Ago 22, 2004

My last day at the Evening Standard. I have learnt much in this place. I have learnt that shallowness is the supreme evil. I have learnt that rapidity, hustle and rush are the allies of superficiality. My fastidiousness has been increased and with it a loathing of the uneducated. I have come to believe that the gulf between the educated and the uneducated is wider than that between the classes and more galling to the opposite side. I have not been popular in the office. I make perfunctory farewells. As I leave the building I shake my shoes symbolically.

Harold Nicolson
August 22, 1931
Diary entry

Good day 2

Another way to make the day bright with halogen lamps instead of the sun goes the following way. Remind yourself of the future.

Perhaps it's in order to remember that things there will end even as you embark on another early morning trip to begin another week of work. Look, whether or not you get another contract, the day will come. One semester, two years, three decades, what difference does it make? The twilight cometh.

Imagine how many mental tableaux you'll have by then and how full you'll have to consider yourself on that last day if you're to give meaning to that mass of names and faces, that multiply moving, manifold entity that will have the name of the baths. Imagine how you'll not have a tear on that day for those crystals were meant for people more moving than you, more encompassing, more akin to a child. Yet remember too that on that day, you didn't get any older. You just up and went.

You yourself will be your only memory, all your vaunted lessons reduced to a few inkblots in hundreds of unseen, inconsequential diplomas. Pretty soon, those blots will lose all meaning, just blood-black scratches referring to nothing. Everything they learned, they will forget. Perhaps, that is your truest consolation.

On that morrow, sooner than the later you think though more late than the never you consider, the place will recuperate and every footstep out shall be eaten by the rise of grass. Happy grass, the last to know me, the first to forget.

Tomorrow, that tomorrow, you'll grow sincere. You'll acquire the illusion of achievement and wear some of the airs from a sigh of relief. These excrescences too will evaporate. And when emptied of them, remember there never was relief nor achievement, only sighs and illusions.

In more ways than one and in one way above all, that day is now.

Lose the light for a while and meditate on the semester's lessons without the aid of charts, pens, and screens. There remains much room behind the eyelids.

Ago 21, 2004

To sit on a seat with a man, except in a cafe, is taboo for a virgin.

Whatever people say, the fastidious, formal manner of the upper class is preferable to the slovenly easy-going behaviour of the common street lout. In moments of crisis the first know how to act, the second becomes an uncouth brute.

Cesare Pavese
August 21, 1940
Diary entry

Good day 1

Over all, I found it a good day. Well, to be exact, I need to process some bad news, one a tad too bad for comfort.

Still, a good day. Maybe I can have a string of good days and just write on the blog, every so often: "A good day!" And again, on a good tomorrow: "A good day!" Then the tomorrow after that: "A good day."

A good day. A good day. A good day. A good day. A good day.

I have a string of them sometimes. Sometimes I have a whole week or month I could consider exemplary. I know that's lucky. Others grew up needing misery for breakfast.

Not too obliquely, I wonder exactly what Jean Cocteau learned. Consider this diary entry written August 20, 1953: "A great lesson from Kafka's diary. He wrote it during the First World War, which he never mentions. Not a single line refers to it."

Tolkien wrote something clever in connection with this in his Silmarillion. He reduced several hundred or thousand years of 'good days' to a single paragraph then admits that that was the way it was. Good days just didn't make history. Maybe happiness is not worthy of recording. And I'm not talking hysterical, fanboy happiness.

Just plain happiness. Well, if happiness can be plain. Or can it be anything else but?

Wow. The word happiness four times in a single breath. Now five. It seems quite unnatural. Though if you ask me how I am, I'd say: "Fine thanks." But I'd also need to say: "Really." That means: "I meant it, it's not merely a polite answer, it's actually, positively true!"

However, among several problems, paranoias, and family secrets, I must pick one to justify a journal entry, to justify ecriture, to justify this. Here it goes.

I hope she gets well. I'm about to blame myself now. It's true too. I hold classes despite brown-outs and that's as good a reason as any to get asthma attacks.

How do you teach strength then take it back? I told them how in one study, they revealed that the female body had better thresholds for pain and extreme temperature than the male body. The evolutionary interpretation? The female body needed more resilience to preserve offspring.

When the male thinks he's more resilient than the female, what is this? Patriarchal pride? When the female thinks she's less strong, what is this? Attractive weakness?

I didn't teach with electric fans during my first year in Pateros. We just didn't have them in the room, plain and simple. Are they hardier folk there? Maybe I wanted them here in the baths to develop what my kids from Pateros possess. Or have I just proven myself insensitive, pushing my students to prove the theories, to uncover denied verities with their very bodies?

There, I just ruined my day. No comfort at all. And maybe this ruination ought to be more natural.

If I also did so with yours, all apologies. Yet too, be glad you're not in a hospital.

