Saturday, January 31, 2004


One of the most interesting circle of friends I have includes Jay, Alex and Kate.

If I had more time on my hands, I'd hang out with these folk and role-play to death or just talk about writing or Hinirang.

Alex and I go back some time, to the days in Hong Kong where we shared a flat and hunted down comics in Sugar Street. I've been attempting to persuade Jay to give me the mysterious amounts of money he gives Vin instead. And the lovely Kate is now my laptop buddy.

All are writers whom I look forward to reading in the future.


Just finished a ton of writing, including a revised 30-page series bible for the TV show, assorted work-related stuff, and my long-delayed contribution to K.I.A., Marco's upcoming anthology (thanks for your patience, buddy).

I came home and, despite Sage's best efforts, collapsed into deep sleep, interrupted only by an invitation for a nightcap.

I lugged the laptop around and polished a script but was unable to contribute much to the evening's conversation.


This weekend, there is no rest for the weary, as I have work stuff over Saturday and Sunday.

Again, no true complaints - whining is for the weak of mind. I just feel a little pressured because all my other non-mission critical writing is languishing in the darkness of one disk drive or the other.

And I'm possessed by a severe longing for a massage and long long long time in a sauna.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

visual opportunities

One of the things I'm training myself in is the capacity to spot what would make for an interesting picture. If you take time to look around, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of things that just beg to be shot - with the barest minimum of art direction.

I found this little girl at a local Watson's, holding a balloon, asked her mother for permission to take a shot and captured the expression I wanted.

At a hardware store, the rows and rows of tools and supplies are perfect for playing around with foreground/background composition.

At the wet market, the eyes of dead fish made for a compelling image, on ice.

If only the costs involved for taking photography seriously were not so prohibitive...

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

offers out of the blue

I was asked to meet with what I think is the largest publishing house in the country (they have 14 magazines with several more to be launched this year) based on my ability as a writer (in other words, it wasn't a Kestrel business meeting). It turns out that my Palanca credentials plus good word-of-mouth reached the right ears.

I didn't know that they wanted to recruit me to be a regular staffer for one of their magazines. Despite the generous offer, I had to decline, since I had my own business to run. The editor-in-chief is a fiercely intelligent woman I wouldn't mind interacting with. The head publisher is a lovely lady, only 36 years old, who has been fantastically managing the growth of her publishing empire (it includes the semi-prurient mag I adore).

They immediately offered me contributing status on one of the to-be-launched magazines, something whose concept seems to fit how they perceived me: I've been asked to develop feature-length articles on serious stuff, complete with research, interview and photoshoots. I told them I'd send them an outline of what I have in mind (of course, it had to do with sex haha) and they expect it very soon. They will, in addition to the article rate and contributor fee, pay for cost of materials, food, transportation and misc expenses. All I have to do is deliver a finely-written story that's intelligent (sounds familiar?).

After a drought, there is this sudden influx of writing offers. I'm not complaining, but between the TV series and my regular Kestrel stuff, I need to be able to manage my time wisely.

Of course, I did not let the opportunity to pitch my company go by. As a result, we are looking at potentially designing one of their magazine specials for them. We'll see.

Again, I'm struck by the timing of these things. It is as if this year is the year to write. And profit from writing. A rare combination that comes only once in a blue moon.

the things i do for verisimilitude

One of these free evenings, I'm planning to visit one or two of Manila's adult KTV places; you know, places where you are expected to do more than just sing - all in the name of research, of course (ha ha).

The choices are interesting, and I am limited only by how much I am willing to spend to have a drink and talk to the people there: Pegasus, Heartbeat, Pharaoh, Skytrek, Genie, Loveboat, Palacio Don Pedro, Air Force One. Most of them have engaging themes and conceits, and it just makes me smile to see creativity used in such effect.

One of the nice things at Pegasus is the TV system they have, so you can stay in the KTV rooms and still watch the action onstage. I missed the Ms. Pegasus 2003 over at Pegasus (how can anyone resist an Extreme Lingerie contest?), but they do have an interesting line-up of shows for the coming weeks. I will need a fortune though (or a very rich friend or three). If you plan to go yourself, it's over at at corner of Quezon Avenue and Chuatuco Street in Quezon City. Bring your credit cards (they accept almost everything).

Over at Heartbeat, they call their Guest Relations Officers (GROs) "Sweethearts" and attempt to entice you with their geographically-based rooms (Vienna, Paris, Tokyo, etc.). It's also along Quezon Avenue in QC and you will need your credit cards (I tell you, these places are not for the faint of wallet).

I actually helped design the fonts for Pharaoh (Creekside, Makati) but haven't seen what they've done with the place since I last visited many many years ago. But believe me, an Egyptian motif goes a long way in persuading someone like me who's mythologically-inclined to relax and sing the night away. If I could afford it, that is.

Skytrek and Air Force One, you already know about. One is plays around with the space theme, the other's conceit is an airport. The good thing about Air Force One is its proximity to Dampa, where you can pig out instead.

If you are in the Cainta area, you can swing by Genie Magic KTV, and enter the a place where decadent Araby is the theme. In tune with the feel of an Middle-Eastern kingdom, you're called "Master" by the "Princesses" who lounge around there - over at Paragon Square Building, V.V. Soliven St. across the Sta. Lucia Commercial Complex, Imelda Avenue, Cainta.

Along MacArthur Hi-way in Caloocan City, near Monumento Circle, is Loveboat. A ship cruise is the conceit and Mermaids are the entertainers. It seems like such a far distance for me, so most likely this is out. But still, I'd like to see what their suites and cabins look like. And find out what constitutes a "Stag No More" party.

Palacio Don Pedro, along Don Pedro St. in Makati (near Jupiter and Makati Avenue) is a really comfy-looking place, positioned as a hotel with free massage. Massage-whore that I am, it's in the cards I eventually make my way there.

So what's the point of exposing myself to these places apart from my prurient self-interest?

Why, the play, of course. The play's the thing.

I will hold a few conversations and only look at the menu. I promise not to lick it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

that time of year again

One of the nice things about writing for the Palanca Awards (and that's exactly what you're doing - writing for a competition) is enforced discipline.

Since material needs to be "competition class", the task of generating property is just the first step. More arduous for me is polishing the first draft into something that has a chance of impressing at least two of the three random judges.

The following things are given and should not be considered:

1. That your kernel of an idea is of interest;

2. That it is written well, in a manner that is engaging (or "honest and true" if you buy into that, since the very act of writing is artifice);

3. That your grammar is beyond reproach.

What is left is the act of hammering the damn thing into something that shines, something that achieves what passes for "literary", something that the judges cannot help but award.

Mercenary? But of course. Like any competition.

If you have the notion that there is something noble about this contest, then perhaps you are attributing too much value to it. Keep in mind that it is a contest. There are definitely superior works that were not entered. The difference is - you entered.

And maybe you even won.

The important lesson is how much you learn about yourself as a creative and as a technical writer, what you bring with you after the winners are announced - whether you won or not. Because if you write only to compete, you may learn that unless you're Butch Dalisay, you will lose more often than not.

That said, steel yourself, do your best and submit your entries. Then live your life as if September did not exist.

And continue to write, out-of-season, any season.

Monday, January 26, 2004

thoughtlife: we speak english real gud

Over dinner, we kept the television on the news.

A reporter covering the massive lines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport canvassed some travellers about their opinions on the fact that while every passenger was required to remove their shoes and pass through the x-ray thresholds, the airport possessed only two of the devices - resulting in over 90% of the flights being delayed or cancelled.

Filipino woman: "It's okay, it's for our safetyness."

Apparently, there is safety beyond safety.

Later on the same show, General Biazon (who is running for a senate seat), gave his take on the prospect of the military becoming involved in politics, coup d'etat-style:

Gen. Biazon: "The military will not partake of such adventurious behavior."

Why? Why add an extra "i"?

These people, no doubt, are more comfortable in Filipino, so why don't they just express themselves in that language? They stand a better chance of expressing themselves in a clear and concise manner to the general public on a Filipino-language news broadcast. Do they feel compelled to speak English because they're on television?

In the matter of expressing ideas, Filipino is more than adequate. It is a sturdy language that is in a continuous state of growth, acquiring words from other language when needed. It is also a lovely language for literature.

Kung kaya ko lang nga, magsusulat ako sa Tagalog.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

kingdom come

To commemorate the joint birthdays of Vin and Carl, the gang hied off to Enchanted Kingdom, a place far far far away from my usual haunts (you have to understand that I'm the Jack Hawksmoor of the group - like the character from The Authority, I'm built for the city). We divided our numbers into two vehicles - The Oldies (Carl, Marco, Jason, Nikki and myself) and the Young 'Uns (Andrew, Ralph, El, Camy and Vin who still thinks he's in his tweens) - then went forth like the cast of Berks, southbound to Laguna.

