Tuesday, November 30, 2004

remembering bibot

I was writing the last chapter of Salamanca when my mother called to tell me that Zeneida Amador, "Tita Bibot" to me and many other actors, had passed away. I felt so bad but was in the midst of writing ("in the zone", so to speak) that I could not process the sad news - thought I think some of my shocked emotion colored my writing.

I first met Tita Bibot because I was such a big fan of Repertory Philippines, the only theater company in the Philippines that regularly produced foreign plays in the English language (the others would come later, including my exposure to collegiate theater in UP, where one of my plays would later be produced). Plays were performed at the Insular Life Theater then, a venue whose air-conditioners were so efficient that we had to rent blankets when we watched a show. Big musicals were staged at the Rizal Theater, which used to be where Shangri-la Makati now stands.

I decided that I wanted to be an actor, or a playwright, or anything to do with the theater. The magical power of make-believe was as potent to me then as it is to me now. I joined one of the summer workshops when I was a bit older (where I first met Rickey!) and was exposed to the horrible reputation that preceded Zenaida Amador. I was told that she was possessed of a foul temper, threw chairs and hit people in such a way that provoked lawsuits. I was suitably scared, but perservered, auditioning and landing a role in my first musical.

In my fantastic role as a member of the chorus, I was tasked to be part of a tableau, a still moment in the play's first act. I was one of two people carrying a pole which supported the weight of a third actor. During the scene, Tita Bibot became engaged in conversation with one of the production crew and left all of us frozen. Time slowed and crawled like a dying crab. I then made the mistake of scratching my nose.

"Putang ina mo!" Tita Bibot screamed, rushing towards me, her face purple with rage.

In front of the entire cast and crew she bit my head off, calling me all sorts of things, and concluding with "And to think that I thought you had potential!".

I wanted to die, to sink into the deep recesses of the stage, away from what I thought were cruel eyes and snickering faces. Instead, after Tita Bibot stormed away, I found myself surrounded by my fellow actors, smiling with sympathy.

"Consider that your baptism, Dean," one of them said. "Welcome to Rep."

I began to appear in small parts, always giving my best to the woman who told me in a furious rage that I had potential. She got to know me better and found me amusing to talk to because I did not tend to cower much (but my God, anyone would cower in the face of her wrath). One time, during the run of "Arsenic & Old Lace", she would put me to the test.

She played a murdering spinster and I had the role of one of her old gentlemen victims. Our scene was supposed to be short. I would enter her house, exchange brief pleasantries, be offered and accept a cup of arsenic-laden tea and die. Instead, Tita Bibot drew on the small talk, forcing me to think quickly and adlib answers to various questions that clearly were not in the script, such as how were things in my hometown, what places did I pass on my way to her house. For an instant, I was terrified, then...I acted. I made things up and played along so well that the audience had no clue what they were watching was make-believe. For a moment, I toyed with the notion of refusing the deadly cup of poison, but that would derail the entire production. After that show, Tita Bibot came up to me and said, "Pretty good."

I would end up working for Rep in the following years. I started with marketing and writing the programmes. Then, when Tita Bibot discovered that I had won a pair of Palanca Awards, she asked me to write, direct and edit the Rep TV show for Channel 5. I told her that I had never written, directed or edited for television before. She turned to me and said, "You're a smart man. You'll work it out." And work it out I did, learning the format of TV scripts over the course of a day, writing my first script in two hours, and taking a crash course in directing the hard way - on location with my cameramen and crew. The editing machine was quite a challenge. Once I realized that I could do all those special effects, I went wild. I remember Tita Bibot reviewing my first episode and telling me to re-edit it. "You have too many things going on," she said, perhaps bothered that whenever she was on, I would make her face bounce, spin and glide. I was a rich man during those days, being paid for 3 jobs by Rep - I realized that TV does pay.

After a while, my interests turned in other directions and I slowly began to skip watching Rep plays. Sporadically, I would buy a ticket for a special show like "Les Miserables", but my days as a season ticket holder were over. From time to time, I'd visit and give Tita Bibot a kiss. "Are you coming back to us?" she'd ask at first. I'd tell her "No" and explain what was happening in my life.

And now she's gone but not forgotten. When her lifeless body was carried out of her house, the act was greeted by thunderous applause and cries of "Bravo, Bibot! Bravo!" by the hundred actors and actresses who were there to give their teacher, mentor, mother and monster honor - because she demanded, in the stern voice that characterized her all her life, "No tears."

rainy eats

After a rescheduled gaming session, Nikki, Alex, Kate and I made our way through the rainy traffic to eat at Dampa. On the way there, I said I felt like a "batang dukha", which is to say cold and hungry.

I selected the pork liempo for grilling then got a kilo of shrimp which I had divided into two parts - one to be sauteed in garlic and butter, the other to be cooked on chili sauce.

Let me tell you, when everything arrived, I was in heaven: hot food, rainy night, great company, a novel behind me, more writing before me, projects coming in for my business and December right around the corner.

