Monday, December 22, 2008
Processing my thoughts and attempting to articulate them in as concise a manner as possible is not always easy. The right words do not always come automatically. Often, I become infatuated with a turn of phrase that’s pretty but irrelevant (something I relate to personally). In these cases, self-editing becomes an agony.
I give myself weekly deadlines. Exercising the discipline to put words into paper (or screen as is the case) on a regular basis has given me a great deal of clarity on matters that would have otherwise remained in the periphery of my consciousness
What I write about is often a zeitgeist for my current emotional or mental state - my rant-du-jour, my relationships or anything else that happens to occupy mind-share at the moment (Food! Media! Travel!)
My topics are self-indulgent, if anything. I don’t think I can do this for a lving. I like the freedom of choosing my topics and not having to be accountable to anyone about what I write.
It’s been great for me to find out that people come and visit the blog regularly and like what they read. I appreciate the comments and look forward to them. I'm not shy about courting validation!
May you all have a blessed and Merry Christmas with your family, friends and the people that you love. May the coming year be one of prosperity, good health and joy! May all our dreams come true! May the name Bruno stick! May I reach 1,000,000 site visits by this time next year.
And, as always, may God continue to bless us all!
I’m leaving for New York in a few hours. It's snowing!
I write about dead people.
I don’t want to be the person who can’t move on from losing his mother, father and one sister. But, at the same time, I don’t know how I can separate the loss from the person that I am.
Every experience is somehow diminished by the knowledge that it can no longer be shared with them. Christmas and special occasions are specially difficult.
Reliving the memories is often a source of comfort and inspiration. Sometimes the memories cause pain so sharp it's almost physical. But, as in life, you can't take one without the rest.
I know that I can share new experiences with the people who are still present it in my life. And I do. I have a close circle of family and friends who are my life-savers.
I know that I should go ahead and create new memories. And I do try. That's what they would have wanted. More importantly - that's what I want for myself. There is so much left to do and try and taste and see.
But the fact remains – they’re gone. And I miss them. And I don’t want to relegate their presence in my life to the past.
I write about them because this is a way to keep their memories alive. I write about them because I want people to know that they lived, that their existence mattered.
I write about them because their influence in still very much apparent in how I now live my life.
I write about them because I know I write well. And I want to use that gift to honor them.
That's the way it is.
Even before his much anticipated innaguration, Obama suffers from indigestion during a secret meeting with Philippine President Arroyo.
Talbog si Tina Fey at kanyang Sarah Palin impersonation. Love ko talaga ang Filipino humor.
Friday, December 19, 2008
The name dates me. I don’t think anyone born after 1970 has been called either "Fermin” or “Arcadio”, much less both.
Had I been born a few years later – you may probably now know me as Kayne, Richard or Joshua, even – God forbid – Duane.
But,even for my time, I admit my name is unusual. I can only explain it by supposing that my parents were trying to get in the good graces of my grand-parents.
“Fermin” is my paternal grandfather. “Arcadia” is my maternal grandmother. They had no money so their good graces were not worth very much materially. This would be an entirely different post if I were Fermin Arcadio Vanderbilt or even Fermin Arcadio Ayala.
“Concepcion” is my mother’s “maiden name"(how archaic, this term, but it’s still in use apparently).
The “III” is like a transvestite’s penis - a useless organ. There is no other “Fermin Arcadio” so I cannot be “Taruc III”.
As a child, everyone called me “Jun-Jun”, true to the Filipinos penchant for doorbell nicknames, Everyone who still remembers me by this nickname is dead from old-age or close to it.
My parents called me “Sonny-boy” to their last breath. When my Dad was working abroad, his letters to me would all start with "Dear Sonny-boy:.
My grandmother still calls me "Jun-Love-First-Born-Apo" in one go, stringing the words like they were all joint together.
I never had a choice in any of these names. I always felt that none of them captured the essence of who I was or who I want to be.
“Fermin” sounds like a low-level municipal government employee who wears white socks and puts a comb in his back-pocket.
“Arcadio” sounds like somebody’s old bachelor uncle with epilepsy living up in the attic.
Nobody over 10 years old has the right to still be called “Jun-Jun” unless they were 400 pounds and still living with their mother.
Jun-Love-First-Born-Apo sounds like something my Lola would call one of her poodles.
With what I consider good reason, I have had to take matters in my own hand.
“Tarcs” is something a friend came up with about 20 years ago. It was a private joke until I decided I wanted everyone to call me by this name. Since I was shifting careers at that time, it was easy to get people to call me by my new name as they didn't have to unlearn an old one. Easy for everyone else – that is – except me. It took me a while to respond immediately when anyone called me "Tarcs". Twenty year is enough time to get used to it.
At 33, I was one of the oldest in my MBA batch back in 1996. I didn’t want my classmates to have any impression that I might be the fuddy-duddy-serious-party-pooper that “Fermin” or “Arcadio” would suggest”. “Tarcs” was fine but I was tired of it.
After much thought, I decided that I wanted to be called “Joey". The name seemed to conjure just the right images of the young, hip, easy-going, baseball-playing, gum-chewing person I wanted them to think I was before they found out otherwise (note to heckler - no, I didn't think they could tell just from looking and it's not polite to snicker) .
In all my school pre-registration forms, “Joey” was what I put in in the line across “name you prefer to be called by”. “Joey” was the name that appeared on my name-tag during the first day of class.
