Sunday, November 15, 2009

Catching Airplanes

I used to have this one quirk that girls would find cute. Either that, or they’d slowly back away from me before turning around and running. See, I remember someone telling me that if you caught a hundred airplanes and kept them in your hand, you’d get to make a wish. For years, I thought it was my cousin who taught me that, but when she caught me reaching up into the sky and pretending to catch a passing airplane with my hand, well... let’s just say she didn’t find it cute.

I carried on that small game well into my college years, and a little beyond that. So long as I heard the din of an airplane engine, I’d look to the sky and search for the source. If I found it, I’d catch it and say what number that plane was, just to remind myself of how many more I needed for a wish.

I’ve caught enough airplanes in my life to make three wishes, and they’ve all come true. My first hundred-airplane wish was, quite sappily, made for my girlfriend. I wished for her happiness. Considering that the girl is my ex now, I probably should’ve just wished for a Playstation 3.

The next two wishes were more of a reflection of my life and troubles. Going to college without any way of paying the tuition is a really tough thing to do, even with scholarships that improved from partial ones to a full one. There came a time when my family was having trouble scrounging up 5000 pesos to pay for my tuition backlog from my partial scholarship days. It was pretty depressing, realizing that the thing I wished most for was the chance to enrol for the coming semester. Thankfully, though, things worked out and I got through college.

I don’t really catch airplanes anymore. I still do it occasionally, but I never hunt down the planes I hear in the sky. And when I do, I’m never really that sure about how many I’ve caught since my last hundred a year ago. It’s always somewhere around 74-77, give or take a couple of planes.

I was thinking about why I don’t catch airplanes anymore, when it hit me – I would do it in times of unhappiness. I mean, although my ex really is a nice person, she was making me unhappy with myself. She never really let me be the goofy, quirky, corny geek that I am. In fact, she made me feel ashamed of it, mostly because she was ashamed of me. I never really admit it to myself until recently, but the way she was trying to turn me into a douche to “make me better” spoke volumes about how she didn’t really like who I was as a person. Deep inside, I think I knew that for most of the time we were together. My wish for her, if I remember right, went something like this – “I wish for her happiness, even if it didn’t include me”. I imagine I thought myself selfless at the time, but maybe there was more to that thought than I realized.

The other two hundred were self-explanatory. There are few things that are as depressing as being in education limbo, never knowing if you were still going to school until days after the regular enrolment period. I swear my children (if I ever have them) will never, ever have to go through what I had to go through.

Maybe I’m overthinking my past here, but it kinda makes sense to me. I mean, don't we all make wishes when we want something missing from our lives? Maybe I was subconsciously wishing for some actual happiness. I’ll probably never really know why I started catching those airplanes when I did. I’ll never know for certain if I really was doing it to maximize my chances of finding happiness, or if I’m just making these connections up because I’m way too introspective for my own good. I can’t go back in time and ask my old self about this.

I can, however, pinpoint the time where I cut down on the airplane-catching – sometime between January and February 2009. If you know me and my story, you’ll probably see why.


Read on >

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Survivor Politics; or, Writing Political Commentary Gets Silly when You're Battling Insomnia

Perhaps it was the fact that I’ve been reading up on health and fitness websites for the past 12 hours, but I haven’t been able to get Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of my head. It’s become so pervasive that, as I was thinking of a title for this little rambling on next year’s presidential elections, the only real idea I had was to use “Let’s Get Political” (sung, of course, to the tune of the aforementioned pop song). I realize that it’s downright ridiculous to start off an entry about politics with a rather personal issue with an 80s pop song, but then again, that’s exactly what I think of our country’s current state of affairs.

I’m not the first to say that the state of politics in the Philippines is ridiculous, and I certainly won’t be the last, but all this talk about the elections had me thinking – just how many people are going to run for president next year? A little bit of research tells me that a whopping 18 individuals have expressed their intentions to run for office. Among those 18, only 6 have dropped out of the race. Am I the only one thinking how stupid it would be if things stayed the way they are come election time? Those are 12 names potentially on the ballot, each vying for a chance to be the leader of our nation.

Now color me idealistic, but how the heck are we supposed to pick a leader based on majority of the public opinion if the public’s opinion is divided 12 ways? If things stay the way they are, the eventual winner will probably claim the presidency with only 20% of the vote! Sure, that 20% may have had the majority of the votes, but is it really what most of us want? In terms of population size, and not the number of votes cast, 20% is a paltry amount. That’s like saying someone gets to be class president because 8 out of 40 people voted for him.

