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

Interested in What I Create?


Friday, January 30, 2004

The Coming Apocalypse

Just a moment ago, Jong tells me in the middle of a meeting, “Did you know that it’s already 58 pesos to the dollar?”—and since I haven’t been watching television or reading newspapers religiously for quite some time on principle, I give her the requisite register of shock: “What?!” Somewhere deep inside me, whatever was left of hope for the country collapses into Jell-O. And yet every day I wake up to this feeling of cancer spreading throughout the archipelago—politics gone desperately awry, hopes dashed without sight of resurrection, and a pessimism that is catching, more potent than any flu.

Jong laughs at my shock. “Of course not. I’m joking,” she says, but then ends with this: “But it’s going to be.”

Then we looked at each other’s eyes, and knew.

It’s already the end of January, but predictions for the new year are still coming in. They all come bearing the smell of pig sweat, a nervous aroma that is harbinger for dreadful things to come. I have not been hopeful for the Philippines for some time now. Dreams and prospects here have become a dime a dozen, and come with quick expiration dates. Earlier in the year, the columnist Conrado de Quiros, writing for his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “penned” what could be the most controversial article in his career—an essay that begins with “What to expect in the coming years with President Fernando Poe Jr. and Vice President Noli de Castro…,” only to lead to an entire blank space. And that was its message. What indeed to expect? A nothingness like slow death.

Yet dying a slow death is easy. Take just one “tiny” problem our country, faces for example: our debt. All a slow death ever really takes is the mere fact of our birth as Filipinos—a legacy as astounding as the sum of the debt our country has incurred over the years. In the name of pursuing progress, we borrow—a common enough thing among the nations of the worlds to do. Nothing surprising about that, until one starts computing off the impact of a quagmire we are all aware exists in our lives, but invisible by virtue of denial. Of the last count, our total national debt fluctuates between $40 to $60 billion, which is roughly P3,300,000,000,000—an amount so staggering it cannot even contain the deepest of our fiscal nightmares. Thus, every day, hundreds of newly-born Filipinos are ushered into a stark reality that is theirs by birthright: each of us come into the world about P40,000 already deeper into debt—the amount embedded into our skin like a rash—if we are to approportion the grand total of what must be paid among our 80 million people, including all our babies and children. But in a country that is more than half teetering on the brink of destitution, the amount is bloody. Impossible. How do we even begin to pay?

But it is much too easy to end all these talks of paying up our national debt by making true the one solution we can really have. All it takes is guts, an iron stomach, and the capacity to regress—minus our whining and possible regrets—from our everyday sense of what it is to be human and live as one.

Sell everything. Sell the scar in your brow, and sell the sweat off your skin. Sell your self. Sell your house, sell your car, sell your brother’s motorcycle, and your mom’s dentures. Sell sleep, sell waking. Give up electricity and get used to going about life without tap water at one’s immediate disposal. Stop going to school, and do not even dare to dream, unless this too can be for sale. Sell your rights to have all these. Liquidate all those farmlands and buildings and paintings and jewelry into cash. Sell paper. Sell the ink on those papers. Sell my opinion on this blog. Sell everything. Do all that can be done to contribute to a hypothetical piggy bank to save us all. Sell the wallpaper and your rags, sell your cellphone, sell your clothes. Do not even think of packing your bags and going away to live in some slum and live the simple life. Those, too, are for sale. Sell the slums, sell the zipper in your packing bags, sell the potholes in the roads, sell the stones and the pebbles that stub your toes as you walk barefoot into some unsellable corner and surrender to the life that’s possible if all of us have the national will to purge ourselves of this scourge of owing everybody else everything else, get the cash, and live the (un)reality of being, finally, debt-free.

Which is to say, really, that it takes herculean efforts and the strangest and toughest of will to solve a problem that might have to remain unsolved for a very long time. Because the only possible solution, aside from the possibility of reneging on our liabilities the way Brazil brazenly did a few years back, is also a death sentence, a case of the cure being worse than the disease. The impossibility of the whole thing seems the only thing there is. How does anyone ever really solve a problem like mounting debt, the interest of which we cannot even pay by the skin of our teeth? The answer reminds me of a line from a song from a famous musical: “How do you catch a wave upon the sand? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

How indeed?

In the end, I can provide no concrete answers here (nor do I really want to), and all I can really have is an opinion that is itself a mere shadow of the volumes of opinions that have already been shed into the issue. Our sadness has become tiresome. Even boring. We have surrendered to the quagmire.

Because there can only be futility. And not that I am incapable of hope. Hope is beside the point. The red ink on our country’s ledger will not erased by any amount of hope that’s possible to exude. Nor erased by the ink spilled on this paper. We all live lives already mired in fiscal tragedy without redemption, we might just as well take it easy and breathe.

Or can we.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

I love the list! So does the perceptive Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert:

Are these the nominations for the 76th annual Academy Awards, or more winners from Sundance? This year's nominations, announced early Tuesday, showed uncommon taste and imagination in reaching beyond the starstruck land of the Golden Globes to embrace surprising and in some cases almost unknown choices. It's one of the best lists in years....

Click here for the complete list of nominees.

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Food for thought, an aside from a movie article in the New York Times...

