Friday, August 11, 2017

UNTITLED



                               It's a special place for you, and so is it for me.

                               But on the day that we first set foot upon its lush lawns,
                               and smelled the stench of petrichor reeking from its ground,
                               have we ever known?

                               Have we ever known each other's existence,
                               in a parallel world of drawings,
                               of books, and of daydreams?

                               Have we ever known its meaning to the other,
                               a meaning that stands leaning at every corner,
                               written on every sign, sitting under each shed?

                               Have we ever known what is tomorrow,
                               every sunrise that screams of treachery,
                               every sunrise that brought us closer to today?

                               No, never have we known --- because Time has a life of its own.
                               No, never have we known --- because Life has a time of its own.

                               And though it still holds memories that we rather would forget,
                               in the ground still rings a voice that brings you and me back,
                               this time, towards each other.

                               There, in a place
                               where waiting
                               has an end ---
                               Let us meet there. #


Thursday, August 3, 2017

HOW TO BE ME PO?


The Internet is too noisy. Sometimes, way more than I can take at bare minimum. 

One of the best things about throwing myself out into a non-English-speaking country in 2015 is that, well, it's 2015. Since I literally did not know anybody when I came here, finding the best way to communicate to people back home is priority. Thanks to the Internet, of course, since I did not have to worry how to relay to my parents really fast should I decide to just get married for permanent residency purposes instead of finishing my studies. Kidding. I won't relay to them if ever. 

Arriving exactly on the first of August, I remember everything to be surreal. Though the jetlag made me feel dreamy and groggy at the same time, I somewhat managed to tell myself to not forget to message the parents once I settle in the dorm. Since local network roaming rates are too expensive and I did not have a chance to get a new SIM right away, finding Internet access was the next best option. The dorm had a University access, but I was not student yet and VPN is required. Thank heavens, really, that my next-door Swiss neighbor apparently leaves his personal WiFi open 24/7 for literally everyone who can get hold of his signal. I cannot thank him enough for that. Though when I think about it now I actually never did. Ooops. Thanks, Oli. :D

Being active in social media was never me. Aside from Blogger, Google+ (which no one uses, really) and FB (which I regularly deactivate), I cannot be found anywhere else on the Internet. But within that same month, instant messaging became my best friend. From Viber to FB to WhatsApp. I ended my year-long hiatus with Blogger, created an Instagram account, utilized YouTube, and tried exploring Twitter. It kept me busy for a while, yes, but over time, it felt a little toxic.

I may be a millenial, but social media suffocates me sometimes. Social media is a powerful tool, I agree, but maybe if used properly. I like reading stories of how viral YouTube videos help crooked people get arrested, how an FB post can raise funds for an important medical treatment, or how powerful Tweets can be to boost your business or promote an important cause. 

Yet apart from inspiring stories, I don't get hashtags. I don't get trending topics. I don't get why I need to jump into some topics and debate about things with people I don't know, about things that won't matter in the next five years. Or maybe if it does, I would have, but not online. 

Or maybe I'm just too old-fashioned. I prefer a more personal approach, one that limits that room for misinterpretation and therefore, miscommunication. That's the irony with the information age, as they say. Communication means are meant to make things way easier, but we get across lesser and lesser. 

Or maybe I'm not too comfortable with the feeling that what we see around our network's posts seem to be a little too "perfect" compared to our real lives. That when I post how bad my day went, I'd be accused of being "reklamador" or "nega." That when I post about my travel pictures and use "#blessed", I'm being a show-off. 

Or maybe I don't really like being followed, telling everyone how my day went and what new things I did. New things I bought. New friends I met. New stuff I ate. Or maybe, I don't like people who don't normally care about me on a daily basis, to care at all. 

"How to be you po?" That must be one of the best pauso of the social media age. A question pretty much asking how to achieve the certain qualities that we so admire with a person --- their beauty, charm, intelligence, strength of character, and maybe even popularity. A critical question, if you think about it --- so long as it does not seek to distort further the ideas of beauty, of intelligence, and of strength that traditional media already had a long time ago. 

The social media age is a revolutionary period of growth for humans. But as much as it has opened doors to new ideas and platforms for learning, I can only wish that we get a hold of and recognize our true selves as we use these tools. "How to be me po?" I don't mind hearing that. Not even with a hashtag. #

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

PLAYING ASIAN 101

In the Philippines, when people see a tall, white man or woman with hair other than black, we say "Uy, Kanô." Of course, we all know that "Kanô" is a slang for "Amerikano", but its reference spans beyond Americans, really. As long as the person is white, we simply say, "Kanô". It's easier to say, and has a tone that's accessible to the commoner. 