Unfortunately, my classmates were pretty smart. Without having to be told, I guess they knew instinctively that I wasn’t a “Joey” type. An Indian friend - due to my insistence on not responding to anything else - tried, but with his accent, what he called me sounded closer to “Jovy”.
I got the hints. I could never be a “Joey”. I stuck to “Tarcs”. Fortunately, it turned out that i had other qualities so I was still cool .
But, I’m rethinking my options. It 's time to try out a new name. I want to re-invent myself.
Looking back, it does seem like I get to do this every 10 years or so . Much less frequently than Madonna but definitely more than most normal people. But, then again, if I were normal, I would just have settled for good old "Fermin Arcadio" and you wouldn't be reading this blog.
I think I want to be called “Bruno” from now on.
“Bruno” sounds just right for somebody who shaves his head, dresses all in black, drinks Grey Goose vodka tonics and quotes Samuel Beckett.
Even if Bruno worked for a municipal government office, he would be the mayor's henchman doing all sorts of cool things with his machete. Even if he were an uncle living in the attic, he would be up there right now recuperating from being attacked by a bull in Pamplona. Even if he were 8 years old, Bruno would be the king of the playground "takin no shit from nobody, yo" with pockets bulging from other kids' lunch money.
I want to be a "Bruno". People have said I look like a "Bruno". Okay, that's settled - call me Bruno .
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I want to have one more Sunday lunch with the entire family sitting at the narra dining table.that my parents bought even before I was born.
I want one more morning when my Mom surprises my Dad on his December 24 birthday with his favorite breakfast of corned beef shaped into a heart on the plate.
I want my Dad to drop by my office again. This time I’m bringing him out to lunch.
I want one more ride in our old brown Izusu Gemini car with my Dad driving and my Mom beside him and my sisters and I singing carols at the back.
I want to nap on our old rattan sala set with the faded slip-covers that my Lola got tired of and handed down to us.
I want our 10-year-old white, dusty, plastic Christmas tree with the red poinsettia Christmas lights that my sister bought.
I want to go back to dressing up for Christmas eve and staying awake for Manang’s arroz caldo before we open our presents.
I want to go back to stressing-out looking for the perfect Christmas give for everyone and having it all worth it by seeing their faces light up as soon as they tear open the wrappers.
I want to open up all the cabinets and drawers to let all the good luck in on New Year’s eve just like my Mom said we should.
I want the familiarity and comfort of my Mom’s smell back – that mixture of perfume, lotion, powder and lipstick that is so closely attached to my memories of her.
I want to go home. I want things to be just like they were before.
Everyone is gone. The furniture has been given away. Nobody else remembers the old brown Izusu Gemini car.
I go on alone.
This is totally counter-productive behavior but what-the-fuck, you know?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Prayer of St. Francis Drake
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Today is my Mom's 2nd death anniversary. I totally forgot about it. Manang had to remind me this morning.
Coincidentally, last night, I was out with the same group of friends who kept me company the night she died.
Some things change. Some things stay the same. Life goes on.
I'm sad. I feel left behind.
I'm hoping that prolonged staring at my miniature Christmas tree collection will cheer me up. Not working so far.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Hello again. You were too much for me. I've tried to avoid you. But, now I know I need you. I'll die without you, You make me sooooo hot. Whenever I’m on you, I pump and sweat and grunt. When we’re done, I just want to roll over and fall asleep. Your big daddy’s going to see you tomorrow. I’m going to work you hard. Watch out.
Dear Size 36 belt:
You’re a control freak. You have to let me go. I need my space. I can’t breathe with how you so tightly hold on to me. You make me sick to my stomach. Goodbye.
I appreciate your loyalty. You’ve stuck with me when everyone else has left. I’ve tried to get rid of you several times but you’ve been cool – just hanging loose all over me. But, people are starting to talk about us. We have to be firm and end this now. Goodbye.
Dear Large Size Shirt:
I am so over you. Stop hanging around thinking we might go out together again – it’s not going to happen. I’ve gone on a totally different horizontal direction but you’re still stuck in our past, refusing to grow with me. I have a new size in my life right now - Extra Large. Go pack yourself. It’s over. Goodbye.
I wish. Actually, all I've been feeding lately is my stomach. While digesting, I do a lot of random internet surfing.
I recently came across a study that claims the the part of our brain that controls our ability to sing is the same exact part that determines our ability to drive a car, among other motor skills.
This makes perfect sense to me. I suppose millions of dollars have been spent on research to establish this correlation. What a waste of money in these times of austerity. They could just have interviewed me.
I’ve already posted on my musical ability (or lack thereof). I may also be the world’s worst driver in the over-40/has driven-for-over a- decade category.
When I was learning to drive, I went through countless instructors including my dad, a former friend who doesn’t speak to me anymore and Mang Ernie from the AI-Driving Academy. At one point, I had to politely ask him not to shout at me so loudly. Between Mang Ernie's saliva showers and my excessive sweating, the steering wheel and the driver’s seat were drenched at the end of each of our one-hour lessons.
High-strung individuals have no business riding with me. Old ladies have had to resort to praying the rosary out loudly (Hello, Tita Pining!). Little girls have been reduced to screams until they faint from exhaustion (Hello, Carla and Chuchai!). Adult men have found themselves incoherently muttering unsolicited instructions (Hello, Stefan and Kristanto!).
