Thursday, June 30, 2005

scent of a rabbit

I need help.

One of the most challenging things about having a pet store is creating and maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for all the animals. For the most part, I've got this aspect of business covered, with numerous changes of sawdust, newspapers, beddings, wiping and cleaning with mild soap and water, etc. The displays are well-ventilated (I made sure of that when I had the store and its fixtures designed, because the circulation of air is very important).

The problem is with the rabbits. These guys urinate with abandon, leaving behind a rather remarkably unattractive scent - even after we've hosed down their cages/displays, the smell lingers. As I've mentioned, we've been using mild soap and water to disinfect. I dare not use disinfectants like Zonrox or similar because I think it may be bad for the bunnies. Now that my olfactory nerves are at the breaking point, I'm open to rethinking the approach - for as long as the rabbits are unharmed. By evening, at the mall, there is an unwelcome smell that I'm afraid the customers will notice (it's not strong, but I want to deal with it).

So, does anyone know if it's okay to use disinfectant chemical mixtures like Zonrox? Or can anyone suggest maybe an organic solution?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

after sandman

Next month, I'll be interviewed/give a talk/ guest spot about writing for comics on Jam 88.3, as part of the station's Neil Gaiman thingie (he'll be in Manila for a short visit and some signings). I'm scheduled the week after Neil, so that should be fun. Details to follow, matagal pa naman.

Fanboy that I am, I plan to have him sign my copy of the Year's Best.

bad boys III: assorted nastiness

Some oddities, this time, plus an old old favorite non-evil group.

curses, foiled again!
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Dick Dastardly is one of my favorite cartoon villains of all time. Everything about him, from the way he moves to the way he talks ("Drat! And double drat!") to his moustache - he's simply a fantastic character design.
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He commanded a trio of flyers (plus Muttley - another great character, with his mumbling side comments and snickers) to try and capture a carrier pigeon during World War I in "Stop The Pigeon" (as the show as known here in the Philippines).
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He also was the bad guy in "The Wacky Races", that delightful cartoon that had a lot of characters racing against each other in their unique vehicles - including Penelope Pitstop, Professor Pat Pending and the Slag Brothers. Later, Dick Dastardly would joined a band of other nasty folk to compete as The Really Rottens, in another show.

What did he want? He wanted to catch the pigeon. He wanted to win a race. Are these goals so bad? You have to credit him for unflagging determination.

the reflex gun!
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Desslok, the main villain of "Star Cruiser Yamato" (or "Starblazers" to some), is quite fascinating. He started as a yet another seemingly cut-from-the-same-cloth space conqueror villain, but later became an anti-hero and ultimately helped the good guys and redeemed himself.

He wanted what he thought was best but was able to change his mind. He is perhaps one of the most interesting early villains of anime - and is quite the wine lover.

the powerstar sword!
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The Overlord is the foe of John Blackstar, appearing in the shortlived (13 episodes) series. Blackstar held half of a sword, the Overlord held the other half. All he wanted was to put the two halves together and rule the world. And maybe change his attire.

But really, would you want to rule a world where some people fly because they have really big ears and live in trees? No, I would raze that world to a cinder, with the Powerstar Sword.

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Here by request is Mumra. Truthfully, I didn't follow the Thundercats series (seemed a little too...blah for me) and never got into "Give me sight beyond sight". However, having a reanimated mummy as a villain is just so cool.

I don't know what he wanted. Maybe a fresh fleshy body? New bandages? Colored contact lenses? Someone tell me.

food fight
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The Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak is here because unlike the other villains featured in this and the previous posts, his issues are purely gastronomic. Yes, he picks fights with kids over food, but in the context of "Belly Talk" he is the most surreal villain of the group. Not that I ever watched an episode of Strawberry Shortcake (needed to defend my machismo for a while there LOL), being more familiar with Strawberry Switchblade ("Let Her Go").

And now for a bonus. Here's a non-villain group whose reruns I loved to watch as a kid. Sadly, I can't remember if they had any archfoe - but hell, they're cool anyway.

the super 6
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Do you remember these heroes for hire? A concept way ahead of its time (1966-1969).

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Remember Super Bwoing?

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How about Magnetoman and Cal?


Oh, well.

Monday, June 27, 2005

big sad

Yesterday afternoon, Sage came to me, almost in tears, looking very troubled. Behind her, her mother silently mouthed to me "she lost the bunny".

"Come here, little girl" I said, patting the spot beside me on the bed. "What happened?"

"I lost my bunny," she told me, closing her eyes against the tears.

"Where did you leave her?" I asked.

"I don't know," Sage said.

"Well," Nikki said. "Tomorrow, we'll check your school. Maybe she's there. If she's not, maybe she went back to the bunny store."

"She's not at the bunny store, mom," Sage said.

"If we can't find her, maybe we can find you another bunny friend, when we have money," I told her. "Are you a little sad?"

"No, Dad," Sage said, looking at me. "I'm BIG sad."

"Sometimes, we lose things," I said, holding my daughter. "And it's okay to be very sad or a little sad. But we can't be sad all the time, right?"

"Dad, I'm worried about her," Sage said.

Upon investigation, I learned that Sage brought the bunny, her favorite doll, with her to one of the stores downstairs and left it. When she and her nanny came back, it was gone, picked up by some other person.

Loss is never easy to explain, but I think it's better for her to learn that some things are just not so easily replaced. It teaches her to be more careful with the things she values, and also offers a lesson on letting go.

Big, sad truths for my 3 year-old, for whom the idea of what is permanent (like death) is still something for her mind to completely encompass. When I was child, I thought things and people would last forever.

That evening, we took her to visit our pet store, where she looked at and played with some real animals; to the bookstore, where her mother and I took turns reading her books Sage liked; to the furniture store, where we looked at and touched fragile objects carefully and tested the softness of various couches; to the comic book store to visit Uncle Vin; to the resto for the weekly sinigang she loves so much; and to the arcade to ride a motorcyle.
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By the time we got home, I asked her if she was still sad about her bunny.

"Just a little, Dad," she said, yawning. "Can you help me take off my shoes?"

turtle run

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My pet store is doing okay, and the onset of the rainy season seems to have set a buying run on turtles - we can't keep them in stock, the demand for them exceeds our supply. The breeder is also up to his ears with requests and cannot cater to everyone, so if you have a green turtle, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

The new-fangled hamster cage with habit trails we introduced is also a popular item. The hamsters like the idea of having places to go, so they hang around the lower level, climb up to the second floor and then insinuate themselves as a group in the clear tunnels (with airholes so no one suffocates) to sleep or play. The kids love watching them. Movement is important to the customers, so when the pinto mice get on their exercise wheel and start doing their cardio, they get snapped up by eager kids.

The new bird cages for the Harlequin Parakeets and African Lovebirds are also popular, but the birds seem to prefer cuddling in the private confines of their homes rather than strutting around the huge cages.

I'm in the process of training three new employees, and they're doing great. It's important to share our enthusiasm for animals and the business with our employees, and help them get the customers excited as well. I'm also in the process of completely revamping the website, given the amount of interest from people who want to franchise our store and the recent interview from Business World.

For those who want to visit us: Petty Pets, Ground Floor, Building A, SM Megamall, near the Julia Vargas entrace and Sbarro's resto.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


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The pathetic cable service I'm forced to subscribe to does not show Lost, so I've been missing out on this great show. I was able to catch part of the pilot last year while we were in the States (but I chose America's Next Top Model to watch instead, because, well...) and hoped it would be aired here. AXN did and does, but I don't have AXN so hurray for me.

So when El told me that the pirates already had the whole Lost Season One available, I called up Pirate Billy and reserved a copy. Nikki and I went over and picked up the nifty boxed set (these pirates are getting a little more creative), as well as Season Four of Alias, two seasons of The Office, and a couple of other films for Sage. We decided not to get the season of Desperate Housewives so we can actually watch it on Thursday nights.

Anyway, Nikki and I engaged in a Lost marathon and watch all 24 episodes plus the special until our eyes bled and we collapsed into dreamless sleep. Let me tell you, towards the end, my sleep deprived brain was playing tricks on me, and I was zoning in and out of the three-part finale. Marathon = not a good idea, unless you are ready, built up your stamina, and do not have to worry about being discovered half-dead by your little daughter.

