Monday, June 20, 2016

Underground Notes from the Millennial Man (voice 1)

You ask me why?

We would stand in line for hours, rain soaking our shoes. Others have embraced the cold, but I cannot. I must keep the papers of my students dry. And when you are finally seated inside the jeep, you will know what sardines inside their cans would feel, the only difference is that sardines are too dead to complain, we are merely too tired and calloused. The so-called 21 seating capacity including driver actually means just the minimum, this is understood by all. Even the phrase “children 3 years old and below should be afforded free seats” means nothing as parents are told to carry their children. Here we are the sardinas, cramped with wet bags, wet groceries and wet children, on the way home

Home to the traffic. The jeep will now fall in line as ridiculous road repairs force a one way scheme for an otherwise perfectly functioning road. So we bump, we get wet, we wait in line, we wait in traffic, we get late for our classes, we pay ever increasing bills, listen to news of more crime and corruption, then get up to work again.

I labored as a contractual for 3 years. We gave it our all, earning so-called academic and performance merits to no avail- only to be given notice of the end of the contract after six months. We teachers worked hard, some of us take the extra mile by reading more than the outdated syllabus and plagiarized official school textbooks given to us, by giving extra attention to students who need more academic guidance, checking the papers of 250 or more students, all unpaid. As you are paid only by the hour you spend inside the classroom, work done outside? Pro bono.

And I am not yet of the worst case.

I scratch the scar on my face. A red badge of courage or stupidity for trying to stop some gangsters beat up someone I barely knew. The police came too late and were powerless – afraid that they might violate someone’s “human rights”. A friend of mine actually used this line when he was so drunk that he pissed on a police officer’s breakfast. My friend was out drinking past midnight and before going home thought he might piss rom the overpass. He got away with his human rights intact- and the police officer’s meal?

I labored on in the darkness. Walking from work, umbrella in one hand, papers to check in the other add those groceries.

The endless rain, the time spent standing in line under the rain, the poor transit conditions, the traffic, the stupid stupid unnecessary DPWH road repairs that take too long to complete, you look at the time, you will be late, at home, at work. Out of time.

"Pag my time" was the buzzword then.

Pag my time… there will be a time, I told myself, when the stress level of the people will finally exceed its threshold and something momentous will happen. I had no idea back then what it was, but I know it will shake and probably destroy the foundations of our sick city, our sick country.

Now you understand why we voted for drastic, bloody and brutal change.

We are ready.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Anime Review: One Punch Man

photo:www.viz.com
Conflict is at the heart of every good story, even if it is a comedy.

One Punch Man is an anime that makes you laugh about other anime. It is a brilliant parody of all that is trite about other titles.

Remember the dialogues during grand battles between the villain and the hero? Or the scenes and suspense where the protagonist struggles to win? Or the main characters' dramatic declaration of their creed, why they fight, who they fight for etc? or better yet, the grand battle itself, where the monsters and heroes undergo transformations upon transformations, and cause destructions upon destructions of the world or the whole universe?

One Punch Man lets you see only half of them, the other half is dismissed by Saitama's cartoonish hero costume with cape, his shining bald head, the bored look on his face, his often simple take on things otherwise serious, and his fight ending one punch.

Here is Saitama, though not referred to as such in the series he is the lives up to the title One Punch Man, ending all battled with one punch(or a series of "normal" punches").

So if all it takes is one punch to defeat all enemies, where is the struggle? Where is the suspense knowing that in the end all is well with one punch? Like my boredom watching most of Steven Segal's movies, with him almost always invincible, never getting hit. I just can't believe it.

Furthermore, One Punch Man is so unlike other series that I loved where there uncertainty of victory and the constant shock of dying characters is always there. I refer to Claymore and Attack on Titan, with the latter being parodied by a monster Saitama kills in one punch.

But, this is where the series shines, not with anticipation and the suspense for the coming battle between good and evil, but with all the drama of being good, too good it is already comedic.

