Mar 31, 2012

Black Ghosts

                                 There, at the very
                                 tip of His tongue.  Pure
                                 brothers, bright brothers,
                                 I confess my fear.
                                                          –penultimate stanza of "He"

I have had the good fortune of hearing other voices speak my pieces. Three occasions come to mind: E– read the final lines of "Sa Ngalan ng Anak" at a Baguio restaurant, A– read "February 24, 2006" over a pool in Pansol, and students (some I remember from Eng 4 days) read the entire "Dead Wait" under the shade of the Fertility Tree in partial fulfillment of their requirements in Oral Interpretation. Just the other day, B– said that his Speech Comm class read my poems weeks ago at Destiny. Sadly, I was unavailable (there were chores, and chores always had a charm of their own). I hope they'll remember their reading night long after their Los Baños days.

I suppose I could envy other writers whose works get spoken on a regular basis via various media, the internet, cafés. Maybe I do (and the Othello rule regarding jealousy is you should always assume it is there, somewhere, defining you). However, I remember how uneasy I felt during these reading occasions. I still don't fully understand why. A handful of hypotheses:

a) their voices just sounded too different from those inside my head,
b) I felt vulnerable,
c) it's one thing to read a typo and another thing to hear it,
d) all occasions where I am not purely a spectator unnerve me, with the exception of classes, and/or
e) they spoke it better than I wrote it.

While writing the list above, I felt (or remember feeling) how the awkwardness was different whenever the reading happened in an academic context.

Sometimes I overhear students cursing Leithold, Rizal, and other authors of required readings. Why? For being difficult? For being required? For being another name to put among the already massive list of names of people who are better than you at something? Perhaps my awkwardness results from some knowledge of this violence, a sense of culpability even, the guilt of being a teacher who forces civilization upon generations of young barbarians. That I was, even temporarily, part of this list – a required reading – somehow complicates the guilt, perhaps even multiplies it.

I recall one particular reading. Second floor, CAS Annex 2. The class of Prof L– were set to read, not only my works, but also those of my colleagues R– and E–. Prof L– divided his students among us and tasked them to choose from what we wrote. Some of them approached me for samples about a week earlier, and I lent them the Kadiliman folio and the PEN anthologies. During the reading proper, my colleagues and I had a hand in grading the students as well as the option of voicing our sentiments regarding the way they interpreted our pieces. I heard the finest reading of my own work that day: S–'s reading of "The Childhoods." I must have commented on that, but I fail to recall my words. Also, I must have blushed. Already I am losing her reading and that afternoon to the cruel incompetence of my memory. I don't know if I'll live to hear anyone top her reading.

It's possible I don't want to hear anyone top that. Or, that I have already heard someone surpass it, but maybe I persist in denying the fact. In that same class, K– read "He," one of first published poems. Like S–, K– would later become my student (S– in Mythology, K– in Prose), but that afternoon, both of them were fresh faces (it occurred to me, right after I wrote the word "faces," that S–, who was fair-skinned, gave voice to the avenging angel of "The Childhoods" while K–, dark-skinned, spoke the lines of my Lucifer).

K–'s reading was spirited, her voice, full-bodied. No, let me be honest with myself here, there's something more. Le mot juste: her reading was angry. In fact, when she introduced herself, she said (God I wish remembered her exact words!) something like: I am praying for this author that he may someday find Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior (did she or did she not cross herself after she said that?).

The class was silent after she read (or did anyone clap and is something inside me refusing to remember?), and Prof L– asked if I wanted to say anything. "What can I say? She's preaching to me."

Months later I would learn she's a working student, that she sang for a living. I have the deepest respect for working students, but part of that respect is that I don't cut them any slack. To this day, I wish to believe that I graded her fairly. She was awfully silent, rarely looked me in the eye; did she learn anything from class? Did she make any friends? How did she feel the moment she learned that I would teach her prose styles?

I bet she was unafraid.

Mar 28, 2012

MMMBOP, a trouser song

The word “ugly” reminds me of Khojee, da man. Ugly takes me back to Khojee’s longest afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not his face. I could imagine girls going for him, and somewhere in those out-loud fantasies of his must've been a girl or two who actually did go for him. Koj was earrings and muscles, was bad genie laughter and a shaved head. We loved him as far as love could go in the RO sergeants’ circle of the old university. We loved him though we never saw him coming, though he was always popping out of nowhere right smack into the middle of the tambayan, grabbing one of us by the jeans, shouting: Gang Rape!

