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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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Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Oh, lordy, lordy. And right during the start of the New Year, too! I thought it was a joke. I kept waiting for the punchline... Thanks, Angelo, for the cheesy link of the year! [Link requires speakers for your ultimate barf moment.]

Gotta hurry now to my mother's house. It's almost midnight. Happy New Year, folks!

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

On Growing, Old

The age of the city does not lend itself to easy calculations. Dumaguete seems to be at once ancient and young: a quick stroll through Rizal Boulevard, for example, provides an arresting parade of stylized lamplights—such as one might encounter on a Spanish throughway—framing both backdrops of sea and sugar houses, those little seaside mansions that are the remaining testaments to Negros’ sugar bounty. And scattered in the area are hotels and disco houses and restaurants and convenient stores and cafés, peopled mostly by the young and the wheeled. It is much too easy to fall in love with the contradictions of the place.

This is my love affair with my city: I hate it as only someone who truly loves it can. I hate the pervading small town quiet, punctured now by an alien phenomenon of traffic. I hate the rustic charm, the sense of becoming found, the easy 10-minute accessibility from point A to point B. I hate it that I love it, that I find it to embody me. I hate the fact that in my young rebellion, its conservative pretensions provide the perfect foil to define me.

I hate the fact that when you finally decide it is a boring place, it drops a mask and reminds you that everything here is not really what it seems to be. I used to suspect that this was our own version of Peyton Place; now I know it to be true. Dumaguete hides so many secrets, and yields so many facets. Begin with the fact that arriving in the city takes you to a different time, to a different place not quite one would expect for Amorsolo country. It is not enough to know that, yes, the quiet is certain for any small town scattered throughout the archipelago. This is a different quiet: on a cool dawn, when the sun has yet to bear the mark of the tropics, you are drawn to a momentary illusion, to the “New England feel of the place.”

That’s what they almost all write about Dumaguete City and Silliman University—where the heart of the city lies—that romantic open invitation to a comparable Bostonian intellectual air. The elements are there: the interesting semi-seclusion from the grit of big city reality, the vision of fallen brown leaves blanketing the acres to simulate a kind of autumn, the stretch of grass that welcome the wide open spaces, the carefully arranged cornucopia of acacia and American colonial buildings, the after-school hubbub of academia and the culturati that explode in little pockets stretching from the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium stage to trendy coffeeshops about town that see local gossip, study, and occasionally, a poetry reading or two.

“I like the ‘New England’ ambience of the place,” Waray poet Antonino de Veyra once wrote. “Old world charm, complete with fog rolling in at night to the bass notes of boat horns either docking or casting off. Like Gothic, man.”

For Palanca-awardee Timothy Montes, the place was a state of unbearable, elegiac comfort: “[It] is an Eden for aestivators. Each time I walk through [its] shady lanes, I feel like I’m moving to the music of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2.” National Artist for Literature Edith Tiempo has found her home here, and once wrote that its shorelines were one reason why she chose to stay in the Philippines.

Dumaguete is a beautiful headache. It can make you unmercifully drunk, like a rabbit o.d.’d on carrot juice. I have no memory, for example, of last Saturday except as this whirlpool of color and upchuck. In the noon sunlight flooding my new apartment, I vaguely recalled the feathery numbness of waking. I never get hang-overs: what I had was a sense of dread and longing. I promptly fell asleep again, to wake up at three in the afternoon. It was not a good way to start weekends.

I had it coming. Look at me now, here in this darling little Internet cafe called Manson’s. I have finished two tumblers of Choclit Chipz coffee from Le Cimbali, and now I am trying to drown my mind with a juggling act of reading Newsweek and Time magazines while emailing, surfing Premiere Magazine and the New York Times, and trying to catch the eye of the cute blonde right next to my IBM console. I am multi-tasking to fill a void I had long since referred to as residue of childish years—that creeping feeling that, on account of everything, I am alone in the universe. Or perhaps it is a feeling that I am sadly a freshwater fish landed in seawater: I do not know why I am here, or what I see in this place. Do you have that feeling that nobody in Dumaguete can ever really understand you? I traverse the trodden byways of this city, and I am a Martian.

