Monday, January 31, 2005

lost page

One of the things I have filed away under the "Things To Do When I'm Disgustingly Wealthy" is to publish the last installment of my -ahem- "metatextual" comic book story "The Lost", most probably as part of a nice trade paperback that has the entire story.

During the heady days when I lived in Hong Kong and actually had money to spare (Sage was but a twinkling in my eye), I released the first two issues of the three-issue series. I wrote the main story, Nikki wrote the supplemental stories, while Arnold Arre illustrated everything - plus I had covers by Carl Vergara and Marco Dimaano (this is a roster that still makes me smile when I think about it because of the people involved, and saddened because I have this unpublished thing). But one thing followed another - which seems to be the constant thing with comic book publishing here in the Philippines - and I could not rationalize prioritizing the cost of publishing the book over, say, my child.

The page above is an interior page by Carl, which is part of sequence where Immacolata crashes through the various worlds of words; a conceit I used to invite other artists to show off different styles (the main art is all Arnold's). This is the style Carl used for an illustrated book with Nikki and me, "Ruin".

Anyway, I found this while rooting through my computer for a reference for a project, and it got me thinking. I still love comics even if I don't intend to do much in that direction this year... so maybe it's time to talk to a publisher or something. We'll see.

dumaguete workshop

I have very good memories of my time as a writing fellow over at Dumaguete in 1992, basking in the radiance of the Tiempos. As fas as I'm concerned, this is THE writing workshop, easily eclipsing the others I've attended, including the UP workshop. It helped hone my skill, position my thoughts, and question my craft in many ways, some of them good, some of them quite devastating. At the time I applied, I had already a pair of playwriting Palancas under my belt and felt that my weakness was in fiction, in prose - so the samples I submitted for consideration were not drama but prose. I'm glad I did.

This year's panelists are a great bunch. If you haven't already, go ahead and apply. You owe it to yourself.


The Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group, Inc. (DüLA, Inc.) is accepting applications for fellowships to the 44TH NATIONAL WRITERS WORKSHOP (NWW) to be held on May 2-21, 2005 in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

There will also be a parallel workshop to the NWW, entitled THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CREATIVE NON-FICTION WORKSHOP, with creative writing fellows from the United States.

The NWW Panelists this year are Lito Zulueta, Ophelia Dimalanta, David Genotiva, Francis Macansantos, Jaime An Lim, Ricardo de Ungria, Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara, D.M. Reyes and Anthony Tan. They will compose the revolving panel together with National Artist for Literature, DüLA, Inc.Chairperson Emeritus and NWW Director Dr. Edith L. Tiempo and NWW Resident Panelists/Screening Committee Members Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Bobby Flores Villasis and Ernesto Superal Yee. To compose the panel for the parallel international workshop are Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr., Gemino H. Abad, Alfred A. Yuson, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo and Prof. Robin Hemley from the University of Iowa.

Twelve (12) NWW fellowships are open for all young writers all over the country.

The NWW Screening Committee, composed of three of NWW's Resident Writers, selects the writing fellows for the summer based on the manuscripts submitted by the applicants. These selcted manuscripts are forwarded to the Director of the Workshop, who does the final screening and formally approves the final line-up of writing fellows.

The NWW fellowship covers (1) board and lodging for the 21 days of the workshop; and (2) workshop manuscripts and reading materials.

The applicant must submit the following requirements:


2. An Application Letter addressed to NWW Director Dr. Edith L. Tiempo

3. A diskette containing the submitted literary works saved in Rich Text Format (.RTF)

4. A Certification that the works are original from a renowned writer or literature teacher

5. Two 2x2 pictures

6. A brief biodata or resume

These must be sent before the 31 MARCH 2005 deadline to:

c/o College Assurance Plan
2nd Floor, CAP Building
Rizal Boulevard
6200 Dumaguete City

Accepted fellows will be notified by DüLA, Inc.via air mail and e-mail. A press release with the complete list of fellows will be published by major Philippine dailies.

The 2005 National Writers Workshop is sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and College Assurance Plan.


Addendum to DüLA, Inc. Press Release for the National Writers Workshop:

NWW will also accept applications with works that have been published between 2004 and March 2005

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


palanca awards 2005

For those interested, here are the relevant documents pertaining to this year's competition:

2005 Palanca Awards Contest Rules
2005 Palanca Awards Entry Form
2005 Palanca Awards Authorization Form

Try to finish your manuscripts way before the deadline of April 30th. Best of luck to everyone who's competing.

iligan workshop

My friend Vince Groyon is directing this year's Iligan National Writers Workshop. There's a strong list of panelists, so apply if you can. The press release follows:

The Mindanao Creative Writers Group and the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology are accept­ing applications from writers to the 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) to be held on May 2-5, 2005 in Iligan City.

