Single Brown Male looking for BBB (Big Brown Bear)

There’s a coffee shop near my place where you can date stuffed animals.

That’s right. For the low, low price of one latte (which is approximately Php5,780.00, give or take), you can pick any stuffed toy as your table companion. You can have it sit in front of you or beside you, cuddle with it, make it hold your coffee — all kinds of…er, stuff.

I heard this was a common trend in Korean coffee shops, but I haven’t been to that many yet. Even though there are lots of Korean-owned Cafes around La Salle,I tend to stick to the familiar and comfortable. For me, that means a quaint little place in front of Rizal Memorial, wedged in between two tall condominiums. The shop’s original name was “Coffee Prince”, after the famous Koreanovela. But, due to copyright infringement (and the threat of so many show fans crowding the store just to say they’ve “been to the Coffee Prince #ohemgee”) the owners decided to change the name to “Coffee Place”, which is currently in the running for the Most Uninspired Shop Name Award.

But, I love it anyway. It’s a favorite haunt for when I want to write for leisure. So far, it hasn’t failed me yet (it’s where I’m writing this entry). The place has two floors, lots of tables and couches, and numerous circular light bulbs suspended from the ceiling. When reflected on one’s laptop screen, they resemble city lights blurred by the distance. Best of all, there are plenty of outlets located strategically in every corner — enough to sate your typical table hog/ wifi-leech.

In the future, I believe coffee shops will be rated according to their outlet count. Owners will post signs at the door, highlighting this as their main draw (“Come right in! Over 50 outlets for all your charging needs. Also available: Coffee”)


My date for tonight: a brown stuffed bear wearing a white knitted sweater.

It was either him, a Winnie the Pooh doll (with a shirt that says “Millennium Bear”), Stitch, a Cloud, or a Purple Elephant. I didn’t like that streaker Winnie, Stitch was too cute for my taste, the cloud was too dirty, and the elephant looked like it was on LSD. So, I ended up with the brown bear.

Something about him appealed to me. Like, this was a toy who was already tired of life and had no more f*cks to give.

I named him Jim Ross, not after the WWE commentator, but just because that name suited him. Jim, the alcoholic crane operator who just came from the construction yard, after an exhausting day of getting his ear chewed off by his asshole boss. Jim, who is having marital problems back at home, and who suspects that his wife is sleeping with his next door neighbor, Elmo.

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Just look at him, all tuckered out from being life’s punching bag. For some reason, the bear’s presence made it easier to write tonight, even though I myself was already drained from the long commute. It’s like the bear gets me, like he wants to communicate something to me:

Jim : The f*ck I care about what you’re writing. Just give me my draft beer already.

Only the first date and already a match made in heaven.

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A Letter For The Single People Waiting To Be Loved

Going through something similar. My mantra as of late is to “be the perfect person for that perfect someone.”

” They will say hello, and it won’t feel like the first time. It will be the kind of hello that means “I’ve missed you, and I don’t even know you yet.”

Thought Catalog

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Dear You,

Single doesn’t mean less-than. Single is whole. You are everything, now, in this moment: fully formed, a force to be reckoned with, all you need to be – and will ever need to be – in one perfect soul. One is a round number, remember.

Also remember that you are enough.

You are complete.

You are loved.

They’re on their way. Your person. It might not be today, though – in fact, it’s probably not today, or even tomorrow – and that’s exactly how it should be. You’re not with the person of your life because you are the person of your life. They are extra. It will happen when it happens. But it will happen.

Don’t sit and wait. Don’t simply pass the time until they arrive. You are worth a thousand more dreams than that. Continue, with full speed ahead, to be wonderful, to be…

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Making sense of the last chapter

I wake up to the sight of many lifeless eyes, staring down at me.

Startled, I try to make sense of what I’m looking at, tracing a pair of eyeballs back to a purple giraffe face with its tongue hanging out. Just a stuffed toy, thank god.

They surround me on all sides. Next to my pillow, there’s a white, child-sized stuffed bear, its fur speckled with dust.

It’s then that I remember this isn’t my room, but a female cousin’s.

We’re at their place in Tondo, celebrating Christmas with the aunties from my mom’s side. It’s an annual tradition: every Dec. 25, we make the long drive to our grandma’s house, where she and her daughters proceed to stuff us with as much food as they can, readying us for hibernation.

While we sleep off our food coma, mom would catch up with her sisters, gossiping about work, politics, our devious housemaids, and her favorite topic: us, her children.

