Saturday, February 25, 2006

state of emergency

Oh, please.

Enough of this crap.

I have better things to do.

We do not understand democracy.

We are political juveniles, mired forever in schoolyard agenda.

Like many Filipinos, I do not wish to give up on my country.

But the things we do, repeatedly, show the world how we have squandered the very thing we pioneered, the idea and example that led to other color revolutions.

This how fatigued I was with the events of yesterday (which included a declaration of a state of emergency, intimations of yet another "kudeta", warrantless arrests, water-cannon-dispersed rallies, multiple ex-presidents and thousands of dismal feet joining this or that expression of "People Power"):

I went to work. I strategized an ad campaign for my hotel client. I coordinated with the project manager for my mall client. I wrote ad copy for three power company bids. I began development for a book and a brochure for my real estate client. I thought of anchors for the coffee company. I made calls to the other clients whose projects I'm handling. I set meetings for next week. I mulled over the implications of a recent buyout by e-PLDT. I thought about a new business venture. And I made arrangements for my staff to go home in the afternoon.

I had a haircut and a shave. I read stories to my daughter. I watched and enjoyed the production of my play in Greenhills (chatting with Richard Gomez who clarified that he really wanted to appear in my creation but was advised against it by his manager). I had frozen mango tart and coffee. I watched the results show of American Idol (goodbye, you poor performers, and good riddance). I played Acquire. I read my new Duck comics (enjoying the Italian-to-English translation of Mickey Mouse's Inferno). I listened to music. I thought about my anthology of short fiction. I took my vitamins. I slept peacefully.

I have no time for this political nonsense.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

surfacing to breathe

The past few days have been a whirlwind of work for various clients. My company is in the midst of he busy season, as multiple corporate and brand accounts push their requirements for the coming summer season. I've also been pitching ideas, winning a couple of new clients whose projects are exciting and different from what we usually do. To be honest, I haven't been writing. The downtime I eke out (which, in the case of watching downloaded TV series, stretches to the wee hours of the morning) has nothing to do with creative functions. Instead, I've become a couch (or more properly, a bed) potato.

American Idol's girls have performed, and from the initial set my favorites are Mandisa, Paris, Lisa and Katherine the voice teacher's daughter. Tonight, the men perform and I have high expectations from Chris, Ace and my favorite in the entire competition, Taylor. Idol is an obsession - I make sure I have no work pending and devote my sad attention to the tube, while my wife texts her friends, engaging in a flow of SMS color commentary.

Prison Break is my other flavor of the week. This is actually a well-conceptualized drama whose vortex Nikki also failed to escape. We're both fans of Dominic Purcell (who we initially thought was the guy in Rome) and Wentworth Miller (whose character puts both Batman and McGyver to shame). One of the fun parts of watching the 13 episodes is being stunned at Miller's complex plan for escape (up to now, Nikki is asking what breaking down the "devil wall" was for). Me, I like the conceit of it all, and its general observance of one of the three Unities (of Place). The season ender was dismaying, but new episodes will be out next month.

The other download is Lost, of course. Thanks to the wonders of DSL, I've caught up with the current season. I was actually losing the faith for a while, just coasting along with the story, but was rejuvenated beginning with the Eko episode and excited by the succeeding ones when people began to revert to their initial characterization (I'm so not a fan of lovey-dovies). The nature of people is to stay true to their essence, with small changes occuring - rather than big dramatic shifts towards unity. I like how things are breaking down because that's more realistic to me. People will pursue their own agenda, big or small. It makes for interesting viewing.

Ok, now back to work

Monday, February 20, 2006

short time (after time)

"Short Time", one of my earliest Palanca Award winning one act plays, will have a special staging this Friday at BareWALL, Fox Square Bldg, Connecticut St. Greenhills.

The news came as a surprise. Rico Guiterrez is a film director who wanted to make a film version of my play. Augie Rivera translated (and updated) my script into Filipino (an excellent job, something I cannot do for myself). Things were going well until the primary actor, Richard Gomez, backed out (no doubt because of the sex scene - half the play is supposed to be staged in underwear or in the nude). So the project was shelved until a new actor could be found. My history with films has been less than sterling (2 scripts filmed with me requesting my name struck out, my ultimately not going with Viva Films for "Salamanca" because of money matters, and this shelved project - it seems movies are just not for me.

