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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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Friday, April 22, 2016

entry arrow10:37 AM | The Wisdom of Luis Joaquin Katigbak

Over at the Philippine Star, Jonty Cruz has done a fine tribute to Luis Joaquin Katigbak -- a good friend, and magnificent author of Happy Endings and Dear Distance -- by cobbling together snippets from Luis' Young Star columns. They are a revelation of the kind of man Luis was -- fantastic writer, music lover, Gen X philosopher, good friend. Here are my favourites:

My idea of teen life had been shaped not so much by actual living as by repeated viewings of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I got my high school degree from Philippine Science High and my college degree from UP Diliman, but in many ways, what I really am is a graduate of the University of Booksale.

I have too many books, basically. It’s a fact I’ve come to accept over the years. And yet, to this day, not a week goes by when I don’t visit a Booksale or three. Beyond the gratification from the books themselves, the visits impart pleasures of their own. It’s a little bit like gambling, it’s a little bit like hunting. You might find a book you remember fondly from your childhood, or a novel you never knew you really wanted to read. Or you could waste an hour and find nothing more compelling than Sudoku for Dummies or a breastfeeding manual.

The act of reading is where (one first learns how to write), as a form of conversation: the reader is constantly reacting to the words he is reading, always questioning or contemplating or accepting. Whether one is reading fact or fiction, autobiography or poetry, one meets the words on a page with words of one’s own.

What is the purpose of music? If someone asked me that outright, I would feel like doing several things, one after the other: shaking my head, sighing, and, ultimately, ignoring the question altogether. Music needs no purpose, no justification. If we are lucky, it is made — or we make it. At its best, in different ways, it heals and it helps. It reminds us that we are human.

Eraserheads was the band we could all agree on, regardless of social status or even previously declared preferences; theirs were the songs we would all know by heart.

When we talk about 1996, we talk about being too young to know any better. We talk about loves that sparked and flamed and guttered out, about passions that seemed so certain then and seem nothing more than silly now.

Like any secret language, music is a shortcut to friendship. I have waxed ecstatic about The Sundays and Aimee Mann with utter strangers in an HMV, and once gave one of my year-end music mixes to someone I had just met in a bar — who later became one of my best friends. It also deepens already existent friendships: I loved two of my friends a little more after I had long conversations with them about the exquisite neon-lit melancholy of The Blue Nile.

Hip-hop got me through the worst breakup of my life. It’s hard to feel too sorry for yourself when you’re blasting Jay-Z’s “‘The Blueprint.”

Never pretend to be familiar with an artist you don’t know.

Dancing is always a good idea. Unless you have convinced yourself that it is a bad idea.

When you fall for someone, there is music. Not literally, not at that precise moment — unless you happen to be in a club or at a gig when it happens — but there will be a song, or songs, or a specific artist, who will dominate your headspace at the same time your heart is doing somersaults. You will end up listening to this music to the point of obsession, as you relive initial thrills and run headlong through magical possibilities.

I have never dated a girl whose taste in music I abhorred, or who found mine entirely disagreeable. It’s probably a bad idea, more so than dating someone with incompatible taste in books or cinema.

Devastating is not too strong a word for the right combination of song and girl.

I’ve been in relationships with people with different beliefs, and it was rarely ever a deal-breaker, but I think in some sense what people who throw these Big Questions around are trying to figure out is: Will we be moving in the same direction together?

In truth, one year is pretty much the same as another, and then we die. Hahaha, just kidding! Not about the dying part though. We’re totally going to die. That’s going to happen, and sooner than you think. I blame carbs.

We like to believe that we are the sum total of our choices. Perhaps the idea gives us a sense of control, of having a deliberate shape to our lives. This belief is adhered to most fervently when it comes to the choices we make regarding what we watch, what we listen to, what we read, what we eat, and what we wear. In short, what we like (and what we Like). In another time, that would have been trivia. In our day, it constitutes our identity.

Assembling a self is a lifelong process. We make do with the materials at hand. (Sometimes even that doesn’t account for it: Why is my brother a businessman/triathlete while I’m a writer/sloth? We grew up in the same circumstances. We were even both fat comics readers, once upon a time. I suppose only I had the resolve to stay the course.) What we like, or say we like, can serve as guides of a sort — “signposts in a strange land,” to quote Walker Percy again — but we musn’t mistake the signs for the terrain.

Whatever you do, enjoy being young, free, and relatively unburdened in the early 21st century, and draw both solace and regret from the fact that these days will never, ever, come around again.

Your own book: there’s nothing quite like it. Seeing the cover, emblazoned with the title you came up with; reading your name on the front and the spine; and the sheer fact of it in your hands, whether in print or tablet form — it’s something almost all writers, whether aspiring or experienced, dream about.

Creators are monsters. We’re all monsters too, in one way or another. The slaying of monsters is an honorable endeavor with a long history. Let us keep in mind, though, that knowledge is the best sword for such an endeavor, and that the monsters we know best are ourselves.

Writers are liars, as many have observed, but they don’t literally mean that we cheat on our taxes or impersonate policemen for fun. We present a scenario that more clearly communicates the idea that we want to come across — and, if we are worth anything, it is a strong idea, a good idea — rather than cobble together unconvincing attitudes or unedited minutiae.

All I can tell you is this: as much as possible, think about what you’re doing. Think beyond this moment, and beyond the hall of mirrors that is your own skull. Again, in the absence of time machines, we are all traveling in one direction — and no, that was not a reference to the boy band, but thanks for the spontaneous applause — and we all only have so much time. Seeing as how you’re eating up the same amount of hours anyway, you might as well use them in as intelligent and humane and informed a manner as possible. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by assuring yourself that other people don’t know what they’re doing — they don’t, but neither do you, really. Don’t whine. Don’t try to be cool. Don’t be that guy — or that girl.

We are both always and never alone — you carry your influences, you have mentors in the flesh or on the page, you make connections or you don’t — but writing is done by facing the blankness and overcoming it with your own words. That’s where the stress and the satisfaction are.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the words that I told myself when I went from kindergarten to grade school, and when I finished high school and entered college, and when I finally graduated from college and started working. These are words that have always been proven true: “This is when the trouble starts.”

Read the rest here. Art by Arnold Arre.

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