Saitama is bored, bored of being too strong that no one interests him. Thus you will watch this wanting to know if the next opponent will last longer than one punch, or if he ever meets his match. But nowhere do you expect him to lose. In the battle between good and evil, good is assured the win.

Again, so where is the suspense? Saitama is not the only hero, he is joined, or rather he joins other heroes in a hero organization ala Avengers, to show how strong the villains(adding that missing struggle) are and how strong and simple Saitama is(the comedy).

This is one technique of reinforcing characterization by the placing characters vis-a-vis other different characters- the trick is to pair a character with another character that has dramatically different traits. Saitama is followed by his loyal disciple Genos whose serious demeanor mixed with Saitama's simple one is the bread and butter of the anime's comedy.

(other titles that come into mind would be how Death Note places the two arch rivals close to each other)

There you have it, a parody with just the right humor for anyone who watches anime. Watch this for the laugh.

What else?

I mentioned earlier of other heroes. We learn in our basic Literature classes of the different conflicts of stories, that of man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself, and man vs. society. (or woman) 

Knowing these nuances of conflicts helps us appreciate stories that do not fall into the general type that involve a lot of fighting. We can see more or often expect more aside from the climactic battle scenes. 

Before I become the spoiler, let me say that One Punch Man's main source of conflict thus its main moving force is a struggle of a man mainly against himself, his boredom of being the strongest, paying the bills, buying groceries and secondly against society, the acceptance of the society that he protects and the competition with those that protect with him. 

The last one is what really piques me, who were those unmentioned heroes? and of those others that have been shown to be really strong, how would they fare against Saitama? While he has proven himself effective against the champions of evil(killing them all), how would he act in a serious fight against the champions of good?

(can't wait for the next season.)

On a side note: parodies are important in the growth of any literature, they provide not only a much needed laughter, a break from an art becoming too serious, a parody provide constructive criticisms. I am curious how other anime would be influenced by this one when it has shown what has become clichéd in most series.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First Eulogy for the House of Memories

By Aby K. Weygan

By the time I am done writing this, the old house of my childhood will be reduced to dust and rubble - flattened and paved as parking lot for its new owners' three cars. Moreover, the surrounding lots have been sold and mowed down to give way for more cement. Heavily, I feel that the memories of that place, fragments of my early life will forever vanish. 

Block by block, tree by tree- there is so much to remember, so much to forget.

Over and around that house, you would have seen (1) pine trees, one fell during a storm; (2) a guava tree, whose fruits I used to sell; (3) the rabid sayote area that fed our countless dogs; (4) our countless dogs, all askals - mongrels - none survived; (4)The relentless marapait, a wild sunflower, whom I waged an equally relentless war with wielding my bolo and spade, cutting and digging thru the stems and the roots; (4)The green valley which, because of the surrounding flora, can only be viewed from the 2nd floor veranda; and (5)the veranda where I, with my brothers and my cousins, used to shout to the world things never understood by anyone, including us.

We never worried about what others would say about what we want to say. We had the perfect excuse to be "crazy". Plus, we had no immediate neighbors.

The house stood between (6) the river below and (7) the mountain above, surrounded by trees and wide open spaces of greenery for us and the dogs to explore. Technically, however, there (8) are houses beyond the river, mostly empty vacation houses of the "rich"(some were famous actors), and on top of the mountain there is (9) the elementary school and convent run by nuns. We had to climb a mountain everyday (four years for me, three for my sisters before we all transferred to a city school). 

We had the place all to ourselves. It seemed to be at the middle of everything while remaining detached from everything - so much activity in the middle of nowhere. Like a centerpiece of a table that stands in the middle but, humbly, is not the center of attention.

With the on going "constructions" and "deconstructions" , I am led to ask:

1) Can a parking lot stand at the middle of everything?
2) Can a parking lot be that dusty box of old old dead toys lying under your bed, of which when chanced up will make you nostalgic? 

There is just too much emptiness in a parking lot- a wide empty space to place empty vehicles.

3) Why do we remember so much only when we are at the point of forgetting them? or only when the need to forget is strongest?