His usual pick was wiry Mosqueda. And his pick was therefore ours, so when he rang the call – Gang! – we’d each grab a limb so Koj could rub his knee down Mosqui’s groin, and we could all chant Children of the Cornish: Gang Rape Gang! Gang Rape Gang! And Mosqui would whimper, guys, guys… Or shout, man! Not today! Please!

Koj would, in turn, ululate to his heart's content.

Then we’d be sated, all of us leaning back, laughing. Even Mosqui. We’d proceed to Magic Cards (graveyaaaard!) or Boy Bastos jokes (one about Boy in Australia exploring marsupials comes to mind). Or, listening to Koj describe the latest MTV or H-wood object of his masturbation. Or, asking Mosqui how life was with a penis as broad and squat as a can of Ma Ling – but maybe there was hope for him yet: the masturbatory technique that his Ma Ling necessitated could earn him a living as a DJ. “DJ Ma Ling, bring it on,” we’d cheer,” lemme hear some scratch! Tseekee tseek-tseek tseekee-tseekee…”

Once, we were bad-mouthing his penis when Mosqui got so damn piqued he outright threatened to unzip. Koj was suddenly in the middle, signalling Gang Rape Gang, but as far as we were concerned he didn't have to, we were already up and grasping, and thus it came to pass that wiry Mosqueda never wore his pants hiphop style after that day.

Khojee himself persisted with the style, wore his jeans loose and low even after I told him how, one day, a stupid Manuela mall-rat was posing hip-hop. He challenged a yuppie to a fight in the middle of the food court. The yuppie raised his fists, boxer-style, and the Manuela hiphopstah delivered a high kick.

His own seams were his undoing. The flight of the right leg pulled the lower pant-leg up and snatched the left leg off the ground, wham! Bust went the head.

All the yuppie had to do was cuss and spit and kick that bling all over the place. No sweat. Koj said thanks for the note of caution and called the gang down on me after to shove his jeans up my balls.

Then we laughed.

On the day of his longest afternoon, Khojee’s waist overflowed with belts and chains and baggy pants. He said it was a waste Mosqui was not around because he was all boned up about this new girl he saw in an MTV, a Claire Danes look-a-like and boy would he like to teach that girl-next-door the difference between a daisy and a rose.

Daisy? Rose? Uh-ohs.

We knew “the girl” he was talking about. We asked him if he’d already jacked off. He said of course, oh god, why the fuck not? Wasn’t that the point? He’d seen the video several times. He heard the song once while standing up on the bus and began rubbing himself down the pole! I was about to ask him how many times he saw the video when Mosqui suddenly appeared and asked Koj: “You know why that Taylor Hanson’s flat-chested?”

“Because she's a kid, stupid,” Khojee said. “My yum kind of kid.”

“Because he’s a boy, like his brothers in the Hanson brothers who are also as male as brothers go,” Mosqueda said.

Mosqui chanted Gang Rape Gang, then we chanted Gang Rape Gang, and the chains were off. Then the jeans. We couldn’t take Mosqueda off him. Maybe we did not try hard enough. We were cheering Mosqueda on even after he got Koj on his back.

There were stitches. There was graduation. And there was no keeping in touch after that.

False Modesty

Let this be a lesson, Aguinaldo. Think twice before you let another heartless advisee into your narrow and futile process.

Mar 23, 2012

After The Mythological Nature of Science Fiction in the Dune Series

My former student visited yesterday. She had with her a copy of her latest project, Instead of. For this one, she cut up her thesis and used the words (and numbers!) to form something else.

When I first heard about her project, I wanted to read it at once. I sat as a critic for the thesis, and I was excited to see what she made out of it. I’d have my chance only after a month, but perhaps it was a fortuitous delay. Within that span, I was able to cut nine (plus one) pieces inspired by her method.

So when I saw her yesterday, I knew something of what she went through. The thrill of the hunt, the sorting of spoils, the tedium of turning and returning fragments until they snapped into place, the frustration that results when you can’t pound things into shape. And of course, afterwards: the feeling of expansion.

Instead of landing on my hands felt like so many things “snapping into place”: old thesis breathes anew, connected projects come to fruition, roles of student and teacher get reversed. Let’s drink to all the little reunions of our lives!

