Showing posts from 2012

I need space

to make room for more companions.

One solution is to resort to digital space. Here's an excerpt from a piece in defence of the e-book:
In practical terms it is all too easy to defend the e-book. We can buy a text instantly wherever we are in the world. We pay less. We use no paper, occupy no space. Kindle’s wireless system keeps our page, even when we open the book on a different reader than the one we left off. We can change the type size according to the light and our eyesight. We can change the font according to our taste. Cooped up in the press of the metro, we turn the pages by applying a light pressure of the thumb. Lying in bed, we don’t have that problem of having to use two hands to keep a fat paperback open.I appreciate both the e-book and the, well, book book. Personally—and superficially—a point must be awarded to the former for allowing me to read titles I wouldn't want to be seen reading in public.


A few things I learned:

1. An easy way to look good is to wear clothes that fit. It's difficult to find pants for my body type. But that's because I look in the wrong places, searching for what suits my budget and not my frame. See, my hips and thighs don't like to wear cheap garments.

2. A consolation for buying a really expensive pair of jeans is receiving three commemorative De La Salle centennial 100-peso bills for my change.

3. The downside to doing work I care about is earning less than I used to. Yet by some strange mathematics miracle, my luxuries remain. I don't value money as much as I value time and energy.

4. To be clear: Money is, has been, and will always be very important to me.


1. Write article draft. Check.
2. Open up to someone about my personal life. Check.
3. Handle work problem with poise. Check.
4. Receive compliment on my new haircut. Check.
5. Open up to someone about my professional life. X.
6. Flirt. Check.
7. Patiently wait for my ride. Not cry. Check.
8. Cheat on my diet. Check.
9. Do something too naughty to blog. X.
10. Sleep early. X.

Independence and loneliness

from the point of view of a fictional college student:
...what am I supposed to do with independence? You know what 'independence' is? 'Independence' is staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night with your fingernails digging into the palms of your hand. 'Independence' is realising that the only person you've spoken to all day is the man in the off-licence. 'Independence' is a value meal in the basement of Burger King on a Saturday afternoon. When Alice talks about 'independence' she means something completely different. 'Independence' is a luxury of all those people who are too confident, and busy, and popular, and attractive to be just plain old 'lonely'.

And make no mistake, lonely is absolutely the worst thing to be. Tell someone that you've got a drink problem, or an eating disorder, or your dad died when you were a kid even, and you can almost see their eyes light up with the sheer fascinating drama and…

Sunday is two days

Difficult as it already is to face Monday, the challenge doubles when at the closure of a long weekend.

Sunday brunch (late riser here) is my favorite part of the week. Either I cook or visit a deli nearby (has to be cheap, for, by now, I've pretty much ran out of money as a result of Friday's and Saturday's indulgences). Everywhere is quiet, at home as well as outside with very few people having the energy and interest (and cash?) to step outside their home. It is the only time when I can pore over a book for hours. The entire affair—eating, reading, and contemplating (which is a given)—extends until late in the afternoon, when the sun fades and it's cool enough for me to retire to my room.

Sunday night is second to the worst part of the week. Between 8 to 12 o'clock, you cram all the other little but pleasurable things you wish to do: surf the net, blog, watch TV, listen to music, be nostalgic over text messages and snapshots on your camera phone... repeatedl…

Oh how true are numbers one and two

Alice Munro's subject matter is ordinariness--disappointment, the passage of time--but she doesn't bring to her stories what, say, John Updike or Tillie Olsen do: extraordinary language, a mind in love with the everyday but able to exalt it so that we feel the magic in what is usual.

—Frederick Busch, Review: 'Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You' Which is exactly what I appreciate about her prose. The straightforwardness, the non-exaltation of the ordinary.
Dear Hugh and Margaret,

I have been by myself a good deal these past weeks and have been able to think about us all and have reached several interesting though not perhaps original conclusions:

1) Monogamy is not a natural condition for men and women.