Maybe like what we do for the dead, our minds create fables as farewells before we send our memories to the realms of nothingness. 

and so before I lay to rest the house of my early life, I would appreciate it if you listen to some eulogies, with their moral and not so moral lessons, eulogies that celebrate a certain childhood at a certain place.

(Disclaimer: Long before people were able to edit their photos to remove their blemishes, or pose in a way to hide their unwanted abundance and ultimately admire their own illusions, Writing was already the technology of choice for liars, magicians, escape artists, hopeless romantics[the severe kind], and narcissists. Believing is not mandatory, imagining is)

Here is the first story:

1. Defeating a Champion

It is said that if the blood warrior has so progressed in the art of the blade, weapon and man become one. The blade seemingly weightless in his hands, dance with the flesh of its enemies like bamboo branches swaying with the wind- waving but always in place. 

No doubt, the warrior on this mountain, winning this battle one foggy afternoon is a blade master. Orcs, demons, and shapeshifters were torn like old paper, shattered like the thinnest glass. HACK and SLASH. HACK and SLASH. Two orcs down, two demons parting with their heads and other evils were vanquished in the most one-sided battle between good and evil. HACK and SLASH. HACK and SLASH. Good triumphs this afternoon. There is no stopping the warrior, now a champion of carnage and massacre. The blade danced as he danced, and death danced with them as bodies and parts of bodies dangled, swayed or flew away. Even the seemingly endless sea of enemies stood no chance of drowning the hero with fatigue or boredom. HACK and SLASH. HACK and SLASH. Mangled bodies littered the bloody path of the young war master as he made his way deeper and higher into the mountain. Almost no one could stop him. Almost. HACK and SLASH.

"Dinner Time!" . ("Mangan!")

Yet the hero heard it not, rather it was the only thing he did not wish to hear. HACK and SLASH

"Dinner !" this time, the call came louder and closer with a tinge of anger. The one who called, a middle-aged woman, was now standing a few distance from the hero, with her hands on her hips, and with an admonishing look on her face. 

Instantaneously, time and space and all those in between that only  physics can name clashed and distorted to create a distortion of what is real and not real.

For what the woman saw was not an evil mountain but their own backyard. Not an army of monsters, but a series of Marapait (a wild sunflower). She saw no mangled bodies but branches and leaves cut not by a magic sword but by a bolo drenched NOT in blood but with the distinct smell of that sunflower.

And the hero?

Just a 9 year old boy, with mucous peeking from his baby nose, whom she tasked to clean their backyard apropos driving and stopping the mosquitoes for mosquitoes breed well in whatever stagnant water lay undisturbed under all the intertwining flora."Inka ag-lugam", she said but she saw what a poor job the boy did "tsk!" since the marapait is akin to the hydra, the more branches you chop, the more branches sprout. It is only by digging out the root will you be able to stop it from spreading. and she did not see any dug out ground. She would remind the boy during dinner. 

"Now." She said with certainty.

"ish..." the hero snorted reluctantly (hack and slash) then, "coming" replied the boy.

Sluggishly, he made his way down the slope. He took a quick glance back at the battlefield, and was proud with his unfinished victory. Tomorrow, he told himself.

MORALS:

1) Realize that your own grand epic adventure is just a sitcom for another, your own                      telenovela of pain and struggle is nothing but a noon time joke for someone who might                      have suffered more or just older. your reality, his fantasy, her fantasy, your reality.

2) "At the end of the day, every champion is a prisoner of care."