Being a teacher in Silliman has also killed my “social” life. I enter a bar with some vague notions of being Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever—only to have hopes dashed with the first instance of a shrill: “Sir! What are you doing here?” There had been times I wanted to speak back: “Little girl, I have been here even before you learned that Johann Sebastian Bach is not a rock star.” (I would have said “before you learned to count,” but that would make me old. I cling to being 25 like there is no tomorrow: and yet I cannot deny the fact that in some fresh-faced circle I am a dinosaur. But never underestimate the power of denial.)

Ah. We don’t go out anymore to discos and bars. Instead, my circle of friends sets appointments, fetches cars, and congregates for “dinners.” Conversations matter more now than a night of frenzied jigs on anonymous dance floors (away from the requisite anonymous rubbings with faceless someones). Gerard, my caterer friend, does not wish to ascribe this phase of living to trappings of “a certain age”: “We have only grown mature.” We agree wholeheartedly, more to convince ourselves than out of sheer conviction. And yet, by the time dinner ends, we set ourselves for the rituals of fond recollections and looking through photographs four to five years old: “Hey, that was when we went to so-and-so’s party!” or “How young Gideon looks in this one—and thin, too!” On nights when we do venture out to the cold, to the single bars we once were avowed patrons of but which had since been taken over by younger versions of ourselves (some waitresses still do remember us and our preferred drinks, admonishing us for not coming over as frequently as over—to which we mouth the mantra that “We’re just too busy these days...”), we furtively look to the next tables, admiring the occasional firm ass, the boisterous young laughter. We have become elders without our knowing it. It is a sad thing to notice that the neighbor’s kid who was a child in diapers when you were a freshman in college, is now a strapping young adult drinking her drinks, smoking his cigarettes, gabbing her incessant talks, and doing his own share of flirtations that will have you flustered with pleasure and guilt.

In the 2000s, to be the ultimate paragon of sophisticated youth is to be 13. I did not even know how to kiss when I was 13.

This is my city.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Saturday, December 27, 2003

M.'s dad died in a freak motorcycle accident on a dangerous curve near Guihulngan town. The details are too painful to put down the way it is difficult to look through the coffin glass at his heavily made-up face barely concealing scars. I last saw this good man, a teacher, instructing M. how to ride his new black motorcycle around the compound. He was asking me how I teach world literature. I said, "Blindly," and he laughed. That was the thing about M.'s dad: he liked me.

But how I hated that mechanical black contraption the first time I laid eyes on it, which surprised me: I've never hated a machine before, but there it was --- a slow dread that crept. That last day we saw his dad, M. went around the compound riding the thing and I was so inexplicably mad at him I wouldn't even talk to him. All I knew was I know of so many friends who've died on this thing. Then there it was, my fear somehow confirmed, if only for a bit: M. crashed the thing against the metal gate of the compound, forgetting the brakes momentarily. The metals clanged and scraped. He smiled nervously. I fumed.

We received the message from a frantic Love, M.'s sister, while we were Christmas vacationing in Bacolod. Didn't even get to spend more than 24 hours there, and then we had to come back at once.

But M.'s brave and collected.

Gad Fabillar's remains lie at state in the Garden of Saints funeral park. On Monday, he will be transferred to Jimalalud where he's from, and where he will be buried within 15 days.

This is a weird Christmas.

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for three days in Manila to chaperone my mom for an important rendezvous. When I come back, I should have lots of stories to blog about. Like how I got a Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 28, and in the middle of the Ms. Bayawan beauty pageant, too. Or how a Dalmatian got stolen in front of our eyes, and we didn't even know it. Or how my locks rusted. Or how we lived in a pension house where the favorite ghost is a suicide. Or how we ate lechon for every meal for four whole days, and smelled porkish by the time our sojourn ended. Or how to have sex on a bus to Bacolod.

This is a weird Christmas. And it is not even over yet.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Saturday, December 20, 2003

For Kristyn in Australia, who's missing Philippine Christmas this year, and who loves this song...

Pasko Na Sinta Ko


          G          D/F#

Pasko na, sinta ko

  Fdim           D/E

Hanap-hanap kita,

  Cm/Eb            G/D

Bakit nagtatampo't

Cm7         D

Nilisan ako?

           G          D/F#

Kung mawawala ka

  Fdim         C/E

Sa piling ko, sinta,

 Cm/Eb           G/D

Paano ang Pasko?

Am D7-9    G-Am/G,G-

Inuli----la mo.


