Sunday, July 31, 2005


Good grief, the first day of August is just half a day away. August. I can't believe it. From August it's just four months until the year ends. With all the things I'm doing, have set out to do, and need to do, I'm thinking that I'm not busy enough (which is kind of odd, even for me, given the ton of things on my plate).

When deadlines are far off and when the "ber" months (you know, September, October, etc.) are still several flips from my desk calendar, it seems that I've got all the time in world. But August crouches in the wings, ready to strike, and its brethen are right behind it.

Often, the political situation in the country lends a sense of timeless futility. I feel like I'm trapped in amber, given the endless variations of the political intrigues and resurrected by-words (Cha-cha or Charter Change, for example, has been around ever since I became cognizant of my politics). People wanting change, people getting something that looks like change but isn't, people convincing themselves that things are getting better or worse. It's like running in place. The rest of the people, like me, just attempt to get on with their lives, raising a family, doing business, going out and patronizing entertainment venues, determinedly oblivious or uncaring to what changes or doesn't change. Really, hope is cruel in a country that crushes hope as a matter of routine. The old joke "The rich get richer and the poor get children" has tragic power here.

Once in a while, something big happens, enough to attract the attention of even the most jaded Filipinos. For a while, the buzz becomes all-consuming, and, in an example of the combination of the Filipino trait of laughing things off and our capacity to use appropriate technology for our own means, we joke about the matter and send text jokes. Everyone knows about the "Hello Garci" ring tones, but here's a belated contribution from my brother's cell phone:

"Kung nag-sward speak lang sana sila di walang gulo ngayon:

Female voice: Halloo Gracia! Halloo! Halloo!

Male voice: Mother! Natsuktsak ko na po yung mga chuva!

Female voice: Bongga! Yung mga tienes tienes, carry na ba?

Male voice: Winnie Santos, Mother! Wa na worry sa Mindanoitch!

Female voice: Ganda ever!"

(Aside: I marvel at gayspeak's ability to weaponize language through humor.)

But time does pass, and despite its natural regulated progression, sometimes it seems faster or slower. It's slower when you're closer to the thing you're observing in terms of change (my daughter, for example - her daily changes and growth are not immediately obvious to me, but when I step back and really look in the context of the past month or so, I'm stunned); and especially slow when repetitive non-challenging work is involved. But time slows to an utterly abyssmal rate when you're waiting for something important, like a phone call or a telegram or an email whose providence you cannot affect whatsoever.

Time is faster when something incredible happens - a special date with the beloved, a rare night out with the complete barkada, a birthday celebration, a non-working holiday spent catching up on reading or watching hoarded films. Time whirls and skips like music from an old well-worn vinyl record you've listened to a thousand times.

And so it's August in a little while. Apart from my stuff at work (my agency and my pet store), there's the spec fic anthology to put together, the superhero anthology the gang is creating, plus all the assorted creative writing that demands to be completed - a new novel, a fistful of short stories, a couple of plays (one of them a musical), all before the year ends. And there are my favorite roles and the work involved with doing them to the best of my ability: being a husband to my wife and a father to my daughter.

There are so many balls juggling in the last moments of July, but I have faith that August will be kind and manageable.

Sometimes I wonder how I'm doing all this, but then I tell myself that in the manner of the best stage illusions, it's better not to know - and just enjoy the show. The backstage will take care of itself when I have some scheduled time to fret.

Friday, July 29, 2005

hurray for comics

I just wanted to say that with the current things happening in the DC Universe (especially with the "Sacrifice" storyline that ran in the Superman and Wonder Woman monthlies and tied in with the latest issue of OMAC), comics are incredibly fun again. And kickass (so much for my vow to never get monthly pamplets again).

Under the guidance of writers Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka, incredible things are happening that make my jaded jaw drop and my equally jaded wife squirm in helpless delight (well, if you were Wonder Woman and Superman tried to throw you into the sun, wouldn't you be a bit miffed?). There is a sense of continuity again, or even better, a sense that there is a larger story being told. And because we're regular readers, Nikki and I spent an enjoyable evening thrilling to the spot-on characterization of these costumes placed in previously unthinkable situations.

I love it when comics are brilliantly written and able to draw me into four-color realities. It's something I hope to never ever outgrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

editing spec fic

A good number of submissions for the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology I’m editing have started coming in and I’ve begun to read through the entries. So far, I have a mix of realism, fantasy and horror, with science fiction surprisingly (to me, at least) dominating the initial set. The reason I’m surprised is because, despite what the Futuristic Fiction category of the Carlos Palanca Awards would have us believe, I think that the Filipino author is more likely to write fantasy than science fiction. I could be wrong (I remember one of Luis Katigbak’s essays on Filipinos writing science fiction) but we’ll see.

Not surprisingly, most of the initial submissions are from unpublished authors – the established ones like to submit by the skin of the deadline’s teeth. However, I’d like to remind everyone that I’m quite inflexible with the deadline, sorry. I know I’m going to have a big problem selecting stories to publish when the time comes, but that’s always a good problem to have (much better than the unhappy scenario that not enough of the stories are written well enough).

There are two stories that I think have a lock on the antho, both of them so finely written they make me green with envy and proud of the fact that they’re written by my countrymen. The killer? Both of them are science fiction pieces (which is rather telling, given my preference for fantasy). But I cannot deny excellent writing – and one of these authors is unpublished.

I would like to see more fantasy and interstitial/slipstream stuff. Strong modern stories that push a little harder in terms of craft, structure, ideas, storytelling, everything.

With slightly more than two weeks left before the deadline, I’m encouraging everyone with a story to tell to email their entries in, paying attention to the guidelines and especially the format requirements (the original call can be found here). Knock my socks off.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


After a long absence on the comic book stands, word has come that Culture Crash is no more (Taga-Ilog bids farewell here).

I was never a real fan of the book ("scorned by countless critics and scores of detractors", to quote Taga-Ilog) but was supportive of the fact that it was a local comic book that was somewhat regular, in color and created by Filipinos (yes, you can be supportive of what something is in a larger sense, without subscribing to the particulars). For one thing, the writing was terrible. I apply the same critical sense I apply to myself and to other texts that I read. I will never agree with anyone who dismisses lackluster writing in comics because “it’s just comics, not literature – it’s meant to be fun, not deep”. Please. You can be write “fun” without being senseless, inconsistent, and shallow. And the best fun comics are finely written.

For another thing, I continue to be unimpressed by the way the Japanese manga style and conventions have been appropriated by artists wholesale, forcing Japanese cultural sensibility into the bruised box of whatever “Filipino sensibility” is supposed to be. It is one thing to acknowledge artistic influences; it is another thing to just emulate without the goal of developing your own style. Like writers, one cannot “grow up without slaying one’s parents”.

