Thursday, June 30, 2005

one hundred years of surrealism

I skipped gym to go to Manila Cathedral’s crypt tonight, hoping that, since Jaime Cardinal Sin was buried there yesterday, the crypt would still be open for people who want to pay their last respect, like what the Vatican did to St. Peter’s grottoes days after the Pontiff was buried. I don’t give a damn about the late prelate or what he stood for. I just want to seize the opportunity to get inside the crypt and take pictures. I have this thing for old churches.

But what I saw along the way was something far more interesting.

While walking along General Luna Street, I heard what seemed to be the strains of an orchestra blaring from loudspeakers. It was coming from one of the two humongous, air-conditioned tents called Clamshells erected a block away from the exquisite San Agustin Church.

Outside the tent was a small crowd dressed in red shirts with the word FIRM (Friends of Imelda Romualdez Marcos) in bold letters. They were carrying placards that said “We love you Madame Imelda” and “Mother, We Need You!” Curious, I crossed the street to investigate.

At the entrance of the Clamshell was a big picture of Imelda Marcos in her youth. It was, apparently, her birthday. She does have a reason to celebrate. Not everyone gets to be half as old as God. Whoever originated that local proverb about evil weeds having long lives should receive a Nobel Prize.

I peered through the glass entrance of the tent. Cramped onstage was a chamber orchestra playing a dramatic arrangement of the love song Ikaw (You). The hall was packed with round dinner tables and hundreds of Marcos loyalists craning their necks to get a better view of the performers. Just below the stage, lit by a spotlight was Madame herself in all her frivolous glory, standing beside a violinist who was playing the solo parts of the song. She was resplendent in a heavily embroidered, sequined avocado green stylized national dress.

I couldn’t believe it. Was I actually seeing the Steel Butterfly herself? Let me check, trademark 60’s coiffed hair; unique facial contortion that is a cross between theatrical sorrow and regal condescension, yup that’s her all right. Man, was she radiant! But then again, if your Swiss bank accounts were as fat as hers, it would be almost sacrilegious not to look radiant and true and good and beautiful.

I left the party and continued walking toward the cathedral. When I found out that it was already closed, I hurried back to Imelda’s birthday bash to peer through the glass walls again. The scene was just too delectable to be ignored.

This time, a group of middle-aged female followers whose get-up seemed to have been frozen in the 80s was singing Madame’s favorite song, Dahil Sa ‘Yo (Because of You) to the twangs of an untamed electric guitar.

I had goosebumps. I shuddered in delight. I simply love this country. Just last Monday, the President did a Clinton as she admitted on national TV that she was the voice in the controversial tapes, practically implying that she rigged the presidential elections last year. The same people that overthrew her predecessor and catapulted her into power are now amassing against her. The peso has sunk to abysmal depths against the dollar. Oil prices are up. Senators are morons. Corruption is an art form. And before me was the ousted dictator’s widow shedding tears of joy on cue. Beautiful. Magic realism can’t get any better than this.

No, this is beyond magic realism. It’s a class on its own. I could almost imagine Gabriel Garcia Marquez concocting another epic—One Hundred Years of Surrealism. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

photo from BBC News

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

the interview game

This is one of the little games that has been jumping around from blog to blog these days. You ask someone who has been interviewed by someone else to interview you. You, in turn, offer to interview people who signify their interest in the game. I had asked Transience to throw me some questions. Here they are.

Trans: you once said to me that my words would make pablo neruda green with envy. what would they make ee cummings? explain why.

Me: e. e. cummings would want to sleep with you.

I don’t know if you like him or not, but I guess he’d like your style. His crisp words and stark images that fall out like strands of wiry hair from a senile head call to mind your own writing style. Grace on paper. Passion in ink. Call it what you will. I guess you two would get along well. Also, you might want to teach him to drink tea with milk. I’m assuming, of course, that you like his style, too.

I’d stop now before your ego starts to bloat.

OK, you can laugh out loud now.

Trans: you like anything to do with the ass. aside from love potions you would fashion into suppositories, what are the other things you would shove up your deep, dark realm?

Me: Oh do I? I never noticed that. Maybe I’m still stuck in Freud’s anal stage and never progressed from there.