Of course, the number of candidates is bound to drop the closer we get to the elections, but the final number will likely still be too much to constitute a good vote. See, having too many candidates appears to be a part of our political culture. Since 1992, we’ve had an average of 7.33 presidential candidates over three elections, none of which has won by over 40% of the vote. Former President Ramos, in fact, won by only 23.6% (or, in classroom terms, around 9 students). Next year’s election will probably turn out like this – 6-9 candidates on the ballot, with the winner getting roughly 25-35% of the vote.

I, for one, think that’s really, really stupid. No classroom is going to be happy with the class president if only 14 students voted for him; in the same fashion, the voting population is never going to be happy with the country’s president if 60% of them didn’t even choose the guy. No wonder we keep squabbling with each other – the other guys fucked us up with their votes.

The sheer number of candidates tends to divide the public rather than unite them, which is the opposite of what an election should do. Again, I’m being idealistic here, but I’d like to imagine that an election is a time for people to come together and discuss what exactly the country needs, as personified by a leader. Sure, there are always going to be opposing voices, but look at it this way – with two candidates, the worst you’ll get is one half of the population disagreeing with the other half. With 5 candidates, your worst case scenario involves each fifth of the population fighting with each of the four other fifths. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have two large-sized chunks of the population fighting each other rather than 5 smaller chunks arguing among themselves. At least more people work towards a common cause in the former scenario. At least there’s some sense of unity there.

I don’t see this problem going away, either. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about bipartisan politics, and I’m probably exposing myself as a himbo here, but I do know that our politicians are too involved with themselves to actually sit together and decide which single person would be the best candidate to represent either the left or the right. Our leaders would rather divide the public’s opinion than bring it together, all for their own ambitions for power. It’s downright ridiculous.

This is why I’d like to share an equally-ridiculous, completely uneducated solution: hold the elections like fucking Survivor. That’s right – have the candidates battle it out and prove their worth to the Philippine tribe. Let the candidates scramble for public favour in an effort to save themselves from being voted out by the population. Hell, we already have the personalities to make a decent show – Manny Villar, the picture of success; JC de Los Reyes, the spunky young upstart; Joseph Estrada, the charming ex-con looking to redeem himself; and Noynoy Aquino, the guy whose mom died. All we need is an impartial Jeff Probst to give them challenges and tally the votes.

I can see it now – on week 1, Jeff tells the candidates they have three weeks to improve the nation’s hunger issue. The candidate who feeds the most mouths gets immunity. Villar takes the easy route and rains money over depressed areas while perched on his solid gold helicopter. Noynoy distributes canned goods with yellow labels (natch), helping the hungry subsist on Argentina Corned Beef and canned lychees. De Los Reyes plays the youth card, calling all students to volunteer in the effort and promising them better grades in return. Erap smiles and winks at the populace, assuring us that “mabubusog ang masa sa pagmamahal ko"(the masses will get full thanks to my love for them). At the end of three weeks, Erap inexplicably survives the vote despite 600 people dying of starvation on his watch. By the time we reach the grand finale, the remaining two contestants make their final appeals to the voters before the ballots are cast.

Sure, it’s impractical, oversimplified, and lacks any proper understanding of politics, but at least we’ll have the candidates actually serving the country as they campaign, rather than the empty posturing we see all the time. Even if the winning candidate turns out to be a major bomb, as was the case with our more recent administrations, they’ll at least have done the public some service.

Just don’t let Bayani Fernando walk around naked on camera.


Read on >

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday

Looking back at my previous entries made me realize one thing – I haven’t posted in over a month. There’s no better time than now to write, though; I’ve been fighting a bout of insomnia, and just had one of the most enlightening talks I’ve ever had with my brother.

Those who really know me know that I really look up to him; he’s not only my brother, he’s the very reason why I’ve been so enchanted with writing. I already mentioned briefly about how my brother’s writing got me interested in doing it as well, but I never said how powerful his influence was. To many impressionable young kids, a brother four years your senior is the closest thing you have to a role model (aside from superheroes and cartoon characters). When I was younger, my brother would write and write and write, and he’d get praise from his teachers and my parents for his skills as a wordsmith. The pride my parents took in his writing made putting good sentences together like the ultimate achievement. To me, writing was, in layman’s terms, the shiznit.

So I grew up reading his work and wanting to write like him. For a while, I did my best to copy his style and pass it off as my own. Whatever I did, though, it never really came out as good as his stuff, so I decided to stop trying and develop my own voice. Writing grew to be my passion, and it’s led me to where I am now.

Where I am now is sitting in front of my laptop a few hours after my brother’s birthday ended. There was some impromptu get-together held at my second-favourite source of foreign beers in the country, but I couldn’t go because of A)work, and B)budget. I also found out about it pretty late – around 10pm – and I really had my hands tied. I figured I could make it for my brother’s real birthday celebration on Saturday, but then I found out my sister and mother were going.