I am saddened though that Culture Crash, for all its flaws and my biases against it, is gone. Regardless of what I think, the comic book had many followers and inspired many to read comics or even to create their own. For the time it existed, James Palabay’s book filled the void felt by many, found its market and delivered what they wanted. But more importantly, for me as a comic book creator, Culture Crash proved for a time that it was possible for a comic book to survive in a commercial atmosphere.

Among the factors in its demise were the twin bugbears of distribution and collection, a reality check with the need to reach the market and collect sales from distributors. Another is their apparent failure to sell ad space. All these reasons are financial in nature.

Creating a book is only the beginning (writing, illustrating, inking, coloring, lettering); beyond that – as all of us independent creators will tell you – is a host of things to be done. Culture Crash took it many steps further down the line and managed to make it work for five years, but they too, ultimately ended.

Content is not really a problem. I am happy to report that there are many good writers and artists here. At any given moment, with the right project and drive, these people can create wonderful things. But where many of us are short-sighted is what happens afterwards. Too many people are happy just to create a book, sit back and hope for the best – as if the work of a creator ends with creation.

I disagree.

Unless your goal is to create only for yourself, unless you don’t intend to publish to reach an actual audience, unless you are so paralyzed by fear or sloth, unless you do not possess the tiniest shred of entrepreneurial spirit, unless your ability to learn from actually trying is absent, unless you are so terribly insecure about this or that - then you need to go beyond and push. Do something more. The number of people who push in our industry is sadly small. I hope that number grows as people go beyond the personal act of making comics and embrace some sort of comic agenda, big or small – from helping to gain a wider readership for comics in general, to uplifting the state of comic book publishing here, to restoring the previous ubiquity of comic books as it was in the years when it used to be seen almost everywhere, to solving the distribution and collection problems, to acting as an ambassador for comics in the context of a literacy program, to creating content in Tagalog and other Philippine languages, to adapting stories from Filipino literature, to winning advocacy from government, and everything else in between.

The agenda-space is vast and there is room for everyone’s particular comfort level, artistic ability, financial capability, measure of commitment in terms of time and effort.

I will not say that all it will take is a few good men. No. All it will take is all of us.

Sad to see you go, Culture Crash.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

lit on the web: warm bodies 2

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One of the most wonderful aspects of the internet is the ability to publish online. This equivalent to the offline small-press has the potential to reach a vast wired audience - and people are doing wonderful things with it.

One of the most recent examples is Warm Bodies 2: Orange Sunset, an anthology (or "blogpilation", a term coined by a blogger) of blog entries by various authors writing about change. Edited by Oscar Alvarez, Jr., Noreen Capili & Jonathan Catalla, this is the second in the series of blog-lit anthologies, following Warm Bodies: The Kris Aquino Complex. The editors have selected an interesting mix from new authors of different stripes writing in both English and Filipino, mixing polished pieces with posts that tremble with raw energy - a hallmark of the developing Pinoy blogosphere.

The Pinoy blogosphere is an interesting place and there are a many guides down its wildly growing expanse. I am happy to learn that a form of literature has taken root and is, in fact, already showing off its exquisite blooms and filling the air with its own heady scent. It was only a matter of time before Filipino bloggers realized that in addition to posting endless political opinions and love-related angst, blogs can and should be used as tools of creative expression - which includes essays and observations about personal conditions (blogger condition = Filipino condition = human condition).

Blogs are messy places by mature, which is part of their charm, but the editors have espoused a theme and selected appropiate pieces. My only wish (and it's not a complaint) is for the editors to cast their nets even wider, with less multiple representations from the same author - but as an anthologist myself, I understand this sometimes occurs.

The best thing about all this is that it's all free. Absolutely free, in the truest spirit of the internet. Warm Bodies 2 can be downloaded here, while the earlier volume is available here.

My hat is off to the editors for coming up with this. And it's ongoing. They are already soliciting submissions for Warm Bodies 3: Nostalgia Galore. For details, head on over to The White Papers.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


I’ve been thinking about time and the past and the nature of my memories. If you consider memories as discrete fragments, how many do you have? How large are these pieces? If you think about your most current fragment of memory – the one that goes backwards from the moment you finish reading this sentence – how far back does it go without breaking up or losing details? Mine extends only a couple of days before losing resolution. I cannot, for example, remember what I was wearing last Tuesday, or the exact order of people I spoke to, or a phone number that I didn’t write down immediately, or what I had for lunch that day. So many small details I’ve lost, falling into the interstices between fragments.

Their small size and nature suggest that they are trivial, that their import has very little weight (“We remember only important things”), but sometimes the little things have significance too: by the way they associate with other things or people (“You wore a blue dress when we first met”), by the way they mark time (“There was this song, you know, it goes ‘do roh do roh do’ – it was playing over the radio around one of the coups”), by the way they color emotion (“I had forgotten I was mad at him, but when I saw him light a cigarette, the feeling came back”), or by the way they serve as triggers for vaster fragments (“One of my exes, the fifth or the sixth - she said things that made sense only years later, but I can't remember her family name”).

The small memories we lose are more numerous than those we actually recall. Added to the large fragments, these are all we remember, whether we attempt to relive life in reverse or skip to the earliest recollection and move forward from there.

If you sit down and try to list all your memories, you will most likely begin in a disordered frenzy, jotting things down as they come to you (or, if you are a more ordered sort, you will start at some point, likely your clearest memory of childhood, and take it from there). You will write down important things, events that resonate emotionally, people whom you loved or loved you, heartbreak, happiness, terror. Your large fragments can fill up pages and pages – but you need to stay clear of invention as you try to find details.

Much later, you will slow down, exhausted by the effort of the recalling the big things and find yourself detailing minutiae, names, colors, numbers, recipes, smells, games, TV shows, as your brain throws everything into the air as it seeks out more big things. You will repeat and repeat this until you have nothing to write; then realize, with heaviness in your heart, that memories are finite in number but infinite in scope. You will yearn to talk to someone else, to verify details, to plug holes, to correct specifics – but be wary, because memory by nature is subjective, and all the colorization is yours alone, not subject to any approving authority. They will resist fact-checks, in their purest state. And you will also begin to realize that some memories that you carry are not, in fact, your own – anecdotes and experiences of your parents, repeated hijinks of your friends, descriptions in a book, the sentiments of a poem – external recollections that have somehow, through unconscious assimilation, become part and parcel of you.

If you look at everything, you will inevitably begin to ask yourself questions:

Did that really happen?

Did I do that?

Was that really done to me?

How could I have loved her?

Where did the money go?

She did promise, didn't she?

