Saturday, December 30, 2006

Torn

Saddam Hussein executed

An ambitious "firebrand" preaches a new way of thinking. He gathers forces about him, becoming an eminent figure even among the scholars, finding allies from every turn who are willing to support him. Then his campaign takes a potentially violent turn, and the Powers-That-Be had to take him down.

In taking him down, instead of stopping his followers in their tracks, support for his way of thinking even grew more dramatically. In the end, the Powers-That-Be launched a bloodbath even worse than they had initially feared.

I am not talking about Saddam Hussein. I am talking about Jose Rizal, dead today 110 years past.

In some way, I am also talking about the Christ, whose supreme sacrifice we continue to remember, but ironically we remain more fixated with the season of his birth than the manner of his death, which should inspire us more to take heed of the ideals of his ministry.

Regardless (before I launch a diatribe against the commercialization of Christmas and the all-too palpable "deification" of Jose Rizal), the death of Saddam Hussein leaves me torn.

Saddam was never a hero. He was the supreme opportunist, parlaying his organizational genius to break into the halls of power, peddling both Arabic nationalist slogans and a vision of a strong Middle Eastern state (in Iraq) as he rode the waves of turmoil to grab the Presidency of Iraq.

He kept the various factions and tribes together, dealing with the most intractable with an iron fist. He elevated Iraq from obscurity to front-page headlines by invading Iran as the US's proxy against the Glorious Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. He succeeded in fostering a fervent Iraqi nationalism, spearheading the outflow of prodigious Iraqi scholars and businessmen, and came close to making his Iraq a secular, albeit disciplined and moral state.

That he was devious, underhanded, and perhaps a misanthrope to boot is beside the point. One can point out to several historical antecedents and to current examples among today's world leaders. Saddam was never unique, and he never claimed to be.

Was it hubris that caused his downfall? Perhaps. The invasion of Kuwait was definitely a no-no, and his subsequent conduct of his occupation and the resultant counter-invasion by the Grand Coalition exposed him for the craven manipulator that he was. The US leadership at the time, for all its brilliance in ousting Saddam from Kuwait, could have and should have finished the job of ridding Iraq of Saddam then. There would have been no question of intervention, and countless lives would have been saved as the Kurds who rose in rebellion (abetted surely by the US) would not have been on the business end of Saddam's revenge.

As it was, the elder Bush administration pulled its punches, and was subsequently upended by the Democratic challenger, Bill Clinton.

Fast-forward to events of recent vintage. The younger Bush, a slicker communicator but perhaps half (or even less) the statesman his father was, invaded Iraq (despite prevaling international sentiment against the same) on the pretext that Saddam had a cache of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The war is now entering its fifth year, and no sign of these weapons has been established. Iraq, too, has bogged down into a morass of sectarian and ethnic strife.

I am torn not because I have any remorse over the death of Saddam. He got his just deserts, despite the kangaroo court the Iraqi government set up to try him of war crimes. The charges were ridiculous, rather off-tangent. Few people would agree to the manner in which the former dictator was tried, though most would readily agree that the heavy hand of American interventionism was fully involved.

I am torn because the swirl and shift of events in this part of the world, which I consider another haven, have become even murkier, darker, and filled with the quiet promise of more violence.

Perhaps the American leadership and those who supported the war would say this hanging has the stamp of "mission accomplished," and go on with the business of securing the Iraqi "democracy." Oh sure, I'm ecstatic with delight. The US presence has neither stopped the violence at the grassroots level and nor have they won over the locals or the international community for this hateful war.

This hanging, however, is just the beginning of another stage in the war, and so far, what I get is that Saddam was not executed, he was martyred. The thought of placing him in the same company as Jesus and Jose Rizal makes me cringe. No, check that, it makes me sick to my soul.

Back home, the heavy hand of the Americans again makes itself felt when the Arroyo administration finally caves in to pressure and sends convicted rapist Daniel Smith back to the custody of the US Embassy.

Rizal duly foretold the annexation of the Philippines by the United States nine years before the event. I wonder what will Rizal make of how weak-kneed and shortsighted the mass of Filipinos have become, while their leaders, instead of taking them forward, have become their most ardent oppressors, all in their name.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Starburst

Our organization, SPA-TDG, held its Christmas party at a private function room in one of the hotels in Khobar. The celebration was a bit muted, as some of our members were not in Saudi Arabia or had other activities that conflicted with our schedule.

Two of my former students spoke of their lives in Manila, away from their parents, and more than one parent had to fight back the tears. Separation is never a good thing - the child may be able to bear it, but the parent? Never.

I'd like to dedicate the lyrics of this song (written by Sergio Mendes, Alan & Marilyn Bergman) to my former students who are making their way of young adulthood as university students. I don't envy them the angst they must undergo - but I do envy the open road of their lives. Oh, I wouldn't dare go back that road again if I have no means to change what I've done! But for them, at least, I see the uncertainty and the hope, mixed in with youthful energy. I don't think they'll believe me that until they become parents (a state, sadly, I have yet to reach) these years will be the ones that they'll remember with the most fondness for the rest of their lives.

It's for the One whom I hope to find, or that she finds me.

It's also for the family back home. It never felt so gut-wrenching than when I realized that it's my empty seat, my empty place at the table that gives my mother and my sister (and all the rest) a reason to be sad. There is a pang because they miss me. How could I be so secure when they need me? When I examine that reality through the prism of their emotions, I just wish I could be there to give them the comfort that they need and deserve.

SO MANY STARS

The dawn is filled with dreams
So many dreams - which one is mine?
One must be right for me
Which dream of all the dreams -
When there’s a dream for every star?
And there are - oh - so many stars
So many stars . . .

The wind is filled with songs
So many songs, which one is mine?
One must be right for me
Which song of all the songs
When there’s a song for every star?
And there are - oh - so many stars
So many stars . . .

Along the countless days
The endless nights
That I have searched
So many eyes, so many hearts, so many smiles
Which one to choose?
Which way to go?
How can I tell, how will I know?
Out of - oh - so many stars
So many stars . . .

Yes the wind is filled with songs
So many songs, which one is mine?
One must be right for me
Which song of all the songs
When there’s a song for every star?
And there are oh so many stars
So many stars . . .

Along the countless days
The endless nights
That I have searched
So many eyes, so many hearts, so many smiles
Which one to choose?
Which way to go?
How can I tell, how will I know?
Out of - oh - so many stars
So many stars,

Oh so many stars, so many stars
Oh there are so many stars, so many stars
Lots and lots of stars, so many stars
Oh so many, so many stars
Oh so many many, so many many stars so many stars

P.S. The treacliness of the song just gets away in the end, but I don't mind.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Finding Possibilities in Chennai

Another View of St. Thomas Basilica

This is part two of my Chennai story.

I spent four full days in Chennai doing work for our office, as per my previous post. All I can say about that work is that I wish I didn't have to do it, but I'm glad it afforded me the chance to travel.

It's the third time I'm doing this post, with delays from work and my own indolence - but anyway I'd like to finish before I move on to other things.

Some few Chennai facts I gathered from my readings -

  • Chennai is the traditional historical name for this area - the name of the second town that was merged with the original British settlement called Madras. Up until the millennium Madras was this city's name and until now outsiders prefer to call it by that name, though the Indian nationalists foisted the traditional name in 1996.
  • The city is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in India, topping over seven million people within the city and its suburbs.
  • It is one of the largest manufacturing areas in India - it is sometimes called the "Detroit of South Asia."

Frankly though, most of these escaped me until I did some reading on Chennai a day or so before my trip. Furthermore, the impact of the city and the people was something I did not expect.

Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed passing through immigration was the THRONG of people all over the place - both within and without the airport. It was a scale I haven't encountered for a normal activity since my days in college enrolling at UP (I gather it hasn't improved much, still, these days). I expected to have some problems with the smell of people (judging from the Indians over here), but instead I was overpowered with the crushing smell of HUMANITY. It was a physical force. No offense intended, really, but South Asians just have this odor that differentiates them from East Asians (who, incidentally, in close quarters, have their own unique pheromonic index), and from Filipinos in particular.

I was glad to see at least more than one foreign face to accompany me on the waiting line. Two hyped-up girls with London accents were behind me in the immigration line, and there was one Chinese lady from Hong Kong and some other Caucasians. It was a welcome relief to know people would stare at someone else than me while I was in the airport. I had that strange feeling when I queued up for my flight from Dammam.

Getting out of the airport was a chore. The baggage claim took almost an hour. I quipped to one of my fellow travelers, "We spent more time waiting at the carousel than we did on the flight!" Finally, the bags came through and I was ready to go.

I don't know if this is the same for the other major cities of India, but Chennai is filled with billboards! I thought Metro Manila had it bad, but downtown Chennai, if such an expression could be said and still remain fair, was worse. The billboards of every known product and service one can think of - well, they are all blown up in full-color, with accompanying model. At least the billboards are not raunchy. But seeing them for oneself can make one go cross-eyed.

The hotel I stayed in was a little bump above three stars, but it was comfortable. It offered no view since I was on the second floor and just across me was another office building. The glass window and the airconditioning did little to muffle the horns of the passing vehicles below. As I mentioned in my previous post, the food left a lot to be desired, but at least I could pick up a Western breakfast - no guarantees it will be healthy, but at the very least I could eat it.

The workdays breezed by most quickly - and I could attest to the quiet competence of our people based in our Chennai office. Like many young Filipinos, they were filled with hopes for the future and tried to bear their challenges as best as they could. It is no wonder why Indians make a beeline out of their own country --- there just isn't enough room for all that human potential, and besides, some "fools" from the Middle East are willing to pay just a little more.