I enjoyed this show quite a bit, on multiple levels. It does have its flaws (flashbacks with Michael and the boy who 'summons' the bear) but on the whole it is very entertaining. My favorite characters are the ones that are written and acted well - Locke, Kate and the Korean couple, Jin and Sun. My wife, of course, likes bad boy Sawyer ;)

Friday, June 24, 2005

bad boys II: everybody wants to rule the world

I continue to look at what my favorite cartoon TV villains fought for - but really, it's just an excuse to traipse down memory lane.

snake bites
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Cobra Commander was the head honcho of COBRA, who were constantly thwarted by the guys and gals of G.I. Joe. What does COBRA stand for anyway? Or did I just capitalize it for no good reason? Anyway, Cobra Commander wanted nothing less than global domination, executing plan after plan, and putting together a roster of lieutenants, lackeys and endless armies. Jaime B., creator of Cast, took to me task for not mentioning COBRA in my previous post:
I'm surprised you didn't mention Cobra from GI Joe. What with their "secret" bases that are usually in the shape of gigantic golden cobra heads on mountainsides (very inconspicuous). And the fact that they always had a brilliant escape plan (with those bubble escape pod thingies always ready somewhere). Maybe if they spent more time on the actual evil plot than on figuring out the escape plan, they'd be a bit more successful.

Then again, they are against an army whose main battle strategy is: "OK, let's come at Cobra with our tanks and copters then when we're just about to encounter them, let's all jump out and start punching them with our bare fists." Genius.

I wasn't sympathetic to Cobra Commander - but that all changed when he was transformed by Serpentor into a snake, outside Cobra-la (yes, it's true). Writhing away and hissing "oncessss a man, oncesssss a man" made him instantly more interesting.

The series appealed to my sense of "wow! massive roster!". And I bought a Jinx action figure, the ninja girl in red, when I was young. What can I say? I love ninja girls.

more than meets the eye
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Megatron wanted to gather enough energy (energon? enertron?) to go back home at all costs. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, stood in their way. Because good guys are like that.

I always found Megatron's transformation rather lame. If he transforms into a gun and there is no Starscream or whoever to shoot him, well, he just sort of sits there (though, yes, I think he has "shot" himself). Even becoming Galvatron later on just didn't cut it.

While we're at it, I felt it was neat that the Decepticons could transform into fighter plans while the sickeningly good folk were stuck with land vehicles. I liked the first Transformers movie (the one with the svelte RC and the colossal Unicron I), and do a fairly credible Starscream impersonation ("Decepticons! Listen to me! I, Starscream, am your new leader!") - what a guy, I should have written about him instead. He's so much more ambitious than old Megatron. Soundwave was also pretty cool, along with his little pets.

Aside: The Megatron action figure was banned many years ago on commercial flights because of his "hey look, I can be a gun" transformation. Also, a new transformers movie is in production.

go, beast fighter!
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Prince Zardoz, as he is known to us Filipinos, hailed from Bozania and wanted to conquer the Earth - in part because he wanted to please his uncle, the Emperor, and also because he had all sorts of issues. As a villain, he was cool because he had a huge floating skull castle as a base of operations, had a seemingly unlimited budget for constructing beast fighters, and could fight hand-to-hand. He was a poor strategist though, leaving the day-to-day matters to the recommendations of his less-than-stellar support cadre (how could you not love Zandra?) and never just built an army of 100 beast fighters to beat the crap of humanity's lone defender, Voltes V. Later revealed to be the big brother of Steve, Big Bert and Little John, his story ended with a duel on ice.

This is was the seminal series for the kids of my generation, no ifs or buts. I would rush home to watch it, singalong with the Japanese intro and end songs - still burned in my mind is the "manananggal" episode, where Little John's Frigate was damaged and Voltes V had to fight as a flying torso. And it also had a ninja girl - Jaime Robinson, pilot of the Lander (trained by her corpulent ninja dad).

eat my magic yoyo
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The Black Giant was the gargantuan archvillain of the series Paul in Fantasyland, a 50-episode show that aired in the late 70's. It was one of those shows that I can barely remember, except for the fact that the Black Giant kidnapped Paul's girlfriend, Nina, and that the series was about Paul trying to get her back from the Black Giant's realm of Pakkun. What the BG wanted with the girl remains a mystery - come on, he's just too...big. Assisted by his teddy bear, who, at opportune times could freeze time and use his magic hammer to empower Paul's yoyo, Paul fought as best as a kid could, facing truly impossible odds.
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The song:
Against monsters and dragons
Paul will always triumph
Stopping time right on time
By using the most magical formula
He will overcome them all
The laser in the teddy bear’s eyes
The fantastic fantastic magical yo-yo

The series' original title is Paul no miracle daisakusen, and also affected a generation of Italians as Il Fantastico Mondo di Paul.

by what creeps, what crawls, by what does not,
let all that grows recede and rot

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Fast forward to the 80's and I'm not really a kid anymore. I turn on the TV and catch the first episode of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light and I'm hooked. Darkstorm is the evil ruler of Blackdak, Lord of the veldt, Baron of Blackmoor and Satrap of Zangora, and the leader of the Darkling Lords. What does he want? Magic and technology to crush the opposition, led by Leoric, and rule unmolested. His motivation is quite interesting, given the premise of the series.
When the three suns of Prysmos align, all technology on the planet stops working. Two main groups are formed: the kingdom of New Valarak under Leoric, and the domain of Darkstorm. The two sides begin looking for something to give them the edge. The wizard Merklynn appears to both sides, and tells them that the Age of Magic has begun again. Those who can successfully reach his shrine will be rewarded with magic powers. Leoric, Darkstorm, and many others attend to his quest, but only 14 manage and are successful. Merklynn gives them what was promised.

When Merklynn came to Darkstorm's castle to inform him of the change in status quo from technology to magic, Darkstorm had the old codger thrown out. Only when he learned that his rival, Leoric, planned to reach the shrine did Darkstorm deign to go, accompanied by two retainers. Later, he came across a group of knights trapped by the castle's wards. In exchange for their loyalty, he set them free.

This was a really cool show. I liked this series, with it's creative use of dual personas, staff/totem avatars, magic/technology and happy rhyming power activations. It aired only 13 episodes, but was fun. For bonus laughs, try to find the Filipino dubbed version of the series that aired on Channel 2 a few years back: "Bilisan mo na, Darkstorm. Atat na atat na ako..."
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Some of the rhymes:

Darkstorm (Totem: Mollusk; Staff: Decay)
"By what creeps, what crawls, by what does not, let all that grows recede and rot!" and to revert back: "Power of rot, obscuring truth, what once was old, restore to youth!"

Lexor (Totem: Armadillo; Staff: Invulnerability)
"The arrows turn, the swords repel, let nothing pierce this mortal shell!"

Leoric (Totem: Lion; Staff: Wisdom)
"Whispered secrets of a shattered age, I summon you, renew this sage!"

Arzon (Totem: Eagle; Staff: Knowledge)
"A whim, a thought, and more is sought... awake, my mind... thy will be wrought!"

Cryotek (Totem: Bear; Staff: Strength)
"Three suns aligned pour forth their light and fill the archer's bow with might!"

Cindarr (Totem: Gorilla; Staff: Destruction)
"By nature's hand, by craft, by arts, what once was whole now fly apart!"

More Visionaries here.

Aside: The late Chris Latta was the voice for Darkstorm and Cravex, as well as both Starscream and Cobra Commander.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

machos in the mirror

My article, "Machos in the Mirror", is slated to appear in the PCIJ's upcoming i Report magazine, due for publication next month. The mag's focus for the quarter is on the youth, and my article is about Pinoy male vanity.

Right now though, I'm more disposed to thinking about "nachos on a plate".

bad boys

For some odd reason, I've been thinking about the villains of the old cartoons I used to watch as a kid. Most of them are terribly written, in retrospect, but what you can count on is knowing that they have a master scheme and understanding what they wanted in the first place.

Or can you? Is it obvious?

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What did Gargamel want to do with the Smurfs? Some say he wanted to eat them. But really, he wanted to turn them into gold. Or it could all be socio-political commentary, with the Smurf Village as a Marxist Utopia. He and his cat, Azrael, didn't seem to do much, but we forget his moment of brilliance - the creation of Smurfette.

I'll let Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko speak, complete with his risque commentary:
First of all, Papa Smurf didn't create Smurfette. Gargamel did. She was sent in as Gargamel's evil spy with the intention of destroying the Smurf village, but the overwhelming goodness of the Smurf way of life transformed her. And as for the whole gang-bang scenario, it just couldn't happen. Smurfs are asexual. They don't even have reproductive organs under those little white pants. That's what's so illogical, you know, about being a Smurf. What's the point of living if you don't have a dick?