Panelists this year are Rosario Cruz Lucero, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Jaime An Lim, Leoncio P. Deriada, Merlie Alunan, Tim Montes, German V. Gervacio, Steven Patrick Fernandez and this year’s keynote speaker, the fictionist and Director of the De La Salle University’s Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center, Vicente G. Groyon.

Fifteen (15) slots, five each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are available for writing fellowships to the INWW.

Applicants are required to submit five poems, or, one short story, or, a one-act play in Filipino, English or in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, Waray (with translations) along with the applicant's biodata, two 2X2 photos and a certification that his/her work is original. Please submit a hard copy and a 3.5 diskette with the manuscripts encoded in MS Word. Unpublished works are preferred.

Writing fellows will be given free board and lodging and a travel allowance. Applications must be postmarked on or before February 28,2005. No applications or manuscripts will be accepted if sent by fax or e-mail. Applicants are also advised to keep copies of their manuscripts since these will not be returned.

Send all applications to the 12th INWW Director, Christine Godinez-Ortega c/o OVCRE, MSU-IIT, Iligan City. For more information call/email Pat Cruz
tels. (063) 3516131; 221-4050/55 loc. 113;
email: ovcre-mepc(at)sulat(dot)msuiit(dot)edu(dot)ph

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

go, story, go

In between my frezied day of work and mucus, I decided to take a few minutes to give a final polish to the story I'm submitting for consideration for the new US anthology (reworking a pair of earlier stories). I quite like how this one turned out with its little nods to modernity, and when I was in process of developing it I felt that it could stand scrutiny from intelligent readers - but mere moments before sending it off, I felt that it was the trashiest thing ever written.

Maybe it's my weakened state that permitted such an uncharitable thought against myself, because I rarely engage in self-pitying wallowing. But honestly, I am never happy with anything I write and submit, whether for wife or friends to read, or for a competition, or for publication. It is only afterwards when it gets published or if it wins or if it makes my wife smile or my best friend tear up that I feel I've accomplished something. Yes, my work needs a reader to validate it, because if I only write for an audience that is composed exclusively of myself, then what's the point?

After this submission to Rabid Transit, I will forget about the entire thing until a letter comes to tell me 'no' or 'okay'. Truth to tell, I wanted to edit and polish it a bit more but was afraid of two things: first, given my workload, I might not have enough time; and second, that I might 'overwrite'.

“Good morning,” Mr. Henares replied. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”

“We would like to sell,” the stoutest one replied, wiping beads of perspiration from his forehead with a swipe of a ruffled sleeve. “We’ve been waiting for you to open.”

“Ah,” the old merchant said, “And what do you have for me?”

“We have time to kill,” the tallest one told him, offering his hands, palms up. He looked at Mr. Henares with half-lidded eyes.

Mr. Henares shook his head. “You understand, of course, that rates have really gone down. With the new teatros and entretenimientos, people are finding things to occupy themselves with.”

“Certainly, Mr. Henares,” the stoutest one replied. “We will take what you will offer. You are the fairest merchant in all of Ciudad Manila.”

Mr. Henares brought out his tools, brass and glass and wood, and extracted the precise amount of time each young man wanted to sell. They waited patiently as he labeled each vial, heads tilted to the mellow bossa nova tracks that emanated from a pair of speakers from behind the counter. When he had finished putting everything away, he gave them their payment, wrapped in blue encaje.

The three young men opened the package then and there, much to the discomfort of Mr. Henares. The tallest one took out the Planet Hollywood shot glass and read aloud what was written around the logo, as his two companions unabashedly held hands and closed their eyes.

Silence is foolish if we are wise, but wise if we are foolish

Monday, January 17, 2005

go, mango jam, go! (there, now my wife won't kill me)

Mango Jam, that manga-ish all-girl book edited by my wife Nikki Alfar, launches with a bang at the Shangri-la Mall in a couple of weeks. Nikki (who also writes one of the four stories) is joined by Siglo: Passion compatriot Cyan Abad-Jugo - all for what promises to be a great read from Mango Comics.