Ago 10, 2004

Sickness and health, richer and poorer
The metaphysical marriage of advertising and health

I looked for Truth the other day, and instinctively though maybe wrongly, I went for the libraries. I spent hours among the archives, devouring all I can of simulacra, qi, tadhana, hermeneutics, Julia sets, bell hooks, and fuero - anything that sounded fancy to me. I had this idea that Truth - if it, she, or he would be found - would appear casually beautiful.

I ended the day sullen and sore with the feeling that I understood nothing more than I did before I entered the labyrinthine letters of the archives. Maybe I had even less at the evening than I did at dawn. I turned my thoughts this way and that until I got evilly drunk on my own incapacity, my sense - no! - my reality of failure.

I got home; I didn't know how, I just did. There, I automatically pressed the remote control and was about to wonder which of us had control over the other when the tv flashed out its neon light at the end of my tunnel. I muted the set with an assertion of the thumb.

An advert came forth: a couple of pastel clothed young ones swaying their hair to and fro until I got drowsy, hypnotized, by the knowledge of the swaying and the deep ambiguity of which exactly swayed - the hair or the head? Until I found what I searched for. Truth! I'm way ahead of my time, all epiphanies and eurekas converged, sank centrifugally, irresistably into that moment! Truth!

Truth in advertising!

It's been there all along, my my how could I have missed it? How could anybody miss it? It should be there, I thought. In the commandment of truth in advertising, I should've discovered long ago that the high, invisible priests were actually advertising truth! I wanted to get my fill of it despite the clicking lamentations of my poorly fed gut. With an entirely snackless, lunchless day behind me, I suppressed the nether regions and decided instead to eat off the screen. I put on some volume to gorge on every word.

The truth about health, I gathered by a simple deductive operation, was that it can happen despite the poisons of softdrinks. Bodies buff and lying in the sun, toasted into the crispiest, prettiest hue possible, gorging in softdrinks. It didn't matter what they said the scientists from India found out. That list of true-blue toxins they listed and carefully quantified by their clever methods of reverse engineering and analysis, those are fabrications. As much a rumor as the 'fact' that a previous Philippine president of the leading softdrink company prohibited his children from drinking the very product he flooded us millions with. That's just plain oral tradition there, superstition. We will have our drink, our self-satisfaction complete with our burping, effaced psyches!

The truth about health, you see I must explain in pure professorial fashion, is not the oiled pizza or the half-cooked rice they always have to show on TV. Who'll blame the companies for smothering oil on the mozzarella to make it look 'really' shiny and tasty? So what if they don't cook the grain fully to make the image itself full? We already see the delicious smiles and wide-open eyes enrapt. We remain glad, smiling similarly sans the sight of actors spitting the oiled crusts and half-cooked rice after every take. We don't need to know that the camera reduces shine, makes the rice look less rich, and by itself - both screen and image - remains inescapably tasteless. If we wanted to find these things out, we'd put our tongues on the screen, see? We maintain respectable distance. Truth is, we're very comfortable with our objectivity. If we must have control, control must be remote. Truth therefore stays plain, simple, and lens-less. And it's fully comprehensible! Our pizzas taste good, our rice rich; if the Filipino needs to call in their food and the Philippines needs to import its main grain from the very countries it once taught the advanced science of planting rice, well? That must be progress.

Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, we now know full well. When they say all-natural, no preservatives, and 50% less fat through the best voices of our generation and the prettiest fonts we've grown capable of in our advanced hieroglyphics, why should we not believe? Why doubt and ask the nutritionists? What do they know? The cream of the crop - experts all - must already inhabit the spaces behind the screen. They have our good in mind, I realized.

I must profess, blessed as I am with the telling Vision, I'm bound to shout out: "Sickness! Sickness! That's evil we should rally against!"

One fights sickness with the leadership of experts, readers of our collective entrails, keepers of the secrets of prozac and placebo. When, offhand, some sarcastic, sanctimonious iconoclast whispers to your ear that the salbutamol they asked you to take has no more nor less curative power than glasses of water, don't pay her heed. She will lead you astray. Surely, if something that simple were true, your expert would've inscribed that on your reseta with the medical calligraphy. And if you read '1.5 liters 3x a day' you would believe that to be true without lowering your regard for the pharmaceutically enhanced doctor. You're medically represented. You're in good hands. If it were only some holy water you needed, then what use for experts? No! - truth is in advertising, advertising is in Truth. Take the pill. It's blasphemy that the price of the medicine goes to capital or to advertising or to fully-paid vacations abroad of endorsers and doctors.

No, don't break the old tablets yet! There's something there we don't see. It makes perfect sense!

