Saturday, July 31, 2004


old manila

Yesterday, I was at Intramuros, the heart of old Manila, to attend the opening of a new resto we helped design. It is like walking back in time - many of the buildings have maintained their historical facades, thanks to the efforts of civic-minded building owners and restorers.

It was kind of cool and sad to park in the gutted remains of a less fortunate building though. All that remained were the old perimeter walls, enclosing the muddy parking area. The past served to hide the garishness of technology, allowing one to imagine more kalesas (horse-drawn carts) and people in traditional baro't saya in the last days of Spanish rule.

I'm just glad hear that more restoration activities are underway - especially the great news about the Metropolitan Theater. After the Manila Jockey Club (that ship-shaped example of art noveau) was razed to the ground by Lito Atienza, I guess people took their advocacies to the next level.

It is important that we preserve what we can. We need to appreciate our history.


My hair has acquired the dullness of khaki (sheesh, my garment client will kill me - after reminding me many times that khaki is not a color) thus is more yellow than green.

Picture soon, I promise.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

bam smash

Personally, I have a deeply-ingrained suspicion of poetry. Or to be more precise, of people who call themselves poets, especially those who write in free verse without having gone through the classic forms (this is an ancient bias of mine, enveloping other writing disciplines as well, so don't think I'm dissing any one particular poet at this moment).

The truth is that anyone with a decent command of language can write a poem. Or fake one and hide behind artistic license. I've seen many examples of utterly banal "poetry" by various people who think they're poets (or to be fair, maybe they're just bad poets).

Even I, from time to time, can string together some words and phrases, and because I am some other sort of writer, I am aware of things like theme, mood, voice and style and so on. But I am not a poet, not like my contemporaries Bliss Lim, Eric Evano or Ruey de Vera are, much less any of the poets whose poems belong to the world.

I disagree with the argument that everyone can be a poet. I think poets are rare individuals who are able to distill their experience of the world, all the beauty and horror, the drab and the humdrum, into words that make you laugh or cry or think. This peculiar ability is precious and not at all commonplace. The ability to use the poem's manifold instances to bridge people together cannot be found just anywhere. Sometimes, they are obscure - but just because they are inaccessible to you does not invalidate their work.

I enjoy poetry and wish more people would too. But I'd encourage a wider range of true voices that drip with truth and longing or unbridled wonder (no matter how many or how few), rather than invite the entire population to contribute their brutal cacophony. Not everyone is a poet, I'm sorry. Not everyone can draw, or sculpt, or write a play. Art is neither democratic nor fair.

Is poetry for everyone? That's like asking if ballet is for everyone. Or drama. Or whatever art form. Appreciation, respect and love for a particular art form, any form, cannot be forced or institutionalized.

People are free to find what moves them, what transports them beyond their everyday lives, what resonates with their humanity.

Or not.

wish: my personal anthology

Vin and I were talking about writing, and the thought of an anthology of one's own appealed to me. I told him I didn't think I had enough to fit a slim volume, but as it turns out, I could actually afford to be quite selective.

So now I'm thinking about approaching a publisher and getting a small collection of my work out. I don't have that vast a corpus, but I think I do have some good fiction and plays. While I'm fantasizing about this, I might as well go hog-wild.

If the collection were purely prose, I'd probably go with these ten:

L'Aquilone du Estrellas - marked a high point for me
Spark: The Sad and Strange Tale of Sister Maria Dolores, the Nun who Exploded - developing my voice
Hollow Girl: A Romance - genre work on my own terms
The Last Mermaid Story - because I love carnival freakshows
The Secret Measure - exhibits my leftist leanings
Magan & Balo - my first love story
Terminos - experiment in form
Ser Clessidrana Acerco Tiempo - "epiphanic dew"
The Maiden & The Crocodile - playing with structure
The Middle Prince - post-whatever fairy tale

And I'll write two new stories, most likely completing "The Muse of Graveltown" and "Beauty" or whatever strikes me dead in the night. What I noticed about my selections above is that, with three exceptions, they are all about women. I also feel bad about leaving out more of the Hinirang pieces, but the above is representative of both my growth as fictionist and of my sensibilities.

For an anthology of plays, I'd have to select around five from the ones I've written, and damn the rest (we must consider page count, and my short plays are not exactly short):

Island - full-length, a musical, and a bitch to write
Loving Toto - what I learned in Repertory Philippines
Circle Jerks (formerly The Onan Circle) - Mr. Monologue, that's me
The Kite of Stars - my favorite story, as a play, in choreo-poem form
Fragments of Memory - my first break with formal rules, structure and the Unities.

I'd throw in either a new "unreleased" one-act play - most likely Interstitial or one of the Filipino language ones I have, probably Isa Pa Para Kay Alan. Again, my choices show range and time.

What's absent is Short Time, arguably my most popular play. While it's cool that people stage it, multiple personal rereadings make it more and more awful to my eyes. I honestly don't like it very much. Too histrionic, no restraint. But still. I don't know. It's hard to disown or ignore the fruit of one's loins.

For a mixed personal anthology (more of a miscellany, I guess), I'd go with six prose pieces and two plays and leave it at that (my poems are just too horrible to contemplate):

L'Aquilone du Estrellas
Spark: The Sad and Strange Tale of Sister Maria Dolores, the Nun who Exploded
Ser Clessidrana Acerco Tiempo
The Middle Prince
The Maiden & The Crocodile
Hollow Girl: A Romance

Circle Jerks
Fragments of Memory

Nice to dream, especially on a rainy day in between client phone calls and projections.

But... it could happen.

We'll see.

marco's vanishing ray

Marco, a good friend of mine, has an imaginary vanishing ray that he uses to wipe out scum of the earth (which may, at times, include pedestrians, taxi drivers, obstinate people, freaky fanboys and my best friend when he dawdles).

I need something like that to wipe out 95% of the condo I live in (there are some people I like, such as my household, and Ed and Amie).

Until tomorrow, only one elevator services the vertical needs of 36 floors of tenants. This has led to absurdly long lines, frayed tempers and sniveling children (who have spent approxiately half their young lives waiting).

I live on the 36th floor. I thought I'd have no problem going down because logically only residents of the 36th floor would want to go down. But no. People of the lower floors ride up anyway, so when the doors open I stare at a full elevator. My weird color-changing hair did not so much as budge them.

I decided to go home very late last night, around 10, thinking it would be a breeze. But no. There was still a line.

If not for the fact that a) I was in a good mood because of all the great news I've been receiving; and b) I had new comics from Vin, I would have killed everyone in sight, in an orgy of blood and violence.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

building up passion

Red Berger is one of the finest designers in town, and what you see is a small part of his wrap-around cover for Siglo: Passion. He has created a provocative image that deals with the three seats of human passion - mind, heart and corpus, as well as designing this year's logo.

I have nothing but admiration for this man's sensibilities.

Overall though, multiple snags have set back our publishing schedule but I'm still optimistic. All the artwork and coloring does take time, and Siglo is a labor of love for everyone involved. I'm certain it will all work out.

On the writing front, I woke up with a marvelous conceit for a small play and thought about the structure of it. It represents a new challenge, a different way of flexing mind muscles, so I'll have to cordon off time to get started.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Just before going off to sleep, Sage came up to me and said, "I wanna touch", pointing at my hair.

So I lowered my head and she touched it, stroking the odd color that frightened her earlier with its intimation that she could just wake up changed as well.

"Do you like Daddy's funny hair?" I ask with hope stuck in my throat.

"Yes," she said, giggling. "Funny hair, funny hair".

And all is well.

