Saturday, April 30, 2005

making a mag

Yesterday afternoon, I received a brief from another client who wants my company to develop a set of publications, including a quarterly magazine. Content development is one of the things I enjoy doing most, work-wise.

In this case, the brief was equivalent to "We want a magazine. Give us one." So my crew and I are doing everything - from conceptualizing what the mag is, what to name it, how many pages it will be, what paper will be used, what will it contain, who will write the articles, who will take the photos, who will advertise, what print supplier to use, layout, art direction, everything. Including how to make it pay for itself. I'm delighted because this exercise requires me to wear my multiple hats again and work out an integrated approach to things, which is precisely what my company is geared towards doing. Developing a mag from end-to-end is not that easy but neither it is impossible. The key is understanding, prioritizing, developing and implementing the tasks that need to be done, with an unflinching eye towards maintaining a high quality level.

One of things I need to do is to immerse myself in the subject matter that the target audience of the mag-to-be. In this case, I will need to spend a lot of time playing games. Which I take with a smile, because it harkens back to the days when I was the Brand Leader for Magic: The Gathering and other Wizards of the Coasts products. The only difference is that all of the gaming I need to do is online - MMORPG (I will steal my friend Joey Alarilla's brain to get me going).

I love fantasy, I love gaming, I love fantasy games, so I don't think I'll much of an issue getting immersed - and it's work (haha). It's like the time I got to do comic books for Levis.

I love my job.

Friday, April 29, 2005


I have a design presentation to a big client in 30 minutes so I thought I'd write about part of what I do for a living.

One of the things my company does is creating brand identity. The most obvious expression of this is the company's logo, but it also involves analysis of positioning and character.

Designing a trademark is a multi-step process for us.

We begin with the brief, ask a ton of questions, then engage in multiple brainstorming sessions.

Next, my designers explore general shapes, looks, feels and attitudes - no color yet (that comes much later).

Then I let them loose and they generate tons of logos, playing with form and fontology (the choice of font used for words in a logotype are just as important as other design elements).

All of these studies are presented to me in black and white. Each designer defends or explains the rationale, articulating the creative decisions he made. I wrestle with them and select a number that make sense.

The ones I choose (wearing my hat as Creative Director) are then broken down into their component parts, with each part given a board and a name.

During my presentation to client, I show them each logo study's component boards in this order:

1. The name of the study - this permits me to anchor the discussion and focus the client's attention on what this study is all about. I am unpredictable in my naming conventions, calling studies everything from "Kundalini" to "Imperator" to "Fuzzy Wuzzy".

2. The master design element - this is the "swoosh" in Nike, the star in Caltex, the invisible arrow in FedEx. This is the design anchor, if it exists. I explain the reasons behind this particular element, what it means and may mean, why it is of interest.

3. The full logo - this is the complete logotype.

All the studies are in black and white because my design philosophy is that a logo must work in black and white.

The choice of colors come after the client decides which logo study is most interesting or apropos. Color studies of the selected logo/s are another presentation, requiring knowledge of color theory and a combination of common sense and the occasional foray into esoteric blah blah.

Once color has been approved, we prepare the Logo Standards Manual. This document tells the client (and their future suppliers) about all the logo applications (how to apply the logo on letterhead, business cards, t-shirts, posters, mugs, signage, etc.), logo violations (misuse of elements, color or font), and more.

Once everything is complete and approved, then the branding exercise is done.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Gemma is the kind lady who comes over to our home once a week to prepare food and assist our helper in different ways. She is such a fine cook, able to whip up everything from Byefstroganov (sauted beef in sour cream sauce) to my beloved sinigang (pork in tamarind soup). A mother of four, she supports her entire nuclear family because her husband is a bum who refuses to work for a living.

Today is her birthday but the gift she received was most brutally unkind.

Today, her eldest son died, after struggling with an illness that sapped his strength.

She is beside herself with grief and needs to fly off to Iloilo (where her son lived with Gemma's parents).

I shook like a leaf when I heard the terrible news. I cannot imagine what she must be going through. To lose your child is one of the horrible things that can happen to you - it made me think of my own daughter, Sage, and how much I love her, how I would gladly take on any pain or suffering on her behalf, how I want to protect her and keep her safe from everything.

I was brought to tears in my office and I left to smoke a cigarette in the stairwell. There is a certain helplessness that accompanies the experience of those whose lives are touched by the death of someone known. A swirling anger at the inevitability of things. My mouth tastes sour - and my cigarette tastes foul.

What if it happened to me? What would I do? Would I say that everything happens for a reason? Would I believe that God has a perfect plan for everything that occurs? Will I find enough strength to carry on and not collapse into tears when I see another father embrace his child?

How do I comfort Gemma, whose pain is beyond my capacity to imagine? I prepared some money to give her, to help with the expenses related to her trip to the province and the cost of the funeral. But what else? How else?

Events like this make the entire act of writing fiction, plays or poetry seem so banal, so divorced from the horror of reality. Do I write a poem for her? Offer up a short story? Mine her grief and my own vicarious sadness and write a play? Because I could, and the emotion is genuine, which immediately answers the demands of verisimilitude. Why am I even thinking along these lines?

