May 29, 2004

Pasta Night

If not for some card-playing, nut-cracking, beer-swilling, wise-assing fellows outside, this Saturday afternoon would drone on and on with me deep in the Pleasure of the Text or The Transcendence of Ego. My sisters are asleep, the electric fans dispelling the heat. I found that either or both of them stacked some Mateus and Vin d' Algerie in the old ref. Since Ma is off to the market and my brother is off to borrow some videos, I figured I could make some pasta. I text Dad to come home early because I'm making wkend-long psta.

I'm still waiting for Ma. I asked her to get tuna, cheese, and tomato paste for me. My custom garlic grind is waiting too, along with the sliced peppers.

Okay she's here. I'll get back to the notepad after I finish this.

An enter key and an hour or so later, it's done. Ma arrived with everything I needed. She threw in a couple of grilled corn the effort. I bit in every so often and sipped some chilled Mateus. Ma offered help with the onions, the part I least liked because of the tears (which told me I've gone too long without regular cooking chores, my eyes weak again for tears). Ma was still too close to spare my eyes. We timed it perfectly; we didn't let the chopped onions oxidize a minute too late. The sauce took a while. Ma bought quick cook noodles; it took me just five minutes to finish them.

There, it's done.

Now, they're eating a 7pm dinner. Since Shrek has all their attention, I'll just read or eavesdrop on wise-asses.

May 26, 2004

We walked along the quay in a balmy and refreshing breeze. We passed lilac trees and small rosebushes and German soldiers on patrol. We spoke about our future and how we would like to stay together. Then I walked back home in the evening, through the soft night, feeling light and languid from the white Chianti, and I was suddenly absolutely certain of what I now again doubt: that I shall be a writer one day. Those long nights through which I would write and write would be the most beautiful nights of all.

Etty Hillesum
Diary entry
May 26, 1942

Night with a Capital L

Last night was long overdue among other long overdue nights with unexpiring friends. I'm glad I finally caught Astrid, Arlyn, and Jessel.

After I fetched a check, I munched-a-lunch with Jessel and Arlyn at Katipunan. Arlyn talked of a Mandy Moore starrer where she played a Catholic schoolgirl religious bitch (that is, from what I gathered). Naturally, I wanted to see it right away. Since that wasn't possible, I just got myself an armful of overpriced books. Then school supplies from another store for Jessel's little kid. We went back to Diliman for our own geeky purposes and waited for Astrid to come and save us.

Well she came at around six and, if I remembered right, she did us in with a version of that chicken-thing ad where the elevator closes on a yuppie conveying his lunch order. All hail the power of the advertisement. Guess where we got our dinners. Then coffee with Arlyn's trusty tumbler. The centavoless rest of us contented ourselves with stories.

We talked the small talk, yes, though the tones and topics didn't seem all that small. I don't understand why - for me at least - it was yet wasn't small talk. Maybe because we didn't mention Kris Aquino even once? Oh well.

L is for 'Loser' which is how Astrid labels a night out where we head for home before ten. Arlyn begged us to accept being losers for the night, for a friend. She wanted to catch a ten-minute trailer or making or somesuch of Harry Potter. So, pfft, we're gone, off to homes, mornings, and other nights.

May 23, 2004

A Cinderella evening. Tonight there were two grand balls - and we were invited to neither. But what is sinister is that Lady Astor either forgot us, or deliberately omitted us from her ball tonight in honour of the King and Queen. I thought that such social humiliations were over: that I was too secure, or too indifferent to mind them: but I find I do, which is ill-bred of me.

'Chips' Cannon
Diary entry
May 23, 1938

Tonight's Tentative Titles

A Thursday Morning - which I quickly throw away because it was uneventful, last I remembered it.

The Thursday Evening - or Chance Encounter, which would be about a particularly poignant evening beginning with arrival from Los Banos, a priceless welcome from the two elder girls of the family, two new shirts (a black one from New York and a red one from Boracay), then reactions to the self-portrait I brought home (properly entitled "Narciso"). Of course, the height of the piece would be where I go shopping with my sister and I meet him (the grand old man) and his wife. Then, after the advise on fiction and depiction, I'd end with a nice (though maybe blatant) epiphany. However, both titles are too lackluster for the purpose.

