Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Diarist




It's been eight years since I tapped the keyboard for my first blog entry. And for what it's worth, I've learned not only from my stories, but from those who got to read mine as well. I became a better person out of this notion that all my failures have to be written, and from this fear, the struggle for harmony would become a conscious undertaking. The blog speaks to me, it watches my every move.

As I write these lines, I chose to cut the umbilical cord that attaches me to my desktop computer. To be in a place where I could grasp my thoughts and put these pulses on the notepad of my mobile phone. Looking at the bleeding sky, I close my eyes and let the breeze caress my dry skin. A succession of dog barks in the distance puncture the chilly night air. While here, at the spot close to the unlit stairwell where a ghostly apparition made its presence felt a few weeks ago,

I try to get drowned in silence.

Solitude and emptiness. The very reason this journal endures. This is my escape from the humdrum of everyday living: To make sense of my narrative and make it the footprint of my personal journey. It doesn't matter now if I get read or my prose still lacks artistic merits. As long as the pursuit of expression is there, and the creation is done with sincerity, then I have accomplished my purpose.

The diarist in me had prevailed.

May these sprawled words, should it ever get beyond the distillery of the final draft, affirm my faith that one weaves words not to be heard, but to share an experience: That a wordsmith never aspires fame, only respect from his readers. And should there come a time when the Souljacker gets tampered by someone's self-serving desire; a puppet with strings of a Capitalist experiment, I do hope to remember why this blog breathes

And dreams of permanence.

It only answers to no one but me. When one writes as if nobody reads, only then will words go on forever.




Friday, June 29, 2012

Twenty Two



Just so you would have an idea of the life I had a few years after I stepped out of the university. The entry was lifted from my old blog. Unedited to preserve the writing style and raw emotions of my twink self.


Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Fullmetal Dreams
July 1, 2004



I thought I would last a day without worrying or thinking how bleak our future would be. I thought that by encoding my mom's application for a promotion, I would forget our sorry state we're in.

I was wrong... very wrong.

Yesterday, my dad asked me to attend a meeting of the newspaper and dealers association. When they told me the news, I had a hunch about the things those guys would talk about, one of those is the raising of the price of newspapers, particularly tabloids. You see, that business has already been bleeding badly after the newsprint companies decided to raise the price of the paper.

It's time for us to follow suit.

Before going to the meeting, dad asked one of his fellow publishers to tag me along. After all, I'll go there alone representing one of the most read tabloids in the market after the crisis tore us apart.

In just two weeks... such an unexplainable shame.

While travelling, I had an opportunity to have a chit-chat with this young publisher. He was the recent victim of my dad's former business partner and mistress. We talked about business operations, some information about our rival tabloids, and the state of his business at the moment.

I'm not so sure how much of what he said was propaganda and how much is truth, but you know what, having a conversation with him made me so much envy of what he had accomplished in just a few weeks. Perhaps because we have the same wavelength when it comes to operating a newspaper business. It's like talking to someone who understands and appreciate the things you are talking for a very very long time.

Dad and I don't share that kind of affinity. We're always at conflict when it comes to management styles and ideals.

The meeting was a brief but fading glory for me. I was given a seat to represent the company and tell about the things we have to say about the agenda. For a span of twenty seconds, publishers, dealers; big and small listened to what I have to say.

And since I'm still having this amats after speaking in english during my call center interviews several days ago, I can't help but explain my point in accented english...

It was a proud moment for me, yet my heart is bleeding inside. The organizers asked everyone for a contribution for the food we ate. I went there with just 60 bucks in my wallet. But since the company cannot even provide our contribution for the event, I was forced to shed P500 bucks to compensate my dad's additional contribution of P500.

I was humiliated inside, but since our contribution was enclosed in an official letterhead envelope, we seemed to looked ok in front of the other publishers. Add to that, most of the other publishing companies contributed the same amount as we shelled out.

But before I left, another blow hit me. Informing my dad about what had happened at the meeting, he told me that our supplier will not supply us the newsprint for the day. Our Finance Department's constant begging never worked this time. I found out today that we haven't produced even a single copy of the newspaper. One of my most feared scenario is here: we're already in deep shit.

I never bothered to asked them what happened to the company. I know, it would make me very depressed whatever I'll hear about them after what happened yesterday. Dad tried to contact me many times, but I decided not to answer any of his calls. I think it's up to him this time. I'm too distraught to give any of my support.

This evening, I decided to meet Phanks. These past few days, he's one of my source of sanity and support. At least, I already helped him resolved most of his issues before I was the one who broke down.

But no matter how I try to hide my depression, it still shows, leaving me staring into nothingness and phanks had seen me staring into empty space several times this evening.

When I looked at how I made my decisions before this crisis happens, I cannot help but resent on missed opportunities and useless sacrifices. I shouldn't have lent them my 30k last month so that I'll have longer back-up money today. Right now, I don't expect my dad to support us, it's up to me and my mom to run the house from now on. In my estimates, my savings would only last for three weeks. If in three weeks, nobody would still hire me, I would rely heavily on my 9k "salary" from our security agency business. Fortunately, mom is still working so hopefully, we could compensate our 20k monthly household maintainance through our combined income generation.

