Sunday, September 28, 2003


I'm working actively (which means I pay more attention to these as compared to all my other bastard paper children) on two plays in English:

Dear Miss Aubrey Miles

The Butterfly Emporium

Both have managed to retain my interest, which is always a good sign.

The thing with writing my plays is that I need to hear the dialogue in my head. Sometimes, in the middle of something else, dialogue comes and I need to block off everything else. There are moments of clarity, when my mind combines words and phrases into a provocative exchange or monologue. Sometimes it just a single word or phrase, like "I love you, Aubrey".
lost days

For some reason, Blogger refused to cooperate and I was denied my usual blah blah.

And, of course, many things happened for the course of several days.

bird business

Business-wise, things look positive, and though I wouldn't go as far as to trust projections (I'm ultra-conservative that way), I cannot deny the possibility that everything can go as envisioned. It's also been a busy week, with me running around despite my cold and fever (thank goodness for the oasis that is Vin). Tomorrow begins an even busier week, with the three-day shoot for the telco, the creation of materials for one of our big apparel clients, and other things. I'm not complaining about the work (I'm delighted to have a lot, in fact), but I would love to have just even a couple of days off doing absolutely nothing.

studio business

I'm keeping my toes crossed for another pair of deals for me and Nikki as writers and creators.

One of them involves the production of a lot of somethings on a long-term basis for the web; the other, for television, involves writing an entire season of episodes based on a charming premise.

There exists the other TV project from Singapore, so we'll see how that one works out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

sagewatch: words and shmear

"Mo-mi'" (accented on the second syllable, Italian-fashion) - Sage's new catch-all for every human being, except herself - "Shajze".

"Yucky" - for things that are unpleasant, though she also sometimes calls her yaya this way (which is a little too forward, if you ask me).

Plus a lot of other words and phrases I am not yet equipped to understand. Thank goodness my daughter is patient with me.

Before I left home this morning, Nikki and Sage were having poppy seed bagels with salmon shmear (thanks to Sage's Ninong Vin). Nikki showed her how good it smelled, so Sage leaned over and put her entire nose into the shmear. She then sat up and laughed her Sagey laugh, knowing how silly and good life was.

Today, I had meetings with three different clients.

All three remarked that I seemed to be losing weight. One of them I hadn't seen for a couple of months, another I saw last week, the last one I saw yesterday.

Normally, I'd be flattered because I do feel I've been sliding into unhealthy fattiness, but it seems that the amoeba overlords have really had an effect.

Or it my growing hair - the roundness of my head is now given shape, creating the illusion of the svelte Dean.

Writing a story with gravity does not necessarily mean having a heart-rendingly tragic story.

I am aware that there are those writers who would rather strip the skin from their inner thighs and eat it raw than write something other than the happy endings they cannot do without - as if to even consider anything else was an affront to their principles.

Gravity does not necessarily mean tears, trauma or darkness - all the seeming hallmarks of unhappy endings.

All gravity means is this: being able to write stories that speak truth, that echo life and what it is to be human. Gravity means creating characters that may suffer or laugh, win or lose, find true love or die in an accident - the important thing is that the characters "live" and "breathe", and that the story rings true.

A comedy can have gravity (like the best of Neil Simon's plays) just as valid as a tragedy or drama. Remember that at the start of things, comedy and tragedy were the basic forms of story. Laugh or cry, but laugh for a reason and cry for a release. And along the way, with either form, things like pride and hubris and family and love and friendship and loss and curses and traditions and adventure and war were written about, along with errant emotions, noble quests, fearsome monsters, magic and miracles.

For someone to think that when I describe a story as having gravity that all I mean is it is sad is quite superficial.

Gravity is important.

But for a story to have gravity, it must first be believed in, planned for, adhered to and written well - in such a way that the story is not about gravity for the sake of having gravity.

There are writers of every stripe, of course. In terms of style, agenda and levels of gravity, we are all different.

It is this variety of perspective that Vin and I want to capture in Project One Hundred - but always, always with an eye towards developing gravity of quality.

Why? Why make it "serious"?

Because apart from making comics that are our own (for whatever reason: because "I want to", because it's fun, because of money, because "I can", because "I love my character"), it is our collective responsibility to create stories with teeth, in the medium we love. Seriously.

We need to push grafiction as a means to tell stories about us and our experiences as people, as Filipinos, whether fictionalized or adapted from reality.

This medium is our own and we need to push the envelope, live on the edge of things, and dare to be more. Dare to be taken seriously.

And that requires rather specific gravity.
peanut gutter

Of course, tongues are wagging over the latest drama from Kris Aquino and Joey Marquez - in fact, it's on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (yes, more important than all the politics and crises and economic downturns).

Kris Aquino, popular TV host and daughter of ex-President Cory Aquino and National Hero Ninoy Aquino, went to police station and filed a complaint against Joey Marquez, mayor of Paranaque.

The blotter report contained interesting allegations: physical violence, a gun aimed at Kris' head, much drama, more than the chinovelas people are so devoted to.

So much more satisfying than reality TV.

And begging to be a play.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


That's a Filipino adjective meaning "runny nose".

Often in my life, I am turned off by uhugin children running around while their snot attempts to break away into filmy strands and filaments.

Tonight and today, I am that child (though I'm not running around). Yes, my body has found another way to dehydrate me.

At least today, with meetings cancelled, I need not be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Not much writing though. I finished my script for Project One Hundred and edited several others, but my attempts at working on existing plays and stories are dismal failures. Not even a wee vignette today.

