Wednesday, January 31, 2007


If of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, "It might have been,"
More sad are these we daily see:
"It is, but hadn't ought to be."
--- Bret Harte, American fictionist and poet (It's not the WWE wrestler, stoopid!)

For my parents, who would have celebrated their forty-ninth wedding anniversary today. I wonder how our lives would have turned out had my father lived longer.

In "Dune," the Lady Jessica Atreides speaks of the hard days as an acolyte and of her hate of the Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam. She, however, cannot help but love her teachers, her tormentors.

For some time, I hated what my father represented and his control over our lives. Now that I am older, I am glad to have gained some perspective. But it was impossible not to have loved him. How I wish I could generate that kind of devotion that he did. If I could only do half as much, I would be a well-loved and when I pass, a deeply-mourned man.

* * * * *

This is also a misty-eyed memorial for my friend Miggy Baluyut, who passed on two years ago earlier this month. Oh, what could he have been!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Imagining Movies

Just when I thought I should be considering serious literature...

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Slash of the Pen

Time was when communicating via e-mail was virtually unknown, mobile phones were not de rigueur, getting to talk with someone was somewhat of a romantic exercise. Asking for a phone number represented the highlight of a boy-girl interaction (well, I did go to an exclusive boys' school, so that was that). It meant taking the first step in achieving the Holy Grail.

Or so it seemed at that time. After the few obligatory phone calls, if there's a hint of the girl liking you, you work on her a little, sweat out the little details, find out some juicy secret that will get you some leverage, and then...

"Gagamitin ko ang telepono!" ("I have to use the phone!") Your elder brother or sister or worse your parents have to use the phone. It's either on her end or yours... So sod off, get off the line, that marathon conversation record ground to dust, or to use a better expression, vanishing into thin air.

Since this was high school and getting permission (and the money) to go anywhere would be limited, there was one alternative - getting the girl's address and sending her a note now and then. It was my particular tactic during those years, and it almost always worked to perfection. I was a bumbler in most cases speaking face-to-face, a lot better on the telephone (I dug James Earl Jones and could pass off for someone a few years older, which was a solid hit with the ladies), but on paper, I was a swashbuckling swordsman. As the phrase went, at least.

Coupled with the help of my sisters' collection of prized stationery I could have gone anywhere. But the task, being easier than I thought, soon bored me ---which led me to conclude, just as Annie and Becky did, that verbal ability in men was overrated, but the hard part of it, was that, I realized that the same was true for women. So it could happen that one could put in three pages for a single letter and then get a short missive with no substance at all.

(Ehem, that's in the line of sour graping, Chief. Take it back! Take it back!)

Anyway, even if I did notice, I didn't mind - after all, beautiful but intellectually challenged girls can get an education. The - er, how do I put it - appearance-challenged smart ones would have a hard time making themselves over. Naturally, they were more interesting. Still, like me, they were more likely into pretty boys or, as most girls my age then desired, the ones with a cool or hip edge.

But that didn't stop me at all. I didn't read "Cyrano de Bergerac" then but I was the Cyrano to my brother's Christian for his first girlfriend. Though that relationship eventually soured for a host of reasons, I felt really good about how it came about. To his credit, my brother 'fessed up and to her credit, the girl was of a more open mind and accepted him anyway.

After high school the real world interrupted and literary legerdemain was replaced by smoke-and-mirrors, i.e. pretending to be someone else, a.k.a. lying. Or, if your stomach could stand it, huge doses of alcohol or perhaps the random recreational drug. Letters were reserved for some of my former trainees who were going on their graduation retreats - we were on the front end of the "recollection revolution" as these seminars were one of the best ways to meet members of the opposite sex, especially for the trainers.

The sword was getting some use, but would anyone use Excalibur to cut firewood or dress meat? There were of course, some heartbreaks --- as clever or as romantic I could get, I could not bear to be dishonest, and quite frankly, trying to be subtle can get you as much censure as plaudits. People misunderstand, and sometimes at the most inappropriate time.

So I put that part of me away, and spent the better part of the middle '90s writing lectures, research papers and prayer services.

The Internet boom and the sudden popularity of mIRC ushered in a whole load of opportunities, and the cloak of anonymity helped even more. Thus I became a creature of the chatrooms. But soon the novelty faded, and after two near-hits (which I'm glad I missed), I'm glad that episode is done.