                                                            Unless

3) You are the marapait, who at the end of the day is busy building more branches from its                      own cuts, spreading itself further and fuller. Sometimes, it is easier being the monster, it flows naturally.

and of course

4) the end of the day is actually the start of another day

End of the first Eulogy

Sunday, August 2, 2015

PU - OR

By Invictus

Photo grabbed from Flickr

This shortage of pebbles... this hole.
This shortage of patience... this rage. 
This rage... this human combustion... this conflagration.
This sinner... this mirror... this place called Sodom.
These words of God... this damnation... this fire goddess bound to burn in the lake of fire.
This burning feeling but need to be humble... this terrible experience... this humbling experience.
This boiling lava... this explosion... this aftermath... this regret.
This game called Playing God... these balls of fire... this s*** that backfires
These words like tinder... this inferno of a mouth... this pyromania.
These burnable dreams used for bonfire... this ash... this phoenix... this ascension... this mythical magic... this myth... this miss... dismiss!
This smoldering hope... this body... this cremation... this arson.
This titan who stole fire from the gods... this self-entitlement.
This jump from a window of a burning apartment... this escape... this reality… this escape from reality. 
This conviction... this Joan of Arc... this death by burning.
This Dothraki's Khaleesi... this mother of dragons... this Mary Magdalene... this Jezebel... this whore... this strength... this bitch... this resilience... this fiery woman. 
This burned food... this black... this food that stole your bike... these jokes that ignite hate. 
This magnifying glass... this sunlight... these ants... this scorched skin... these cigarette burns... this numb.
This trash... this incineration... this holy. 

This... This!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Children's Literature Review and Reflections: The Phantom Tollbooth



Concepts become characters in this novel where everything is a pun or downright metaphorical. A cross between Alice in Wonderland(with plot) and The Little Prince (with substance), the story is replete with both fantasy and philosophy-two of my favorites. Add some illustrations on the sides and you have perhaps one of the most unique, interesting and informative Children's Literature around.

This, I believe, is what kids, young adults (and kids at heart) should be reading.


Written by Norton Juster and Illustrated by Jules Feiffer

From the book:
'but, as you know, the most important reason for going to one place to another is to see what's in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that. Then one day someone discovered that if you walked as fast as possible and looked at nothing but your shoes you would arrive at your destination more quickly. Soon everyone was doing it. They all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went.'... No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew  uglier and dirtier and they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began disappear.

Fast, Fun Facts and Foibles

1. Bought this at Bookends Baguio for 75 Pesos
2. In one seminar I attended, a speaker maintained that when you write for children, you should assume that they are intelligent.
3. In one drinking session, a friend told me how she vehemently prohibits her kid nephews and nieces from watching Cartoon Network-regarding cartoons like Tom and Jerry "nakaka bobo" she said.
4. There is a debate on how to define, or even what counts as Children's Literature
the problems are: 
a. does it(Children's Literature) refer to texts read by children at what age range?(is there really a standard age for maturity or imagination?)
b. where do they read this? ( are these texts they read at school, they watch at home?) anywhere, kids can read anything and there is little to stop them from reading whatever it is they want and can read.
c. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Movie Review and Relfections: Minions (2015)


2/5 stars


In a spin-off from Despicable Me, the Minions now star in their own movie which is an attempt to provide a back story about these yellow creatures(while providing their usual slapstick humor) and an attempt to sell children(and adults) more minion products. The latter is sure to be a success. The movie?

Watching it is like watching a comedy duo, without the other half of that duo. Just like the scene in the Incredible Burt Wonderstone when Steve Carell, thinking he was good enough, insisted in performing even without his partner. It was broken act- full of unanswered lines.

Back to the Minions where we don't get to see Gru(voiced by Steve Carell) but just minions that stumble, minions that sing and dance, minions that stumble, minions that mumble, minions that stumble, minions dressing up. More minions and more of the same act that you might still, or most probably not, remember from the past two movies.

Nothing new, or rather nothing really interesting.

If that is your dosage for humor, then be my guest do give the ratings as many stars as you want.

There was a reason why the second film was not this one.
Perhaps that is the better reasons why, shown by the movie itself, the minions are dull without their evil boss. Simply, Robin needs Batman.

Yes, yes this is for children. And all is just for fun, we all need to lighten up. And we also need to move on - kid's are getting smarter (at least they should be). So give them smarter toys.