My ears would prick whenever I would hear my name mentioned. Most of it is embellished. Like I would go home late from overtime, and you won’t hear a peep out of her. But in front of her sisters, she would construct a story about how I was gallivanting with my girlfriend (“He’s always coming home late from his dates. I told him he should prioritize work, once in a while!”). One time, I came home wearing a new pair of pants, the first I bought in three years (my other pants were so old and crisp that they can stand by themselves when propped up). She nodded in approval and that was that.

Come Christmas, I am suddenly painted as a big-time spender who burns cash faster than I make it (“When will these kids learn that saving is it’s own reward?”).

Usually, I would politely enter the room and correct the story. But this time, I’m in no mood to do so. Instead, I retreated to a cousin’s room and proceeded to reflect on the year that was.

I read somewhere that if 2014 was a book, you have to make sure that the last chapter is worth reading.

I don’t know what genre my novel falls into, but the last few pages have been a bit bleak, coming from a recent break-up with a long-time girlfriend and experiencing a standstill in my career.

It’s like one of those stories where the protagonist fails in his mission and must suffer through the consequences, all the way to the end. The last twenty pages chronicles him just trying to rise from the shit-storm that resulted from his actions (incidentally, this is the kind of source material Peter Jackson needs to create a four-part trilogy. Just look at the last Hobbit movie).

Maybe I should have heeded that TV Feng Shui artist’s advice, when she said that 2014 would be a bad year for the Dragon. At least I could’ve prepared myself better. Maybe next year, I’ll be the right animal to attract cosmic luck.

2015 is almost here. And yet most of us are just starting to make sense of what just happened.

Tell me a story

Our legs buckled under the weight of the falling ceiling.

Desperately, we tried to push it back, but it kept getting heavier and heavier by the second. We crouched — arms outstretched — to support its weight and keep the whole thing from turning us into human pancakes.

Just when it looked like our fate was sealed, someone gave a signal. Instantly, the ceiling vanished — ONLY to be replaced by a wall with the same murderous intent. It was seemingly possessed by the garbage compactor from Star Wars. Another signal, and the wall turned into two mountains on both side, coming closer to give us the Worst Hug ever.

Finally, the instructor gave the last signal and all the things that tried to kill us vanished. Thdeathtrap of a room turned back into a plain conference hall.

We just survived our first IMPROV class. And from the smile plastered on everyone’s faces, it was the most fun we’ve had in a long time.

Storytelling, for business

The activity was part of a seminar titled “The Art of Storytelling’ as used in the business setting.

In my case, i was asked to attend by my boss, to up my presentation skills. Truthfully, it really did suck — I wasn’t the cocky, confident presentor I originally was, since everyone here intimidates me. My officemates are Lex Luthor-type geniuses, minus the balding and the obsession with muscular men clad in red-blue spandex.

The speaker was a guy named Voltaire, a theater actor who started as a “glorified car-wash” boy from Honda:

“I was so good at my job, I created a manual for proper carwashing techniques. It showed how to save water, how to wax the car properly, and so on. Finally, the manager said ‘give this guy a promotion.'”

“They gave me a tie and promoted me to Photocopier Boy. My first task? Mass producing my carwash manual.”

Eventually, he went on to become the most sought-after acting instructor in the country. He holds workshops for corporations, talent agencies and even religious organizations (because we’ve all had that boring pastor who made us want to switch religions, rather than endure another dull, hour-long sermon).

According to him, storytelling can be broken down into four parts: Normalcy, Incidence, Resolution, Insight.

If you apply this to your normal day, you’d have something like this:

Normalcy: Every 3pm, you go to the coffee machine and dial a cup of cappuccino.

Incidence: Disaster strikes when the machine explodes, coating you in radioactive coffee. Why it is radioactive is anyone’s guess.

Resolution: Through this freak accident, you now have the power to secrete coffee out of your pores. You have become “The Coffee Maker” — best friend of tired employees everywhere. But because of your gross powers, you can never ever find true love.

Insight: You wished you just went to Starbucks and saved yourself the trouble.

A good storyteller can persuade customers and make a sale. Or, he can get the client’s support in backing a project. He does this by showing two things: sincerity and vulnerability.

A good storyteller: sincere and vulnerable

Why these two traits in particular? Voltaire explained that people relate better to those who show vulnerability.

As a listener, you put your guard down and become more receptive towards a vulnerable person It’s because true vulnerability can only be achieved by revealing your innermost thoughts, embarrassing stories, or anything you wouldn’t normally reveal about yourself without first drinking beer.

It’s even better if what you reveal makes the other person laugh. That tiny chuckle basically means your foot is in the doorway, and there’s rapport. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to be the best man of his wedding one day.

On sincerity, this appeals more to the ethics of storyteller.