"... One of the hottest tickets [in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival] has been Super Size Me, the McDonald's Corporation's worst nightmare. It's a [documentary] film by Morgan Spurlock about his decision to eat nothing but McDonald's food for one month to see what effect it would have on his body.

Both he and his doctors were amazed to find that after just 20 days, the 33-year-old Mr. Spurlock, who started in supreme physical condition, was almost in liver failure. They encouraged him to abandon the diet, but he continued through the month, gaining a total of 25 pounds and finding himself depressed and listless.

While on the McDiet, Mr. Spurlock said in an interview, he felt 'horrible': 'Physically, emotionally. I was ashen, pale, my energy level was low. Then I'd eat the food, I'd feel great, and an hour later I'd feel hungry again.'

He said he believed that McDonald's loads its food with so much fat, salt, sugar and caffeine that it becomes addictive. The doctors who monitored his progress are now writing a medical paper about the effects of the all-McDonald's diet on his body. In the film McDonald's declined to comment.

'My case was extreme,' he admitted. 'But some people eat at McDonald's three and four times a week.'"

I wonder what's new in Jollibee....

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Movie in Mind #1: Dangerous Liaisons

Sebastian Valmont

I often wonder how you managed to invent yourself....

Kathryn Merteuil

I had no choice, did I? I'm a woman. Women are obliged to be far more skillful than men. You can ruin our reputation and our lives with a few well-chosen words. So, of course, I had to invent not only myself but ways of escape no one has ever thought of before. But I succeeded because I've always known I was born to dominate your sex, and avenge my own.

Sebastian Valmont

Yes? But what I asked was, how?

Kathryn Merteuil

When I came out to this society, I was fifteen. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while under the table, I stuck a fork onto the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn't pleasure I was after, it was knowledge. I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear; philosphers to find out how we think; and novelists to see what I could get away with. And in the end, I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: Win or die.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Spent most of Friday morning tweaking to approximate reality my own virtual model over at My Virtual Model Inc. But no matter how much truthful I was in giving out my physical information, I still ended up looking like a pudgy Vietnamese...

What do you think? It doesn't look like me at all. Then again, given a choice of only four faces, based on general racial types, what can you really get? (M. tried to create one of his as well: our virtual models looked liked twins.)

[current Internet fad courtesy of goluboy]

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Girl My Mom Would Have Wanted Me to Marry

Beth is the one friend I have who can talk to me all the day long about God and faith, with me still finding the conversation quite interesting, even compelling. She can recite, at length, Bible verses, and still come out in my mind like the Rock Star I think she really is.

The thing with most people, when they come to talk about their personal God, they become implicated in their own self-righteousness, with that sickening holier-than-thou attitude that ultimately sinks whatever holy intentions they have. I remember one lost high school buddy (let's call him A.) who had experimented with all the major religions since freshman year high school. Finally, he found Protestantism after Buddhism didn't work that much for him.

A. sat me down one afternoon in the college cafeteria, and said, "Ian, I have some important news for you. You're going to hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ right now as your personal Lord and Savior." And proceeded to lecture me on all things I have already learned since childhood. (I was already a Protestant!) A. eventually disappeared from all our lives, and the last thing we heard of him, he was in Mindanao sporting an Osama Bin Laden beard looking for our friend Jo. Jo's family thought he was with the Abu Sayyaf. Some said A. is now the leader of a cult.

But let's get back to Beth. She manages to make faith (not religion -- to make matters clear: both are completely different) seem hip, even fun. She always has this air of joy around her, and never lets her own Godly devotion get in the way of friendship with a more secular person (me). She can party with the rest of us, but always moderately. Her "no" for a few more bottles of beer is always cute, but very firm. She gets crushes, and dishes out as well. She loves you for who you are.

A few years ago, before we all graduated from college, she invited me back to church-going after my not having done so for many years. (Which was the typical evolution of any Sunday School Brat. I was so churchy as a kid that when I hit adolescence, angst took over so completely I refused all my mother's invitations to go for church Sunday morning.)

I gave Beth an unhesitating "yes" to her invitation, which surprised even me. But later, I found the experience thrilling, and exhilarating, like finding a long lost love. And to date, a week is never complete for me without at least a prayer, or service at Bread of Life, Beth's church and now mine.

Thanks, Beth, for embodying my idea of the perfect Christian testimony. And belated happy birthday, girl. I love you so much.

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Gung xi fa cai!

Be warned: after a while, watching this Chinese boy bow again and again can get reeeallllly irritating. You may just want to spank him hard, and yell, "Stop bowing, bitch, and go home to your mommy!"

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

What to Blog When You’re Brain-fried From Fever

I am going to write about nothing. I’m pounding my keyboard like hell to make sense of the words that come popping up the monitor screen, my body not quite well-adjusted to movement, or to prolonged concentration. My body has been dormant for much too long, and has known only sleep and more sleep recently. There are no instincts left at its disposal, and the whiteness of the computer screen drills into that semblance of a headache that’s just beneath my forehead, circles the eyes, and punctuates as a kind of throbbing in my throat. I cough to make a point, but nothing really comes out of it, only a dryness of the throat and a persistent thirst. I have been drinking bottles and bottles of mineral water since this thing started, and I have yet to feel sated. It has only made me a constant toilet visitor.

