Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, August 30, 2010

In The Light Of “Major, Major”

Is it really Hot Shots? Or is it actually Hots Hots?

I’m Mister Lonely

In one Fabcast we recorded two months ago (pramis, that one will be released very, very soon), all of us Fabcasters were single at that time, and so the topic was on singlehood. There was this one particular exchange that caught my attention while I was editing the Fabcast.

Someone asked what one could do to prevent being lonely when one is single. My answer was to learn to be friends with one’s self and to keep myself busy.

Migs decided to challenge that answer to deepen the discussion. He asked, “But isn’t that just a distraction? In the end you’re still sorry old farts.”

My reply was, if I didn’t consider myself a sorry old fart for being able to be friends with myself, then it’s not a problem for me.

Corporate Closet’s answer to the question was different. He said that being single doesn’t prevent someone from going and still loving. He cited the example of volunteerism, especially in Church. Migs particularly liked how CC framed the answer, that it’s to “find something meaningful to you and that’s how you share yourself to others.”

Then Tony threw the question back at them: “But what do you think about people saying that’s just a diversion?”

CC’s answer was similar to my defense. If he’s happy volunteering and doing what’s meaningful to him, then he doesn’t have a problem with it.

* * * * *

While editing that particular Fabcast, I found myself thinking back again and again to that particular exchange. And I realized we were approaching the problem from two different directions.

As most of us know, loneliness is different from being alone. Loneliness is defined as “dejected by the awareness of being alone” ( or “a feeling of depression resulting from being alone” ( Of course, “alone” here is not limited to being physically solitary; one can also be “alone in a crowded room.”

So to address loneliness, the logical solution is to find a way to convert “being alone” (which is an isolation from others) to “being with others,” or better yet, “being with the Other” (wherein “Other” with a capital “O” is either someone significant or some Higher Being). Makes sense, right?

But is that the only way?

My approach comes from another angle. One cannot totally control the state of being alone (for example, one may be stranded on a deserted island alone, and not of your own volition). But one has control over one’s feelings. So why not address that which is totally within our capability to control? Instead of being depressed or dejected when one is alone, work instead to turn that around and instead discover the joys of being alone.

Better yet, find the solution within oneself and not depend on others. You see, one has no control over others, but one has control over oneself. Of course, we’re human, and we’re entitled to our feelings, including occasional bouts of loneliness. But if one masters oneself, then one can avoid being paralyzed by loneliness even if one is alone.

Listening once again to our discussion, I realized that indeed, volunteerism is even more of the distraction, nay, a diversion, because there one just substituted the (significant) “Other” with “otherS.” You can’t love one person? Then love many.

My problem with that is, well, I did precisely that. I poured my attention to others, to my family and friends. And now I am close to my family, and I have great friends. But it still didn’t change the fact that I was single. And that feeling gnawing inside of me remained because that distraction did not address what was basically an internal issue.

So I asked myself: What’s wrong with learning to love oneself first? What’s wrong with learning to live with oneself first? After all, even if our significant other is holding our hand tightly while we lay in our deathbed, the moment Death comes, you face him alone. Our longest relationship is with ourselves; the more meaningful we make it, the more fruitful our longest relationship will be.

And the greatest irony of it all? By being at peace with oneself, one is able to give more to others, because that is genuine altruism and not just a smokescreen to distract from the loneliness.

In someone else’s blog entry on love stories, the author wrote: For those looking for someone who’ll make them smile. I commented: I believe we must all learn how to make ourselves smile. Then it becomes easier for us to make others smile.

Learn to be lonely,
Learn how to live Life that is lived alone.
Learn to be lonely,
Life can be lived, Life can be loved alone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meanwhile Life Goes On

Julie Taymor’s last movie Across The Universe did not move me in any way, despite me being a die-hard Beatles fan. But put together Shakespeare and Helen Mirren, plus this kick-ass poster, and I’m so there. (Unless the previews unanimous say, “Sucks.”)

(Still, the poster is to die for.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bang Bang In A Major Major Way

When I got to the gym last night, the wide screen TVs were all on the hostage coverage. The SWAT team was all lined up at the side of the bus; someone was trying to pry open the door with a sledgehammer.

I stepped onto the machine to do my 20+ minutes of cardio.