This was an unexpected hitch. See, my mother believes that familial obligations are of the highest priority, and I’d agree with her on most nights. It’s just that too many circumstances were going against me, and I really wouldn’t have been able to make it (the bar is pretty far from my place). The fact that my mother was going, though, meant that I had to force the issue and go, or else face her wrath; “wrath”, in this sense, meaning “life-long guilt trip from Hell”. I’ve always felt like the failure son in her eyes, and this incident would have only reinforced that image.

But here’s just how awesome my brother is – he completely understood my predicament, AND he reasoned it out with my mother. This is a man who, on his own birthday, dealt with familial drama that didn’t directly involve him. On his very birthday, he defended me.

I found out about this when he came home, drunk but very much awake. I greeted him, and then apologized profusely for my absence. What he did next was just amazing to me – he started going on and on about how he kept defending me against my mother, in front of everyone at the establishment. When she complained about my absence, he told her that he didn’t find it a problem; and if he didn’t find it a problem, it shouldn’t be an issue. When she insisted that I simply didn’t value family as much as they did, he told her that she didn’t really know me that well. When she got drunk and started complaining about my career choices, he told her to have faith in my ability, just like he did.

At some point in his passionate recounting, I asked him if he’d like to cap the night off with a final birthday scotch. He happily agreed, and we relocated to the dinner table. Once we had our glasses, he continued talking about how much he believed in me, and about how much it kills him that no one else in this family seems to do the same.

That’s just the guy my brother is – he’s one of the most incredibly selfless individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He spent most of the closing hours of his birthday making ME feel good about myself. He went on and on about enjoying my blogs and hearing me ramble on and on about anything and everything at the end of the day. He told me about how he wished he could do what I was doing, and that he had complete and utter faith that I could do it well. For one night, he made me feel the opposite of what I felt all my life – I felt worthy of admiration this evening.

Despite all that ego-boosting, he closed by thanking me. He told me that talking with me salvaged what might have been one of the more depressing birthdays of his life – although he had a great time with his friends, there was the shadow of a quarter-life crisis looming overhead and a mother who just wouldn’t stop bringing up familial drama. Talking to me, he said, made him feel like he had family more than the physical presence of the others did.

Afterwards, I told him my piece about how he was the original inspiration for what I do, about how I think his own noble selfishness sort of cheats him out of pursuing writing, and about how talented and smart and good he is for being that unselfish. Like every nice guy, he took it with a grain of salt. He probably won’t remember much of it until he reads this post.

We continued well into the wee hours talking about the fun random things people talk about when they’ve had a little too much scotch – sexuality, comics, software development, friends, relationships, work, beer as the reason for civilization, and Japanese exploitation movies from the 1970s, among others. When his eyes started doing the “will we or won’t we close?” dance, I suggested calling it a night. He happily agreed.

This was perhaps one of the best talks I’ve had with my brother, even if he was probably only half-sober. Heck, it was one of the best times I’ve had with him, period. I’m really happy that he enjoyed it too, and that he had a pretty good end to his birthday, despite my earlier absence. He may not see me in any pictures from the celebration, but at least he’s got these thousand or so words.

Happy birthday, Mart.

Read on >

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lookie, Lookie! More Wasted Binary Code!

As many of those close to me know, I quit my day job to become a freelance writer. Because I'm waaaaaay too introspective for my own good, I've decided to chronicle my thoughts on living life where corporate douchebags fear to tread on another blog. It's nothing fancy, and I haven't even customized the layout yet, but it's there, and I've got the introduction post written down and everything. So, if you've got time to kill, feel free to waste some of it at soiquitmydayjob.blogspot.com.

P.S. This counts as my shortest post yet. I'm tempted to pad the word count to my usual thousand or so, but bleh. Hurrah for brevity!

Read on >

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Meat and Marlboro Men; or A Steak Dinner at Texas Roadhouse Grill

There isn’t a single dish more masculine than a steak (besides, of course, a steak wrapped in bacon dipped in batter and fried in beer, but such awesomeness shall sadly only exist in fantasyland). Perhaps it’s because of the fact that a steak is a thick slab of muscle. Maybe it’s because said thick slab of muscle is cooked over a roaring fire, a symbol of man’s dominance over the natural world. It could be the delightful marinades and seasonings that IT’S PERFECT WITH BEER.

In the Most Sacred Church of Masculinity that every male is born baptized into, sinking your teeth into a juicy steak is a spiritual experience that takes you back to the raw, primal days when our cave-dwelling ancestors hunted down beasts of old and feasted upon their fire-grilled flesh. Much to my chagrin, I found myself severely lacking in this holiest of man-foods. In normal, non-pretentious English, I haven’t had a steak in a while.