Knowing myself well, I was apprehensive at what, to me, would be a 16-hour drive. But a pit stop for a smoke and food kept me alive and sane. I did not throttle anyone unfortunate enough to be trapped in the vehicle with me.

Against my will, I had a great time. Yes, we had to strap Marco against his will to sample the various rides, and the young love team of Camy and El shared vertiginous moments, and only half of us dared the Space Shuttle (cowards! cowards!) - but the lack of world-class waiting lines and the overall cool afternoon combined for a pleasant experience. As the self-designated camera guy, I bemoaned my lack of an SLR camera, but managed to get a few passable shots.

At Anchors Aweigh, a ship that swings to a frazzling high point before slamming down in pendulum arc, we screamed like silly girls: the creators of Angel Ace and Baylans left with a finer appreciation of the mechanics of flight (from the perspective of a discombobulated digestive tract). The achieved height was nothing compared to our previous rides in the US parks, but it was good enough to make the grimace the expression of the day.

Wetness became a way of life after we navigated the Jungle Log Jam. We tried to spread out the weight among the logs (a number of us, myself included, are quite healthy) but ended up drenched anyway. The distressing thing was that screaming kept our mouths open, and the cycled water found purchase in some of our throats (so it sounded like Aiiiiieeegurgle!).

We dried off on the swing ride (a family-level ride that didn't do much for my die-hard thrill seeker of a wife), then split up. Those with balls (or honorary balls, as in Nikki's case) took to the sky again at the Space Shuttle, looping and twisting forward and backward. As usual, it made me think of sex: would you agree to a dramatic change in your personal reality such that every sexual encounter you have has the duration and intensity of a roller coaster ride, each and every time?).

That night, back in the city, we had dinner at a Korean resto and were joined by Dino over the remnants of bulgogi before we got a room at a hotel to wind down the exhausting day. Since it was next door to our condo, I retrieved my new laptop (told you I'd give in), hooked up my digicam and, with a trash bin standing in for a tripod, commenced an impromptu photo session in the studio/bathroom.

All in, a great day spent with great friends doing unusual things. Nikki and I called it a night at around 3AM, with the party went on for those that remained - over MTV, Jaegermeister and cigarettes.

Happy Birthday again to Carl and Vin!

Saturday, January 24, 2004


if I asked you to kiss me
here, here and there
would you think
once about salt
twice about skin
thrice about consequences?

and when your tongue
touches my skin, would you
recoil at my heat
squint your eyes shut
or just take the moment as is?

because, I must tell you,
there are places and dangerous places
zones and comfort zones
boundaries and established boundaries

please be warned:
you encroach at your own peril
(even though, really, you're invited -
how could I not do so?
what would you say?
what would you think?)

and if you turn the questions back
you won’t find answers in my eyes;
they're turned inward looking
for the sense in the sensations
for the reasons I put us at risk
in the manufactured passion
of this instant

but you should know this:
i'm growing accustomed
to the tang of sweat

i can live with your flavor

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Like a sudden rain in the midst of drought, a little something (actually, a big something) arrived today and made me a very happy man.

Content does pay!

Oh yeah.


I was out of the office all day, meeting in the morning with one of my most fascinating clients (who else can discuss Einsteinian and Newtonian physics vis-a-vis the Indian epic cycle of destruction and rebirth?) to close an annual report. And she saw me on TV during the Siglo: Freedom launch - and asked me what aspects of freedom we tackled and why.

Then a barrage of phonecalls, coordinating with several other clients for projects, meetings, briefings and material follow-ups. I actually had to turn down a big account simply because we didn't have enough time and manpower to handle it.

Later in the afternoon, my partner and I worked to win another account, and there was much rejoicing around the land. It's amazing how cigarette-powered thought processes can make a difference.

And last night, the shoot I directed went swimmingly well. It always feels great to be able to capture the essence of a person for posterity. This one is for an international magazine cover. I'm playing around with the notion of taking photography seriously, but the sheer cost of all the equipment is rather intimidating.

Tomorrow morning, I have a fashion show. At least I get to go gaga over the "attitudinal" models. Go, girls!


And also tomorrow I will finally give in to the urge that has snuck up on me. I'm getting myself a laptop, after not having one for two years (I still miss my sexy Vaio though).

I've rationalized the expense by saying that I can use it to write even if I'm away from desk and home.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


I was worried that Sage had lost a little weight because of her recent illness. I think she lost somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds, which is 10 percent of her total weight. To put things in perspective, I hit the scales at around 180 lbs - it would like me losing 18 pounds in a couple of days (oh, I wish!).

But almost immediately after recovery, she got it all back, pretending to be a shark and terrorizing sleeping fathers, devouring fries and sinigang, tromping around in my socks and shoes, and holding conversations in the language of Elves and Men.

art directing the great old one

Having completed preliminaries for a photo shoot I'm art directing tomorrow, my mind was still locked in terms of frames, lighting and composition. This is a relatively new discipline I'm offering as a service to clients - new as in two years new. I've always had an eye for what looks good and it was just natural progression to capitalize on it. Besides, I realized that I was art directing for more than two years - I just didn't know it was called that and I did it for free.

I jumped into deep waters at the start (what else is new?) by art directing various annual report's Board of Directors shots - which was great training because you cannot fuck around with powerful people (but a little charm, professional level English and a sense of humor go a long way) - and progressed to models, product shots, interiors and crowds and all sorts of engaging stuff.

I like the challenge of coming up with a concept to be executed in visual terms, because one of my greatest frustrations is being unable to create anything visual by hand (using computers is cheating and I have no patience to learn how to be a real photographer). I talk to the client to get a firm grasp of expectations; to the models (if were shooting live people) to get a feel of their personality; muck around with the subject (psuedo-food styling, if it's food); move things around to create a better atmosphere. It takes time, but I find that, incredibly, I'm a very patient art director.

Anyway, I had always wanted to shoot Vin's plush Cthulhu at his store and I happened to have my Canon digital camera with me.

I ended up shooting a series of pictures of The Great Old One in various angles, wings closed and opened, though I was a bit distressed that "his" expression hardly changed. A hard one to motivate indeed. Until I gave him a cigarette and "he" loosened up.

Yes, even the Unspeakable Ones Beyond The Stars need a ciggie break.

cheers, buddy

Tomorrow, my best bud celebrates his forceps-assisted arrival into this mad world (and he has the indentations to prove it).

As the years roll on by, it becomes more and more amazing to me how long our friendship has endured - almost two decades, in fact.

It began with comics, moving on to games, blossoming because of similar interests like writing, weathering false friends and clockwork happenstances, growing through art and endless conversations, until he became more than just my bosom friend - my beloved brother beyond blood ties, co-conspirator, godfather to my daughter and optimistic beacon of Happy Land.

It's a day early, but I wanted to be among the first to say "Happy Birthday".

Happy Birthday, Vin!

Dinner's on me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

over easy

My partner-in-crime Nikki has posted her thoughts on how we guys have it easy. But do we, really? And if we don't, is it enough for us to wish we were women instead?

1. Upkeep Costs. In patriachal Philippines, we are expected to be the ones to bring home the bacon. That amount should be enough to pay for rent, utilities, food, salaries, child upkeep and other necessities, plus have extra for "lifestyle" - which includes dinners out, the occasional show or film, books and comics and other entertainments, clothes and shopping and such. Rightly or wrongly, that is the expectation every Filipino man is raised to adhere to. To be unable to provide for family is a devastating blow to self-esteem and self-worth. As a result, men become focused on earning more (and needing to release their stress more as well).

2. Follow the Leader. All major decision eventually rest on our shoulders, because much of them involve finances. But part of Filipino tradition is the ingrained respect for eldest male authority in a household. Pressure to balance books meets pressure to balance other non-financial needs.

3. Look At The Menu, But Don't Order. Once married, we are forbidden to appreciate any female forms apart from that of our loving wife (I'm just lucky Nikki isn't the narrow-minded type). The interplay of insecurity, jealousy and ownership struggles with the frank admiration of sexiness, allure and, okay, big tits. As if the change in civil status suddenly blinds and emasculates us. But we need to play along, to maintain harmony (and sleep in bed instead of the couch). But sex is always on the brain, whether we confess to it or not.

4. Mr. Fixit. If any electrical or plumbing-related mishap occurs, we are expected to know how to fix it immediately, despite any misgivings on potential danger or ignorance. Because we're men, dammit. Same with cars, ships, planes and bombs. It's worse when something breaks down in the presence of a large group of men. Watch the machismo take over - it's mob mentality at its ugliest.

5. And The Award Goes To... Men need to achieve something and get validation. Often, it doesn't matter what the contest is, for as long as you win. It is not enough to compete, you must win. It is not about making friends, you must win. It is not about the prize, you simply must win. Win. Win. Win. It seems that we are trapped by the fundamental aggression in our genes.

There are more, but that should suffice for now. So, are these reasons enough for us to want to give up our gender and become women? Absolutely not.