Until I get a company to hire me, things would be very bleak for the three of us. Dad, for the meantime, would be completely out of the picture since it's an open secret that he maintains another family aside from us. It's up to them to compensate their own.

Before, I get envy when I see some guy, the same age as mine driving a Honda V-Tec or some other customized car... I get envy because I should have driving such toy with my dad's wealth and power. But since he's spending it all to his former mistress and business partner, we were left fending our own.

Now that his former mistress left him to publish a tabloid that would rival our own, financial difficulties made our life uncertain and crippled. Dad maintains a new mistress, only younger and shyer this time.

But things didn't change at all. It's all the same murky water I found when I first started my career in dad's company.

Last year, I was at the same predicament. This is the very same situation we had last year. The only difference is that, this time, I'm already very aware of the responsibilities I'll take over if ever dad cannot handle it anymore. I used to feel somewhat powerful and influencial before these things happened. I used to fixate my life on the management career I'll take over when dad decides to retire from his business. I used to cling on and be happy with savings I gained from my salaries...

But now, now that I feel like we've been stripped off all our perks, now that I feel that everything was almost taken from us... Everything seems like a drama gone wrong. For all we know, we've never done anything to be in this state of karma.

I still don't understand why we have to suffer things such as these.





Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eclipse Gym 24/7




Shaw



It's my gym day but my mind tells me not to go. After all, today is my rest day too, the overcast sky might bring some rain and my pockets are getting shallower with each passing day.

Besides, my pecs, biceps and triceps are still recuperating from my last work out.

But when I think of myself five years ago, when beads of sweat dribbled down my face while Coach Blakedaddy tells me to repeat the exercise again after a wrong execution; when I showed up at 4 in the morning to do bench presses because sleep had evaded me; and when I remember all those times I groaned out of pain and intensity of the work out, and write "fail" on my program only to repeat the same exercise (with less pounds and reps) the next time I showed up,

You would realize that it's been a long, humbling journey and there is no turning back.

So today, I am set to return to the gym. And maybe get to nod at some of those nameless familiar faces, not to get their attention but to recognize that both of you have struggled - going three-times-a-week to do weightlifting inside the power cages; poring over the same exercise program the gym provides and updates - for free; and staying long enough to appreciate that the system really works.

But more than seeing other people, I will return - maybe today, or probably tomorrow in pursuit of perfection: To indulge this craving to lift those Olympic bars and heavy iron plates. For the work out and the gym has not only become a routine. After all these years of pumping, sweating and swinging - for an hour, twice or thrice a week, I have to say that the activity that keeps me fit and confident has now become my lifestyle.


  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reverence




The mini-reunion was set ahead of time. But me and my college friends ran out of steam before the meet-up finally pushed through. Say it's because of pressing matters at home - and in my case - at work. But at the last minute, my superior offered a reprieve.

At 8:00 in the evening, I was able to leave the office. The destination is at Conspiracy Bar. I was there to see the last of the send-off gigs of a folk artist, whose songs only few have ever heard.

Her name is Cynthia Alexander and because of a Yahoo article circulated last month, everyone who know her came; to see her perform for the last time before she packs her things and plant her roots in sunless lands where musicians like her thrive and grow. 




She was already revered long before we crawled out of the university and out of our ephemeral dreams. I remember, the mere mention of her name would instantly hurl you to the pantheon of eccentrics - they, who have set themselves apart and lived in their own mind-temples in the Faculty of thinkers.

I was never a hardcore. That I can honestly admit. I just know her music and was able to absorb it. Knowing her was my way of reaching out; to have a place in the realm of the literati. After all, I used to be an apprentice of letters. Her prose have been nurturing my spirit.

Legends trailed her rise to fame. My sister said she's married to a Scottish royalty and in that part of the world, she was a duchess. Another story, which I heard from someone is that she's a Babaylan who turned into a musician. Whatever is true, there is one thing I know. Cynthia Alexander is a highly-respected artist. Her name brought her to many cities around the world - to perform in cultural events.

As for me, I only saw her once - when she showed up at her brother's gig in 70's Bistro many years ago. Mom brought me there to see Joey Ayala perform. It was her surprise birthday present. And Cynthia was there too, bowing her head before smiling, while being acknowledged by her icon-brother.





Guests were already spilling over Visayas Avenue when I arrived for the encore. Even the gates of Conspiracy were barred as the open courtyard where the musician is set to perform can no longer accommodate guests.

"Pasensya na po, intayin muna natin may lumabas" Those who have remained outside patiently waited in line as people from within flee the searing heat.

"Puwede po ba pumasok, kasama po nila kami?" Preference was apparently given to those who have already reserved a seat.