And tomorrow, Nikki and I celebrate 9 years of marriage.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

salamanca = finished

Official NaNoWriMo 2004 Winner!

I can't believe I did it. 50,000 words in 29 days with only two skipped writing days. The longest thing piece of continous prose I've ever written.

Putting aside for the moment the inevitable rewrites and full-scale editing for inconsistencies and typos, I must say that this was one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of my life.

For years, my friends and family have been urging me to write a novel, and for an equal number of years I've refused, saying that I was not ready, that I was not familiar with the form, that I had nothing to say of import, that I was playwright and a writer of short fiction. Secretly, one of the things that hindered me was that I was afraid I would not be able to complete what I started and that I would produce mindless drivel.

I was in Florida, suffering from the inactivity of my vacation, when I stumbled across the NaNoWriMo/NaNoBloMo and said to myself, "What the fuck?". I had nothing to lose but my pride.

I thought about what story to tell, initially leaning towards an arabesque melange of interwoven fantasies that would allow me to cheat by writing ten short stories and a framing sequence. Then I remembered a short story I began entitled "Beauty" or "Gaudencio & Jacinta", parts of which I posted in my blog, which a number of readers enjoyed. I remembered my promise to my friend Kate that I would finish it one day. Hence "Salamanca".

I started with an endless storm in the first part that exhausted much of my vocabulary that pertained to rain, struggled through the second part because of my unintentionally setting that act in a time period I was not particularly keen on, and breezed through the final part, snowballing to the ending I had in mind when I first started to write.

I expanded my roster of main characters and created many supporting ones, trying in the space of a few hundred words to imbue them with some depth using a method I developed on the fly.

As for theme, well, people who read my stuff know that I inevitably write about love and the human condition. ;)

I hope you enjoyed it despite it's clunkiness. Just drop me a line if you want a free digital copy of the true final version when I summon up enough energy to revisit the book.

Thank you to my wife, Nikki, and my best friend, Vin, for their unwavering confidence in my ability to write especially in the moments I hit a brick wall, as well as to my daughter, Sage, for knowing when "Daddy is working". Thanks also to everyone who read and supported this madness: Buddha, Banzai Cat, Joey Alarilla, Rickey, Elbert, Inez, Woofy, Jonette, Kat, Charles, Rei, Alex and everyone that I, mere moments after finishing the damn thing and with a brain the consistency of cotton, have inexcusably forgotten.

See you next year. And now... Pokemon!

Friday, November 26, 2004


I've decided to allocate the weekend to finishing Salamanca. With around 7000 words to go, it's not going to be difficult. I'm also planning to engage in a little rewriting of certain parts before I send it off, hopefully by Sunday, for validation.

In preparation of my victory celebration (haha), I've downloaded emulators of Pokemon Gold, Silver, Crystal and other colors. It helps to have a reward apart from being driven by pride and force of will. And then I hope to run an episode of "Isle" on Monday, a holiday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

writing and talking

I've managed to reach an agreement with the part of me that simply wants to escape into any activity other than writing - all the pirate DVDs and multi-colored Pokemon games I can take next month.

Salamanca's first draft is around 80% done, and I'm experiencing two sensations at the same time: first the feeling of freefall, like words snowballing into the ending I envisioned from the day I started writing the novel; and second, pain from all the times I've been metaphysically hitting myself on the head for deciding to write in this mode in such an absurd timeframe. Sigh.

I can't wait for this month and this novel to be done. I have a couple of strong ideas for short fiction plus the disrupted plays in progress I was working on earlier.

talking with jason

Before and after the Web Awards last night (we were nominated for best corporate website and lost to the deserving Honda site), Jason and I had a hell of conversation starting with observations on the textured nuances of loneliness of Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan to matters of faith, love and death-defying drives.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

blast(oise) from the past

While rooting around the house for something to read while having dinner, I came across my mango-colored Gameboy Color along with several Pokemon cartridges that I haven't touched since my Pokemania days (shudder). Nikki and I were so hooked on the little bastards that we each got ourselves a Gameboy just so 1) we didn't have to share a single game; and 2) so we could trade Pokemon we captured.

I remember a particular longhaul flight from Manila to New York, long before the birth of Sage, with my wife and myself happily whiling away the time with our games and a bagfull of batteries.

It seemed destined that I found the Gameboy last night, given the fact that Sage and I have been engaged in a marathon Pokemon series viewing for the past couple of weeks.

I picked up the game and played until the batteries ran out, at 3AM. Nikki, hearing my distraught cry, pointed out that there were batteries in Sage's laptop. So I got the screwdriver and stole my little girl's batteries - but I did promise myself that I would replace them immediately.

So now there's this lovely little distraction added to the other things that I use to prevent me from writing the 15000 or so words I need to finish Salamanca.

Just another hour or two. I'll be good.

Monday, November 22, 2004

crumble, crumble

I'm starting to get worried about finishing Salamanca. I failed to write for a couple of days and suddenly I'm behind again. This required discipline is truly mindboggling, and I can't for the life of me see just how some other writers are able to sit down and churn out 5000-6000 words in one sitting.

