Monday, May 31, 2004

spoofing & identity theft

Argh! This viral theft hsa really gotten out of hand. One of my email addresses apparently has been given to a thousand databases, and as a result I am getting unsoliticed email by the busload.

I didn't sign-up for these things, I didn't join these groups, I didn't ask for these updates - it's just so annoying.

What is the solution? To delete or change my email address? To unsubscribe to each and every email that arrives (but wouldn't that alert the sender that the email is valid?)? I need to go to war but don't know where to fight. Gah.

In addition, the same email address has been used to send other people nasty stuff.

If I change addresses, won't the same thing happen again?


Sunday, May 30, 2004

vatican redux, etc.

Carlo Vergara, Nikki Alfar, Marco Dimaano, Camille Portugal, Dino Yu

After gorging on chicken skin chicharon (courtesy of belated birthday boy Dino), we went for dinner at Countryside, that much-maligned (by me) inihaw and barbeque place along Katipunan. I actually like the place in terms of food (it's good and it's cheap), but you need to be in a certain mood to stand the ambience of the place (like when neither cleanliness nor a server familiar with the menu is a factor).

Since I am blessed with creative friends, we indulged in a little exercise. I took on the role of the Vatican, and asked ad agencies to pitch ideas for the new, hip, relevant, and dynamic Church. It was quite a blast, with gems including promo-type Offertories, taglines like "Gotta Get God", and Easter being a bigger holiday than Christmas (with gifts you would have given a person if you knew they were going to die in three days time) - zany, irreverent and quite recharging. It was more difficult for Zen Buddhism, with Nikki throwing in the towel with "But it will all be one, a hundred years hence."

We then took the conversation over to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Vin's fave caffeine watering hole (and they do serve a mean choco-malted concoction that I love), and talked scenarios about relationships, infidelity and things that can break love (I know, it was like a better-written episode of Thirtysomething). I like these occasional forays into matters of the heart and psyche because it never fails to illuminate aspects of the human heart to me - and attempting to understand human nature is quite important when I write. These talks are always good for eyebrow-raising, belly-laugh-inducing pseudo-confessions, all in good fun.

For me, the crux of any given evening out with friends is the conversation, moreso than whatever activity we're doing. Talk may be cheap, but at the same time, the words (and the people who speak them) are worth their weight in gold.

Friday, May 28, 2004

weekend films

My trip to Billy the Pirate was unexpectedly rewarding. I was able to get a few films I've been wanting to see, plus an Almodovar I used to have on laserdisc.

I love film. I love the craft of it, the way things are put together, the marriage of script, direction, acting, visuals, sound and editing. In fact, I am so tempted by an offer to attend the new film school in Cebu - there's even an offer for me to teach writing (if I actually had the time and the talent, I'd love to become a filmmaker when I'm older and have something to say in the language of film).

My taste in films I enjoy watching leans heavily towards Asian (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam) and Latin American cinema. In these films I find a certain kind of energy, truthfulness, daring and no eye candy just for the sake of being cool.

Here's the stuff I picked up today, a mix of old and newish:

Jing ke ci qin wang better known as The Emperor and the Assassin - I like Chen Kaige's eye almost as much as I like his writing (Temptress Moon, Farewell My Concubine).

Central do Brasil (Central Station) - Walter Salles tells a story both beautiful and sad, about quests and longing.

Zatoichi - Takeshi Kitano is one of my favorite Japanese actor/directors. I loved him especially in Batoru rowaiaru (Battle Royale).

¡Átame! (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down) I used to have this old comedy and am delighted to have a Dvd copy at last. I enjoyed Almodovar's previous work, especially Hable con ella, Todo sobre mi madre and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios.

I also went out on limb and picked up Suriyothai, directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol. I rarely get to see films from Thailand that do not have to do with transvestite volleyball players, so this 16th century epic should be an interesting watch (even though it has been critically panned left and right).

From local cinema, I got, a sexy thing written by my friend Sarge Lacuesta. Basically, I'm curious to see how a multiple Palanca Awardee like him writes a script. And, well, Juliana Palermo is hot.

And yes, I picked up Girl With A Pearl Earring because, well, Scarlett Johansson is...interesting (I can't decide if she's attractive to me, but I loved her in Lost in Translation).

dean kestrel

I just had a peculiar experience with Max Barry's novel "Jennifer Government" (2003). I picked it up and did not put it down until I finished it.

This is odd because I'm very picky when it comes to novels I read (I love to read but I cannot abide crap). Barry's work is not fantastic, his prose is not mindblowing, the concepts are nothing new, the characters are not finely drawn...

And yet.

It works. The entire thing works.

It had the same effect on Nikki as well, snobby reader that she is.