Is the writerly part of me so insensitive, so edacious, that I while I am struck with sorrow a part of me is looking for ways to express it in writing?

forbidden brides of the faceless slaves in the nameless house of the night of dread desire one of the stories (by Neil Gaiman) whose more-than-a-mouthful title alone piqued my interest in Fantasy: The Best of 2004, edited by Karen Haber and Jonathan Strahan. While I have the original publications of the some of the stories selected for the anthology (for example, three came from Sarrantonio's Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy), I haven't encountered the others: the Ford, the Link and the Swanwick, in addition to the Gaiman.

A Different Bookstore also had the editors' companion volume, Science Fiction: The Best of 2004, which I picked up (browsing through the TOC revealed enough enticements: a VanderMeer, a Kress, a Bacigalupi and an Emshwiller).

I am so pleased I feel like a cat with a personal sunbeam. Books do that.

win some, lose some

We received word that my company lost a major design bid today, which just goes to show that in this industry, nothing is certain. As usual, we went all out and killed ourselves with a beautiful set of compres but in the end, client decided to go ultra-conservative (which was not in the brief) and went with the most plain-jane supplier.

This is part and parcel of my business, the constant competition with rivals and the necessity of upping the ante and defending design as an integral part of communications. It sucks to lose, especially since it ends our unbelievable winning streak of the past several months. In times of failure, the post-mortem analysis becomes even more crucial (you also need to analyze why you won when you did win), looking at elements that contributed to the loss and thinking of ways to minimize them in the future.

It's a learning process that hurts a bit, but there is always pain associated with improvement.

You need to accept that you cannot win all the time - but that shouldn't stop you from trying to win all the battles you do choose to fight.

And keep on improving, win or lose.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

rarer than a hen's tooth

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The Alfars are truly not outdoorsy people at all. However, it does not make sense to create a company outing to the beach and not participate (believe me, the last one was a cultural tour of Old Manila with National Museum and Binondo and all), so off I went with Nikki and Sage in tow. I survived what felt to me like half a lifetime on the road (I really abhor travel by land - it's a senseless waste of time and the scenery of the South Superhighway and the following dirt roads does nothing to assuage my ennui).

To be fair, we had a grand time. We had a huge house all to ourselves. The multiple bedrooms could house over 60 people comfortably, while the amenities included billiards, table tennis, basketball and sunka (a native game played with shells). We grilled fresh fish, drank beer, rode a boat, looked at a coral reef, and baked in the sun. You know, fun stuff.

Sage displayed the bravery that she inherited from her mother, wanting to swim by herself in the boundless sea. Nikki, coordinated with Sage in sarongs, speculated on the love life of starfish. Me, I cut my finger within 3 minutes of getting on the boat, trying to show my daughter how cool I was by catching a crab.

Nature and I simply do not get along. By early evening, I was working on a story in longhand, using the last light of the sun to eke out a few more words before my hand cramped up completely.

The guys and I spent the wee hours of the morning telling ghost stories over gin and cigarettes, which I guess was my favorite time of all - talking and smoking with good company being two of the things I really like to do.

And so we're back at work, rejuvenated and slightly darker.

But really, give me the city any day. I'll take a book, a room, electricity, Coke and a pack of Reds over the majesty of nature, thanks.

what i'm looking for

I'll be one of the judges for a short story competition this year. I agree, once in a while, to do things like this because it gives me perspective. I am able to see what is being written by whom in what manner. I am able to see a sample of what writers are thinking about, struggling about, setting to paper - a cross-section of zeitgeist, in miniature.

This helps me by contextualizing my position as a writer in the Philippines. It helps me determine where I am in the general scheme of things. This is important because I need to know where I am, where I stand. My voice is a small one - I may know my own little verse, but I need to know what other people are singing, and especially, what the chorus or refrain is, at this point in time.

Someone will get rewarded, of course.

To win my vote, you must (very simplified):

1. Tell a story. Make it interesting. Engage my mind and my heart. Do not make me feel like I've wasted my time or read/seen this somewhere else. Avoid tropes everyone uses (if you must show off your social-realism, do so in an invigorating way). This is not purely about plots, by the way.

2. Write well. You need not be flashy, trendy or interstitial. You can write in a traditional manner (gasp) with a beginning/middle/end. You can write in any manner for as long as you write well. This means you must be grammatically correct. Edit your work before you show it to me.

3. Up the ante. This is a competition, so your little story must be superb on multiple fronts. Break me, make me want more, make me want it never to end. Provoke a reaction.

See? I don't look for big words or big ideas. What matters to me is the core, the experience of story, the power of story, the elements of story.

Easy, right?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

the waiting game

There, all done, packaged and submitted.

Let's see what happens.

It's always the waiting that drives me crazy, so I've learned to just forget about it.

This is how I deal with my fiction subs abroad - just package, submit and forget. Although, really, I am still very much aware of when I submitted and how long it is taking for an editor to reply, I do my best to pretend it's no big deal.

I really have no issue with letters of rejection. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I actually have a small collection of them - signed by Dozois, Datlow, McCarthy, etc. I just wish people could just say "No thanks" in a speedy way. But that's the way the ball bounces.

