Thursday, February 19, 2009


1. Bebe and Rustom

Rustom Padilla is not simply dead. He was murdered by the fabulously wicked Bebe Gandanghari. Bebe is a selfish, ungrateful bitch. After coming out of the closet with Rustom’s help, why does she have to kill him?

2. Miriam Santiago

Miriam used to be smart. Her reputation as someone who can dish out tart, witty one-liners, with such admirable flair is eclipsed only by her former reputation as an iron-woman when it comes to battling corruption in the government.

Then she voted against the opening of the second envelope. Then she mentioned her dead son on TV in an election ad. Then she ran under Gloria’s party in the last Senatorial elections. Then she became too fond of making scenes and long speeches.

As Jessica Zafra once bemoaned, what happened to the good old Miriam that we have so adored in the past? We should appeal to the aliens who have abducted her; they must have placed a deranged dummy in her place.

3. Tide and Downey

Why would soap companies be disturbingly partial to politicians as their endorser? When Mar Roxas appeared in apparently Tide's latest commercial, I thought, “Well, everyone is entitled to make their own humiliating mistakes.” But when I recently saw Pia Cayetano on TV, sweeping her hand across an image of a huge overflowing dam, urging everyone to use Downey Isang Banlaw, my brain went short circuit.

4. KC Concepcion

What happens to a kid who’s sent abroad by an over-protective mom? She goes wild, once given the chance. She flirts with a former Hollywood star, does movies with a brother of a fallen beauty queen, and guests at every talk show airing on TV. So much for just shampoo commercials.

5. Ambitious project in progress

I have gone so far into my project that I can no longer go back. I am not sure if I can still pull it off. This is what happens when you’re too much a fan of great surrealist writers; their weird ideas rub off on you, but your talents remain inconsiderable. I guess there’s no option but to plough on with the story, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The White Tiger

If Saleem Sinai of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is the herald of India's rebirth, Balram Halwai of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is the herald of its fated noontide.

A debut novel of former Time correspondent Adiga and winner of the 2008 Booker Prize, The White Tiger is a black comedy about the modern India of juxtaposed poverty and wealth, of the typical dialectical materialism between those with power and those who do not.

Told in a series of letters written late at night by self-made enterpreneur Balram Halwai to China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, the novel takes the reader from Balram's lowly origins as the son of a rickshaw puller to his eventual triumph as a businessman in the city. His recipe for success: If you can't beat them, join them.

I found the book honest and disturbing. Honest, because it is unflinching in its portrayal of the human desire for wealth. Disturbing, because I can confirm the truth of these observations through personal experience. Not that I have anything particularly nasty, but I have been brought up in a family where ambition is passionately encouraged.

I remember my days in college when I would be grouped with rich kids who thought I was one of them. They would talk casually about this and that clothing line, this and that car model, this and that kind of restaurant, and I feel a kind of thrill that I can respond to most of what they were talking about and still refrain from looking like an Eager Beaver. Up until now, the bitches have no idea I just read a lot.

It is this line of thinking, this hidden but nonetheless solid desire to be one of those who have wealth and power, that threatens to crush my socialist tendencies. Balram started out with ambition and a clean desire to better his circumstances, but he is tempted and ultimately corrupted by the promising rewards of following the cutthroat rules of the game. It is so much easier and personally rewarding to succumb than to defy.

What is important to always remember, though, I think, is that desires are mere constructs, and most of the time, we desire what we are told to desire--a gorgeous girlfriend, the latest slinky gadgets, abs and biceps, nice clothes, a good credit score, a slot in heaven. In the words of the Oracle in the Matrix trilogy, the challenge is for us to make up our own damn minds.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Contemplathings XII

1. To resign or not to resign

It's final. Our company's migrating our account to Araneta Center on the 21st. Which means by then, I will have to start taking a jeep and a bus (or the MRT) everyday I go to work, since I live in Taguig. I ruled out the shuttle service in Market Market. (I've been getting tips that the car seats smell of old laundry.)

Then I read a company email from one of the Bosses. It noted that there is an alarming upward trend in absenteeism and tardiness, blah blah blah, and that there are agents who keep on getting away without punitive action. The email ends in a cheerful note: "I am not pleased and I don't want this to continue. I want blood."

In any case, there will have to be only one way to save my ass: resign before my neck says hi to the ax.

2. To text or not to text Joey.
To say that I miss him terribly would be the understatement of the century. There are times I would lie in my bed and try to remember his face and I would find out my memory of what he looks like fades by the day. That's a terrible thing, starting to unconsciously forget how someone you love looks like.

I want to continue texting him, invite him for a genuinely innocent cup of coffee. But that is the most guaranteed way to look like a stalker, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to look like one.

3. To go out or not to go out on V-Day.
I have been invited by someone already to go out on the day after this coming Friday the 13th. But I'm not sure it would be fair to the guy if I date him when I still have strong feelings for Joey.

I am also surprised though to find out that if it comes to it, there are actually people I would consider dating. Jeez, I'm a mess.