I've realized that prose-wise, I am comfortable with around 1000-1500 in one sitting before my head hurts. It's very different from playwriting because I can whip out a hundred pages of dialogue in one go when I'm in the zone, but that's probably because I don't need to describe anything, letting the play's characters do what they're supposed to do in a play, which is to talk. A lot.

So now with 9 days to go before the dreaded deadline I'm around 17,500 words away from the finish line. I've reread the thing and really really want to correct some slights and inconsistencies (like the POV of Antonio the narrator which did not return in Book Two) but I tell myself it's just a draft. Right.

Anyway, as usual, we'll see.

happy birthday

...to Comicquest, which turned 19 years old yesterday.

We celebrated with noodles and burgers courtesy of Vin, converting our day with Sage to a fullblown excursion into the mall, looking at that toys she'll ask from Santa and riding those token-eating rides (six pesos for a token for what seems like 30 seconds - rip-off city, but what can a dad do?).


After dinner last Saturday with the barkada at our resto client Mario's Kitchen (home of the hot pot and best paella/lengua combos), we checked out Gamefrog, an internet/gaming place that also rents out tabletop games (Puerto Rico, Axis & Allies, Kill Dr. Lucky and many others).

I spoke to one of the owners about the news I heard that it was possible to rent a table to run an RPG, AND SMOKE while gaming.

And happily, the answer is yes. So we may become Friday regulars there for the Isle Campaign I'm running for Nikki, Alex and Kate, a story I'm immensely enjoying constructing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

the annual culling

I love looking for books, buying books, reading books, looking at books and collecting books, like Banzai Cat. I just wish Nikki and I had the room for every one we've ever bought, but it simply isn't the case.

Ever since we avid bibliophiles got married, we've lived in small apartments or condo units where space is a premium. Our books used to sprawl all the floor, on top of the surfaces of things, or be double or triple-stacked on the bookshelves.

One day, when we elected to move, we decided that it was time to cull the books. We sat down and developed a method. Each of us would be allowed to keep what he or she wanted if he or she really felt strongly about it - not the author or the series, but the singular book in question itself (this was later eased because of the damned trilogies which inspired such fervent devotion). If any book did not excite either one of us, it simply had to go. The first culling made me sad because in a way I felt it was just...wrong. Throwing away books? Sacrilege!

However, we needed to be practical. So I saved my beloved Marquez, and Nikki saved her beloved Rushdie. We alternated books by author, with the save pile brimming with Guy Gavriel Kay, Tolkien (her choice - I still feel that the epic could have been edited down to 1/3 its size), Eco, Pullman, Salinger, Le Guin, and various odds and ends like the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror series I was determined to complete or die trying.

The culled pile became a small hill of forlorn books whose only fault was not having a powerful advocate at that specific point in time. I remember we used black trashbags and hauled the sorry lot to the dump.

We would repeat this ritual every year or every time we moved, because we are still avid buyers and lovers of books. Every year there are too many to keep, and Nikki has evolved some kind of gauge as to how many times she can reread something and enjoy it. As time passed, I developed my own fierce loyalties and am more than willing to throw away Gaiman's "American Gods" rather than Michael Golding's "Simple Prayers". It used to be that being hardbound was enough to make us keep a book (the expense, the great way it looks on the shelf), but Nikki has developed an aversion to hardcovers because of their sheer weight when being read, so not even that is safe.

Soon, some of our friends discovered what was going on and began to get the discards.

A couple of weeks ago, we began the process again, throwing away the disappointing books headlined by the hardcover of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light of the Sun and Sarah Hoyt's "Ill Met by Moonlight". (I wish I could throw away all the silly Sean Russels but they are under Nikki's aegis, along with the Nix and Powers books - and if I did, she would do something terrible like make my Chabons, spec fic anthologies, Best of Letters to Penthouse and my weird non-fiction books vanish).

I do have a lot I know I have to throw away next year. I just got them from our recent trip to the States but I know where they are destined to go. We still need more bookshelves, and I've even taken to eyeing Sage's bookshelf, where she has her own collection of books, which, in my opinion, need to be culled too.

But the Big Kahuna of those who really need to cull is my best friend. But his heart could never bear the anguish.

lost tagboards

And just what the hell has happened to Tagboard? It's been dead for days.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

life without laptop

Last night, my laptop simply went dead, unable to process AC power and batteries. I stared at the blank screen and wanted to throw the thing out the window.

Instead, I played with Sage, and later watched together a gazillion episodes of Pokemon Season 1 (yes, I am an unabashed fan and intend to get copies of every episode so far up to Season 6) with our plush Pikachu.

When Nikki came home with orchid-oil flavored chocolates "specially selected by the bald man, Max Brenner" for me, she was told by Sage: "Dad is sad because his computer is sira. He will give it to a person."

