Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Surviving a Break-In

Of the seemingly random and violent crimes that occur in Dumaguete, a disturbingly high percentage involves break-ins. The motive is simple: robbery. Murder may not be the intent but is an incidental result. Frequently, the victims are women.

The pattern is typical. A robber scopes a house. At a time when he thinks it's unoccupied, he breaks in. Unfortunately, the resident arrives earlier than expected. Robber and victim startle each other. The victim panics and screams. In response, the robber pulls out his knife and stabs the victim dead.

Such is how it almost played out for my friend Pam (not her real name). Were it not for her presence of mind and providence, she would certainly have been another statistic for the tabloids.

What would have been just another day for Pam, a single girl living alone, began slightly askew. As she closed the gate behind her that morning, she saw a young man with the look of a vagrant loitering outside her apartment. She thought nothing more of it for the rest of the day.

When she came home that evening, the same man still hung around the area. Sensing danger and with no neighbors around, Pam decided to overshoot her gate. She cooled off elsewhere, waiting an hour before she returned.

In hindsight, she should have called for help at the first suspicion of a robbery. But when she came back an hour later, the man was gone. She looked around. Things looked quiet. Apart from the earlier visitations, nothing seemed out of place. She entered, closed the gate behind her, and proceeded into the house.

She crossed her small sala and entered her room. Only then did she notice that her cabinet had been rifled. She felt a presence behind her. She turned.

It was the young man. He brandished a screwdriver like a knife. He glared at her menacingly. His intent was clear.

If Pam had turned frantic and screamed, then the story would not have gone much further. But to her credit, she kept her head and therefore her life.

Pam cannot exactly recall how she managed to slip around the man through her bedroom door. She remembers muttering a prayer to the Sacred Heart. A voice in her head told her: "Get out of the house. Get out of the house." A lesson from Oprah echoed those thoughts: your chances of survival are higher outdoors.

"You got what you came for," Pam said to the burglar quietly but confidently. "Now, leave. Leave now."

The man hesitated, then seemed to obey. By then, Pam had crossed the living room and opened the main door.

"No, you come inside," the man said, changing his mind.

"No, you go outside," Pam demanded, though calmly. Then she added: "If you're going to kill me, then kill me. But under no circumstances will you touch me."

"I'm not a bad person," said the man.

"Leave!" Pam said again.

"Let me out through the gate," the man demanded.

"No, you leave the way you came," Pam answered. But the man would have none of it. Finally, exasperated, Pam told the man: "Stand against the fence. Stay there." And she went to get the keys from her desk in the sala.

Pam walked the unwanted guest toward the gate, all the time wary of any sudden moves. There were none. But as the man was halfway through the gate, he vacillated again. He wanted to come back in!

Pam pushed against the gate door, leaning into it with her full weight. "Unsa man? Kidnapon ko nimo?" she screamed.

"Dili! dili!" the man said, and finally left.

With the man gone, Pam rushed back into the house. She phoned for help from friends. Within minutes they came, and only then did the full impact of the night's ordeal hit Pam. Gone was her digital camera, a CD player, some cash, and some cards. But she was alive. That was enough.

It was a typical break-in robbery with a mercifully atypical end. Considering the frequency with which this crime happens in Dumaguete, there are important lessons to be learned: Quietly for help at the sign of suspicious persons who may be scouting the area. If confronted, keep composed. Avoid physical engagement. Do not corner the robber. Getting out of the house should be the number one priority. Speak to the robber calmly, firmly, and confidently. Pray.

Most of all: live.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Discussion Notes: "The Flood in Tarlac"

This is my analysis of Gregorio C. Brillantes' "The Flood in Tarlac," for which he won First Prize for Short Story in English in the 1987 Palanca Awards. For my Short Story class in Ateneo de Davao.

One-Sentence Summary: "The Flood in Tarlac" traces the events leading up to the massacre of a middle-class family in a subdivision during a flood.

