Featured

Writing is Hard to Love (Confessions of a Composition Junkie)

Philbert Dy’s tweet made me think a bit. See, there’s something about “loving writing.” Ten years ago, I’d probably say that Mr. Dy is right. After all, I was a young man of 22, as eager as any impressionable young writer would have been. Now, it just doesn’t seem that way anymore. I write every once in a while, but most of my writing now takes the form of outlines and presentation slides, and perhaps the occasional piece of work I ask from a harried copywriter just to keep myself busy. Writing—the kind that passes for the “serious” kind—comes by way of things passed on to me by acquaintances and friends who could use a hand. Months ago, I’ve still harbored a little bit of an ambition to write—and to “make my mark” on magazines—until a certain jadedness took over. When it comes to loving writing, writing itself is hard to love.

Featured

The Breaking

The soldiers brought the victim to a holding cell, his hands bound with rope and his feet shackled with chains. The room was barren, save for a couple of bamboo cots. The room reeked of things you would expect from places like these: sweat, urine, and animal dung that wafted from the boarded-up windows. In the room flickered the light of a solitary gas lantern, casting a pallid yellow glow on the cracked concrete floor. “San Juanico,” the commanding officer said curtly, as if referring to the bridge miles—or perhaps a short walk, who knows—miles away. The crickets chirped a little louder. A lone rooster crowed in the distance. The prisoner’s eyes, swollen from lack of sleep and bruised from the unforgiving blows of truncheons, lit up in fear; the whites of his eyeballs piercing the darkness briefly. “San Juanico” was nothing more than a euphemism for the torture invented by the Marcos regime at the height of Martial Law. Countless activists have been made to suffer the sentence, named after the great bridge that connected two of the country’s poorest islands. The bridge was a marvel that would be shared in postcards for generations to come; the torture was a memory best left forgotten by those who miraculously survived it.

Featured

The Crimson Stain

That’s not a scarlet terno that Imee Marcos is wearing. Rather, it stands for the mountains where Macliing Dulag was killed. His blood ran down the slopes of the Cordillera in much the same way he wanted the Chico River to flow. To his dying breath—and years thereafter—Dulag fought against the hydroelectric power that threatened the survival of his people, in the hands of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos. That’s not Imee Marcos gracefully crossing her well-formed, tanned legs. Emmanuel Lacaba’s legs were found in the same way, tied and chained, as his corpse was dragged to an unmarked grave. In 1976, Lacaba was captured with a pregnant 18-year-old comrade in the underground, and was shot with a .45 caliber bullet not once, but twice. His crime was to write literature in opposition to a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos. That’s not a tasteful bodice that highlights Imee Marcos’s ample curves. That bodice conceals how forces of the constabulary killed Edgar Jopson in 1982. He was found alive in Davao, but was still executed. It took nine bullets to murder Edjop: chest wounds, arm wounds, leg wounds. This son of a grocer became another statistic in a very long list of human rights abuses in the 70s and 80s, and personally earned the ire of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos. Those are not the features of Imee Marcos, carefully airbrushed. Those were the walls put up along the routes whenever any foreign dignitary or visitor passed by to visit Malacañang Palace.…

Continue reading

Featured

The Big Against The Small

“It is therefore in the body of the wrestler that we find the first key to the contest.” – Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling,” Mythologies When you break wrestling down to its essentials, the general context of wrestling is quite simple and straightforward. Some compare it to David and Goliath, but I’d rather much compare it to Samson breaking down the pillars of the Temple of Dagon. Before this all descends to the Bildung and frisson of analyzing simple things, it’s quite simple: in a match between the good guy and the bad guy, the good guy gets kicked and slammed around first before he mounts a comeback and beats the bad guy. This may last for as short as a quick 5-minute match, or throughout a whole storyline. For those enthusiastic about pro wrestling trivia, this pattern emerges throughout the history of the spectacle. Take Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. Or Shawn Michaels and Vader. You can even go back as far as the match that started it all: the muscular, chiseled George Hackenschmidt versus the athletic and toned Frank Gotch. In a post-“wrestling-is-scripted-not-fake” understanding of professional wrestling, it’s easy to see why passionate wrestling fans all over the world think that the WWE brass is screwing over Daniel Bryan in favor of the Big Show. But isn’t that the very basic foundation pro wrestling is built on: the battle of big and small? And isn’t that applicable to things like, say, life itself? * * *

