Tuesday, August 28, 2012

original tragedy

Clearly, it is not sin that we inherit
From Adam and Eve but tragedy.
Tragedy of silence, tragedy of a fall
That seems delicate, endless, oceanesque.
One August night, by the table limned
With warm lights piercing through
The amber of beer bottles, I confessed
To some friends I haven’t seen
That old movie they extolled rabidly
Like a little spate of storms.
“Prepare to be in love,” declared one
Who believed that the fate
Of constellations never die
Once tattooed on our skin.
But I have always been in love.
In fact, sometimes I think you are,
And would remain, that old news
I’d want to hear all over again.
I have to be honest. We all should.
And I have to be silent, too. We all have
That singular tragedy we are too willing
To take. So I’ll save the sad lines for later.
For now I just need an affectionate cat,
I just need to set the table tonight.
And finally, this time, not with you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

the inventory of lost possessions

As if the grueling journey to Old Manila was not enough, me and my acquaintance’s beloved were lost last Saturday. Forever. One was Baki and the other one was Monroe. That we had names for them made the loss even more profound.

The former, actually, was a three-year old Canon Powershot SX200IS (but I had to shell out almost ten grand a few months ago to have it repaired) and the latter a six-month old Apple iPhone 4S. All gone. In less than 24 hours. What a way to start the long weekend.

Regardless of their age and monetary worth, it was their intrinsic value and history (short-lived or not) in our lives that we will certainly miss. After all, it is not every day that you get to unwittingly leave a camera in a taxi or have a thief pick through your bag in a rock concert.

I’ve had a fair amount of items lost last year, but try as I might to keep myself from committing the same blunder again, shit happens, and every bite of its actuality is as painful as the last. To spare anyone from bouts of self-loathing, I will deem the detailed background of how these things go poof as irrelevant.

Though ‘materialistic’ would be an easy category for me and my friend to fit in, the absence of these gadgets are honestly heartbreaking. Yes, I have driven this point home early on, but for a man who just has to document wherever and whenever he can and for a woman whose profession and lifestyle require stable connectivity, it really is.

Many would probably say that ours is mostly a generation dependent on technology, infatuated with things new, mechanical, appealing with life-like glow, and that we somehow exist with a symbiotic relationship with them. While that holds a thimble of truth, I and the rest who could attest with me believe that it is not entirely the case.

It is often viewed that technology, especially the ones that attract to the young crowd, perpetuates cultural degradation, narcissism, and a whole class of psycho-sociological studies worthy of a sci-fi or horror flick.

What is rarely considered though, if not dismissed altogether, is that our embrace for these products is a way of showing the progress of days the middle finger, saying, “Hey! I can keep up with you!” or “I am seeing and meeting them no matter what!” or “I know better than you do!”

With something as small as a camera or a phone, we gain this power to frame a moment, share an experience. How amazing is that?

Ironically, it is through this that we are reminded of our being human, that even with the clicks and presses and swipes that seem to dominate our lives, we are, in fact, in control of them. Call it denial—denial to time, denial to societal disconnectedness, denial to mortality—but I would call it living in the now. It could be as simple as that, it could be not.

But for now, allow me this short period of mourning. I will let this loss shroud me for a while and, of course, let it subside. Absence still is absence. Soon, I will bring myself to the nearest gadget store. As you know, I could replace Baki, my acquaintance could replace Monroe, and that’s how the two of us would prove we are still in control. Do not worry, we still are.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

the test dream


These days, I’m back again to remembering my dreams. But before anyone could slam this down as a review of ambitions and rousing inventories of B.S., let me be clear that I am referring to that reel playing in your head when you are asleep—snoring optional.

Just today, without disclosing too much, I could recall last night’s story and set of images that includes a full moon, a pig pen, a high-ceilinged bedroom, a mattress, a clump of hair, a pale blue plastic barrel, a sunny morning, and dirty fingernails among many other things.

There is a narrative that strings them all, surprisingly logical, but what I could not work out is how all of these come together. Where did that come from? Why did it turn out that way?

If studies or theories are to be considered, that dreams are manifestations of desires and anxieties, then I suppose I am an alien in this planet. Such want and concern have no place in a world obsessed with expectations, order, and the elusive happy ending.

Strangely enough, dreams in our sleep further make a mockery of our dreams—of which, this time, I mean objectives, aspirations, targets. Put the fluidity and randomness of a dream next to a goal, and the latter would definitely pale in comparison based on truthfulness alone. What you are aiming at would look like a joke.

Why? As much as we want a straight, smooth path, life never has one and never will, its roads and paths and alleyways all crooked, forking, steep or narrow. Just like a dream, it is damn irregular. That is why.

For all our pessimism about how shockingly unrealistic events and people could be, about how we think our problems and privileges are worse and better than anybody else’s, it seems we are all goofing around. Real life is one, long hallucinatory ride, and there is no jumping off this train. Unless.