Characters: Dr. Jose Caridad (main), Maripaz Caridad, Bobby, Jocelyn, Sidro Malabanan, Luis Sumulong, Placido; Nonoy Concepcion, the dog, village guard, maids; off-story: Atty. Tancinco, brother-in-law, father-in-law, Susan

Notes on Characters and Characterization: Brillantes is known for his use of meaningful names for his characters, though he does it unobtrusively. For example: Dr. Jose Caridad - "Jose" signifies Joseph, the protector of the family, and "Caridad" refers to charity, a trait the character exhibits despite the gruff demeanor (p. 366). Likewise, the farmers also exhibit traits attached to their names: Malabanan (defender) is the speaker, Sumulong (attacker) is aggressive, and Placido (peaceful) is silent throughout.

By following the inner thoughts and conversations of Dr. Caridad, we get a picture of him and his family. The Rotary Club, the types of cars, and the subdivision surroundings (p. 358 to 359) point to a middle class family. Grumblings concerning Bobby and his handling of the car and his choices of music point to a son in the teenage years. Likewise, Jocelyn's persistent badgering about a party also fixes her age and her concerns.

Maripaz Caridad, though, deserves special mention. Throughout the story, her name is consistently "Maripaz Caridad", never "Maripaz" or "Paz." This evokes a sense of detachment which may indicate Dr. Caridad's growing lukewarmness towards her, a fact confirmed in one his uncontrolled judgments (p. 365). Her dialogue indicates she is more concerned with status and relationships.

Plot: The plot is simple and straightforward. Things simply happen, out of the control of the protagonist. Up until the last moment, so close to the end of the story (p.372), he does not actually spring to action. Yet it's still a riveting read because of the rising tension that Brillantes applies through the use of language. We know something bad is going to happen. Throughout the story are ominous elements of foreboding (title, opening paragraphs, p.361, p. 362, p.364, p.367). Like spectators to an impending train crash, we can't keep our eyes away. This is a Story of Inevitable Disaster.

Structure: The story is divided into three parts.

The first part (p. 358 to 364) is the meeting with the farmers, which indirectly sets the reason for the confrontation. In this part, Dr. Caridad simply wants to get rid of the farmers, not for any reason of malice, but because he's tired.

The second part (p.364 to 367) is the family dinner, which establishes the Caridad family life. The conversations are trite but authentic, striking a chord with readers of the same social standing. This shows us how much Dr. Caridad stands to lose. Indeed, it ends with a very ominous beat.

The last part (p.368 to 373) details the unravelling of events in which Dr. Caridad is swept up.

Point of View and Tone: The point of view is Omniscient Limited, the camera strictly focused on Dr. Caridad and his reactions to the events around him. But the tone is detached and unsympathetic, almost like a newspaper story, and this is reinforced again by the names ("Dr. Caridad", "Maripaz Caridad"). This tone is in keeping with the story as one of inevitable disaster.

Setting: Considering the source of the conflict -- land disputes -- the setting is appropriate. It is reflective of the mood of the times in which it was written, perhaps even prescient, in light of the Hacienda Luisita incident much later on. Significant also is the specific location, the Caridad house, in which it all happens. The house is meant to be a bastion of comfort and security, but it and all things in it are swept away by sudden violence.

Other salient points: (1) Were the attackers the three farmers who came to Dr. Caridad earlier? We never really now. It's probable, but it's not definite. (2) That the assailants should come in the middle of a flood -- in a banca, no less! -- stretches credulity, but it's somehow apt nonetheless. (3) Dr. Caridad's final reaction is somewhat surprising. Why was he concerned more with the attack on his home than the murder of his family? But this seems to be in keeping with the theme of the story.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Aristotle's Ten Categories

Write in the concrete, not in the abstract. This is the overarching theme in my Creative Writing class with multiple Palanca winner Don Pagusara. Hence, the recent exercises in metaphor (of which you should probably expect more.) We are not to write, for example, "sadness" but instead "one bird singing terribly afar in the lost lands" (after e.e. cummings).

This lesson brought back some old lessons in metaphysics. Aristotle wrote in Categories about the different ways of being. The categories seem to be a suitable test for concreteness of concept. While I have not exhaustively tested for completeness, it might do for a rough guide.