I was almost done with my workout and they still were trying to enter the bus, this time from the back door. A lot of the trainers and some of the clients were watching the spectacle unfold. I noticed two Filipino guys who positioned themselves near one of the monitors; they were joking and laughing at the attempts of our police to subdue one hostage-taker.

“Either we Filipinos have a knack of trying to make light any situation,” I said to myself, “or they’re two of the most insensitive jerks who never realized that there are Chinese nationals who are also clients in this gym.”

We really do have this, “Well, what else can we do but laugh at ourselves?” mentality, especially in the face of enormous trial. We did it with Ondoy. And even in the face of outrage, we just had to joke about the Maguindanao massacre.

So when the next morning came and with it, the spectacle of the grandest beaucon of all, Miss Universe, many were understandably excited as evidenced by the numerous tweets and FB status updates. It’s as if people were grasping at some good news, having our national image dragged to hell the night before. Someone even joked to me, “The hostage taking was sooo last season! Charos.” It’s as if, please Lord, let the Miss Universe wash away the blood and embarrassment of the night before.

But even if Venus Raj was crowed Miss Universe, our triumph will be but short-lived. Sure, our networks can try and milk the good news beyond its 15 minutes. But being crowned doesn’t even come close to the senseless deaths of 8 people, and the embarrassing aftermath.

Yes, it’s unfair to link the two. But reading all those tweets this morning, I can’t help but notice a palpable, nay, willful choice to forget the hostage debacle and replace it with a major, major world event. And I can’t blame them. As much as we like to run to our teleseryes to run away from reality, we needed the distraction from Las Vegas, even of only for a few hours.

But unfortunately Venus Raj stumbled in her Q&A portion. Now as Hong Kong and China are raising questions and issues about how we handled the hostage crisis and the safety of the Philippines as a tourist destination, we seem to be stumbling as well in our Q&A portion.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Arts

I graduated Bachelor of the Arts in 1988, which was fitting since I was single for so long. Maybe it’s because I first had to learn two arts never taught in college: the art of letting go and the art of letting be.

After my umpteenth unrequited love disintegrated, I became particularly relationship-shy and kept most everyone at a distance. Better be safe than hurt, was what I assured myself.

It took me a long time to figure out that letting go didn’t mean keeping people at a distance. The fear of intimacy is different from detachment. The former prevents one from forming deep connections with others. The latter is possible even with soul mates; they do share a bond, but they are capable of setting each other free from one another.

Getting hurt is an integral part of life. Part of living means allowing hurt to happen; more importantly, it means finding out a healthy way to cope and eventually get over the hurt. A spectacular ode to unrequited love from the musical Phantom of the Opera helped kick some sense into me:

“Wishing you were somehow here again,
Knowing we must say goodbye.

Try to forgive,
Teach me to live,
Give me the strength to try!

No more memories
No more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years…

Help me say goodbye.”

But the ultimate kicker was from her Madgesty Herself, Madonna. When “The Power Of Goodbye” came out, I knew I found the song that would help teach me the valuable lesson of walking away:

“Your heart is not open, so I must go.
The spell has been broken... I loved you so.
You were my lesson I had to learn,
I was your fortress.

There’s nothing left to lose,
There’s no more heart to bruise.
There’s no greater power than the power of goodbye.

Learn to say goodbye,
I yearn to say goodbye.”

Letting things be is a lesson that came late to me. And it’s a lesson I am still learning to this day. I used to be distrustful when it came to matters of the heart—my heart specifically. But when I hit 43 years old, I got tired of fearing failure. So I thought it was only a matter of waiting for the guy whom I will click and bond almost effortlessly. Then I realized that waiting was for the passive and the patient. Life continues no matter what. So I decided to just be active, take hold of my life and make the most what was in front of me.

A little over two months ago this particular song by Paramore caught my attention one morning while I was listening to the car radio. It’s rare that I liked such a song instantly; usually the songs I immediately get hooked on first hearing are dance tracks. So that really struck me as out-of-the-ordinary. And the lyrics particularly spoke to me:

“Maybe I know, somewhere
Deep in my soul,
That love never lasts.
And we’ve got to find other ways
To make it alone,
Keep a straight face.

And I’ve always lived like this,
Keeping a comfortable distance.
And up until now
I had sworn to myself that I’m
Content with loneliness.