One particular note is the preoccupation with wedding dowries. A fair-sized wedding, which the bride's family would shoulder, would be in the vicinity of 6-8 lakhs (1 lakh=Rs.100,000), though some people would hardly agree to anything less than 10 lakhs. One well-to-do person I spoke to admitted to spending 20 lakhs (Rs.2,000,000) for his eldest daughter's wedding. There are gifts for the couple, inclusive, and cash and gifts for the groom's family, should they be so inclined (and if not, the money goes to the couple anyway). One hideous and polite business curse I read from somewhere else goes like "May you have ten daughters, and may they all marry well!"

Naturally, the higher the salary and social desirability of the groom (inclusive of his family background - father's job, etc.; educational qualifications; employment position; other achievements), the higher the expense. Man, had I lived with this kind of influence, I would have killed myself to get all those honors up until university. At least that portion of the rat race would have yielded some rewards.

Indian men, in that respect, would go out of their way to put themselves on a higher social station. They can be very lucky in one way but in another, since they bear all the responsibilities in a relationship, it's just a balance.

It still surprises me how mainstream Indian society is still very conservative. All the more because of the perversities existing in it (which I need not mention). Well, there is a direct relationship between the norms of a society and things/ideas which have shock value in said society. People will go to outrageous extremes to prove their fervor or rebellion. If you don't believe me on this, talk to the Muslims and learn what they think of their extremists. And, as a Catholic, I believe this applies just as well.

I had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle and praying at the site of his tomb while I was there. Though some hagiographers still dispute over the traditions over the historical accuracy of St. Thomas' mission in India, the belief is very strong that Thomas made his way to the Mylapore area in Chennai and preached in the area. He was met with firm opposition and several times had to hide in caves in the hills around Chennai. Accounts have it that he was killed while he was praying.

The basilica is built alongside the so-called site of his tomb. It's rather small, and its history outlines some tragedy (it was set to the torch by a zealous Muslim ruler), but as you can see from the picture, there is a quiet majesty to the old church. When I visited, a wedding was about to take place, and a church is never at its loveliest than when a wedding is celebrated. I smiled at the women and the nuns in the church while I took some more pictures.

The tomb itself is in a separate structure. On the ground floor is the museum of antiquities, while the tomb itself is below ground. The inner sanctum was dedicated two years ago after another set of renovations. I saw some articles from St. Francis Xavier, Jesuit missionary, among others. Perhaps I was numb, but it took some time before I took in the pregnant possibilities of this place. I was in a place where a man who lived with Jesus was buried! The thought floored me when I got back to the hotel. It still gives me goosebumps, even now.

The relative simplicity of the basilica was in stark contrast to the Kapaalesswarar Temple, with its various representations of the Lord Shiva and the rest of the Hindu pantheon. It was a shame that the temple was closed when I arrived, as I had wanted to see the real deal. But judging from other representations of Hindu art, it wouldn't be far off the mark that ornateness is the deal for the temple.

Chennai still has its living history. The old British outpost - Fort St. George - still houses the legislature and various government offices. It was Saturday, so I couldn't enter the compound. In one quarter of the city the glory of the British Raj is still very evident - the High Court, blending Neo-Gothic severity with the vigor of Indian architecture, the Public Works building, and the old Madras schools built by the British. The Thousand Lights Mosque is said to be a powerful statement of the Muslim faith - I passed it and tried to snap a good photo, but it didn't turn out right.

The most prestigious sectarian school in Chennai, is Loyola College, founded by the Jesuits in the late 18th century. It's funny because my identity was shaped by my schooling with the De La Salle (Christian) Brothers - who happen to be the most heated rivals of the Jesuits in terms of education. At least in the Philippines that's who they were. I mean, ARE.

The most amazing feature of Chennai is its public beach --- at 13 km, its Marina is one of the longest stretches of sand in the entire world. I wish I had more time to go around the memorials and other points of interests. But I was running on a meter, and I wasn't exactly a tourist. I just stared at the sea and listened to the waves beat upon the sand.

Before I left for Chennai I was a bundle of emotions looking for something, anything, to grasp. Mainly it was work, or most likely the absence of meaningful activity apart from work. Listening to the sea, and letting the experience of this new place get to me, taking in the unique fragrance of salt on land, my spirit lay still and I found some peace.

I need a little of that peace as this world is still a tough one. Not to mention the near-traumatic experience I had when the Saudi airport authorities checked my luggage on my way back to Dammam. Isaac Asimov said something to the effect that the acme of stupidity smacks of genius. I was foolish enough to buy representations of the Hindu gods as souvenirs for my friends in Saudi Arabia. I was half-shocked (the other half conveniently snapping up, "How stupid could you get?") when the x-ray guy at the airport said the idols were proscribed. I believe it was my sincere incredulity of my trespass that convinced him.

And now I am back here, in the thick of mundane things, despairing again of another Christmas spent away from my family. In my heart of hearts I light a candle, and hope again that the wonder and peace of those moments in Chennai, will give me solace until that day my feet touch my native soil and breathe once more, the atmosphere of home.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Chennai Friday Five

I'm in Chennai, India monitoring our engineering office. Since I have committed from the very beginning not to talk too much about work, I'll keep the details to other gems of my stay here in India.

One is tempted to make the most exaggerated claims about travel horror stories, and with Chennai it is no different. This is India's fourth-largest metropolitan area and the airport is a mess. Almost as bad in Manila in some ways and even worse in others. The State Government is upgrading the airport and the building is ongoing.

Chennai is a favorite destination for overseas companies to build representative offices --- it has a well-educated workforce, is cheaper than Mumbai, and still retains a lot of its colonial and pre-British charm. Our representative office here is managed by a very affable man, and since I can't name him or describe him otherwise, you have to take my word for it.

The streets of downtown Chennai, like in some places in Manila and the old towns, have been built with horses in mind. As such, the traffic can be pretty horrible in places. The traffic is pretty much like Manila and Indian drivers are more maniacal, if there could be such a degree, than Arab drivers. Now I understand why most Indians in the Middle East except the bigshots who thrive on image instead of substance, can live with almost any make of car because the cars here perforce must be small to deal with the traffic, crazy motorcyclists, bikers, and the "auto-taxis" (which incidentally are tricycles, similar to the tuctucs of Bangkok). One remarkable car is the Hindustan Ambassador (www.hmambassador.com), which is also my service to and fro the hotel. It reminds me of a high-end jeepney.

The food is tolerable but I now know one reason why Indian food tastes so differently is the oil that they use. I ordered a club sandwich from room service the other night and the fries were greasy and different-tasting. Ugh! But at least room service is cheap compared to Philippine or Arab hotels.

I'll have a part two on this when I get back to Dammam since I have to finish up my Friday five and then leave the office.

1) Who was your first crush? (Celebrity or average) - My first crush, I think, was with a Dolphy girl. The ordinary one, I think, was with one of our friends from Pangasinan. She came over to live with us to look for work. I was about eight or nine when she came over. In high school, the first girl I liked was this girl named Ena from St. Paul in Pasig. If she ever reads this, I hope it tickles her pink.

2) Who do you currently have a crush on now? Keeley Hazell! But there's always been somebody...

3) Have you ever become so obsessed with a crush, you went to extreme measures to find out everything about him/her? Yes, and I need not tell what I did.

4) Has your crush ever turned out to be your future girlfriend/boyfriend? Yes, once. That was a long time ago.

5) Did a best friend ever turn into more than just a friend? Nope. Just like Ross in "Friends" I get to become friends with girls and then I can't get out of the "Friend Zone." If he's the mayor of the Zone, then I'm its president.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Means is the Way

I haven't commented much on the political situation in the Philippines for some time. Mainly because of the monotony. Mainly because all the issues have, for some time, been drawn out ad infinitum ad nauseam.

I had hopes that the lull would mean that there would be some consolidation prior to the May elections. The foreign policy spectrum of the Philippines will face some realignment following the Democrats' victory in the US this November. Oppositionists in the Philippines are taking their cue that May would be the next best opportunity to run the table and thus gain the initiative over the administration. There is little doubt that this electoral exercise would properly gauge the hold of the administration over public opinion and thus the country.

Let's just say I'd rather not be smug about how the administration has bungled the job, etc. etc. at running the country. There are far too many crows waiting at this feast, eager for the morsels of a post-mortem, and perhaps, even hastening the "inevitable" downfall. While I deplore that the mass of Filipinos is less sanguine about the essence of democracy and the deeper implications of such a system, I have greater faith in their impatience and their cynicism in our leaders.

Any self-serving politician without a reform agenda is just as marooned as any of the congressmen who have little else to show to their constituencies than toeing the administration line.

Still, I am troubled that strong-arm rule remains the special du jour for many of the disenchanted. I admire that they have read up on the progress of our neighbors Singapore and Malaysia, and perhaps Vietnam, and then concluding that no dissent is the best way to run a country. I have news for them - there is no guarantee that strong-arm rule will make your country rich. Take Argentina, Chile, Myanmar, or your selection of African countries.

Or take the Philippines under Marcos.

These same people are "appalled" that "contentiousness" is ruining the progress of any administration. They posit that good ideas are downgraded because of opposition - but I find that funny. To draw a point, something of ethereal beauty is not made any less because some person has a different conception of it. What appals me is that they would willingly cede many of their freedoms for a semblance of order and direction.

A word to the wise: the road to perdition feels just as safe and secure as the road to paradise, probably even more comfortable. Never forget that the right path does not a wide one make. The means is the way. For true democracy to function, we must allow the democratic design to unfold in due course. Otherwise, we become victims of contingency, swimming in an ad hoc sea.

The current hubbub emerging from the House effort to constitute itself as the lone agency to amend the Constitution is simply this: we cannot abandon the means of our democratic structure in order to rush "changes" as we perceive them. Now, I'm not going to plant myself in any of the camps as to my preferences over the form of government.That in itself is another issue for another day. We cannot condone bulldozing of our processes for the sake of the vague "reform." And, to use the hackneyed phrase, "at the end of the day," whatever form of government we have, it will be the same people littering the halls of the new legislature.

