Hun 30, 2007

Hands Clean

(Alanis Morissette)

If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened
If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself
If it weren't for my attention you wouldn't have been successful and
If it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much

Ooh this could be messy
But you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
You're kind of my protege and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me
I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian
I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it

Ooh this could get messy
But you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
I've more than honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

What part of our history's reinvented and under rug swept?
What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?
What with this distance it seems so obvious?

Just make sure you don't tell on me especially to members of your family
We best keep this to ourselves and not tell any members of our inner posse
I wish I could tell the world 'cause you're such a pretty thing when you're done up properly
I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body

Ooh this could be messy and
Ooh I don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

Hun 29, 2007

Week Notes

It has been predicted that when I have reached a certain age, I shall receive power A sudden influx of force, 241/4 days before 29th birthday (4 p.m., Sept. 15th 1945!) I believe nothing of it! But, in spite of almost totally clouded outward aspect at present, - debris, exhaustion, - I cannot deny the possibility that after long and incessant struggling and painful development, one might reach a state of this kind: force to enable one to make coherence of oneself; to see, - not the answer to any Sphinx’s riddle, or Solomon’s Key, - but something like a finally convincing image of the significance of one’s life, an assurance of destiny. Coherence: a gathering-together of the dispersed powers of one’s personality. Such a state could not be lasting, but might, nevertheless, permanently alter the level of one’s life. Attainment to a lasting deliverance from the trivial to the unmeaning: from the quicksands.

David Gascoyne
June 29, 1937
Diary entry

Secret gardening.

The G8 summit, by all non-internal accounts, was an exercise in futility. The US has played the delaying tactic when it comes to solid steps regarding the control of its corporation’s liberties with the environment. It’s not democrat or republican anymore. The US consistently sits on the damned thing with the most beautiful words. This time Bush used “serious,” as in seriously look into it, seriously study, seriously deliberate. Seriously do squat.

Whenever I had nothing doing, I stop, begin deep breath cycles, and say to myself mantra-wise: “At this very moment the spheres of the cosmos turn/ At this moment all atoms know destruction and peace/ At this moment Gloria is pulling one over me/ Aum.” I whispered to the janitor: “All your bad days will end.” He smiled at himself but not at me.

At last the letters came! Also, Gadzooks the flame angel once again told me that she experienced much difficulty committing to her calling. I asked how certain she felt about her trade. She shrugged her shoulders. Then the crackle of flamefeathers. Man, I can’t express the beatific stirring of her wings whenever she doubted in that manner.

I dreamt of Diliman and Los Banos activists, all three siblings, Tommy Lee Jones playing US Marshal, and Jejomar Binay playing Lupin. I got to throw a pair of scissors at him. Had a nice aim too. He escaped, and I woke to the non-secret high point of my week. Dr Miciano and all her little trips and tips gave opportunity for much practical humility. Freeday, ham eng love, as they say in France. But wait: Satyrday! Leap, leap little man. The messenger cometh.

Hun 24, 2007

Muli, ang Maitim na Dalaga(1)

Marami siyang kamay(2). May hawak siyang abaka na pantali sa kalabaw, kutsilyo(4), at hasag. Hindi nakasindi ang hasag. Nakatitiyak akong may lamat ito. Tinanong ko siya kung may maitutulong ako. May inabot siya sa akin(7).

Mga Sipi
(1) Dati ko pa itong panaginip. Mula pa noong isang palihan sa Hilaga.
(2) Kadalasan, iniisip kong anim. Sapagkat panaginip, maaaring apat lamang. Maaaring higit sa pito.
(4) Kutsilyong tipong tinatapon-tapon lamang. Tipong nadedekwat mula sa mga sizzling plate combo meal ng mga foodcourt.
(7) May mga ganito akong panaginip, may nakukuha ako na hanggang paggising ay hinahanap-hanap pa rin. Minsan, tulad sa pagkakataong ito, hindi ko na nga maalala kung ano ang bagay, kinakapa ko pa rin sa ilalim ng unan o sa gild-gilid ng kobre-kama.