And since my wife outed my "anti-manga" sentiments, let me show my support by plugging Zach Yonzon's press releases here, as well as promising to attend the event - but not as a cosplayer. And while she's being ever so humble in her blog, Nikki's National Book Award was as editor of Isaw, Atbp (as part of the group's collection of wins - Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay, Isaw, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, then last year's Siglo: Freedom).


Prepare for girl power with Mango Jam, a 64-page bimonthly comic digest from Mango Comics! Jam at the Shang, the Mango Jam launch, will happen on January 29, 2005, from 2-6pm at the 5th level, Shangri-La Edsa Plaza. There will be booth activities, games, and fashion shows throughout the event. The first 100 girls to arrive and purchase a copy of Mango Jam will receive a goodie bag from Mango Comics and its partners.

Each Mango Jam comic magazine contains four stories written by notable female writers such as Palanca Award-winner Cyan Abad-Jugo, National Book Award-winner Nikki Go-Alfar, MTV Ink Editor-in-Chief Kristine Fonacier, and pop culture writer Karen Kunawicz. The stories are drawn by spectacular new female talent Glenda Abad, Maisa Deluria, Ellaine Guerrero, and Mia Reyes in the popular manga or anime style of comic illustration created and popularized by the Japanese.

Mango Jam, published by Mango Comics, breaks new ground as the country's first all-female comic magazine (including the editorial staff). Each issue will also contain interviews, reviews, anime features, and other articles of interest to young, intelligent, fun-loving Filipinas.

Mango Comics is the publisher of Mwahaha, MooMoo Hunters, Mars Ravelo's Lastikman, and the National Book Award-winning Mars Ravelo's Darna. Jam at the Shang is co-presented by Shangri-La Edsa Plaza, Jam 88.3, and Smart Kid.

mucus (mem)brain

Gah. I hate being sick. And I especially loathe being sick while I'm busy. I think my system is just in shock at blur of things and projects and meetings and travels all over the place (but how cool is it to have a client who offers you use of a helicopter so you can take the shots you want of their mall in Baguio City?). Now, more than ever, I need to be able to pace myself and prioritize what needs to be done, putting all my multi-tasking skills to use. I also need to delegate and perhaps hire more people. I don't know, I'm just wary about expanding the company again.

My job as chief blah-blah requires me to be able to think quickly and on my feet, to give considered opinions and hold conversations on various matters with different people, sometimes over food, sometimes over cigarettes and beer, oftentimes in board rooms or meeting rooms with the suits or in t-shirts on the factory floor with chickens running around. My contribution is my capacity to think and to analyze, to make recommendations and to help implement them. So during circumstances when my head is not working at optimum levels because it is filled with snot, I am at a definite disadvantage (compounded even more if my medication makes me drowsy).

And my intellectual vanity really hates being unable to comprehend a question or offer an observation. A mind dulled and lined by mucus is a sad thing.

It has also affected my ability to write, as I find myself unable to recall certain words, or suddenly I question the spelling of a word I've used thousands of times previously. I cannot write beyond reportage, and any eloquence I have is forced and banal.

The good thing is (well, I hope) this illness will pass in a few days time and I'll be back to normal. I have too much to do and see through and I really don't need this aggravation. I need to converse strength for my trip to Binondo to meet a new client tomorrow (maybe I'll get some hot soup while I'm there).

And now, back to work, liquids, cigarettes and tissues.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Thnak goodness for ABC 5. The new season of American Idol premieres this Tuesday, Jan 18 on FOX TV and will be shown in simulcast in the Philippines at 3 PM , January 20 (and of course I have a client meeting then, argh).

Prior to the simultaneous broadcast, a two hour American Idol Special will be shown also on ABC 5 on Wednesday, January 19 at 10 PM. For those like me who will not be able to watch the 3 PM January 20 telecast, a replay will be shown at 10 PM (on the same day.

It's probably the auditions, one of the best parts of the show.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

je suis fatigue

I started out the morning with the strongest coffee blend I could find at the nearby coffee shop I loathe so much, Gloria Jean's (because almost everything they have is overpriced and atrocious). I had an early morning pickup by my client with whom I would spend the entire day looking at all the inline stores in the "immediate vicinity" - which, used here, means "within an hour or two of the city" (I'm just thankful I didn't need to visit all 100+ concessions he has all over the country). All part of the hat I wear as a marketing consultant for his three brands.