2) The reason that we feel jealous is that we feel abandoned. This is absurd, because I am a grown-up person capable of looking after myself. I cannot, literally, be abandoned. Also we feel jealous—I feel jealous—because I reason that if Hugh loves Margar…

Funny how hard it is

It's dangerous to liken lyric poetry to an extended aphorism, but that's how I would describe most of the lyric verse I've read and loved. They speak the truth—generally and specifically, and intellectually.

To try putting it in another way— It's rare that I find poetry wherein I could say, 'I can relate to that,' 'That is what's happening to me right now,' 'It touches me.'

That rarity is Philip Larkin.

While other poems have but an absolute voice, Larkin's have a face and a world that I, too, inhabit.
Vers de Société
Philip Larkin

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch

9 years later

I started this blog in August 2003 with so much urgency. I was less conscious of the idea that things don't last, hence every design detail, every post, I crafted with regard to eternity. That a wandering man will someday find his way to this digital island, therefore it must be found clean and dainty; that decades from now I will have a lot to enjoy re-reading (and instantly delete).

Years later technology (however lovely and useful) and life (however riveting) prove that nothing lasts. Gadgets, software, the internet are faulty. Relationships, desires, beauty fade. But then all the more do I do things deliberately and with caution; all the more do I believe that one act, one word, is subject to perpetual responsibility.

9 years ago I dreamed of becoming a writer. 2 years ago I became a professional one: I write; I get paid. Since then I have loved this blog more than I ever did. Because (cheesy as it sounds) this is me.

Here I don't follow another's guidelines an…

Don't you think?

The toughest, coldest, least-likely-to-care-about-it person deep inside wants a partner to love. Someone to show interest in him, shower him with attention, spend energy and time to understand him, and to have sex with.

Book sale break

Despite the interesting titles and low prices, I refrained from buying any. First, there's little space left at home; second, I haven't really been taking good care of the ones in my possession.

Soon I'll provide my self and my books (present and future) a home.

Beats of an adult song

September is my favorite month.

1. I was published in a national magazine for the first time. Most would cringe at the sight of their early works, but not me. I reckon I did a pretty good job back then.

A part of the poem went:
Meanwhile I hear the catalpa pulsating
in beats of an adult song:
fingers that faltered
before stroking my belly
unfetter the butterflies into the air—
spiraling in space, spelling
the valediction of a gay season. Look at that little voice talking about the grand loneliness of adulthood.

2. A lot of the people I love were born: friends and those whom I admire; and if I were lucky, those whom I admire and became my friends.

3. The beginning of the best quarter. The countdown to Christmas starts and in between are exciting holidays like Oktoberfest and Halloween.

The end of the year is always more hopeful. There is relief in leaving unpleasant things behind. —This is not exactly true; things stay with you for as long as you live, or at least have a healt…

These brand new feelings brought to you by the weather

When Typhoon Ketsana ravaged Metro Manila in 2009, I felt guilt for taking pleasure in the weather in the safety of my home.

Last week I learned what it was like to be stranded—unwillingly away from home. They didn't have any name for what happened; they only called it for what it was: habagat.

I spent the night at the office where I did my best to get a few hours of sleep. Then I got home just before noon the morning after. Lucky for me as the the van I was riding found a way around the flooded areas in Sucat and therefore dodged heavy traffic.

It was only ever an inconvenience, but not one I'm ready to go through again.


That said, I love the rain.

1. The cold that keeps me awake.
2. The music made of water.
3. The chill brought by thunder and lightning, that buried chord briefly surfacing.


For days the grey skies—blurring imperfections—turn Manila Bay into a moving painting. Calm water, distant heaven, and by the horizon the ships sit.


Twice, I caught you, but no you weren't sneaking a peek, your eyes fixed on me, I looked at you and you didn't blink, didn't budge.


Walk me through your head in those long seconds.