Welcome to the Thursday of the Real! - which seems better especially with the exclamation point. It plays with the greeting of Baudrillard, replacing the expansive spatial 'Desert' with the definite temporal 'Real'. Well, since on that Thursday I was creating fiction on the uneventful morning, consuming it on the equally insignificant noon, and discussing it on the memorable evening, 'the Real!' feels like a nice touch. A comfortable fit with the epiphany too, I might add. But I'm increasingly uncomfortable remembering Thursday evening, pleasantries notwithstanding. And even if I'll recall it anyway, I'd rather consider other topics.

The Friday After - which would begin a discussion on my night-out, in itself, a worthy recollection. However, I'm indisposed to writing sequels.

Lost Cause - but I forgot what it would've been about. Besides the title doesn't have oomph, as the title nazi would remark.

Peripheral Vision and the Distant Shoulder - which must've been related to whatever topic I remembered to forget in the previous title. I could also begin with Thank God for Peripheral Vision! which includes the beloved exclamation point and an actual sigh I uttered sometime during the night.

Oomph - the title nazi might approve.

Bourgeoisie Rhythm - which has a Madonna music-makes-the-people-come-together thing going there. But I discard it because my ears weren't all too sharp during the night out. The walls throbbed with the abused bass, strained strong vocals, and various winds forced on microphones. I couldn't 'throb' along. So, so much for that.

Breadth and Depth of the Palomar Vision - which would be a review of Italo Calvino's Mr Palomar. However, it'd have been deceitful with me having read only ten pages of the 113-page work. I was intrigued with his day on the beach though; how he contemplated on looking and looking away from a naked bosom. It's odd, interesting, or edifying (depending on the disposition of the reader) how Mr Palomar tries to read the infinite from the infinitesimal (very Blake). A single, normally insignificant wave engages him. Obliquely, this brings me back to the unholy, unsilent night where I heard little and saw much. Not one gyrating hip, not a single naked breast. However, there was a distant shoulder.

Inner Ear and Other Interesting, Insightful People - which would primarily document the wild strokes of Inner Ear on that night, how he swam against the current of the aggressive flood of Friday night jazz to the beat of Thursday evening's eloquent old man and his silent wife. He'll end the night with a dream of a shore where waves break soundlessly but the moon ticks as it climbs the night sky. Mr Ear will wake up the next day when the moon sounds its 3310 alarm. Another character of the entry would be Peripheral Vision, a pensive, mild-mannered gent. However, his name notwithstanding, I'm considering him as the central character. Hence we reconsider a slightly modified previous title.

Peripheral Vision and Distant Shoulder - which would record a Friday night directly through the eyes of Peripheral Vision, a gentleman who always sees blurred faces, halved bodies, distant shoulders. He's forever bound to seeing both a vague likeness of what he desires and can't confront on the one hand and, on the other, a permanent border of darkness (where people and objects fade to black) which increasingly fails to be the refuge it once was. In the end, a nightmare visits him. Distant Shoulder comes near, so close that she scares him. Then her nearness blinds him. Was it her or his own lid that blinded him? Mr Vision realizes that he'll never know - that's the nightmare right there, getting trapped in labyrinthine, unresolvable speculations.

The Shoulder that Never Was - well, that's a possibility. Something so close that it's invisible or so far that it's a memory. In any case, it's so true that it could be fiction.

Touch Her - which recalls the Almodovar film, Tell Her. Both could be, in my case, either both unheeded self-issued commands or (well) fictions. I wonder (though we're dwelling on beginnings here) how it would end if ever the proposition is taken seriously. Mr Vision gets the girl. Happily ever after and all that. Or Ms Shoulder could turn out cold. Or there may be too much on her to accomodate the lightest, gentlest touch. Mr Vision would see that it's selfish to even just risk. Mr Vision would rather keep his gravity to myself. Or Mr Vision would realize that he already has her - with or without mushy, dashing risk-it-alls - because he sees Ms Shoulder with eyes of such clarity and character (vague half/dark half or total darkness notwithstanding). Then, for more pretentious writing, we could end with Peripheral Vision dreaming.

The Kiss - oh please. Chekhov, is that you?

