15 December 2014

Our stories reframed

“Real conversation with someone means looking into their eyes. When we spend time talking, we see parts of ourselves through the other person; and no matter the differences, we see that we all have something in common,” said Jose Edsel Diego and Biel Sabas, creators of Perceive.

The artwork presents two faces — one dismantled and one in its complete form with eyes made of mirrors — signifying the person underneath the face, the person whom we share the same stories with.

It is one of the art installations that constellate “Reframed,” the latest edition of College of Saint Benilde (CSB) Multimedia Arts Festival (MMAF), held last November 28 – 30 at Green Sun, Makati City.

The annual event is part of the CSB-MMA curriculum and this year, the young artists were asked to bare themselves in their creations. The result is an unapologetically personal portfolio. Walking around the exhibit hall is like walking into a big confessional. Yet instead of shock, contempt, or pity, you feel empathy and a sense that a huge piece of yourself safely belongs here. Just as with “Perceive,” to experience an art installation in “Reframed” is to have a dialogue with one’s self.

“Our story is your story. And vice versa. This is the premise of ‘Reframed’ as a convergence of narratives on lives lived and re-imagined. Multimedia storytelling is at the forefront of these expressions,” noted Karen Ocampo Flores, who curated the exhibit along with Sharon Mapa-Arriola.

“The art that we showcase here is applied media. Functional art,” added exhibit director and adviser Lou Hansel Gonzales. “You can interact with the artworks and the artists are present to share their own perspective, so you’ll know the stories that shaped their art.”

Also telling their stories in a forum dubbed Conversations were creatives in different industries. Among those who generously gave their views on the creative life were comedian and filmmaker Ramon Bautista; wedding videography company Treehouse Story (which team comprises of CSB-MMA graduates); husband-and-wife Wincy Ong and CJ de Silva-Ong; and former Ogilvy & Mather Philippines CEO Peachy Pacquing.

The three-day arts fair culminated with a live performance by Up Dharma Down. Continuing the thread of multimedia narration, CSB-MMA students synced the band’s music with video installations mapped into a 360-degree projection. Needless to say, the project’s ambition was on a grand scale. One of the songs even featured clips from NASA. “It’s a first in the portfolio and I think it’s also a first for Up Dharma Down,” said Gonzales.

The short concert was a perfect celebration of multimedia practice, as the audience was in the midst of a shared experience crafted by various artists in their chosen modes of expression.

“Reframed,” through the mix of artistic and communicative media, from painting and sculpture to motion graphics and augmented reality, reinforces the idea that our stories are both specific and universal. Each of us, despite what our facade narrates, has hidden tales of fear, imprisonment, madness, and ultimately begs to be heard.

—Originally published on GIST

14 December 2014


What follows may undermine the pain of loss, of panghihinayang I suffered after seeing termites devour the spines and edges of my treasured books.

I say treasured, but in truth I didn't treat them as such. Those books were gone even before the pests reached them because (it hurts to say this) I abandoned poetry.

Two days later, when I accepted that some things are filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster, this happened:

Knowing very well that trolls, bots, and fake identities are everywhere online, I double-checked if it was indeed Alice Fulton. My research showed it was her. So I followed, and in the same day:


Dammit I misspelled Louise. Apologies.

23 November 2014


It's easier to get into my pants than inside my mind.

21 November 2014

Bag brag

My Hedgren Eveline tote
Excuse me but I just had another fashion breakthrough.

So usually the case is, at least for me I think, you watch runway shows then covet what's being modelled.

Tonight, I saw the Hedgren Eveline tote I bought last August launched in the Hegren Style Fair. They even showcased the same print!


The bag featured in the Hedgren Style Fair

16 November 2014

For what am I?

People do not love us for simply being us. As even ourselves have a flimsy vision of who we truly are.

We fall in love with potential, and that's okay, even recommended.

Because if not for self-improvement, what other use do we have for love?

21 October 2014


Smoothly, successfully downloaded OS X Yosemite
Seize the moment, live to the point of tears, YOLO. And when it is time to let go, let go.

Because nothing lasts. Material things, particularly gadgets, teach me, remind me this.

Recently, my Nokia almost died and I resuscitated it with a hard reset. Meaning I lost all data: contacts, messages, notes, et cetera. I had no backup, since the Nokia suite is not available on Mac—well I researched and there are ways to back up but it was too much of a hassle.

The loss wasn't a big deal. There is only one phone number important to me. Information I need to survive are saved in my brain.

I love my MacBook, I love Blogger. In my wildest fears, my laptop simply refuses to boot and all my blog posts are wiped out. I am both ready and not ready for that.

07 October 2014

Kids say

the darndest, most honest things.