(Sidebar: the pederast in me would have to admire the gumption/soullessness of those predators over the Internet. Both victims and the captured felons get their just deserts.)

And then GSM became a household name and the texting revolution was on.

Now, I was never really a fan of text, primarily because it made you stupid and a wastrel at the same time (a fact alcoholics are well-versed in), and call me old-fashioned, but it never did take. So it has been since then.

Now, I still put away my gift, a sword still put away. That didn't mean, of course, I didn't get to use axes or knives...

I still dream when I can unsheath the sword and wield it in the name of true love.


Give me a chance to catch my breath
'Cause I'm in a state of awe
Guess miracles do never cease
For we're back together now

Pardon me please if I pinch myself
So to know this is not a dream
As I reminisce the love we shared
And the pain there was between

Look at the clouds in the sky
They seem so happy now
Look at the sun, feel its rays
With such a smiling face
Maybe we can't but maybe we can
With the love that we're feeling inside
Share it with all the world and see each heart
Kiss lonely good-bye

If given a chance to live again
I'd change not a single thing
'Cause that little change could sadly mean
That you to me Fate wouldn't bring

Partly I cry for those lonely nights
And a heartache I thought couldn't end
Yet joyfully I cry cause I know our love
We won't let us lose again, never again

Look at the clouds in the sky
They seem so happy now
Look at the sun, feel its rays
With such a smiling face
Maybe we can't but I know we can
With the love that we're feeling inside
Share it with all the world and see each heart
Share it with all the world and see each heart
Share it with all the world and see each heart
Kiss lonely good-bye

Share it with all the world and see each heart
Kiss lonely good-bye

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Death in the Family

Life goes on a different phase when you realize that you don't look around for the people before you to see who has gone, but to find out those who are still around.

I had one of these long-chats over Gmail with my buddy Des and he has remarked how the dynamics between our generation and our parents has changed. It isn't that we didn't worry about them before, but now we worry about them as if they needed someone to mind them all the time. Like children.

Still, some things of our lives I wish wouldn't ever change. Now like how Archie has never gotten out of adolescence (we-ell, he did graduate from Riverdale High and has gone to Riverdale University), or how Beetle Bailey has gone through major periods of conflict - 'Nam, Iran/Iraq, Nicaragua/Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, Somalia part 1 (will part 2 come next?), Afghanistan, Operation Desert Eagle - without so much as getting deployed and having his head shot off? I can take Garfield - he must be on his third or fourth life now, but Jon staying ageless and single? (small voice: Oh, but he can, now, Chief, just like you! LOL!)

Which is why the recent passing of creative force Iwao Takamoto just on the heels of the passing of Joe Barbera, has given me some pause.

I grew up on HB Cartoons - as a kid, I lapped them all up, including those of other animation companies, and of course, the Japanese ones. Each highlight in my childhood would be marked by a memorable cartoon or TV show. And, there at the end of each show, the names of Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, the Spears-Ruby tandem, Iwao Takamoto were familiar, as were the other names of Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc. I even learned to listen to the voice artists and see which ones sounded the same.

They were the names from my childhood, and as they leave the face of this earth, I am reminded of how well past that time of wonder and innocence has passed, and how more urgently must I make new memories.

The mecha animes were the frontline favorites - but the dictatorship saw them as challenges, and proscribed them. I was in second grade when we passed the time away even as our parents feared that Skylab, its orbital route decaying, would crash into the Philippines (the millennials had a field day talking about the end of the world). But Saturday Fun Machine (God bless you RPN 9, you were The Undisputed Leader then) was showing from 8:00 am (following Herbert W. Armstrong's ministry) and everything in the world was well...

Breakfasts were served with the weekly "sermon" from our Mom (the house was always in bad shape for some reason, and yet it still stands today), and then when she was gone, my brother and I would shirk our chores for the most part, or else do them quickly after the shows were over. When "The Great Space Coaster" was on it was time to shovel the food down quickly or else you'll miss "The Lone Ranger."

If chores had to be done, I always begged to see "Zorro" or "Blackstar" even though they showed re-runs (mostly, they were). "Super Six" was a letdown but it had a really funny soundtrack, and then the "Superfriends" took center stage, with the new Space Ghost/Herculoids combo also grabbing some attention...