We drove to Alabang and I was greeted by the sad edifice that is Festival Mall, huge, zombie-like and sad in its sprawling emptiness. I looked at the store, interviewed the manager and the salesfolk, took an ocular around the site, made copious notes then declared I was done. Sales are bad in this mall because of its location and vicinity to other malls, a true observation that would be repeated over and over in the locations I would visit.

We took the highway to Laguna and visited Robinson's Sta. Rosa, a mall supported by factory workers and other industrial zone folk. Over lunch (in a smoke-friendly mall), I talked to the staff and made my observations and notes, delighted by the existence of a provincial mall that did quite well. But perhaps not for long, as the behemoth that is SM is in the process of building their mall near by.

It was a long drive to the next sites in Cavite - Imus and Dasmarinas. On the way, my mind wrestled with all the facts I was collecting and everything I was learning about my client's business. I made several spot-on analyses and engaged my client in conversation as I began to create the framework of my upcoming tasks. My attention was intrigued by several posters I had to speed read as we passed them - ads for Virgin Cola, with the tagline "Do you want a Virgin?".

Robinson's Imus and Cavite suffered from proximity to the SMs nearby (one in Bacoor), and the lack of shoppers made me sad again. An empty mall in mid to late afternoon is a sobering sight. I did my work, talked to a lot of people, played around with the products, spied on the competition by engaging in a little skullduggery to get information from unsuspecting promo people in their employ, and did a lot of drawing (I can't draw people, but I can draw maps and rough floorplans).

By the time we headed towards the Coastal Road and Roxas Boulevard, it was evening and traffic was just a mess. It was a good thing I was busy thinking to be enveloped in my usual travel-ennui and impatience. I got good news via cell phone: my company won an important bid I presented for a year-long communications contract with another mall developer, and my other website project was a go. When we passed the Jipang Building which housed my favorite Kenko massage place along Roxas, I silently wanted to be dropped off to have a painful but soothing massage - but no dice, since I had one more mall to go.

The last time I was at Harrison Plaza in Manila was years ago when I conducted a Magic tourney for Novelty. This was the site of the last inline store I was scheduled to visit for the day. More interviews, more notes, more drawings, then dinner with my client and quick visit to the DVD pirates (by the way, the pirates of Virra Mall, including my fave Billy, are now located at the Metrowalk Mall, across from Meralco - which is also the new home of Brazil, Brazil, famous for its churrasco, big chunks of meat cooked with skewers in charcoal ovens ).

Finally, the long drive home - from Manila to Ongpin in Chinatown to Espana to Cubao to Ortigas and up to Nikki and Sage. Along the way, the inevitable political discussions and we discussed the thought of hiring another country to manage the Philippines to get things in order, like professional managers.

I am dead tired but had a very fruitful day. Now I get to sleep. Another pair of early meetings tomorrow. No rest for the wicked and all that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

small escapes

I've been feeling rather overwhelmed with the amount of work I have on my plate, with a new photo shoot I need to art direct in Novaliches added to the pile of things to do. I loathe having to leave the comfort of the Ortigas Center, but this week is determined to haul me around south and east. My biggest issue is the travel time because I'd rather be doing something than just sitting around, void of a cigarette. My mind is frazzled by the minutiae of the campaigns and placements I'm overseeing and I had to escape.

After formal office hours, I got home and asked Nikki if she was similarly swamped.

NIKKI: I am!

DEAN: Me too!

NIKKI: Sigh.

DEAN: Let's escape!

NIKKI: What?

DEAN: Let's play with the little girl for a couple of hours, then go singing and have early morning quail egg and snow shrimp dimsum!


DEAN: Yay!

And so we went on an unexpected Monday night date, just my wife and myself, taking the stage to vent out stress (where she was presumed to be a bold star and I some singer).

The lesson here: escapes are almost always best when performed with someone you love.

But of course, the next day it was back to the grind. That's how it is, buckaroo.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

conventional wisdom

I've never much of a believer in conventional wisdom. Certainly it has value, certainly it has basis, and certainly it works... sometimes. But to completely subscribe to something just because a lot of people do so without questioning or thinking critically about it is not the way I do things. If it works, then I need to know why. If it is brings success, then I need to know how. I need to know the reason why nobody else attempts to reach the same goal in a different way. And if I'm told "no", I need to ask "why not?".

If I give in to conventional wisdom, then things that people say cannot be done will forever remain undone, because why bother to try? At a certain point in time, what most people believe to be true becomes true by convention - but isn't necessarily the truth (think of all the years that Christian believers thought that the earth was the center of the solar system, for example). Commonly-held notions need to questioned. Privileged readings require criticism. Relationships need to be stripped of illusions to expose the raw core that gives the terms "love" and "devotion" their semiotic significance.