Anyway, I look forward to spending 45 or so minutes watching my most popular play come to life again (I hope it's in Filipino). Honestly, I do not like much anymore, it seems so...simple and bereft of craft. But still, it is something I wrote and worked on, and maybe my current-day sensibilities will not be that offended.

It's an odd feeling. It's like I'm judging the playwright that I was 15 years ago (yes, it has been that long) and I'm absolutely certain he is not to my taste. "Short Time" was written in a realist/minimalist fashion, with just a bed onstage. Compared to my most recent prize-winning play, 2004's "The Kite of Stars", it's simply outclassed. As part of my body of work, it holds a special place in my heart - and maybe, just maybe, I'll like it again after seeing it on Friday.

andong agimat

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Coming soon from the mind of Arnold Arre.

birthday weekend

On Saturday, we celebrated Sage's 4th birthday with a costume party for the kids (and of course, Nikki came as Kim Possible and I came as a cowboy). The kids had agreat time playing games (though there was one hairy moment when Sage - ultra-competitive as she is - was stunned by the act of one kid grabbing the straws she was collecting in one of the games, but she was quickly comforted by her ninong Uncle Vin. We had her friends from school, her friends from the condo, her cousins from both sides of the family, her uncles and aunts and grandfather, plus her batallion of loving uncles and aunts who are out dear friends.

Sage came as Belle, in a gold off-the-shoulder gown, and was soon joined by Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Peter Pan, Jasmine and a plethora of Disney characters. She loved all of it: the cakes, the gifts, the games, the company - and so did her parents. A big thank you for everyone who came over to celebrate with us! Your presence meant a lot to our little family.

On Sunday, we quietly celebrated Nikki's birthday with dinner out and rounds of Acquire - at her request (I was thinking of doing something outrageous for her, but it was her call - it was her day after all). While my real gift for her is still en route from the US, I gave her some books (including the hardbound Mage: The Hero Defined volume she's been eyeing for the past year) and a desk for her writing. I love this woman so much that sometimes I feel all these things are just pale representations of how I really feel.

Some pictures now:

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Sage as a cowgirl (yes, everyone loves my hat, as you will see).

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Sage and the cake that almost made me spiral into despair.

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Sleeping Beauty and Belle.

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One costume change (Snow White) later.

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Four years old! Good grief, just 5 years ago, Nikki and I lived in Hong Kong and didn't know what happiness was in store for us a year later.

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With Dad and Mom.

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Nikki, Marco and Andrew

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Cams and Nikki

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Ninong Dino

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Cowgirl Cams (there's that hat - I told you)

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Kate and Alex

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Desperado Alex (see? that's my hat LOL)

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Andrew, Jamie, Ninong Vin and Marco

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The gang (we miss you, Jayce!)

Next time, we're going to throw a kiddie party for one of the adults, complete with theme, games and mascot at McDonalds LOL

Thursday, February 16, 2006

thought pattern

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Following Banzai Cat's lead (who got it from here), here's a snapshot of what I blog about.

Go, do yours, and report.

winter candy

I am 100% rooting for the Japanese team for the Figure Skating portion of the Winter Olympics. It is almost a given that Russia's Slutskaya, virutally unbeaten last year, will skate away with the gold. However, it's the Japanese trio who caught my eye.

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Fumie Suguri is the Japanese champ (edging out the incredible double-triple axel jumper and 15 year old Mao Asada, who was too young to compete in the Oympics - that's her below).
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Shizuka Arakawa, who throws around triple-triples like they were nothing, was the 2004 world champion

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Miki Ando, who can do quads, was the 2004 world junior champion.

It will be interesting to see how the new scoring system works (like me, you're most likely used to the old one - start with 6.0 and deduct for flaws).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

gaiman entry - check

I'm done agonizing over my entry for the 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards, the spec fic and comic writing competition that has so many writers and creatives I know in a tizzy.

Thanks to Gabs, who helped make sense of the contest rules and collate the MS, I was able to secure everything in two nested envelopes (entry form, resume, 4 hard copies of the MS double spaced and font size 12 and paginated just so, and an RTF soft copy on CD ROM). I'll drop it off at the Rockwell Branch of Fully Booked tomorrow.