Stunned by the thought of actually having to write on paper and inflict my illegible chicken scrawls on my own weak eyes, I did no novel-writing whatsoever and instead vegged out and watched two really silly movies - "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" and "I, Robot". "White Castle" had quirky casting but its humor was very forced. But it was head and shoulders above the dismal "I, Robot" which not even Will Smith's easy grace could save from terminal ineptitude (or maybe it's just my anti scifi bias, but it was really a load of crap, but not of the "scintillating in the rain" variety of last year's "Daredevil".)

So today I ended up spending a lot of time at the ASUS distributor's offices, waiting for the laptop to be revived. Traffic back to my office was hellish, with no less than 3 car accidents along the way.

But I'm back with my laptop and am moderately happy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

the homestretch

Tonight I've completed almost 28,000 words of Salamanca, bringing me up to schedule at last. Suddenly, I feel the reverse of what I felt when I began. Where before there was just an abundance of space to be conquered with sensible storytelling, now I feel I have to carefully budget what is left.

I think I can actually finish this novel. We'll see.


My old friend Benj writes about the need to pamper one's self once in a while, and I agree completely with the sentiment.

Once a week or twice a month, depending on financial constraints, I treat myself to a nice long massage. I prefer hard, painful massages to silly gentle caressing (that gets me thinking of something else), so I look for someone who will make me gasp as my muscles are stretched, whimper as my limbs are pushed and pulled into unnatural configurations, and grit my teeth as my back is assaulted by elbows, knees and feet. This may be the only activity I engage in for the dubious enjoyment of pain.

When I lived in Hong Kong, my favorite bathhouse was located at Wan Chai. I'd go there after work, sign in at the counter, strip to my birthday suit in the locker room, take a shower, soak in the very hot waters, sweat in the sauna, drink some cold water, have a scrub down to get all my libag off, shower, put on a robe, sit in the TV room, eat some fruit, climb up to my room, sprawl on the narrow bed with my face in a hole staring down at the floor, and wait for a woman who would step on my back. Bliss.

Here in Manila, a lot of the places I've been to that call themselves massage parlors are actually just whorehouses in disguise, with pathetically substandard service. They just want to get you off so they can make a few hundred bucks. Avoid these places if your goal is a real massage. Unless you really want to go these places - in which case, drop me a line and I'll give you a few names. ;)

On the occasion, I have a blind masseur drop by the condo. I don't do this very often though because I prefer actually going out and having access to a steam bath or a wet/dry sauna.

At my favorite place, I sip a glass of red wine as I look at Roxas Boulevard in the small hours of the morning, the sea invisible in the darkness, my body aching in the most pleasant way.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Writing has been painfully slow during this time of fasting (not that I follow the holiday's strictures - tried before, failed miserably).

But (I tell myself) I'm not too far behind. Just around 2,500 words behind schedule.

I need to catch up this week.

Read Salamanca.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Writers are creatures of appetite, needing to imbibe things in order to spew them out as words, transformed by imagination and covered in the spit of personal experience.

We drink and smoke and eat, sometimes to excess, often not enough times, to fill the vacuum within. It is not limited to oral gratification. Our eyes consume visual feasts of cinema, television, photography, drama and dance, following the varied paths of words the books we read reveal, escaping into the brilliant world of comic books and other lurid black-and-white dimensions. Our ears devour conversations, the sound of tears and triumph, quiet etudes and rock music played at dizzying volumes. Our fingers explore nooks and crannies when we make love or fuck, trace history when we touch someone's face, and translate texts from texture.

We are denizens of many worlds. We exist in the mundane and simultaneously experience life and love and madness in other times and places, some safe and predictable, some secret and hidden because of shame and the refusal to submit to judgement, or because of the innate selfishness of keeping a wellspring of inspiration to one's self.

We are gluttons of experience, vicarious or otherwise, and we constantly hunger. Not necessarily for the new, not always for the familiar, but rather for everything, slaves of the constant need to assuage our appetites.

We live secret lives in our words, creating fiction from the raw materials we cannot help but seek and savor.

Friday, November 12, 2004

vignette: revisiting dragons in hinirang

I first began to hate my mother when I was three years old.

My family was host to an important official of the Tsino trader society, representing the mercantile interests of Diya al Din, a land in the mysterious southern reaches of Hinirang where no Ispancialo had ever set foot. My father had spent much time and gold wooing this man, with the intent of establishing stronger ties for the goods my family bartered.

For the entire duration of his stay, my mother was an unreasonable bundle of anxiety, running this way and that, making certain that every little thing was perfect. The appearance and smooth running of a household, then as now, was reflective of both my family’s worth and business acumen. Everything had to be pristine without the sign of any effort, as if such circumstances occurred every day without fail.

On the last day of the official’s visit, my mother prepared an extraordinary feast, thirty-six varieties of food with selections from the Tsino, Katao, Ispancialo and southern Hinirang cuisines. Each immaculate offering filled no more space than a saucer, so as not to dull the appetite.