Those are easy. The answers are as you make them. But afterwards, other questions will come:

Is my past truly just this collection of recollections? Is this the nature of history?

Is happiness so transient and determined to be fragmentary? Can't happiness be one long extended stretch?

Why do I remember certain things with clarity but for the life of me cannot recall what I know were important things? Does my mind select at a deeper level what to keep, what to throw away?

When past days meld into each other, what happens to all the small details? Is there a significance I'm missing?

Why do memories become colored with time? Why do some of them alter completely?

Why is the dimmest past painted in only broad strokes? Thirty years from now, what will I remember?

My earliest memories (the ones I personally recall, not the ones recounted to me by people who knew me then):

A) I am playing in a sandbox with a blonde boy, happily moving sand around with a trowel or a small spade. His name is Frankie. I must be 4 or 5 years old. I recall no other details – but this must be during the time we lived in Hollywood, California.

B) I am in my grandfather’s house in Dagomboy in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. I am sitting on the cement floor playing with a big plastic airplane. The plane’s body is thick and white. The wings are light blue. I am very happy because my uncle Meroy gave it to me. Afterwards, my lolo and I go digging for crabs at the beach.

Beyond these is quiet emptiness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

friends, romans, countrymen

I'll be on the radio tonight - Jam 88.3 at 7 to 8PM. Jaime Bautista and I will be talking about writing for comics, a topic we can talk about endlessly.

Listen and see if I make a fool of myself ;)


Wow, that was fun! It was a bit of a challenge to compress "writing for comics" within 3 or 4 5-minute segments, but I tried my best. I was happy to be with Jamie who asked all the right questions and Lara who was the epitome of cool.

It's very different talking on the radio. I think I do better with live crowds of different sizes. Nikki compared me to Black Orchid, unable to exude my pheromones, which is somehow true. But really, I was afraid of saying "fuck" or "shit" or the other words that are forbidden on-air. That, and the fact that it was after a long day at work and my brains were dangerously close to resembling the clay brain that Sage took home the other day. But still, it was fun - watching the synapses of my mind attempt to answer questions in an understandable fashion.

Lara was great! We were chatting up a storm before the show and during the segment breaks, ranging from my mother's stunning purchase of our whippet Max to industry gossip (such as it is - wala naman talaga).

Before the show ended, my inner media whore was given the opportunity to plug Siglo: Passion, Project: Hero, and this blog.

Much thanks again to Jamie, Lara and Jam 88.3.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

fiction: four-letter words

Four-Letter Words
Short Fiction by Dean Francis Alfar
For Vin

Time = Tile

Anton clocks in at quarter to seven, his regulation blue long sleeves still bearing the phantom heat of his wife’s iron (she’s always up earlier, tracing the invisible trail of routine: up from bed, morning piss, face scrub and toothbrush, down to the kitchen to make the egg of the day, covering it with an upended plate before going back up to iron her husband’s clothes, waiting for him to bolt out of bed two minutes before the alarm clock). He waits for the Bundy clock to acknowledge his dedication and sets his timecard on the adjacent filing shelf.

The cards look like tiles to him: on the left, eight columns of names, organized like neat teeth with a single cavity that mars their perfection. On the right, an emptiness broken only by his timecard, an anomaly made unique only by virtue of his earliness.

He is always first to arrive. His timecard proves it.

Tile = File

Anton works hard in the filing department. He likes the feel of the folders, some thick, some thin, all outwardly the same except for the vertical titles on their right-hand sides. Like everyone else, he’s heard that Management intends to computerize everything soon, and like everyone else, he tries not to think about what that means. When others talk about how things will inevitably change and ask his opinion, he retreats into a vacuous smile until the conversation dies. Unless Sheila from Accounts is present.

It’s Sheila from Accounts who presses on, waiting patiently for him to fill into void while others surrender to his empty grin willingly pulled away by the lure of other dialogues. It’s Sheila from Accounts with her dull brown hair and dull brown eyes who stands there, like a statue, like a disinterested deer caught in eternal headlights (she’s never failed, not once: you can tell from her stance, from the way her feet are spread, from the way her head is angled, by the way she ignores the cooling cup of coffee in her left hand, she’s there to listen).

When Anton does speak, he mumbles. When she hears what he says, Sheila from Accounts chuckles politely.

File = Fine

Anton writes on a sheet on lined paper:

When Sheila from Accounts returns to her desk after the sanctioned coffee break, she first sits down, then takes a compact from her purse and reapplies her lipstick. Then she thinks about how much she wants to fuck Anton.

She paints her lips red so it suggests her vagina, pressing her lips together, then smacking them apart. She traces the outline of her mouth with a finger imagining that it’s Anton’s dick, teasing mercilessly at the edges of her desire.

One day, Sheila from Accounts will get her wish.

Anton reads his words impassively, his heart keeping its regular rhythm. Then he initials the bottom of the piece of paper, dates it in the prescribed manner, opens the filing cabinet closest to his left knees, and files it in a folder appropriate to the calendar month.

Ignoring his erection, Anton goes back to work.

Fine = Find

Thirty years later, a company archivist named Ronald Bueno finds Anton’s file in storage. With branches all over the world, work on the database is very slow, with prioritizations and reprioritizations and re-reprioritizations.

Ronald Bueno finds a total of seventeen thousand six hundred and forty lined sheets, each describing the trajectory of Anton’s desire over the course of nine years (the dramatic arc is clear: a meaningful exchange of glances, coy subversions of the company dress code, frantic blowjobs in the fire escapes, kama sutra in the board room, the alternative uses of sundry office supplies, her animated gyrations, him filling up every hole in her body until she pleads escape from the crash of her orgasms).

Momentarily torn between duty and prurience, Ronald Bueno masturbates violently, twice. When he’s done, he trembles then cries, suddenly guilty about the mingled smell of chlorine and old paper. Later, he packages the files and couriers it to the last known address of the pornographer who reaches through time and moves him to tears.

Find = Mind

Anton stares at the files revealed by the Fedex box. His first reaction is shock, followed by the slow flow of blood into his penis. He picks up several of the disarranged folders and fails to prevent the rain of paper that scatters like leaves from a trembling tree. On his knees, he reads a page, scanning his elegant handwriting, his memory racing back in hops, skips and jumps to the timestamped date.

Anton breathes in the aroma of the past, the heady scent of his forbidden fictions, before finally sitting down on the floor. He begins to sort out the mess of papers by date (first, by year, then by month, making rows and columns on the tiled floor of his kitchen, pleased by the disciplined action, the panacea of methodology).

Mind = Mine

When Anton is finished, he leaves the files on the kitchen table and walks to his den where his cell phone is. He carefully presses a number and waits for the auto-dial to complete its task.