Because none of it was ever worth the risk.

Well, you are the only exception.
You, are, the only exception.”

Then I attended an MGG party at The Room one fateful Saturday evening. And the song became more relevant than ever.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chew On This

What’s with Recipes by Café Metro? I was enjoying dinner with ShatterShards at their Greenbelt branch when we noticed a gay couple (meaning, two gay guys together; we weren’t sure if they were a couple) stand up and leave the restaurant—only to have their recently-vacated table occupied by another gay couple (this time we think they really are in a relationship; their body language suggested it).

That’s when we realized that there were so many gay guys in Recipes. And soon enough, two gays and a fag hag occupied the table next to us. After them, four fellow bekis entered and occupied the table behind me. So I turned around and surveyed the whole restaurant. I counted at least 15 pink diners (Shards and I included).

This isn’t the first time either of us has noticed that the GB branch is a haven for PLU’s. What’s remarkable is that it’s not a gay-oriented business, and yet it attracts a fairly significant number of bekis, compared to the other businesses in GB. So what is with Recipes? What’s their secret recipe for attracting the pink peso?

Is it the waiters? None of them looked exceptionally drool worthy, so scratch that. Is it the food? The servings are for sharing, so it makes sense to eat at Recipes with someone; but that doesn‘t make a place gay. Is it because of all the restos in GB, Recipes gives the most bang-per-buck?

Well, whatever it is, consider Recipes in Greenbelt a pink magnet. Next time you go there, switch your gaydar off for it’ll just go off like crazy.

Queens Of The City Go To The Queen City

This is why the Fabcasters are going to Cebu.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Para Normal Lang

I remember hearing about this song back in 1994, when The Youth hit big with their first single. There was a bit of controversy, of gay groups calling the song “anti-gay” and “homophobic.” Because of that, though I would hear the song everywhere (and despite it being instantly catchy), I deliberately turned a deaf ear to it. That’s blind—or should I say deaf?—solidarity for you.

Cut to 16 years later. I’m blog-hopping, and I happen to stumble across one that had the song embedded in one of its posts. “Hey, I know that song!” I told myself and listened to it intently for the first time.

I still can’t fully understand what they’re trying to say. I still can’t decide if the song lyrics are homophobic, or if they’re just winking at us. Are they saying that there are bad homosexuals as much as there are bad heterosexuals? Or are they saying that ghostly gays are abnormal precisely because they are ghostly and not because they’re gay? Is that their backhanded comment that being gay is, well, parang normal lang?

Or whatever.

Or this just shows how insidious music can be; it can enter your ears and completely bypass your mind and go straight to your heart—or to your limbs. I’m bopping to the song as I’m typing this, ahahaha!

Multong bakla! Multong bakla! Multong bakla! Haylaveth.

What about you? Do you find the song insulting? Or are you just kebz about it?

* * * * *

Mare, merong kang bisita
May kasangkapan para masangla
O, pare, talo ka sa pekwa
Itsura mo’y parang naluging bakla

O, ang galing-galing mong bugaw
Mas kadiri ka pa sa langaw
Ika’y multo sa paningin (ang multo sa paningin)
Ika’y multo sa paningin

Hah ahh hah ahh

Taas-noong hilaw na sosyal
‘Kala mo ba'y wala kang asal
Kay yabang-yabang mong pumorma
Para kang ipis na nakabukaka

Ang kapal mong mangurakot
Sa lipunan, ikaw ang salot
Ika’y multo sa paningin (ang multo sa paningin)
Ika’y multo sa paningin

Ika’y multo sa paningin (ang multo sa paningin)
Multong bakla [8x]
Oi! [17x]
Oi, Tita

Monday, August 16, 2010

To Abs And To Hold

Of course, the title alone is daunting. I mean, Orosman At Zafira? Like, who are they? The furthest you know of past love teams is Guy and Pip, Vi and Bot. Maybe you only go as far back as Romnick and Sheryl. And dude, “Orosman and Zafira” ain’t as snappy as Brangelina or Bennifer.

