Friday, January 31, 2003


Spent some time with Vin and I was thoroughly enchanted by how he described his upcoming Hinirang story, The Humbling Forest. It sounded like the kind of story I'd fall for - hook, line and sinker. He's also working to finish his Tsino story set in Lújìng Béishú, which hopefully we'll all see soon. In return, I told him about the new Katao story I'm thinking of, Tahip Na Bigas (Winnowed Rice), which will have something like 12 characters, majority of whom are Katao heroes, along with two Ispancialo charlatans. I haven't scheduled time to write it yet, but we'll see (the poor Eternautas and my Tiq'barang detective are starting to demand quality time).

Vin also got me some hopia (munggo and baboy) for the Chinese New Year tonight. It is customary to have something round, to bring good luck and properity. We checked out our Chinese horoscopes for the year and I felt relieved to see that several fortunate signs had decided to dwell under my sign this year (however, the Robber Star is also there, so I need to be wary).

Hmmm. Could all these named stars be the same as the system used in Suikoden? Bears looking into.

bituwin and cigarette smoke

Met Ryllah (who manages itchyworms - the talented folk behind Little Monsters) and Mike Diaz (vocalist/guitarist of Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man, yep direct reference from Mulder).

Now these guys, along with Imago, Fish Trio and Matilda, are part of a multi-modal movement in the music scene. We have young people who have the Sugar Hiccup sound, play "real' jazz and alternative rock.

Do I see something between these bands and Pipeworx? Of course! We'll do numbers. Wait and see.

In the meantime, listen to them over at Freedom Bar along Anonas corner Aurora Blvd on Feb 15 (a benefit concert for orphans) and Feb 20 (for a lot of fun).

Sheesh. Now I really feel like an old fogie, given that I think of bands like The Dawn, After Image, Dean's December, Violent Playground, Introvoys and Under Blue Skies as still, somehow, new (despite the fact that they're all gone gone gone).

Thursday, January 30, 2003

ab ovo 2 update

Ah, almost everything is in. All of the artwork and stories are done, all we need to do is to finish the layout, cover and the creator credits. After that, we'll color sep, print and deliver.

Contents of issue 2:

Taong Grasa (Arnold Arre)
KC Strange (Marco Dimaano)
Bagani (Jason Banico & Honoel Ibardaloza)
Hinirang: Gumamela [Fringed Hibiscus] (Dean Alfar)
Hinirang: Asin [salt] (Nikki Alfar)
Track X (Carlo Vergara)
Gina & Ellen (Vin Simbulan & Oliver Palumbarit)
Blue (Tony Bucu)


mind fog

I just had to take a break today and just...write. Over the past couple of days, work has been piling up and much of it requires actual creative thought and cross-discipline skills.

This is not so bad under normal circumstances, but the quality of work has to be...inspired. So I needed to take a couple of steps back.

When I get too tired or unable to focus, my mind wanders and I am left starting at my pile of work-to-be-done "yesterday". Nothing comes in, and language has left me with only the most rudimentary of vocabulary words, like "nice". Therefore, it becomes impossible to think of a hook, angle or theme, headlines or taglines, copy or outlines, design or font rationale, master campaign plan, web wireframes or information architecture, or anything that remotely makes sense.

My brain feels limp and riddled with holes, cigarette smoke rising through the vents.

Not even thoughts of Diana Zubiri conducting an interview in bed make a dent in the deep fog.

There are campaigns to be won - so back into the breach for me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

blessing the office, again

When Pipeline opened almost 2 years ago, we had a priest come over and bless the office as per Catholic Filipino tradition, to hedge against nasty happenings. Well, after a fire, the murder of actress Nida Blanca and assorted unpleasantries, we moved to a lower floor last year.

Towards the end of 2002, sightings of Nida Blanca's spirit manifested...again, spooking one of our suppliers and the occassional staff member. I know, it sounds like the dark ages of superstition, but when in Rome...

So, today the priest did his thing and that should do the trick (ha).

But really, we should also get an imam, a feng shui expert and one of the spirit questors.

bye bye internet at home

Well, just for a couple of weeks, until we move to the new condo and have some new service provider wire us up again. Until then, I can only surf at my office.

What I did realize, as I underwent Internet-access delirium tremens last night, was that I had gotten so used to being wired that I felt utterly helpless.

No news, no walkthroughs, no tranlator, no porn, no email,

I felt isolated from the world, which was odd because I don't use the internet 24/7.

Must move soon.

review: hero

Li Ang (Taiwanese name of Ang Lee) started it off with his superb Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which made me weep and stand applauding when I saw it during its theatrical release in Hong Kong.

Zhang Yimou adds to the corpus of new millenium new style-old school sword romances with Hero, featuring Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi as the principal actors. And he does not just add to the body of work developed around this theme, he actually surpasses Crouching Tiger on multiple fronts, creating a superior film.

I appreciated almost everything about this film, but here are a few elements that stood out:

1. absurdity/beauty - the juxtaposition of the absurd elements (impossible fightscenes, waterwalking, plot devices) with sheer brutal beauty (cinematography, art/production design) created a nice schism in my mind - the rational part would say "but that's absurd" and my eyes and heart would say "but that's beautiful" - resulting in an overwhelming experience as I settled down with an attitude of (let me use the sense of term they use for us new daddies when we hold and look at our new offspring for the first few months) engrossement.

