Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a troglodyte getting out of her cave

For many years now I have refused to get a passport, thinking that I won’t have any use for it. But I cannot resist anymore. From time to time, troglodytes also need to get out of their caves and explore the rest of the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

terror of the unforeseen

Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as 'History,' harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.

- Philip Roth, The Plot Against America, 2004

Friday, July 25, 2008

In Defense of the Weak Passive

According to Rule 1-18 of my handbook, “Don’t be afraid to use the passive voice… When we use the passive we feel we’re breaking a rule. We are not. The passive voice is respectable, is capable of expressing thoughts and shades of meaning that the active voice cannot express, and is even sometimes more compact and direct than the active voice.” Huh? I did a double take. In writing, have we not been taught to prefer the “strong” active over the “weak” passive? In life, have we not been taught to always take an active part and assert ourselves? Yes.

But sometimes, it is OKAY to just let things be. We need not do anything.

Just as we feel that we are breaking a rule when we use the passive, we are afraid that by not doing anything, we will lose control over things; that inaction is a form of weakness. We forget that there are things that are beyond our control; that inaction can also be a sign of strength. We try too hard making things happen instead of just letting them happen.

By not doing anything, everything eventually falls into place.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Past, Present, and Future

In grammar school we were taught that there are three tenses in the English language – the past, the present and the future. Later on we find out that there are actually a lot more. We have not just I gave, I give and I will give but the present perfect I have given, the past perfect I had given, and the future perfect I will have given. And let’s not forget I was giving, I am giving, I will be giving, I have been giving, I had been giving, I shall (or will) have been giving, I do give, I did give, I was going to give, I would be giving, I would have given, I would have been giving and a dozen combinations more.

Like using these tenses which is really complicated, the delineation between and among the past, the present and the future in life’s continuum can get a bit confusing. We mix these three up and end up committing more than just grammatical errors. The past, which sometimes must be left behind, we allow being present at present and even in the future. And yet again, what happened in the past we forget as if it didn’t happen, making us repeat what we could have avoided repeating.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Love Was New

I was 23 when I first went out on a date, fell in love and had my heart torn apart. It was all so different then. And it’s not because I had no idea about men, dating and relationships at that time. I remain clueless about those subjects until now. It’s because love was new at that time.

Staying up all night long to exchange text messages with a guy who first made my world stop was so intoxicating. Who cares if it was the night before a long exam in SDS 211? I was so inspired that despite not having slept a wink I got an uno anyway. And even better than getting that grade was the shrill thrill of the first kiss.

Getting an “I AM CRAZY FOR YOU ANJ” SMS now will definitely make me want to either roll my eyes or start a thorough background investigation on the guy. It would just have been a source of pure kilig seven years ago. No line was cheesy or hokey then (In the first place, I didn’t know that guys have pickup lines ready for use in any situation) and my this-guy-is-shitting-me radar (that continually gives off a warning signal nowadays) has yet to be developed.

How I loved how he strummed Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle for me, not knowing that after our break-up I’d play the same song every morning of every day for almost a year like a torturous personal anthem. That’s when somebody told me these fine words: “It’s better to have loved and lost than get stuck with a jerk.”

When love was new there were no expectations, points of comparison, hang-ups, unfinished business, emotional bruises, and unhealed wounds from previous relationships. All was fresh and unsullied. When love was new, I was not afraid of being hurt because I had not concept of pain and heartbreak. I had no idea how excruciatingly painful it can be to have one’s heart repeatedly torn apart; or how extremely difficult it is to maintain a relationship and keep the fire of love burning.

When love was new, I held nothing back. Now that love is no longer new, I am still not holding anything back. Is it a case of not learning from my mistakes? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. What’s the point of loving if you can’t give it everything you’ve got?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dreaming of Katmandu

It’s almost 6:00 PM. I spent the day reading an e-book, The Handbook of Good English (while crossing my fingers that I will be able to remember all of the rules, 447 pages of them) and daydreaming about going to Katmandu. I’ve even made a mental list of what to do there: book for a tour of the Himalayas; see the praying wheels at the Monkey Temple then visit the Durbar Square heritage site; sample the local cuisine and shop for kitschy antiques and accessories atop the Swayambhunath Temple. Thinking about it makes me smile. All I have to do now is find somebody who’d want to go there with me. Katmandu, anyone? :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Grandmother

My maternal grandmother, Gimelina, is celebrating her 79th birthday tomorrow. She may possess less vigor now but like the tree she was named for, she was the tower of strength in my formative years. Acting as a proxy to my absentee parents, she made a home for me and my siblings and gave us the affection we needed as we were growing up. All the basics I needed in life I learned from my grandmother; my values in life, I also learned from her. She taught me how to cook, how to love books and learning, how to value hard work, how to live within and not beyond my means, and how to appreciate simple things in life. She was there when my parents were not. I am who I am right now because of her.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

To read, hungrily

Last night I came across this passage from Doris Lessing's Martha Quest (1952). Reading it a couple of times, i thought, this is me she's describing.