One of the dessert dishes was made with my favorite duhat, a tartly sweet purple fruit the size of two thumbnails. As the adults ate and made conversation, I spotted the dish on a tray and fell to temptation. I ate one, two, seven pieces, before I realized what I had done. As dread stole up my spine, I ran to the vestibule and tried to wipe away the evidence of my crime, using the cloth closest to my stained hands. I thought myself free of any suspicion until I realized just what cloth I had used.

It was the formal silk over-robe of the official my family was entertaining. My handprints had marred the fabric, imprinting violence on the subtle sky blues, lavenders and grays.

When the official stood to leave after dinner and saw what had happened to his robe, he could barely repress his fury. My mother fell to her knees offering profuse apologies as my father ran after the angry official, whose unspoken curses were felt nonetheless.

After the ornate doors shut close, my mother turned to me slowly, flashing her dragon eyes. She stared at me for a moment then looked away as she picked herself up off the floor. But instead of saying something to me, she spoke to the servants who stood a distance away.

“Bring all the duhat we have in the kitchen, in the storeroom, in the pantry,” she instructed loudly. Within moments the servants returned with four large baskets brimming with the violet fruit.

My mother took the baskets and set them on the floor in front of me. I remember not understanding what was going to happen, wracked by tears of guilt that caused my entire body to shudder.

“You have brought shame to this house,” she told me, in a tone that defied any denial. With a quick motion she took a duhat and forced it into my mouth.

“Eat it.”

I struggled to chew, moving the fruit back and forth quickly between my teeth and spitting out the seed into my hands.

“You will eat until you realize the spirit of gluttony leaves this house, so eat this, and this!” She forced another into my mouth. And another. And another, her fingers relentlessly stuffing more and more between my lips until I lost count of how many I was trying to swallow. I choked and retched and wept but had to finish every single duhat contained in the four baskets.

When I still could not get out of my bed three days later, my father called for a doctor, but my mother told him it was obviously just a case of overeating.

Since then I have obeyed her, to the extent that my nature allowed me, like a good daughter. But she never had my love or my sympathy, even when my father died. Because my hate was strong and true, violet in its secret violence, and tart with the stench of overripe duhat.

christmas in my country

Our Lady President has announced that the upcoming increase in the prices of petroleum products will the best the last one of the year. Water costs will also rise, however, in the next few weeks, joining the parade of increases in costs of taxi and public/mass transportation (MRT), food, cost of business, and practically everything else.

As they do every year, people are asking how just how they are expected to have a merry Christmas.

Secretary Bunye, speaking for the president, offered Hallmark greeting card words, saying that materials things were not the point of Christmas, but rather being with the people you love. Was it right for him to imply that the masses of the poor, working to have food on the table, a roof to live under and clothes to wear, are materialistic? Instead of telling people the truth and help manage their expectations, we are being led to believe that there is no crisis, that everything is fine.

We are enjoined to embrace our families this holiday season instead of asking questions that have no forthcoming answers or looking for a little extra for our noche buenas, lest we be perceived as materialistic.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

year's best comics and manga

Budj brings news from St. Martin's Press, the publishers of Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction and my favorite The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror by Datlow, Link and Grant.

A new annual anthology, The Year's Best Comics and Manga, will hit bookstores next year, filled with independent and mainstream selections of (take a deep breath, Gerry) grafiction.

This is exciting news because I have faith in the ability of Filipino creators to create work that can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world. No details have been released, but I assume that the selection process is similar to the other Year's Best annuals. This means that prior publication is a requirement - so let's all get publishing.

I also assume that unless the book is of monstrous dimensions, the editor will select a range of page counts, favoring smaller and shorter stories to give a wider range of the best in the field. Like the other annuals, this implies choosing stories from anthologies and collections as well as excerpts from longer works.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004


My brain is barely working today and I have written about, oh, fifteen words of the novel-in-progress.

But I'm happy to read the efforts of others who are undergoing struggles identical to mine and managing to wrestle the words down on their blogs.

We're a virtual support group, addicted to the challenge and stumbling to make our quotas of prose. Who are we? Students, newspaper editors, graphic designers, businessmen, readers and lovers of the written word, Filipinos all. A few are professional writers, but none are novelists.

We are writing about different things in different ways, and the variance in voices is astonishing. From fantasy to romance to social realism to magic realism to surreal interstitial fiction, we're here, baring the rawest of drafts to public scrutiny.

When things work, they're beautiful, unfolding characters and settings that surprise even us. When things are more difficult, our output is small and we question why we even thought we could do this, but continue to try anyway, forcing blood from stone.

Our work is uneven but we all promise to edit when the final word is finally typed or written down on paper. We just hope that after all is written and done, our psyches and fingers will one day be restored to the pink of health.

Midnight Marquee by Vin Simbulan

The Maharlika Legacy by Joey Alarilla

Pop Monster by Andrew Drilon

The Subversive by Banzai Cat

T360 by Rickey Yaneza

To Covet by Tobie Abad

Untitled by Charles Tan

The Great Emptiness by Kat

Shooting Stars by Tina

Salamanca by Dean Francis Alfar

and miles to go before i sleep

I find it hard to believe myself, but I've finished the first third or so of Salamanca.