Anyway, having the bulk of my important writing for the first third of the year accomplished leaves me time to concentrate on new stuff.

Monday, April 25, 2005


half-asleep I watch you leave
my eyes half-open half-broken
goodbyes half-spoken
pneumatic half-closed rheumatic
releasing a hiss of air
a kiss of steam
(like the cracked safe in my dream
you told me was my heart)

It doesn’t matter what I see
or think I see
(if I hold my hand far or near, I
can still see only half of it, and if
I fold my hand, then only half of half);
what matters is the weight of my eyelids
half-suspended half-upended
its tonnage that threatens to shut away light
(slam the window or close it gently,
I can only see your back anyway,
only that half of you)
and movement and cigarette smoke;
a snapshot blink that seems inevitable

I know nothing about your half-life

All I can do is embrace
the half of you that stays.

i don't need no ashtray

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This makes me smile - it's exactly how I would be, flicking ashes at the bunnies (until I realize I can sell them at my store if I catch them, preferably burn-free).

Amazing artwork by El Or, multi-talented author and artist and good friend.

Now I know how I'd look, super-deformed.

emerging trends in philippine publishing

This is required reading - thought-provoking for those who care about the local industry.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

so now i'm "famous"...

...along with Sassy Lawyer . Heh heh.

Seriously, I don't know about fame (and make no claim to be a blog-pioneer, having started only a couple of years ago), but yes, I'll be there at UP to give a talk on blogging and writing - can you say "agenda"?

Do make time to attend the thing. My time slot is from 2-3PM.

The UP College of Law Internet and Society Program (UP Law-ISP) is inviting you to attend the 1st Philippine Blogging Summit to be held on Saturday, May 7, 2005, 9am to 5pm at the UP-Diliman Campus.

UP Law-ISP recognizes the pioneering efforts of the originators of Pinoy blogging. Through their initiative, blogging has become an effective tool for disseminating opinion and personal thoughts on a wide array of topics.

The Summit aims to explore the potential social and political impact of blogging as well as encourage the growth of Pinoy blogging.

For bloggers, you will have the chance to hook up with famous Pinoy bloggers like Sassy, the PCIJ -, Dean Alfar - and kutitots.

For newbies, you will learn how to blog through the frontrunners of Pinoy blogging.

REGISTRATION IS FREE!! To register, please email to

We hope to hear from you soon.

The UP Law Internet and Society Program

vignette: preliminary notes on the retrieved final manifesto of MaMachine; compiled by Lt. Benjamin Javier Eusebio, PNP Technologic Division

[At 22:13 on 11.21.46, MaMachine wrote:]

My first love

We were both seven years old.

We played at each other’s houses, alternating days: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays were at my place. We cut paper and raced cars. We built parapets and made them tumble.

Puppy love, what can I say?


Initial reading suggests that this entry was written specifically for the consumption of a certain individual, but closer analysis reveals that the subversive message targets the impressionable Filipino youth that access MaMachine’s banned website.

The tone and message of this entry continues the obvious propagation of MaMachine’s agenda: in particular, the subversion of the Department of Health’s “No Contact” Policy (DHEAL Act 17436.44), the Department of Trade Guidelines for Restricted Alcohol Importation (DTRAD Act 19442.68), and the Department of Civilian Defense’s Social Network Protocols (DCIVD Act 6209.37).

While MaMachine was able to elude capture, we have profiled the suspect based on textual analysis of her webposts and ifeeds similar to the extraneous entry above.

1. MaMachine is female. As proven by records of the Department of Social Welfare’s “Oplan: Panaginip” (DSOCI Act 2212.75), Filipino women are more likely to concoct fantastic scenarios during REM state sleep. This is accepted as conventional wisdom and clearly explains the failures of the nation’s previous (and censured) leaders of the female gender (Aquino, Arroyo, Sy, and Ledesma). MaMachine’s propensity towards use of “romance” as metaphors is likewise indicative of her gender, along with her choice of avatar nomenclature (MaMa).

2. MaMachine is educated. While every Filipino is able to utilize the most basic of social network communications, only the selectively educated are able to compose discrete blocks of text for purposes other than the most banal. While the fact that MaMachine undoubtedly benefited from our educational system is unacceptable, it is still a testament to the efficacy of our methods of instruction.

3. MaMachine belongs to the upper tier AB socioeconomic class. The complexity of MaMachine’s hard setup, captured during my department’s operations, indicates a capacity to funnel funding outside of any regular citizen’s acceptable expenditure levels.

4. MaMachine is obsessed with history. This is obvious in her choice of words and syntax, as well as her allusions to the past. All of this “looking backwards” is dangerous to a society that can only (and should only) look forward. Any government-educated citizen knows that our nation suffered through the centuries of successive rule by foreign powers (Spain, the United States of America, Japan, and the Malay Union) interspersed with periods of false liberty and so-called "popular rule". We live in the best period of Philippine history, with a government selected from the best and most qualified citizenry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

pet stuff

Running a pet store is no petty task, despite our name - Petty Pets.

In the two months since we reopened, we have spent much time, effort and money revitalizing the concept of a store devoted to small animals.