Worse, it is written by Francisco Baltazar, also responsible for Florante At Laura, also known as “Florante’s Mega-Emo Post While Tied To A Post, Er, Tree.” Also known as “Think Of Laura.” I mean, we all took it in high-freakin’-school, and did anyone really, truly got it?! Let’s face it, old Tagalog to us today is Shakespearean English is to the Brits these days: whatfor art thou speaketh? And now Dulaang UP has staged this komedya using Baltazar’s old Tagalog. Daunting title, daunting writer, daunting language: why should one troop to Diliman and spend more than 2 hours being daunted?

I will leave it to the likes of THE Gibbs Cadiz and friends to persuade you why Orosman At Zafira is a fantastic production, one that brings Baltazar’s verses to powerful, pulse-pumping life.

I, however, was one of those who, had I concentrated too hard on listening to the verses, would have had a nosebleed. So, in the interest of convincing people to put aside their fear of “But I won’t understand a thing!” and just watch the play, I will now attempt to give you Orosman At Zafira For Dummies.

It’s about three tribes and their royal shenanigans. Aldervesin covets Gulnara, the betrothed to his sultan; the other tribe leader, Boulasem, covets the sultan’s throne. So Aldervesin plots with Boulasem to get rid of the sultan. The third tribe, led by Zelim, is composed of Goth punks wearing black arm-shields similar to what tricycle drivers wear, sans fiery designs; they are very loyal to the sultan. When the sultan is murdered, warla ensues involving all three tribes. Warla is done via dance, so you can think of it as the battle for the Philippines’ Best Dance Crew.

Boulsaem triumphs and becomes the new sultan. He instructs Abdalap, his younger son, to marry Gulnara. But Abdalap covets Zafira, daughter of the slain former sultan. But Zafira only has eyes for Abdalap’s older brother, Orosman. Abdalap kills their father. Brother goes up against brother; more dancing warlaloo ensues. Call it Dance Dance Revolution.

Director, choreographer and chief torturer Dexter Santos (yes Dexter, your choreography is torture, but it is exquisite-to-watch torture!) managed to do what I’ve never seen a musical before do: let the movements and dances fill in the gaps of understanding. So even if you have a wersh-wersh accent and cannot tell the difference between kagila-gilalas and kagiliw-giliw, you’ll still get what’s happening onstage. Unless you’re distracted by the all the gorgeous, sexy abdominals that the male leads exhibit onstage.

Oh yes, the abs.

In the end, the message is clear, and it is etched in the men’s midsections: the better your abs, the better your chances of surviving a war. The first ones to die were the, uhm, healthier ones. Who’s the last man standing? Orosman, played to six-pack perfection by Jay Gonzaga’s abs. Ultimately, Orosman At Zafira is really The War Between the Abs and the Ab-Nots.

So, if all those musculature talk doesn’t convince you to watch Orosman At Zafira, then let me put it to you plain and simple: It’s a F**KING great theatrical experience! So don’t be a dummy and watch it before it ends its run this August.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Those Were The “Days”

Back in high school, Days With The Lord (DWTL, or “Days” as we fondly called it) was this two-day retreat that started Friday evening and ended around Sunday late afternoon (just in time for the students to join their families for dinner).

There’s an activity held on the first night, usually done when all of the retreatants are asleep, when each and every retreatant is surreptitiously snatched from his sleeping mat and treated like a hostage. Blindfolded, he is assaulted by two or three “interrogators” who ask him questions about his faith, specifically on his relationship with Kuya Jess (the moniker for Jesus, designed to make Him more familiar and closer to us retreatants). The purpose, which they will explain to you the morning after, is simple. Using terror tactics, the “interrogators” are supposed to make the retreatant realize how Kuya Jess has done so much for him; then the retreatant will show just how much chastised he is for being oblivious to Kuya’s love by shouting at the top of his lungs: “Basta ikaw, Lord!” Aside from being chastised, the shouting of “Basta ikaw, Lord!” is also a form of commitment to Kuya, that from here on the retreatant will live his life as God wills it. It is such a powerful, all-encompassing commitment that the DWTL have transformed its acronym “B.I.L.” into a tagline. That’s Jesus Marketing 101 for you, guys.

Hah. I was never the usual consumer.

* * * * *

Hands shook me awake. While still half-dazed, I felt a hand clap onto my mouth while other hands pulled me up and out of the classroom that served as our bedroom for the retreat. As soon as we were outside the room, they blindfolded me and rushed me along the corridors.