I’d love to shove up my ass shredded pages from The Purpose-Driven Life or The Alchemist or any of those feel-good books. That way, I won’t have to bring toilet paper the next time I go to the bathroom. I just have to shit it out together with my feces.

Trans: let's say you are agnosticism's harshest critic. write a scathing, 150-word letter to me that will make me feel shame for being an agnostic. use anouk, my real name, in your salutation.

Me: my dear anouk,

Let me get this straight, you’re fucking with things you don’t understand. What kind of alien philosophy are you harboring? Agnosciti—, see! I can’t even spell the damned thing. I’ll tell you what, God loves you more than anything in this whole god-damned world. He gives a shit about you all the time. Why don’t you give him a chance to show you how much he loves you, you worthless, unbelieving piece of stilettoed shit! After giving you everything—and that includes your excellent facility with the language—is this how you’ll thank him? Such an ungrateful animal you are! If you must know, Kafka cannot lease you some prime property up in heaven. For all you know, that Kafka guy is metamorphosing into a cockroach in Hell at this very moment, to the delight of Satan. Maybe you should start reading your bible more than Kafka (refer to answer to Question Number 2 for ways to dispose of this evil book) so you’d get to understand the mysteries of resurrection and shit. God died for you, remember that. If your best friend saved your ass (there goes the a-word again) from sure death, would you slap her and call her a bitch? Think about it. You still have time. Repent and be saved. And don’t forget your tithes while you’re at it.

Love and prayers,

Trans: i will ask you to woo me with a five-line verse written in german. or french. your choice. provide a translation, please.

Me: My French-speaking readers—especially Elsa, who is a true-blooded Parisian—may want to correct my grammar here.

Je n’écris pas comme Kafka
Je ne pense pas comme Marquez
Mon cerveau raconte n’importe quoi.
Mes mots ne blessent que le vent mourant
Mais je peux te déshabiller et lire ton âme.

I don’t write like kafka
I don’t think like Marquez
My mind talks nonsense
My words scathe nothing but the dying wind
But I can undress you and read your soul.

Trans: if there is one question you would not want me to ask you, what would it be? provide the answer to this question.

Where are you headed? I hate being asked this question because I simply cannot answer it. I’m always floating without knowing exactly where to go or how to proceed, be it in my professional or personal life. It’s perhaps my juvenile indecisiveness that constantly claws at my already scratched-up mind, or soul if you will. As a kid, I had once wished to die right after college because I didn’t know how to lead my life after school. School, at least, provides you with a set and rigid framework that you can easily breeze through. Give it your best shot and you’ll easily graduate with honors. But life is a lot trickier. I am still very much in control of my life, still the proverbial “master of my fate and captain of my soul.” But as to where exactly I’m sailing remains to be known. I pick up my cues from the stars or the whales that dance around my ship.

Ok, here are the rules of the game:
1. if you want to participate, leave a comment below saying interview me or any other permutation of the phrase.

2. i will respond by asking you five questions—each person’s will be different.

3. you will update your site with the answers to the questions.

4. you will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

5. when others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. and so on and so forth. this is a redundant rule but i guess lists look better when they come in multiples of five.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

here comes skeletor

I have a new inspiration at the gym—my trainer.

I only have to look at his body to remind me of my goal. Standing just an inch taller than I am, he has muscles that seem to have been the result of a botched-up cosmetic surgery. Narrow shoulder blades hold two arms that are too small for his bulky chest, which makes him look like a duck when he walks—chest comes first before the wings. Too much working out has made his veins stick out like angry tubes. He has stretch marks near his armpits and he proudly wears them like battle scars. His ectomorphic frame must’ve endured much hardship to grow those disproportionate muscles. His tiny, skull-like head is framed by velvety, shoulder-length hair that sways gloriously when he does his crunches. I wonder if working out makes your head shrink. I’ve been told that one’s dick gets smaller with too much weight lifting, which, by the way, is a grossly unfounded myth. But the head?

At times, he reminds me of a hairy raisin pinned on top of a large potato chunk, or a dehydrated Skeletor who just had a dialysis.