1. I do not want to spend money on tons of make-up and exotic fruit-flavored beauty products.

2. I do not want to have to think about maintaining gigantic wardrobes and multiple pairs of shoes, open-toed or not.

3. I do not want to have gowns made for weddings or commission vanity portraits of myself, airbrushed and all.

4. I certainly do not want to experience childbirth.

5. I do not want to menstruate. Ever.

And there are more.


There are times when I do wish we had it easier. To be able to sit around and be supported by someone else instead of having to worry about the business. To be able to spend more time with my daughter. To pamper myself like there's no tomorrow.

But most importantly...

To find out just why, exactly, women have to go to public comfort rooms holding hands.

Monday, January 19, 2004

better when i wondered

In the back pages of late 70's Marvel Comics, I would come across the marvelous advertisement that showed a happy family of Sea Monkeys (with the ladies complete with blonde hair).

Young and imaginative, I dreamed about providing a home for these wonderful creatures, thinking of all the time I could spend watching them express their own aquatic joie de vivre as they zoomed in and out of their underwater castle. I imagined their tiny lives, how they would fall in love, have a family and swim in utter happiness.

I never got to order them though. At that time, having comics was rare enough in itself; ordering something from the ads was an impossible dream. But dream I did.

Instead, I developed a love for tropical fish (switching to fresh water after the tragically heart-rending destruction of my salt water aquarium by my detergent-wielding cousin). They were easily accessible and relatively inexpensive (if you didn't need to possess the high profile fish - agressive Oscars, darting Rainbow Sharks, delicate kissing Gouramis). But it was a love that faded over time. I really wanted Sea Monkeys, but abandoned the notion of ever having them. I moved on with life.

Later, someone asked me if I would like to have some brine shrimp. Before I could decline, he told me that's what Sea Monkeys really were. Shocked, I could only nod in ecstasy. I couldn't wait until he delivered them.

When I got them, I raised the plastic container and searched for the likenesses emblazoned into my mind by four-color ink and the palette of dreams. But where I hoped to see happy faces, I found tiny things that darted around and bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I expected.

I gave them back to m friend.

Looking back now, I realize how a little ad can affect a person. I felt robbed and cheated, yes. But that little ad also contributed to how I think and imagine.

Yes, my hope was shattered when I finally saw the thing for what it was - ugly and inelegant, void of blonde hair.

And yes, perhaps a retroactive complaint can be made with the internation truth-in-advertising people.

But while I now have the truth, I can always look back to the lie and relive the joy of fantasy. To me, Sea Monkeys will always have little faces, swim in family groups and have dazzling smiles.

The truth is irrelevant - it has no power.

Wonder always wins, hands down.
writing for television

check your ego at the door

So someone approaches you and asks you to pitch for a TV series.

Before anything else, slap your ego and lock it in a dark windowless place. Yes, there must be a reason they approached you. Perhaps it was the strength of your previous work. Maybe you talked a good talk. Perhaps you were just in the right place at the right time.

Cease reflecting on your worth as a creative and start working to actually win the pitch.

the brief

The first thing you need to do is to find out if A) the producers already have something in mind, or B) you present something you create yourself.

In the case of the former, it is best to ask for some sort of creative brief. This document contains details on what sort of property the producers are interested in developing. Among several things, it also contains their target audience or age group as well as an idea of how they intend to position the property. Normally, they have a very definite idea of what they want: a drama, a comedy, a full season of of 26 episodes of animation. You need to know if you're going to develop something for an hour, a half-hour (44-45 minutes and 22-23 minutes actual time, respectively, to give room for opening credits, end credits and ads) or something like a 2-hour special.

The case of scenario B is more challenging, especially if the producers tell you that they're simply looking for something interesting - and just to see if what you come up with is worth risking their millions - because developing a series for TV is not cheap.

Sometimes, after an initial meeting, you walk away with a sense of the producers wanting a mix of the two scenarios - they have something definite in mind but want to see what you would pitch anyway, given the opportunity. For a writer and creative, this is a great challenge. Nothing to take lightly, but certainly nothing be quail in fear at either.

the treatment

Block off a decent amount of time away from anything that can distract you. You need space to think and write (and normally, you do not have much time).

Come up with a list of ideas for the series, based on your understanding of the brief. While it is fine to blue-sky and impose no limits on your imagination, you need to somehow keep in mind that there are budgetary constraints to work with. When you develop a live-action series, for example, you cannot have explosions galore unless your client has bottomless pockets. In the case of 3D animation, be aware that modelling and animating a thousand unique models is expensive and most likely impractical.

Review at your list with eyes void of love and ego. Select two or three that have potential and also interest you. Forget about the others and never engage in the silly exercise of trying to graft on all 46 ideas you had into one miraculous thing. It won't work. It is always better to focus and narrow down. Always.

Write a treatment for your two or three Master Concepts. A treatment contains the series title, rationale, series tone and goals, characters, story arcs and plots, and usually some loglines. Loglines are episode summaries, written in one brief paragraph, that shows important points in the series. Some people write a few, some write none, I write all 26 episodes. Remember that you can always revise loglines during pre-prod - so write as many as you can to give the producers a better understanding of where the entire thing is going.

the scriptment

Sometimes, I write a scriptment. A scriptment is a treatment with a full script for the pilot episode included. A full script means a full script. No shortcuts, written in a clear formatted manner, that introduces some of the series' characters and the establishes both milleau and main story.

Remember the 3-act structure, start strong, have a good middle, end strong. Make your characters breathe and maintain the narrative flow. End what needs to be ended but keep your subplots going.

I need to stress that you must not be lazy. Write effectively, intelligently, quickly. And stay within the prescribed parameters you outlined in your treatment and within the time framework.

the pitch

Familiarize yourself with your work. It should go without saying that the producers know next to nothing about you and your mad ideas. You are your greatest champion. Don't be the one thing that kills the opportunity for you.

Present your property with intelligence and polish up on your communication skills. Be the kind of writer that breaks the stereotype of the introvert. Wow them. There are times when you need to sell yourself, as a creative, as the right writer.

Go through your material in a logical sequence. Take time to explain your overall vision. You need to sell the idea and get them to buy it. Quick thinking, a sense of humor and good pacing are critical skills you must employ.

Defend your vision within reason but listen to what they say. Keep in mind that artistic integrity and work-for-hire are two different things. Stick to your guns where it matters and select what you will fight for. Remember that a TV series is a collaborative effort and the writer is NOT king. If your ego needs that kind of massaging, then fund it yourself.

Accept the fact that there will be changes. The producers (the people with the money) will want something. The director will want something. You definitely want something. Work from there and create a win-win situation rather than a silly and ungratifying win-lose scenario.


If you are awarded the project (kudos to you!) then the hard work begins. Coordinate with the other writers (unless you're operating alone, in which case make sure to get someone you respect and who's not afraid of you to read your material as it develops).

Immerse yourself in the new world. Keep track of all your characters and their development. Know where the story is going and maintain the logic of all subplots. Write the best dialogue you can. Keep true to the treatment. Keep your deadlines. Accept revisions with grace.

Work hard to bring to the small screen something you will be proud of - but again, keep in mind that you are not being paid to develop high art. If your soul screams to create high art, do it somewhere else in some other way.

Above all, discipline yourself.


In the case where your treatments are trashed, don't despair. Before you file them somewhere and move on with life, try to understand why you lost. Were your concepts trite and mundane? Were your characters boring and cardboard cut-outs? Did your treatment lack an integrated vision? Was it a bad script? Did you fail during the presentation and become an unspeaking sweaty rock?

It is vital to have an understanding of your weaknesses to be able to improve upon them. Sometimes, the way to learn is to fall flat on your face.

When opportunity comes again, do better and win.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


Is it time to turn off the porn?

Saturday, January 17, 2004


Sometimes, clients expect you to be able to read their minds.

It is a skill that can be learned and cultivated without needing to be a mutant in the first place.

It requires a thorough knowledge of the brand, the personality of the client and an honest expression of finesse. Another requirement is being in tune with the client's plan for the year and a definite commitment to aiding the brand - in other words, a massive sense of ownership.

Even in the event that you are mistaken, your thoughts will most likely only be within a few degrees of error.

After all, when you care about your work, you must have been already thinking about how to help the brand in the best way you know, with the limits set only by the parameters of your creativity, and grounded only by the budget allocation.

The payoff is when your work is effective. When it makes a measurable difference.

kill bill part 1

Finally, a film so in touch with my current sensibilities - despite the fact that the lead actress is much-loathed by me.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Four clients that needed stuff in the morning, then to UP Diliman for the Grail talk on comics (thanks to Gabby, Peloy, Rueben, Hiyas - plus the wonderful Camy), then to CCHQ (hi Christine), Comicquest and dinner with the gang at President's, then home and more work for an early morning pitch, plus Monkey King stuff - gah.

Too tired to even write about Spamjam, the Spam concept store at the Glorietta (and the only one in the world).