"Then she came to herself and began to read, hungrily for some kind of balance. And more and more, what she read seemed remote; or rather, it seemed that throuhg reading she created a self-contained world which had nothing to do with what lay around her; that what she believed was separated from her problems by an invisble wall."

Friday, July 18, 2008


How would you react if you found out that the guy who used to be head over heels in love with you - but you dumped anyway – is now dating a girl who others deem to be physically and intellectually inferior to you? You laugh. Words from the wise: he cannot help but downgrade because he realized he can’t have the top-of-the-line. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

hanging out with my siblings

My brother and sister gave me a visit last Sunday.
Here are some of our pictures.

me and my sister, hanging out at the pool

Nica, posing for the camera

us three while watching TV

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mundane Glue

This morning, a colleague remarked how lucky I am to live just a block away from the office. Not having a car means that I’m not affected by escalating fuel costs; not having to commute means that I’m not subjected to the rising fare rates. The mundane glue of the round of life connects each of us to one another - making us endure the same deplorable circumstances - no matter how far we set ourselves apart from the rest of the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I used to share office space with Prof. Tapang, fondly called Lolo Ben by his students, at the old Cordillera Studies Center building. He used to be my teacher in various undergraduate and graduate Economics subjects. Whenever he has to go to his class, he always tells us, “o sige, magpapanggap muna ako,” with eyes twinkling. Being a green research assistant back then, I thought it’s only something he tells us to make us laugh. Now it struck me how true it is. He wasn’t just kidding then. Don’t we all pretend? Don’t we all pretend that we know what we are doing so we can continue doing it and also learn in the process? Don’t we sometimes act as if we know more than what we actually do? Or better yet, don’t we sometimes act as if we know less than we actually do in order to know more? We feign our way through life armed only with our instinct and intuition, not having full knowledge of everything and uncertain of what might happen, hitting and missing along the way.

The Status of a Hero

His gentleness to his companions, and his capacity for sitting still and thinking without doing anything (which seemed to them incomprehensible), he appeared to them a rather mysterious and superior being. The very qualities that had been a hindrance, if not actually harmful, to him in the world he had lived in--his strength, his disdain for the comforts of life, his absent-mindedness and simplicity--here among these people gave him almost the status of a hero.

- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Criteria for Mental Deficiency

I entered the room then sat on the chair facing him. He started squirming on his seat. I said to myself, sales people are supposed to ooze confidence. I asked him, “What about your character that makes you the best candidate for the position?” Beads of sweat popped out of his forehead. I thought, it’s not that warm in here. Is it the air-conditioning unit or is it my unsmiling face? I don’t have to make him feel at ease. That’s his job. He mentioned something about achieving his monthly quota. I saw an opening: “so what measures do you take to ensure that you always achieve your quota.” He started groping for words, every painful line littered with lots of ahhhh and umm. I just stared straight at him, saying without words, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. “You mentioned that you are very motivated and reputed for quality performance. Describe a specific situation that demonstrates exactly that.” He looked at me as if he didn’t understand the question. He actually did not. Come on, buddy, fake it, I thought. I rephrased the question, making it easier for him. He tried to answer but what came out was just a string of incoherent phrases. I decided to end his agony, “Based on how you answered the questions in this interview, do you think you are qualified for the position?” He said, “No.” It was the only question that he answered correctly. I was looking for somebody qualified for a sales position. What I found was a person who satisfied my criteria for mental deficiency.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Prosody and Misunderstanding

This morning, I was listening to a podcast about “prosody”- the rhythm, tone, grouping of sounds, and intonational aspect of language – and how it conveys meaning, intent and emotion to what we say. In a conversation, we not only listen to what is being said but also pay close attention to how it was said. The rising and falling of the voice, what was stressed and what was stretched, how loud or soft, how fast or slow the words were said, are as important as the words themselves. But how do we convey prosody in written language? Not being able to listen to the person’s voice, how do we perceive his or her tone?

“I cannot believe you said that. What exactly do you mean!?”
“I was just kidding, honey. Didn’t you see the smiley at the end of the sentence?”

Written communication, where the aspect of prosody is not so evident, sometimes lead to miscommunication. In geographically-challenged relationships such as ours where daily communication relies on and is confined to letters written and exchanged in the virtual milieu, this sometimes becomes a problem. Where each sentence can be closely scrutinized for both explicit and implicit meanings or every line is read for any hidden emotion, or the choice of words or punctuation marks can be badly misunderstood, the problem becomes a bigger problem.

