Saturday, January 31, 2009


Divination has many forms. There's cartomancy (reading cards), tasseomancy (reading tea leaves), extispicy (reading the entrails of animals), these being arguably the most well-known forms of augury. Reading bones has so many forms that it comes under many names: scapulimancy, omoplatoscopy, slinneanachd, oracle bones, etc.

But I want to know if anyone has tried to read dog poop before. When I came home tonight, this is what I found on my garage. I'm trying to imagine how the dog made such an orderly line....

What could this mean? Hmmm....

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Something I'm enjoying a lot these days. I love the return to the colorful carefree uncomplicated rock-em-sock-em roots of superheroes. Yeah, deconstruction is fine and all, but only for a little while. When it comes to comics, don't make me think too hard.

Batman Lives! Take that, Mr. Grant Morrison! *POW!* *ZAP!* *SMASH!*

Pride and Prejudice, with zombies

Jane Austen's classic gets a contemporary update with the addition of...zombie mayhem? Believe it or not, this is actually an upcoming book and already has its place staked out in Amazon.

From the web site:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

Heh. Introduce Jane Austen to a new generation of fans. I like that goal.

Can't wait for the movie.

(Hmmm, maybe the Noli and Fili can also use a bit of updating with, you know, killer robots and aliens. And less angst. Definitely less angst.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This is Change?

With Bush gone, The Daily Show needs a new target, and that new target just happens to be The Most Favored One. Old habits really die hard, it seems. Still, this video clip is spot on and had me laughing out loud when I first saw it on TV last night.

This is really the problem I've had with Obama: for all his calm and cool delivery, in the end a lot of it is still rhetoric. While there have been some pretty bold announcements, it still remains to be seen how substantive the, ahem, Changes really will be.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Don't Be Caught Dead...."

Accidents happen when they will -- that's why they're called that. All that we can really do is take precautions and manage risks. Then there are the usual just-in-case preparations, too -- ID cards, emergency contact numbers, and health insurance. But all these beside, are you sure there's something you didn't miss?

An uncle suffered an accident last week. He was working with a motorized grinder when the stone shattered. A large chunk flew off and sliced into the arch of his foot. The wound was deep, so deep that it almost cut into the bone. Good thing his brother was nearby. He managed to call for help quickly.

As accidents go, it could have been much worse: the fragments could have flown into his face, or sliced an artery, or crushed his foot. Thankfully none of that happened. But the accident still demanded a hasty trip to the hospital, an emergency operation, and a few days of confinement.

The doctors decided to operate because there were bits of stone embedded in the wound. They had to remove every little bit lest infection set in. Such a painful procedure needed general anesthesia, and my uncle was out for a few hours.

"The last thing I remembered, I was just chatting with the doctor," my uncle recounted. "Then the next thing I knew, I was in this bed."

When he awoke, his first question to my aunt was: "Have I got a catheter on? Because I can't feel my leg." And then he looked down he saw that he was wearing an adult diaper.

"Who changed my underwear?" my uncle asked.

"I don't know. Certainly not me," my aunt shrugged. "It might have been the nurses. Or the orderlies." Then she chuckled: "But aren't you glad...?"

"About what?"

"That I always throw out all your old, tattered, and baconized tighty whities and put in new ones."

"But the old ones are so comfortable!"

"Hmph! You do remember cousin S--, don't you?"

"What about him?"

"You know that one time he had an accident? He was bloodied and all, but he refused to go to the hospital. He wanted to go home first."

"Why was that?"

"Because his singlet was in tatters! He didn't want the doctors to see what miserly yellow underwear he had."

"Ah, well...."

"So now you know why I always get you new underwear. Because you never know when you'll run into an accident and have some stranger strip you down.

"Can you imagine if you were wearing filthy underwear? It's ME that would DIE of embarrassment...."

If this were a fictional account, I would have my uncle blurt out: "But, honey, I WAS wearing my old underwear." But it's not, and the exchange between the two will have to end with my aunt getting in the last word (as, I suspect, happens all the time.) But that beside, my aunt does so love my uncle, and she really does think of everything.

Wearing clean underwear is not as facetious as it sounds. Since I posted an early draft of this story on my blog, many friends have come forward with cautionary tales. Yolynne from Zamboanga shares: "A cousin who is a nurse is constantly reminding us to invest in good and quality underwear. Once they saw a girl who was about to be operated on, and she was wearing her fave old undies. The girl was really embarrassed."