Thank the stars.

hair today

brown in the morning

Marc and I ventured into Tutuban, right next door to Divisoria and Tondo, in the heart of Manila, to look for things for our store.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting the worst - a fetid maze of stalls in dizzifying (to borrow from Rushdie) squalor and heat. Instead, I found that Tutuban had been organized in the recent years into a series of air-conditioned malls. So, in cool air and an environment bereft of crowds (because it was early in the week and everyone was at work). There were so many places to look at, and ultimately, we decided to pick some new toys and explore Divisoria (known nowadays as "Divi") next week (and with the exception of Divi Mall, that area is truly scary).

green in the afternoon

After I received stultifyingly happy news (that I can only reveal 6 days from now - watch for it), I finally decided to go ahead and dye my hair.

My barbershop couldn't do it. Ricky Reyes couldn't do it. Optima Salon couldn't do it. Precy's Salon said thry'd try but it would be a) expensive; b) painful; and c; no guarantee that I'd get the white I wanted.


Because I am not Caucasian, thus the initial bleach will not produce white, and instead produce corn-yellow. But from there, with repeated bleachings in the span of a few hours, plus the application of silver, I'd get...some hair color, but definitely not white.

"Silver?" I asked.

"Green," they said.

"Fine, fine," I agreed and subjected myself to their untender ministrations. And boy did it hurt. My scalp felt like it was on fire, bitten by a thousand thousand angry ants and I could not do anything about it.

For a brief time, after the initial bleaching, I had yellow hair. As in scarily blonde, yellow, xanthic hair, Rapunzel-gold and terrifying.

And Oxidized copper green.

"Statue of Liberty-green," Nikki said.

And there you have it.

Am I happy it with? I'm delighted!

But not Sage. Read on.

blue in the evening

Sage stood stunned by my oddly viridian locks.

"No, Dad, no!" she protested, bursting into tears.

"But look at Daddy's funny hair," I said, helpless in the face of her distress.

"No, Dad," she cried. "I want black!"

"But this is Daddy's new hair," I said. "Remember, I told you last night?"

"No, no, I want black!"

Nikki tried to explain but Sage was adamant. My heart sank. And then:

SAGE: I want blue.

ME: But this is greenish.

SAGE: No, I want blue.

NIKKI: For Daddy?

SAGE: For me!

ME: For you?

NIKKI: Honey, we can't just change your hair color. You look beautiful.

SAGE: No, no, Mommy. You find! I want blue.

ME: Well, this certainly isn't covered in "How to be a Great Dad".

And so Nikki got Sage's paint set and applied a dab of blue to the child's hair.

SAGE: Dad, look!

ME: Oh, your hair is blue!

SAGE: Yes.

Now how long I can keep this hair color that so unnerves my beloved daughter only time will tell...

Monday, July 26, 2004

puting buhok

It's the start of another work week and the final days of July, and there is a ton of stuff to do. However, the most important item that has asserted itself in my cluttered priority list is whether or not I should go ahead and have my hair dyed white.

I've been talking to Nikki about this for some time, but my fear of the acidic dyes ravaging my scalp has (so far) kept me from going for it. I've never liked my hair; I'm irked by its texture and color, which is why I used to keep it mowed down to almost nothing. But when I decided to grow my beard and moustache, I let my hair grow as well, almost as an afterthought, in sympathy.

Seeing Khavn's outrageous locks hammered my ambivalence into little bits. Granted, I do move in more corporate and formal circumstances, but what the fuck. I am who I am, and the color of my hair (like the accidental color of my eyes) does not change my abilities. So why even do it? Why not?

Let's see if I act on this impulse, given the shortage of time this week.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


Sharing a stage with indie filmmakers Kidlat Tahimik and Khavn de la Cruz was an invigorating experience. The three of us talked about "Voices of Independent Media" to a huge audience at the PICC (that edifice whose sprawling dimensions triggered memories of Imeldific excesses).

Passion for creation, expressed in words and images, characterized our three speeches and presentations. It was great to be in the company of creatives who sought to advance certain critical agendas. The combined pedigrees, including all awards, honors and recognitions, was enough to underscore the fact that critical acclaim follows truthful and excellent work (and it was surreal signing autographs for people for whom our words and works actually made a difference). Khavn poked fun at the Palanca Awards (having won 3rd prize in 2001's Futuristic Fiction category for "Ang Pamilyang Kumakain Ng Lupa"), and well we should - because if one is focused only on winning awards then that is a poor way to go about life (next month, by the way, will have many writers waiting for Palanca telegrams with bated breath).

I like Khavn a lot, he's almost like a dark image of me - if I gave my artistic impluses full rein. Like Noel Lim, he gives independent Filipino cinema an occassional kick in the balls. Besides, who can not admire someone who created a film about a self-mutilated castrati who walks the streets of Manila?

When Kidlat bounced around in a traditional Ifugao bahag (loincloth) and told everyone that he was a "father first, then an artist", it got me thinking about my own circumstances: what are my priorities? What am I first? The truth is that I am not a writer first, since family and business are more important to my life where I stand at this moment.

But sometimes, the siren call of craft is irresistable and defies any structured totem-poling of priorities. And without it, I'd be crippled.

I was invited by Vim Nadera, the director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing to set up an exhibit at UP when I'm available, and to be part of the annual Writer's Night in a few months. After being out of touch with the literati for quite a while, I was quite impressed by Vim's performance art, mixing poetry and street dancing to further expand awareness of our cultural heritage.

So, in short, feeling writer na naman tayo. Kaso lang, pagdating ng Lunes, balik sa negosyo. Ganyan talaga, kaya (ahem) "okey lang".

Saturday, July 24, 2004


I just finished my power point presentation that will accompany my speech - just an hour away. Talk about photofinishes.

Somehow, I managed to include a history of Filipino comics from the Golden Age to current days (name-dropping merrily away), talk about the rationale and role of grafiction today, throw in bits about artistic freedom of expression and responsibility AND plug both Siglo: Freedom and Siglo: Passion with enough images to make my presentation look "prepared for".

Now to dress up and rush to the PICC.

Friday, July 23, 2004

pirate booty

Billy and crew served up more quality films that made my wallet bleed.

A few weeks ago, Hong Kong released an onslaught of newly packaged films, ranging from American classics (e.g. The Birds, National Velvet, Chaplin fims, East of Eden) to selections from the new Asian powerhouse Korea to French, Indian, Japanese and of course, Hong Kong cinema (alas, nothing from Iran though - but I'm still hopeful). These discs retail for more than the regular knockoffs and have great packaging (but I was able to exert my "suki" smile and get them for what I usually pay).

However, cash rules and I didn't have much on me - so I was only able to get a few, eschewing everything else for Asian cinema with two exceptions (oh, but I will be back, my pretties):

M by Fritz Lang - I was stunned to find this gem.

Amadeus (Director's Cut) - A two-CD set of one of my favorite films.

Taboo - Beat Takeshi (Battle Royale, Zatoichi) directed by Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) in a period piece.

Rashomon - Akira Kurasawa's classic - now I don't miss my old laserdiscs.

Forbidden City Cop - Stephen Chow is the Man. I loved God of Cookery to bits.

Goodbye, friends! Hello, DVD player!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

i love you, aubrey

The truth of the matter is, she's my #1 crush.

I felt bad when she launched her album and I couldn't make it to the venue.

So when I when I saw her today after taking the crew out to lunch, I... quavered like a school boy and rushed inside the elevator, perspiring from my proximity to the stuff of fantasy.

"Why don't you ask her for a picture least?" Bok said as we went up.

"Because I don't have my digicam, dammit!" I croaked.

"But I have this," Bok said, raising his camera-equipped cell phone.  God bless Nokia.

So we took the same elevator down and I approached her meekly, running through all the standard lines in my head, wanting to be debonair, clever and not too needy (or obviously prurient).

"Ah," I said with confidence.

Aubrey Miles looked up (she's a lot smaller than I thought) and smiled.  "Yes?"