Aristotle's Ten Categories are:

  • SUBSTANCE, what an object is, e.g., a human or a horse

  • QUANTITY, its measure, e.g., one, two, many, or few

  • QUALITY, the disposition of the subject, e.g., white, smooth

  • RELATION, as a comparison to another,e.g., double, half, larger

  • HABIT, what the subject has (habet), e.g., has shoes

  • POINT OF TIME, when the subject is, e.g., yesterday, in the year before

  • PLACE, where the subject is, e.g., in the market, in school

  • ORIENTATION, its position in space, e.g., lying, sitting

  • ACTION, what the subject is doing, e.g., cutting, burning, crying

  • PASSION, what is is being done to the subject, e.g., is being cut, or is being burned

  • We can't really apply these categories to abstract concepts -- but we can to concrete things. That's what makes it a good test to measure for concreteness and specificity.

    Take, for example, the word "kiss." Is "kiss" an abstract or concrete concept?

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Plots, according to Damon Knight

    Different types of plots, as summarized from Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction:

  • The Story of Resolution, usually incorporating the five-point "plot skeleton:"

    1. a believable and sympathetic central character

    2. his urgent and difficult problem

    3. his attempts to resolve the problem, which fail and make the situation more desperate

    4. the crisis, his last chance to win

    5. the successful resolution, brought about by means of the central character's own courage, ingenuity, etc.
    Example: W. Somerset Maugham's "Rain"

  • The Story of Revelation. There is no conflict in the usual sense, but there is rising tension. Revelation replaces resolution. Sometimes, the conflict is a sham. (Knight also mentions the Story of Explanation but ironically does not explain the differences. Therefore I merge them here.)

    Example: Roald Dahl's "Man from the South", Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", Joseph Conrad's "Youth", Nathaniel Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"

  • Trick Ending, one with a twist at the end that defies a character's -- and the reader's -- expectations.

    Example: O. Henry stories, Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace"

  • The Story of Decision, usually involving divided interests or loyalties. A pitfall of the story of decision is that the choice may appear too simple, and the ending fails because the decision is too obvious. The trick is to make the choice really difficult.

    Example: John Collier's "The Steel Cat"

  • The Story of Solution. Essentially, a puzzle story, one that is solved by the characters. Detective fiction falls into this category.

    Example: Lord Dunsany's "The Two Bottles of Relish"

  • The Story of Inevitable Disaster. The ending is exactly as might be predicted, but rivets our attention in the same way that an accident does. Alternatively, the ending may be averted but only by a deus ex machina. Usually written with a detached tone. (Knight does not list a separate category for this, but by the definition it seems to merit one.)

    Examples: Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall", JG Ballard's "Billenium"

  • Unplotted stories. No such skeletal structure, simply relates a series of events as they happen. Symbolism usually plays a part, but not necessarily so. The motive is the inner meaning of a human being's existence.

    Examples: Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River", Willa Cather's "Neighbor Rosicky"

  • A final note: "The story forms we have been discussing are not rigid little boxes into which every work of fiction must be crammed; they are ideal categories. In practice, elements of these forms are mixed in all kinds of ways. When you understand the simple forms, you can mix and combine them to form more sophisticated ones."

    Metaphors and images

    Exercises from today's creative writing class: metaphors and images for abstract concepts. Important lessons from today: use concrete, particular, and unequivocal terms; use verbs to convey the meaning; and minimize the use of adjectives.

    Here are some of mine (some good, some not so good, many probably real groaners):

  • a nothing, a mote, a grain -- but whose weight is needed to tip the scales once again

  • a five-ton wheel made of stone -- slow, ungainly, moves like molasses -- but grinds everything in its path down to dust

  • Love
  • a lonely watchman waiting for the dawn

  • a washer woman's pruned bloodied fingers on the eighth load of the day

  • the unexpected perfect storm that leaves devastation in its wake

  • Grief
  • that tasteless, papery texture in your mouth, matching the boom-boom-boom of your heart

  • a patch of fur on the highway, moist and red, never more to lick your face (my personal favorite, though probably too obscure)

  • Hate
  • an eternal sourball that you roll around your mouth; it's slick from your own spit, it screws up your face. (you really should spit it out. really, you should. but it's just so gosh-darned yummy.)

  • Freedom
  • the last bell of the schoolday

  • the last bell just before the start of summer

  • a necktie undone

  • Sunrise
  • a million million sparkling diamonds on the face of the gently rippling sea (ugh!)

  • the thing that I never see because I'm pasted on the couch, lying in a pool of my own vomit

  • God's revenge on drunkards
  • Wednesday, June 20, 2007


    "Ahia, why did Sancho Panza go crazy at the end of Don Quixote?"