In Barry's world, corporations dominate everything - to the extent that persons' last names are the names of the corporations they work for: Hack Nike, Buy Mitsui, Theo Pepsi, Haydee McDonald's, Dean Kestrel.

I ended up enjoying the book, in the same way that I enjoy the occasional mindless action film - except that this is not mindless, not by a long shot.

Go and get a copy and judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

the musical filipino

Everyone knows that Jasmine Trias and Camille Velasco, both of American Idol, have Filipino blood, whether they were born here (Velasco) or not (Trias). As a country, the Philippines takes inordinate pride when a "native" son or daughter makes waves, especially in music or performance (remember the times just before Regine Velasquez was a household name, with her competitions in the Land of the Midnight Sun).

So it comes as no surprise to hear my taxi driver inform me that one of the members of Black Eyed Peas (over here for a concert) is, in fact, Filipino. His vocals open "Where Is The Love" and he sings the Tagalog song on their album.

And apparently, the drummer of Metallica is from Bicol.

Who else? Madami pa.

the tyranny of culture: writing as a filipino author

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a Filipino writer is the unspoken edict to be nationalistic. This is reflected in many ways - as a bias against writing in English (why use the language of the oppressor?), selection of setting (why set your story outside of the Philippines?), choice of subject matter (why write of anyone but Filipinos; why write of any place other than your country?), need for socio-political relevance (what is the value of writing that does not show injustice, inequality, suffering, poverty and the plight of the masses?), and significance (why waste time and energy on something that does not promote societal betterment?).

I'm just tired of it.

I write in English because I can express myself better. I do not buy into the argument that writing in a "foreign" language is somehow selling out. English is not foreign to me, is not foreign to millions of Filipinos. And Rizal wrote in Spanish. You do not measure nationalism by the language you speak, write or think in. It is a matter of the heart, of belief, of intellect.

I set some stories outside of the Philippines because the world and all its wonders interest me. There is nothing fundamentally wrong in setting a story in a castle in Denmark, a lagoon in India or a farm in Kansas. Choice of setting does not make an author love his country any less. Besides, there are worlds beyond the real world, created lands of make-believe that cartwheel in splendor and magic. I am citizen of the Philippines, but my allegiance is to the World - words and worlds share porous boundaries.

I write about different people, not just Filipinos. What matters is character, the moods and modes of thought and action, the inner workings of their secret hearts. Nationality, like religion, gender or race, is not as important as the person underneath all the labels. To write only about Filipinos is as distasteful to me as a white writer writing only about whites. Let us write about people instead.

I write about love and loss, about hope and despair, about magic and reality. It is not my responsibility to write about social injustice, to cry for the political prisoners languishing in jails, to expose the horrors of the corrupt government, to generate sympathy for comfort women, to depict the marginalization of women - though in my early leftist college days, I did all that - publishing stories about all those things in a voice that wasn't my own, that left me with beautiful stories bristling with technique but bereft of authorial truth. There are many things to write about. Let me choose the stories I'd like to tell. Let me speak the truth I know, the truth that matters to me.

And as for significance, well, while words do have the potential to change the world, they do not do so with each and every outing. Some stories, the quiet, little ones, offer a moment of epiphany. Some proffer a smile of recognition. Others hold up a mirror and point out something so transparent as an observation of the human condition. Some entertain - through adventurous romps, battles and clever twists - while some make you cry. It is the reader, not the author, that creates significance.

The nature of stories is this: change comes in infinite sizes. The success of a story is not measured in how it changes the world but in how, for the duration of the reading experience and perhaps beyond, it affects the reader. That is what makes it significant.

Let me write what I want to write, and let the horizon of expectation take care of itself.


There is justice in the world, after all.

The best and most deserving person won American Idol - Fantasia Barrino!

Head on over to Rickey's and download every performance.

Despite the fact that the entire condo's water supply has come to a grinding halt due to a busted pump, I'm very happy. Stinky, but happy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

lovely ladies

Two of the most beautiful women I know - Princess Monjierra Alonto-Disini (my mom) and Nikki Alfar, my partner-in-crime.

The challenge with taking pictures of Sage is this: when she sees me with my camera, she just has to rush off and get hers - and so we end up taking pictures of each other.

Monday, May 24, 2004

life in words

I'm almost done shifting my archives and saving them on CDs. So far, testing has proved Jason's theory that Blogger keeps a copy of everything its users post. So, huzzah, hooray and wahoo!

While moving these webpages, I could not resist reading some random entries. Man, I've gone through so much, business-wise, in the last couple of years. It has been one hell of roller coaster, but with the highs outweighing the horrible vertiginous call of gravity to come crashing down. I've learned my lessons, some of them at a great price, and understand that I have more to learn. In fact, the entire thing is a series of educational experiences. It is not a case of "Live free or die!". It is more "Live, learn or die!"