"gakjhfdabyubb...?" I said, grinning and helplessly entangled by the weight of words.

"Yes," she nodded and smiled again as I sat next to her.  In the moment it took for Bok to take the shot, I entertained the notion of casually putting an arm around her shoulder.  But the moment passed, and like a giddy fangirl encountering her fave boyband, I went back to office and reflected on the silliness of crushes and how great it feels to act like an idiot young man again, smitten by something that jsut cannot be.

Ay, naku.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

fiction overload

I'm starting to feel like Vin.  Too many books, too little time.

Thanks to my personal book procurer, I find myself with a surplus of things to read.  Normally, this is not a problem since I love to read (but sorry, Vin, I will not post that lengthy book meme you want me to) and usually complain about the lack of good stuff.  But nowadays, time is at a premium, what with everything in my hands (business, writing, living).

The killer thing is that these are exactly the books I've been wanting and longing for.

I'm just glad that most of them are anthologies so I can sneak in a story or two in between other things.

Oh, for a quiet weekend bereft of responsibility!


We've signed the lease and said our goodbyes to our current landlord.  Everything's set for the office move before Ghost Month.  It feels strange knowing that in a couple weeks we'll be out the building that has been the base ops of my two companies since I came back from Hong Kong.

When we formed Pipeline Media, we didn't know that the gym above us would burn to the ground and that actress Nida Blanca would be murdered in the parking lot below us.  We had a good run and but ultimately decided that it was best to put the company to bed and disband the partnership.

Marc and I then formed Kestrel IMC and moved to the 8th floor, with a tighter focus and a lot more experience.  Our clients followed us and more employed out services, allowing us the stability we required to make even more long-term plans.  We were fortunate to have a great crew (who today, by the way, impressed me out of my socks) and challenging projects.

And now, a new office in a new building, just a stone's throw from home (and two stone throws away from many old friends - which means more lunches with comrades-in-arms).

I'm certain we'll have an adjustment period, but high hopes and a steady revenue stream will keep us afloat.  But even now, as I begin the process of uprooting myself, I cannot help but feel a little sad.  Atlanta Center was both a bitch and a blessing, but also home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

vignette: jerry

Jerry lay as still he could within the coffin, watching with wide eyes as his father slowly lowered the lid, until everything turned dark.  It was his birthday, his seventh birthday to be exact, and instead of having a party with cake and soda and hats and clowns, his father told him it was time for the coffin.
Jerry counted each blow of his father’s hammer as it struck the nails (four times for each one, sometimes five for the extra kick), imbedding them deep into the rough wood, making them bite hard like pointed teeth.  He listened to his father sing a song that sounded both old and new:
This is for my mother
who taught me how to love;
This is for my father
who hit me with his glove;
This is for my daughter
who learned young how to run;
And this is for my little boy
my son, my son
my only one
When his father was finished and content with his work, Jerry heard him speak closely to where his head rested.  “Try not to breathe,” his father said.  “Air, in darkness, becomes foul.”
And so Jerry did his best not to breathe.  But when his lungs felt like they were on fire, he gave in and swallowed the tiniest gasp of air.  His father was right – the air tasted dry and sharp and bitter all at once, like an old cardboard box that held something living once, like a hamster, and then was left far too long in the sun.
He missed his mother and thought about her as he closed and opened his eyes.  Not that it made a difference; it was dark either way.  He thought about the things he missed most about her: the way she held him when he cut his knee against the angry spokes of his wayward bicycle; the smell of lilac and lavender that trailed after her for hours after she left the bathroom steaming and bright; the sound of her voice when she told him his favorite story – the one about the seal who could not feel cold; the saltiness of her tears when he kissed her that time a plate slipped from her hands.  But most of all, he missed the color of her eyes, a simple, honest brown that enfolded him with love.
Before long, Jerry grew very thirsty, and all the swallowing of his saliva could not sate the dryness in his mouth.  In all that time, he had not moved, except to close or open his eyes or to take a little gasp of strange-tasting air.  He also had an annoying itch behind his left knee, and it took all of his self-control not to rub his leg against the bottom of the coffin.  He thought about other things to distract him from the maddening itch, the itch that he dare not scratch.
He thought about Lucas, his best friend and neighbor and the pillow fort they made yesterday, when he was six.  He thought about Maureen, the big girl who sometimes came to play.  He thought about Mrs. Gonzalvez, the old woman who lived down the road with her stuffed parrot. 
And he thought about his father. 

whirling dervish

Sometimes, despite my use of scheduling software, things unexpectedly occur and wreak havoc with a planned day.
Today, for instance, not ten seconds after I arrive at the office, I am greeted by a pair of crises that evoked the blood rage in me.  Argh.
I entertained the notion of a bloodly silenced world for all of a moment before reverting to human form and finding solutions for the challenges. 
It's all about attitude and mental states.  Often, we cannot control the circumstances around us, but we can certainly control how we respond.  Blood rage, for example, while "feel good" is not particularly helpful (look at poor Bruce Banner).  Better to accept certain new parameters and limitations, find creative ways to compensate or deliver, and poke fun at the absurdity of existence.
So, my schedule may be in disarray, but the problems are dealt with with lovely results.  I even used the word "putsch" (which oddly is the word of the day from  And discovered Milo Ice Dream at the nearby Mini Stop.
Now, of course, all the adrenaline has to go somewhere...

Monday, July 19, 2004


I am so not the "roast chicken sandwich with apples and cranberry sauce" kinda guy.
That's what I had for dinner at a client meeting and my entire being (led by the stomach)  rebelled.
Give me rice and ulam and I'm yours for life.

helpful hints

art direction/photography

1. Start with a concept.  This is the basic theme or metaphor that you want to build on.

2. Create a shot list.  This becomes your task list - stick to it.

3. Look for references or shot anchors.  This allows you visualize and plan for your shot.

4. Plan for lighting.  Even natural light must be planned for.

5. Be patient and flexible on site.  Sometimes, the best of intentions cannot save a shot.

6. Build a rapport with your photographer.  Do not treat him like a peon.

7. Be firm and authoritive - but reachable.  You're the head honcho, act like it.

8. If digital, take lots of shots.  This allows you to choose the best ones.

9. If working with people, lighten the mood.  Humor is important.

10. Have fun.  Even if you're working, there's no reason not to enjoy yourself.


in search of...

intelligent conversation

I, for one, refuse to accept that life is all about inane talk, sweet nothings and vacuous blather.  Which is why sometimes I just need to get away from the banal and engage in intellectually stimulating conversation - because a mind is a poor thing to waste.
Topics need not be esoteric (though those are most welcome if the participants know what they're talking about), but simply interesting.  Anything that goes beyond the humdrum "What did you think of this movie?" or "Did you hear that X and Y broke up?" or even "Jim Lee's Superman sucks." 
No, no.  Give me more. 
Ask me why I think there is no true modern Filipino literature.  Ask me what steps I'd take to make the country more like Singapore or Communist China.  Ask me why a pantoum tickles my fancy.  Ask me why the Three Unities are important.  Ask me why YMO rocks.  Ask me about the hundred ways to cook an egg.  Ask me why Indian policemen are trying to grow and maintain their moustaches and beards.  Ask me what the Oort Cloud is.  Ask me why the Battle of Arbela is important.  Ask me about the line of genital-care products in the supermarket. 
Tell me the latest findings on Dark Matter.  Explain the form of the villanelle.  Show me the secret moves in the latest fighting game.  Tell me why the telephone works even in an outage.   Relate Smurfette's secret origin.  Tell me how to choose cognac, how to make my own ink, how to dress a chicken. 
Engage my mind with theories.  Coerce an argument from me - make me take a stand on a grey topic and defend it.  Slap my face with brilliance and make me beg for more.  Show me your latest fiction and make me drool with envy. 
Use your words like a razor and make me bleed.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