           C    D/C     Bm7    Em7

Sayang sinta, ang sinumpaan

  AM7           D7sus(or D9sus)

At pagtitinginang

Cm/D, G(9)-G7sus


G7  C   D/F#      Bm7        Em7

Na--is mo bang kalimutang ganap

     Amsus       A7       D-D hold

Ang ating suyuan at galak?

         G         D/F#

Kung mawawala ka

  Fdim         C/E

Sa piling ko, sinta,

 Cm/Eb           G/D

Paano ang Paskong

Am   D7-9(interlude)

Alay ko sa yo?




(Repeat 2nd stanza)

(Repeat Refrain)

(Repeat last stanza except last word)




And does anyone know the sad story of the composer of this song? From PhilMusic NetRadio:

Of all the contemporary Filipino Christmas songs written, "Pasko Na, Sinta Ko" is probably the most covered, most well-loved composition. Written by composer Francis Dandan and lyricist Aurelio Estanislao, the song neatly bridges the Filipinos' love for Christmas traditions with our intrinisic love for love, period. Written as a harana (seranade), it gushes with all the lovesick earnestness that has made the Philippines the ballad capital of Southeast Asia....

...But it's more than the Christmas season that inspires this little online tribute to the song. Early this year, we received the tragic news that the song's composer, Francis Dandan, took his own life. As related by arranger Lorrie Illustre in an online posting, Francis had studied at the U.P. Conservatory of Music and was a protege of National Artist Professor Lucio San Pedro. He had a lot of compositions not in the pop category, but most people will know "Pasko Na, Sinta Ko", popularized most especially by Gary Valenciano.

"He committed suicide," wrote Lorrie Illustre. "He shot himself in the head. Sad thing is, the reason why he committed suicide is that 'hindi na niya kayang mabuhay' due to financial difficulties. He is survived by his wife and 7 kids."

It's hard to imagine that the composer of one of the Philippines' most durable pop classics should have had to suffer through a destitute existence.

Sometimes I think we really don't know how to take care of our own artists.

Click here for the rest of the tribute, and to listen to various versions of the song, from Gary Valenciano to Sharon Cuneta...

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Friday, December 19, 2003

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have no idea what to write about this week, and about Christmas, too: my lechon-laden head does not spring with writerly impulses this time of the year. It is much too busy calculating the gifts still to be bought, and what to wear for another day that’s rainy, considering a wardrobe that basically accommodates only an abundance of sun. So I’ll write, stream-of-consciousness style, about the first Christmas image that pops into my head.

Fruit cake.

I don’t get fruit cake at all, or why people insist on giving them out as Christmas gifts. When did this become a tradition? Naglihi ba si Maria sa fruit cake? (“Joseph,” she probably said, pregnant and bored waiting for the Star of Bethlehem to shine on her stable, “Joseph, be a dear and take the donkey. I want some… fruit cake.”) Often they come in the most dazzling of wrappers, and one year I received one enclosed in the cutest little wooden box tied up in red, green, and gold ribbons. I kept the box and threw away the cake, but not before I told the giver, “Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!” and did the beso-beso tango. But really now, can’t anyone just be the normal unimaginative gift-giver and give out handkerchiefs or wallets or ties instead? Or books. Any book would do just fine.

Fruit cake. Sliced, their brown crumbly presence betrays tidbits of unrecalled fruit-meat, and all I can really think of in comparison is bad meatloaf, just add the tangy flavor and the smell and taste of liquor. Fruit cake is the Filipino eggnog.

Christmas for me, I think, begun with fruit cake this year—my mother calling me up one silent, holy night, and saying she was sending over some batches she got from her sister in Canada. “Please, don’t,” I frantically said, “I don’t have a refrigerator in my pad, and the ants are quite ferocious here.”

“So eat them as soon as you receive them,” she said.

“Ma, I’m on a diet.”

“Nobody in their right mind diets on the holidays. It’s stupid. Anyway, I’m sending you some.” Nobody argues with fruitcake-giving mothers on Christmas.

I ate one or two slices, each piece sliding into my throat like lead. Later, I gave one batch to a friend. “Oh, how so Christmassy! Thank you ever so much!” she said, squealing just too nicely, then gave me the beso-beso tango.

Fruit cakes.