One of the first things we did was to create more room so that the danger of overcrowding is averted. Animals do not live happily when they are foot and paw against each other. Overcrowding leads to sickness and general torpor - not exactly how people envision happy bunnies.

We also made certain that water was available 24/7. The law requires this anyway and the reason is obvious. Despite the mall's cool air, animals dehydrate.

We talked to a lot of suppliers, the people who provide us with the animals and sundry that we sell. So now we have rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, pinto mice, lobsters, fighting fish, brine shrimp, turtles, African lovebirds, and harlequin parakeets. I'm looking into sourcing for spiders, butterflies, salamanders or geckos, and something like shrews, if they are permitted to be sold (I passed on gerbils because, well, they look like giant white mice with pink hairless tails). This means coordinating with different people for different animals for delivery on different days, so the scheduling alone is quite a challenge.

We also sell supplies, so we go out and get cages, exercise wheels, various foods and pellets, aquariums, fishbowls, colored stones, bird perches, clay pots, cuttlefish bones and so on. My business partner and I make trips to places like Divisoria and Kartimar to look for new items we can position in the store. Tomorrow, for example, we're off to look for toys (for cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.).

I am also constantly improving the look of the store, thinking of ways to create a customer experience and for them to repeat purchases. This part involves creating signage, POP (point of purchase) materials, flyers and leaflets, shelf talkers, "menu" boards and price lists - plus creating promotions and other marketing actions. Promo development and marketing are some of the things I get paid to do for other people so I'm happy to do it for myself (though sometimes closeness to my business effectively blinds me, so I consult with other businessmen). I talk to my customers in an effort to better understand the needs and mentality of my market. This is invaluable in developing material that targets them as well as a means for feedback.

Expanding the business means creating alternate revenue streams. One of these is our creation of party packages wherein we provide multiple sets of animals (i.e. turtles in bowls) for someone's event. We filled our first order and tackled the issue of packaging - ending up creating die-cut special packaging for the sets.

Growing up, I never envisioned myself being possessed by an entrepreneurial spirit, but life is strange and you adjust. So now I look for opportunities, watch how other businessfolk do things, ask questions and maintain the attitude of someone willing to learn.

Owning a pet store required me to learn a new business fast, and I still have a long way to go.

latitude details

I have a few more details about the other antho I'll be part of.

My spec fic story "Hollow Girl: A Romance" (Futuristic Fiction -Palanca Awards, 2004) will be part of a new book this coming August.

"Latitude: Writings from the Philippines and Scotland" will be edited by Angelo R. Lacuesta and Toni Davidson, and will be published by the British Council as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations.

The Filipino side includes Krip Yuson, Butch Dalisay and other people I look up to, so I'm proud to represent this side of speculative fiction.

In the meantime, I think I'll start shopping the novel around. Who knows, right?

Monday, April 18, 2005

table of contents

From Alan Deniro's Ptarmigan:
It's my great pleasure to list here the TOC for Rabid Transit #4 (as yet unnamed!). In alphabetical order:

Terminós, by Dean Francis Alfar
PICK, I am, I am., by James Allison
Fragments, by Matthew Cheney
The Sky Green Box, by Rudi Dornemann
Ballerina, Ballerina, by Eric Rickstad
The Sign in the Window, by Vandana Singh

Pleased as punch about this TOC, and we hope you will be too.

Of course, I am delighted beyond belief!

I am a regular reader of Matthew Cheney's Mumpsimus and his column over at Strange Horizons. I am familar with Vandana Singh because she appeared in the same volume of Year's Best as I did, and I loved her story there.

I am unfamiliar with the other authors but given the eclectic taste of the Ratbastards, I'm certain I'll be happily surprised when I get to read the book.


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I am the faces that you flee
the many to your single one:
it boils down to sex as mystery

I hunger but do not beckon
wholly of many holes
too many for you to reckon

with yet you try, all of you,
to fill me thrill me kill me,
weeping as I chew your muscles into

strips of red and bone
as you pass by in your mighty ships
in an odyssey to chart the unknown.

a bit of advice: when you plan
a voyage of discovery be aware
of the monsters within the span

of your desire's latitude;
for I will find and devour you
and bask in your terrified gratitude

or you can choose to flee
the deep roiling emotions
engendered by the fathomless sea

and say sex always has victims
that it was a simple matter
of you or me

Sunday, April 17, 2005

furuncle etc.

I am currently afflicted with a furuncle (or a carbuncle or just a plain nasty boil) on my inner thigh that make sitting down a very delicate operation. The discomfort distracts me from work and writing. In fact, I am tempted to lance the damn thing (I would if I weren't so helpless in the face of pain).

I have, however, managed to get some things done despite the thing. A pair of stories ("MaMachine" and "Drop Dead, Orphan") are nearly done, and I've resumed work on another pair of plays ("TVC" and "Beer").

On the work front, a new set of projects have sprung up - and again, I'm not complaining, except that one of them is biggest fucker of an annual report (one inch thick).

What I haven't managed to do is to catch up on my reading, sadly.

But this boil! Gah. It irks me.

Just how am I supposed to frolic in the waves at the beach this weekend (a rarity, my friends can assure you - the Alfars and the outdoors are not a natural fit)?