Hun 17, 2007


In accordance to Spinoza, sorrow means "Man's passage from a greater to a lesser perfection." Two years back, this would have puzzled me. I would have ignored it three years ago.

Hun 13, 2007


The failures have been complete everywhere and nobody feels any alarm.

Charles Greville
June 13, 1848
Diary entry

1) They say the election results speak against GMA. I’m not as astute an observer, but I do want to agree. People have been murdered just by thinking different. People have disappeared. Some of us want honesty. Some of us want rest from all wishful thinking: to hell with politics!

Someone wants the Pope bad.

2) I’m three hours of sleep and two hours of ride away from Laguna. I just want to post that the Sunday Times published my story. It came out with a title typo as “The Childhood.” I wanted it out as “The Childhoods.” Although the plural title still fits the bill in my book, maybe it’s better that it was released in the singular. See, another version of the story exists, a bricolage that employs footnotes and has them eat up half the pages (I say another version, but it might as well be another story). Naturally, it’s a layout editor’s nightmare. When the story took that form, I loved it. I killed the prudent man in my head who advised “kill all darlings,” then I gladly embraced the fact that I’ll never get the monster out on print.

Maybe I’ll stick to “childhood” on the one that did get out and retain the plural for the unpublished other, thus marking the difference at least in my files. It’s Alea’s say! I can honor her from time to time.

When I bought the mag and saw the typo, I smiled. When you’ve cut out two-thirds of your story, your threshold expands to interesting proportions. Thanks to the editor for publishing “The Childhood.” The artists, the staff – everybody. Thanks to my workshop group, Naratibo, for beta-testing “The Childhoods.” Sorry Anna (and the others) for the font size. I tried to be considerate, but the footnotes defied me, jumping to the next page if I didn’t size ‘em in right.

Pink, Ava, and Kabesang Tales thanks for showing some love to the ugly beast. And for liking the story as well.

I’m in season-ending mode here because I guess I must keep off the color pens for some months. The red one beckons. School time.

3) Irma of Dasma, best of luck with all those meetings and prayers. You’re going to need it.

4) I read in the papers that the World Bank put some weight behind the bid of the publishing “cartel” that eventually won the contract to make those error-infested textbooks for our dear children. Alea, tell me you had nothing to do with this!

5) Advanced happy birthday.

Hun 12, 2007

Independence Day

Dear Dr Recto:

You may be pleased to know that I’m putting your bureaucracy lessons to good use. At least, I’m trying to. God knows though, “trying” sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

God knows – one or another anyway – how difficult these words come. I just sort of “bit” into the first paragraph. Three sentences spit out, just like that. Then this friction. Each word gets erased even before I put it to pad. But since I’m supposed to be a man of letters, I guess I must push forward. Graduate to phrases, to sentences, to paragraphs. But always, ever and always arrive at the period.

I got a promotion recently. “Of sorts,” really, as those in the know understand that these things only hold currency on paper. Not much weight to that. And not that I welcome any weight, real or virtual. You know, I didn’t notice I had a scowl on when they gave me the official documents. The Dean called my own face to my attention, “why are you frowning?”

You would’ve known the answer better than anybody else.

I see you, you know, as I write this. I never really paid my respects. And so, I see you only now. And we are talking as we used to, about leaders and professors, about the difficulties of hoisting up the PhD program across three colleges, about the state of the nation. About what I can do with what I have. All your whys and wherefores.

I now see your smile and hear your voice.

“Ma’am Mitang,” everybody called you that. Never got the hang of it. You were always Dr Recto. And now my mind astonishes me with a cruel command that breaks into this futile letter: “Doctor, heal yourself!” You’d forgive me my black humor, I know; in many ways, you never seemed to me a UP professor. I mean that as a compliment.