But life has a funny way of fixing things. Last night, the Gods of Manliness took mercy upon me and led me to perhaps the manliest place I could imagine – Texas Roadhouse Grill. It was a Western-themed restaurant. With Marlboro Men on the walls. That served big, beefy steaks. Hallelujah.

A place of worship, really.

It turns out that this Palace of Masculinity has been around for a while, opening its two branches way back in 2007. How it could have escaped my sight for so long eludes me, but that doesn’t matter. I know about it now, and so too, should every red-blooded male.

As Lauren and I walked through the doors, I knew immediately that the establishment took its theme very seriously. Everything, from the wooden doors and frames, to the lights that hung overhead, reminded me of a saloon from the Old West, the types where cowpokes and outlaws and gringos alike sat down for a steak and some beer. The pictures of cowboys saddling up that adorned the walls added to the ambience.

We sat down, eager to learn if the same attention to detail put into the interiors would translate into the food. After a quick tour of the kitchen (wherein Texas Roadhouse Grill earned major bonus points for its strict adherence to rules on cleanliness and proper waste disposal, and also for owning an icemaker big enough to hide a body in), we were served our first appetizers: Chunky Corn Soup with Bacon and Nacho Strips.

The soup tasted as good as it looked. Each one of the flavours was distinct, from the sweetness of the corn to the saltiness of the bacon, but pulled together into a harmonious, hearty soup. With the nacho strips adding some delightful texture to the dish, Lauren and I had no trouble enjoying every bit of it.

Underneath the surface: hidden treasure. Bacon is treasure.

The soup was followed up with the Jesse James Sampler plate, which allowed us to taste a trio of Texas Roadhouse Grill’s most popular appetizers. The dish featured Buffalo wings, cheese fritters, and chicken fingers, each with their own sauces. The Buffalo wings had a nice combination of tanginess and heat, and was cooled down by its blue cheese dip. While I enjoyed the wings, and maybe had more than I should have, I couldn’t help but hope that they put a little more of the Buffalo sauce on them. The cheese fritters, on the other hand, were your usual deep-fried sticks of mozzarella with marinara sauce – which, needless to say, is a very good thing. Again, while the fritters were very, very good, I think jalapeno bits would have knocked them out of the park. Lastly, the chicken fingers were delightfully tender and matched with the honey mustard sauce really well. Lauren made a most wonderful discovery, though – the chicken fingers were even better with the blue cheese dip.

I want jalapeno cheesesticks.

By this time, the appetizers had my mouth watering for something a bit more... meaty. Along comes the main course, The Great Rib-Eye. This gargantuan 10-oz. hunk of meat was about the size to both of my hands fanned out, and about an inch thick. Perfect for the manly man I am. With beer Pepsi in hand, I took my fork and knife to the steak and took a big, juicy bite. The steak was good – well-grilled, seasoned just right, and tender enough to cut with ease. I would’ve preferred that they gave us a choice over the doneness of the steak (it was served medium, and I like my steaks medium-rare), but the steak was very good nonetheless. I have this belief that a good steak is one that you don’t have to add any sauce to, and this fit the bill. Also, the rustic mashed potatoes served with the steak were a perfect complement.

My inner savage approves.

The next dish served was their Shrimp and Salmon Skewer plate – juicy pieces of shrimp skewered alternately with hefty chunks of salmon and grilled to any diner’s delight. I love my seafood, and this entree didn’t change a single thing. The flavours went exceptionally well with the lemon butter sauce served on the side.

Even something as dainty as seafood can be made manly with skewers and a grill.

Unfortunately, this is where my adventure ended. The event lasted longer than I expected, and I had a birthday party to catch. I despise eating and running, but I hate going back on my word even more, and I had already promised my friend I'd be there to celebrate the evening with her. It’s a shame that Lauren and I didn’t get to try Texas Roadhouse Grill’s Baby Back Ribs, or their Mighty Oreo Mud Pie, but I have a strong feeling that I'll be heading back there soon to do so.

Overall, I find Texas Roadhouse Grill to be a great place to get your RDA of man-food. Wash their great menu items down with some beer (P260 a bucket), and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an awesome night of manliness. Unless, of course, you don’t like beer. In that case, a Pepsi or one of the many fruit shakes available is a manly enough substitute.