I was able to get in by telling the organizer that I'm a blogger. Said I was there to cover the event when my real reason was indulgence. For 200 pesos I got an ink stamp on my right wrist. It was less than fifty since they ran out of beer stamps.

I was told beforehand that the gig will be packed - to the brim. And it is for this reason many of my friends chose to back out rather than brave the crowd. When I got there, the turn out was simply phenomenal. Around five hundred people were able to fit inside an ancestral home turned into a classy watering hole.




Cynthia Alexander went up the stage at close to midnight. She was two hours behind schedule. But her absence was covered by no-name acoustic musicians, whose artistry yearns to serenade the restless and sweat-drenched.

Draped in her sweetest smile, Cynthia's lilting but potent words put a spell on everyone's hearts. She tells the reasons behind her celebrated exodus. That it is time to share her music, and let her songs become part of the greater human experience. "I just can't leave without saying goodbye," She said while strumming her guitar. "I will return someday. But for now, allow me to do a little soul searching."

The feverish condition at the open-air pub didn't stop the music from touching the audience. The elfin performer sat on a chair as close friends and long-time followers surrounded the stage. Behind her was an assembly of artists extracting harmonies with their musical instruments. While many of the songs were unfamiliar to me, the fusion of sounds and haunting lullabies were a breath of fresh air in a musical landscape dominated by pop acts.

The melodic resonance of the violin, the keyboard and the tabla lured one's unaccustomed ears, that entering a state of trance almost seemed like an organic reflex. I was standing on a monobloc chair with the beastly Iwata fan blowing cold wind against my back. And while being soaked in music, I closed my eyes and swayed my head. There were only a few of us who knows the lyrics but  "The Weather Report." never sounded this good when words flow from the artist herself.

Cynthia Alexander belonged to her fans for almost two hours. And in that span of time, she sang "Daisy Chains," "Walk Down The Road," and the feel-good "Knowing There Is Only Now." These are some of the songs I got acquainted during my exile. At the middle of her performance, she even offered a bottle of beer to all her listeners. But her audience, already spellbound by her voice chose to remain in their places rather than get a Red Horse at the bar counter.

In that evening of solitary pursuits, (I was supposed to attend a reunion with another set of friends) I picked up a few gems which I would carry on for life. As I have somewhat known, a true artist is seldom recognized. But her works are embraced across generations of souls - finding spiritual connection with her creations. As the night wore on, the gig became more of a jam. I won't be surprised to learn that someone was able to pen a prose - even poetry since an audience already did an interpretative dance in one of the acts.

It was a night of reconnection - with me - getting in touch with my old bohemian self. Assured, that no matter what lives I dwell, I would always remain faithful to my roots. And as I leave the gig, calling back the sprawled memories of a time I chose not to forget, I recognize my presence; that I was there to see Cynthia Alexander, not only to celebrate her music.

But to say thank you, and see you in another time.*



* The Lakota people of Native America has no word for goodbye.


Friday, June 22, 2012

The Dalai Lama Speaks



Given the scale of life in the cosmos, one human life is no more than a tiny blip. Each one of us is a just visitor to this planet, a guest, who will only stay for a limited time. What greater folly could there be than to spend this short time alone, unhappy or in conflict with our companions? Far better, surely, to use our short time here in living a meaningful life, enriched by our sense of connection with others and being of service to them.




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tagay-Mo-Pre




"What's Mia Patro?"

Ang text mo sa akin isang madaling araw. Madali lang naman sagutin ang iyong tanong. Kahit na magnose-bleed ka pa sa aking reply. Pero sa pagkakataong iyon, pinili ko ang bumalik sa pagtulog - this time - ng may ngiti sa aking labi. 

I remember how it all started. Sa isang gay dating website yun. Pinagtatawanan natin yung isang thread founder dahil sa kanyang press-release na isa siyang "str8." I told you the qualities of a very straight-acting person, and it takes one to know one. Ramdam ko ang angas mo. Dagdagan mo pa ng hirit na isa kang dakilang tomador. Natapos ang gabi na nagkapalitan tayo ng number. All we need is to meet up and have a drink kung magkakaroon ng pagkakataon. 

Yaman rin lang na marami akong oras kaya pinaunlakan ko ang iyong imbitasyong makipag-inuman. "I'm wearing elephant pants with glitters." Sabi ko. "Naka pink-shirt ako kaya kung hindi mo trip ay umuwi ka na." Biro ko pa. Alam ko naman na anuman ang sabihin ko, hindi ka maniniwala. If I'm not mistaken, narinig mo na ang boses ko sa phone. Walang makakalimot sa amin na iyon ang iyong paraan upang i-screen ang mga taong hangad mong kitain.

And I would remember the Red Horse. Peste yun! Naka-anim yata tayo habang makulimlim sa labas, ang lansangan ay puno ng mga estudyante, at sa loob naman ng billiard bar kung saan mo ako dinala ay puno ng mga frat boys na kulang na lang ay magrambulan dahil lang natabig ng isa ang bote ng beer sa kabilang billiard table. Ganunpaman, hanep lang ang turning point sa buhay ko nung hapong iyon.