Well, at least it gives me an excuse for an Alias marathon (got the season 1 episodes on a tip from MAD). Yes, with a pot of mint tea.

Monday, September 22, 2003

no megilla today

Gah. Hard to think with runny nose and bad headache. But still, had to be clever for client today.

Gah. Perils of the service industry.

Head spinning. Whee.


Try this. It guessed "kestrel".

hair today

My head is starting to have a shape again, as my hair continues to grow. Moving away from the pedestrian shaved head look, the thing I miss most is the wind on my scalp.

Must fight urge to shave everything off.


Some days, I want to be a luftmensch and just sit around, smoke, write painfully exquisite fiction, have sex, eat, drink and let the whole shebang take care of itself.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

project one hundred

Scripts are starting to come in, and I've made comments on those that needed them.

My editorial style is to encourage the voice of the author in the context of the premise of the project - not to write it myself. I'm just glad that Vin and I are fortunate to work with good writers.

One of the goals of Project One Hundred is to establish a process of sorts for similar endeavors, with a schedule for idea conceptualization, pitch, deliberation, scripting, critique and revision (on the writing side); with a parallel approach to the art side of things. Hopefully, this will result in a tighter and more cohesive end product, brimming with focused creativity. We're also pushing the book design up a notch, throwing in a number of pages other than the requisite story pages for the purpose of letting book breathe (and feel like a book as opposed to run-of-the-mill grafiction).

Apart from the editorial role (which I share with Vin), I'm wrapping up my own script, complete with its own challenges and conceit.

Great fun.


The gang finally got to meet Camy, El's paramour, and we decided to break tradition and hang out at Rockwell, with music from Monk's Dream.

There the siren call of Fully Booked was too powerful to ignore and I found myself lusting after several books I did not expect to find on a Saturday night: two volumes of Kochalka's Monkey Vs. Robot, Bendis' Jinx, a new volume of Eightball, American Splendor and a plethora of other goodies. Ultimately, I made my willpower check and left without spending a cent.

The game for the evening was Thingamajig, a word definition game which eleven of us played. Camy won two of initial four games, twarthing the competive ones among us (me included). I also realized that my friends were not as sophisticated as I imagined (who doesn't know the ingredients of a Wafu Salad?) and thus paid the price. Grrr.

song for a new generation

As the wee hours of the morning arrived, some of us older people left for home, while some of us went out with the youngbloods to go singing.

From what I heard from Nikki (who came home at the crack of dawn), it was a riot.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

two hours

That's how long I spent overseeing professionals attach clear stickers to the resto client's glass walls.

It's very exacting work, demanding patience and perfect measurements. One mistake and you're fucked.

In that span of time, I renewed my acquaintance with three newspapers.

one hour

I managed to juggle this amount of time so I could go home and watch the first episode of Survivor: Pearl Islands with Nikki. What can I say? I'm an addict.

This version had an interesting start. The survivors were told they were going for a photo op, then were told that the game had begun. They jumped into the sea wearing only what they had on - an Armani suit, a tight sun dress with no bra, high heels.

Wonderful, wonderful. The voyeur in me is sated for now.

one year

That's how much Charles added to his age, treating everyone present to more pizza than we could handle (let me just say that there is a reason why it's called Ultimate Cheese), capped by coffee at one of the Starbucks in the area.

More vignettes, table talk and Tazo: The Reincarnation of Tea, before it was home to rest.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

whirligig: pictorial

My day began with an early morning pictorial at a hotel.

I got in touch with my inner fashion stylist and selected the oufits my image model would wear, then Marc and I proceeded to do our art direction thing, talking to the model, getting her personality out in the open to be captured and rendered into pixels by digital wizardry - all in the context of the campaign, in the quest for the perfect accompanying image. Innumerable shots achieving a flow, a cadence of pose-shift-pose, and my instructions flying across the room, moving my model around with words.

Give me a smile, show me your teeth, cradle the bottle between your breasts, kiss the bottle, look naughty, look nice, laugh for me, stuff like that.

(What's interesting is how much my skill sets have grown - but you need to grow with the business, or more properly, as the business grows, you need to grow with it.)

I was so mesmerized by the model, I want to use her image for everything.

Would it surprise you to know that she's older than I am?

oasis: worthy reads

I had an hour between the pictorial and the next job, so I decided to grab a bite at Megamall and drop by Comicquest for a quick glance at the new comics that arrived last night.

Suprise, surprise, Vin was there, also in-between here and there and we managed to chat a bit about Project One Hundred, before he showed me books that I could not resist.

Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine.

Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman and a plethora of artists.

Boneyard Vol.2 by Richard Moore

All trades, with the Gaiman book in hardcover. All lovely,all mine.

Collecting only trades is like feast or famine. There are weeks where there are no good ones, and my wallet maintains its lissome shape. And then, and then come weeks like this one, when I need to consider selling home and family to pay for my mind and eyes' desire.

And yet there is no question about owning these, rather than borrowing.

Some books, you can borrow, and you can live with the thought that they need to be returned to their owners. They are not yours, like Jeff Noon's Pixel Juice (which I am only too glad to return, distressed by his conscious wordplay for its own sake).

Some books you simply must have. It is not about needing or wanting.

It is about necessity.

whirligig: telco projects 1, 2 and 3

Three different things.

A massive pictorial over the course of three days, 25 models on the second day alone, more set-ups than I've seen in a shot list.

Final presentation of a site that took 8 months to birth, fearing the almost-quixotic change orders.

