Thursday, March 31, 2016

28

There’s still so much to learn and unlearn, to understand the misunderstanding and the misunderstood. It seems one cannot afford now the thrill of the perilous, of getting caught, or of getting caught and still getting away with it. Or can. It’s a matter of compromise and choice. Always, you choose the moment you want to celebrate and remember. I’ve made my choice, and this is to distance myself from everything that has distanced away from me. There is no need to force anyone from bridging the gap. Just acknowledge the gap, learn that a chasm between you, me, and everyone else may exist. Also, you cannot walk the same bridge that you have forgotten or have chosen to neglect. It never works that way. From what I’ve learned, this is how it is supposed to feel like when you reach a certain age: to be always almost there.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

too manny to mention


Several days have already passed since we’ve first heard Manny Pacquaio’s now infamous opinion on same-sex marriage which is, by extension, an opinion on homosexuality. It’s easy to read that between the lines. The furor over his remarks is a little downplayed now on social media and local television. But the fire is still burning.

“Mas masahol pa sa hayop.” Worse than animals. This is what Manny Pacquaio said when asked about his stance on gays and same-sex marriage. Clearly, the man does not know anything about the animal kingdom. Look at the penguins, Manny. Check out the seahorses, too, Manny.

Pacquaio’s views on same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community in general is not just an opinion. It is pure hate masked in religiosity, a faith blinded by scripture that is taken too literally. I mean, who in the right mind would think that anyone who does not match his principles is someone of lesser value? I have to say that Pacquaio just ruined the true meaning of Christianity.

There is a name for that. It’s bigot. Look it up in the dictionary. Also, check hypocrite.

As congressman who is consistently absent in the House of Representatives, has passed no bill or law, has worked so pretentiously on his image to become a Filipino hero, or basically has done nothing to improve our political conditions, now let us ask ourselves: What’s worse, a gay man’s union with another man or a man as stubborn, useless, and irresponsible as Pacquiao?

Of course, his supporters are quick to defend. They are even up in arms when Nike cuts its ties with Pacquaio, as if these guys can never accept the reality that everything one does has its corresponding consequence. Even if you are a has-been boxing champ. It’s actually as simple as Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you cannot take full responsibility of your actions, then it is high time that you grow up.

But, no, Manny’s defenders will never grow up. “It was just an opinion!” they would cry. “Everybody has the right to say their opinion!” Now, I’ll get this straight to the point. I am awfully tired of this excuse that I’d rather quote a statement from Filipino artist Gerry Alanguilan: “Hey, everyone’s got a stupid opinion. I’ve got one. You’ve got one. Politicians can have one. The problem with politicians is that their stupid opinions can become policy. And that I have a problem with.”

Big problem, indeed. And on his Instagram account, Pacquaio continues to post bible verses that suggest gay people should be put to death. Hay naku, Manny. For everyone’s sake, let’s get ourselves educated again with this book that every religious person and hypocrite alike loves to brandish in our faces.

The bible has enumerated some laws, and these laws are only supremely viable in the era these are written. One of these laws is a verse in the book of Leviticus that mentions a man sleeping with another man (that’s sex, to put it bluntly) being a grave sin. Yes, it is in the holy book. But this is the part wherein most people fail to understand and remember: historical context.

Human population before is not as overwhelming as we have right now. Overpopulation is clearly not their problem. That is why to ensure a family’s bloodline or a community’s heritage through the years, it is highly important for all to conceive and raise kids as much as they can. And since man cannot biologically conceive a child with another man, therefore, hitting the sack and banging the night away with the same sex is pointless.

Still with me? Now that’s the thing with historical context that most of our rabid religious friends will never acknowledge. Because if we do not apply the historical context of the bible, implementing every written law in it, then all of us are doomed and bound to hell. Because, you should know, the divine scripture also states that we must never eat anything with scales and fins that come from the sea, we should never wear gold, we cannot have tattoos or piercings, we cannot braid our hair, women should never speak in church, and many, many more.

And yet, once this historical context is pointed out, the bigots are quicker to change the topic. That is why in the wake of this sports icon’s blunder, it is troubling and painful to learn that more and more people are still peeking out of their caves to dismiss the concerns and welfare of the LGBTQ community because there are other “important” matters to think of. There are some family members and “friends” who proudly proclaim they can love the sinner but hate the sin. Dear, that is the most pointless and heartless way of showing your concern. Here, take this necklace with a bling that says “Former Friend of Fred.”

Worse are some people who resort to shaming and insults. There’s this person who is accusing me of being overly sensitive and over reacting about human rights, and suggesting that we better talk about China’s missiles instead. This is so difficult to fathom. Because when it comes to human rights, shouldn’t anyone’s universal and default reaction be sensitive? It’s human rights we’re talking here, not some paper clip! Without human rights, your mother can be raped, your little brother can work as a slave in a factory, your father can be kidnapped for sex trade, or your first-degree cousin can be put to death anytime by anyone. Of course, my sensitivity on matters such as my dignity and rights should be on hyper-drive. If there’s just a Baygon for hypocrites and empty-heads, I’d buy it in bulk. As in boxes. Isang spray ka lang. Pak!