Allen, my editor, has been texting me for my StarLife column since yesterday. “Send story? TY,” he says. I never reply, because I don’t have an ounce of strength to announce I have been taken ill. There are already other responsibilities I have relegated to the sides for the time being: being assistant director for the upcoming college campaign of Vagina Monologues, writing a review for Rosario Cruz Lucero’s Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros and Angelo Suarez’s The Nymph of MTV for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, editing two books for close friends, and my classes. I have already texted my students what exercises and lessons to finish while their teacher convalesces in the privacy of his Tubod pad. But there is a surge of guilt: I am supposed to be in the classroom with them, not texting them.

Suddenly, I miss StarLife’s old Friday deadlines terribly. What to write, what to write, when you’re brain-fried, and have been a hermit for much too long to even write about anything resembling Dumaguete life? Write of life from the perspective of the sick bed? But there is nothing much there: my half-closed windows take in only the regular rhythm of traffic and the occasional sun. It has just been too hot lately, a heat that pierces the skin. This morning, it rained for a little bit—which is perfectly reflective of the wishy-washy weather, the kind that’s dangerous, our body’s barometer teetering to make sense of the suddenness of hot and cold. Then it finally gives up and plunges to the lows of fever. “A flu’s going around,” M. had told me when we were watching Captain Barbell only last weekend. He had been fighting a blossoming cough for four days, but I was completely taken by my own robust health. Nothing could stop me from doing what I wanted to do, even belt out the Backstreet Boys songs they play for intermission in Ever Theater. M., on the other hand, simply sat away, cleared his throat occasionally, and sang nothing—and he happens to love boy band songs.

And now it is my turn to attend to the weary dealings of a sick body.

I haven’t been out of the house for almost three days now. Since Monday night, when I—a trace of oncoming cough irritating the floor of my throat—had unwittingly gone to the gym, found it packed to the rafters and the cardio machine hogged by a long list of people’s names, went straight to attacking the pounds without as much as a stretch of the muscles, and came home a few hours later tired and on the verge of collapsing. By 10 o’clock that Monday evening, I was as hot as a furnace, and my brain fried, teetering on the delirious.

Delirium is like a helter-skelter dream. It makes no sense. Monday night, in the middle of fevered dream, Pop-Eye comes up to me and says, “What it is like, really, to hear people asking you time and again, ‘What are you still doing here?’”—as if to stay here is the ultimate aberration for my kind. Then the dream becomes philosophical: sometimes what I feel for the question is a puzzle, often it becomes just an irritant the way it comes in waves, and seemingly always timed for that moment when I myself think of my place in the universe and wonder, angst-wise, where does life really lead? Am I living the dream I had when I was a boy? Only the void answers back. I dreamed of being a doctor once—but now here I am, involved in a career I never thought was fitting for me, but which I have come to love surprisingly. One realizes that life as a grown-up eventually becomes the way love goes: you don’t really choose the life you’ll live. Sometimes, life just chooses you. Or, in the words of that brilliant anonymous philosopher: “Sometimes, on the way to your dream, you find another.” What am I still doing here? Pop Eye goes away to visit Bugs Bunny.

Tuesday, I managed to watch Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity on DVD, and then later called it a night, carefully orchestrating a routine of liquids and Paracetamol pills every four hours. My brother Rey, a nurse, called from Los Angeles and told me to take a bath to combat the temperature. He has been telling me the same thing since he was a student nurse in Silliman. Later, M. made me promise to take 1,000 mg of Vitamin C as soon as I woke up, but not before having breakfast at the corner karinderia. I say yes to both of them. M. has been so kind and attentive: he refuses to leave my side, does chores around the apartment, and looks after me so well. I am in love.

But I hate the helplessness of being sick. Especially when one happens to live alone, and by and large have to take care of oneself. Being “pleasurably” sick is the province of children: that meant being officially absent from school, and getting all of your mother’s attentions, complete with biscuits, lugaw, and a bottle of Royal TruOrange. (Why is it always Royal TruOrange?) Adults have to contend with missing vital days at work, and when there is no one to help you set up house, it means having to brave the traffic and the hot sun to buy your liquids and your medicine, or to see your doctor. Yesterday, I braved the four o’clock sun to get myself some mineral water from the corner convenience store. The traffic drowned what was left of my consciousness, and I got home completely drained, feeling faint. Today, I call my mother’s house: “Mom, can you ask Lorgie to please buy me some Tuseran?” (Lorgie is the household help.) And hearing my mother’s old, gentle voice telling me not to worry and to get back to bed and get more rest, I sense my missing of this one childhood comfort, and I could not help, really, but break down in tears—and feeling my tears wash over me like a cleansing, balming flood. And for the first time in days, I feel so much better.

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

You see, Mr. Calauor, unlike the more hospitable Eric Joven or the divine Dinah Baseleres, I’m not as receptive to “welcoming” people of twisted logic. Especially if they use God to justify their own weird perspectives on life. And this is MY blog, after all. Not yours. Perhaps you can create YOUR own blog and rant there as much as you want? I’m sure there will be some people in this world who would love to read what you have to say. Honestly speaking, I’m not interested at all in what you have to say, and I say this with the ultimate sincerity, even Christian charity. But before you go berserk and rain me down with curses of hell fire, just know I did not invite you to read my blog. You chose to click this URL for whatever perverted pleasure doing so gives you. So do not hector me on morality and what-not. As far as I know, you can always go away and pretend my “evil” writing did not upset your holy existence…

(This was the same guy who emailed me congratulations for winning the Palanca for the short story, and then in one sentence blasted me to Satan’s throne for not writing about… God.)