I hear you laughing now, in the Center – my Batcave, marked with guano for life. I try to remember the smell: I can’t.

I finished the degree a year ago. The secretaries told me that you asked about my status when I was on the last leg. Bless you for the thought. Bless you for making my transition to my adviser easy. Dr Santamaria was great help. Also, Dr Sobritchea and Ma’am Michiyo. I wish you were there when I finished. I didn’t care to march. I probably would have if you asked me. And I know that, were you active, you would’ve made sure I was attended. No way to say no.

Anyway, yes, I’m about to begin another semester. Which means another foot into the end of the career; I have a couple of years to move up or out. The others think it’s a needless policy, cruel even. I don’t know. I want it to be my decision when the time comes, but I don’t think it’s too grave an emasculation if I just get myself kicked out. I mean, it’s a sem. It’s some months. I take what I can, push when possible, pull when necessary, one foot always in the end of all things – where both of your feet are now planted.

Dear professor, your book is still with me, the Tao Te Ching. How to return it? I think you’d be pleased to know that I’ve built so much upon that seed you lent me – that which now cannot but be an incontrovertible give.

Neither you nor Lao Tzu would think much of my “progress.”

Well, I want you to know (but what could you know? Maybe, instead, just the plain desire to express this, to you or to the air that is not you nor God nor anything) how I never want to forget your kind face, but I probably will. I don’t want to forget your lessons but what of that desire? Time will eventually thwart it.

Dadufalza, before you. In time, Atienza. In time, F– . In time, my parents.

Obliquely, I discover the wisdom of keeping friends to a bare minimum. It’s not your thought. Surely not the idea of that silly intelligence who proclaimed that a day when one failed to make a new friend is a day lost. Rather, the day you make a friend is the day you fashion loss, the day you condemn your soul. And another’s.

Dr Recto: whether we were friends or not, I declare that I shall not befriend your memory. All your lessons will automatically become mine, no more, no less. I shall forever refuse to accept your memory. And in this manner, I keep you. By always ending you, I forever resurrect you.

This may puzzle you. I try – now – then now – then now – yet, I can’t bring myself to see you perplexed. I never saw your face when confused. I never will.

In conclusion: this impossible feeling that I’ll live to write another day. Damn the everyday conceit of always assuming that you will see a day to its very end. Then the assumption of another stupid year. And another. As if eternity were just as easy as deceiving yourself.

Dear teacher, your smile was more necessary on this earth. Dear mindmother. Still, you ran out of moments. Before I did. In pace requiescat.

Hun 11, 2007

The Merkinball

After dinner (mollified by a demi-bottle of Sauterne) I read Freud's new book for two hours. Freud can't see straight about sex, but he has discovered a lot about the mechanism of the human mind.

Siegfried Sassoon
June 11, 1922
Diary entry

Yesterday over the phone, I told Pink that the story in the works would employ mirrors, a knife, and a mask. While usual elements behind my pages, I rarely get to use these on the surface. I don't know if all the shiny things will get past drafts. Since school's about to open and work's piling up, I'll have to wait.

She asked about the recent story, the one I'm about to put behind me. Pink asked if I'll show it to F-. I said, "but he's old school!" I then realized that I've never used "old school" in a derogatory sense. I then knew that what I meant to say was "but I'm afraid to show him."

Hun 10, 2007

Small Talk

I'm so worn out by my thoughts that I can't write them down, in spite of a bottle of beer I went out to buy at Blancheron's.

June 10, 1804
Diary entry

Six or so weeks ago, I talked with an elder colleague. I have known her for four years, but it was the first time she talked to me about her students. She glowed. You felt her passion as she . She showed no signs that she knew what she exuded. But if I would have that sheer quality after two decades on the job, then I'm on the right track.

Something like that from another woman yesterday. It was a pleasure just to look at her speak.

Last night, I faced a related problem when I was tasked to explain my story. Both my "talk" and "passion" already lay bare on the page. What was left to say? I do hope the spiel that ensued did not bore them.