That is a beautiful face, the most beautiful I've seen. A family, I can start a family with her. Later I'll rip her clothes off and give in to what she wants. Or could you be thinking of nothing, of nothing at all?


So long as we haven't caught a falling one, our fascination remains.


The first few poems I wrote were filled with, if not obstructed by stars. So are the ones I have yet to write.


In a short film I saw this afternoon, a kid was sweeping stars from the moon. I inhabited his world and left as soon as the credits rolled.


On my way home. Even going out on a Saturday to take a break from the hectic workweek has become duty. The night's made darker by the stormy weather. Lamps on the highway are burning a pale orange. Dull guides, these low lights.

Bounded / boundless

Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Randall Jarrell)

The evening folds about itself the dark
Garments the old trees hold out to it.
You watch: and the lands are borne from you,
One soaring heavenward, one falling;

And leave you here, not wholly either's,
Not quite so darkened as the silent houses,
Not quite so surely summoning the eternal
As that which each night becomes star, and rises;

And leave you (inscrutably to unravel)
Your life: the fearful and ripening and enormous
Being that—bounded by everything, or boundless—
For a moment becomes stone, for a moment stars.10 PM, rain a nightly visitor, I'll do this until 2 (in the morning). This—work and wonder, fear and ripen, fall and soar, rise and darken.

The operative word

Death, in one of the pivotal scenes in The Dark Knight Rises, proves to be the ultimate motivator. You jump with a rope and chances are you won't reach the other end. Jump without any safety gear and you limit your fate to either survival or demise. Trying again stops being an option.

That entire scene an objective correlative to my prosaic state: There are impossible deadlines to meet, but only as they arrive do they become not only possible but easy.

What is the worst thing about writing?*

When you are paid to do it.

The best thing?

From a letter written in Baguio

Last time I was in Baguio, I think I was only ten, even younger. Today I'm back for business, but I must say I am in awe of the city more now than before.

When you are a child, fantasy is your reality. When you are an adult, you see fantasy for what it is. And instead of being frustrated by its fugitive nature, you learn to play by its rules.

I can't argue with you when you said all this is pointless. But I also can't argue with a playful cat, a well-designed structure, a bee feasting on a fully-bloomed flower, a kiss—even the merest possibility of grandeur.

All I know is I'll take what I can, enjoy what I can, create what I can.

On the record

1. Look at us. June 15th, Friday, two friends and I went to 19 East in Sucat to watch one of Cynthia Alexander's send-off gigs. She's headed to the States. I've always loved her, but I've never seen her perform live. The same is true for my friends.

At dinner before the show:
'How was the Lady Gaga concert? Were there a lot of protesters?'

'I'm not sure, but I don't think that was a huge group. I think it was just the people on Twitter that's making the whole thing sound like a bigger deal than it actually is. The problem is something gets re-tweeted a few times and it's as if it's already news.'

'True. Look at us, we're here.'2. Pag-isahin. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable evening. The show started at 9:30 and we said good night at 3 in the morning. In Cynthia's solo set, she played all of our favorites. All.

But what struck me was a new song, which lyrics was written by Vim Nadera:
Hanggang kaya …

Ray Bradbury is dead

And I don't care. The way I never cared for Wislawa Szymborska's death.

What I do care for is their word. My mother mishandles my copy of Dandelion Wine and I go apoplectic.

The writer has always been uninteresting to me. Even on rare occasions when I read an autobiography, the author is easily someone else—a character whom I can empathize with.

And that's quite sad.


From Green Shadows, White Whale:
What have I done for a single mortal soul this day? Nothing! And that's why I feel so terrible destroyed.

The older I get, the less I do for people.

It's an awesome responsibility when the world runs to hand you things. For an instance: sunsets. Everything pink and gold, looking like those melons they ship up from Spain. That's a gift, ain't it?

