Tuesday, June 29, 2004


We just got a phone call from the States and found out that a beloved older friend has pre-leukemia. Out of every month now, he needs to spend seven consecutive days getting injections and treatments (and is in line for a new one just recently approved by the US FDA).

It is certainly depressing because Nikki and I love him very much. He's like a grandpa to Sage, and we are in the midst of planning to visit him this coming October. I am trying not to get all gloomy, but I loathe this feeling of helplessness.

It reminds me of the time that my mom was diagnosed with systemic lupus. My step-dad talked to me privately and told me that the doctors were not very hopeful. But she beat her affliction and survived - and I choose to believe that Jack can do the same thing.

I believe in you, Jack. With all my heart.

looking for spirits

I visited the site of our new office-to-be and meticulously walked over the entire floor area, entering the pantry, the bathroom and the recessed sealed area where the aircons go, looking for nasty spirits.

The rational part of me scoffs at the notion, but the businessman part of me has become quite superstituous, like majority of the businessfolk in the Philippines.

I found nothing obviously untoward, then calmed myself, closed my eyes and tried to get a feel for the place. With the exception of the bathroom, everything felt all right (no doubt something like a troll lurks near the bathroom).

My next step is to get a feng shui expert to consult for positioning and a Catholic priest for the Christian blessing. I don't want any freakiness happening. I've had enough of that in our current location.

Of course, on the other side, I need to make final decisions regarding the cost of moving, new phone lines, new furniture, new improvements, electrical load and a host of other small details.

I do want to move - we need the space. I just don't want to move to a space already occupied by something else.

Monday, June 28, 2004

a day in the life of...

The week begins with a 7AM phone call from a resto client, confirming the delivery of the massively heavy final artwork for one of his new stores. Groggily, I tell him not to worry, that everything's all right. For a moment, I pretend I don't have to go to work.

When I have my full bearings, I perform my daily ablutions, say goodbye to sleeping wife and child, then go off to the office to welcome one of the two new designers by giving him work immediately: logo studies for a new Chinese resto.

The mall client calls and asks several technical stumpers and when we can give the project deliverables. Then it's answering the Monday morning email (shudder) and prepping up for various quotations - while I'm online, I check the news and people's blogs (everyone, it seems, had a fun time at the weekend toyfare but found it too crowded). The tech client tells us the material we created for abroad is good and approved. My first smile doesn't last long because another client has a ton of revisions for a print project.

My partner Marc and I then run down all active projects and prioritize what needs to be done when, talk about possibly moving offices, sign checks and deal with suppliers, before he runs off to his first meeting.

I take my first ciggie break at the 6th floor of the building (right by where actress Nida Blanca was murdered) and realize that the grid formed by the vents look great - so I take a shot of myself (yes, I try to carry my camera along with me so I can take shots of interesting things for reference).

Back in the office, I write some copy, edit some documents, go over a couple of marketing plans, make notes for other clients, struggle with some numbers and search the internet for pegs I can use for the photoshoot preprod meeting with the sports complex client in the afternoon. I am interrupted by faxes and a girl who wants to sell me credit cards, the lunch girl (roast pork in gravy today), a new client who wants a revision of the proposal I sent, and my lezzie messenger who comes in with a fresh pack of smokes for me.

Over lunch, we brief the staff about a new big client and then brainstorm about concepts for calendars, brochures and flyers. I get text messages from our partner architectural firm owned by my step-brother, Ricky, and make some last minute decisions regarding the stuff we're going to use at the trade exhibit we're joining this weekend (I don't mind because I know Saturday is Free Comic Day).

I check and answer email again before Marc and I go off to the sports complex where we meet up with the client and our photographer, Pierre. Along the way, I conceptualize a promo for a clothing client and think about wearing my Cartier watch to impress the watch client (not a good idea because it is not his brand and I don't really like wearing a watch). To show the sports complex client our concept for the shoot with Angel Aquino and Mandy Ochoa, Marc and I engage in a little futsal - note: do not ever play indoor soccer in leather shoes.

We finalize the shot list, and I put on my stylist hat to select the clothes and shoes for the models, as we ponder suspending Pierre 30 feet in the air to get the shot we want (boy scout that he is, he agrees and we make arrangements). My cell phone rings thrice: the office has a question, a client has a new requirement, and the director of our AVP asks for Kestrel's material. I looked across the street at The Spa and fantasize about pampering myself - after the week is over.

By late afternoon, we take a 20-minute break at Figaro, where I finally get to read a hard copy newspaper and have some coffee. Then another series of meeting and I rack my brains to develop campaigns and other marketing strategies for several other clients. More calls from the office and my head is spinning from all the things I'm juggling. But it's the home stretch so I pull myself together, give the office instructions and schedule an ocular for another day.

I manage to get home right before dinner, and my lovely little girl shrieks in delight while my beautiful wife smiles her "come-hither-tither" smile.

I take a long bath, do some more work-related writing after dinner, and adjust my calendar to reflect all the new appointments I have for the week. I peruse the rest of the blogs I didn't get to read earlier and catch Queer Eye with Nikki, relax with some music and play with Sage.

After writing this, I'll read a little, smoke the last ciggie of the night and get some sleep. Good night, all.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

music for the masses

Andrew said that the first CD he ever bought was Avril Lavigne’s first album, a statement that was followed by an eerie silence as we older folk struggled to deal with the fact that, shit, we were so old.

I honestly don’t remember the first CD I ever bought because until a certain point in time it was just too expensive (and I didn’t even have CD player). No, I was a vinyl man – albums, EPs and singles through and through.

And, yes, I became musically aware in the early 80’s, giving in to new wave and the Brit sound, but with a definite slant towards the more obscure (well, as obscure as you can get in high school to avoid being grouped with the rest of humanity) music from the likes of The Dolphin Brothers and Ryuichi Sakamoto – but also with a huge share of all-American pop hits. How wonderful it was to be young and unrefined!

Like many people, when I hear a certain song I remember events in my life during the time that it came out or when I listened to it over and over again (Nikki says that during high school, you feel almost every song is yours, linked empathically to your life, a reflection of your angst). Without music, I could be captured and tortured by aliens and still fail to answer “Do you remember when you…”-type questions. Music triggers my memory.

Prior to high school and 1983, I didn’t give squat about music. And then suddenly, just like that, radio was king and the custom tape was god. I started as part of the common crowd, with no taste to call my own, a slave of American Top 40 over 99.5 RT and the dulcet tones of Casey Casem. I didn’t know good music from bad – just that I liked certain songs.

Nowadays, I’d rather be caught dead than caught singing along these oldies (much less actually grooving to China Crisis, Psychedelic Furs, A Flock of Seagulls or Icicle Works though I'd love to), but these songs bring back the years when I was thin as a stick insect and without a clue – gah, some of these are so embarrassing (LOL):

1983: Music was new and fresh and exciting to me. I fell in love with a girl in school and was such a nerd that I built a diorama to show my love for her (it was huge and unwieldy but she accepted with grace before telling me, kindly, to fuck off): Billy Joel - Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, The Clash - Rock the Casbah, Culture Club - Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, Time, Church of the Poison Mind, David Bowie - Let’s Dance, Dexy’s Midnight Runners - Come On, Eileen, Duran Duran (my fave band of all time) – Is There Something I Should Know, Hungry Like The Wolf, Eddy Grant - Electric Avenue, Hall & Oates - Say It Isn’t So, Haysi Fantayzee - Shiny Shiny, Huey Lewis & The News - Heart And Soul, Human League - Fascination, Irene Cara - Flashdance (I know, I know), Jo Boxers - Just Got Lucky, Kajagoogoo - Too Shy, Madness - Our House, Men At Work - Down Under, Michael Jackson - Beat It, Billie Jean, Naked Eyes - Always Something There To Remind Me, New Order - Blue Monday, Pat Benatar - Love Is A Battlefield, Peter Schilling - Major Tom, Phil Collins - You Can't Hurry Love, The Police - Every Breath You Take, Quiet Riot - Cum On Feel The Noize, Spandau Ballet – True, STYX - Mr. Roboto, Toto – Africa.