Next time, next time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

happo five yen satsu!
little girl get well step one!

Poor Sage has been suffering from a stomach virus that's been going around.

After two trips to the doctor's, she seems to have finally shaken it off, but has lost some weight.

One of the most horrible feelings in the world is that of being a father when your child is ill. You feel utterly helpless, and wish that you could take on the burden yourself (wait, wait, I feel a Samwise Gamgee moment... okay, it has passed, whew!). You can only give the best care you can, pray and watch her fight her own little battle.

But now she's back to drawing circles with her Sharpee, engaging me in conversation with her new Singaporean accent ("Daddy-lah!"), holding high tea with her friends and demanding to see her pictures on the computer.

action, adventure and hope beyond reason

That about sums up my treatment for the epic scale animation series on my plate.

I'm taking a slipstream approach, mixing scifi and fantasy campaign-style.

I've begun to fine tune the series bible and have seen the interesting preliminary character designs.

There's a lot of work, but I've officially signed the contract and am in for 26 episodes.

mise en place

I'm glad to hear that everything has been settled to your satisfaction.

Sometimes, the simplest answer eludes us, as we complicate matters to heart's twisting point.

You see, often the Principle of Parsimony is enough - William of Occam did have a point, after all.

But now that you have both your freedom and a commitment, what will you do?
porno for you

Despite my interest in the flesh, there are actually several types I can't stomach, the pornography of violence foremost.

While all pornography is irredeemably exploitative and a form of violence perpuated against both object and viewer, those that victimize children top the list of the truly repulsive. My prurient interest has left one of my mailboxes open to such terrible invitations as "Watch 8 year-old Missy lose It!", "See me wake up my little boy up the ass!", and "Invitation to Kiddie Porn Palace - Hurry! Offer Expires in two days!". The saddening thing to note is that there are people who will take up the offer, pay or hack their way into these sites, and perpetuate the dehumanizing cycle. I'm only too glad to read on the news services when pedophiles and their supplier rings are thrown into prison.

Then there is the non-sexual pornography where violence is truly violent. Executions, bloodletting and people begging for their lives. These things take the fantasy aspect of bondage and humiliation into their fatal extremes. Think of the most disturbing violent scenes you've watched in either commercial or independent cinema and strip them of any aesthetic or story rationales - you can see death on the internet if you want to. Real death, real blood, real suffering, no acting, just pure horror. I do not see how anyone can get turned on by this, but apparently some people do. It's America's Funniest Home Videos via a murderer's eyes.

It is one thing for me to look at the human form and defend eroticism, putting up literature and art throughout history that celebrate human sexuality without the hangups of religion or the misguided judgments of narrow-minded puritanism, but it is another thing altogether to be shown material that is absolutely void of anything that matters. Writers and artists have been inspired by sex since time immemorial, but there is a definite difference between the erotic and the pornographic.

And yet for many, the line is blurred or is not apparent at all. Thus Anais Nin is lumped with Letters to Penthouse, and Sandro Botticelli with Ron Jeremy, and E.M. Forster's "Maurice" with Morty Valentino's "World Class Ass".

The internet, void of criticism and discernment, is democratic in the ugliest way.

Like all media.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

mind soup

If yesterday is an indicator of how this year is going to be in terms of intellectual and creative exercises, then I'm a happy man.

I had a telecon with Singapore and Bangkok about the animated TV series Nikki and I are writing. The producers and artists are in Singapore, the series director is in Bangkok, while the writers (that's us) are here in Manila. Motion capture will be done in Australia, principal animation in Singapore and Hong Kong, and voice direction in Manila.

It's amazing to think how a project can have so many contributors in so many different countries. The best part for me is that while the sensibilities in terms of look and design will come from Singapore, the true series soul will come from Manila.

The expectations are phenomenal, and I found myself actually thinking quietly "shit, just how do we do this?". The answer of course is simply to do it. Nikki and I are no strangers to the format (a 30-minuter requires 22 or 23 minutes of script), and the challenge is to create something that does not only tell a good story with solid characters, but also to write something that will sell. The balance between the creative impulse and the market's appetite is an art in itself.

I need to review story structure, the three acts, and immerse myself in good episodic cartoons. Certain anime are fine, but my sensibilities have never truly lain there. I'm thinking more European, or better yet, something of our own. What does this mean? We'll see.

If, and the realist that I am there's always an "if", everything works out, then my daughter Sage may have something to point at and say "hey, my parents wrote that show". So, toes crossed and all that (hell, at the very least, we get paid to be creative, so everything's cool).

Then there was the coordination between UP Grail (Graphic Arts in Literature) and us. Nikki, El, Andrew and I will be speakers this Thursday at the University of the Philippines - talking comics, naturally.

I honestly think that we are on the cusp of something new, not necessarily a movement (because no one within a movement's beginning is aware that it is a movement, except for the most vainglorious men). And by we, I don't mean "me and my immediate group", but rather the community of graficionists in the country.

At no other time in the past decade has there been such an outpouring of creative comics, both published and self-published. We have a ton of stuff that adheres (by skin if not by soul) to Japanese manga, a series of pseudo-materialist pamphlets from universities, realist mini-comics, handsome trade paperbacks, and so on. We have many young people willing to commit themselves to pen and paper either through word balloons or artwork. The mainstream press is taking notice of things like Culture Crash, Darna and Siglo: Freedom. Conventioneers look at the so-called "indie" comics (although, really, we are ALL "indie", given that none of us by definition are mainstream). Comics by Pinoys are popping up in comic stores, bookstores, groceries and other outlets.

It's a good time to create, but where do we go from here? Again, we'll see.

Late last night, I had Thai soup and beer with Kristine Fonacier, MTV Ink editor in chief, and Zach Yonzon of Mango Comics. We were talking about how what we can in the light of the perceived hopelessness a lot of people are experiencing as they view the upcoming national elections.

Dean: You know, of course, that when it comes to things like this, I'm ridiculously difficult to appease.

Zach: Which is exacly why I wanted you here.

Kristine: First round is on me.

Our solution? Put aside partisanship and think intelligently. The results of our little discussion should be apparent in a few weeks time as we attempt to make a difference. Because a difference, no matter how small, is still a difference.

And finally, after getting home, I realized what one of the plays-in-progress I was writing needed, and added an entire sequence about dealing with the twin demons of hope and loss. And when the writing bug bites, there is no reasoning.

So in the span of 24 hours, I engaged in a creative dialogue with my Asian co-creatives, prepared for a dialogue with a special interest group in UP, enjoyed stimulating dialogue with minds akin to my own, and wrote dialogue for characters who only want a better tomorrow.

My mind worked in multiple modes: regional/global, national, and personal.

Dialogue. Words and plans. The written word.

My world. And I love it.

Monday, January 12, 2004

thoughtlife: age

Up to now, I still do a doubletake when I think about how old I am.

Growing up, the passage of the years in terms of age didn't mean much after certain milestones where reached - 18, 21 and 30. 18 because it meant adulthood in terms of legalese (even if mentally I was an adult earlier), 21 because it was doubly more adult than 18, dispensing with the "teen" suffix, and 30 because once you hit 30 there is truly no more pretending to be anything but an adult.

At each milestone point, the "boy" appellation gave way to "man", "young" or otherwise. And society opened up to accomodate the perceived nomenclature.

Age gives more confidence (though that virtue was never truly lacking in me), more responsibility (marriage, business ownership, fatherhood), more proficiencies (expansion of personal skill sets, knowledge and dynamic blah-blah), more personal value (people wanting me as a partner to begin new business ventures, for example), more direct experiences (as opposed to vicarious experiences, though both are fodder for writing), more, more, more of everything.

But age also gives increased awareness of what life is about: how preciously short it is, how we try to create more fulfilling opportunities, how important it is to leave something behind when the time comes to pass on (something more worthwhile than a small fortune), how words affect change, how ideals we would have died for in our zealous youth have become muted in favor of what is more accessible and realistic, how the art of the compromise pervades the multiple circles we walk in, how important it is to appreciate "the now" rather than entertain the hope for something better tomorrow.

Glory becomes less vital. After a certain point, awards, publications, recognition, praise and portfolio become dispensible things - good to have, but certainly not necessary. Not like before, in youth, when acclaim was paramount, and proving one's self to world occupied almost every waking moment. Instead, a relative quietude takes place, not a signal defeat or retirement from the struggle to create (and not something akin to malaise) but a more generous acceptance of the way of the world.

Creation acquires new depths of meaning. As young people, we would create for the sake of creating, unleashing a torrent of madness, so strong and so pure and so bereft of meaning. But passionate and perhaps even beautiful. With age, creation is influenced by a degree of maturity, a less arrogant agenda, an understanding of perspective and the distinct bittersweetness of time. But still passionate and still beautiful. Perhaps even more so.