Ultimately, Smurfette - a golem of Gargamel - joined the blue guys and betrayed her master (to the seeming chagrin of Vanity Smurf). What I do not know is what ultimately happened to Gargamel?

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Skeletor, the foe of He-Man, wanted Castle Grayskull - I suppose for the secrets and powers that it held. I'm not sure. What I do know is that Skeletor had it worse than his compatriot Hordak, the archfoe of She-ra. Hordak had already won and was ruler of that world, with the princess in the role of the rebel, fighting against the status quo.

What was Skeletor's motivation? Says Philip Michaels :
What was Skeletor really after? Power, riches, fame? Well if that's a crime, then maybe we're all mortal enemies of He-Man. All Skeletor wanted is the things we all want -- to make a name for himself and to find his own particular niche in this crazy, knockabout world. Maybe his methods are a little extreme. Maybe he cuts a few corners here and there. Maybe he's summoned the forces of Evil to aid him in his quest. But Skeletor wasn't born into a life of luxury and privilege like He-Man. He didn't grow up with the Power of Greyskull at his beck and call. He didn't have Man-At-Arms and BattleCat to do his dirty work. He didn't have the support of a good woman like She-Ra. All Skeletor had was Skeletor -- and he did the best he could do.

Was Skeletor, at his bony core, truly an exemplar of the everyman?

By the way, I've ignored the newish version of this cartoon with its all-too-in-vogue anime look. However, I was told that Skeletor's fleshy origin (!) was shown there. Can anyone elucidate?

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Poor Venger. This arch-villain of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon had the potential to be really kick ass, but somehow fizzled along the way.

What did Venger want? "Give me your weapons!" Was that all he wanted? To fight Tiamat? To escape the realms? The powers of Dungeon Master?

It was never revealed, as far as I know, because the series ceased to air before the final episode was produced. But "Requiem", the final script, is quite revealing. "I'm your father." Yes, it's true.

Let me digress and say I absolutely hated the mix of protagonists and the character classes they represented. A Cavalier without a weapon. A goody-goody Ranger. A Thief who rarely does anything. A token African-American Acrobat (Acrobat? Acrobat? Come on!). A child Barbarian. And a magic-user who pulls things out of his hat. It was so sanitized and so unlike the game I ran and played that I rooted for the Forces of Evil (different from Skeletor's Forces of Evil, mind you). The best episode? I think it was called "The Dragon's Graveyard", when Venger actually got their weapons.

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And Zoltar (or Galactor, to some) with his distressing lipstick.

It was not a matter of what he wanted, but what he needed.

A drastic makeover.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

hearing from papa

I just got word from my father, via email, that he married again last March.

At my age, and despite what I thought was my oh-so-mature outlook in life, I find myself feeling odd about this bit of news. I, of course, do not hold it against him; in fact, I'm for every ounce of happiness that comes his way.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I knew my father only though monthly support checks, once-in-a-blue moon letters, and erratic visits, including a memorable one to Washington the year that Mt. St. Helen's erupted. Poison poured into my ear when I was young filled my head with thoughts of abandonment, envy at the other kids with dads, a sense of not belonging to my new step-family, a low-grade loathing for my father and an overwhelming desire to never repeat the mistakes he made when he left his son behind.

My father married an American, a very nice woman who served in the military with him. They had three children, my half-siblings, tall and gorgeous: 2 boys and a girl. The boys are men now and married or about to be married, my half-sister has two kids. When I met them all, my hatred for my father began to vanish, replaced by a sense of forgiveness and understanding. His life was his life to live after all. He was happy, and I had grown up happy - bedeviled by issues, yes, but ultimately happy.

Then a couple of years ago, in a startling display of karmic consequence, his wife of 20 years left him. My father was devastated. I was stunned and saddened. Already a husband and a father myself, I could imagine the helpless horror of waking up one morning and being told "goodbye, I haven't loved you for years."

I reached out to my father then, and with what little words I had, extended comfort. The tall and strong man, full of charisma and ebullience that people say were the source of my own, was revealed to be just as human as myself. It was at that moment that I completely forgave him for leaving me. I looked at him and saw myself in the mirror of a potential future.

It was also then that I finally and quietly suffocated my darkest secret fantasy: that he would get back with my mother. It was just not possible, after too many years of other people, other children, other lives. Hope is at its most cruel when you are young, and some hopes deserve to be snuffed out when the time is right.

My father got into his car and left Colorado Springs and drove and drove aimlessly until he found himself in Las Vegas, where he bought a house and started over. It was there that we visited him, when his first granddaughter, Sage, was a few months old. It was then that we met the woman he liked, a woman who instantly reminded me of my mother, in the way that only badly written dynastic Sidney Sheldon melodramas can evoke.

And today, almost three years later, he tells me that he's married her. And I am filled with disquiet.

Is it envy? Am I envious of the potential family my father will sire, of the new sons and daughter who will have him as a father in his golden years?

No. Perhaps years and years ago, when such things mattered to me. But I am grown man now and a father myself. The paternal love I've missed has been replaced with the old-school charm of my stepfather and the avuncular support of my uncles and older relatives.

Is it hate? Do I begrudge him another chance at happiness, of finding his bliss?

No. Once upon a time, when my little divorced AND annulled eyes wept bitter tears, it would have been the case. But not anymore. As I grew up and learned to think, I realized that life is more complex than the simplistic binary code of right or wrong choices would lead us to believe.

It's fear.

I'm afraid for him. I'm afraid this marriage will mirror the inexpressedly sad ending of his last one. Because life is uncertain and even those you think you know, you may not ultimately know. Because people change and the status quo is given to unexpected alterations, some of which are unwanted.

And because, after all these years, I love this man who gave me his blood, sense of humor, walking cadence, and surname as a son and as a fellow father.

And as a friend who only wishes him all the best.


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In an exchange of letters over the topic of my upcoming spec fic antho, poet and fictionist Cyan Abad-Jugo told me about the Canvas First Annual Children's Storywriting Competition.

Just like those writing challenges that pop up all over the internet, this contest requires you to write a 2000 word story based on an oil painting (cruelly cropped, above) by artist Elmer Borlongan. The winning author will have his or her story fully painted by Emong and then published.

Deadline for entries is August 15, 2005. Download details as a PDF here.

It's a very interesting challenge, given the small number of words and the fact that your story will inevitably have a guy playing a violin on rocking-horseback. But apart from the delight in writing, the adrenalin-high of competition, and getting your story painted and published, the P30k prize money is a very decent prize.

Nothing to lose by trying, so sige, subukan. I'll give it a shot myself though children's literature is not exactly my strength.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Ian asked, and so did Buddha in a general way, so here we go. What relaxes me? Here are a few:

long, slow lovemaking, legs every which way,
sweat and discarded pillows on a playful night;
bodies lost to the ancient rhythm

a cigarette in solitude or in company
dizzying in the morning, like electrifying news;
a farewell exhalation before sleeping

words read or written down, on pages or notebook monitor,
caressing my imagination, my appetite, my secret self;
my mental erection, stroked and sated

Magic cards, red-black-green-white-blue,
cardboard personas of wonder and deceit, shuffled into decks;
my wife, across the table, rallying her armies

a walk at midnight, identity lost in a bar,
being no one in particular, glass in hand;
staring zenlike at unspoken stories around me

iron fingers digging into my back, hard and implacable,
a duet: Zozo the Punisher's grunts and my expelled breath;
the pleasurable ordeal of a massage

endless conversations with intelligent friends,
answering questions that have no answers;
marginalia and agenda are vital to life

watching my daughter, asleep in half-darkness,
eyes closed and dreaming of princesses in dresses;
tomorrow, we'll be dancing

Monday, June 20, 2005

speculative fiction antho

Open Call for Filipino Speculative Fiction Anthology

I am in the process of putting together an anthology of original Filipino Speculative Fiction and am now open for the submission of short speculative fiction pieces for consideration. The anthology is slated for publication on this coming December/January, and will be published by Kestrel Studios, the publishing arm of my company.

My definition of “speculative fiction” is very broad, embracing everything from fantasy to science fiction, magic realism and interstitial/slipstream.

All the stories must be written by Filipinos (or those of Philippine ancestry), veer away from tried and true formula stories (no retelling of bruised Filipino legends unless you tell it really well), be written for an adult sensibility, be written in English, and celebrate the “sense of wonder”. What this means is no social realist texts, certainly none about an impoverished boy on the back of a carabao thinking about harsh social injustice – unless you write in that scenario in a way that works given our parameters.

Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories (no earlier than January 2004) will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date.

First time authors are most welcome to submit, as I’m looking for a final mix of published and unpublished authors.

Each author may submit only one story for consideration. Make sure that it’s really yours.

The word length of each story must be from 3,500 to 5,000 words.

All submissions must be in Plain Text format (.txt – save the document as .txt on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

The subject of your email must read: spec fic submission: (title) (word count), where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example, spec fic submission: the final fandango 3500

All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, contact information, previous work (if any).

Deadline for submissions is August 15, 2005. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology.

/Dean Francis Alfar, editor

Sunday, June 19, 2005

father's day: notes for a new dad

Being a father is a continuous leaning process, and I'm still in school. Here's something for the new dad or dad-to-be.

10 Things They Didn’t Teach Me:
Notes for a New Dad

So you’re going to be a new dad? Listen up.

When my wife announced that we were going to have a baby, I broke down in tears. Part of me was in shock, part of me was deliriously happy, and part of me was so frightened by the entire thing that my balls contracted. We immediately went to a doctor to verify, and yes, indeed it was true. At that moment, our lives changed forever.

Looking back, I wish someone, anyone, had prepared me for what was to come. As the date approached I tried my best to act the part of a cool-dad-to-be, in control, knowledgeable, prepared. I only half-listened to the advice of other people, confident in my ability to figure things out myself. I thought, how difficult could it be? People have babies all the time.

Was it as simple as I thought? Let me put it this way, if my hair wasn’t shaved by choice in the first place, I would have torn it all out – in clumps, by the handful.

So instead of being cruel, let me save the new dads-to-be some trouble and share some of the lessons I learned – the hard way.

Your vocabulary sucks

As time for birth approaches, you must be ready. You can stress all you want about the regular stuff (“Will I be a good father?”, “Am I ready for this?”, “I hope the baby will have ten toes and ten fingers”) but actually the most important thing to ask yourself is this: Do you know what a layette is (if not, you can double-click on the word for the definition, a nifty little feature of this blog)?

Chances are you have no idea. I didn’t. It’s not a word that anyone uses in casual conversation. And if you think you’re clever by buying a baby book and looking it up – good luck. They just tell you that you need it, they assume you know. So, what is it? It’s the complete outfit of clothing and equipment for your newborn infant. The baby stuff.

And in case, like me, you thought it meant just a crib, some bottles and a pile of diapers, you’re so wrong. When we brought our little daughter home from the hospital, the first thing I realized was that we didn’t have a sterilizer for the bottles. So on our very first day home, I left mother and child and rushed to the baby section of Megamall with my dwindling money (unless you plan to have your wife give birth via albulario, the accumulated expenses pack a wallop) and bought everything I thought we needed – sterilizer, more bottles, nipples, blankets, disposable diapers, wipes, bathtub, towels, socks, mini-tops, a bassinette, the works. And being so clever, I also emptied our bank account and bought things I later realized would not be needed for another 6 months or more – large Duplo blocks, a funky stroller, floor pads, a stuffed toy 3 times larger than my baby and a Little Missy Cooking Set.

Yes, I went overboard, but the lesson is clear. Understand exactly what you need, and have them ready when you need them.

Got milk?

We wanted to breast-feed, but it just wouldn’t work out, so we had to use formula (that means milk – your vocabulary sucks). The pediatrician gave us a brand to look for, so off I went.

Now the last time I remember even thinking about canned milk were the days I’d sing-along with Lea Salonga (“I love milk and I love Klim, so rich and so creamy”), so I was stunned to discover that my little baby’s formula cost an arm and a leg, and that I would have to buy around a can a week, and even more as she grew older. I swallowed my shock and got her the milk, which she was allergic to. So I had to buy the more expensive soy milk, which she hated. Ultimately, she could only drink one brand, which happened to be the most expensive one available.

I was toying with the idea of giving the baby rice-water instead, when my wife threatened to throw me out of the house. She said we couldn’t starve the baby. I immediately conceded the point

So, above all things, make sure you have enough budgeted away for your baby’s nourishment. Or better yet, breast-feed if you can. It’s not just free, it’s healthier too.

You should have watched the ads

Before I became a parent, I remember tuning out all the commercials for baby stuff when my favorite TV shows went on breaks. I should have watched them all. Why? Because then I would have known that nipples come in different stages (controlling the amount of formula released) and understood the differences among the competing disposable diapers.

Instead, I spent hours scrutinizing each brand, converting English measurements to the metric system and pestering the salesladies about absorbancy. One salesgirl, exasperated by all my questions, gruffly handed me a set of disposables and said, “Ito po sir. ‘Yan ang pinakamura. Pero kawawa naman ang baby mo.” If we were not in a public place I would have torn her bitchy head off her stupid neck.

So before you buy something, ask your mother or your married-with-children friends. Or watch TV. That way, you can make fun of the clueless fathers in the layette section.

If she’s asleep, leave her alone

The odd thing about newborn babies is that they do not move when they’re asleep and bundled. This caused me grave concern because, being the paranoid person that I am, I thought my baby had stopped breathing and had become victim to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

So after she fell asleep, I would bend over her crib and try to hear her breathing, or feel her heartbeat with the palm of my hand, or try to move her – which of course would wake her up, wailing, and I would have to put her back to sleep again. And then check again if she was still alive, waking her up, and so on. An endless cycle that drove my poor wife nearly insane.

Leave her alone! Check occasionally if you’re freaked out, but generally speaking, your baby will be fine. She’ll call for you when she needs you.

Guerilla sleeping: sleep when you can

I honestly expected my baby to sleep through the night, but babies have tiny stomachs and get hungry and soiled so fast it made my mind spin. At first it was cute – the baby cries, I feed her or change her nappy, and sing her to sleep. But when I realized that I was doing this every 30 to 45 minutes, my heart sank and the only songs I could remember had bad words in them. I wanted to sleep too!

The solution? I slept when the baby was asleep. It took some time to get used to sleeping with one ear tuned to my baby’s potential cry for comfort, but I did it. Of course when I went to work during the daytime I had the intellectual capacity of a flea, but my daughter’s stomach continued to grow until she’d wake only once at midnight and again at 6AM, ready to play.

If you keep in mind that it is you who needs to adjust your sleep patterns and not the baby, you’ll do fine. You’ll walk around like a zombie, but you’ll be okay.

Tears for fears

My wife and I developed a system of taking turns with the baby. When I couldn’t make her stop crying, I’d pass her over. When my wife couldn’t comfort her, she’d pass the baby to me. But there were times when neither of us could do a thing and our mutual frustration rendered us as helpless as the infant.

The baby was crying, my wife was crying, I was crying. I half-seriously entertained thoughts of giving the baby up for adoption then felt guilty afterwards. I felt that my wife, as the mother, should have been able to make the baby stop crying. She, on the other hand, felt that I could comfort the baby better because of some old woman who told her “hinahanap niya ang tatay niya”.

There will be nights when there is nothing else you can do but weather out the storm. Remember that your wife is vulnerable too (post-partum depression is a reality for many women) and is not superhuman by default, and that your role did not end when you bought the layette. It’s important that you both remain allies and not point a finger at each other.

It’s not wrong to feel frustrated. It’s not wrong to cry. But no matter how miserable the three of you feel, it will pass. Well, until the next time. But you will survive.

Everything leads to the mouth

Be very careful what you leave around your baby. There comes a point when curiosity about their surroundings overwhelms them and they begin to explore – not just with their eyes and fingers, but with their mouths.

One time, after bathing the baby and setting her down on the rubber mat and towel to dry and change, I was distracted when my cell phone began playing Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”. I swear I didn’t move a single step. I only glanced away for a moment, cursing the timing of whoever was calling. When I looked back, I had to wrestle the open tube of diaper rash ointment my little darling had decided to eat.

Your baby will be interested in many things, so make sure you vary the stimuli you expose her to – bold patterns, bright colors, different textures. And make absolutely certain that if puts any of these objects in her mouth, she should neither choke or experience electric shock (yes, keep the 9-volt battery away).

In the mood for love

It may seem that given all the time-consuming activities of taking care of your baby, “walang nang panahon para sa romansa.” I know it did it for me. Every spare moment not taking care of the baby meant doing other things for the baby (washing and sterilizing bottles, washing her clothes, getting some sleep, buying whatever), leaving little time my wife and my “husbandly duties” (in my defense, I was concerned about her healing from giving birth.)

