Tuesday, November 29, 2011

not on paper but online

“How to Follow Not So Simple Instructions,” one of the (currently) few works of a series of poems I am toiling on, is in this week’s Philippines Free Press. Since the publishers could neither release nor circulate hard copies of their magazine as of the moment, let us all settle on the online version instead. Read it here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

it started this way

Here’s a bit of truth: my headband-wearing ‘guise’ originated in November 19, 2008. That is exactly three years and five days ago. It is one unforgettable date in college. Unforgettable because the headband-wearing is carried on to this year and maybe until the next few years.
It all started with the Opposite Day. I think it is what one would call a harmless dare (if not an embarrassing one). I and a fellow co-staffer of the university paper, The Weekly Sillimanian, thought we needed a little bit of crazy (as if we had not enough), so we rounded up the rest of the staff and suggested to fulfill this objective for an entire day: be in a getup that is as farfetched as a cat in checked purple-and-orange jumpsuit.
In simple words: don’t be you, aesthetically.
So I ditched my khakis, button-down shirt, leather slippers, messenger bag and opted for something quite more pedestrian: old PE shorts, an aircon shirt (tee with tiny strategically-placed holes), a pair of rubber slippers that was one size bigger, and a drawstring bag of some company’s seminar giveaway for all of my things. I topped it all off with a cheap, white plastic headband.
I got in my World Literature class that morning and the professor’s eyes, surprisingly, widened. (Surprisingly, because I thought he had no emotions in him). “Is there some kind of conspiracy going on around here today? I had a pirate in my previous class!”
Oh, yes, there was a pirate. There was an extreme gothic chic, too. There was a labandera (basin-sarong-bandana and all). There was the lesbian basketball buff. There was America Ferrera’s Betty. There was Wendy in night pajamas. And there are other more persona who I couldn’t really describe for the sheer madness of it all.
And for some strange burst of insanity (or reason), one thing stayed after that day: the headband. It just stuck especially when I had decided to grow my hair out of the blue (then shaved off into a Mohawk upon graduation day).
Of course, the headband only appears in appropriate places, or in whatever places people think are appropriate. I couldn’t care any less, actually. I’d wear it anywhere if I can. In fact, last May, someone who I was not fully acquainted with at that time remarked I was the only one she had ever seen who looked good with a ponytail and a headband on. Insert mandatory blush here. (Thank you, dear, I admire your taste).
I don’t want to repost the photos in this entry, but I could offer this shot, which is printed and kept in an album in the university paper office for future generations of staff to see. Anyway, I just miss some of the people involved (pictured above) because they’re crazy. And they’re great. And they’re lovely. And they’re brilliant. And they’re bright. And they’re scattered all over the country, all over the planet.


Friday, November 18, 2011

how to not write another story

People never really know
half of nothing. It’s neither
half-empty nor half-full.

It’s just what it is. So they
make up. Now let’s forget
the urgency of sunlight.

Besides, not all shapes show
their genuine forms: the bosom
beneath the clothing could hold

not a heart but a frenzied beast.
Scathing, mad, injurious.
Just like primetime news.

They’re everywhere, reports
of shame, pride and blood
in deadpan delivery.

That’s how we forget soul.
Is that the essence of man? No.
It’s the thick bottom of a heel.

We can all laugh now.
Embarrassment seems to be
everyone’s choice of comedy.

And there’s no one to blame,
this frontier of subtleties
that’s bound to fade.

We’ve learned very well:
we do’nt have to put everything
in the right place.

Friday, November 11, 2011

the october project (otherwise known as 'why being out of the radar is particularly needed')

I am overwhelmed by its power of persuasion. One must login, one must update, one must share. Regularly. If not, you are of least significance to the (net/cit)izen. Of course, that is, or more appropriately, could be the whole point. Facebook, the social networking site with a number of users close to a billion, is a tool for communication, and a tool only works when there’s a hand that controls it. In retrospect, I willingly dipped my hands back in 2007 and I was amazed, maybe even inspired, to its apparent seamlessness and the brilliance one often sees in something novel like any technological breakthroughs.

Until last month.

The site is a victim of a constant facelift, changing with the times, encouraging more people to try it, but the entire experience I have first felt almost four years ago has lost its novelty. Rather, it is now (exhaust/annoy)ing. It is a chore visiting the welcome page alone. The tool is working me, maybe even working us without our knowledge.