With the expanding nature of our world of experiences, we begin to contract into tighter circles of comfort. We begin to think that maybe the definition of happiness is to be content with what we have, rather than getting what we want. We learn that things move on, even if we want to stay in one place forever - our hearts either learn to forgive and accept that flaws will always be present, or our hearts harden and leave people along the wayside, along with any regret of what-could-have-been. With the easy availability of knowledge, we become more introspective. We decide that it is better to know more and more about less and less, and we are struck by the epiphany that we struggle to know everything about nothing. But we consider ourselves better for it.

With the terrible acceptance of our future deaths, we learn to appreciate history. When you are young and immortal, you think you have an infinite number of silver bullets, an infinite number of fields to trample with a corresponding infinite amount of wild oats to sow. With age, we sometimes frantically look back for lessons we can apply to our current circumstances. We learn to be selective in the battle we fight - the bullets, silver or otherwise, have lost the virtue of the infinite, and the fields we walk are demarcated with a thousand thousand lines of ownership, all previously invisible. History and perspective become essential to creating plans and understanding what is happening.

Does age lessen us? No, it improves us. But only if we refuse to give in to the stereotype. Why become bitter? Why what is the point of being angry as we grow older? Why give in to the implications of helplessness, reliance on other people or the adage that everything must end in tears?

There are things our age allows us that mad youth can only dream of.

Our adroit reception of perspective affords us manifold advantages over those who can only look forward.

We cease to be too strongly bound to the ratrace of achievement and one-upsmanship since our sense of what is valuable has altered, compared to the young people who long for an impressive resume.

Our identity is more defined as we control the forces of fluidity - we can become what we choose to be, instead of searching breathlessly for who we are.

And we can look behind our backs and see youth careening inevitably along the paths we have already walked - and look forward to an evening's worth of conversation and good wine with them when they get here, in the place where we can talk to our parents and children as friends and boon companions.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

return of the king

I've nothing to add to all the rave reviews that are all over the place. With the exception of certain sequences that could have been edited better (such as The Mustering), this is certainly a masterpiece.

The best film of 2003.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

breakfast of champions

Once in a while, you have to reward yourself. So Ralph, Jayce, Nikki and I got up extremely early on a pleasantly cool Saturday morning, and had breakfast at the Shangri-la Hotel, perusing the papers while we ravaged the elegant food presentations.

Over eggs and sausages and salmon and all sorts of things, we talked about politics (will Raul Roco join the Administration ticket anyway?), Ragnarok (you can sell fiorionies offline for P100k), The Life of Pi (how would you like to be stuck on a raft in the middle of the ocean with a tiger?), glorious buffets in other countries, the wonders and hubris of blah blah, and our theories on what this headline meant: AYAW TUMABI, ASAWA BINUGBOG.

Sometimes it's necessary just to kick back, relax and zone out without making plans of world domination. There's always dinnertime for that.

jiggle it, just a little bit

I need to mention that only my wife can manage to look devastating so early in the morning. Yowza!

And she's not even a morning person.

uruk-hai hordes

We then serenely hied off to the Podium to purchase tickets for the last evening showing of The Return of the King, only to find hordes of foul creatures lining up the escalators.

Good thing Jason thought of the elevators. So we got in, painfully "zoomed" up, and I engaged some girl in a footrace to acquire my precioussss tickets. Part of me wanted to trip her. And in an alternate universe, I did, causing her to fall flat on her flat chest on the flat featureless floor, forlorn and void of hope.

Having acquired the seats our group wanted, I turned and raised the tickets victoriously, earning the envious looks of the dirty masses still in line.

I've waited forever, skipping the premieres, and nothing, nothing will stand in my way.
siglo: freedom via business world

Something from the online edition of Business World, Wednesday, January 7, 2004 (oddly, the link may not work, but Google's snapshot does)

"New book

Launched on Dec. 20 was the graphic novel Siglo: Freedom, a compilation of 10 sequential stories combining the work of some of the best authors and illustrators in the country. Creators include Gerry Alanguilan (Artist for DC, Marvel, and Image Comics), Nikki Alfar (National Book Awardee and Anvil Award Winning Editor), Arnold Arre (two-time National Book Awardee), Jason Banico (creator of Baylans), Marco Dimaano (creator of Angel Ace), Andrew Drilon (Likha Awardee for Comics), Honoel Ibardolaza (two-time Palanca Awardee for Literature), Lan Medina (Eisner Awardee and artist for Marvel and Image), Elbert Or (creator of Two-Color Theater) and botanical artist Reia Vergara-Simbulan. Each story in the book is set in a selected decade from 1910 to 2009, and focuses on one person in that decade whether fictional or real. The 140-page novel was edited by five-time Palanca Awardee for Literature Dean Francis Alfar and National Book Awardee Vin Simbulan, with the art direction of another National Book Awardee, Carlo Vergara."

apparitions and other table talk choices

Choose one: The Blessed Virgin Mary appears to you and reveals a secret OR you get 50 million pesos.

Survey said: Sorry, Mary.

Choose one: D'Original Buko Pie OR Lola's Buko Pie OR Paeng's Buko Pie OR Bakamabuko Pie.

Survey said: Lola wins (though Bakamabuko Pie is quite funny).

Choose one: Your lover perfect in all ways except for one blatant and noxious flaw OR your lover perfect in all ways with an unseen flaw which may or may not be terrible.

Survey said: The evil that we know.

Choose one: Status quo of climate in the Philippines OR sudden shift to four season with Siberian-class winter and cooler the rest of the year.

Survey said: Winter would kill too many Filipinos, but wouldn't the survivors look great in winter wear?

Choose one: Professional-level sport ability OR World-class musical ability.

Survey said: Golf, golf, golf. And maybe basketball. Oh, the endorsements.

birthing places

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah and One Night in Purgatory - Angelino's at Robinson's Galleria

Angel Next - Country Waffles, Chili's

Siglo: Freedom - Residencia 8888, Behrouz

Baylans - MRT

The Lost - outdoor eatery in Mongkok, Hong Kong

The lesson is that food inspires most of us.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

loving angel

I got one of the best Christmas-slash-Birthday gifts of my life tonight, when Marco handed me a framed and signed print of the modernized version of the classic Angel Ace scene that made Nikki and myself his Number One Fans a few years ago.

I remember walking up the stairs in Virra Mall in Greenhills, and having my eye inevitably captured by a poster depicting an upsidedown flying girl. She looked so innocent, so carefree, so full of joie de vivre that my heart was enchanted. I was shocked to discover it was a "local' comic (note that at that time, I was a full American comics geek, wrongly filled with the notion that there were no good locally-produced comics).

It was Angel Ace. And things was never the same again. Nikki and I got a copy and became fans instantly. Angel's charm was formidable, gushing out of the black-and-white pages of adventure.

I remember meeting Marco for the first time. He was so soft-spoken and demure (unlike nowadays where his witty repartee and clever observations always provides moments of laughter). I asked him to sign his comic book and let me tell you, there weren't two fans happier than the Alfars that day.

And I'm proud to say that we've grown to be great friends, working together on various comic projects (after Siglo: Freedom, I'm writing a little something for K.I.A.), going out on regular dinners, getting into discussions and arguments on a staggering variety of topics, watching movies, and eating some more. Marco has taught me much about appreciating art and the craft behind creating it.

So when he gave me this fantastic gift, I just couldn't believe it. You see, the fan boy in me never went away. I have to pinch myself to remind myself that I'm creating stuff with one of the most creative people I know (and certainly the source of Angela's love of life!).

So the huge Angel Ace artwork has a place of honor on my wall, flanked by original art from The Lost by Arnold, and Ruin by Carl. Waiting to be framed is an illustrated letter from Crossword Girl by Andrew.

Looking at my wall now, the silly smile on my face just wont let up.
back to hinirang

I'm thinking about going back and finishing a couple of stories I started for Hinirang.
Who knows? At the rate fate has been smiling, perhaps a published Hinirang anthology is not too farfetched a notion.

Here's the L'Eteronautas fragment I'm working on:

I. The Opener

It was Alonzo Nicolas Clessidrana, of the Concilio Ciencia, who discovered the gate to the Katao's Heaven, where the gods of Hinirang dwelt.

Alonzo, researching the chronal peculiarities of the forbidden area underneath the Plaza Emperyal, stumbled across the forgotten wooden opening on his thirty-third day, just before he was about to abandon his pursuit of a degree at the Orden and just help his grandfather maintain his shop along the Encantó lu Caminata.

Instead, despite the fervent protests of his research companions, using the calipher resonancia, he forced open the odd looking door and vanished into the unearthly radiance. Those who were left behind, after a painful and hurried discussion, shut and barred the wooden aperture, and rushed to report everything to their superiors.

II. The Powers

Realizing that the situation was beyond their capacity to handle, the Concilio Ciencia sent emissaries to the other Powers of the Ciudad Meiora - the Secular, Poetic, Arcane and Spiritual institutions whose policies and movements decided the fate of Ispancialo Hinirang - requesting an emergency meeting to determine what needed to be done. The missive stated in no uncertain terms that secrecy was required due to the delicate nature of the situation and that it was imperative that all five Powers convened immediately.