So this little boy visited our office and invaded my cubicle.
First, he called one of my colleagues, "Taba!"

Then he asked, "Saan daddy niya?" referring to the pig in Angry Birds (which he was playing on my cell phone).

Finally, when he remarked, "Ang galing ko!" for cruising through a level in Angry Birds, I retorted, "Tsamba".

"Ano yung 'tsamba'?" he said in response, in all sincerity, with full attention and anticipation with the knowledge I was about to impart. Unfortunately, embarrassingly, I was lost for words.

Guys, how do you explain "tsamba"?

06 October 2014

A few good things

Things have been happening at the same time in the past couple of months, thus excitement, anxiety, and photos overload.

1. Home. I shared about it last May and now I can slowly move in. As I've already said to a few friends, my invitation goes, Visit me and I'll serve you pressed coffee, ube hopia, and play piano for you.

Clockwise from left: Keys to my new place, construction phase, constructed phase
2. Driving. I've put this off for years and if all goes well, I'll get my license next week. Wish me luck! And because the universe ceaselessly teaches, I came across this poster on a Starbucks bulletin board:

You might learn a thing or two as well.
3. Work's kinda fun and I kinda look good doing it. One of the perks of my job is I don't need to take a selfie, I come with a photographer. Heh. Kidding aside, it's a challenge to be healthy and graceful when the office and everything associated with it (traffic, yes?) stress you out. You have to beat it and show your problems who's boss.

At the (clockwise from top left): Brill house, 28 Stories of Giving photo exhibit launch,
Spotify launch in the Philippines, Sophie Winners Night 2014, Wicked show,
Schwarzkopf 2014 Style-TEC fashion show

06 September 2014

To think, to care

David Foster Wallace's commencement speech addressed to Kenyon College 2005 graduates is the most profound and practical. And frankly the most important:

1) It zeroes in on what education is for: the system to develop critical thinking.
As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about "the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master". [my emphasis]
2) It shows how critical thinking helps us become decent human beings, creating a better world.
Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
3) It affirms my belief in intelligence and kindness as one value, and mind and heart as one machine.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
I just think that this speech will appeal more to those who already had a taste of the so-called real world instead of fresh grads. To my fellow adults, I invite—no urge you to (re)read.

21 August 2014


'Absolute attention is prayer.'

Over lunch I was reading Alan Bradley's 'A red herring without mustard' and the main character, Flavia, said something similar:
Thinking and prayer are much the same thing… Prayer goes up and thought comes down—or so it seems. As far as I can tell, that’s the only difference.
My own thoughts switched between the food, the book, and the window. It was a nice meal of chicken roulade I was having while outside the skies were drab for two o’clock. It didn't take long before rain fell.

Back to the book, now dessert. A few bites and pages after, my head turned again to the window. The rain stopped, but I squinted at the grounds, checking for traces of water.

There appeared to be none and before I could even spot a mirage, my view gradually shone yellow.

It was the first time nature made me smile the way a human being does—slowly, unexpectedly.

It was the first time I caught myself smiling.

Update (September 2, 2014):

I came across Phillip Lopate's Against Joie de Vivre wherein he also remarked on the relationship between attention and prayer and living in the moment. He wrote:
The argument of both the hedonist and the guru is that if we were but to open ourselves to the richness of the moment, to concentrate on the feast before us, we would be filled with bliss. I have lived in the present from time to time, and I can tell you that it is much over-rated.
. . . .
The present has a way of intruding whether you like it or not; why should I go out of my way to meet it? Let it splash on me from time to time, like a car going through a puddle, and I, on the sidewalk of my solitude, will salute it grimly like any other modern inconvenience.
. . . .
Even for survival, it's not necessary to focus one's full attention on the present. The instincts of a pedestrian crossing the street in a reverie will usually suffice. Alertness is alright as long as it is not treated as a promissory note on happiness. Anyone who recommends attention to the moment as a prescription for grateful wonder is only telling half the truth. To be happy one must pay attention, but to be unhappy one must also have paid attention.

21 July 2014

Yellow and blue

Feeling yellow and blue
Feeling like a failure for, at 31, am already taking pain relievers.

Took the day off to drop by the hospital and have my back checked. Because of bad habits, I over-stressed my muscles, which resulted into nasty spasms the last couple of days.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at a nearby cafe, reading. Literature, after all, is my preferred drug. Coincidentally, the colors of the cup and saucer matched the colors of my jacket matched the colors of my mood.

16 July 2014

Glenda's visit

Many might begin their story the way I will: Glenda woke me up with her winds. But perhaps only I would continue it this way.