1984: Music became part and parcel of my existence - I think this year's music is the strongest for me. I fell in love again with a dark-skinned goddess who had the most incredible smile. And what did I do? I gave her a set of romance novels. Sheesh, what a dork. And one more time, with someone from my barkada, who was the first person to ever tell me “I love you too…as a brother”. The music I loved: Bananarama - Cruel Summer, more Billy Joel - The Longest Time, An Innocent Man, Bruce Springsteen - Dancing In The Dark (my god, memories of the extended dance version still give me the thrills), Corey Hart - Sunglasses at Night, Culture Club - It's A Miracle, Karma Chameleon, Miss Me Blind (my first long exposure to a cross dresser), Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, She Bop, Dan Hartman - I Can Dream About You, Duran Duran - New Moon On Monday, The Reflex, The Wild Boys (I was such a fan I even named my dog after a song), Eurythmics - Here Comes The Rain Again, Go-Go's - Head Over Heels, Howard Jones - New Song, James Ingram with Michael McDonald - Yah Mo B There, John Waite - Missing You, K.C. & The Sunshine Band - Give It Up, Kenny Loggins – Footloose, Laura Branigan - Self Control, Madonna – Borderline, Like A Virgin (she was unreal!), Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride, Nena - 99 Luftballoons (and we sang in Deutsch), The Pointer Sisters - Jump (For My Love), Prince & The Revolution - When Doves Cry (utterly intoxicating), Rick Springfield - Love Somebody, The Romantics - Talking In Your Sleep, Sheena Easton – Strut (eeee!), The Style Council - Shout To The Top, Thompson Twins - Hold Me Now, U2 - Pride (Bono, Bono, Bono), Van Halen – Jump, Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Yes - Owner Of A Lonely Heart.

1985: Parties, parties, parties. Lots of dancing. I did the Miami Vice look with my so-cool espadrilles, white blazer and wayfarers. Lost my heart over and over again, it’s absurd, really. Oh, and I think Andrew was born. Music: A-ha - Take On Me, ABC - Be Near Me, Arcadia - Election Day (sympre naman, Duran Duran pa din sila, no), Aretha Franklin - Freeway Of Love, Bruce Springsteen - Born In The U.S.A., Glory Days (he’s The Man), David Lee Roth - Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody, Duran Duran - Save A Prayer, Madonna - Material Girl, Paul Young - Every Time You Go Away, The Power Station - Some Like It Hot (Duran Duran pa rin sila), Prince & The Revolution - Raspberry Beret, Sade - Smooth Operator (sigh), Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me), The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?, and every thing else Morrison), Tears For Fears - Everbody Wants To Rule The World , Head Over Heels, Shout (and everything else from their first two albums), 'Til Tuesday - Voices Carry, Wham! – Freedom.

1986: My last year of high school. Delight at the end of things and anxiety at the start of college. Fear of losing friends to the wild unknown. And I was probably in love, yet again. And, oh, we went to discos and did nasty things with strangers in dark places. Bananarama – Venus, The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian, Berlin - Take My Breath Away, The Dream Academy - Life In A Northern Town, Falco - Rock Me Amadeus, The Human League – Human, INXS - What You Need (and more), Level 42 - Something About You, Madonna - Papa Don't Preach, Mike + The Mechanics - Taken In, Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark - If You Leave (and majority of their previous album), The Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls (great dance music), Prince And The Revolution – Kiss, Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love, Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11, The Timex Social Club – Rumors, Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight.

And through all that high school pop and heartbreak, Jasmin Jamora (now Doctor Jamora), gave me The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Ultravox, The Style Council, Status Quo, David Sylvian, YMO, Joy Division, New Order and the rest of the truly cool music that I still love - so my taste didn’t go terribly pedestrian.

Avril, indeed.

Man, I feel old.


Andrew with Jason's Baylan's staff
(with my trusty Canon Powershot)

Me with the agimat-festooned staff
(photo by Marco with his swanky Nokia 7610)

After an impromptu pictorial outside Pearl Plaza, the gang and I went off to the new Country Waffles for later dinner (or very early breakfast). The new menu left a lot to be desired, but what was important was that we had a comfort resto return to our list of options.

Then I had the gang check out Double Deck, where beer is a mere P20, with its view of the Pasig skyline.

It was a great way to cap off the week, with light conversation and good company.

The coming work week looks quite heavy, but with a long nap planned for Sunday, I'll be ready to rock.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


For the past several years, I have evinced a preference for anthologies of short fiction, as opposed to full-length novels, with exceptions drawn for Marquez, Eco and a handful of other writers. This is especially true for the speculative fiction genre.

I find almost all new novels of this genre poorly written, usually imbalanced towards plot or character or setting or (shudder) style and tone. These books invariably fail to keep my attention beyond the first few chapters or pages and I end up junking them.

With short fiction, I am more forgiving, given the fact that the "imposition" on my time is less. I also admire the short fictionist's craft a bit more, because everything has to work within the span of X thousand words, with no space for silly irrelevant things such as unending descriptions of scenery or long-winded expository passages thinly disguised as dialogue or characterization.

Besides, with a nice thick anthology, I am bound to like something that will make me think or inspire me (like Chris Barzak's "Plenty" did a couple of years ago).

However, a small number of fantasy writers have been able to consistently write novel-length stories that leave me wanting more.

Some of the anthologies, collections or novels I look forward to in the next few months include:

Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant & Kelly Link's The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection (my first appearance - I will have this book bronzed and tell my grandkids about it until they lock me up in a home)
David Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer's Year's Best Fantasy 4 and Year's Best SF 9 (I like how their line-up this year looks)
Ursula Le Guin's Gifts (I just worship at her feet, and not just for Earthsea)
George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows (just reread both prequel shorts from Silverberg's Legends Vols. I & II and remembered how much I liked "The Hedge Knight")
Gardner Dozois' The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-first Annual Collection (because his selections turned upside down most of my strongly-held notions of what scifi was all about)
China Miéville's The Iron Council (because I never gave Scar a chance)
Paul Di Filippo's Harp, Pipe and Symphony
Caitlín Kiernan's Murder of Angels
Robert Silverberg's Between Worlds (in the mistaken belief that there will be a Madripoor story somewhere in there, dammit).

So, dear Charles, get to work!

vignette: depends

She looked easy, sitting alone at the end of the bar, eyes fixed on her empty beer bottle.

"Let me buy you one," I said, with Smile #2: Innocent Guy Out For Clean Fun.

"Okay," she said, giving me a quick grin. "Kit."

"Dex. San Mig?"

"Okay," she nodded.

By the time our drinks came we were laughing like old friends, going through the necessary small talk of lousy jobs, stupid politics, cell phone comparisons and crazy relatives.

She didn't look bad, not that things like that really mattered to me. In fact, she was a looker from a certain angle, a little bit like that curvy sweetheart who died in a car crash around a year ago. What I did find really attractive was her voice, just right in terms of pitch and tone (unlike last week's girl, who, if I were draw her, would have word balloons with musical notes in them, like that ditz in Josie & The Pussycats).

When I had spent the requisite thirty minutes or so making her feel comfortable, I asked her if she wanted to have some fun.

"Depends on your idea of fun," she said.

"Well," I replied, "That depends on how much fun you're ready to have."

"Depends," she shrugged with a little smile.

"On what?" I asked.

She took a swig on her fourth beer and set it down on the bar.

"I'm not easy."

"I didn't think you were."

"No, no," she said. "I'm easy to get, easy to get to play with, but..."


"Not easy to please."

I laughed so hard that for a moment I thought the beer in my mouth would exit through my nose.

"That's, that's, you know," I said.

"Forward?" she offered.

"Forward," I nodded.

"Just as forward as you are," she said. "Intimidated?"