To date, we have not resolved our electoral processes to ensure that votes are counted correctly and quickly so that the true voice of the people is expressed. Let's have a clean, honest, open, and peaceful elections before we start speaking of unicameral or bicameral legislatures. If the form of selecting people is attainted, no means of sophistry would justify the form of government.

To date, we have not resolved the perks that Congressmen and Senators have arrogated upon themselves. The pork barrel will also be the means to control legislators regardless of whatever form of government we have. Let's abolish pork barrel forever because it is the primary temptation for any legislator to graft. Legislators are not implementors, and if they can't go through red tape of their local governments as they aver in order to push their pet projects, then tough. Welcome to the real world, ladies and gentlemen.

To date, we have not settled the moral authority of this administration to govern. That is to say, too, that not being in the government gives any presidential wannabes a "get out of jail free" card. The election in May 2007 should help resolve the stalemate. If the administration is as great as it puffs itself to be, then it should have no problem securing the mandate. If, as the pro-administration people correctly fear, that the opposition will win and then impeachment will secure enough votes, then the rule of law should prevail in the same way the pro-GMAers justified the quashing of the impeachment complaint.

It's not that impeachment is the best thing for us, but it does put the issue into perspective - why vote people in the first place when we want to impeach them? We might as well not have elections. Let the mob rule. Rather, the impeachment process is merely the form by which our catharsis from the time we kicked out Erap takes shape. GMA in or out, we will have the opportunity for closure. Then the clock will be reset and a new political landscape, I hope, will be easier to chart.

The answer to gridlock from above is decentralization. The Local Government Code has provided for that, but old habits die hard.

We have all the laws we need to make our government work. The software and the hardware are all plugged in, so to speak. It's the people-ware that now has to factor in --- I just hope all Filipinos would make it count.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

All Goodbyes Are Mostly Bitter

I don't know of any goodbye that isn't wracked with regret.
Mostly goodbyes are hard and painful.
There isn't a goodbye that I wouldn't rather forget
I just look forward to the next hello that's waiting.


My cousin Alvin Pineda passed away on the first day of December. For almost thirty-six years he labored against the odds and survived as long as he had. I hadn't seem him for the longest time until I went home for vacation in the middle of this year. We went to the apartment their family was sharing and in one corner of their "bedroom" he was splayed out on a foam mattress. His maternal grandmother watched him dutifully, keeping him from having abrasions by toweling off his sweat and giving him regular sponge baths.

He was cared for like he was no more than a toddler. He lived and died barely in touch with even an inkling of his human potential.

My cousin Alvin had Down's syndrome.

In this land, finding true friends is just as hard as managing to find yourself in a crowd is as simple as snapping your fingers. You must perforce make friends on the job or you wilt like a flower that does not see rain. While this does not bode the best thing for you, it is the only thing that ensures your survival. These friends may not prove to be the most natural ones for you, but some of them can and have proven to be the best friendships one may ever have.

Which is why, there is no good goodbye. Ever. From the moment someone says, "I'm giving up, this is it for me" and makes preparations for the trip home or points elsewhere, there is just no happy ending. Could one have done something to make the decision easier for that person to stay? Or to leave? What happens next? Do we catch up next time, or do we catch up again, ever?

Would it be enough to say, "good luck" to make up for all those times you have been together? Even if, in hindsight, you and your cronies were just shooting the shit finding some creative ways to kill time? How can you accurately put these into words?

More and more I have to come see life through the prism of people - and departing people is so much harder. A place is just a place.

No, I am not devastated by the knowledge that my cousin who would probably have not recognized me has died. Rather, I am saddened by the contingencies and the constraints that have kept him alive and then allowed him to live that way. I only have compassion for his parents, who tried to handle raising a differently-abled child their own way, in the best way they could, without depriving the rest of their children.

It's the tough ones, the recalcitrant ones, the unresponsive ones, the troubled ones, that make them special.

And so we go back full circle --- back here, because the conditions make the relationships one chooses more special.

Speaking of the special ones, even the small ones, the insignificant ones, the what-could-have-been ones, goodbyes are more often than not, bitter.

Even if saying goodbye meant leaving a difficult situation (as I once did back home before I came here), it's the though of not having done it earlier that will haunt you. There is hardly any goodbye that carries with it the sweetness of accomplishment. It's normally just the relief of surviving.

As in death, so in life and love. There are places in my heart that hold all those lost loves --- even the crushes, the what-could-have-beens, the never-did-happens. Yes, even those. It's not like I am perpetually browsing through these places, but I hope you get the idea. They become more special because they are not part of the continuity of my life, but even if they do in some way, they are not the same as what I would wish for.

There is only the hope that somehow sweetens the goodbye but there is nothing, nothing that it can do to leave the aftertaste of bitterness. Only the expectation that someday, you will get together soon.

Locked Out

I'm e-mailing this post because apparently the IT boys in our office have locked out logging into Beta Blogger.

Aside from ruining most of the templates I previously used, I can't post easily from Flickr because of this upgrade. Makes me wish I hadn't done it (too late! too late!)

Hope this goes through. Well, there's always the Internet cafe nearby, but why pay an extra buck when the office gives the service for free?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So It Seems to Say...

That I am happier than I would seem to be.

Authentic Happiness Inventory Test - registration required

Authentic Happiness Inventory Score: 3.63 on a scale of 1 to 5, five being the highest.

I scored better than ---

79 % of all Web users
77 % of my gender
84 % of age group
79 % of occupation group
81 % of education level
83 % of people within my zip code.

Well, in private moments I DO FEEL HAPPIER, sometimes more than I think I should be. Isn't that strange?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Where Bad Poetry Becomes Earth-Shaking Literature

Thank You for the Gift of You

Sometimes it just isn't too much fun being around, or reading about, people in love. There's this spoilsport part of me that keeps wanting to jump up and say "what the f*ck?" as if people goo-goo-gaa-gaa-ing is one of the perversities of the universe.

Then again, too, there's this prospect, the IDEA, that a girl goes twinkletoes over one of your best buddies. This is the same guy who barely held a broken sink up with half his butt while covered in soap. This is also the same guy whom another good buddy asked to dress his wounds (on the butt, natch) brought about by a nasty ass-chomping dog. This is the guy who constantly outeats you (and that says a lot about him), is at home talking to all sorts of people wearing the crummiest walking shorts, and once used to drive as if he were in a video game.

Oh well, they all grow up one day (or do they?). Gots nothin' to do 'coz ye gots to let 'em go.

But really seriously - it's ODD, but in a good way, seeing people in love, especially the ones to whom I can't say "I love you" because that just isn't the way we talk. And it's great to see their significant others have the courage to let their feelings out about them. The way she talks about my buddy is downright treacly, but only because it isn't happening TO ME.

It isn't "hardcore poetry" but in those moments where I am still and let my heart pour out into the universe, these are the kind of words that move mountains and roil the oceans.

Being in love is a good thing. Always is. That's why I hope people stay that way. Makes the world a better place.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Dose of Winning

Pacquiao finishes Morales with electric third-round KO

Pacquiao creams Morales with a brutal display of power!

Everything seems to have been forgotten in the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao for President! I doubt if anyone back home would gainsay this right now (except the haters, of course! Screw you, I'm a homer all the way, baby!). We are a nation in dire need of positivity and hope.

I'm sure the bandwagon of politicians would ride on this very soon, if they haven't already.

Of course I don't think Pacquiao should be President. But we need someone with his aura of sincerity and hard knocks, mixed in with integrity and more than a dollop of good sense, to help drive Filipinos with a sense of vision, a sense of believing in themselves once more.

Now, even the best of us are filled with second thoughts about staying home.

But anyhow, kudos to Manny the Pac-Man. He deserves it. It would be corny watching the fight later on, but shoot, I'd watch it just to see the dude floor his opponent. Nearly as cathartic as having a marathon Tekken tournament.

As for me, the only winning feeling I have gotten today was pulling off our Club Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest with a minimum amount of hitches last night. That I lost in both events does not give me any satisfaction, naturally. There's always next time.

Note to all of my opponents in our International Speech/Evaluation Contests: Now that I'm organizationally battle-hardened, I'll be better prepared and in a better state of mind come this January.

(Aw shoot, that should get them shaking in their boots, Chief! HAHAHAHAHA!)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Aftershocks

One of our section managers passed away this weekend (our weekend of course, being Thursday and Friday). He suffered chest pains and complained of shortness of breath while driving somewhere. He had the presence of mind to park his vehicle on the road shoulder. He then lay down on the pavement to regain his bearings.

A passing motorist, seeing a supine traveler on the road, stopped and offered his assistance. When the man stood up, that was when the stroke got him.

He couldn't have been more than forty-five years old. He leaves behind a young family.

A Blood Pressure Chart is now displayed prominently on my cubicle and stares smack at me whenever I turn to make a phone call or to talk with my colleague in the cubicle to my left.

I haven't exactly been the paragon of health and over the past five years my health has gone progressively worse. This has, of course, matched the progress of my drinking habit. And, save for those few months that I deluded myself that I was a vegan --- not the best times of my life and something I would rather not repeat, though the health benefits were countless --- I haven't exactly been watching the diet. Sure, I know how to avoid pitfalls when I see them, but I haven't exactly put myself on Bruce Banner-restraints whenever an opportunity to gorge presents itself.

So now, I'm certain, instead of attracting the "babes" as I should (decent-looking, well-paid, single, and would absolutely listen to the tritest stories you can come up with --- no snoring, sadly, not guaranteed), I simply don't. Aside from the fact that most ladies, are, deep down, just as bad as men when it comes to looks, you can't get go far with an engine if its power plant might just give out on you when you have come to depend on it. And all the ladies out there are smart buyers. That's why you send them to school and give them fair shakes at high-paying jobs in the first place.