It's the same way I conduct business. When I first entered the IMC industry, I knew next to squat about the ins and outs of conducting the business. I tapped people to help me learn, listened to the conventional wisdom, tried things out, experimented, failed, rose up and tried again, shifting business models, trying new things, breaking rules after I understood why they were rules, and created a business that behaves in a different way. Sometimes, the consequences are harsh and conventional wisdom is proven appropriate. But sometimes, the so-called truisms are just comfort zones, and the act of defying them leads to rewards.

Right now, I'm wrestling with the thought of getting a coffee franchise. If you look around, you will see that between Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Gloria Jean's, Figaro, Bo's Coffee and the smaller brands an obvious ubiquity. It may lead you to think that entering a saturated market is madness. But is it? Conventional wisdom tells us not to set up a similar store anywhere near an existing outlet that provides the same products or services. The reason being that one will inevitably cannibalize the other. Sounds reasonable, but is it true? Is it still valid? Take a look at how Starbucks or Mini-Stop set up their outlets. In more than a few cases, outlets almost face each other other across the street. Is there cannibalism?

Each side of a street has its own unique flow of traffic. People on one side prefer to stay on their side unless they have a definite reason to cross to the other side. Starbucks proves that each outlet develops its own customer base, loyal or chance consumers who go in for a cup of joe precisely because of where the store is located (and clever Starbucks adds value to their proposition of "not having to wait"). Mini-stop engages in the same way of thinking, peppering the metropolis with outlets so close to each other that diehard conservative businessmen pronounced the chain's doom due to inept location planning. And yet almost every Mini-stop I've visited does excellent business - in my immediate area alone, walking distance, are four outlets, including the top performer for the country. Consumer behavior is not set in stone, it evolves with the times and the circumstances. Neither should conventional wisdom be fixed.

It's the same with writing. Too long has Philippine "literature" been shackled to rules, modes and the zeitgeist of decades past. While it is important to give value to past writing, the Filipino body of work needs to grow. This is done by pushing against the boundaries and rules prescribed and defended by the powerful and established literati.

The most obvious struggle to achieve a new voice is found in the fresh voices of Filipino poetry. Not the necessarily the winners of the Carlos Palanca Awards, but in the university and underground culture. This is where experimentation, mutation, flailing of limbs against glass ceilings, angry questions, and shockingly deeply moving poetry can be found - in between the cracks of published and polished verse, unseen in poetry anthologies, repeating their sore-throated ululations to the uncaring winds, seeking to escape the maw of their Titan fathers, demanding change.

It's slower in prose, where the unquestioned authority of the elite writers dominate the production of short stories and novels, continuing to hold fast to predefined values of times past, full of pride and brimstone, confusing nationalism with literary worth, unwilling to go forward. We are taught to write about certain things, to value certain themes, locked into an unaltering vision of what the Filipino condition is: sad, lugubrious, victimized, melodramatic or fraught with achingly pointless (but beautifully well-written) epiphanies. There is no short story but one that is a moving portrait of Philippine society; no novel except that which, for the umpteenth time, tells us of the lionized Filipino experience of poverty, struggle and hope, set against an historical backdrop to add verisimilitude so we will all nod "it's true, that's true." Outside of this miser's box, there is nothing worth considering, in their eyes. No, "literature" must be serious, must be nationalistic, must be set in the Philippines, must be, must be, must be. It would be amusing if it were not so tragic.

Stories for children are looked upon with a degree of specialist condescension, given their own sandbox and encouraged to play. But not a single work for children is considered by the elite as on par with, say, the best of Nick Joaquin or F. Sionil Jose - no, those greats are "serious" writers.

As for writers of speculative fiction, well, you know what I think. The landscape is desolate because serious writers apply themselves only to serious things. As if universal themes or the Filipino experience cannot be tackled successfully by fantastic fiction. It can and it should.

Conventional wisdom reads and values only certain priveleged texts, adheres only to specific business practices. We need to question and then create answers, following up with new business models and new stories that press our point home.

A society that subscribes purely to the wisdom of the ancients is a society that can only stagnate as it indulges in pedestrian navel-gazing. It can never learn new things, and thus it can never grow.