Blah-blah on fever pitch against the usual worthy competition.

whirligig: this and that

And of course another resto client calls and needs to meet (Is tomorrow all right? Great! What time? 9AM? Um, sure!)

Of course the mall client calls and wants to consult (Is tomorrow all right? Great! What time? 10AM? Okay!)

Of course there are calls from the office, from my partner at the other resto client, from the telco people I just left.

Schedules, timetables, deliverables, deadlines, rationales, designs, materials, suppliers.

Tired. I'm tired. Brain mush, saliva dry, amoeba waiting pensively for the opportunity to strike.


I must see the results of Sage's visit to the doctor.

I must finish my script for Project One Hundred.

I must read my new stuff.

And I must have dinner.

Now now now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

stomach time

Normally, the built-in timer kicks in; my body tells me it's time to eat, to get some sustenance, something to chew, something to drink.

Sometimes, I ignore the insistent call until it becomes a dull ache.

Sometimes, an idea needs to be nourished more than the body.

Sometimes, a cigarette is enough.

There are times though that I eat for the sheer pleasure of it, unbound by time or necessity. That's when the juxtaposed allure of color, plating and scent overwhelm a mind that has nothing of import to mull over.

Once in a while, I simply forget to eat, distracted by this or that, and I belatedly realize that I am weak with hunger. That’s when the early morning refrigerator raids occur, and I devour the foil-covered mystery.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

project one hundred:
completing the roster

With superduper Gerry Alanguilan onboard, every creator is accounted for.

Man, I'm really stoked up. I've always wanted to work on a project with Gerry (and you still owe me a killer sketch, my friend!), and now the opportunity has materialized.

You must understand that beneath the malagkit tinggin of my blog picture is someone who loves comics with a passion. Being in a project with people who so obviously feel the same way is nirvana.

I feel like joining Buddha in a corner, where we can whimper like fanboys.
manga, schmanga

Which, in essence, is my reaction to the brain-sapping interview this morning. Nikki and I met for almost two hours with the gentlemen from the Japan Foundation.

Kakinuma: It's your responsibility to make manga grow in the Philippines, Dean-san.

(Dean looks on in stunned silence.)

Dean: Ai-yah!
speaking of food

Our resto client is very happy with all the stuff we created.

I was there yesterday and treated myself to a special infusion of calamansi, berries and wild honey.

Which put my amoeba overlords into sugar shock.

mistaken identity

Despite our insistence that:

1. Nikki is a writer, not an illustrator; and

2. I am neither an illustrator nor a woman

the Japan Foundation people still insisted on a meeting regarding Filipino Comics, with something to do with an exhibit on Female Cartoonists in Asia.

Never one to shirk from possibilities, I thought we'd go and accept the invitation this morning (hey, if somehow an all-expense trip to Japan is offered, we'll look into it, even though my memories of Japan trigger flashbacks of expenses beyond reason).

Apparently, they liked what work they'e seen - which is really odd because never did either of us claim to be anything other than writers (or editors).

So we'll see. Anyway, lunch in the Makati sounds good.

Monday, September 15, 2003

peanut gutter

poor diana

Seiko Films producer Robbie Tan yanked Diana Zubiri (my ex-crush) out from the outfit's entry in the Metro Manila Filmfest - because "she was no longer up to the higher level that the movie had become", after Dina Bonnevie joined the cast.

Oh, my bimbo. Paano ka na?

speaking of crush

Eight people were hurt in the stampede during "The Event", that much-hyped concert with two members of Taiwanese F4. Apparently, people had been waiting all day and finally pushed the gates open when waiting (in the rain) became intolerable.

And if I was one of the people who shelled out P10,000 for a ticket, I'd get pissed off too - considering that only one entrance was used for everyone.

Some kids, unable to get tickets for the sold-out event, rented rooms at the Shangri-la Plaza in a vain attempt to see the concert. Too bad they had no control over which room they were assigned.

my beloved sexbombs

I was talking to the owner of Alpha Records about Rochelle and Jopay and he mentioned that he was in the process of completing the Christmas Album of Sexbomb.

Intrigued, I asked what it sounded like.

He smiled, called for a CD and we listened to the Christmas melange of "The Spaghetti Song" and Yuletide standards - what can I say? It sounded infectious.

All I can imagine was Sage doing her ocho-ocho dance thing.

When I tried to buy his master copy, the man smiled and told me he'd give a copy a week before release.

Part of my weekly maintenance involves going to the barber’s for my usual shave or haircut. I have “my” barber, Raul, who is devoted to navigating the peculiar twists and turns of my facial hair. At the end of the process, I get a little massage to soothe the shoulder muscles.

Sounds just right, right?

But my barbershop is actually a salon in disguise, and all the manly men have taken to services once reserved for women like ducks to water.

In the barbershop where every single barber is straight (in contrast to the reverse in salons), we are offered manicures, pedicures, hot oil, eyebrow rethreading, foot spa, honey facials, whitehead removal, pore cleansing, a variety of massages and more.

Added to the roster of the macho Brut aftershaves are brands like L’Oreal, Body Shoppe, and other similar names. We have stuff for our face, our neck, our hair, our eyes, our ears, our nose, our hands, our feet and the rest of our body.

So “going to the barber’s” can no longer be interpreted as a quickie thing.

Once a month, for example, I get the royal treatment, and allow myself to breathe, in the company of men young and old who, like me, have wives and daughters waiting patiently on the sofa in the lobby – while our nails are buffed, our beards shorn and our pores rejuvenated.

Some of the women even prefer our barbershop. It’s no-nonsense, service-oriented, clean and bright.