A charming speaker can twirl the audience through his fingers, and most often, the temptation to manipulate them is too hard to resist. It’s no coincidence that most dictators elected into office are also some of the most compelling storytellers.

Mr. Storyteller Man

That part struck me the hardest, because I could relate it to my craft.

Sincerity and Vulnerability. The two things that’s currently missing in my writing.

Maybe I have become too concerned with the audience, too self-conscious for my own good that I have closed myself off to the world (thus losing my vulnerability). I often resort to shallow topics, or hold back when I vent, making any post I make feel insincere.

It scares me that writing has become a means to FEEL something, unlike back then, when I wrote because of a tidal wave of emotions. What’s even scarier is the thought that it’s an irreversible process.

The story of a writer’s life, right?

Let’s talk business

Today’s topic: “Fake it until you make it.”

There I was: first day at a new job and already a meeting. I barely had time to wet my feet, but I was brimming with confidence made possible by a sharp attire and over-gelled hair. Besides, I’ve led business meetings before — how hard could it be to just sit in one?

Turn out it’s impossibly hard, with all the corporate jargons peppered in the conversation.

I spent the last three years as a Health Journalist, so I’m familiar with medical terms. I know enough to bullshit my friends with a baseless diagnosis (“That’s a scary rash. It might be lupus”). But this business talk? This had my brain smoking. It’s like hearing someone suddenly break into “Simsimish”, or an alien language — and everyone in the room but you understands.

That was 2 months ago. Now, I get what people are saying 80% of the time. The 20% that leaves me dumbfounded, I just smile, nod and start responding to the natives in their local dialect, spewing the few corporate phrases I know until we come to an understanding (or they walk away, freaked out).

See? Say it with enough confidence, and you’re good to go.

Here are some of the most perplexing (at times, obnoxious) business jargons I’ve encountered:

My “Top 5 Most Perplexing Business Jargons”

5. “Cadence”

What you think it is: The march of a soldier  (Ex: “Private Santiago’s cadence was to the tune of Psy’s ‘Gentleman’, that’s why he is being transferred immediately.”)

What it actually means: A poetic term that simply means a repeat meeting.

4. “Loop in”

What you think it is: A term used in the competitive sport of Needle Threading (Ex: “Our contender only has one more thread to loop in before becoming the World Needling Champion.”)

What it actually means: Inviting someone to join a meeting, and informing him/her about the latest updates. Basically to CC a person.

3. “Cascade”

What you think it is: A color-matching game like Candy Crush (Ex: “I love playing Cascade. Matching same-colored tiles is not at all racist!”)

What it actually means: To disseminate information to other members of your department. Usually done by the boss towards her subordinates.

2. “From the Get-go”

What you think it is: Another band’s attempt to come across “quirky” by using this as their band name. (Ex: “From the Get-go’s song ‘How Can Colors be real if Eyes are Not’ tops the billboard charts for the 7th consecutive week.”)

What it actually means: From the start. Say this instead. It’s more economical and sounds less pretentious.

 

And the ABSOLUTE WORST term ever:

1. “Open the kimono”

What you think it means: Something a drunk, perverted boss says before sexually assaulting a waitress at a Japanese restaurant. (Ex: “Under any circumstance, do NOT use ‘Open the Kimono’ as a business jargon.”)

What it actually means: A big reveal. That’s it.

Seriously, you could have just said the better version and saved yourself the trouble of giving off a creepy, rape-y vibe. Thankfully, haven’t heard “Open the Kimono” being used in the office yet. Still, just imaging it makes me want to take a cold shower. Disturbingly inappropriate.

 

What business jargon do you most hate and why?

How to cope (in 500 words or less)

How do you deal with the sudden news that someone you know died?

A friend. A relative. An acquaintance who, despite the brief moment you were in each other’s life, still left a mark?

The default reaction is denial of a deliberate kind. This is eventually replaced by acceptance, followed by a fervid desire to remember everything about the person. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts; our mind’s way of making sure the person isn’t completely erased from existence.

We grab at strings in the dark, each one a cherished moment shared with the deceased. Some of the strings turn to air, slipping through one’s fingers, rising and spreading out towards the sky. You start to forget, start to lose the little details which used to mean a lot. You become angry for not having more.

Because in the end, that’s what it all boils down to: we just want more. More time with the person. More memories to hold on to. More of everything, before it’s too late.

This is how I choose to process death, in a way I can best express myself. Blogging is just another way of coping, after all. With this entry, I can make one final memory, one sturdy string tied down with words.

