Thursday, February 26, 2009

raphael was my favorite

ninja turtle.

i don't know much about the artist except that he died of complications brought about by excessive sex with his mistress.

(google it if you don't believe me.)

now that i think of it, the moody, hot-tempered, wise-ass loner (the turtle, the turtle) was kinda like my younger self. oh, i didn't change much. i still burst into fits of (blab) sometimes. hahaha.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


sometimes i regret not bringing a camera (breaking the lomo rule 'take your lomo everywhere you go'), even a digital one, because there are days when i see the most interesting things, or things i don't usually see everyday. there are times i wish my eyes could function like a polaroid camera, capturing the image, and seconds later i would stretch out my hand with a printed photograph and i would give it to you, and show how beautiful the world is.

what i saw this morning, on my way to work:

the fairview wet market being dismantled. the gi sheets being peeled off, exposing the beams underneath. the color of rust. i did a mini-ethnography among the flower ladies there. i learned about mums, buttons, stargazers, and the kindness of five-six moneylenders. a new puregold branch would stand in its place.

a construction crane, close-up. something new is being constructed on the corner of edsa and quezon avenue. i like cranes. they make you look up high, and are very fun to watch.

a dilapidated jeepney interior. the one i was riding in had holes on the floor, and i imagined a great big stomp on it would send us all crashing down on the highway pavement. the ceiling's panel was gaping, giving a big open-mouthed smile to the vehicles behind us.

leaves falling with the wind. maybe this is what autumn feels like, only warmer, much warmer. (i told my family i'd like a golden shower tree and a fire tree in the garden, but my mom said it's a pain to keep the terrace tidy with all the falling leaves and flowers. i think it's a small price to pay for something so pretty.) anyway the tree i saw this morning was the one near the ust p. noval gate, and when i passed through i got caught in the falling leaves, and it felt like a nice dream.

a football game. i looked at the scoreboard and saw it was the whitecoats playing, the therapists and aspiring doctors. they were in uniforms of blue, yellow, and green. i'd like to play football someday; something about running on the grass.

security guards wearing really cool, really colorful summer shades. manong japorms with a ready "good morning!" in the bright sun could make anybody, even this rain lover, smile.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

why walk ...

...when you can dance?

i live in a subdivision on one of the many hills of quezon city, where the view is still pretty fair. going out of it, the road slopes downwards, making hurrying to work a breeze. going home, though, it's another story. though our street is only three 'blocks' away from the guard house, it's a pain to trudge up sometimes, especially if i'm tired from the day. i don't take the tricycle nor the service because it would just be a waste of money (and calorie-burning opportunity!). so, i find ways to enjoy the short walk:

  1. i sing (making sure no one else is around or behind me);
  2. i recite poetry (the ones i know by heart, but usually it's that poem by dimalanta); and
  3. i dance.
okay, not really dance, but i keep a beat. enter my trusty tiny mp3 player and the following sixties, motown, alternative, neo-classical, and indie hits, and i'm good to go:

top choice: september - earth wind and fire
trust me, following the beat of this song makes the walk a lot shorter, and adds oomph to the 'walk'--i sashay up the street, like a disco girl slash cat on a runway. plus, i grew up with that song. hahaha.

other picks:
  • the way you make me feel - michael jackson. this one makes me wanna do some serious twirling while walking.
  • crazy little thing called love - queen. ever seen me boogie home?
  • we're from barcelona - i'm from barcelona. makes me feel like i have a slew of friends going arm-in-arm with me.
  • variations - julian lloyd webber. i do a wicked jazz routine in my head with that cello.
  • i'm a cuckoo - belle & sebastian. side-to-side, some quickstep, and i imagine having a partner, just because.
  • build me up buttercup - the foundations. okay do i really have to explain this?
  • el scorcho - weezer. okay, not really dancing with this one. more like stomp-yer-feet, raise-yer-hands and sing-shout with me because you agree!
so there. this is my playlist for now. i haven't updated my player; i remember martin gave me some jamiroquai tracks (ohno i think i misplaced the cd!) i plan to twirl to.