"Scooby Doo" was always a fixture because he was the most popular crossover (Scooby Doo's Laff-a-Lympics), aside from him having his own show. Scooby was on the daily late afternoon shows, he was on weekends, and at times the Machine would break out a special. I always hated Scrappy though, but Scooby was cool. He was the guy you'd love to hang around with, though he was a dog. You could pick on him and he won't mind, and in the end, he would deliver in the clutch. Scooby was part of my generation's consciousness, and the gang found its own analogs among our friends (that's why I've always hated being the nerd, because that meant being Velma, and no way would I want to be the girl! Shoot, we can have a discussion why smart women tend to get picked on, while Daphne will always grab men's attention. But I digress...)

It was bad when the Machine cut itself to two parts and just made room for noontime's "Eat Bulaga" and its early afternoon soap companion, and though the afternoon toons often sucked (the Archie adaptations lost a lot of edge, and worse, played Archie straight while Reggie was the goofball), I kept on lapping them up.

Yellow Fever came during the latter part of grade school and the guys were addicted to The Transformers, and it rankled that it had to be shown on the same time as the Tuesday night basketball game. We had a lone color TV set, and since viewing Optimus Prime in action was a must in full color, pissing off the old man, who I believe up to now was one of the most tolerant people on earth, was also, by that token, a must-do as well. There was He-Man too, but I couldn't stand it that the people showed no nipples.

High school came and though girls became a lot more interesting, I never lost my love for animated shows and children's shows.

Even as an adult, I never tire of seeing them.

And now, the soul of Scooby Doo, just as distinctive as the voice actors who portrayed him, is gone.

The winds are changing, the tides are shifting, and life is pulling away. So swim and flow with its current more attentively now, for the journey may end sooner for you, or those around you, than you think.

* * * * *
This post is also dedicated to Sonny Aquino from my high school batch, who reportedly died of an aneurysm the day after New Year's. While we weren't in the same social circle, Sonny eventually became a man among men in college. It's tough to get these sobering reminders, but even so, I'm certain Sonny did more of living his fair share of life to make his 30-odd years in this life worthwhile.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Yada Yadas

And it's not even the middle of January yet...

Wouldn't it be nice that your life would be more interesting?

Wouldn't it be nice that people would fall all over the stuff that you're writing? I mean, one can write better than some other folks, but they still get more hits ...

Wouldn't it be nice that girls will fall all over you, but only the ones whom you really like?

Wouldn't it be great to be doing EXACTLY what you want, and get paid handsomely for it?

And this one, for real (as if the others weren't) wouldn't it be great to fit into your old clothes (not the ones from grade school, of course)?

If wishes were trees... well, so sayeth a wizened man, "Out of snow, you can't get cheesecake."

Huh? Sounds eeriely like, "When your shoe fits, the moon is full!"

* * * * *

(K. Cobain, Nirvana)

It's so relieving
To know that you're leaving as soon as you get paid
It's so relaxing
To hear that you're asking wherever you get your way
It's so soothing
To know that you'll sue me, this is starting to sound the same

I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad

In her false witness, we hope you're still with us,
To see if they float or drown
Our favorite patient, a display of patience,
Disease-covered Puget Sound
She'll come back as fire, to burn all the liars,
And leave a blanket of ash on the ground

I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad

It's so relieving
To know that you're leaving as soon as you get paid
It's so relaxing
To know that you're asking wherever you get your way
It's so soothing
To know that you'll sue me, this is starting to sound the same

I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad
I miss the comfort in being sad

* * * * *

My buddy Owen (name withheld upon request, hehe) posted a little something on the late Saddam Hussein. Let's go with the "yeah, yeah, yeahs" on this one... NOT! Sorry, dude, the man is gone, yes, but his death solves nothing. Best emotion for me on this one --- goodbye, cockroach!

Which reminds me of something I read long before. I loved Herman Wouk - still do - and in his foreword to "War and Remembrance" he quotes the French philosopher Julien Benda. I can't quote this word for word (and the book is back home in the Philippines), but Benda says that the end of conflict comes not from despising war but from truly loving peace. When we call forth violence to end violence, we solve little.

Benda, again, “Peace is only possible if men cease to place their happiness in the possession of things 'which cannot be shared,' and if they raise themselves to a point where they adopt an abstract principle superior to their egotisms. In other words, it can only be obtained by a betterment of human morality.”

Victor Henry, in "War and Remembrance": "Either war is finished, or we are."