I never really gave much care about how Caucasians or other whites actually feel when Filipinos call them "Kanô" though they're not Americans --- until I stayed a while in Europe, and maybe out of 10 people, 6 call me "Chinese." Not just by Europeans but by people from all parts of the world as well. Apparently for some, all Asians are, yes, Chinese. Yeah, right. First of all, I'm not fair skinned, my eyes are not chinky AT ALL, and my native language doesn't sound a bit like any Chinese dialect. But of course, they won't really know the difference. Funniest thing was when I was walking to the train station when a Chinese girl ACTUALLY spoke to me in Chinese, mistaking me for one. I was staring at her for almost a minute there before I said, "Englisch, bitte." Speaking German to a Chinese. I know that wasn't very courteous of me, but her Mandarin put me into a sudden state of panic. 

Some fellow Asians do distinguish me, but 70% still fail. Top of mind for my look are, in order of frequency: Indonesian, Thai, and Asian. Yes, a generic Southeast Asian. But perhaps one of the best experiences for me perhaps in my stay was the cultural exchange. A lot of my classmates perhaps have heard of the Philippines before, because of the beaches they see in travel articles. Good job, DOT Secretaries. Although since a year ago, things have changed quite dramatically. Instead of beaches, I get a lot of "Asian Trump" or "crazy President" comments from my colleagues and professors. Oh yeah, good job, PDiggy. There are a lot of things to be embarrassed about, if I would be blunt about it. I would not go on glorifying bad habits and people just to protect my reputation as a Filipino. No. One is enough to represent the rest. The point is, wherever you go around the world, you become an ambassador, no matter how small you think your job/study program is. And even when you're merely travelling! It's a big world and people continue to get a hold of the most important commodity today: information. And where best to experience cultural information than from personal exchange? 

Yes, sometimes, you get stared at, looked down at, all those creepy things. I was walking home from the supermarket one time and a 10-year old girl was just staring at me, smiling really happily. For almost 30 seconds, that felt like 2 hours for me. It was uncomfortable, but I was wondering, "Was it the first time she ever saw an Asian??" I'm sure not, because there are a lot of Germany-born Asian-blooded kids I see in the bus every morning. Or maybe she's just what they call here an "Asian killer" --- a European who has a penchant for Asian beauties. Or maybe I just look friendly to her. Creepy.

But there also are times that create opportunities. Sometimes some of my classmates ask me how I am able to distinguish a Chinese from a Japanese from a Korean, and even from a Kyrgyzstani (who of course to me looks more Mongolian, but what do they know about Mongolia except maybe for Genghis Khan). Or a Filipino from a Vietnamese from an Indonesian. Of course, I've been used to Asian faces and languages all my life, so I initially said, I don't know, I just know. But I take these rather as a curious job and really try to explain to them. That Chinese are not double-lidded, that the Vietnamese language sounds more nasal, that Indonesians speak faster than Filipinos, and that Filipinos use Spanish-borrowed words in sentences though not everyone knows Spanish at all. That, and other funny stereotyped explanations. Of course they won't remember all that after the bus ride. But to me it was more of a self-awareness check, and of getting myself amused with the fact that being located in a geography does not just make you familiar with it on an informational level, but rather you actually experience the very facts. Perhaps it's also what Middle Easterns or South Asians get sometimes. I have a Nepalese classmate and he gets a lot of "Indian." Ouch. Worse than mine, I guess.

To end my little anecdote on being an Asian I'd like to end this lightly by leaving you with three things to remember; that is, in case you want to travel to or live in Europe and you're so proud of being Asian (a "Chinese" Asian, that is --- meaning people from the East and Southeast) and you want to easily be identified as one:

1) Always bring your umbrella --- Rain is very seldom this side of the earth, and the thunderstorms they describe in the weather updates are actually just very light rains in the Asian world. But Asians love their umbrellas. So even just a light drizzle --- or flurries (read: lol) --- warrants the use of one. Make sure it's the tri-fold type, by the way. Oh and please wear VERY colorful jackets and winter clothes too. Asians love color. ;)

2) Don't forget to bow --- Asians love bowing, when saying thank you, saying please, saying sorry, even saying hello. And even if Filipinos are more Westernized due to our colonization history, I noticed we still bow, even just with our heads. So don't forget to bow, that looks soooo authentic. 