oh, i am so in the mood.


and the story continues to unfold.

i'll end this post (and this day) with another geek cartoon from xkcd:

yes, smileys a-plenty.

good night and the sweetest dreams, folks. see you in the morning.

today's bus ride

featured an unknown luggage.

every morning i almost always take the bus on my way to work. i go for a seat by the right-side window (when seated), because even if the sun is initially on that side, east is really on the other side. and i like sitting by the window. period. for this morning, all of the right-side window seats have already been occupied, except for the last row. so i went to the back. a big black and yellow sports bag sat at the floor of the last row behind the right-side window. i sat at the center seat. it had a nice view of the bus. hahaha. as more people started coming in, i edged myself closer to the window, avoiding the luggage. the bus started to fill up, standing-room only. someone noticed the bag and told me to give it to him so he could put it at the space behind us. i said it wasn't mine; must be the driver's. he took it anyway, and placed it behind the last-row seats. the freed-up foot space allowed a mid-aged lady to sit beside me. all good.

now, every time i ride the bus, when i pay for my fare,the conductor usually asks if i'm a student. i say i'm not--but only when he/she asks. i don't really know the standard/regular fare, as bus companies differ (which is weird, really) in charging passengers (my fare can go from twenty-five to thirty pesos). if i were a student, i'd be sure to say so, for the discount. anyway. as the conductor reached our part of the bus, she asked the other passengers near us for help in passing our fare. i handed over mine, "ust galing don jose", and the guy who took my money added "student" to the conductor, and i said "hindi na po." "ay, di raw estudyante." i was charged twenty-five pesos. then, the lady beside me gave hers. "malvar, estudyante." HUH? okay, i thought, maybe she is still a student, but, erm, she looked like she was well on her way through her third (if not fourth) five-year course. really. she looks like an old auntie, only she had a wedding ring (i checked). dang. mygulay.

oh, and the luggage belonged to a guy from the second to the last row to the left. how nice of him to inconvenience others, right? i wanted to say "ser, muntik na pagkamalan naming bomba ang laman niyan."

what's good about all this? i'm charmed they think i'm still a student.


in a few minutes i'll be taking a written exam for hr purposes. uh-huh.


i've been thinking about what to do for my birthday. i want to have friends over the house again. game night maybe. hahaha.

Monday, February 23, 2009

may ganun!

palitan nga ng john lloyd ang vanilla ice na 'yan. hahaha. pero wag galawin 'yung nasa gitna.


sa ganun eh.

Friday, February 20, 2009

High, Hello

(Written for The Flame, the official journal of the humanities [UST Faculty of Arts and Letters], back in 2004, but this article never saw print. Photos taken with a Canon AE-1 camera, Kodak Max 400 film. Had the negatives scanned just this week at Digiprint, so decided to post some of the photos and the article here.)

Thick jackets at noon in the middle of September, and it wasn’t raining.

A group of students stood by Halsema Highway, the highest point in the Philippine road system. In a few minutes lunch would be served, and the first among many veggie meals would make its way down the students’ gurgling stomachs, which earlier had only feasted on Ding Dong, Jellyace, and Skyflakes.

It was the senior Sociology students’ last community immersion, after Puerto Galera, Isabela, Sablayan, Moncada, and Liliw. This time, we were in Atok, Benguet, two hours away from and several hundred feet above the Pine City. The Globe subscribers were groaning and going pa-text naman o to the Smart people. I was looking at the horizon over at Mt. Pulag, saying to myself that I’d climb that big chunk of earth one day.

The municipality of Atok was mainly a farming community. As indigenous people belonging to different tribes, they nonetheless share common beliefs and practices regarding planting, death, and religion.

