the smell of rotting apple in a bowl. (“My mother used to bake apple pie for noche Buena,” he tells me.) For another friend, it is a 24-hour looping marathon of Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story. For another friend, it is a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (to which I once told him, “How very American of you”). Perhaps for others, it would be the sight of the Rockettes in a chorus line in Radio City Music Hall. Or the annual staging of The Nutcracker.

My own formula rests on several ingredients, all of them unpredictable.

The nippy weather is one of them—gray skies in particular, days that resemble my remembered winters, complete, of course, with a slight chill in the air that requires a change in our constant tropical wardrobe—the cotton white tee, the pair of city shorts, and the eternal sandals banished in exchange for a thick, long-sleeved collar shirt, tight jeans, and stylish walking boots. Because I feel it just cannot be Christmassy when the air is thick with humidity. The sun has to be exiled, at least for a while, into the winter solstice. Increasingly though, the changing weather patterns worldwide have wrecked havoc on our expectations of the climate. Our recent Decembers have become more summery, the sun relentless as if it was the middle of May. The last cold December I remember was years back, when I was still a college student, and the soft rain falling on Dumaguete required the wearing of sweaters. (Sweaters! I haven’t worn a sweater for years now. I don’t even own one anymore.) But lately, it has been a little chilly in Dumaguete—so thank God for that.

Then there’s music. The soundtrack of the season. Christmas music. And none of the dreck that characterizes the affected pop warble of Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey. The traditional ones are the only soundtrack to our Christmas cheer that will suffice. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for example. Better yet: the complete recording of The Carpenters regaling us with holiday music remembered most as radio staples when most of us were growing up. There are two albums from the duo: the eternal Christmas Portrait, and the ethereal An Old-Fashioned Christmas. There is just no other musical welcome than hearing Karen Carpenter sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This song, as well as Christmas classics from the likes of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, were staples of the air waves when I was growing up. And hearing them again, even when I’m all grown-up, makes it easy to travel back in time.

Then there are the holiday effects, too: but I ache for the old abandon that used to characterize Dumagueteños when it came to holiday decorating. There was a time when every establishment competed with each other in coming up with the most imaginative displays and with the most elaborate of light shows. But no longer. The economy had something to do with this restraint. And it has since gone from bad to worse since the weary days of the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s. In 1998, I had called the public decorations as testament of “Recession Cheer,” but I had hoped that there would be an immediate future where the lights would be back to delight us all over again. It has been 10 years since. And the lights are not back. There are, of course, this year, the beautiful white-lit parols draping the acacias off the Rizal Boulevard (as well as the ugly yellow-lit skirt that makes for a Christmas “tree” in Quezon Park)—but somehow, they do not seem enough.

And last would be the movies. These are moving signifiers that can easily affect a semblance of Christmas cheer, perhaps because films are good vehicles for fantasy. In the dark, the glittering Christmas drama flickering on the silver screen become ours, the characters in the film our stand-ins. For me, there are six films that are my constant standbys: Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally…, Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and Christopher Columbus’ Home Alone. I watch any of them on Christmas morning, and a kind of contentment settles over me. My grown-up self tells me what I feel is only an illusion—but who cares? At least for two hours, I am permitted to indulge in Christmas fantasy. And for the most part, that is enough.

Mine is a simple formula that sometimes works, and sometimes does not work. But in the end, I think what matters most comes about through a crucial decision: that of deciding to be happy for the holidays, no matter what. A wise friend once told me that happiness is often a decisive act, a matter of ordering oneself to reorient one’s perspectives and imbibe only in a positiveness that comes with smiles. The first time I heard this philosophy, I thought it was kooky: I did not believe my friend until I tried it for myself this year. I decided to be happy, no matter what. I made myself smile. I made myself care. (And I made myself promise that I will never go out to the commercial battlefields that are the shopping centers to buy gifts.)

This year, for the first time in truly a long, long while, I’m happy for the holidays.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

entry arrow5:37 PM | Simple

If I encounter the description "I'm a simple guy" one more time in any online profile, I'll scream. Or hurl. Whichever comes first. What's the f***ing deal with "simple"? I don't know any "simple" people -- even simpletons are quite dramatic as far as I'm concerned. Anyone who thinks they're "simple" is either a moron or just delusional. Or lacks imagination.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

entry arrow9:35 PM | Secret Lives

We were talking about private lives last Tuesday during lunch at Gabby’s Bistro—a bunch of us teachers from the English Department, eager for a brief reprieve from the demands of a work day, savoring good food to soothe frazzled souls. But we had not done something like this for the longest time—two or four years now since we last felt alive? the years since have become a miserable blur—but we were coming together to celebrate the homecoming of a beloved mentor and former boss, Dr. Ceres Pioquinto, who was in town after years in Germany and Switzerland, to get in touch with old roots, and perhaps to find some vitality with new ones.