When did this change happen? When did vanity become justified?

I really don’t know. But sometime in the recent past, the Filipino men got used to things like buying mineral water in bottles, drinking expensive coffee blends, going to the spa, and expecting more from their father’s barber.

more reading

I’m delighted that Cyan Abad-Jugo sent me a copy of Behind The Old Aparador, the story that won her her second Palanca Award this year. That, and some lovely pictures of us at the awards (made lovely because of Nikki, of course).

Hai’s winning stories were also great reads. I especially liked this year’s winning piece, The Greediest of Sultans and the Whitest of Clouds.

One of the great things about being directly in touch with writers is being able to read their work, before publication or whatever.

It is one of the best ways to learn skill, technique and feel the Zeitgeist pulse of things.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


Buddha, using the Osho Zen Tarot deck, gave me a reading which was, to an extent, truthful inasmuch as I know myself.

I am advocate of change. Always have been, always will be. I'm a Lord of Chaos in the clothing of Order - that's as esoteric as I'll get with you, right now.

I don't believe in haruspexes or anything that divines the future, but I do believe in tools that act as mirrors for self-awareness.

But of course that didn't stop me from asking two questions about what happens next.

And the answers, naturally, made me think.

Which is what a reading should do.

Epiphany of Beauty: I used to do readings myself with my Elemental Tarot (before that, with my Rider-Waite Tarot), and I must say that I found the Osho deck much more beautiful to look at.
a reading circle

Two things made my weekend.

First was Carl's incredible lecture for the Comic Collective on Panel and Page Composition. Nikki and I had our heads blown away by the epiphanies triggered by Carl's thoughts - effects that will not be fugacious in the least, believe me.

Second was the gang reading The Onan Circle into the wee hours of the morning. I truly appreciated the reactions to the play and had great fun watching people get into it, in all the right places. Buddha's"Here I come to save the day with porn" scene was especially fun.

Thanks to everyone.

when i read my plays aloud

First, when I write a long bit and want to see if the rhythm, cadence or sound is true. The quality of being verisimilar matters a lot.

Second, after I finish a draft. Normally, this triggers more editing, writing or polishing.

Third, I cajole Nikki into reading with me when I have what I consider to be a "finished" manuscript. We split all the characters between us. Usually at this stage, any changes fall into the realms of spelling, grammar or attribution.

Fourth, when I manage to coerce friends to read with me. This is important because I get to hear the dialogue in voices other than my own or Nikki's.

Of course, watching it staged does not entail me reading. Instead, I become just another member of the audience. At that point, it is all out of my hands.

feeling good


Because Lan Medina (the first Filipino to win an Eisner Award) and Neil Yu (Superman: Birthright, High Roads, Wolverine, X-Men) will be involved in Project: One Hundred.

Just need to confirm one or two other creators this week with Happy Land co-editor Vin and we're set.

Additionally, the quality of the pitch material by the invitees is pretty good.

So all this makes me a happy editor.

Up next, scripts.

Friday, September 12, 2003

sin by the kilo

Carl, Nikki and I had a long lunch at Dampa - if you remember, it's that place where you order fresh seafood or whatnot by the kilo and have it cooked any which way you want.

So after gorging ourselves on prawns, crabs, mussles, fish and other goodies, we were all quite happy and sated and sleepy.

As I grow older, the urge to take a siesta becomes more interesting.

bitch slap

I guess it had to happen sometime.

Sage had her first "incident" at the playroom.

She was sitting at one end of her favorite alligator seesaw. Nicole, a 3 year-old girl, came over, seemingly wanting to play either with Sage or with the bright orange seesaw.

Sage ignored her, but it seemed that Nicole was insistent .

So Sage slapped her.

And Nicole slapped her back.

And Sage slapped her again.

And Nicole slapped her back.

And this went on with the yayas of both girls in shock until Nicole cried and ran away, defeated by my 19 month-old.

And of course Sage was wrong to start a fight.

Of course she was.

But when Nikki and I were telling her that it's wrong to start fights, we both had to suppress inappropriate grins of pride at our little fighter of a daughter.

The lesson, I guess is: Don't mess with someone who is sitting quietly on a bright orange alligator seesaw.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

vignette: october

She is like coming across an unfamiliar word.

I recognize the letters, can guess at the sense of it, but know absolutely nothing of its meaning. My intelligence, my vanity, wrestles with the notion of staring at something whose significance I should be aware of, context or no context. I am the one reduced to conjecture, grasping at straws but accepting the word anyway, trusting in my powers of deductive reasoning.

Because when I first saw her, my brain had a hard-on.

“Let’s have coffee.” Her lips move, lip liner glistening, a somber shade of pink furious in its exactness. Her eyes lighting up, Christmastime in October, when I give what must be an idiotic smile and she grabs at my arm with a precision that adds to my body’s vocabulary of unusual intimacies.

“It’s raining.” I state the obvious, pointing out the dull sheen of droplets that chose to fall then and there (me: rain, rain, go away, come again another day). We stop at the edge of the promenade, her face forming a question for a brief moment before she punctures my gravity with a statement so pure, so true, so utterly banal that the sensible part of me can only shrug in response.

“So what?” So what, indeed.

And she’s pulling at me again and we are running, running through the rain, breaking the invisible barrier of propriety that separates children from the dourness of adulthood. When she laughs, I cannot help but laugh as well; it is infectious, impossible to contradict, impossible to deny – and I’m wet and dazed and shuddering in a state which my erect mind tells me can only be love.