But when did Christmas really begin for me this year? That is a little hard to answer, since I am the type of guy who insists on playing Christmas songs in July, just because I can. My CD players blares out Amy Grant singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” much too-early in the year. And when I do feel a bit depressed, there’s always her cover version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” which is probably the saddest, sweetest Christmas song there is. I listen to the lyrics and cry like a nut. In July.

Or perhaps Christmas began when I first heard a Dumaguete store play Nat King Cole sing “The Christmas Song” (or Carol Burnett, or Ray Conniff, or Andy Williams, or Mahalia Jackson…) at the start of the Ber months? Or when I first spied a Christmas window display? Or when the first public decorations came creeping into our consciousness?

Or when I went to Dr. Rico Absin’s annual Christmas dinner last Monday to ogle at the lights, eat the great ham, and listen to Marvin Agustin warble a version of “Pasko Na Sinta Ko”? Thank God, it didn’t rain that night. I was talking to P., who was sitting beside me as the bold actor Anton Bernardo sings, struggling for the semblance of passable notes….

“If a terrorist drops a bomb right here and now, there would be no doctors left in the city.”

“Or most professionals,” P. said.

“Jesus, I didn’t know Dumaguete can be social pala.”

“Are we having a good time ba?”

“I think so. Are we?”

“Maybe we can go to the kitchen to see if there’s wine.”

“I don’t want to go. There’s a dancing Santa in the living room. He scares me.”

“Oh, look, Anton’s finished singing.”


Later, with the party finally over, the rains came back. It is a cold December, a freak of recent memory.

Outside, the rain batters the asphalt roads and the skies are slate-gray, subverting what we would otherwise have called the holiday “festivities.” Sometimes it takes a little convincing of ourselves to believe in that last word—“festivities”—when all we really want to do is sleep and surrender to the chill.

True, we still breathe and move, and our Christmas trees are already out and overburdened with tinsels. Our Christmas lights are in place in their niches all over our house-beams and walls, or perhaps all over our lawn trees. Our mothers or wives, too, have finished their plans for noche buena—and have detailed the battle sketches to combat the mob in the supermarket.

The ingredients for the holidays are in place, indeed—but festive?

No, sleepy.

We do not seek to venture out as much, except perhaps to buy those darn “exchange gifts” for some generic Christmas parties. And so we trudge through the puddles and the mud to jostle our way inside Lee Super Plaza or Cang’s, and spend some holiday cheer waiting in line—forever—for the simplest purchases, or for gift-wrapping services. Our patience runs thin as Bing Crosby sings “I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas” in the store’s PA system.

In parties, too, we ban our diets and gym priorities, and take in the ultimate truth: 4,000 calories on the average for the entire Christmas season, not counting the 3,000 for New Year. Our girths are happy.

Or perhaps all these just might as well: the cold has certainly banished those annual Christmas beggars from pounding our doors searching for answers to their calls of “Mamasko mi,” as if holiday generosity is easy to dispense. (It’s not.) The other year, my mother insisted on giving out used clothes to The Knockers (how we called these people), instead of money. Later in the day, she found her bag of rummage all over the garbage can down the road. Also, I had my last out-of-tune child carolers from three days ago (when the sun broke through for a while), and they had given me, ambush-style (and just as I was preparing to go out and buy another blueberry cheesecake for another Christmas party), that now-traditional rendition of “Jingle Bells,” the lyrics murdered, and with tansan percussion in place of musical accompaniment. Oh lordy, lordy.

There is no escape save for the cold. Cold is salvation, no matter the lethargy it brings. The bed has now become my faithful companion, and to snuggle under our heavy blankets has become the mission for the day. Everyday. It’s really cold. And yet somehow it is also a cause for rejoicing.

It has been such a long time since I’ve felt a chill for the Christmas season. In recent years, what we’ve had was summer carried over to the last month of the year. Last year, I wrote in this space that “we wake up to these December days, and still feel April or May: the sun’s still too hot—where is winter solstice when you need it most?—and no amount of Christmas songs from the CD player can create the kind of cool Christmas of nostalgia. I remember thicker clothes and sweaters and the welcome chill of December nights. These days I still parade publicly in my shorts. My dream Santa now wears a red Hawaiian shirt and puruntong. It doesn’t look good.”