    "Hmmm? Sancho Panza did not go crazy in the end. Or anywhere in the book."

    Some conversations, no matter how mundane, stay with you throughout your life. And this was the start of one of those. My sister was working on her world literature assignment, and that point had her stumped. This was a decade ago. She was in high school and I, some years out of college, was the family know-it-all. But I always have been.

    "But that's the question! So what am I supposed to answer?" she persisted.

    "Well, write down, 'Sancho Panza did not go crazy in the end,'" I said. If I answered with more confidence than was proper, it was because I had read the unabridged "Don Quixote" (admittedly, translated) from cover to cover. Let her teacher argue with me on that!

    As I relate this story more than ten years after, I feel the irrepressible urge to apologize. Not that my answer was wrong -- on that I still hold firm -- but because, well, I read a classic.

    Mark Twain once said that a classic is a book that everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read. I suspect that early in my generation that sardonic observation became a rule. Reading a classic consigned you to terminal dweebiness, more so if you admitted to the deed.

    In my defense permit me to lay out the extenuating circumstances. I was simply motivated by the desire not to be ignorant. I felt, as all students undoubtedly feel, that there was something lacking in my education. In the absence of a mentor, my response was to turn to the classics.

    It became a personal goal in college to read through at least one classic every summer. Some, like "Moby Dick", proved to be real chores, but others, like "A Tale of Two Cities", proved to be quite pleasant. "Don Quixote" definitely fell into the latter category.

    "Don Quixote" may look daunting because of its length, but it was written for peasant sensibilities. What's more, the humor is so very accessibly Pinoy. I had several giggly fits and a few laugh-out-loud moments (Sancho Panza's penance being the funniest.) Not at all surprising, really, if you consider its node in our own cultural family tree.

    Did "Don Quixote" make me a better person? Well, the jury is still out on that: a little learned on the one hand, a terminal dweeb on the other. That's what happens, I guess, when you read the classics unaided. But was it worth it? If only for the conclusion to my exchange with my sister, then yes.

    A few days later, my sister came back to me wearing a reproachful frown. "Ikaw man gud! Tan-awa na, maba akong grado sa essay."

    I handed her my copy of "Don Quixote." And I said: "Ask your teacher: 'where in the book does it say that Sancho Panza went crazy?'"

    The following day, I got the answer. "Ma'am said she didn't actually read the book, she only saw it in the encyclopedia."

    Classic, man.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Four Poems

    Here are four poems I wrote, spur-of-the-moment, for my Creative Writing class under Don Pagusara.

    Writer's Block
    A pen immobile
      Its well, thought full, actually dry
    You squeeze a stone
      Lo and behold -- Blood! as promised
    You look, only to find
      It's from the gash on your hand.

    In the Company of Strangers
    You know them by their shoes:
      Puma, Adidas, Rockport, Havaianas
    You know them by their pants:
      Levi's, Lee, Bunny, BNY
    You know them by their shirts:
      Penshoppe, Polo, Lacoste, and Bench,
    But you do not know them by their faces:
      Your eyes never rose that high.

      What is that rat
        Doing on my bed?

    Market Day
    On this pleasant Sunday morning
      the curse of Babel comes undone
    We all speak the same language
      Shekels, pesos, dollars, and yen
    Up the temple steps with our doves
      then follows the smelly oxen cart
    Let's stack our coins into towers
      --higher! higher! higher!--
        to stab at our Lord's heart

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Wrestling with Rizal

    We are not born with reverence for our heroes. In our youth, we come to despise them. Only later in life, when confronted with the questions and quandaries they once were, do we finally learn to respect them.

    I write in part from observation, and in part from experience. This is the road I travelled with Jose P. Rizal. Nationalistic fervor, perhaps a wee bit misguided, pushed him to the forefront of my grade school curriculum. Here was a great man, they said, the man who fought and died for our freedom! Let us honor him! Why? Basta!

    Sadly, such inflated claims, were simply parroted without substance. In a fashion truer to the spirit of Rizal, one responds with suspicion and cynicism. In the absence of facts, one begins to dwell on the juicy but irrelevant -- Rizal was a dwarf! A playboy! A miser! The sire of Adolf Hitler! An American fiction! A fringe cult god! The Devil! All aimed to cut down a great man's stature, but which really serve only to diminish the critic's spirit.