Maybe the world is punishing me for saying nasty things about Scott Savol? Please, America, vote him off.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I can't wait for the new furniture to arrive, after Nikki spent a pretty penny getting us a new bed and several large pieces.

When Sage was born, we went into a spartan strategy for furnishing the house. I didn't want anything with sharp edges or things she could bump into. We got rid of everything loose on surfaces, fearing the little baby would swallow something or hurt herself.

But Sage is over 3 years old now and is not destructive at all. In fact, she has never torn any of my precious comic book trades that are all within easy reach, lined on low bookshelves. So I don't see why we can't start buying a piece or two each month or every other month.

The only other thing that stopped me from really furnishing the house is the fear that we'll be moving anyway, and it's horrible logistically to move so much stuff. But you know what? People do it all the time. We can even hire people to pack for us when we do.

But really, as I write this, I realize that buying furniture, for me, makes the best sense only if you have a permanent home. Which in this case means a real house, not a condo unit.

Curiously, I find this epiphany both banal and oh so manly.

So. Must buy house.


It's a long way to Tipperary.

6: coffee

(LIGHTS ON. BRIAN lowers the remote. CAMILLE is still at the dining table, smoking. BRIAN talks without looking at CAMILLE.)


You’d think that after 9 seasons, people would learn. But no, they make the same stupid mistakes. I mean, did you see that? How can it be good strategy to tell your teammates that you, in effect, plan to vote everyone else out in a particular order? Strategies revealed do not prosper.

(CAMILLE remains silent)


But I must say it makes good TV. I mean look at us. We’re riveted.

(BRIAN stands and moves towards CAMILLE)


Can I have a ciggie?

(CAMILLE hands him the cigarette pack and a lighter.)



(BRIAN lights up. He moves around the table and lifts the casserole dish cover.)


Smells great.

(BRIAN looks at CAMILLE but she is not looking at him. She is watching the muted TV.)

BRIAN (pointing to the TV)

That’s it. That’s the ad people are talking about today. Look at it. Look at it.

(They watch for a moment in silence.)


What kind of dorm has all these good-looking young men who dress so, so nattily, shower like it’s a shampoo ad, realize its raining and decide to bond over coffee?

(CAMILLE does not reply)


It’s absurd. Considering its a coffee ad.

(BRIAN picks up a fork and eats some tuna casserole straight from the dish.)


I mean, yes, obviously, you need to get model-type people for ads, but how are we supposed to believe that such a situation happens every day? That’s the problem with ads today. There’s just no respect for the viewers’ intelligence. It’s all about sleek production values, meaningless situations and-

(CAMILLE stands and moves to the couch, leaving BRIAN at the dining table.)


Shut up, the show’s starting.

(CAMILLE picks up the remote and presses a button. The muted TV bursts into life.)


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


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never question the reason
I question where you
were last night

sand does not carry
the truth of footprints;
the wind rearranges
every grain as if
you never left my side
(that's the riddle, really)


I need to know if
you loved me
as a child
as a man
as an old stranger

if anything
ever mattered
as much to you
as much as it
mattered to me

repeated words become
hollow (it isn’t what
you say but how
you say it)

all that is left
between us is how you
answer the question

Monday, April 11, 2005

music for the masses

Pauline, not long ago, recounted finding a stash of old casette tapes from way back.

Yesterday, after our nuclear family dinner at Mannang with Vin and Jason, conversation drifted towards old bands, which in turn triggered my sad memory's pitiful attempts to recall the music that was so important in my youth - remember how, as a young person, it seemed as if the lyrics of the songs you loved seemed to be written expressedly for you? Even the most obscure lyrics somehow made sense.

(I was a diehard Duran Duran fan, so much so that I knew all the songs by heart, yes even the ones not released as singles, and named two of my dogs "Ta la la la" and "The Reflex". Along with the more accessible bands, I liked Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Cure, U2 and The Smiths. But I also liked bands that it seemed a lot of people in Manila at that time weren't aware of: Japan, the Dolphin Brothers, The Cocteau Twins. This was also the time that I was exposed the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, thanks to the rarified taste of my high school barkada).

In those days of teenage and young adult angst, music from these artists seemed to engage me in a running conversation about various things. You held on to a song because somehow it was relevant to your situation, expressing things you couldn't say yourself, or at least not in the convoluted metaphors of the day (try Seona Dancing's More to Lose as a sample of these tortured "poetics").

Moreover, there evolved a peculiar sense of ownership. You discovered "your" band or song. That made it "yours". Yours was the privileged reading or interpretation of the lyrics, only you "understood" because the song "understood" you. I remember discovering a certain song and being dismayed when it was played at one of the house parties in vogue at the time. Depressed that "my" song had become a victim of commercialism, music for the masses to borrow a title from one of Depeche Mode's albums, I turned my back on the song and began to loathe it with abandon.

As I grew older, I left most of my music behind. Void of relevance, it longer sang to my heart in the same way, failing to insinuate itself in my daily life. I found myself in a span of years without music to love or "understand". I'd hear new music on the radio or over TV but there was no resonance. I think my ears grew too accustomed to stylings of the 80s, cementing my taste. But I did learn, later, to appreciate good music again. Nothing too loud or senseless, but something with good lyrics, melody, vocals.