My fortress's two sources of power:
a fully-charged MacBook and a scented candle
While nervous curiosity and fright were felt, I knew I was safe from where I was, at home—or as a friend joked, in my fortress.

And I returned to the safety of sleep.

When I woke again, it was past noon. The rain was no more and so was Glenda's singing. Taking their place was sadness.

For in my world and for who I am, this typhoon was a brief respite from normalcy.


When I was in grade school, already slothful at a young age, I was too anxious of homework, projects, recitations, and imagined death as a way out. ‘What if I died? Then I’d be free from all this (I didn’t have a name for it then, but the word that best signifies the signified is) responsibility.’ But at that age I already understood as well that reality is disappointing and even death would not come to save the day.

So I would be smiling a sweet, happy smile when, very early in the morning, my father would come to my bed and say, ‘Sleep some more, classes were suspended’.

The difference between then and now is back then, I would completely enjoy the rainy day.

Yes I get to savour brewing coffee, reading essays and chapters of a book, but these sweet pauses are now interrupted by thoughts of tasks—tomorrow, within the week, in the following months and years that death will allow me to live.


Again, I am a lucky girl. This calamity, just like previous calamities, is but an inconvenience. Truth is I found a new appreciation for blackouts, because concern floats and of course, the quiet—in color and tone.

Because, really, what do you go back to when the power is back? —The same routine, the same excesses, the same noises.


This storm is going to be memorable for its winds and for its kindness. I used to work in a BPO company and during Typhoon Milenyo, we were expected to report for duty. Today, two of my superiors called to say, ‘Stay home’ the way a father would whisper, ‘Go back to sleep’ to a child who was never ready to grow up.

24 June 2014

Silent story-keepers

It's one thing to feel lucky for being able to do what you love (say, write) for a living and quite another to do it on your own terms (say, write about what you actually love the way you want to).

Browsing through my photo albums, I came across the beautiful images of Manila American Cemetary and Memorial. I was assigned to do a story on it for Rektikano Magazine and, to date, it's been one of my favorite published works. Below is the original/unedited draft.


Silent story-keepers
Appreciating the bitter-sweet beauty of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial with John Silva
We may need to have made an indelible mark on our lives, to have married the wrong person, pursued an unfulfilling career into middle age or lost a loved one before architecture can begin to have any perceptible impact on us, for when we speak of being ‘moved’ by a building, we allude to a bitter-sweet feeling of contrast between the noble qualities written into a structure and the sadder wider reality within which we know them to exist. A lump rises in our throat at the sight of beauty from an implicit knowledge that the happiness it hints at is the exception.

—Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness, 2006

Among the many stories hidden under the grand narrative that is World War II is the story of the Sullivan brothers from Iowa. Francis, George, Joseph, Madison and William Sullivan signed up for the navy. When the recruiter told them they had to board different ships, the oldest Sullivan said no. “Either you have us together or not have us at all,” he insisted, and on to the war they went, travelling in one ship.

In September of 1943, the ship carrying the Sullivans was hit by a Japanese torpedo. Three of the five brothers instantly died while two hung on a life raft with the other passengers. One of the two brothers was so weak that he had to let go. The remaining Sullivan, after seeing each of his brother die, decided to let go himself and sink to his death.

Back in Iowa, Mr and Mrs Sullivan opened the door of their house to two Navy officers wearing a grave expression on their faces. The Sullivan parents, knowing what this all meant, asked, “Which one?” And the Navy men answered them with the fact: “All of them.”

The night was spent in national mourning. President Roosevelt phoned the Sullivans’s parents to apologize and give his condolences. Days later a law exempting siblings of men who already died in the war was passed.


Walls of names
When the war ended, the American government inquired the relatives of those who died if they wish to have the remains of their loved ones sent back to their homes. Most agreed, but the others suggested burying them with their comrades in arms. The suggestion prevailed and 14 military American cemeteries around the world were built and administered by the American government, one of which is the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonifacio (then Fort William McKinley), Metro Manila, the largest and the only one in the Pacific.

17,502 marble crosses are arranged in concentric rows in the memorial. The names on the crosses face outward. Of these remains, around 3,000 are un-identified—but only by humans. On their crosses is a poignant inscription: Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God. The un-named are interspersed with the named, signifying how they are all equally remembered. About 20 to 40 bodies were interlocked and could not be dismantled that they had to be buried together. On the cross they share is the inscription: Here rest in honored glory two comrade in arms. Whether they were intertwined in an embrace or in a last effort to protect one another, only they and God knew.

There are, however, those who had nothing left of them but their names. 36,285 bodies were still missing after the war, the five Sullivan brothers included. For them, two hemicycles containing 24 pairs of travertine fin walls were erected. Their names chiseled for posterity on the walls.