So shoo now, Sir, like a good stray cat. Go away. Shoo!

(Pant... pant...)

Nothing like a good roasting to start a week! Hehehe. And to think I just had a beautiful Sunday in church!

I would like to cleanse (exorcise!) the air of this weblog by posting a short and wonderful essay by Charles Osgood, which should all warn us about how the Hitlers of the world come about.


By Charles Osgood

Helene, a young friend of mine, has been assigned a theme in English composition class. She can take her choice: ‘What is a real man?’ or, if she wishes, ‘What is a real woman?’ Seems the instructor has some strong ideas on these subjects. Helene says she doesn’t know which choice to make. ‘I could go the women’s-lib route,’ she says, ‘but I don’t think he’d like that. I started in on that one once in class, and it didn’t go over too well.’ So, what is a real man and what is a real woman?

‘As opposed to what?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know, as opposed to unreal men and women, I suppose. Got any ideas?’

Yes, it just happens I do. Let’s start with the assumption that reality is that which is, as opposed to that which somebody would like, or something that is imagined or idealized. Let’s assume that all human beings who are alive, therefore, are real human beings, who can be divided into two categories: real men and real women. A man who exists is a real man. His reality is in no way lessened by his race, his nationality, political affiliation, financial status, religious persuasion, or personal proclivities. All men are real men. All women are real women.

The first thing you do if you want to destroy somebody is to rob him of his humanity. If you can persuade yourself that someone is a gook and therefore not a real person, you can kill him rather more easily, burn down his home, separate him from his family. If you can persuade yourself that someone is not really a person but a spade, a Wasp, a kike, a wop, a mick, a fag, a dike, and therefore not a real man or woman, you can more easily hate and hurt him.

People who go around making rules, setting standards that other people are supposed to meet in order to qualify as real, are real pains in the neck—and worse, they are real threats to the rest of us. They use their own definitions of real and unreal to filter out unpleasant facts. To them, things like crime, drugs, decay, pollution, slums, et cetera, are not the real country. In the same way, they can look at a man and say he is not a real man because he doesn’t give a hang about professional basketball and would rather chase butterflies than a baseball; or they can look at a woman and say she is not a real woman because she drives a cab or would rather change the world than change diapers.

To say that someone is not a real man or woman is to say that they are something less than, and therefore not entitled to the same consideration as, real people. Therefore, Helene, contained within the questions ‘What is a real man?’ and ‘What is a real woman?’ are the seeds of discrimination and of murders, big and little. Each of us has his own reality, and nobody has the right to limit or qualify that—not even English composition instructors.

So there.

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Here's something more beautiful than any holier-than-thou comments...

Whaddya say, huh?

Thanks to Gabby for introducing me to Photobucket! Now, we finally have a place in the Web to properly archive all our blog-bound photos.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

Like Veronica Montes, I've jumped ship. So goodbye, BlogSpeak! Hello, Comment This! All the old comments hosted by BlogSpeak are gone though -- which is sad... But then again, this is the New Year, right?

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I think I need some New Year's resolutions right about... now. I just finished watching Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume One, and it's 2:24 in the early morning, so details later.

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Why is it that I never really blog about the important everyday things? Like last January 13, for example, which was my fourth monthsary with M., complete with dinner, yellow roses, and sweet nothings. This was after another break-up, which was fairly cute and regular. Marge told us later: "I think you both break up to get back together." Which may be true! But maybe my silence on some things is really to keep the more important things in my life a kind of secret from everybody else, the way dreams are meant to be seen in the privacy of sleep. Oh well. Tonight, we start rehearsals for the college campaign of The Vagina Monologues. The show in Silliman University is in its second year (its third year, really, if we include the original New Voice Company presentation in 2002), and the cast this year looks formidable -- Dumaguete's Power Pussies, so to speak, and I mean that as a kind of salute. I'm co-directing with Laurie, so that means my nights for the next two months are full. Here's to vaginas!

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Dead Bodies Tipping the Scale

“I cease not to advocate peace; even though unjust, it is better than the most just war.”

—CICERO, Epistolae ad Atticum, bk. VII, epistle 14

M. and I were talking about the war in Iraq—and good thing we were very, very good friends because we were at opposite poles with regards where our sympathies lie. He thinks it’s a good thing George W. Bush is doing his cowboy drill in Iraq, but I, on the other hand, am fairly well-known for my anti-war views. My weblog, for one thing, is chock-full of commentaries deriding the invasion of Mesopotamia as well as knick-knacks ridiculing the totally caricaturish Junior Bush. But finally we came to a deadlock, then a compromise. This is what we both thought:

It is easy enough to conclude, by virtue of the emotional, that war is unjust. Suffering and devastation, after all, can never be right in anyone’s estimation of the order of things. And every day, our lives are cued in to the relentless flood of televised images of unjust wars here and everywhere. It is already a part of our vocabulary to digest and hurl and choke on the realities of the horror of the European Holocaust during World War II, for example, or the shame of Korea and Vietnam, the carnage of Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the shock of 9/11, and the ire of Iraq. What we see in all of these are images of houses and buildings burning, people dying, and destitute children going about the devastation as bags of skin and bones—all of our sense of humanity askew, as if hell itself has opened and unleashed its dark forces to shake whatever it is we think of human order.