They whispered into my ear: “Shhh!” “Wag kang mag-iingay!” and “Bilis, dali!” But I also heard one stray whisper amongst themselves: “Huy, siya yan, siya yan.”

You see, the year before my older brother and three other batch mates of his took the DWTL in an affiliate school because they were tasked to revive it in our high school. So everyone knew my brother for being with the pioneer batch—Batch 0. I knew being related to a more popular older brother would come in handy for me. Still, I wonder what they would do to me, why they dragged me out of bed.

Eventually they sat me down and took off the blindfold. We were at the edge of the grade three wing, on top of a hill overlooking the football field below. It was dark; no one else was there. They were around three guys, all of them standing behind me so that I can’t see their faces. I couldn’t recognize their voices either.

To keep me off-balanced they threw questions fast and furious, peppered with curses and threats. The latter was to make sure that the retreatant had no time to rationalize what was happening; everything was designed to be an emotional experience, so that the result will be cathartic. The questions were about my faith, family and friends, all hitting close to home in an effort to make me realize how I can take loved ones for granted, all leading up to the grand conclusion: how much I take Kuya Jess for granted.

When that was finally revealed to me, something inside my head just clicked. You see, my “interrogators” did not know the following about me: [1] For years now, I’ve been teaching my mind to be in control of my heart, because I was afraid that my emotions will betray me and expose my gay longings (yes, in high school I was still hoping that my homosexuality was just a phase; I was not yet ready to fully embrace who I was); [2] I hate—no, detest—being forced to do something; in my mind, there’s always at least one other option or choice.

And perhaps their biggest mistake was this: thanks to having a more popular older brother, I was treated with kid gloves. Instead of being off-balanced, I quickly figured out that I was not in any danger at all, despite their threats. Instead of being fearful, I was able to think things through. And instead of focusing on Kuya, I focused on the process.

So when I finally saw through their act, I knew that they spectacularly failed with me. I summoned the actor in me and cried out in my loudest, sorriest voice, “Basta ikaw, Loooooooord!”

And when they clapped and congratulated me afterwards while leading me back to the room, I felt triumphant and empty.

And instead of leading me back to the Lord (well, it actually did, for a few days), the retreat made me long more for B, my biggest crush since he first entered my life in my second year in high school. He was a year below me; the following year, he too joined DWTL. That made me fearless to tell him, “I love you, B” without him suspecting that I wanted more than just a platonic, brotherly love.

* * * * *

Looking back now, I realize that I was not ready for that kind of an experience. I was too rational and too proud of that capability to let go and just feel. I was also too scared of my emotions and the exquisite pain of falling in love—at that time I only fell for straight guys so my experience of love was always unrequited.

Yet ironically, Days With The Lord gave me the courage to fall more for B. Instead of just feeling brotherly love, I fell in love with my brother. Days made me one of the Gays with the Lord.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Big Love

Dear G,

It’s been a while since we last kept touch.

You remain the biggest love of my life because you were, what, 5’8”? And mind you, that was in first-year college. Yes, I remember seeing you, your best friend R and your mestiza girlfriend during the orientation seminars. I had the biggest crush on you. Imagine to my delight to see you in my homeroom class for first year—without your friend and girlfriend.

It wasn’t your height that overwhelmed me. It was your handsome mestizo looks, your adorable, pinch-worthy cheeks, your distinct scent that combined sweet masculine musk with the fresh clean scent of whatever brand of deodorant you favored at that time. Your eyes crinkled on the side as you smiled, your thin lips pulling back as you reveal your pearly whites. And you weren’t afraid to throw your head back and just give a full-throttled laugh. I found it easy to make you laugh. I wanted to hear you always laughing and happy.

When you told me you broke up with your girlfriend, I was sad for you and excited for me. I was with you every step of college. I became your new best friend; I even managed to ease out R, your constant companion since grade school, and I took his place alongside you day after day. We were always together, from the joys of English class to the torture of Theology. Because you still spoke some Spanish at home with your aunts, you helped me get through Spanish 1-4; in return, I made you understand the parts of Philosophy that I understood. We were inseparable.

And I was deathly afraid to tell you how much I loved you.