As usual, I'm not very happy with my story - it feels weak and somehow not refined enough, but that's par for course with what I write. The exciting thing is the prize money (yes, I'm doing it for the money). My noble cause for wanting to win big is to pay for Sage's upcoming tuition fee, a truly stunning amount. I opted to rewrite portions of it today, guerilla-style, since I found some free time after lunch - then decided to go for broke and finish the thing. We'll see how it does.

Until then, I'll put it out of my mind - because worrying about something I cannot affect is just senseless. I'd rather watch American Idol (go Taylor Hicks! go Chris Daughtry! go Paris Bennett!) or even Everybody Hates Chris.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

birthday morning

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Sage woke up on the morning of her fourth birthday and found the loot her Mom and Dad got for her: a Disney Princess tent, an Ariel cartridge for her V-Smile and a mechanical puppy with a heartbreaking whine (the kind you adopt immediately or vehemently kick). She loved them all and played a little before we went out for her birthday breakfast at one of the doughnut places at the mall.

On the way there, a bit of our conversation:

ME: Sage, now that you're four years old, should I call you a little girl like before?

SAGE: No, Dad. You can call me "My Big Girl".

Four. Then Five. Then Ten. Then Thirteen. Then Eighteen. Then Twentyone. Then...


Monday, February 13, 2006

iron men, empty quests and birthday girls

reeking of geeking

One of the incredible discoveries we made while exploring birthday boy Jamie's pad over the weekend was his astounding stash of superhero figurines, actions figures and paraphernalia. When we spotted Iron Man's helmet, our repressed inner geeky fanboys took over for quite some time...

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Iron Marco looks on pensively (perhaps recovering from an alcoholic binge, Mr. Stark?)

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Iron Buddha thinks he's actually a mutant (or maybe he was before Wanda did her thing, who knows).

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Iron Dean realizes that button down long sleeves do not make the (Iron) Man...

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...while Iron Vin suffers an agonizing epiphany regarding head size vs. helmet size.

Thanks for the great party, Jamie!


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Yes, ComicQuest is indeed looking desolate. Vin used to sit in that huge grey chair and the gang would come in trickles or at full force as soon as night came. So to end the speculation, yes, he's fine.

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And he has his own digs. Woohoo!

birthday week

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Sage turns four tomorrow, on Valentine's Day. I know, I can't believe it myself. Like an endless recording, I must say "It all happens so fast". She's holding her party on Saturday with all her little friends (and all of Mommy and Daddy's friends - big and little).

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The after that is Nikki's birthday. I'm a little heartbroken because the gift I ordered for her from the US will not make it in time, so I'm scrounging around for a little something to tide her over. Maybe a new desk?

I just love these girls.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

salamanca: the road to publication

I took a day off from work today, after spending the night barely able to breathe. I had a low grade fever, nothing serious, but enough to give me difficulty in focusing my mind - even American Idol seemed utterly banal.

I did have a previously set meeting with my publisher, so I took a cab to Katipunan in the early afternoon, hoping it would be mercifully brief. In addition to the usual contents of my pocket, I carried tissue paper to wipe my nose with.

My publisher/editor, Maricor - one of the most incredibly nice people in the world - came with the book contract and the edited manuscript, both for my approval. I spent the better part of an hour trying not do suffocate in my own snot and going through my text, which had three kinds of corrections:

1. Replace "towards" with "toward". I favor "towards" and it really stunned me to see how often I used that word in "Salamanca". Maricor explained that it was simply a matter of American preference. I did not quibble and accepted the change.

2. Drop the hyphen in compound words. Apparently, the common style now is to write "newly born" instead of "newly-born". There are some exceptions to the rule, such as if the compound word is a noun, but I agreed and swiftly changed them all. As long as what I wanted to say is there, I do not begrudge the loss of my hyphens.

3. A two sentence dialogue exchange that left me wondering what I was trying to say in the first place. It was a simple thing to alter attribution.

And so the editing and approval phase is done. I gave comments on the cover and had the dog (Shiro) removed. "Salamanca" will have two versions: the high end cream paper version and the newprint Student Edition. We are scheduled to go to press by end of the month, and the launch is tentatively set for April 1st (I know, April Fool's Day, which underscores dramatically the fact that part of me is still in disbelief that this is even happening).