Nail to the coffin(a perspective from below)

I enjoyed the first Despicable me but this surplus of minions got me to a point where I asked myself: what is up with us and these dancing, mumbling and stumbling phallic symbols?
What stage are we on?

And yellow?

 We scrub children with a yellow Sponge on Square Pants, make them listen to a yellow elastic dog on high(named Jake?) and I continually vie for a yellow team
that stopped winning ages ago.

Lighten up its just for fun.

Look up the definition of minion on Google and you'll probably have this:

"min·ion
noun
plural noun: minions
a follower or underling of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one."

What Minions does is to glorify racial servitude. Take this, the minions are of a tribe, they have their own language, but being mindless as they are, need to serve (and entertain) someone who is not of their tribe.

Much like the Oompa Loompa's serving Wiley Wonka in the Chocolate factory.

Slaving is a better term- neither of these two tribes are given wages.

And everything is supposed to be fun.

Place this vis- a - vis in  a scenario where we have people, by the bulk of tribe/ethnicity serve another tribe. Think of off-shore call centers, sweat shops, overseas workers, Korean tutorials.

Proud to be Pinoy!


(lighten up)

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Wager

A Wager


Two strangers
stood
by the beach
Watching
And
Waiting
for
the waves to crash

a wager if
the sea will reach them
or not

moons have passed
since then
half, quarter and full

the sea has moved on
(as it always does)
high tide and low

two lovers stand on a beach
the man touches
the sea
the woman doesn't

under the
glaring sun -
A spectacle
Of stillness

many more moons
will pass
half, quarter and full

waves will crash

the sea,
Forever moving
high and low

waits and watches

with a wager

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review (and some reflections): Cloud of Sparrows - Takashi Matsuoka




Samurais = check
Ninjas = Check
Geisha = Check
Zen monks = check
Cowboy gunslingers? =check

Zen allusions, sword duels, sword vs gun duels, gun vs shuriken, ancient Japanese culture = check!

What more can I, who grew up watching anime, ask for?

I was so used with the grand number of characters any long novel has (like that of Game of Thrones) that I was unimpressed with the humble number of characters listed in the 400 page book's cast of characters.

That, however, did not matter. Matsuoka offers a league of extraordinary heroes: An enigmatic lord whose plans surprise and baffles those around him(and the reader-myself), a legendary but lunatic swordsman, a gunslinger with an equal reputation and a motley crew of geishas, ninjas, monks who may or may not be what they seem to be.

And this is perhaps the only book that features a unique style in shifting point of views. Time and again, Matsuoka would get into the head of any of the characters. He does this really often, but he does so instantly, without signals, but gracefully without confusion on who was thinking or talking. 

Divided into three books, divided into chapters divided into short sub chapters, the novel is about Lord Genji's rumored prophecies and his clan's struggle to survive despite inner turmoil and battle against outside attacks from century old enemies. This is staged at a turning point in Japanese history where foreigners and their ways of thinking threaten the samurai and their code. Thus differences and similarities are magnified e.g. those between Zen and Christianity or between unequivocal words.

Ending this with some spoilers: quotable quotes and reading comparisons.

"What does 'banzai' mean?

It is an ancient way of saying 'ten thousand years.' The true meaning is more difficult to explain. I suppose you could say it is an expression of deepest sincerity, deepest commitment. The speaker is expressing his willingness to trade eternity for this single moment"

"Kawakami went into the cottage alone. It was not much more than a simple shed in one of the smaller gardens of the vast castle. Yet it provided him with the greatest pleasure in life.

Solitude." 

Extended Reading:
The novel is often compared to James Clavell's shogun novels. Having read Shogun, I would say, that while Clavell's offers political intrigue, Matsuoka takes on philosophy, art and religion.

Not to take anything away from Shogun, it still is one of the best and most action packed reads despite bordering on 1300 pages, but I found that Matsuoka offers more details into individual encounters like scenes and dialogues. 

Fast, fun, facts and fallacies?

(bought this book from: Bookends Baguio)

1. Just how am I a junkie into Zen thought/philosophy? If I would be forced to choose any religion, then I would choose Zen(if it can be considered one).