Until one quiet moment when my suddenly vigorous wife jumped my bones, informing me that it had been MONTHS, and we made furtive love fearful of waking the baby. Later, we learned to relax about it, took advantage of the baby’s grandparents (who were more than happy to take care of the baby once in a while), and loudly reignited the flames that got us into trouble in the first place (after seven years of marriage).

In the course of watching your child grow up, do not forget how she came to be. Give your partner a naughty grin and say “Halika, sweetie. Rest muna tayo.”

A sense of humor goes a long way

In the course of the first few months, you’ll experience things that may make you decide never to have any more children. The trick is to take things in stride and to keep your sense of humor.

One time, when the baby was refusing her soy formula, I decided to find out what it tasted like. Thinking I was alone, I took the bottle and sucked on the nipple only to learn that at that precise moment, my wife and her parents had just entered the room. Even the baby laughed at me.

It’s important that your child grows up in an environment that is filled with love and laughter, so make sure to set the example.

Unless you want to raise a serial killer. Or a congressman.

You’ll do fine

At the end of the day, when I hold my little girl in my arms and see her look at me with her big eyes, everything makes sense and my troubles melt away.

Do I think of myself as a great dad? Not yet, but I’m getting there.

And with a little preparation, patience, sacrifice and a lot of love, so will you.

pantoum: may/december meditation

You're showing your age, at last
Despite my protection, my conversation
You've lost that innocent appeal
In spite of my precautions, my illusions

Despite my protection, my conversation
Your smaller feet could not keep pace
In spite of my precautions, my illusions
My friends knew you for a charlatan

Your smaller feet could not keep pace
Too many things went over your head
My friends knew you for a charlatan
I could not keep talking for both of us

Too many things went over your head
I'm getting tired of our monologue/dialogue
I could not keep talking for both of us
Maybe its better I let your hand go

I'm getting tired of our monologue/dialogue
When all you can say is "No"
Maybe its better I let your hand go
Even if I remain behind, still longing

When all you can say is "No"
You've lost that innocent appeal
Even if I remain behind, still longing
You're showing your age, at last

Saturday, June 18, 2005

pink words

I just found out today that Manny Marinay, in an article for ABC-CBN Interactive, reprinted some quotes from J. Neil Garcia's book Bongga ka ’day!, a collection of quotes to live by, from "a survival kit for embattled gays who shall henceforth never again be tongue-tied by ignorant or pesky questions about their sexuality."

One of my early plays, Short Time, is quoted, along with nuggets from Butch Dalisay, Orlando Nandes , Danton Remoto and a whole slew of other writers who have written about the subject matter, as well as cultural icons like Nora Aunor and Jose Rizal. Short Time won a Palanca Award in 1991, and has been staged several times since then, including a guerilla-style staging (unknown to me at the time).

If there is one thing that irks me most about people, it is their capacity to condemn other people because they are different. I will always stand against that. I have a number of gay friends (in and out of the closet) who are wonderful people, talented individuals whose mere existence make this world a far better place. I work with them to produce comics and stories, to research and create plays and novels. I also work with them on daily basis in my own businesses, which I'm happy to say, is gender-blind. I've employed and continue to employ gay men and women and see no issues with their chosen lifestyle (though I must confess that less frequent exposure to gay women has contributed to much of my ignorance about them - I wanted to write a lesbian play but was stymied when the only bar I knew they frequented in Malate closed, leaving me with no other place to go and talk to them).

The sexual preference of people should not determine how we act towards them. As a married man and father, I believe that everyone is worthy of respect - my own sexuality is not threatened by my friendship with gay men. That's like saying you don't want to hang out with African-Americans because you're afraid your skin will turn dark. It is a horribly misguided opinion perpetuated out of fear and ignorance by people whose intolerant culture/ tradition/ religion dominates the land.

Their stories and lives are not hideous or terrible things that should be ignored or swept under the rug. One of my brothers is gay - and that doesn't change how much I care for him. If our friendship with gay men marks Nikki and myself as gay sympathizers, then it is a badge we are proud to wear. I can only hope that we impart to our daughter the same manner of open-mindedness that we live and espouse.

Personally, I find a lot of gay men more creative, talented, interesting, funny, witty, intelligent, driven, motivated, caring and complex than a lot of the straight people I know. Just like any other person, they have the potential to be good role models - not because they're gay, but because they're good individuals.

At the core of things, we are all people, straight or gay, and share the intricacies and banalities of the human condition. There are many other more important matters to worry about - from the failure of government to how we pay for the next meal - than growing livid with the discovery that some guy you know likes to sleep with other men.


Siglo: Passion, the dream project edited by Vin and myself, seems to be back on track after a terrible delay (dealing with over 30 creative people, mostly over email, is just asking for complications - haha). 90% of the project is complete, with full illustrated stories in full color from some of the best Filpino authors, artists and comic book creators (who killed themselves to submit their work on schedule).

With some tweaking, reshuffling, reworking and commissioning of new work (from Palanca poet Angelo Suarez and Cast creator Jaime Bautista, we're aiming to hopefully release the book by September, in time for the Book Fair. We're looking into a co-publishing deal, but by hook or by crook, it will be out.

I'm also going to edit and produce an anthology of Philippine Speculative Fiction. I'm targeting a December-January release date and will soon begin the process of soliciting submissions. I'm looking for a mix of published and unpublished authors and will post details soon. I've intimated as such to a number of authors I'm personally in touch with, but will get the ball formally rolling by next week with some invitations. I feel very strongly about this project and will finance it myself under the Kestrel imprint (which means more long hours at work, but hey, if I bump into a big publisher who's willing to listen to my pitch, then good). Finance and distribution are always major issues, but they haven't truly stopped me yet.

Letting the year pass by without producing work is unthinkable. With this pair of anthologies, one for comics and one for prose, I hope to help give creatives in our country a voice, a venue for expression - and equally hope that some will listen to what all these crazysmart people have to say.

In our little creative dinner/videoke group, planning and production is also in motion, for both prose and comics:

Andrew Drilon has re-released copies of his early comics work, Germinator and Subwhere, and looks to releasing a truly funky comic book later this year.

Jason Banico is prepping for the publisher's release of his two horror short story collections aimed at young readers, later this month or the following month.

Two-time National Book Awardee Vin Simbulan is putting together an anthology fantasy short stories. Hopefully, his antho and mine will hit the shelves at the same time late this year.

Marco Dimaano, still recovering from the recent release of the creator-studded K.I.A., is already under pressure from us to produce a new Angel Ace issue (cracks the whip).

Nikki Alfar has several stories in production for Mango Jam! from Mango Comics, plus contributions to various anthos in and out of the group.

Elbert Or and Jaime Bautista are relentlessly producing their teen soap opera/high school series Cast from Nautilus Comics. El also has a few surprises up in store for readers during the rest of the year.

National Book Awardee Carlo Vergara's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah has gone international, winning readers abroad. There is, of course, talk of a sequel.

And Arnold Arre will be releasing a collected edition of his National Book Award-winning Mythology Class. Lastikman, his collaboration with Gerry Alanguilan for Mango Comics, continues to entertain comic book lovers.

So the seeming quiet is just really everyone at work. And that's just us. It is exciting to think about the work everyone else is coming up with.

Friday, June 17, 2005

stress for less

On my way back from a client meeting in Quezon City, I saw the signage for a gym. I didn't have time to take a picture, but this is what it said:


Okay. You know, I wouldn't really want to work out in a high tension environment, thank you. Even with free membership.

Oh, but P35 per workout is such a steal.

closet quivers: friday night at a circle jerk club

What didn’t happen. What should have happened: I’m the third or fourth person to arrive. Okey naman ang lugar, disente. I sit down and someone introduces himself.


I shake his hand and manage a smile. He begins talking and talking and talking para bang mauubusan ng salita. Small talk, nothing important, nothing revealing. I’m not really listening because I just want to see what will happen, I want to see how things go. I need to know if I’ll go through with why I came here.

Wala naman. Ikaw?

From a friend’s house.

Pare, hindi ba kayo nahirapan mag-park?

Tanong ko sa kanila kung bakit sila pumunta, what did they expect, weren’t they ashamed of what they were planning to do, how could they even consider themselves men kung nandito sila, ano bang gusto nila? Sinong niloloko nila? Are they gay? Are they confused? Are they lying to themselves? Did anyone close to them know where they were right now? What if something bad happened? Paano kung masaktan sila? Paano kung nakawan sila? What if they were exposed? Paano na?


How could they call themselves Christians if they were doing this? Bakit sila bumigay, bakit sila sumuko? Did they even think this was wrong? What kind of a lifestyle is this? How can they expect anything lasting, anything of worth from other people here? Did they expect to find a friend? Anong hinahanap nila? A lover? A partner?