When I listen to my young friends sing their oddly agonized but lyrically direct songs today, I remember how once upon time I was like them, and criticism of musical selection could instigate the termination of friendships. But I like what I'm hearing nowadays - I'm just glad we're out of that Chill Out phase. Even if it's still about love and longing and relationship crap, I'm happy to listen.

But I realize that there's no turning back. Like Pauline, I looked at the playlists on my computer, taking stock of the mp3s I've been downloading since my Napster days in Hong Kong. A huge majority are songs of my past. A small percentage are anthemic songs that I identify with certain key points in my adult life. Very few are new.

I can appreciate the music of today, but in no way does it belong to me or can I belong to it. None of them can be "mine". I can neither "understand" nor "be understood" by it - not in the way it speaks to the young folk of today. Not in their way. We are all products of our times, and our musical timestamps cannot be denied.

So, do I listen to my Colourfield, Aztec Camera, Erasure, Style Council and assortment of grunge music with a knowing melancholy or thoughtful sadness, knowing that past is past?


When I listen, I bob my head, sing out and occasionally do my little dance, the one that goes perfectly with the hits of China Crisis or the Psychedelic Furs.

For the span of three minutes, I travel through time - and my soundtrack is utter perfection.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

vignette: boatman

Almost fifteen years before the fall of Saigon and the beginning of the Vietnamese diaspora, just before sunrise on a day whose omens only portended good, Bau Long Huynh set out alone and eastwards in his poorly stocked boat from a secluded bay into the South China Sea. The sea glinting in the sun was filled with the promise of lands far away, places where the daily misery that Bau knew were unknown, where the divisions of north and south had no meaning. When he began to speak about leaving his country, his brothers and uncles shook their heads and called him a fool for abandoning hope, convinced that his proposed action was born of cowardice and an unwillingness to see things through. But though the hurtful words were partially true, Bau was compelled by a greater reason, driven by an undeniable desire to exchange a sense of belonging for a sense of freedom, and was determined to risk the potential loss of his life in uncertain waters for the potential new life that he could begin elsewhere.

Those who heard about his crossing years later would not agree on the precise circumstances of his journey. Some said that Bau possessed the finest scientific mind of the past four hundred years and thus calculated the exact distance between his point of origin and intended destination using figures derived from his observations of stars, clouds and the refraction of light in a bit of smoked glass he had found in a ruined temple when he was but a child, granting him the actual and hypothetical logistical advantages of science.

Others believed that salt water coursed through his veins, courtesy of a romantic liaison between an unnamed great-great-grandmother and a merman, and thus was able to seek the advice of fish and wandering turtles and helpful dolphins, finding in the cacophony of responding splashing gurgles, bubbling staccatos, high-pitched whines, half-drowned falsettos, gill-flapping exclamations, and rhythmic piscine, reptilian and mammalian voices the necessary ways and means to cross the vast South China Sea.

Some people assumed that he had encountered an itinerant waterspout that housed a lonely woman who was secretly a water elemental; that the power of instantaneous attraction was more potent than the chains of solitude; that she had taken him, boat and all, into the funnel of her swirling peripatetic home for the span of a year and day during which time she bore him little bastard organisms that were torn between his longing for land and her love for the sea; and that their union ended badly due to irreconcilable differences, resulting in Bau’s expulsion several kilometers away from where he wanted to go in the first place.

A few older people, recalling the stories their own mothers and fathers told them as incredulous children, insisted on their version: lost, half-mad and out of potable water, Bau undertook a desperate quest to find the source of the sea’s saltiness. Through a series of smaller adventures that he completed thanks to the assistance of a kindly whale and a cantankerous crab, he ultimately located the protruding knee of the giant who continued to manipulate a supernatural saltshaker in his sleep, saturating the waters with untold millions of metric tons of salt. They say that Bau woke the giant up with the weight of his castigations and made him aware that his somnambulist actions would one day have the dire consequence of transforming the earth into an inhabitable crystalline sphere. The repentant giant vowed to be more careful, praised Bau for his courage, let Bau drink his fill of fresh water, and brought the man, the whale and the complaining crab near the Philippine archipelago, where the four parted ways.

The truth was that as he sailed in the direction of the sunrise Bau did not know how long his journey would take, had no inkling whether he would pass days or weeks or months searching for the land of his dreams, did not speak nor was spoken to by fish or turtles or porpoises, was not aided by a lonely elemental that had fallen in love with him, and neither admonished nor awakened a careless dreaming giant.

His provisions were barely enough for a week and a half, but he reasoned that the waters teemed with marine life and that his net and fishing pole would sustain him. He knew that occasional rain was not impossible and that downpours would refill his clay jars with drinkable water. And having grown up a child of coastal village, he did not fear the touch of the ocean. Beyond that, he refused to think.

By the seventh week of his journey, Bau’s small boat had capsized too many times to count, victimized by the waves larger than any he had ever seen. Each time this happened he managed to flip his narrow vessel over but lost something precious – first, a jar; then his jacket; then his hat, until finally he had only himself and the boat.