You see, I’ve been insulted many times before and today. Some are bearable while some are just too violent to share even to your closest friends. “Hambog, weird, lami birahan” just to name a few. These have happened in the workplace, in school, even in places where such labeling unlikely strikes. What’s scary is that some people could lash out without understanding my side of things. If I respond to their words, they reveal their claws and lash out even more. It’s frustrating, it’s tiring. And if it’s my turn to respond with a measured act that counters the seriousness of their offense, they cry out and instantly take the role of a “victim.” I am too old for this vicious cycle of bullying, and I think I can handle anything that comes my way. But sometimes, it’s just too much. If one crosses the line, all I can do is just to remind anyone that, “Hey, that’s not right.” It always pains me to remind people of this.

Pacquaio’s remarks did create a divide in my life. And with all honesty, it is traumatic. Although it is hard, with the number of heartbreak increasing whenever I discover someone I know and respect has bigoted views about the LGBT community, I am still thankful that all of this happened. It is truly in the darkest, most painful episode in life that you will know who your real friends and comrades are. Through this ordeal, suddenly, I have been united with my truest allies. I am so jubilant to learn I have some people who’d always have my back.

Now here’s the thing: Each day is a struggle for anyone who is living on this earth, regardless of gender or orientation, age or class. That is why if we simply accept the core values of all forms of spirituality in all kinds of religion, we will learn (soon, hopefully) that respect, compassion, and love are all we ever need to make things a little bit better. Love, above everything else.

And as a reminder, let us learn from our mistakes, and start growing up from there.


[ illustration by Rob Cham ].

Saturday, February 13, 2016

family comes first


Joy and not duty. Contentment and not perfection. I believe these are the few core ideals that constitute the many variations of love, especially when it comes to family. That is why on pre-Valentines night, I met my mother, some of my siblings, and pamangkins. We spend each other’s company over good food and funny stories. Finding love this February is as simple as going back to your roots. There’s no hurting this time.

don't mess with him


Some films, although anchored on a very thin plot, manage to reward their viewers with their rich sense of mythology, depth of characterization, and novelty. A perfect example is Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Imagine there was a time we were so engrossed on watching a little man trying to put a ring inside a volcano for almost 10 hours. “Deadpool,” the latest Marvel film directed by Tim Miller, also has a tissue-thin plot. Unfortunately, it was not able to duplicate what Jackson did with those three long movies. But, oh, it was so much fun. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is bursting with humor, most of them really dirty you need to keep it away from little kids. This film also makes you forget Reynolds has two superhero movies before this. And although the jokes are mostly hehe instead of haha, this film has its charms. Case in point: our foul-mouthed superhero has a habit of breaking the fourth wall. For everyone’s understanding, that means he gets to talk to the theater audience, slows down an action scene to think out loud, or cues the music to his liking. But this narrative device was not manipulated to its full potential. Aside from a totally boring nemesis called Ajax, my biggest issue with this film is how it re-tooled Colossus. His characterization in the previous X-Men films is far from the robotic and seemingly dull Colossus we have in this latest version. And instead of a hulking mass of metal, he looks rubbery, thus, he looks CGI cheap. The director’s devotion to the source material is pitch-perfect. He gets the comics’ spirit. But this reverence has also translated the end product into something like a three-panel comic strip instead of a full-length movie. I felt betrayed. After all, I paid for a movie, right?

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Thursday, January 14, 2016

always



What is happening to the world? First, it was David Bowie. And now, Alan. Many people would think it is strange, and perhaps downright silly and melodramatic, to be moved and shattered by someone’s death, by a loss of someone you are not personally acquainted with. Alan Rickman, among the many brilliant and indelible roles he had played on screen and on stage, will always be Professor Snape to me. Rickman’s characterization captured Snape’s soul in the Harry Potter books, it was a soul that reflects many ordinary people’s: pained, complex, human. I may not know this person well, but through him I know myself well. Farewell, Professor. I raise my wand for you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

may the force be with you


There is something inherently manipulative about J. J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (although not explicitly mentioned in its title, it is Episode 7 of the franchise). It smothers you with nostalgia on all fronts, and almost every scene works like an ex-lover trying to worm its way back into your life. I’ve seen it twice in 2D and 3D, and it works. It works really well. (The movie, not the ex-lover). It made me remember my elementary years, around Grade 4, wherein I saved up money just to get this boxed set of the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes 4 to 6) at downtown Plaza Marcela’s music and video store. P599 was huge for my budget back then, especially for a ten-year-old, but I managed with all the prize winnings I got from poster-making competitions, my daily baon, and the coins that I could find in every corner of the house. After class one afternoon, I went back to the store and bought that big black box. Yes, all the effort was worth it. And this is the same special feeling I got after watching the latest installment. Abrams’ reverence to the past and levity are ingredients missing and desperately needed in the trilogy of prequels, which comes as a surprise because George Lucas, the mastermind of the Star Wars universe, is at the helm of those films (Episodes 1 to 3). Even the actors chosen for the new characters look classic, particularly Daisy Ridley’s Rey (such a magnificent face!). It’s as if they belong to the same film that is first released in 1977. There is no dull exposition of politics here, just the good old tale of The Force and both ends of its spectrum. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is effective enough as a baddie in this space opera, too, and even if he has yet to match the iconic stature of Darth Vader in the original trilogy, his character make it up with menacing tantrums. You really shouldn’t be on his bad side. A lot happens in this movie, and to avoid spoiling anyone I believe I’d just have to leave some important questions here: 1) Is it just me or is some of the notes in John Williams’ fantastic musical score sound a bit like his work in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”? 2) Am I the only one who thinks BB-8 is like an adorable, needy cat? 3) What can Oscar Isaac not do?