    I like to think that my conversion from this pusillanimity occurred on a chance trip to Calamba, to the reconstructed Rizal home. But more likely it was a longer drawn out process, one that came about from a combination of maturity, self-sought knowledge, and sympathy. Nothing brings us closer to our heroes than the realization that they, too, were flawed mortals and that we have more in kinship with them than we realized.

    Rizal was in many ways ahead of this time, and perhaps he is more relevant now as the prototypical Filipino youth. He left the country as a young man, just as the many young Filipino men and women do today. The long sojourn abroad was the catalyst for his quest for national identity, even as their experiences abroad lead young Filipino men and women to ask who they really are. Just as Rizal wondered where his country was headed, so that perenially unanswered question continues to haunt us.

    As a term of endearment, some people call him "Lolo" Jose. This, I think, is a mistake. Rizal was and will be forever young -- not merely because Spanish bullets cut him down before his prime -- but because those ideas of his that blaze on today were formed in his youth.

    The greatness of Rizal comes not because "he fought for our freedom" but because he asked, "Who are we?" And that is a question only a young man would dare ask.

    Note: June 19 is Rizal's birth anniversary.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing Fiction

    Stumbled on this little gem when I was looking up some info on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. around the time of his death.

    Eight rules for writing fiction:

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

    4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

    5. Start as close to the end as possible.

    6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    A Filipino Tragedy: Act One

    Tragedy, as we regard it, is any senseless and unfortunate event, but it's a definition that's insufficient. Deep down, tragedy is story -- a tale of reversal of fortune, of a hero brought low by his own failings or by the fickleness of fate. Tragedy is story, story becomes drama, and drama deserves audience.

    Hear, then, this tale of a Filipino tragedy. Here, there are neither kings nor gods, neither queens nor vixens, only mortals and their quiet desperations. Here, it's played out not in a theater but in broadsheets and tabloids. Only fitting, one might suppose, because it is a Filipino tragedy.

    Act 1. The curtain opens. We meet a man: a decent man; a brother; a husband and a father. For a man such as this, the living is just barely enough and so he works doubly hard. Hours before the start of his shift, he ferries passengers in a van for a little extra income. He is proud of his van, his very own, the product of his toil. No hired hand he.

    Admirable as he is, he is not, we are to learn, the protagonist of this story. On a humid Wednesday night in May, when our story starts, fate does him a cruel turn. A robber, disguised as a passenger, holds a gun to his nape and mercilessly, pulls the trigger.

    Were this any other story, it would already be at its end. But this tragedy is just beginning. You see, the murdered man, one Supt. Jovem Bocalbos, is not merely a hapless driver but a ranking officer of the law.

    So the questions begin. Why does the constable moonlight as a lowly cabman? The answer is simple: because this society could not afford to keep him on the level of dignity which he and his family deserved. The answer is simple, as simple as a slap on the face of the society which he served.

    Was it with a twinge of guilt, then, when his superiors explained his actions? "It is largely caused by the inadequacy of their salaries and benefits. Many of them are compelled to take on odd jobs while off duty." Were they trying to justify Bocalbos? Or themselves?

    But Bocalbos does not need to justify himself, least of all to us. This is, after all, the age of the New Filipino Hero. Though he may not have labored in foreign desert sands or sent home precious dollars, he is firmly of the type. Work is the sacrifice of the New Heroes, and it's on their backs that the country remains afloat (never mind that the powers-that-be might claim that honor.) Occasionally, heroes become martyrs.

    Thus we come to the end of the first act. The New Hero lies in state, our great men scramble to make belated amends, and society wonders. The curtain falls on his grieving widow and three orphans. They are the protagonists of the tragedy.

    No, there won't be any Act Two or Act Three to this piece. I originally intended it for Metro Post, but it didn't make the deadline for last week. Then I realized I got depressed writing it (and even just thinking about the next two parts, I just decided to drop it altogether. But since this bit is already here....

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    Touring tips for Dumaguete and around

    Excerpt of an email to a friend asking about things to see and do in Dumaguete and nearby places. I've already written a similar post before, and I thought I'd update it with some new information.