Contractwise, I assigned the Philippine rights to the publisher for five years. This means that after that span of time, I can publish the book myself or give it to another local publisher. I hold the international rights as well as the film rights (hope springs eternal, after all).

Ateneo will also review my first collection of short fiction. For this anthology, which will see print one way or the other I promise you, I'm selecting around 12 or so of my more recent stories (2002 upwards, because I cringe at my earlier work). I'm thinking of the following:

1. L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)
2. Terminos
3. How Rosang Taba won a Race
4. The Maiden and the Crocodile
5. Four-Letter Words
6. Saturdays with Fray Villalobos
7. Dragon Eyes -
8. Into the Morning
9. Rope
10. the Gaiman entry
11. Karnac or Graveltown or my Tin Soldier redux
12. The Middle Prince
13. Hollow Girl: A Romance

Sadly, I have no intention of collecting my plays (I have several, of which six won Palancas) in the near future, unless someone offers to do so. I prefer to work on and publish my fiction.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

reasons for absence

Yes, I've been remiss.

1. I've been busy with work. I'm juggling a number of projects, including art directing the mammoth one for my company, which involves multiple oculars in places like the Mall of Asia, among others. Things like client meetings take up a lot of my time and I'm almost always on multi-task mode. Even my usual guerilla tactics have been rendered inutile given my schedule.

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Onsite, my inner grammarian cannot help himself.

2. I was on location for a couple of days. Having a car again after all these years (in my sordid youth I used to drive a '77 Datsun) is exhilirating. We went up to Tagaytay Highlands for a shoot and I didn't mind so much. More on this later. But the neato thing was that my best friend drove for me (I'm so rusty that I'm concerned about driving longish-haul - that, and the fact that I'm practically blind in one eye), which is actually #3.

3. Vin is my houseguest. My best friend has taken the biggest step in his life and lives with me and mine while he put things in order for his next bold step. Nikki and I are happy to have him (and Sage is delighted that her ninong is wth us). It's important to me that he knows he can rely on me and not have to worry about certain things. It's been endless conversations and games (Acquire!) - which are great but preclude blogging.

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Vin, at the fireplace of the log cabin in Highlands.

4. I've been in shock. Sage's beloved nanny ask permission to leave our service in a couple of months to be a pastor's wife. Gah. If you think my recent episode with my stepdad was bad, this is much worse. Sage loves her and we love her and I have issues on trust, security and all that. Finding a kindhearted, intelligent and trustworthy nanny is no joke. It is my biggest stress in this no-so-fantastic beginning of the year (the Year of the Dog, for Monkeys like me, is not terribly opportune).

5. The family has been under the weather. Poor Sage is 50% snot, hacking and coughing like her insides want out. Nikki, buried under a ton of work, struggles to unclog her nose. As for me, well, it feels like the entire right hemisphere of my brain is goo and my bones ache. I do get sick once a year, around midyear when the dry season gives way to the wet, and that's pretty much scheduled. This isn't. Upsetting.

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Pensive? Nah. just tired.

6. I've been trying to write. Despite everything, the need to write wins out. There's the Gaiman contest at Fully Booked with a deadline this Feb. Soft copies of the Palanca forms should be available by now. There are two mags I'm subbing to, plus two antho contributions, an intimidating paper for Ian (that I'm not 100% convinced is within my power to write) and an essay for PCIJ. So I try to eke out some time in the early mornings, but will soon need to block out an entire day or two with no distractions to get things done.

7. I've been coordinating with my publisher. I have a couple of more meetings before Salamanca comes to paper-life - approving the final covers, blurbs and such and planning the marketing and other related events. I haven't read my novel for some time and I hope to have a fresh perspective when I need to, in the context of absolute final changes for the first edition (actually I'm itching to cut and rewrite but am controlling myself).

8. I've been in a thinking mood. I've been thinking a lot about time and the past and how things change. I've a big fan of change, usually being an instigator, but there are certain changes that are just so heartwrenching. But I'm really not one to dwell on these things. It's more like I need to recognize that I'm sad but will move on, as usual. My thought life is different from my writing life. Sometimes there's an overlap, but when truly big thoughts come I do not write. I think quietly. Sometimes I need to articulate my ideas in conversation, bouncing things around to solidify a notion. But most of the time I prefer to think on my own, in silence, and I get irked by people who want to talk to me. Sadly, given the nature of my job, my relationships and my personality, it is inevitable.