"Not at all," I said, giving her Smile #9: Raunchy Man.

"You should be."

"Why's that?"

"I carry a gun."

Friday, June 25, 2004

one meeting more

Just one more meeting before this long and jam-packed week is done.

I'm just glad for the occassional oases I have, like dinner with friends last night at Lemon Grass at Megamall (the gang loves the place, with its different chicken dishes) and the ton of comics from Vin.

The last draw for our nationwide promo went without a hitch, with the DTI rep and I enjoying ice cream together (a great way to bond, I tell you), a pair of clients paid up (fantastic, considering that collection is a challenge these days for many agencies), 3 new resto clients are on the horizon (we've come across a nice niche, it seems), Siglo: Passion pages are coming in (swoon) and I'm running Isle: Craft tonight (shocks and thrills). Plus, there's the regular Saturday night out with the gang tomorrow which I skipped last week due to illness.

And now it's off to that last meeting - yay!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

poulet, porc, boeuf et l'huître

Alex asked where to go for good chicken or pork. Now normally, Nikki and I eat home-cooked meals, order for delivery or go to one of the nearby malls. But once in a while (budget-allowing), we try some place new, often with friends.

El Circulo, along Pasay Road, is a great place for both. It has a solid menu created by a young chef who is not afraid to try bold dishes that are at once inventive and tasty. But bring along some extra cash as it's not inexpensive. Nikki and I had dinner there last week and it was to die for.

Good Earth in Greenbelt is a good Chinese resto. Almost any of their chicken or pork dishes are fantastic (the stand-alone we tried was at Greenhills, where Nikki and I last toasted champagne).

Gourmand and Jack's are at the Global City in Fort Bonifacio. Gourmand is pricey but yummy while Jack's is priced along the lines of Country Waffle (which, by the way, reopened in Annapolis after they found new investors following Bert Nievera's flight).

I also like Aresi in Quezon City (near the Dead Boy Scouts Rotunda).

If you're in the mood for beef, though, there are a few places I really like, all in the Ortigas area: Steak Jack in Greenhills has affordable porterhouses, similar to Double Decker's "grilled right outside" selection of t-bones and other steaks (along Ortigas near Meralco/Autohaus). For shockingly inexpensive Salpicao, try World Topps also in Greenhills) - for dining on the relatively cheap.

Dave says that Red over at Shangri-la Makati rocks (it used to be the ritzy French place), priced to compete with Gulliver's.

There's also this Brazilian resto in Rockwell that I've only heard good things about but haven't tried. Their servers go around with succulent slabs of beef and pare them directly into your plates.

If you want oysters, try one of Marina's branches in the Ortigas area or Oyster Boy (the new stand-alone is in Greenhills). For more seafood, it's hard to beat Dampa Sa Libis, along C-5 heading towards Eastwood.

Having said all that, there are a couple of resto I'd advise against going for any reason: Bombay Canteen in Buendia (ugh) and Behrouz along Wilson (mabaho) - sorry, but I can't stand either of these places.

Now excuse me, I've gotta raid the fridge.


just say no

One of the things I refuse to do is to play golf for the sake of networking. It looks boring, I don't want to turn darker than I already am, and I don't look good in checkered pants.

I guess this goes for majority of sports. Except perhaps fencing, because the epee and the mask are cool (or if card games like Magic: The Gathering are considered intellectual sports).


With all these food clients, I've found myself thinking about food a lot. One of the upsides is sudden knowledge of where to get what food.

For example, for Prime Rib, the best kept secret in Manila is a resto called Gulliver's (of San Francisco), along Makati Avenue. Petit cut (P600+) is good for a normal person, but if you're hungry like a wolf (cue: Duran Duran), then the regular size (P800+) is for you.

bang bang

Talk of the moment is the shootout between the 14 year-old son of Chinese businessman Yap and the 30 year-old son of Senator Jaworski.

Some disagreements led to rabid texting and a challenge to settle things at Florida St. in Greenhills.

The boy came with 14 bodyguards, armed with M-16s and happily shot at his enemy.

No one died, and now both parties deny they were armed, unable to explain all the bullet casings scattered along the street.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

swamped thing


So much work to do and so little time in the day. I have a client comic book, a photo shoot for the sports complex, a dynamic website, an ongoing retainer for a fastfood, a trade show, materials for a post-production company, a nationwide promotion... and those are only the live projects I'm managing on my end. I've also a lot of client meetings and pitches and consultations all over the place. Plus - I'm thinking about moving the office to Emerald Avenue in the Ortigas Center (nicer place, but horrible on the lunch budget). Also - finalizing the pet store investment and hiring new staff.

I'm delighted, of course. But also a bit fatigued since I'm not 100% recovered from the annual bug.

What I need is a huge batch of escapist comics.

Or chicaron with sukang puti.

Or both.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


A couple of weeks back, a very large potential client called my office at around 4pm on a Friday to request a print ad. With the barest of briefs, Bok and I went to the office on Saturday and did our best, coming up with three ads. We were able to submit it in record time.

We hoped to land the account and were devasted when the client ultimately decided not to use a placement. At that time, I chalked it up to the way of our industry but felt no regrets.

Yesterday, we were summoned by the potential client. They told us how impressed they were by the quality of work, the speed of execution and our integrity - so much so that we've become their new agency, handed three projects to sink our teeth into.

Events like this make me proud of my business and the way we run it. We are still in the learning process but are moving towards what I'd like the company to be.

This is not to say we've got everything down pat, but we're getting there.

So our plate is not empty (thank God!) as I feared in my most paranoid of sleepless nights.

Sunday, June 20, 2004



The first one, of course, was my natural father, Douglas (or "Oddie" to his friends and family). I have very few memories of him while I was growing up, because it's hard to make memories when he was more absent than present.

He fell out of love with my mother and, giving in to the pressure of his own family, got a divorce. When he asked my mom what she wanted from their communal property, she pointed only to me. And he agreed, getting to keep the cars, the house and everything else.

He continued to pursue his career in the US Army, met and married a soldier, and had three kids. From time to time, he'd send me money and the occasional pair of shoes or the mindboggling balikbayan boxes of old comics.

I used to resent him for not being there for me but as I grew older I realized that nothing is ever simple, especially with matters of the heart. I would not begrudge my father his personal happiness, even if his choices left me bereft of a day-to-day dad.

One time when I was in my twenties, before I got married, he visited Manila and asked if he could still be my father. I looked at the impossible gap between us and told him that while nothing could change that fact, I'd rather we become friends.

And so we are. I last saw him in Las Vegas, after his second wife of 20+ years suddenly divorced him. I could have spun all sorts of scenarios about payback and "getting what you deserve" but it would have just been cruel. Certainly nothing a son should do; certainly nothing a friend should do.

I looked at him holding Sage and realized how old he was. In my mind, growing up, he was the paragon of manliness, the image of Father/Daddy/Papa - soldier, hero, Superman.

But watching him with my daughter added the hat of grandfather. I felt unspeakably sad and suddenly terrified of losing this man to death, this friend I barely knew.

People who knew him in his youth are startled when they see me. "It's Oddie!" they say with amazement, pointing out my gait, the way I smile, my way with words, the so-called "easy" charm.

And it's true. Because when I talk to him, it's like talking to an older version of myself. And when you talk to a mirror, there are only reflections of understanding.

I will always be Oddie's son - that much is blood simple.


My second father was my mother's second husband, Jess - a widower with seven children of his own. I remember telling my mother right before she married him how "Sound of Music" it seemed. At that point, I was more concerned about her and her adjustments rather than mine. She said she loved him and that he loved her and I thought everything else would just fall in place.

Jess comes from the time when the worth of the Filipino father was measured in how much he provided for his family. And provide he did, using the millions he earned, invested and saved to provide houses for his families (one for my mom, myself and my four half-siblings; and one for his seven children by his deceased wife - which, of course, I called "Step House").