After all the hearty welcomes and how-are-you’s, the talk somehow turned to the subject of private lives, occasioned, I think, by a most private story one of us refused to elaborate on. I began talking about how each of us was suddenly telling stories from the shaded parts of our selves that we had never really told anybody else. One of us would say something like, “Kabalo ba mo? Mauni-mauna....” And we would go: “Mao ba? How come we didn’t know?”

It struck me how common it was to hoard on secrets, and how every day we all go out to the world bearing strong armors as facades to the secrets within.

Gina soon turned to me, and asked: “So, ikaw, okay na ka?” She asked this with a smile—because, as a good friend, she, like all the rest of those in my beloved posse, knows how rocky it has been for me, the past two years. But the question sounded so funny to me, because it brought home the fact that for most of those who know me, I have a curious tendency to air out my angst and frustrations broadcast to the world. There’s this blog, for example, which has become a barometer of my mood for many of my friends. And there’s this wonderful function in Facebook that eggs you to broadcast your “status” for the rest of your linked world to see, all because of a simple formula for confession embedded like a virus in the website: a sentence bearing first your name and then the word “is…” And so it goes: “Ian is busy today.” “Ian is watching the world go by from his table in Café Mamia.” “Ian is dreaming of chocolate bars.” And sometimes, the more confessional ones: “Ian is sad, and he doesn’t know why,” or “Ian sees grey clouds ahead,” the likes of which has the frequency of habit. (My Mark once posted as his Facebook status, this: “Mark is sad because Ian is always sad.”)

I’m not sure I am eternally sad, because I do know I am capable of such craziness, and when the right buttons are pushed I become a maniac of restless energy. But I blame this bipolarism on acquired neuroses, which includes a minor dose of obsessive compulsion. And includes a tendency for the dramatic. And being the person that I am, the world is the stage for all my drama.

But everybody has their own neurosis. Somebody I know makes up elaborate stories of conquests to cover the obvious sad truth. Somebody I know uses beer as an alibi for naughty things. Somebody I know makes up for a handicap by being the most the most vindictive animal this side of creation. Somebody I used to know looks for affirmation by making a habit of resigning from her job every single year—just to feel the pleasure of having her resignation denied. (One year, her resignation was finally accepted -- much to her consternation.) Somebody I know makes up for an old heartbreak by breaking the hearts of every admirer since. Somebody I know sees only gross imperfections in his perfect beauty. Somebody I know does everything in threes—locking the door three times, turning off the light switches three times—before she can manage to breathe easily. Somebody I know plays Christmas songs only in June.

Everyone has secrets.

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entry arrow5:13 PM | Kristyn's Inara

My best friend, who lives in Sydney, just defied our widely-held belief and has proven for sure that she's a woman after all: she just gave birth to a daughter, Inara Jayne -- a name taken from a Firefly character.



Yes, a Joss Whedon character. Yes, my best friend's a geek, too.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

entry arrow2:36 PM | Manic

I pulled an all-nighter last night, feverishly finishing some things that really needed finishing. What can I say, I'm back in my manic mode. Then I went straight to my classes, from 8 to 12. Good thing I have no classes in the afternoon. Had a wonderfully simple lunch of carballas and kalamunggay (no rice!) with Mother, which was positively homey. Slept till 2. And now I'm awake and ready for more.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

entry arrow5:11 PM | Marky Cielo, 20



The GMA 7 actor died today. He was only 20. I'm not really a fan, but it's always sad to hear of young people dying in their prime. May he rest in peace.

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entry arrow1:59 PM | Meow

I'm a happy cat today. What started out as a shitty day yesterday ended up in a vast culmination of so much happiness, it's impossible to even begin to gauge how the universe can tease me just so. Waking to yesterday was like staring into a dark tomb I knew there was no escape from eventually descending: it promised only long hours, great stress, perfect unhappiness. There was a video to edit, posters to design and produce in the nick of time, event logistics to fulfill and follow, heavy things to transport between places, pressing engagements to attend. I texted my old high school best friend Jacqueline Piñero-Torres: "I don't think I will be able to attend Felma's church wedding this afternoon at 3 p.m. Unless of course I can clone myself."