Book One: Gaudencio & Jacinta, which recounts the circumstances of the lovers' meeting and the great storm that engulfed their passion, clocked in at 15,600 words.

34,400 words to go. Sigh.

You know the drill.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

pet store

We've had to go a rather circuitous way, but we're nearing the end of the approval process to reopen our pet store at Mega Mall.

Due a variety of circumstances, we're changing the shape of the store to accomodate the new space being alloted to us. Or so I think.

Whatever happens, I do not want to lose our space at SM. The process of getting in in the first place is very difficult. Being there enables us to think of future expansion to other SMs.

Despite the modest success of my primary business, I believe that it is always better to not keep eggs in one basket. The wheel turns, after all.

I'm thinking of developing a third business, but I can't give any details yet. It's too early (but secretly, I want to operate an escort service LOL).

Monday, November 08, 2004

salamanca status

I finally got most of the day's work out of the way and began to write, finding it hard to concentrate because of the constant interruptions.

Still, I managed to add a few words before being summoned by my best friend.

Will try for some more tonight, before midnight.

Read Vin's Midnight Marquee.

Read Salamanca.


My friend Gerry Alanguilan questions the use of the term "grafiction" for Siglo: Freedom and comics in general in one of the previous posts in his blog. In the comments section, he quotes another blogger who found our use of the term "hifalutin" and said that it detracted from his enjoyment of the book.

Siglo: Freedom's agenda is explictly stated in its introduction (and part of my "manifesto" for that time period). It is to position comic books as literature. This conceit does not in any way negate, refute, belittle or ignore the origins and status quo of comics. I believe that creators are free to pursue agenda, and my agenda is to create sequential work of a higher literary caliber compared to the more mindless ones I see in comic book stores. Part of pushing this agenda is creating a signifier to differentiate it from the rest of market, at the same time granting it its own fledgling identity, allowing later critique a catch-phrase to use. I accept the descriptor "hifalutin" if what it describes are texts that are more sophisticated than the average comic book.

Do not get me wrong. I love comics - I buy them and read them. But they are not all the same. And in the context of books like Siglo, I have my eyes on a definite goal.

It just saddens me to think that some people think that we somehow are ashamed of the term "comic book" (though are are many who advocate a change in the terminology, given the fact that it does not adequately describe what it seeks to describe - "grafiction" is also similarly inadequate, but I can live with the flaw).

The term does not uplift comics by itself, so to place the burden of work (or to blame) on the term itself is pointless.

Will I storm Gerry's place and threaten to kill his chickens? No, because of three things:

1. I understand his points;

2. He and I respect and love comics and are on the same side of the fence (he is one of the fiercest supporters of both Siglo: Freedom and Siglo: Passion and of the Philippine comics industry);

3. Because, ultimately, terms are just terms - what matters is what they signify.

And I'm not sure of he really does have chickens (I will look for some in Lastikman).

gasping like kirk

So. Much. Work.

Must. Find. Time. To. Write.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

that's incredible

Tonight, the gang watched The Incredibles and everyone agreed that it is one of, if not the best, movies of the year (I'm still keeping my options open for the inevitable tide of Oscar wanna-bes plus the art films that are coming out these two final months of 2004 - one can always hope for a Merchant Ivory thingie, right?).

10,000 and going

In Salamanca news, I'm happy to say that with this morning's installment, I've broken the 10,000 word barrier, making this effort the longest piece of continuous prose I've ever written in my life.

Thanks to everyone who has been dropping by the novel's blog and encouraging me with kind words, and to all who have linked to the site and recommended it to others. In a way, I like the pressure of being on performance mode all the time (I can't believe I just said that).

I'm nearing the end of the first major section of the novel, "Gaudencio & Jacinta", and have been playing around with time and authorial perspective. Much of this section is set in the Palawan of the early 1950's, though the narrator's personal story is firmly rooted in 1995.

Read Salamanca.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

salamanca status

First, thank you to my wife for the incredible design she created for the novel's blog. I love the way it adds a little more magic to my words - definitely inspiring.

Second, I'm close to finishing a fifth of the thing, and the action is heating up. It's a bitch to write, but I'm getting there - I just have to resist the impulse to edit everything. That can be done later, the important thing is to complete the thing first.

Read Salamanca.

Friday, November 05, 2004

grafiction: chaos

Spoiler warning.

The final issue of Bendis' "Disassembled" story arc on the Avengers came to its unbelievably lame conclusion this week. The Big Reveal? Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, using her probability-warping powers was the culprit behind the Avengers' version of a Really Bad Day (which killed Antman and Hawkeye) - thus, "Chaos" as the inner book's title.

Bendis' story has no hallmarks of a story that was thought out. It is irrational and such an obvious ploy to attract attention. It is one thing to write new stories that take characters into new situations, but it is another thing to be able to write those characters in a consistent manner.