Sapagkat sa katanghalian ng aking paghahanap, isa ikaw sa una kong natagpuan.

Mabilis ang paglipas ng mga taon. Na-impress ako ng sobra - sa mga pinakita mo sa akin kaya pinili kong sundan ka saan ka man mapadpad. Napasama ako sa Encanto dahil sa iyo at doon ay naging kabilang tayo sa isang grupong ituturing nating pamilya pagdating ng panahon. Hindi man tayo mag-usap madalas, alam ko na nandiyan ka lang. Magkatampuhan man kayo ng isa sa mga kasama natin, nawa'y malaman mo sana na sa mga oras na iyon, wala sa plano ko ang tumalikod sa iyo. 

Alam ko rin naman hindi mo kami tatalikuran.

And my belief proved me right. With just a three-worded text, andami mong pinarealize sa akin. Pinatunayan mo na ang pagkakaibigan ay hindi nasusukat sa dalas ng inyong pag-uusap, pagkikita, o kaya naman ay pagsasaliksik sa mga buhay-buhay. It's about the memories. Yung pagsasamahan. At habang iniisip ko ang blog na ito, isa lang ang tumatak sa akin.

Habangbuhay kita magiging tropa.

And I went back to where it all started. Yung unang meet-up natin. Yung mga hinayupak na Red Horse. Yung iniwan mo ako bigla para mag banyo at napilitan akong kantahin yung "Wherever You Will Go" kahit tumba na ako sa kalasingan. Alam mong hanggang ngayon, yun pa rin ang alam kong kantahin sa tuwing nagvi-videoke tayo. Yung pinakilala mo ako sa mga tropa mong lesbyana - at sa una at huling pagkakataon, nakapasok ako sa mga lumang dormitory malapit sa Letran. At higit sa lahat, may isang distinction ka na kaunting-kaunti lang ang nakalampas. I won't go into details, but so you would know, bilang lang sa daliri ang binalikan ko't ginawang kaibigan.

I won't reply to your text. But to answer your question, Mia Patro means My Father in Esperanto. Duguin na ang ilong mo, pero tiyak ko, sanay ka na sa mga ka-weirdohan ko. At para malaman mo na hinding-hindi ako nakakalimot - sa lungkot, saya, sa mga kuwentong nakakarating sa akin, sa mga harutan natin kapag nagkakatabi tayo sa upuan tuwing may inuman sa Timog, sa mga bagay-bagay na pinalampas ko dahil kaibigan kita,

Papa Tagay.






Some friendships outlive the place, where bonds were planted and first grew roots.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Guardians







I was in the living room when I saw a plush bear in one of the shelves. The bear was familiar, even if its tiny head hides away from plain sight. The soft toy was small, enough to snugly fit inside my hand. It was left there for some reasons, dusting, neglected, almost done for after faithfully guarding the crib of its once infant owner. 

At first, I didn't pay the toy much attention as I was trying to renew those hindered family ties because of the project. But when I realized that it was Baby Lenin's. And that it was bound to "go missing" should it remain there, I instinctively shoved the bear until it fell into my bag. Might as well adopt the little fella until someone finds it, takes it back, and perhaps put it in its rightful place.

Inside the children's cabinet.

-

I lost my house keys last week. 

My guess is that I dropped it while commuting to work. Another hunch is that it got lost at the gym's locker room while changing into my workout gear. Whatever my suspicions, the keys won't be coming back. 

A duplicate is needed.

So when my mom handed over the new key, the first thing I did was to look for a key chain to complement it. I could have picked the souvenirs - one of those 'chains bought as pasalubong from another country. But my eyes were fixed on that plush monkey dangling from its hook. Without thinking twice, I took the key chain, slid my replacement key into the circular lock, and dropped the anointed monkey where it now belongs: 

Inside my bag.

-

When I ask myself the reason for including those plush toys among my personal effects, I honestly find myself lost for words. It must have been for comic relief - something to remind me to smile on the road. It must have been for its cuteness - something which leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling on damp nights like while writing these last few paragraphs inside a moving jeep.

Whatever the reason, it must have been something profound. Sublime. All I know is that after putting the monkey and the bear at the helm of my bag, it feels like carrying a part of my childhood wherever my feet go.


*for some reasons, I forgot to give names to the new lords of my bag. weird.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mia Patro





Mugen Sr. In his early thirties



I used to tell my buddies, "ang hirap magpalaki ng tatay..." when you're the one giving me my school allowance. And I really thought I'd be a better manager after you let me run the company for two weeks because you've embarked on a glitzy Eurotrip one summer. I still recall the time you stood between me and the cold bars of a prison cell, because the ex-boyfriend took a leak in one of the side streets of Malate and he was caught by a roving police mobile. One call, and you've saved our assess from getting picked at the "presinto." somewhere in the district. And who would forget the cold treatment I gave you, the bold statement that we're better off with you living with someone else; That we can stand alone, even when the money that ran the house came from your near-empty pockets. Ang angas ko, sa totoo lang. But looking back, all the biting words I said; all the lofty thoughts I had would eventually humble me, after I've had a taste of life.