Mar 20, 2012

Sapagkat sa tuldok na ito magsisimula

Sabi niya
            bawat pangungusap ay bintang
at naisip ko
            mahusay siyang magsalita
laging alam ng batang ito ang sasabihin tungkol sa daigdig
magandang mukha, malinaw na isip, kosmik na mga ideya
            Diyos ko, sabi ko

            tama ka      talaga ngang ganyan
sa panahong ito tuwing magsasalita ang mundo
                                                            panay paratang
ni isang minuto hindi ka maiwang mag-isa
lahat na lang kasalanan mo      ganyan ang mundo
Hindi sabi niya
            wala akong sinasabi tungkol sa mundo
            ang sinasabi ko ikaw
Oo sabi ko      ‘yun nga      mismo, ang ibig kong sabihin

Kasama sina:
Yasmin Alysa F. Tamayo, Kim Wilmer M. Balagot, Richard Q. Endaya, Maria Kathleen Paguio, Jumille Anne F. Gamis, Neil Clark V. Abelido

siyang tuyong dahon sa ibabaw ng malagong damo

Hinangos ng hangin
siyang tuyong dahon sa ibabaw ng malagong damo
Sa ihip ng panganorin
Ang wasiwas ng mga puno at lamig ng hangin
Ti marikna iti pusok.
May karilagang nangingibabaw
Lagunlong at tagistis

At naramdaman ko ang malakas na hangin na sa atin ay tumulak

May halumigmig na aapaw

Kasama sina:
Marty Lorgino D. Pulutan, Beoseph B. Lastimosa, Ma. Angelica T. Taeza, April Marie Praz C. Pagcaliwagan

Under the pink moonlight

We were the walrus
Boy Pick-up
El dutay principe ta reye

Na un estrella a otro estrella

But I shed the light that illuminates things
            have the right
                       to destroy

                      treat the coming mornings
As if nothing happened
But I have overcome the world

Arco Iris ta mira yo

Kasama sina:
Joanna Jessica A. Yasay, Yasmin Alysa F. Tamayo, Micah Angeline A. de Jesus, Aaron T. Castillo, Katherine Louise L. Miller

Mayroon akong tatlong manika

dalawang barbie at isang Ken
Naroon siya sa tabi
May stain na siya

Ang sabi mo mag-aaral tayo walang tulugan
Na walang ibang kinasasabikan

O kahel na liwanag
Kailan pa ulit tayo mag-iinom,

Ang sabi mo sabay tayong gagraduate
Dalawa na lang tuloy yung dolls ko,

Tapos isinara ko muna yung dollhouse ko.
Akala ko ba lalabas ka lang sandali?

Kasama sina:
Franceska M. Geron, Yasmin Alysa F. Tamayo, Rose Ann Hernandez, Joanna Angelica A. Yasay


Tahimik ang gabi.
Tahimik na nakaupo sa aking likuran
Pangalang kahit sa panaginip
Hindi man lamang lumabas

                           damdamin ang dilim
Ang mga alitaptap na napakasaya sa gabi
Ang mainit na dumadaloy sa aking katawan

             Ang sarap din siguro tumingin sa buwan 
            na bilog na bilog 
Habang kasama mo ang iyong buhay

                                    na tangi at mahal
Inalok ko pa nga s'ya ng pagkain minsan

Kasama sina:
Sharmaine T. Maldia, Neil Clark V. Abelido, Suzette A. De Torres, April Marie Praz C. Pagcaliwagan, Sarah Rachel E. Morito


Ohas ta menya
Ta man ambun
Tila isang paraiso ang aking narating
Ngano man ni nahitabo

Umasa at maghintay

Umasa at maghintay
Ako'y matiyempuhan
Kapag nalingat at di napatingin
Tadhanang gumuguhit sa kapalaran
Bisan sa gamay na panahon

gabi ng paghahanda para sa kompetisyon
kagalakan matapos mag-ensayo
Di patatalo
Indayog sa bawat 
               Utak at puso
Ayan hulati ang balik sa sakit

Engganyong tunay
                         binting walang kapaguran
                         matapos mag-ensayo
Lagi na lang may tumatakbo,
Hahabulin ka, kung maligaw man
abutin man ng buwan at tala