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The A-Z Guide to the Bohol Climate Walk 2015


There are days when one needs to break away from routine—rush hour, school, job, our petty primetime news. And for three days and three nights, I wrenched myself out of anything familiar and magnified my support for a call that is close to my heart: Preserving the beauty of my province and its people.

Last November 27 to 30, I took part in the Bohol Climate Walk 2015, a journey on foot from the city of Tagbilaran to the municipality of Anda and an activity that is in sync with many other walks from around the world. Part of the challenge was to answer the questions, What is climate change and how is this walk relevant in addressing it? My answers would probably reach the same distance as the miles we have covered, so I have here the A-Z guide to our advocacy and this special event in Bohol.

*

A – Anda. We, the Climate Walkers, chose the municipality of Anda because its distance from Tagbilaran closely covers the symbolic mark we want to achieve, which was close to a hundred kilometers. It doesn’t hurt that its beach, with long stretches of powdery white sand, was perfect for our feet that endured a seemingly endless hike.


One of the few breaks during our first walk at night in Albur, 12 km from Tagbilaran.
B – Bohol. It is just one of the many island provinces around the world that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. If conditions would worsen, such as sea levels rising due to the melting of the icecaps, it will end up sinking along with Maldives or the Marshall Islands.


Day 2 begins in Loay, 18 km from Tagbilaran.
C – Climate change. The walk was done to raise awareness on climate change and its immediate preventive measures. This include, among others, eradicating bio-fuel and coal as energy sources in Bohol. After all, there is no such thing as “clean coal.”

Rest stop in Lila, 28 km from Tagbilaran.

D – Distance. Whether the distance we covered is an Olympian feat or not, that we made it through kilometers of concrete, asphalt, and rough roads is a sign that our conviction to our advocacy is as strong as our bodies. “Mind over matter” truly shined.


Last minute reminders in Dimiao.
E – Education. It all begins here and now, no matter the age of its audience. In fact, climate change awareness should not be confined only in classrooms, laboratories, conference rooms, and plenary halls. It should be ingrained in our daily lives.


Everyone's pumped up for the hike to Garcia Hernandez.
F – Future generations. Our efforts to mitigate climate change are all for the next batch of thinkers and doers. Without a habitable world to live in, we are putting our children and their children at risk.


On our way to Valencia, 42 km from Tagbilaran.
G – Greenhouse gas. The thicker it gets in our atmosphere, the more heat is trapped in our planet. This leads to erratic weather conditions and stronger typhoons. Even the ordinary act of burning our garbage is a source of greenhouse gases.

H – Hashtag. Today would be perfect chance to make good use of your social media. Check out these hashtags on Facebook to learn more about our advocacy: #boholclimatewalkers #boholclimatewalk2015 #cleanenergybohol #climatemarch #climatejustice and #climaterevolution

I – Idea. Everything starts with this. That is why the recently concluded Climate Change Conference in Paris, attended by most of the world’s leaders, was a landmark event where ideas to solve the consequences of an abused environment were shared. I is also for Invest. Although clean and alternative sources of energy are undeniably expensive at face value, the benefits we could reap from them outweighs every peso spent. Instead of banking our tax money (and our lives) on limited energy sources like coal and oil, it is high time that we invest in the sustainable solar and wind power.

J – Justice. Climate justice is an extension of basic human rights. This is a call for all powerful first-world countries to reduce their carbon emissions since countries that are defenseless and less fortunate, like the Philippines, are those that face the consequences of their neglectful acts.


Day 3 begins in Garcia Hernandez, 53 kilometers from Tagbilaran.

K – Knowledge. You know what they say about it, right? Knowledge is power. With the right arsenal or learning, we can combat the destructive effects of climate change. (See “Education”).


L – Love. There is no force purer and stronger than this. Everything that we do, we do for the love of all things good, our brothers and sisters, our nation, and our Earth.


Cool down in Jagna, 63 km from Tagbilaran.

M – Music. During our breaks in the hike, we listened not just to Christmas songs, but also to the sounds of birds chirping, tree leaves rustling, and the crashing of sea waves against cliffs that lifted our spirits. These are the unique melodies of life that are indeed hard to replace once our environment is wrecked. Let’s keep Mother Nature singing.


Living on the edge.

N – Nature. This is where all of mankind’s resources come from. Therefore, if it is laid to waste, I guess we need to start looking for new ways of living.

O – Organizations. The event was a success because of other organizations like the Bohol Outdoor Adventure Team and Bohol Goodwill Volunteers, Inc., and the private citizens who made the climate walk smooth and bearable.


At the public park in Duero, 73 km from Tagbilaran.
P – Preparedness. If you want to take a 99-kilometer walk (or any distance, for that matter), plan ahead and condition your mind, body, and spirit weeks before the big day. Make a complete list of the things you need and limit it to the necessities to keep your load light.


Q – Quality of life. This should be more than just about eating three meals in a day or having a comfortable bed to sleep at night. As responsible citizens, we should think and act on climate change today, not only for ourselves but also for the rest of humankind.

R – Reality. Climate change is not some future event that we must prevent. Unfortunately, it is already happening, and we must do our best to prevent it from worsening. There are deniers out there, so be careful what you read and hear.

S – Sustainability and solid waste management. The former speaks of a capacity to be productive for a long time. This term fits Bohol’s need for better energy sources because coal and fossil fuel do not last. The latter, on the other hand, refers to safe, efficient, and cost-wise disposal and recycling of our wastes. This has been circulated to the public again and again, yet most of us fail to implement this.