War is the sight of the World Trade Center going down in rubble. It is the sight of a Jewish-American journalist being beheaded on-camera by Muslim extremists for primetime news. It is the sight of the instance of a bullet from an army man’s outstretched gun shattering a Vietnamese man’s brains, or a naked little girl crying and running down a village dirt road burning from napalm, in two of the most horrifying photographs to come out of the Vietnam War. It is the knowledge of the human rights victims of Marcos’s martial law, the Disappeared of Argentina, the black man of South Africa, the religious ghettos of the Middle East, the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the book Nagasaki, August 9, 1945, Michaito Ichimaru talks about the effacement that war truly brings, and distills the very reality of war beyond the concept when he talks about the day the atomic bomb was dropped over his city: “The air dose of radiation was more than 7,000 rads at this distance but I could not complete my journey because there were fires everywhere. I met many people coming back from Urakami. Their clothes were in rags, and shreds of skin were hanging from their bodies. They looked like ghosts with vacant stares. The next day, I was able to enter Urakami on foot, and all that I knew had disappeared. Only the concrete and iron skeletons of the buildings remained. There were dead bodies everywhere. On each street corner we had tubs of water used for putting out fires after the air raids. In one of these small tubs, scarcely large enough for one person, was the body of a desperate man who sought cool water. There was foam coming from his mouth, but he was not alive.”

Knowing all these, I come to a difficult fork in this essay, because I am convinced by this: that while war’s horror is something that is evil, beyond any just man’s comprehension, and is ideally purged from a world that should only know peace—war is also something that cannot be avoided, as long as human beings dominate this world.

To talk about whether war can ever be justified is really to pursue a strange notion that may be beyond our expectations of what it is really to be human: because, if one really thinks about it, the history of man is essentially a history of war. Our history books are simply compilations of stories of skirmishes big and small, and what we know as Civilization is actually the result of who wins a strategic war. If the Moors, for example, had their run of Europe and were not vanquished by Christian soldiers and kings, Europe would have been a Muslim enclave, and the subsequent history would have been vastly different from what we know and breathe today. Imagine this: today we eat in McDonalds, we know Santa Claus, and we watch Hollywood movies—all these became possible because of Christians won one strategic war in Italy. What if the Moors won? Will McDonalds even exist?

I am saying, thus, that war and our capacity to hold it is something that is innate in all of us—it is the necessary yang to hold in place our yearnings for the good ying. It is what makes us stay true to our idealism of good humanity.

Let me explain this strange notion further by employing two schools of thought: one, what is known in Structuralism as the principle of binary opposition, and two, the principle of Darwin’s natural selection, or what we all know as the theory of evolution. I will explain briefly.

Binary opposition talks about ascertaining the identity of something by something that which it is not. For example, we know there is White because there is Black. There is Light because there is Darkness. There is Long because there is Short. There is Woman because there is Man. How do we know that something is Good? By knowing that there is Evil. Running down this breadth of logic… How can we truly know and pine for Peace? By knowing the horrors of War. One needs the other to exist. There can be no true peace if there is no true war.

Is war justifiable then? Emotionally, no. But can we live without war? The answer is sadly, and truthfully, also no.

We can’t live without it because it is in our genetic make-up. It is in our history. It is said that the moment man became aware of his right to possess something, war was the subsequent result. We forge wars over ownership really: of lives, land, and belief systems that possess the keys to our very identities. We forge wars as well to have the basic fact of living. We fight to live. This is the Darwinian notion. That which is more fit, survives. The strongest and fastest sperm, for example, fertilizes the egg. The more aggressive species set the pace for the biologic make-up of the world. Animals and plants fight to fit in their environments to ensure their own survival. That’s why we have protective coloration among insects and other animals. That’s why the king of the lions kills the cubs of his predecessor to ensure only the survival of his own seed. That’s why we climb corporate ladders and indulge in what we know as the “rat race” to manage our own work lives.

That’s why we fight. Because the winner gets to write the rules. Because the winner sets the pace for what we will know as history.

War is our very soul.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Why You Can't Have Your Say

From the words of the BlogSpeak operator...

BlogSpeak is currently down because the bastards that host it (not the one you got the hosting offer from, those guys are wonderful) decided to suspend my account. I do not know as of yet when this situation will be resolved. If you don't want any JavaScript errors on your pages, take the code off for the time being. If you're pissed off because your comments don't work, I would be, too. Believe me, I'm not too happy about my account being suspended either. I do have a backup of the DB from an hour before the suspension occurred. So if the server comes back up, or I have to get a new server, of even pass the duties of maintaining BlogSpeak off to someone else, everything will be intact.

If you'd like to donate to the cause of most likely having to move hosting to a new locale, click here. If you have tons of extra bandwidth and storage available, and would be willing to host BlogSpeak, or take over all BlogSpeak duties entirely, email me and I'll tell you what it would entail.

BlogSpeak will also soon become open source, with both personal and server editions available. Those of you with your own servers running PHP & MySQL will be able to run comments on your own server instead of relying on one controlled by a building full of douchebags. Also, those of you with the brains and [brawn] that want to start your own commenting service will have a good start with the server edition.