It's not just a matter of saving face, either. Remo, a surgeon from Tacorong, emphasizes that they have to strip emergency patients' underwear for better visualization of hidden injuries. Surgeons prefer clean, untattered undies because they can reveal marks and otherwise undetected trauma.

And sometimes...sometimes it just goes beyond what's clean and what's not. Mel, an anesthesiologist from Silliman Hospital, has seen quite a variety of underwear in patients. But she adds: "the most surprising were the flowered So-En panties on really macho men. I wondered, how come? The stock answer: panties are cheaper than briefs. But I don't know if that's the real explanation."

In comparison with other garments, undies don't get as much respect. After all, they're there for support, and hidden from view. Who would look, really? Then again, you never really know.

They can be revealing, in more ways than one.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poetry Night 2

Our second Poetry Night, held at Wings and Wedges in Matina Town Square, was a smashing success. Students from UP Mindanao came out in full force and comprised most of the readers and audience. All in all, our crowd had grown by around 50% more than the first Poetry Night. Read more...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Skeptical about Global Warming

"I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists."
--Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia, Center of Advanced Study in Geology at Punjab University. Visiting Scholar of the Geology Department at University of Cincinnati

Heh. Something to think about. Full article.

Pride and Prejudice, from Marvel Comics which Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett are secretly mutants. (Kidding!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Aaargh! It's Monday!

No, I'm not really prone to the Monday blues, even though I do have a rather full class schedule. It's just another day to go through. That said, the weekend was refreshing and relaxing and I was sad to see it go.

Graphic above was an illustration by Harry Clarke for an Edgar Allan Poe story. In the public domain now and taken from Grandma's Graphics.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Found via Gilbert's blog.

Q: What happens when you throw an orange at a synagogue?

A: The Jews will come out.

Kidding aside, any movement that calls for death of any person -- and moreso the extermination of a group of people -- based on race or religion is not worthy of support.

Poetry Night 2

We're holding another Poetry Night at Matina Town Square this coming January 24 (Saturday). As before, it will be from 8PM to 9PM at Wings & Wedges. Whether you want to read or just listen, we'd like to see you there. Do come.

Some pictures from our first poetry night.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flash Floods in Compostela Valley

Over in Compostela Valley, flash floods have caused landslides and rendered roads impassable. At least one death has been reported already. My blog brader Migs, who works in the area, is in the thick of things and plurks updates from time to time. (Picture taken from Migs.)

Cagayan de Oro under water

Cagayan de Oro continues to be inundated with water, as you can see from the pictures above. This is part of a larger disaster affecting the area. From the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

At least 14 people were killed when floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains this week struck parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, as well as Catanduanes province, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), and the disaster councils of Region 10 (RDCC10) and local government units.

Figures provided by the various disaster councils also showed at least 46,346 families, or 234,578 individuals, have been displaced and otherwise affected in the calamity-stricken areas.

A Plurkpal, the same one from whom I lifted these pictures, is raising money to help feed the displaced families. You can view the details from her blog.

Disclaimer: I do not know Chiq Montes personally, so I cannot guarantee that this is not a scam. A number of friends do vouch for her, and I have sent in a small Paypal donation. Please use your own judgment if and how you want to help.

The Witness of Fr. Rey Roda

A year ago today, in the small island of Tabawan in Tawi-Tawi province-- so small that you might not even find it on the map -- Fr. Rey Roda of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was beaten and shot dead in front of his chapel.

Here is an account of how he died:
Fr. Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda, director of the Notre Dame of Tabawan and head of the mission station there for the last ten years was praying in the chapel, as he used to do every night when armed men barged in and tried to take him. He struggled and resisted being taken away, and explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right there and then. A witness said that he was beaten and then shot dead.

For me the anniversary would have passed by unremarked had I not decided to attend Mass at the Ateneo chapel this noon. Fr. Albert Alejo, a friend of Fr. Roda, was the celebrant; in his homily, he reflected at some length on the death of Fr. Roda.

Fr. Roda was 54 years old when he was killed. He had been director of Notre Dame of Tabawan since 1998. He was known as a tireless advocate of education. According to a blog set up in his memory:
Among his Oblate brethren, Fr. Rey is known for his almost obsessive advocacy of his scholarship program for the youths of Tabawan. Given the meager island resources, he believed that only through education could they escape the cycle of poverty and hopefully give something in return to the island and its populace. Thus, he unceasingly sought assistance from whatever source not only for his own school and scholars but also for the whole formal education system of Tabawan and the rest of Tawi-tawi.