Oh but he is my inspiration. One look at him and I know what I should not strive for.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

my swim team

“How do you do that, kuya? Can you teach me how to do that?” A boy asked me when I reached the other end of the Olympic-size pool. I didn’t reply. I just smiled and thought of the most creative way to shoo him away so I could continue my laps. I haven’t swum in about a month. I deserve some peace and quiet while I wrestle with my favorite element.

Before I knew it, his other kiddie friends were already swarming around me, their shrill voices scratching off my eardrums.

“Yeah, kuya, that was great! How do you do that?”

“Teach me how to swim, too.”

“Me too!”

“Count me in!”

And so I became an instant swimming instructor. There was no point in dampening their enthusiasm. I couldn’t switch on my jerk mode to kids. I can’t bawl them out like I did to this idiotic French woman who shouted at me because she didn’t want her hair to get wet in the pool. I slapped cusswords on her face, both in English and in French. That snooty bitch! Just because I was in her country doesn’t mean that she had the right to order me around like she owned the fucking pool.

But that’s a different story. These kids didn’t mind getting their hair wet. And they didn’t mind having me as their swim coach.

Recalling my swim class days, I started out with correct breathing.

“Like this, manong, like this? Am I doing it right, manong?”

No, you’re doing it wrong, kid. Release the air through your nose.

“Oh yeah, like this, manong? I can do it now, manong.”

Yeah, whatever. Ok, moving on. Floating. Try to float face down, with your arms stretched in front of you, on the water.

“That’s so hard, manong. Let’s go to that arm movement thing now, manong. Come on, teach us that, manong.”

Ok, let me get this straight, pesky kid. You’ve got to learn how to keep your ass floating before you could do the strokes, do you understand? And please, stop calling me manong if you don’t want to end up puking and shitting chlorinated water by the time we’re done, is that clear?

Now, the feet. This is how you propel yourself through the water. Watch me do it.

“I can see kuya’s briefs! I can see his briefs underwater!”

That’s called trunks, dearie. And give me back my goggles before you see other unsightly apparitions down there.

Now, you kids practice what I taught you and then I’ll come back. I’ll just do a few more laps, is that all right?

“Yes, kuya!”

And I swam away from the excited younglings as fast as I could. When I returned, they were still at it, swimming away like wiggly ducks, except one chubby girl.

“Why aren’t you practicing what I taught you?” I asked.

“I’m tired. It’s just too difficult. What’s your name, kuya? I’m Jenny and that boy is so-and-so and that other boy is so-and-so and that girl is blah blah

Only her name stuck. Jenny.

“How did you learn to swim like that, kuya?” Jenny asked.

I took lessons when I was a kid like you, I replied.

I was actually enjoying hanging out with them! I usually don’t bring friends along whenever I go lap swimming because they always distract me, especially those whose idea of swimming is clinging onto the side tiles until moss grows over their fingers. We have a special thing going on, water and I. That’s where I become free and whole and one with my spirit. And I don’t want anybody to disrupt that.

But these kids were different. Perhaps it was their enthusiasm to learn that got me. I don’t know.

Since the pool would be closing in an hour, I told Jenny I had to do more laps and then swim back again to give them more swimming tips. When I reached the other end of the pool, I heard a man reprimanding his two sons for having talked to a stranger. Funny how two different worlds can exist on two sides of a pool.

I smiled. The scene was so ironically unnatural like a contrived plot. Clearly, it was not the side of the pool where I should be hanging out.

I swam back to the other side, where kids were free to take swimming lessons from strangers and where my swim team was struggling with their laps. I had yet to teach them the arm movement.


Friday, June 17, 2005

artists and armpits

‘Watched another presentation of the French Spring in Manila Fest at the Republic of Malate last night, a mélange of abstract dance forms, light acrobatics, and comic acts. These French artists always have this distinct I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-my-art air that works well with their haughty, almost raw artistry. The music was provided by an ensemble of bongo players, percussionists, and an accordion player with a beret. So typically campagnard. ‘Reminded me of virtousic musicians at the Metro asking for a few coins, spicing an otherwise boring trip through dark tunnels and stinky train stations that looked like oversized bathrooms. If we only had such musicians in our trains here, then smelling the stench of other passengers’ armpits would be more bearable.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Bows glided in fury. Masses of red locks wildly thrashed. Black gowns creased and rumpled over quivering legs excited by cleanly executed trills. And Poulenc did cartwheels onstage.