2. What is with the samurai? That many (most men) find the warrior and the code so enticing?
Is it the artful tension between what is barbaric and what is civilized? - the blade and the killing it follows, the patriarchal status quo set against a supposed art of anything, or the supposed minimalism of movement/emotion that what could be beneath is actually an even greater emotion - the emotion to subdue, or an art that is too wasteful or a costly ceremony?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Desire Provoked



Cliched as it is, remember never to judge a book by its cover.

I found this book from my dad's "To sell" pile as we were cleaning my grandma's workshop. I did not know the author and the book had one of the back covers that usually turn me off- a large picture of the author.

Old, to be sold(rejected), with a bad cover, with low goodreads ratings/readers, and written by an unfamiliar author, this book surprisingly turned out to be one of my best reads this month reminding me never ever to judge a book by its cover or its reviews. 

If you are into literary theory, you will mine this book for its "post"ness - rife with what is postcolonial(seen through his friend Than), postfeminist(through his wife), postmodern( through his neighbor Rosa). 

And through its main character Addams, we get to see how intelligent people do and think weird things, deal with their increasingly fragmented existence and still emerge victorious.

The story is masterfully told through a cycle of dreams, real life, maps, seances, and memories. 

Fast and fun facts:
Got it from: My dad's "To sell" pile of books
Finished: at a beach somewhere in La Union
Quotes: Saussere, Hegel and a whole lot more

ending this review with a quotable quote: 
"Attending one cause to the neglect of others inevitably foreshortens knowledge of the overall effect...the right breast is just as marvelous as the left..."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: The Seven Fires of Mademoiselle


By Aby Weygan

"The man must make the first move" so declares the unbelievably beautiful nanny Mademoiselle who finally falls in love not among with her many admirers but with a disinterested, balding fireman. Why with him when there are more handsome, and well off others? More importantly, how do you make a man make the first move?

Written by Buenos Aires born playwright Esther Vilar, The Seven Fires of Mademoiselle is a warm, funny, and instructive tale of a series of fires around Washington D.C and set against the backdrop of figures like JFK and Martin Luther King. Narrated by Carlota whose unique intellectual scrutiny misses nothing like: The hypocrisy of friendship, the hypocrisy of people who call themselves pro-poor or leftist-like her parents, the logic of crime, and the euphoria of arson. 

She is twelve years old. And has much to learn. With her diplomat parent always away, she spends most of her time with her French nanny, who in turn instructs her not only in French, as was commissioned, but also on love, courtship, manliness, and on a topic the Mademoiselle knows best, the arithmetic of beauty.

Fast and Fun Facts:
Got it from: Bookends Baguio
Relate much? I Think I too am balding :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Book Review: Embers by Sándor Márai



From Hungarian author Sándor Márai comes a meditation on many topics: friendship, betrayal and revenge; old age, with its solitude; music and hunting; and an excursus on love and fidelity.

Two men, friends since their youth, meet again after 42 years of their own self-imposed exiles from each other and from the world. Their last meeting was with a woman, now dead.  So what happened during the last meeting that proved so detrimental it shattered all the lives of those three? why did it happen? and why after 42 years must these two friends, a General and an "Artist", meet again?

These questions were enough to keep me glued with the novel but I was exasperated since (1) while the event should be about two friends who are meeting again for one last talk, we instead get to hear almost all the supposed "talk/dialogue" from only one of them. (2) This is magnified by the fact that no other character is explored save from those mentioned by the one character who does all the talking and reminiscing-often with a matter of-factly tone.

I was not approaching the story properly.

Often, however, novels like these need be read like poems. So instead of looking at poor word choice like how in a segment, the character had to referred to time and again as "the son of the officer of the guards said.. the son of the officer of the guards, the officer of the guards", or why "Embers" in the first place? all of which becomes becomes clearer towards the end. Instead of expecting characters, , scenes, events, descriptions, and resolutions of conflicts, I was now looking at expressions, insights, and be contended with the few but cryptic scenes-especially the one at the end.