19 June 2014

Dressing problems

Wednesday 11am, managed to drag myself out of bed, showered brushed teeth put on whatever clothes. A glance at the mirror—out of habit—didn't like what I saw, changed outfits three or four times.

Walang gana, we say in Tagalog. That's how I felt. Despite this lack of enthusiasm or better yet a mental readiness to face the day, I couldn't go out looking pangit.

And that was something to be happy about. That I still cared. That I haven't accepted defeat and instead 'dressed up, fought, [made] amends'.


On a related note, I came across this article about Elizabeth Hawes today. I haven't heard of her and, as the author remarked, neither have you. The piece, however, served as a good introduction to the American fashion designer. Let me end this blog with Hawes' words so you can begin reading her:
If you’ve solved your dressing problems satisfactorily for yourself, you are bound to attract the people you want to attract and for the reasons you want to attract them: a better job, a new mate, a competent lover, a fresh friend.

15 June 2014

A lonely office

Sadness is saddest when quiet. When you find it inside a cold house, when love has learned late how to express itself.
Those winter Sundays
Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
To me and a couple of friends, the above is our go-to Father's Day poem. Regardless of season and kind of relationship, though, the poem speaks of the unglamorous, everyday—even administrative—nature of love.

As pointed out in this essay (about knowing when one is ready to marry), 'love' has two varieties: being loved and loving, yet we have this 'immature fixation on the former'. Whether we are children, friend, or the other half of a couple, we are guilty of this.

It does take work. Love's effects which are obvious to us may seem magical, but we must remember the momentary magic is borne out of meticulous planning and tedious practice. Not even a blood bond can warrant love's endurance.

07 June 2014


Colors of the Wind didn't hold my attention during the time Pocahontas became popular. Last Thursday, though, I was at an event with a musicals theme and the song was performed. Then it hit me: Paint with all the colors of the wind is such a beautiful line.

Well, the proper thing to do afterwards is search for it on the net—music and lyrics—listen a hundred times then sing along.

So I discovered more stunning lines. Sing with all the voices of the mountain... Roll in all the riches all around you / and, for once, never wonder what they're worth... You'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon / for whether we are white- or copper-skinned...

More surprise. Further research taught me that Stephen Schwartz was the one who wrote it. But I saved the best for last. Below is my favorite part of the song, where 'colors of the wind' is placed in context and turned into poetry:
You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind.

26 May 2014


Barely there
Nothing ignites the imagination than awareness of limits.

In this specific case, limits mean floor area and cash.

Nothing energizes the spirit than building and building beautifully.

Let's see how this'll turn out.

Maybe by September I have more colorful photos to share.

Maybe by December I'll invite you for a pre- or post-holiday dinner.

19 May 2014

At once open and intimate

In three years of working as a features writer (for a broadsheet and a few magazines), the Diageo Reserve World Class Bar Crawl on May 12 (yes, on a Monday!) is by far the most enjoyable event I have ever had the privilege of being invited to.

Spotlight on the bartender
It's one of those rare instances wherein I can actually say I feel like I'm not working.

A brief background for the uninitiated: Diageo Reserve World Class is an international cocktail education program and bartending competition. Last year the Philippines made its debut in the event with bartenders from five bars joining. This year, bartenders from eleven different bars participated. Reserve Luxury Manager for Diageo Philippines Marie Ona attributes the jump in number to the mushrooming of bars that 2013 saw.

In celebration of this blossoming cocktail scene in Metro Manila—and I guess as an occasion for the four Filipino bartenders who qualified for the regional finals in Singapore to warm up and keep their spirits high—Diageo Reserve organised the bar crawl. Each of the finalists got to showcase how they create a world in a glass, so to speak, right on their home turf.

Rian Asiddao & Long Bar, Raffles Makati

Charles in Manila is sprinkled
with chamomile and gold flakes
The Long Bar concept has never been exported until now. Long Bar in Raffles Makati (1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue, Makati City) is the first outside Singapore, where it originated.

Taking control of the bar is Rian Asiddao (photo above), whose favorite spirit is Gin. He candidly shares that in the heats where they had to use vodka and whiskey as base, he didn't fare so well.

He, however, made it with 'Charles in Manila'—a nod to Charles Tanqueray and the local favorite Gin Pomelo, featuring Manille Liqueur de Calamansi.

The Long Bar is designed much like the original in Raffles Hotel Singapore. There are the lazy fans lining the wooden ceiling and a reproduction of the painting of a bartender 'in action'.