It goes against my nature to be passionate, but when blood is pumping, I get fucking crazy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


I want to say thank you to those who've downloaded a play or two, read them and wrote me (especially Kristine Fonacier, MTV INK top bazonga).

Writing is mostly solitary but the end goal is, of course, for other people to read what I've written.

It's especially encouraging to me when comments are made, questions asked and conversations started.

It's like watching my child run around, interacting with other people.

For those who asked:

Yes, I do hope The Onan Circle will be produced in the next few months.

Yes, there is a longer version of the play (full-length) and a one-act derivative in poorly written Filipino.

Yes, the characters are named after close friends and associates but the resemblances end there (the thought of one of them grabbing his crotch with a half-smile and saying "I'm hard" is invention).

The reason almost all my plays are minimalist (in terms of staging) is because when I was an actor, we never had the budget for anything, so we made do with what was available. Apparently, that principle is deeply imbedded in my consciousness so I've become very friendly to shoe-string productions (collegiate especially). Give me a bed, a box and a curtain and we're set.

And why do I write about sex? Because, apart from the standard "gender issues are important" rhetoric, I like that fact that it provokes thought (besides, in what other context can I have a text that says "fuckstick" that wins a national literary award?). It is also a loooong reaction against formalist themes - the notion that literature is only about notions of beauty, and that certain matters are too crass or crude. For me, the human experience encompasses the entire spectrum - from our most base carnalities to our heavenward loftiness. Sex is part of that. And I'm glad the judges agree.

Again, thanks for the letters.

the short story in english, today

From Butch Dalisay:

"Let me run through some fundamental observations about the contemporary Filipino short story in English:

First, in terms of form, it derives its inspirations from a whole new set of writers and ways of writing—still predominantly Western, but no longer so stolidly canonical.

Second, in terms of content, the new stories deal largely with the bewildering variety of our unfolding experience--OCWs and the Filipino diaspora, the war in the countryside, the alienation of the middle class, the Chinese and the Others among us, our connections to the supernatural and to the afterlife, the tangled web of our personal relationships, including our sexuality, and Artmaking itself as subject.

Third, in terms of treatment or approach, this generation is an eclectic lot; while realism remains a strong and dominant strain, many new stories have assumed the forms and mindsets of magic realism, metafiction, minimalism, science fiction, parable, comic book, gothic horror, and postmodern parody.

Fourth, in terms of language, our young writers today use English unapologetically, refusing to be burdened by colonial guilt; quite a number of them write bilingually. Indeed we are witnessing the continuing de-Americanization of English, its appropriation by Filipino writers for Filipino subjects and purposes."

You know what's great about his analysis?

It's the fact that the so-called mainstream of serious literature has opened up to embrace other modes and mindsets, including comic book, magic realism and metafiction (although I have massive quibbles with the comic book as literature: with the exception of a regular handful like Maus or Jimmy Corrigan, it is simply not the case - which is why we need to work as hard as we can).

It's writing in-between forms, because our generation is no longer as bound to conventions as those who wrote before us were.

We can write in-between, under, over, beside and within cracks, borrowing tropes, gutting styles, ravaging approaches as our texts demand.

For a generation that has nothing big (no common experience like Martial Law or WWII) to write about...

... there exists everything else to write about.
sorry, sylvia:
the perils of sudden reading urges

It is distressing to suddenly be overtaken by the "My God, I need to read something right now even if it is 4AM" syndrome, then reach out for the closest book, turn on the bedlight and discover that what you have in your hands is The Bell Jar by Sylvia "Depressed? No, but do close the door after I stick my head in the oven" Plath.

Or Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

In the face of such choices, I retreated to troubled sleep.

One night, feeling excessively dehydrated, I made something to drink, groped for one of the books from the bookshelf, and found myself eye-to-text with Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (which I liked years ago but now has the effect of rendering me insensate).

Sometimes, "serious" literature makes me grimace - I need to be in the right frame of mind. And at 4AM, with my brain half-asleep, I'm better served with a feature article about whichever titty girl is being promoted in the latest FHM.
change again

MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando has done it again, altering the routes within the Oritgas Center, creating confusion and sowing discord among the motorists, pedestrians, taxi riders and everyone who has to implement the new scheme.

Naturally, the argument is to "give it a chance".

But really, this latest incarnation is just too aggravating for words.

I understand that he is beloved in Marikina (where his wife is mayor) and that he has done wonderful things elsewhere, but please please please just leave us alone, Mr. Wonderful.

Or better yet, consult with the people whose everyday lives you affect.

I tell you, running for Vice President next year may not be the best idea.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003


I spoke to a friend about my new dream, small and stunningly large at the same time.

It seems enormous but if we pull it off, then there will something that can continue, almost indefinitely, for as long as there are stories to tell, storytellers to tell them and, well, funding.

At the start of things, we need to self-publish. I need to be able to create something that I can use as proof of concept. But thereafter, for the thing to perpetuate, we need to seek some entity’s pockets – government, NGO, private organization, corporation, publishing house, university, whatever.

Ultimately, it is about expanding the notion of what comics (grafiction, sequential art, komiks, call it what you want) can do.

It is about imbuing the form with a sense of gravity, of place, of position – which does not run contrary to its spirit of freeform expression.

It is about creating a showcase of talent, for writing and artwork, for those for whom publishing (or self-publishing) is an absurd undertaking.

It is about encouraging others like us to create stories.

It is about aspiring to be toe-to-toe with the rest of Philippine literature.

It is about ceasing to cower in the dark corners, poisoned by the implications of inferiority, childishness and other simplistic vagaries.