It was fourth year, and we agreed to be thesis-mates. It was possibly our last year together. I couldn’t let go of that romantic wish, that maybe, just maybe, with everything that I’ve done for you—all the accompanying you to wherever you wanted to go, all the help I extended to you whenever you were in need, even sacrificing my own happiness just to help you try to win your girlfriend back (you failed, I was happy) or woo a new one (you succeeded, I was miserable)—all that effort and love didn’t escape your notice. That was all for you, G. I had to tell you.

I don’t even remember how or when. All I remember is you quietly looking down on the floor. You telling me you cannot love me back that way. You assuring me that our friendship will not change.

Well it did. And what did you do? You said you wouldn’t change, but you kept your distance. I was baffled, then hurt, then vengeful. I wanted to hit back where it hurt the most. Our thesis became out battleground.

By the time second semester of fourth year came, I had enough common sense to put my hurt pride aside and do what was necessary to put our thesis back on track. But even then, we almost didn’t get to march that March. I vowed then that it would be the last time I let a guy jeopardize my responsibilities.

But our story didn’t end in graduation, did it G? When I was working in CCP, you applied there too after your stint at a TV station didn’t pan out. Then when I transferred to Radyo Veritas, you also asked me if there was a position for you, and we took you in. Now it was you following me. And for a while, the old feelings came back again. But this time I knew better; this time I was the one who backed off.

When I went into advertising, you moved back to media. That was when we were able to stand on our own, away from one another. You moved even farther away, migrating to the U.S. with your wife and kids. I thought time and distance would allow us to be good friends again, almost like before. When you added me in Facebook and followed me on Twitter, I welcomed it.

Until one day I tweeted something overtly gay, and you tweeted that you were unfollowing me because my tweets were TMI (too much information).


I stopped following you after college, G; unfollowing you yet again was the easiest thing to do. Because I realized it’s so easy for me to walk away from anyone—gay or straight—who couldn’t take me for who I am.

It was several years ago that I deleted you from my life. After this temporary trip down undelete lane, it’s back to limbo again for you. I hope you are doing well, G.


Feel The Heat

So part of my job allows me to meet celebrities. No big deal, right? I used to rub elbows with a lot of showbiz stars back when I worked for a major network. But now it’s different cuz I meet sports celebrities. Whom do I know? Well, only the really big ones like Pacquiao and, uhm… yeah.

So a few days ago when I was told that Erik Spoelstra was in town, my blank stare made my boss exclaim in exasperation, “He’s the head coach of the Miami Heat!”

“So why is he in town?” I asked. (Notice how fearlessly I skirt so close to losing my job?)

“He’s giving sports clinics for the NBA!” she explained.

My blank stare stayed. “Oh,” was all I said.

“Did you even know that he’s the first Fil-American to ever become head coach of an NBA team?!” her voice inching closer to the “I’ll-slug-you-then-fire-you” level.

That snapped the stare off my face. “Oh!” I said. Malamang cute ito. Hello, I’m so sticky-rice kaya!

Last night we hosted a dinner for him and the rest of his crew. When their group came into the resto, I immediately noticed him because he was the only one who looked like he had Filipino blood. The rest were a Caucasian, three African-Americans (one more mulatto than the rest), a Chinese-American, and an Asian-American chick.

Yup, Erik was the only one I found cute. And he’s cuter in person.

I got to shake his hands twice. That for me was the highlight.

The whole time they talked about LeBron, lay-ups and the like. The whole time I spoke straight English and did straight talk. I was so butch, my nose was bloody crimson by the end of the night.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Death And Detachment

Kane: Your story last night about death, made me understand you a lot more.

McVie: Really?

Kane: It was one of those moments na parang everything clicked… why you are the way you are.

McVie: That I have a dark sense of humor? Hahaha!

Kane: Gaga.

McVie: That I have this nothing-lasts-forever attitude?

Kane: Your detachment.

McVie: Yeah, yeah. True!

Kane: I think you yourself said it. =)

McVie: When you have two family members and a best friend dying one after the other, you get a crash course on detachment.

Kane: Alam mo ba, matagal ko ng pinag-iisipan yan about you.

McVie: Which one, my sense of detachment?

Kane: Yes. =) I have been curious about it.

McVie: Aaahhh.

Kane: I keep noticing it about you, in your stories, in your blog entries, and I’ve been wondering where it came from. I have rarely seen you flustered.