Speaking of unrealism, I don’t get why someone could complain how unrealistic movies can be. An acquaintance who has seen Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy shares to the world (she tweeted her thoughts) that she is a bit disappointed because it is “funny” and “unrealistic.”

Funny, yes, it has its comedic moments, especially the punchline-worthy revelation of the Philippines as a crucial destination for our runaway black op member. But unrealistic? It is not a perfect film, but that raised an eyebrow.

We let slip in our collective suspension of disbelief the orcs in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the spell-casting wands in the Harry Potter flicks or the biceps bursting in The Expendables, therefore we must not question the skill-enhancing drugs, the feverish chase, or the unlimited bullets fired in The Bourne Legacy. And above all, we must not compare the Manila in the film to the Manila we know. Remember, there’s what you call the power of editing. Like some divine gift, everything’s possible: Crash your motorcycle somewhere in Pasay and cruise next on Palawan waters in seconds!

The point is unrealism is vital to a movie. It fascinates, entertains, and brings a jumble of emotions in a viewer—whether good or bad is another story. Unrealism makes us evaluate our own reality, see what works and won’t, while feasting on the improbability-made-possible through filmmaking techniques. In some ways, a movie is an accomplished dream on screen.

So next time, dear moviegoer, never bring up unrealism as a cinematic issue. If the urge is too hard to resist, just settle with the documentaries on History Channel or National Geographic.


When I can faintly recall a dream upon waking, I try to squeeze out every trace of it from my head, summon the cohesiveness that starts to materialize, and write all of it swiftly on paper, in the phone or the iPod. Every passing second is an open window for distraction, so it has to be done fast. This week alone, I manage a record of two accounts. Though they resemble less of a nightmare, I could not say they are the sweetest of dreams either. If this is a motif that would stretch on until the next few days, then allow me to say my apologies now for being as dour as ever.


Contrary to popular belief, almost all of my dreams are vividly colored. Almost, because I remember one from four years ago that is in sepia. Yes, a freaking, Instagramic sepia.


I’ve just suggested to someone to watch The Sopranos because it remains my all-time favorite, because I think it is one of the best products of pop-culture ever made, and because I think people better waste their time on something that does not waste their time at all. (Another example: reading).

One of the episodes of this six-season serial drama that revolves around the life of an Italian-American mobster is entitled “The Test Dream.” David Chase, writer of this particular episode, (and also the series’ creator and executive producer) explains in an interview that the title “refers to the dreams where an individual turns up late for a test in school and is wearing no clothing, meaning that the person is unprepared for a test or another task they have to face.”

It is a fine episode, as usual. And that’s all I’ve got to say. Just watch the show.


If this is not a test dream, am I prepared for this?

Monday, August 13, 2012


I won’t speak of nouns as big as rapture
But I might as well do when I see you again,
See you when you said on the phone, “to your left,”
Or see you when you mouth a name that sounds
Gently warm, agnominal, triumphant, jai ho.

I’m certain no book is ever really lost no matter how often
You insist you’ve never finished one from cover to cover.
But I will not miss the chance to pluck from my shelf
A favorite and hand it before you: Please read this.
Please read between the lines. Please read my lips.

You would remember a lot of things, I am sure,
But I want you to forget all the paintings
You never made or that person who wept
The first time you two had slept together
As you whispered, “It’s okay… It’s okay…”

But you must know everything was all right then,
And that weeping wouldn’t stop so soon,
For when eloquence evades you like a man
Silenced by books or stuck with blank canvases,
There are words you just have to hear

Again and again. Again and again.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

creativity here, creativity there

“Ba’t andameng creative sa Visayas at Mindanao?”

Or, “Why are there so many creative individuals in Visayas and Mindanao?” A few days ago, someone I recently talked to put forth that loaded question. He was referring to people in the field of literature, visual art, dance, music, etc. He sounded earnest. I did not exactly know what to say, but the first thought in mind, without linking myself to the individuals he was referring to, was that maybe people in these regions have less distraction to deal with.

It is not that the provinces in the VisMin area are deficient of any standard, time-killing fare (i.e. cinemas, politics, parties, anything Apple); it just feels to me that way, especially for someone whose education from kindergarten to college is rooted in Bohol and Negros Oriental. I have lived and breathed in these islands’ atmosphere firsthand.

But it was an unsatisfactory response to a very objective question. Why, really? And, in the first place, what accounts as “many?” How is that, or could be, measured? By affiliation? By influence? By collective output?

When I was mulling the question over and over like an agitated patient with his stress ball, an assumption (yes, assumption, because I couldn’t prove it) made itself clear in my head: Competition.

Maybe there is this less spoken rivalry palpable in this land (where I currently resided on) but which is less spoken in the other island groups. Maybe the circles here just never intersect, their opposing ideals explicitly brandished or publicized in journals, anthologies, and even in pedestrian conversations over beer, that the possibility of a Venn diagram of shared understanding is unheard of.