A reproduction of the painting in Long Bar, Raffles Hotel Singapore
Guests are even encouraged to throw nutshells on the floor as how they do in Singapore. Me being me, I'd like to put my garbage neatly in one area, but I was quick to recall the wisdom: honor the codes of your host. I obliged and the custom, as many pronounced, was indeed liberating.

Syrian Ebdane & Le Bar, Sofitel Philippine Plaza

Afternoon tea ni ritual served
with the herbs in glass tubes
When I checked my notebook, I had zero notes on Le Bar. Upon reflection, the reason for this is that after having a couple of drinks at Long Bar, I loosened up and began having fun.

By the time we got to Le Bar at Sofitel Philippine Plaza (Barangay 1, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City), I behaved like how people normally do in bars: spontaneously connecting with their fellow human beings. I made friends with other writers in the group and had a proper chat with Sofitel Manila head bartender Syrian Edbane, who was wearing a suit and Chucks and, unlike Rian, likes vodka and whiskey.

Syrian served his 'Afternoon tea ni ritual' (a play on Afternoon Tea and Martini). The best way to drink it is: (1) rub rosemary in your palms; (2) sniff the scent from your palms; (3) take that sip. And if chance allows, I suggest that you also (4) gaze at the sunset. Le Bar affords a splendid view of Manila Bay.

View of Manila Bay from Le Bar, Sofitel Philippine Plaza
I must admit that the place is too big and wide for my taste. But then that's the whole idea. Le Bar is a bistro, patisserie, and library rolled into one. If you want your varied hungers satisfied in a single room, this is for you.

Ed Yonzon & Niner Ichi Nana

Drop of life:
vodka, guyabano, calamansi
Ed Yonzon, head bartender of Niner Ichi Nana (Ground Floor, The Globe Tower, 32nd St corner 7th Ave, Bonifacio Global City), reminded me of two things: (1) why vodka is the first spirit I learned to love and (2) how delicious guyabano is.

His 'Drop of life' is the most memorable glass I've had in the entire bar crawl. It tasted weird in the beginning—no, not bad; but somehow in every cocktail served to me, I was prepared to instantly discern something familiar and here it wasn't the case. So I took another sip, and then another. That sense of groping turned into admiring new sensations. Midway into the drink, all I felt was delight in slow rediscovery.

Guyabano has a lot of benefits, Ed shares, and one of it is lowering cholesterol. He offered us a shot of its extract and, to be honest, it was my second favorite drink of the night. It got me to thinking why I haven't been having as much of this fruit as I should.

Ed mixes, we watch and learn
We also sampled 'Eurasia', which is a mix of whiskey, cucumber, and chili, with lots of crushed ice. The first sip was like a head-on collision. I thought it was too strong for me to finish, but that's what the ice was for, to temper the whiskey. In the end, it's one of the most refreshing cocktails you can have; in fact the word I associate with it is 'light'. Pair it up with the foie gras nuggets, which has a little crunch on the outside, softness on the inside, and a mild spice. I imagine sharing this cocktail and bar chow combo with an office buddy or an acquaintance, perhaps to celebrate something as mundane as four o'clock.

Joma Rivera & The Curator

Joma Rivera's 'Win or go home' was named as such because during the Philippine leg of the competition, it's either he wins with this cocktail or go home. That simple. Well, he won and the greater news is he was crowned World Class Bartender of the Year – Philippines 2014 a couple of days ago.

The 23-year-old reports as principal bartender at The Curator (134 Legazpi St corner C Palanca St, Legaspi Village, Makati City), which just opened last December.

Raw is how I'd describe the establishment. It struck me as a space for the unhurried and those who demand and provide perfection in a glass. Except for some bread to go along with your coffee for breakfast, they don't serve food. Not because they're being selfish, but because its location restricts them to.

This is our last stop and in an ideal world (where I didn't need to go to work early the following day), the night would've only begun.

If the 'Eurasia' was a head-on collision, The Curator's 'Beckinsale' was a big bang explosion—in a good way. "They don't scrimp on their alcohol," notes Marie. Aside from this generosity, the team's passion for libation is apparent. You can taste it in their beverages and they will engage you in a conversation about it.

I got to talk to co-founder David Ong, who taught me what a speakeasy truly is. He intro-ed: "Those who claim to be a speakeasy aren't." He also advised that I visit his other project, EDSA Beverage Design Group in, where else, EDSA. It's in the far far North but if what I experienced in The Curator is any indication, it must be worth the long commute.

Additional notes
EDSA BDG map sketched by David
  • When I asked the bartenders what their favorite cocktail is, most of them said it's the Old-Fashioned. Rian prefers Bee's Knees.
  • On the right is a map of EDSA Beverage Design Group.
  • So why was I so happy with the bar crawl? Because we now have these bars that inspire openness and intimacy, serious craftsmanship, and knowledge of cocktail culture. These drinks didn't come from nowhere. It's earth and memories distilled in a glass, and you share this small world with another, it doesn't matter whether there are words exchanged or none. There are no strangers here.