* * * * *

The last thing to end this post: "Why is it that we don't always recognize the moment when love begins but we always know when it ends?" (Harris Telemacher, as played by Steve Martin, "L.A. Story")

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Saying Goodbye to 2006

It's been a long Hajj holiday and my neurons are just firing up for the coming year's onslaught.

I'd like to say goodbye to 2006 with a few questions I filched from the Dear Me blog. I didn't ask permission, so thanks for the rip-off.

What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before? :: Hmm… interesting question – I didn’t do anything “new” as to new activities. Maybe I should have gone wakeboarding or some extreme stuff. No, nothing new in terms of activities – but in terms of the degree to which I did things, I’ve gone a few notches higher this year in terms of professional achievement. Probably admit my feelings for a person in a blog post.

Did you keep your New Year's resolutions and will you make more for next year? :: I’m pretty much on the same program since the start of 2005 and I plan to stick to it. The faith life part is still difficult. I am not on a higher plane of piety, though I’d like to think I’m more spiritual. The rest? I still don’t have a steady relationship, but I’d like to think I should be a better person to love than yearning for someone to love me.

Did anyone close to you give birth? :: I wasn’t there, but a few of my friends or their wives gave birth this year.

Did anyone close to you die? :: It was a bad year for deaths, especially early in November, and served up a grim reminder that it’s time to share love when one has the time and the opportunity.

What countries did you visit? :: I specifically visited India as my first time. I also visited Dubai for two stretches – one for leisure and one for work. I also visited Bahrain. Stopovers in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. That is about it.

What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006? :: As a whole, more equanimity and determination. Personally, a girlfriend. Materially, my own vehicle. The rest? Always nice to have gadgets, but after the first two, the rest is dross.

What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory and why? :: June 16 – the day my middle sister got married. A number of things make this day memorable, but mostly because she was happy and she got one of the things she had wanted for a long, long time.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? :: Personally, I’d rather not crow about achievements. It’s the year of my emotional roller-coaster ride at work. I started with negative energy, almost got myself into “let’s move on” and now am swinging toward “let’s get great things done” mode. This year was a gradual acceleration of my development as a professional – I wouldn’t say I deserve to be a manager, NOT YET, but I was a lot closer to it this year than I was in each of the last two years. On another level, there were the shows we produced in the organization, my achieving Competent Communicator with the Toastmasters, but that’s just about it.

Did you suffer illness or injury? :: As documented here.

What was the best thing you bought? :: I did not buy anything of note this year except a video camera, and it’s not the best thing to buy, though I’m happy with it.

Whose behavior merited celebration? :: Me? Nah! I’d like to say those of my students and my actors from “Apat na Sulok ng Pag-Ibig.”

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? :: I’ve tried my utmost best not to be cynical. I earned this tag fifteen years ago from Monic N. and never got to shake it off. But back to the question --- politicians from the world over, specifically from the United States and the Philippines, have appalled me even further. What saddens me is that so many of our countrymen fail to put the political situation in perspective. Nope, I haven’t gotten depressed over someone else’s behavior.

Where did most of your money go? :: To the tune of Destiny’s Child – “Bills!” I’m still on track on my savings program but I haven’t been able to make it progress the way I wished.

What made you really really really excited? :: Nothing really. Except the prospect of going home.

What song will forever remind you of 2006? :: I haven’t really thought about it. Most of the stuff I liked this year were released in 2005 or earlier. And, since I’m an oldies fan, nothing piqued my interest this year.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder? :: Net overall, happier. There are peaks and valleys of course, but overall, it has been a better year. Nothing to top 2004, not yet, but one always hopes the coming year would be just as great as that year.
  • thinner or fatter? :: (Um, cough! Cough!) Fatter.
  • richer or poorer? :: Since I’m less in debt, richer. But since there are higher expectations, slightly poorer.

What do you wish you'd done more of? :: Concentrate on work, say nice things to my mother, be more thoughtful and considerate of others. Exercise!

What do you wish you'd done less of? :: Eating, lazing in front of my desk for stretches where I could have been more productive.

How did you spend Christmas? :: Christmas Eve I was with my colleagues at my boss’ home (while the boss was away) and the next day I was at work because we had no break. I spent Christmas evening at home.

How did you spend New Year's? :: The fellas wanted another edition of Christmas Eve and we did the same. Aside from eating, we whiled away most of New Year’s Day watching videos.

Did you fall in love in 2006? :: I wish I did, but it was just an infatuation. I had several, but documented only two I can think of. It was “just my imagination, running away with me…”

How many one-night stands? :: The Lord’s honest truth? Just one.