Shit ka.

Tanong ako ng tanong, all these kinds of questions, forcing them to face themselves and their choices in a mirror, a mirror I’m holding in my hands, and I’m telling them that its just wrong, it can’t be right, can’t be true, cannot possibly work out, talagang maling-mali – at hindi sila makasagot, hindi nila ako matingnan because deep in their hearts alam nila ang sagot at takot sila sa katotohanan. And I tell them that they can still change.

DINO (shouts)
E, ikaw? Ba’t ka nandito?

KARL (enraptured)
And I turn to him, I turn to him and say that maybe the reason I’m here is to help them, tulungan silang makawala dito, because yes, I was tempted, I was confused, and yes, I did think about doing whatever it was we were supposed to do, kung ano man yun, pero I realized na mali yun and maybe, just maybe, I can explain what went through my head, and we can all just… just stop, stop, stop na, stop right here, right now, tama na, huwag nang umpisahan, hindi ito gusto ni Lord


I tell them that we’re men, and men are not supposed to act like this, that it’s unnatural, mali, mali talaga, that I myself just barely made it. I tell them my reasonsna may anak ako and that if I went ahead and did anything with them I’d be betraying not just myself but her as well. Na nais kong maging good father, good son, good husband, good Christian, mabuting tao and it’s not too late to change, not too late to change, not too late to change, kaya pa, kaya pa


At umiiyak na ako, at umiiyak na sila, at umiiyak na kaming lahat because of the shame of our past, our weakness, sa bigat n gamin damdamin, and oh Lord Jesus gusto na naming magbago, mag bagong buhay, and someone starts to pray and we’re talking to the Lord and He understands us and His blood washes us clean and we’re saved, we’re redeemed, we’re found, we’re changed.


Lord Jesus!

Saved by the blood of Jesus !

KARL (in tears)
And in a moment, we’re different people, malinis na kami, we’re whole and hopeful and pure. Dahil sa pagibig ni Lord, because of the power of God, because I changed my mind, because I was brave enough to come here and witness, because I love the Lord, my daughter, my wife, my self, because I told them to change. Because I was brave. Dahil sa akin nagbago sila!

ALL (except KARL)
Asa ka pa.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

the palanca awards syndicate

Once in a while, someone, usually a writer who has never joined the Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature or who joined but lost, makes noise and says that the competition is rigged.

The theories state that there is a syndicate; that the judges give awards to their friends or students, breaking the anonymity of the blind entries by the use of a clever code; that certain blacklisted writers, mavericks who are not part of the established literati, will never win; that the collusion between judges and participants is so entrenched that winners are determined even before all the entries are in; that the Palanca Awards are an Old Boys’ Club; and so on and so forth.

All these are spurious and insulting to everyone who has ever won a Palanca Award or who has ever judged for any of the categories. If any of the terrible things I’ve decried above have actually happened or happen, they certainly did not or do not happen to me.

I first joined the competition way back in 1990, the first year I ever heard of it. Encouraged by my mentor, playwright Wilfredo Guerrero, I submitted a play. I did not know any of judges and the judges certainly did not know me – I wasn’t anyone. My play received an award. And so did the one I entered the following year. And again I didn’t know who the judges were beforehand and they were certainly not my friends – in fact, I had no writerly friends of that sort during that time, writing mostly in a vacuum. My first two winning plays were very different from each other (one was a choreo-poem, the other was a gay play set in a motel room written in realist mode), so it wasn’t even as if the judges who liked the first play based on style awarded the second play based on that preference.

I was asked to judge the One-Act Play category once or twice of the following years. I received a huge pile of the submissions, and I plowed through them all. I was not familiar with any of the entries and certainly was not privy to any code. During deliberations, my co-judges and I talked about the entries we felt deserved an award, and revealed our personal short lists. Our lists were the same. We were doing our jobs, and not awarding friends or students of ours.

In 1994, I won a pair of Palanca Awards, again for two very different plays. One was a long-form musical, the other was a one-act comedy. That’s two different sets of judges, none of whom knew I was entering or what I was entering. I did not know the judges and didn’t ask anyone. (Once, I overheard someone ask Butch Dalisay directly if he was judging the Palancas that year. “I can neither confirm nor deny,” Butch replied coyly.)

I didn’t join for the next 9 years, prioritizing business and everything else above writing or competition. As far as anyone could tell, I had vanished off the radar. When I won 3 Palancas in the last two years for my plays and fiction, it was not in anyone’s interest to give me the prizes. I am still as maverick and “non-establishment” as they come. Hell, I don’t even stay that long at the awards ceremony, operating in more of an eat-and-run manner. I do not hang around to make plans for next year (“Hey! If you’re a judge next year, let me win. If I’m a judge next year, I’ll let you win.”). I'm not as well-connected as I appear to be; in fact, apart from the comics creatives I usually work with, I'm so out of touch with who's who in the Pinoy world of letters.

And I do not need "help" to compete. Let my writing win on its own merits and not because you like me.

Every year, around half or so of the awards are given to first time winners. Any previous winner can become a member of the board of judges for the category they won in (the obvious exceptions are the very young categories like Futuristic Fiction).

It is too easy for losing participants to sour grape over their losses. But attributing malice to the awards is not a particularly healthy way of dealing with the fact that your writing needs improvement.

And as for the writers who say bad things about the awards but have never joined themselves, I think it’s their way of assuaging their own fear of failure. Better for them to say that the system is rigged than to risk exposing their shoddy writing to a panel of judges and being told, in no uncertain terms, that they need to write a better play, story, poem or novel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


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Oh man, I want this retro-style album by red-haired Idol alumnus John Stevens. His voice, song choices and performance style were unique during the season that Fantasia dominated.

Now, if only George Huff releases something other than a Christmas album...

first day of school

I plowed through traffic, fielding text messages and phone calls from clients, just in time to meet Sage and her mother at the elevator. It was my daughter's first day of school and I would not miss it for the world.
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"Dad!" Sage said, her surprised face breaking into a smile. "Are you coming with me to my school?" She did not think I would make it since my work day is sometimes quite hectic and I'm almost never at home for lunch.

"Of course," I replied, catching my breath.

Then I ran ahead to take pictures as my little girl walked down the sidewalk, with her hot pink shades and with one of her arms pulling her pink Barbie schoolbag behind her.

"Dad, you're taking my picture," she told me sternly.

"Just a few shots," I told her and asked her to stand still for moment.
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"No, Dad," she said, walking past me. "I'm going to school."

And what a wonderful school it was. Nikki had gone there before and met with the teachers and all, but it was my first time there. Everything looked spic and span, and there they weren't kidding when they said that their ratio of teachers to students was better than other schools.

When Nikki and I saw her integrate happily with the other kids, commandeeing a jigsaw puzzle, we bade her goodbye, expecting tears.
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"Bye Mom, bye Dad," she said, favoring her parents with a brief look, before happily returning to her task of making new friends and exploring education.

So we left feeling an absurd sense of pride and accomplishment, and I thought about how everything just moves so fast, so very quickly.

into my eyes and ears

music: find your male, find your grail

Nikki and I have been listening delightedly to Broadway recording of Spamalot, winner of this year's Tony Award for Best Musical. Starring Tim Curry, Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce and based unabashedly on the classic 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail , the play features an entertaining set of clever lyrics and adequate music. I particularly fell hard for "The Song That Goes Like This", a poke in the eye for the "I Dreamed A Dream"-type of Broadway songs I particularly favor.

comics: girls and trojans

Among the pamphlets I picked up, I was struck by the Luna Brothers' Girls - a book that is difficult to put down despite the fact that it toes the border of misogyny (Nikki found it similarly engrossing).

The current issue of Bill Willingham's Fables has a throneroom assassination attempt and the wickedly beautiful Snow Queen. This story arc should read better in trade format.

Speaking of trades, the Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol.3 by Warren Ellis is a fun romp, returning the foursome to one of its strongest core conceits - explorers of wonder.

But the treasure this week is Age of Bronze: Sacrifice by Eric Shanower, continuing the slow unfolding of the Trojan War. My calculations tell me that I have roughly 7 years to go before the series ends and the trades are completed. By that time, Sage will be ten years old, but really, it's worth the wait.

video: the yellow family and other pirate booty

I gave in to temptation and got the monstrous box set that collects The Simpsons Seasons 1 to 5. This series is intelligently and consistently well-written and dates very well. My favorite, of course, is Lisa, but my heart goes out to Homer.