T – Tagbilaran City. This is where the walk began. At Plaza Rizal on November 27 at around 2PM, people from various walks of life converged to take the first step of the Bohol Climate Walk and to rally for a more livable Bohol.


All set for the last push in Guindulman, 83 km from Tagbilaran. 
U – Understatement. After the Bohol Climate Walk, every complaint about the pains of going to somewhere like the market or bank has become something of an exaggeration. Because if we have survived almost a hundred of kilometers of walking from point A to point B, then going to the nearest café should not be a problem. U is also for unity. Solving a problem such as climate change is not a job for a singular person. In fact, it requires all units of society to work together.


The Climate Walkers found a pile of garbage along a major street in Valencia.
V – Valencia. During our walk, it broke our hearts to see a huge pile of non-biodegradable garbage on the street a few meters away from the municipal hall and across the Mayor Pablo Lim Memorial Astrodome. It was also near a church. So what happened to cleanliness is next to godliness?


W – Walking city. Tagbilaran City has the potential to become like Venice or Barcelona, where one can walk around the streets to revel in its rich history and rustic beauty. Upon learning about the walk, my mentor, the poet Marjorie Evasco said, “This is a good example of what one can do every day for the environment and health. Walk at least 30 minutes to an hour. Walking should become again our favorite mode of transportation.”


Still standing tall in Anda after a long, long walk. 99 km covered.
X – Extinct, almost. For the first time, Bohol’s enduring icon, the tarsier, is now in the world’s most endangered list. The numbers of this gentle primate have dwindled due to habitat destruction. Losing this species, like many others that have gone extinct, would irrevocably shift the natural balance of nature.


With April, a participant and friend since college who is from Negros Island Region.
Y – Youth. The Philippines is a country with a massive youth demographic. Their strength in numbers, once tapped into a cause like Climate Justice, provides endless possibilities.


Packed and ready to return to Tagbilaran.
Z – Zero to hundred kilometers. We may have made our marks, having participated in the longest climate walk in the Philippines, but our climate actions do not end in Anda. We will keep on walking the talk.


The Bohol Climate Walkers of 2015 with Coco Loco's Robin Gurney.


Monday, December 07, 2015

for our country, for our planet


After enduring the Climate Walk last week, a 99-kilometer journey on foot (more on to that in another post), I’ve received news that made all the effort even sweeter. My poem “Poetry as a Lesson in Botany” will be published in the landmark book, Sustaining the Archipelago: An Anthology of Philippine Ecopoetry, to be edited by Rina Garcia Chua. My piece will be in the company of many others from here and abroad, and the anthology's foreword will be written by Dr. Greg Garrard of the University of British Columbia, author of books such as The Ecocriticism Reader and The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. Thank you, universe! There are those who question and criticize what I do and what I love to do in relation to my choices, passion, and advocacy, but here’s the thing: This is not only for me. Although a piece of literature is but a clump of words, it is the message that I hope would transcend all forms of constraint, either from the page or from a narrow mind. Carry on, guys!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

this is not the end


Sam Mendes returns at the helm of the 24th edition of the James Bond franchise “Spectre” after his work with “Skyfall” in 2012. But this new outing struggles to reach the splendid and masterful level of the latter film. A character in the movie tells James Bond he is a “kite dancing in the hurricane.” He is certainly referring to our hero treading dangerous grounds, but he could also be describing the film’s aimless plot. “Spectre” seems muddled by its effort of tying the loose ends of the past three Bond films. But, oh, there’s the great Christoph Waltz. He is perhaps one the few glimmers of prestige that the movie holds, until he is rendered into such poor characterization in the end. The hint, or should I say the twist (the white fluffy cat!), that Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser is somehow connected to a famous and notorious villain in the Bond universe is a wasted opportunity. He just ended up like that? For someone named Bond, nothing seems to stick around permanently to this guy for so many years. But fortunately, in this latest installment, there could finally be someone. And aside from the tinge of humor sprinkled all over the film (bringing to mind this year’s “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), that’s a welcome change. Note: Also, that opening credit was gorgeous to look at; it reminded me of sushi.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

give thanks

It is common knowledge that a person has to be thankful every single day, as if each is a gift you now or will deserve. I usually don’t feel that kind of day. Maybe I’m just not the type of person. But today is one of those rare episodes in life that I can genuinely say I am thankful for how one moment to another assembled into a glorious, fascinating whole. It is not only a day that reminds you there’s a lot to be done, but it is also a day that tells you there’s a lot you can actually do. Such as, among many other things: to be more honest, to be kinder, to try harder. To my friends, to my family, to nature, and to whatever divine being that works the gears of the entire cosmos, my heart is filled with gratitude. Thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

the haze

News of increasing risks of breathing problems and respiratory diseases in the Philippines caused by the haze from forest fires in Indonesia are finally getting into public consciousness. It is frightening it needs to be discussed more often. This pressing concern alone makes me think that it is now best that Filipinos need to regulate (or just stop merchandising and buying) firecrackers this Christmas season and the coming New Year’s Eve. There are just too much toxic elements in the air that people breathe these days. Besides, it’s 2015. We need to stop believing firecrackers drive the bad spirits away from our homes. What we need is to simply elect the right people for our government or ignore the late-night texts and calls from our jerk-ish exes. (Hello, do not ever dare follow Adele’s latest song!) This way, evil will definitely have a hard time getting into our lives.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

remember: never again


A few days ago marked the anniversary of one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history. On September 21, 1972, the Philippines was under Martial Law with Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation No. 1081. This further strengthened his authority as a dictator that eerily resembled Adolf Hitler’s rule. I was not born yet to witness and experience the horrors of these times, but this is no excuse to deny the truth that Marcos has never been the man many of his blind supporters think of. There are people out there who still believe that Ferdinand Marcos and his men were the best administration the Philippines ever had, as evidenced by the “prosperity” the nation had experienced during those years.