Hun 4, 2007

Baby Steps

The unpleasant part of this illness is the feeling of utter fatigue. Also a tendency to grey thoughts of old age, weakness, death. These somewhat stimulated by reading Arnold Bennett’s Journals – a very sympathetic man, but such a pitiful blind workhorse, self-driven until he dropped. At the end of it all, he could say: ‘I made a plan and I stuck to it.’ Well, that’s something, certainly. But the note of obstinacy is tragic, too. It’s the obstinacy of an insect.

Christopher Isherwood
June 4, 1956
Diary entry

Yesterday dawn, I took a walk to the park. I’d been contemplating the figure of Plotinus, his idea of “mind,” and I wanted to understand his words before writing anything at all about him. Had bluffed before and in my dim youth committed what a friend called “charlatanism.” Older, I stood only with my “I don’t know” before this strange philosopher.

It wasn’t supposed to be the usual way I took ideas out for a walk, carrying thoughts out to the night or the morning to question or push them further. During the most engaged “thinking expeditions,” I would arrive at a destination without little feeling – much less thought – about how I got there.

I didn’t care to take Plotinus out for a spin because, if I got his idea right, the spin itself would induce the knowing. The need called for practice. What would yield Plotinus to me were less his words than the very act of walking. But doing so in a special way, that is, I compelled myself to walk “mindfully,” to focus on the movement, think of nothing else, and feel the press of the foot on the earth. I’m a walker. I cherish my ankles over any car. So I thought there would be nothing to adding some “concentration” to my steps. But that was before I threw my legs out for the stretch.

The thirty minutes of walking humbled me. I felt much closer to Plotinus’s teaching that the supreme achievement of the mind was to escape itself. If I failed to reduce (or, consider: “expand”) my mind to one thing, how could I hope to bring it down to zero (and deeper)?

I’m an intellectual by the mere fact that I feed and cloth myself with the produce of the mind more than the work of muscles. It shamed me when I discovered the difficulty in mindfully doing something I did regularly, indeed something I Thoreau-ly loved.

Yes, I pressed my mind on my feet with almost as much gravity as my feet imprinted themselves on the ground. Yet, not half a minute would pass without my mind leaping monkey-like to some idea or memory or name. Had trained it that way, I know. I encouraged it to “free associate,” jump from box to box then as far outside them as possible, to gain distance then perspective. But the walk revealed to me how little control I had over my own thoughts, I who demanded from my students much attention.

Why mind these simple things: walking or breathing? Why hear the heart beat? What need have we, apprehenders of performative theory, communicative action, quantum mechanics, the lowdown on the Dow Jones? What need, we surgeons and loud lawyers, keen protesters and businessfolk? What, we freethinkers!

Somebody climbed Everest because “it was there.” I mind the walk because “it has always been there.” If the cosmic spheres turn in accord with their harmony, trees drink and breathe following the rudiments of their “animation,” and the mammals employ locomotion with either the graze or the hunt informing their musculature, then I who walk and breathe and revolve must refuse to die mindless.

Hun 2, 2007


What a muddle I've been in with girls, in spite of all my headaches, insomnia, grey hair, despair. Let me count them: there have been at least six since the summer. I can't resist, my tongue is fairly torn from my mouth if I don't give in and admire anyone who is admirable and love her until admiration is exhausted. With all six my guilt is almost wholly inward, though one of the six did complain of me to someone.

Franz Kafka
June 2, 1916
Diary entry

1. "Ward, part 1," The Sunday Times Magazine, February 18.
2. "Ward, part 2," The Sunday Times Magazine, February 25 and March 4.
3. "The Kalabaw Caper," Philippine Graphic, April 16.
4. "Woman 19," Story Philippines, volume one of 2007.
5. "The Ivory Spear," The Sunday Times Magazine, April 22.
6. "Seals," Philippine Graphic, April 30.