Monday, October 24, 2011

how to identify a crisis without really trying

First, we draw a period
no bigger than pollen
on a sheet of paper,
one that could impede
tongues and birthing
for our knowledge
of tragedy to cease
and delimit itself, to stop
like rundown seawalls do
to afternoon strolls.

For how much longer
this would stretch to,
it is best to say we are
in the wake of our ellipses.
Waiting requires tenacity
instead of patience,
and it is in the waiting
that all things grow.
Or wither. We must breathe
in each interval.

Second, we tell the gales
not to give in. We will be sorry
for the spiders though
since no gem that clings
on what remains of their homes
will prove its worth.
No matter how pure,
no matter how clear.
We must remain strong
and humble as silk.

With the fate of the spiders
we will either adore
or condemn that even
the lightest of things—
drizzle, a crisp brown leaf,
a found earring,
the sole pillow on bed,
the strand of silver hair—
are among the many
disguises of grief.

Third, we say nothing
to queries that start with why.
Or at times even with how
and the rest of its kin.
This way we will learn
to forgive truth for its merits
and cherish quietness instead.
Then our nights will reclaim
their usual quiver,
our days soft and lambent.

Now, let us say,
if we could just have one hand each,
us by the bench, on the grass,
or somewhere steep,
listening to electric calls
of dragonfly wings,
we could probably say
there is no letting go.
We will make
the constellations proud.

Monday, October 17, 2011

there are chickens here

Had to attend two events last Saturday, October 15. Not true-to-the-word ‘had’ like a coercion, but something more like you’ve got to because, deep inside, you really want to. Anyway, forget it, I’m not making sense.

The first one is a book launching of Gerry Alanguilan’s second edition of Elmer, the prize-winning graphic novel about intellectual chickens and how they deal with human society. It is held at the same place where the latest Trese book, Last Seen After Midnight, is launched.

I’ve heard and read Alanguilan back in college with his trangressive work Wasted. It is a complete hairpin-turn of a reading experience for me, especially when my knowledge about the once-maligned works of comics is limited to prints by Marvel, DC, and the usual Snoopy fix in Sunday papers.

That particular work has ushered me into more novel and braver Filipino graphic works, such as the aforementioned Trese series by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo, Carlo Vergara’s Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Manix Abrera’s Kikomachine Comix compilations, and Siglo: Freedom and Siglo: Passion edited by Dean Alfar among many others that are mostly found in the internet.

That is why the opportunity to see the man behind Wasted and Elmer is not to be missed. What I sorely miss though during the book launching is signing up my name in the registration booth, thus failing to win any of the raffle prizes, of which it is also the same for dear Tin. (See photo above: I only get to flaunt a copy of the book whereas Peachy and company have their blown-up panels).

The second event is Netty’s post-birthday celebration at Central Pioneer (which was surprisingly better than the branches in Makati). Who would skip a night of free drinks? Okay, sometimes I do, but not this time.

This is like an extension of this, and for a day that starts out fine, I might as well end it with a little buzz. And for a couple of reasons that make me virtually disconnected to them for some time (e.g. hiatus on Facebook, Twitter, etc.), chickening out at things that are probably just existential, I think meeting them is a good idea.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

how to follow not so simple instructions

Keep the pages of that manual flap
like bird wings, broad and far-reaching.
Let the mechanics dip and dive,
procedures spiral as sparrows do
over trees, between cable wires,
and from time to time beyond grasps
of our calculations. This is how
measurements impress our intelligence.
Keep it open with something heavy,
but never touch the paperweight.
Leave that pebble from Pulang Bato,
admire its estrangement from the falls.
Leave that crystal ashtray as a memento
of all we know that have passed.
Leave that mug of coffee or down it
while it is hot before we could recall
our pains are our heart’s caffeine;
they are much bitter when cold.
Use that reliable head instead.
At close range, the images on a page
would start to blur, but remember,
almost all that is dear to us is:
muse, marginalia, misunderstanding.
Even that pinprick of light could be
a torch to our heavy-lidded eyes.
Fear not the trappings of error.
When we are little, we gravitate
to the ground and walk on all fours
to walk on twos. See the foolishness
in that equation of making things easy.
What matters are the differences now
because we could never rely on sameness,
because the similes could turn against us.
There is nothing to like if all is the same.

