Friday, September 30, 2011

Glaring, garish, rattling

Growing up brought responsibilities, he found. Events did not rhyme quite as he had thought. Nature's logic was too horrid for him to care for. That mercy towards one set of creatures was cruelty towards another sickened his sense of harmony. As you got older, and felt yourself to be at the centre of your time, and not at a point in its circumference, as you had felt when you were little, you were seized with a sort of shuddering, he perceived. All around you there seemed to be something glaring, garish, rattling, and the noises and glares hit upon the little cell called your life, and shook it, and warped it.

~ Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure, 1895

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I don’t believe in prayers but there are times when I wish that I still do. 

A friend is suffering but I cannot find the words to express my sympathy or alleviate her pain. How can I say that I will pray for her—whisper those words that capture the most earnest supplication for her good health--if I don’t believe in prayers? Saying that I wish her the best, though heartfelt, seems hollow compared to the panacea of prayers. Everything I say feels ineffectual because I’ve lost belief in the divine. All I can offer are my wholehearted hopes, thoughts and wishes for her mind to stay strong and her health restored.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

After a Storm

Yesterday I woke up to the sound of the rain coming down in torrents punctuated by strong winds hurtling against the windows. Like a thunderous orchestra, the raging storm cast an eerie echo not so different from the one that devastated Metro Manila a year ago. Now we can show how we’ve learned from past mistakes, I thought. With the country capital’s present state floods are inevitable, but deaths are not – or shouldn’t be. Its rage spent, the typhoon hurriedly moved on and unleashed its fury towards the North, leaving not a single area in Luzon unscathed. 

They say that there is a calm before a storm, but there is also a calm after it. Amid the ruins left by a storm, there is a sense of renewal. Like an intense argument where anger, hurt and frustrations are vented out, a storm clears the air. It makes the obscure plain and the hidden visible. The plight of the poor, the lack of urban planning, all of the country’s interwoven problems are brought to light once more.

Friday, September 23, 2011

to inherit the responsibility of one's own life

She became aware of herself, that she was a separate entity in the midst of an unseparated obscurity, that she must go somewhere, she must become something. And she was afraid, troubled. Why, oh why must one grow up, why must one inherit this heavy, numbing responsibility of living an undiscovered life? Out of the nothingness and the undifferentiated mass, to make something of herself! But what? In the obscurity and pathlessness to take a direction! But whither? How take even one step? And yet, how stand still? This was torment indeed, to inherit the responsibility of one's own life. 

~ D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the absence of that noisy, black box

My television has recently died of old age. I am thinking of replacing it with one of those supercool LCD TVs that are of fashion nowadays. But when I rearranged the furniture to make up for the space the TV left, I realized that the place looks much better in the absence of that noisy, black box, with its flickering images and everlasting chatter. Its absence made the room delightfully still.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The price we pay to lose weight

Frustrated with her weight but doesn’t have the time and energy to work out, a friend of mine has decided to take Orlistat, a drug that manages weight loss by preventing the body from absorbing dietary fats. With Orlistat taken thrice a day, 25-30 percent of fat from the food that she eats is blocked from digestion, and the unabsorbed fat is excreted instead. After five months of taking this lipase inhibitor, she’s lost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and spent PHP 20,000 (USD 460). That’s like paying a hundred dollars to lose a kilo of body weight. 

With lipase inhibitors, it looks quite easy to lose weight without doing anything or restricting our food intake. Though it assures weight loss, taking these drugs does not make us healthy as exercise and good eating habits do. The amount we spend on these drugs may not only be the price that we have to pay for weight loss. Weight loss drugs make us look great while inflicting harm on our bodies. The long-term, potential side-effects of taking lipase inhibitors include liver failure, kidney injury and lesions in the colon - the price we may have to pay for the pounds we need to lose.

Friday, September 16, 2011

a woman's wits and a man's temper

...Any woman who is sure of her own wits is a match at any time for a man who is not sure of his own temper....

...No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.... 

~ Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, 1860

Scars of Pride

Like tattoos that carry deep meaning for people who wear them, these scars from insect bites on my legs I wear with pleasure and pride. These indelible marks will remain a testament to those days of adventure in the Andes when, leaving behind all vestiges of vanity, I felt more alive in the discomforts of the wild than in the comforts of anywhere else. Those days of embracing physical torment, of not having any right to make illogical fusses, of not caring about how I looked, of being too tired to be bothered with pesky insects I endured and uncharacteristically rejoiced in. And from those intrepid days I earned these marks, my scars of pride.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book to Movie Adaptations

Last weekend I spent in joyous solitude, watching movies that fed my lust for books. I started with the 2010 movie adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre followed by that of Jose Saramago’s Blindness then of Alex Garland’s The Beach. The gothic rendering of Jane Eyre placed me within the gloomy confines of that time and place and simply left me mesmerized. With the other two movies I was unsatisfied. The social underpinnings and absolute misery and degradation depicted in Saramago’s novel and the superficiality and consumerism in backpacker culture in Garland’s I found lacking in their respective cinematic re-renderings. 

Being the shameless literature nut that I am, it thrills me whenever a literary work gets transferred to the screen. The characters that otherwise only existed within the pages of a book or in my imagination are brought to life on film. Not entirely believing the adage that great literature makes terrible movies, I am fascinated with the intricacies of cinematic adaptation: how can a two-hour movie render the full complexity of a novel whose every page is replete with delightful details and nuanced insights? Its allure lies on whether or not the film stays true to the novel – its atmosphere, narrative contour, tonal shadings and internal coherence. 

Can something that has already found its definitive form be transported to another medium without getting diluted or turning into a travesty?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Enfeebling Fatalism

I felt shame - I see this clearly, now - at the instinctive recognition in myself of an awful enfeebling fatalism, a sense that the great outcomes were but randomly connected to our endeavors, that life was beyond mending, that love was loss, that nothing worth saying was sayable, that dullness was general, that disintegration was irresistible. 

 ~ Joseph O’Neill, Netherland, 2008

Friday, September 9, 2011

Napababayaan (Unattended)

Bakit kaya ang ilan sa mga sinusubaybayan kong blog ay tila nawawalan na ng sigla? Ang dating napakasigasig sa pagsusulat ngayon ay nagsihinto na. Ang dahilan marahil ay ang pagkaabala sa mga intindihin na mas mahalaga. Napakaraming bagay na nais nating gawin, ngunit sadyang hindi sapat ang oras para sa mga bagay na nagdudulot sa atin ng saya, tulad pagsusulat. Kung minsan ang mga bagay na ito ay ating napababayaan hangga’t tuluyan nang mawala. 

(Why is it that some of the blogs that I follow appear to be losing their vitality? Those who used to be brimming with zeal in expressing their ideas have now ceased writing. Preoccupation with more important matters is probably the reason. There are so many things we want to do, but there isn’t just sufficient time for those that give us joy, like writing. We sometimes leave these things unattended until they are lost to us completely.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Saluyot and Camote Tops

I don’t know what got into me when I decided to eat just plain saluyot (jute leaves) and talbos ng kamote (camote tops or sweet potato leaves) with steamed rice every day for thirty days. I thought I’d be fed up with such modest fare after a few days, but the steamed green leafy vegetables dipped in fish sauce, chili pepper and calamansi (calamondin) appealed to my taste buds so much that I enjoyed every meal. I started the saluyot and camote diet on a whim, unaware of the plethora of nutritional benefits such greens can provide. A few days ago I learned that saluyot and camote tops contain antioxidants and are rich sources of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A and E, calcium, folate, iron, niacin, phosphorous, protein and riboflavin. 

Thirty days have passed and my diet still consists largely of beans, greens and grains. It’s not that I’m turning vegetarian or something. I simply realized that I can live without meat of any kind. Preparing all my meals at home makes me in control of what, when and how much I eat every day. I can choose to eat mostly vegetables yet not completely do away with meat. In fact after several weeks of pure greens, barbecued pork and fried chicken sounds really great. They must taste extra good after a monthlong self-induced meat deprivation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

the fear of becoming a joke in others’ eyes

For all these years he had bumbled around and shilly-shallied about writing because of fear: the fear of becoming a joke in others’ eyes, of messing up his life without getting anywhere, of abandoning the useless, burdensome part of his past in order to create a new frame of reference for himself, of moving toward the future without looking back. It was this fear that had him to look for inspiration elsewhere other than in his own heart.

Ha Jin, A Free Life, 2007