McVie: Ay, I do get flustered! Pero mostly with work.

Kane: The rest of the time, you are always composed and in control. =)

McVie: Hmmm... I must have been a Tibetan monk in my previous life, HAHAHA.

Kane: Hahahaha, or maybe the opposite, baka Victorian princess ka!

* * * * *

I was in third year high school when Death decided to become an acquaintance.

It was December 1982. My younger brother Brian was four years old, and two weeks before Christmas he was already sick with what my mom thought was just the usual fever or flu thing that children got. That was at the start; by the second week, she knew something was wrong because no children’s fever lasted that long.

Around that time my paternal grandmother was brought to the hospital. She was 92 years old. She often didn’t recognize the people standing before her. She carried conversations with folks long dead. We knew they were there to accompany her to the other side; it was only a matter of time.

It was Dec. 23 that my parents finally decided to bring Brian to the hospital. The doctor said they needed to run tests that would force Brian to stay overnight at the hospital. He felt it too cruel to confine a child while celebrating Christmas.

Brian spent Christmas at home. Dec. 25 morning found him on my dad’s lap, while my mom opened his gifts for him. He listlessly held each and every gift, but settled on a toy truck that he placed on his lap. He never got to play with any of them.

Dec. 26 my parents brought him back to the hospital so that the doctors could run some tests; results were to be available the day after. But on that same day we heard the sad news; our grandmother had joined her chat mates on the other side. My dad needed to shuttle from one hospital to another. My mom volunteered to be the one to stay overnight with Brian at the hospital.

At 9am the following day, my mom woke up to see Brian looking at her, as if the sickness had disappeared. He asked for water. She rang for the nurse, but when no one came around, she decided to go get water herself from the water fountain along the corridor. When she got back, Brian was in pain and cried to her, “Mommy, sakit! Sakit!” while clutching his chest. In a panic my mom picked him up and rushed him to the emergency room.

My dad and older brother arrived that morning to a frantic scene of the doctors trying to revive Brian, who had gone on cardiac arrest. My brother peered through the glass window of the ER doors. He saw an image that to this day he could never forget: a towering adult doctor pressing all his massive weight down onto the chest of our frail four-year old brother in a vain attempt to start his tiny heart pumping again. My brother had to look away.

In less than 24 hours my dad lost his mother and his child. Death was our family guest for that holiday season.

I was in first year-college two years later when my best friend since grade school was killed in an accident. While crossing the pedestrian lane in front of the Sto Domingo church on his way home at night, Mark was hit by a taxi trying to beat a red light. The taxi smashed his legs; the doctors said had he survived he would never walk again. But the initial impact plus the momentum of the taxi tossed him head first onto the sidewalk, where he met the broken piece of the steel fence jutting from the ground.

Mercifully the taxi driver didn’t run away; instead, he drove Mark to the nearest hospital. My best friend was pronounced dead on arrival.

Early next morning the news spread like wildfire in college (this was before the invention of pagers and cellphones). I remember feeling numb when I heard the news. One of our kabarkada was back in the country for a short vacation; he was already taking up pre-med in the U.S. I volunteered to go to his house in Loyola Grand Villas to break the news to him in person.

Two of my classmates drove me to his house. The household help informed me my friend was still asleep, but let me in when I told them the matter was urgent.

I remember shaking him awake, telling him not to get up from bed. I told him the news. And despite the news jolting him awake, I could see that part of his mind refused to let the information sink in. Maybe he didn’t want it to; perhaps by refusing to believe the news, he might will it to be not true. For a moment, I wished it too.

But the coffin in the funeral parlor and the picture of our smiling friend beside it bore the inescapable fact: Death was now a part of my life.

After that day, I swore to make peace with Death. He was now on my friends list; I wanted the ability to laugh at His face. Accept the inevitable, I told myself. And to cope with that, I learned to detach.

Back in first year high school we were made to memorize John Donne’s poem “Death Be Not Proud.” Every time I hear of someone’s death, that poem is the first thing that flashes through my mind.

Today I can still recite it by memory.

* * * * *

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow.
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls’ delivery!
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppie, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

– John Donne

(I re-typed the poem to update the Old English spelling of certain words.)

* * * * *

Of course, accepting the inevitability of the other people’s deaths is one thing; but Death and I, in a final, eternal embrace?

