Thursday, November 25, 2010


I was with my friend Toph one night, driving along a stretch of highway, when he asked me to drop by the house he bought for his mom in Taguig. He wanted to visit her. I obliged; it wasn't that often that Toph manages to find time in his busy schedule to visit his mom, and I figured I had some to spare.

It was two hours before midnight when we got there, and we practically had to wake the whole household to get in. We made our way into the living room. I sat on the sofa, admiring the cool light fixture attached to the ceiling, four half globes set on a large wooden square, while Toph promptly left and made his way up to his mom's bedroom. I heard several voices; I figured his nieces, who were also living in the same house, were probably awake by now too. I didn't know what was happening, but there was a palpable excitement in the air.

Then everyone came down, and with their loud voices, you'd think they've been patiently waiting for Toph rather than being rudely awakened in the middle of the night. One niece asked for a dress from his uncle for the prom, and he said, with a smirk and a small twinkle in his eye, that he would think about it. His mom was very affectionate, constantly touching her son's cheek with an exclamation about how gwapo (handsome) his son had become.

More than the fuss over him, what amazed me was how soft Toph seemed. How human. It was as if all barriers around him were brought down, and now there was just him. It was as if I was seeing Toph, the true Toph, for the first time.

It was a remarkably touching scene, and reflected an aspect of my friend's life I wasn't familiar with. I love Toph, but he can be a bit arrogant. The arrogance has basis though; he is a self-made man, who managed to wrangle some success for himself despite the extreme poverty he inherited. Though to some he may seem abrasive, to me it is merely the tenacity of an individual unwilling to succumb to the low expectations of his community. He once told me that he knew, even as a child, that he would never allow his circumstances to define him. He believed, no, he knew that he was more than the poverty he was born into.

We didn't stay long, although we did stay long enough for Toph's mom to show me a few photographs. Her lined face seemed to be set in a perpetual smile. I realized it was because her favorite son was home. I smiled politely, and tried to be as sociable as I could. Still, I felt like I was intruding into something terribly personal.

We were quiet on the ride back, although, as it usually is with close friends, it was a warm, comfortable silence that felt natural and apt. Toph broke the silence when he told me that when he was younger, especially during the first few years when he was still trying to make his mark in the world, he was very insecure about two things: his looks, and his poverty. He made some bad decisions because of it, but as he grew up, he realized there were more important things, and that he didn't really have to prove anything to anyone. He said he was finished proving himself to everyone. He was himself, and he knew that that was all that mattered.

Photo taken here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I was reading through some old posts in my Facebook account when I came across a note, which I thought is still an accurate description of what I am feeling right now. I remember that my impetus for writing that note was an anecdote from a friend of mine about this group of friends he met who liked hanging out because, as my friend told me, they thought of each other as insignificant. The term they actually used was basura (garbage) and my friend told me that, for them, the tie of friendship was based on the fact that no one thought much of anyone else; therefore, because they accepted each other's inconsequentiality, no one was more or less important than anyone else. The fact that you are accepted despite your insignificance meant that the people who accepted you are your ‘real’ friends. I assume this is so because they thought no one else would want you.

And I thought this was the saddest thing, to have friends who never believed in you, but who were your friends precisely because they found you trivial. What would that mean for a person’s self-worth I wonder? How can one go through life thinking one is worthless?

Feeling worthless is not an uncommon emotion I think, although it is a tragic one. When you get to a point where you become incapable of believing in yourself and in your capacity to better yourself, then you become a shell of a man (or woman). What is life without the hope for something better? What can one look forward to, aside from death?

So I wrote this note, quoted below, which I realize is a response to the idea that a ‘real’ friendship can be based on disrespect. The idea sounds like an unbelievable notion, but apparently a lot of people have friends like these. And when you truly think about it, and when you consider all the battered wives, or disinherited gay sons and daughters, you realize it’s not really such a surprising thing. Some people get power from making another feel worthless. It’s a sad fact, but a true one nonetheless.

On Friendship

Life has been very mechanical lately. Automatic. Predictable. Far from mindless, but really really boring still.

Notwithstanding that statement, I've been having wonderful discussions with some of my friends recently. Realizations mostly, life directions, epiphanies. About greatness and love and strength of character. It feels interesting, like I'm part of something big. Like the universe has plans for me or something.