05 May 2014

In the mail today

A cheer-up card, book, and paper bag to carry these home
You have to give your friends credit for being sensitive, perceptive, and downright loving. The book is second-hand and several passages have been underlined:
But that is the whole point of a European cafe: to linger excessively and utterly without guilt.

People are least happy when they're commuting to work.

"Not my problem" is not a philosophy. It's a mental illness.

In other words, better to be a small fish in a clean pond than a big fish in a polluted lake.

Commuting, in particular, has been found to be detrimental to our happiness, as well as our physical health.

04 May 2014

From feeling to power

After quite a while I find myself a proper weekend—48 hours all to myself. April has been generous with exciting projects and charming men (heck I met Jojo Lastimosa and R2 Tolentino), as well as sweet gifts. The days were long and oh so good. Tiring, yes, but how can you stop when the world is in a kind mood.

May, only two steps into the calendar, seems determined to take on the role of being cruel. Whatever euphoria I experienced the previous month was instantly snatched. I was hurled back to the sad fact, that these instances of happiness are simply that: instances, now memories. All this aggravated by the heat (we're under a 29-degree weather as of this moment).

I spent half of Saturday afternoon composing a letter to someone that angered me the previous day. Before sleep and as soon as I woke up, my mind was filled with this fresh frustration and I couldn't just let is pass. But neither could I make a phone call and confront this person, no. I would simply destroy their rest and I might say something I would regret. Besides, I wasn't quite sure yet what I wanted to say.

So I wrote. As many would agree, writing is discovery, understanding. Once thought is complete and truth, captured, the nebulous feelings and fragments of ideas take a solid form. A new knowledge is in your hands.

The composition took three hours and four pages. As soon as I finished I felt better and divested of that need to send said letter. It wasn't a case of hiding, but of learning how to handle a weapon that must be used when the occasion arises.

16 April 2014

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is always asked in job interviews. After a decade of being an employee, it's only now that I can confidently talk about my weaknesses.

  • I think slow.
  • I need hours, sometimes days to process an event.
  • I abhor multi-tasking.
  • I am easily distracted.
  • I need to be alone about 90% of the time.
  • I need to be outside 50% of the time.
  • Routine makes me lethargic.
  • When I see no greater purpose in a task or project and the people around me have neither passion nor vision, I get discouraged and work with a heavy heart.
As for my strengths, I'm sure some of my weaknesses are welcome values to many enterprises—but I haven't really reflected much about it yet (see first two items on the list). Next time.

12 April 2014

Doors opening and closing

This witticism made its way through my timeline a couple of days ago:

Then thanks to Spotify, which only became available in the Philippines last Tuesday, I discovered Sue Ellen's version of Pet Shop Boy's 'Being Boring'—what I swear to be my 30s anthem.

Along with it is the re-discovery of the lyrics:

I came across a cache of old photos
And invitations to teenage parties.
'Dress in white', one said with quotations
From someone's wife, a famous writer
In the nineteen-twenties.
When you're young you find inspiration
In anyone who's ever gone
And opened up a closing door.

She said, 'We were never feeling bored...'
When I went I left from the station
With a haversack and some trepidation.
Someone said, 'If you're not careful
You'll have nothing left and nothing to care for
In the nineteen-seventies.'
But I sat back and looking forward,
My shoes were high and I had scored.
I'd bolted through a closing door

And I would never find myself feeling bored.

So I guess that's the week's lesson. Don't be discouraged by closing, closed, and shut doors.

PS: While Frozen is still hot, here's the extremely cute 'Love is an open door' (We finish each other's sandwiches FTW!). Unfortunately, though, in this instance, the door was opened too soon for the wrong person, for the wrong reasons.

So lesson #2? Not all rooms with opening, opened, and wide-open doors are for entering.

23 March 2014

Twitter, Blogger, etc

For whatever it has become to different people, I think the magic and essence of Twitter are in its 140-character limit and thoughtfulness in unburdening the user of that automatic connection with people whose thoughts and whereabouts they don't necessarily care for.

Meanwhile, celebrities—and the rest of the deeply status-conscious—value it as a free tool for measuring influence.

The little bird turns 8 and looks back at the very beginning:

My not-first #FirstTweet:

So I can't really remember my actual first tweet, but the above is proof that I, like everybody else, didn't know what to do with the new platform—but eventually did. A couple of years ago I discussed why I blog and recently I discovered another reason that I'm into Blogger, Twitter, and other similar sites.