He hallucinated frequently, talking to his parents and arguing with his insistent grandparents and all the members of his family that had died and had become spirits, offering apologies but never giving in to their choral demand that he return home. He told them that there was a place, that there had to be a place beyond all he knew, a place that was the stuff of his dreams, because otherwise there was no point in dreaming and that the Communists were right.

When he was not conversing with the illusions his mind conjured, Bau waited for rain. When the days fell upon themselves with painful slowness, he cursed the placid sea and the cloudless skies, angered by the paucity of typhoons. When the rain came, he allowed his boat to fill until it was dangerously close to sinking before feverishly scooping out the excess water with the cup of his palms, calmly turning over the boat when it went upside-down. Monsoon winds, which sent towering waves, joined forces with lightning and thunder to drive him into the depths of sea. But the man refused to sink, clinging steadfastly to the hope that warmed him, protected him and comforted him through the interminable voyage.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

swamped thing (sigh)

Gah. Just two annual reports to get to the printers, a website to finalize, a nationwide apparel campaign to strategize and I'll be done for the week.

And all I want to is to get to the weekend and get some writing done.

And maybe a really long and painful massage.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

giving in to the book meme

After being tagged by association by Banzai Cat (who had a very brief dalliance with a change of nom de plume), and then point blank by The Bee Box Girl, I must finally give in and actually do one these memes that infest online journals (don't get me wrong, a part of me loves doing these things - but really, I'd rather write something else). Anyway, here we go:

Book at my bedside: Well, I have a wire basket that holds magazines, comics and a lot of books on my side of the bed (Nikki's books are more interesting). I don’t make enough time to read, so odds and ends (and a lot of anthologies) tend to accumulate there: Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough, H.A. Grueber’s Myths of the Norsemen, The Handbook of Folklore by Charlotte Sophia Burne, French Folktales by Henri Pourat, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Living to Tell the Tale, Beast of the Heartland by Lucius Shepard, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol. 15 edited by Stephen Jones, Best of the Best : 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois, The Final Solution by Michael Chabon, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Kidd, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, and How to Travel with a Salmon & other Essays by Umberto Eco. Oh, and a small pile of non-fiction, mostly natural sciences, and the odd historical thing.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
An omnibus collection of Marquez's stories. Not very good for running around and eluding people who want to terminate me since the house I'd try to hide in would probably levitate and be permeated with the scent of lost love or somesuch (not that I want Marquez to burn, of course, but there has to be some drama).

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Not in a clean, purely romantic sense. The Letters to Penthouse books, steeped in fantasy, "invigorated" my imagination though.

The last book you’ve bought is:
Poppy Cat's Playhouse Theatre, a popup book for Sage (you have to see this - the book folds out into a monstrously huge house with four rooms and accessories).

The last book you’ve read:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Go and get this wonderful science book for yourself.

What are you currently reading?
The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers (borrowed from Nikki's side - I'm sorry to say that I am not a big Tim Powers fan though) and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson (a racy book about evolutionary biology).

Five books you would take to a deserted island:
Not comics, that's for sure. Too quick a read, even if I take the entire 18-volume set of Legend of the Condor Heroes.

1. My imaginary omnibus edition of everything Marquez has written. It would weigh no more than 5 ounces and fold neatly into my breast pocket, close to my heart.

2. The People's Almanac #2 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace. Published in 1978, this is one book I have kept through various book purgings through the years. Informative and always surprising, it is hefty enough to kill an animal if I can throw it far enough.

3. Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Lou Guanzhong. This is the story I could never finish, because of the terrible way it is written. Unlimited time on an island means I'll actually have to plough through it.

4. Like many people, I'd get a Bible. Probably a huge illuminated volume. It has all the genres in it - romance, drama, action, horror (Revelations), slice of life, fantasy, scifi (Ezekiel, Daniel), gods and myths, western (Peter and Paul versus the worshippers of Diana in the New Testament), inspirational, law, poetry, philosophy, everything's in there. Even long lists of people in case I feel like memorizing something.

5. An empty book and something to write with. Might as well write something while I'm stuck there and edit it to death.

Who will you pass this quiz to?
Nikki, Vin, Buddha and El. Because we ask each other questions like this all night long anyway.



The Ratbastards, a group of excellent and innovative speculative authors founded by Christopher Barzak (whose story Plenty, in the The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection, inspired me to try and get my feet wet in publishing, which ultimately led to L'Aquilone du Estrellas and my own debut in the Year's Best last year), Barth Anderson, Alan DeNiro and Kristin Livdahl, will be publishing a story of mine this year.

I will be part of this year's Rabid Transit , and will be joining a series that in the past has included really good and funky slipstream/metafiction writers like M. Rickert, Douglas Lain and Nick Mamatas.

The book will be released at the Wiscon, the world's only feminist science fiction convention on the Memorial Day weekend next month in Wisconsin (shades of Wizards of the Coast! - I just had a flashback of my time at GenCon). I've been invited to attend, but my schedule sucks (I thought the launch would be a little later this year).

The story that will be published by Velocity Press is Terminos, which has its roots in Hinirang (a reimagined Philippines during the time of the Spaniards). I rewrote it extensively, integrating elements from another story I wrote previously, Ser Clessidrana Acerca Tiempo, before twisting the entire thing in my "hmmm, let's-try-this" zen slipstream mode (which is funny because whatever happens, the magic realism inevitably pushes through).