My apologies if I can't continue my project in progress. There are just so many things going inside my head; I think I need a real Pensieve. As Jamie said, blogging is some sort of Pensieve, but I think I need the real thing. I'm that screwed up.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Project in progress

Every now and then, I get this sort of fit that makes me ambitious. And then I decide to write some story based on some outrageous, surreal premise. I get so drunk with the possibilities of such a story that I plunge head first into actually writing it. Of course, when I wake up in the morning, I will get a massive hangover and find out I puked on the carpet.

But I never learn, that's why I'm doing it again. I am hopelessly stubborn.

Click here to check out my latest stab at a full-length short story.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Before I entangled myself in love affairs, I was a simple guy who loved to read books and watch movies and see the theater. It is about time I go back to being the old boring me.

So when I took my day off this last Thursday and Friday, I stayed put in my apartment, tried not think about Joey, and read former Time correspondent Aravind Adiga's Booker-winning debut novel The White Tiger. I have not finished it yet, which depresses me since I used to finish a good book in one sitting. It is so well-written I am almost tempted to write a review by pretending to have finished it.

So I am going to settle for Revolutionary Road, which I saw on DVD last night. A story about a young couple with opposite dispositions and dreams, Revo Road, based on the Richard Yates novel of the same title, tackles Director Sam Mendes's favorite theme: the American suburban family aspiring for the American Dream.

April (Kate Winslet) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actress who finds suburban life dulling and tediously monotonous. Hoping for a fresh start, she suggests to his husband Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) that they emigrate to Paris. Frank, who despises his job at a typewriter company, agrees. But when Frank succumbs to a lucrative promotion selling first-generation computers and April gets an unwanted pregnancy, their marriage fulfils its doom.

If you have seen American Beauty (well, I know, who hasn't?), it is easy to mark the similarity of theme, storyline, dialogue wit, down to the piano playing faintly in the background. As one New York Daily News review says, Revo Road is "two-thirds Mad Men, and one-third American Beauty." But even if Revo Road lives under the shadow of its smarter elder brother, it has the honest emotional drama that very few directors other than Mendes could muster. As for Kate and Leo, well, they're Kate and Leo. Only Leo's paunch is disgusting.

I almost liked the movie but I am not very fond of the fact that in the end, Frank and April remained hopelessly chained to their circumstances. I like a long winding drama, but I want well-meaning characters to be at least empowered, if not triumphant in the end. Not because I want to feel good, but because good movies are supposed to say one can effect change, despite the odds.

Otherwise, why put a gun in someone's hand when you wont let him pull the trigger?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

As usual, something fishy

Numbers can be intimidating, and hence, impressive when used to argue a point. Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto knows this and when he said the government plans to boost the slowing economy thru a P300 billion resiliency fund, he expects us to say wow.

If Vilma's husband is correct, the P300 billion fund that government shall spend for infrastructure and other social services will pump up government expenditure and will increase income in the private sector. The private sector's bigger income will in turn translate into increased private spending.

This is of course founded on the Keynesian idea that money spent by the government will be money earned by the private sector, and that increased government spending will jumpstart a series of increased private spending. Think The Core and how Hilary Swank and company fired nuclear missiles into the earth's liquid iron core, one at a time, to create ripples that will merge on each other and create bigger ripples.

This is supposedly a good thing, since developing countries, like the Philippines, depend heavily on consumption to drive its economy. It does make sense, but I have a problem with this. If the ultimate goal is increased public expenditure, is the P300 billion fund the only way to achieve this end?

How about raising the minimum wage levels to increase public income? How about funneling the P300 billion fund straight into the national budget? This year's national budget of P1.4 trillion is only about 13 percent more than last year's P1.236 trillion. This 13 percent increase is even diluted by an inflation rate of about 9 percent.

Also, the details of where the resiliency fund will come from and how exactly it will be spent remain a hazy sketch. Are they deliberately separating 300 billion from the national budget to avoid transparency and accountability?

Recto's report is impressive, but it isn't "wow." It's "whoa."

Monday, February 02, 2009


It is both comforting and painful to accept that there is a very slim chance that I will write for the Philippine Collegian again. I say there's still a chance, though very slim, and that shows how hopelessly optimistic I can be even with the bleakest of prospects. Newsbreak: I still toy with the idea that Joey and I might go out together again.

What was it that Jesse (Ethan Hawke) said in Before Sunset? "We all look at the world through our own tiny, little keyhole"?

Still, it's quite comforting to know that I no longer foster illusions of superhuman strength. I have tried juggling work, school, and writing news for the Collegian last year, and it was a horror better experienced once.

I still groan at the idea though that work, Kule, and studies all make up a lethal combination. I am someone who's always impatient to get all things done at once, or at least, try doing them all at once. (When I was a kid, I shuttled back and forth between Tom Sawyer and Mills & Boons.)

I still marvel at how Kule manages to publish weekly and, at the same time, come up with well-written, relevant articles. I do not brag, the credit is to those at the helm of this paper. Until now, I am amazed that they put up with me for almost two years. Working with some of the most talented and principled students in Diliman, you are left with no other choice but to be at least good at what you're supposed to do, because everyone else is brilliant at what they're doing.