3) Be very, very polite --- play the "shy type" role. Let people get on the bus before you do. Let them go ahead of you in supermarket cashier queues. Whatever you do, wherever you go, carry that humble air with you. You're Asian. You're anti-conflict. Even if you're Filipino, remember this: You are not your President. ;) #


Monday, July 31, 2017

TAKE ME TO RECTO

People my age probably have never heard of Steely Dan. Shame though, 'cause this band's one of the best contemporary blues out there. Not to mention their staying power, as they still get to tour around the US until today. But if there's one thing enjoyable for me about Steely Dan aside from their unique sound, it's how they tell a clear and varying story in their lyrics. What I particularly found more interesting is the consistent use of different places as references and to give the story more of a feel. Here are some songs and the respective lines with geographical references:

Don't Take Me Alive - "Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon"
Divorce - "No tears and no hearts breakin', This is your Haitian Divorce"
Deacon Blues - "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, Call me Deacon Blues"
Babylon Sisters - "Here come those Santa Ana winds again"
Bad Sneakers - "Stompin' on the avenue by Radio City with a transistor and a large sum of money to spend"
Doctor Wu - "You said you'd bring to me Biscayne Bay where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day"

As a kid of course I didn't mind. But now I find myself wanting to understand the story more and thus to research on the context of the places he was referring to. I was actually trying to imagine if I adopt a similar style to the local setting, just quite casually. Some lyrics would probably go like:

"Ako'y isang manggagancho sa Recto, huwag niyo akong parusahan."
"Tumambay kay Mang Danny at kumain ng isaw sa UP."
"Kay sarap ng simoy ng hangin sa baybayin ng Camiguin."
"Sabi mo dadalhin mo ako sa Mindoro at sasayaw tayo kasama ng mga Mangyan."

It's a bit weird and awkward isn't it? I find it interesting and catchy though. Certain places share a certain feel, a vibe that can only be described by simply dropping the name of that place. How much more powerful can that get?

It's not at all new or unexplored in the local music scene, as we know some songs that were written as an ode to places that are dear to the songwriter, or to a particularly wider audience in general. A classic one would be "Manila" by The Hotdogs, or the much less popular "Los Baños" by Sugarfree and Cambio's "DV". Although when I think about Tagalog songs with the way Steely Dan used geographical referencing, I can only think about old ones. Who wouldn't be familiar with Rico J. Puno's spin-off on Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We Were", with the famous line “Namamasyal pa sa Luneta ng walang pera…” or Ryan Cayabyab's "Limang Dipang Tao" with "Limang dipang taong nagtutulakan sa Abenidang aking napagdaanan."

References to geography play a very essential role to understanding our culture, and using them in song lyrics to tell a story sure is a strong and creative way of putting characters and listeners to perspective. It makes no sense for "outsiders" lest they bother knowing the context of it, but they are good symbols for a particular set of people you'd want to reach out to. However, it sometimes becomes a tough call because places can also mean a great divide among social classes, ethnicity, and other groups of people. In short, there's never going to be one meaning for the audience that the song is trying to reach out to. Taguig used to be a nobody and now it's a central business district and a high-end gimmick place for yuppies. Luneta used to be the Manileño's tambayan but now it's only associated with the masses. It wouldn't surprise me when I hear about songs giving particular reference to SM Malls and condos soon. 

As time goes by, places also evolve with technology, changes in preference, and external influences. Well there's another choice for it, if not evolving: getting obsolete. As much as places reflect the way we give importance to our personal heritage, it also becomes a symbol that differentiate that culture with the rest. But perhaps, before we even talk about places and places in songs, the question is, at least for Filipinos, what culture are we even talking about? #


Friday, March 24, 2017

THE SILENT INTROVERT

In the science of psychology, Carl Jung popularized the typology of personality where one can be classified either as an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts are the "withdrawn" types, refusing any form of social interaction during their recharge phase, in contrast with extroverts who regain energy from them. In more recent studies they came up with a third, the "extroverted introverts" otherwise known as ambiverts. Simply put, they are somewhere in between, maintaining a fair but rather selective social circle. 