My sense of direction is abysmal. My idea of defensive driving is incessant honking. I can not parallel park. I do not know how to change a flat tire.
But, hey I’m not so bad. Regardless of emperical evidence and whatever the egg-heads in the science journals say, I do appreciate the convenience of having a car and, on occasion, I do enjoy driving (short distances, familiar routes, good company, no traffic, favorite CD playing). Even then, I will drive if I have to and you’re welcome to ride with me but don’t say I didn’t warn you and, for God’s sake, don’t cry.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
In the 1960’s, there was an international, top-secret project involving the breeding and development of superior human beings genetically designed to have the looks, skills and abilities necessary to rule the world.
I am a product of this project.
You don't know about the project because , obviously, you were never a part of it.
The laboratory site was invaded by a fleet of marauding aliens before work on me could be completed.
Deficient in hair follicles, a sense of rhythm and mathematical skills, but otherwise perfect in every way, I was able to escape.
I have since roamed the world searching for others who may have survived that horrible invasion – that I may banish the solitude of my genius.
But my enemies are never far away and I must escape them.
For protection - aside from my intellect, good looks and various skin care products - I come armed only with 36 pairs of shoes to match my various disguises.
In my wanderings, I have had to pretend to be a chef, a movie star in Japan, a teen-age dork, a model, a philosopher , an art critic and, most unfortunately, a vegetable salad.
At one point – oh the horror, the sheet horror – I even had to pretend to be a singer.
But I am weary of being a fugitive; tired of the games I have had to devise to amuse myself.
Tonight, in the cave that is my hiding place, I strip off the latex of my fat suit - my latest , most disgusting disguise - and stare into the mirror.
I see my real self - ripped, lean with a six pack abdomen with which glass could be cut.
I think of all that could be.
I say to myself….
If among us, there are those who wish to be remembered as people who have, in a simple way, given what little they have to make this world a better place – I would like to be one of them.
Many have dreams of doing something significant and momentous – making them remembered by generations to follow.
I only wish to be remembered with fondness rather than awe, respect rather than fascination and love rather than admiration by those who have known and been with me.
Tomorrow, November 28, is Grace's 18th death anniversary.
She did get her wish.
In a parallel universe, maybe somebody could play matchmaker and Grace and Wyatt could go out together or something. What do you think? :-)
Monday, December 1, 2008
I was doing some web research on the Peace Corps (long story, I’ll tell you about it sometime) recently and came across the blog of one volunteer.
His name is Wyatt Ammon
Wyatt arrived in Zambia on September 2005. He left his Project Management job in Washington DC and had committed to two years of social development work for a rural community. When asked as to his reasons for volunteering, he said, "I don't want to work for money or prestige, I want to work for change and satisfaction".
He started the blog to share his experiences with family and friends back home in the US.
On November 12, 2005 , Wyatt posted on his blog. His entry was funny and smart. It made me laugh.
No other entry followed. I became curious.
Following links on his blog, I found out that Wyatt died on on November 17, a few days after he last posted in his blog..
He was leaning against a glass window. It broke, He fell from the 5th floor.
He was 24. He had been in Zambia for only 10 weeks. He had just finished his training and was just about to begin his community assignment. How could something like this happen?
As one might expect, his close circle of family and friends were devastated.
Following one link after another, I realized that Wyatt had managed to leave an indelible impression on those who came to know him. He was loved and admired by many.
I am particularly moved by what his sister wrote in her own blog a few weeks after Wyatt was buried.
Three years after Wyatt’s death, a commemorative site his family and friends put up still continues to be active.
As with anything that catches my interest, obviously, I’ve obsessed on this subject.
Having had to deal with the death of loved ones myself, I’m relating to the pain felt by Wyatt’s family, especially since they’re all very articulate in expressing it.
When the memories are all that you have left, you want to make sure these are shared and kept alive by as many people as possible.
I know from my own experience that the pain never really goes away. I’m thinking it might be similar to having an arm or a leg amputated . Eventually I suppose you get used to the loss and you might even learn to work around it – but you’re never ever the same again.
Finding out more about Wyatt from the stories shared about him, I feel a sense of loss for the rest of the world from his passing.
He was someone who seemed to enjoy life. He had much to live for and much to give. You can imagine what else he could have done and all the good he could still have contributed.
And, in one moment, that was all taken away.
That could happen to any of us. Today - I'm writting this post or you're reading it. Tomorrow - who knows?
This makes me think about my own life and all the things I still want to do.
This is a reminder to live each day as though it might be my last – to be thankful for it, and not to waste any moment of it on regret, anger or hatred.
I don't know Wyatt Ammon or his family but, from thousands of miles away, this is my way of helping keep his memory alive. Wyatt Ammon was here in this world. I honor his memory and the life that he seems to have lived so well.
Rest in peace, Wyatt Ammon.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This is really not about the tee-shirts. It’s about how great friends surprise you sometimes with how in-synch you are.
Bad photo. Great moment.
Her unfortunate name notwithstanding, Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote this poem that I like,
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
If you don’t see the humor in the preceding statement, you must be a first time visitor to this blog.
Or you have no appreciation for irony – in which case, you may want to be my friend but never will be (sorry) :-).