talking the talk


Wilson, Marco, Jaime and I conducted the Nautilus Comics Seminar at Powerbooks Megamall yesterday, joined later by Vin and Andrew.
Wilson and Marco handled the art portion with many tips and answers to difficulities peculiar to illustrating comics, while I handled the writing part.  It was irksome to realize that I could not connect my laptop to the projector, thus making useless the multi-page powerpoint I developed for my portion, but then again, talking extempore is never a problem for me.
Because I'm quite familiar with the topics I've chosen, of course (and secretly, I'm a teacher).  We had a mixed crowd of various ages (from a 7 year-old to a grandmother-type), but everyone came to listen and learn.
Whenever I talk (formally or informally, to large audiences or very small ones), I make sure to inject moments of levity and humor to spike my points.  Laughter creates bonding between speaker and audience and allows for a degree of familiarity - you're more likely to listen and retain a lot of information if the speaker is entertaining to listen to.  There is no reason not to create an engaging situation, especially in mixed crowds.  My big difficulty, as always, is translating my English thoughts to Filipino - but that, in itself, creates moments of humor.
I also got a chance to meet some new and upcoming comics creatives, which is always a good thing.  It's good to know that someone somewhere will carry the torch in the future because we old farts will fade away in time.


After dinner at Steak Jack's (great food, miserable service), we had coffee and conversation at UCC (expensive food, good service).  We talked about issues that affected us a citizens of our country as well as (inevitably) literature, art and games:
Giving in to terrorism - Our Lady President gave in to the demands of the Iraqi captors of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.  The militants threatened to behead him (like they did an American and a Korean earlier) if the Philippines did not pull out its military presence in Iraq earlier than scheduled.  President Arroyo suffered criticism from the US when she ultimately agreed to pull out.  This, of course, triggered the notion that we should never give in to terrorist demands because it encourages them, giving them the correct impression that they can hold entire countries hostage.  It is easy to take that stand if the person held hostage is a stranger to you.  But I was thinking, would people feel the same way if the hostage was their father, brother husband or son?  Or by extension, a member of their extended family?  Or a neighbor?  Or someone from their chruch or community?  From there, how about someone from their province or region?  Or simply a countryman?  It is a difficult situation and there are no cut-and-dried easy or correct answers.  How can we take a consistent stand against horror like this when we can only take a stand when it is comfortable for us to do so?

National Language - this old chestnut is being revived in certain sectors, with same old pros and cons.  Ultimately, I believe that language does not equate to nationalism, and that it is only the small-minded who would judge the intagible quality of "love or loyalty to country" based on the language we use.  Besides, what is "Filipino" but Tagalog by another word?  What of Cebuano?  Or any of the other languages found across the different parts of the archipelago?  It is easy to be sarcastic and point out that Jose Rizal, our National Hero, wrote in Spanish - the language of the (then) oppressors, but that argument does nothing to clarify matters.  The ideas behind the words, the signified beyond the signifier, is what really matters.

Decentralizing government departments - There is a motion to move the various Departments (Finance, Education, Agriculture, Trade & Industry, etc.) away from Manila, where they are all currently located, to other places in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  I actually have no opinion on the matter (how rare!) except that while it does seem fair, there is also a reason why Manila is the capital city of the country.  More obvious to me is the logic behind proposing to relocate the Ninoy Aquino Internation Airport to Pampangga - it works for Japan (Narita - Tokyo) and nobody should mind an additional two-hour trip from airport to city.

Florante at Laura - To my chagrin, I could barely remember anything about Francisco Balagtas' poem apart from the fact that it opens with Florante tied to a tree and the villain is Conde Adolfo and that there is a Moor somewhere in the story.  In fact, my friends laughed when I asked in what part of the story does the Ibong Adarna poo on the head of some unfortunate person and turn him to stone.  I seriously need to reread these works and get back in touch with our literary heritage.  I can only blame my Filipino lit teacher for making it a pain to study in high school.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


tv time 

I've been invited to write 2 new series for one of the local channels, as part of the creative pool.  If this comes to pass, I'll probably short-circuit with all the things I'm doing.
But the fact is, I like the structure of a 22-minute comedy.  It's like writing a one-act play for laughs.
And the fact that I'll own part of the show appeals to the entrepreneur in me.

we are animals 

Here's the link to the pet store I now co-own.
I'm looking into changing the product mix, creating a more humane environment for the little critters and doing a kick-ass marketing campaign.  This involves trips to Divisoria, Kartimar and Hong Kong.
Lots of things to do before the launch after Ghost Month.
Have I written about Ghost Month?  From August 15 to September 15, the ghosts walk the earth, according to the Chinese.  It is an inauspicious time to begin an endeavor or open a resto or publish a book.


Nikki and I met with Jaime and the publishers of Siglo and while the missed deadlines will mean that Siglo: Passion won't be able to make the book fair, I'm delighted that the fat full-colored book will see print within the year.  The economic realities bind us all.
It's also quite an honor to have Siglo: Freedom nominated for the National Book Award.  It would be great to win it, but in the scheme of things, the mere fact that our collective work has attracted critical attention is quite a feat in itself.
I'm looking forward to the workshop at Powerbooks tomorrow.  At last, my schedule permits me to talk about writing.  I've spent the last few weeks talking about everything else to clients apart from one of the things I really love doing, so this opportunity is a godsend.
I also have my little speech for the Mediamorphosis at the PICC coming up next week, and I'll talk about comics.

working wife

Nikki begins her new career on Monday, which makes this weekend kind of special.
Go, wife, go! 

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Sometimes, things people say make my day.

Client: You know, you make me need to revise my paradigm of artists and creative types.

Me: Why?

Client: Because you're a pro. You don't flake.

I told him that I separate my business life and my creative life (though of course sometimes there are intersections). I do believe in acting professionally - because apart from the fact that these people have trusted (and paid) me to do my thing, I need to do the best I can.

And I while I never cease to be "creative", the hat I wear when I'm working is that of a businessman.

I do my best not to flake.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004



I had a great morning talking about promos to the crew. Given the fact that we have new faces, it made sense to spend some time going over the basics so everyone speaks a common language.

What really made my day was how everyone took to the notions like ducks to water, and in no time flat were already conceptualizing mechanics for discounts, premiums, games, contests, redemption and raffles.

It’s good to have people who are quick learners and willing to expand their skill sets.

The truth of the matter is that in business, as well as in life, knowing more about things and how they work is a definite advantage. This has been my philosophy in life – to learn more about things I don’t know about and to try my best to combat ignorance concerning matters that I should be able to control.

There are times I wish I had studied more in college, or even become a lawyer, but when I consider that all of life is a process of learning, I feel okay.

This does not sate my hunger to learn more though, which is why I read when I can (and make certain to make time to read non-fiction). I talk to people who know things I don’t know as well and take mental notes. And I try things out.

This has helped me with my first business, where I sometimes put on a consultant’s hat for various things, and I know it will help me in my second endeavor. Or at least, that’s the plan.

Juggling the life of an entrepreneur and a creative sometimes gets stressful but is never without interesting moments.

You just have to keep an open attitude and keep on absorbing.

watch face

Like watches, for instance.

I’ll be the first to admit I was never really into watches.

I don’t wear one.

But since I want the watch account, I damn well should understand the whys and wherefores of the trade.

I started today by visiting one of the many watch stores of the watch account at Rockwell (and kicked myself for completely forgetting that there was a bookstore I wanted to visit – but I was working). I was exposed to the bewildering variety of watches – sports, fashion, jewelry, you name it, it’s there (well not the mega expensive Patek Philippe).

