An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

29 December 2006


Happy New Year, everyone! As you can tell, I have been horribly busy with work, and my poor dear blog has suffered. But as I am in Bicol at the moment and my son left for Manila last night for a two-day spree of watching dolphin shows, fireworks displays, and attending a relative's wedding, I can finally sit down, away from work (well, most of it at least) and people, and do marathon blog posting by completing all my unfinished blog drafts.

But first, a few updates. The December issue of Force & Valor will be out again very soon, the first half of the book I'm working on now looks more like the first half of a book rather than the muddle of anecdotes and excerpts from interviews that it used to be, and I am almost done with my first collection of short stories -- which will be my third published non-commissioned book, and will also be my thesis, as I go on the last leg of my graduate studies as a Creative Writing major. And as for the more mundane things, I have completely changed the way I keep my archive of digital files -- counting almost 400 cds -- I have finished reading four books and am just about to start reading another one I borrowed from the man in my life, and have started to use my exercise machine again.

I am planning to start the new year without any writing backlogs, so the writing backlogs are what I have been attacking for the past couple of months. For a fictionist and a commissioned non-fictionist like me, daily life is always a battle between revising and fact-checking and transcribing and creating a new draft for a new chapter, add to that reading the required books and newspaper archives, as well as the non-required publications, in search for that last teeny tiny bit of detail that would confirm everything I had found out so far and make them all fall into place.

I have missed a few important things, though. I have missed the Free Press Literary Contest, the Palancas, and the Writer's Night. I have missed my high school reunion, a couple of get-togethers with my friends from the Shakespearean Tragedies class, and a few fun walking tours of Old Manila with Carlos Celdran. I missed reading Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, as one needs a clear mind when reading this novel, and my mind has been far from clear lately. And I have missed a few other things, I suppose, but I have also accomplished quite a lot of tasks and met more than a few deadlines.

The people around me had been tremendously patient and supportive, and topping the list is my son, who has never, to my memory, complained that he doesn't see me anymore, and who, when I want to be with him, gladly grants me an appointment. My bosses, too, PCSupt Felizardo Serapio Jr, Commander of the Special Action Force, and PCSupt Silverio Alarcio Jr, twice a former Commander of the SAF, have been extremely understanding of my, ah, mood swings, and they never did mind when I called them up at the wee hours of the morning to tell them some of my doubts and fears regarding the project. My support group, my friends in the SAF and from the University of the Philippines, have been crucial to my survival of those dark days of writing and revising. The man in my life, the most patient and loving and strongest man I know (next to my father, of course), merits special mention, as I know I am not the easiest person to live with, yet he is still there beside me, constantly giving me encouragement and strength and unconditional love. Dominique James, the best photographer and art director in the country, has been such an angel for not abandoning me, and for helping me deal with the numerous magazine problems with style and humor and for, of course, making everything turn out simply fabulous. Thanks also to fellow bloggers who provided me with something to smile at during the odd hours of the night when I am up and bothered, and to my wonderful readers who keep visiting and commenting here.

This blog is turning a year old and I have a different story to tell. But I will still post my regular weekly entries, albeit late, and will remove -- or perhaps will just be revising and then re-posting -- this post when all other posts and links have been updated. So I invite you to scroll down, because I will keep posting for the missing dates not chronoligically but as I finish writing them, to cover the period between October 23 and December 31. Do keep reading. In the meantime, for me there will be coffee and leftover Christmas sweets, and the music of the Electric Light Orchestra while I do the marathon composing of all the blog entries I owe myself and my readers, as I keep trying to make sense of things in this random universe.

17 December 2006

Cover boy

The December 2006 issue of Force & Valor magazine will be out soon! Force & Valor is the official publication of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, and this issue features the trainings and the traditions that make a SAF Trooper.

Behold our cover boy, the SAF Commander, Police Chief Superintendent Felizardo M. Serapio, Jr.

He looks quite serious here, but the photo shoot was really hilarious. It was a very iffy day. I was not feeling well. I could not find any dark-skinned, large-muscled, combat-tested SAF Trooper with the memories of past battles in his eyes to pose for the cover in full jungle battle gear, because most of the troops are away on deployment. We needed a fierce noonday sun but it was the day before Super Typhoon Reming was expected to hit Metro Manila so the available light was flat and gray. And the photographer, Toti Navales, had to leave any moment because he was on call. So it was Boss to the rescue, first making a series of funny poses in his office before finally being warrior-like atop the metal platform under the covered court of the First Battalion. The pack he carries weighs twelve kilos. He carries it with him each time he goes on his morning run with the troops who are on garrison duty at the brigade headquarters. Which makes me wonder why I didn't think of him in the first place, since he is, after all, the perfect cover boy: battle-tested, large-muscled, and one of the pioneers of the SAF.