I'm also shocked (yet again) by the growth of Sage, from this bundle of tears to this loud girl who pushes me off the bed just so she can "save" me.


vignette: broken

Every morning after she forced herself out of bed (she was an early riser from childhood, and there are some ingrained things that even heartbreak cannot alter), Miren made herself a cup of black coffee and stood before her catalog of loss. She did this every morning because she felt less vulnerable when the sun shone. When light invaded the secret intimacies of her home, Miren felt she had nothing to hide. At night, however, when darkness only reflected the dismal emptiness within her chest, all she wanted to do was to close her eyes.

Miren kept the broken pieces of her heart in an old Chinese cabinet, each fragment in a drawer of its own, tagged with short descriptor and a date to help her remember. On a small table next to the cabinet was a box, its velvet interior enclosing a small pile of unsorted fragments, dislodged when her heart shrank at the end of last week’s love affair with the boy with the nice hair.

She opened the box and upended the contents on a large tea cosy, her eye immediately caught by the largest fragment. Miren picked it up with a steady hand and brought it to her eye, squinting to interpret the pattern laid down by her own passion.

If I love you, will it be only for a little while or forever? Tell me.

With a snort of disgust and a stifled laugh, Miren dropped the fragment on a corner of the padded cloth, picked up her half-empty cup and went to the kitchen to refresh her coffee.


If you check on my archives and nothing comes out, let me know. I'm shifting everything away from the server that houses them and into god-knows-where.

One of the changes that the new Blogger made was the ability to create web pages for all archive entries. I agreed to this, clicked a button, and all my past entries were given their own pages, which had the effect of maxing out my quota of space, making it impossible for me to upload any new pictures or documents.

Now, my archives are important to me (this is a journal, after all, and I occasionally read to remember stuff, especially when I mine past vignettes) so the situation was just absurd.

I asked Jason what to do and he suggested this, so here we go. The great big hope is that Blogger keeps copies of everyone's entries, so any database call will be served by their own archives.

If this does not work out, I may have to start from scratch and not bother with having a Kestrel Studios domain for the purpose of housing my blog entries.

We'll see.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

portraits of isolation

I finally got to watch The Station Agent, written and directed by Thomas McCarthy.

A trio of main characters, each dealing with their own personal isolation, cross paths when a dwarf inherits a train depot, and explore the lacuna between loneliness and friendship.

Excellent writing, directing, editing, acting - this is how films should be made.

With an ear for truth and an eye for beauty, this is easily one of my favorite films.

Go and own it.

Friday, May 21, 2004

we'll see, won't we?

Sage will be starting school next year (which is closer than than ever), and we have to start thinking about which school to send her to.

Apart from the horrific expenses related to her education, we need to consider which school would best encourage our daughter's learning at her own pace, in her own way. Sage is a smart little girl and I am riddled with a thousand and one concerns that range from her fitting in to actually learning something.

And this is just preschool. What more grade school and onwards?

On the tuition-fee front, there may be a business opportunity that may obliviate the entire fee for a certain school (which happens to be both near our home and a good school).

We'll see.

my pet store

The likelihood of my entering the pet store industry is becoming brighter, just a few more personal concerns to wrestle with. Perhaps I won't go into it at all - you know the saying about mice and men - but I am very attracted to the prospect.

So again, we'll see.


I can't believe it myself. I feel like a Dirty Old Man (well, dirtier than I actually am). I am not usually attracted to youth, but dammit, I am just crushing on this girl whose blog Nikki showed me.

Nikki: Look at this girl, she's hot.

Me: Lemme see. (looks) Oh my god! Yes! Who is she? Where is she?

Nikki: In Manila.

Me: My God! She looks young. How old is she?

Nikki: Let's see. Oh, look, she's fourteen.

Me: ...

Nikki: Husband?

Me: Gah.

But really, to be so beautiful while you're so young... It's just incredible.

So here I am, feeling really perverse, deciding to say goodbye to someone who was just born when I was already 21 years old.

Goodbye, though we've never met, because, my god, ick, it's just wrong.

Damn you, Blogger.

But what a girl.

viral identity

I just got an email from myself, offering graphic porn. My antivirus immediately freaked out and told me that this was not good.

Now while getting porn is great, getting it from yourself is just weird. It smacks of a badly written scifi story.

I deleted the damn virus that spoofed my identity, but not before a peculiar struggle to open the message and see what I sent myself (though I know that there is nothing in there but that pesky Blueworm).

So please, if you get something unexpected from me, do not open it - however tempting it is.

the slush god

Talk about serendipity.

Thanks to a link from Charles' friend, I found the blog of the Editorial Assistant of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, John Joseph Adams.