Yes, I know I shouldn't be too hard on myself. Nothing's more depressing when self-deprecation turns into self-flagellation. But when it comes to being healthy, there just isn't any room for drawn-out excuses. I haven't been fit because it hasn't been important to me at all.

Well, I am re-thinking this one over. Very, very carefully.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

F5 and Remembrances

I was writing a piece on fathers and leadership in Saudi Arabia but I haven't gotten around to finish it given my current workload. I'll post it sometime within the week.

In the meantime, while I'm sure the rest of this post has nothing to do with him, this is for my father, Conrado T. de Guzman, who passed away on November 10 thirteen years ago.

My father was an ordinary man who came from the humblest of roots. In his particular way, he never made his poverty or lack of opportunities an excuse to stop him from accomplishing what he did. I also learned from him never to take crap from anybody. He made me believe that anything was possible, and while of course life has educated me otherwise, I still believe that we are all destined for greatness.

All it takes is for us to get in touch with our own selves and learn to tap into the Infinite.

For me, there is no such thing as getting over his death. Each day I live is in his honor, and for that, I would rather leave the wound in my being unhealed.

* * * * *

SUPERPOWERS!

I didn't like this week's edition, so I'm posting a Friday Five posted on my birthday, which was the F5 for October 6, 2006.

1. If you could have a super power, which one would you have? I'd like the mental powers as written by Julian May. The particular metapsychic powers I would like best are creativity and redaction.

2. What would be your supername? None. I'd maintain my true identity hidden and no one would know my "super-intervention." Besides, I'd cringe at the thought of having to wear a super-costume!

3. Who would be your arch-nemesis and what would be their superpower? The natural antithesis would be someone who could protect himself/herself from mental manipulation. Also, someone with super-strength. And in Ms. May's fantasy universe, my natural antithesis would be a coercive psychokinetic.

4. Who would be your sidekick and would they have a superpower? I'd rather be the sidekick, actually. I'd back up a guy with flight, super-strength or an energy-based power.

5. What would be your motto? My powers of self-mockery are relatively difficult to stretch, so a super-motto would be taking the fantasy too far.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Something Sappy


Your hand I hold in mine touches me to my heart
I want to share the very air you breathe
I long to know the deepest secrets of your life
You are to me life's greatest mystery

Each word you say fills the space of my in-betweens
And all new thoughts awake to glory in you
No past exists, no future stops the moment now
You wash away my lies, my tears, my shame

How can I thank you for my life
When you're beyond perfection
How can I show you what you mean
When my words lose meaning
You are the dream that every road life leads me to
How can I thank you for being you?

You took my hand and led me to your paradise
You gave to me a reason to believe
You looked at me and with your gaze you understood
All of the best things inside of me

Each day with you is joy enough to last my life
My woes, my cares, my fears - they disappear
You gave me everything that I would ever need
Beside you is where I will always be.

Here is my life - I give it up to you
My mind my soul
My faith my trust in you
Here is my heart - its rhythm is your beat
For you gave me wings
And taught me to be free...

How can I thank you for my life
When you're beyond perfection
How can I show you what you mean
When my words lose meaning
You are the dream that every road life leads me to
How can I thank you for being you?


* * * * *
Dear Lord, how can I thank you indeed?
Should you will it, may I at least give back the very best of what you have given me to the one who'll share my life and with me walk the rest of life's road.
I'll end this day of work with a smile and with words singing your praise on my lips.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Laments, Nagsawa na Uli, Etc.

The past few days to start off this November were eventful, to say the least.

Bro. Rafael Donato, FSC drowned while on holiday, while the fathers of my classmates, Lorenz and Logene Laureola, and Nikki Carrascoso passed away.

A recognized face among the La Salle Greenhills Search-In, Jundy Gueco, also passed away this week. His younger brother Jody died a few years back, also from heart disease.

Edit: The father of Vince Tolentino also passed away. I found out too late when I posted this piece.

Life sends us a message that our loved ones will not be with us forever, so it is time to make the most of our opportunities to send them our love.

I'd like to inject a new mood into my blog, so I'm abandoning the old template - I liked the color, but it would be nice to see something bright for a change. Maybe I'll put it back someday. Who knows?

On to the most recent Friday Five (when blog topics are hard to come by):

"Music Soothes the Savage Beast" is the title, but the correct quote from Congreve is "Music hath charms to soothe the savage BREAST, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."

1) What was the first CD/Record/Album/Artist you ever bought and what format was it in? (Vinyl/Cassette/CD/MP3 Download)? - The first one I remember buying with money I saved was a cassette of "Eroica" (Beethoven's Third Symphony) on cassette, and I think I got Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" together with that. That was about 1986 or so.

2) How do you usually listen to music? (iPod/Walkman/Stereo/Radio) - I pick up my tunes from the Internet, and normally listen through the PC. Formerly, I had a great sound system in my bedroom back home in the Philippines. It has been some time since I went for an upgrade, and I have no inclination since I'm over here anyway.

3) What is your favorite genre of music and why? - The compromise would be big band jazz. I have mixed tastes in music, and only the loudest/most idiotic/most hateful/most whiny types turn me off. Instrumentals turn me on the most, mainly because I'm more visual than I am auditory (I create visual patterns in my brain while I listen). I still like the classics the best as listening material, but the songs that I remember best are standards and 70's/80's music.

4) What is your opinion on music video shows and music television? - In general, they are there to push sales. No harm in that, but with all the studies about demographics, marketing, etc. they are less about value and tend to point to the least common denominator. I'm not saying kids are stupid, since these shows are primarily aimed at them, but these shows tend to make them stupid instead of raising their consciousness. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Occasionally a good documentary on forgotten stars or some such comes up.

5) Do you usually agree with who the winners of the Grammy Awards are? - I don't follow the Grammys when it comes to popular music. I do look up the winners in some of the less-publicized categories, such as jazz, to see who's up and coming, and in these cases, the jurors' choices reveal gems.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yearning for Nothing

Please click on this link for the online interview.

I would have preferred posting lyrics from Bob Marley, particularly Waiting in Vain (reggae is my Manilow complex these days), but I realize the man is better listened to than read. Interestingly, though, John Lennon is a better read than he is listened to, particularly during his LSD-influenced work with the Beatles and his Primal Therapy-influenced work.

Dig Lennon's stuff in "Working Class Hero":

As soon as you're born they make you feel small,
By giving you no time instead of it all,
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Till you're so f**king crazy you can't follow their rules,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years,
Then they expect you to pick a career,
When you can't really function you're so full of fear,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still f**king peasants as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

There's room at the top they are telling you still,
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill,
A working class hero is something to be.
A working class hero is something to be.

If you want to be a hero well just follow me,
If you want to be a hero well just follow me.

The angst is so palpable it's practically vicious. I wouldn't care for his vocal work in this piece - he cooked his voice smoking too much pot and getting "enlightened" by Yoko Ono, but man, the lyrics! They're still relevant now as they were thirty-odd years ago.

It's getting to be one of those days, really, when you wish there's something else, but then, there's . . . NOTHING. It's fun to be yearning for nothing. There's nothing much to be added to your life, and the rest of your life, well, time is bound to take them away anyhow.

Is that Zen or are all my noodles cooked? Hmmm...

And oh yes, a resource site finally stumbled onto my blog and asked me for an "interview" to which I gladly complied. Glad to know somebody else reads my blog.

Later... not too much, though. Oh well, maybe.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Deep Thoughts

Not that I am capable of any right now.

And oh, Eid Mubarak! Today is a holiday, and yet I am working. Well, for the simple reason work gives me a chance to be on the Net for free. Also, lazing at home is just as wonderful as watching paint dry.

I noticed that the hardest, most boring work is also the most numerous. I am currently compiling the results of our Employee Opinion Survey. I don't have to be a seer to know that the bulk of comments would be focused on salaries and bonuses. No doubt about it, you'll hear it most everywhere. There's never enough for anyone. Not that our company is particularly generous. I'd say it's on the middling road - not a bad employer, but certainly not one of the best ones.

Sigh, there's only so much one can do.

I have been more observant of my mood swings and that ever-present WORRY of not finding someone is, while always palpable, not altogether bad. It purges me of any lies or any self-deceptions about who I am and what I'm about. Also, it is an amazing goad for me to work harder. If it raises the flag on my need to be more physically fit, well and good, so I can gradually putt all of my motivations into one hole. It's not there yet, but I suspect it would be.

So yada, yada, yada. Life goes on, and nothing is lost. Except that I am a prisoner of time.

I've stopped reading the news lately because the "new" in "news" is ever a tableau of sameness. The more things are changing, the more that they remain the same. I even tried to get into a "fight" with a member from one of the e-forums to which I belong, and somehow, it didn't even feel mildly satisfying. First, the man is completely blinded by his own fanaticism (as if I weren't blinded by my anti-GMA sympathies, hehehe), and second, the argument wasn't that even intellectually challenging.

Go figure - a man complaining about others complaining about something worth complaining, saying an e-forum is not the right forum to rant about the sins of government. Either the man has some loose screws or well, he is an amazing political lapdog. I don't know which is which. Still, as my old English teacher used to say, he is "entitled to his own WRONG opinion."

The apathy among Filipino youth is appalling, on the one hand, while the willingness of my generation to be co-opted by the powers-that-be is even more appalling. I don't know if it's in the genes or enforced social conditioning. I admire those who stay, even more, especially if they are salt-of-the-earth types who soldier on even though things are getting tougher and tougher. Of course the pragmatists often leave, but the worst part is that the best "pragmatists" are part and parcel of the explotiative franchise.