Now that would be the ultimate: detachment from oneself.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Blog Shout-Outs

Presenting two new blogs that have grabbed my attention (click on the titles to go to the sites).

[A] Palabas

I found out about this blog when Xander tweeted about it. I don’t know if Palabas started out as a serious attempt: the very first entry is about the first Filipino movie ever made, Dalagang Bukid. But then it evolved into a fun and oftentimes funny compilation of trivia, scenes, and stolen shots of memorable moments in showbiz, whether in the movies or on TV.

It even has a “separated-at-birth” feature:

Palabas seems to have a bias for John Lloyd Cruz, and is partial to a lot of the Kapamilya stars and shows. Palabas is frequently updated so visiting the site every day never fails to put a smile on my face.

[B] Fickle Cattle

He first came to my attention when he commented about Tom Hardy in my entry on Inception. I clicked on the link and discovered a very well-written blog, one that relies more on hooking readers with words and ideas rather than sexy men in various stages if undress (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, I’m just saying). And he even aspires to write like David Sedaris.

Personal blogs and journals are a little tricky. You have to have some hook that will keep readers coming back to your blog. The easiest would be to put lots of sex in the blog, whether in words or in pictures. Going emo is also another way to hook readers; but ranting in anger, raving over something or gushing over someone can get old pretty quickly, unless the writer is skilled enough to keep readers hanging on.

Fickle Cattle is a multi-faceted blogger, and this multiplicity of interests makes his blog a more stimulating read. He can swing from rice importation to the Young Avengers to dreams without breaking into a sweat. Fickle much? Not really. His distinct voice and point of view are very much present and consistent in his writing.

I like his writing style. It is neither too simple nor too verbose and obtuse. That he is a lawyer and a creative writer makes for a more interesting mix. Law sharpens one’s left-brain skills, while poetry and creative writing taps the right-brain functions. Will Fickle Cattle succeed in tiptoeing from one side of his brain to another in the months to come?

Check it out and let us find out.

Friday, August 06, 2010

I Scream, Yeaaaaah!

Is it hot in here, or is it hot in here? I gotta lick me sommadat!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Think Positive

He was a former blogger I used to follow. We met a total of around 3 or 4 times only, usually in a big group. He was relatively sociable, though his schedule didn’t permit him to go out as often as we could invite him. He wasn’t the most prolific of bloggers; on an average he’d post one or two entries a week. But after one long stretch of him not blogging, I forgot about his blog.

It was around 12:03am last Tuesday night when I received his call, out of the blue. It took him a few minutes of small talk before he asked me if I knew of any support groups for people with HIV.

Oh my god. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together.

He had killed his blog the moment he found out he was positive last December. In March of this year he took a second test that confirmed his status. There were several months of drama in the home front; he is from a conservative family. He actually left home, but came back after a while. Now there is relative peace; his mom avoids talking about it.

We spent almost an hour on the phone. It started out with me being nonchalant about his HIV status; really now, what’s the use of gnashing my teeth? But as we discussed his need for a support group, I couldn’t help but probe deeper. (I guess that’s why it seems so natural that we would become the Fabcasters; we naturally have an inquisitive nature that likes to dissect and delve deeper into things.) And the more I probed, the more I found myself raising my voice at him. He wasn’t exactly dipped in negativity, but it’s as if he was always questioning himself. It didn’t help that at times he would contradict himself.

Inside my head a mental red light flashed a warning: Watch it, McVie; shouldn’t you be more empathetic or sympathetic than analytical at this point? Yet a part of my mind was being stubborn: But it’s been more than six months since he first confirmed the bad news; he should be past the fragile initial state by now.

Before I could change my tone, he said, “I hate you, McVie! It’s a good thing you’re talking to me like a mom. Eh kung magbobolahan lang tayo dito, eh di wala rin akong mapapala.”

He asked me if I could help him; I countered by telling him that I suspect a big part of his problem is that he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. He thinks his positive status is a punishment for his desires; I told him not to make God or Fate responsible for his illness. In the end he asked if I could also help him look for a support group; I told him, God helps those who helped themselves. He promised me he would also try his contacts at RITM.

Thus his request here in MGG.

Before we put the phone down, I told him the irony of it all: he should think positive now that he’s positive.