The Sorrows of Young Dennis - right. And will that include A Footnote to Youth or A Footnote to Goethe? In any case, I'll get too many protests from the adjective if I write this now. Maybe later.

Oomph and Other Titles - which would probe the possibilities of beginning with a bang. Or at least, with oomph. But the title nazi might say it's just too vulgar with oomph being literally there as opposed to being an achieved effect. So we throw that away. Let's settle for something Fr Nudas taught me: good old alliteration.

Tonight's Tentative Titles - which could be a survey of the stuff I could write but won't. Again, I'm already off to thinking about how such a piece would end. I want it open-ended, maybe with a question, an invitation for other people to come to my own little private night-out with their own titles (like potluck). Let's try out something honestly slumbookish. Something like, "how was your day?" "If your day was a title, what would it be?" "If you were a title, what would you be?" "What if you were a name?" However, that'd be talk of endings, (and "Is anybody here in the mood for endings?") and that's stuff for another entry altogether. "Right?"

May 21, 2004

This is only 23 on which I write yet I have forgotten any thing that has passd on the 21st worthy of [note]. I wrote a good deal I know and dined at home. The step of time is noiseless as it passes over an old man. The non est tanti [the feeling that all is worthless] mingles itself with every thing.

Sir Walter Scott
May 21, 1829
Diary entry

An Aside

This journal gradually changed its function since last school year. Back when I was in the NGO, this was the end venue of most of my creative energies. I remember telling xkg then how the journal was a 'regimen' of sorts, something to keep the juices flowing, something to remind myself that I can write.

Of course, the blogging community has its seductive aspects. During the first days, I really went around and read much of the other sites. Later, I began to settle down to the spare links on my sidebar. And of course, the communities I come to hold too dear: susmariosep, and tinig, and angas (maybe the only reasons to stay). Even them, I can't follow regularly anymore.

There are people I got acquainted with over the net. Some, I already knew beforehand but still got to know here better. There is a measure of shame, for example, that I only knew of at's involvement with children's lit online. I can't exactly pinpoint where the shame comes from. A question pops up (a spurt of blood from my guts): compared with other modes of communication (print, phone, cellphone, face-to-face, radio greeting, etc.), are the e-venues less valid? Less valuable; ie, worth less? Later, I came to value feedback. Around the same time, I began to imagine the people on the other joints of the net. The reading of entrails began to involve other guts besides my own. Naturally, this scared me. I hope I scared none besides myself.

Now this autopsy of the journal itself, something I have killed many times in mind and practice. Yet the spices are there and here I am, cooking these stuff up again. I post knowing that every entry could very naturally be the last. As naturally as an entry was my first entry. I don't know why I'm thinking these things out loud now. Maybe, I'm about to cross another threshold and as with every liminal experience, everything is put into question. As the alchemists say: Tertium non data, the third is not given. Base metal, gold. That pregnant comma: what science in between, what art? This third happens. It is not given.

Still, the guts on the ritual floor must not be wasted. Let me read what I can. Maybe, I can prove to myself that I can be generous again, for I've grown to hate the abomination of my ill-hid, gangrenous tongue.

Fingers to one side, I move a few loops of the bloody coils. There. A growth. A stunted growth.


I received my teaching load for next semester, three humanities ones and two English prose styles. The two majors are writing courses. The gut recoiled, see? I didn't know why, it just did. It seems that all this time, I've been spoiling for reading courses. I may've even liked my criticism course better than this new assignment. Why? Fingers to the other side of the entrail-pool, look for soft spots along the shed worm of life.

I'm more confident as a reader than a writer. Yes, I'm not a good reader either but maybe I'm more at home there. Or maybe writing is something I've always kept to myself, or among a circle of friends and silent (therefore invisible) stangers.


Not anymore. Not since last year when I perceived that the desire to teach further became dependent on fostering a printlust, ie, the production of stuff that you can load onto your cv to make you formally (which is the professional equivalent of actually) qualified. Thus a couple of workshops, a couple of magazine contributions, a couple of contests. All to what end? Well, an ugly knot in here beneath my thumb says vanity, but maybe too, essentially, as fuel for the pursuit of the class. And I mean that in at least two senses of the word.

So there, this journal became a stopover, a halfway house of thoughts that were not meant to stay in private logs but wasn't exactly the end-product.