Lihuk na ug lihuk pa
Umasa at maghintay

Nanu kaya an tawag sani
Tadhanang gumuguhit sa kapalaran

Ngano man ni nahitabo
Tila isang paraiso ang aking narating
Ta man ambun
Ohas ta menya

Kasama sina:
Beoseph B. Lastimosa, Ma. Angelica T. Taeza, Mary Angelique M. Saguid, Katherine Louise L. Miller, Hannah Grace M. Apondar, Kathleen Opiana, Sarah Rachel E. Morito, Joanna Jessica A. Yasay, Kim Mae B. Catungal, Mariel C. Patal, Winnie Rose A. Payuan, Rico B. Martinez III, Carmela M. Bautista, Elric Y. Evangelista

Excuse Slip

Kaligtasan ng 
Bahagi na nga ito ng
                                dedikasyon na grabe-grabe
tanging mga tala lamang ang naawa
Salamat at hindi ako nag-iisa

Palihog isulti sa ako
Hindi ko pala siya kakilala
Ipaglaban ang 
                     sakripisyu dili aram kun sadin hugutun
Tangan niya raw ang pag-asa
Sa mga taong ni sa imahinasyon
Hindi ko man lamang nakapanayam

Pasensiya sa inyo at hindi ko nakayanan
Sa kaligayahan ikaw din ay kasali
Pasensiya na rin po
                           hindi niya alam ang ginagawa
matagal na binuo ngunit binawi lamang
                                                      ang siyang pundasyon 
                                                      at hindi sa silakbo ng damdamin

Palihog isulti sa ako
O nasa tao lang talaga?
dili tanan kaya himuun
ang siyang pundasyon naman
buhay na buhay!

Ngunit ngayon marami na nagsasabi
Mag-ingat sa mga taong minsan     nakasalamuha
                                                          Akala ko imahinasyon
Hindi ko man lamang nakapanayam

Nganong karon naman?
Hindi ko pala siya kakilala
Pahinga ka na.

Kasama sina:
Rico B. Martinez III, Micah Angeline A. de Jesus, Mikotoshi Rien M. Ferrer, Jorge M. Tapia, Yancee H. Olave, Hannah Grace M. Apondar, Beoseph B. Lastimosa, Neil Clark V. Abelido, Lorie Marie Santos, Elric Y. Evangelista, Kim Mae B. Catungal, Fana A. Yute, Madel Ilyn B. Manriza, Lausanne D.R. Barlaan, Suzette A. De Torres, Maria Lourdes A. Caeg, Franceska M. Geron


isang mapayapang bata
Isang komedyante 
Walang alinlangan
Walang pasintabi

Buhay ay puno ng kulay at saya
malapit na sa pagkabanal
Buhay ay 
                mga istruktura

Ngunit sinisigurado ko sa inyo
Oo, bumalik ang saya.
Mabilis pa sa hangin
Walang mas sasaya pa dito

Sa kabila ng saya
magtapos at maging inhinyera
                         mga istruktura

Mga simpleng banat
Singlinaw ng kristal sa aking isipan

Nagpapatawa kahit
nagmumukha ka nang tanga

                 mga istruktura
                    Bahala man o alam
malapit na sa pagkabanal

ugaling santo
Kilalang-kilala sa anumang larangan

maging inhinyera
magtapos at 
kristal sa aking isipan

simpleng banat
                Mapalad pa ang sinapit ng damo, 
                                               apakan ko man
                                               May halumigmig na aapaw

isang mapayapang bata
        halumigmig na aapaw

Kasama sina:
Joanna Jessica A. Yasay, Aylwin John E. Perez, Jeric H. Rosales, Krizie Anne Sales, Jamaica Ann A. Caras, Olhy J. Reyes, Yancee H. Olave, Maria Jennifer C. Villena, Sharmaine T. Maldia, Beoseph B. Lastimosa, Madel Ilyn B. Manriza


Asinno iti adda ita?
Wala kabalo sa unsay nahitabo

Bahala man o alam
Sadyang kay sarap balik-balikan

Minsan sila'y naging himig
Minsan sila'y naging pluma
                            Indayog sa bawat titik
                            Sa kilos ng iyong mga kamay
                              Ang aming 
Mga pangarap? Ang kanilang mga
para kumilos at magsalita
                  ang lugar na ginawang tahanan