It would be nice really to worry about my own kids, worry about the bills and the tuition, worry about their grades and whether they will succeed, whether they are smoking pot or gambling during their free time, whether my son is a bully or a closet sociopath, whether my daughter is making a reputation as a slut or a bitch, waiting for the time bomb when one of them will nonchalantly announce, "(Blank) and I are going to have a baby." Par for the course, par for the course. There are so many tough things out there, having a gifted and well-adjusted child is almost like a miracle.

The parents I'm with take it all in stride, eventually, though most of the times, the worry can render one to become an emotional train wreck. The only fear I see in their eyes is whether they will outlive their children - no parent should be allowed to bury his or her own child, especially if the death was untimely, or worse, violent in nature. Which is now the case with a dead flower girl in the United States. I only have empathy for her family. It is something I wouldn't want to happen to anyone, even those people I don't really like. No force in all this universe would probably hold back my wrath and revenge if that were to happen to me.

So many lives intertwined and all the life I have to live is mine. It makes excellent food for thought - there is so much in your life that you can't control, forces beyond your ken or even your awareness. But it's the life many are living, and seemingly, for a great number of people I know, they are just throwing away the treasure they hold for the illusion of something more. Rushing for the next BIG THING, the next social event, the next big promotion.

Alas, no matter hex-signs or crosses or genuflections I will do to ward off that impending fate, it seems so much, so much harder to avoid.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Something's Gotta Give

I should be writing something else, but heck, whom am I to kiss ass to when writing this blog?

(small disembodied voice: No one, Chief! Just you! No one.)

Sounding smug is the least of my admirable traits, but I'm feeling somewhat smug after the success of "Apat na Sulok ng Pag-Ibig." Of course it isn't my success to glory in; it's the success of the people who worked on it. Indeed it is more about them and probably .01% me. Shoot, if I wasn't standing around doing nothing like a loob in the first place, they would have someone else to manage the production.

So why does feeling smug come natural to me? Because, my dear Watson, we pulled the thing off, and we did quite well too, while we were at it.

Now, this whole picture isn't about a bed of roses. Naturally there are forces that push and pull when it comes to anything that goes under the heading: "ORGANIZED."

So what's the whole thing to do with this link I just provided?

Well, two people don't make a whole lot for a certain conclusion, but I find my ex-colleague Diane's story pretty much mirrored in my life. And, while I carry on with the things that I do, this portion of my life is going on somewhat neglected.

Do I mind? Yes, but only when I start watching some sappy movie. I was caught up in this mood after I watched "The Wedding Date" for the umpteenth time (Debra Messing, I love you!), and naturally the prevalent topic in my brain was a relationship. Then again, that line in the movie "Every woman has the exact love life that she wants" kept coming up. Which: a) made me think that maybe I was turning into a woman, emotionally (not the best of thoughts, I would aver) and b) kept pushing my brain back to all the wonderful opportunities I am not even aware of.

One of my friends kept setting me up with various girls in the hope that we would click. It didn't work out, and while I am very thankful, I know it just won't work that way.

Going through my own romantic history, it wasn't so much any particular effort on my part that got the girls to notice me. Mostly I just tried to be myself, though which side of me they saw I never really asked (hehe, baka mauntog, literally bumping one's head and waking up). The experience of high school was painful and it carried through the rest of my early adult life. I had the right traits of a friend, but these were the unlovable traits, but the particular anima, that active magnetism that draws people in, well, I hardly had that. For the most part, I wasn't bothered by it, it was one of those things that life deals you and you play with the hand that you're holding.

Later on, I discovered that it does. Some forms of success do depend on that kind of anima, and as I've mentioned, I didn't have it in any great quantity. That anima makes for more effective leaders, more results-oriented managers, more believable public relations people, and so on and so forth.

Where's the problem?... naturally I wanted to succeed. I want to succeed.

So now, I sit here trying to make a little extra money that I didn't have precisely because I didn't make use of the opportunities I had as best as I should. Well, that, and because there's only so much room for the kind of jobs I wanted in Manila that would pay for the kind of lifestyle to which I aspired, and would provide more security for me and my family.

So now, I'm involved with an organization that draws upon my talents, and though I'm certain that it's all worth it, the space it fills all the more accentuates what I don't have when I go home for my vacations.

So now, instead of getting excited for a vacation so I could spend more time with a Significant Other or with My Own Family I'm looking forward to getting in a little more work.

Is it all that bad? Not really. But someday, and I hope that day will be long in the making, something's gotta give.

Goodbye, Tag Board (sniff!)

Before I go into any more writing, I've taken the Tag Board down. Something strange happened; I surmise it came from changes with the site owner. But I don't like the change, so until I see the other users work out their own Boards I'll have mine removed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Post-Birthday Depression

The powers-that-be in the Philippines are calling for a retake of June 2006 nursing board examinations. Students protest the opportunity to prove themselves capable again. D-uh? Sure, it's an inconvenience, but so long as one is not paying to take the exam again, I don't see any problem retaking it. In fact, if I were one of the students retaking it, I should be glad to.

But no, that wasn't what I wanted to say.

The soap opera that makes up Philippine elections took another turn when the complaint against Comelec and the consortium that won the automation scheme (MegaPacific) gets thrown into the wastebasket, against all evidence to the contrary. Now why would we want any form of electoral exercise to take place if we can't even trust our own Comelec?

But no, that wasn't what I wanted to say either.

Our production, "Apat na Sulok ng Pag-Ibig" was a resounding success. I'll post pictures on my Flickr account soon enough.

Really, seriously, I feel condemned by bad luck.

I dropped my phone while I was pressing my shirt this morning and it showcased a crack across its wide screen.

Damn! I knew I should have gotten a Nokia.

Oh well, that's seven years of bad luck for me. When this phone hits the two-year mark, I will sell it for scrap in the Philippines. Maybe my bad luck will leave me then.

But then again, the bad luck of purchasing another expensive phone will haunt me! Hahahahaha!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

End of the Day



It's not really, but I feel like it.

The past two weeks have been quite a blur - so much work to be done, preparations for our latest production (see pic), and in general, just catching up with what life is pitching to me. I hope I'm not just swinging at anything. On the other hand, I'd like to think I'm living a more quality life than most (my body would seem to disagree, and it has every right to complain, poor thing).

Mostly it's as if I am looking forward to something I never really celebrate: my birthday.

I'm 34 years old this Thursday.

I have no illusions as to what this event bodes for me; at the same time I'd like to reflect and say to myself that the bright day of my youth is over. I need not stop thinking young, of course. But still.

Of course, looking the other way, what does the prospect of growing old mean to me? Must I have a plan somewhere that would unfold like magic because I willed it to be so?

Hmmm, that's worth thinking about.

As for the rest of my worries and cares: I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away : I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and be completely united with him. (Philippians 3:8)

An old prayer from high school pops up in my mind:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all. I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul. I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence --- for you are my Father.

At the end of this day, this is all I ask. And this all I need.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Friday Five Rewind, and then Some.

I'll post an old Friday Five just like "Magic Madness" and "Monsters Rewind." I could, right? After all, the post is about songs, and I like songs, a whole lot of them, even. My mind's a bit stuck so I'm posting something to get me out of this jam.

Now what's the big deal with the "insult" made by the Pope? Yup, this Pope has foot-in-mouth disease. True, you may take this entire line out of context: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by sword the faith that he preached."

His Holiness was wrong, plain and simple. But then again, he's human, and he's no longer held to be infallible. So live with it. Those who protest most virulently mark themselves for the bloodthirsty fanatics that they are.

Back to the topic, whew!

1. If you could pick your own theme song, what would it be?
Tough one. I never really thought my life could be a song. If there could, or would, be one, I hope to write it. In the meantime, the song I would like to define my life would be "All I Ever Wanted Was My Life" by John Klemmer. Guess what? This song is so obscure only the Search-In of La Salle Greenhills site mentions its full lyrics here.

2. Now be honest...if others had to pick a song that described you, what would they choose?
This one was so automatic it cracked me up almost immediately. My closest buddies would most likely pick "Will You Be There?" by Michael Jackson. Bonus points for anyone who picks out the movie to which this song is the theme. Speaking of themes, the favorite one for me by my friends here would be "Don't Touch My Birdie" by Parokya ni Edgar.

3. What song would be/was the first dance at your wedding?
Nikki picked "At Last" in her post, so I can't pick that (and I preferred Ella's version to boot), so I'll go with Chet Baker's "My Funny Valentine" followed by "I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos. Runner-up would be a passable version of "The Way You Look Tonight."

4. What song gets stuck in your head most often?
"Wait" by the Beatles, followed by "Two of Us" also by the Beatles. The second song would also do well for the next question...

5. What song would you want played at your funeral?
Something peppy and upbeat by The Supremes or Stevie Wonder. I'm dead, am I not? People should remember the way that I lived. Heck, they can throw in "All Apologies" by Nirvana, for all I care, or even if it has gotten too treacly, "Seasons of Love" from "Rent." However, if those left behind have a problem with the levity, my first pick would be "Walang Hanggang Paalam" by Joey Ayala, followed closely by Bukas Palad's "Take and Receive."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Latest Friday Five (15 Sept 2006)

  1. What's your favorite line from a movie, and why?It has to be that line from You’ve Got Mail - “The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many…somethings.” Small comfort for a guy living in the Middle East. For encouragement, this exchange from "The Fellowship of the Ring - Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." Gandalf replies: "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought." Perennial favorite: the entire script of “Godfather the Movie.”
  2. Who's your favorite villain from a movie, and why? It would have to be the serial killer from “Se7en” played by Kevin Spacey. The kind of bad guy you would really love to hate. Cool, calculating, and absolutely unredeemable. Runners-up: Cypher (for weaseliness) from “The Matrix,” Emperor Palpatine (for kick-ass evil) from the Star Wars movies.
  3. Name one movie everyone else loves that you hate. I don’t know if there is a movie “everyone loves” that I don’t like. I’m pretty much forgiving when it comes to movies. TV shows, maybe. Mostly those telenovelas, whether Filipino, Korean, Chinese, or Mexican. Take your pick.
  4. Name one movie everyone else hates that you love. Even a tougher question. As I’m an omnivore when it comes to movies, this can range from “Transformers the Movie” to art films. Depends on the crowd.
  5. What's your favorite Pixar film, and why? “Toy Story.” Tom Hanks. Tim Allen. No contest.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ang Tunay na Pangarap

Ito'y munting ala-ala para sa nasawi dahil sa karahasan. Hindi lamang para sa karahasan dulot ng terorismo, ngunit para na rin sa biktima ng pinakamasahol na karahasan - ang karahasan ng kahirapan sanhi ng pagpapalawig ng 'di-pagkapantay-pantay sa lipunan.