My schedule looked like the wrath of some deranged god. There was the whole morning scheduled for the video editing and the poster making. There was the early afternoon to prepare for Razceljan Salvarita's exhibit opening at 5 p.m. There was the matinee of the Loboc Children's Choir at 3 p.m. And Felma's wedding ceremony at Saint Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral at the same time. There was the wedding reception at the Negros Oriental Convention Center at 6 p.m. (And my old high school classmates were already sending me text messages: "We never see you anymore!" And so I had to be there at the reception if I couldn't be at the wedding itself.) There was also the Quizo concert at Silliman Hall at 6 p.m. (but this one I chose to erase from my schedule -- or else die). There was the Loboc Children's Choir gala at 8 p.m. And in-between, there were the countless things to do to make things flow. I had already conscripted the family driver to drive me between engagements, and to do the hard, physical work for me, so that made things at least a little bearable. And then to cap my misery, a fellow CAC member came up to me and said cattily, "I don't like Razcel's installation," and proceeded to grumble about it.

It made me so mad because the last thing I needed was a fellow cultural worker not getting the artistic vocabulary of what an avant-garde artist like Razcel was trying to do. The nerve! When I went home to change to formal clothes for the exhibit opening and the wedding reception later, I found all my black socks missing their pair. All of them. And I was reduced to wearing dark grey argyle socks. Argyle! That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I picked up a pile of papers I was working on for a project, and hurled it against a wall in my pad.

At least that made me feel good.

But you know what? Things have a way of finding calm. The exhibit opening turned out well, even if it was a little late. Razcel opened the exhibit with a performance of The Lord's Prayer -- in Aramaic -- complete with candles and firelight. Dessa Quesada-Palm beautifully sang a couple of Joey Ayala songs. The Ating Pamana, with Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez, sang a medley of songs as well. And then there were the paintings, the photographs, and the installations. Clay birds hanging from the ceiling of the Luce Foyer Gallery... Brown, dry leaves crunching beneath the feet of visitors...

And meeting my old high school classmates in Felma Labrador and Brian Uypitching's wedding reception -- which was done so elegantly in the halls of the Convention Center -- made me so happy. I never cease to be amazed by the ease with which we fall into the rhythms of old friendships. These are people I haven't seen in many years, and yet when I meet them again, it's as if the years in-between do not exist. I love settling into the comforts of the familiar warmth, the old sense of closeness, the old jokes, the reminiscences.

And the Loboc Children's Choir, under the guidance of Ma'am Alma Taldo, was divinely spectacular. They were soooooooo cute. One of the boys looked like Harry Potter. I wanted to pinch the cheek of every one of them, these cute kids with fantastic voices.

And then there were the accumulation of other happy things over the weekend: Arlene's birthday party in Gabby's Bistro; Pacquiao winning over De la Hoya; an intimate Sunday lunch with my mother, who never cease to amaze me with her exuberance; Ma'am Susan singing "This Night in December" during the Ating Pamana Christmas concert at Silliman Hall last Friday night; the Silliman Campus Choristers serenading the Loboc children on the Luce stage after the concert; seeing my best friend looking relaxed in ages...

And seeing my old teacher (and former department chair), the great Ceres Pioquinto, again after so many years. She is visiting from Germany, and seeing her in the Luce for the Loboc concert surprised me, and I ended up choking with unexpected happiness. I texted my friend (and fellow teacher) Chinky later on: "I had no idea I'd miss her this much. It made me realize how much I miss the kind of decisive and creative leadership she had."

My Christmas began this weekend. And I'm a happy cat. I've been meowing all day.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

entry arrow1:53 PM | An Exhibit by Razceljan Salvarita and a Concert by the Loboc Children's Choir This Weekend in Dumaguete City



The Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee presents Razceljan Salvarita, originally of Bacolod but now based in Dumaguete City, has come to epitomize a new generation of artists from the City of Gentle People, with art that is equally visceral and fresh, and also reflects a concern for the environment. In ArtPaix, a series of events that tie together the various strands of his work, he offers artistry that infuses both social relevance and a renegade’s sense of aesthetics that will redefine the local art landscape.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Malkootha: Self-Portraitography.
An Exhibit.
Opens 6 December 2008, Saturday
5:00 PM
Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium Foyer Gallery
The exhibit runs until December 31.