2. Maggie Cheung's acting - my God, the last time I was floored by an actress was in In The Mood For Love, and guess who that actress was? Maggie Cheung. Through the course of the film's colors/truths, she growth, subtle differences of character and rising and falling tension. Her control over her face and body is superb. Which makes waiting for The China Box quite painful (she stars with another excellent Chinese actress whom I also respect - Gong Li).

3. Rashomon redux and other devices - truth via perspective told through colors, the sudden Greek chorus, all good.

4. art in martial art - choreography, mood and skill combine with beauty to create the fighting set pieces.

5. subtitles - the suprisingly good subtitles, though you have to forgive the rare lapses in grammar and spelling, came and went without detracting from the action/inaction of the film.

What detracted from a perfect 10 rating:

1. The points in the film in which it became masturbatory, reveling in its inventiveness. See it and see if you agree with me on this one. Just a little more editing.

2. Zhang Ziyi's unnecessary character - don't get me wrong, I love her, but from a textual privileged analysis, she could be done away with (though we'd lose one of my favorite fight scenes - Red: Yellow Leaves). Also, she's getting typecast in a particular role.

In a nutshell, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Go and see it.

Final rating:

Hero - ********* (of 10)

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

fear of the goat

With only a few days left of the Year of the Horse, expectant mothers in China are rushing to deliver their babies (via normal delivery or c-section) before the dreaded Year of the Goat begins.

The reason for this fear is the belief that since the goat is born in winter and doesn't have enough to eat (as the fields are bereft), children born under its sign, especially females, will be condemned to a Marquezian-style existence of suffering and sorrow.

Sage, born last year, is a lucky Horse - which is because the Horse gets to eat slightly better, I guess. Which of course makes you think why the Goat can't just chew up something other grass, which it is perfectly capable of doing.

All these people are clamoring to give birth during a more auspicious time because they want to provide a better future for their children - and not get blamed for horrible uncaring selfishness when the children of the Goat grow up to be failures.

For those who are unfamiliar with all this, the Chinese birthsign system is a 12-year rotation that goes in this sequence: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Depending on your birthsign, your demeanor is fixed and immutable. And some say, your destiny as well.

Anyway, my stable at home is composed so three animals - the clever Monkey (me), the calm Ox (Nikki) and the trampling Horse (Sage).

Hmmm. I can see a story in this...

Monday, January 27, 2003


Jason Banico (words) and Honel Ibardolaza (art) team up to present a Hinirang themed contribution for Ab Ovo #2. Bagani is tale of loss and epiphany told briefly but with much heart.

Jason, of course, is the author of Baylans, which will appear in its reinvented form and format (kudos to Marco Dimanno for his writing); he also spearheaded the development of TXTMen (written by Nikki Alfar), which I hear will hit the stacks by next week! Honel is quite a find - I'm utterly charmed by his line style, which is evocative of old school Filipino masters.


I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but it still broke my heart.

Sage fell over while trying out some new configuration with her arms and legs and struck her head. She wailed like there was no tomorrow, but was soon soothed by Nikki.

Now she has a bad bruise/welt/boo-boo on her forehead.

I know that this is just the start and she'll definitely get hurt more often as she learns to run, push and pull things all over the place, but still...

And tonight, she bumped her head again in her excitement while wearing her new shoes.


How odd it is to be a parent, to feel so protective. If I could spare her all the pain, I would - except that I know that its all necessary, all part of growing up.

But still...

a film worth watching again and again

When I perused the pages of my newspaper this morning, I was delighted to read that Oro, Plata, Mata would have a special 20th anniversary screening on January 30 at Greenbelt.

This masterpiece, directed by Peque Gallaga and written by Jose Javier Reyes, is a milestone film in Philippine cinema, and ranks as one of my favorite Filipino films (sadly, I must confess that that list is painfully short). The film is set during World War II on the island of Negros, and traces the painful ruination of two affluent sugar clans in the face of the Japanese invasion.

I was 14 years old when I saw this, but it affected me deeply. Sadly though, there have been few great films since then.

Make some time to see it.

hinirang: dragon eyes

I finished my latest Hinirang story last night, Dragon Eyes. From the story:

The union of my mother and father was determined by Heaven long before they met each other. The marriage was arranged by a professional matchmaker, consulted by both sets of parents who wanted to increase the trickle of blessings that fell sparingly upon both their houses. My parents’ birth signs combined foretold much wealth and harmony and both families rejoiced.

But sometimes Heaven is wrong, or more properly, what is written in the sky can be misinterpreted by matchmakers who did not want to stand in the way of so much hope. The year my father planted me in my mother’s womb was the same year he began to spend more and more time in the other provinces, trying to add to the family coffers, but spending more at various teahouses whenever he returned. In an area the size of Lújìng Béishú words travel faster than horses, fueled by jealous lips and destructive tongues.


While writing this story, I found myself wishing that I could write in Chinese, to have better control of idiom and nuance, to be able to state exactly what I wanted to say. But I realized that even if I could, it would still not be enough, since I did not grow up in that culture, and thus any effort I made would, by brutal analysis, be the observations of an outsider.

One of things I enjoy about setting stories in the milieu of Hinirang is the fact that I can write stories from several cultural perspectives plus the portmanteau viewpoints of persons who have crossed cultures. In real world terms, I can draw upon and write about the Filipinos of various regions (including the Muslim nationals who have their own wonderful cache of stories), the Spanish, the Chinese and even an occassional tale from the Japanese, German, Portuguese, Malay and Arabic traditions. Such wealth!