In my naivete I actually thought he would fill the role of father. I waited for a chance to bond and be close to him, but his cold manner and powerful voice intimidated me (I realized later that I was not alone; all his eleven children - seven in The Stephouse and my four half-siblings that I lived with - grew up with him in the distance).

One day, he summoned me to his office and told me that he was not my father and could not be my father and that I should just call him Uncle Jess. That set the tone for my teenage years.

I grew up as a stranger in a house I felt was never my home. Every child called Jess "daddy" and I called him "uncle". Everyone had his surname and mine was different.

As my mother grew ill, she began to imagine heartbreaking conspiracies and recruited me as her ally, confessor and lackey. So added to my fear of my stepfather was a growing sense of outrage at his supposed betrayal of my mother.

Fear and anger are poisonous, but some good things came out of that situation. Because I felt the need to stand out and prove myself, I went and did what no one in his family could: I wrote and excelled in my writing. The Palanca Awards did not hold his esteem for long though. By the fourth he asked me "Aren't you jaded already?".

I also learned the futility of arguing with a man who is always right, the basics of law and business (how the Chinese are out to crush the Filipino), and how ultimately, everything is measured in money. I had to learn how to think critically because I could accept many things he showed me.

I love him in my way and I suppose he also does in his. But, growing up, it was the kind of love that mingled fear, anger, respect and more fear with gratefulness.

By the time I had my own family and my own home and my own business, I rediscovered my stepfather and realized that in his eyes, I had somehow succeeded - since I never ever asked him for money. So now we are in the autumn of our relationship. He has seemingly ceased to judge me as a mendicant and relates to me as a businessman whom he had a hand in raising.

For better or worse, whether he cares to admit it or not, I am also Jess' son. We share no blood, but love the same woman in different ways.

Sometimes in life and love, important choices are made on your behalf by other people. You take what you're given and make do.

Or do better.


Then there's me.

I became a father two years and four months ago when Sage entered the picture (actually, strictly speaking, you'd have to add nine months of gestation, muslim-style).

I was unprepared, scared out of my wits, and paralyzed by the vast implications of a person who would look to me for all things "Daddy". Given my own childhood, I knew I had precious little experience to lean on.

I didn't know so many things, so many basic things. For example, when Nikki and Sage came back from the hospital, I thought I had everything we needed. And I did - except for the sterilizer. I had the layette stuff but no means of ensuring the health of my child via anti-germ action.

I remember all the frustration and helplessness I felt during the first few sleepless weeks, needing to balance running my company with my new responsibilities as a father. I felt I lost my life, my ability to be spontaneous, to travel, to watch a movie, to play a game, to have sex with my wife.

I drowned in the advice of other people. I was afraid to carry Sage for fear of dropping her. During the times she shared our bed, I was completely immobile because I thought my errant nocturnal motions would crush her.

And yet...

Things have a way of working out. I learned the basics and improvised. I became the dad I wanted to have, though obviously I'm quite flawed. There are a trillion things the "How To Be A Dad" manuals leave out. But I do see a forward motion.

This little girl means the world to me.

I am terrified of failing her.

I can only hope that when she writes about her father, there'll be some good stuff in it.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

still ill


Despite feeling like my brain was made of cotton soaked in kiddie paints, I still had a couple of clients to meet this previous Friday.

It was kinda surreal - at one point in time, my hearing switched off and all I could get was this muted "wah wah wah" like how the adults speak in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

My hearing swtiched back on when one of my clients offered to pay the bill for services rendered. I could nod and smile gamely.

Then off to dinner at n at the Podium with Nikki, Kate and Alex before I ran a game at Wack Wack.

I thought I was doing poorly (but thank god for my notes) however it seems that everyone had a good time. By the time we got home though, my limbs were a dextrous as water balloons and I collapsed into dreamless sleep.

When I get my annual bug, I need to sweat it out, drenching my nightclothes and the bed with my sickly perspiration. It's my system's way of purging the illness. Nikki, on the other hand, needs to be kept in an refrigerated environment - which is detrimental to me when I am sick. So when we're both sick, it's a sad battle for the control of the environment's temperature.

Today, Saturday, despite not having been able to swear everything out, I had another client meeting late afternoon at Global Cafe in Greenbelt. Obviously, I was not in the best condition but I took down notes furiously so I could see what I agreed to do when my mind clears.

At home in bed I kept zoning in and out: Sage saying "Poor Daddy, poor Daddy" and offering a little kiss to make me feel better, Nikki giving me meds and liquids, the helpers buying food and stuff for me to eat.

I feel bad I had to skip out the regular Saturday night out, but I'd just be miserable company.

Illness is truly no fun at all. Thank goodness for DVDs.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Yeah, I've finally caught the bug.

I woke up as Mucuous Man but still staggered to the office because there are certain things that cannot be left undone. But by lunchtime, my head was in the clouds and I could barely keep my eyes open (shouldn't have gone out for dinner at Cirkulo last night with Nikki, but it was fantastic).

Before going home to collapse, I picked up Kirkman's Invincible and the grafiction adaptation of George R.R. Martin's The Hedge Knight from Vin's, forced myself to eat then bumped into Sage who was at Megamall to do some banking with her nanny.

By that time, I had all but given up the ghost and made my way to bed and took a nap.

I hope to be well by tomorrow. I hate being in bed because of illness (as opposed to lazing about by choice).


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

so, tell me about yourself

talking the talk

I accepted this invitation last month but forgot about it until it was brought to my attention again today.

I'll be one of the speakers next month at the MediaMorphosis2: Diversified Media in Synergy shindig over at the Philippine International Convention Center, along with notables like Lowe Incorporated executive creative director Raul Castro, Islands Souvenirs president Jay Aldeguer, Advertising Board of the Philippines chair Cerge Remonde, InquirerTV executive producer John Nery, PCIJ executive director Shiela Coronel and digital filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz (gasp - enough name dropping).

In particular, I've been asked to talk about Independent Media. Here's the teaser of my module (their words, not mine):

Radical, driven and free, the alternative press, underground music, and independent-filmmaking attract the attention of today’s generation. Independent media and art highlight freedom from commercialization of ideas and manipulation of outside forces—challenges that face mainstream media.

The indie movement has gained the youth’s respect and admiration. What can it do to mobilize young Pinoys to action? How can it foster greater appreciation and concern for the country? Given many young Filipinos’ interest in helping the community, how can the independent approach be maximized by young communicators wanting to make a difference?

On a bigger scale, how does media in this do-it-yourself fashion influence and challenge mainstream mass communication?

Can you say grafiction? What a great opportunity to plug Siglo: Passion.

Or porn. Hmmm.

Anyhow, this seems to be a big thing with the Inquirer because several friends and clients have called me to say that they saw my name in the newspaper, yadda yadda. In fact (now that I read about this event more closely), MediaMorphosis2 is organized by the Philippine Daily Inquirer with the Ateneo Development Society, De La Salle Green Media Group and University of the Philippines-Communicators for Good Governance. There you go.

So, if want to hear me prattle, be at the PICC on July 24, 2004 at 3PM.

thoughtlife: school daze

Around three weeks ago, the Department of Education released the results of a study that made me want to tear my little growing beard out in shock and despair.

Only one half of one percent of the 1.4 million elementary school students passed the high school readiness exams. The passing score? 75%.

And so the passing mark was lowered to 35%, because, apparently, the DeptEd can "transform" it.

What is wrong here?

There was a time when our country was the best in the region in terms of education. And now we transformed into a nation of nitwits, and the next generation doesn't seem to have much of an intellectual future.

substance vs. certification

There are many reasons one can cite to help explain the appalling deterioration of the quality of education in our country. You know them all, and poverty is foremost.

But there is also another reason, another mindset that is insiduous.

Many parents do not really care what their children learn, where they learn it or how they learn it.

All that matters is that at the end of it all, their child has a diploma. A certification that is supposedly their ticket into the real world's job market.

Diploma mills abound, pathetic things that cannot ever be truly considered schools. And yet people enroll their kids in these scam "institutions". So yes, the kids do get diplomas. But when they graduate, they realize how little they have learned.