Friday, January 07, 2005

crushing on selina kyle

So I picked up all three available trades of Ed Brubaker's version of Catwoman (which you should know is universes away from the sad and sordid "movie" that came out last year) and just within the first few pages of the first book, I crashed and crushed heavily.

"Wow," I told Nikki, who was enjoying the Rucka Wonder Woman trade we also got (what can I say? It was comic book heroine grrl power night apparently). "Look at her. I'm in love."

What's not to love? Trading in her too-boobsy (did I actually just write that?) purple costume for a more practical sleek black leather dominatrix attire, Selina Kyle is one of the most interesting characters I've encountered in a long time. She's intelligent, she's beautiful, she's hot and her layers of complexity make for riverting reading - my kinda gal.

I find myself in the unthinkable situation of slavering like a teenage fanboy geek over a fantasy girl. But gadz, just look at her. She now joins the other fictitious babes I've had more than a purely literary interest in (a lot of them muties): Shanna the She-Devil (nippled or non-nippled as illustrated by Frank Cho), Black Widow (by Jim Lee in that old X-Men flashback comic with her as a teenage agent with Captain America), Psylocke (despite the mess of Revanche/Crimson Dawn whatever, she can't be dead forever, right?), Kitty Pride at 14 (I know, I know, but remember that this was in the 80's so I was young too - actually, this showed that the boobs are secondary to intelligence for me), Brandy of Liberty Meadows, Karma of the New Mutants (when she dehydrated in the Asgardian desert), and Ishtar (the goddess not the movie dud) when she danced and died in the Brief Lives arc of Sandman. And, okay, fine, most of the Danger Girls and Red Monica from Battlechasers (who redefines the term "headlights").

But Catwoman, oh man. She rocks. She's number one. And even if I strip my last bit of dignity and pretension and throw away the writing, she is SO easy on the eyes.

And so Nikki laughed whenever I'd stop every few pages to show her my new crush. It'd great having a wife. But it's even better having a wife who is a friend who understands the occasional inanities of being a comic book reader.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

daddy sleeps

My work life right now is quite hectic, with having to deal with the several projects on my plate. I've needed to rush around meeting clients and suppliers while somehow continuing to work in transit (thanks to the cell phone and the laptop) just not to waste too much time. It ramps up next week when I do my one-day tour of several store locations for a client in Imus, Dasmarinas, Sta. Rosa, Alabang and Harrison Plaza, make a couple of pitches, revisit a web project, implement a marketing plan and create and make arrangements for billboards, newspaper ads, and various collaterals. I'm dizzy just thinking about it. It doesn't feel like there was a Christmas break at all. Or the one I had seems like a vague manufactured memory instead of something that really happened.

Which is why time to be with my family, to read, to write, to play games, to wind down or just sleep is precious, like everything that is in short supply. Normally, I try not to take work home with me, but often it is impossible not to. When you own your own business, the divide between worktime and hometime is tenuous. It's hard not to accept client calls from overseas when work is offered in the wee hours of the morning. Or when something just has to be finished even after the formal office hours are exhausted. But it is important to make time away from work. It really is.

I feel bad about yesterday. I came home after a long and grueling afternoon meeting with a client where I came up with an impromptu marketing and media plan for three brands for the year. Sage greeted me at the door and asked me if we could play in her room. I took off my shoes and we went to her room where she decided we would play with The Incredibles action figures, a Mickey Mouse lunchbox, and a plastic plant which doubled as a watermelon drink. We played for a while with her bed as the staging ground (because our stories and scenarios are like plays, of course, with voices and stuff) and the next thing I knew, I woke up in darkness, hearing the voices of Nikki and Sage as they played quietly nearby.

Yes, I fell asleep on my daughter in the midst of playing "rescue the Incredible kids from the Mickey Mouse lunchbox and stop the watermelon drink's evil scheme".

Nikki says that she entered the room and found Sage playing beside me.

NIKKI: Hi, sweetie.

SAGE: Mommy, shhh. You have to be quiet. Daddy's sleeping.

I really have no excuse this time (playing with action figures is several steps up from the continuing sage of Skankabarbie) except for fatigue.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

vignette: replica

In the final year of her rule that was characterized by an unreasonably frightening generosity, Queen Elena, Monarch of the Pelagin, Sovereign of Kresis, and High Lady of Polidon, decreed the creation of a precise replica of her three kingdoms, to impart upon those who came after her an infallible knowledge of the lands’ prosperity and character during her days as beloved leader.