You can find Texas Roadhouse Grill at Bldg. 1, Bonifacio High Street, or at El Pueblo, Ortigas Center. For a less masculine (but better-written) recap of the meal, check out Lauren's take on it. It appears we have the same tastes in food. :P

Aside – the event was also pretty edumacational, too. I learned that my dad orders his steaks all wrong. He always gets them well-done, which the chef told us kills the flavour of the meat and dries out all the juiciness. The menu even goes so far as to state that ordering your steaks well-done isn’t recommended. Sorry pop – you’ve been wasting your steaks.

Read on >

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fish & Co. Is Psychic, and Their New Just for Me Menu is Proof!

I've had my eye on Fish & Co. for quite some time now. Ever since my sister’s grade school graduation, the time I first ate there, I've been meaning to go back. I fell in love with their fish and chips and puff pizzas, and crave for them from time to time. The problem is, I'm a bit of a cheapskate. Fish & Co.’s well-known for their generous servings which, fairly enough, make eating there a little more costly than I'd like. It’s great to share and all, but sometimes, I just want something smaller. My wallet shares the same sentiment.

And so I resigned to the fact that I'd probably only get to eat at Fish & Co. on special occasions and large gatherings. Dining there, then, would only be a rare and wonderful thing.

One evening, however, everything changed. I was chatting with Lauren when I received the most intriguing proposal:

*DISCLAIMER: Not all details in the following conversation may be accurate. Never mind that I archive all my messages.*

Lauren: bibblez
Lauren: are you busy?
Me: Not really, why?
Lauren: wanna go with me to an event on Thursday night?
[several minutes pass]
Lauren: are joo there?
Me: Sorry, had to wrestle a bear. Man, my rippling pectoral muscles are sore. Anyway, what is this event you speak of?
Lauren: Some dinner thing at Fish & Co. in Shangri-La
Me: I'm there!

The night of the event came soon after. Lauren wanted to window shop for a bit, since we hardly ever hung out at malls. At around 7:10pm, Lauren brought up not wanting to be late for the event. I asked her at what time the event started. “7pm,” she said. Oops.

We made it to the restaurant, but all other tables were filled, and so we were ushered to a table all our own. After a bit of talking and chowing down on chips, we soon learned the purpose of the event: Fish & Co. was debuting their new “Just for Me” menu, a selection of dishes with single-person servings. I heard the hymns of angels. It’s like Fish & Co. read my mind and decided to give me exactly what I needed to become a regular customer. What's more, they let us sample each of the five dishes in the Just for Me menu. Suffice to say, I was an extremely happy skinny fatass-at-heart.

The first dish served was the Bangus a la Pobre, served with seafood rice. I adore garlic, and the dish had oodles of the stuff. The bangus was well-cooked, filleted and fried in batter, and was just big enough to make a single person very full. I'm not used to having my a la pobre sauce that chunky, and it seemed a little too tangy for my tastes. The seafood rice provided balance for the sauce, though, and I ended up enjoying the dish.

That's a whole lotta garlic!

Next was, in my opinion, the star of the evening. If my taste buds were alive, they’d be staging a musical in honor of Fish & Co.’s Barbecued Chicken Fillet. The meat was so tender, we were using butter knives to cut it. And the sauce – the SAUCE! It was to die for. It was smoky, yet sweet, with just the right tinge of alcohol. I first thought that the seafood rice was a curious pairing with the chicken, but it turned out to be an even better match than java.

I think chickens should just naturally evolve into this, their superior form.

The awesome-bomb that was the chicken was followed by another excellent dish, the Cream Dory Fillet Napoletana. This was a much more modest dish, and it served to balance out the intensity of the chicken’s flavour. The dory was battered, fried, and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. The fillet was then rested atop buttered noodles. I was sceptical of the pairing at first, but found that the heaviness of the noodles contrasted pretty well with the light and fluffy dory. While this ended up being one of the dishes I ate most of, I think it could’ve been better with more marinara sauce.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

Next up was the Beef and Eggplant Curry. I absolutely love curry, but this particular dish fell a bit short on my expectations. The sauce itself was very good – it was creamy and flavourful, and very hot without being painfully so. My problem with the dish was that there was too little sauce; I like my curry smothered in the stuff. Also, the beef was the only meat we had trouble cutting that evening.

More of the awesome sauce, please!

The last dish served was the Fried Salmon Belly with Mushroom Rice. It’s funny – when I was much younger, I used to love eating fish belly. But then I realized that I found it pretty gross, and probably only ate it because I was copying my mom. While I'm not a fan of salmon belly, I have eaten enough of it to know that this particular entree was well-cooked. The mushroom rice, on the other hand, was excellent.

I don't like it, but it's good for what it is.