As a result, we have hundreds of thousands of illiterate, innumerate and inadequately educated people without jobs - because the diploma is not all you need.

There is no argument that substance matters. But how do we make quality education, where good teachers motivate students to learn, a reality?

winners and losers

As if all of the above were not terrible enough, the government is only now beginning to curb online gambling and mobile betting in and near schools. Only now.

The kids - from elementary onward - use the nearby computers or their cell phones to make bets on horse races, basketball score endings and the like. Payment and collection of winnings/losses is made within the school grounds, usually in full view of many people (the rationale/psychology is: if people see someone win big, they will all want to bet). Most recently, a young girl won P300,000 gambling. She was awarded the check in her classroom, in front of her classmates who cheered (because, naturally, she treated everyone to some food). Soon, her family bought a new vehicle, financed in part by her winnings.

Can you blame her parents for being delighted their little gambler won? The government has a hypocrital stand and sets a confusing example. It smacks down certain forms of gambling but endorses others. What are the kids to think when their parents and the government says it's sort-of okay?

So now some restrictions are happening in schools. One has a P500 limit on the amount of money you can carry in school. One has banned cell phones (to deny the ability of cell phone providers to push current game scores). Both enforce the new rules with random searches.

What is wrong here?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

STR: 18/00

Dungeons & Dragons turns 30 this year.

If I ever need to list the top 10 influences on my creative thinking, my ability to speak without fear in front of strangers or a large audience, my capacity to improvise in sudden situations or generally explain my love for the fantastic, this role-playing game is up there.

The first time I was exposed it was when I was in grade school at La Salle Greenhills. One of my classmates submitted a short story entitled "The Gauntlets of Ogre Power". I read it and was knocked off my socks (only later would I realize that a) it was plagiarized; b) it was really badly written; and c) the Gauntlets were only one of uncountable marvelous magical things to be quested for and treasured in the infinite worlds).

I found out that it was a game, but a game unlike anything I'd ever played before. The discovery that a shop in Greenhills called Nova Fontana sold the rule books, modules and funky dice created a monster in me, adding to my collecting burden (comic books, Lego, Hardy Boys and other books).

But it wasn't until high school that I found a group of like-minded people and began to actually play. And play we did, making up rules we didn't understand and creating scenarios that now are more embarrassing than incredible. Some friendships made at the end of the corridor where we played persist until this very day - though we have become lawyers in the US (Raffy) or are busy pressing grapes in Spain (Sean) or engaging in diplomatic hijinks in Russia (Deric).

I found people who loved Middle Earth as much as I did (way before Peter Jackson's phenomenal film trilogy), who could argue over the nuances of EarthSea with me, and (shudder) who thought that Dragonlance was cool (yes, I actually did - but the scene that is burned into my mind is when the Forestmaster unicorn pointedly tells the party that someone will die, while looking directly at Sturm Brightblade -LOL).

Even in those early days, my preference for story over rules was strong. I felt that rules constricted imagination - there were so many situations the rules did not cover, and those that it did cover (weather for the day) were just so banal (on the other end of spectrum was JV Barredo, whose mastery of the arcane rules was second to none).

Since I had always loved magic, I created 66 orders of magic and painstakingly began to create spells, histories and all sorts of thing. But I paid special attention to the characters who populated the worlds I conjured up, finding ways to juggle a massive supporting cast who each had their own agenda.

In college, I ran my best games: epic sprawling sagas spanning generations through impossible wars, paralyzing fear and heartbreaking loss, tempered with the joy of friendship and the power of loyalty. The Honored Blood. Doomgarde. My storytelling ability grew, and my bias towards character-driven stories became more evident. The Needle. Isle. Aran. Tragic Wild Demi-Hunter Fortress (oh yeah!).

I had great players. In fact, I married the best of them.

And today, though I no longer play as much as I used to (and feel very rusty, as if my mind is in torpor), I find it impossible not to look at the new D&D 3.5 rulebooks with their bewildering changes (I'm so old school, I still think you sometimes need low numbers and sometimes high numbers when you roll the dice, unlike these young turks), or skim through the latest issues of Dragon or Dungeon magazine, or look at the new modules (now written, via license, by other companies for TSR/WOTC), or browse through the latest novels (boring, derivative shit, but Charles can tell you that). I even looked up the original ending of the animated series.

Yes, everything is different, rules have changed and it's hard to recognize stuff I used to know. But you know what? I left the rules long before I started to play, so it's actually interesting to see the game beginning to catch up with the imagination of countless players like me who went on ahead building their own stuff.

For helping shape my mind, build my confidence, trigger my writing and suck my wallet dry, I will always remember those fantasic Gauntlets (Strength = 18/00, if I'm not mistaken).

Monday, June 14, 2004

viriliter agite

There are days I just want to pick up the nearest heavy object, back up and run to gain momentum, jump as high as I can, then smash the object into the face of the jackass of the day.

I feel like one of Claremont's hounds, sniffing out the mutants before I lunge for the kill.

See? I am sadly more viscious than a friend who would opt for a Vanishing Ray. I want to see blood and gore, brains leaking out of shattered skulls, eyeballs pulped by pressure, teeth scattered around the ground like a snapped necklace.

My patience has barely improved with age, though my mind does try to set up barriers and other distractions to get me to listen to my own advice and think and consider blah blah. I'm the guy in the cliche that prays: "God, give me patience and give it now".

But some days I just want to let go.

And tragically, this is one of the emotions I cannot sublimate in writing. Because anger is shrill and whiny and too self-centered to be of interest.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Birthday Boy treated the gang to Don Henrico's where we gorged ourselves silly on Buffalo-style chicken, three-cheese pizza, pesto pasta and bottomless drinks all around (plus invisible pork ribs - because they never arrived...grrr). Marco always has a great spread and that was no exception - thanks, bud!

Then it was off to Camille's coffee despedida at SBC. This was the best in the city since it had an air-conditioned smoking area, bless 'em:

DEAN (to Dino): You may want to sit over there, so all the smokers can sit together.

DINO: But it doesn't matter! We'll inhale all the second-hand smoke anyway!

DEAN: Ah, the things you suffer for my company.

And that is one of the things about friendship - you put up with someone else's shit, but hang out anyway because life is short and art is fun (tip of the proverbial hat to John Irving's World According to Garp for you philistines out there).

More talk about all sorts of things, including plans for the future and how money makes the world go round (and how, of course, everyone could do with a lot more).

Dino and I, particularly, had a field day waxing teary-eyed, remembering the days when we had a greater degree of money (I was abroad and he had the truck dealership). We'd even fight over who would pay for dinner, and if defeated, would devise devious ways in which to get back over the victor's generosity. Sigh.

No one is desperately unhappy, since the people around the table know how to live within their means. But still. It would be nice to be able to say "Hey guys, dinner in Singapore tomorrow?". Sigh.

But man, that place was cold. Few of us had the foresight to bring jackets or sweaters (and my sexy wife was wearing a sheer thing that made it hard for me to focus) since the erratic weather makes fools of everyone. Good thing I opted for hot green tea.

Some of us then headed off for some singing, ending just before predawn as mysterious circumstances robbed Vin and Buddha of their capacity to hear the right notes (invoking visions of Randy Jackson saying "Dawg, I dunno, it just didn't connect. And you were pitchy, all over the place). But that didn't stop us from having a great time anyway. Besides, I'd rather have beer come out of my nose while I laugh hysterically over pitchiness rather than hear another pitch-perfect yet bland performance.


At last! More trades to read, DVDs to watch, and music to listen to:

Box Office Poison (Alex Robinson) - 600+ pages of indie grafiction
The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman) - because zombies are always cool
Sleeper (Ed Brubaker) - perhaps the most interesting comic of the year
The Nail (Alan Davis) - fun read, great art
Gotham City Central (Ed Brukarer and Greg Rucka) - these two writers have a certain noir flair that challenges the predictable plot patterns of comics
Taken DVD Box set - the original thing is always preferable to pirate knock-offs
American Idol 3: Greatest Soul Classics - man, you should hear Camille Velasco and Jennifer Hudson on this collection. I couldn't help wish though that Fantasia Barrino selected "Something To Talk About" instead of "Chain of Fools".