Thanks for your patience during this time, and I apologize for this bullshit.

Oh, well. As they say in Lo-oc with such kargador flair, C'est la vie. But really, don't you just love the silence of a rapt audience?

[Thanks to Veronica for first showing me the reason for the silence.]

... Which reminds me of an Angelo Suarez poem about the disappearances of things:

      Benches Missing

          Item: 25 newly installed benches are stolen

          from the recently restored promenade along

          Roxas Boulevard in September of 2002.

      How bizarre for benches to disappear just like that—

      all twenty-five of them, according to a witness,

      stuck in a truck like they were nothing      A plate

      number is disclosed and next of course comes

      the hunt for the darned pick-up      Darned cunt

      makes the police proceed to Pampanga

      then Nueva Ecija      The truck is traced to Talavera

      where the owner’s relatives claim it has been sold

      six years prior to the theft      What else is left

      in the world that is yet to be stolen      A year ago

      it was Bonifacio’s leg reported missing

      from his own shrine      Every week a sewer lid

      disappears someplace      Each night barangay

      tanods fail to trail that bastard that keeps scraping

      emblems off the hoods of cars    Even the chocolate hills

      in Bohol have started vanishing one by one long ago

      in thin air     Look at that guy     No hair     See     No hands

      He drives his car to a corner where it promptly

      Disappears      Soon the guards with the funny hats

      by Rizal’s monument disappear      In a while

      Mount Mayon’s perfectly curved shape disappears

      Coconut trees vanish from scenic Pinoy postcards

      Krip Yuson’s hair-tail’s been cut off      Ophelia’s

      make-up is gone      Manuel Legarda has no guitar

      Oh a sitar with no strings!      Alas who sings

      for the Cradle now      Barbie Almalbis is gone

      KC Montero is gone from MTV      (But who cares)

      See      See      No more fake Nikés at Greenhills

      Shopping Center      No more pirated CD’s

      After 25 benches who knows what else can disappear

      in a night      Hell      Whole cities might disappear

      Entire municipalities      Next thing we know Luzon

      has disappeared      The rest of the country

      Even poverty disappears      War      Famine      Violence

      in video games      Whole continents dissolve into mist

      In the void sleeps one of the disappeared

      and dreams of God wearing shades and a trench coat,

      roaming      strolling around the aisles of the grocery

      of space till He eyes the sun      slips it into His pocket

      looking around as if shoplifting an orange

What if my tagboard disappears next? What if Blogger soon follows, disappearing into cyberspace air like pixels blown away as pixie dust? What if Xanga goes, too, then LiveJournal, and all the rest of these shameless online confessionaries we call our lives? Will we even manage to live through a day without telling the world how anonymously we crave its attentions?

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I was watching Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven last night on DVD. And I'm thinking... the sheer hypocrisy, the shiver of secrets seen through people's curtained windows and over white picket fences.... My God, I'm living in Hartford in 1957.

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Kristyn has the cutest blogpost on missing home.

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Monday, January 12, 2004

On Writing

"Writing is a lot like sex. At first you do it because you like it. Then you find yourself doing it for a few close friends and people you like. But if you're any good at all...you end up doing it for money."

-- Unknown

"Most writers regard truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use."

-- Mark Twain

"Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing and it becomes chronic in their sick minds."

-- Juvenal (AD 60-130)

"All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things."

-- Bobby Knight

"Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."

-- John Osborne

"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."

-- Kingsley Amis

[from Pete Lacaba]

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This is love, according to Dinah Rose Baseleres-Ladia...

... They disagree on many things, and yet they kiss in the kitchen. I know the ghosts of their past haunt them still, but I read their love letters tucked under their mattress. “My nights are cold without you,” my father writes to my then 38-year-old mother while she was away finishing her masters. Sometimes she says to me in exasperation, “I’ve given your father over two decades of my life and I think that’s enough,” but every other thing she does says a hundred years wouldn’t.

These days my father spends his Saturdays among the many fruit farms he owns in the mountains of Bohol. Sometimes he takes my mother walking under the mango trees. Sometimes she spends her Saturdays by herself at home. I think of them and wonder if we are ever really certain. Or if real love means loving one day at a time, for all the days you can manage to gather in your arms.


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Sunday, January 11, 2004

And now the thesis:

Some of us grow

as paragraphs do.

We punctuate our lives

with question marks

that loop whenever

logic leaves us.

-- Alfreddo Salanga

Sunday, night. Do not let them tell you -- after the long drive from Jimalalud and finally arriving back in the city narcoleptic, just when the night, like your heart in tatters, begins its dark descent -- that they have any right to claim the tossing and turning of your soul. It is fragile enough living the life nobody else dares to live. And it has no need for further quakenings, the way their wayward, illogical anger and demands go. You have enough of having to explain absolutely nothing, and trying to defend something that did not even come to pass. Do not let the tears flow: nobody deserves that much attention. Do not think your world has ended. Do not say anything. Just turn off the lights, curl up in bed, and think only that today is today, and tomorrow? Tomorrow is going to be the real new year.

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Yet another literary ism...