Walang istroberi rito

Atok’s main source of income is in agriculture, specifically vegetable/crop-planting, which was introduced by Chinese settlers. The climate is too cold for strawberries, but perfect for cabbage, potatoes, and lettuce. A prevailing threat to Atok’s planting industry is the rampant smuggling of imported vegetables in Manila. These imported produce are cheaper and last longer in the market, so the local planters and traders do not sell as much. Some farmers, owing to the fall of the industry, decide to just leave the vegetable gardens be instead of h

arvesting, which would require them to pay the harvesters and for the other fees. Or worse, this sentiment when cabbage prices dropped to three pesos a kilo: “Bagsak ang gulay, magtanim na lang ng marijuana!” They were kidding, of cour

se. They planted flowers instead.

Weaving is another source of income. At PhP 1,750.00 per tapis dress, the weavers earn more than enough since the thread was bought cheap. The buyers are mostly people from Atok and foreigners who bring the weaving to Manila. The weavers of Atok also bring their products to Baguio City, where they are made into bags, purses, and pouches.

A tale of two tribes

The Ibalois of the north and the Kankanais of the south converged in Atok. These two tribes were actually from a single main tribe, the Ifugao. Although they are divided into 2 tribes, it is alright for a Kan

kanai to marry an Ibaloi, and vice-versa. In making decisions that will affect the whole community or when one has a personal crisis, the tribe elders are consulted first. The ritual of kanyaw, usually practiced by affluent families, is also known as “pudit” by the Kankanai and as “peshet” by the Ibaloi. It is practiced during weddings, burials, and other celebrations. Traditionally, cows and pigs are butchered, but chickens may also be sacrificed. It has a maximum celebration of fifteen days.

Nalamiis ditoy!

I was lucky to have a northerner classmate for a buddy. Primrose, half-Ilocano, half-Pangasinense, taught me how to say ang lamig dito in the local dialect, as well as some other useful phrases (Awan ti danum meant we needed to fetch water or else we wouldn’t be taking a bath. Not that we needed one, because we our sweat hardly ever broke then.) Primrose would later bargain at the nearby market for a sweatshirt I was in desperate need of, and translate into Ilocano a letter of thanks we’d

written for our foster parent Tatay Ben Taquio.

Kuya Marlou, Tatay Ben’s nephew and whose house we were staying in, informed us during dinner that the next day we’d be attending a burial with our other classmates. Two pairs of Thomasian brows shot up. Saan po? “Doon sa bundok.” I looked around. Uh, which mountain?

Sure enough, in the morning we went on a trip—a short ride up one of the many mountains and a long walk on the path leading to the burial place. We formed small clouds with our breaths as we

trudged, admiring the green beauty of the landscape. When we arrived at the house of the deceased, we paid our respects and asked a lot of how’s, what’s and why’s. Summoning my courage and swallowing my bile, I asked if I could take a picture of the deceased, close-up. “Sige lang,” answered the daughter.

The need for a fine-detailed print at low light demanded for a small aperture setting at slow shutter speed. I never thought I’d have the willpower to keep the camera steady for a second, my eye fixed on the subject which was silently staring out its coffin. “Smile, Itay!” said his daughter.

Toes pointing upward

A dead person’s body is not embalmed—it was believed that, if embalmed, the deceased will not be welcomed or accepted by his/her ancestors (ninuno) in the afterlife. Wrapped in a white blanket, the body is placed in a pine coffin. It must not wear clothing with buttons or zippers. If there is no other choice, the buttons and zippers will have to be taken out of the garments first. There are two cloths that are placed over the body as blankets in burial, a white and a red (or blue) cloth. Red is a symbol of prestige. Traditionally, the cloths are wrapped around the body.

In the burial we attended, the eyelids of the deceased were open—this was believed to be a sign that when the deceased was alive, he was waiting for something to happen or someone to come but didn’t, until the person’s death.

On the burial day, the family of the deceased kills pigs and cooks the meat to be served to the guests. It is customary that the pig’s organs such as the liver, heart, and some other parts of the sacrificed pig, duck, or chicken are placed with the corpse—these are believed to be the dead’s sustenance in the afterlife. These organs are important especially for the elders, and are also believed to be replacements of the dead person’s organs in the afterlife.