One of the things I decided (style-wise) to keep consistent is this: when the story is about a Katao (Filipino) and there is dialogue, the dialogue appears in Tagalog and is not translated. This will alienate non-Tagalog speakers, but I believe more in preserving the integrity of the story's voice. Perhaps later, when these stories are collected in a book, I'll provide some sort of appendix or a full translated version. At this point though, I only translate the titles.

Some time soon, Nikki and I will also gear up for a set of children's tales from the Filipino and Muslim tradition, hopefully to be published towards the end of the year.

kc strange

KC Strange , developed by Marco Dimaano and Nikki Alfar, was supposed to have debuted some time ago (but, you know how sometimes circumstances conspire to twart the best laid plans of creative men as poor as church mice).

But next month, in the pages of Ab Ovo #2, KC Strange will at last be introduced to the world. She is a kickass investigator of the extraordinary, using weapons and grit when push comes to shove.

Can you tell how excited I am about this? Go over to Marco's for a better neak peek.

In addition, Vin Simbulan's story (pencilled and inked by Oliver P.) and Arnold Arre's vignette are both ready for pick up. In a couple of days, I'll have Carlo Vergara's techno meditation, Jason Banico's Hinirang take (illustrated by Honel Ibardolaza), Tony Bucu's "Blue" and Nikki Alfar's "Asin (Salt)".

It'll be great, I tell you. Can't wait.

Sheesh. Now I don't know what the hell I'll throw in, as these guys have upped the ante!

Saturday, January 25, 2003

silver lining

But at least my entire weekend's wa is not compromised (gah, the very notion of the return of the thing irks me to no end):

1. We're off to a baby party at Greenbelt for Lia, my deceased cousin's daughter who's turning a year old today. Sage is already dressed up and raring to go play at the playplace (I never know what to call those things).

2. Cams just texted and we're all watching Hero's premiere next week! You are a miracle worker, Cams!

3. I'm halfway done with another Hinirang story, The Dragon in her Eyes. It features Tsino (Chinese) characters and is set in Lújìng Béishú, Tsino Enclave within Ciudad Meiora. If I finish it before the end of the month, then I'd have doubled my committement of writing a new story a month for the Hinirang site. Oh, and in the convention of titles for Hinirang stories, this one does have a title in Chinese characters too.

4. I've made the first two payments for the new place we're moving to, and it looks like all systems go. The new condo unit is over 90 sq.m. - enough room for Sage to run around in.

5. We won an important project from a big company after my song-and-dance number.

So, on the balance, there are more good things to be thankful for.

Oh, yes.

return of the thing

To the second-rate lameass telenovela villain who has suddenly reappeared with the intent of insuating himself back into the collective consciousness:

Fuck off.

You've been warned. You know who you are.

Friday, January 24, 2003

review: catch me if you can

Just finished watching the DVD version with Nikki, and I must say that this film (which I was prepared to loathe, having di Caprio in it and being directed by touchy-feely Spielberg) surpassed my expectations in a big way.

Catch Me If You Can was principally written by Frank Abagnale Jr. himself, and the script flowed quite well. The editing (transitions) and photography were top-notch, and, while he cannot escape doing his little signatures, Spielberg's direction was well-done.

But the acting of my hated di Caprio was a revelation. Although one must willingly suspend disbelief to accept many things about his character, di Caprio's performance was understated and worthy of mention. In his scenes as a (slightly) older man, he relied on body language; creating a credible nuance of posture that persuaded me. Hanks, on the other hand, acted exactly as he normally does - which is to say, not very much.

All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable evening film.

Final Rating:

Catch Me If You Can - ****** (of 10)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

new fiction from the alfars

Here's how Terminos (Endings), my latest Hinirang story, begins:

On the eve of his thirty-first natal day, Miguel Lopez Vicente decided he wanted to grow no older. The matter of age and the ravages of time had been weighing heavily on his head for the past few months. When he passed the halfway mark of a healthy man’s lifespan the year prior, he did it in a wine-induced stupor, refusing to even consider celebrating the event that was, to him, a signpost of death’s inevitability. He had been rescued from oblivion by the Guardia Civil who turned him over to the ungentle ministrations of the Tres Hermanas at the Katedral Grandu (for that unpleasant time alone, he did not wish to repeat the experience).

This year, he had thought about doing something else, to ward off the thoughts of another year ending, another year beginning - perhaps losing himself in the arms of some unknown young man (perhaps a rare Enkanto lost in the big city, or a handsome Tsino meztiso looking for something different, or even one of the slim Katao sailors docked in Ciudad Meiora for a night or three), but decided against it.

Here's how Nikki's Asin (Salt) starts off:

Blood gushed unchecked from between her mother’s legs, as the midwife urged her to push, push, push. They lived by the sea, that brought them their food and demanded their toil; and it was in their storm-tossed shanty, attended only by a midwife with no tools but clean cloths and hot water, that her mother died bringing her into the world.

Tears did not fall from her father’s eyes—not then, as her mother gasped her last; not later, when she herself wailed lustily at the indignity of being thrust out of the womb; and not after, when both mother and child were each bundled as appropriate, in shroud and blanket respectively. Her father never cried, for his wife was dead and his heart had died with her.