This time, Santa’s back in his red, fur-trimmed suit. And I now get to wear my cold weather wardrobe—something I haven’t done for a very long time. Rainy season weather is quite fashionable. You wear your best boots and your best long-sleeved shirts and your best jackets, with your best black umbrella. So Giorgio Armani, tropics-style.

It’s Christmas. Might as well dress to the nines. Did I begin with fruit cake?

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

For Kristyn, my best gal

There is, of course, something about finding forever in another’s eyes that makes all of living worthwhile. Some people call it love; others an accident of biochemistry. It doesn’t really matter; we all seek out our own meanings to make life more bearable to live. But then you know it is much too easy to get lost in Justin’s eyes, the way they sigh at the sight of you, the way they pull you to a kiss, the way a single wink creates a grammar all its own—all of its syntax meaning you and him becoming John Donne’s hermits in each other’s bodies. Love… but how we all crow about it. Love is everything! Love is blind! Love lifts us up where we belong! After last Friday’s vows, that is all you can speak. Or think. Love preoccupies. But this post is not about that. This is about the morning after, when the wedding cake’s been eaten, the gifts opened, the honeymoon spent—you wake up in a hypothetical dawn, and suddenly there he is beside you, as a lunk on your bed, a fixture in your life you’re bound to, for better or for worse. Let’s say he is sleeping, and you are, for that moment, awake and looking at him as though observing from a spectral distance, but close, so close you can see those eyes fluttering in their dreams, and you can smell that hair, that nose, that mouth, that skin. He breathes deep in his slumber, and once in a while he moves, arms snaking around the molting you call your bed trying to find your flesh for comfort. All at once it breaks to you, the meaning of a life being with this man. Somehow there is a catch in your throat, a sliver of uncertainty, maybe even doubt. You close your eyes, and breathe in deep, as if that is the only way to understand this moment, this stillness in the morning twilight. Soon, you know the sunlight will come streaming through the windows, and soon the day will start to bring on other days—new days, all of them so far removed from a past cataloguing only comic book men, television salad days, and acacia-lined lanes. This is your future now. You hold your breath. But that feeling of feelings comes back after the dark passes. You know that the future may not always be perfect, may not always be a honeymoon. It may even be a struggle sometimes. But you know this is it—you feel it deep in your bones, like a truth. You open your eyes, and the sun’s already up. He’s awake. He kisses you good morning, and you smile. Then once again, you begin your day together as man and wife. Somehow that thought feels so right, it feels like finally coming home.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Friday, December 12, 2003

For M. on our third month...

I cannot fool my heart not to love. It rules by its own protocols, bends even the strongest of will, and speaks its own secret tongue, that even if my lips mouth the savagest No, yet upon evidence of your smile lighting on my face, the whole of me still sighs with the sweetest of Yes.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Thursday, December 11, 2003

You may not notice it by the way I have carried my day, but I am the definition of sadness -- complete with this string of moments going to absolute nothingness (and knowing that is the point), this numbness around my head, and this secret language of pain I see on your face finally betraying what I fear. Last night, the moon was full. Today it rained in sputters, the sun banished once in a while, but never completely. There is somehow no difference between the invading cold and the feverish heat. I am mad, and I am tired.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Top Ten Famous Dying Words...

10. "Now comes the mystery." Henry Ward Beecher

9. "Light, more light." Goethe

8. " Severn--I--lift me up--I am dying--I shall die easy--don't be frightened--be firm and thank God it has come." Keats

7. "Nothing but death." Jane Austen on being asked what she wanted.

6. "Don't let the awkward squad fire over my grave." Robert Burns

5. "I believe I'm going to die. I love the rain. I want the feelingof it on my face." Katherine Mansfield

4. "It's all been very interesting." Lady Montagu

3. "Lord, take my soul, but the struggle continues." Ken Sarowiwa

2. "What is the answer?" (No answer comes) "In that case, what is the question?" Gertrude Stein

1. "Is it not meningitis?" Louisa M. Alcott

Merry Christmas, everybody!

[via Carljoe Javier]

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

For you, M., there is no better way to say I love you, save through beautiful French poetry...

Demain, dès l'aube

Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,

Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.

J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.

Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,

Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,

Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,

Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,

Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,

Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe

Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

--Victor Hugo

[via ai'haa]

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Help make Manny Pacquiao HBO's 2003 Fighter of the Year.