First to arrive at the squat red towers of the Concilio Ciencia was an unremarkable qalesa bearing two extraordinary men. Alejandro Baltran Alessio du Verrada ei Ramirez, the Guvernador-Henerale of Hinirang, eschewed his normal accoutrements of rank and wore a dull-colored cloak over simple vestments. He was accompanied by Ser Humberto Carlos Pietrado ei Villareal, the elder brother of the man who had recently, rather embarrassingly, lost a peculiar footrace against a Katao woman. They represented the Military Government, the most visible of the Powers.

A few minutes later, a velvet-covered palanquin brought the representatives of the Gremio Poetica. Betina du Zabala, the Most Excellent Primo Orador, gestured impatiently at her companion to hurry out of the conveyance. Biting back her tongue, Esperanza du Zabala, the Most Excellent Segundo Orador, locked vicious gazes with her mother, before rushing into the Orden’s tower. Both Oradors were masters of Poetics, and the Gremio Poetica held sway over all art and communication in the Ispancialo demesne.

Maestra Onsia Helmina and Maestro Cinco Almario, of the Escolia du Arcana Menor, arrived next, on foot. Maetra Helmina clutched her robes close to her breast and looked up to try to read the thoughts of her reluctant companion. But Maestro Almario, rumored to have enkanto blood in his veins, kept his silence. So, without a word, the representatives of the Arcane surreptitiously erected invisible wards around themselves and entered the tower.

The last to arrive was a duo from the Katedral Grandu, divinely-inspired clerics of the Tres Hermanas and Spiritual Heirs of the Pio Familia. Madre Gorospe invoked her eighty-six years of Faith to calm herself down, inwardly trembling at the implications hinted at by the summoning missive. But her companion, the Tiq'barang cleric Sister Veronica T'gubilin, smiled in anticipation and stomped her hooves once to contain her excitement.

Within the red towers, Consejal Lucio Pejeno, current head of the Concilio Ciencia, ushered all the leaders in after requesting for them to leave their companions in an outer room.

"Forgive the terse nature of the letter I sent," Consejal Lucio Pejeno began. "The sensitive nature of-"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Maestra Onsia Helmina of the Escolia Arcana. "Obviously you have stumbled across something important enough to summon all five of us from our duties. Tell us."

"You must forgive the Maestra for her characteristic mordacious tone, Consejal Pejeno," Betina du Zabala of the Gremio Poetica said, smiling oddly at her great rival. "She would be more eloquent, but is, no doubt, as curious as the rest of us as to the nature of your call."

"Of course, Excellencies, of course," Consejal Pejeno stared at his hands briefly and stated simply, "We have found a portal to Hinirang’s... afterlife. The Katao heaven."

"W-what?" Madre Gorospe suddenly felt the weight of her years upon her body, and stifled a yearning to scream in horror. She closed her eyes and in an instant, she recalled her astral experiences as a young cleric in the lands south of Mejico, and saw only blood and tears.

"It is of great interest to the mother Church, naturally," Consejal Pejeno began.

"It is of great interest to us all, Consejal." The Guvernador-Henerale rose from his seat and gently touched the face of Madre Gorospe, who, eyes shut tight, was shaking noticeably. She opened her teary eyes and nodded her thanks. "Where is this portal?"

"Beneath the Plaza Empyral, Your Excellency." Consejal Pejeno replied.

"Imagine that," Betina du Zabala spoke to no one in particular. "Is it open?" she asked Consejal Pejeno.


"Who opened it?" asked Maestra Helmina. "Or was it open already?"

"One of my own, a young student, opened the door," the Consejal admitted.

"And?" Betina du Zabala asked softly.

"And he vanished," the Consejal replied.

"What makes you so certain that it is a gateway to the Hinirang faithlands?" Madre Gorospe asked.

"Our instruments recorded the presence of the Ether," the Consejal sat back wearily. "As you all know, that signifies the presence of faithlands, time and time again proven by our apparatus, as far back as the conquest of Peru."

"No one here doubts the veracity of your report nor the integrity of the instruments guided by your scientific principles, dear Ser," the Guvernador-Henerale said. "So there is a door. An open door. You were correct to call us all. We must decide our cause of action immediately."

"Then we vote," Betina du Zabala said firmly.

"Yes. Yes, we do," agreed Madre Gorospe, shaking her head sadly, for she knew what position she had to take.

"Very well. As is our custom, I will ask each of you to formally inform us of your decision," Consejal Pejeno said. "I will begin."

"I, Lucio Pejeno, Consejal Temporal, speak for the Concilio Ciencia," the heavy-set man said. "I say shut the door. Science has no interest in the indio faithland. We were the ones who discovered and opened the door. We will shut it as well."

He gestured to the others. "Who speaks for the Poetics?"

"I, Betina du Zabala, Most Excellent Primo Orador, speak for the Gremio Poetica," the fiercely beautiful woman spoke, her mellifluous voice perfectly pitched and resonant. "I say enter the door. Using the stories and legends we have collected from the savage indios, we can navigate what is beyond and find the source of their tales. And we take it in the name of Ispancia. Thereafter, only our narratives will exist in this misbegotten land."

"Who speaks for the Arcane?"

"I, Onsia Helmina, Maestra Honoria, speak for both schools," the silver-haired woman said, considering her next words carefully. "I say enter the door. But only to study, always only to study. We must preserve what the indios have, and learn to share in their culture. What we learn we can use to improve upon what we already know."

"Who speaks for the Spiritual?"

"I, Madre Gorospe, Faithful of the Tres Hermanas, speak for the Mother Church in Hinirang," the old cleric responded, her words heavy with sorrow. "I say enter the door. Destroy them."

"Who speaks for the Secular?"

"I, Alejandro Baltran Alessio du Verrada ei Ramirez, Guvernador-Henerale of Hinirang, speak for the Government," the dark-haired man spoke quietly. "I say shut the door. But if it means entering it to close it, then I recommend that as well. We will protect the interests of our citizenry. Having an open doorway in the midst of our Ciudad is unacceptable. It must be shut."
thoughtlife: oh, what a circus

Oh, what a show.

There is a saying that politics make for strange bedfellows, but the recent unveiling of the running slates for the upcoming elections here is just too sad for words.

On the Administration's side, led by the Lady President, we find people who come from the opposite camp - not just ideologically, but ethically. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seems more than just pragmatic, she seems desperate. She came up with a motley roster that she hopes will take votes from the Opposition - her choice pick is Senator Noli de Castro, a TV newsreader whose claim to fame is his stentorian greeting to the nation "Magandang gabi, bayan!". Revilla, another actor/senatorial aspirant, says that if he wins he'll still do movies - because the senate pay is not enough to support his lifestyle (so the senate will be his sideline). Housing spokesman Michael Defensor (my high school classmate) says that it only shows that the Administration is forgiving of its former opponents.

The Opposition, led by action star Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ), has Senate Majority Floor Leader Loren Legarda. This is very peculiar because Legarda is also known as the Crying Lady, whose tears apparently meant something else to the people who participated in EDSA. She was one of the Senators who worked for ex-President Estrada's impeachment, and now is part of the party that includes Estrada's son, Jinggoy.

And the Opposition party has two presidential candidates, an anomaly that the Administration is accused of creating to halve the votes. So murderous Senator Ping Lacson goes alone. Even Bayani Fernando, the traffic czar refused him.

Waiting in the wings is the ever-colorful Mirriam Defensor-Santiago, who forswore politics after her son committed suicide, but threw her hat into the ring anyway (she says she needs the politics to get her mind off her grief). A staunch Estrada supporter, she withdrew from the Opposition slate when Legarda was chosen to be the candidate for Vice President. Now the Administration has a slot for her.

It's too absurd for words.

Philippine politics leading up to the elections makes a travesty of the entire concept.

What ever happened to platforms?

Ah, forgive me. Of course there are still platforms. They are used to stand on to deliver the latest election jingles, rendered by more celebrities (the Administration bought the rights for a whole kaboodle).

Forget ideology.

Winning's the thing. Everything can be sorted out later. After all, in the land of coup d'etats and impeachments, it's par for course.

Who's going to win?

FPJ will be the next President (and I bet one of his first acts will be to absolve Estrada).

Noli may be the VP.

What do we have to look forward to then?

A big fat nothing. But it will be vastly entertaining.

To those who need their government to be amusing.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

lost girl found

Amazing what you can find in your computer when you are forced to clean house.

In the heady days of The Lost, I comissioned the back cover of the third issue from Marco. He managed to wonderfully depict ALL of the fictional characters, both Lost and Strong, surrounding Toogie.

And in that colorful crowd is one of my favorite creations, Crossword Girl.

I hope to someday get this final issue out, perhaps a collected trade paperback, partially rewritten, relettered with all all-new stuff.