Watch for these in a couple of weeks on the Hinirang site!

birthday boys

The gang held a very very very extended party for Vin and Carl, who celebrated their birthdays jointly. The afternoon and evening was spent at Linden Suites (where Vin booked a huge suite) watching DVDs (Fawlty Towers, for example), eating a lot of food (and I mean a lot - lechon manok, seafood noodles, crispy pata, steamed oysters, brazo de mercedes, and a ton of good things to drink and munch on), playing games (Cranium, of course, and Apples to Apples, plus a variety of games for the Gamecube), and endless conversation about life, writing and whatnot.

In what has become a kind of tradition for our group, we just rent a room, bring stuff to eat and play, and spend the night doing all sorts of things.

Marco "Madman" Dimaano, Ralph "The Boy" Tan, Jason "Boy Dynatica" Banico, Camille "I luv Denny's" Portugal, Dino "Devilspawn" Yu, Noel "Flim" Lim, Nikki "What a Gal" Alfar and myself were among the early arrivals, dazzled by the variety of entertainment options (including the pool, gym and sauna). Of course, we were all delighted by the appearance of one of favorite couples Arnold "Cyn's" Arre and Cynthia "Arn's" Bauzon. At last, we were complete and were able to play a round of Cranium. Highlights included Arn's hilarious portrayals of Woody Allen and Bogart, Cyn's inspired clay T-Rex (she molded the letter "T" - what a sneak), and the Alfars and Jason being stumped by the definition of the word "immanent" (embarrasingly, we confused it with the shades of meaning of "imminent").

The best part was simply being together as a large group again, and being able to talk briefly about the creative things we're coming up with. Everyone has committed to four-pagers for Ab Ovo #2, which should be a beaut.

So thanks and happy birthday to Vin and Carl!

smart little girl

Bear in mind that Sage is only 11 months old, okay?

Today, she carefully pulled the huge diaper pack from the table, knowing it was quite heavy. She then carried it to Nikki who just smiled and put the diaper pack on the floor. Sage then picked it up again and handed it to her mother with some urgency.

This time, Nikki accepted it and checked the diaper Sage was wearing. She was wet.

And knew she had to be changed!

What a clever child.

hinirang: the roleplaying game

Nikki and I had a great meeting with Alex and Jay (and Jacob), the guys who are going to bravely create an RPG with Hinirang as a setting.

They came prepared with a discussion outline, and I was happy to oblige with various details about almost everything. What I like about them is their respect for the setting and the stories we tell. I could see that the genesis of something exciting was right before my eyes.

I start posting details of how the game develops, but for now, we all have an idea of how massive the project is going to be.

I, for one, cannot wait to playtest it. I'm thinking of a loooong campaign that involves one of the lost Tres Hermanas, the manculam Ai'ai'sin and a group of explorers who stumble into the complex machinations of the Circulo Ultima.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

sunday with sage and totoro

My early Sunday with my little daughter began at around 7AM with us viewing one of my favorite animated movies, My Neighbor Totoro. Released worldwide in 1988, this gem of a film has wit, charm and heart, easily captivating me with its delightful story, dialogue and characters. The English dubbing is every bit as wonderful as I remember it, and Sage dutifully sat through most of it (which, for an 11-month-old, is no mean feat).

When we lived in Hong Kong, I bought a Pikachu alarm clock (I just needed something to wake up and the Pikachu clock was the first thing I saw at the Night Market, plus I liked the little guy). The vendor told me that Pikachu would sing so I couldn't wait to buy batteries. When we got home, I put new batteries in the clock, set the alarm and surely enough Pikachu sang - but he sang the theme to "Totoro" instead of whatever Pokemon song he was supposed to sing.

Well, I kept Mr. Anime-Identity-Crisis around, neglecting to change the batteries, until one time when I was awakened to a gravely, dirge-like rendition of "Totoro" early one morning.

I like watching good animation with Sage, with the hope of imparting a little of my tastes and preferences to her. People tell us to let her watch Barney, but it will be a cold day in hell before that purple dinosaur walks into my home. Well, not really. I just find him...insipid and dumb-looking. I'd rather look for old episodes of Sesame Street, which helped me develop my own reading and listening skills (not to mention the sophisticated undercurrent of subversive humor almost every episode was imbued with).

During the final part of Totoro, Sage looked at me as if to ask "Well, Daddy, aren't we going to do ANYTHING else?".

So we danced to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", and Sage showed off her newly-acquired clapping skills.

Sheesh, I know I sound like a broken record, but I'm still amazed at how quickly she grows.


"The Qin King was obsessed with conquering all of China and becoming her first Emperor. He had long been the target of assassins throughout the other six states. Of all the would-be killers, none inspired as much fear as the three legendary assassins, Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky..."

One of the films I can't to see is Hero, Zhang Yimou's film with Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. I saw the trailer in a theater and was reduced to a gibbering idiot. There was a scene of a swordfight amid yellow flower petals whose sheer beauty moved me, despite its brevity.

It opens on February 5 over here and you can bet I'll be in line.

If you want to see the trailers, click here.

I just wish Filipino filmmakers could create something of similar quality. Instead, we have crap like "Mano Po" and "Spirit Warriors".

Friday, January 17, 2003

"L'Aquilone du Estrellas" review

He're a review of my story from Tangent, a publication that reviews all the professional magazine short fiction in the SF&F field.

Thanks to reviewer Michael J. Jasper for his generous words, and to readers who commented on the Strange Horizons forum, and the people who wrote me directly.