And now, after I submitted work for eyes I always thought were to big for any of my alphabets, the knots increase. Then I hear them speak, voices I never thought I'd hear, faces too near to allow me breath, shadows looming to large to permit sight of my blank sheets. Where oh where is my pen? Fingers search. In the large intestines. Ah, at last, the metaphor of productive writing as excrement. This is one shitty pen I have here. I wonder if anyone would still care what I'd write with it?

Yes, I'd rather not teach my students how to write. I'd rather teach them how to read. Borges (a shadow I need to get rid of sometime soon because he keeps popping up wherever I speak criticism like Calvino's Abbe in his Count of Monte Cristo) saves me with a facet of the swallowed gem that I've neglected: the best reader is the writer. We know of the vice-versa of course but this Borgesian formulation (derived from his Pierre Menard) reveals my other reason, another ars up the arse, another justification to help with students' writing: it's a venue for further reading.

Maybe too, I'll continue to take up space here in this web, this site.

I'll bury the guts then. The rest of what remains, we cook. I'll keep the tongue, though it'll be wagged at a distance (it is foetid, being diseased with superfluous health), don't worry. Maybe tomorrow, another entry.

May 17, 2004

Fire of the Kabalyero

Earlier, I rose from another night of dreams and sweat. I'm here in Makati, see? After I got up to my cellphone alarm, I read the glimpse my student gave me of the morning I didn't wake up to in Los Banos.

fire treE n ful bl00m,damp & cl0udy m0rnngs, sampal0c leavs scattrd thrght d pathwy kipng mang serye bc alday sweepng thm off...rainydays r hir agen

These are what I love most in Los Banos: early mornings, late nights, students, and friends. To have a full, happy day is easy; I fill the gap between the early morning and the late night with students and friends. Only when I don't have them near do I resort to books, sketchpads, and other weights - books when I'm well, sketchpads when I'm nursing a headache or an inexplicable lust for color, and any other weight when I see fit.

I have reasons to be there too, reasons being the first currency we negotiate in our spare inner lives. Amy just got home from her conference in Vermont and gallivanting in New York. U and I will meet her in LB this week for our share of the stories. Myke beat us to it because U still had classes and I still had tasks.

Wait. See, I have a poor seat here in front of the monitor where the only green to be seen emanates from the window of the Free Cell game I lost. I wonder why we had to call these 'windows'? Well, that's apt too, in a way. At least we mark the other views we've lost.

Excuse me then while I close the window of my loss. There. Now, in its place, there's a screensaver of the orange autumn of another somewhere else. I'll just maximize this notepad window then. There, good old black and white. Let me ruminate with the digital leaves of my letters.

I'm thinking now of a perfect place for stories with my best friends in LB. If we won't have the wheels for Jamboree, I guess a seat at Umali or Baker with the field, then the trees, then the mountains in front of us. I won't wish for a seat though. I'll prefer a long walk. The fallen petals there now are surely violet, white, pink, and red from the banaba, kalachuchi, Dona Aurora, and kabalyero. White too from the descent of cotton. Then the green of the grass and the fallen leaves. It is one thing to look at them, another to walk on them.

They'll want a seat though. That'll be well too since most of the petals will still be aloft anyway, and we could only view them walking or sitting down. My friends will be more prudent to consider the rains that could fall, any minute then, on our words. So we'll have our seats and our stories.

With Amy and U, it's hard to imagine a thoughtless silence. Especially after long, eventful weeks of not seeing each other. Still, if a silence will fall, I'll ask them a couple of questions. The thread of thought will begin this way. In Ben Singkol, F. Sionil Jose has a Japanese student writing to Singkol. She looks forward to the fire trees and, she notes that they are said to be superior to the cherry blossoms of Japan. Now, the fire tree is the most arresting of Philippine trees in my eyes, the red petals sometimes usurping the strong viridian hue of the leaves. With the proper sun, there would be no other way to describe the tree execpt in incendiary terms. The cherry blossom's beauty is in its delicate grace. It's petals fall as snow, the other as flame. In this comparison, superiority is a matter of a system of values. Both are strong, one in intense abundance, the other in pervasive subtlety. Would you prefer the blossom of pure serenity? Would you have a tree of sanguine passion?

