Sunday, November 30, 2014

last breath

When people ask me how to read a poem (which always happens a lot when they learn about my undergraduate degree), I always tell them to try reading Robert Hass, Stephen Dunn, or Mark Strand. Especially the last one. “Just feel the words,” I would suggest. Meaning, let them sink deep on their own. Poetry, like love, cannot be forced. Though I only know a few poems from Strand, these few have left an imprint of deep admiration in me. That is why when news about his death came this morning, I can only think of this as a token of gratitude for his lasting genius: To read more of his works, to continue feeling his words. Below is a newfound favorite.


Mark Strand (1935-2014)

When you see them
tell them I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way,

that the lies I tell them are different
from the lies I tell myself,
that by being both here and beyond
I am becoming a horizon,

that as the sun rises and sets I know my place,
that breath is what saves me,
that even the forced syllables of decline are breath,
that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath,

that breath is a mirror clouded by words,
that breath is all that survives the cry for help
as it enters the stranger's ear
and stays long after the world is gone,

that breath is the beginning again, that from it
all resistance falls away, as meaning falls
away from life, or darkness fall from light,
that breath is what I give them when I send my love.

Friday, November 28, 2014

a good sport

I have once been asked to write something about sports. The closest I could get to was that event in college, the intramural. It has always been a part of many institutions since time immemorial. Its history could be sketchy at best; it could have started in the 1910s or it could have dated back to the era when Greece or Rome are in power, setting up games and competitions in arenas. This alone speaks volumes on how significant sports are in one’s culture.

But in this age of the iPhone 6 Plus, the internet, and other modern distractions, do the young still have time for ball games? Do they still have the slightest bit of interest on rules and discipline along with sweat and dirt? If we at the colleges of today, the answer is simple: Yes. During the intramurals, we see students taking pride in their team colors, taking part in an event that forges solidarity through fair play. There are no different courses and year levels, just skill and talent.

As tirelessly taught by many P.E. instructors, this is the constant agenda: We play to be better not only as an individual but as a community. Like a family. The intramurals are never meant to divide us. And this is the part where I have to probe deeper into the significance of sports among the young people of this generation.

Despite the consensus, a sport is not entirely about victory, power, strategy and strength in numbers. It is about the need to remind the young of the significance of principles such as honesty.

Fairness and truth must be discussed as a major factor in sports as much as being brave, being intelligent, and being pleasant. It must be discussed even more than the usual. Honesty is in fact a multilayered word. There are a lot of ways to interpret it: There was Gilas Pilipinas who admitted defeat to Argentina in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. There was the former cyclist champion Lance Armstrong who eventually revealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs in competitions. There was the regret of having not to play the sports I wanted to play now after suffering from a surfing accident that rendered both of my ankles inept. There was this defeat in a game I thought I was really good at. There are a lot more. Conceding only little.

That is why significance of sports must not only tackle whether there is a need to implement this among the youth or bring up what specific sport is good for them. Significance should also bring to light the values we can learn from sports. Because what good is winning when you have cheated? What good is a strategy when you mean to hurt someone? What good is a trophy if your hands are as dirty as your next lie? 

Indeed, honesty is the foundation of sports, the bedrock of all the other codes and morals that makes the games more engaging, profound, and beautiful. That is why we take the oath of sportsmanship before anything else, right? No amount of medals and recognition would result to honor without honesty. This is the crucial significance in sports that the youth needs to remember now and always.

Honesty though can pull one in different directions. Like a tug of war, there is tension from opposite ends. In a sport that you have lost, you could be left embittered, in surrender to the raw emotions of anger and envy. But on the other hand, you could be liberated from what you think you can do and get up from there. This is the kind of honesty that nurtures humility and would make one say, “Yes, I will do better next time.”

You see, when it comes to sports, we become too preoccupied on the competition, too focused on the reward, and burdened by the desire to outdo one another and to claim that elusive success story that we forget the very core of sports: to be good, to be better, and to be humble. I believe these are what makes one notable, in and out of the court.

To bring this to a close, the significance of sports among the young people of today remains indefatigable. It is ever-changing, never-ending, and tireless like the spirit of a true athlete. And one could only be as such if there is a certain kind of openness and sincerity in his heart. Honesty, win or lose, makes one a good sport.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

art therapy

Christmas came in early this week. Got 36 watercolor pencils all neatly arranged in one fancy tin case. So I made a color wheel as a note to myself for having not made any form of art—visual or literary—in a very long while. It’s a crime on this side of the planet (read: my sanity). Getting back to something you love to do after having ignored it for a year or so is no easy task. You can say it’s a dry spell. I’d like to believe the color wheel above resembles a mandala. This could be my own little universe, your universe, where calmness is the ultimate reward to one’s self, where colors are a salve to the soul.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


There are ghosts in our lives, dormant and unspeaking, until one day they will make themselves known with "How are you?" or the bastardized "Musta?" Be careful, my friend. They might not mean it. For what reason is their resurgence no one knows. But here's what is likely to be true: They need you. They will need you for their own good. They are that kind of people. This return with a seemingly harmless greeting will be followed by an inevitable pulling of the rug from under your feet. You will never know the accident until you have fallen. Hard. So keep in mind the insincerity behind the word, the cloud of pretense that cloaks the intention, the little details. You will learn and can identify it for sure. You've wielded the same word before, right? Remember how it happened? Musta na?

Friday, November 07, 2014

stellar, indeed.

I had my reservations with Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar." He is the kind of director whose films are always not without demerits: conversations too cerebral, ideas too heavy to take on screen. But it is these very same things that elevate his latest work. By means of science fiction, he presents the most basic desire, and ultimately, need of all human beings: connection. That in itself is notable, having a trait that is absent in many blockbusters that subject their audience with unnecessary bombast and explosions. For sure, there will be negative remarks about the movie (especially from those whose attention span is short and fleeting as a dance floor beat), but I am also sure the naysayers would mistake the film's ambition as high-mindedness, loss as distance, and emotion as coldness and inconsequential. For all its worth, "Interstellar" deserves to be seen. It is that rare film that presents itself with so much thought and feeling at the same time, its heart undeniably on its sleeve. Also, I want to have TARS as a friend.

[ image lifted from here