Sickness, let me read it according to the word one of our most-loved senators, an expert on health to boot! In behalf of selling vitamin, he prohibits the rest of us from sickness: "Bawal Magkasakit." Such liberty, perfect emancipation! We are rid of sickness by being banned to have it! Sheer genius, completely on the level of the law-maker of old who had the profound insight to attempt to pass a bill against the coming of storms that ravage his beloved Batanes. Still, this truth at hand bears deep analysis so that the people would understand their responsibilities. We can't get sick. It's a crime to be so. It's evil! Thus, we must give birth to a clinic that won't heal but would discipline and punish. The times are hard, he speaks true. The sick should be stigmatized, quarantined because the burden of neglect lies on their shoulders. Ask not what health you can get from your government; ask what health you can give! No, ask not further what you've already given. Don't inquire about your sweat, tears, blood, coldly quantified as taxes that go desaparecido. Don't inquire about the generations of your strong, healthy youth, sent to the errands of the full. Why ask? Listen, instead, for it asks one more thing from you: "Thou shall not get sick." Imagine not what hells await if you indulge in the most unseemly act of being a weak person in a weak time and place.

I now know. That truth is they care. The truth is, I am loved. And damn I'm glad they show it!

Let me end by telling you about the silent night after the enlightenment. Illuminated as I was by the see-sawing of unmuted, immutable images, I noticed that - lo and behold! - my stomach growled no more. Intensely pacified! Joyfully, I went to bed and looked forward to the rapture of apocalyptic dreams.

Ago 7, 2004

On a bus the other day a woman with a baby sat opposite, the baby bawled, and the woman at once began to unlace herself, exposing a large, red udder, which she swung to the baby's face. The infant, however, continued to dry and the woman said,-

'Come on, there's a good boy - if you don't, I shall give it to the gentleman opposite.'

Do I look ill-nourished?

W. N. P. Barbellion
August 7, 1915
Diary entry


Today, UP holds the UPCAT, the admission test that occurs earliest. I hope, this early, that the people who'll best us would take the test today. I imagine her test morning like mine, accompanied by parents, given a few chocolates or legumes to stimulate the brain. She can't deny her nerves dancing on end, in a swirl of anticipation and fear. She'll make a lot of educated guesses - no - not graceful at all if you look at the guessing. However, I look at the education. I'm already proud of the emergence of the germ. Some of the people I'm with look down on her. I know and wish never to forget that she went through a lot to get where she is. She and her batch comes! Next year, I may still be in the system to work with her, provide what she asks for, remind her to ask in the first place, and listen to recitations and silences that I'll never fully understand. I should always be reminded to respect, nevertheless. Her batch, I hope, will best ours.

Next year, both she and I may be rejected by the system. Still, I wish to make her acquaintance one way or the other. The route matters not. She will, I know, surpass us.

This dawn, I wake in the thrall of several thrills and melancholies. Some of the excitements, I'm disposed to share, the others remain rotting or blossoming in a swamp where only the strong can manage without staining themselves. While I don't think lightly of those in my company, stranger or not, I can't accompany anyone there. Those others, in their nosiness or affection, will try to pry. There're no doors to swamps; either you're there, deep in the muck, or you're not. Let them wish entrance! No one knows what they're asking until they get it full in the face, and it forces its acid froth on the blood of their soft, inexperienced lips.

Tomorrow, a breakfast I look forward to will be served.

Before that, later today, I'll trek with my classmates under the guidance of three eminent historians, Q-, V-, and M-. We'll study historical places in Cavite and Tagaytay. I'm particularly interested in President Bonifacio's sites. The views on the where, how, and why of his death remain unsettled to this day. I desire illumination. Or at least an earful of relevant eavesdropping. Profess professors!

Much later, on the 27th, Arnold Azurin will give a lecture against three strains of 'ultranativism' - Tadhana, the history supposedly written by Marcos, Tasaday, the hoax, and Pantayong Pananaw, the Salazarian view of Kasaysayan. Proponents of these lines of thinking will come. Q- set it up just right and ripe for fireworks. A true rouser, he now has me expecting the presence of Zeus Salazar himself. I hope another one of his plans pushes through too. If so, I'll hear Walden Bello in a debate.

Meanwhile, I immerse myself in reading along the three aforementioned lines to prepare for the meeting of minds. Some of the ghost writers for Tadhana, I gather, remain truly proud they were part of the project. Jean Baudrillard, I read in his 'America', took to the Tasaday fabrication hook, line, and sinker. Three years or so back, I remember, UP took back the master's degree of an instructor from the Pantayong Pananaw view because she plagiarized. Well, that shouldn't discredit the academic merits of the school of thought. It must be mentioned though because this is my journal, she was my instructor, I hated her guts, and I'm glad they kicked her out. I accept, however, that there are dimensions of that case that remain vague to me, to this day. I also accept that this digression ran too long, and now I'm pressed for time.

At the moment, I must move. I set up the meeting at six. The clock ticks against me.