Over the connection, the phone rings thrice before it’s answered.

“Hello?” The voice is old but still vibrant. It makes Anton smile.

“Hello? It’s me,” Anton speaks into the phone. “How’re the kids?”

“Missing their grandpa,” the voice replies. “Wishing you’d come with me?”

“No,” Anton says, walking back to the kitchen. “You know how fussy it gets; the dialysis machine is just a pain to lug around.”

“I miss you, sweetie,” the voice says. “Wait, is there anything wrong?”

“No, no,” Anton says, sitting down at the table, looking at his arranged files. “Just wanted to tell you something.”

“What’s that?” the old woman asks.

“I got something in the mail today,” Anton says, grinning into his phone.

“What is it?”

“Love letters I never sent you.”

“Really?” The woman laughs, the sound reminds Anton of many things.

“Really. Old things.”

“Where did it come from?”

“The old company. Someone found them, I guess.”

The woman laughs again. “Read me one.”

“Of course.”

Anton reads to the sound of Sheila from Accounts' raucous laughter.

Monday, July 18, 2005

book piracy

As I had my morning shave at my barber's, I read an article in the PDI about book piracy - particularly, the practice of copying text books for academic courses like medicine and engineering, as well as other fields of study.

Photocopying books has been standard practice for as long as the technology has been available. The actual books are expensive and out of the financial reach of majority of students, or are simply unavailable. The solution has been to borrow someone else's copy of the text (or to check it out of the library) and then hie on over to the xerox machine where select passages (or often, the entire book) is copied. The article strongly recommends ending this practice, educating everyone on the concept of intellectual property as well as copyright laws, etc, etc.

In my mind, it is all too easy to offer solutions that, on paper or in theory, seem sound as well as right. In practice, however, it is not as easy to implement. The reason that so many students copy books is because they simply cannot afford to purchase the entire booklist their course of study requires - tuition fees and related expenses are already skyhigh. They do not get these xerox copies or pirated books (some people sell copies of entire books at roughly 1/3 the price of the originals) for pleasure or entertainment. These are books for used for study, unlike like the P70 DVDs of Pirate Billy and crew. Perhaps government can come up with a program to subsidize a large part of the cost of these original text books so that the ultimate retail price to the students is reasonable. However, a single reasonably costed book when multipled by 5 or 10 or 20 or whatever the number of required books is causes the total amount to be unreasonable. Do we just shrug our shoulders and tell the student and her family "E, pinili mo kasi yung mahal na kurso - problema niyo 'yan"? Should universities, as the anti-piracy folk would have them do, require students to buy and read only original books - and ban students who have photocopies from attending class? Is that the proper thing to suggest? Is the motherhood statement of all the anti-pirate folk strong enough to overthrow the everyday reality faced by the students who need books but cannot afford them in original editions? The Filipino student finds ways to get by: she will scrimp on transportation, food, supplies and yes, books, to stretch the continually weakening peso. Should we penalize her and her family because they cannot afford any more?

From the perspective of the anti-piracy folk (who are possibly also the Intellectual Property People), things are getting just a little bit better but not because of any true affirmative action on the part of the Filipinos. As of 2003, the Philippines had the honor of being the Asian book piracy champ. We lost the title in the following years when Pakistan and China took the competition by storm. We lost by the volume of pirated material produced by these countries, and not because we lessened ours.

I am very conflicted on the entire piracy issue. As a creative who produces and publishes original content (stories, comics, books with one hat; websites, campaigns, design work, copy with another) I appreciate the need to protect what I've made. But what I cannot accept is an all-enveloping motherhood statement that does not take into consideration the social realities that face the Filipino on a daily basis.

We cannot act and make recommendations with the presumption that every Filipino could possibly afford everything in the original, and that every purchase decision should, without question, lean towards the original thing. In the case of film, for example, I actually like the fact that the language of film is being slowly spread among many people who would not actually be able to afford the expensive originals of obscure art films (I've had surreal conversations with some pirates and fellow customers). Instead of erecting and maintaining cost barriers and policing markets, I think producers should think of new business models and adapt to the fact that for many people without the power of cash, there is almost no other option- except to do without. One of the big Hollywood producers went to China and priced their DVDs at the equivalent of US$1-2 - originals.

This is a complex issue and is certainly not a matter of asking me, eyebrows raised in disdain, "How can you support intellectual theft, Dean?". I would not engage in a discussion with anyone who makes such a simplistic assumption. Our failure to look at the bigger scheme of things is exposed when we only consider the "poor creative", the "poor author", the "poor producers". Yes, we need to take them into consideration (and certainly because they are the powerful people behind the intellectual property lobbying), but we also need to think in larger terms. It is the music industry, awakened by the very real threat of online P2P downloads, that acted with an eye towards what the true social situation is. Yes, they tried to shut down and sue everyone, but in the end, they are partnering with the same people who made the peer-to-peer networks with the intent of shifting their business models to accomodate the new facts of life.

There is no question that piracy hurts people, that's a given. But we should also open ourselves to answering difficult questions before we jump on the bandwagon of what seems to be an ethical no-brainer. Should the experience of art be democratized? Should profit of the publishers/producers (therefore, business) be prioritized over the need of people for information? Should knowledge be made freely available at the lowest cost to students? How can we lower the cost barriers of original materials?

The truth is that we are not only protecting the authors and creatives but also big business (text book publishers, music outfits, film studios).

My personal truth though is this (tongue firmly in cheek): whatever happens, I will still get the pirated porn.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

the ocean teems with life

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of the most engaging films I've seen this year. Critics and viewers who saw it all had opinions, divided along the usual love/hate lines. I'm firmly on the "love it" side.

Written (with Noah Baumbach) and directed by Wes Anderson (the same guy responsible for The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore), this film pays a soft kind of homage to the documentaries made popular by Jacques Cousteau. The ensemble cast gives a great performance (Bill Murray - in his low-key non-slapstick manner, like Lost in Translation; Owen Wilson; Willem DaFoe, Cate Blanchette and Anjelica Houston) - plus, the music (David Bowie by way of the Portugeuese) is excellent - but it is the writing and directing sensibilities that make the film work.

It is quirky without going overboard, and is chockfull of small moments that tickle that part of me that appreciates observations on the human condition. The comedic elements are present without being overwhelming - in fact, it is that very gentle tongue-in-cheek aspect that wisely prevents the film from taking itself too seriously. But what I liked most about this film is the way it engaged my mind, since - shockingly - it did not adhere to the Hollywood formulas despite originating from a major house.