I will ask then, which for you is perfection?

This must be answered first, for the second question will break the thought without leaving it. The second line will proceed? Very well. There is a certain Japanese saying from their antiquity.

Among flowers, the cherry blossom;
Among men, the samurai.

Here we see a clear parallel with an Achilleus or Launcelot figure dubbed as the flower of manhood. Note also that the local name of our fire tree is kabalyero, from the Spanish name for knight or chevalier. Why are the flowers, the most complex development of the plant kingdom and the most aesthetically pleasant markers of natural life associated, in their superlative form, with warriors?

I shall not ask for an anthropologically valid answer, even if such a thing as an 'anthropologically valid answer' exists. Colorful conjectures will do fine. Amy will trail into thought and may never answer. U will come up with something snide. One or the other will, at some point, get to change the topic, as one naturally does in conversations. Then afternoon, night, rain, or more silence will fall.

May 13, 2004

Darcey Bussell [ballerina] was on her way this afternoon to Madame Tussaud's for another session with the sculptor whose job it is to recreate her in wax. She told me she had asked at the last session how long waxworks remain on display, and was told that it generally depends on how long the subject remains in the limelight. So presumably they've already moved John Major into storage. We had to laugh. Not only do you see yourself replaced by someone younger, better, more glamorous, but you are melted down, only to be recast in their image. That must be the ultimate indignity.

Deborah Bull
Diary entry
May 13, 1997

Peklat ng Plantsa

D: Ewan ko pa kung kelan ako babalik. Baka nga mauna pa sila. Iwan ko na muna ang Baguio sa inyo. Musta na kayo? Sina M-, at nasan na yung sa front desk?

L: Wala sya ngayon e, si N- asa front desk. Ayun, si M- nasa kusina. Matutuwa yung makausap ka. Pero di ko bibigay tong phone!

D: Galit na naman kayo? Palpak na naman ulam?

L: E, sya tong laging nagmamagaling e! Kaaway nya kaya kaming lahat dito, nakikealam kasi lagi. Kung ano gusto nya, yun ang ginagawa nya. Wala tuloy makasundo... Huy sayang tawag. Wag na kayang pag-usapan yun?

D: Yes boss! Ano kwento?

L: Lam mo nung anito kayo, nagkaron ako ng remembrance Ganito yun, katatapos ko lang maligo nun, tapos namamalantsa ako ng uniform. Biglang nahulog yung plantsa nadikit sa may legs ko kaya napaso ako. Ngayon may peklat nako, ang laki nga e! Kaya nun di ako makalakad na diretso.

D: Ha? Musta na yan? Sa binti ba?

L: K naman. Di na nga lang ako pwedeng mag-shorts ngayon, hiya na ko.

D: At bakit ikahihiya ang peklat? Marka nga yan na nagtatrabaho tayo, sumasabak sa araw-araw. Nabubuhay, hindi ba? Ang dapat mahiya, ang mga walang sugat.

L: Ganun pala yun. Sabi ko nga e, hehe. O, kelan ka na nga ba kayo balik?

D: A ewan. Basta pag balik ko, shorts ka ha?

L: Yoko nga, hiya ako e!

D: Ha, bakit?

L: Hiya ako e!

D: Bahala ka nga, ikumusta mo na lang ako sa kanila. Laluna kay M-, hehe.

L: Yoko nga!

May 10, 2004

Para Kay Wisely

Heto ang ehersisyo. Dapat maaga kang gumising. Bago magising ang sinuman. Bago may magbukas ng telebisyon o magsimula ng huntahan. Buklatin ang mga sipi ng isang yumaong diarista, halimbawa, si Pepys o Franz. Okay na kahit isang entri lang isang araw. Basta may laman ang buhay mo bukod pa sa buhay mo.

Magbasa ng isang tula mula sa mga tomo, halimbawa, ni Abadilla o Bautista. Para literati ka kahit walang mga poetry reading na nauuwi lang sa hungkag na kama. Namnamin lang ang lasa ng dumadaloy na kataga. Kung iisa lang ang kakayanin kada araw, e di matutong mamaluktot sa loob ng iisang balangkas. Kadalasan, kapag marunong kang magbasa, mas malaki pa iyan sa iskeleton ng bahay mo.