Remember how I said that Lauren and I were late for the event? That was a blessing in awesome clothing. We were left with an entire table to ourselves, and so we had all five dishes split between the two of us! There was so much food at the table, Lauren just felt compelled to take this picture of my fatassery:

I was pregnant with a food baby at this point.

All in all, Fish & Co.’s Just for Me menu is something to look forward to. I'm definitely going to go back for the chicken and the dory, and I think I'll give the curry another try. If you want to try any of these dishes, do yourself a favor and become a Fish & Co. fan on Facebook first. Each fan that brings two or more friends to any Fish & Co. branch gets a free Just for Me meal! That’s a pretty good incentive to get your buddies hooked on Fish & Co., in my opinion at least.

You can find Fish & Co. at the Shangri-La mall, Alabang Town Center, Greenbelt 3, SM Mall of Asia, and Trinoma Mall. You can also check out Lauren's take on the Just for Me menu here.


Read on >

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Think I Might Secretly Be Fifty Years Old

I've noticed that I've become uncharacteristically open recently. For most of my life, I was that guy who people confided in, but never really knew anything about; the kind that was always there to lend an ear or a hand, but never a mouth. Sure, I'd talk, but I'd never really share that much about myself. I was there more to listen.

I've never really been fond of talking about myself. This blog might tell you otherwise, but you’d see what I mean if you met me in real life. I always thought that one socialized to get to know people, and you only really get to know people if you shut up and listen. How else are you going to know your girlfriend’s dream city (San Francisco), your brother’s occupational frustrations (he hates his job and wants to write for a living), or your buddy’s religious views (a personal mix of his own beliefs, including some Eastern philosophies that my college classes failed to bring up; PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY PHILOSOPHY FAIL) if you don’t shut your yap and listen up? And what kind of selfish jackass would you have to be to not get to know the people you choose to surround yourself with?

And yet, here I am, suddenly pouring my heart out to those people I just mentioned. I'm no longer just the guy who was there to listen to you, but the guy who needs you to listen from time to time. I have no idea what brought this change about me. Could it be that I'm happier these days? That I'm enjoying life so much that I just have to share it? Maybe it’s because for the first time in God knows how many years, I feel like myself, and that finally gives me license to talk about myself. I've opened up about life, love, and the joys and tragedies that come along with them, and I have to say, it feels pretty damn good to get things off your chest.

It also made me realize just how selfish I was in being just a listener. Here I was, keeping my mouth shut because I wanted get to know my loved ones, but I was denying them the chance to get to know me in return. Socializing is about getting to know other people, but I failed to acknowledge that it works both ways. People want to get to know me, no matter how mundane I think I am. Heck, it’s what they learn about me that makes me a lot more interesting as a person.

Case in point – the incident that occurred shortly after last Sunday morning’s Basketballapalooza. After a very satisfying series of games (read: 6), my brother and I found ourselves stranded in the Valle Verde II covered court. We were supposed to walk our way out of the village and find a cab, but the schizophrenic weather we’ve been having stopped us from doing so. We decided to wait it out by cooling down and shooting a few casual hoops.

(Aside – I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I played shirtless while waiting for the rain to subside. Lauren, if you’re reading this, it’s not as alluring as you might think. Imagine my tiny little man-boobies jiggling along as I ran. Yeah. Grampa was balling.)

Somewhere along the line, I decide to talk to my brother about one goal I've had in my head ever since I can remember it’s that before I die, I want to make a positive imprint in at least one person’s life. I've always figured that if I could do just that, I could die feeling fulfilled.

See, I was a weird little kid. While other boys my age were either formulating grand schemes to save the world or wondering what was for dessert that night, I was thinking about how one person could possibly make the world a better place. Sure, there are those who start movements that enrich the lives of others, and revolutionaries who initiate campaigns to improve the world as we know it, but for every person who does so in a benevolent manner, there is a Hitler. If we hold sway over masses and convince them that our way is right, we gain the power to control them. With that power, we have the potential to oppress. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of merit to uniting people under a good cause, but mob mentality can cloud your perceptions. You might not be able to see that though your intentions are noble, your methods aren’t. It’s happened way too often in history for people to ignore that.

And so, at an age way too early to do so, I decided that I wanted to remain one of the little people. Instead of putting all my efforts into one of mankind’s greatest movements, I wanted to focus on the people around me. I knew that it was unrealistic to think that someone like me could change the world without majorly fucking it up (I know this might be my lack of self-esteem talking, but bear with me), but I did know that it was possible to improve the experience of life for one person. I can at least change that person’s world for the better.