On the other hand, his writing in Ultimate Spiderman continues to make that book among the best written series. The latest trade, Ultimate Spiderman Vol.11, gives us at least two sterling moments of finely developed characterization: MJ and Gwen talking about different thing and Aunt May trying to reach Gwen's mother about her daughter's death.

Astonishing X-Men #6 made Joss Whedon my favorite X-Men writer. Unlike Morrison's senseless (though very cool) psychobabble, Whedon was able to prove that a great story does not require twisting reality around to fit agenda. Besides, Piotr and Katya are a touchstone of my X-Men years.

Speaking of Grant Morrison, reading his recent JLA Classified #1 felt like reading any random issue of his initial run with the JLA. Same boring manner of storytelling, same build-up of cool ability, same-sounding dialogue once you strip the posturing. And of course, his pet Batman has a flying saucer and goes to the JLA lab on Pluto. Of course. I don't know what has happened to this man whom I worshipped circa Doom Patrol and enjoyed with The Invisibles (except for the final volume which Nikki and I gave away because it was so unacceptable). He comes up with The Filth and Seaguy which both have the value of wet farts.

I thoroughly enjoyed James Robinson's Starman: The Grand Guignol. A detailed and well-orchestrated war on Opal City reveals the truth behind the Shade. Wonderful characters, exciting battles, marvelous pacing, intelligent writing - one showstopping moment: Elongated Man finding his wife, Sue Dibny, and telling her "I'll never leave you." Yeah, right. Tell that to Meltzer and the folks of Identity Crisis.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Suikoden III Vol.4 brings more revelations about fate and the horror of war, as the three main story arcs continue to converge. I was excited about this series, being a huge fan of the various Suikoden games, but this manga lacks two things: a sense of urgency and face time for the 108 stars. I may just drop it like the very disappointing Battle Royale series.

Really, I'm starting to think that my only hope for huge-group drama is Mark Waid's upcoming Legion series next month.

bon voyage

Bon voyage to Amie and Ed, off to the UK. We've been the best of invisible neighbors - best of luck!

avenue q

Listening to the fantastic music of Avenue Q, the 2004 Tony Award-winning musical (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book) and it's the best thing I've heard since Rent. An adult Sesame Street does not begin to describe the hilarious observations on life it offers, all in the spirit of great fun.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

salamanca status

Demands of business today ate up so much of my time that I barely had time to write. I did what I could, but plan to get to my self-imposed minimum later at home.

It's like an addiction. At my client meeting this morning, part of my mind was problematizing a stricky plot point. But I am a tenth of the way through.

Read Salamanca.

UP writers workshop v.44

Vim Nadera is in the process of accepting submissions for next year's UP National Writers Workshop. If you haven't already, I suggest you give it a shot - as well as the Silliman Workshop in Dumaguete. I am a firm believer in both workshops, having been a fellow in both. You will be shattered or you will be enlightened - it all depends on how you take criticism, but take it you must if you want to grow as a writer.

Details below:


LIKHAAN: The UP Institute of Creative Writing (UP ICW) has slated the 44th UP National Writers Workshop from 27 March to 9 April 2005 at the UP Baguio. Twenty fellowships will be at stake: 15 for Fellows in Filipino and English, while the other five for writers in Iluko, Bikol, Waray, Sugbuanon, Hiligaynon & Kiniray-a, depending on merit. The grants cover board, lodging and stipend.

The textual requirements are: six poems, two short stories or two one-act plays. Mixed genres/experimental pieces will also be considered. All the entries ought to be in one language (English or Filipino, as the case may be). Combined or incomplete submissions will be disqualified.

The technical requirements are: only the nom de plume should be on four separately bound, computer-encoded hard copies (font size 12); an MS Word diskette containing the entries; and a sealed letter envelope with a cover letter, a résumé (with birthday & contact numbers), an attestation of originality, a slip of paper with name & nom de plume together, and a 2” x 2” ID photo.

Manuscripts in the regional languages should be accompanied by Filipino or English translations.

Submissions should be sent to:

LIKHAAN: The UP Institute of Creative Writing
2/F Bulwagang Rizal
University of the Philippines Diliman
1101 Quezon City

Deadline for submission is 12 December, Friday, 6 p.m. Postmarked entries will be accepted. Fellows from the previous UP Workshops need not apply. For clarifications, call 922-1830 (direct line) or 981-8500, loc. 2117 (trunkline)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


With my business partner Marc back in town, our company has returned to a semblance of normalcy and I couldn't be happier. When I was out of the country, he managed on our behalf. When he was gone, I did the same. When we were both gone, we spent many nights in anxiety. But now that we're both here, everything is fine.

In fact, the Christmas campaign for our clothing client is ready to roll out next week, nationwide; the materials for the big food conglomerate are on track; the pictorials for various clients are either finished or scheduled; and the thorny web projects are under control.