Nawa'y mabigyan ang nakararaming lugmok sa kahirapan ng pagkakataong maiahon ang kanilang mga sarili at pamilya mula sa kahirapan, at higit na mahalaga, nawa'y makilala't matanggap nila ang tamang daan sa panahong masilayan nila ang pagkakataong ito.

Nawa'y mamulat ang puso't diwa ng may kapangyarihan at namumuhay sa karangyaan na ang tunay na katahimikang siyang masisilungan nila at kanilang mga pamilya ay ang pagsugpo sa kahirapan at kamangmangan sa anumang sulok ng mundo.

Ito ay salin sa isang dasal mula sa De La Salle Brothers ng Pilipinas.

ANG PANGARAP NG DIYOS PARA SA AKIN

Winika ng Panginoon :
May pangarap ako para sa iyo
Sapagkat buhat sa akin ang dakilang adhikain.

Parang kay hirap abutin ang aking inaasam,
Hindi yata praktikal,
Hindi yata para sa taong segurista,
May kaunting pag-aalangan minsan,
May kaunting pagyayabang kumbaga.

Ninanais ng ilan kong kaibigan
Ang magpahinga't manahimik
Na pagkahimbing-himbing
At maging bulag na dilat.

Ngunit sa mga ilang tulad ko rin,
Humihingi lamang ako ng kaunting pasensiya,
Mumunting kasiyahan,
Kakaunting lakas ng loob,
At puso't diwang handang makinig...
At bahala na ako sa lahat.

At sila'y magpupunyagi,
At magugulat sa kanilang kapusukan,
Lulukso, at magtataka sa kanilang liksi,
Magsisikap, at mamamangha sa ganda ng kanilang gawain.

Madalas magkikita tayo sa iyong hanapbuhay:
Sa mga kasama't kasangga mo,
Sa mga kaibigan mong naniniwala sa iyo
upang magbahagi ng kanilang mga pangarap,
ang kanilang mga kamay at puso,
sa iyong pagsisikap.

Tumila ka sa piling ng mga makatatagpo sa iyo,
At sa paghiwalay ninyo ng landas matitiyak mong
Makahahanap din sila ng pangarap.

Minsan sisikat ang araw,
At minsan nama'y babagsak ang ulan...
Ang pagbabago-bago ng panahon :
Nanggagaling ito sa akin.
Halina, humimlay at maging kuntento.

Pangarap ko rin ang pangarap mo.
Tahanan ko ang itinatayo mo.
Nasaksihan mo ang aking pagmamalasakit,

At tinataglay mo ang aking pagmamahal,
At ang mga ito ang kabuluhan ng lahat.


Panginoon, nawa'y manatiling malayo ang aking mga minamahal sa buhay sa kapahamakan. Marapatin po Ninyo na ang aking pangugulila dito sa ibang bayan ay maging katumbas ng kanilang katiwasayan at patuloy na kaligtasan sa sakit o hirap. Isinaalang-alang ko na po ang lahat nang sa gayo'y mabuhay sila nang maligaya. Sapat na gantimpala ito para sa akin. Siya nawa, siya nawa.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Humorless

I've just discovered, that, outside of self-deprecation and toilet humor, I am totally humorless.

If you find that funny, you know what I mean. If you don't, that means I'm worse off than I thought.

Really now, there should be some form of amusement people would derive from what I am writing. Maybe my life is utterly boring. Oh well, it's not as if I'm selling populist literature (this is, as always, a litmus test of my readability, and so far... well, I do hope you get the picture).

Still, there is probably some balance somewhere -

Where there is beauty, there is ugliness.
When something is right,
Something else is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance
Depend on each other.
It has been like this since the beginning.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to chuck out one
And hold onto the other
Makes for a ridiculous comedy.
You must still deal with everything
Ever-changing,
Even when you say it’s wonderful.
- Ryokan (1758-1831)

So maybe the balance is that I am capable of deep thought. Still, deep thoughts don't earn you plaudits at your standard get-together parties. Or maybe I just shouldn't expect too much from get-together parties.

I've known for a long time that I was never a "glad-hander" and having to be one, for sake of necessity, makes me feel cheap and fake. Or, maybe just like what it implies, I'm simply too self-absorbed and don't care much for people.

I know I'm hardly making sense (fried neurons running 14 hours straight), but I'm grasping at this duality thing like a Socratic dialogue. Only of course I'm doing a dog's dinner out of it.

I love you Mom! (Now where did that come from? Ah! It's always the line stars come up with when they have nothing useful to say.) Yeah, but that one's true, among the few true things in my life. I do my love my mother.

At least she laughs at my odd jokes. What can she do, she gave life to me!

Now, for some classic inspiration from Joey Ayala:

Magkabilaan

Ang katotohanan ay may dalawang mukha
Ang tama sa iyo ay mali sa tingin ng iba

May puti, may itim, liwanag at dilim
May pumapaibabaw at may sumasailalim.

Ang tubig ay sa apoy, ang lupa ay sa langit
Ang araw ay sa gabi, ang lamig naman sa init
Kapag nawala ang isa, ang isa'y di mababatid
Ang malakas at ang mahina'y magkapatid.


Magkabilaan ang mundo
Magkabilaan ang mundo
Magkabilaan ang mundo

Ang hirap ng marami ay sagana ng iilan
Ang nagpapakain, walang laman ang tiyan
Ang nagpapanday ng gusali at lansangan
Maputik ang daan tungo sa dampang tahanan.

May mga haring walang kapangyarihan
Meron ding alipin na mas malaya pa sa karamihan
May mga sundalo na sarili ang kalaban
Ay may pinapaslang na nabubuhay nang walang hanggan.

Magkabilaan ang mundo
Magkabilaan ang mundo

Magkabilaan ang mundo

May kaliwa't may kanan sa ating lipunan
Patuloy ang pagtutunggali, patuloy ang paglalaban
Pumanig ka, pumanig ka, huwag nang ipagpaliban pa
Ang 'di makapagpasiya ay maiipit sa gitna.

Bulok na ang haligi ng ating lipunan
Matibay ang pananalig na ito'y palitan
Suriin mong mabuti ang iyong paninindigan
Pagka't magkabilaan ang mundo.

Magkabilaan ang mundo
Magkabilaan ang mundo
Magkabilaan ang mundo


One thing's for sure, though, when I commit a boo-boo I can crack up anyone, any time of day. Such stupidity can only smack of genius. Such, too, is my humorlessness.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Crucible

For one human being to love another that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof; the work for which all other work is but preparation.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Father

For June F., whose father passed away today. While for him, it has been a case of "when the time will come," losing a dear one, especially in this place where one can do nothing for them or their other grieving loved ones, can never be easy.

To Our Father in Heaven, I pray for a safe flight for June and a heavenly journey for his father.

To my father (whom I also hope is in Heaven), I still miss you too.

AMA
(George Canseco, sung by Basil Valdez)

Mahal naming Ama nasasalangit Ka
Sa ngalan Mo nawa lahat ay sumamba
Mapasaamin ang Iyong kaharian
Sa lupa'y masunod Iyong kalooban
Katulad ng sa kalangitan.

Bigyan N'yo po sana ngayon ng pagkain
Pang-araw-araw na ikabubuhay namin
At sa aming sama at 'di tamang gawa
Ama kami nawa ay patawarin
Habang kami sa iba ay nagpapatawad din.

Akayin Mo kaming umiwas sa tukso
Iligtas sa samang laganap sa mundo
Dahil nasa sa Iyo tanging kaharian
Kapangyarihan at kaluwalhatian
Magpakailanman,
Hanggang walang hanggan . . .

Akayin Mo kaming umiwas sa tukso
Iligtas sa samang laganap sa mundo
Dahil nasa sa Iyo tanging kaharian
Kapangyarihan at kaluwalhatian
Magpakailanman,
Hanggang walang hanggan . . .

Siya nawa, Siya nawa.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm Gay! I'm Gay! I'm (gurgling sound..) ulk!

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

This is late, but I guess something has to be said. I won’t rehash any of the other arguments made by some people, I’ll just mention my own.

You’ve got to hand it to this guy, he’s a retired member of the Philippine Supreme Court and by that same token, has just fouled the intellectual atmosphere with one of the biggest brain farts ever. Phe-yew! The whole thing about this article stinks.

The real sad thing about is, the underlife in his article is pretty solid. The erosion of Philippine public values is a deplorable thing. But he points us in the wrong direction – really, what does gayness have to do with the dumbing-down and increased vulgarity of TV?

Who decides what is put on TV? The supposedly-dapper gentlemen who run the businesses! Who keeps on supporting TV programs regardless of their dumbed-down content? The macho men of the food and beverage industry, the manufacturers, the telecom firms, the consumer products guys . . . aw come on! Let’s dispense with the hypocrisy and say it simply --- you stop the pipeline from being fed, the flood of stupidity will run dry.

Don’t blame the media. It’s the Corporate World that really pays the bills.