Yes, theaters and malls sprouted like mushrooms, celebrities and big-wig politicians from all over the world graced the country, but these were not signs of genuine prosperity. This was a false sense of development because underneath it all is a painful, dirty consequence that could outlive all of us in the present and the future. In order to achieve the kind of superficial beauty and short-sighted luxury for the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos borrowed US$10 billion (plus interest that continues to grow each year) from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, a debt or “utang” that we are all still paying to this very day. And you are asking why the Philippines has a tough time rising to its great potential?

The elections are fast approaching in the Philippines, and historical brainwashing has grown increasingly strong among the youths. Many millennials these days just shrug off what has happened on September 21, 1972 to party, to be apathetic, or worse, to be lured into believing false anecdotes of the past. Some kids would even proudly say on social media that Ferdinand Marcos was the best thing to ever happen in the Philippines. It is too painful to learn that a mind that young has already been tainted with lies.

Lastly, if you still believe in the revisionist tales you’ve been hearing lately, be ashamed, be very ashamed that you’d crumble to the floor and weep for the hundreds of lives who have not lived to tell their tragic stories. Always remember, these were the lives cut short by Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies to keep them in power for their own personal gain. We cannot let this happen again for we should never be fools to commit the same mistake twice. Love your nation. This is one way of truly loving yourself.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

our history is a lie


Jerrold Tarog’s “Heneral Luna” comes out of nowhere from a deluge of films about exes and mistresses. Going against the grain could be its asset or worse, if most filmgoers’ taste would still not change, it could be its failure. But I remain positive on this one. The story of “Heneral Luna” is culled directly from both history and imagination which translates to a work like nothing else that is shown on Philippine Cinema today. Rarely does a movie remind me of a rage that is solely dedicated to the ills of a guilt-ridden country like the Philippines. Fear of the radical, submission to blind faith, commitment over consequences—these are just a fraction of the many historical issues that rings true in the present. At times the film is burdened by its ambition and attempts at grandeur, its storytelling could’ve been tighter, but like its title character played with admirable dedication by John Arcilla, the movie trudges on to a solid, gut-wrenching third act that leaves you silenced until the end credits roll. It is bold, sometimes surprisingly funny, even risky, and is not ashamed of wearing its patriotic heart on its sleeve. Tarog’s visual mastery is on full display here, and that short flashback montage with Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata grabs me by the cuffs and tells me this movie is something really, really special. For anyone planning to visit the cinemas these days, I urge you to watch this one. It’s an eye-opener. It’s for your own good.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

the self as a performance to an audience, in five parts


Act I.
You are your home,
You are what you are at home,
You are what you are in your bedroom,
You are what you eat,
You are what you cook,
You are who you cook for,
You are what you took in the fridge,
You are the painting you hang in the living room,
You are the movies you watch,
You are the books you read,
You are the messages you delete after reading,
You are the magazines you browse,
You are the porn you browse,
You are the music you dance to,
You are the music you don’t listen to,
You are who you are when you don’t listen,
You are not the bangles you wear,
You are not the suits you fit,
You are not the heels you strut,
You are not Prada,
You are not Tom Ford,
You are not the thread count of your towel,
You are not the blanket that wraps your lover,
You are the sleep in your eyes at nine,
You are the glass of water by your bedside table,
You are the bottle of wine for the guests,
You are the fireplace during winter,
You are the windbreaker after spring,
You are the tight naked torso by summer,
You are what you need.

Act II.
You are your job,
You are the slides you make last night,
You are the overtime you take last night,
You are the residency you dream of in Sydney,
You are the blueprint of a two-storey house,
You are the bruise on your upper right arm,
You are the sprain in your left ankle,
You are the scars below your knees,
You are the birth control you take,
You are the idea of a girl with blond curly hair,
You are the result of a medical examination,
You are the HIV tests you regularly take,
You are the tricks you accomplish,
You are the lies that succeed,
You are the cost-cuts of higher management,
You are the opportunity you didn’t take,
You are the fortune you seek,
You are the fortune you don’t have,
You are the presidents you vote,
You are the vote,
You are the car you drive to work,
You are the calls you didn’t answer at work,
You are not what you are at work,
You are not the miles you run,
You are not the weights you lift at the gym,
You are not the strength of your grip,
You are not the curve of your ass,
You are not the girth of your cock,
You are not the heft of your breasts,
You are not what people say.

Act III.
You are your greeting in the morning,
You are your call at 2AM,
You are what happens after 8PM,
You are not the name you use on Grindr,
You are not the profile on Tindr,
You are your second and third Facebook accounts,
You are the drink you offer to a stranger at 10,
You are a stranger,
You are the stranger you take to your home,
You are the way you purse your lips,
You are the way you kiss,
You are the kiss you refuse to give,
You are what you do not do in bed,
You are the laughter you share,
You are your discussions over beer,
You are the friends you keep,
You are the friends you think you have,
You are the friends you choose,
You are the friends you use,
You are the beads of sweat at the bath house,
You are the grunt in the maze of hallways,
You are the gaze in the lobby,
You are the thrust of your hips in the dark,
You are the one-night stand,
You are what you stand for,
You are the hangover the following day,
You are the secrets you keep,
You are the family you go back to,
You are the people you miss,
You are the person you forgive.