Managing a company has taught me how to be patient, to multitask, to look at the view from 10,000 feet and at the micro-level, and to appreciate the power of teamwork and cooperation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Forgive me while I indulge myself, I feel like a cat in pure sunlight.

I just discovered that Claude Lalumière, author, anthologist and critic of speculative fiction, began rating all 5 "best of" books released this year (Year's Best SF 9 by Hartwell & Cramer, Year's Best Fantasy 4 also byHartwell & Cramer, Science Fiction: The Best of 2003 by Haber & Strahan, Year's Best Science Fiction by Dozois, and The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection by Datlow, Link, and Grant).

He rated every story in our anthology, and assigned each a value ranging from +2 (excellent) to -2 (a blot on the anthology).

Let me tell you, my heart was pounding as I slowly read the article, afraid that my contribution would be the blot. "L'Aquilone du Estrellas" got a +1. So, whew! Four of the 38 stories got +2 (Gaiman, Link, Bull and Bacigalupi).

It's not only encouraging, it's pure laugh-out-loud delight.

the pull of the familiar

I finally got myself a new phone which is the exact replica of the one that was stolen. Nikki and I went to Greenhills and looked at many phones, each with feautures that, to me, seemed ultimately unphonelike. It will displease my phone whore buddy, but I prefer to take pictures with my digital camera, use my laptop for various things like watching online videos, and watch DVDs on my DVD player - rather than have all these things on a phone with an astronomical price tag. It would have been different if I had engaged Marco to accompany me - he would have waded through the confusion with blinding speed.

It was also phone model fatigue that got to me, all the model numbers and variations, all the different choices. Faced with all that, I reacted as like a new customer in a resto in a foreign country and ordered the only food I safely recognized. I got a discount because the muslim vendor recognized my family name and we chatted about Marawi City and Lake Lanao in Mindanao.

She also turned out to be the wife of Billy the Pirate, from whom we got a pile of films for the 3 Alfars. The pick of the lot: House of Flying Daggers (with the luminous Zhang Ziyi, whom I will love forever) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (a film everyone should watch).

Today being the last day of the extended weekend, I plan just to laze around and do next to nothing, because tomorrow I will reap the whirlwind as my company explodes back into action with the rush of Christmas accounts.

And today's alloment of Salamanca is done. Whew.

Monday, November 01, 2004

salamanca status

It is the first day of the NNoBloMo and I walked to my office so I can write and post my novel's first entry. To reduce the intimidation factor, I've divided the task of writing into bite-sized chunks of 1700-2000 words a day, hopefully exceeding this on some days but not going under my self-imposed minimum.

Here's how things begin:

Three years before I was born, my father, the famous dissolute author Gaudencio Rivera, decided to settle his incoherent sexuality and beget a child. His sudden announcement, made during a dinner party held in Los Angeles in honor of one of the exiled pouty-lipped scions of Clan Electric Company of Manila, was greeted first with laughter and then, later, with stupefaction when a powerful earthquake struck to seal the veracity of his declaration. As the small party sat under the dining table feeling the earth toss like a miserable sea, Gaudencio told them that there came a time in every man’s life to part the gossamer curtain that separates childhood from the real world; that in his case the moment was forty four years in the making; that artists, especially gifted writers like himself, while often able to crystallize miraculous observations of mundane things, were sometimes blinded to more important matters; and that, ultimately, women were necessary to continue humanity’s existence even if, occasionally, men proved to be better fucks.

Read Salamanca.

And thanks to Joey Alarilla for promoting the novel before even a single word was written in INQ7 (so now I really have to do it or die trying - damn your eyes!). Check out The Maharlika Legacy, his own novel-in-progress. Give him some love and tell him I sent you.

Like Hamlet, I was postponing my decision (To write or not to write? To blog or not to blog?), but then my friend Dean Francis Alfar, one of the writers I respect most, decided what the heck, he'll go for it. You can check out his blog for Salamanca (which is the working title of the novel he'll create in 30 days) at http://salamancanovel.blogspot.com/. Alfar is a multi-award winning writer. This year alone, he won two Palancas (for a total of seven so far), a National Book Award as editor of the "Siglo: Freedom" grafiction anthology and saw his short story "L'Aquilone du Estrellas" (The Kite of Stars) included in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror Seventeenth Annual Collection. Yup, his short story is side by side with works from Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Leguin in this anthology.

As for Nikki, well, the untimely viral infection of her computer last night prevents her from starting today, but hope springs eternal. Her novel, Crocodile Laughter, is something I look forward to reading in full. Sage is skipping writing her novel this year. It's difficult when one cannot even read yet - makes editing hell.

Rickey is also in this thing (what can I say, we are all gluttons for punishment). Read The Practical Piglet, which he describes as "a fantasy-science-fiction-erotica-children's book", as it develops.

As for my cool self-proclaimed protege Buddha, I look forward to his glimmering mindfucks in the novel he will vent from his psychosomatically-attuned brain, Pop Monster!

UPDATE: Another comrade-in-letters, Banzai Cat, joins the fray with The Gonfaladiere!