Yes, you have gay men running the shows in creative agency boardrooms, in film studios, on network TV, and what-have-you. It wasn’t a problem when you have National Artists Behn Cervantes, Ishmael Bernal, Rolando Tinio, Bibot Amador and Lino Brocka et al running the show. They are all gay, right? Does that make their work suffer?

Hey, it’s not the gayness that affects sensibility. It’s plain and simple vulgarity, or if you opt to indulge in name-calling, it’s stupidity, lack of culture, lack of good taste, period. And that, quite naturally, can happen to anyone. No one is exempt.

Not even strait-laced macho former members of the Supreme Court.

“The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.” I don’t know if the good Justice was reading up his science, but homophilia is a natural occurrence in several species. It’s a function of environment. At times, it’s a function of survival.

Homosexuality was so rife in Victorian England it was conveniently ignored but politely tolerated. And considering what kind of advances were made in the “humanist” cause throughout that segment of the 19th century, I would not infer one or the other as the influencing factor.

What we have are emerging voices, emerging thoughts, where acceptance, not boundaries, is the norm. Maybe the good Justice should go back to the Ages where there was no electricity and infant mortality could not be held in check. Those were the times when men were “macho” and no ambiguity could be brooked.

That didn’t mean there weren’t homosexuals then. They just didn’t receive good press.

A part of me agrees with the good Justice that it would be nice if the world were a simpler place where black is black, white is white, and the good guys were better-looking and more refined. Nowadays, even the blackguards claim impressive pedigrees and doctorates, earn international recognition, make loads of money, and claim to be part of the New Future of the Philippines.

What does gayness have to do with the erosion of respect in the rule of law? In the decay of social institutions? In the onset of moral turpitude in public life? Or on the other hand, what does one’s sexual orientation have to do with simple decency and delicadeza? With professionalism and hard work? With creative vision and business acumen?

Nothing.

The vulgarity we so easily accuse, of course, is a symptom of the greater malaise that is affecting our society – in how our traditional mores, in their own way, have failed to proactively counter the raised banners of consumerism, materialism, and most of all, moral relativity.

Sure, when it comes to screaming faggots and their public display of cheap thrills, there is the do-right” side of me that says “ugh!” On the other hand, there is also this perverse side of me that can’t help but keep on looking. But that, dear people, is just a function of taste. But on the matters of our greater cancers… guess who’s to blame for all of these? Who’s responsible for corporal punishment? For hazing in fraternity rites? For incestual rapes? For multiple marriages? Your macho men, of course! Your culture of machismo is old, primeval, and at many times benighted.

Huwag kang maghanap ng masisisi, at baka manuno ka. The fingers of blame would all point back to you.

I can say this with confidence because several times I have been accused of, or secretly thought of, as gay. But here in Saudi Arabia, everyday, the prospect of homosexuality is so palpable that regardless of the blatant homophobia of many of our so-called “macho” men, many men, good men, men with beautiful wives, men with families anyone could be proud to call their own, find themselves facing the question, “To Brokeback or not to Brokeback?” and then failing the machismo litmus test.

I can also say this confidently because many Filipinos here, if not thought of as sly, underhanded, fisticuff-ready troublemakers, are branded as gay. While I have no illusions about the potency of my “mangina,” my tendencies are fully heterosexual. So it’s tough when some Arab or Pakistani tries to grope you or ogles you, or grabs his crotch, or shows his penis at you. It makes you laugh, but it also makes you think.

These are macho men living in a repressed world. And that’s the world to which the good Justice would like us to go back?

Uh-uh, keep that world, good sir. Keep that world of guns, of wanton violence, of pissing contests, of wars over turf, of rendering females into objects, of the conflict of this world, all for the sake of “machismo.”

I don’t believe in a gay party list, either, for practical and ideological reasons, because there are no such things as “gay issues,” only economic or political ones. But that’s a story for another day. But conveniently labelling gays and lesbians as the culprits for our societal degradation is a really long stretch of the imagination.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Erase! Erase!

Willing Exile: Weekend Blues

Did I just write this? Did I just have one big brain fart?

Search me, I was probably over-worried about something else. That's not the dynamic I'm about these days.

Brrrr! Let me shake off the heebie-jeebies. * Reads post again *

Uh-huh, that's so wrong.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Weekend Blues

As my friend Robert would fire off in his own way, it’s not that I am really depressed or anything. But the question keeps on begging to be answered: Am I worried about not finding someone?

Let me think. Hmmm....… Hell, yeah!

I had an interesting conversation with my friend and colleague over the “weekend” while both of us were busy at work. In Saudi Arabia, it’s really great that you have a lot of free time to do “bachelor” things. Sadly, our “bachelor” thing is doing more work.

I was listening to him intently and I could sense his frustration over the fact that he has no girlfriend (not even the remote sign of one). I could really empathize given the fact that finding an eligible young woman here in KSA who would score five stars is just as remote as figuring out the last digit of pi. There are, of course, shortcuts, or the random hook-up, or else, one could just play the field and see which girl gets pregnant first.

Actually, what really defines our “loser”-hood to a T is that we are not even properly equipped to play the field! Well, at least until we finally get our own cars. Finances willing, I should get one soon.

Still, it’s easier said than done. An item change does not a lifestyle change make. I did, in what seems like another life, try to fit my “squarish”-ness into the round hole of conformity and it didn’t work. In fact, later in my teens, I threw the sink at conformity and said, “what the heck. It’s a lot tougher to try to belong than to be myself.” Not that being myself is any more wholesome. But hey, I'm not making an excuse for my life. It just feels that way.

Still, it got me to thinking of the so-called “aberration” in my life and what strikes me is that there are so many eligible young women out there who would, after a few beers (she of course, would be doing the drinking), probably condescend to go out with me. Problem is, I live out here in the desert, and they… well, let’s just say I wish they were like Kathleen Kelley and are primed to fall in love with what I can write and express. Verbal ability in men, by the way, is overrated, but don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve met the exception to the rule… who else but me? *ducks*

Am I worried? Of course! Mainly it’s the validation, partly hormonal, partly intellectual, that the things I have done still make me out to be “successful.” But for now, mostly, I think it’s because many of my friends are getting married, and while I hardly consider a wife a toy or an erector set (hmmm…let me think, scratch the “or an…”), it would be nice to have the kind of relationships that they have.

So what now? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll bump into someone, or whatever. This feeling hasn't reached depression-level yet....if it did, I would lose the ability to laugh about it, but it can get tiresome, as I'm sure you know by now. Meantime, I took this test and guess what my results were…


total geek


Maybe it’s not as bad as I think. After all, some chicks like Nadia in "American Pie" dig geeks. If only if it were that simple.

*Long sigh* Yup, it could be worse. I could be demoted to “subhuman” status like what the astronomers did to Pluto, but still, yeah, the sign says it all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pag-Ibig Kailanman (Apat na Sulok ng Pag-Ibig)

Lahat tayo'y naglalakbay sa mundo
Naghahanap ng sulok na aangkinin
Naghahangad, nangangarap
Minsa'y nalilimot na ang ating damdamin.
Mapaparisan ba ng liwanag ng buwan
Ang ilaw ng iyong puso?
Mailalapat mo ba ang sukat ng iyong nais
Sa kabilugan ng mundo?

Ang tugon sa ating dasal
Daliri ng Maykapal
Nananatili sa mga nagmamahal

Kung ayaw mong tumangis
Huwag mangarap kailanman
Kalimutan ang pag-ibig
Kung ayaw mong masaktan
Ngunit kahit ilang ulit mo siya'y talikuran
Siya lamang nagbibigay sa buhay ng kabuluhan
Magunaw man ang buong sansinukuban
Mabubuhay ang pag-ibig sa gitna ng kawalan.

Kung dala ng paghamon ay pangangamba
Manalig at huwag mabahala't wala itong lunas
Magsikap at magpunyagi pag-ibig ang manatili
Sa araw-araw na landas.
Makakaya mo bang itatwa sa 'yong buhay
Ang sikdo ng iyong puso?
May kabuluhan pa ba ang 'yong tadhana
'Pag tuyo na'ng damdamin mo?

Kapag ika'y nagmamahal
Sa hirap may maisasakdal
Ang luha mo ang siyang nagpapabanal

Ang hinahangad mong katuparan
Sa lahat ng iyong inaasam
Nasa piling mo't kumakanlong sa iyo.
Pawiin mo ang piring sa mata mo.

Kung ayaw mong tumangis
Huwag mangarap kailanman
Kalimutan ang pag-ibig
Kung ayaw mong masaktan
Ngunit kahit ilang ulit mo siya'y talikuran
Siya lamang nagbibigay sa buhay ng kabuluhan
Magunaw man ang buong sansinukuban
Mabubuhay ang pag-ibig sa gitna ng kawalan

Sunday, August 13, 2006

That Stalker Song

The more you ignore me the closer I get
You're wasting your time
The more you ignore me the closer I get
You're wasting your time

I will be in the bar
With my head on the bar
I am now a central part
Of your mind's landscape
Whether you care or do not
Yeah, I've made up your mind

The more you ignore me the closer I get
You're wasting your time
The more you ignore me the closer I get
You're wasting your time

Beware! I bear more grudges
Than lonely high court judges
When you sleep I will creep into your thoughts
Like a bad debt that you can't pay
Take the easy way and give in
Yeah, and let me in

Oh, let me in
Oh let me ...
Oh, let me in

IT'S WAR IT'S WAR
IT'S WAR IT'S WAR
IT'S WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR

Oh, let me in
Ah, the closer I get
Ah, you're asking for it
Ah, the closer I get


* * * * *


We were somewhere in Bicutan, Robert and I, driving around to look for a place that a girl mentioned was her home. I didn't tell her I was going there. I was curious about her, she did send me a JPEG through e-mail. But it wasn't enough. I had to know more about her. I had to see her, even from afar.