It got me thinking about all those weekend afternoons when I'd voyage with Cousteau in the Nautilus (right?) and see how the ocean teemed with vibrant life, another memory from my childhood that made me feel a little bit sentimental. How different things were then. My world was composed of my books, the television, my comics, my bicycle and my friends, and I never imagined that one day I'd have to worry about paying rent and supporting a family. But still, the memory of those fantastic underwater explorations are like unexpected rain, delightful and invigorating.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

touch and go

To my surprise and delight, I got an email followed by a phone call from one of my oldest friends, a man whom I thought had been swallowed alive by the earth. He resurfaced in New York after almost a decade of silence and we told each other what the other had missed - deaths and marriages and books and children and lost loves. I could not believe the twists and turns our lives had taken, but was pleased that our roads intersected again after so long. I hope to see him, somehow, when I visit the US at year's end, because while email and telephone conversations are wonderful, there is nothing like words face-to-face.

And today, I was able to call another old friend, my best friend during my college days - and one of my best men at my wedding 10 years ago. I fault myself for the distance that grew between us during the past years, but now have a chance to bridge the years over food this weekend.

Sometimes, I tend to walk a bit faster, a bit to left or to the right, and in my determination to get to a new place, I end up leaving a few people behind. The nature of my personality is defined in part by my impatience, by my need to walk at my pace - which changes. I suffer in a large metaphorical crowd - because the pace of motion is determined by the slowest mover. I tend to break out and walk on my own. In real life, walking at the mall, my poor wife is usually behind me - not because we subscribe to the old Japanese custom of having the woman walk respectfully behind her man, but because, well, I like to walk fast.

In friendships and relationships, this sometimes gets me into terrible situations, such as when someone left behind rightfully demands why she was left behind, as if in a game of touch-and-go. If I can, when I can, I slow down, or turn back, or wait for the person to catch up. It's not something I do for everyone, but for those I care about, it's a given.

The thought of losing a valued friend is a heartwrenching thing, a black situation rectified only by the act of recovering a lost friendship.

Monday, July 11, 2005

reading the past

My taste for non-fiction these days skews towards history, considering the last three additions to my bookshelf after I finished reading Giles Milton's White Gold : The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves.

After the Neil Gaiman forum at the Music Museum, I picked up a couple of books at the freshly minted Fully Booked store at Greenhills (Neil was kind and gracious, answering the scatterbrained questions fired at him, but I really had two big issues. First, was with the lackluster questions interviewer Ramon de Veyra asked him onstage; and second, with the appalling paucity of discussion/questions about the literary side of what he does - come on, people, he's more than Sandman):

The Prince of Europe: The Life of Charles-Joseph De Ligne by Philip Mansel (2004) is about the Hapsburg charmer who recorded or participated in some of the most interesting events of his time.

The Mechanical Turk: The True Story of the Chess-Playing Machine That Fooled the World by Tom Standage (2002) deals with the incredible clockwork automaton that stunned Europe, beginning in Vienna in 1770 and in the decades that followed.

The Chan's Great Continent: China in Western Minds by Jonathan Spence (1999) explores the western mind's concept of China, from the 13th century Franciscan William of Rubruck to Henry Kissinger.

I like histories that take my mind to different places - not just times, histories that go beyond the mind-dulling repetitions of wars and conquests and hate. I enjoy histories that explore mindsets, overturn expectations and challenge my notions. And it doesn't hurt that they're written in an accessible manner without sacrificing the details and insight that make them fascinating in the first place.

From a writing perspective, histories are always springboards for new stories.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

winner in my book

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This illustration by Hiyas de Guzman (one of the poor unfortunate souls who call me "boss" - as well as one of the colorists for Siglo: Passion) narrowly missed making the final three in the Neil Gaiman art contest. At stake was dinner with the creator of the picture's subject (that's Yvaine of Stardust). Instead, Hiyas' 4th place finish netted her a hug from the Dream King - which is still something quite special.

But to me, this piece is most definitely a winner.

Friday, July 08, 2005


During my summer vacations in Palawan when I was small, one of the things I remember doing is throwing stones at tuko, those nocturnal foot-long lizards famous for two things: their eponymous call ("too-ko, too-ko") and their viselike death grip. Once a tuko clamps on to something - the side of a tree, the eaves of a house - it would be impossible to dislodge.

Stories circulated about the miserable state of people who had the dubious distinction of being clamped on by a tuko (perhaps because the tuko, tired of being the victim of so many stones hurled against its replitilian hide, finally decided on a little revenge). The lizard's claws, it is said, embedded so deeply into the unfortunate's skin that it was impossible to remove without further hurting the victim. People tried all sorts of things - subjecting the lizard (and, by sad extension, a portion of the victim) to flame, acid, repeated beatings - to no avail.

When a tuko wants to hold on to something, nothing can make it let go. Except for death or surgery, hence the term "kapit-tuko" (tuko's deathgrip).

As much as I can, I try to limit my political opinions on this blog.

But the unabashed deathgrip our lady president has on her position, despite the obvious desire of many sectors for her to step down and do what is best for the country in the long term, reminds me of a tuko.

She should take on the attitude of a public servant and not a queen, be part of the solution rather than continuing to be part of the problem, and leave behind a legacy of helpfulness and duty rather than confusion and distrust.

She should be the great woman we believed her to be - and not a tuko.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

vignette: zombies (for andrew)

The zombies in the darkness were restless.

Lothero, pumped up and resplendent in his acid green tutu, wanted to dance. He bent down, detached his left ankle with his huge hands, then straightened up, bringing his massively muscled leg above his head. “I want to dance,” he moaned. “I want to dance.”

Somewhere to his left, Sakamoto crouched down and picked up his nose, twirling what was left between his sticky fingers before popping it into his mouth, smacking his lips loudly afterwards. Around him, the stench of wet cardboard, ill cats and spoiled vetiver lingered. Only Lothero, of all the others, could stand Sakamoto's graveolent presence.

Agnes, who had the Quiet Boy, scowled at the twin interruptions. “No, Lothero,” she told the moaning man. “Stop that,” she hissed at Sakamoto, already hating herself all over again because of her temperament. “I can smell you from here. Go away.”

She wasn’t the nasty one, she felt. That was, indisputably, Moo Cow. But Moo Cow was elsewhere. Hopefully far, far away. Preferably forever. Besides, thought Agnes, it’s my turn. I’m holding The Quiet Boy.

Tita Joy’s stitched-together face, delicately powered with faux fairy sugar, surfaced meekly in the gloom. “Agnes,” she said timidly, her voice artificially pitched three octaves higher. “Might I have a turn?”

“Absolutely not!” Gasped Agnes, shocked by the request into an unwanted swivet. For a vertiginous moment, she thought she would lose control again.

“Selfish, selfish,” Lothero and Sakamoto whispered, covered in darkness, their position betrayed only by the unexpected flash of an acid green pirouette and the odor of cat droppings.