As your successor.

I cannot remember how long since you've been gone. But there are times before I go to bed, I'd still say the word "dad" and smile.



If you asked me, I just want him out of my life. I want him to leave us alone, since he chose to be with someone else. Tutal, we have learned to live on our own and we don't need him anymore. His mere presence just rattle the peace we have here. Tama na yung ganito. Masaya na ako dito.


Father and Son
Fullmetal Dreams
January 24, 2005



In the deepest reaches of my consciousness, I still miss you being around, looking out and telling me without words.

Everything will be all right.





Friday, June 15, 2012

Daybreaker




It was one of those nights, when one's body clock keeps a sleeper away from slumber. For me, it's those wretched midnight spells. Unable to repeat the REM after a three hour nap, I woke up, only to say goodnight to Baabaa and went on to finish the last leg of this season's raketship.

Writing the children's article took two hours to put to sleep. And when I'm done, I checked the time and it's already past 4 in the morning. "Time to start my day," I said while shutting down my laptop. No matter how dank and dark it was downstairs, I went to the kitchen to heat some water.

I have to be at the monasterio before sunrise.




It was raining when I left the house. Saw the next-door neighbor open her store for early risers inside the compound. The water puddles mirrored the lighted stairwell of a multi-floor apartment. My umbrella held its shade, despite the freezing rain pouring in. It didn't help that I wore a light shirt and a walking shorts going to my destination. The LRT Station, while still empty of human presence was already showing traces of activity. There was a lone teller who gave me the magnetic ticket and the security guards roaming the platform for any soul stupid enough to jump across

and fly. 

Inside the train, laborers and students were already filling the empty seats. Meanwhile I turned my gaze outside, to the distant lights of a waking cityscape.




"Indigo sky. Lovely. This is the reason I love daybreaks." I posted on my Twitter. I've always been a sunset person. The one you'd see staring blankly into space as the sun disappears on the horizon. But there are times I turn my back and crane my neck to the east. It's difficult for a nocturnal person to chase the sunrise, but seeing the world in slumber, about to open its eyes to a new day is a sight worth waiting.




The Santa Clara Church has always been a refuge in times of helplessness. The habit I got from my elders. I go to this place to seek divine intercession. Mom says I should write a letter to the nuns. But I digress. I tell myself,

God knows my reasons.

I used to go here late in the afternoons. To find bliss; to feel the earth moving as the sky swallows the sun. But these past two visits, I show up at sunrise, along with the geriatric flock who attends the morning mass. I skip the Eucharistic celebration because of personal beliefs. But one would find me at the spot where the candles give up their light.






A quiet reflection at the monastery and the hearty breakfast at Jollibee along Katipunan would turn out to be just a stop over. For what the early morning trip really gains to accomplish is to stay up late so I can wake up my partner for his job interview at 10.

What I didn't see in the pattern is that he can simply rouse himself from sleep and refresh his memory about the subject he will about to talk. And that's what he did when I got a text message while chomping my Champ. Unlike the last time we both woke up late for his job interview, this time, he thought of reading his notes before showing up to the human resource representative.

"Uwi ka na..." He said.

"Opo." I answered, before having a bite of the criss-cut fries. The limited offer I learned from an online acquaintance early that morning.

But the truth is, I'm not done yet. Not when I'm fully awake, and has no plans of turning around and sink beneath the growing mass of cars and trucks converging along Katipunan Avenue. Instead, the passage took me to the last remaining trees of Diliman, where daisies bloom on concrete islands and hovels - once homes to humble families - become ruins of a road-widening project.

The sun peeked through the clouds when I reached the great highway. Suburbanites from the north east line the intersection in hopes of finding a bus or an FX that will take them to their destination. The brutality of the chase; of grabbing an empty seat before a fellow passenger does might be too much for an unseasoned commuter. For someone who hardly goes to such ordeal, the dizzying road scene makes him appreciate living accessibly to his workplace.

Most people I've seen that morning have already reached their workplaces and schools when I reached my destination. A place full of life, but often overlooked because of shopping malls looming over the horizon. Though my head was filled with dreams of turning my home into an oases of greens. Learning from the past, the Eden project I had in mind must be approached with baby steps.

And I guess coming from this daybreak trip, I've figured where to start.  








Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What It Means To Be Free



Back in the old times, the Philippine Independence Day celebration used to be an event not to be missed. 

It was a tradition. 

Though I was not allowed to go to Luneta to see the parade with my own eyes, I was glued to the television to watch it aired live on PTV 4. The afternoon celebration begins with the sound of drums - as the flag is panned on the TV screen while everyone sings the National Anthem. The military band then marches in full view of the President, his distinguished guests, and high-ranking government officials. They are all perched on the Quirino Grandstand, listless and probably bored for it might have been a better idea to stay home and enjoy the holiday instead. 