Witty, unexpected observations on the human drama, and enough questions on truth makes this 240 page novel interesting enough to finish in almost a day

Fast and Fun Facts:
Got it from: Bookends Baguio
paraphrased quote and unwarranted reflection:
Only men, never women, know true friendship. Which brings to mind the fact of fickle reasons women fight each other, and how long those grudges last. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SANDPAPER

By Invictus

Digital painting by rondeevb posted on www.deviantart.com

Due to an unexpected turn of events, I am sitting with a middle-aged woman in a cab.
In a language my heart knows so well but my tongue alienates, she asks, “Nalpas mu mo’y ihkul mu?”
With ease, I reply, “Ohm. Mun-ngunowa’ mo, anti.”
Swiftly, I comb through my memory for a name, but I find none.
Embarrassed, I ask, “ngane eh bo’y ngadan mu, anti?”
She mentions her name, and every syllable discharges a hundred memories.
A distant relative, a childhood playmate’s mother, I remember now.
From petty topics, the conversation goes complex, and I find myself drifting away from the discourse.
My tongue, unable to merge meaning with words, resorts to code-switching to make up for my failure to speak my mother tongue fluently.
Ifugao and Ilocano seesaw inside my mouth, and for the first time, I feel ashamed of knowing more than one language.
Along with two official languages and two more regional languages, I have spent twenty-six years using bits and pieces of my mother tongue but have never actually cared to fully master it.
Years of usage has allowed me to wield every consonant and vowel so that I sound “native”.
But perfect articulation alone is never sharp enough to pierce through the natural flow of discourse.
For years, I have equated language learning with survival. But I know I’m not the only one.
Frustrating how the tongue never makes it to adulthood before it gets molested by some foreign language.
We treat our native tongue as if it was a snake’s skin we could carelessly shed after perfectly dressing ourselves with a language that is never ours.
We split our tongue and hiss words that preach self-loathing.
When inferiority complex coils itself around one’s identity, it is convenient to grab the sandpaper and rub the roughness away. And that is why we decide to learn how to speak the English language impeccably.
See, we, humans, tend to stitch pretty wool to our skin to fit in this sad world of commercialism.
But this lion of a body, this tongue so fierce it could summon the spirits of the dead, these feet that have walked mountains and fields, should never serve as a sacrificial animal to appease the pocket.
As I speak my native tongue, every word feels like gravel in my mouth. I taste my own blood, but I’ll never spit it out.
There are no grand metaphors to romanticize the hardship of life, no euphemisms to sugar-coat the gross.
What it has is simplicity, authenticity, and the mysteries of life passed down to us by the gods.
Words are harsh-sounding, and some get stuck in your throat, yet every slur in between syllables resembles the curves of the rice terraces.
A friend, whose first language is Arabic, has once said he feels like a warrior when he tries to speak Kankanaey, his mother’s mother tongue. And I praise him for saying that.
Another friend, whose mother tongue is Ilocano, has just said that Ifugao, and all other local mother tongues, is the language of the gods. And I praise him for saying that.
And so when the cab stops, I look at her and say, “hitu tau mo, anti.”

Saturday, November 8, 2014

REVERIE

By Patrick Puguon

It has been a year since.

I heard the news from her brother when it happened, and it haunted me the days after. It was a cold November evening as I took it all in. My phone fell from my fingertips when I heard his electronic voice speak out those unfortunate words. That day, I felt a stiffness overwhelm my body. I was in disbelief; a large piece of my life has been chipped away from me in an instant.

I have known her since we were younglings. When my parents first drove out to the countryside I met her. Hair like black gold fell lusciously down her shoulders. Those eyes bright with innocence stared thoughtfully when mine caught hers. Lips that always curved to a smile arched upwards as I strode closer to her. She spoke with a tiny timid voice, but it was heavenly for me. She was just as wonderful to behold even when we were children. That first meeting—that first talk, first touch—convinced me that she must be mine. Mine alone.