Because good listeners are becoming harder and harder to come by. Nowadays you will be cut, misinterpreted, dismissed. At least in these online spaces you have a bit of control. Here, you are allowed to finish your sentence. Here you get to frame your story.

We're stuck in heavy noise traffic. Everyone is busy and has no patience to dwell on another's complexity. As a result, we adapt the strategies we have mastered in our attempts to make a living: make a brand out of ourselves. Be known in one clear dimension.

If there's something I dislike about Twitter (and its visual counterpart Instagram), it's that it pushes us to project an image. Twittersphere for me is— cold. What I miss about the old blogging days are the sincerity, vulnerability, and sheer openness in telling the cyberworld what's going on with you, with little regard to being judged. In fact there used to be a generous curiosity about strangers (bloggers who don't know but follow—and converse with—each other).

There was an excitement in sharing an experience more than an eagerness to show how great you are (which is fine if not excessive).

All this is to say I miss sharing a table with my friends. I also miss the ordinary story-tellers.

14 March 2014

Meanwhile, I made a wish

The story: My friend said One broke while she was taking the plastic
wrapper off. No biggie. It's just a number, as they say.

28 February 2014

Live to dine

First an apology: The reason that I went to Blue Bay Walk was Hot Star, but unfortunately, my camera-phone acted up and all the photos I took of the joint weren't saved. So I must convince you by words: Hot Star chicken is delicious.

Since the development is new, I decided to roam around. My openness for discovery led me to try these two cafes. Why I chose them? Because I like what they serve and their facade, appealing.

Clockwise from left: interiors, obviously; the sign, yes (wow I'm
terrible at captioning); quirky coffee spoon; blueberry tart with
compliments from the chef—and that makes you feel like a rock star
This is me, my scene. Intimate, clean, warm lights, fancy but nothing too extravagant, with a few surprises.

What it says on the cup: 'Angel N Kiss, a premium place for
a taste of heaven'
Again, me. Coffee and bread and pastry. What's not so me is the super upbeat mood. By the way, on TV is someone performing 'Let it Go' in a Korean variety show (thought that's nice to share).

I'm very happy about this visit. A friend once said that we have lots of restaurants in Manila, but how many of them satisfy? Those mentioned here exceeded my expectations. I also appreciate the entire park—wide open spaces that are beneficial to the mind and legs, smaller buildings for a greater view of the sky, and, well, just pretty things to lift the spirit.

Now my big realisation in this little adventure: You can tell that food tastes good by the way it looks.

08 February 2014

More thoughts on death

More, because it occupies my mind every day. And the recent news on the matter has brought me to these:

1. Really unfortunate when you die on the same day a celebrity dies. If you're a celebrity—when you die on the same day someone with greater fame than you dies.

2. I won't be caught dead wearing that. But we wear, do, and say things we don't like in unguarded moments. An immediate trace of our human frailty, something that we, because of our certainty in living another day or maybe year to fight, consider amending in the future. Look at your last status update, what would be your sort of 'last words'?

3. The initial responses are, He died too soon. Too sudden. Why him? The mistake is trusting there is a system and a logic to figuring the proper time of departure. Somehow the same can be said of a happier event—I can't believe my luck!

03 February 2014


Ticket to Emerging Visions
at the SMX Convention Center
Today I attended the 6th National Architecture Symposium organised by the UST Architecture Network (ARCHINET). This year's theme is 'Emerging Visions: Shifting Perspectives in Architectural Evolution' and lecturers include Inge Goudsmit of OMA Asia and Andreas Schmitzer of Project A01 Architects.

Asked about materials they used in a certain project, Schmitzer gave a generous response that centers on 'hiding the material'. He said something along the lines of, 'The truth is everything is fake. Everything is not what it seems.' I wanted him to talk more about it, but there were time constraints.

Another interesting—and in a way consoling—tidbit is that architects already consider themselves lucky if 10% of their work is realised. Most of the designs they spent sleepless nights on will never be constructed, and therefore will never be utilised and enjoyed by anyone.

The highlight of the event is that I was sitting beside and even shook hands with Architect Bong Recio (Recio+Casas). Though I only found out it was him when he was asked to come up on stage and deliver his keynote address. Silly me, I managed to introduce myself yet didn't ask who he was. I was prepared to chat him up after the lunch break, but unfortunately he left.

The affair took me back to my college days when the classroom and the lecture hall are some of the most exhilarating places to be. You meet people like them, see how they think, and you trust that the world is in good hands. The Taipei Performing Arts Centre is particularly inspired and how I wish to one day watch a show there.