Malkootha: Art of Creation.
A Lecture/Performance.
9 December 2008, Tuesday
10:00 AM
Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium Foyer

Moment of the Planet.
A Videolight Projection Presentation.
10 December 2008, Wednesday
6:33 PM
Silliman Hall Grounds

[mal-koo’-tha]: Aramaic. Our very being becoming a fertile field for creating.




To cap a year of magnificent cultural performances that included the Bayanihan Dance Company, Ballet Manila, and Repertory Philippines, the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee presents another jewel of Philippine culture—the much-awarded and internationally renowned Loboc Children’s Choir, which will be in concert at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium on 6 December 2008. There is a matinee at 3 PM, and a gala at 7 PM.

[FROM THE LCC WEBSITE]: The Loboc Children’s Choir was founded in 1980. It is composed of schoolchildren ages nine to thirteen from the town of Loboc, Bohol. From an ordinary school choir established for school and community affairs, it has blossomed into one of the most outstanding choirs in the Philippines today. The choir is a three-time National Champion of the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) - Children’s Choir Category, the most prestigious music competitions in the Philippines, for 2001, 1995, and 1993.

The Choir has held concerts all over the country as well as in other parts of the world. In July 2004, the group was especially invited by World Vision Korea to represent the Philippines in the World Vision 2004 International Children’s Choir Festival held in Korea. The Choir successfully held concerts in Seoul, Ansung, and Incheon and performed along side children’s choirs from Australia, the U.S.., Hong Kong, and Korea. With the theme “Imagine a World Where Children Are Safe,” the children of Loboc joined about 600 other children sing a rousing finale that brought forth their message of peace, hope, brotherhood, and love.

One of its memorable projects for 2003 was its partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the leading art museum in the Philippines, which launched an exhibit on the arts and culture of Bohol. The Choir, under the auspices of the Met and of its leaders led by Trustee Bea Zobel Jr. and Executive Director Ino Manalo, regaled the exhibit launch with a special concert, which was followed by a Christmas Concert tour in major business establishments in Makati and Ayala Alabang. This climaxed with a command performance for Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain in a cultural exchange visit to the Philippines. Another memorable project was the highly acclaimed back-to-back concert with the University of the Philippines Singing Ambassadors, winner of the prestigious Gran Premio Citta di Arezzo in 2001 during the 49th Concorso Polifonico Internazionale Guido d’Arezzo in Arezzo, Italy. The concert, aptly entitled “An Evening of Heaven’s Music,” was held in line with the Heritage Conservation Program in the Province of Bohol.

In 2000, it represented the country during the International Children’s Culture and Arts Festival in Tianjin, China, and held concerts in Beijing and Hong Kong. In 1996, in a concert dubbed, “On Angels’ Wings: From Bohol to the World,” the choir toured key cities in the United States. It has performed with the World Youth Orchestra during its concerts in Bohol and Cebu in 1999, and the University of Santo Tomas Symphony Orchestra. And as a ‘cultural treasure’ of the Province, the group often sings for visiting dignitaries, and local and foreign tourists.

A major highlight of the choir’s past activities is its 1st European Concert Tour in September to November of 2003. The group represented the Philippines in the 6th International Folksongs Festival “Europe and Its Songs” held in Barcelona, Spain. In this international competition, LCC bagged the Gold Medal (First Prize) of the Youth Category, and was awarded the Festival Cup or the Grand Prize for garnering the highest point average of 97.5, besting the other 12 choirs from all over the world. The Choir also held very successful concerts in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, CzechRepublic, Germany, and Switzerland. Its concert repertoire is a combination of classical, folk, modern and children’s songs.

However, the Loboc Children’s Choir is not only heard in concert halls or auditoriums, but in prisons, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged as well, where its music of hope, love, and joy also find its meaning.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

entry arrow9:06 PM | Ka Pete and Easy Rose



Marc Escalona Gaba and Pete Lacaba now blog. (And looks like they've been blogging for some time na.)

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Monday, December 01, 2008

entry arrow2:12 AM | It's Time

... and let it be so. I hope I have enough courage and will to pull through this. I know I can.

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