I tried to feel watch lust and eventually grew to desire a slim sexy model with a small watch face. However, when I inquired how much it cost, I reverted quickly to the “I don’t need a watch” mode.

But still.

To get “into character”, I may have to start wearing one.

Or get the one I want for free (well, one can hope, right?).

color and fabric

I spent the rest of the day with the clothing client and got a sneak peek at the Fall/Holiday that will hit the shelves in a few months.

Now this, I understand.

I fell in love with the palette – and not one of them was black. It was all the colors of autumn: olives, browns, and rust.

I begged for a pair of pants and a jacket, and my client looked at me with such utter kindness that could only spell hope.

After all, shouldn’t the agency that handles the account look snazzy as well (so I can impress my girls on the side, haha).

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

vignette: cooper

Swish-swish, goes the liquor in my belly, sloshing against my stomach, burning the lining at whatever proof it really was. It’s always a bitch to contain alcohol, because the spirits of wine are cantankerous sons-of-bitches, wanting in, then wanting out, never satisfied, like almost every woman I’ve known. I keep on drinking anyway, because I can take it, because it’s my duty, dammit. And because that's what I do.

I’m a Cooper, and in the face of fucking chaos, I’m a soldier of order. A shit-faced, ruddy-drunk bastard with only one ball to call my own, but what can you do? It’s the way of the world.

There’s This, which is how things really are, and there’s That, which is how things are when they get fucked up, mostly by spirits, but almost as often by bastards like me.

It’s true, believe me. There are others Crafts out there, other Craftsmen, that play with the tried-and-true and change things like my dead mother used to change her mind (seventy-two times on one particularly savage day, if you want to know). In some ways, these bastards are as bad as the spirits themselves.

No, no, not true. Nothing and no one can ever be as horrible as the spirits I ‘coop.

Spirits of alcohol, roulette and petty kicks are small time – we can ‘coop them in our sleep. It’s the bigger ones that are worth fighting: thrill and passion and true-fucking-love – that’s where the action is, where we get into the trenches and learn to pray.

They have grades, you know. They do. Ranks and levels and a pecking order, the whole hog. But they all share the same miserable goal – to change things.

And we can’t have that.

Once, all spirits were one (yeah, I know, sounds really stupid, but what can you do when your job requires you to toe the line?), changeless and eternal, the true nature of our reality, etc., etc. But of course, some asshole just had to wake up on the wrong side of bed one morning and say to himself “Fuck, I don’t need this” and bam! Here’s the new world for you, confused and as pissed off as you would be if someone suddenly decided to stick a sharp stick up your ass.

So, yeah, we’re trying to get things back to way there were. That’s the company line. Not all of us believe it but we all act like we do, from the grim panjandrum himself to the freshest girly-girls with their tightly-bound perky little tits.

It’s not a bad gig as far as gigs go. The perks are amazing and the feeling you get when you ‘coop a spirit or some arrogant Craftsman is worth all sleepless nights.

Besides, it’s a rare Craft that lets you drink on the job. You learn to ignore the swish-swish and get on with what you need to do.

three fractions of a second

During a lull in a meeting with the salon client at the salon, my eyes began to wander until I caught the reflection of a lovely lady getting her hair cut.

00:01:01 - She's hot!

00:01:02 - But wait-!

00:01:03 - That's -!

"That's my wife," I cried, surprising my client and creating a general stir with my unintentionally loud voice (well, louder than usual).

Nikki smiled and calmly waved my way as I struggled with holding my laughter in, because on my way to the meeting, this conversation occured between my cabbie and I:

Cabbie: Sir, may chicks ka sa pupuntanhan mo, ano? (Sir, you have a girl where you're headed, right?)

Me: What?

Cabbie: Kung kasal ka na, matakot ka sa asawa mo. Kung hindi pa, matakot ka sa itaas. (If you're married, be afraid of your wife. If you're not, be afraid of the Big Guy.)

Me: What?

Cabbie: Halata kasi, sir. Kita sa mukha mong may chicks ka. (It's obvious, sir. Your face betrays the fact that you have a girl on the side.)

Me: Ah...okay.

I'm just glad that if he had to right, it was my wife I was meeting - even if it took me three fractions of a second to get it.

Monday, July 12, 2004

vignette: quisling

Tenet paused at the ridge, licked the dry dust from her lips and looked at the small settlement that clung to the side of the mountain in the distance. Behind her, the uneven path was an unending brown, broken only by the heavy footprints of her mule which would be soon blown away by a lugubrious breeze.

“Well, Alister,” she said to her mule, “let us hope that this one is better than the last.” She tugged at the reins and squinted her eyes, looking for the best way down. “Though I doubt it.”

As she neared the town, Tenet briefly considered passing it completely. The few houses that she could see looked tired and worn down, as if abandoned by the hope of better days. A few fields were marked by erratic stone fences, with only small clusters of greenery managing to break free from the brutal earth’s selfish embrace.

At a nearby well, a man and a woman watched her approach.

“Stranger,” the man in rough homespun nodded in her direction. “Are you passing through?”

“My name is Tenet, good sir,” she replied, offering a smile. “And I will pass through if afforded no opportunity for gainful employment.”

“What?” the man scowled.

“She’s looking for work,Baerin,” the thin woman said, scratching at a sore on her arm. “Paying work.”

“Do we look wealthy to you, stranger?” Baerin said, tightening his grip on a long piece of wood.

“A few coppers, good sir, on a regular basis,” Tenet said, extending her empty hands palm outward. “Perhaps there is something I can do for you or this place.”

“There’s nothing for you here,” the woman replied. “Fortune left us years ago, along with the weather.”

“I think I can work with the weather,” Tenet told her.

“Truly?” the woman’s eyes widened. “Are you a Weatherworker?”

“Not exactly,” Tenet answered. “But I am a Craftsman.”

“If you are Crafted,” Baerin said, a little fear edging his voice, “what is your Craft, if I may?”

“I am a Quisling,” Tenet said simply.

“Forgive our ignorance,” Baerin said carefully, “but we have never heard of that Craft before, have we, Maery?”

“No,” Maery said, shaking her head. “Can you show us what you do?”

“Stay right there, Alister,” she told her mule, pointing to a precise spot on the dry ground. Tenet walked some distance away from the well and faced the man and woman who watched her every motion with distrustful eyes.

She considered the environment and sought to encompass the nature of the everything in her immediate vicinity. When she closed her eyes, her Craft opened up and showed her the pattern of things: the heavy lines of climate interlaced with overlaying concentric circles of heat; the solid granulated outlines of the ground and earth; the flat dimensions of the receding water in the well; the harsh flavors of the woman Maery’s suspicions and the immutable texture of Baerin's frustration.

As Tenet’s understanding of the status quo increased, her Craft began to present opportunities to betray the established parameters, giving her potential openings to create unexpected change, identifying weak areas that could be subjected to traitorous incidents.

When she opened her eyes, she knew what to do.

“Good sir, good lady Maery,” she called out to the spectators. “The rule of drought is the law in this place. But it need not always be so.”

Tenet smiled as she engaged the spark of Craft within her, selecting a weak point in the pattern of dryness and heat, slicing her mind through the layers of lines, sequences and strokes of the pattern. Inside, she inserted a memory of rain and imbued it with all the desire she could muster. This wasn’t very difficult because she did want rain, had wanted it for days; she felt her need wash over her and into the pattern, invisible rays of persuasion emanating from her. Above her, dark clouds quickly gathered and grew heavy with rain, as moisture betrayed the rule of drought and rebelled against the nature of things.

When rain began to fall in thick and weighty drops, Tenet opened her eyes. Baerin and Maery had their arms extended to the sky, their faces raised up, mouths open to the welcome precipitation.

Tenet walked to her mule, who stood as mutely as usual.