“I gave you my turn sometime ago, don’t you remember?” Tita Joy’s features began to crumble a miniature avalanche of ephemeral sweetness. She gripped the edges of the wheeled music box that enveloped the bottom half of her body and sighed deeply. “I thought we had an understanding.” She began humming the old song, attracting the attention of Lothero and Zakamoto, who moved rapturously to the familiar melody.

“We do not,” Agnes said tersely, willing herself to be calm. Around them the darkness shifted, muted greys springing into brief existence before flicking out to the same dull darkness. Agnes strained to extend her sight upwards, the rhythm of anxiety thundering in her ears. “Hush! Stop that. You’re disturbing him.”

Ongaku, itsumademo tzukuzu ongaku,” Sakamoto declared with surprising lucidity, suddenly aware of his own smell. “Music is for everyone.”

“Music is life,” added Lothero, susurrous as he spun on one foot. “Even for zombies.”

Tita Joy gave voice to the words of the old song, like a mantra, her tremulous soprano edging high into the darkness:

Show me something I've never seen
Like a river gleaming in the sun
Or the sea and sky kissing on the horizon

Then: The darkness moved. In the silence that ensued, all zombies froze in place.

Then: A sudden shift in position, a sensation of a half-spin or a quarter-turn.

Then: An impression of motion, like a trick of peripheral vision.

Then: “Fuck,” Agnes said, finally releasing her breath. Her entire frame was trembling.

“I’m sorry,” Tita Joy said with all the wounded dignity her crushed face could muster. “I just thought that we-“

“We did not,” Agnes interrupted hurriedly, worried about the recent twitching of the Quiet Boy.

“You’re a contumacious bitch, Agnes. Right now, I believe you could give Moo Cow a run for the Queen of the Zombies thing. But that should come as no surprise to anyone.” The cold voice belonged #4 Dao Street, the bald man who liked to watch fish.

Agnes turned to face the new arrival, her rage swelling pure and strong within her desiccated frame.

“How tragic then that you never seem able to utter a word when she’s around,” #4 Dao Street smiled his toothless smile. “Now give us a turn before T.Q.B. wakes up.”

big mouth and little mouth

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Because sometimes we just do crazy stuff, that's why.

Photo by Benj.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

play: a home for christmas

A Home for Christmas
A One-Act Choral Play for Children Big & Small
By Dean Francis Alfar

'Twas the month before Christmas
In a cozy kitchen
That our tale begins in

A mother’s singular creation
From a recipe of passion
Conceived in love’s season

Hands stirring, dancing
measuring, loving
kneading, needing

From nuts and candies
from flour and tasties
seasoned with love

This miracle loaf of bread

I am born!

He said

Who am I?

He cried

You are Love
Made with love
You are Desire
Made to be desired

And she held him high
Liquor scent rising
With a sigh

ou are Fruitcake!

He could barely contain his joy

Oh! Oh! Oh!
What am I to do?
Where am I to go?
Whose heart will I gladden?
Waistline I’ll fatten?
Where shall my home be?
I cannot wait to see!

Tonight and forever
Your home shall be
That of a loving family!

Tonight and forever
Their home shall be
Blessed by your company!

The card on you shall say
“Happy Christmas Day!”
Are you not beautiful?

Oh! Oh! Oh!
My home – my new family!
I cannot wait to see-
I cannot wait and see!


And so clothed with love
Beribboned with warmth
Wrapped in glittering foil

Am I not beautiful?

Fruitcake was given
To his new place of living
The home of a loving family

Open door…

MAN 1:
Oh how wonderful! Thank you!

He said

Oh how delightful! Thank you!

She cried

Hearing these words
Fruitcake’s heart nearly burst

Oh! Oh! Oh!
I am Fruitcake!

He could barely contain his joy!

But as soon as they closed the door
Locked the windows and let loose the dogs
They looked at him with a rictus grin
And threw him down the floor

No more!

She said

MAN 1:
No more!

He cried

Oh! Oh! Oh!
B-but- am I not beautiful?

So in a dark corner
Shunned by even the dogs
Who had torn his glittering wrappings
Fruitcake sat and sat and sat
And watched

The ensaimada adored with shrieks

(I’m tasty too…)

The bottles of wine showered with praise

(I have liquor too…)

The gaudy basket of cans accepted with tears

(Look at me…please)

And set before the Belen

(…love me…?)


MAN 1:
You there! Yes, you - you Fruitcake!
Come on! Be useful!

They’re talking to me.
They’re talking to me!

He could barely contain his joy!

Get up! Put this on!
Hurry up! We don’t have long!

Clothed again
Beribboned, caparisoned
In glittering foil again

MAN 1:
You’re off to someone
Who could be the someone
Who’ll…like you.

And the card on you shall say
“Happy Christmas Day!”

He could barely contain his joy!

Am I not beautiful?


Yeah, right.

(MAN 1 laughs.)

But the same sad scene
Awaited him

MAN 2:
Open door

Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!
Oh, how delightful! Thank you!

Close door

Thrown to the floor
Torn then shunned
And into a new dark corner

MAN 3:
Who would love this miracle loaf?
Who could love this miracle bread?

...Am I not beautiful?


But again

Get up!

Get dressed!

Get out!

MAN 1:
Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!

MAN 2:
Oh, how delightful! Thank you!

MAN 3:
Open door, close door

Oh! Oh! Oh!
Hello, Mr. Floor

And again

MAN 3:
Get up!

MAN 2:
Get dressed!

MAN 1:
Get out!

Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!

Oh, how delightful! Thank you!

Open door, close door

Oh, hello, Mr. Floor

And again

Get up!

Get dressed!

Get out!

Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!

Oh, how delightful! Thank you!

Open door, close door

(sighs) Hello, Mr. Floor


Am I…not beautiful?






Utterly bereft
He had little joy left
To barely contain

MAN 2:
He sat and sat and sat
And watched


MAN 3:
And so Christmas came and went away

Merry Christmas!

And the New Year came and went away

Happy New Year!

MAN 2:
And Three Kings came and went away

Happy Three Kings!

When Fruitcake, untouched
Lost in the debris of happiness, unloved
Was found

What is that?

MAN 3:
It’s a fruitcake, I think…
Shall I throw it? It stinks…

No, just throw it in the closet
Those things keep forever
We’ll have an extra gift
For next Christmas

And so into a new dark
Of musty smells and broken balls
Of withered wreaths and silent bells
Of course, down on the floor

My…new… home

Close door

I think I…
I think I am…
I think maybe I’m not…

Open door

MAN 2:
Careful with the Belen!
Don’t set it down just anywhere!