Not only that, he was also instrumental in assisting deported Filipino workers from Sabah, which is a stone's throw from Tabawan.
When in 2003 Malaysia deported thousands of illegal Filipino workers, many of them from Tabawan, Fr. Rey became involved in caring for these deportees — helping to find assistance for and to organize the building of core shelters, day care and feeding programs, and alternative livelihood projects.

And to all this, we still have to add the other livelihood projects and peace initiatives that Fr. Roda was involved in. He was due for transfer to another assignment but declined because he wanted to remain in Tabawan to continue missionary work there.

Fr. Rey Roda is the third Oblate missionary to die in the area. The other two were Bishop Benjamin de Jesus in 1997 and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio in 2000. Archbishop Orlando Quevedo explained the mission of the Oblates among the predominantly Muslim communities:
Theology is no longer Mission as understood at the time of St. Francis Xavier. In 1971, a Synod of Bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome and taught that ‘action for justice and participation in the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.

Fr. Rey’s generation of seminarians and young priests had this in mind when going to the missions, as in Sulu. Helping create a world more peaceful and more just, more harmonious and more ‘fraternal’ in collaboration with peoples of other faiths — that is at the heart of the Oblate missions in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. And why? Because such a world is a fuller reflection of the universal Reigning of God. That is part of Catholic belief and is probably shared in one form or another by various religious traditions.

In a time when many accuse religion of hindering progress, when martyrdom is sullied by those who would use it only for violence, Fr. Rey Roda and the Oblates stand as witness to the continued dedication of the Church to its mission.

May we follow in their light.

Some links to other blogs:
Fr. Rey Roda, Servant of Peace
In Memory of Fr. Rey Roda
Burial of Fr. Rey Roda
Fr. Rey Roda, OMI
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


New coffee shop recommendation from my friend Chi:
I have another suggestion of a really good place to hold our meeting. This is a new place every coffeelover should try. It just opened last December and I discovered it on the first week of January with a friend. The name of the coffeeshop is ZABADANI. It's a small coffeeshop located at Door 8 DC Invest BuildingJP Rizal corner Bangoy St. just between WHAW and Claude's.
Zabadani is owned by two friends, Anzano Ebrahim Macalawi and Wadilkhaery "Wadi" Mutia. I met Wadi on my visit to the coffee shop. He's the nighttime barista. In all my cafe-hopping experience, he's the only barista I could call as such because he can give you a detailed description of the kinds of coffee they are serving.

The best part is, Zabadani's price: just P20-P50. It really feels like you're not draining you money while you're gulping your brew. They get their beans from a supplier to 5-star hotels. The supplier gives his beans to Zabadani's owners at a very low price so the "masa" can get a taste of good coffee.

Sounds like it's worth a visit. By the way, Zabadani also has a web site.


I've never quite seen my students so indignant. I think this email explains it all:
sir, after our open source class, the operating system class was using the same lab as ours... since Ubuntu was already installed there, their teacher told them to uninstall...

all our programs and files were may be okay for some of us but for others not...btw, our friends told us that some did not uninstall since they heard that we 4th years were using the computers...but still, some, like on the machine that i am (was) using, have been uninstalled :-(

All told, that was rather rude to uninstall our operating system without asking me. Equal blame to the lab assistant, too, for letting it happen. But what can you do?

Me? I'm amused at the situation. I can't help but chuckle at my fuming students.

In class today, we tackled the issue. Following jocular snippet ensued:

"What do you want me to do? Beat him up?"


"But what if he's bigger than me?"

"No! He's smaller!"

"What if he beats me up? Ulaw kaayo."

Actually it works out to the good because my students will get more practice restoring their setup. And I'm always glad to see more people spread Ubuntu.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Remembering a Janitor

Here's a touching story of someone remembering a janitor who did her an invaluable act of kindness (found via Mig's blog.)
To be eligible for graduation, I had to enroll in my last three courses and pay my tuition fee. Since my parents didn’t have enough money for my matriculation, I applied for a student loan hoping that my one of my Home Economics (HE) professors would take pity on me and sign on as a guarantor for the student loan. But those whom I approached either refused or were not eligible as guarantors. After two unsuccessful weeks of looking for a guarantor, my prospects looked dim, my future dark. And so, there I was, a downtrodden twenty year old with a foggy future, crying in the AS lobby. I only had twenty four hours left to look for a guarantor.
Mang Mel, with a mop in hand, approached me and asked me why I was crying. I told him I had no guarantor for my student loan and will probably not be able to enroll this semester. I had no hopes that he would be able to help me. After all, he was just a janitor. He borrowed my loan application papers and said softly, “Puwede ako pumirma. Empleyado ako ng UP.” He borrowed my pen and signed his name. With his simple act of faith, Mang Mel not only saved my day, he also saved my future.