I feel that I have disappointed them in one way or another. During my stint, I was eager to learn, and for some time, they thought they might even groom me for news editorship. Then I quit school and worked at a call center. I said it's a temporary thing, until I saved enough money. Did I already say I am too optimistic (read: naive) for my own good?

I miss the weekly Friday-to-Sunday presswork, the thrill of writing about something important, of something urgent. I miss walking from building to building in the hot afternoon sun, interviewing Academic oval vendors, janitors, professors, university officials, fratmen, athletes, student leaders, congressmen sometimes.

I miss Budget Cat, the resident feline we named after UP's perennial woe, who lives in our office. She has a very healthy sex life that some writers secretly envy.

I miss Mang Romy, the senile octogenarian who's livesd in Vinzons Hall since the 80s, I think. He claims he is a former UP student and that he used to date Susan Roces, among other women. Every year, the current Editor-in-Chief's greatest fear is that he would have to attend Mang Romy's funeral.

I miss the grafitti on the office toilet walls and the engraved names of the staff on the "conference" table. I miss the ancient rusty refrigerator which made me realize I am immune from tetanus.

But most of all, I miss the people. I miss Melane, a Batanguenya born in Italia. It is a running joke that she has shook the hands of the Pope. Nakadaupang palad na niya ang Papa. I miss the usually fierce Jerrie who sobbed once because a probationary news writer preferred to have his draft edited by Melane, because he thought Signiora Melania is, uh, nicer. Mas matututo po kasi ako sa kaniya eh.

I miss the news staff: Alliage, who is now news editor, whose motto in life is to not eat on time. Mamaya na lang ako kakain, bilang magugutom din naman ako mamaya; and Tony, the perpetual closet gay who sounds like the puppet voice of a ventriloquist.

I could go on and on. I find nostalgia vastly entertaining. It only makes me sad that these are things and people that I may never see again, if and only if I ever find myself in Room 401 of Vinzons Hall again. I can console myself though of one thing: that though I failed my friends in Kule, they will be able to find new people who would take over, who would bury Mang Romy, who would take care of Budget Cat's litter, who would lobby for a new refrigerator.

But most of all, I am confident that they would be able to find people who would stand for what they believe in, who will not bow down to repression, and who will continue the Philippine Collegian's long tradition of serving the students and the marginalized.

These new people will be better than I was. They will be stronger to ignore the difficulty of going to school on an empty stomach. They will be able to resist the lure of a tempting five-digit salary. They will be able to go back if they strayed too far. I almost feel as if I no longer want or need to write again.

***Download issues of the Philippine Collegian here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wowowee and the Lovapalooza Stampede

I know why it sometimes feels good to have an occasional dose of Willie Revillame's infamous noontime show. It's watching those contestants embarrass themselves (and their kin) in national television. I laugh at them and admire them at the same time. Such courage to tell stories about personal drama are strange to me.

That is, until fairly recently, when I digressed from this blog's supposed cultural affectations and decided to write about myself again. Sef-cannibalism, in other words, as Jessica Zafra once said in her better days.

Now pass the salt, please?

1. Derriere-licking. Not only did I get away with it again by writing a long exquisite letter explaining my recent slew of absences and tardiness, a little bird told me I might even get a pay raise this May when my score card gets evaluated. The stars are kind, the stars are kind.

2. Ned. I have not received a text message from him until now. Nor have I atempted to initiate anything that would resemble an attempt at conversation. He looks cute in his new primary DL photo.

3. Joey. Well. Joey. Where should I even start? It was inevitable that this will happen. You know that last U-turn in the road when you're driving? Well, I went past that point. I was actually driving too fast, stepping on the gas pedal too hard, that I had to be pulled over by the MMDA.

4. Moving to Cubao. As our company will be moving to its new building (yes, that one) come end of next month, I am now looking for a new place to rent. Two of my officemates have expressed interest in sharing a house with me, but I honestly think I should get my own studio-type flat. Not that I don't get along well with people; it's just that my household maintenance habits dramatically fluctuate: anything between downright lazy to obsessive-compulsive.

5. Backlog of pre-planned special-feature posts. My neurons had been too preoccupied lately about my own insipid affairs that they have neglected more interesting topics.

There's that special post I planned about Natalie Portman flicks. Since I miss my Collegian days, I also thought about doing a small investigative on the "UP-Ayala Cyberpark." The list of ambitious projects goes on. Collezione and its Pinoy pride prints. The proposal to scrap the Student Regent position in UP's Board of Regents. Obama's anti-Iraq War stance and Gloria's possible retraction from her original support for Dubya's War against Terror. The Matrix trilogy and its signature bullet-speed camera shot.

Self-cannibalism is so cathartic, I can hardly stop. But like the few remaining pleasures left in this world, I guess all of them end too soon. I have released too many calls already. Must get back to work. Thraldom beckons.