Okay, okay, okay
I need something to-

And he felt her reach out into the dark
His dark

MAN 3:
And he felt her touch his cellophaned frame
His frame

MAN 1:
Speechless in shock
Bewildered by her suddenness

He was moved
And something was set down upon him

Close door

He strained to see

Struggling to be free

Of the weight upon him

What’s this on me?

Twisting and turning
Unable to get free
He caught a glimpse
of a ceramic baby’s head

Sleeping, dreaming of heaven

And his sweet tears flowed
And his nutty heart glowed

For the Christ-child’s head
rested on the miracle bread


MAN 3:

And this time, truly,
He could barely contain his joy

(Spotlight on the manger scene. Fade out.)

CHORUS: Are you not beautiful?


on white gold, money bins, deterioration, and the games we play

adventures in the slave trade

I'm currently reading White Gold by Giles Milton. Milton is one of my favorite non-fiction authors, having penned Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth and Samurai William. He has a knack of making history both vivid and readable without sacrificing the details.

His latest, White Gold, deals with white slavery during the 18th century, when the Barbary corsairs of North Africa conducted slave raids, picking off hapless English villagers from their homes. Most of these white folk ended up helping construct the fabulous series of interlocking palaces for the Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco. Milton grounds all the drama by focusing on the plight of an 11-year old boy who was captured and survived in the Islamic world. Historical details abound - I wasn't even aware that such a thing existed (always thought that horrible act of slavery had the native Africans as victims), so it's interesting to know that a reversal of sorts happened.

a duck's tale

My best comic book trade purchase is the Eisner Award-winner The Life and Time of Scrooge McDuck by by Don Rosa. Easily one of the best comic trades of the year (Nikki says it's Ultra, still), Life of Scrooge (Lo$) is 12 stories in one volume, tracing the entire history of the popular Disney character as he seeks his fortune. Interestingly, he really has to work for it, facing numerous failures and setbacks in business and in life before he hits it big. It's well-written and finely illustrated and quite a bargain for the cover price. I may need to revise my list of favorite graphic novels because Lo$ is definitely up there.

I admire the way the Duck stories are conceptualized and written, especially the European ones. The target audience is all ages but the stories, especially those of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, are never dumbed down. The historical stories are well-researched and the overall manner is intoxicating - a joy to read in bed. If you love the Ducks, you'll be delighted to see the Donald Duck Family Tree.

sinking into the sea

By comparison, the later Asterix books have seemingly lost their charm. I'm completing the set with the occasional purchase (started waaaay back in high school with mini albums) and recently got the softcover of Asterix and Obelix All at Sea, and sadly, this is not one of the best. The stories have been deteriorating since Alberto Uderzo had to write alone and it shows. The plot, usually quite tight, was all over the place (A handful of galley slaves, led by a Kirk Douglas-ian Spartakis, revolt against Caesar and steal the Roman Navy's finest ship. Pursued by the Roman Navy, they take refuge in Asterix's village. Obelix reverts back to chidhood and loses his strength due to an overdose of magic potion). This one had the barest hint of the charm and power the previous volumes exuded, and sadly, may be one of Uderzo's last ones (not counting Asterix and the Class Act). Here's a pretty good and updated Asterix site.

and a blast from the past

My other nonfiction book is Games People Play by Eric Md Berne. Originally published over 40 years ago and hailed by as “An important book . . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue of the psychological theatricals that human beings play over and over again.” by Kurt Vonnegut for Life Magazine, this classic reveals the true nature of our social interactions in terms of Transactional Analysis. Amusing, educational and still quite valid, Nikki and I were tickled by the examples of "strokes" (the basic unit of social intercourse).
We think we’re relating to other people–but actually we’re all playing games.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

rain scent

Today, like yesterday, I woke up late and feeling like a ton of bricks had materialized and crushed me in my sleep. My head the consistency of cotton; my nose clogged. The flu-like symptoms made me finally decide not to go to the office and instead work from home, where I can blow my nose with impunity.

It has been raining; the temperature has deliciously slid down a few notches, bringing a sensate illusion of coolness. If you ignore the humidity and the fact that you could swim through the thick air if you really tried, it's really quite a pleasant day to stay home. Freed from the office phone and the immediate demands of standing projects that my presence there invokes, I've been puttering around, replying to the slowly lessening number of text messages from clients and suppliers, putting things into order, trying to regain use of my water-logged brain cells, trying to get well.

The sound of raindrops against my window makes me suddenly aware of things, like how much I love the smell of rain. When I was a little boy, I would run out when it started to pour, triggering dire words from my mother and aunt who were convinced that I would catch my death of pneumonia. It wasn't the feel of raindrops on my skin that I rushed out for, but rather the exhalation of the ground as it got progressively drenched. It's hard to describe, but you know what I mean - a sort of heady, loamy, earthy aroma, strong and pure and true, primal and invigorating and irresistable.

I remember getting my rubber slippers stuck in the forming mud, going barefoot without a second thought, heedless of germs or infection or the accidental slip. I'd stand there, squishing the soft wet earth, arms extended, my eyes closed against the falling rain, enveloped in the smell, my little self engaged in an act of unconscious thanksgiving.

Today, I live on the top floor of a 36 storey building, so far removed from the ground. But when it rains, like now, right now, my nose finds the phantom trace of scent, my sense of smell hurls itself down the condominium to the ground, and I realize that things like concrete and distance cannot stop memory or imagination.

My nose knows certain truths; distance and height means nothing. There it is. The smell of rain.

page 45 on siglo: freedom

Page 45 is a UK-based retailer (winner of the Diamond Award for Best Retailer 2004). Here's their take on Siglo: Freedom.
Siglo: Freedom (£9-99, Mango) by various. A Filipino anthology of comics on the theme of freedom, a subject dear to the people of the Philippines, for obvious reasons. It's the sort of thing I instinctively want to applaud. Straight fiction, new points of view, something to say. And the first story, "Jolo, 1913" (each title has a date, which together span the last century), definitely boasts both those two characteristics. It's told by a boy as he moves through the alphabet in the top two-thirds of each page, being taught English. Along the bottom, he begins to talk about the school where he's learning this new language.

"None of the Muslim children went to my school. Maybe they attended a different one or learned directly from their parents. At that time I didn't understand why. I considered them lucky." But then other things happen that he doesn't understand, things he's not told, as smoke begins to rise in the Muslim districts. Soldiers are said to be arriving in great numbers. "At the end of that long week, my father told us it was all over. Things went back to normal and once again I went to school. Whatever happened suddenly seemed so distant. The Americans looked very happy. Everyone else tried to look happy."