If you haven't done so already, you really should read the full story. But the crux of this is: the recently retired Mang Milton, to raise some money, has cut and released an album. I believe this story made it to the front page sidebar of some national dailies. You can get more info on where to buy the CD from the aforementioned blog.

The story, though, has some sad revelations. For all his kindness, though, Mang Milton has been left holding the proverbial empty bag. The author relates:

We were welcomed into their home by his daughter Kit. As she pointed out to a laminated photo of Mang Mel on the wall, she proudly told us that her father did retire with recognition from the University. However, she sadly related to us that many of the students whose loans Mang Mel guaranteed neglected to settle their student loans. After forty-five years of service to the University, Mang Mel was only attributed 171 days of work for his retirement pay because all the unpaid student loans were deducted from his full retirement pay of about 675 days. This seems to me a cruel repayment for his kindness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dying from a Nuclear Blast

After trying out Fallout, a game I bought last December, I had a quick look at its included player's manual. In it was a succinct descriptions of the many ways to die from a nuclear blast. An engagingly morbid read.

Excerpt below:
The first thing bomb victims experience is the intense flux of photons
from the blast, which releases 70-80% of the bomb's energy. The effects go up to third degree thermal burns and are not a pretty sight. Initial deaths are due to this effect.

The next phenomenon is the supersonic blast front. You see it before you hear it. The pressure front has the effect of blowing away anything in its path.

After the front comes the overpressure phase. It would feel like being underwater a few hundred meters. (At a few thousand meters under the sea, pressurized hulls implode.) The pressure gradually dies off, and there is a negative overpressure phase, with a reversed blast wind. This reversal is due to air rushing back to fill the void left by the explosion.

The air gradually returns to normal atmospheric pressure. At this stage, fires caused by electrical destruction and ignited debris turn the place into a firestorm.

Then come the middle term effects such as keloid formation and retinal blastoma. Genetic or hereditary damage can appear up to forty years after initial irradiation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Acer Aspire 4730Z

New laptop. Read all about it.

Online submission form for Davao Writers Workshop

Spent the past lunch hour putting together an online application form for the Davao Writers Workshop 2009. Many thanks to Dagon Design for the most excellent Wordpress form mailer plugin.

Heh. I'd say this is a first for a writers workshop in the Philippines. I'm rightly proud of it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Optimus Prime in Transformers 2

Photo grabbed from Yahoo! Movies. And no, I don't care that Megan Fox and whathisface are in it again -- I'm after the robots. Just the robots.

Autobots, roll out!

Davao Writers Workshop 2009 Poster

Not approved yet, but anyway, here it is: the poster for the upcoming Davao Writers Workshop.

In case you're wondering, yes, it's Talecraft-inspired. I didn't want to use any of the old writing clichés like pens and inkpots or typewriters or pencils. I did have another concept around Pygmalion but it was harder to execute and I didn't have time to do it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Movies and text

Movies seem to be de rigueur in the Humanities classes of Ateneo de Davao. Last year, I watched "Angels in America", "Shakespeare in Love", "Les Miserable", and portions of "Beowulf" (not the Neil Gaiman cartoon, thankfully) -- and these were only for English and American Literature and Literary Theory. Film Appreciation was a whole other subject. (Yes, I watched a whole scad of films last year.)

That said, I never thought I'd actually screen a movie in class, but I did. The movie in question was "Capote", and this was for my Feature Stories class.

I gave in to the temptation because I decided to tackle Capote's "In Cold Blood." "In Cold Blood" is a landmark work because it's generally acknowledged to be the first non-fiction novel; it always garners a mention whenever the Creative Nonfiction is bandied about.

"In Cold Blood" the novel sells for about P500 at the local National Bookstore. Luckily for me and my students, the first part is available from the New Yorker (and the full novel from, er, more dubious sources).

