I took a walk along the seawall by the Mall of Asia, and looked far out into the water. Despite the rank smell of trash and seawater, the bay looked serene. The big mall and all its cheery Christmas lights cast reflections on the water; much as I hate malls and open bodies of water, the sight was quite… well, cute. It was quite weird to be walking there on your own, when every couple was on a date, and every family was out strolling. Kids were launching these glowstick-propellers, and caught them as they slowly descended into the ground. Couples were cozy together on the park benches, and perhaps the other side of the mall was filled with hurried and harried parents buying groceries for noche buena. I was alone. Go figure, this has always been the case for me for the most part. I took a puff of my cigarette and looked out into the throng of people strolling, walking, seated, whatever they were doing. A small concert was just around the corner. Then, a short rainshower. No one ran to the mall. No one took cover. Everyone just enjoyed the night. The children still launched the glowsticks, the couples were still on the bench, the people were still walking along the park. Here’s to Christmas, I whispered, and walked back to the mall to the tune of piped-in Christmas carols. I guess that I found out what Christmas really means.
I’m sure that the recipients of this year’s Gusi Peace Prize – the greatest by-god WHOO holy freaking awesome award for peace on the face of this planet – deserve it, but the unheralded champion of peace and harmony has always been the neighborhood panciteria. On those nights where I go home very late from work, I head off to the panciteria for a very late dinner. There’s always the sight of the hurried, harrassed-looking man with his shirt collars up trying to hide a hickie, almost always with the same order. “Miss, pabili pancit. Paki-balot na lang.” Pancit has saved the Filipino family yet again from the ravages brought about by cheating husbands everywhere: failed marriages, crying children, and the possibility of institutionalizing divorce in this predominantly Catholic country populated by Sunday Christians and lovers on Simbang Gabi. The family, that basic unit of society that it is, is saved by a literal thread of pancit.
It’s that time of the year again where the thought counts more than the gift itself… or something like it, so I become the unwilling recipient of scented candles, mugs, and picture frames. See, it’s not that difficult to get me a gift. If the store sells alcohol and cigarettes, then you can find a perfectly good gift that you can give me for Christmas. Yet no matter how much I emphasize the “you-can-make-me-happy-with-vice” motto, nobody gets me a ream of cigarettes or a bottle of whiskey for the holidays. All I ever really wanted for Christmas was something for me to smoke and something for me to drink, but some people insist on playing through my “mysteriousness” and “intellect.” Last Christmas, I got copies of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul,” two copies of “The Alchemist,” and a paperback version of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” After talking to my givers who seemed to not have a problem with what I was going to do, I promptly re-gifted the gifts. Potlatched, so to speak, revolving round the Kula ring.
I’m still writing… so much for a career shift. LOL. “You should be lucky you’re doing something you like,” a friend told me last night. I think I belong to that minority of people who do actually make a living out of something they like doing, but when you’re pushing 25, the quarter-life crisis leads you to believe that you can be doing something else. More than that, I think I belong to that minority of people who have finally found their calling. The beginning of the rest of my life doesn’t have to end up with me at my mid-twenties, a date with destiny, and copy. Or fiction, or prose, whatever. There are lots of things I could still explore simply because I can. I don’t want to go to my 20th high school reunion and have this going on: High school friend: Hi Marck! What are you up to? I’m running my own company, I have three kids, and I’m going to a cruise to Moldova. Me: Hey! Errr… I’m writing, I’m on my second book, and I’m shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year. I don’t have a company, I don’t have kids, and I’ve just eaten all my manuscripts ‘coz I’m poor. High school friend: That’s fantastic! What else are you up to? Me: Fuck you, a pox upon your company, AIDS be upon your kids, and I hope you get raped at Moldova, bitch. High school friend: Hey, that’s not very nice… Me: I’LL SEE…
I heard someone say that the love letter is every person’s contribution to literature. As honest and as earnest as you want to be in a love letter, people want to land that all-important impression that turns the “bes” to the “babes” (or “behs” to “bhabes,” depending on how you spell it). It doesn’t seem important or even relevant, but the love letter writer uses poetic and rhetorical devices; to deliberately express and impress, the opinions of others relegated to kebs. At first, there’s that urge to okray and chaka-fy the attempt of someone in love to be literary, poetic, or profound. You don’t know what to make of words and phrases in love letters. Stopping short of “You’re the bandage that can heal the wound of my bleeding heart,” or perhaps “Sorrow never felt more real in sight when I missed saying goodnight,” or canned lyrics like “I’ll hang from your lips instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above” (yi-hee), that’s the whole point. Malapropism? Solecism? No, let’s use something so bonggacious: catachresis.
Transience can be a bitch, so suck it up.
Of the last gasps of the dying: we wait for them to exhale. Save for my grandmother, I’ve never seen anyone die. I just check obituaries, or I hear the bad, sad news from a friend or an acquaintance that someone I know passed away. Yet those are for sick and old relatives. Over the years, I’ve grown used to the idea that my friends and acquaintances would probably die by suicide. Many of them already have. There’s a friend who hanged herself. There’s a friend who overdosed on drugs. I know someone who died from a vehicular accident because he was piss-drunk racing on the highways. A couple of acquaintances shot themselves. Someone sliced the flesh of her arm too deep, and died from hemorrhage. One jumped off a bridge. One by one, they died before they knew what it’s like – what it’s really like – to live. I stopped counting at 20: either my memory fails me, or that the idea of counting every single dead friend and acquaintance is too much to bear. I could have counted more, and I could probably count more as time passes by. It’s particularly difficult to deal with it at funerals and wakes, where you’re supposed to remember the life and times of that friend in the coffin. Yet no round of tong-its or mystery of the Rosary will ever change the fact that this particular person’s last memory is that they died by their own hands. Somehow, I can’t stand…
The Lumix was capturing every bit of the tattoo session, from a comfortable distance. They call it “dutdutan,” where art and commerce – pleasure and pain – marry. Then again, there’s a difference between watching someone get tattooed, and being tattooed. Thank goodness I wasn’t seated on that chair. Back in college, I was enamored by a professor’s lecture-exhibit on tattooing and tooth-staining in the Cordillera. She showed us pictures and videos of how ritual tattooing was done in places where there were no tattoo parlors. A man burned a sharpened stick of guava wood to soot, and the slow and painful process of “dutdutan” took place. The designs were meaningful, although the prospect of getting tattooed with a very simple instrument looked – at least from where we were seated – extremely painful indeed. That was many years ago: a bunch of soon-to-be – and wannabe – anthropologists have to unlearn cringing and squirming in the name of turning cultural curiosities into scientific discoveries. Yet when I heard the tattoo gun start whirring and buzzing in the background, I felt my knees go weak. Heck, I wasn’t the one getting tattooed, but my good friend, roxstar + photographer extraordinaire, Fritz Tentativa. So, will this entry come across as a difficult-to-read blog entry that’s a futile attempt at trying to write a magazine article on the Internet? Why, yes, of course.
I never thought I’d inspire somebody with one post, but these are the things that make writing – and yes, paper crane folding – all worth it.