Excerpt from The New York Times article:

If Franco Moretti had his way, literature scholars would stop reading books and start counting, graphing and mapping them instead. For an English professor, this is an ambition verging on apostasy. But Mr. Moretti, a professor of English and comparative literature at Stanford and director of the university's center for the study of the novel, insists that such a move could bring new luster to a tired field, one that in some respects, he says, is among "the most backwards disciplines in the academy."

Mr. Moretti, 53, has been honing his vision of a text-free literary scholarship in books and articles over the last two decades. And now he is issuing a manifesto. "Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History," which just appeared in the November/December issue of New Left Review, a British journal of politics and culture, is merely the first installment. (Two more will follow in subsequent issues.) But in it Mr. Moretti makes his most forceful case yet for his approach, a heretical blend of quantitative history, geography and evolutionary theory.

Oh God.

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Gabriela Lee's newest poem...


Maybe Adam had it wrong all along.

How did he know that that one was a "tree"

or this one "sheep"? How could he invent

a name like "squirrel" and "quarrel"?

And how did he know that the "rainbow"

always came after "rain"? Imagine the drops

of liquid, crystal curves imitating tears

rushing to the ground, heavy with sadness.

And I'm interested to know how he discovered

"walking," or "warmth." Was he like other men,

following that familiar path from home

to the newspaper stand; did he imagine

portly fathers, perhaps balding,

expecting that cup of coffee

to be waiting when the arrive?

And why is "love" shorter than

"sorrow," or "grief," or "He's leaving me

and never coming back." I'd bet not even

God thought about that one.

I'd bet it was Eve, one midsummer evening,

while she was watching the stars

and Adam was beside her, exhausted with naming.

Maybe she even traced the outline

of his face, skin skimming on skin.

And she knew, as all women knew,

that she will lose him in the end,

and that was how love was introduced

to death.

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Friday, January 09, 2004

Surrender to the Pink

This is a remembrance of a good, old friend.

I remember seeing him sasshaying towards me for an interview for a Sunday Inquirer Magazine story on young, “different” student leaders.

I remember telling myself: Here the regal one comes. The walk. The smile. The way the silken scarf completed the carefully choreographed sartorial ensemble. The way the soft gestures ambiguously redefined what was masculine or what was feminine. Regal Oliva came.

And how he talked. “Hoy, day, I am sorry for yesterday, gyud. I completely forgot we had a lunch date at Scooby’s.” I shook my head in understanding, and smiled a mild ‘That’s okay’—then, as if on cue, my mind slowly wandered to the subject at hand, unmindful of the air-conditioning whirring at Chantilly’s, the clatter of plates heaped with spaghetti carbonara; the suddenness of an Enya chant softly blasting from an overhead speaker.

What was it about Regal Oliva that turned heads? Curiosity? Magnetism? For the last characteristic, Regal, now the personal assistant of the mayor of Tacloban, would probably nod and affirm to the most bongga degree. “If nobody had competed as Miss A/S for Miss Silliman last year, maypay ako na lang,” he had once declared, giving his signature Miss Universe turns and sways. “Do you remember? Do you remember? Miss Australia two years ago was a guy. There was nothing in the rules that said only females could join the pageant.” And had he wanted the same thing to happen to Miss Silliman in 1999? He smiled coyly, and sat down with that studied slowness that would certainly make Maria Clara envious.

For a person with such a “creative” flair, to say that Regal was “controversial” would be to say what was most obvious. He had survived storms and critical backlash trying to stage a musical Miss Silliman in 1997. He ran for the presidency in the Student Government later in the schoolyear, vocal enough to make equal recognition for gay students in Silliman an administrative priority if he got elected. He, of course, lost the race—by the narrowest margin conceivable (three votes, one of which was dubious), but that was okay. The spotlight never set on Regal, and barely had the year begun in 1998 when he was at it again, thrust into centerstage with the long-delayed creation of Bakla ng Silliman Lumalaban, otherwise more popularly known as BASILBAN Society (now defunct without its queen).

The controversy rolled and rocked.

“This is what happened,” Regal recounted. “It all began when I attended a seminar in Cebu. It was with the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines and I had a talk with the over-all president Percival Sedeña, who was the student council president of the University of the Philippines. He suggested to me that we form BASILBAN because when he came here in Silliman in 1996 for the NTSS, he found quite a number of gays.”

Slowly, the idea formed, and the gay following mushroomed. Nameless but growing in number, they would constantly meet in the Luce Auditorium lobby and take part in every possible facet of Silliman campus life. “We weren’t official, we weren’t recognized by the SOAD. But, as I say, birds of the same, flock feathers together. We wanted to excel. We wanted to do so many things for Silliman, so we thought, why not properly register and be known? For example, I have so many projects. So does my friend Phines Patalinghug, and others. In our projects, we always tap our fellow gay friends, so why not form an organization?”

The plan was initially to form a sister-chapter of UP’s BABAYLAN (Bakla ng Bayan Lumalaban). But due to the fact that the organization’s constitution was still in the process of being amended, Sedeña advised that Silliman gays first formed some sort of a “foundation” in the University, and later, when time is right, be adopted into BABAYLAN. Very soon, we can easily change our name when they are ready to accept us as a sister-chapter.”