The neat thing is that I have a rejection letter from him, signed and all (my first physical notice since the others were emails). I don't know, it's as if he suddenly became...real, you know, like a real human being.

It means no longer submitting to an invisible, unknowable entity.

just one stick

I joined the throng of stubborn people who refused to bring an umbrella or wear rain gear despite the obvious warnings of another approaching storm. We were all trapped under awnings of friendly buildings, watching someone occasionally make a break for it. I feared for my laptop, which caused me to move in an ultra-conservative manner, but managed to get a ride to my client meeting in Makati.

The traffic, however, was just draining. Rain makes all the vehicles slow to a crawl, and there are few things that irk me more than being trapped in a car for an extended period of time. My mind does strange things. I envision mass murder, buildings reduced to rubble, people fleeing from my wrath.

Outside, the rain slowed to drizzle, but that did little to alter the traffic conditions. At one point, I locked gazes with a similarly trapped soul in another cab and all we could do was offer each other a feeble smile, a tenuous bond created by our artificial circumstances.

I wished I could smoke. I wished I could read. I wished the radio played music I liked. I wished I was at home, with wife and daughter. I wished I was anywhere but in the taxi with the faulty air conditioner. I wished there was something I could watch, like an accident or something.

When I finally got to my meeting, I recovered my default disposition and immediately had a cigarette. Thinking about that single stick was what got me through hell.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


On my way back from a client meeting in Ermita, I got a message from Zach Yonzon about Chuck Basilio. To my shock, Chuck passed away last night after suffering 3 successive heart attacks. He suffered one, got revived, suffered the next, got revived, and finally succumbed to the last one.

What I remember: his deep voice (he was a TV commentator and DJ), his joie d'vivre and his drive for fiction (during the time when the Palanca Awards had no restrictions on the number of entries, he deluged them with a boatload in a single year - and won). We got to know each other when he was a Magic player and I was the DCI Head Judge, and he always made me smile with his happy play style.

He died younger than me.

I feel terrible about this because part of me will always be the paternal Magic Coordinator, responsible for all the people who played in my tourneys. In addition, the utter senselessness of death when it comes so early makes me take another look at my life, what I have, what I've done, what I've given, and it makes me realize that I want more time, more days, more years to do things, to create, to live, to love, to grow.

It also made me consider the nature of my memory, how I seem to lose so many details, leaving only the most general of things in my head. I think that when a person dies, the part of me that remembers slowly dies too, as if my memory requires the living person to keep the memories alive - or perhaps I forget to reduce the pain, I don't know.

When you think about all the people you personally know, you'll be surprised at how small that number is (no, you do not count your Friendster acquaintances). As I grow older, I am aware that I make less and less quality friendships, relying instead on the circles of friends that I already have.

As the numbers dwindle, I diminish too.

My grandmother has this habit of scanning the daily obits to see which of her friends have died. When she spots one, she cuts it out of the paper and then makes herself a hot drink. Then she sits quietly in a corner and looks into the distance, seeing what only she knows.

For me, I write. Perhaps to remember, but most likely to show that I am still alive.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

badminton schmabminton

I put on my consultant's hat today as I spoke with a potential client: an integrated sports complex. I was impressed as heck by the sheer scale of operations - the complex was almost a hectare in size, had 14 badminton courts, a futsal (indoor soccer) field, a basketball court and a gigantic area where people do scary things with rope (and I don't even know what that is called).

Badminton has risen in popularity over here in the past 3 years, with a great demand for indoor courts. In certain areas of the metropolis, people have to reserve way in advance or risk having to wait until the madding crowd thins.

Since I am not a sports person at all (it's all mental, baby), I was never bitten by the badminton bug. While it is obviously fun for the people who play it, and great exercise, it just has zero appeal to me. I tried watching a match and ended up outlining a new story in my head instead.

Which is why, in a light mood, the client suggested an exchange deal to me. In exchange for my services, I'd get X amount in terms of multiple memberships and privileges. Which would delight my partner, Marc, but not me. If it were a bookstore, yes. Or even a grocery (haha, will work for food!).

So I channeled Sage, wagged my finger and intoned, "No,no,no".

We started to laugh until my eye caught the list of services they had, which included a Spa and Sauna... Oh no! Must be strong...

thoughtlife: opportunity

There's money, and there's Money.

If you were given an offer that, in terms of potential remuneration, puts you in a completely different economic class, what would prevent you from accepting?

Would it be the nature of the new circumstances? If it is something within your field of knowledge or skillsets? If it is ethically or morally acceptable? If it is legal?

Would it be whether the new work is something you'd enjoy doing? If it makes you happy? If it challenges you? If it is creative or routine?