“I think I got the job, Alister” she whispered into his big ear.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


millions in my hand

And all because of an evening spent playing Jason's DotCom version of Monopoly.

In the end, Carl trounced us all completely, with his acquisition of EBay triggering outrageous payments, but it was fun playing competitively with friends. I worked out an early alliance with Carl and Andrew ( even though I sport a full head of hair these days), creating a corporation with the trifecta of, Eonline and another property I fail to remember. It was great having Charles with us, a rare occurence, especially in such spiffy togs.

Too bad we didn't get to play Die Seidler von Catan because the resto we were at had to close. Instead, we ate (again!) at Whistle Stop and talked of business and other matters that occupied our minds.


To my dismay, there were several trade paperbacks clamoring for my attention at Comicquest. And now, they grace the overburdened bookshelf extension:

Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks was a wonderful find. A series of vignettes about relationships and of finding one's own path told through the life cycle of salmon.

Arrowsmith by Busiek and Pacheco is a finely presented story set during World War I in a magic-rich world. Beautiful art here.

Bone: The Crown of Thorns by Jeff Smith is the 9th and final volume of the Bone storyline. This was tepid and quite disappointing. I feel that Smith lost his way after the first few volumes and got caught up in the complexities of his imagination. Too many stories to tell, resulting in a convoluted mess that does not satisfy (and believe me, I'm a great supporter of non-closure).

Ultimate Spider-Man: Hollywood by Brian Bendis delivers on entertainment and characterization, thanks to the author's knack for dialogue. Good enough reason to pick it up.

The latest Flash collection by geoff Johns was uneven but still had its moments.

On the prose front, I'm dividing my time between the Mammoth Book of New Horror, Year's Best Fantasy 3, Gathering the Bones, and The Green Man. - all of them anthologies. So, yes, I'm very much into short fiction these days.

Except for George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice cycle that I'm happily rereading (though I dislike almost all the characters). Finished Game of Thrones and am suffering through the first portions of Clash of Kings. But I do like the books because of the story and the author's capable writing.

And for some reason, I've hankering to reread one of my fave non-fiction books, Nathaniel's Nutmeg.

Saturday, July 10, 2004


unreal estate

I had a great morning finalizing details for a project with a real estate developer. All their developments are unreal to me - in the sense that I can't possibly afford anything that costs something in the double digits in the millions.

But it is nice to pretend. ;)

As part of the package, I got a couple of free weekends at the club (which I need to coordinate a vehicle to get to). I plan to take Nikki and Sage and just relax a bit. But not soon, given the workload that is starting to grow again.

It is rare that I go to a nice place and not have to pay for it. Hmmm. Must get more projects like this.

I walked away with a couple of more things to do (and sadly, because I had to decline lunch at Provencal because of another meeting).


Got the pet store.

Now to work.

Lots to do.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

odds and ends


Jack's condition has taken a turn for the worse.

We may opt to go to the US earlier than we planned for.

The news, via an overseas phone call, took me unawares in the midst of a meeting and I had to excuse myself because I was too stunned to continue.

hinirang: the rpg

A group of gamers want to set their campaign in the realm of Hinirang, the reimagined Spanish-era setting that our barkada has used as a backdrop to tell stories.

So I sent them to Alex (heads up, pal!), who is in the midst of developing the game system.

It will be interesting to see what new stories other people spin in our little world.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

salon talk

I landed the salon account today (yay, nipple, yay - as Andrew would say) and learned a very interesting thing.

Operating a salon is a stressful, dog-eat-dog business, in some ways more terrifying than running a resto.

One of the ways to jump start a salon's business is to pirate a well-known hairdresser. If the guy agrees, he takes his entire clientele with him.

The going rate for such an invitation?

From P500,000 (kinda well-known) to a cool P1,000,000 (big name status). Some would even outbid other salons by throwing in a car.

Thereafter, the hairdresser gets a commission for every service he provides, in addition to a salary, and must stay for a definite period of time.

I wonder if it's too late to learn to cut hair.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

anak...pahinga ka muna

Nikki and I took Sage to the check out one of the preschools at the Shangri-la Mall.

Sage was so excited and couldn't wait to get there.

ME: So, sweetheart, you wanna go to school?

SAGE: Opo. (Isn't she such a polite darling?)

When we got there, our inquiries were entertained by the Director of the school while Sage wandered around, trying everything.

This school offers something for all the ranges of ages before Big School (their term that means Elementary or Grade School). For P72k, Sage can attend the daily classes.

I felt like breaking down in tears right there and then.

I knew it would be expensive, but hearing the amount out loud was like an electric shock. I looked at the payment terms (annual, semestral, quarterly) and realized that we were ill-prepared for the cost - unless I trigger my insurance policy by losing an arm or leg in a non-elevator, non-seagoing vessel scenario (you gotta love these insurance riders) or make good with the investments and little ventures in the pipeline. Or work out an x-deal.

I wish I was rich. I feel so guilty about this thing and now truly understand the sacrifices parents make just to ensure their kids get an education.

Nikki and I talked it over and decided, given the state of our finances, to delay Sage's school by at least one semester or even a year. I mean, come on, she's only two years and five months old.

But it just breaks my heart to see her so excited.


One of the things I need to start thinking about for a client are games Filipino kids play. Nothing digital, nothing "modern" but more like tumbang preso, piko, pitik bulag, and of course, patintero.

Patintero is best played under moonlight, with lines drawn with water on an empty street. Two teams take turns trying to pass all of the opposing team's players and get back "home" without being tagged. It is an wonderfully expandable game, with relatives of various ages usually coerced to play along during reunions and family get togethers.

My favorite position is "Patotot". The Patotot alone guards the Y axis while others guard the X axis) and can suddenly appear along the entire line, unpredictable and terrifying. My long reach helps me tag careless players as well as those with a poor spatial sense.

I miss these games. I used to play with my cousins when we were younger, along with the neighborhood kids.

fiction: hindi ako gumamela

(I remember waiting in a hotel lobby for a client who made it a habit to be late. Instead of wasting time, I began to write this story, recalling a picture of a young tribal girl I once saw. She had ancient eyes.

This first appeared in Ab Ovo, and subsequently in Hinirang. Here it is for those who requested it.)

Hindi Ako Gumamela

Aponikalandao woke up drenched in sweat. She had dreamt of running though fields and forests, far away from Babalay Anonan, laughing as grass and branch brushed against her dark skin. Always in these dreams she would end up on the top of a small hill surrounded by large stones that pointed to the sky. And there would be a young man there, lean, handsome and wearing a rainbow clout, and he would say

“Sumama ka na sa akin, gumamela.”

To which Aponikalandao would shyly respond

“Hindi ako gumamela.”

Then she would turn around and run down the hill, back to the forests and the fields, back to Babalay Anonan, occasionally sneaking a glance back at the sad-eyed man who did not chase after her, but simply stood where he was on the hill ringed by stones.

Aponikalandao got up from her bedroll and put her things away. She poured some water from a gourd, washed away sleep from her face and arms, dressed herself in the clothes her mother had woven for her, and stepped out into the chill morning air.

Dikono was already awake, preparing his spear for the morning hunt. He smiled and greeted the young girl, standing up from his crouching position.

“Lalabas ka na ba?” Aponikalandao asked him.

“Oo, habang maaga pa.”

“Magingat ka, Dikono.”

He nodded and squatted once again, his attention focused on his weapon. Soon, she knew, he would pray to the gods to send him an animal, perhaps an usa, to take back home. That animal would neither run nor resist his spear, because it would be a gift from the gods to him and the village. Dikono had made sure that he was washed and clean so that the gods would not find the slightest reason to deny his request.

Aponikalandao watched him as she walked away. She could not help but notice the way his shoulders moved, how his fingers worked, and how the curve of his back vanished abruptly into the folds of his clout.