So what does this have to do with my death? As I told my brother that afternoon, I've always thought that there wouldn’t be a lot of people crying at my funeral. There wouldn’t be so many souls distraught enough to break down in tears. I... just don’t see myself as that significant of a person. Let’s face it – most people I know (at least in my childhood to teenage years) think that I'm some selfish prick who’s way too deep inside his head to be worth shedding tears over. I've never been the charming one, or the funny one (not too many people share my sense of humor), or the one fawned over by legions of classmates and co-workers (that would be my brother). What I'm not is the guy you’re just plain happy to see. I'm not the one people call out to the moment he walks into the room (again, that would be my brother).

Which is why I suspect that if I ever become a disembodied spirit and have a chance to eavesdrop on my own funeral, I'll be hearing a bunch of things I wouldn’t like. For one thing, I'm pretty sure my mother will utter the word “sayang” when talking about me. “Marco was such a smart boy. It’s too bad he never went to med school.” I also know that my mother isn’t the only one who would think so. Others would just mourn the fact that I was gone, and nothing else. I'm not going to be terribly missed by those people because A) They never really got to know the real me; and B) I just wasn’t that likeable. If that’s the case, then I'd have lived a sad experience and probably deserved to die. Maybe that’s why I've always envisioned myself getting run over – at least the tragedy would magnify the impact of my passing and give people something to talk about.

All that, though, would be fine with me if there was someone out there I'd be sure was thankful that they met me; that I made a positive enough imprint on them that their life was actually better for having known me. I want to at least know that there will be at least one person out there who will both shed tears and smile at my funeral. At least then, there’d be substantial evidence that I was loved.

Of course, I know now that there will be a few people like that at my funeral. I know that several people will mourn the loss of someone they truly loved. I know I should be satisfied, but I'm not. I'm young. I can still make a positive imprint on other people’s lives, so why stop now? Why not keep spreading the love, little by little, person by person, until the day you just can’t? I may never become significant for my achievements, but I can make myself significant to other people by loving them.

And so we have the current meaning of my life – to make a positive imprint on the lives of the people I love. No need for grandiose movements, nor for the adulation of masses; I just want to live my life the best I can, by making the lives of those I care about better.

I think that’s worth being open about.

Oh, and about the title – my brother’s reaction to the Sunday talk: “Why are you having a midlife crisis now?”



Read on >

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oh, the Outcast

Everyone’s allowed to be emo every once in a while. While some decide to go about it every single day of their lives, with lashes drenched in eyeliner and hair to match...

He needs hugs. And a makeover.

...I prefer to go about these times of emotional vulnerability on a cookie-induced sugar high. And since I’ve apparently hit another wall in work-writing, I may as well use this semi-invisible blog of mine to air out my tiny-in-the-scope-of-the-universe personal issues. Thank you, Internets. Thank you, Fibisco.

I’ve recently been to the Nine Inch Nails concert. Before you think that their sullen lyrics were what got me down, let me assure you that the awesomeness that is Trent Reznor and the rest of the band didn’t have anything to do with my mood. The ultimate power of rock they wielded that evening actually did quite the opposite.

I was infused with the awesomeness streaming forth from a very sweaty Trent Reznor. Glory!

What got me down was the presence of my cousins at the concert. Yeah, they’re my cousins and all, and they’re family and whatnot, but something about being with them gets me down. They kinda make me feel… lonely at times. One of those times came directly after the concert.

I was actually pretty thrilled at first when they called out to me at the concert. Lauren and I had just successfully weaseled our way into the fifth row when I heard a familiar voice calling out my name. Apparently, two of my cousins were watching the concert together. We said our quick hello’s and what-are-you-doing-here’s, and proceeded to watch the show.

After the concert, I wanted to see if I could still catch my cousins outside the Coliseum. While Lauren was catching up with a few of her friends that watched the band display a testament to the power of rock, I went to check if Lauren’s umbrella was still behind the trashcan she chucked it at (lame security at the concert wouldn’t allow it inside. DUDE, people were standing still with their arms crossed at the concert. Not exactly riot material). On the way there, sure enough, I ran into my cousins. I quickly signaled to Lauren that the umbrella was gone (at least it’s keeping some hobo out there dry in this schizophrenic weather we’ve been experiencing), I decide to mingle for a bit with my cousins.

Gah, it was awkward. You know those dreaded moments where the dorky kid with glasses and a pocket protector is just standing there by the cool kids? The moments where it looks like he’s trying to be cool by association, even though he’s clearly not wanted there? I was that kid (sans pocket protector, thank god). I was that kid with my own freaking cousins.

Wait, cookie time.


Anyway, I’ve always had that issue with my cousins. They’ve never really warmed up to me, despite having known me all my life. In fact, a common occurrence at family functions goes as follows:

I sit down at a table with my cousins.

Me: Hello hello!
Cousins: Hi.