Those were days of incontestable bounty and quiet peace when the network of roads were new and led to uttermost parts of the country, when fishermen did not have to go beyond a cigarette’s distance from the deep harbors to make a day’s wage, when being a policeman was a part-time job due to the laziness of the dwindling number of criminals, and when the theatrical recitative was at its creative zenith, inspiring narratives about faith, knowledge and devotion mostly in the vulgar tongue for the edification of the masses.

Within the Royal Enclosure (that part of the grand palace where the Queens and Kings of old held very private wine-tastings or beheadings), Queen Elena summoned Simon de los Santos, multi-decorated artisan, composer, poet, priest and stock car driver, responsible for the conversational fountains at the Gate of Idad, the choreopoetic transliteration of Ibn al Faran’s Gestures Under Rainfall, the fluted design of the Marana Cathedral as well as being the one-time off-road record holder of the Kresis Annual Rally and perennial beauty pageant judge.

“Favorite,” the withered Queen Elena addressed him. “Would you say that under our rule the three kingdoms have come to a remarkable state of prosperity?”

“I would, my Queen,” Simon de los Santos replied with a graceful bow.

“And would you say that what we have built with our hands and hearts will last forever?” the Queen asked.

“My Great Lady,” Simon said, choosing his words with care. “Only the human spirit is immortal. That, and the legacy of free will, beauty and law that we pass to those who come after us.”

“Our thoughts precisely,” the Queen said. “You will undertake a task for us that will make all your previous achievements pale like virgins about to taken by brutes.”

“As you will, my Queen,” Simon nodded, his jaded eyes squinting at the hint of a challenge. “I am your servant.”

“Yes, yes,” the Queen said. “As you know, we will die within the year.”

A gasp resounded throughout the Royal Enclosure, flitting from lips to ear to lips from courtier to courtier before escaping down the hallway in the orifices of guardsmen and serving boys and from them to the scullions, washers, mechanics, deliverymen and gardeners on the palace grounds, then off into the polished streets where beautiful women with chiseled features trembled in sadness and handsome men daubed their soft eyes with handkerchiefs soaked in anti-aging cream as a palliative against time, and into the churches, synagogues, supermarkets, call centers, amusement parks and massage parlors where obese men’s hearts were given a double workout, and finally into the broad countryside and beyond to the satellite towns, villages and crofts where the news was met with great sorrow.

“Oh, no, my Queen,” Simon de los Santos protested, rising daringly to his feet. “It cannot be true!”

“Spare us your theatrics, favorite,” the Queen said, gesturing for him to resume his initial kneeling position. “It was foretold many years ago when a sea gypsy floated past our father’s yacht and was refused admittance to our birthing gala within. An old story, but true. She told everyone in attendance that at the height of our glory we would die. And so, here we are. We possess no charm to reduce our kingdoms to the size of a biscuit and keep them in a glass box. We do not believe that the miracles of quantum science can etch the lives of people on to strangely flavored particles. And we do not think that people in heaven keep track of who has done what.”

“True,” Simon de los Santos interjected. “That would be quite prideful.”

“Indeed,” the Queen said. “And in the absence of magic, science and religion, what do we have left to create something keep the memory of who we were and what we did alive?”

“Art, my Great Lady,” Simon de los Santos replied with tears in his eyes. “Free willed, beautiful, lawful art.”

“You will create, beginning this very day and without relent, a replica of the three kingdoms as it stands at one particular moment, a frozen moment of time that will capture the spirit of our people and all we have achieved. It must be exact, faithful and true. You will complete this, or your sons, or your son’s sons and so on, even beyond the final sunset and dawn of your Queen. Beyond us. You will perform this task with all your talent and all your strength.”

“With all my heart, Great Lady,” Simon de los Santos said softly.

“We intend to see some semblance of its wonder before we close our eyes for the last time, favorite,” the old woman on the ornate throne told him. “Now go. Begin.”

“At once, my Queen,” Simon de los Santos stood, bowed and walked away on legs weakened by the impossible weight of the Queen’s imperative, and when he was alone in his car, lit a cigarette, tuned the radio to sentimental love songs, and thought about glasswork, cartography and vanity.

Monday, January 03, 2005

dawn at thirty six


Thank you to everyone who wrote, texted, called and sent/gave stuff on my birthday. Really, I am very touched that you took time to bring a little cheer this old(er) man's way.