Well, who do you thank for sunsets? And don't drag the Lord in the bar, now! Any remarks to Him are too quiet. I mean someone to grab and slap their back and say thanks for the fine early light this morn, boyo, or…

A sentence

I wrestle with a sentence I have yet to complete. This act of completing, the precise act of wrestling.

Like a moon in its halved phase, I know its full shape is already out there, only I can't see its other half yet.

From The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:
It was easy enough to write a sentence, but if you were going to create a work of art, the way Melville had, each sentence needed to fit perfectly with the one that preceded it, and the unwritten one that would follow. And each of those sentences needed to square with the ones on either side, so that three became five and five became seven, seven became nine, and whichever sentence he was writing became the slender fulcrum on which the whole precarious edifice depended. That sentence could contain anything, anything, and so it promised the kind of absolute freedom that, to Affenlight's mind, belonged to the artist and the artist alone. And yet that sentence was also beholden to the book's very first one, and …

To always dress well

The Great Hall
Thomas Disch

You need only have noticed someone once,
and he will have an entree to your dreams
for the rest of your life. Or he may never
reappear at all. Who knows whose names
are there when the credits scroll? Who knows
how often one has passed one's someday spouse
before actually being introduced?
But as to dreams, just multiply
each single unnoticed noticing
by the number of sentient beings everywhere
you've ever lived and think how vast
an afterlife one stands to enjoy
in the world of dreams. That's one good reason
for dressing well (or at least memorably)
and making witty remarks: Strangers
will remember you. There are cats
who've been dead for decades who still
rest comfortably on cushions
in the dreamt apartments of those
who'd thought, “What a lovely cat.”
But alas for the creatures of darkness.
They lived unseen and will not live again. The day had been a lesson in welcoming strangers and remaining your best self when no one is looking—beca…


1. Last time I won a medal, I think I was still 4 feet tall.
2. I earned one again yesterday (along with 2 team mates) at the first Columbia Recyclable Regatta held at The Lighthouse Marina Resort in Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

3. It's nice to build something and name it.
4. And sail it.

5. A greater feeling to be off shore and away from it all. I wished we could pause and relax, bobbing on the water.
6. Or continue paddling to the next shore. (But we had to go back and finish a race.)

7. God I love the sea.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho, 1914-2012

Another kind of loneliness, perhaps, is when you lose someone whom you know you can turn away from but go back to and admit you with open, gentle arms.

Re-discovering Irving

It's been two years since I found this hardbound beauty at a bargain book shop and I cherish it for the dedication written on the flyleaf—

That the book is now in someone else's possession and not Zach's is rather sad; but I'd like to assume a happier story: Zach had finished reading the book and let go of it in the spirit of passing on his father's sweet imperative.

I re-unearthed this treasure when I was cleaning my shelf two weeks ago. It was stacked with other, older pretty books I bought but hadn't opened yet—In the Name of the Rose, The Tale of Despereaux, and three titles from Graham Greene. Thought it was a sign for me to finally pore over its pages.

Spoke too soon

In the middle of the month, I made a premature declaration:

Eliot wrong this year, April not that cruel.— Razel Estrella (@fishpeep) April 18, 2012
So here is April ending her reign with
1) A Monday,
2) A 36-degree weather,
3) A difficult deadline,
4) The beginnings of a cold.

The only dangerous thing

Even during his affairs with women he had always tried to avoid that phrase of the theatre, 'I love you'. He had been accused often enough of cruelty, though he preferred to think of himself as a painstaking and accurate diagnostician. If for other terms, he would have unhesitatingly used the phrase 'I love', but he had always been able to attribute the emotion he felt to a quite different malady — to loneliness, pride, physical desire, or even a simple sense of curiosity.The passage refers to Doctor Eduardo Plarr, a half English, half Spanish doctor in Argentina who is having an affair with the wife of his friend, Charley Fortnum, the British honorary consul mistakenly kidnapped by Plarr's other friends.