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Tatlong Kalbo: Andrew, Vin and the elusive Dino Yu.

9. We've been planning Sage's birthday party. She turns 4 on the 14th but will have her party on the 18th (and just a day before Nikki's birthday). Again, I'm stunned at how fast time flies and the quality of the conversations I have with my daughter (a Sage post is long overdue, don't you think?). Anyway, here's Sage's 'want list' for her birthday, courtesy of her mom.

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Even Sage confesses that she has too many Barbies.

10. I've been watching films and Div-x episodes of TV shows. I found the place near Camp Crame where the some of the ex-Virra Mall pirates settled (they sell Malaysian copies as opposed to Pirate Billy and the Metrowalk crew who sell Quiapo burned copies). It was a surreal experience - a bit scary because I thought I was going to robbed and killed - and I'll write about it soon. I got over 20 discs, including Brokeback Mountain (which I really really really really wanted to like but ultimately found lacking in the scripting but excellent in everything else), Munich, Tritan + Isolde, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Proof, and a lot more. From downloaded TV, I have eps of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Everybody Hates Chris, Prison Break and Alias.

Anyway, I hope to be back to regular blogging tomorrow.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Parents possess the greatest capacity to inflict pain upon their children.

Yesterday, I visited my old home and got victimized by a whole lot of unnecessary and seemingly ineluctable emotional pain, courtesy of my step-father. He is a good man, a moral and ethical person, an excellent provider for his family, and I do not attribute any of his acts to malice, but there are things he says and does that are hurtful, plain and simple. His words, propelled by the issuance of his loud and unassailable conviction that he is always correct, cut deep.

The nature of our relationship has hardly varied from the first time I met him. I suppose it was my own fault thinking that time would mellow even the harshest of voices. The thing is, even as I finally broke down away from his presence after all was said and done (seeing me, a 37-year old man helplessly in tears, after affecting an air of insouciance throughout the entire episode, is not a pretty sight), I could not bring myself to hate him. It didn't (and still doesn't) make sense and in fact goes against the entire grain of my character.

Despite my age, my personal and business achievements, my writing, despite everything I've done, I will always be as he sees me, no doubt as a 12-year old son of another man, a popinjay without anything to show. I can never be good enough, never be a "real" person. In his eyes, I am already locked in stasis, frozen in time, stultified, bereft of the benefit of growth or experience or maturity.

We are forever children in the eyes of our parents. But can we not, without surrending the nature of the parent-child relationship, meet as adults and at least talk as intelligent human beings? Can we not put aside, even for the span of a single 5-minute conversation, the roles that nature, circumstance or choice have assigned us? Must every word, every nuance, every action be interpreted through the lens of the superior/inferior dichotomy? Must parents continually remind their adult children that their parental authority trumps any other conceivable aspect of interpersonal relationships? Must ad hominem-style arguments be forever part of the parent/child rhetoric?

My step-dad is over 70 years old. I am not in this world to change him or his worldview. I am not even his bloodkin as I am constantly reminded. My assigned response is to just shut up, be vilipended, and take it all without a single word of defiance, like I did yesterday and in the previous years. I did not talk back because of deeply ingrained respect. My role in the drama is writ in stone.

When I was young, I longed for a father.

Now that I am much older, I must confess that I still do.

The nature of paternal relationships is ever complex. It is tempting to label certain behavior "right" or "wrong", to pass judgment on things said and done, to crumble in the face of relentless haragues or to stand and fight even though the battle is pointless and can never be truly resolved to anyone's satisfaction. In the end, what matters? After the flurry of words, what happens?

We pick up and move on and repeat the cycle.

After everything, when I got back home, I hugged my daughter and told her how much I loved her. The everpresent fear I have concerning fatherhood is this: that given my paternal role models, I will end up tormenting Sage in the years to come. That I will be like them.

I can only hope, given my determination and force of will, that I do not take the same path my fathers did.

That I do not learn by their examples and break the cycle imbued in my paternal spirit.