More than just a pat on the back, your words encourage and inspire!

Thursday, January 16, 2003

look who's going swimming

What can I say? Sage loves the water and looks pretty spiffy in her day-glo swimsuit.

She and her yaya Diovine go up to soak in the jacuzzi every odd afternoon before hitting the pool. Of course, I had to deal with all my fear of my little girl drowning and all that, but I'm glad she's into physical activity (unlike her father who was simply wretched at everything sporty when he was a child).

Whatever place we move to has to have a safe swimming pool, so she can continue to enjoy the water.

I'm thinking of soon buying her some pool stuff. You know, beach ball, floaters, inflatables and more sunblock (her nuclear-radiation SPF thing is running out).

Boy, does this mean that in a couple of years I'll be planning beach vacations? Gah. I utterly loathe those kind of trips.

Sage also paid a visit to her pediatrician for her regular checkup, and she's well within the defined proper ranges of height and weight. She dropped by Comicquest on her way home and was fussed over by her padrino Dino Yu and by Cams and Carl. She showed off by walking around and did not freak out when she saw Dino (who gave her an unexpected fright the last time he visited us at home).

Ay naku, ang bilis lumaki ng anak ko.

work stuff

What a busy week.

I remember saying that its preferable to have too much work rather than none at all. At the least the problem would be in allocating resources, right? Well, now that nice situation is a reality, and I'm having a blast making sure that the quality of our work remains consistently good on everything we're doing.

Today, we met up with our apparel client (one of my favorite accounts) to touch base on the campaign. They were very pleased with the results of the digital campaign, website, Ab Ovo and Stroke materials that we created - and have requested to up the page count of the comic book. This was wonderful news to me, and the extra labor involved is truly not work at all - work is not work when I'm enjoying myself and being creative (and as I said, I really like this client). So we're going forward with the formal launch phase of campaign, adding to the site, and releasing the 2nd issues of Ab Ovo and Stroke next month.

I also met up with the CEO of our large tech client, who, at 41, is one of the most interesting people I've met. Pipeline enjoys creating stuff for all 6 companies under his control, and our slate is never without a project from them. I believe in investing our materials with the spirit of the people who actually run the company. Theirs is the motive force that propels the company in a specific direction. It is what gives the company character, personality and color.

This afternoon, I met up with the GM of a large corporation that owns real estate, buildings and malls. We were invited to pitch for the rebranding of the entire mall, which is certainly no mean feat. I appreciate the trust they have in us (I keep getting surprised when I find out that word-of-mouth about Pipeline has been tremendously positive - not because I do not feel we deserve it, but because I have issues with accepting praise). We have a week to come up with a presentation and the stress is quite invigorating.

In addition, we have all the annual reports, corporate identities, digital design, marketing materials and other things already on our plate, plus the new events company, Pipeworks, that we've set up.

I hired a new designer (who, curiously, has the exact name as an ex-President's showbiz daughter - which made us all smile) to help with the load, and need to talk to a number of others on an outsource basis. What makes this possible is the implicit trust I have in my team, especially my Creative Director, to maintain quality.

Stress, after all, is nothing new.

Give me more situations like this!

review: one hour photo

Caught the premiere of the latest Robin Williams vehicle, which dealt with a photo developer's spiral into violent despair. Or so the filmmakers would like us to experience.

This tritely art-directed travesty of a film should have been left completely on the cutting room floor, sparing viewers the waste of their time. Music video sensibilities plus overwrought last minute exposition do not a good film make. No matter how well lit or designed.


Final Rating:

One Hour Photo - ** (of 10)

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

books that changed me

Jason listed his the books that influenced him and asked me to list mine. If you click here, you'll find a list of the 20 books that helped shape my sensibilities, beginning all the way back when I was a young boy.

At the top of the list, of course, is the master of magic realism - Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose One Hundred Years of Solitude changed the entire way I write. Previous to my exposure to him, I had kept my love for "literate" fiction apart from my beloved marchen. I never thought that there was a way to break down the walls of the artificial ghetto that condemned tales of wonder to a select, younger audience. But this author managed to fused the two, creating a new landscape where magic and social realism stand side-by-side.

See what shaped me - and make your own list!

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Well, Nikki and I finally got to see the film we most wanted to see these past few months. To prepare, we watched Fellowship all over again last night then took advantage of the MTRCB passes and saw Two Towers at the Greenhills Theatre.

Briefly, this was a good film but needed severe editing. We enjoyed many aspects about it, no doubt covered by other writers, such as the technical brilliance of the cinematography and art direction. However, the pacing, acting and the aforementioned editing needed work.

I do need to cite the marvelous inventiveness as per Smeagol-Gollum. His scenes alone (especially his first long externalized soliloquy) elevate my ratings by two points.

Watch it, if you haven't yet.

Final Rating:

LOTR: The Two Towers - ******** (of 10)

(For reference, I rated gave the first film 9 stars.)

Monday, January 13, 2003

hinirang: the roleplaying game?

Got a kick when Xandro pointed me to a thread at that discussed Hinirang as a setting for an RPG. The genesis of Hinirang was precisely that (I remember Jason threatening to use his world-building tools) and the creators group talked about things like character classes, a bestiary and such. Ultimately, we agreed to take it a step at a time.

My opinion is that the best way to build a setting is to write stories set in it, creating people, locales and circumstances that live and breathe the unique air of Hinirang.