That's him, second row, center.

It's simple. Click here.

[via tagabukid in the city]

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Monday, December 08, 2003

There's a review in The New York Times on Laurence Bergreen's superb new book Over the Edge of the World, about Magellan. Details are juicy: sexual orgies on board the ship, Enrique -- a Filipino -- as really the first person to circumnavigate the world twice around, the "outrageous" sexual practices of early Filipinos, etc., etc., etc. Interesting.

Anybody out there may give this to me as a Christmas gift. :) See wishlist for other details... I mean, really, if you're racking your head trying to decide what to give me this Christmas, a book will easily be Christmas for me.

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Hi, Lille! just read your message regarding the current front page of the Philippine Literature website... :) Sorry for that. That was the result kasi of one writer-friend's dare to put up all those pictures (of Wanggo, Chuck, etc.) for one month. :) But anyway, if you noticed naman, I keep changing the pictures every month. You were actually in last month's version! :) But on December 15, may bagong batch na naman, this time young writers pa rin, pero all of them girls. I am thinking of putting up... you, Naya Valdellon, Kit Kwe, Mookie Katigbak, Tara FT Sering, and Dinah Baseleres. Then for January, I am putting up the enfants teribles of the 1970s: Krip, Sawi, Willy Sanchez, Ninotchka Rosca, and Ding Nolledo....

Any other suggestions for the next few months? I want the front pictures to be related to each other thematically.

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5 Reasons Sex is Good For You!

By Laura Snyder

Better sleep. A sexier physique. Stronger immunity. Sound like the effects of the latest wonder drug? Nope, it's just the many physical benefits of having a satisfying sexual relationship.

And all this time you were just making love because it was fun! If you're looking for more reasons to get romantic, consider the following:

1. You're getting a good workout. Would you rather run 75 miles or have sex three times a week for one year? While both burn the same number of calories (about 7,500), one is decidedly more pleasurable than the other. Regular sex - which burns approximately 150 calories in a half-hour -- is regular exercise. You'll have all the same benefits of spending that time in the gym, including improved circulation, lower cholesterol and the release of feel-good endorphins.

2. You won't get sick. According to research by Dr. Carl Charnetski, professor of psychology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa and co-author of Feeling Good is Good For You, people who reported one or two sexual episodes per week enjoyed higher levels of Immunoglobin A, the antibody that helps fend of illness.

3. You'll feel happier. In addition to the obvious boost in satisfaction, feeling secure in your relationship leads to a greater sense of well-being. Women in particular may see even more benefits. Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany found that women who regularly came into contact with semen were significantly less depressed than those who didn't get a dose of those potent sex hormones and naturally occurring opiates.

4. You'll reduce stress. People who get it on regularly report that they handle stress better. The release of climax will get even the most anxious lover totally relaxed, and you know you'll sleep better.

5. You'll live longer (and look younger!). A British study of 1,000 men found that those who had at least two orgasms per week had half the death rate of those who indulged less than once a month. Sex can make you look younger, too, according to neuropsychologist David Weeks, who found that men and women who reported having sex an average of four times per week looked approximately 10 years younger than they really were.

[From, of all people, Pete Lacaba]

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Friday, December 05, 2003

This morning, after a night at the hospital watching and fretting over M. as he tried hard to get over his fear of the needle while being bled for a blood donation for a sick aunt, we both woke up to the sound of Madonna singing "Like a Virgin," and later on danced and lipsynced to the music of "Vogue."

This makes both of us either rabid Madonna fans... or just extremely fey. Oh great.

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I have redesigned Kristyn's weblog as my wedding present.

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Thursday, December 04, 2003

Remembering a Hometown

Like many Bayawanons who were born in the 1970s, I was born in a Dumaguete hospital—but grew up, and knew childhood, in Bayawan.

It is my mythical place of roots, like no other, not even Dumaguete in which I’ve lived most of my adult life. In Bayawan lie the secrets of my blood, my history. Also here is the setting of my mother’s bedside stories, of those moments when I was a young child and she’d tuck me to bed and gamely recall a life when she was a young woman and World War II was brewing, or much later when she had returned to Bayawan as a married woman in the sugar boom of the late 1960s and became, for a while, one of its fairer society hostesses. Those were the heady days, when sugar cane oiled the pockets of young hacenderos on the make, and everybody was rich. And then there was the fall…

Bayawan means memory—and this word alone means so much in the ways it must mean: as a threshold of recollections both happy and tragic.