From time to time,, I indulge myself and I look back at my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I can pinpoint the areas where I could have done differently – chosen another path, taken another approach, made other choices.
But I look back as one might review earlier pages of a book being read. You do so knowing the story can’t be changed but just want to be reminded of how its twists and turns have taken you to the current page. Or sometimes, you just feel the need to revisit insights or lessons that could be applied now or at anytime in the future.
I try not to look back with regret. What is done is done. And I know that – however a life choice has turned out – it was always the best I could have made under the circumstances present then.
I no longer have any grand plans or ambitions. Whatever my aspirations were in my younger years, I've accepted that in my lifetime I will not be able to end poverty or find a cure for cancer.
I take each day as it comes. On a daily basis, I try to make the best decision I could make, no matter how seemingly inconsequential.
I lead a very ordinary life. My daily decisions will hardly determine how the world at large will fare – but many are big enough not only to affect other people and their well-being but also potentially alter my perception of the kind of person I want to be.
The choices are not always clear-cut but I try to keep my criteria consistent.
Have I considered all sides? Am I being truthful? Am I being fair? Can I live with my choices? Will the right people benefit from this decision? If this decision will cause initial harm, will it be eventually for the greater good?
And why do my questions sound like the Rotary Club's Four Way Test?
Sometimes, the answers are not needed immediately and I can enjoy the luxury of pondering But, more often, the answers are required in a split second. So, I say a short prayer, go with what my gut tells me and psych myself up to own up to my choices.
Calibrating and following my life compass in this way, one decision eventually leads to another and I sometimes find myself where I am without necessarily meaning to be there.
I do have my “Huh, how did I get here?” moments. But then again – given how the decisions that were made got me to wherever – I know that I am where I am supposed to be for the moment and I am there for the right reasons.
And, no matter what the present is, I know that the future brings with it countless opportunities for second chances and fresh starts.
No regrets. Only hope.
And this prayer.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Both made me smile.
From Jessica Zafra's blog, this ad for the Metro in Madrid, Spain, set in Madrid, Surigao del Sur, Philippines. The humor in this is so multi-layered, there's always some funny new thing I catch everytime I watch it. They should do something for the Harvard School of Laguna.
From Gypsy Soul's blog, this ad for the Discovery Channel. This one makes me want to hug everyone (except maybe the smelly Germans I was in the elevator with earlier)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Additional words are superflous.
Thanks again Gino for allowing me to share your photographs.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Aside from being book-smart, he is also very perceptive. His insights are often spot-on.
He once told me that the reason why I’m so oral (smoking, talking , drinking, eating ) is because I have such a huge appetite for life and I want to take everything in all at once. I liked it when he said that.
Of course, at another time, he also said that I had no bone in my mean body (we do enjoy our word play)
Both statements were very true at the time they were said.
Physically, Gino appears like the big-time, successful bank executive that he is. Looking at him, one might think that he was all about quarterly reports and month-end deadlines. Not so.
Gino has the heart and soul of an artist (although - let's call a spade a spade - not the body of a starving one :-) ). Like a couple of my other friends (see here and here), his chosen medium is photography.
What started as a casual hobby 5 years ago is now a passion.
Gino’s photographs immediately stop you in your tracks because of their visual impact. But you truly begin to appreciate the photos upon closer and longer inspection.
Gino does not just capture particular moments frozen in time. Through his photographs, he expresses a very clear point of view. His images are framed, positioned or lighted in such a way as to allow us to see the world from his perspective.
By sharing his vision, Gino allows us to see the extraordinary in what otherwise may appear as nondescript in our eyes. To me, some of the photographs seem almost cinematic in the way that they are able to suggest scale and movement.
I think Gino achieves this feat – not just through his imagery – but also through restraint. All of the elements in each of the photographs fit together. Each photograph has a focal point, everything else provides depth and context. Any distracting or extraneous variable seems to have been edited out. As such, nothing obstructs us from viewing the image as Gino has meant it to be seen. It is this combination of talent and discipline that makes my friend such a great artist.
Enough of my chit-chat. Here are some of Gino's photos. There's more where they came from.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I look at Mang Claudio as a member of the extended family. Because of the nature of his job, he’s been there for a lot of our family milestones.
He’s retired now but he still does odd jobs for the rest of the family . He drives for me from time to time. I haven't heard from him for awhile.
I got a text message from him earlier today. The message was “Asan ka na? Kumusta ka na?” (“Where are you? How are you?”).
The blues make me sluggish so it took a while for me to reply. I thought he was asking because he needed something from me.
I texted him back to say I was in Manila and I was okay.
A few seconds after, he sent back another short message, “Alam kong mag-isa ka lang sa bahay, kinukumusta lang kita kung okay ka” (“I know you’re alone in the house, I’m just checking on you to make sure you’re okay”).
I have angels watching over me. I feel really blessed
1. “The Japanese are coming!” game - When we were young, my sisters and I would shout “The Japanese are coming!” at the top our lungs. That was a signal to run as fast as we could to get to a destination. This was inspired by stories from our parents about growing up during World War II. I do need to say that I’ve since made a lot of Japanese friends. Today, when I hear somebody shouting “The Japanese are coming!” , I’m more likely to run towards them, not away. However, the objective of arriving ahead at a destination remains the same. At least two players must participate. This can be played anytime exercise or speed is required. Or - when you all need to use the bathroom.
2. “The most painful” game – This is topping-off your friends’ idea of what the most painful thing could be. The last time I played this, the runaway winner was – "chewing on blades then gargling with vinegar". At least two players are needed. “Betrayal is not a valid answer and will ruin the game– this is about physical pain not a an existentialist discussion. While this can be great fun - unfortuantely, it can not be played too often as there are only so many ways to hurt yourself.
3. “The Houdini” game – This is tying yourself up to a post or any immoveable object and racing to see who’s able to break free first. At least two players are required with one other person to check on time and to prevent cheaters. This can be played anytime you have too much time on your hands.
4. “The mental math” game – This is a race to arrive at the product of two numbers with at least three digits each. The answer has to be arrived at mentally without the use of paper or a calculator. At least two players are required. This is great for long road trips or when you run out of conversation topics.
So, who needs a stupid X-Box when you can do all of these?
Pena was the friend I would do silly things with. Some of the things I remember doing with her are:
1. During full moons, we would howl at the top of our voices in the curb just outside her dormitory. This was the University of the Philippines in the 1980’s – I don’t recall anyone stopping us – everyone else must have been busy fighting the Marcoses. To this day, Pena is still the first person I’ll think of in case there’s a full moon and there’s howling to be done.
2. We cut classes sometimes and would go Aberdeen Court, a few kilometers away from campus, for the cheap beer. We would walk back home drunk in the middle of the night. On hindsight, this was a very stupid thing to do. I could have been assaulted and Pena may not have been able to protect me :-).
3. We practice-kissed with each other so that we would have some experience when we had the opportunity to make out for real with other people.
It was all very innocent and such a long time ago. We’ve both been knocked around a few times since then but our friendship remains active and current.
Pena remains to be one of my very best friends. We keep in touch. But even if it takes months before we hear from each other, we don’t waste time re-establishing a shared context. It’s just there.
That’s she and I in the picture with both our hair shaven off, grinning at our shared coolness.
Between the two of us, Pena was the quite one. But, between the two of us, I see her as the brave and strong one. She doesn’t judge people. She accepts them for who they are even if who they are sometimes causes her pain.
She’s not afraid to follow her heart even if takes her through uncertain, dark roads. The possibility of the light at the end of the tunnel keeps her going.
I’m writing about her because the thought of our friendship cheers me up.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Whenever I count my blessings, having talented friends is always high up on the list. Like Forti, another good friend, Dede, is also a great photographer.
Also, I have a unique talent for recognizing and pointing out the absurd and humorous even in the most adversarial of situations. That gets me into trouble sometimes when people take me too literally. But, good friends know me enough to laugh with me. And that’s a good thing. It makes the hairiest of problems so much easier to deal with once you’re able to make light of it.
But, sometimes I get sad. Often, the mood passes right away. The sadness can be easily dispelled by any one of my simple joys - like a gentle wind blowing a dark cloud away on a sunny afternoon.
Occassionally, the sadness stays on for days – like a thick, wet blanket that’s too heavy to be shaken off. The sadness can be triggered by any number of things. A memory. A failure. A disappointment.
Or it can just come for no apparent reason – late at night when it’s quite . Or long holiday week-ends when everyone is away doing their own thing. I never lack invitations or choices for company but there are times when I don’t feel like being a guest and the person on the periphery of the photos – there but not quite there. You know what I mean.
I suppose the sadness is a function of being alone. However, I know enough from late night conversations and caffeine or alcohol-fueled discussions with friends, that “alone” can take on many forms.
I know of many other people with families and partners and children (and pets and plants) who've told me that sometimes they too feel alone. Somebody once told me ( I have to keep track of who’s said what to me so I can attribute my quotes) that the loneliest feeling is to be with someone and yet still feel alone.
They have thoughts they want to share, tentative feelings they want to process – but there’s no one who can or wants to listen. Or no one who can understand without making it about them. It’s hard to talk to people about some things that they might construe as a judgment on their own failings (i.e. "I love you so why are you still so sad. What did I do wrong this time? Why is it that anything I do is never good enough?")
Whatever. Right now, I can't really think about other people. All I know is that tonight, at this moment, I'm feeling sad. You don't have to understand it. Just accept my current state for what it is.
I’ll snap out of this, I always do.
We’ve kept in touch but not regularly. So her email was a surprise. She dreamt about my Mom. In the dream, my Mom was about 50-ish years old, wearing a yellow dress and carrying a Kelly bag . It tells you about my friend that there's a Kelly bag detail in there :-) but my Mom was very particular about her bags being roomy with plenty of compartments.
Anyway, in the dream, my mom was on her way out from church but came over to my friend. My Mom whispered to her to tell me to take it easy and to let me know that she was worried about the pace I was currently taking.
That sounds exactly like something my Mom would have said.
My friend is not prone to emailing me about her dreams (first time its happened in 20+years) and I’m not one to go about looking for signs. But, when something like this comes out of nowhere, you get to thinking.
This is the trajectory my thought process has taken:
I think that our parents never stop watching out for us. I think that their love for us is so deep and strong and abiding that - even in death - they will find a way to reach out to us.
This, in turn, reminds me of a letter my Dad left for us. I found in it in his briefcase a few days after we had buried him. He must have have written it just before we brought him to the hospital for the last time.
My Dearest Mama, Jun Jun, Grace and Gina:
I feel that I may not last very long as I feel this weakness every day. I want you to know that I love you very, very much. I could not ask more from a wife and as a Father from his children. You have made me a very happy husband and father. Thank you. I could not thank the Lord enough for giving you to me.
Love and help each other always. Give glory to God in everything we do. Remember those who have been good to us……Ninang Liy, Joseph and family, Mike and Lily. Do not forget Juliet and Nonoy. Help Vina when you can.
Most of all, stay close to each other and love each other always.
Make Mama happy. She has suffered enough for all of us.
Tell Lola Mi and my brothers and sisters that I love them. Do not forget Lolo Di.
I am sorry if I have not been a very good father to you. What I know is that I love you dearly and did my best.
As to where you want to keep my remains, I leave that to the best discretion of Mama...to a place convenient for you and you will incurr the least expense.
I hope my nephew and nieces are able to read this so they know how special their grandparents were.
As to my friend's dream - yeah - Ok, Mom. Got that. Say hi to everyone for me.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The first picture makes me mad. A girl that young should not have eyes that old. She seems to have seen and experienced more than anyone that age should have. I worry about what might happen to her.
The second picture makes me uneasy. The old woman’s eyes are hard and unflinching. She seems to have gone through countless tragedies and hardships in her life . She sees nothing but more of the same for the rest of her life. But she will survive. Because that is what she does. Perhaps this is what the girl in the first picture will look like after 70 years. But, then again considering other possibilities, only if the girl is lucky.
The third picture is of a family living off the streets. The children’s eyes do not yet seem to have lost their innocence. It makes me wonder how far their mother’s love can keep the innocence there.
The fourth picture makes me uncomfortable There are too many contradictions going on in the image. The squalor and waste of the surroundings against the freshness of the flower; the youth of the girl against the worldliness of her gaze and pose. Everything co-exists in the picture but, in my mind, there is something that is not right.
The fifth picture makes me smile. It seems familiar. I see a hint of innocence remaining in the woman’s eyes. She has known much love in her life and remains secure in the care and protection of her family. This is how we would like our mothers and grandmothers to look like.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I'm always glad when people agree with my opinions.
Filipino food was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal
And, yey, Anthony Bourdain, is in the Philippines to shoot an episode (By the way, who has my copy of Kitchen Confidential? I need it back).
Gina and I are different in many ways. Sometimes, you have to wonder how people raised in the same environment could be so different from each other. For one thing, I’m much more anal and prone to sweating the small stuff. But we’re alike in a lot of ways too. Family is both important to us. I guess we just show it in different ways.
A friend once told me that sentimentality is a luxury for those with extra time to spare. I know that life in Chicago is not easy especially without a support system to rely on. But she and my brother in law are doing what they need to do.
I’m writing this post to let my sister know that I’m proud of her. And that I love her and her family very much.
I like it when my friends come over. I guess people like coming over too.
Not to over-analyze everything but here’s a brief rundown on what I think makes the House Happy.
1. There’s always food and drinks. I realize that’s one more reason why I stock up. I like to know that when I invite people over for a spur-of-the-moment thing , they won’t go hungry.
2. More than that, I try to keep the food and drinks interesting – there’s always some strange, “I’ve never had this before” item in my fridge or pantry – something to look forward to, even for those who’ve been over several times.
3. My overhead fluorescent lamp got busted 8 years ago. I haven’t bothered to replace it since. Net effect – available lighting is dim and soft. Everyone looks attractive – even the friends who aren't as attractive as the rest of us (they have great personalities so I keep them)
4. My place is so small that everybody’s seated close to each other and nobody gets left out in a conversation. Although at one time, there were about 20+ people for a party and people were chatting while holding their drinks in the bathroom,
5. I have lots of interesting stuff. Talking about them is good as a conversation starter for new-comers or conversation pieces for drunk people.
6. I have a really, really comfortable sofa and lots of pillows. When you’re drunk, you just plop over and nobody minds. Or when it's just about chilling out or catching up, everybody just lies down wherever they can and we have our conversations that way until everyone drifts off to nap time.
7. There are no judgments in the Happy House. Just love and acceptance. I guess people sense that because the talk is always open and free-flowing. If these walls could talk - I would not need to blog.
8. Have I mentioned the drinks?
Come on over.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
As I nursed my drink, my mind wandered to one summer a long time ago. The memories are almost faded but the residual pain still stings sharply
Let me tell you my story.
I was innocent, naïve, bright-eyed and hopeful. After all, I was only 36.
I had a dream, you see. I wanted to sing. By God, I wanted to sing!
But all my life , I was told I could not. I was told I was out of tune. I was told I could not carry a note.
My attempts to prove otherwise had always been met with much taunting and derision. Vulnerable and unsure in my younger years, I kept silent.
But the music in my soul was restless. Finally, it could no longer be kept still.
It was that summer that I enrolled in the Ryan Cayabyab School of Music and met Teacher Jun. I knew – I was sure, certain – that with the right teacher, I could be a great singer.
I would show the naysayers. I would show all of them. After the end of the ten sessions I had paid for in advance, I would be asked to do a solo in a recital.
My friends and family would be there – invited on some pretext. I knew they would snicker as soon as they saw me on stage. But I also knew they would be be struck silent as soon as I had opened my mouth to release the beautiful notes that had been too long suppressed.
Everybody would rise at the end of my song, clapping wildly, tears pouring down their eyes. I would look down on them from the stage with triumph and magnanimity, generous with my love and forgiveness.
On my first session, I was ushered into a small room with a piano, a stool and a mirror. Teacher Jun was there waiting for me. He asked me to sing a piece of my choosing to show my range. I chose I’ll Never Say Goodbye which I had practiced over and over again in the bathroom to prepare for this moment, my moment.
Four lines into the song, I was asked to stop. Teacher Jun said it may be best for us to begin with scales. One hour of do-re-mi’s standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your tummy can pass by very slowly.
On my second session, a week later, I was prepared to give my showcase piece another go. But Teacher Jun had other ideas. He still wanted me to do scales. Who was I to argue? At the end of the session, I was sweating. So was Teacher Jun. But I felt we were making progress. I was on my way.
I was happy. But, alas, all too briefly.
On the third session, I did not even have the chance to do scales. Teacher Jun sat me down, looked me in the eye and very gently informed me that in our short time together, I was not able to hit one note right.
He suspected I might be tone-deaf, thus unable to emulate the piano notes correctly. He said that I should not waste my money by finishing the singing lessons . I had 7 pre-paid sessions still unused but he could make arrangements to convert these into Introduction to Piano lessons.
Starting from the basics would train my ears. And then maybe, someday, I could go back and try singing again. Who was he kidding?
We had 45 minutes left in the session. But there was no point in staying.
I left the room with my shoulders slumped and my head bowed. On my way out, I saw the ten-year olds waiting for their piano lesson sessions. I was better than them. I had an MBA. I hated them. I hated them all. I wished them acne and a lifetime of spurned love.
I never went back to Ryan Cayabyab's School of Music. I have never sung in public again.
Less you think so, I have no bitterness in my heart. None, whatsoever. But, let me just say that Paul Potts stole my dream 9 years later and made it his reality. I hate Paul Potts too. I have perfect teeth. He needs to go to a good dentist.. And I wonder - when Susan Boyle finally gets kisssed, will she turn into a princess?
Next time you see me in a karaoke party,leave me alone or buy me another beer and let's just discuss Friedrich Nietzsche
Ugly Betty's Father – “ Growing up is not about making the right decisions; its about dealing with the consequences of the decisions we make”
Lucas from One Tree Hill – “Sometimes all we can pray for is the courage to wake up another day”
So, shoot me.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Because of its paradoxical nature, a koan forces the mind not to think analytically but intuitively.
In the process of contemplation, turning the question over and over again in one’s head, one hopefully finds perspective and gains insight. And one day – some day – when the mind is clear and peaceful, an answer will come.
Not THE answer because there can be no absolute, unequivocal ONE to a koan. Zen practice tells us that the answers we arrive at may change as we ourselves change.
In other words, a koan is the perfect thing to think about when you’re sitting on the toilet with constipation.
It relaxes the muscles so that release is easier. The shit will probably come out of your butt ahead of an answer coming to your head. Enlightenment is bliss - but so is relieving yourself.
Not to worry – you’ll probably be back on the toilet bowl in 12 hours to have another go at the koan.
While I’m not shitting as I write, I find myself this Sunday afternoon with (as usual) nothing to do and The Buzz providing mindless prattle in the background. Perfect time to Zen.
One of the more famous koans is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” .
Let me try and have a go at it.
I think (right now, at this moment)….to clap, one needs two hands. A hand by itself does not clap. No sound is produced. But that does not make the hand non-existent nor does it negate the movement that the hand is making. It just is not clapping. But, it’s something. Something is better than nothing.
I’m going to add “Koans” to my topic Labels for this blog. It should be interesting to revisit the question every now and then, or to have a go at other Koans, to track my progress towards Enlightenment (or regular bowel movement )
Care to have a go at this koan? What does your present state of consciousness tell you?
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Sam is the name of the man from Kenya I met today. We were both waiting our turn to see the doctor (regular check-up for me, he was getting a prescription for vitamins).
Sam used to manage a farm cooperative in his country. From what I gathered, he had a comfortable life. He has a wife and a son. His family has some properties.
Sam is very tall and very thin. He looks like what I imagine an African warrior might look like.
He is in the Philippines as a volunteer for an international organization. He is based in Agusan to share his expertise with a local group.
Why would a Kenyan leave his country to do volunteer work in the Philippines?
He said his former job exposed him to the inequalities of the system. Big business was getting the big bucks. The farmers didn’t get much. He couldn’t do much to change the system in his country because he was so much a part of it.
So, he left and ended up here. He wants to do good. He wants to share his knowledge so that the system he is so familiar with ends up working for the farmers. He plans to go back home after his posting in the Philippines.
He will apply whatever knowledge and experience he gains here to make changes there.
He has good intentions. He is ready and willing to do the hard work. He wants to do more. But change is slow. The people are different. The culture is different. Even the food is different. He has not been eating well (hence the trip to Manila to see the doctor). He spends a lot of time attending long and rambling meetings.
What is a man to do?
He told me that he could be frustrated and depressed. But, he chooses not to. He knew, before coming here, that it would be difficult. He knew it would be different. But different doesn’t have to be bad. He is learning. He is adjusting. He sees the small incremental changes.
He is teaching himself to appreciate rather than complain.
His journey has taken him here. He will make the most of it.
What a great guy Sam is.
No, I am not Sam. But, maybe someday when I grow up, I can be.
She lives by herself in Los Angeles in a senior citizens’ condominium. Her children want her to live with one of them. She prefers to live by herself. She visits with them every now and then but, after a few days, she always asks to be brought back to her apartment.
Her apartment is full of pictures of her kids and grandkids and the dolls and stuffed animals she collects. The apartment smells of perfume and powder.
A Guatemalan lady comes in everyday to clean up, run errands and occasionally do her nails. But, Lola pretty much takes care of herself. Whenever there’s something special she wants to eat, she goes out to the market to buy the ingredients and cooks it herself. I hope she's still able to do that.
On other days, when she wants to socialize with the other seniors in the dining hall downstairs, she makes sure that she first does her hair, puts on her make-up and dresses up before she goes down.
On the day my Dad was buried (in 1990), grief-stricken, as she was, Lola came to church wearing huge dark sunglasses, this long, black, high-necked, long-sleeved, billowy dress with a huge cloth flower in front.
Anyone who was there to see it, could probably describe the dress as well - it had that kind of impact. Walking beside her, I could hear her mumbling something incoherently. Leaning close her to offer consolation, I finally understood what she was saying - I was stepping on her dress. She wanted me to take my foot out.
All of her children and most of her grandchildren take after her vanity. Lola has probably won every senior citizen beauty contest in her building.
But, she also puts up her feet and eats with her hands, especially when she gets access to contraband guinamos. I hope that we are all also as down-to-earth as our grandmother.
She used to write long, chatty letters full of Bible verses and stories about people we both love who have gone on ahead of us. She used to remember all her grand-children’s birthdays, would always send a card and, when she could afford to, have a few dollar bills inserted. I would still receive the cards with dollar bills even after I had started working already.
The last few letters from her were repetitive and her handwriting was already difficult to read. She doesn’t write to me anymore.
Her name is Lola. She loves to cha-cha.
I love her. I really should call her more often.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Being the cool and suave person I am now – it might be hard to imagine I was anything but.
1. One day, walking through the school grounds, I was hit in the head by a volleyball. The ball whacked me on the head and then bounced off. I pretended not to notice and walked right on. It was either that or: a) get mad; b) volley the ball back; d)faint from the pain – all of which I was too embarrassed to do. This is the first time I am publicly sharing this story.
2. In Music class in grade school we were required to perform at the end of each term to showcase our musicality. I have no musicality. To pass the class, I lip-synched and danced to a 45’ recording of Long Haired Lover from Liverpool. Our former teacher is now a nun. I'm not saying these two events are related but - one never knows.
3. My prom date dumped me . The date started really well. Picked her up. Had the corsage. Somebody else ended up bringing her home. I ended up helping the Food Committee clean-up and bring the left overs home. Prom Date is now one of my oldest,dearest and closest friends. Jon Cryer would play me in the movie. Molly Ringwald would be Prom Date. Huh, what? They made it into a movie already? Imagine that :-).
4. I was crowned Mr. Nutrition of 1976. They cancelled the competition immediately after.
That’s what my friend thought I was preparing for when she came to visit and saw my bathroom for the first time.
I’m paranoid about running out of my brands-of-choice for everything from toilet paper (Joy 2 ply)) to shaving blades (Mach3) . It goes on.
And we’re just talking about my bathroom here. You should see my pantry
Or my liquor cabinet (which by itself should be the subject of another post – another friend at one time thought I might need an intervention)
Or my magazine pile. Or my DVD pile.
Why am I such a hoarder?
I’ve never really thought about it before but now that I have a blog, and my very own public (yes, all three of you :-) ), everything is potential material.
The “three days of darkness” theory does strike some resonance It’s a Catholic boy thing. The 3 days will supposedly signal the end of the world, giving people time to repent and pray before Judgment Day .
Stocking up on food and water kinda make sense – we wouldn’t want to go hungry or thirsty waiting for the Lord to come. But toiletries? I guess that would be me not wanting to risk being badly groomed when I meet our Maker. Who knows maybe hygiene might count for extra points when determining who’s in or out (all the stinky people with acne will go to hell).
Between eating and exfoliating – hopefully, I could still be able to squeeze in some praying and reflection.
I’m manifesting my history. Both my parents grew up during the war. I was in grade school during the rice shortage caused by the giant typhoons across Northern Luzon in the 70;s. Coup attempts during my lifetime have closed down supermarkets. These were life-or-death situations. Again, stocking up on food and water makes sense. But liquor? I’m explaining that with the need to numb the pain and fear during these emergencies. And, if you’re drinking anyway – you might as well have the makings for various cocktails.
More than the fear of running out of stuck – I fear boredom. The magazines and DVDs are there to make sure that in the event that I’m holed up in the condo and can’t get out (i.e. because of war, super typhoons, coups, gas attacks, cable TV not working, killer running amuck in the hallway, Judgment Day) – at least I would always have something to read or watch.
Since putting up this post, I've decided to stop the hoarding. I am not going to buy any more toiletries until I've used up everything I have. If you come across me and catch a whiff of coconut-vanilla - that would be the smell of the liquid soap I filched from a hotel in Taipei in 1986.