Ika'y sumama.
Kung gaano kaugma
sa tuwin kaupod an mga kaibigan

di ba isa-isa mo pang pakikinggan?
aming mga kwento, 
         mga lansangan
           Mga hulang nagpapatunay
                                        mga tanda

Na gihatag nimo siya sa amo
                             ang aking lakas

Kasama sina:
Ma. Angelica T. Taeza, Jasmine Jane M. Alindogan, Fana A. Yute, Madel Ilyn B. Manriza, Julie Anne S. Millar, Marty Lorgino D. Pulutan, Samantha Anne Nicole P. Atanacio, Darren Macatangay, Kim Mae B. Catungal, Jennelyn B. Marcellana, Lausanne D.R. Barlaan, Hannah Grace M. Apondar, Jorge M. Tapia, Yancee H. Olave, Dayanara Bianca S. Bermudez, Elric Y. Evangelista, Joanna Angelica A. Yasay

GAGAYYEM: Mga tulang pinagtagni-tagni mula sa 59 obra at isang excuse slip ng mga estudyanteng UPLB na tumugon, kamakailan, sa kamatayan nina Ray Bernard, Given Grace, at Rochel “Cesil”

Mga mahal kong estudyante:

Katatapos ko lamang repasuhin ang mga tulang ito na handog ko sa inyo. Na handog ninyo sa akin. Binasa ko muna ang lahat nang naisumite bago nagpasyang gawin itong munting proyektong.

Pinili ko ang mga akdang sinulat sa Tagalog, Iluko, Bicolano, Chavacano, atbpa. May naisip akong disenyo at dahil dito iniwasan ko ang mga nakasulat sa Ingles – maliban sa iilan na hindi ko napigilan at naipagsama-sama sa tulang “Under the pink moonlight.”

Sa inyo nanggaling ang mga linya at imahe habang sa akin ang pagpili, paggupit, at pagsasaayos. Sa inyo rin nagmula ang lahat ng pamagat, maliban sa isa. Sa umpisa, akala ko'y isang mahabang piyesa ang mabubuo ko mula sa inyong mga linya. Ngunit nang makalap ko na sila, may mga elemento, imahe, at tunog na nagkumpul-kumpulan nang (halos) sadya.  Kaya hinubog ko sila nang magkakahiwalay. Kung natatandaan pa ninyo ang liksyon natin sa collage, heto ang katumbas noon sa anyo ng siyam na tula.

Sapagkat sa tuldok na ito magsisimula

siyang tuyong dahon sa ibabaw ng malagong damo


Under the pink moonlight

Excuse Slip

Mayroon akong tatlong manika




Dahil nakapag-collage tayo sa klase, alam na ninyo na kahit may matiyempuhan tayong magandang larawan, hindi ito awtomatikong mailalahok sa huling produkto. Sa kada putol at paskil, isinasaalang-alang ang tema, motif, at ang ugnayan ng mga bahagi. Gayundin sa koleksyon na ito. Bagamat marami akong nabasang mahuhusay na linya mula sa iba't ibang wika, hindi ko sila ikinabit. Sana walang magtatampo.

Susubukan kong ipalathala ang mga ito, kasama siyempre ang inyong mga pangalan. Sa ngayon, online muna. Inaanyayahan ko rin kayo na ilabas sa inyong mga site, ipabasa sa mga ka-dorm, o hanapan ng venyu ang mga sinulat ninyong tula at kuwento para sa kursong ito. At kung may maisusulat pa kayo sa hinaharap: fight!

Kung may anumang tanong, o kung may pangalan dito na hindi nabaybay nang tama, maaari akong padalhan ng e-mail at tutugon ako sa pinakamaagang pagkakataon. Daghang salamat.

One day instead of blood

One day instead of blood
artists will run in my veins
will be the ruin of me

               sweet sweet day
when my hungers become kisses
the errands     poinsettias

when dreams become engines
               running on artists.
With the vapor of my soul

I will embrace that day     give
breath and bile and all to get there
but not family     not what I kept

for family     and except my eyes
two other sad things on earth
              wish to remain closed

Mar 17, 2012

Absorptive Capacity

Administration utterly condemns the tragic and senseless death
reveals that class size does not affect student performance

despite our limited resources
enabling environments have all been put in place

take the responsibility of providing a safe and
the UPLB can accept more students and

secure environment for our constituents
spread the UP education to more deserving Filipinos

seriously and diligently
teach the course, schedules and room assignments

have limited uniformed personnel since we
ensure that all enabling environments are available

are constrained by law to hire more
are trained in time for the full implementation

keep watch over our vast campus
appreciate receiving your report

extend our deepest commiseration with the family
For strict compliance.