Dominique James, the Art Director of Force & Valor, designed such a fabulous cover concept that gains its power from its very simplicity. And I'm continuously being impressed by Boss, who can recite Tennyson from memory. I bet not many one-star Generals in the Philippines can do that.

To download the pdf version of the previous issue of Force & Valor magazine, please check the sidebar.

11 December 2006

Relearning, rewriting

Before I started first grade my mother taught me penmanship. She would call me every afternoon from my games and make me sit on my small, low desk to practice my loops and my hooks and my circles and my stick lines on specially-lined paper with a set of Palmer templates and a scary-looking copy-book for about two hours, while she sat to my right holding a wooden ruler, ready to swat my hand whenever my grip on the pencil slackened or whenever the slant of my script starts to look inconsistent. I abhorred those penmanship lessons. My hands got crampy, my k’s looked like tiny bunches of grapes, and I could never get my g’s right. I always got swatted at the upper case Q, which is supposed to look somewhat like the number 2, but in my small awkward hand always ended up looking like an ineptly drawn number 8. Indeed, there were issues, as can be expected when one teaches the Palmer script to a six year-old. My lines were crooked and the spacing between letters was inconsistent, but when I entered first grade, my teacher praised me for having the best cursive in class.

Of course I had the best cursive in class. No one else had my mother to harass them into practicing their penmanship for practically the whole summer. After my teacher's praise I was sincerely grateful to my mother for giving me the gift of good penmanship, but being the emotionally klutzy six year-old that I was, and still a little bit miffed at my mother for making me miss my summer, I decided to forget my manners and not say thank you.

As I progressed through grade school, I experimented with different handwriting styles. In my journals, I would use squarish print, awkward italics, tiny circular cursive which had the lower-case l looking exactly the same as the lower-case e, and for a time I even wrote in a series of codes that I devised myself -- but was never really able to decode -- which made me write in symbols rather than actual letters. I tried some of those lettering styles that were popular in the eighties: the marshmallow letters, the print that tried to look like it was made by a typewriter, the normal print that had all the closed lines shaded in black that made it so hard to re-read, and a cursive style that doubled all the curliques at the end of every upstroke. I even tried to become left-handed. It got so that I did not have a distinctive writing style anymore, and sometimes I come upon my own notes and not realize that I wrote those lines.

But I was a heavy writer. I wrote everything down in notebooks, using any kind of handwriting style that I fancied at the moment with a Number 2 Mongol pencil, which was all I was ever allowed to use until the fifth grade. I wrote down song lyrics, classmates' names, the full names of all my thirty-six cousins from my father's side, a list of names that I would have liked for myself, the names of all the Care Bears in Care-A-Lot, an inventory of my Barbie Dolls' clothes, and a play about a brat pack on BMX bicycles. High school was the worst. Even my teachers complained about the illegibility of my scrawl.

I lost all of my notebooks sometime during our transfers from house to house and from city to city and from school to school, which is a pity, as I would have loved to flip through them once more and see how I wrote my way to where I am now.

Somehow, through the years, I have developed a far simpler script. From the fat, squarish, clownish-looking and highly stylized handwriting I have devised for myself, my hand slowly began to loop its letters together in a string. It had then had evened itself out to a fairly consistent scribble in college, but experienced a slight setback upon the advent of the personal computer in schools and at home, and upon my renewed love affair with the manual typewriter. But looking through my journals from two years ago, when I started writing my entries in long hand once more, I noticed how simpler my handwriting began to look, and how predictable, and how much more easier to read. Sometimes the slant and spacing would vary according to the mood I'm in at the time of writing, but mostly I write in large loops at a 45 degree slant to the rule. When I began writing with fountain pens, my handwriting improved noticeably, as most of the energy I used to need to bear down on a Number 2 Mongol pencil is now being channeled to the proper circular movement of the wrist. My current hand is hardly the Palmer script -- I still can't get the Palmer upper-case Q right, and to make all the loops look mechanically equal and consistent is impossible for me now -- but it's fast, convenient, easy to read, and looks fairly pleasing.

It's a little ironic, though, because my mother has really bad handwriting, and was never able to improve it. But nevertheless, bad as her own penmanship was, I learned the basics of proper penmanship from my mother, had invented my own, and had unconsciously -- and perhaps all to predictably -- gone back to the basics as I grew older. And as I return to the handwriting I was taught when I was six, I can now declare the words I never had the good manners to say when I was six, this time on paper, using my Pelikan M205 demonstrator fountain pen with a medium nib and the Parker Penman ink in Emerald:

04 December 2006


My mother, Mama Eden, always worries about her garden everytime there is a storm. So when Typhoon Reming was labeled a super typhoon, she had all her potted bougainvilleas brought into the house. These were the ones in the sala.

By the time the storm had ended, all the bougainvilleas had shedded their bloom, creating a sea of petals on the tile floor.

If only the entire Bicol region had been just as sheltered.