Speaking of which, I got to watch the 1st season of American Idol and came away quite impressed with the general skill level (and almost everyone was attractive - Ryan (fully front-loaded) and Nikki (who is the living incarnation of Van Meter's Hopeless-Savages). Like Simon Cowell, I had a crush on Christina Christianson (which, if I think really about, probably is a throwback to my thing for Sade waaaay back).

And so it's finally off to the salt mines, with the task list I need to complete for my continued well-being.

It looks like a long week ahead, and so it makes sense to get some things out of the way before I become a swamped thing.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

game face

I ran the first sequence of "Isle" for Nikki, Alex and Kate last night. It felt great to run a game again and let my imagination run free. I spent some time describing the structure of Isle, the social strata and the oddities inherent in its society, and helping the players get a feel of the kind of story I'm planning to tell - that of an isolated society in the midst of drastic change.

I resurrected some of my old ideas about Crafts. Basically, these are abilities or portfolios based on apparently mundane occupations (Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker) with translations into strange high fantasy analogues. I used a popular variation of a 16th century rhyme to anchor the initial Craft choices - you know this one - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggarman, Thief - and threw in hints of many others - Hero, Artisan, Saracen, Plough Boy (haha), Poet, Crone, Mariner, Piscator...

My take on any fantasy game I run is to create wonder on a large scale, to create something I'd love to immerse myself into, to even write about. We'll see how things progress. Me, I'm just glad to have an opportunity to do something different for a while (which is odd, considering I spent years on end creating and running campaigns for friends when I was younger). Starting a game felt like slipping into old comfy shoes.

Thanks to Alex and Kate for the great dinner and to Nikki for her unwavering interest.

work phase

No rest for the wicked.

It's a Saturday and I've got a couple of meetings I need to attend, 5 proposals to draft before Monday, 4 year-long marketing campaigns to percolate, 6 different materials to get approved in Beijing and Taipei, 1 trade exhibit to plan (Kestrel will have a booth so it must look good), 1 site map to finish and lots of mail to reply to.

But it's not as heavy as it seems. I've been through worse, truly Sisyphusian scenarios, so I don't even consider talking about the tasks above as whining, just a statement of facts. I'll get it all done, no true worries; it's a matter of prioritizing tasks so as not to be overwhelmed.

However, I am SO looking forward the night out with the gang before I devote everything to business matters. For one thing, Marco's birthday celebration may be tonight (happy birthday, ya big lug!) and Cams is flying off to the US sooner than I realized (and I am so saddened by the "loss" of another person I like).

Gah. I'd like a cold one right now.

Friday, June 11, 2004

think, think

Part of my job can only be called "consulting", though I cringe at the term (because it implies deep expertise on narrow subjects). A set of meetings culminating this weekend got the ball rolling with several clients whose businesses (and the their corresponding requirements) have put my brain on overdrive: a coffee chain, a fastfood chain, a salon and a sports complex.

I need to create plans for all of them, before we can create materials that help market their products and services. To create plans, I need to understand the business (and I'm quite meticulous in this regard, wanting to know everything from supply chain to franchising). To understand the business, I need to listen and think and draw from my growing knowledge of how things work, of consumer nature, of human nature - I need to be able to draw connections, see best practices, analyze numbers - before I can offer a considered opinion.

Right now, it's exciting but the sheer volume of things I need to think about is starting to intimidate me. But it's all for a good cause, of course - growing my business, growing my mind, growing my experience.

The rather obvious truth I realized early on is that nothing in business is truly arcane (well, except for accounting things like valuation and such which my partner can handle with ease). For many situations, it's a matter of common sense, best practice or innovation. And there are lessons to be gleaned from other businesses that come and go, thrive or die - to a degree, since little can ever be guaranteed.

Nothing is certain but we can sure as hell give best efforts based on intelligence, chutzpah and elan.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

comics on my mind


I just finished my contribution to the "Hey Comics! Anthology" (due out in a couple of months), and this marks the first time I've actually done artwork by myself (I'm not that scared of Photoshop CS anymore).

I eschewed word balloons and went for a text on image thing which hopefully works. I have no illusions of being an artist/illustrator, but one of the conditions of the anthology was that contributors do both writing and art - thus my valiant effort (haha, and I'm obviously not changing careers, dammit).

I just hope my work is not that bad in comparison to everyone else's. If it is, I can always plead infirmity.

The "Hey Comics! Anthology" is edited by Elbert Or.


Speaking of El, I finally got to read "Cast: Pre-production", the equivalent of the series' issue #0, written by Jaime Bautista, art by Ronin Core , edits by El and published by Nautilus Comics.

I'm sad to say it was not for me. Apart from issues with the art (which was erratic, looked rushed, ill-constructed and at places just plain ugly), the writing could have been improved. Bautista suffers from the same verbosity I suffer from, and like me, he can learn to trim the words and not state the obvious. There are many places where exposition disguised as dialogue is inflicted on the reader, while in some places, a word of explanation (or calling a character by name) would clarify matters.

At this point (due in part to the terrible art), I can barely tell who's who. I am also not emotionally hooked.

I am also a bit concerned at the pacing. If the story is meant to unfold at this languid pace, readers may be lost early on.

I do understand Bautista's intent, but with this poor execution, it is hard to suspend disbelief (even in the context of "this is a book for younger people").

Still, there is certainly no other way to go but up, right?

In his blog, El asked for people to stop kissing ass. So, El - here's a slap on the hand instead (haha).

oh, no!

I rarely pick up pamphlets these days, prefering trade paperback collections (for a long list of reasons). Once in a while though, I am unable to resist (and Nikki and Vin caw at me like ill-tempered ravens, gleefully pointing out that I've failed my willpower check).

Last night, I picked up "Identity Crisis #1", and suffice it to say, I was delighted and reduced to fanboy speculation (and Nikki too!). A murder rocks the DC superhero community, and the reactions and secrets revealed by writer Brad Meltzer are enough to make me just shut up and read and reread. I can even forgive the crappy art by Rags Morales.

remember your childhood...and pass it on

But the pick of the week was a storybook from Astonish Factory. "The Land of the Sokmunster" is an enjoyable read by Eisner Award-winner Mike Kunkel (creator of Herobear) & Randy Heuser. A young boy's life is changed when a Sokmunster steals something precious. The boy follows the thief into a strange land and hijinks ensue (of course). The delightful animation style art plus the engaging character designs make this a clear winner.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

stoking passion

There are a lot of wonderful artists who are in the process of finalizing their work for Siglo: Passion, our annual grafiction anthology (to be published in full color later this year by Nautilus Comics, Kestrel IMC and Quest Ventures).

As I see more and more artwork coming in, I get excited all over again, like when Vin and I did when we began to plan this edition last year (how cool is a story written by Nikki Alfar, illustrated by Lan Medina & Reno Maniquis and colored by Ed Tadeo?).

One of the people I really really wanted to work with was Jeremy Arambulo, a very talented Fil-Am whose art explodes with indie sensibilities. My barkada and I were fortunate enough to meet and get to know him during his visit to Manila (talent runs deep in the blood of Marco's family).

We teamed up to do a story for Siglo: Passion and Jeremy's initial designs have floored me. I love the lines, the nuance of expressions - gah, I'm blathering like a fan boy - and the way it reminds me of Mike Allred without being derivative. We're trying something different with the narrative form.

Our story is one of two set in the future, breaking the symmetry of stories set in a century (the other one is by Luis Katigbak and Jonas Diego).