And this is not without a couple of reasons.

It takes a huge chunk of our time, we only realizing it when we witness our live newsfeeds and walls being rarely updated no matter how many times we hit the refresh button. And that Ticker Box is out of the question. One might say, like many other sites, it is not a matter of “must” but of “can,” yet I stand on the idea that we are actually all bound to the former instead of the volitional and decisive “can” since even the suggestion that we could self-regulate is an excuse brought about by the desires of “must.”

In our attempts to slake this desire, we have become too willing, too agreeable. Because of this we are (allowed/faced) with a bombardment of personal trivialities. Then strangely enough we become more skeptical of the people we are trying to connect to: Is he for real? Does she really have to say that? Why do people like that post? Why do people not like my post?

We have delved far into the virtual (bio/togo)graphy of relationships it makes it hard to scale back to the very core of what this apparatus (is/should be) all about: the human connection. Real, honest, flawed. In social networking sites, everyone (tries to be/is) perfect. Thus, the distances and alienation are much more felt despite of how frequent we interact with each other—whether through messages, chats, status updates, photo comments, likes—because our very own errors, defects, and blemishes (are/could be) magnified, subsequently stoking our inner shame, spreading like wildfire.

Once again, this sheds light on the fact that everything is not what it seems to be. Nothing is quite sensible, nothing is quite true.

And in this site’s hodgepodge of opinion and information circulating from point A to point B to points CDEFG, everything is instant, expected to be instant. That is why even when a message is delayed, deferred, or not sent at all, one easily wonders: Why is he missing in action? Is there something I do not know? Have I done something wrong?

It is easy to say we have unconsciously bred a culture of impatience, planted a seed of anxiety on the very wrong soil. As a tool for communication, a social networking site works effectively. But as tool for understanding the human condition, it falls smack on the ground limp.

And this is not what I need. I think I already have enough messages sent, received, and unre(ciproca/qui)ted. To put it more bluntly, missing some things and most specially someone is a one-way effort. It drains you.

That is why I am on a hiatus. My goal, I insist to believe, is to discipline my primate wanting for connection, information, and even attention. I have deactivated my Facebook account since October 6. I am on indefinite leave on Twitter since October 9. To further underscore this attempt, I actually cutoff my regular text-messaging of rough verses or lines of pseudo-poetry to all contacts in my cellphone way before the aforementioned sites. I stop sending last October 3.

More than a month has passed.

Unsurprisingly, the concerns, the wonderings, and the speculations of the absence mostly settle on one matter: Why are you not on Facebook?! How come you’re silent in Twitter?! Where are you in these sites?! Yes, the interrobangs in there are throbbing. As for the text-messages, the worry is close to none. What surprises me is that this little percentage comes from the unlikeliest of people.

Not that I am expecting a landslide of interest to the latter. After all, Literature versus The Websites is an altogether different story. It deserves another discussion.

Amidst these overblown ruminations, I have come to one conclusion that lately I am easily overwhelmed not only of the nuances of Facebook or Twitter but of things as small and delicate as silence, among many others, could easily break (anyone/us/me) apart.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

how to hate the apostrophes

We begin by stripping
the animosity to its core:
this pursuit of belongingness.

Since nothing has staked claim
on something, on someone
the way apostrophes could.

Human effort pales in comparison
to their minute stabs of ownership.
These marks ace at mockery.

A man once promised to a girl
the heavens would be hers,
but when she saw the skies naked

except for one tailless kite
and the occasional pigeon,
she shoved off the thought.

Even the winged struggle
at these acres of space,
encyclopedic and colossal.

The philosophy of the apostrophes
speaks of one basic certainty:
some wants are better off ignored.

And this is where they beat us.
They could posses more than a ghost
could haunt man in a lifetime.

In their wake is a cold draft,
and we are contentedly warm
for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

the old man and the seat

Lunch break turns out to be amusing if not a wee bit insulting today. In one of a mall’s many fast food restaurants, a mother with her two-or-three-year-old daughter approach a waitress just across my table, asking her for one of those child-safe high plastic chairs. The woman then takes the special seat and sets it to my table, right next to me. I stare at her, a spoonful of rice midway to my open mouth. The mother corrects the waitress that she sits farther in the corner, so she immediately moves the chair to the directed spot. The aforementioned mother appears to be in her late thirties.