: : with brothers Joseph Rocky and Rey. I'm the baby...

Bayawan is the stuff of stories. And no wonder that after many years of listening to my mother regale me with her growing-up stories in this place, I would become a writer, most often chronicling what I can from a childhood of ghosts. One such story would later win me a Palanca Award.

When I, too, would move away from Bayawan due to the circumstances of family and adulthood, it was always this place that I kept turning back to as my essence of a hometown, as a past, as a cache of memories that sustained me as a writer.

It is fixed in my mind. I remember my family once lived in a fortunate corner just along a narrow stretch of road in Poblacion. I say “fortunate,” because this corner was the focal point to everything else, especially when one was a young boy just ascertaining the world outside, his immediate environs his kingdom of discovery.

My Tita Fannie just lived a stone’s throw away. And just next door, in a block that contained so many relatives I cannot remember them all, my three lolas—Rose, Lily, and Adeling—manned their stores, and would give me treats when I passed by. To this day, I cannot forget my Lola Adeling’s lechon de carajay, which remains, for me, the best of its kind anywhere. Across the street, to the right, there was Oriente Cinema—my bodega of dreams, the place I first saw a movie in. It remains in my imagination as the true birthing place for my current scholarship on film. To the left across the road was Chua’s general merchandise store, its mud yellow paint still sticking to my memories; and further down the road is the old Diao house, where I played away so many afternoons. Everything was big and large in my memory.

Today, however, whenever I go back to Bayawan, everything looks smaller when once they had all loomed large in my seeing as a child. And things have also changed—for the better, I guess, but all these I cannot help but feel as a slight betrayal to a boyhood memory.

The last time I saw the corner of what used to be my family’s house, for example, I saw that it housed a ramshackle selling second-hand clothes from abroad. It felt sad, but also somehow liberating. This tiny spot, however, continues to haunt me to this day and provides me the inspiration with which I build a literature upon: of this spot I remember my mother’s lively beehive of a beauty parlor. There used to be thickets of tiny bamboo guarding its roadside wall, and it was in their very shadows that I’d hide in, most of the time, from little friends hunting me down in our games of hide-and-seek. Occasionally, from these bamboo thickets, I’d spy the town’s resident madpeople, Pidong Buang and Wana Buang (for a long time, I thought they were married because they shared the same family name—Buang), who both embodied the perfect caricature of a town’s conscience. Years later, when I was in high school (or college?) somebody reported to my mother the news of Pidong Buang’s death—and it was surprising to feel inside me a surge of memory folding in onto itself, like a chapter in my life of remembrances suddenly coming to a close. How strange that even mad people from our childhood can have such a hold on our imaginations! Our lives!

Bayawan, in reminiscence and in reality, begs me to ask: What is indeed the integrity of memory? Do we really remember what we remember? But always, even with such unsettling questions, my hometown still manages to nurture me.

In Bayawan, I somehow cease to become the citified adult that I am; here, I become the child I once was, and everything else turns sepia… to memory, to play, to running across the brown fields while childhood friends chase me, to scraping knees trying to battle a bicycle, to hearing the sound of bamboo cannons on New Year’s Eve, to chewing on sugar canes fallen down cargo trucks, to tasting baye-baye from Manang Julia’s kitchen. And then—better late than never—I, too, somehow become part of my mother’s stories. Bayawan has become what is in the heart.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

According to Atomz, these are the top phrases searched for The Secret Tango Dancer.

- 2 for "m"

- 2 for "mark"

- 1 for "andy bais"

- 1 for "evelyn aldecoa"

- 1 for "kristyn"

- 1 for "sex"

- 1 for "testimony"

Regarding the 4th... excuse me?

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Art Beyond the Claptrap

My own art is a negation of society, an affirmation of the individual, outside all rules and demands of society.

—EMILE ZOLA, My Hates (1866)

Morality is a tricky thing. It is a concept best defined by flux—which is to say that it is not constant, and that it has always changed through the years depending upon the society, and the era, that forms its limits and extents. What makes something moral, or immoral? This is the question. There are no easy ways to answer it without deconstructing oneself to bits.