Act IV.
You are the smile you flash to anyone,
You are the smile that twitches on one end,
You are the straight A’s in your report card,
You are the pat on the back from a colleague,
You are the certification you receive after the seminar,
You are the recommendation you write for a friend,
You are the promotion you get,
You are the bonus you receive,
You are the zeroes in your bank account
You are the game for golf late in the evening,
You are the plot of land somewhere in Mindoro,
You are the birthday party you celebrate ahead of time,
You are the superhero in red and blue tights for Halloween,
You are the heroes you look up to,
You are the gods you worship,
You are the saints you believe,
You are the myths you remember,
You are what you pray for,
You are your confessions,
You are not what you confess at 29,
You are the complaints you can’t keep to yourself,
You are the men you respect,
You are the vacation you think you deserve,
You are the sunset at the beach that warms your beer,
You are the tan-line of your swim trunks,
You are the SPF50 of your sun block,
You are the haircut you see in a fashion blog,
You are the moisturizer that costs as much as your sneakers,
You are the mascara and the lip gloss,
You are a mask.

Act V.
You are what you do,
You are what you think,
You are not who you think you are,
You are your desire,
You are your regret,
You are your guilt,
You are the voice in your head,
You are the pictures in your dreams,
You are a stroke of genius,
You are each stroke of paint you make,
You are the fiction you write,
You are the metaphor in your verse,
You are the low pitch in your voice,
You are the notes in a book you have not finished and returned,
You are what are not read between the lines,
You are the heart that is always on the line,
You are the welcome party in the airport,
You are the change of heart,
You are the change of profession in a quarter life crisis,
You are the jigsaw puzzle you complete after three months,
You are what you see in the sidewalks of EDSA,
You are what you deny to see,
You are the mistake you repeat twice,
You are taking back what you have said,
You are left alone,
You eat alone,
You sleep alone,
You are what you are alone,
You are alone,
You are better than that.

Monday, August 03, 2015

the first filipino poem in history

Just kidding. I was tasked to write a Filipino poem last week and I took the challenge right away. I believe this is only the second time that I have written a poem in Tagalog, with the first one written in high school. Yeah, it was a long time ago.

The images and metaphors are undeniably all over the place, but I am proud of this. I find it timely, too, since August is our country’s Buwan ng Wika. As a nation liberated by one man’s works of literature (see Jose Rizal, if you’ve forgotten), I think it should be second nature and not just a responsibility to read and appreciate Philippine literature. For the love of the Philippines, and to honor this celebration, here is my little contribution.

*

Panukala

Kailangan bang may ulan sa iyong paglisan kahapon?
Maaari bang ulap na lamang, at wala nang pagbuhos
Ng pangamba? Higit sa lahat, mayroon pa bang
Pagkakataong maibalik mo sa akin
Ang mayaman mong sulyap?
Saglit lang, huwag ka munang sumagot.
Huwag mong dungisan ang marilag mong mga labi
Ng mga salitang hindi mo nais masabi at marinig.
Hayaan mong ako na lamang ang putik
Sa iyong marmol. Pakinggan mo ako.
Mangyaring tandaan ang mga sumusunod:
Ang katotohanan ay isang regalo
Para sa mga nais tumanggap nito,
At ang kamalian ay karamutang hindi pansin.
Gayunpaman, ang mga pilikmata mo’y
Mga pahina ng nobelang uulit-ulitin kong basahin.
Uulit-ulitin. Waring walang mali sa obra mong ganap.
Tingnan mo ngayon ang langit sa likod ng mga bundok
Sa Loon. Maaaring dito nagsimula ang lahat ng pagbuo
At paghati. Paglikha at pagkawasak: Dito namumukadkad
Ang araw, at sa kabilang dako naman kumukupas,
Nagbibigay-daan sa mga munting matang nagmamasid
Sa pagtulog natin: nananahimik, namamanatag, nananatili.
Ito marahil ang lagi’t laging kahihinatnan ng katotohanan:
Tulad ng dasal, nasa atin lamang ang kagustuhan,
Nasa atin lamang ang pananampalataya.
Tila wala na ang mga panukalang nakapaskil
Sa mga pader ng ating budhi; ang makakapagbago
Sa desisyong tumagos na sa kaluluwa.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

read my lips

Now that empty words like pabebe, ansabe, boom, and many of their kind are ingrained in our cultural mindset, can we please learn some important, proper, and perhaps even more useful words? Like comeuppance, innocuous, or obdurate? What makes this trend so ironic is that all this comes from imperial Manila people (or possibly from the most parts of Luzon), who are notorious for mocking the Visayan language and its unique articulation. I suggest this not out of snobbery but for simple erudition. Yeah, erudition. Google that. We can’t just have junk food all the time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

size does matter


The comedians are slowly taking over the superhero films. After Chris Pratt’s turn in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Paul Rudd now leads Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man.” This makes me wonder which cast member of the beloved comedy show “Parks and Recreation” is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe next. I hope it’s Aziz Ansari. But that’s beside the point. The truth is “Ant-Man” is the antidote to the sick and sleepy “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” That movie was one long commercial break. I think “Ant-Man” is the best MCU movie since “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” And those cute little ants make me guilty of the times I crush them with a finger on the kitchen table. Although a portion of its final act goes the mystical route like Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” (2014), the rest of the action is zippy, the humor in the right dosage. That toy train sequence can be a satisfying skit all on its own. This could be a sign that comic book movies are exciting once again. Let’s just hope the upcoming DC movies maintain this energy.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Saturday, July 04, 2015

just read

Last Friday, an 18-year-old asked me how to be good at mentally processing a question and delivering the answer to the public with ease. I was caught off-guard all I said was, I guess it all starts with a habit of reading. Read as much as you can. Anything. Especially those that are out of your comfort zone. All these challenge you to think. The kid asked if Wattpad counts. “I guess, but I prefer books in actual paper,” I said smiling. The screen is a perfect distraction for more distractions.