Pet peeve: small circular mug handle
Elegant but a challenge to use
On a more trivial note, I used to make the mistake of associating design with mere patterns, divorced of function. Having written about homes and high-rises in the past couple of years, I've become more thoughtful about the word.

So after the symposium, I had coffee at the Mall of Asia and lo and behold, the perfect example of bad (or at the very least, inconvenient) design: the small circular mug handle. The only way I could raise this heavy mug (which I actually like) to my lips is if I use both hands. Or is it designed that way?

01 February 2014

After watching Rise of the Guardians

Pitch, the bogeyman in Rise of the Guardians
I can’t pinpoint when and how I learned that Santa Claus isn’t real. My best guess is that my parents never really cared about making me believe in the fellow. Even though they bothered to provide gifts from a quote-unquote anonymous sender in several Christmases, I had always known that it didn't come from the North Pole.

What I do remember quite vividly is that I consciously created an imaginary friend. It seemed cool to have one, so I made myself one. That buddy of mine existed inside a bottle of Sprite. When there was somebody around to see, I would grab the bottle and whisper to it. The entire experience wasn't fun in any way and completely awkward.

Despite the knowledge that there is no Santa and a talking friend that can fit in a soda bottle can only be imaginary, I remain to be drawn to them. Even as an adult—in fact the older I get, the more do I appreciate fantasy and devour children’s stories. Maybe because I missed them during my childhood.

A while ago I had the chance to catch Rise of the Guardians, a film celebrated by my friends when it came out in theaters a couple of years ago. I’m not sure if my friends and I have the same reasons for loving it, but for me it was about the famous guardians gathering and watching them interact. There is also the mystery of Jack Frost’s identity and why he was chosen as a guardian.

I'm not certain as well if many share my sympathy for the villain, Pitch Black. The guardians want to keep the dreams and hopes of children alive, while Pitch wants to spread darkness and fear; but all of them had the need to be believed in.

There is no doubt who will win the battle. The sweet little twist is that it is the children who defended their not-so-mythical protectors, with a child saying to Pitch, ‘I believe in you, but I don’t fear you’. Kids in the end were running through him, for he had become invisible. He had the same pained look as Jack in the beginning, when no one believed in him, for no one even knew who he was.

31 January 2014

Reflections after reading The Beach by Alex Garland

‘I want to do something different, and everybody wants to do something different. But we all do the same thing. There’s no…’

Because I associate the word with popular books and movies, adventure signifies something exciting, with an element of mystery, risk and danger. It is ultimately safe, because with books and movies, even if it does not reach a positive conclusion, I, the audience, am physically removed from the harms pervading the narrative.

Riverhead Books edition

In the Alex Garland novel, the first adventure is getting to—and therefore proving the existence of—‘the beach’, a mythical island-paradise in Thailand; the second is living there; and the third, leaving.

In life, not as clear-cut.


So the beach is real, alive with a small community that keeps it habitable to the few of them who discovered the place and decided it was theirs to call home.

The trick is how to keep the secret Eden from the rest of the world. With how the book ends, it can’t be done. If anything, I gather that paradise is possible, but, like happiness and human life itself, is transient. And that clinging on to it when it is time to let go is fatal.

Koh Samui seemed miles behind us but the drop-off island still appeared as distant as it had an hour ago.
A proper objective correlative for moving on and forward. Despite great efforts, doing everything you can within your power, why does it feel like an eternity has elapsed and your goals remain out of sight?


Richard, the main character and narrator, is pretty ordinary. He is not so much of a daredevil or an extreme romantic that oftentimes distinguish an adventurer. He simply wants to go out there and see the world; and that’s what he simply does.

If there is one thing I’d remember most about The Beach, it is the one thing that Richard has learned from traveling:
The way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.

Adventure, for better or worse, is a lonely business. You meet fellow travelers, and short-term partners, but in the end, as in the beginning, you take the toughest steps on your own.
Of course you’ll try to have a safe trip. I’m saying, actually have one.
Have a safe trip.

05 January 2014

2013 snapshots

From left to right, top to bottom: 1) Joined a world-wide Secret Santa;
2) Chinese New Year with friends; 3) birthday card from DLSU;
4) my coffee's making a weird face; 5) unforgettable bill; 6) whisky yeah;
7) discovered a great series; 8) was introduced to HERO Foundation;
9) celebrated birthdays of good friends, old and new;
10) passed by the memory-filled Aling Nene's restaurant;
11) re-unions; 12) got my student permit
A couple of things to note— All snapshots were taken using my camera-phone. I selected a photo per month then arranged them chronologically. This collage is definitely not a 'best of' list as most of my favorite moments are private and too quick for the shutter.

Happy New Year to all!

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