Kung sandali lang ito sa iyo, tumuloy sa pilosopiya. Tumikim ng Nietzsche habang nariyan pa ang iyong butihing kaibigan na mas maalam pa kay Nietzsche kesa kay Randy David. Oo, mas maraming bagay sa langit at lupa kesa sa napapanaginipan sa ganitong pilosopiya. Ngunit, may panahon para managinip. At kung wala ka pang langit o lupa, magpadala ka muna sa mga alon ng nagtutunggaling pilosopiya.

May oras ka pa ba bago maghugas ng pinggan o pantalon? O mag-igib kaya ng tubig? Magdilig ng halaman o ihanda ang huling hirit sa pangangampanya para sa kandidato? Pulutin ang isang maikling kwento ni Chekhov o Jose. Basahin nang masinsinan at baka sakaling may kwenta sa iyo. Malay mo. Baka mabago pa ang buhay mo.

Kung malamang sa hindi, okay lang, may almusal pa naman. At maya-maya, pumila at bumoto. Pero payong kaibigan lang ha? Unahin ang almusal bago ang indelible ink.

May 4, 2004

Always the image of a pork butcher's broad knife that quickly and with mechanical regularity chops into me from the side and cuts off very thin slices which fly off almost like shavings because of the speed of the action.

Franz Kafka
Diary entry
May 4, 1913

The Legend of the Living Wanton

Some documents mark this as NJ's birthday. Last Thursday, while my friend peed, she received this text message:

Patay n si NJ. Malapit n ang panahon natin! Bwahahaha.

At around 11am, she showed me her phone. Had I come upon this message somewhen and somewhere else, I would have just sat and waited for confirmation. Somebody would text me about it, sooner or later. I would think upon its consequences while waiting. A message like this would come fifteen minutes later.

Hey jst gt word dat NJ jst died, and m suposed 2 take up hs MayDayEve story tmrw. He's d last of d gudole guys of phil lit. Itaas m0 pare ko?

I wasn't somewhen or somewhere else. I couldn't wait it out. It was eleven o'clock Thursday in Baguio, and we just concluded our second morning session. FJ and CB just headed the discussion of short story in English. OD, the director, sat in attendance. I felt the need to confirm the news right then and there. I asked across the table where my other friends sat, hoping to know if they got the same message. The question came through in hushed tones with the name mouthed. Their incredulity got the better of them, and they asked loudly, still a bit luckily, without mentioning him. At that point, CB silenced us with a finger to his mouth. With another gesture, he detained us.

FJ walked his old man's way and pace, with cane and attendant. OD closed the door behind him. She said CB had some words for us, but FJ could not hear these words. They were just too close. CB gave us the confirmation. Then we all shared one of the most pregnant silences I've ever known. Some eyes grew misty; everybody had them to themselves, sightlessly digesting the moment and the gravity.

We went up to our rooms and wondered how it was broken to FJ. We would later learn that his wife told him at around the same time we wondered. Definitely though, I said I was glad we sang ourselves hoarse the day before. We couldn't do anything now but share some uneasy, too well-chosen jokes.

We concluded the week the next day. FJ began the day with a few words on NJ, how he was always drinking but was never drunk; how he was a Filipino through and through; how he had an acquired distaste for the elite; and how he would turn in his grave if he knew that his grave was in Forbes. He left after that morning's session.

CB and OD took us to a thanksgiving dinner that evening. In the fellows' response, I quoted something said about how we came late in the scene. I touched upon our belatedness, how it bothered, awed, and maybe intimidated us to the point of paralysis. I told everyone that the highest point of the week happened on Thursday, miles away from Baguio. It was a absence so powerful that it was a presence. Very amateurishly, I asked for it to mean something. It was a gap so great that we could never fill it, I said. Yet we cannot risk not trying.

These words never sat well with me after that. The applause never drowned it. I asked my closest friend there, a man of thirty. His assurances were diluted in a substance I could not articulate. Here in the days and miles after, I accept in horror that the message I delivered was no different from the first message I received.

Patay n si NJ. Malapit n ang panahon natin! Bwahahaha.

The fiction of the documents must hold some truth or must've generated something of the sort since 1917. Happy Birthday, Nick Joaquin.