Featured

For Mom Edith

It’s been over two years since that lesson on the porch of Edith Tiempo.  There were 15 of us, fortunate enough to be in that little world, about to be taught a quick yet meaningful lesson in writing by the Grand Dame of Filipino Poetry herself. I still remember the lesson from Mom Edith: form must grow together with content.  Meaning arises naturally from the subject of the piece, but it should also reverberate.  “How do you write a better poem?  You should read and revise, but do not revise to the point of destroying your work altogether” she said.  “Like a bell… the sound still reverberates.  And a good poem is no different from the sound of a good bell.” The bells toll in grief for Mom Edith’s passing, but they ring true in her legacy. Not only for the body of work she left behind, but in the minds and hearts of the writers she taught over the years. We were all her children. Our batch – one made memorable by the cases of beer drank at Hayahay and the infamous story of ten people getting stranded in Siquijor Island for literally missing the boat – was “fortunate enough to learn at the feet of Mom Edith.”  That surely may be construed as something high and mighty, but there was no other place where I personally learned more about the art of writing than in the National Writers’ Workshop. Or, more properly, Mom Edith’s workshop: the one she…

Continue reading

Featured

The Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo Train

This is a story told to me some 20-odd years ago, when I was still enamored with toy trains.  I still like toy trains, but I had to change parts of this story: the story of the Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo Train. That’s right, a Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo train.  I write bad stories, so here goes. Once upon a time, there was a little one-car train that pulled a coach along the rail line. Every day, the train carried its coach along the line.  It went, Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo!  It passed along the lake, through the dale, over the hill, and under the bridge where the schoolchildren passed by every day. One spring morning, the controller decided to add a coal truck to the train.  That way, they didn’t have to load up the train’s tiny tender too often. So the train went, Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo!  Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo!  The lake was full of fish, the dale was full of cows, the hill’s sides were covered with flowers, and the schoolchildren marched in single file on the bridge to the schoolhouse on that spring morning. The next day, the controller decided to add another coach to the train.  He thought that by having two coaches, they could get more people to board the train every day. So the train went, Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo!  Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga…

Continue reading

Featured

How the Bishop Stole Halloween

* – Inspired by this story.  Wrote this in the style, method, and theme “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Theodor Seuss Geisel, in a poorly-executed manner. Every kid down the village liked Halloween a lot But the Bishop up his Church, however, did not. It happened every October Thirty-First The kids in their costumes, out their doors they burst. Some dressed like ghosts, clutching pails shaped like pumpkins; Little zombies and vampires, the scary little munchkins. Knocking on doors of houses, saying, “Trick or treat!” And a handful of candy for the scary kids they meet. “This madness must stop!” the Bishop said: His eyes bulging wide, his face turning red. Every year the kids walk by without offering Mass, They’re all after the candy from the houses they pass. “It’s the work of the Devil!” the old priest exclaimed He was angry, mad, and even inflamed. He stared at the Churchyard, his eyebrows in knots He preached at his pulpit, hating the tots “They’re just after the sweets, and dress up like the dead They don’t go to Church and they harden their heads! Curse Halloween!  What to do about it now, I must stop this madness, but then again, how?”

Featured

Pre-Adolescent Lyric Poetry

I believe that children should use big words early in life.  They must be taught to be highfalutin, for them to be able to grasp the complexity of the English language.  Simplicity invalidates the wealth of terminologies within the paradigmatic pool, forcing us to make syntagmatic constructions that invariably result in the misconstruction of what we communicate.  Nothing can concretize the validity of this argument that the repetitiveness of so-called “nursery rhymes,” that only facilitate the continued miseducation of our children.  Without being properly acquainted with lexical possibilities during the formative phases of basic education, we ourselves give rise to the jejemon in our midst. Poetry, taught to our offspring at such a crucial stage in development, can sometimes be devoid of the necessary elements for them to innately process and configure the algorithmic relationships between elements of language.  Language is a procedural facility; we must be able to conscienticize our children early for them to understand that simplicity is in fact idiocy.  By reconfiguring the pre-school plantilla to trigger the accelerated improvement in the Language Acquisition Device, we can mitigate the consequences of simple-minded, plebeian use of language.

Featured

Where The Rue Go

Today’s Inquirer headline brings me back to sex stories. I’m not talking about Literotica: I think that animal-related euphemisms for genitalia are confined to the American mindset.  I’m not talking about erotic literature either: I’m talking about Filipino porn stories in the tabloids at the back of the news stands, smack right next to the lotto numbers and the horse race results. Forget “pussy,” where “puke” would do better.  “Cock” is too… avian, sosyalin, that one would use the more masculine, brusko term: “tarugo.” The act of intercourse isn’t “making love” or “fucking,” but appeals to the war-like state of mind of a man with a raging erection, and a woman with insatiable sexual appetites… but first… A break tag.