It’s about expanding the responsibility of the grafictionists, challenging them to tell well-written stories. Stories that bite.

It’s about love and hope. Love for the form and the stories that can and should be told. Hope that by reading, other people will fall in love with the form, like we did.

And always, always, it is about the tale and its workings, whether serious or light, long or short, agenda-drive or politically-bereft.

In this day and age, what is the relevance of comics? What is a comics author? Are comics literature? Does it matter?

We exist in a specific time with its own context and reality. We need to make sense of things and provide answers that make sense – to us and to our readers.

Otherwise, those that come after us will look at the rubble of what we thought we had and sadly shake their heads at the opportunities their elders squandered.

So I'm dreaming and taking the first small steps.

We'll see.

Monday, September 08, 2003

someone who writes a book about ABCs is an abecedarian

But what do you call a book about ABC itself?

Hell if I know. And I'm too blatted to even think how to look. And I thought it was amphygory.

But I need to know, so if you know, let me know.

abandonne pour paris

Windows ME refused it, but XP adored it, so Nikki's new game, Restaurant Empire, is installed in Nikki and Sage's computer at home.

My wife has abandoned me for the hectic world of recipes, cook-offs, rude staff, Dean-like customers and tortuous decor decisions (17th c. tapestry or sawed-off buick?).

Someday... it will be my turn.

personal misprision

Once in a while, in the midst of writing something, I notice that I'm writing in a certain manner, using certain techniques, or even the same wording.

It upsets me.

Sometimes, if its not important, I let it go and just finish the thing with every intent of polishing, cutting and editing (yes, sometimes in that order) later.

But once in a while, it really irks me and I go cold.

I delete the damn thing.

Because you cannot grow if you keep doing the same thing in the same way.

It gets tired.

I get tired.

It's the same thing I impose on people I like to read. After a certain number of texts, if the author is still doing the same-old same-old, that means a plateau has been reached, a comfort zone secured and growth stunted.

Oddly, to me this notion of misprision does not apply to agenda or theme. You can write about love or revolution or karma until you turn blue, but find different ways to do so.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

fighting destiny

I'm two hairs away from ripping the cable out of the wall. The absurd length of time it takes to surf (if there is a connection at all) is more than irksome.

And here I am in an internet cafe - paying extra.


project: one hundred

Mike and I were delighted that both El and Andrew signed on the project, after Arnold and Cynthia's confirmation, and Hai's agreement earlier at the Palanca Awards.

With just one more creator to hear from, we are this close to completing the roster we want.

And let me tell you, it's going to be something different.

"small fry" and buddha

Over coffee, we met with the youngest author invitees to discuss the new project.

I gave El one of the hardest assignments because, well, I think only he can do it (the research, the writing, the art and the imbued "sensibility" required by the thing). That, and he has no choice. Bwahahaha.

Andrew, whose "Oh, here I go watch me jump into the river of unremitting slipstream interstitial postmodern mind remixes" thing I enjoyed, gets to do the important tail end of the project. And again, he has no choice. Bhawawawa.

Seriously though, I had these two in mind from the start (with El as my "Heh-heh, I can throw anything at him" guy).

So cross all fingers and toes.

surprised by wolves

Charles did it again.

Waiting for me at Comicquest was a hardcover copy of Neil Gaiman's "The Wolves in the Walls".

If he does this again, I will shave his head.

(But, of course, thanks, Charles.)

I read it to Sage and she laughed at Dave McKean's scary wolves.


Okay, now I have to print out 2 copies of each of my 5 plays as well as give digital copies to UP Press as part of the submission requirements.

If things are approved, then I wait until the 30 or so books lined up in front of me are published or rejected, then hope for the best.

So will I have an externally-published book by next year? Unlikely. If ever, probably the year after. Still, considering I didn't even think of collecting these things, it's a good deal.

after 1994, you vanished off the face of the earth

Yes, yes I did, didn't I?


Some choices you cannot unmake and besides, I do not believe in regret.

The important thing is, I'm "back", in whatever nebulous context "back" works in.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

vignette: poor, poor luisa

Luisa was a sad little girl, sadder than you can imagine.

She cried every night because she missed her mother. She cried every night because she missed her father.

Luisa was an orphan. She felt she was all alone in the world.

Poor, poor Luisa.

Luisa lived with her old, old Aunt, who was older than you can imagine. But she loved Luisa more than you can believe.

“I know you miss your parents, Luisa,” the old Aunt said. “But you are not alone, I love you.”

And Luisa would stop crying and make a little half-smile at her old, old Aunt. But deep in her heart, she still felt miserable and alone.

Poor, poor Luisa.

One day, her old, old Aunt told Luisa she had to go to city for a few weeks.

“I promise to be back soon,” the old Aunt told her. “In the meantime, your Aunt Antonia will stay here with you in my house, make sure that you’re fed and bathed, and watch your favorite TV shows with you.”

“Oh,” cried Luisa, “But I do not even know Aunt Antonia!”

“You will get to know her,” her old Aunt said as she embraced Luisa tighter than you can imagine. Then she said goodbye.

But deep in her heart, Luisa was afraid.

What if she’s mean to me? What if she’s unkind?

Poor, poor Luisa.

When Aunt Antonia rang the doorbell, Luisa didn’t want to answer it.

Maybe if she’ll just go away, poor Luisa thought to herself.

But the doorbell kept ringing and ringing and ringing. Luisa, who was well-mannered, finally opened the door.

Standing outside was a woman, but the thinnest, ugliest, hairiest woman you can imagine.