Would it be a matter of convenience? If you had to drive an hour? Five hours? If you had to move to another city? Another province? Another country? Would you goodbye to your immediate family?

Would it be a question of stability? If you can be guaranteed the salary for a number of years? If a golden parachute scenario can be created? If tenure is fixed, regardless of performance?

Would it be a matter of control? If you need to answer to a superior? If you had a certain degree of independence? If you were boss, head honcho, big banana?

Would you be frightened of the option?

Would you risk the chance of a lifetime?

Would you, could you, should you?

vignette: the barber of binondo

In a small closet behind Chen Lao’s Lucky Tiger General Store, almost hidden by the maze of thin shelves that struggled to bear the weight of hundreds of bottles, vials, boxes and pouches, my father set up a barber shop.

It had space for exactly one customer at a time. A second hand wood-and-leather chair dominated the tiny room (it barely fit, forcing whoever sat in it to raise their legs) and a narrow table held all the items of my father’s craft: two pairs of scissors, a straight razor, several combs, a jar of pomade and a bottle of liniment that never seemed to be more than half-empty. Opposite the door, my father installed a mirror with invisible cracks, the best that he could afford. Suspended in a corner was a lamp, a necessity in my father’s windowless workplace.

Monday, May 17, 2004

erosion: philippine cinema

The prurient part of me was interested in an old movie billboard I saw (you know the type, a nymphet whose “larger-than-my-head” breasts are just barely prevented from escaping the fading grasp of her bra). So I mentioned it to my cab driver, telling him how I wish these things were done with more thought and effort.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t watch pinoy movies. Mas gusto ko yung English.”

And increasingly, more and more Filipinos are saying the same thing. And there’s where the crux of the matter is.

There is an entire class of people who were born into relative privilege, speak English, and prefer American films. They eschew Tagalog films.

And there is the so-called Filipino masa (masses) who used to troop to the theaters when the latest local tear-jerker or action film came to their town. But now, these people are showing us their indifference to Filipino cinema.

There was a time when people went mad for movies with Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano, my sister-in-law Snooky Serna and all the other dramatic actresses. Throngs would stand in long lines for the latest action-adventure flick with our macho leading men, or elbow their way to see the hodge-podge comedies of Joey de Leon or brazenly wait with other men to watch some starlet jiggle her boobs artistically (well, if you invoke the chiaroscuro defense, you must be artistic, right?). Mother Lily’s Regal Films and Vic del Rosario’s Viva Films made a lot of money and everyone seemed happy.

But the situation wasn’t as good as it seemed.

Movies were made and released at an astonishing rate (leading to the creation of the “pito-pito” system, wherein a movie was conceptualized and shot in 7 days, with post-production taking another 7 days), swamping the movie houses with products whose poor quality was obvious. Low budgets, invisible writing, horrid acting, amateur editing, crappy sound, lousy everything eventually began to affect even the most ardent cineaste and lowbrow moviegoer.

Bad films began the erosion of public faith in the Tagalog movie.

Look at the scenario today. This month, only two new films were released. Two. And in an industry that is used to much much more in terms of releases, insiders say that two films per month looks like how things will be from now on. Two films a month equals 24 movies a year. Did you ever imagine our local industry would generate such low numbers? And it would be fine if this small number of films was of fantastic quality, but sadly, it is more of the same bland fare (and even the sex isn’t as tantalizing). True, there are "festival films" made just for competition, but these, on the whole, reek so much of artistic pretension that they're impossible to watch.

Where are the good regular Tagalog films?

Where are masses who support these films?

Where are the screaming fans of Piolo and Claudine?


They’re marching to Middle Earth, taking a boat to Troy and battling the undead with Van Helsing.

And who can blame them? When faith is lost, it is very difficult to reclaim. And the local film industry is doing precious little to address the painful erosion.

zero for me, a thousand for you

A good example of what makes the Philippine electoral process the envy of wannabe corrupt nations is our practice called dagdag-bawas (add-remove).

In the tightly contested race for president, we have several mindboggling instances of statistically impossible results: in certain towns in Pangasinan and Maguindanao, incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got all the votes. Not a single vote was cast for any of the four other candidates. Not one.

In the same places, the results of the vice-presidential race showed a more reasonable spread, with each candidate getting votes.

I know I've mentioned in private that in the case of lesser evils, I'd go with the incumbent. But this kind of cheating (as opposed to Marcos-style elan) is just stupid.


the fall of troy

I swear, the Troy film was so terribly done, my stomach turned (true, but not just because of this sad waste of time - my innards disagreed with the sandwich I scarfed from Subway). That, plus the boredom, made me quit the theatre after another insufferable "acting" sequence with Brad Pitt and Brian Cox. Gah.