He moves within the world of Graham Greene's The Honorary Consul. While the novel is propelled by a political action (the kidnapping of the honorary consul) and is constantly questioning the functions of religion (through one of the kidnappers who is a form…


The latest addition to the wonderful misspellings of my wonderful name is brought to you by a caterer that serves delicious Filipino breakfast.
This particular orthographic crime, I must admit, was done with my permission. If I may narrate, your honors—
Me: Longganisa meal with the eggs scrambled.

Guy: That's all, ma'am?

Me: That is all.

Guy: Your name, please?

Me: Razel.

Guy: ...

Me: Razel. R-a-z-e-l.

Guy: R-a-g?

Me: No, Zey.

Guy: J?

Me: Zee.

Guy: G?

Me: Yes G.

Tonight, we are young

Despite March being the fire prevention month, Manila was set ablaze. And I was glad to be in the middle of it all.

For three consecutive Saturdays since March began, I was audience at the 3rd International Pyro-musical Competition. The first night was awe-inspiring and it only got better from then on.

Two of the best exhibitions (since both of them won eventually) happened last week. A favorite to win the championship was Canada and I took their display as Fortune's birthday gift to me.

It's only been a week since I turned 29 but already I feel like I'm 7 years older. Going back to a 9 to 6 job is challenging, not to mention working in Manila is cause of stress enough. Manila can make an animal out of you. Whether prey or predator, who knows. Just recently an expat's video on the 20 things he dislikes about the Philippines went viral. It was taken down before I could watch it; but surely give me an hour in Malate and I will furnish you with a list of 200 things…

The surprise I don't know

1. What you live for
Why do you stay up so late?
Don Paterson

I’ll tell you, if you really want to know:
remember that day you lost two years ago
at the rockpool where you sat and played the jeweler
with all those stones you’d stolen from the shore?
Most of them went dark and nothing more,
but sometimes one would blink the secret color
it had locked up somewhere in its stony sleep.
This is how you knew the ones to keep.

So I collect the dull things of the day
in which I see some possibility
but which are dead and which have the surprise
I don’t know, and I’ve no pool to help me tell—
so I look at them and look at them until
one thing makes a mirror in my eyes
then I paint it with the tear to make it bright.
This is why I sit up through the night. Not love, not meaning, not happiness, but surprises. That one can find something in the dull and that love, meaning and happiness will one day give us a blink.

2. Rainfire

Seeing the best pyro-musical show in my life incidentally happened on …

Hopeless romantic me

This was not a good day to be from Parañaque. The traffic going to and from work almost shattered my already dented soul. But as if on cue, the gods, while on a break, in a casual game of cards, wine and cheese on the table, took a special notice of me and thought, Let's make that miserable and miserably-dressed lady smile.

After three hours of being on the road, waiting for transportation, inhaling pollution, and taking the wildest route on earth, I came home to this:

Fiery head

Ever since I heard about the pyro-musical olympics, I knew I had to witness one; and witness one, I did.

Yesterday my sister, brother and I went to MOA to watch China and The Netherlands battle it out at the 3rd International Pyro-muscial Competition.

I was dazzled, elated, and utterly proud to be a human being. At one point in the night I thought, Not even God can make something as sublime as this.

* Photos taken by my sister

The freshman

opened a book and read a passage that struck a chord, a string of words he understood so well and so fit his mood that he took it as gospel truth.

Wish and will

If you were stranded on an island, what book would you want to have with you?

Any of Agatha Christie's. Why? Because a small island is a suitable place to scare and at the same time fascinate yourself. Not with thoughts of ghosts or wild beasts, but of human beings engaging their darker side.

Literature over and over again proves that man is more frightful than monster; for the former is real and, at least, with the latter, evil without mercy is expected.

In Curtain, where Hercule Poirot solves his final case, the characters are easily recognizable to win the reader's sympathy and sufficiently nuanced to earn their doubt.