That night, she dreamed the same dream. Running, climbing, the hill with pointed stones, the handsome man with sad eyes.

“Sumama ka na sa akin, gumamela.”

“Hindi ako gumamela.”


Aponikalandao was washing her family’s clothes at the batis when Dikono shouted her name and waved from across the stream. She felt strangely uncomfortable as he crossed the waters and stood next to her, concealing something in his hands.

“May ipapakita sana ako sa iyo.”

“Ano iyon, Dikono?”

He opened his cupped hands and revealed a single blossom, red petals tinged with gold.

“Ano iyan, Dikono?”


She stared at the dream-word made suddenly real and felt a sudden stabbing pain below her stomach. She looked down at a dull red spot, gasped once and fainted.

She felt her mother’s cool hand on her skin when she awakened.

“Dinala ka dito ni Dikono. Akala ko kung ano na ang nangyari.”

“May sugat po ako, kay-inà.” Aponikalandao managed to say, trembling.

“Huwag kang mangamba.”

She told her mother about her dream and her mother told her of the secret bond between the gods and the women of their tribe, the reason she and all other women before and after her would bleed, why that blood must never touch the earth, and the choice she had to make. And she cautioned her daughter never to tell any man about the things she shared.


That night, Aponikalandao dreamed and in her dream she walked instead ran. She gently parted the grasses and knew the names of all the creatures that hid and crawled and slunk there. She looked into the recesses of the branches and knew the clandestine nature of all fruits that hung heavy on the boughs and the secret uses of all the odd-shaped leaves. When she climbed the hill, she knew why the stones where there and to where they pointed and how terribly easy it was to get lost in the twilight lands. And when she saw the young man, she knew who he was, what he was, and what he wanted from her.

“Sumama ka na sa akin, gumamela,” he told her with sad eyes.

Aponikalandao thought about her mother, and all the women who preceded her, and weighed the ungainly love that had started to grow in her breast. She reflected on the things her mother had told her, and with a certainty known only to her sex, she made her choice, smiled and slowly shook her head at the young-looking god who had made the same demand from the very first time the very first woman of her tribe dreamed.

Her denial of his need caused tears to form in his eyes. A final time, the god extended his hands to her as a light rain began to fall upon the hill with the pointed stones. It felt like gentle caresses on her skin and made her shiver.

“Hindi ako gumamela.”

She turned away and forced herself awake.

vignette: technique

I dance every night for a hundred pesos at a bar for women.

Before I am called, I sit in a small room with the other men. I stroke myself to hardness, imagining the smell of my fuckbuddy’s wet pussy, and apply three rubber bands tightly around the shaft of my dick, each one looped twice to keep the blood in. When I’m hard as a rock I wear my briefs, white and tight, to better show off my trapped erection. Over that, I wear a pair of swimming trunks, leaving the strings untied.

Then I smoke a cigarette and wait.

When I hear my music playing, I make my way to the darkened stage and take my position, my back to the audience, hands and legs spread apart, leaning against the wall. At the next upbeat, the lightshow begins and I start to move, grinding my ass to the thumping bass line. I turn and move around the stage, working the space to the beat, posing, strutting, slowly here, faster there. My hands touch my chest, trailing down my abs, framing my covered dick.

My face is impassive – I was taught to show nothing, to let the audience imbue my face with whatever they want – except for my eyes. I look at them, the ones closest to the stage. I catch the eye of a young woman in the company of friends. I feel the heat of her gaze, consuming every inch of my body. I decide to dance for her alone.

I time my next motion to a downbeat, suddenly kneeling so close to the woman that she involuntarily flinches. I raise my hips and fuck the air, running a hand over my groin while supporting myself with the other. She turns to her friends and laughs, letting their teasing words give her courage. She reaches over with a fifty peso bill and her smile is intoxicating. I like the way her teeth are imperfect, turned on by the smudge of lipstick on one of her front teeth.

I move towards her, shifting upright and offer myself. She pulls at my swimming trunks and cops a feel as she tucks the money in, shrieking with her friends when she’s finished. I mouth “thank you” to her, locking her gaze with mine as I stand up.

It’s time for my highlight.

I walk back to center stage and flex my arms, showing off my oiled biceps and triceps as I raise and lower my hands. Then I quickly take off my trunks, giving my bulge more leeway. My briefs are selected to offer the barest resistance to my erection, and I caress myself, outlining my dick with my hands.

I surprise them all by suddenly collapsing into a push-up position, thumping the stage floor with all my weight before commencing to raise myself to the full extension of my arms. I shift to one arm, then the other, before flipping myself over. With my back to the floor, I thrust my hips out, pulling off my last remaining article of clothing.

On cue, the music stops and a single spotlight picks out my dick, hard and engorged by the rubber band traps, flush against my flat stomach. I shift to kneeling position and show off the angle of my erection, before standing and covering myself with my hands.

The music picks up where it let off, drowning the screams of women. Some raise their beers. Others stare intently. The one I chose to dance for has her mouth open.

And they’re all mine.

This is the moment I live for, more than the hundred pesos I’ll receive from the bar manager when I’m finished.

In that moment, I am everything I need to be.

I am desire.

I am erect.

I am man.

I drape my briefs over my unflagging dick and let the light shine down on me.

Monday, July 05, 2004

vignette: the barber's sister

On the day that her brother became a barber, Riza de Leon finally decided to run away from home. While Mario ironed his new white shirt in the laundry room, she emptied a small drawer of clothes into her favorite wicker knapsack and walked quietly to the kitchen. She took three cans of pork and beans from the pantry, half a loaf of bread from the refrigerator and a fistful of miniature bags of peanuts from an open shelf.

Before she stepped out of the house she’d been born in, Riza knelt down before the small sepia picture of her dead grandmother and begged for forgiveness. Her grandmother frowned and shook her head like she did when she displeased, when she was alive. But Riza’s heart was set and no amount of her grandmother’s silent disapproval could sway her. She apologized and kissed the old picture frame.

“Where are you going?” Her brother’s voice startled her.

“Away,” Riza said. She picked up her knapsack and moved towards the door, evading her brother’s eyes.

“Where are you going?” Mario stood in the doorway, a tight white singlet embracing his muscular frame. Coarse black hair crowned his head, covered his chin and cheeks and powdered his chest, arms and hands. “I thought you were coming with me today. Today of all days, I need you to be with me.”

“You don’t need me anymore,” Riza told him, finally meeting his gaze. She never liked Mario’s eyes: twin pools of blackest black that reflected nothing. It reminded her of the nights during the power outage that lasted for two months. It was so dark that even the light of candles and flashlights were useless.

“But I do, I do,” Mario smiled, stepping towards her. When his fingers grazed her smooth arms, Riza recoiled and found herself pressed against the nearest wall.

“Please, Mario. Please, let me go,” Riza said. Her hand unconsciously went to her unevenly cropped hair, curly and straight, long in some parts, shorn and shaved in others. She turned her face away from him when he leaned closer to her.

“You promised me I could cut it all off,” he whispered into her ear, his breath fresh and minty, his moustache bridging the invisible distance between them. “And I will.”

Sunday, July 04, 2004



I manned the Kestrel IMC/JKF-DDC booth over at the F3 Filipino Franchise Show along with my brother Ricky. It's good show, and it was kind of neat to be near a number of our clients so that when interested parties ask what we've done, we can just point to clients left and right.

The big hit was our design for a food client's cart, which we jazzed up to look like a Filipino jeepney, complete with wheel, colorful stickers and headlights. It's funny, but my eye has become so critical that I shudder when I look at the designs of everyone else. A brand plus its expressions and peripherals needs to be attractive to the eye as well as functional.