Geez, I can't wait to see the final thing.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

living in grey

Business, of course, is a civilized form of warfare, with certain codes of ethics and conduct that businessmen more or less adhere to. This does not prevent the practice of unsavory business practices, given the fact that people will always try to get away with what they can, abusing the grey areas of law and relationships. This includes aspects like bookkeeping (almost all companies keep two books - one for the BIR and one that has the real numbers), employee benefits, hours, payment terms, scope of work and many others.

But I believe in the necessity of maintaining professionalism when engaged in a business. To some it may just be a game, but to many like myself, it goes beyond being a livelihood.

In my handful of years as a businessman, I've been exposed to many situations where a quick buck could be made - if I took a nebulous shortcut, if I gave a percentage of my fee to a government fixer, if I showered certain people with gifts, if we got in bed with a certain murderous presidentiable. I'm happy to say that, so far, I've managed to ignore the various temptations. But continual exposure drains one's heart if not one's resolve. I obviously prefer to work with entities with a code of ethics, but sometimes situations aren't selective and the lost opportunities cost more than just money.

My partner and I believe in erring towards the side of what is right (and what is right is usually neither the most popular nor easiest option). So in instances when abuse occurs (supplier, client, whathaveyou), it affects us tremendously.

Then why bother? Why not just put on a game face like everyone else? Why not take advantage and subscribe to Gordon Gecko's maxim "Greed is good"? Why not take the position that business is about winners and losers and you've got to be a winner?

I take a look around me and see a gambling lord who also runs drugs and sex clubs (untouchable and a multi-millionaire), a property developer who pokes a gun in the face of one of his tenants (a salon which could not accommodate him because the shop was full), a government agency that awards projects not to the best bids but to the largest "finder's fee" (thus escalating the true cost to taxpayers because the fee needs to be covered), an internet cafe chain owner who flipped the business at the cost of multiple friendships (but now that he's rich, he can buy new friends).

It is futile to ask the world to be fair. I suppose the only thing we can do is to run the business with our principles intact and just let the karmic wheel take care of itself. Is this like poking my head in the sand and just hoping that I'm not carried off by the waves?

I don't know.

It's an ambiguous enviroment and it is always challenging to navigate when what is revealed in your field of vision is mostly grey.

essential: invisible

De Saint Exupery would have us believe that it is only with the heart that one can see clearly, that what is essential is invisible.

If I adhered to this line of thought, I would have killed almost everyone I've ever met.

The heart is a poor judge of character and worth, easily deceived when it wants to believe in the best, and just as easy to condemn when betrayed. It reads meaning into actions and creates issues where none exist. It creates situations when hope is held aloft like a cruel banner. It distorts reality to get in line with its vision of how-things-should-be.

The heart bends mirrors and is selectively blind, misremembers certain words said and holds other memories to microscopic scrutiny, creates phantoms of experience and fears the unknown.

It is better to think, to consider, to weigh. Not coldly, because it is a fallacy that the intellect is pure ice; not in a mercenary manner, because it is also a wrongly-held notion that the mind is immune to emotional considerations; and not in harsh structures, for the seat of thought will be the first to concede that there are many ways to approach any given situation.

When the deepest part of your heart is burnt, put the feelings on hold and think it through. Where the heart screams for vengeance or succor, you should let the mind consider the situation and the consequences of potential responses. What the heart condemns with tears, intellect can see the value of.

It is perfectly fine to feel - that's what makes us human. But the heart can only see clearly when it feels like it. Better to temper it with what the mind knows: that while what is essential may be invisible, we must take into consideration more than just essentials.

Monday, June 07, 2004

come, storm

I guess there's no pleasing people like me.

Take rain, for example. I am irritated by the namby-pamby little fall of rain, the light drizzle that occasionally threatens to be a downpour, which is neither here nor there. You look silly without an umbrella but don't really need it.

If there's going to be traffic and delays anyway, let there be real rain, a real storm, with Hong Kong-style "Black Rain" warnings, powerful winds that rip people off the streets and slam them into derelict buildings, floods that go beyond a few inches and threaten the entire riverways; let there be gnashing and wailing and fists held against the unforgiving sky that weeps tears of contempt, let it be elemental, let it strike fear and loathing and bitterness, make us feel small and unable to leave the presumed safety of the dry indoors, remind us of our frail humanity.

Don't be civilized and rain on schedule or in almost-embarassed bursts. Rain should never be paired with the adjective "gentle".

Give me a reason to stay home.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


Alam niyo namang ilang taon na din akong makinis ang ulo, semikal ang gupit at walang balbas o bigote. Nagsimula yan nung lumipat ako sa Hong Kong at namahalan masyado sa mga pagupitan doon, kaya naisip kong magpashave nalang ng ulo para di ganon kadalas magpagupit. Paguwi ko sa Manila, biglang uso pala ang kalbo. Ang dami tuloy naming mukhang takas sa bilibid o sa ROTC.

Nasanay din ko (pero sa umpisa feeling hubad ang ulo ko, damang-dama ang bawa't ihip ng hangin) at alam mo naman ang tao, kapag may nakasanayan na, mahirap magbago.

Ngayon, susubukan kong magpahaba uli ng buhok (bago ako kinasal, mahaba talaga ang buhok ko, tawag nga ng iba sa akin ay "si ponytail"). Wala lang, para maiba naman. Kung hindi kayanin ng pasenya ko, e di tabas nanaman.

Tatry ko ding magpatubo ng balbas at bigote. Noon ko pa ambisyon yan, pero akala ko hindi kaya ng buhok ko (manipis kasi at wala namang balbon sa pamilya) kaya shave ako ng shave. Pero sabi sa akin ng aking barberong si Raul ay kaya naman daw. So sige, tingnan natin. Nababagalan lang ako sa paglago nito. At madalas, gusto kong i-shave dahil sanay ako sa malinis. Pagmagsawa ako sa kahinhintay, balik kinis ako.

At habang naghihintay, mukha akong sanggalo ng Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang, haha. Medyo astig sa mga taxi driver kasi mukha akong barumbado.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

thoughtlife: the filipino family

One of the barkada's evening topics was familial influence.

I asked everyone to assess, given the context of the Filipino family, to what degree they are influenced by family at this point in their lives. We got a wide range of answers, which is not surprising given the fact that we at different points (living at home, have own home, financially dependent or independent), have different ages (18 to 35) and were raised in different ways (by complete parents, broken marriages, by grandparents, by surrogates). The common thread, however, is that, like it or not, family matters. There are many positive ways (guidance, wisdom, emotional/financial support) just as there are many negative aspects (approval, family "shame", competition, bias) in which family continues to make their presence felt.

The Filipino family is traditionally a close-knit unit, extending to people beyond the immediate core of father-mother-child. The extended family, which counts grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins of varying degrees, in-laws, godparents, family friends, centuries-old neighbors, is a powerful institution which is difficult to escape. Many people try - as soon as they realize that being a small cog in a huge machine is not for them; some manage to leave by going abroad (but even isolation in a different country is not true isolation anymore - with texting, phone calls, the internet, fly-in visits plus the local Filipino community present), some try to co-exist within the same city, province or country (with the occasional required appearance at family lunches, events and reunions), and some just surrender to the inevitable weight of too many people who feel they have a right to involve themselves with the minutiae of your life.

Family is good, of course. But personally, I feel that distance is required once you develop a sense of self or reach a self-sustaining capacity or get married. It is vital to become whoever you need to be, to live a life on your own terms, to succeed or fail based on your own choices. Needing to seek approval from family (especially on matters like whom you can marry) robs you of your capacity to make decisions on your own. Consulting or canvassing opinions is a different thing - what I'm talking about is taking the word of your parents or clan patriach/matriach as the Law.

On reflection, I realized that even with my current situation (adult, married, with child, with own livelihood and place to stay) I am still affected by the opinions of family, specifically my mother and my step-father. Part of it is the fact that I will always love and respect them. Weighing in also is the fear of failure (my stepdad is absurdly wealthy while I have little in comparison) and needing to prove myself capable of living the way I deem fit.