I am no expert in public extemporaneous speaking but I think I have given the best advice. Reading, even though it has the reputation as the stuff of boredom in the digital age, is still the easiest means of sharpening and broadening the mind. In fact the skill one would acquire with reading greatly helps in any endeavor one takes. Why? It improves communication, the very basic ingredient of communal understanding.

Ironically, for a country that is liberated or “freed” from the tyranny of its colonizers with Jose Rizal’s works of literature, we are a nation that is populated by people who do not seem to value the art of reading. So logout of Facebook, close that Grindr app, let go of that selfie camera, and stop thinking of the next pub crawl for a couple of minutes. Take time to read. Make your national hero proud. Show his efforts were worth it.

And this brings me to the book haul I’ve had last Monday. Originally priced at hundreds of bucks each, I got books on fiction, poetry, and history that were less than a quarter of their cost. Achievement unlocked: Book Hunter Level no. 76!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

a new beginning


The first half of the year is over. How was it? Would you consider it half-empty or half-full? Personally I’d like to think it is the latter. The previous month alone was full of surprises. June has been an eye-opener, and it feels refreshing to get through it, especially its last five days.

Last June 26, following the Supreme Court’s decision, same-sex couples are finally allowed to marry in all of the United States of America. It was a landmark event in history that was felt across the globe. It did not apply in our home country, but it was one important step to humanity. People celebrated, hugged one another, and added rainbows on their profiles. I was one of them. And of course, others deplored.

That day revealed the truest color of many people who I thought were my friends. They are full of prejudice, full of hate. Now I know who my real friends are and who among my tribe I can turn to and have my back. For several years people have been cornering me and my community, condemning and pulling us down with snide remarks, self-centered religiosity, crab mentality, and the seemingly harmless words “Sayang ka.”

It’s as if we only existed for the sole purpose of their twisted entertainment: We can be funny like Vice Ganda but we cannot live protected by our laws and love like everyone else. They say they respect and love us, but their embrace is spiked with barbed wire.

Matters that deal with LGBTQ are sensitive, that is why detractors always couple their disgust with “It’s just my opinion” or “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.” Then there’s the often used statement “I have nothing against LGBTQ” which unsurprisingly is always followed or preceded by a self-righteous “But.”

These people often quote the Bible, too. It is sad knowing they could only define and limit their understanding of love from a book that is written thousands of years ago, and select from it quotes that only work on their favor and completely disregard those that don’t. Yes, in the Old Testament, the Holy Scripture says any man who sleeps with another man the way he sleeps with a woman is an abomination. But it also says a man should not wear clothing that is made of two materials and a man should not eat creatures of the sea that have scales. The list goes on from no tattoos, no wearing of gold, no braided hair to no wasted sperm. It looks like everyone’s going to hell then.

That is why the Bible is not some kind of buffet wherein one can just select the food he wants to eat. It must be taken as a whole, and this whole constitutes the values of compassion, love, and ultimately respect. After all, our love is not an attack on Christianity or on any religion this world has to offer. It has been very simple from the start: You may not agree with us, but you cannot deny us of our rights. Still, people are up in arms and refuse to understand our community, our plight, and our right to love.

Yet we stayed strong and persevered. There is no other way. Sadly though, some were not as strong, which led to the many young LGBTQ lives spiraling into depression and, worse, death.

That is why this fight is important to me. Our welfare is important to me. And by the grace of the heavens I finally know the reason why some people just keep pulling us down: They are a reminder that they are below us, a reminder that we are in our rightful places. My genuine friends, family, and I are taking this journey whether anyone’s with us or not.

Listen, this is the right thing to do. And like a tree on a hill, we stand tall and firm even in solitude.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

love wins



Can you hear that? Those are the scramblings, shufflings, and murmurings of so-called “Christians” from all over the world now devising a new counter-strategy. I smell panic in the air.

It is because last Friday, June 25, the Supreme Court has declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. You can call that 50 States of Gay.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority’s decision, and it had never been said more clearly and eloquently. Please take time to read this; it would be the most illuminating few seconds of your life:


No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.

This brought tears to my eyes.

Yet, there are some gay people I know who publicly disapprove of the Supreme Court’s approval of the same-sex marriage ruling. Indeed, Filipinos are strange creatures. So I really have to say this: If you refuse to understand what the celebration is for, I think it is only right for you to crawl back to your cave.

One of their reasons is that it makes the idea of “family” meaningless. It made me pause for a second and had the laugh of my life. As what my friend said, life is too short for homophobes and those who keep intolerance a part of their principles. So the unfriending spree on Facebook continues.

Although many of the Catholics and Conservatives in the Philippines are still far from realizing how awfully wrong they are in their understanding of love, developments like this give hope to humanity. It is not for everyone but it is nothing short of momentous. It is an event, little or not, depending on who you ask, that tells us we are on the right direction.

Today marks the day of better things to come. Love wins.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

good news, good times

1.