Oboes pedaled up in silky restraint. Young, white, feminine muscles on bare arms contracted with every agonized pianissimo. Eyelashes flitted like flies escaping the swat. And Prokofiev limped gaily with one leg.

Flabby cheeks shook jelly-like with passion. Worn-out leather shoes traced the rhythm on the carpeted floor. The uncontrolled tittering of a half-Japanese, half-French violinist infected the crowd with mirth. And Debussy jacked off in front of us.

“She must have had jutes, that girl,” my seatmate, a classmate in German class, was referring to the giggling half-Japanese performer. Maybe I had jutes, too. I could feel it. Either that or the wine I had gulped in the lobby was now tickling my brain cells. And my limp body was surfing the air thick with the wailing of strings.

One more number and I was already one of those animals in Saint-Saëns’ Le Carnaval des Animaux, jumping about in ecstasy, cavorting to the bassoon’s gossips.

The French performers had requested that the aircon be turned off. It’s bad for the instruments, they claimed. The Francisco Santiago Hall of PCI Bank was, therefore, a bit warm that night. Add to that the heat generated by the young musicians whose passion seared the walls, and of course, the hot, heavy breathing of the guy seated on my left, who was already seeing talking cellos and walking clarinets in his dreams.

The zest of the performers was contagious. It was clearly their life. And they were living every note of it. Every flick of the bow, every dizzying cadenza, every squirting glissando was relished. They were enjoying the whole experience, and so was I.

Fingers stabbed the ivory keys. Applause attacked the ceiling like drugged bats. Seats clinked and creaked as the audience rose for an ovation. And I had an orgasm.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

sucking blackhole

Procrastination has a luscious appeal to me. I’m supposed to whip something up about Bamboo and Mishka Adams for my other job. But here I am, writing this stupid post instead. Wasting what little time I have is something I’m adept at. It’s sheer joy. It’s bliss. Like marinating your dendrites in vodka before a major exam.

I feel I have the right to laze around because this morning, I had a dream. And I don’t usually dream. Dreams are as ridiculously remote to me as those million-dollar vintage items being auctioned off on eBay. So it’s either my body is in dire need of defragmentation or the universe is about to implode and it’s telling me to sort out my fucked up existence before it sends my ass whirling into some hungry blackhole that will suck me in like a blowjob. Either way, the best thing to do is to bum around. Relax. Chill out. Take off your shoes and philosophize about your wiggling toes. That’s the way to go when dreams suddenly appear like warts in your sleep.

Anyhow, about my dream. This is how I remember it, more or less:

I am in a darkened drawing room with badly upholstered couches and shoddy armchairs (funny, it reminds me of Cez’s living room in Rosario). I am taking a foreign language class with a handful of classmates slouched on the sofa. Suddenly, the sliding door opens and in comes a friend (who is now in the States) from Lingua Franca. She’s dressed in an elegant, sexy red gown with a sprinkling of red sequins or red swarowski diamonds. I am surprised to find her in Manila. She pulls me out of the room and puts her arms around me. Then she kisses me on the mouth. I notice the smudged rouge on her lips. I wipe it with my right hand. Then we kiss again, this time, I initiate it, but without tongue acrobatics, just moist lips and saliva and smeared lipstick.

And then I wake up.

Ok, that’s just it. I have no psychological babble, sexual or otherwise, to go with that. Freud can fuck Jung for all I care. Dreams don’t mean much to me, not unless they are of the wet variety. If that’s the case, then bring it on every night. I won’t mind. The sheets can always be laundered afterwards.

So why am I blogging about this dream if it means nothing to me? I’m wasting my time, remember? What better way to spend those precious minutes than by rambling on about some aborted, potentially erotic dream. But just the same, I did inform the girl about it. I left a message in her Yahoo Messenger, telling her that we just kissed in my dream. For all I know, the universe has already sent her to some fellatio-obsessed blackhole or something.

A sucking blackhole. I like that. I should dream about it next time. I wonder if it swallows.