She was so thin that her clothes were clipped to her shoulders with paperclips. She was so ugly that the warts on her nose had pimples growing on them. She was so hairy that her black, black hair trailed all the way back into the street – it was longer than you can believe.

“Hello, Luisa,” Aunt Antonia said in a voice that sounded like a cat scratching against a blackboard.

“Hello, Aunt Antonia,” replied Luisa in a voice that shook like a coconut tree in a typhoon.

Then Aunt Antonia walked into the house, dragging her long, long hair with her thin, thin arms and squinting her tiny, tiny eyes as she did so.

Poor Luisa trembled with fear.

She looks like a witch, Luisa thought to herself. What shall I do? What shall I do?

Poor, poor Luisa.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

little princess

Last week, Sage rode her first kalesa (a native horse-drawn carriage, better known as qalesa to the inhabitants of Hinirang).

We thought that the horse or the height of the conveyance would frighten the little girl, but no. She shooed away our helping and protective hands and was utterly delighted by the novelty of it all.

It was a bit embarassing because it was not her party (it was for Lucas, the little boy of my partner, Marc) but Sage is saddled with a hyper-agressive yaya and a mercenary daddy - both of whom will do anything to make sure she gets things before any other child.

So of course, she was first on the kalesa.

And the incredibly large inflatable balloon swim/jump contraption.

And she had the first hat.

In fact, she was the first kid there - which is completely my fault because of my inflexible desire to be early to any engagement, even a relaxed kiddie party (I know, I know).

So I'm thinking, when do I stop doing this? This "my daughter must be fed first" thing?

When will she start resenting what I'm doing?

When do I stop being the wonderful father and then shift into an embarassment of too much love?

In time, in time.

Now, how much do ponies cost again?

hmm... bagels

My desire for an absurdly large breakfast was partially sated when I went out-of-town and had brunch at New York Bagels.

Poppy seed and sesame seed bagels with eggs, bacon, lox, cream cheese... the choices were all tempting.

Yes, even the amoeba rejoiced.

seeing joseph

It felt poignant to see my former staff member, Joseph, now using his real name, Marc, working for one of the PR firms we interact with.

I'm glad he has work, and it's great work (he got to talk to Reichen & Chip, Kelly & John and the other couple from the Amazing Race 4), but the truth is, I miss him.

I told him that if (and when) my business grows stronger, he's welcome to rejoin us.

(Digression: speaking of "rejoin", it turns out that the term "rebond", now the current buzzword in the hair styling industry, is just jargon for "we will straighten your curly hair.)


Caught the early evening of Pirates of the Caribbean with Nikki.

I wish I could say that we completely enjoyed it – it was not bad; however, it would have been better if a heavier editing hand was applied. Johnny Depp's over-the-top acting was a hoot but the shocker for me was Orlando Bloom, who turns out to be a capable and attractive actor, as long as he is not in Elven (hmm… I think Tolkien would prefer “elfin”) tresses.

Truth time: I didn't even know it was him. It was only at the end of the movie when I asked Nikki "So which guy was Legolas?" So much for my powers of observation.

on the writing front

While I'm still stoked, I've returned to the nascent plays I'm developing: "The Butterfly Emporium" and an adaptation of one of my fiction pieces (similar to what I did with my story "The Loneliest Animal in the World" which eventually became the play "Island").

everybody raise a glass

A great big shout out to Arnold for another year of wonder.

Happy birthday!


Cool and freshing versus traffic and flooding.

Monday, September 01, 2003

back to earth

And as I drift slowly down, I smile at the past year, for all the challenges and for all the good stuff.

I am thankful and grateful, and look forward to another creative season.

Okay, back to work tomorrow.

It's off to the boondocks of Festival Mall.
palanca awards night 2003

because, because

Finally, riding the cab to the Pen with Nikki, I found myself excited, as if it were the first time all over again.

Because at the heart of things, peer recognition by a mystery group of judges for something I wrote and worked at is like a wink in my direction – that other people, disinterested parties, found merit in it.

Because more so than getting the award and the prize money, Palanca night is the evening I get to spend with some of my peers, both familiar and unknown, both for years past and the current year. A chance to have conversations with people I look up to and to make new friends.

Because while writing is ultimately a solitary affair, at a certain point you're done, and celebrating good writing is best with a group of people with the same sensibilities concerning craft (and, as Butch Dalisay pointed out, it is also a good excuse to get soused. Hello Butch, you lurker, you).

Because my nine years self-imposed literary hermitage, of not joining or judging, has ended.

Because Manila Peninsula food is good (and my wine cup overfloweth) and people dress up (yes, for me, an awards night should have appropriate pomp).

a note on the winners mix

It was great to note that majority of the prizes went to first-time winners.

This means that literature is alive and well, and that there are more and more quality voices to listen to.

And that makes being a return winner is much sweeter.

short time again

Mingling before dinner, Alex Cortez told me that he has planning to stage “Short Time” again (see, what did I tell you about this play) and if I permitted it, would stage “The Onan Circle” too – for some sort of Alfar-themed evening. I was delighted, of course, and now think I need to write a third play to round it up and create a trilogy. A Trilogy of Lust, or something like that.


I got to meet Honoel Ibardaloza at last (and will respect his request for mystery by neither posting a photograph nor describing what he looks like). Hai is such an interesting person, and our meeting was rendered doubly wonderful by his agreement to sign on the Big Project my friends and I are putting together. Surprisingly, we shared the same views on the development of Philippine sequential art styles and the position of manga in that context. I gave him a goody bag with issues of Angel Ace, Ab Ovo and The Lost and he gave me copies of his winning stories, plus stuff for the gang. I told him that I planned to visit Negros next year and would stop by Bacolod before going to Dumaguete.