UPLB's official statement on the killing of Ray Bernard Peñaranda (updated) versus Memorandum No. 001: Full Implementation of Large Classes

Mar 14, 2012


–in T’boli, to scatter what was kept in order

Creation begins from an outward gesture of an artist’s arm: a movement that follows the intelligence of the wind, the aesthetic of leaves in mid-flight.

Sometimes, when we are lucky, we witness this gesture flowing out of wonder, out of a curious strain of delight. Akat is such an instance. Here, swatches of morning are cut before our eyes. Ash and spice join in dances of gather and release.

Wildflowers figure prominently in this festival of texture and curlicue. Also in attendance are the remainders of civilization: scraps of magazines, the jangle of keys. Like the ruins of cars and coliseums, these have been overrun and assimilated by a greater wisdom, a more expansive joy.

Then, as if after an outpour, Akat discloses nightscapes of cricket-love and frog-song. We trace the nimble constellations of fireflies and discover, perhaps in the middle of abandon, an unmistakable contagion of generosity.

Mar 11, 2012

My Half of an Online Conversation about "Umaga ng Ika-​​13 ng Hunyo 2010, Labindalawang Oras Bago Ka Tuluyang Burahin ng Humaharurot na Trak sa Pagtawid Mo sa Meralco Avenue"

D– This is something Chris made available online in honor of Cesar's memory. Thought you might be interested to watch it.


D– I was unfortunate not to know Cesar as much as either of you did, but Christian's piece left me with all kinds of warm. I think, as a literature teacher, most word-based expressions leave me quite cold, even the "literary" ones (especially those I myself have written). I'm grateful for anything that throbs with heart and has been tended with skill.

The part I liked was the idea of the droning background sound as Cesar's laughter synthetically stretched out to 12 minutes. In lesser hands, such an idea would blossom into nothing more than morbid. But because it was rendered the way it was, I read it as the operating principle of the art, an analogue to how human memory works when it tries its damnedest (through song, poetry, Taj Mahals, etc.) to capture the final moments of a friend or beloved.

It's Eurydice enough for me.


D– It's stasis, as you pointed out. Stasis as paralysis, I think (with that Beckett biting the tail), but perhaps also as an ideal. A way of keeping a loss intact.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one, M–. The laughter lines were mentioned at around the beginning. Four minutes into the clip, if I remember right. Hope you catch it. A line will ask about the sound, and another line will reply.


A Dream of Ethnography

The dream was fluent last week. A catalonan invited me up to the mountain (2). I was audience (3) to his art. Maybe I was the only one in front of him, for there were points in the dream when it felt this way. We sat cross-legged. It was a cave, I'm sure, but I remember the sun overhead.

His concept was to deliver the summary of his homeland through a whole experience. That is, he did not merely show things (8) or chant songs. He fed me (10) from two pockets carved from the soil before him: one contained a fluid, the other rice. These were tasteless, and I remember mulling on the tastelessness while he proceeded with the performance. He used his bare hands to feed me. Many other scenes came after that, but I must keep at least two of these paragraphs.

There, hidden.

The horror show was not over. The purging was painful. I gave birth to a flaming orb (26).

2–A role played by someone I know. But C– was no catalonan in truth.
3–The word 'audience' does not fit. 'Participant', maybe, but the word has been worn thin by corporations and anthropologists the world over.
8–A moving tattoo, for one.
10–Was this the only dream where I don't wake up the moment before I eat?
26–Red, with a faded gold cross wrapped around it. Maybe my father still keeps that little Sto. Niño with a missing hand.

Mar 9, 2012

The First Adventure of Black Clay and Violet Clay

We gave Neneng a block of clay around three weeks ago. It's 180 grams of pure violet. We used to give her multi-colored sets, clay fingers of green, red, cobalt, and yellow. While I loved to see my daughter's manipulations, I grew tired of watching these brilliant colors merge into a singular mud.