But that still left the question of how to get my students -- whose current reading fare is "Twilight" -- enthused about a true crime account. Capote takes his sweet time describing the victims and their murderers, all the better to heighten the tension: I wasn't sure my students would take to it.

Enter the movie. The VCD copy had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. And I thought: "Why not?"

In the end, it worked out quite well. The movie provided the context with which to frame the novel -- about the period, about the crime, about the characters, about Capote, about his motivations. We didn't finish the movie, but the little that we did see got enough questions to simmer and boil.

The session after that, the students had read through enough of the first part (not completely, though) for us to be able to have a discussion of its style, of its content, and of Capote's ethics.

So there you go: the merits of supplementing lessons with audio-visuals.

And over in the next room, they were screening Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet", with the students flipping through their copies of the Bard's play. Heh.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Davao Writers Workshop 2009

Davao Writers Guild is now accepting applications to the Davao Writing Workshop. Categories are poetry, fiction, essay, and one-act play. Deadline for submission is March 15; workshop runs from May 4 to 8. More details at the Dagmay.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I received a request from Silliman Journal to write a reaction to a paper written by Dr. Ben Malayang III, current president of Silliman University. I don't know if I have permission to repost that academic paper here, so I won't. What follows is my response. Take it with a grain of salt.

Last Christmas, I stumbled across "Momo" in a bookstore bargain bin. "Momo" is a contemporary fantasy that would be normally filed under children's literature. I had never heard of it before -- as I suspect few others will have -- but I picked it up right away because it was written by Michael Ende.

Michael Ende! How could I pass it up? Ende wrote "The Neverending Story" and for anyone who grew up in the 80's, that movie was an essential part of childhood.

It took me a while, though, to begin reading "Momo." The cover wasn't especially appealing, and I thought it would be a typical sob story about its eponymous heroine. But I was wrong; "Momo" turned out to be engrossing and enjoyable.

What's the story? So there's this poor girl, Momo, who takes up residence in an abandoned ampitheatre. Momo is a pure heart, pure as can be. And she has a special talent: she knows how to listen, as in really listen. Because of this, the people who talk to her eventually learn something about themselves, even though Momo herself doesn't say anything at all.

What does all this have to do with Dr. Ben Malayang's paper, "When Our Tree Becomes Only Your Tree?" Why, very little! It just so happens that "Momo" was more interesting to read and write about than Dr. Malayang's paper justifying and quantifying the value of shared resources. Perhaps "Momo" isn't as rigorous and formal, but Ende has a simple message that he conveys effectively.

To return to the story: mysterious grey men in bowler hats have infiltrated Momo's town. Slowly, they convince the townsfolk of the value of "saving time" to the effect that the people become more efficient. In reality, the grey men are stealing all this saved time! In so doing, the people become miserable soulless husks.

Disguised as a children's book, "Momo" is really a modern fable and within it is Ende's critique of our modern economic system. Somehow, we've quantified everything -- time, in "Momo's" case, and trees, in the case of Dr. Malayang's paper -- but in so doing we've also erased their value. Time (and its modern analog, money) is only of value if it's used -- for work, yes, but also for play, for love, for contemplation, for doing "nothing": that's the deeper message of "Momo."

It's this approach of quantification of the value that I have a problem with in Dr. Malayang's paper. It appears more rigorous, and perhaps that's an accident of its intended audience and venue. But the impact of the message -- which by the way I agree with -- is lost.

That said, I also have an issue with his assumptions and his formulation. Dr. Malayang's paper assumes a steady state zero-maintenance resource in a zero-sum game. In simple terms, the paper assumes that the tree lasts forever, that there's no need to take care of it, and that its fruits are consumed totally without benefit to the community. But that's hardly an accurate model.

What about issues of stewardship? What if one person takes care of the tree better than the rest of the community can? What about opportunities for exchange?

What of human ingenuity? During World War II, the British did not have access to the rubber trees of old Malaya (pardon the pun), so what was their solution? Synthetic rubber.

That's my issue with the formulation of the model. Within its limited scope, it proves the author's intended point, but it doesn't take into account the other variables. If we then attack the flawed model, could it be taken to mean that the point it wants to prove is mistaken?

Perhaps the paper was written the way it was because it was meant for an academic audience. Fine. But for the rest of us, perhaps a simpler message will suffice:

Play nice. Share. Take care of the world that God has given you.

