Over a Weekend

I woke up one day with Japan on my mind.

The Japanese have a bunch of wonderful words and phrases for everything, but it’s always somehow lost in translation when you experience it here. A quick dinner at a ramen shop, for example, always starts with a chorus of “irasshaimase”—spoken in such a way that you’d hear “sushaimasen” if you listen closely—and ends with a mawkish “thank you” by the time you step out. There are the Japanese discount stores that sell everything from almond seaweed cracker-sandwiches to xylophones, until you realize that one of the most popular ones isn’t exactly “Japanese.” The social pressure to add a “Japanese” feel to things is perhaps best expressed by the look on a real Japanese sushi chef’s face whenever you order a California roll.

Or if you ask the fish in a chirashi bowl to be cooked. Or lukewarm ramen, served with spoon and fork. It’s not right, but that’s just the way it is. There’s also karoshi: the familiar, the dangerous, the controversial.

And then there’s “hikkikomori:” in an article for Warscapes, Flavio Rizzo defines them as a “… lost generation of Japanese kids, post-modern hermits, a lost generation of young recluses who never leave their homes and rely on their parents to survive.” I don’t qualify for the “rely on their parents to survive” part, but I’ve always been fascinated by the whole idea. So much so that it is, in many ways, how I spend a weekend. Reclusive, shut in, working: emerging from my apartment on the next Monday with work done over the weekend, ready—and weary, at times—to take in more for the week ahead.


After Dark

IMG_5447The night is only a sort of carbon paper
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole—
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon’s rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.

Sleep carries with it its horrors.

The gnashing of teeth, the tremors I’ve carried through adulthood, and the abrupt cycles between sleeping and being awake. It’s never Neverland; but ever since the gnashing became harder, the tremors became shakier, and the hours of sleep have shortened, I’ve somehow thrown the body clock out the window.

Insomnia’s kind of strange.



Three hundred sixty days ago, if you told me I’d be riding a zipline, I would have laughed. I would have just told you that things like that will happen in the next lifetime, or an alternate universe. I would have reminded you that there are other things to do in a nature park, like taking pictures of animals, exploring food options, or – preferably – getting out of there fast.

At three in the afternoon, though, the attendants were fitting me onto a harness. The pulleys were strapped, safety checks were made, and I was lowered into position. My body was tense. I was breaking out into a cold sweat just thinking about the things that could happen. The cables could break. The safety harness could be too loose, and will snap. Either way, I figured out certain doom more than the thrillride that lay ahead.

And then, the guide let go.


Love Letters

No one writes love letters anymore.

I can’t say that I don’t regret anything since we’ve gone our separate ways; I regret what could have been, but I have no regrets about what it was.

It’s always hard to write of love.

Love is that one glimmering grain of sand that you stop for when you walk along the shore.

Love’s reasons are as infinite as every grain of sand that goes in sand castles. And all that jazz, whatever it is you do to tug at heart strings, be it books or movies or dinner dates. Yet when the waves come crashing in, all you’re left with are memories, maybe even pictures, of that glimmering castle.

Most of all, you’re left with the thought that once upon a time, a palace stood in that bit of shore. An empire that lorded over seas and mountains, of a lovestruck King and his loving Queen. Once upon a time, love ruled, love reigned.


The Work of the Eyes

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “The work of the eyes is done.  Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”

Coy Caballes, among so few, lighted and stoked the embers that started a revolution.

That’s a lot to say for someone.  The word “revolution” has been so abused here that anyone can come up with something mediocre, and call it something grand for the sake of rhetoric or maybe even marketing.  But Coy – my friend, my fellow blogger, my client – came up with something that truly fits the mold of revolution.

In simple terms: Coy came up with social media marketing in the Philippines.  Yes, he was one of the first client-side social media managers in the Philippines.  And it’s an honor and a privilege to have been part of that journey.

I think it was way back November 2008, when I worked for a company that was once called NetBooster – when I walked into the Globe Telecom offices to meet Globe’s new social media manager.  It was on that day that a professional relationship was born, and a personal friendship grew.  There were five or six of us in that meeting: a meeting that, in part, probably helped start it all for community management in the Philippines.

I’m not one to call the task “pioneering” or anything like that.  It was just a meeting, probably.  Social media management – maybe branded Facebook pages – were around long before either Coy or myself got started with making projects named after StarCraft characters.  Back then, the role of the “social media manager” was a gamble: could brands use social networks for marketing?  What does it mean?  What does it give my brand, or my organization?  “What is this ORM?”

*     *     *

It was a mad hustle for people like me, Andre, ES, Bim, and Peter – to name a few – to get the clients that get business moving.  More so for someone like Coy, who worked for one of the country’s largest telco companies.  This was still new back then, when digital had small budgets (or if any) and the risk coming into the venture was too high.  There were no command centers: we had to work in sleeping bags, cramped coffee tables, and clunky Blackberries to get the dice going.


The Taste of Tocino

Sometimes I think that when you’re a 26-year-old guy with a great job, an awesome girlfriend, really nice friends, and having the respect of your peers and colleagues in spite of imaginary chips on your shoulder, the last thing you should worry about is the taste of tocino.

But I do: if only because you trade off a few things here and there as you do what all other 26-year-olds do.

It started out as one of those usual trips to the Jollijeeps to buy lunch… that was until my senses were tickled by the familiar, delicious smell of that old Filipino staple, tocino.

Like the chicken cheesedog and skinless longganisa, tocino occupies its own place in that realm of the familiar and the taken-for-granted: the Filipino “Frigidaire.” The sugary sweetness and the faint notes of salitre, its special role in caricatures of a failing public school system, and the degree of burning required to make a tocino delicious all make it somewhat complicated. Surely the supermarket tocino purists will have their own debates on the matter of Mekeni vs. Pampanga’s Best, but it is, to me, something rather special:

I haven’t had it in months. Not tocino per se, but the tocino I actually like.


The Weight*

No, this isn’t one of those indictments on the state of the “social media sphere” for the past year, but rather a reflection on weight.

“Lay your burden down,” the old blues refrain goes, and somehow for many of us that’s the same refrain for this year.  For me, 2011 was not a year to wallow in despair or bask in glory, hype the highs or lament the lows, curate them every now and then… those are things that bear too much weight for things that are really important.  Things, people, events, and memories that are worth their weight.  Things, people, events, and memories that are worth bearing.

Milan Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, wrote a little nugget of wisdom that I’ve somehow carried throughout the years: “Necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.”  This year, I stopped believing that completely.  There are a lot of things that have, in time, become valuable to me.  There are things that have no worth in others’ eyes that have become valuable to me.  And the world works because of that: we weigh things not according to the concrete but the abstract, and nonetheless real.

When we lay our burden down, that’s when we know what things in that burden weigh the most.


Jesus, the Revolutionary





In a noon mass, Father JV Ilano, parish priest of the Baguio Cathedral, turned away parishioners who were for the Reproductive Health Bill.  He was quoted in saying, “If there is anyone in the Mass here who are pro-RH bill… please, go out.  It’s useless.”

Today is Black Saturday, where the Christian faithful commemorates the day when the Body of Christ was laid in the tomb.  For many of us, it is a day to reflect on the suffering and passion of Christ on Good Friday, where he was crucified for doing things that, even by today’s standards, remain revolutionary.  In His time, Jesus was the leader of a group of radicals that taught things that ran against the grain of convention: to love your enemy, to turn away from sin.  He was first in a very revolutionary belief that He bore the message of God.

I ask, does a statement like turning parishioners away from Church for things they do not believe in follow in the same radical, revolutionary ways of Christ?