What were your favorite TV programs? :: I got glued so much to “24” that I stopped watching it on TV and got myself the DVDs.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? :: I hope I have enough love in me for me to hate someone. But there’s no one out there enough for me to hate. I’d rather have no feeling for them at all.

What was the best book you read? :: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. As a series, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is tops.

What was your greatest musical discovery? :: No one really, but I did like the work of Sitti Navarro since most of us in the family really dig Bossa Nova.

What did you want and get? :: I got the vacation I needed, and that was about it.

What did you want and not get? :: Same thing as always each year since year-end 2002 – a girlfriend. The rest? I wanted a bigger raise, naturally, but my performance did not merit it.

What was your favorite film of this year? :: I only watched a few new movies this year because Saudi Arabia is not exactly a movie-lover’s haven. Of the ones I saw on the big screen, the best one I watched was “V for Vendetta” but my personal enjoyable cinema experience was “Mission Impossible III.” My personal DVD favorite was “The Motorcycle Diaries” and that catchy tune “Chipi Chipi” (which hasn’t left my brain since I first heard it).

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? :: It was the opening day of our production of “Apat na Sulok ng Pag-Ibig.” I was struck to find almost nobody within my circle in Saudi Arabia remembered my birthday because of so many work and community commitments. That hurt me big-time, but they did have a great comeback anyway. I turned 34 (the numbers get a bit uglier and uglier each year).

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? :: See question on getting what I wanted.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006? :: Fat Boys ‘R’ Us.

What kept you sane? :: Am I?

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? :: Keeley Hazell! But that’s just my hormones talking. No one in particular.

What political issue stirred you the most? :: It’s enough to get stirred up on politics, at least in the case of the Philippines. The country is a mess. People say that all countries are f*cked up to some degree, but it’s the Philippines to whom I belong, so I'd get stirred up as much as I want.

Whom did you miss? :: Mostly, everything about home.

Who was the best new person(s) you met? :: No one new this year, at least in the category that could answer this question.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006. :: Among all my posts, this oneback in February was the best lesson I learned for 2006. It actually made my whole year.

Favorite memory of 2006? :: There are several, but the best would be the family’s road trips, first to Tagaytay, and then through Central and Northern Luzon, in June, to give my newlywed sister and her husband the semblance of a honeymoon. That, and being slightly heartbroken would be the most indelible memories. I’ll probably forget her face and almost everything she said, but I’m glad I felt what I felt just the same, even if the entire episode didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped.

Happiness and Creation

This New Year, I'd like to believe that I have been a more positive person than usual and that whatever challenges I faced this year, I worked harder on being part of the solution.

I had a bad start to 2006, starting first with the not-so-great year I had in 2005, though by the middle of the year I had recovered my stride and started to work with more energy. However, I find that I'm the thrall of these "energy pockets." I really need to be more consistent in the way I use my energy. Or, if I'm going to slump, it will be from "top-notch" to "good" instead of "good enough" to "really bad."

That is the probably the only resolution worth keeping, though working at a specific health goal would be good. I'd spare myself the hypocrisy of setting a non-existent target, but when I do find a good one, I'll stick to achieving it for the rest of the year.

Also, in keeping with the principle of "like attracting like" I will turn my thoughts to things that make me happy. The purpose of creation is to expand and evolve the universe to a higher state --- and our joy and happiness is critical to that expansion and evolution, even as our suffering and pain refines and shapes us to fully appreciate the wonder of our lives.

I'd like to hark back to the most recent happiness list I wrote in January last year.

And on to the new list - Happiness is:
  • Learning something new that kids/teenagers only do (being hip with the kids is still cool)
  • Eating something which has been lovingly prepared for you (no matter how horrible it tastes)
  • Freeing your underwear from the stickiness of your crack
  • Getting up in the morning without a headache or creakiness in the joints
  • Hearing that once-favorite song you had with your ex and finding yourself laughing over it
  • FINALLY receiving that long-awaited promotion
  • Treading the tightrope in a real difficult negotiation and getting through it
  • Being complimented on how you look better now that you've gotten old (er, mature)
  • De-clawing yourself and seeing all those shavings go down the trash can
  • The sights and smells of your favorite restaurant
  • Making a stupid gamble and then seeing it pay off
  • Burying a long jumper from half-court
  • The tight embrace of someone you love to keep you warm through the night.