Terminos is a story about stories and endings and of things we look for and the power of words to give comfort - and is dedicated to my best friend Vin (who has always pushed me up in an irritatingly endearing way) - for whom I wrote these stories in the first place.

Thanks, Chris!

w00t! w00t!

Monday, April 04, 2005


Nikki grew up with a very western/American sensibilities regarding cuisine, among other things, which means that something like a sandwich, to her, is a meal.

I grew up with Filipino food, including the range of soupy dishes that are not taken in a separate bowl but used to drench the rice in a lake of flavor. A meal is not a meal unless rice is involved.

So during mealtimes in our marriage (going on our tenth year), there has been more than one occasion when we sit across from each other - she, lost happily in her cold cut/horseradish sandwich; me, floating amid the pork and vegetables of hot sinigang.

For a while, I thought Sage had taken completely after her mother. But our last trip to the States proved otherwise. After around ten days of pure non-Filipino food, I was close to tears. We drove to a Filipinon store in Orlando with the intent of getting some cooked food to sate my culinary melancholy. I spotted a single small table and asked if I could order some food and eat it there. The Filipino cook nodded yes and I ordered some sinigang, along with my dipping sauce of patis and calamansi. As I dove into the heaven that is my nation's cooking, Sage comes up and asks me what I'm eating.

"It's sinigang, sweetie," I told her.

"Me too! I want to eat to!" Sage said, demanding her own plate.

I gave her some sinigang and she proceeded to eat like her life depended on it, much to amusement of her mother and grandmother. Me, I was too busy giving in to the demands of my own appetite, so we just sat together in silence, father and daughter, lost in the taste of home.

Nowadays, we make it a point to go out as a family every Sunday. After her Sunday School, Nikki and I take Sage to Megamall where we visit our pet store, where Sage gets to pet all the animals she likes (except for the hamsters because they tend to bite). Then we visit Powerbooks, usually with her Uncle Vin or Andrew in tow, where she gets to choose a book to take home. Then a quick peek at the toy store where we window shop for little rewards for good behavior (the last big one was when she was toilet trained). Then a lot of time laughing and trying out the furniture at Our Home. Then around 3 token's worth of rides at the various amusement centers.

And then dinner. We've taken a liking to Mannang, a Filipino resto at the basement of the mall. While her mother shows off her other non-American food choices (yes, Nikki loves dinuguan), Sage leans over and tells me what she wants.

Sinigang, of course.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

kia meet and greet

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*photo credits: (top) Marco D.; (bottom) Gerry A.

Over pizza and chiken at Shakey's, Team KIA celebrated the long-awaited release of Agent K's first anthology. It was like a horde of really hungry people swept over an inept resto and ate them out of house and home, including Vin, El, Nikki and Andrew. I was happy to meet Marvin del Mundo, whose art I really liked, as well as talk a bit with Jennyson, who, like the absent Hai, has a new book coming out from Seven Seas.

It is always a treat to talk to Gerry Alanguilan, who showed me the ubercool stamps that had images of local comic books. I'm so delighted that I think I'll write to the Postmaster General - if Gerry hasn't already.

Arnold and Cynthia Arre, whom we haven't seen in a long time, were there too. Arnold is coming up with a remastered edition of Mythology Class, which made me think about doing something about the incomplete The Lost. Arnold still has all the original art for my book, so now, again, it is a matter of funding. Within the next couple of years, we should also see Arnold's Martial Law Babies. And maybe a bouncing Arre baby as well ;)

There was a lot of table talk that spilled over from the resto back to Comic Quest, as more creatives came over to congratulate KIA's mastermind, Marco Dimaano. Oliver Pulumbarit, Jonas Diego, Jac Lim Ting, Budgette Tan, Ruel de Vera and more crowded in and took an assassin home. And Hai and Jeremy! I told Marco to Fedex you guys your share of the pizza.

So kudos, all, and especially to Marco! Thanks for the chance to write and eat!

Friday, April 01, 2005

blade for barter

While I'm under the effects of a willingly-taken anti-manga pill, let me strongly recommend Hai's latest work from Seven Seas: Blade for Barter.

Blade for Barter is the story of Ryusuke Washington, a private samurai for hire. He lives in New Edo, a hodgepodge city-state where New York City meets ancient Japan, where monolithic skyscrapers tower over ramshackle wooden huts, and salarymen and samurai walk side-by-side.

Along with his loyal dog Hachiko, our noble hero Ryusuke must deal with the likes of the corrupt Samurai Union, the Mafuza (a cross between the Italian mafia and the Yakuza); a Ninja Union of clumsy ninja; a sinister Zen monk televangelist, and more - not to mention the temper-tantrum prone Lord Hoseki, who rules New Edo with bejeweled fingers and an iron fist.

Story by Jason DeAngelis
Art by Hai!
Hai is one of the strongest creatives in the Siglo series and will humbly downplay all the good children's literature he's been writing (and he has the Palancas to swat you on the head if you look funny.

Available at US bookstores and Comicquest.