Love and fear, in a nutshell.

I recognize the fact that while I've sundered visible ties (the allowance I used to get as a young person, the free food and lodging) they continue to influence me in invisible ways. Perhaps there is no escaping family at all, even if you do not communicate with them on a regular basis or allow them within 50 meters of yourself.

But much worse for me would the daily presence of family members, having to eat with them on schedule, having to do family-oriented activities together, having personal concerns discussed in a town council, having so many people to please or be wary of.

Again, this is not to say I'm anti-family. On the contrary, even since I gained sentience and realized I was part of a broken home, I swore that I'd never make the same mistakes as my biological parents did.

I suppose I'm a firm believer in the need for individuality, in discovering one's capacity, in establishing my own family.

Nikki and I carried on the conversation with each other until the sun rose, over a breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches, until I just couldn't keep my eyes open. We talked about other ancillary matters, including the question "When does parenting end?".

What bothered me about my opinion on this matter is the fact that I am a father myself, which means that at some distant time in the future, I'd better have one hell of a thick skin when Sage decides to distance herself and do her own thing.

The very thought saddens me, and yet I agree with the sentiment.

Or maybe, when I'm older, I'll change my mind and cling to my child because of love, loneliness, or the very human need to be part of the life I helped nurture. And she, of course, will resent the clinginess and want to run away from my arms.

What all this thinking and talking did to me was to make me reconsider how I deal with my three parents (mother, father, stepfather), and ask if my behavior of the past years created sadness for them.

When the rebellious, independent-natured, critical-thinking child becomes a parent himself, there is necessary change in perspective, no matter how late.

And I'm not sure if I like the fact that I've crossed to the other side.

Friday, June 04, 2004

in the mood for film

One the films I’m looking forward to seeing is Wong Kar Wai’s follow-up to one of favorite films – the beautifully languorous, painfully honest and cinematically gorgeous In The Mood for Love.

His new film is 2046, and based on the initial version screened at the Cannes Film Festival, it continues his spin on sultry alienation, rapturous dalliances, romantic melancholia and his belief in the grace and pain of love. Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Carina Lau and Gong Li (the woman responsible for my love for Chinese cinema) make up the cast.

This film cannot get here quickly enough.

cuaron es el hombre

To avoid the crowds of sniveling kids, intellectually-desolate morons and other annoying theatergoers, Nikki and I caught Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before the weekend.

And I loved it. Unlike the first two movies which stank to high heavens (oh where do I begin?), this installment, directed by A. Cuaron, hit all the right notes in terms of tone, pacing, direction, editing, shots - plus excellent characterization. From the eerie inflating opening scene to the requisite flight shots, this film showed (as Nikki put it) that fear and wonder are found in the same place.

I especially liked the dark palette used, veering away from the kiddie color crapola of the first two films, Hermione in jeans (what is happening to me? why am I noticing these very young girls?), and the general adult sensibilities (without losing the essence of what made the book work).

The books trace the growth of Potter. With this installment, the films have finally caught up.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

old and new

I visited a client in Ermita, in Old Manila this morning. It's a completely different place, with older structures surviving the onrush of new towers, single proprietor eateries next to glitzy fast food joints, a church two blocks away from a love motel.

People seem more laid back, less stressed and friendlier in general.

This afternoon, I visited my client in the eastern part of the metropolis, in the Libis area where C-5, a major artery, has encouraged the growth of all sorts of businesses of varying sizes. Restaurants line the road, representing everything from Spanish cuisine (Patio Alba) to Chinese (the famous Smart Chicken of Binondo) and everything in between (boutique-type restos and gigantic enterprises like Dampa sa Libis). Sports centers, spas, saunas and gyms sit side by side with girlie bars (Sybil)and big corporations (Universal Robina).

Everything seems quiet during daytime, but from early evening onwards, the place begins to pulsate with life, with a beat just as vital as Old Manila's.

Every year, people say business will be horrible and that companies will close. But for every one that shuts down, several others spring into existence. Short of earth-shaking catastrophe, business goes on, even with the laughable parody of the elections and the interminable canvassing going on.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

a kept man

Flush with the proceeds from her current writing projects, Nikki treated her favorite boytoy (me) to a fantastic dinner at Raphael's. For someone like me who is used to being the one who usually pays for everything, times like these are a treat indeed.

And you can't get more decadent than caviar on a thin cracker (unless you top your kani salad with it, like I did). I gorged on smoked salmon, prawns and stuffed duck before rearranging my multiple stomachs for tiramisu, fresh fruits and almond jelly, with a cup of fine brewed coffee to seal the experience.

As a result, I am a bloated but delighted man. That's what dinner, smokes and something to read does to me - in the company of my best friend.

life as an entrepreneur

We won an important bid against one of the giants in the industry, and I'm feeling quite good. Instead of competing toe-to-toe, feature-for-feature, I held on to my reasoning that a complex thing was not necessarily what the client needed.

We got another one yesterday, from something that seemed almost too small for us to handle. But I treated the client as I would any big corporation, and as a result the engagement grew bigger.

And today, I moved even closer to my goal of owning another business. The offer I'm looking at is unbelievable. I just need some time to finalize my position.

We've also been interviewing applicants for the positions we've opened in the company, and I'm happy to say that the overall level of ability is more than acceptable. I met someone whose talent floored me - I wanted to hire him on the spot, but will wait until I see the other applicants.

I'm delighted at these instances of good news. For the past couple weeks, I've been worried about cash flow (majority of businesses suffer from clients who pay late) to the point that insomnia and anxiety became potent forces. But now, with the slight turn of the wheel, things are okay again.


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

pink milk and other necessities

Growing up, it never occured to me that grocery money was finite. I'd accompany my mom as a young kid to the supermarket and happily plunk down what I wanted into the shopping cart. My mom would protest certain items not because of cost but because she'd question their necessity - like chips and soda and the random candy at the checkout counter. I always felt that my little wants were certainly justified considering the boring contents of the rest of the cart, stuff like vegetables, meat and other sundries.

When Nikki and I grocer, we have a general list of things we need for the month (we shop for a month's worth of things, then supplement it as needed - for example, no fresh veggies last forever, so we buy some more later). Then we go through the supermarket in a systematic way, usually ending up with two carts filled to the brim. Sage and our helpers accompany us because we've made it a family thing.

Anyway, our total grocery bill has been escalating for the past few months, going towards P8k, and this does not include Sage's stuff which has a separate budget (her milk costs P800 each, her lotion around P1k, and there's a lot of pampers and wipes and special soaps and medicine). This is distressing because when Nikki and I lived alone (sans child and helpers), our bill was significantly smaller.

I looked at the looooong receipt printout and realized that even with my conscious attempt to reduce my own unnecessary purchases (such as chips and various drinks), we were still spending a lot of money - and much of it was contextually necessary.

What is necessary for life changes with time and circumstances. I know deep inside that I'm motivated by the desire to never have Sage lack for anything, for as long as I am able to provide it. And while pink milk may be unnecessary, it makes me happy to buy it for my daughter when she says "Please, Daddy?".

And joy is necessary. Kindness is necessary. Love is necessary.

At age 2, Sage may not be aware of the costs of things, but at least she'll know the taste of pink milk, even just once. Does this mean I'm spoling the child? Nope. I grew up as an only child until my mother remarried when I was 12. Was I spoiled? No, if being spoiled means being a brat. I never lacked for books and other things that other parents may think unnecessary but which, for my mom, were vital to my growth.

I put things in perspective for myself: I buy myself books and food and cigarettes and entertainment on a regular basis, and I rarely angst over whether these are justified. So stuff I buy for my child in the supermarket should not cost me lost sleep.

One tetra pack of pink milk, one kaleidoscope, one watercolor set.

One healthy little girl, running around with paint on her face, squinting to see the wondrous patterns hidden by a cardboard tube, saying "Wow... Look, Daddy, look!"

Because life should never be just about the bare necessities.