We met through a chatroom that year; I was teaching college in Pampanga and had experimented with the use of the Internet as part of my job duties. For about two weeks we had freebies with the service provider. I was introduced to the world of mIRC and it was mind-boggling. I probably made more virtual friends in a day than I did over the previous three years. Not that I had that many friends to begin with, anyhow.

My favorite chatroom was focused on trivia, and apart from a few (fellow) mutants, I had the bragging rights to that room. I wasn’t a frequent visitor then, but I routinely killed at the questions provided by the ‘bot (question generator). It wasn’t too long that I gained notice among the denizens of the place. I’m not sure if there were real geeks (like me) out there (there probably were) but it soon dawned on me that the people who came to the chatroom were simply bored and joined the contests out of sheer boredom.

On the other hand, I had wanted in the games for the games themselves. I loved winning. It showed, eventually, and in the beginning though I spent so little time I became popular with some of the regulars (their handles in italics) --- Holly/holly (a young mother based somewhere in Kentucky), Genevie/genevie (a dentistry student based in Manila), Ria/starplace (she was based in Alabang, that’s all I knew --- she never did let me on what she was doing, I never saw her at any of the EB sessions, but she did have a great voice when she called me once), and a host of others. It’s the girls I remember best, as always. The few dudes who did manage to present a challenge would likely as not ignore me (I guess they hated losing), and the ones who were friendly were practically logged on 24/7 they didn’t have to try to win the games – they’ve practically memorized the questions!

I had three handles --- the first one was althor, based on Robert Jordan’s Rand Al’Thor in his “Wheel of Time” series. With this nick, I quickly became popular, and I identified with it so much I practically used it as my e-mail nick for all of my paid Internet subscriptions --- no matter how many times I switched, I kept the name. It had its variants – I used supporting character names like cauthon and aybara (everyone thought I was a girl, and when I went incognito I used this nick a lot). Then there was, of course, the times when I went by dragon_reborn.

After I became popular and some people didn’t want to play against me, I switched to hardin, based on Salvor Hardin, a prominent character in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series. It was one of my shibboleths, because if someone would comment on my nick with the right kind of familiarity, I knew I was chatting with a kindred soul. In the end, most Filipinos thought of it as “garden,” while most everybody else thought it was sexual in nature (a story for another day). I had the most fun going by this name, for reasons which I’m sure are obvious.

The final one, which was my personal fave when I felt like an “assassin” during the games, was jason_bourne, after Robert Ludlum’s famed hitman and the subject of his own eponymous trilogy. Take note that this was before the travesty of the Matt Damon movies came out and only serious thriller enthusiasts knew of this nick. Almost every Filipino who came into contact with me thought I was a Fil-Am, and with the way I wrote (I could do 65 wpm and I wasn’t into the Internet abbreviations, which I thought were atrocities against the Queen’s English), I guess I pulled it off. One of the younger dudes who sort of idolized me even used one of Bourne’s lines as his tagline for his identity. Yeah, I was a cool dude, in that way.

So it was one of those early mornings (about 2:30am or thereabouts) I met spicee’gurl. At first we acknowledged each other with a bit of aloof respect --- she was also a keen gamer, and a really intelligent person too, though I found that out much later. However, I was a bit put off by her nick, which I suspected had an airhead personality behind it. People hid behind their own masks with their nicks, and it wasn’t ironic but pretty much du jour that the most interesting people came up with the most interesting nicks. The interesting part is finding out how so way off-base the name was in relation to the real person. Up to now, in the blogosphere, almost every dude wants to be some rockin’-sockin’ sunnavabich or other and almost every dudette, well, wants to be the Biatch that either makes the rockin’-sockin’ sunnsabiches drool or more likely than not, torches them and eats them for breakfast.

The ‘Net was populated with all sorts, freaks or no, and in cyberspace one has to take a few precautions because there were so many risks. For every You’ve Got Mail story there could also be The Net, or worse, Black Widow, Fatal Attraction or some variant of Risky Business (without the happy ending). My own policy was to be honest about everything as to my personhood but never about my own details. Why the hell not? If people didn’t believe you or mocked you behind your back, that’s their own business. It’s not as if I made them part of my life (but inevitably I did, and ah! That’s the essence of this entire story.)

Spicee’gurl? Umm-hmm. Pretty suspicious right there --- as for me, depending on how you interpreted my nick, of course, you could come up with your own conclusions. But she intrigued me --- face it, the prospect of meeting a woman always intrigues me --- eventually after bumping into her a few times I summoned enough courage, or stupidity, or both, to PM her and go for a short chat. I wasn’t sure how exactly I went about it, but she found my job at that time cool. She herself was one of the minor movers and shakers in the entertainment industry, on radio, and on one of my favorite stations at that. To cut through to the chase, we exchanged numbers and I promised to call her as soon as I got back to Manila.

So I did. In an age of pre-text mania, exchanging numbers and calling over the landline still does the trick. Yes I’m old, but I’m not THAT old.

She had the smoky, husky voice which would drive a lot of men crazy. As to the rest of possible reactions, I’ll leave it to your imagination. I had run up a considerable record in terms of telephone conversations, and actually it was rather my M.O. since I also did well whenever I talk with a girl on the phone. Something about my vocal register and how I sound on the phone creates the impression that I am one hunky-dunky fellow. As to the after the phone conversations… well, closing the deal is a whole new ballgame in itself.

It wasn’t long that I wanted to know who she really was --- one could tell a lot of things not only from the things they say on the phone but more importantly, how they said it and what they didn’t say. I could tell that she was a generous, giving, loving person on one hand; on the other I knew she had very special and particular needs.

After a few conversations and several talk-a-thons and sleepless nights (sidebar: I missed some work because of her, but then again, if it weren’t her as the reason, I would have missed work anyway --- I was that bad), I was hooked. Tell you what, we were both hooked, I guess, but if there is a degree to such things, I had it worse. Or better, if you prefer to look at it another way.

In the beginning, it was so intense that I had to say “time out” even to myself, something she didn’t like when she felt I was taking her for granted. It was hard going back and forth to Manila (eventually, she was the one who called me in Pampanga). What added to the tension was that up to a few months (two, three, I no longer recall) we hadn’t even MET. I recall this time when my buddy Des and I were outside our dormitory having a smoke (those were the days when we were nicotine addicts), and the phone rang. No one else was in the house. I ran into the house, and before I knew it, slipped on a floor mat (image: Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in “Home Alone”) and landed on my phat ass, just in time for Des to see what had happened to me. The phone stopped ringing right after that, of course.

Still we hadn’t met, even though we always had promised that we would, eventually. I couldn’t say that I was in love with her. I wish I could have, really. Something about the way she arranged things where we couldn’t meet was fishy indeed, and it drew a cloud over me.

So it was, finally, that it came to me that I should try to see where she lived. I knew where she worked; although I hadn’t gone to the station myself I knew its general location. In fact, my buddy Robert also had a friend who worked at the same station and said a few things (good and bad) which made me at the very least, all the more curious.

Eventually I twisted Robert’s arm (I had a pathetic set of wheels, and I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel) and got him to drive me to her place.

What did we do? Basically we waited around for a few minutes. All through the trip Robert was going on about how I was such a stalker. He was right. I didn’t even have the guts to tell her I would visit. The thought of me acting at that time makes me cringe right now as I write these words. I was such a wuss.

Later on, I played the innocent when I introduced to her my friend Miggy and his girlfriend at that time because she was one of the talent scouts for a new softdrink commercial. It was actually a legitimate excuse for us to meet, and as I had expected in the back of my mind, no sparks flew.

Can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, but I was.

Things promptly went downhill after we met; maybe it’s because we had too different expectations to really make it work. I was 25 and in the flush of my youth; I had been grasping for a direction the past few years before that time and a relationship would have been great but the most inappropriate thing for me right then. Especially with her, who was moving into another phase of her life and she had a whole lot of expectations I wasn’t prepared to meet. I stopped calling and gave work (the lack or surfeit of it) as my reason. It didn’t surprise me when I found out, that she had hooked up with someone else just a few weeks later.

It was more fun, in its own twisted and perverse way, when I was daydreaming about her.

Ugh, I’m such a stalker! Can’t say I’m not proud of it, hahahahaha!


* * * * * * * *

And oh, this post is also dedicated to Ferdinand “Ferdie the Birdie”-“Don Johnson”-“God’s gift to women (feeling)”-“nakapagtatakang pinapatulan pa ng various hot chicks” Tarlengco, who once came up, quite triumphantly, with this statement:

Alam ninyo, ang babae, kapag mailap o ‘di kaya’y naiilang sa akin, tiyak, may gusto siya sa akin!

(roughly translates to: “You know, if a girl tries to avoid me or even perhaps if she is uneasy around me, I’m certain that she has a crush on me!”)

The buddies of course laughed with an uproar when we heard that. You’ve got to love the guy for you to swallow it down. Good times all around, of course. But I never did doubt that his belief, which we fittingly named the Tarlengco Theory, worked for him. Even though his luck with the ladies seemed a bit uneven (he always managed to attract the hard-luck ones or the crazies before the “decent” ones, but THAT’s another story in itself), finally he struck gold with God’s grace (yes, he really needed it) and settled down late last year. Here’s to your firstborn, buddy, sana magmana sa ina! (hahahahaha!)

The Tarlengco Theory was one of the high-water marks of our bachelorhood --- we were coming into our own, we were chock-full of great ideas (like the equally-absurd “Santos syndrome,” the “ISK” fraternity and the Tree that Gerard Fertilized With His Piss, “The Vow,” the “I’ll F*ck You- You F*ck Me” concepts of leadership, and all-night driving sprees --- again, stories for another day), and most of all, we loved the ladies and if we were lucky enough, one or two of them would love us back.

Let’s all sing “It’s All Behind Us Now” by Patti Austin (we did, one time, in my house, believe you me, each one taking his turn at the karaoke machine) in fond memory…