But she was taken away from me.

I listened to no one. Their words were vague and blurry, but I seemed to recall phrases of apologies, condolences; remarks of enthusiasm, hands clasping my shoulders—as if any of these would make me forget the undeniable fact. I will never be whole again.

So I began to dream of her. It was a recurring trance of sorts every time I see her when I fall asleep. I always try to reach out to her with my arms outstretched, failing to pull her closer to my chest and simply give in to her warmth. I ran after her as the image dims in each and every instance, but I would never reach her or even touch her. All I see is her back turned against me, only the slim silhouette of a lifeless body burned into my head. She looks back at where I was, but she gazes blankly—like the emptiness of the dark.

Then she stops looking back.

As I continued to dream about her, she no longer attempted to look back at where I was—only appeared farther and farther away from me. It pained me that this made it more difficult to remember her face. I could only describe it but I can never see it again.

I forget when the din of the outside world became a shallow whisper. Each day I go to work, I succumb to a screeching chair and a vacant screen. For hours I would look at it, wondering if this was what she saw when she looked back at me. My boss told me I have been laid off from work a week after; the reasons were gibberish to me. I was only scrutinizing the carpeted floor of his office as he spoke. I began to deprive myself of sleep. I did not want to see her leaving me again.

So she visited me while I lay awake.

I began keeping all her things I have in my apartment into a box—remnants of my fondest memories. I stored them in an unused closet never to be reopened for my sake. But they seem to have a life of their own.

On one occasion I find her necklace on my bed. I was startled and terrified, then angered by such a cruel joke played on me. Who would have the nerve to do this to me? On another I pick up torn pieces of her picture on the floor. I cried as I took each one of them from where they rested. Why would anyone wish to tear the only photo I have of her?

Finally, in the middle of the night I see her face on the bathroom mirror—all the hair at my nape rose in horror. A familiar chill ran down my spine. It was only for a second or two, but that same blank stare crept into my very soul. She was sending me a message.

Thus she came closer to me as I lay on my bed. I was petrified and paralyzed. I was screaming in my head, but my voice failed me. She inched even nearer, her hand outward towards my face. Her fingers were cold, but they stroked my cheeks—then my neck. She leaned closer to look at me in the eye. But her face…I saw no face. No eyes, no nose, no lips—only the pale colour of her skin. Mouth-less, she spoke to me the very way she spoke to me when we were young—that tiny timid voice.

She told me I must be whole again.

She visited me again a month before our anniversary. On that same bed I could not bear look at her. She caressed by bare chest, my arms, as I tried to edge away. I felt her begin to lie beside me. As her skin touched mine, my breathing halted—I was disoriented and only panic surfaced. She placed her arms over me and clasped tight. That voice that I once found to love as a child now slithered into my ears like a shrill chorus of dread.

She whispered to me that I must be whole again…with her.

I now see the truth of her words as I stand by the edge of a concrete precipice. I peek below and gape at the dark chasm beneath me. It is the same dark oblivion that she saw as she looks back at me. There is emptiness inside of her that only I can fill. We must both become whole again—and only our bond will make it so.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Deconstruct This! (Diary of the Frustrated Literature Teacher Entry 2)


Ten slow minutes and the bell would ring. But I saw from my students no eagerness for freedom like fixing their bags in advance- Readying to be dismissed and from this prison called the classroom.

No, none of those. Not even when the chatter of other convicts along the corridors was invading my classroom. It was almost a miracle considering that what was making them and their brains stay was a poem. Almost. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Strangers

By Aby Weygan

Getting to know a stranger starts with one look. Just one.

Usually followed by some knuckle crunching, the usual pushing  and shoving, the occasional name calling "Duwag! Duwag!" and then the celebration! Fight! Fight! Exchange of spits, exchange of fists, attempts to grab, fails, attempts to punch, hits, more fists, one boot, one empty  beer bottle(Red Horse 500 ml) to the back of the head, hits, more fists, one boot to the face. A foul!  Now others join, get ready to rummble!