Getting past an awkward adolescent phase has been one of my biggest struggles. I was not innately social for one. Getting new friends in school was just "part of the job" and if ever I did, I did not exactly maintain them well. It took me a while to understand my behavior. Because most of the kids in my school were either friendly or competitive, I thought I was just weird. Of course, I did not know about Carl Jung and these typologies early on. I did not question myself or hated my sense of non-belongingness though. As long as they leave me be, I get on with my life pretty well. 

As the years went on however, experience forced me to bend a little bit. When I started to work, socializing became literally part of the job. But though it did not hurt to extend social networks, at the end of the day I still retreat to my own room, reading or writing or drawing away from the crowd. Even today. Being an ambivert is confusing for a lot of people. I'd sometimes initiate to do something, be the one to approach first, withstand small talks, but often won't hear from or see me for a whole month (or more) unless necessary. It's not that I hate people. In fact I love people, because listening to their stories opens my world to more possibilities. So although we have the ability to adapt due to our needs or other reasons, indeed, there's a huge part of our being that will never be changed, and that is our nature. 

I know a good number of introverts in my life, and they are all amazing people. Sadly, there are a lot of misconceptions of them being "withdrawn," "anti-social," or "boring" set of people. I admit that even though I am one myself, because I have a higher degree of extroversion, I tend to force them to talk to me even when they are in their recharge phase --- and that's a big No-No!!! A couple of special people in my life are extremely introverted but are highly creative and imaginative in their own crafts. The same way as we have different types of intelligence, we also bring out our best differently through our personalities. I'm sharing this old yet I believe very accurate comic illustration by Schroeder Jones on how to care for your introvert family and friends. It's entertaining, yes, but remember the rules by heart!

So as a tribute to my beloved co-introverts, here's a simple haiku, likening you to beautiful butterflies emerging from out of your cocoons after your recharge phase. Thanks to you, we are reminded that Silence is a vital part of a process, and silence is process itself, both for the waiting and for the awaited. #









Wednesday, March 22, 2017

EMBRACE

When we were doing Psych 101 in college we had to come up with a simple study on any aspect of psychology. I don't know if one of my group mates had suicidal tendencies but she suggested we do an experiment whether it was true that people who listened to "Gloomy Sunday" would actually commit suicide. Except for her, we said it was interesting, but "too risky." Truth is, not one of us wanted to die at 16. Talk about gullibility. 

Thanks to another group mate, we ended up creating a study on the psychology of touch. Aside from an increased sense of trust, studies say that it promotes stronger team dynamics, greater learning engagement, and improves overall well-being, including a stronger immune system. The benefits would probably be more pronounced if both the giver and the receiver share a common love language of touch.

So we decided to create multiple categories of touch (fingers, hands, and hugs) to be applied as a social experiment to multiple categories of random people in school as well --- classmates, partial strangers (e.g. librarian), and complete strangers (i.e. just anybody who unfortunately falls into our sampling strategy). I already forgot if any one of us successfully carried out the "hug a complete stranger" combination. Maybe, but we ended up asking for first aid in the infirmary.

Evidently, that's one of the most unforgettable experiences for me. Aside from the literature review, I for one believe in the power of touch. Most of the time, we don't really need words to appease a loved one, especially if much has already been said. Sometimes, a sincere embrace is enough, because there's simply no substitute to a genuine, caring warmth. #


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MOONLIGHT

To post or not to post the whole poem?

It's but seldom that I complete one in Filipino so I consider these instances rather rare and, well, special. Writing in your native language can be tricky, but the message more often than not comes across as more heartfelt. Although when I go back to reading my poems to myself one more time, it sometimes awfully sound either too mushy, formal, oldie, or all of the above. For this particular one though, I'm particularly saving it to be read personally to someone. :) 

But I'm sharing part of the piece though, one of the last few lines. Apologies for the weird graphics and borders. Still trying my luck on them.

I guess everyone has this person in their lives/lifetime who particularly shines the most, despite many other bright stars that surround you. Just like the moon though, sometimes they appear within our reach, but in reality, they're too far away to hold. Do you let that moonlight leave you in awe? Or do you choose to close your eyes and wish you've never seen it at all? #


Sunday, March 12, 2017

OMENS

Writers are often stereotyped with manual typewriters, even in the age of computers and printers. Maybe because there's something classic about this machine --- the vintage look, the sound it produces with every hit, the smell of ink, and the way the letters proudly stand after you accomplished a page of your work. Ah, the letters. It's no surprise that the Old Typewriter font has been one of the oldest in the MS Word family, and a personal favorite too. 