It has been two years or so since I’ve last written or even completed a poem. Aside from the technicality the craft requires, the prospect of surrendering yourself again to your well of “feelings” can be tricky. And, perhaps, mentally and emotionally difficult.

Writing poetry is like being skinned alive, the rib cage opened, your heart exposed, as all the weight of things that surround you are resting upon your shoulders. Writing the first verse alone would subject you to that macabre transformation. That is why writing, as many have said, can be a painful, lonely job. But I tried to get up from the rut.

Recently I completed one here and another one there. And the struggle gave back a reward. Just a few weeks ago, I received this:


(click photo to enlarge)

According to the University of the Philippines-Diliman website, New Voices will be “a two-volume anthology of poetry and fiction by new Filipino authors writing in English. To be published by the UP Press and possibly in cooperation with the Commission on Higher Education, these volumes will provide a platform for new writers to gain literary renown, as well as contemporize teaching materials for Philippine literature in English.

The New Voices anthologies seek to draw attention to a new generation of Philippine writers by filling a gap between the authors’ publication of individual poems or stories in periodicals, and the publication of their first book. New Voices will feature approximately 15 poets and 10 fiction writers.”

15 poets out of how many from all over? Possibly circulated in schools? The joy was electric. And then more news of acceptance letters from other people came flooding in. It became even more unbelievable. So far, from what I’ve gathered, I’d be in the company of Glenn Diaz, Tin Lao, Jason Chancoco, Mia Tijam, and Lystra Aranal. These names are giving me the chills. Aside from the flattery of being one of the country’s new voices in literature, I am just glad I have a voice.

2.

Last Tuesday, June 23, at around 7PM, saw the release of the results of the Nursing Licensure Exams for the May 2015 takers. The suspense was killing me, with every alphabetical update online an exercise in patience. Until it was revealed: My sister passed the board examinations.

I know very well the feeling of rejection and hardship, the seemingly endless missteps. That is why this is the singular news in many years that I have felt an overwhelming happiness not for myself but for another. All my sister’s hard work and sacrifices finally paid off. The purest form of fighting spirit is in her.

3.

The legendary Duran Duran is back after so many years. And they’ve brought along disco god Nile Rodgers and the impeccably talented, genre-defying Janelle Monáe. This music came at the most opportune time. It’s perfect, the stars have aligned. Everybody, everywhere! Step out into the future! It’s time to take the pressure off!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

claiming our independence and #RP612fic


On June 12, 1898, at this house in Cavite, General Emilio Aguinaldo unfurled to the public the country’s flag and proclaimed the Philippines’ independence. So yesterday, we were commemorating its 117th anniversary. This photo was taken two years ago, yet my understanding of independence is still the same: There is no real freedom if we remain blind to the mistakes of our leaders both past and present, remain stuck (yes, a double negative for emphasis) in the same outdated belief and decisions that bring us to nowhere, and keep a close mind to the shifting climate of society.

A change is in order. For instance, paying the bills on time, getting up and exercise, understanding what tolerance really means or claiming the independence we and our future generation deserve by electing the right people for our government. It’s just a thought.

And like in the previous years, to soften the blow of our nation’s drastic needs in a time of celebration, writers and word enthusiasts all over also commemorate the nation’s independence by contributing Twitter-length posts (a form of flash fiction) with the hashtag #RP612fic. This social media event was started by Filipino writer Paolo Chikiamco in 2009.

#RP612fic is all about melding literature and history, whether real or fantastical, with the possibilities that may happen or could have happened. Imagine a story wherein Ferdinand Marcos didn’t become president, a story wherein Magellan made friends with Lapu-Lapu, or Sisa never gone mad. In a capsule, it is all about creating alternate stories, a reworking of what is familiar.

Unfortunately, I found most of this year’s #RP612fic outputs so “jeje.” I remember the works made from the previous years were crafted with so much wit, thought, and imagination. They were written with the classic literature and authentic history in mind, one could compile them for a legitimate anthology worthy of its place in any library. This time though there was too much pop songs, Vice Ganda, and showbiz lingo. You get the picture.

Well, it’s a matter of personal taste. So I made #RP612fic entries that I myself would enjoy reading if I stumbled upon them. Here they are:
Dorothy woke up to a country ruled by a barong-wearing tyrannical and said to her dog, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” #RP612fic
Tourists were busy gossiping in a mausoleum somewhere in Ilocos Norte when one noticed the forehead of the body in display cracked open. Out flowed a variety of gems and jewelry. #RP612fic
The moment Jose Rizal was shot dead by a firing squad in Bagumbayan, no one knew it was also the exact same time little Aureliano Buendia was taken by his father to discover ice. #RP612fic
Finally, Juan Tamad was about to get up from his idle life when he discovered The Internet. #RP612fic
“Fight with me,” the general said. “You know nothing, Emilio,” Andres replied with a heavy heart as he rode the back of his dragon and flew into the distant horizon. #RP612fic

The last one, of course, was inspired by a storyline in the Game of Thrones novels by George R.R. Martin and Ian Rosales Casocot’s excellent take on the Andres Bonifacio-Emilio Aguinaldo saga in his short fiction “Alternate Histories: Really Short Stories for the Twitter Generation” published in Philippine Speculative Fiction 6 (edited by Nikki Alfar and Kate Osias). Here is an excerpt:
“Tell me you love me,” Emilio said. “But I don’t love you,” said Andres. Emilio sighed. “Then you leave me no choice. You die.”

Remember, claim your independence, Filipinos! Have a great day!