In the meantime, I do have Buddha's Crossword Girl story to look forward to (he gave me a love letter from her for Christmas - in full grafiction form, of course).

Yes, I'd like to give Immacolata the closure she's been fighting for.
i hate viruses

With a passion.

This silly thing has knocked out my entire days productivity (right now, I'm reinstalling everything, and the updates alone on my Norton suite of programs necessitates 12Mb - downloading ever so slowly as I type this - I can't even reinstall all the other programs while waiting because most of them require the PC to restart).

And everything I have is on the computer, so sorry muna clients of mine. But then again, I can't finalize your bills and send it over, so you get a day's reprieve.

It's just irksome how reliant I've become on the digital. I am helpless without my Outlook calendar - not to mention email. I shudder at the thought of not having an internet connection for long. I fear for the world if I have to do spreadsheets by longhand without Excel. If my phone kills itself right now, I think I'd vanish from humanity's collective consciousness.

It makes me wonder how I survived before all these things dominated my life. Prior to the internet and cell phones, there was the pager. Prior to that, what? My handy Trapper-Keeper? But even then, I remember I had a little Apple IIe and Wordstar (which, sadly, Vin STILL uses as his word cruncher of choice). Before that was pen and paper, notebook and pencil, books and magazines and comics and television, Betamax (how else would you view porn?) and vinyl records.

The question is: what comes after?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

the root word of "diet" is "die"

So, okay, I'm on a diet and have been sugarfree (and carbofree too) for just over 24 hours. Sadly, I'm feeling crankier than usual, but I guess that's just my body demanding sugar (wala, sorry, eto o, yosi nalang).

I'm going to try this for 2 weeks. If I break down and attack a passing chocolate flotilla, then it ends.

Repeat after me: "I'm doing this for a good reason."

I'm shaking from Coke withdrawal symptoms.

nt authority/system - abomination

In the continuing saga of the poor home PC, a horrible worm has ravaged the system, causing it to shut down around a minute after I access the internet.

If you are a victim too, this helps.

waffle no more

Seems that Bert Nievera, one of the owners of Country Waffles, ran away with the spoon, leaving everyone else in the lurch.

Apart from his other partners, Mang Bert owes his son, singer Martin Nievera, 3 million pesos. Apparently, the poor staff workers had not been paid for months.

Where we'll have our nightcaps is suddenly up in the air.

but it's my year, dammit!

Raymond Lo doesn't agree.



Made plans and projections for the business. I'm quite optimistic.

We'll see how things work out.

It seems I need to resign myself to FPJ as President.

But as a nation, we've suffered worse.


Sunday, January 04, 2004

siglo: carnival

For a belated birthday outing, the gang eschewed our usual "blabber in a resto until the wee hours of the morning" (actually, that's inaccurate, we still did that, but much later) in favor of going to one of those carnival/amusement things near UP Diliman.

We expected horrible crowds, grime, bad food, life-threatening rides on antiquated machines and thieves, but were all pleasantly surprised by the place. The last time I went to one (before the continental shifts) I remember being so affected by the promise of a mermaid.

Flashback: For a small amount, I watched a young girl with a sequined tail shiver in a makeshift pool, her world limned in the garish red of a single suspended lightbulb. Some young men with me threw cigarette butts and hurled sexual innuedo in the manner only Filipino men can. She hid her face. I wrote a story right after, "The Last Mermaid Story", published in the National Midweek, to exorcise the turmoil of my heart.

Cut to Present: One of the first things I saw was the Dysebel attraction, and the immediately, the guilty feelings of my previous voyeurism came rushing back. But I had to see her again. I paid the P30 and climbed up. This time, her caretakers placed a protective netting above her, to prevent objects from being thrown in. But the pool still looked dark and dirty, her hair was lank and lifeless, her sequined tail feebly stroking the water. But this time, she looked up at me and smiled.

Later, we were entranced by Galema, the Queen of Snakes, who played in a pit full of her slithering friends. The snakes adored her, drugged by her deadpan skill and fatal ennui. Even when she kissed one on its cold lips, she affected a certain worldweariness that was distinctly German in appeal. She wore a jacket because even royalty gets cold at night and snakes offer little true comfort.

The Haunted House was more about the journey and anticipation that anything else. In turn, our group shifted from buddy pairs to a choo-choo train, hands on the shoulders of the person in front, creating a delicious sense of self-perpetuating fear as we crossed the halls of exquisite corpses and shambling revenants. I do not like to be surprised (because I tend to scream), but my preferred flavor of psychological fear was served up in spades as well. Fear breaks down the barriers between strangers, as when one of the women in front of our group told Vin "Mama, mama, pwede bang pahawak ng kamay mo?" (Sir, sir, can I hold your hand?). And really, in the face of the unknown, the comfort of another person's hand may be all that is needed to conquer fear and move a step or twelve forward. As long as it is a living hand, of course.

I braved the murk of the men's room, contributing piss against the stained and reeking walls, my eyes watering as I held my breath for as long as I could. It was the fastest pee of my life - because I valued my life and did not want to collapse and asphyxiate on the cement floor at some grimacing man's feet.

We played games of chance, transforming a peso in five at the capricious flip of a coin. We threw balls, shot pigs, hurled rings and gambled on lights in an attempt to win cheap toys and chocolates. We watched Buddha spin on a gyroscope, and smile as the hand-operated machine granted him Nirvana. We rode the red ride, the octopus, where I felt the crush of love and the vertigo of moments suspended in the air. We devoured dubious cotton candy, still-hot grilled pork, chemically-enhanced hotdogs and bite-sized crab crackers.

And we walked as friends, seeing things through alternating blinks of wonder and cynicism, and managed to thoroughly enjoy ourselves. It was tiring and incredible and jarring and different and familiar and childlike and very adult and so much more.

Some of us left with stories developing. I know I did.

And we wound up in the comfort of a resto, sipping coffee and twirling ice cream, talking about the evening and the tomorrows to come.

And that, all that, was how my friends and I celebrated my birthday (and Camille's too).

Circling a carnival and winding down with conversation - extending to chocolates and anecdotes by our Christmas tree in the condo.

Thanks to Nikki, Vin, Andrew, El, Marco, Camille, Dino, Jason and Carl.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

sexy ladies

While Nikki and I were having our hair cut at Don Juan (the usual tabas for me, a mussed-up short pixie look for her - courtesy of her hairdresser, a sombre old straight fellow named "Honey"), I listened to this horrible caterwauling on TV.

When I turned to watch, I see this sexy half-dressed girl gyrating as she crooned in her inimitable way. Immediately, I forgave her song murder when all that was eye-candy about her punched through my normally critical mind. It was Mai Li Ang, better known as Gwen Garci, after all, one of the Viva Hot Babes (whose naughty new calendar is still on sale). And she looked good. But not as good as Aubrey Miles (whose album, a gift from Sage, I have yet to listen to).

I also saw the final 8 winners of the Sex Bomb contest (I guess they're forming a new group? Who knows?), and I tell you, the combination of beaming faces and ocho-ocho moves when they were selected above the others - well, it made me smile.

This is why I fully support having half-naked women prance around on TV, censors be damned. A little harmless fantasy before the wondrous reality of my wife's new supersexy haircut... Yum.

hey, neighbor

I bumped into Ed Tadeo and his girlfriend at the lobby of the building where I live, and guess what? He just moved in just before New Year's!

Is that great or what? Ed has scads of coloring credits, working with international comic book publishers.

Beware Ed! Now that you're just a spit away... your colors are MINE!

an industry of love

"Comic book creation isn't something you get into for financial reward, at least not in the initial stages. It's really an industry of love."

Zach Yonzon of Mango Comics is featured in this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
thoughtlife: the fallacy of the consequent

If you look at history and compare it to the present day, you'll be saddened to know that there is truth to the maxim "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

For example, you may be led to believe that the ancient Greeks, led by thinkers such as Aristotle, argued for equality (and it's a fair thing to believe, given that the Greeks developed the notion of democracy). But it wasn't the case, or at least not as we define equality. Only the learned men of the aristocracy were allowed privileges, exclusing women, foreigners and slaves.

Today, inequality continues to rear its ugly head, in guise of religious intolerance, racism, homophobia, class division and so on.

It makes one question just how far the human race has progressed. Advancements in science, economics and political theory are nothing if they do not contribute to the fundamental need to respect and value each other as people. Why do we still persist in thinking along the lines of the fallacy of the consequent? "We are right because we are right." "The rich deserve to be rich, the poor deserve their fate." "My faith is right because God says so; God says my faith is right, therefore it is." "The definition of a nuclear family is husband + wife + child because has always been so; because it has always been so, the definition of a nuclear family is husband + wife + child."

We continue to condemn others - because they are not like us.

Because they do not think like us or value the virtues we hold dear.

Because they do believe like us or in the God we ascribe all things to.