The marching band is followed by columns of men and women serving the armed forces. Dressed in their well-pressed uniforms, the soldiers marched in perfect cadence with their bristling guns wedged between their arms and shoulders. They were fun to see. But not as eye-catching as the military hardware passing-in-review to boost the sagging pride of a broken nation. Though we have never boasted a mobile rocket launcher or a battle tank with Caterpillar wheels, the Simba armored carrier and the army trucks towing a 105mm Howitzer are enough. Their mere presence could already stir a nationalistic fervor among the curious audience.    

Those were different times and families really did flock the Luneta to see the parade. And while the uninspired floats from the government agencies were forgivable, the sense of pride is there, among the throngs of people waving the flag, the OPM songs blaring on man-sized speakers and the folk dances of participants mounted on moving trucks.

They say that in more oppressive regimes, failure to attend such patriotic gatherings is considered a capital offense. And so the masses came with their empty stomach to cheer a leader held in power by a military clique. A keen observer would see in their faces the empty smiles, the hollow glee; the tattered soul clothed in fine and colorful dresses. They have no choice but to show up, or their future and their children's future might be at stake.

I was about to write about my gripes with what seem to be a lackluster remembrance of our own freedom this year. Gone are the military parades, the dignitaries sitting at the grandstand, the flag waving masses that are all part of the Independence Day scene. Instead, what we have is a trending topic on Twitter, a picture of the Philippine Flag on someone's Facebook and greeting of "Happy Independence Day," to close friends and loved ones.

One can't help but scratch the surface and see nothing beneath.

But as I ponder inward, never have we been freer to express our thoughts or gripes with our institutions than it is today. A collective voice (echoed by the polling stations and news outlets) can quickly overturn a political decision in favor of the many. We could rally behind a kababayan competing in American Idol, in Las Vegas, or elsewhere around the world while waving our flag. We could name a body of water (because we can't claim its islands as our own) and get away with it.

We could even apply to become a citizen of another country, without giving up our own. 

These are some of the perks we enjoy as free men - even as others continue to doubt if we have ever been free at all. What I do know is that we have a country, run by people of the same color, tongue, culture and laws we ourselves wrote. And while we remember - in our own little, heartfelt ways - how our heroes fought for this land, I would just look back and think of the old times when soldiers paraded in Luneta.

And smile




Perhaps in some distant future, we would celebrate our Independence Day in a manner befitting our proud and noble nation.



Lupang Hinirang


Credits:


Arnold Arre
Radioactive Sago Project
Rock Ed Philippines | Gang Badoy


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Razon's Of Guagua



When I catch a glimpse of Razon's bright red logo, two things come to mind: Halo-halo and Kapampangan cuisine. Halo-halo, which has no direct English translation isn't really the kind of food I would eat as snack - given my undeveloped taste for local desserts. And as for Kapampangan dishes, I prefer meals served in its home province. 

After all, seldom do my gut find itself in the Cabalen heartland. Eating becomes part of the pilgrimage.

So imagine my excitement when a friend invited me to a food tasting event. He was asked to write about Razon's of Guagua for a local website, and he needed friends to tag along. Given that it was my rest day and I had nothing else to do, I said yes to the free dinner and readied my tummy for a feast.


Razon's Greenhills



Off I went to Razon's Greenhills to meet my associate. Together with our three other friends, we were welcomed by Ramon Baltazar Jr. He is the Vice President of Razon's Food Corporation and a direct descendant of the one who started the business. 

RB, as he preferred to be called, shared stories about Razon's past. As he recalled, Razon's used to be a family-run business with a quaint restaurant in Guagua. Forced out of Pampanga to seek new taste buds elsewhere, the elder Razons stumbled into Robinson's Galleria and opened their first kiosk at the mall's food court.

The business had already earned the goodwill of the Kapampangans, who found themselves wandering inside the mall. But what made them a household name was the free publicity they received after Chico and Delamar said they are the best Halo-Halo place in town.   


The Signature Halo-Halo



Overnight, curious RX listeners stormed their little kiosk to taste their mythical Halo Halo, and from just one little corner in Ortigas, Razon's grew to 31 branches in less than a decade.

RB continued to talk about the restaurant's proud heritage, explaining that what they offer are dishes they themselves prepare at home. 

"More than our Halo Halo," RB said as my droopy eyes scanned my surroundings "What we offer best are comfort food." 

"Comfort." I smiled. 

From the soft orange ceiling lights, to the plush vermilion seat covers and plates, the chill atmosphere inside the restaurant sets the mood for contemplation. I could almost see myself sitting alone at a table, facing the glass mirror overlooking Club Filipino Avenue with my plastic tumbler of Halo Halo.