Everyone can be (and often is) a murder suspect in a mystery novel, but the genius of Curtain lies in substantiating that everyone is a potential murderer—
In everyone there arises from time to time the wish to kill—though not the will to kill. How often have you not felt or heard others say: "She made me so furious I felt I could have killed her!&quo…

If you could change one of your physical characteristics, which one would it be and why?

I already have: For around 5 years since college, I wore braces to straighten my crooked teeth, and now it's all good. In my eyes, a beautiful smile is always equivalent to a beautiful face.

Valentine's Day gift suggestions

If I could choose
Freely in that great treasure-house
Anything from any shelf,
I would give you back yourself,
And power to discriminate
What you want and want it not too late,
Many fair days free from care
And heart to enjoy both foul and fair,
And myself, too, if I could find
Where it lay hidden and it proved kind.

—Edward Thomas (excerpt from And you, Helen) *

1. Self
2. Knowing what you want
3. Wanting it when it matters
4. Happy selfish hours
5. Humor
6. Kindness

Delighted to meet her

Bridget Jones writes in her diary what I won't dare write in my own: current weight, calorie intake, sexual encounters, humiliations and defeats; and in a manner I cannot even begin to master: straightforward and witty.

Chick lit is an unexplored (because avoided) territory for me. My impression of the genre is tied to whiny girls belaboring the obvious about love, men, and other girls. So why the sudden foray into the unknown? No special reason, except the human urge to sometimes try something different and know. Plus, my inner Anglophile whispered, Bridget is brilliant.

The book was published when I was still in high school, though I only learned about it in college when the film adaptation came out. It is, I realize, for the better that I've read it now than then; for surely back when I was 19, I would have little appreciation for the theory that
Homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding: both being accustomed to disappointing their parents an…

Friday south

My message went, 'I'll be waiting,' and attached was a photo of the calm evening in Westgate, Alabang. 'You're too early,' my friend replied.

Only I was willfully early and never waiting. With me was a book and a full pot of tea.

Technofear & technojoy

My record still holds: I've yet to buy my own cell phone. I said good-bye to that beautiful copper Palm Treo that had grown too old to use and hello to a new handset, again courtesy of my sister.

The gift did not come with a ribbon but a headache. Before I could fully use the phone:

1. I had to have it unlocked. I did and it cost me.

2. I had to have my SIM card upgraded. I did, eventually—
a. I had to go to the nearest wireless center. I did and they told me they ran out of the type of SIM card I needed. But they were kind enough to look for the next nearest wireless center and reserve the SIM for me.

b. I had to go to wireless center #2 to claim my upgraded SIM. I did, for a few pesos more.Now I'm trying to activate my new phone's MMS settings, but I keep getting 'Phone model not compatible'. These machines do tend to be like humans, you can't simply figure them out, and they already come with a manual, so they're worse.

What Eddie Izzard so pe…

What is the best thing about writing?

You can create and live in an ideal world, correct blunders and turn faults into constituents of perfection. And after having done all this, reality presents a rare surprise you were too dull to have imagined.

12 things at 2012

1. Someone began with an error. 2013. Although this always happens to me. When it's my birthday and people ask me how old I am, I tend to add another year to my actual age. (Care to psychologize?)

2. I spent the first few hours of 2012 watching Inception on cable TV. That's not entirely true, though. The first 45 minutes were spent watching fireworks. It may be burning money, but it's one human invention and luxury that I appreciate. Someday I wish to visit Australia and, among other things, witness the Sydney New Year's eve fireworks display.

3. In the assumption that trimming them down to the bare essentials will make them easier to practice, my resolutions are:
3.1) meet deadlines,
3.2) not say yes when I don't mean it,
3.3) write slowly.4. Before you say, How can you meet deadlines when you write slowly?, let me explain: it's not about working fast, it's about managing time well. In other words, I resolve to be more disciplined.

5. The u…