    1) Casaroro Falls - probably one of my favorite spots. Wrote about it my recent visit here. It's a 90 foot waterfall with a relatively narrow veil up in the hills of Valencia. Best way to do this is to hire a van to take you all the way up to the entrance, after which it's a 300-step descent down a ravine. However, if you're up for a trek, or if the van won't want to navigate the remainder of the journey, at least have it drop you off at the "Y" junction. Then it's a 2-km trek uphill. Make sure to go a little early in the morning to steer clear of the sun at it's full strength.

    2) Along the way to the falls, you'll also come across Forest Camp. It's a little pricey at P80 per head entrance fee, and if you've already done the waterfalls, you might feel shortchanged by the experience. But they do serve good food which you can enjoy under a canopy of trees and to the murmur of the runnuning stream.

    3) Twin Lakes in Sibulan - The twin lakes are Balinsasayaw and Danao, and they're up a mountain near Sibulan. I wrote about it here. Swimming, kayaking, fishing, and a bit of trekking are some of the things you can do here. Best way is to hire a van to take you there. Pwede rin mag-habal-habal, but I don't recommend it as it's a little dangerous.

    A van is around P2,000 per day, including driver. Worth it if there are several of you.

    4) Spelunking in Mabinay and Bayawan. This I haven't actually done myself. But one adventurous fellas from the writers workshop went by her lonesome to Mabinay. She paid P500 for the tour, and that includes the guide and the gear.

    Where are you staying in Dumaguete? I can recommend Check-Inn as it's new and relatively cheap (P650 for a twin bed room). It also provides free Internet access in the rooms!

    As to Siquijor, I've never stayed overnight, but during the last workshop, some fellows stayed at Coral Cay. Around P1,500 per night, good for four people. The resort has a pool and kayaks, and there's good snorkelling around the area. They have a website.

    You can rent a multicab / easyride van around Siquijor for under P1,000 per day. And you'll need it if you're going to go around. There's lots of old churches to visit, most notably the church and convent in Lazi.

    You should also visit the Cambugahay Waterfalls in Siquijor. I've never been there myself but from the pics it looks very nice.

    I hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you have more questions!

    Back to School

    I'm going back to school.

    I'm aiming for a master's degree, at long last. However, with the field that I've chosen, it seems I have to take some back undergraduate subjects. Not a biggie, really, as they're classes I think I'll appreciate.

    The problem, I've come to learn, is in getting in.

    One would think that, at my age and with my credentials, it's easy enough to enroll. But -- oh, no! -- the bureaucracy does not consider either as qualifications. You MUST meet the requirements. You MUST fill up the proper forms. You MUST get in line. Et cetera, et cetera.

    The forms are particularly funny. It's been a long while since I've had to fill in my parent's names, addresses, and occupations. And what's that line about a guardian? Do I really need to fill that in?

    Philippine universities, it seems, do not really make the proviso for professionals going back to school for a different track than what they originally studied for (with the possible exception of nursing prgrams.)

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get my Mom to sign an approval slip. Sigh.

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    Dumaguete Flores de Mayo 2007

    From Davao today, let me move back briefly to Dumaguete last week.

    On the last Saturday of the month, Dumaguete marks the end of May with a traditional Flores de Mayo parade along the main streets. The different barangays, each assigned a flower as theme, put up their contingent for the pageant. It's a colorful and dynamic combination of costumes and street dancing.

    Some scenes border on the absurd, such as this dancing army of cross-dressing transgenders. Yes, those are men. The horror, the horror....

    Fortunately, the beauties are also out in full force. Now, really, that's a sight for sore eyes.

    And more below:

    Sunday, June 03, 2007


    "What distinguishes a Mindanaoan blogger from other Filipino bloggers?"

    The question came from newfound blogging buddy Migs as some of us local bloggers met at Karl's Koffee Korner in SM City Davao this afternoon. So there we were, six of us -- Blogie, Migs, Marc, Andrew, and Ria, and me -- milking that little corner of Karl's for all the overpriced coffee was worth. We were bouncing around ideas about blogging culture.

    And that's when Migs threw the ball at us.

    (Thanks to Marc for the photo.)

    For some reason, the answer came easily enough.