The meat (“atang”) of the sacrificed animal, cooked some distance away from the corpse because it is believed the spirit of the dead might get in to the meat, is to be eaten by the guests. It is served with rice, with only salt to taste. No food must be left on the plates. If, however, the guests are too full, they may take the food home.

In earlier times, the dead was placed in a sitting position. This indicated that the dead had prestige and a high status in the community. If the seat was elevated, the dead was of the nobility. The mambubunong’s presence was a must—he serves as the minister on the rites of dead. The mambubunong was a pagan priest, an elder in the community. As a mambubunong, one had to undergo challenges such as killing 24 pigs, and making and drinking rice wine (tapuy), among others. Not everyone could be a mambubunong—it was passed on from one generation of mambubunong to another.

Since they have no cemetery, the dead are buried in niches in their own lands, or their relatives’ if they do not have lands of their own. It is normal to see niches dotted around a vegetable field. In the Ibaloi tribe, the males are buried facing east; the females, west. On the other hand the Kankanais bury the males facing west; the females, east. East and west were where the sun rises and sets; they will all meet at 12 noon.

It is also believed that a person’s burial rites depended on that person’s family status. If he/she is considered elite, the atang should be a cow. After 9 days, a prayer (“padasal”) is offered. After 15 days, a pig or a cow is to be butchered. Ibalois prefer odd numbers in choosing a burial date (for example, the deceased was buried 3, 5, 7, or 9 days after death). For the Kankanai tribe, it is the opposite (even numbers).

The extra challenge

After the burial, our leftover atang in small plastic bags, we headed for the grotto. A natural rock formation, it served as a site for masses, and a gathering area. There, a test was being brewed by our foster parents. We sat cross-legged on the cold cement, and our uneasiness grew with every knowing smile they gave our way. Finally, they turned toward us. “Dahil sinabi ninyong gusto niyong malaman ang tungkol sa buhay dito sa Atok, kailangan ay talagang maranasan ninyo ang mga gawain dito.” Uh-oh. I think I know what’s coming.

“Mamayang gabi ay matulog kayo nang maaga dahil maaga rin kayong gigising. Magbaon kayo ng pananghalian. Magsuot kayo ng sumbrero dahil mainit at magdala kayo ng botas dahil maputik. Ito ang challenge namin sa inyong mga estudyante—magtatanim kayo.” Gulp. I haven’t planted anything since fourth grade. My tomato plot then looked devastated by a typhoon, and when the school year was over it had overgrown. With weeds.

Magtanim ay di biro

Armed with rubber boots and wide-brimmed hats, packed lunch getting frozen by the minute, the socio students headed off to a wide parcel of uncultivated land. Kuya Anthony, one of Tatay Ben’s sons, showed us how to prepare plots. When the plots were ready, small holes must be made where the seedlings (“semilya”, do I have to tell you the etymology?) were placed. The real perk was getting handfuls of fertilizer and placing them by the newly-planted semilya.

At first, we looked like drunken golfers hacking away at the green. We got the hang of it soon enough, and by noon stood side by side twenty-two plots each measuring 2 by 30 feet. Daming pechay nu’n. We learned that we were planting the vegetable’s scorpion variety, ready to be harvested by December. Arms and backs started aching but no one wavered—we were up to the challenge. We joked and sang loudly until small bits of soil got stuck between our teeth. Lunch was hearty; we were proud of our work. Of course, we made sure to wash our hands first or else we’d also be eating dung.

I want my mummy!

We couldn’t go back to Manila without paying homage to Benguet’s great ninunos. The Timbak Cave Mummies had earlier been featured in National Geographic and ABS-CBN’s The Correspondents, by Abner Mercado (and which would later be part of the Kathmandu Documentary Film Festival). Mt. Timbak was second to Mt. Pulag as the highest northern peak.