While mixing the ingredients with a spoon, I would notice the thin slices of leche flan disappear under the very fine ice shavings. The layers of macapuno and sun-ripened banana - delicately prepared by Razon's trusted chefs - move from the bottom to the top of the tumbler, as the concoction becomes one, with each part complementing the taste of the other.

Sweet.



The Bestsellers: L-R Kapampangan Sisig, Beef Bulalo, Crispy Liempo

Meanwhile, the attentive waiter serves a plate of garlic rice and bulalo. Simmered in rich gravy instead of swimming in bland soup, the tenderized beef melts in your mouth leaving you spellbound with each bite.

The daydream-before-the-meal, as one would describe the brief moment of bliss, fractured into reality once our orders came. RB was gracious enough to let us pick the dishes we wish to try. He even cautioned us not to hesitate.

"Kain lang ng kain," he would remind us from time to time. "Huwag kayong mahiya."

And eat we all did. From the crunchy Sisig marinated and fried the Kapampangan way, to the tomato-based Chicken Pork Asado, it felt less like a food trip and more of visiting one's home, whose host proudly serve his family's culinary delights.

I had two cups of Garlic Rice. And on my plate were small servings of each dish Razon's of Guagua offers to their customers. RB insisted that we should have another round of crunchy-but-not-too-salty sisig because he felt that our minds were wanting. But in truth, our guts were already begging off.

Busog na busog na kami.

For my first taste of Razon's, the experience was beyond purging one's hunger. Not only did I get acquainted with my Kapampangan roots - through RB, the comfort food - no matter how cardiac-arrest inducing it is - is out of the ordinary. I say it's the closest thing I've ever got to an authentic Cabalen feast.

If only they'd add more vegetables on their menu.

I left the Greenhills branch and vowed to walk all the way to Shaw Boulevard just to burn those calories. It was just one meal, but it felt like eating the whole day. And just to make sure I could share the food experience with my family, I bought a sticky, bite-sized puto from another branch to bring home to my nephew.


Razon's Of Guagua Website
WhenInManila

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mister Green




"What's your favorite color, Mugs?"

"Blue." I would answer quickly. "Preferably, Cerulean or Azure, if I may add."

"Are you sure it's your favorite color?"

"Yes..."

"I've heard that you were once fond of green."






Not so long ago, I did. 

I was drawn to the darker shade of green for reasons I no longer remember. It must have been the shade's calming effect. Or maybe, it nods to the old days when I used to turn our ancestral home into a literal urban jungle. 

Whatever the reasons, I found it super cool to walk around the campus with my green file case. Inside, there's a green notebook, a green pen with a green ink, and sometimes a pack of Marlboro Menthol whose cigarettes I shove between my lips. 

Not so many people noticed my monochrome taste as almost everyone in college had their idiosyncrasies. Not even the infamous Nokia 3310, with its army-green casing registered in people's memory. One time, I pulled it out of my pocket as I felt it vibrate, when it slipped from my hand and flew under the merciless wheels of a passing Honda Civic.

One phone call to my dad (to make sumbong, what else?) and its LCD was quickly replaced that same afternoon.

My penchant for everything green lasted for a couple of years. I noticed that it gradually waned when I ceased using my file case in favor of a back pack. At a hindsight, the switch to blue also happened during a personal upheaval. The day I started exploring what lies beyond the conventional sexuality, I also began putting some distance between me and the straight world I left behind.

And like most snippets of growing up, I would have forgotten that I once loved the color if not for the file case that sums all my affection for the shade. Coated in dust under my bed, I took it out, wiped it clean and opened it to let its stickers - its remnants tell their stories.

"So you were leaning towards Akbayan Partylist pala ha!?"

"Probably because of Edsa Dos and the first impeachment trial."

"And why do you have a Sogo sticker?"

"Made fun of it. Who would have thought I'd see the place a few years after I put it on."

"And what's this gig in Rockwell?"

"I don't know, maybe an invitation. I used to be a poseur before I discovered Malate."

"Have you switched to Addict Mobile ever?"

"I can't remember. I'm a Globe boy ever since."

The reminiscing didn't take long as I still have to clean the rest of my room. In putting back the file case's contents - mementos that I chose to keep, despite their apparent insignificance - I returned the treasure trove back under the bed, promising myself to keep it well hidden. For it might have well seen, some of the best days of my life.



Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Beginning Is The End | Evening Graces



6:00 PM, June 4, 2012


"What subject do you intend to teach?" The dean asked, while accepting my photocopied transcript of records. 

"Journalism po..."

She then went on to inquire about the major I took up in college. Said I was a Journalism graduate from the Pontifical University. My mother, who was beside me added that I'm taking up my Master's Degree in Diliman.

"Matatapos na ang thesis niya," she said proudly. I could almost hear her speak, "mas okay pa nga yan sa ibang instructors dito eh." But maybe, it was my head making such claims. All I'm saying is that it was one of those rare moments I've seen my mom turn into a true-blue stage mother.

"So you're a Creative Writer as well?" She clarified. Again, I overheard my mom saying "Non-Fiction" to buttress my answer.