We remember, for example, how old folks used to say that watching movies was immoral—or that women wearing pants were immoral. Today, we laugh at such peculiarities of time and history. We watch movies all the time, and our women would rather go about town in the comfort of jeans rather than skirts. Do we all feel we are going to hell? We don’t think so.

D.H. Lawrence, the controversial author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (a now classic novel which was once banned by authorities for being “immoral”), was famous for having observed exactly the same thing when he said that, “What is pornography for one man may be the laughter of genius to another.” Which is true. Morals are relative, never absolutes. Today, for example, that same novel which caused such moralistic fervor when it was first published, is being taught in schools and is considered an important work in the literary canon. What happened to the outcry? And where are those who wrung their hands accusing the book of immorality? They are forgotten—existing only as footnotes to the untenacity of human opinion.

Morality being an inherently controversial matter, however, we do not wish to say anything more about the fluidity of the concept, except to say that it is the complete opposite of what art is: that while morality is all flux and posturing, art is forever.

And having said that, we will also say that there can be no such thing as a moral or immoral art. Art can only be itself, free of the whimsy of our extended evaluations beyond the formal elements of aesthetics. We will explain this notion further by evoking James McNeill Whistler who, in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, wrote: “Art should be independent of all claptrap—should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism, and the like. All these have no kind of concern with it.”

Historically, there has always been that struggle between art and our expectations of it as members of a society, which is predominantly puritan. Michaelangelo’s David still meets hysterical opposition whenever it is exhibited, just because it is the statue of a boy (the Biblical David) in flagrante delicto, his penis and pubic hair in plain view for all the world to see. The avant garde artist René Duchamp once shocked everybody when he dug up a toilet bowl and called it “art.” John Singer Sargent’s famous painting of Madame X was a portrait of a society woman in a black gown with one shoulder left bare and strapless—the very daring of which scandalized Paris so much the woman in the painting became shunned by her own social set. And finally, one of the first movies ever made was The Kiss, which was shot by Thomas Alva Edison. This incensed the Church so much for showing two actors briefly kissing, it almost killed the new media into ever existing.

The danger of imposing morality to our estimation of art cannot be overemphasized for the possible tyranny it poses. It is a virtual handcuff to our basic freedom to think, and create. And it also clouds the very attributes great art can bring to society. We will give two examples.

In the 1970s, Filipino director Mike de Leon released Kisapmata, which is a film about a family emotionally brutalized by a father bristling with typical machismo. His uncomfortable concerns over the “welfare” of his newly-wed daughter hinted of the incestuous. One scene follows the shot of the father’s pajama fly growing nearer and nearer the daughter’s bedroom door—something that the Censor’s Board at that time considered scandalous they ordered the scene cut from the print. Critic and film historian Nicanor Tiongson writes of this: “By deeming this too much the censor eliminated not only the point of the scene, but precisely the statement being made about the ugliness of incest. By being so moral, [the censors] had unwittingly sabotaged the very morality [they] purport to champion.”

Another good example is the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the controversial novel by Nikolas Kazantzakis. Both contain the now-famous scene of Jesus Christ being married to, and having sex with, Mary Magadalene. The religious right was in uproar over this “obscenity.” But I’ve always believed that the uproar was a mistake of people seeing only the detail, and not the over-all context. The context was this: Satan is fearful of Christ’s final sacrifice on the cross, and redeeming mankind of its sins. Knowing the dual nature of Jesus at that time (half-man, half-divine), Satan—in the form of a little girl—tempts Jesus for the last time, giving him this dream: he is freed from the pains of the cross, he goes home and leads a normal life no longer as the Savior of the world, and as part of this “normality,” has his own family with Mary Magdalene. (Insert very minor love scene here.) But by the end of this proffered temptation, Jesus Christ renounces Satan and the dream, and proceeds to die for our sins. What’s immoral about this? For the most part, it should be edifying of our faith as Christians instead!

The only immoral art, one should think, is art that does not provoke. When a work does not ask us to question our values, our accepted perspectives of the world, our firm ideas of how it is to be as human beings, then it cannot be art at all. It might as well be a squiggle on the wall, or worse: wallpaper. Wallpapers do not engage, or enrage. But then again, wallpaper can never be considered art. (Unless you’re Duchamp—but that’s entirely another matter together.)

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich