Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am. Are you?

I have the book. I'll lend it to you if you want.

Synch in the City

My friend Joy was at the Happy House last Saturday to hang out.
Between her stuff and mine, we could clothe the population of a small nation. How great was it that we picked similar tee-shirts without knowing until seeing each other?

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.

Oriah, Yeah

Her unfortunate name notwithstanding, Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote this poem that I like,

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and
if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning usto be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

I really want to know. About you. And about myself.

But I think
I should
end this post
I've started
the unfortunately named

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Here

I am sure it is not obvious but I am given to some amount of introspection.

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

Ads Nas-ayahanako- eum

I came across these gems from other people's blogs.

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

Not Just Another Fucking Sunset

I thought that Gino’s sunsets deserved a separate post.

Additional words are superflous.

Thanks again Gino for allowing me to share your photographs.

Marinduque, Philippines

Roxas Boulevard, Manila

Boracay, Philippines

Bicol, Philippines

Bali, Indonesia


Note: The photographs on this page are used with express consent and permission. They may not be used or reproduced elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't Judge My Brother. He is Not a Book.

My friend, Gino, is like a brother to me. He is one of the smartest people I know.

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.

Boracay, Philippines

Sea Beggars in Southern Philippines

Siblings in a train Station in Bicol region, Philippines

A bridge in Ilocos, northern region of the Philippines

Batanes, Philippines

Marinduque, Philippines

Binondo, Manila, Philippines

Guimaras, Southern Philippines

Note: The photographs shown on this page are used with express consent and permission. They may not be used or reproduced elsewhere.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

He, Claudio

I’ve known Mang Claudio for most of my life. He was my uncle’s chauffer.

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

My Life as a Player

I’ve never been very good at sports and we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up (we wuz poah, y'all). But I’ve always had a great imagination.

As a result, I’ve had to be creative in devising ways to amuse myself.

Here are some of the games I’ve created with family and friends over the years.

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.

5. "The use-this-word" game - Occassionally, just before a big presentation to a public audience or an important client, I would ask my companions to give me any word they could think of and I would bet that I would be able to use these in -context. It's great fun to figure out how to make words like "necrophilia" or "lipstick" relevant when you're talking about software.

6. "The guess-my-age" game - When you're in a restaurant with a group of friends, you ask the server to guess how old each of you are. This is very risky and certainly not for the faint-hearted, very similar to Russian roulette. You never know what you're going to get. But, it an also be very satisfying when you're given an age lower than your real one, even if you know that the server is lying

So, who needs a stupid X-Box when you can do all of these?

(photo courtesy of Forti Suarez, may not be reproduced without prior permission)

My Preng, Pena

Pena Lynn and I met each other in our first year in college. Our friends were friends and we all hung out together. She and I were both applying for acceptance to the same undergraduate program so we ended up spending a lot of time together .

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.

Pena is now a Speech Patholigist based in Iowa. She works with kids. On the side, she practices tai-chi and makes one-of-a-kind cards that she sells over the web. She is married to Dave. Dave is a really, really good guy and a talented political cartoonist. I try not to cuss around him because he also looks like Jesus Christ. We've decided to keep him,

I’m writing about her because the thought of our friendship cheers me up.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finding God in the Details

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.

Dede is originally from Indonesia. He is a well-travelled, successful financial analyst currently based in Japan. He was in Bali last week-end and took these pictures. Somebody said that you can find God in the details. Dede's pictures certainly prove that.

The Blues

My natural facial expression is the absence of one. I can't help it. I make a great poker player but it's not uncommon for people to assume that I'm one of those insufferable people who's bored all the time and can't seem to be satisfied with anything.
But, if you get to know me, you'll know that it’s so very easy to make me happy. I get off on the smallest of things. A good joke. A good bargain. A plate of steaming rice with garlicky adobo. Any of these – or similar simple joys - and I’m grinning ear to ear or laughing out loud. I laugh a lot.

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?")

I think sadness makes one more empathic, especially with those that we see as kindred spirits. Without having to throw regular pity parties, we're able to see the pain and struggle behind the jokes and the laughter. And we're able to respect and accept the sadness in others without being threatened by it.
Without this empathy, other people seem to find it easy to easy to ignore or nullify the sadness because the reasons are not clear or obvious (i.e. "You have no reason to be sad, you self pitying-wimp, so you can't be really sad. You're just making this up in your head").

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.

Do you believe in signs?

I got an email from my childhood friend the other day. We go a long way back. Our families have known each other forever. We’re even distantly related.

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.