I disagree with almost all of my friends, who quite enjoyed it. I have too much beef with the poor writing, the poor acting, the poor casting and the poor editing to go into detail, but all the eye candy (i.e. Achilles, Hector and especially Paris) cannot save or make this a good film by any stretch of logic.

It was so bad it was camp, and not in a way that I'll love a few years into the future.

mother and child

Two reasons why life is joyous.

Saturday, May 15, 2004


It's getting harder finding places where you can get a good meal AND smoke, dammit! One of these places is Sticks, a Japanese fusion resto with a good menu at reasonable prices. When Nikki lit up after making short work of the Dynamite (spicy baked prawns), I couldn't resist the irony of the sign behind her.

Last night at Chili's, I could not help but ask why food is always central whenever people meet. Does it give us something to do? Is it because sharing food is social? I caught Jason with a sign behind him that sort of cuts through the argument. The point being: you go to a resto, you eat.

Alternatively, we could all go score some soft pharma and go soundtripping.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

you don't know class...

...America. Farewell, La Toya London.

And frankly, I'm aghast that Fantasia was in the bottom two.

It doesn't make sense.

But it does make riveting TV, doesn't it?

roller coaster

A dramatic change at work is scheduled to occur soon. I take it as part of the growth process of my company. A little controlled expansion may be in the cards.

I need to get out of businesses that require my physical presence all the time. My inability to clone myself has resulted in lost opportunities (and of course, the need to focus on doing one thing very well is important too).

Maybe a retail business?

Ah, but what I really want is to set up a classy House of Ill-Repute. Truly.

Or generate stories and content for various media and get paid in dancing girls, Tropicana Orange Juice and an unlimited account at

things i wished i did not see

The video of muslims beheading an American

The pictures of the Iraqi prisoners humiliated and hurt by Americans

Fernando Poe Jr. leading the polls

My expanding gut... feh.

north of 180

But with my height, people say I carry my weight well.

I disagree. Already, I know that I am terribly overweight and my life preserver has started to get out of hand. But really, what's wrong about looking like a dad? I'm a dad.

But still.

The problem is two-fold: first, I love to eat. Second, I'm lazier than a sloth when it comes to exercise. So, um, lipo? Nope, because my pain tolerance is zilch.

So, what to do, what to do.

Okay, maybe Gold's Gym is a possibility. Something like Videoke Cycling or somesuch.

Sigh, I'm tired already.

no thanks, says mag

My first rejection letter from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was terse and to the point. The story I submitted failed to interest the reader.

Fair enough.

Wait til you read the next one.

speaking of writing

Check out The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés for tons of fun - useful also if you write in this genre.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

midweek groove

My partner and I gave our staff and ourselves an extra free day yesterday, just to recharge after the hectic times of late. So my work week begins on a Wednesday, which feels odd, like I've missed out on something important. The good thing though is that everything feels slanted towards the weekend, and all the little work things I need to do seem almost too easy. But what seems easy rarely is, right? One of these little things is thinking of a whole new pitch for a client, across our entire service/line offerings, from video to train ads to mircosites to PR placements and everything in-between. Must get the brain working!

couch potato

I had honestly planned on doing some writing over my long break, but dammit, I was ensorcelled by the back-to-back, marathon, watch-until-your-eyes-bleed American Idol and Survivor programming. TV is a horrible, horrible thing. And yet... Ah, shit, how could I resist watching all the auditions again? All the drama of the selecting the Top 12? The wildcards, the heartaches, and all that? And how could I possibly miss Rob proposing to Amber (silly gits that we are, Nikki and I held hands and teared up as we identified, dammit, we identified!). I was just pissed by the constant interruptions of the election quick counts - and mind you, these quick counts are anything but quick.

If you plan to write, rip the TV off the shelf and hurl off the condo ledge. Or make sure that there's nothing good on TV in the first place.

swimming with sage

Sage came up to me and said, "Daddy, let's swim."

ME: No, Sage. It's too hot. And we're watching Idol.

SAGE: Watch Idol?

ME: Yes.

SAGE: No, Daddy. Let's swim.

ME: No, Sage.

SAGE: Daddy! let's swim! Let's swim!

ME: Argh! Okay, let's swim! But first, you have to get your bathing suit. And your sunblock. And your slippers and towel. So do that and I'll wait for you here.

Sage ran off, got everything she needed before Ryan Seacrest could announce whose dreams were shattered forever.

SAGE: Daddy! Let's go!

And so we did, up to the condo pool where we jumped and frolicked in the cool waters. Sage would climb out and have me catch her as she jumped into the pool (no fear, I tell you). Then later she had me get out of the water, where she stayed. I wondered why until I saw her raising her arms out, ready to catch her smiling father.

Monday, May 10, 2004

what the -!