The wonderful thing about my relationship with my close friends is that it's based on mutual respect. Not convenience, not affection, not circumstance. We seek out each other's company, that's the thing. I mean, for me anyway, it's very rare that you meet people that you really respect. Whose presence makes you feel bigger, more important. And not in the superficial way that money or fame makes people important; more like this: it's as if by simply talking to them, you take for granted that you can achieve the impossible. Move mountains. Change the world. It's as if idealism is not an abstract concept, but a lifestyle.

I don't know if it's the same with everybody else, but that's how it is with me. That's the common thread with all of my close friendships. Na hindi kami basura sa mata ng isa't isa (That we are not garbage in each other's eyes), but something else, something brighter, larger. At this point indescribable, just a sense of something real, almost tangible. Extraordinary maybe, or maybe unreal.

Photo taken here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogging as Art

I’ve been a little frustrated with blogging lately. Ideas (at least recently) is difficult to come by, and sometimes putting my thoughts into words just seem so difficult. But I wanted to start writing creatively again, so I guess I need to stop making excuses and just write. I need to fight the predisposition to just lie in bed and not exert any effort, which gets worse the longer I don’t do anything, which makes writing an even more difficult exercise than before. But I also realize that sometimes I just really need to do it, regardless of the quality of the output; otherwise, I might as well pack up and stop blogging.

Which I have no intention of doing really. I love this blog. I’ve just been lazy.

The problem with blogging in general is that it is usually a one-person affair, and if you are incapable of sustaining a certain number and frequency of posts, then the online space just dies a natural death. Not death in the sense that you’d stop writing, that’s really up to you, but more of a lack of readers interested in your work. And to people who say that they don’t care about having readers, they just want to put their thoughts on paper, I say that’s BS: of course you want readers. Maybe not a lot, maybe just your friends, maybe even just one stranger or two, but you still want readers. Otherwise, having a blog is pointless. Why not just write in a journal? A blog is necessarily a public space, which means you aim to share it with the public (even if public meant a select group of friends). It’s similar to that philosophical question regarding trees and forests: If a blog doesn’t have readers, does it have a point?

And because a blog is necessarily a medium that requires readers, then perhaps some standards need to be put in place. Why do anything if you’re only going to be half-assed about it? Might as well give it your all. That applies to blogging, as with anything else.

Which brings me to my real point: that blogging can, and should be, elevated to an art form, in the same way that fiction, or poetry, or non-fiction narratives are considered legitimate art work. Some people have a tendency to look at blogs as hobbies, which isn’t a bad thing, but I feel that bloggers tend to limit themselves by thinking that a blog is only just a means to create something else, rather than the end result itself. I get that, and one of the primary reasons I blog is to practice my writing skills so I can get better. But it doesn’t mean that we should instantly assume that a blog as a medium is less than a poem, or a story, or a book, or a magazine. Some of the best blogs out there connect with me on a fundamental level, whether psychological, or emotional, or spiritual, and who is to say that that connection is less than valid simply because it’s made in a blog? When the aim of your work is to connect with strangers on an essentially human level, where does the hobby stop, and art begins?

It’s interesting how similar the aims of artists and bloggers can be. And those aims are, at their core, based on a love for the act of creation.

So this is my proposal. I suggest that bloggers stop thinking of blogging as less than any of the other more mainstream art forms out there. We are all artists, whether we accept the title or not. We create and we destroy as well as any other. Blogging can be the future of art, and we, the bloggers, will determine its success or failure.

Featured photo taken here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dreams are Still Tricky Bastards

I was watching television in my bed when I saw a distant clump of alien-looking things floating outside my window and moving towards me . I didn't know what they were, but I noticed they were multi-colored, and stuck together like that, kind of shaped like a human brain. The nearer it got, the more anxious I became. I moved across the room to get further away from it. When light suddenly hit the floating unknown thing, I realized they were balloons tied together, with a note at the bottom. It bumped into a glass pane. I opened my window, eased the whole bunch into my room and pulled at the note.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Honesty, or A Conversation between Friends

“So you think I'm in love with Benjamin?”

“I don't think anything. I'm just teasing you.”

“Ok, but what do you think?”

“I don’t want to think anything. It’s your life.”

“But I’m interested to know what you think.”

“Of course not. You’re not really interested in what I think; you just want me to affirm what you believe.”

“So you think I'm that easy to read?”