Recently I attended the wake of Lee, a friend from college. Lee was already an outgoing Varsitarian staffer by the time I joined the publication. Hands down, he was the warmest, friendliest person there, helping us newbies learn the ropes of being a student-writer. 

We shared similar interests: Pokemon, anime and other geeky things generally frowned upon by others as being too “childish”. Maybe that’s why we became fast friends.  

Last Monday, Lee succumbed to tuberculosis, at the young age of 27. He will be missed.

Not so smartphone

 

My irrational fear of the week: getting a smartphone.

It has something to do with what happened yesterday. I was waiting for the office shuttle, along with 40 other employees who wanted to go home but didn’t want to commute. Like what my friend said: “Traffic in Manila is a ‘just add water’ phenomenon”. Add a bit of rain and voila! you have instant car-maggedon.

While I was contemplating on whether I should write or draw to pass time, I noticed everyone had their heads bowed, not in prayer or because they were sleepy, but in adoration of their smartphones, their apps, their videos, etc.

For the purposes of not sounding Amish, I have nothing against smartphone users, or people who are extremely attached to their gadgets that it borders on “unhealthy” or “creepy”, as if these were their virtual bfs/gfs. I do get annoyed when I’m with somebody who constantly looks down to check their phone every two minutes.The only time I look down that often is when I’m wearing my bad pair of pants, to check if my fly is open.

That last example (not the fly thing, but the “always looking at their phones” thing) is why I am wary of smartphones. I’m afraid of what they are doing to people, how they are changing the way we interact in a group. Try to remember the last group hangout/dinner you had. Chances are at several points during the meal at least two of your friends were busy diddling with their phones.

 

I recently transferred to BGC because of a new job. Every morning before work, I go to the nearby park to take a breather. There, I would see people so engrossed with their gadgets, they ignore the beautiful sunrise unfolding right before them. The second coming of Christ could be happening and they’ll miss it, because they were too busy looking at a video of a ” cute cat doing sit-ups” in their smartphones.

In another instance, I was singing karaoke with my friends when an asshole started playing with his phone, ignoring the rest of the group.

Oh yeah, that asshole? It was me.

See? I’m not some tech-snob, nor am I immune to the allure of smartphones. On the contrary, it’s something I’ve been pining for, for a looong time. Hell, I want a smartphone just to play Clash of Clans! Forget those other apps. I’ll be using approximately 0.01%  of the gadget’s functions. 

I know that once I finally do get a smartphone, I’ll be a bowed-head zombie in no time. I’ll probably be the worst of them all, given my lack of self-control and proneness to addiction. 

What do I know anyway? It’s arrogant to assume that reading or writing are more substantial activities than tinkering with one’s gadget. After all, they’re really not that different from each other: they consume hours of your time, they are activities frowned upon by the older generation (my traditional grandmother hated whenever my mother would read, instead of doing chores), and you spend most of your time with your head bowed.

To each his own little addiction.

Scorn on the 12th of June

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What does it mean to be truly free?

Is it a matter of being unbound by rules? Or is it more of a gift, an opportunity to live a full life?

I ask this because last Thursday (June 12th), the Philippines celebrated its 116th Independence Day. News channels came out with a slew of color stories: asking people if they think Independence Day is still relevant, or quizzing them about the martyrs who died for the country’s freedom (spoiler alert: many didn’t know who the quince martires were).

One particular news item caught my attention. The reporter wanted to know how people define freedom, and whether or not they think the country is free. He interviewed individuals who were marginally poor.

We see a man who, after trying his luck in Manila, discovers that this isn’t the Land of Opportunity he thought it was. Now, he lives as a beggar, soliciting money to go back to his province. “It is embarrassing work”, he reveals, “asking for change”.

The man adds: “What is more embarrassing is being turned down”.

The story shifts to a little girl looking out to the Pasig river. The girl dreams of one day becoming a doctor, to help her parents and her numerous siblings. She is hopeful, but stays realistic. “I don’t know if it will happen,” says the little girl. “We come from a poor family,” her eyes turning glassy from tears.

She continues to dream.

One by one, people from the underprivileged sector tell the reporter what freedom is:

“Freedom is being able to do what I want.”

“It is to be rich and successful.”

“To be rid of poverty someday.”

It is evident that they aren’t free. Their shackles may be invisible, but the struggle is true. Like the beggar and the girl, many are victims of circumstance.

The big event of the day was the Independence Day rally held at Mendiola. For months now, people have been protesting  the pork barrel scandal, where majority of the Senators have been accused of stealing from the coffers.

This isn’t chump change, too; The stolen money ranges in the billions of dollars.