Though it was our first meeting, I felt a certain kinship with him. Something like a writerly bond – because those who observe the human condition cannot help but identify others who think along the same lines.

my own book?

Christina Hidalgo (publisher of UP Press, who won Publisher of the Year honors at the National Book Awards last Saturday) told me to submit my plays for consideration. For what? To be published as a personal anthology. It seems I have enough, and all prize-winners at that. I asked her if I could submit a collection of short fiction instead.

“Why?” she asked. “Are you happier with your fiction?”

“Yes,” I replied, after a moment. Because it was true. Later, on the way home, Nikki told me that it was because I found writing fiction more challenging. Maybe that’s the case. I certainly felt that way when I won my workshop seats for the Silliman University and UP Diliman writing workshops. “Kindly disregard my plays,” I wrote the board. “Please judge my worth on the basis of the attached fiction.”

So we’ll see. Perhaps I undervalue my plays because secretly I feel fiction is more “important”, which is pish-posh, of course. And if a book of plays is the first step to getting a collection of fiction out, then so be it. Besides, the operative word is “for consideration”. Remember, nothing in this world is certain.

onstage: my own cheering section

It really made me smile when my name was called and my table erupted into loud cheers (the lesson here is to immediately make friends with the people you choose to sit with, if you aren't already known to each other).

Onstage, I was caught off-guard as each of the head judges took time to talk to me (and really, I just wanted the thing and the check!).

Alexr Cortez: Dean, don't forget about the new stagings, okay?

Guillermo Pesigan: Oh, so you're the Onan playwright (and I blushed, because of course the play is about masturbation and stuff like that)

Cirilo Bautista: What else have you been writing?

Ophie Dimalanta: Hey... I know you. You're very familiar to me... (and indeed, remember me she should, since I gave her a hell of time at one of the workshops, questioning authority in my usual little shy introverted and quiet way)

Sylvia Palanca: Don't you want the check? (when it took me forever to get to her at the end)

name dropping (a la society page)

I met the youngest winner, Monique Buensalido, and her lovely parents. I wish I had parents like Tita Joy (o di ba, Tita Joy na?) who are incredibly supportive and encouraging. Nikki and I wanted to ask them how they managed to raise three well-rounded kids (all award-winners, one of them won the competition for redesigning Nayong Filipino).

Vince Groyon (of Dimas fame) and I chatted about writing. My god, I don’t know how he managed it, but he was much taller than when we last met. He judged one of the categories and was Hai’s teacher (small world, I tell you).

I scanned the entire Rigodon Ballroom for my secret college crush, Maria Elena Paterno-Locsin (who wrote all those lovely children’s stories and let me read “Oil” years ago) but couldn’t find her. Instead, I bumped in Kuya Kryp Yuzon (I held true to my promise when I spoke with him at the Anvil Awards), Cirilo Bautista (who grilled me as to what I was up to nowadays – and somehow, having very little creative output this year left me feeling embarrassed), Cyan Abad-Jugo (one of Nikki’s co-writers for the very late Mango Jam) and her very proud father, Gemino Abad (I hope that 17 or so years from the scene would be me and Nikki accompanying Sage at the Palancas, with tears in our eyes), Chris Vertido (who told me what a fatty I had become since we last met in ‘94, sheesh), and Ruey de Vera (who explained that the reason I won 2nd place and why there was no 1st place in my category was that I had a marvelous play but the judges hated me – LOL!). And many others.

What a night.

a private celebration

Nikki and left early to catch Fully Booked before it closed for the night, and I rewarded us both with whatever books we wanted. Me, for my rejuvenated writing spirit; and her, for being the best editor and wife a man could possibly ever want.

Here's to my real best friend, partner and forever kakampi.

near-death experience

We almost got killed by the frenetic taxi driver on our way home, but… so what? Who cares? Tonight, I live!
2003 Don Palanca Awards for Literature results

Here’s the list of winners, for the English Division for those who want to know (why only English? Well, it’s the division I compete in. I’m certain someone else will post the Filipino, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Iluko Division winners).

English Division

Future Fiction (no awards for 1st and 2nd)

3rd – Sidhi by Yvette Tan

Short Story

1st – Doreen’s Story by Rosario Lucero
2nd – The Hero of the Snore Tango by Ian Casocot
3rd – Closed Doors by Maria Theresa Kwe

Short Story for Children

1st – The Greediest of Rajahs and the Whitest of Clouds by Honoel Ibardaloza
2nd – Behind the Old Aparador by Cyan Abad-Jugo
3rd – Kulog by Yvette Tan


1st – The Music of Pestle-on-Mortar by Rosario Lucero
2nd – Videoke Blues by Lourd de Veyra
3rd – Licking Lollies by Xerxes Matza


1st – Bodies of Water by Isodoro Cruz
2nd – Exploratoria by Angelo Suarez
3rd – Tornadoes and other Poems by Mike Maniquz

One-Act Play (no 1st prize)

2nd – The Onan Circle by Dean Francis Alfar
3rd – The Birth of Flight by Glenn Sevilla Mas

Full-length Play (no 1st-prize)

2nd – Fluid by Floy Quintos
3rd – The Adventures of Pilandok by Frank Rivera

*Sigh. 3 out of the 4 times I placed 2nd, there was no first prize. It's an odd feeling, being the best for the year but no-exactly-so. Oh well.*