"We'll here is the situation." I listened to the dean intently as I felt that my deliberation is about to end.

"I spoke to some of the full-time instructors this afternoon, and I'm sorry to say this" She paused.

"We're still having difficulties finding classes for them."



We arrived at the main campus an hour before the supposed interview with the University president. With the matriarch was a small bilao of Pansit Bihon for the secretaries. Another one will serve as tribute to the president. The newly-elected head of the state college is a family friend, and with such strong backer, getting a class would be a breeze. But because he was swamped with meetings - with deans and regents - we had to wait until each one of them had an audience.

When it was our turn to go inside, the President appeared with several department heads in tow. They'll be heading to a meeting, he said while apologizing to my mom. He then turned to me and asked about my intention to teach. After the short talk, he told my mom that my application has already been sent to the dean - the same department head who brushed aside my documents three months before our follow-up.



"I hope you understand that I cannot accommodate your papers at this time." I nodded at her without saying a word.

"But if you want, I can help you get in the publishing house. We need writers there." It turns out, the dean is also the head of that department.

"I'm sorry, but I have a full-time job po."

"Perhaps, I could try applying again next semester."



The idea was to teach one class - around forty students in hopes that my new calling would force me to return to graduate school. The money I'd get from teaching would also fund my return to the university.

And between the suppressed daydreams and self-interpreted omens, all I was asking was an opportunity; a chance to restore my faith, an excuse to retire from the outsourcing industry, a real professional designation I can put under my name. The last time I checked my payslip, it said I'm a "rank-and-file" employee. The ID I've been using says I'm a call center agent.

How can I then tell, what my official job position is?

But I understand, too, that I'm just an outsider trying to get in with the help of a strong backer. Had I been in the dean's shoes, I would do the same. Instead of letting the outsiders get, what is supposedly a privilege for the homegrown talents, I would pay attention to the latter since they are, the heart and soul of my organization.

I left the office of the dean, resigned to the idea of never getting any call. No matter what assurances I get.

But in refusing total defeat, I read one of the messages in my phone's inbox folder. To remind myself of the other things I could at least, brag should I start counting my accomplishments.

"Sir, we're done with all the items... what's my next task?"

In just under four weeks, with no experience of handling a project. After days of sleepless nights, of pressing the imaginary panic button every time there's a feeling of slowdown,

the project was delivered to the client.




Monday, June 4, 2012

The Beginning Is The End | Morning Praises




4:00 AM

The last thing I remember is having a nasty argument with my mother, a verbal tussle that has not happened yet in real life, over her insistence to cross a craggy ledge. The drop below is simply too difficult to fathom. And just when we both agreed to let her sit on a man-sized skateboard, which I would gently push across the narrow passage, I was kicked out of dreamland, never to find sleep again just two hours after saying goodnight to my partner.

And so begins my two-day calvary. The day when my body clock gets distorted leaving me languishing in forced wakefulness and languid at work. For the past several days, I sleep just when the sun appears on the horizon. Today, I will have to bear an entire day (and half a night) before I could adjust my body clock again to its normal and original spin.

6:00 AM

"Miss Guidotti, we need to talk."

Stunned, the agent followed me inside the conference room.

"How do I say this," I began in a sombre tone.

"Today is our last day and we have 74 more items to upload."

"74 na lang!?!" I smiled. The agent's face, on the other hand spoke of disbelief.

"I just want you to know that without your dedication, your long hours of extended work, the completion of this project might have been delayed for a week."

"And I want you to know how grateful I am to work with you."



Lao Tzu once said "that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." And here we are, wrapping up that project that we hope could turn the tide and change the fate of the company. As I said before, I honestly think that I'm not fit to lead. I get distracted, I easily panic and I hardly command the respect once given to those lieutenants before me.

But gone are the days when we could boast a hundred seats occupying the floor, and I am just a remnant of a once-sprawling organization that provided jobs to hundreds of people. Reluctantly, I took the challenge believing it was my atonement. We toiled day and night just to keep up with the deadline. The director didn't know what happens as he finds new ways to make business, while we, who stayed behind made sure everything runs according to his wishes.

"Sana hindi ka masyadong na-stress sa akin." I told the agent.

"Hindi naman sir, gusto ko nga yung pressure eh." He chuckled.

I once read that true leaders lead by example and they've seen it from me, staying long hours in the office, sometimes even working at home just to let them know that I'm on top of the situation. For some, it was madness, considering that most managers simply give instructions or push their minions forward using more draconian means.

But I've learned that there's a better way of doing things. Something that puts fire in people's bellies more than fear, graceless words or pressure can ever do.

"When you return to your workstation, let your accomplishment be your inspiration ha?" I said.

"And let's hope the client chooses us to manage the next phase of this project."

Monday begins with kind words said to people so it may empower their spirit. I just hope I can deliver the same rousing call, once my other agent arrives later this morning.



 -tobecontinued-