Monday, May 31, 2010

no raised eyebrows, no knowing smiles

Monday, May 31, 2010

Eyes gleaming with thinly-veiled judgment and self-satisfied incredulity, people stare at them. A dirty old man and a tramp. He must be rich; she must be after his money. In people’s furtive nudges and whispered conclusions the scorn is unmistakable. He looks old enough to be her father; she could have chosen a younger guy.

It is only when they travel abroad that they escape scrutiny. In other countries there are no raised eyebrows, no knowing smiles, no malicious looks. Obscured by their foreignness, they are lost in the multitude: dull and inconspicuous as any other couple. In foreign land they are accepted as an ordinary pair of travelers having the time of their lives.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

there's an awful lot of life to cherish

Saturday, May 29, 2010


"You clean up your father's shit because it has to be cleaned up, but in the aftermath of cleaning it up, everything that's there to feel is felt as it never was before.  It wasn't the first time that I'd understood this either: once you sidestep disgust and ignore nausea and plunge past those phobias that are fortified like taboos, there's an awful lot of life to cherish."


~ Philip Roth, Patrimony: A True Story, 1991

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vietnam Chronicles Five: Gustatory Delights

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I was going through the photographs that we’ve taken in Saigon when I saw these pictures and felt a sudden craving for Vietnamese food.  With a bowl of instant pho ga, which is not as good and never could be as good as the real one, I allowed myself to indulge in happy reminiscence.

Feeling hot and tired from wandering around the area, we entered the nearest restaurant that we saw: Chi Nghia where we had our first meal in Saigon - some kind of meat and vegetable platter.


We spent a week in the city, but we never grew tired of eating pho. We ordered the same soup every time we ate at the hotel’s restaurant (L’Orient at Metropole Hotel).


At Allez Boo in the backpacker’s district of Phan Ngu Lao where tourists from all over the world abound, the waiter immediately knew that I came from the Philippines. Seated at a sidewalk table, we ordered Cha Gio (egg rolls) and had fun watching people.


We celebrated our last night in the city over bowls of scrumptious pho tom at the Ben Tanh market.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Repetition

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After 682 posts in more than three years of blogging, I’ve neither run out of things to write about nor used up all possible reasons to continue writing. I usually write about whatever it is that occupies my mind, how I feel at a given moment, things that I observe or feel strongly about, and matters that I find abstruse and convoluted that they would be clarified only if I could articulate them. Writing is a cognitive challenge that infuses me with a sense of fulfillment and from which I invariably emerge consoled and augmented.

Inspiration doesn’t come every day though, and I feel like I’m merely repeating myself - writing about the same topic through an unchanged perspective and devoid of any new insights. It doesn’t bother me though, for constant and repeated contemplation brings me to that shimmering moment of lucidity. A person fixated with order and ritual, I find solace in repetition. My passion for the written word springs from and gratifies my incurable habit of rumination.

At the end of the day, the topics that get repeated are the ones that truly matter.

To write is to make a clearing in the wilderness in which, almost literally, you can see the wood from the trees. In the thick of anything, you hardly know who you are or where you're going (which is the redeeming power of experience); at your desk, recollecting emotion in tranquility, helped by memory's editing devices and imagination's hunger for possibility, you take something that might only have been heartache and turn it into something more provocative, enriching, and even instructive.” (Pico Iyer, Writing Undoes Me, Shambala Sun, November 2005)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

so much waste

Saturday, May 22, 2010

“The rest of us, not chosen for enlightenment, left on the outside of Earth, at the mercy of a Gravity we have only begun to learn how to detect and measure, must go on blundering inside our front-brain faith in Kute Korrespondences, hoping that for each psi-synthetic taken from Earth's soul there is a molecule, secular, more or less ordinary and named, over here—kicking endlessly among the plastic trivia, finding in each Deeper Significance and trying to string them all together like terms of a power series hoping to zero in on the tremendous and secret Function whose name, like the permuted names of

God, cannot be spoken . . . plastic saxophone reed sounds of unnatural timbre, shampoo bottle ego-image, Cracker Jack prize one-shot amusement, home appliance casing fairing for winds of cognition, baby bottles tranquilization, meat packages disguise of slaughter, dry-cleaning bags infant strangulation, garden hoses feeding endlessly the desert . . . but to bring them together, in their slick persistence and our preterition . . . to make sense out of, to find the meanest sharp sliver of truth in so much replication, so much waste. . . .”

~ Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 1978

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good on Paper

Friday, May 21, 2010

The academic accolades, the illustrious career, the well-traveled, love-filled, picture-perfect life - it all looks good on paper, but even the most contented of us can still be overwhelmed by melancholy and regret for the life not lead. That’s what I sense from blog entries I read, daily Facebook status updates from casual acquaintances, and conversations with close friends. Sadness, which lurks at the edges of every person’s life, is common and ubiquitous. We all feign tranquility while we desperately scramble for a fix to deaden the pain; we all struggle for that single minute of stillness in this ceaseless tumult called life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Wait

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three hours early for the 7 am flight
Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

~ from Waiting by John Burroughs

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sauna

Monday, May 17, 2010

With temperatures reaching as high as 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), no air-conditioning and the fan busted for eternity, my apartment feels like a sauna. The stultifying heat is almost unbearable: sweat flows from my body soaking my clothes, and itchy red rashes appear on my skin; the cushion feels damp and uncomfortable underneath me; I have to gulp down liters of water by the hour and type with one hand while fanning myself with the other. Only the slight breeze coming in through the windows offers a modicum of reprieve.

Like any other unbearable thing, this oppressive heat invading my days is an occasion for exercising patience and endurance. Summer is almost over, and the heat will let up soon. For now, I think of my place as a free sauna that will make me lose weight AND sweat out all the toxins and impurities from my body.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

that day after day was unconsciously squandered

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"...oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose it.  And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she found it burdensome, had flicked off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered." (Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge, 2008)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

travel snobbery

Saturday, May 15, 2010


"Travel snobbery is rampant, insidious, and, frankly, annoying. Everyone fancies themselves a traveler, not a tourist. But that’s a lie. The fact is we’re all tourists. Yes, even you, travel snob. Now get over it. It’s not such a bad thing either."

Friday, May 14, 2010

That Yellow Airport Taxi

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yesterday, while walking home for lunch, I saw a yellow airport taxi enter the gate, pass me by and drive up towards the condo’s main entrance. I gazed at the vehicle, almost transfixed, wondering who the passenger could be. Mumbling an on-the-spot incantation, I willed it to be him. I closed my eyes and imagined him alighting from that cab, wearied from the long plane ride but with eyes twinkling with joyful exhilaration. It was such a beautiful sight; I can’t help but smile. Knowing that it couldn’t possibly be him, I mentally shook myself and walked on, but in my mind the image of his arrival remained. And it will remain until he finally arrives.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

enlivening the torpor of a sweltering afternoon

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What better way to enliven the great yawning torpor of a sweltering non-working Monday afternoon than to laze around in the yard with your siblings, pose for a snapshot and slowly relish each spoonful of that tall glass of refreshing halo-halo*?


*a dessert of shaved ice, milk and boiled beans and fruits topped with ice cream

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

now that the dust is settling down

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Now that the dust is settling down and winners are being proclaimed I am starting to miss the annoyingly repetitive airplay of campaign ads on TV. Those vacuous and illusory promises perfectly scripted to entice votes are easier to bear than the reality that now confronts the country. Without a script, can the new leaders articulate what plagues the land and what it takes to suppress it? Can our new president shine on his own without the reflected glow of his parents’ legacy? Will we be able to see changes take place in our country with all those familiar asses occupying the same seats?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Street Party

Friday, May 7, 2010

It was my first time to wander around the neighborhood at that time of the night when my sister, who’s been staying with me this school break, and I decided to check out the campaign rally of one of the presidential aspirants happening across the street. And I’m glad we did, because it felt like there’s a street party going on. The crowd, oblivious to rerouted vehicles furiously honking their horns in frustration and motorbikes slinking and snaking their way out of the area, paid scant attention to the series of ho-hum-we’ve-already-heard-that-before posturing of the candidates and went alive only when a celebrity goes up on stage. Food stalls were everywhere: popcorn, peanuts, yakult, pork barbecue, bottled water, fishballs, taho, sago’t gulaman, and ice cream made up the gustatory delights of the evening. Fireworks were lit up several times, adding sparkles to that festive night. Lulled by the false exuberance of that street party, I almost believed in the frothy assurances uttered by each candidate. Almost, but not quite.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Immutable

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Six days to go and it’s election time again. Elections are supposed to lend us a feeling of hope and renewal, but how come I only feel a sense of dread - of the Philippines plunging, yet again, from one kind of darkness into another? Frightened by what’s going to happen on Election Day not because of the violence that could erupt but because of what will be decided on that day, I’ve resigned myself to the curse of immutability placed upon the country. Regardless of what aspiring leaders promise, it feels like in this country “things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse - hunger, hardship, and disappointment being… the unalterable law of life.” (George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945)
 
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