So how do we convey what we feel and intend to say in written form? Aside from the use emoticons, it pays to always aim for clarity whenever we put things in writing. Most importantly, knowing the person– his quirks, values, fears, and traits – and understanding where he’s coming from, never fail to shed light on what he really intends to say.

As someone said in the past: “Yearn to understand first and to be understood, second.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Together in Happy Stillness

She clung nearer to him. He held her close, and kissed her softly, gently. It was such peace and heavenly freedom, just to fold her and kiss her gently, and not to have thoughts or any desires, or any will, just to be still with her, to be perfectly still together, in a peace that was not sleep, but content in bliss. To be content in bliss, without desire or insistency anywhere, this was heaven: to be together in happy stillness. (D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love, 1920)

Happy ninth, honey..

Friday, July 4, 2008

Above the Somnolent and Impervious Guts

The gown fell gauntly from her shoulders, across her fallen breasts, then tightened upon her paunch and fell again, ballooning a little above the nether garments which she would remove layer by layer as the spring accomplished and the warm days, in color regal and moribund. She had been a big woman once but now her skeleton rose, draped loosely in unpadded skin that tightened again upon a paunch almost dropsical, as though muscle and tissue had been courage and fortitude which the days of the years had consumed until only the indomitable skeleton was left rising like a ruin or a landmark above the somnolent and impervious guts, and above that the collapsed face that gave the impression of the bones themselves outside the flesh, lifted into the driving day with an expression at once fatalistic and of a child’s astonished disappointment, until she turned and entered the house again and closed the door.

- William Faulkner,
The Sound and the Fury, 1929

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Up there are the holier-than-thou, self-avowed Christ-followers assuming moral high ground and looking down on us, inhabitants of the licentious plain. Thriving on rectitudinous fervor and piety binge, they invoke the name of God every time they open their mouths but, in truth, do not live what they preach.

Ultimately, it is not what we say but what we do that matters.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the past few days, what made me happy?

  • Eating santol
  • The Tchaikovsky mp3s from Sir William
  • Getting calls from D and listening to him laugh
  • Unearthing Richard Wright’s Native Son from a pile of used books and buying it for P35
  • Gagamboy and Ipisman
  • Drinking misto at the coffee place around the corner and using their free wifi to write my post
  • Having an extended lunch with Nico and Nica while watching Pacquiao wallop Diaz
  • My labor-of-love laptop
  • Watching McDreamy and Meredith get back together during the season ender of Grey’s
  • Going home to my cave everyday and closing the door to the rest of the world
  • Chatting with Jac and reminiscing about the “good, old days”
  • My red shoes
  • Getting an SMS like this: "Hi love. For me to get better is just to talk to you. :)"
  • Organizing my files
  • Listening to Nica talk about what they did in school
  • D’s electronic love letters
  • Getting comments from my blog readers (Kayni, Marts, Artemis, Surotguy, Anonymous)
  • The multi-colored marshmallows in my morning cereal
  • Revisiting American Idol Season 7 on pirated DVD
  • Knowing and believing that dreams come true

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stretching Credulity

We go through life constantly stretching our credulity and willingly suspending disbelief for matters both real and unreal. It’s not about believing everything we see despite contrary evidence but finding a sense of balance between receptiveness and skepticism, gullibility and cynicism.

We sit through a movie starring a talking spider, knowing fully well that what we see is entirely improbable, but we enjoy it nonetheless. We weep as we watch the elderly couple on screen as they die in bed, wrapped in each other’s arms. It’s just fiction, totally unreal, but we respond to it with real emotions. Going through the initial pages of a Kafkaesque novel whose main character turned into an enormous, watermelon-like breast with a nipple “that can hear and talk and feel sexual stimulation but never reach orgasm, forever howling "more!", we do not immediately dismiss it for sheer absurdity but go along with the author and let him stretch our credulity to the fullest. For works of fiction like Charlotte’s Web, The Notebook and Philip Roth’s The Breast, we willingly suspend disbelief. It is only through the willing suspension of disbelief that we can appreciate fiction and let it enhance our lives. Reason and critical judgment are suspended as we let our imaginations hold sway.

In real life, though something tells us that what we hear is just pure hogwash, we still give it some amount of credence. We say, "sige na nga", though we are not entirely convinced and want to say, "that’s bull", instead. I wonder why we do this. Do we always presume that what others say is true unless proven otherwise? Perhaps we’re just too polite to call into question the veracity of what the person says – to his or her face.

It is often the case that we see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear and believe what we want to believe, despite the red flag signals and contrary evidence. We fail to discriminate between what’s real from what's not. We fail to willingly suspend belief.