“Hahaha, oh please. I've known you for years. I could read you easier than a book. Even if I met you right now, you're still transparent as hell.”

“I don't believe you.”

“Fine, here's an example. Take Anthony. You said you're glad you broke up with him but really, you were hurt that he did not pick you.”

“That's not true.”

“And I don't believe you.”

“I broke up with him because Anthony found it difficult to get along with my friends, and I felt I had to pick one over the other.”

“Well, yea, you told me that. But it doesn't really change the fact that, well maybe not 'loved', but you liked Anthony very much. And you want to exude this persona of coolness, as if people never break up with you. And fine, if you want to keep it up, it's a perfectly valid way of living your life; I'm just saying that you don't need to lie to me. Or if you do lie, you're going to have to accept the fact that, even if I don't mention it, I can tell what you're really feeling.
Plus, well, having Anthony not pick you is kind of embarrassing. Hell, having feelings for someone like Anthony is embarrassing. So I sort of get why you need to lie. I'm just saying you really can't expect me not to know the truth.”


“I hate you.”

“Hahaha. Of course not. You love me. You just can't argue with the fact that you know I'm telling the truth.”

Photo taken here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Digging for Gold

I was in line at a counter of a small chicken restaurant near my apartment when a pretty petite girl with a loud voice walked in, chatting on a cellphone, while an older, less pretty friend followed behind. While those of us in line weren't exactly eavesdropping, the small cramped space, and her extraordinarily loud voice (I mean, seriously, how can someone that small have a voice that loud?), made it difficult for any of us not to overhear the general movement of her conversation with the person on her phone. She went straight to the farthest table from the cashier, which made it all the more extraordinary that we could still hear her as if she was right next to us.

She was explaining something when she walked in. From what I gathered, the person on the other line was either her boyfriend or husband.

"Baby," she purred in a really fake American accent, "Are you sick? Because you sound sick."

"Oh you are? Poor baby. Your voice still sounds sexy though."

At that point, we were all looking at each other, trying not to laugh. The cashier smiled a small knowing smile directed my way, and I smiled back. I looked out the window, trying to block her voice from my head.

"I said," she shouted, "YOUR VOICE STILL SOUNDS SEXY." I winced at the sudden noise. I resolved to try harder to block her voice. The two girls in front of me were starting to giggle. I stifled the small chuckle that rose in my throat.

Their conversation continued with the sexiness of her baby's voice as the recurring theme until I found myself alone eating my roast chicken, salsa, and tortilla in the restaurant. Then the topic abruptly shifted.

"So, baby, are you still flying to Hong Kong? The trip is still on right?"

"Right, Hong Kong. Yes baby. I said HONG KONG."

"Great baby, I'll see you there definitely. Get well baby. Stay sexy," she shouted. Then she hung up. She took off her wide framed dark sunglasses, shook her hair and made a funny face at her companion. She looked prettier without her shades, though she did put too much red on her cheeks.

"Wheee," she exclaimed, "I'm going to Hong Kong!" Her friend smiled back.

"I told you about this guy, remember?" she shouted in Filipino, oblivious to the fact that the whole restaurant staff, as well as I, could hear her, or that her friend was a meter away, and could hear her well enough without her shouting. "He's the guy who didn't want to send me money at first when I told him I wanted to go to Hong Kong, so I started ignoring him. When I stopped chatting with him on the net, and receiving his calls, he texted me that he was going to send money for our trip. I ignored the first text, but he was persistent, and after several texts, I sent him my account number."

"He couldn't help it. He sent me the money soon enough. He was just playing hard-to-get." She chuckled softly, if a little maniacally. Her laughter reminded me of a witch's cackle actually. It was kind of disorienting seeing it come from such a pretty face.

Her friend smiled and said something I didn't quite catch. She replied, "No of course not. I already told my husband I'm going with someone else. That should be ok. He wouldn't know." I noted the exchange. The guy on the phone was apparently not her husband.

Then she walked up to the counter, and asked her friend if she wanted anything. They realized that the place served nothing but chicken, and they wanted fruit. They left without ordering anything to move to the supermarket next door. I relished finishing my meal in the calm tranquility that followed in their wake. I also felt sorry for the poor bastards who fail to realize the intelligent craftiness of some remarkable, if morally-dubious, women that remain hidden behind a pretty face.

Photo taken here.


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