    Mindanaoans -- whether from Davao, Cotabato, Zamboanga, Bukidnon, Agusan, or elsewhere -- have some sense of identity of being Mindanaoan. We recognize that we come from our own little towns and cities, and we have our loyalties there. But we also recognize that we are part of a bigger idea, never mind the occasional agreement in direction. That idea is Mindanao.

    In contrast, this idea is practically nonexistent among Visayans and Luzonians.

    I have never heard anyone from the Visayas say that he was Visayan, except perhaps in relation to the language that he speaks. One is Cebuano, Boholano, Dumagueteño, Ilonggo, or Waray. But not Visayan.

    Much less have I heard of people from Luzon refer to themselves as Luzonians. (I was not even sure that such a word was correct.)

    And people from Metro Manila? Well, Manileños think that the Philippines is Manila and vice versa. 'Nuff said.

    Agree? Disagree? Why or why not?

    No analysis for now, just an observation I thought I'd note lest I forget. Certainly a topic ripe for exploration.

    Goose porn

    Last week, Krisette, Herbz, and I drove over to Forest Camp in Valencia for lunch and a look-see. Forest Camp has got all sorts of domesticated fowl running on the grounds, and we stumbled upon this small family of geese.

    The geese waddled over to the pond. It looked like a little family outing, what with Mommy Goose, Daddy Gander, and Baby Gosling. As it turned out, Mr. Gander was feeling a little frisky.... The video below should reveal all in goosey graphic glory.

    Saturday, June 02, 2007

    In the lost lands

    Lifted from e.e. cummings:

    it may not always be so;and i say
    that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
    another's,and your dear strong fingers clutch
    his heart,as mine in time not far away;

    if on another's face your sweet hair lay
    in such a silence as i know,or such
    great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
    stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

    if this should be,i say if this should be-
    you of my heart,send me a little word;
    that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
    saying, Accept all happiness from me.
    Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
    sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

    Proud to be Filipino

    As tagged by Blogie, the ten things which make me proud to be Filipino

    Our cheerfulness and warmth.

    Our dogged determination.

    Our sense of invincibility.

    Our ingenuity.

    Our sense of family.

    Our diversity.

    Our checkered history.

    Our willingness to sacrifice.

    Our rational irrationality, and our irrational rationality.

    Our Catholic heritage.

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    When Being Good is not Enough

    "Doing what is right, moral and legal sometimes prejudices your political career," said outgoing vice mayor William Ablong. And he adds: "If you stand for what is right, you will become a villain."

    Is there any way to mask the bitterness behind those words? For Ablong, an uncompromising man who paints the world in black and white, it wasn't simply an electoral defeat but a moral one as well. With "tigbakay" and lotto as central campaign issues, it seems that Dumaguete has chosen to go in the direction that Ablong wanted to take it.

    William Ablong is a good man and I am sad to see him go. But at the same time, I can't help but think that his loss is partly one of his own doing. By choosing to focus on negative issues instead of positive ones, Ablong allowed his rival to dictate the terms of the engagement.

    Unfortunately, this is the critical flaw in Ablong's public personality. His is cast in the mold of a puritanical zealot. As H.L. Mencken says, "someone who is desperately afraid that, somewhere, someone is having a good time." Ablong seems far too concerned with the Old Testament's "Thou shalt not..." than with the New Testament's "Blessed are they who...."

    Dumagueteños have many concerns and they exceed the narrow limits of cockfighting and lotto. Perhaps Ablong should step back a bit and see the bigger picture. Has he considered that his loss might not be a reflection of Dumaguete's moral choice but its appraisal of the city administration's performance over the past six years?

    City government, I contend, has been less than stellar in the execution of its obligations to the citizens. The long laundry list has been brought out often enough, and I will not repeat it here. True, we've finally seen some headway in new roads and the waste water treatment facility (a project of Ablong's), but to come so close to the end, it's too little too late.

    Consider, too, how proactive stance might have affected the gambling issue. Gambling, for its intrinsic evil, is both entertainment and economic activity. What might have been done if, during the last term, the city government had taken positive steps to promote alternative -- and moral -- outlets, e.g., sports? Could this not have been an effective counterpoints, and possibly winning campaign platforms?

    In a fit of pique, Ablong has said that he might consider quitting politics altogether. I think that he should reconsider. He is a virtuous man, and that's a rare commodity in our realm. In the meantime, though, he would probably do well to meditate on Matthew 10:16.