Justice League Unlimited is the most exciting series on the air. Nikki and I make a little game of identifying all the background characters with nonspeaking parts - and it feels like a crossover with almost every episode. The second volume DVD contains 5 episodes, but the one featuring the uberhot Hawkgirl did it for me.

From Pirate Billy's stash (how can my favorite pirate still not have Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle?), I got John Water's A Dirty Shame (2004), John Stephenson's Five Children and It (2004) (remember Nesbitt's Sandfairy story?), Patrice Leconte's L' Homme du train (2002), Uli Edel's Ring of the Nibelungs (2004), Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge (2004), Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman (2004), and because I wondered whatever happened to Christian Slater - Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark (2005).

If Batman Begins fails to enrapture me this weekend, I have a selection of things to watch. And while we're on comics-into-films, I can't help but shudder at the thought of the film adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, helmed by James McTeigue and starring Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond and Hugo Weaving as V. Oh my god.

fiction: catch-up

I actually made it through the week without buying a new book (gasp), deciding instead to try and catch up on my accumulated pile of things to read. Yes, it's a cruel life, being a book addict, isn't it Banzai Cat?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

the skin of my teeth

I just sent my 5000-ish word essay to Our Own Voice, exactly on the deadline. I was invited to write about the writing life and blogging, so I structured my piece as a series of blog entries.

We'll see if my clever little conceit works or dies an ignoble death when the new issue comes out.

Monday, June 13, 2005

firing range

I hate having to fire someone who works for me, but it may just have to come to that, pending final results from the investigation.

This is one of the things I abominate most about being a boss.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

independence ramblings

So just what does a “damaged culture” celebrate on Independence Day? A continuance of our erratic and awkward meandering towards nationhood, towards a sense of who we are as a people?

Politicians cut from the traditional self-serving cloth perpetuate a manner of government that does nothing truly of worth, enriching themselves and their families and friends instead of uplifting the lives of the people they are supposed to serve, regardless of whether or not their election was clean or fraught with suspicion. We have leaders who do not lead, who know nothing of the concept of leading by example. We have officials for whom leadership is equated with political dynasties, who have divided the nation into personal fiefdoms.

Our literature and artwork, even our popular culture, rely heavily on the hegemony of other countries. Everyday we permit the erosion of our cultural traditions, and we sit back and lament them over mocha fraps at Starbucks. Where is the art that captures the Filipino soul? Where is the Great Filipino Novel (and just how many of us particularly believe in the confluence of fate involving F. Sionel Jose and the Nobel Prize for Literature)?

Our history of leaving the Philippines to find better work and opportunities in other countries continues unabated. Our best minds and skilled hands work elsewhere, for someone else. Who is left behind?

What has really changed?

We are still angry. We are still lost. We are still easily distracted. We are still unable to think in broader terms. We still look elsewhere for direction.

Is America’s one and only (ex-)colony truly independent in ways deeper than the obvious existence of the Republic of the Philippines?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

talking film at marco's bash

Marco celebrated his birthday early, and the gang drove over to his house for Mom-cooked spaghetti and chicken. Conversation turned to film, and we reminisced about all those little fun films we liked in our feckless youth, trying to track whatever became of people like the cast of The Breakfast Club, Young Guns, and Flash Gordon. We recalled Heathers and Pump Up the Volume, Mighty Ducks, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, Warlock and Krull, St. Elmo’s Fire and Beauty & the Beast, Alive, Brazil, Oscar, and Clue, and all the lines of dialogue that made an impact on our impressionable creative minds. After the long conversation punctuated by spontaneous reenactments of key scenes, we watched a bit of David Lynch’s leather clad Dune extravaganza, a quaint film ahead of its time, and laughed at Sting’s fight scene (even the pathetic Jedi fight better than the Harkonnen, it seems).

We decided to spend one night in the near future watching old films, not the best ones or the ones that we liked critically, but those silly guilty pleasures that for the life of me I can barely admit to actually liking (perhaps for the soundtrack, or because they seemed to be so contextually relevant – you know how young people can be, assigning significance to the most inane of things, but doing it with such a potent belief and sincerity that it assumes a rather monstrous meaning).

Part of me is uneasy though. Some things are better left unvisited a second time around. Even the best films in my memory tend to falter upon a new viewing, as if part of me can never reclaim the wonder they once provoked. It has happened to me with E.T., Clash of the Titans, Gandhi, Merchant-Ivory movies, and a whole gamut of films from before.

Memory is like that.

Friday, June 10, 2005

seasons of love

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Let me join the bandwagon (thanks to the Sundial Girl), and gush about how wonderful the upcoming Rent film seems to be, based on the trailer (download it here - you need Quicktime). The film reunites most of the original Broadway cast along with Rosario Dawson and is truly something to look forward to.

This is one of my most favorite musicals ever. Everything about it, from playcraft to lyrics to music is superb. It is a story about identity, desperation, hope, friendship, time, loss, dreams and longing - a celebration of life in the face of everyday deaths. I encountered it first as music, then got to see the play and was utterly, utterly moved. It is rare when words and music and staging attain that elusive and peculiar alchemical truth - and Rent does it in practically every scene.

deathwatch: guppy

In the name of R&D I have a poor little guppy in a small fishbowl on my office desk. He swims in solitude unaware that I’m there to see how long he takes to perish. I feed him once a day, in the morning, but ignore him for most of the time. I need to know how long he lives without an aerator because some of the new aquarium product lines I’m introducing to the pet store from Taiwan have none. Instead, the organic system relies on the natural world’s combination of sunlight and oxygen-producing plants. I’m skeptical, being used to aquarium systems that have bubbles blowing out of plastic tubes or treasure chests, but it seems to work (and really, it should, given the fact that that’s how things work in the real environment, but an aquarium is by no means natural).

I chose the humble guppy because it is a sturdy species, and inexpensive to procure. After this poor fellow gives me empirical data by dying, I’ll morbidly move on to swordtails, goldfish and other more delicate and expensive species.

It’s important that I am able to answer customers’ questions regarding fish lifespans in the context of the new product.

But it still makes me a little sad.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

midnight escape

Last night, after three consecutive days of cash flow stress and anxiety, I decided to go out for a drink and a massage - after the concern was resolved, of course. I left home at midnight, leaving Nikki to handle the challenges of the Sorceress Edea of Final Fantasy VIII (an invigorating blast from the past, courtesy of K8), and walked a bit in the gentle drizzle, waiting for a cab.

Once in a while, I do this: find a friendly bar, have a couple of beers and just veg out. It’s important that I’m alone. I do not want or need conversation, and I certainly don’t want to think too hard or otherwise be my usual gregarious self. I imagine myself in some Chicago speakeasy during the Prohibition, perhaps some minor gangster low on the totem pole of things, just out to relax.

There are odd times when someone comes over to talk. Sometimes women, sometimes men, who are in the bar for similar or completely different reasons. I respond curtly, not wanting to make friends, not wanting to be my usual self. I left my brains on idle and I am not in the mood for someone else’s story, whether it is as banal as a prostitute with a heart of gold, as artless as a man whose wife has left him, or as half-flattering as some guy who thinks I’m in the market for some hijinks. I wear a mask of stupidity, of being unable to comprehend complicated sentences, and radiate a zone of general antipathy that is a mix of my face set into genial ennui and a cloud of cigarette smoke. Sorry, not interested. Which is a peculiar thing for a writer for whom all these people are walking repositories of stories to mine. But I’m not there as a writer. I’m there as a tired man who just wants to drink in peace, oblivious to anyone’s agenda. Last night was just like that.

After I paid for my drinks, I took a cab to Roxas Boulevard. The dark streets offered no traffic, glistening with the dull sheen left behind by the superficial rain. At the Korean bathhouse I frequent, I checked in, stripped and took a bath while sitting on a small wooden stool. Then I immersed myself in the hot waters of the main pool, oblivious to the amiable argy-bargy of the other men around me, Filipinos and foreigners, simultaneously exposed and cloaked by steaming water. I soaked until I felt the alcohol in my system flushing out as sweat. Then I went for my massage, hoping that the lady I like, the Punisher, was present. She was, and soon her iron fingers wedged themselves in the knots of my aching back, shaking my body’s dalliance with lethargy with delicious pain. It's criminal for pain to be so pleasurable.