Blogger has undergone some odd changes that are rather irksome. It's like coming home to a power outage, entering your room with the conviction that you know where everything is supposed to be, and then banging your head, arms and feet against everything.

Everything looks blocky and modern, and while my initial annoyance has to do with having to learn new ways to do old things, I do not like Blogger's new look and feel.

On the upside, there are now ways to add comments (not by Haloscan), site feeds and I think even your own picture (though I certainly have not problem with that, since I have my own thingie).

Now pardon me while I scratch my head and wonder where all the other posts went.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

the best mom i know...

... is Sage's mom.

Happy Mother's Day, beloved!

stupid draw

Like the rest of the menfolk in the Philippines, one of the things weighing heavier in mind than the upcoming elections tomorrow was the Pacquiao-Marquez bout in Las Vegas.

Our country desperately needs heroes.

We got a draw, in a controversial final judgment that infuriated the teeming masses.

Nothing sucks more than a draw. In competition, if you win, you win. If you lose, you lose and try for a better result next time. Lack of closure in something that should have been clean cut like this (I mean, the scoring is on technical merits, right?) is such a letdown.

voting 1

Monday will begin the closure process for the Philippine elections. With over 17,000 posts up for grabs, the most anticipated contest is for the highest office of the land. All five presidentiables (Arroyo, Poe, Roco, Lacson and Villanueva) shared a pew and heard mass, supposedly putting aside their differences in a show of unity. What a showbiz move.

What's expected to happen: Arroyo wins, but Poe raises a ruckus in the streets, in the hope of yet another ocholocratic reversal. Violence, accusations and other dramatic turns of events. But after that, we will still have the Lady President. Such is the power and influence of the incumbent, especially when the Opposition cannot unite.

People say: "Better her than Poe. Even if she has to cheat, I'd support her. It's a matter of lesser evils."

A country that elects a lesser evil to govern it can only expect the least amount of national good. At this level of discourse, it's all personal, baby.

voting 2

But actually more thrilling to me is the finale of Survivor All-Stars. In a season plagued by questionable "must-watch" TV, SAS (or, as its detractors prefer, ASS) did give us Rob Mariano in his most "Even An Asshole Can Win" mode.

But can he win? Most likely not.

My final roster prediction:


Only a few more hours before we know, o Kali!

los idolos de filipinas

Last night, after another "Oh My God, I Cannot Eat Another Bite" dinner of crab, prawns, mussels, tilapia and inihaw na baboy at Dampa Libis, the gang and I went and sang out hearts out.

The sub-theme for the night: sing like our American Idol faves.

So Nikki and I channeled Fantasia and John Stevens (Something To Talk About and King of the Road), Vin took charge of the entire Barry Manilow songlist (but really, as JPL), while Carl tapped into Jasmine's standards as Cams revealed much with her song selections.

After various performances, we'd give judge comments, ultimately deciding that we were beautiful (thanks, Paula).

Oh, Fantasia must win. If you love her as much as we do, go check out Rickey's site for downloadable goodies (and a rather controversial message string).

Thursday, May 06, 2004

let's give them something to talk about

Bye, bye Mr. Huff - I loved your voice, but each of the remaining women of American Idol can outsing you.

And so we're down to four: Diana Degarmo (powerful voice and presence for a 16 year-old), LaToya London (great, but I don't see anything different about her), Jasmine Trias (for whom my mother-in-law is rallying every Filipino in Florida to vote for) and my favorite to win: Fantasia Barrino.

Yes, if I could vote, I'd dismay the Filipino/Hawaiian community.

Nikki and I adore Fantasia so much that her rendition of "Something To Talk About" is perpetually playing in our home. She is something else.

siglo: freedom in diamond's previews

Let me translate that peculiar title up there.

Basically, our book, Siglo: Freedom, has been picked up by Diamond Comic Distributors (comic, magazine, book, toy and related items US distributor who handles Marvel Comics, DC Comics and everyone else) for inclusion in their Previews publication (a catalog of stuff used by retailers and fans to order) - as soon as all the paperwork is done.

The reason this is important news to us (and believe me, I'm jumping with delight) is because it gives us overseas exposure (and hopefully, sales!). And it is uber-cool to be listed with all the other comics - sort of gives you the feeling that you're "for real", you get what I mean?

Does this mean we've "made it"? Nah. But it's a great big step for us towards the goal of reaching a larger audience.

And suddenly, I feel the pressure on Siglo: Passion...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


status report: writing

Now that things 1) things are not so insane at the office; 2) the writerly month of April and its assorted deadlines is done; and 3) the film treatment Nikki and I put together is finished, I can turn my attention to my writing docket.