Because they do not act like us or comport themselves in a way we expect them to.

Because they have different sexual preferences or are able to find passion in a mirror.

Because they poorer or slower or fatter or darker or slit-eyed or uneducated or female or not connected well enough or provincial or smokers - the list is endless for as long as we desire to condemn differences.

And, oh, how excellent our reasoning is, bolstered by religious dogma, ethical philosophy, tradition and blind fear of change.

Humanity goes forward, perfecting its powers, as Chechov writes, and it is true. It echoes Socrates - "The best man is he who most tries to perfect himself, and the happiest man is he who most feels that he is perfecting himself."

But on the road to perfection the essential elements that make us human are left neglected on the wayside.

For as long as we think the way we do, essentially unchanged for thousands of years, there will always be injustice and misrepresentation.

Can we still change?

Friday, January 02, 2004


Thanks to everyone who greeted me today here on the blog and via cell phone (so much that my phone ran out of memory - parang madami, di ba, pero siguro low memory lang talaga si celfone LOL)!

I'm very thankful to have friends and family like you.
lovely ladies

Just look at these two beautiful girls and tell me if I'm not the most fortunate man in the world.

Whenever I see my daughter Sage, I still can't believe I had something to do with her. She is so incredible, so unreal, that it boggles my heart when we have a conversation over a cup of faux tea (ME: Sage, are you happy? SAGE: Happy, Daddy!), or jump on the bed or watch Finding Nemo for the gazillionth time (repeated viewings do not diminish it as one of the best films of the year). I see so much of myself, so much of Nikki, in her.

When I think of all the things I've achieved in my life, she's at the top of the list. If there's anything of worth I can leave behind in the world, Emerson-wise or otherwise, it's my daughter.

Then there is my kakampi, the rock of my existence, my gorgeous wife Nikki.

Again, the surreal nature of my good fortune threatens to overwhelm me.

She engages my mind and spirit, walks with me in passion, and is my true blue partner.

How can I not be thankful?

Today I have crossed the line of 35, and guess who held my hand, festooned me with presents, a midnight celebration and the unspoken assurance of greater days ahead?

These two, plus my family, plus my great friends, make this day (and all days) worth greeting with a jubilant yawp.

I love you both, and thank you thank you thank you for being part of my life.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


My birthday is up in a few hours.

The big 35. Looking at that number I'm struck by the obvious realization that I've never gone this far before, that I'm no longer a young man chronologically (unless you apply the criteria used by the Ten Outstanding Young Men people), and that I should be thinking about deeper and more meaningful things.

But you know what? Fuck it.

For as long as I have command of my mental faculties, I'll always be a young man. And I'll think about what I want to think about, thank you.

When the Chinese calendar hits in February, we Monkeys get to go to town and claim the year as ours.

So - this year is mine. Hands off.
play in progress: isa pa para kay alan

Here's the beginning of a Tagalog language play I'm working on. As you can see, the decriptions and stage instructions are very bare bones. When I begin writing, the priority is to get the flow and characterization right. Everything else is more or less cosmetic.

Here we are introduced to three of the five dramatis personae.


Sa roofdeck ng isang condominium sa Ortigas Center


Lampas alas once ng gabi.

(table, 5 settings, drinks, WINSTON alone drinking. Medyo may tama na siya. Pasok JOSHUA.)




Joshua? Ikaw ba yan?




Pare! Akala naming di ka na darating!


Na-delay yung flight ko, sorry, sorry. Kanina pa kayo?


Hindi naman. Medyo. Ay, sorry, ha? Sinimulan na namin. Teka, anong gusto mo?


Kahit ano. Anong meron? (removes wine bottle from bag)


Gin, vodka, beer…


Beer muna. O, eto.


Ano to?


Merlot. Masarap yan. May apat pa ako ditto.


Wow, okey to, a. Mukhang mahal. Sympre, ikaw pa.


Di naman. Okey lang. Nasaan sila?


Si Eileen nag-CR lang. Doon banda sa may pool. Si Dennis bumaba, kumuha ng ice sa unit niya. San Mig o hard?


Beer muna.

(abot beer)


Uy, ano to?


Strong Ice. Okey yan.


Wala pa nito sa KL. O, tagay.





Alam mo, pare, halos hindi kita namukhaan kanina. Ibang-iba ang itsura mo. Ang laki mo na, a!


Di naman.


Serosyo, pare. Para kang bouncer. Gym, ano?


Konti. Walang masyadong magawa kasi pagtapos ng trabaho. Wala akong masyadong kaibigan doon. Kaya, eto.


So binuhos mo ang sama ng loob sa gym.


Parang ganon na nga.






Naku, mashashock si Eileen. Pero okey, okey lang. Bagay say o.


Salamat. O, kamusta ka na?


Eto, medyo lasing na. Tagay!





(tawa at inom)

Wala, ganon pa rin. Mahina negosyo. Patay ang web design. Di tulad ng dati.




Mga freelancer kasi, pare. Mga gagong freelancer. Yung mga kalaban sa bidding. Biruin mo, minsan, may project dyan sa Galleria. Teka, alam mo bang kita mo ang Robinsons dito?


Talaga? Siguro nga.


Kita mo. Halika, halika, doon banda.


Okey lang. I believe you.


Hindi, dyan lang, o. Kung tumayo ka doon, nakikita mo. Pati yung hotel. Pati Megamall.


Sige, sige. Tapusin mo yung kwento mo.


Sorry, sorry. Tagay muna!



(tawa at inom)


Yung kwento mo?


Kwento ko, kwento ko. A, medyo okey yung project, hindi gaanong malaki. Anyway, ang bid ko, 60 thousand, maliit lang naman na website, di ba?


E si freelancer?


Si hinayupak na freelancer? Hulaan mo.


Um, 40?






Baba pa.


15 thousand?


Sampung libo! Can you imagine?




Shit talaga! Paano ka naman lalaban sag anon, di ba? Impossible!


Di ba bawal yun?


Dapat bawal! E hindi man lang sila kompanya.




Shit talaga.

(inom. Enter EILEEN. Tayo si WINSTON.)


Eileen! You’ll never guess who this is!




Hulaan mo kung sino to!


Ha? Ewan.


See? I told you, man.

(tawa si WINSTON: at JOSHUA:)


Hi, I don’t know you at lasing na tong boyfriend ko. I’m Eileen, friend ka ba ni Dennis? Cute ka.

(tawa lahat)


It’s me, Joshua.




O, sabi ko sa yo, hindi ba?







JOSHUA: (tawa)



Putang ina mo! Ang ganda mo! (yakap)




Di nga! Ang juicy juicy mo! Diyos ko! Crushable ka sa itsura mong yan! Paano ka lumaking ganyan? Anong kinakain mo sa May-lay-si-ya? Siguro nagstesteroids ka, ano?


Hindi, a! Lungkot at exercise lang.


Tagay! Tagay! Hoy, jowa, asan ang drinks ko?

(abot drink)






Syet talaga. Para kang Masculado.


Paano naman niya malalaman kung sino yung mga Masculado? E ilang taon na siya sa-




Honey, he can’t-




Actually, kilala ko kung sino sila.




Talaga? Paano?


Hindi naman ibang planeta doon, no? Tatlong dura at walong yosi lang ang distanya ng Manila sa KL. At may internet naman.




Winston, shaddup. Wag mo nang subukang intidihin. All he means is he’s never too far away, di ba?




Give me a drink and hurry now, you!




Teka, kita mo naming wala akong hawak no? Hoy, bilisan mo!


Sorry, sorry.




I forgive you and I ask the same of you. O, di ba, “I’m only human”?



Tawa-tawa ka diyan, where’s my drinks?


At ikaw, patinggin nga nang braso at pecs mo. Tanggalin ang jacket. You’re in Manila now.

(tawa. JOSHUA removes jacket. WINSTON gives EILEEN a drink.)


Ayan, better, di ba? Now we tagay, already, right?



(inom at tawa)


Matigas ba yang arms mo? Minsan lang kasi akong ma-close proximity sa hunky guy. Tingnan mo naman ang jowa ko, mukhang durugista sa kapayatan.


Hoy, pero mataba naman where it counts.

(JOSHUA tawa)


In fairness, oo nga naman. Kayak o siya labs. Dako.





(inom at tawa. EILEEN touches JOSHUA’s biceps.)


Wow, parang Superman. Hawakan mo, hon.


Teka, teka.


Halika na, hawakan mo. Ito naman, biglang pa-demure.








Bingi. Hoy, Josh, kamusta ka na?


Eto. Sorry late ako, ha?


Akala naming-


Sinabi ko na.













Sweet naman, nakakainggit.


Gusto mo, join ka. (tawa) Yuck, naging sex party bigla.


Kayo talaga.


Nakita mo na si Dennis?


Hindi pa.


Hoy, sweetie. Text mo naman si Dennis. Kanina pa yon, a. Baka nakatulog na sa freezer niya.