Such incident begs the questions: Do I really look that old? Is there hope to be a family man? Does this finally break the curse of being mistaken as a woman? Or is the waitress just pulling my leg? Whatever the answers are, that is just indisputably crazy. At least it is a funny way to start my week.

Friday, November 04, 2011

all these are necessary

When things get a little too hard to handle, a getaway is in order. The past few months have been grueling, both in mind and body (mostly the former), so I thank the heavens a trip has been made to my hometown prior to all the paranoia.


Sugar Rush
October 29

Bought two boxes of Cinnabon for my family, as if no sugar was enough to sate their sets of sweet tooth. Ironically, upon arrival, I went straight to my dentist to have my braces adjusted (because at this age I think anything ortho is a shame). It was also the birthday of our eldest brother, so there came the mandatory tub of ice cream on our dinner table that night. Another sugar. Later, I met two of my collegemates at Bo’s Coffee Shop (more sugar), pacifying our doubts of this and that talks, this and that gossips. Seeing our photos right now, I realized we three were presidents of one same organization during our respective sophomore-junior years. Just sharing. We made that group work. Take that!

The Ones That Passed
October 30

Went to church in the morning and then had lunch with my mother, sister, and nephew somewhere, my treat. In the afternoon, went to the cemeteries at Maribojoc and Loon. These were where my parents’ grand- and great-grandparents laid in quiet provincial soil. These visits made me realize we ought to have a comprehensive family tree. I knew so little of our bloodline. Just imagine the bounty I could unearth from the seemingly bottomless source of stories. As the afternoon progressed, I met four of my schoolmates to discuss and prepare for next day’s itinerary.

Halloween Beach Outing
October 31

Rounded up my high school classmates because I wanted to. The last time I saw them was in December last year, goofing around Balicasag and Virgin Islands. Brought with me two masks that survived countless occasions (from Valentines to Christmas), utterly enduring through the years it became standard to bring them along to further silly-fy an already silly gathering. As usual, the masks were prominent in many pictures of my camera than the exquisite sand and waters of Panglao. Blame it on the alcohol.

No Plane, No Gain

November 1

Ah, no wonder why those Occupy Rallies all over the world lasted than expected. Was supposed to fly back to Manila in the afternoon, to embrace work in all its glory the following day, but was then informed that Particular Airline had to cancel its trip. PA reasoned it was all due to a looming bad weather and that the city airstrip had no room for another aircraft. Oh, should I laugh at this? The Other Airline just left, seconds ago, so technically there was room for another aircraft. Yet PA insisted on cancelling its flight. As expected, blood pressures went high, especially tanned corporate men and women raising hell at the little booth of PA. Of course, who wouldn’t? A day’s worth of one’s job is still a day’s worth. Just one legal note for Particular Airline: please hold responsibility to your customers and don’t give us advices to ferry to Cebu to catch its “many” Manila flights when you’ve earlier stated bad weather is coming. Also, blood pressures went sky-high when it was overheard the Another Airline handed a stipend of P400 to its passengers when it also canceled its flight for technical reasons. Sigh, PA, why can’t you do the same? You’re a big guy now. A little gift won’t dent the wallet. If you just can’t, please stop offering us those promo fares and start eating your words.

Back at Home

November 2

Stayed at home most of the day, enjoying Pawn Stars on History Channel and Wipeout on AXN. Then decided to watch Puss in Boots (I love cats!) with problematic someone late in the afternoon and had dinner at Heritage Crab House next in Mansasa. It was both our first time in that new restaurant, and we found the place handsome and rustic, the live band really good, the food servings generous, and the taste palatable but not entirely novel. After lengthy conversations over his compulsory two-stick smoke and my glass of pineapple juice, we went home.

Back to Reality
November 3

A two-day off from work, especially an unplanned one, was surprisingly cathartic. Prior to my return flight since the last one that failed, everything looked vivid, well-lighted, and serene even above the racket the carpenters were making, replacing our living room door with a dark, heavy one. Until I finally hopped onboard the airplane, lifting me higher off the ground and transplanting me back to a Manila that had skies threatening to rain. What a welcoming sight.