In Circulation: 6 (so much for "I very rarely submit")

Declined (sounds better than "Rejected"): 3 (none of them quite painful as I thought)

Works in Progress (WIP): 4

Within the next few weeks, I'll be consciously trying to write longer stories, around 7,500 words or so. Most of my stuff is at the 4000-4500 word range. That is, if the stories will cooperate.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


I just got a call from one of my sisters, congratulating me on a bit of published writing (in my family, news travels slowly – more precisely, good news travels slowly; unlike bad news which travels with the intensity of a tropical depression). She was so happy for me, so proud of her brother. And I, in my usual fashion, tried to make little of the thing, though of course I was happy she was happy that I was happy. And a little proud. Just a little.

I just cannot take praise well. I tend to reject it, to make light of it, to veer the conversation to other less personally intimate topics. In fact, it took my wife to teach me how to give a gracious “thank you” instead of steering talk to other matters.

Yes, part of me is outrageously humble. And why shouldn’t I be? There are hundreds of thousands of better writers, both quick and dead, who are better than me, whose words have touched lives in ways I cannot even begin to speculate upon, who create stories with such skill and craft and passion that it makes my own work so patently contrived.

(And it is an excruciatingly honest humility. I live to learn from better authors; I long to sit at the feet of intelligent critics; I yearn to be involved in discussions with passionate arguments on the nature of stories and craft – I want to soak it up, to be better, to ultimately reach myself wherever myself is, that buried storyteller who tells too few tales.)

And yet – part of me is also absurdly arrogant. And why shouldn’t I be? I have learned how to write in my own manner, painfully exercising the parts of my brain whose muscles empower my imagination, eking out words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs and whole things that I’d choose to read myself (which is different from saying that I write things people would like to read – but then again maybe that’s my outrageous humility talking, who knows?).

(And I do believe in positive arrogance. You have believe in yourself if you are to compete, and writing is competition – you are fighting laziness; turning your back on various temptations like books, games, friends or horniness; you are engaged in a contest with the last story or play you wrote, and you always always always need to be better the next time. If you do not believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in your writing?)

So there they are, laid out in front of me by my sister’s phone call: humility and arrogance, inseparable yet oddly understandable.

And I do not think this set of paired opposites, this syzygy, is unique to me. We all have layers, like an onion. In this case, it is humility, then arrogance, then humility, then arrogance, and so on, ad infinitum, as necessitated by circumstance and company.

As required by context - if you, a stranger, come up to me (and this has happened several times) and engage in this piece of banter:

You: Are you Dean Alfar? The playwright?

Me: Um, yes.

You: Wow! You’ve won (insert a small number) Palanca Awards! I’m not worthy!


Me: Thank you. Which ones have you read?

You: None, but I intend to.

If this is the dialogue, then the twin demands of arrogance and humility war with each other, and I will most likely smile and walk away.

If it is something like this:

You: Are you Dean Alfar? The author of (insert title)?

Me: Um, yes.

You: I really liked your story. I liked how (insert stuff) but didn’t feel that you (insert stuff) but on the whole, (insert adjective) work.

Me: Thank you.

Humility wins, hands down and I will consciously strive to shift the conversation to something, anything, else.

If, however, the dialogue begins with something like this:

You: Are you the fucker who wrote this piece of crap?

Then I will most happily give in to arrogance, throw in a good dash of pride, and begin to painstakingly drive you into a small hole from which you will never get out of (oh, you can, eventually, but you need to gnaw off your legs).

Thankfully (thankfully?) the last scenario has yet to happen in all its ill-tempered glory, but of course I have also come across people for whom my writing does absolutely nothing. This doesn’t bother me for the same reason that there are people who don’t like certain music, etc. It becomes a matter of taste.

The most interesting admixture of humility and arrogance comes with a rejection letter. Normally these things are form letters, but the one I got was a personal note. The editor stated the elements of the story that she liked (the manner of writing, the language, the blending of this and that genre, the use of folklore) but concluded that the story was not what her magazine was looking for.

Reading it (my second real rejection letter – but don’t be mistaken, I submit manuscripts for consideration very rarely) I felt the usual humility because of the encouragement, and the usual arrogance because, well, “how could this person not see how wonderful this piece of fiction is?” Sigh.

And then it’s back to more writing, because that’s just how the way things are.

Monday, May 03, 2004

the apologist

The cabbie who drove me around the city today was very different from the usual taxi drivers.

He kept apologizing about things: the general state of his cab, the creaking shock absorbers, the low volume of his radio, before moving on to being sorry about the heat, the traffic and the ultimately the travesty that the coming elections will be (he is not for the incumbent GMA who is poised to win, one way or the other).

Irritated old meanie that I am, I just wanted to say "Shut up and drive", but instead challenged him to do something about the things he was apologizing for.

And that kept our discourse going for the entire trip.