After logging in (tourists came from as far as Switzerland, I think), we went down a long flight of stone stairs. The only difficulty in this was that we’d have to climb the same flight going back. It was a good thing that we had a fine workout during an earlier immersion. A trail led to the caves. According to our guide, the mummies were mostly of the Ibaloi. There were around fifty caves of different sizes around the mountain, and several more yet to be discovered. A team of German anthropologists had studied the mummies, dating them to be at least 700 years old. The mummification process involved making the person who was near-death drink a salt solution. After death, the body was “smoked” to remove all moisture without damaging the organs. And voila, you have a mummy.

Upon arrival at the caves, we made a small offering—a short prayer where our foster parents “introduced” us to the mummies, telling them that we meant no harm. We also brought along some cigarettes and good old San Miguel. As I bowed my head I thanked the spirits and wished them a peaceful afterlife.

In the cave that we went to, there were twelve mummies and ten coffins. Bad, bad men stole a number of mummies in the past decades and sold them in the black market. I was able to enter the cave and I literally felt swallowed by the structure and transported back hundreds of years. There, carved into the mountain, was a resting place of the ancients. I walked along the trail they used all those centuries ago, and smelled the same sweet pine. Wow.

Last night on top of the world, or, my first taste of pinikpikan

Our last night in Atok was a big festivity. The students and the community prepared food and a short program. The elders danced the tayaw, their native dance that was usually conducted in some rituals, especially during kanyaw. The instruments solibao, gangsa, and tiktik or taliktik were used. Then it was our turn to dance. We danced not only our version of the tayaw but also all-time favorites Spageti and Otso-otso. We were rewarded with loud applause. We presented a skit about our experiences in Atok, and realizations during our stay. We called our foster parents and presented them with small tokens of our appreciation. We were grateful to have such caring Tatays and Nanays and we were all sorry to go so soon. But we could always come back, they told us. You still have to harvest your vegetables. Oo nga pala, ‘no?

Then came the best part—the preparation of the pinikpikan. First, the live chicken was beaten to death with firm, steady strokes using a stick (I congratulate my classmates Jigoy, Nina, and Rolan for this great achievement). The neck and wings were battered, then the death blow to the head. The limp bird was taken to the fire to remove the feathers. Then it was chopped and cooked. Yum.

There and back again

For the students, to be considered an “Atokian”, aside from walking around in slippers, you must be able to take a bath without heating the water. Since Prim and I took our baths in the evenings when the temperature dropped several degrees, we were considered aliens.

The time for goodbyes was particularly difficult because we had grown to love the people and the place. We looked forward to going back sometime. Prim and I carried a small box o’ taters each, carefully packed by Kuya Marlou. I looked at the mountains one last time and took a long breath, filling my lungs with the cool, clean air, wishing I could take some of it back home.

Charly, a very good friend of mine, who was our 'bridge' to the area.

taking a break from hacking away

ha ha hacking

another charly. he's into futkal now. salamat tsong!

different rice varieties at the market :)

look at that lovely green! :)

buddies: lauren, rej, sheryl, prim

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

energizer bunny hits the quarter life

what keeps me going (and going, and going, and going...) is the constant cheering from friends, no matter how toxic we all are. it's all about work, graduate studies, health, lifestyle-related decisions, and other grownup stuff we never thought existed. hahaha. cheers to us. we are all rockstars.

mygulay. thoughts of getting old. when i was in high school i thought i'd be married by now, have a kid in a couple of years. my mom had two kids already (me! me!) when she was my age. yes, of course, yes, times have changed, hindi na P8.00 ang pamasahe sa dyip mula bahay hanggang uste. transportation, food, services, education, mr. chips, overall cost of living...the price is right, we're going down. [i know i shouldn't find happiness in others' misfortunes, but somehow, with all the lay-offs and depression-era panic, i am glad i have a job, and, in a way, no family of my own (yet) to take care of.] and i am turning twenty-five in two weeks. woohoo.