Reactions was swift regarding BASILBAN’s creation. For many, it was merely a tactic to gain attention to a bunch of flamboyant KSP’s. For others, the name sounded so reactive, so activist (“lumalaban?” they usually ask with arched brows). And for others still steeped in deeply-ingrained ideas of social taboos, it was an organization devoted to devilish decadence. Recall how people hooted and made retching sounds as actor Paul Rudd kisses his onscreen lover (a man!) in The Object of My Affection. Recall how gasps flew when Ricky Davao did the same in Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya. In this retro-macho society, tolerance for homosexuals is said to be at an unbelievable maximum, yet double standards remain: for most people, it is okay, for one thing, for gays to exist as long as they stay in beauty parlors, or as long as The Disease doesn’t happen to close friends and family. Thus, to form a gay group in the midst of the Sillimanian community, bastion of Christian faith and values, was considered by many as nothing short of a shock. Then Pastor-For-the-Students Al Fuertes, the former congenial University chaplain, had explained: “On a personal level, I am for BASILBAN. I read their constitution, and I believe in their goals and objectives. But one must think of the larger community also. Officially, Silliman is not yet ready for such a group. We debated this in the Religious Life Council, and we think this is not the proper time. Maybe soon, maybe next year, maybe never.”

The Right Time, then, was the enemy. Still BASILBAN existed, if all but out of sheer will. Regal declared, “We’re growing in number, we’re sprouting like mushrooms. Grabe, as in. Every year we’re growing. And as we grow, there are some gay friends who tend to go against the ‘expectations’ of society. This is why we really felt the need to organize.”

BASILBAN’s immediate goals were two-fold: The group, first of all, seeks to right the internal. Accordingly, there is a need for guidance and empowerment for most gays in Silliman. “We want to guide them as to where they should be going, to what direction to take,” Regal said, “because there are so many temptations in this world especially if you’re gay. You’re very vulnerable. We want to coordinate with the school’s guidance counselors so that gay members in our group would be counseled at least once a month or once a week, depending upon their need for counseling.”

And who needs counseling? “Okay,” Regal continues, “when we go disco-dancing, we have a friend who wears skirts and excessive make-up. That is tantamount to gaining disrespect. The truth is, we [gays] can never gain respect if we do that. For us, there must be a limit. We are here to limit ourselves---no, not to confine ourselves in a box, but to gain respect by being respectable, and by excelling. We are also coordinating with the adolescent reproductive health program of the Nursing department, because sex is a reality when you’re an active gay person. In the final analysis, our members will know where to go in their life, and how to take care of themselves.”

The goals of BASILBAN do not stop there. The second goal is to go beyond the internal, and tackle the challenges of the greater community. “The most difficult problem that we will be addressing are, I guess, gaining acceptance and fighting prejudice,” Regal admits, “especially from the administrative level. We have a dark future already. We are still pending in the SOAD. The reason we hear is that they are questioning our morality. I don’t understand such questions. We are here to promote our welfare.”

Already, BASILBAN is on the move, sponsoring such events as the Extemporaneous-Speaking Contest, the Talumpati ng Taon, a gay film festival with Société des Cinéphiles, and planning other events such as symposia with acclaimed gay speakers Danton Remoto and Neil Garcia, some community outreach programs, as well as activities geared to environmental concerns.

Regal Oliva---sitting there like a queen in court, talking animatedly about the group and his plans for the year---is essentially the embodiment of BASILBAN: active, flamboyant, and, well, gay. “I am proud to be gay. I don’t know when I became one, but I accepted that fact when I was still 14 years old. I simply cannot remember being straight.”

He laughs. “I always imagined being Linda Carter in Wonder Woman, and I used to use Superman’s red briefs, can you imagine, in my fantasy as Wonder Woman. That, plus my wrist bands with stars and my magic lasso, completes everything.” He pauses. “I came to Silliman in order to ‘reform.’ But I found I just couldn’t do that. Basically, my family knows, and they support me all the way.”

And what of the trademark scarf? “My mom always wears scarves. I guess I got that from her. And, day, I have to wear a scarf because I feel so kiat when I don’t.” Outside, the day passes. The tape recorder whirrs to a grating close. With an Evita wave, Regal disappears in a flash of pink, perhaps off to where duty calls.

How Silliman rocked.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Why, he wondered, was it the people one held in the most innocent affection who so often demanded from one the most atrocious treachery?

-- Mary Renault, The Charioteer, page 87

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Monday, January 05, 2004

Feeling: Blue and hungry

Listening to: Madonna's Music

The first Monday of the year, and as expected, I’m feeling the New Year blues. It’s not really a bad thing; I sometimes call these episodes a “spring-cleaning” for my soul—complete with a bit of hand-wringing and self-pitying and being paranoid for the uncertainties and unknowns of the year ahead, while I watch a lot of DVDS or Oprah, read the books I’ve bought over Christmas (this year it’s Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes and Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend), do a thousand drafts for the short stories in my head, eat pints of ice cream with a lot of Oreo cookies, or clean my apartment till the marble tiled floors gleam. This depressive bout is like a 24-hour flu: it strikes without warning, leaves a bitter aftertaste on the tongue, and disappears after a really good cup of coffee. Bad thing is, I’m off caffeine for the year. Which means I will be “incapacitated” for a bit while I grapple with the doldrums. And the mountains of return email I have to face. Not to mention the prospect of going back to work this afternoon after the long break. (Break? What break?)

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