Shout outs especially to my beloved wife who spoiled me silly with a deluge of presents (which I gleefully tore open, careful not to give her the sense that I wanted to repurpose the wrapping paper - LOL), my family (from all over the country and across the sea - thanks, Jo!), my barkada (Vin, I love the new Chabon hardcover), and new and old friends (Banzai Cat - I am speechless with delight, thank you! But you did promise to tell me when you'd drop by! Dinner soon?). You all made my day.

I spent the day with Nikki and Sage, eating and sleeping, vegetating in the comfort of nuclear family, until the night came. I took my friends to a Chinese dinner before crossing midnight with a throatful of songs at Music 21.

The future just flashed before my eyes: I will be one of those rotund gentlemen, bald by nature and bristling with tired bravado, mike in hand and crooning to the dismay of young people everywhere - but happy, happy,happy.

wow, again

From the SF site's review of the anthology (thanks, Luis):

...the editors give nod to fantasy's non-Americans and to Philippine writer Dean Francis Alfar, whose "L'Aquilone du Estrellas" (The Kite of Stars) reads with the knowing sadness of Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist and with the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Happily, Alfar's story of an obsessed woman trying to get the attention of the local astronomer is less convoluted and easy to follow than Marquez's story. At the same time, Alfar writes a more emotionally complicated story than Coehlo presents in his short novel.

Two things: first, being in the same sentence with Marquez is just as amazing as a woman's impossible quest to build a wondrous kite; second, surviving comparisons to two novels (one of them THE NOVEL as far as I am concerned) makes one quite giddy (though normally I'd be appalled at a short story being compared to a novel, in this case I make a happy pair of exceptions LOL).

What this does is really, truly, irreducibly make me want to write more.

"...fantasy's non-Americans..." Heh. Makes me smile.


Go and check out Oliver Pulumbarit's spankin' new blog, the latest victim of the blog bug. Welcome to the Blogosphere, man!

Oliver just released his labor of love, Lexy, Nance & Argus: SEX, GODS, ROCK & ROLL, an insightful, sexy and well-written oversized comic book about love, life and gender identity. His flair and honesty in pushing the gay agenda is evident in one of the strongest Filipino comic books of the past few years. And yes, he wrote and illustrated it all, the bastard.

His book is available at all ComicQuest branches across the land.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

last day at thirty-five

Yes, it's my final day as a thirty-five year-old man. At midnight later, I will have to start replying to queries on my age with "in my late thirties".

What's curious is that I honestly do not feel much older than I did ten years ago, if age is equated with a sense of gravity. People, as they grow older, are expected to develop a certain seriousness, to frown upon frivolity, to have a blank expression or a frown as a default visage, to be focused only on the things that matter. It is as if maturity was lock-stepped in time with blind responsibility and an inability to laugh except at the occasional political or off-color jokes.

For me though there is no need to furrow my brow any more than I usually do when I'm tired or thinking. I've learned that while I cannot change certain circumstances, I do have control over my attitude. And while I will vehemently deny and decry unbridled optimism for the emptiness that it essentially is, I have developed a personal store of empowering hope. Not the kind that hopes for the sake of hoping and just sits there, dreaming and not acting, but the sort that seeks ways to create means of making goals realities.

Tomorrow, I'll be thirty-six and I know that the clockwork passage of years is artificial. I could be forty or thirty or nineteen. I do not think that the growth of the mind is linked to the cycles of the world, the sun, the moon or the stars. It is not tied in to the deterioration of the body, and is not the reason why a human being is always crying, eyes shut or open wide. The mind and the spirit grow on their own terms, on a timetable that is both simpler and more elaborate than than meridiens and longitudes. To some, the mind stretches at geological time, pulsing with of the movement of tectonic plates. To a number of us, it is measured like comic book pages, moving from panel to panel in a prescribed sequence, fearing the white gutters and the blank margins. To others, it is at the speed of ideas, flickering with neon hues that burn and flare out in subatomic beats. This is why none of us think exactly alike or of the same things or assign elements of life the same weight.

I think it is vital to simplify, to focus, to be even more deterministic. Maybe I'm at the midpoint of my life; perhaps I have gone past it without knowing, like everyone else except the most astute or dejected. So in the year that follows and in the years that hopefully remain (and there hope is as cruel as it is comforting), I resolve to write a little more, to live a little more, and to love a little more.

New Year's resolutions are always tricky bastards. You get the sense of being set up for a big fall. But if we cannot set goals and strive to be a little bit better, then we are nothing more than mute stones that look up at the night sky without motion, without breath, without life.

Better, always better, to try.