However, my goal in writing my fiction (to date) has been to create literate stories first - not sequences of rollicking adventure. If plans do push through for a more "active" world, then I will write some action yarns, quests, histories and other things like names and origins of extraorfdinary items, peculiar events that shaped the land and the heroes, soldiers, priests and assorted characters who walk the realms.

So I will be writing in two modes: my so-called "literate" stories, which are not necessarily what hardcore gamers would like; and tales of a more fantastical bent, geared towards keeping Hinirang alive and exciting. Both modes will serve the "grand storyline", which of course has to do first with the Revolution, and then the difficulties with the native Powers of Hinirang versus the forces of the Tres Hermanas.

This is rather exciting because we're developing a world I'd love to run a campaign in myself. So next week, I'm planning to meet up with some people who believe in Hinirang like its creators do. We'll see what happens.

Review: Ringu vs. The Ring

Much to my dismay, I was underwhelmed by the original Japanese The Ring. Despite the fact that every critic and his sister adored it, I almost fell asleep when Nikki and I gave it a go. I understand that it was developed precisely as a low-budget movie, which excuses most of its technical failings, but nothing could save it from the dull plodding sequential narrative it was encumbered with - not even the promise of the last five minutes of the film.

Don't get me wrong - I'd usually be the first to champion Japanese film. But strip Ringu of the hype and it's a boring movie. And liking it only because other people liked it is the most pathetic reason in the world (which a lot of people, it seems, feels compelled to do). Believe me, if the point is to find wonderful Japanese films of whatever genre, there are plenty of other ouvres to see (look to the past first and discover the wealth that country's filmmakers have to offer; everything from Tampopo, In the Realm of the Senses & Brother to Seven Samurai, Kagemusha & Rashomon - my point is, if you just have to like Japanese film, there are other choices.)

Then we got to see the US version of The Ring with our friends, courtesy of Cams. This version, which ran around October last year in the States, surprised me because I was prepared to pan it to death. I usually have to contend with my anti-US-made film bias. However, I found myself not only awake, but engaged by the film. In a nutshell, without giving spoilers, this was a superior film in many aspects (where it fails is characterization touches - for example, the Japanese opening sequence of the two schoolgirls is a better study in the ebb and flow of emotion between two friends).

Final Ratings

The Ring (Japan) - *** (of 10)
The Ring (US) - ***** (of 10)

Friday, January 10, 2003


She's walking!

A week shy of her 11th month, my little Sage took her first unassisted steps (she was previously cruising from one item of furniture to another). I had just arrived home from work and she stood up, walked over and literally fell into my arms. And yes, of course I was in tears. I'm so proud.

Last night, she picked up our hardbound copy of Ursula Le Guin's The Other Wind and passed it to me (perhaps she sensed that I had overlooked the book in my reading list). Nikki and I hope that, with our reading to her and surrounding her with books, she'll acquire a love for books too.

Bookshopping with my daughter in the future? Ah, that would be wonderful.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

nos morituri te salutamus

According to Variety, the Sci-Fi Channel is working to add a new series based on comics to its line up, Strikeforce: Morituri. The channel is upping its budget and reported to be spending between $300 - $ 400 million dollars on new programming from now until the 2005 TV season. (This is the same network that canned Farscape, resulting in much bitterness from Farscape's fans - see the threads at Strange Horizons for a taste of the angst.)

Strikeforce: Morituri will be presented under a new name, A Thousand Days and feature bio-engineered soldiers. The title reflects the fact that each soldier has a life expectnacy of 1000 days after becoming a part of the elite strikeforce. Attached to the project already are writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, who are supposed to produce the series as well. On Marvel's end of things, Avi Arad and Rick Ungar are listed as being producers.

This is one of my favorite comic books of all time - and the first time I had a letter printed in the letter column (sheesh, to digress: once upon a time, I wanted to be a letterhack, and have hundreds of letters printed in comics I read. Ultimately though, I only had some printed in Strikeforce: Morituri, Elfquest, Legion, Doom Patrol, Hellblazer and a few others).

What made it a must-read for me was the premise: to defend Earth against invaders, people volunteered to undergo a process that gave them powers at a terrible cost. After the process, each person had a maximum of one year to live (often shorter - for example, in the series, a main character died an issue after receiving abilities). It made for wonderful drama, especially among the Strikeforce and their support teams. Plus, the roster shifts became heartrending.

I can only hope the TV series becomes as good.


During my time as an undergrad at the University of the Philippines, chaos and stress were the order of the day whenever a new semester began. Enrollment and enlistment in all your needed subjects and courses were simply nightmarish - taking sometimes like an entire week of lining up, making deals, giving bribes, using contacts of contacts of contacts, begging the Registrar and burning away your last measures of hope and faith in the goodness of humanity.

But now, UP students can register for their subjects online here. They're given all the information they need plus real time accounting of slots left, etc.

It's unfair! Why, in my time, if you got sick during registration, you kissed an entire semester goodbye (or got yourself a horrible hodge-podge of electives that made no sense whatsoever).

The system has been in place for some time, but this is the first time I've been made aware of it. Kudos to the Engineering people who made it.

But it's still unfair to us old geezers who had to camp out overnight to make sure we got slots in popular subjects.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

odds and ends


If, like Cynthia Bauzon and Arnold Arre, you're planning to tie the knot, then point your browser to Weddings At Work. This site is run by a good friend of mine, John Rana, and is an invaluable source of information. As you know, planning a wedding is no mean feat. This resource is tops.