tomorrow will be the big office activity day. that means that today, i almost bit off somebody's head. 'almost' because i remembered i didn't want to spend my birthday in jail for first-degree murder. i have learned to accept that there are people who exist only to prove that common sense isn't so common (yes, i am a meanie today). since i wanted to spare myself the hypertension, i counted to ten lots of times instead.

in this story yellow calls out to rrred, who saves her every time.

and here, more images that make me smile so much my cheeks hurt. honk honk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

summer in saigon

in the past weeks it has grown warm again, and people around me are already excited about the beach. i'd like to go on a romp by the sand too, play a little volleyball. shoot some sea.

what would make this summer different from the others (in my case), is a trip abroad, my first time away from the country. it seems the vietnam plan is pushing through, thanks to a recently-won award by the office, allowing us to go on a trip for 'staff development' for a change. our office will be 'going with' another group, particularly my mom's (hehehe), for the tour. the more the cheapy-er. yey. hahaha.

there's really something else i want to say, except that i think i'm still too overwhelmed (and too ecstatic) as of the moment. sleeping with a smile on my face is getting to be an effortless habit.

Friday, February 13, 2009

rrrobin's day out

the handsomest little girl ever:

and batch three (fourrr?) of batman & rrrobin's album art.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

lesser islands

i just like the phrase. who knows, i might come up with a story with it as a title, or whatever. "whatever"? where have my words gone? (dramatic, o captain my captain.)

lesser islands. it came to my mind as i was nearing my stop on my way home. lesser islands. i thought of islands road-wise, and i thought, how about those surrounded by water? then i'm thinking now, yeah, the lesser islands that get submerged during high tide. lesser islands. of course i could be geologically wrong. 'lesser islands' sounds like desert island.

a few years ago when i still dabbled in writing fiction (as a primary hobby, yeahyeah), there was this phrase that i couldn't get out of my mind: "lately, the ponderosa." it was supposed to be a title of a story. it's difficult to think of a story when the title comes first. so, up to now, it's just a phrase.

many of my friends know the reason (i actually have a lot of reasons, but these don't matter now) why i stopped writing. it's a shallow one. it's so shallow i actually promised --no, swore--i'll join the palanca this year.

walking away from the office today i thought of what i'd told martin this afternoon during a chat. i told him i was practicing my watercolor. i said i can doodle okay, but i was never good at coloring. then i saw the trees growing along lacson, and i thought hey i should learn how to draw trees really well. i like trees. i see trees everyday. there's a lot of trees in the mountains. then i thought i could write by hand a little something, a literary sketch, a short story or whatever (whatever) that starts with "there was a man sleeping in the back of the truck" and i'd draw a nice pine tree along the border of the paper. then i thought, "f*ck, damn cheesy pine tree in an edgy urban story, what the hell are you thinking?"

then i thought, as i crossed the boulevard, i don't know what comes after prepositions anymore. propositions? oh, stick to the subject.

when i got home, i sent something via twitter. it cost fifteen pesos. that's what you pay for being mobile. except that i was on my bed. then, in the bathroom, i felt like stringing a long phrase of expletives because i felt rotten.

on twitter i said
"it's happening again, the listless wandering about. the falling action. falling. in how many ways can it be done? staring off to space.
" there was supposed to be a "mind blank" after that, but i guess i exceeded the max number of characters. which is a good thing, really. emo much? gar.

some months ago i feared being/letting myself be 'happy' (so all stories had been filtered/ simplified to an "okay"), because if things didn't turn out the way i'd hoped, or if i read wrong, it would have been more difficult to bounce back. so i decided to let things be, and to just be caught in the rain when--if--it happens. the three confidantes--susa, martin, and jonar--know this only too well, the forced self-pulling down after i had just beamed up to raincloud nine.

so, is this falling action the result of a recent trip to outer space, and gravity's come to claim me again? or maybe it's just me being overly dramatic (oh, sure, emo) because i can't effing write or draw trees? or maybe--maybe it's high tide and just time for the lesser islands to sink and hide a bit.


see you in the morning.

wednesdays are thursdays too

a month before my 25th birthday.