I also made friends with a family of architects a couple of booths down from Kestrel. It turns out that the three brothers (an architect, an interior designer and a landscaper) are into comics. When I got there to say "hello", they whipped out a copy of Siglo:Freedom and asked me to sign it. And so we chatted for a while about their own plans to enter the heartbreaking realm of self-publishing.

Franchising looks very attractive to me. I just wish I had idle cash to invest in one of the brands there. Imagine revenue streams from three sources: the franchise fee, the royalties and the supply side. Someday.

It's a three-day show (and I'll be on my way right after I post this) and I've already run out of business cards.

I just hope that we drum up new business.

free comics!

Thanks to my best bud Vin, we were able to get tons of free comics in celebration of Free Comics Day. This is the 2nd year this has occured, and the point is to encourage people to try out different comics and increase sales.

It certainly works for me and Nikki because we want to order some of the stuff we sampled.

One of the highlights is Elbert's anthology, which was, on the whole, an enjoyable read (though I felt my story was out of place). It was great seeing Arnold's work again (we missed him at Siglo:Passion) and Cynthia's first comic pages. Tobie's one pager and Andrew's Supersona were well-executed as well. What didn't work were the various self-aware bits of claptrap that try too hard to emulate the indie work of various creators.

More on the others after I digest all the stuff. It's more than I can gnaw on in a couple of hours.

food, glorious food

We went off to Dampa Sa Libis for another seafood feast - lobsters, prawns, tilapia and inihaw na baboy (not seafood but a culinary necessity). I wondered how ten stuffed people could possible fit into the vehicle but somehow we managed (Charles, despite being light as feather, still has mass).

Then off to listen to Split Point (a friend's band) at Double Deck, home of the cheapest beer in existence. Andrew and Carl got up to jam with the band and we all had fun watching Ralph turn analytically tipsy (asking about series vs. parallel connections).

It was too loud for one of our usual talk-until-morning gabfests, but once in a while it's good to just shut up and unwind, without having to do anything particularly clever.

lost story

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with the beginning of a great story - except that I was too sleepy to write so I put it off until I really woke up. Except that by the time I did wake up, I'd forgetten everything about it. Nothing remained, not even a single word or a glimpse of what the hell made it so enticing for me.

There is hope though. The last time this happened, the story came back to me in another dream a few days later. When that happened, I bolted out of bed and started writing, eventually finishing the first draft of what would be "Spark: The Sad & Strange Tale of Sister Maria Dolores, The Nun Who Exploded". It later won 1st prize in a contest.

Friday, July 02, 2004

seeing stars

I just got word that “L’Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)” has been selected to appear in another anthology – Strange Horizons: Best of 2003, published by Lethe Press.

Strange Horizons, of course, is where the story first appeared, and I am very happy to be included in this book.

This little story has done amazing things for me, and I am stunned yet again by the way things work out.

Just the other day, I got a letter from a visually-impaired political science student at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila (his computer is outfitted to read aloud for him). He wrote that he’d been following my work prior to his eventual blindness and found “L’Aquilone” over at Strange Horizons.

As an aspiring poet and fictionist, he plans to produce some writing himself, not letting his state of blindness deter him from his dream of being a writer. He thanked me and called me an inspiration, filling my heart to near-bursting.

I wrote back and told him that it was the other way around.

It is readers like him who make the entire act of creation worthwhile. Not for the accolades or praise, but simply because for a moment, my words became all his.

bugaw ng libro

I adore my book pimp, Charles.

He's one of the few people with a rare combination of skill sets: good taste in books (and that's because he actually reads), procurement and logistic abilities, and unflagging determination (even if he has to hop, skip and jump to whatever bookstore anywhere in the Greater Manila area).

Recently, he got me (naku! utang pa 'to!) the Ware-edited McSweeney's hardcover I've been itching for and Gathering the Bones, the US/Aussie/UK anthology that impressed Datlow quite a bit.

But I guess book pimp is an incorrect term since I actually buy the books and do not grease them up and have them for a Short Time (or, in the parlance of Sogo Hotel, "Stay A While").

Which makes him a slaver instead. A White (paper) Slaver.

Thanks, Charles!

real life, true love

One of my young religious staff members, who has a new girlfriend, asked me if I believed in True Love, if I subscribed to the notion that for each person there was "The One".

It's a good thing we were in a cab and stuck in traffic, because my resulting answer stretched into a rather long discourse on the poisonous nature of that notion.

I believe in choice, not predestination. I refuse to think that everything in my life, from the choice of briefs to wear in the morning to my lifemate, is predetermined. If this is true, then everything is pointless and we spin like helpless pinwheels in the face of God's vagaries. I prefer to think that God, knowing me best, has in mind a number of prospects but leaves the final choice to me. The question of free will in a religious context is a tricky thing, because if indeed everything that is chosen is willed by God, then every action, including murder and terrorism is willed by God to happen, and no amount of faith or prayer or adherence to canon can change things. I believe that God gifted us with free will, and that covers all our conceivable choices - which includes whether to love and honor Him or not. We are not automata.

We choose the ones we choose to love (that's two choices there). And for me, the one I choose to love is my true love.

The funny thing is that people who believe in "The One" seem to think that "The One" will be their age, race, cultural background, similar socio-economic status, also of the same faith, and many other preconditions. They don't want to consider that "The One" could be older, younger, same sex, continents away, diseased or dead (I guess if "The One" is dead, then the 1st runner-up becomes "The One", like Miss Universe). Because "The One" is perfect...for them. God will not move in mysterious ways for them.

The silly thing about True Love is this: what if you're married with kids with some you think is your True Love, then suddenly, someone else comes along and you are struck by the unyielding conviction that this new person is the "The One"?

And there's more. A lot more. The pressure on your spouse (Let's call him/her "The One") to live up to your unearthly expectations are unfair and impossible. The notion of True Love does not prevent the disolution of marriage vows.

Unshaven Real Life will always intrude on effete True Love, whip out his dick and fuck TL up the ass, until TL howls "Yes, yes, fuck me, RL! You da man!".

Far better to love and live your life with the one whom you've chosen to love, taking each day as both blessing and challenge, and enjoy the set of moments that you share. Leave the speculation on the nature of love to those who do not have it, and instead exchange a knowing glance with your beloved, dim the lights and extend your vocabulary of passion; or play with your child, fix the house, grocer, go to mass or share a ciggie.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

hey, comics!

On Free Comic Day this Saturday, go and get a copy of the Hey Comics Anthology. Edited by Ramon de Veyra with cover and design by Elbert Or, this antho features work from a bunch of neat people including Arnold and Cynthia Arre, Gerry Alanguilan, Tobie Abad, Cris Costello and more (at kasali din ako, kasi feeling neat person daw).


shoot & site

Despite the fantastic winds blowing trees down and swirling helpless unachored people about, we went on with the photo shoot for the sports complex. I got to meet Angel and Mandy and the other models and we bonded as we did shot after shot all over the place - badminton, futsal, basketball, lubid and assorted beauty shots.

Directing models suspended in harnesses is quite challenging, since there is the swing factor and the layout is quite tiring. That's Angel on the left (these are my test shots, by the way - Pierre has the really cool ones).

I still don't like working with very young models, but the two kids I had for this one were charming, intelligent and took instruction well. I couldn't remember their names so I kept calling them by the ones printed on their basketball jerseys. And Mandy is just loved by the camera - he has no bad angles.

I had to coordinate my other work from the site, which killed my phone eventually. By the time we were done, my personal disinterest in sports was reaffirmed (I'd rather hav a ciggie in the rain, thank you). Exhausting but fun.

One of the things that made me happy this week is the creation of our company's website, just in time for the trade show this weekend. It's very small and simple (and you need a Flash player since we're still working on the html version) but it will give you a notion of just what we do (though we have changed our slant and spin since I first comissioned the site).