Like Nikki and I did, Arn and Cyn are taking a year to do all their preparations - which is a good idea, considering the plethora of details involved.

Of course, you could always just elope.

Or have a civil marriage

weekend reading

I borrowed the superthick Ghost In A Shell manga by Masamune Shirow. Jason warned me that his mind started to wander halfway through. I gave it a shot and didn't make it past the first chapter.

Why? Because it everything about it bored me to tears. The dense, erratic storytelling did nothing to persuade me otherwise.

But I did give it a try.


My best friend Vin gave me a copy of Andi Watson's Slow News Day for my birthday, along with a whole bunch of other stuff to read. I was excited to read SND, chiefly because I ended up loathing Watson's earlier work (Breakfast After Noon, which I really tried to like - but it was horribly written, Eisner-nominated or not), and because Cyn and Arn liked it.

Well, after reading it, I passed it to Nikki with no comment. After she finished, we looked at each other and rolled up our eyeballs.

And that is our common reaction, folks.

More insipid, banal and emotionally-untrue writing.

After giving this author 2 chances, I think I'm justified in dropping him from my list forever. Gah.

It's not my cup of tea (though I like his artwork).

thinking of moving

Yes, with Sage starting to walk, my little family desperately needs space. It is with a heavy heart that we make plans of leaving Le Gran, having grown to love our little place - but Sage requires a larger space. The stuffed toys that are given to her weekly by her Grandma Meng need a room of their own.

I wanted to stay in the same Greenhills area (it's safe, comfy, convenient and I can walk to my office), but the price tags attached to 2 or 3 bedroom condo units here are just so incredibly astronomical that even thinking of putting together the rent advance and deposit makes my head spin. What more actually paying the ludicrous rent on a monthly basis? You see, we pay for the rent, plus the condo dues, plus the parking space. Gah, indeed.

The other option is to move to the nearby Ortigas Area, where rates are strangely uneven. I won't be able to walk to work anymore, but we'll be in spitting distance of 3 huge malls and the main road.

We'll see. Nikki is on top of the situation and has begun visiting potential places.

Hmmm. Or maybe we just rent a house?

a story about time

If you head over to Hinirang, you can read another story of mine -- Ser Clessidraña Piensa Acerce Tiempo (Mister Clessidraña Thinks About Time).

It's about the thoughts and ruminations of an old merchant as he goes through his daily routine, trading maxims for time in Encanto lu Caminata in Ciudad Meiora.

You should also know that all the wonderful stained glass-like illustrations for the literature section of the site are the work of Carlo Vergara (reminiscent of his excellent work on Ruin). Thanks, Carl!

Monday, January 06, 2003

L'Aquilone du Estrellas

Much to my delight, The Kite of Stars is now up at Strange Horizons, with illustrations by Hal Hefner.

I'm very thankful for SH Senior Editor Jed Hartman, without whose guidance the story would be poorer. This story is for Nikki Alfar (who is never fooled by writing trickery), Carl Vergara (who set the most wonderful example) and Vin Simbulan (Chosen of Cthulhu).

For a direct look at L'Aquilone, head on over here.

(Suddenly, I'm up to my ears in things I've written! What a rush!)

The Beta version of our group's website is ready for viewing. Go to Hinirang and see what we've collectively been up to.

Hinirang is a reimagined Philippines set during the Spanish occupation, where faith and magic allow for the most interesting of situations.

We all contributed to the site and will update it with content regularly. For example, you can check out the online adventures of Immacolata (the Katoa heroine of my comic book The Lost) as written and illustrated by Marco Dimaano. Or read up on the first few chapters of the new Baylans novel by Jason Banico. Or see Arnold Arre's gallery of Hinirang paintings and illustrations. Or read Carlo Vergara's novella, Vin Simbulan and Dino Yu's poetry or Nikki Alfar's fiction.

I also have a number of short stories available there for reading, such as:

Kung Paano Nanalo ng Karera si Rosang Taba (How Rosang Taba Won a Race) - Remember that the Ispancialo subjugated the Katao but ultimately failed to crush the Katao spirit. This story is written in a different manner, as if culling from different sources.

I first wrote this to give a voice to the Katao (hence the Filipino title - but everything is in English), and to be able to write a story from their perspective. Prior to this, I had focused on the Ispancialo side.

Hindi Ako Gumamela (I Am Not Fringed Hibiscus) - In a mountain valley, a young girl is visited by a recurring dream.

Is it truly a god who comes to her at night?

Gods, dreams and dreams of gods figure prominently in many traditions. Here's my take on epiphany in the fewest words possible. I wrote it on paper napkins while waiting for a client (how Harry Potter, Vin!).

Sabados Con Frayle Villalobos (Saturdays With Fray Villalobos) - A story about an Ispancialo priest, recipes and the nature of people.

I had a field day searching for recipes myself. Whenever I see this, I get hungry.

Also part of this cycle is L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars) (published by Strange Horizons - go now!), Ang Dalaga at Ang Buaia (The Maiden and the Crocodile) (published in Ab Ovo#1 by Kestrel Studios), and a few others.

Go and read.
back to work

I'm back at the office, having squeezed the last bits of goodness from my longish break. Today, it's back to work and having deal with all the pending projects and pitches and such. My mind is actually reeling as I make the adjustment to my work mode.