But that's just me, the village idiot, talking. Take it. Or don't. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to finish "Momo."


By popular request, here is the first part of the paper:

In the case of natural resources (trees, land, water, minerals), tenure underpins management. When tenure shifts, the management of a resource – and so also its use and fate – will change.1

1. Assumptions

Assume that:

1. A resource at a time t has an ecological value Vt.
2. Vt is a composite of values arising from its different utility; i.e., Vt = ∑(vu), where vu is a value of the resource arising from its utility u; a resource has more than one utility.
3. Vt is created from how the resource provides a basket of ecosystem services (i.e., provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural [MEA 2003]).
4. The value of a resource (or its composite utility) is wholly available to the holders of all accessible rights to the resource at the time t (Rt).

Presumably, when the number of holders exceed 1 (nt > 1), Vt gets divided into nt where the proportion of Vt (or the set of vu going to any one n [i.e., to nt,i]) is commensurate to the proportion ρ of Rt that i has successfully sequestered from other claimants j.


Vt/nt = ρ(Rt,i) + ρ(Rt,j) when nt>1

Or, where ρ(i) is the proportion of Rt going to i and ρ(j) is the proportion of Rt going to j, then:

Vt/nt = ρ(i) + ρ(j) + е

where е is the residual Vt that neither i nor j is unable to sequester (the non-sequestrable services of natural resources such as services that cannot be exclusively appropriated by an individual like, for example, the ability of a tree to absorb atmospheric carbon).

If nt > 1 and ρ(i) = ρ(j) (as in the case of common property), Vt is assumed to be equal across all nt,ij. When ρ(i)/ρ(j) approaches infinity (as when common rights are acquired, or transferred to, or are sequestered or reserved by only one claimant i [in which instance common property transforms to sole ownership]) then all sequestrable Vt goes to only nt,i. When this occurs,

Vt/nt,i = Vt + е

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sin chia kiong

"Sin chia kiong!"

For many years those three syllables were at the core of an annual ritual in our household. We children would scream those words into the telephone, all the better to be heard above the din of firecrackers going off in the background of both ends of the connection. In later years, shouting was still the norm, because we had gotten used to it and because the people on the other end had become hard of hearing, said people being Grandmother and Grandfather in Dumaguete.

Up to now, I am unsure of the exact literal meaning of the greeting. "Sin" I know means "new", and that indicates its roots in Hokkien. Of "chia" or "kiong" I'm not so certain. "Kiong", my mother says, takes from "kiong hi", which is our way of saying "congratulations." "Chia" is not at all in our regular vocabulary, but I guess it would be "year."

Compounding my confusion was the fact that only we seemed to use the greeting. Everyone else said "kung hei fat choy", which is Mandarin (or in Hokkien, "kiong hi huat choy"); when I gave friends the usual family greeting, I would be met with puzzled and bemused looks. I really don't know why that should be: "kung hei fat choy" means "more happiness (and wealth) to you", and is thus less literal than "sin chia kiong."

But what did it matter if people outside the family circle understood it or not? It was the greeting Guama and Guakong used. It was the greeting linked to the happiness of the new year. "Sin chia kiong, Ama! How are you? Are you well?" "Sin chia kiong, Angkong! Yes, it's very noisy here; I can hardly hear you. Are they tossing firecrackers there, as well?" And we said all those tangential things because, by our convention, we never said "I love you."

These days, we could say "sin chia kiong" without shouting. Davao, having banned firecrackers for the past five years, is the quietest place to spend the New Year; there are no explosions to shout over. The telephone calls are much clearer and cheaper -- we can talk as long as we want for only P10 per call. It would be a fine time to greet Guama and Guakong: "Sin chia kiong!" I would still shout, though, if only from habit.

All but for one thing: Guama and Guakong are no longer there to hear it; and so I content myself to whisper it:

"Sin chia kiong, Guama; sin chia kiong, Guakong."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Janus Tower

January is named after Janus, the two-faced god who looks both to the past and to the future. (Ironically, it was the homily from midnight Mass that reminded me of this fact.) Feeling the need to exercise my design side, I doodled the fantasy scene above.

The drawing above started as a rough sketch of a two-faced titan, but it was so blocky I thought it would look better as a motif in mortar. Then it became an outpost watchtower of sorts; all in all, quite fitting considering the theme.

Originally pencilled in number 2, scanned in using Xsane, and colored in the GIMP.