Monday, October 10, 2011

last seen somewhere

October 8. Saturday was not as promising as I had expected. It rained, so I holed up at home doing things that needed to be done: cleaned the house, did the laundry even on a rainy day, ironed the clothes, read a couple of books, continued working on a couple of drafts. When the whole routine shifted to the dreary, an interesting thought came into mind: the book launching of Last Seen After Midnight, the fourth Trese book by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo at Bestsellers, Robinson’s Galleria.

(I actually haven’t read the series yet, the first being Trese: Murder on Balete Drive [followed by Unreported Murders, Mass Murders, and then Last Seen After Midnight], but people I know who are into graphic novels keep egging me to, so that afternoon I deduce the launching of the latest book would be a perfect start to get into the world of Alexandra Trese).

I did the usual practice of attending such event: I bought all four books (it would be a shame for a freshman to buy the fourth one without the first three, right?), attended the interview portion of the artist (KaJo) and the author (Budj), listened to the question-and-answer portion, lined up to have my books signed (of which, I unexpectedly met Peachy Paderna, lining up as well with his “boy”). And I find the men behind the comics humble, just saying.

Back home, I read the first two sets, and now here is a little hail of first impressions:

  • KaJo Baldisimo’s artwork is really good, polished to say the least. It has been a long time that I have seen black and white rendered so gorgeously and original. Though I notice a slight change of look or feel or whatever that is between the first case (the stories are told in episodic/procedural cases) of Murder on Balete Drive to the last case of Unreported Murders, the drawings portray Manila as a character that is both familiar and strange, and that alone merits a two-thumbs-up. Monochrome, this time, is sexy (though I’ve seen in Rogue magazine last year an excerpt of a Trese story in full color, and it is just as striking).
  • Budjette Tan’s periodic stories often leave me wanting for more, as if this and that should be stretched and be mined for more, say, thrills and twists. But I guess this is the maximalist in me talking. This kind of telling has its plus-side though: you can read the tales in no particular order.
  • As a practicing fiction writer, I read as much varied materials as I can to widen my scope, and I find Tan’s mythic, folkloric creatures crossing the modern world nothing new. But ‘nothing new’ does not necessarily mean it is bad. Also, this is not to say Tan’s concept is unoriginal. Nothing new could be saved by the rendition of small but refreshing takes of the proverbial (who would’ve thought of St. Elmo’s Fire coming out of a cellular phone as weapon/ally?), and Tan succeeded in giving that in his Trese books. And comparing short fiction to graphic fiction seems unfair, so I’m ending this discussion right now.
  • The Kambals, the mandatory sidekicks, are funny, which I think serve as a perfect contrast to the protagonist’s grim disposition. And during the book launch, I’ve overheard from my seatmates that they have an interesting turn in the third installment, so I am excited to flip open Mass Murders soon.
  • I know it is too early to demand this, after reading only two books, but I wish the underlying narrative of Trese (I know there is! It always has! It should!) would dive deeper into the Philippine mythology. After all, there is more to our horror stories than aswangs, tiyanaks and manananggals. And I hope Baldisimo’s and Tan’s publishers would grant them more lifeblood (e.g. budget) to continue Trese since there are legends that could be a wealthy source of stories, too.
  • In three words: I enjoyed Trese.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


A team of European scientists has reportedly clocked a flock of subatomic particles called neutrinos moving at just a shade over the speed of light. According to Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, that can’t be, since light, which cruises along at about 186,000 miles per second (299,000 km/sec.), is the only thing that can go that fast.
—Was Einstein Wrong? A Faster-Than-Light-Neutrino could Be Saying Yes, TIME (23 September 2011)

Light is always convinced
on the eternal, its hand
running over all things.

It plies on every curve
and edge, turns them precious
with delicate clarity:

dew on germilina leaf,
steam off boiling pot,
the midmorning laundry.

On the first hour of day
even streets surrender
to its touch, calcified,

becoming changeless,
devoted to stay true
to where they lead us.

But as new findings tell
something flits faster
than the speed of light,

is there a need for worry?
What could be quicker
than what we deem as right?

It seems this is the time
to consider learning now
where our prayers hurtle to.

And though a few things
have to be lost in order
to be found, it is safe to say

they have reached the light,
seen it head-on, neither dazed
nor blinded, just fulfilled.