This one worked for me, worked very well. You're never told what happened, but you don't need to be, and the juxtaposition of the underlying story with the humiliating English lesson above makes its point succinctly. their own account, it's early days for comics in the Philippines - too much outside influence. Which is where we came in, with the first story.

The story in question, "Jolo, 1913" was written by me and illustrated by Andrew Drilon.

Monday, July 04, 2005

heroic agenda

The comic book gang is getting together to produce a new year-ender anthology different from Siglo: Passion. Where my agenda for the Siglo series is to showcase the comic book form as a medium for "serious" sequential literature, the new antho dances to a completely different drummer.

Project: Hero (the codename, not the final title) will be a collection of superhero stories, void of any agenda (no social commentary, gender issues, or literary chip-on-the-shoulder kind of things) except for one: to write, illustrate and produce stories that capture the zap! wow! moments of two-fisted fun that got us all reading and loving comics in the first place. We'll create new heroes from scratch and attempt to have a little fun. No slice-of-life vignettes here "sparkling with epiphanic dew" - just a rush of madcap creative stretching.

So this Christmas, see what we manage to come up with when we're not possessed by serious shit: Carlo Vergara (Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah), Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace, K.I.A.), Andrew Drilon (Wapak!), Elbert Or & Jaime Bautista (Cast), Nikki Alfar ("Twilight's Calling" in Mango Jam), Jason Banico (Baylans), Vin Simbulan (Isaw Atbp.) and me plus a few surprise creators.

I'm toying around with a Silver Age/Legion of Superheroes story, but we'll see what happens when I actually begin writing.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

spellbound and contest memories

One of the best documentaries I’ve seen is Jeffrey Blitz’s Spellbound – a film I’ve wanted to watch since it was nominated for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Documentary. The film follows 8 young people on their road to the National Spelling Bee, each one struggling with the weight of parental and cultural expectations, as well as the burden of being one of the 9 million competitors in a contest that can have only one winner.

The masterful documentary, more invigorating and involving than the recent spate of reality TV shows, makes no judgments and reveals the very heart and character of the people it follows as they deal with tremendous personal stakes. One of the parents likened the contest to a form of child abuse, and it is evident why. Months are spent in preparation, drilling words at a rate of thousands per day, at 8 to 9 hours each day. By the time the finals in Washington were underway, Nikki and I were emotionally invested, more so than any film we’ve seen so far this year (we were spelling along with the contestants and both got eliminated with “Apocope”). If you can find this, get it. You won’t regret it.

My wife and I are very competitive people, so we ended up laughing and comparing notes about competitions we’ve done somewhat well in when we were younger – all of them seemed to of vast import then, but are just funny trivia now.

Nikki won the Philippine Spelling Bee competition when she was in the 6th grade, while I bowed out during the quarterfinals of the Quiz Bee sometime in elementary school (the question was: “Before money was used, what system did the native Filipinos use?” My answer was “Trade”. The correct answer was “Barter”. I protested in all my high-pitched fervor to no avail). She won the Seventeen Magazine Short Story Writing Contest when she was 14 and was 1st runner-up in Miss CSA in 1986. Me, I won the gold medal for Extemporaneous Speaking in La Salle when I was 10 years old during the year that the deteriorating orbit of the Skylab satellite was a concern (that was the topic I drew). We both won other assorted writing competitions. Later on, I was the first Philippine National Champion for Magic: The Gathering; Nikki was the Finalist (#2) in 1998 and she went on to represent the Philippines in the World Championships in Seattle, along with the National Team. And to this day we continue to take a no-holds-barred attitude when we play against each other in any game.

In the current context of our lives, none of these little awards particularly mean anything, but I think all these contests and competitions helped shaped how we think and respond to the challenges of life, business, parenthood and all that.

My poor daughter is going to have a hell of a time dealing with her "Go!Go!" parents - already, I beam with absurd pride when she comes home with a stamp on her little hand that says "Good Work!".

Friday, July 01, 2005


Last week, I had a delightful time catching up with an old friend visiting from Cebu. When I first met Benjie Ordonez we were both much younger and trimmer and more concerned with conquering the world through Magic: The Gathering. Nowadays, we're both dads and possessed by the imperatives of agenda - prose and comic books for me, film for him.

He's one of the motive forces behind Sinebuano, a group of young Cebuano filmmakers and cineastes whose love and devotion for Filipino films (particularly, Cebuano, of course) is helping invigorate the scene in the Visayas. With several successful events under their collective belt, Benjie and his compatriots have more things to do, reaching out to student filmmakers and professional craftsmen alike, all with the intent of injecting freshness and life into a craft that once upon a time deservedly evoked admiration from our Asian neighbors. There is a flood of talent in Cebu, including one of my writer/director friends Paolo Dy, who won the MTV scriptwriting event last year (Nikki and I are poised to help develop a TV show with him).

I love independent film myself, and was happy to view their production of "The Witness", thanks to the DVD copy given to me by Benjie, the film's executive director/producer. I first encountered this story, appropiately enough, as a comic book, written by Carlo Borromeo and illustrated by the talented Reno Maniquis (creator of Maskarado and whose classic Filipino-style work in the upcoming comic book anthology Siglo: Passion is nothing short of astounding). I enjoyed the 9-minute short, kudos all around, especially to director Jurly Maloloy-on, Jr. Thanks to Reno's blog, I know you can view the film here and read the original comic book here.

I tried my hand at film, once upon a time, with Super 8, under the guidance of old friend and CCP awardee Noel Lim (he and komikero Gerry Alanguilan have a long-running production of Gerry's classic comic book "Wasted" unfairly in limbo - hey guys! Tapusin niyo na!). This was before digital film made everything more or less democratic and I soon gave up when the cost escalated (I had the reels shipped from Hawaii and they cost more than I could possibly afford). I even wrote a couple of screenplays, both of which, in mangled form, made it to the big screen (don't ask, they embarass me since their ultimate form is not something I can really claim as mine anymore, not that I'd want to associate my name with their lackluster ickiness).

Anyway, if you're in Cebu today, check out what Sinebuano has in store:


July 1, 2005 is the date for SALIDA: DOS!

Another showcase of Digital Cebuano independent films and Cebuano Independent music.

Films to be shown are:

The Witness by SineBuano
Pusod by SineBuano
Bitin Na Pagmamahal by Victor Villanueva
Miko by Paolo Dy
Obsession by Merrel Tabelon
Theresa by Norbert Elnar
Slapshock MTV:Misterio by Paolo Dy

Performing Bands:

Shiela and the Insects
Missing Filemon
Shadowbox Serenade

Show starts at 8pm

Handuraw Cafe is located at the Old Coaco Bldg., M J Cuenco Ave., Cebu City.

Tickets are pegged at 75 pesos with free slice of pizza or beer.

Go and have a great time!