Afterwards, I went up to the bar in my robe and had a glass of red wine from Primitivo di Manduria, reasonble and young, and looked beyond the glass walls out into the street below with a sense of Lucullan wellbeing. I thought of nothing, neither work nor business, neither story-writing or comic book creation. I was not none of the descriptors found on the upper right hand corner of this blog. It was just me with a glass of wine. For a while I could pretend to be consumed by nothing, no cares, no worries. Just for a while.

Then I dressed up and rode a swift cab home, to my wife who was just getting ready for bed a couple of hours before dawn. As I got into bed for some sleep, I realized that I was desperately hungry, that everything that went into my system since midnight had been smoke and alcohol. Nikki offered acorn-fed Iberian boar pate and swanky crackers, but I let the Filipino in me take control. I made scrambled eggs the way I like them (heat the skillet and a little oil, dump the eggs, whisk briskly and separate the thickening mass, then quickly out on to a plate – the entire process taking only a few seconds) plus a couple of links of sticky longganisa so I have some protein, and ate them with the remains of the previous evening’s rice, while I learned about The Mysterious Hanging Coffins of China courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

And then, body finally sated, I went to sleep. I dreamt of a new play’s structure, something novel and exciting, but it was all gone by the time I woke up later, with just enough time for a quick shower before my first client meeting and the first of a cascade of text messages and phone calls.

It’s all right to escape, once in a while, for as long as you accept that it is temporary, and that you will come home and be yourself again. It must be a path that leads back to where you came from, back to your context, back to what you have determined matters to you.

Although sometimes I imagine myself walking down the street at midnight and finding myself strangely in a bar in Europe, in different clothes with a different face, and I am consumed by a sad longing that I cannot easily articulate.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

the suman latik post

I've been remiss, running around with a whole new set of impossible deadlines at work (four 300+ game guides and a magazine for our big gaming client, a magazine for the mall client, new branding for the luggage client, materials for the water client - gah), so I'll cop out of the Suman Latik webring and do the unthinkable:

Ang sarap ng suman latik.

There you go. Too many links to link, so just hie on over to Jonas' blog for the explanation.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Because of the little girl, I've been spending more and more bookstore time in the young readers' section, and without doubt it is best section of the store. I spend my time fondly looking at Le Guin's Earthsea, Lewis' Narnia stories, plus all the classics and fairy tales, and I'm happy. When Sage learns to read, I doubt she'll ever lack for a book.

One of new treasured finds is The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily
by Dino Buzzati
, with an introduction by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler).
"One terrible winter, King Leander leads his troop of bears down the mountains of Sicily in search of food. Along their treacherous and sometimes heartbreaking journey, the bears encounter an army of wild boars, a wily professor who may or may not be a magician, ghosts, snarling Marmoset the Cat, and, worst of all, treachery within their own ranks."

How can I resist? Vin got one too. I wish I had all the money to buy all the books I want, but it just isn't possible. Damn you, cash flow!

Thanks to Charles, I've added Lucius Shepard's Barnacle Bill the Spacer and Other Stories to my reading list. Nikki saw the volume of short stories and asked me if I really liked Shepard that much, because I haven't even finished my other Shepard collection.

"Well, honestly, so far it's more like a Brussel Sprouts experience," I told her. I know he's good for me, but so far I need to force feed myself, which will sound heretical to some of his devoted readers (wink, wink). I don't know. Maybe I'm just not in the right frame of mind or I'm not reading the right stories. Or something.

Comic book trades were aplenty last week - Blue Monday: Painted Moon; Batman: War Games, Act Two; my missing Essential X-Men Volume 2 (including the seminal Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past story and Kitty Pride's intro - yes, I'm a hardcore Claremont/Byrne reader); but the best read was Grant Morrison's We3, starring a cybernetic trio comprising of a dog, a cat and a rabbit. Among the pamphlets, Gail Simone's Villains United was a bit of a thrill.

all-in-one post

Gah. The internet and Blogger are going bonkers, so in pure guerilla style, here are notes from the peanut gallery.

happy happy joy joy

One of Nikki's stories got accepted for publication in the upcoming Sawi Heartbreak anthology, edited by Ada Loredo, Bj Patino and Rica Santos. She joins a bunch of fine writers, including poet Barbara Jane Reyes. This is wonderful news and you simply must head on over and give her props. I am the delighted and supportive husband.

For the unaware, Nikki writes quite a bit more than I do, with her articles appearing in magazines like Smart Parenting (whose June 2005 issue also tells us what to do "When Mom is a Lesbian"). However, she is most notorious for her not-quite-so-kid-friendly-work. Ask her, not me.

In the meantime, wunderkind author and grafictionist Andrew Drilon has been selected to be one of the Top 20 under 20 in an upcoming feature by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I am so proud of this guy, really, so go over and be nice. I understand that prodigious poet Angelo Suarez (hey, Angelo! Drop me a note, I have a little project in mind) is also part of this group, so good for everyone - not every young achiever excels in sports, you know. I prefer literature myself.

biz plan

I'm seriously considering getting a 7-11 franchise, with a small consortium of 2 or 3 partners to help make the initial investment more palatable.

I know I've been pro-Mini Stop for so long, but after comparing both convenience stores, 7-11 has distinct advantages. Previously, it was owned by the Paternos and another family, but it was recently bought by a Taiwanese group. This new owner has implement major improvements in several key aspects of the business, making it truly attractive. The initial franchise fee is around P500k, around half that of Mini Stop, but we're looking at an initial capitalization of slightly over P3M.

The most important thing with a business like this is the location. This can make or break you, and it is foolish to go ahead and invest without considering this. We have one in mind and are set to do an ocular very soon.

If it looks okay, then we move forward and begin working out the financing, logistics and other fun matters. How will I know that the location is good? I'll look at its geographic position in relation to schools, hospitals and such; check out if competitors or fast foods have outlets nearby (because if McDonald's or Jollibee built a store, the area must have some potential for growth); check the flow of traffic while keeping an eye out for accessibility, walkways, sidestreets; and finally, act like the superstituous businessman that I've become and call in the feng shui folk.

To a certain extent, business is logical. But it is not always scientific nor is it governed purely by predictable things. Part of business is luck - being in the right place at the right time with the right product; being spared in a fire that consumes the entire block, etc. And if it helps to face the east, then we'll face the east, run the business as systematically as we can, and trust that the lords of luck are happy and propitiated. Token gestures do not require faith, only an adherence to ritual.

And it doesn't hurt to think "Well, just in case...".

such sweet sorrow

Good pal Camille is letting her COMPAQ iPAQ Pocket PC go. If you're interested, details are here.

Sadly, I'm perfectly content with my own little bit of magic (yes, watching complete episodes of Futurama while trapped in traffic goes a long way to keeping my sanity intact).

Monday, June 06, 2005

to my heart via my stomach

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I finally got to watch Nigella Lawson's cooking show and I am smitten by her in every way: her fast and furious cooling style (which would make my Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef sister gasp), what she cooks, her accent, her look, the entire package. No wonder people write porn about her, according to Nikki. Her website, of course, has recipes.

Nikki has promised to make us a Salmon and Bacon entree sometime soon. Which beats Nigella hands down in Sage's book ("She's not real, Dad. She's only on TV so she's just pretend.") as well as in mine, natch.

pinoy book reviews

Pinoy Book Reviews, edited by Angela Francisco-Solis, debuts online, aiming to build a connection between local authors and readers, encourage readers to voice out their opinions with regards to the books that they read, and establish a stable online community for Filipino book lovers and readers.

I have the privilege of being the first author interviewed. I talk a little bit about the books I love and the comic books I couldn't do without - and unabashedly plug Siglo: Freedom.

Go and read - or better yet, contribute.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


The camera of my Pocket PC is nowhere near as nice as my Canon, but it isn't that bad. It's great for guerilla photoshoots, but for more serious shots, there's a reason why a camera is a camera first, and not an added feature.

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My pet store, Petty Pets, at SM Megamall. Within the week, I'm adding Ant Farms and Azoo Palm Aquariums.

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One of the issues that weighs heavily on my mind is that of the unpopular bunny. Some rabbits are just not desirable to customers, for a variety of reasons. These bunnies are left unloved and unpuchased and grow bigger and bigger in the hutch. What to do?

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From a taxi cab, encouraging me to report any "turpitude manners". I was so delighted at encountering an uncommon word for "depravity"(even if the noun is forced to act as an adjective) that I forgive the anti-smoker signage.

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Sage asking me to buy her a paint brush. It had to be pink, of course.

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Sage with her favorite ninong (godfather) Vin, along with Cthulhu and Nyarwhateverlopthep.

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Nikki, my wife. Mwraow.