We had a set of instructions for the violet clay: Always with an adult. Wash your hands right after. Don't mix it up with other clay. Play it on a spread of carton to keep it from hair, dust, and crumbs. Also, don't divide the block into pieces too small. The wind might scatter the pieces. Your sister might eat them.

My wife bought a block for me as well. I unwrapped it a few days ago. Neneng was excited to see the black clay in action. Earlier tonight, she asked for a piece of the black to throw into her project, but I said it would ruin her favorite color. Instead, I handed her an old SIM card for slicing.

She was well into her work when I began mine. I rolled some slices into black limbs. I wanted to capture an unforgettable CCTV scene: a student, a split second from falling to the ground. Neneng wanted to know what I was doing. What did it look like, I asked. A boy, she said. She told me to give it a pair of eyes. Okay, anak.

She then flattened a round piece and handed me the disc. Pancake 'to. Kakainin po ng boy.

I attempted a double of the fallen boy, the same basic figure, but it was to stand upright and carry a knife. But the weight was off, and it kept toppling over. Neneng thought my two figures were exercising. Push-ups, but she didn't have the word for it so she went down on the floor to demonstrate. Yes, I said, almost shouting. I did not teach her the word "push-ups," and I said in no uncertain terms that she was to return to her seat.

Was the threat registered? Did she hear the "or else" that was hiding there? If so, then she did not let on. Nothing could disturb her work. She cut a wedge off her block, gave it to my murderer,and smiled at me. Ito naman cheese na para sa isa.

Mar 7, 2012

The Wednesday Plan

Since Monday afternoon, I have been fidgeting regarding my HUM 1 (AH) lesson for today. I considered scrapping the plans already laid for the remaining four meetings, but I also thought that some of my students might be, consciously or not, riding on the established rhythm of the course and might grow upset (maybe without knowing why) if I changed horses right at the river's edge.

I also wished that they'd stop classes just like they did after Milenyo when we were weeks shy of closing the semester. But this was not an Act of God, was it, and if you think it through, a measure like that could amount to a criminal precedent.

The longer I thought about the lesson, the more I noticed a curious development. The old questions had begun wearing an odd gravity: What is the activity for the day, and why? How dare we grade something as animal as literature? Can the large class lecture mode teach poetry best? How completely can powerpoint slides kill spontaneity? What have I been doing, stepping all over the greatest job in the world? And, will they stay awake?

Were my subject of the Math, Science, and Technology cluster perhaps a minute of silence would suffice – but what am I saying here? That this is not force majeure? That a minute could ever be enough?

On Monday, I tried writing poems while checking 300 journals. Over lunch, I was composing on a sandwich wrapper. I sent two poems to my editor at dawn yesterday. I said on the cover letter that "I think I've been writing these poems because I don't know what words to say about these killings when I stand in front of my students." Maybe this should be the least of my anxieties. Perhaps it is, well of course it is, and I am blowing it up to deny the proximity of the gravest fear.

At 1am today, I finally decided on an approach, and I hope I pull it off. This image will form the navel of the hour:

Here goes nothing.

Mar 6, 2012

Returns of the Day

Sir G and I were discussing philosophers at the Indignation Rally. No one discusses indignation at an indignation rally. Death is but a passing topic in a wake. It is recurrent, yes, but it is seldom discussed at length.

So I asked Sir G. Is there a philosopher who uses anecdotal information in their treatises? We sampled those we could think of: maybe Sartre, or the later Wittgenstein? Or Rousseau? Rousseau! But Rousseau was no philosopher. Okay. So the answer is No? The answer is Of Course Not.

We talked about the traumatic lives of the philosophers. Most of these lives were full of suffering. Nietzsche, of course, and Spinoza. I admitted that I was more enthralled by the biographies of philosophers rather than those of writers. Reading a writer's life is redundant. Reading a writer's life ruins the fiction. But the philosophers! You want to hear their stories because they try so hard to turn their backs on them.

The father of Ms. Cebanico was onstage. Such grace, Sir G and I agreed. I could not take my eyes off the man. I said to Sir G, what if we were there, standing in his stead?

We talked about a possible lack in Filipino philosophy and an equally possible lack in trauma and a definite lack of 'angst' in the Filipino. Because there was always the Bathala in Bahala Na, he said. And where others saw a glass half empty, we Pinoys saw a glass half full.

A lovely, terrible night for essentialism, but what else were we to say? You do not think at a time like this.