I was greeted by a stunningly clean office, which is how things look like at the beginning. I'm certain that in a few hours, it will be back to usual organized chaos.

So off with the cap of couch potato. Ah, but what a great last few days!

birthday in the grasslands

On my birthday, I decided not to do anything at all. No party, no eating out, no nothing. Just Nikki, Sage, the Playstation2 and me. I got tons of greetings from family and friends via SMS, phone and email, and invitations to go out, eat out, do something, but I stuck to my guns and opted to stay home.

Made progress wiith Suikoden III, going around trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. Remember that this was the reason we got the console - and I have no regrets. You have 3+1 characters to start with and are immediately plunged into the semi-complex political intrigues of the Grasslands, Zexen and Harmonia. I was delighted to see characters from the previous games come back, older and in the case of Tuta (the doctor's assistant from Suikoden II), unexpectedly hunky. *swoon*

I couldn't stand the knight Chris at first, but forgave her ice queen bumblings when she took off the armor and ditched the horse.

Sage, of course, wanted to play with the control pad, so I gave her one of her own. This ruse lasted shorter than I anticipated as my clever daughter realized that hers did not have a red light. She also wanted to sit on my lap all the time, which, after an hour or so, leads to dead thighs. So we compromised. I moved to the floor and she sat next to me.

new phone

Then Nikki and Sage gave me a surprise birthday gift - a new cellphone. After my shock at this expensive thing (which Nikki shushed away), I gleefully played with my new phone. This Ericsson model has GPRS, MMS, Bluetooth, email and other funky capabilities I've barely explored. I can even attached the radio Nikki got for me (and a camera should I want to). Of course, I need to unlearn all the Nokia methods of texting and managing information that I've known since like forever, but it's worth it. And all I thought I was getting were some socks!

One of my biggest issues was the fact that I had foolishly saved all my numbers and contacts on my previous phone's memory, not on the SIM card. So when I placed my SIM card in the new phone, I didn't know anyone's number. And so most of the people who texted me "Happy Birthday" were reduced to mysterious numbers. (Flashback to Hong Kong with my cool Sony phone that could never identify anyone who texted). Thank goodness Nikki manually plugged in all my old numbers (we used the IR function but it was erratic and my fridge is not Bluetooth-ed).

But this is such a pretty phone.

combined party

Friday night we hied to Jason's pad for the omnibus get-together, celebrating numerous things we have reason to be thankful for - primarily the housewarming of Jason's bachelor's pad (comfy and Japanese-themed) and Camille's return to Manila.

As is our wont, we gorged outselves on Yellow Cab pizza, Andok's lechon manok, sashimi from Davao, chips and dip and a lot of drinks (alcoholic for Vin, Pepsi Blue for Noel , Coke for us).

Thanks, Jayce and Cams!

Friday, January 03, 2003

day 1, year 34

Yes, I just turned 34 a day ago and thus, as always, stand at the boundary of a new timeline I know next to nothing about. We are all burning sunlight.

What do I have at the start? Certainly not a guidebook (though I wish I had one), not an all-encompassing plan (unless you count good intentions), not a map with highlights (excepting, of course, my moral compass). The direction I move is forward, as time drags me along whether I like it or not.

This is that time of year when I take stock of what I have, what I've accomplished and what I've become. Sometimes, the reality is just too painful. Other times, I am bemused by the little achievements I've managed to eke out.

So, what DO I have going for me, here, looking at 2003's starting line?

1. My marriage. Seven years going on eight, one of the most precious elements that make up my life. Nikki is my best friend, partner and kakampi. The marriage provides me with things too many to list.

2. My daughter. She'll turn a year old next month, on Valentine's Day. Whenever I see my daughter, I get this sense of unreality - I can't believe, up to this day, that I had something to do with her wondrous appearance in the world. Sage also locks down time because she consumes it like air. She inhales the present and exhales the future. With her around, I cannot deny the passage of time.

3. My company. If Marc and I plus the Pipeline crew keep to the plan, we'll have something to crow about by this time next year. I believe in Pipe and its people. I cannot control many elements that influence the market (political instability, terrorism, inflation) but I do directly control Pipe's attitude towards the incessant challenges. Therefore, much in the same way that I can choose my attitude, I can select how Pipe will react to the slings and arrows of fortune. We've managed to survive so far and now its time to grow.

4. My writing. Outside of family, writing continues to be escape, comfort, therapy and ego-booster. I carry, for the rest of my life, the gossamer value of several awards for my plays and fiction. But I understand the nature of laurels and see through the emptiness of its perceived value. Far better to write for any other reason that to win something. Far better to write well, and be read. And sometimes, even get paid!

5. My accumulated lessons of the past. I detest making mistakes and make it a point to remember that I did wrong so as never to repeat them. What kills me though is the fact that sometimes the right decision is to make a wrong one.

6. My family and friends. Relations by blood or marriage, confessors, allies, fellow wordworkers or keepers of common timestamped memories. For friends - I am lucky to have a number I can count as true. For family - I'm tickled to see my siblings awash on the same tide as I am.

7. My "consider, decide, then jump" attitude. In essence, that is the reason I do not fear change. Things happens, you adjust. Quickly.

I did not list anything material (well, apart from the assets of Pipe) because in the end, what matters is not what you have, but what you really have.


34. Here I go.