But though it looks really simple, this has undoubtedly been the most challenging piece I've done so far. Even the use of a calligraphy pen or brush would never render it easier. The Old Typewriter font has a charm that exudes from inconsistency --- each letter is unique, as every hit on the typewriter produces a different texture depending on the ink on the ribbon. Thus, print-out templates and tools will never replace these beautiful strokes. 

In an attempt to reproduce a work from a classic typewriter, I used a simple black 0.4mm fineliner, similar to the previous posts. However, the work was as intricate as replacing a ribbon in a manual typewriter. First, I wrote down the whole text, just the text itself, using a standard Typewriter font template. Second step was to thicken the lines, but making sure I don't follow the straight lines so as not to produce an MS Word-looking font. This is the most challenging part, but it gives you the freedom to create a unique texture for each letter at this stage. The natural blotting of the pen helps achieve the look, but for me I used a combination of natural and artificial "pamamasma" of my hand (not kidding - it was hard to control the shaking after I finished!). Last is to put additional "graining" or some imperfections around the letters.

I know this is not perfect, but I'm sharing it anyway. It's simple but tricky, just as some people we know appear calm and easy on the outside, but have actually struggled or are struggling a lot inside. Maybe they listen to their omens, and they know that despite the pain today, things will always be alright. #


Thursday, March 9, 2017

AGAIN

A few months ago, a friend of a friend made me try this calligraphy thing. I have heard of it years ago and I remember seeing a wave of social media posts of quotes or verses written in pretty, cursive fonts. Apparently it has become a household trend, and some genius thought about making it more accessible to ordinary people (i.e. non-artists like me) by using a special calligraphy pen which has an effect similar to a calligraphy brush (which is a bit expensive to maintain and requires a high level of technique). So I tried, and it turns out to be way more challenging than I thought! You have to have that delicate control over your hand muscles and temporarily forget about your natural penmanship --- emphasizing on that because I ended up forgetting everything she taught me on her 3-minute crash course and I just went about writing something totally different from the expected output! But anyway, the activity is cool, it's therapeutic, it increases your focus, and I personally love the fact that people don't find art, at least this kind, as alienating and as intimidating compared to before anymore. If you're interested, there are a lot of video tutorials in YouTube and downloadable text templates which you can practice from. If you're in the SG area, it would be nice to check out my friend's workshops by visiting Coffee + Calligraphy. Shameless plug. :P

As for me though, I still go old school. I'd consider myself more of an accidental 'creative' who practically uses just whatever scrap is available and whatever comes from heaven --- because I'm stingy like that. But maybe someday I'll invest on quality brushes and ink, and learn to write in Mandarin. :P For now, I'll make the most of what I have. :)

Leaving you tonight with a reminder to make good use of your second chances --- in life, in love, in everything that you do. Not everyone is graced with it. And it's devastatingly painful to lose something you value so much the second time around. #








Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SMALLER

As I pulled up my notebook again tonight and reviewed last night's output, I almost cringed with what I saw and was so embarassed how dare I share that to you. I realized I overestimated the first strokes and merely kept up with the whopping size of the letters. For the second attempt, therefore, I tried increasing the upper space to reduce the overall text size. After all, I've always been comfortable working on smaller letters, as I feel I have more control on both the heaviness and the speed of my writing. Not to mention the economic value of saving some ink. My classmates back in my school years hated borrowing my notes, since they're microscopic and incomprehensible altogether. That was unintentional, by the way. 

Tonight I leave everybody with some words from Jeanette Winterson, a writer who you probably haven't heard of because yeah, she's a woman. And oh, greeting you all a "Happy" International Women's Day (?). All over the world, a lot of women perceive themselves as already "priveleged" in terms of equal and unbiased treatment in the society relative to the opposite gender. I challenge every woman today, however, to reassess their position in this "modern" society. It's dangerous to feel comfortable at a time when the real problems are hidden. How many of us actually believe in this cause and value our equal footing so much so that we take that dreadful risk to be unheard and dismissed?




P.S. Penny (yes, that's the name of my pen) is tired tonight so he didn't want to join the snapshot. But he's happy to celebrate Women's Day with us. So much so that he didn't mind me giving him a rather feminine name. :)