It is money that could have been spent on a lot of things the country needs: Affordable healthcare. An efficient railway system for commuters (the ghastly line at the MRT is enough proof). More schools, in line with the new K-12 academic year schedule (and incidentally, something needs to be done about the teachers who will be jobless by 2016 because of this shift). And most of all, the speedy rehabilitation of Tacloban, whose citizens currently live in tent cities. They will be left drenched and unprotected once the monsoon season rolls in.

This blatant corruption is enough to make your blood boil. It is enough to make you want to go to the senate and wreck some well-deserved havoc.

A select few are living the good life, at the expense of the suffering folks they were tasked to serve.

I am not knowledgeable when it comes to Philippine history, though I am familiar with the cliff-notes version.

We have the katipuneros fighting against their Spanish oppressors, using guerrilla tactics to counter the enemy’s superior firepower.

More than a decade later, we find ourselves locked in a similar struggle. All the elements are there: the oppressors hindering our freedom to enjoy basic things, the masses trying to take it back, and the history of abuse and corruption that pervaded in the country for so long.

The only thing missing: our resolve as a people.

We’ve seen it time and again. Crimes committed against the public have a way of  being forgiven and forgotten. This is true, especially when politicians are involved (what other criminals are there?) Maybe we are so used to this injustice that we see it as a norm. Doesn’t make it any more right.

In fact, this is what worries the protest rally leaders:  that the anti-Pork Barrel movement is losing steam, and people are becoming uninterested in the trials. Old habits die hard after all.

With corruption in the government as rampant and garapal as it is, apathy and inaction are our worst enemies. It holds the post up, for evil individuals to hammer it in and keep us fenced.

By the time we finally stir and wake up (years from now when another scandal takes place) it might already be too late and we will have forgotten what freedom looks like.  There might not be another June 12 to celebrate.

What does it mean to be truly free?

 

Who really knows?

Rage into the (mid)Night

Most artists dream of someday holding their own exhibit. It’s probably at the top of their bucket list.

When that day comes (and that’s a big IF), I’m not really sure if I have anything worthy to put up. Probably a series of comics, mediocre paintings, or badly-lit photographs.

My artworks are often layo-genic: you only fully appreciate them when looking from afar, with your eyes scrunched to the point that it’s almost closed. “Wow,” you’ll say, 3-feet-away from a painting, with slits for eyes, “It’s really not THAT bad!”

Fortunately, the bitterness of being a frustrated artist doesn’t hinder me from celebrating the success of others, especially when the successful artist in question is someone dear to me.

 

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The proud artist standing in front of her works

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Thanks to our friend Chuchie, Aencille was able to hold her first exhibit alongside other artists, crossing out an important item from her bucket list. Good job! 🙂

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Aencille vs Chuchie: Clash in QC

Midnight Music

The exhibit was part of an event called This Sentence is False (I’ll let that thought sink in and blow your mind. Go ahead), which celebrated young talents by inviting budding artists and indie rock bands to showcase their artwork/perform. It was held at the Heber Bartolome Gallery in QC, on the same Saturday as our food trip to Tokyo Bubble Tea.

I haven’t been to a rock concert in AGES. I think the last one I went to, Gangnam Style was still a thing and Miley Cyrus hadn’t violated a foam finger yet.

So, imagine my excitement when — for the first time in what felt like forever — I once again heard the thumping of the drums, the wail of the guitar, the other-wordly reverb of the distortion pedal, the tribal beat of the bass, and finally, the gurgling growl of the vocalist, channeling all the rage and emotion he can muster for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, electrifying performance…

And that’s just the tune-up.

 

I brought Scarlet my red 1100D EOS Canon, to document the concert. I tried to capture the energy and angst of the bands via some nifty zooming action (really the only camera trick I know). Hopefully, that’s what you’ll see in the pictures below, not a Rorschach test:

 

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Danish band Vokadin, my favorite thing about Denmark (aside from Danish cookies)

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Vokadin had the smoothest performance of the night. Awesome band

 

Black-winged.

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Going warp speed

 

My only regret is that I didn’t get enough good shots of Ruweda, an awesome pinoy band who seemingly fed off the audience’s energy. At least, that’s the only explanation that made sense: how else were they able to perform the way they did?  The vocalist literally bounced all over the stage for half an hour, as if part of a furious one-man mosh pit (at times even scaring me a bit as we were inches away from a bloody headbutt), while belting out original compositions that appealed to local sensibilities. Meanwhile, the lead guitarist was adept at making his instrument sing like a lamenting phoenix, the notes washing 0ver us like hypnosis.

It was only when Ruweda played a cover of RHCP’s “Cant Stop” that the resemblance became all too clear.

 

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Ruweda, a band to watch out for