Maybe with this competition, all eyes are only set to the champions who wave the flags in each side, or to those newly minted with some sort of bestowment, or to anyone who is raised to higher ground of attention. Thus, maybe, the idea of the creative is limited to those who are frequently exposed, thus the feeling that creativity somewhere else is profuse, thus the left field question of my acquaintance. Maybe the goal is sheer publicity—whether it is in a very, unflattering shade or not—and whoever is on the sidelines better luck next time and try perpetually harder.

But Visayas and Mindanao, of course, are not saints in this department. Each has its own conflicts when it comes to this tangible asset which is creativity. The two have competitions, but as what I have said earlier, maybe in a less spoken degree, downplayed. Maybe, maybe.

Yes, competition encourages discourse, brings more works, making the nation’s archive of visions richer and more original than the previous generation, but I think it is not the end all, be all of a flourishing, borderless, Filipino creativity. There must be another way.

And I, or should I say we, will now have to think what it could possibly be.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

filipino readers’ choice awards finalists

Here’s some good news for the day (which is particularly a bit tacky considering the day’s endless rain and the book I am about to mention). Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry (2011, Antithesis Collective), which is edited by Khavn de la Cruz and Joel M. Toledo, is nominated in the 2012 Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Poetry Anthology.

According to the award-giving body’s website, “finalists will be deliberated upon by select judges for each category composed of Filipino readers. They will read and discuss the books, and decide which is deserving to receive the Readers’ Choice Award in that specific category.”

Just giddy. My slightly revised piece “Stones” is one of the 150 poems featured in this collection, and being in this literary effort is already an achievement, with or without the award.

See the rest of the finalists here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

poem at quarterly literary review singapore

My poem “How to Put Everything at Stake” is up at the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, along with works by fellow Filipino writers Allen Samsuya and Glenn Diaz. Yes, they’re all online, in this link, so check them out.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

poetry as a lesson in geography

Who could’ve known we have walked the same streets,
The same steps with the same pace this morning?
Would there be some spatial truth behind the medians
And distances we always gauge and disengage?
Admit it, we could’ve been more crowded
Without anger. We’ve been molding this landscape
Far longer than the patient breaking of trenches.
We have secret maps moles and hunters would envy,
We have forked wide and far enough to get lost
In the wrinkles of canyons, in the outskirts of lakes.
And aren’t slippages the sole purpose of wanderings?
Our paths could’ve gone worse if not for our faith
In destinations: This is where we go, this is what we do.
Or maybe: This is what you do, this is where I go.
The terrains could be as kind as riverbeds dry
Or wise and decent like weathered stones,
But there will be something in this land we will fail
To tread, and there are plenty more in another country.
We could go on and on, people lauding how far we’ve gone,
But this compass will only be as good as to where we stand.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

cover art for paper monster press asuang issue

The cover art for the Asuang Issue of Paper Monster Press is now out, and just look at that. Terrifying, just terrifyingly beautiful. My flash fiction piece “Where The Cats Are Always Sleepy” will be featured in this edition.

Click here for the list of contributors.

For everyone’s sake, Paper Monster Press is “a trans-genre (literature, art, music) indie, no-garage, publishing outfit based in Cavite, Philippines,” and the Asuang Issue refers to the “exploration of that darkest part of our psyche: the monsters of our mind. Asuang is an umbrella term for all the creatures that peopled our imagination, and we explore this narrative in literature, art, and music.”

This will be launched at Flip and Beyond Resto Bar, Dasmariñas, Cavite on August 18, 2012 (Saturday), 6PM.

More information about the projects of Paper Monster Press here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

philippine speculative fiction 7 launch + more books

Invitations of this sort only happen once in a while, so last Friday, July 28, I attended the launch of Philippine Speculative Fiction 7 at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Shangri-La Plaza Mall. I had been to the previous edition’s launching at Fully Booked in Taguig but only as the requisite cheerer. This time, thanks to the universe, I was part of the lineup, and I found this year’s to be as crazy as the last one. In a good way. It was just great seeing contributors off the pages of anthologies.

Dean Alfar, emceeing once again, sure knows how to carry a show even for absent authors. Also, big thanks to Kate and Alexander Osias for giving my short story “The Day Nostalgia Swept Over a Town” a space in this publication. Here are the other contributors.

And by the way, it is now available in Amazon for all your e-book-reading gadgets. Click here for that online purchase.


Because some companions were itching to see it the first time, I had the opportunity to watch “The Dark Knight Rises” again after the book launching. And it was still awesome the second time around. Yes, some flaws were much more evident now but so as its stateliness and novelistic approach to a comic book character. I admire that.

And the treats kept on coming. Someone I know had to cleanup her library—or should I say refresh it after having known to heart the entire collection—so I got Philip Roth’s “The Breast,” Ben Okri’s “The Famished Road” and “Dangerous Love,” David Lipsky’s “The Art Fair,” Samuel Lock’s “The Whites of Gold,” and lastly, Oscar Wilde’s “Five Major Plays.”

We then had dinner, a couple of drinks, and a seemingly short session of karaoke-ing even if we had exhausted the song catalog. Despite the rains, it was one, good Saturday.