(Silence)

Cousins: Where’s your brother?
Me: I dunno.

(Silence)

Me: So… how are we doing?
Cousins: Fine.

(Silence)

My brother arrives at the table.

Cousins: MART!!! (Conversation follows, usually about things I don’t know about because unlike my brother, I'm not asked out by my cousins to go drinking or something)

After a while, my brother leaves the table, either to hunt for more food, or to go to the bathroom. My cousins stare into space. I’ve suddenly gained powers of invisibility, and wait out the awkward silence until my brother returns. When he does return, I rush to the bathroom. I think I may have grown a beard in the unbearably long time he was gone, and want to check.

And it’s always been that way. They’re incredibly warm and loving to my brother and constantly look for his company, so much so that it feels like I don’t even exist by comparison. Hell, I still haven’t really forgotten that New Year’s Eve they decided to ditch my lola’s party and go someplace more fun. They didn’t tell me a thing that night, and it didn’t take me long to notice that I was the only one left in my age group at my lola’s place. It was more of the same after the NIN concert.

Now I couldn’t care less if people didn’t want me around. I’ve got my own friends, I can manage. It’s pretty much been the way I prefer my relationships anyway – I want to surround myself with people who want to be with me. But this is my fucking FAMILY. I can’t just ignore them like the rest of the douches who fail to notice me. They’re going to be around ‘till I die. And so I’m left with two choices – either conform and act like my brother (which usually entails drinking two buckets of beer); or stay how I am, suck it up, and deal with feeling like this for majority of my life. While I do love beer, I can’t shake the other parts of me that aren’t like my brother.

Sigh. I need to meet more people.

And perhaps more cookies.


Read on >

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Grand Facebook Experiment: 1st Quarter Results

I’ve been on Facebook for four months now, and if you’ve known me for a while, well… Let’s just see what one of my high school friends had to say about that:


Ah yes. I remember saying once that I would NEVER join a social networking site. To me, it was all just superficial back then. These were the days of Friendster, and all that people were talking about was how many friends they had and how big their networks were. They’d add up people just so a number could somehow validate their popularity.

I didn’t need that. I was never one who cared to be popular. I preferred tightly-knit groups of real friends over swarms of acquaintances, and I was happy that way.

And then the years passed. People came and went. Friends suddenly became these transient beings who spent a portion of their lives with you and moved away. I found myself having less people to hang out with. I felt a little bit lonelier.

I later realized that part of what made me feel lonely was that I consistently felt left out of things. People I saw as friends would know things about each other that I wouldn’t. They’d be speaking of moments together that I was never a part of. Sure, that’s normal in every group, but this was waaaaay too much. I was out of place among my own friends. When I finally asked where these things happened and why I didn’t know of them, it was because it was all talked about online.

Still, I didn’t budge. As much as I wanted to stay in the loop, I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted to keep up with my friends by physically being with them. I tried, but I never really succeeded. People get a lot busier after college, and rarely have the time to go out for a few drinks. And so I drifted around, leaping at chances when friends would be free and drinking with them whenever I could.

That’s when I met Lauren. A bit of a romance played out, and we became an item. Shortly after, she became particularly insistent that I open a Facebook account, so that she and her friends could “tag me in peekchurs”. Being the absolute sap that I am, it took that one final romantic push to make me cave in. I opened up a Facebook account.



But not without a bit of a quirk behind it.

I like playing around with things. I like making strange little observations that bear little to no meaning in life, like how the aglets in my new black hoodie have nothing to close the tips off. I’m sorta weird and lame and nerdy that way. I decided that joining this “Facesbooks” was an opportunity to have some weird and lame and nerdy fun.

I proposed to myself an experiment: I wanted to know just how many of my friends would find my Facebook account if I never told them about its existence. There would be a few rules behind this:

   1. I must not tell anyone that I have a Facebook account. I can
       talk about Facebook, but I must never explicitly state that I’m on it. That
       way, people would really have to “find me”

   2. There must be only two exceptions to Rule 1 – two people very dear to
       my heart. That would be Lauren (for obviously sappy reasons) and
       Dodge(who’s been my friend since we wore matching short shorts in
       Kindergarten). And even so, I had to make Dodge go through a bunch of
       hoops and decipher a bunch of clues to discover me. It was fun. :P

   3. I must never add anyone of my own accord, no matter how tempting.

   4. I must not add friends that were suggested to me. I MUST be found by
       them personally.

   5. I must only accept the add requests of people I know. Sorry stranger-
       looking-for-an-online-friend, we can’t be Fezbook buddies.

And so, I set out on this mystical journey of mysticism. I opened with this remark:


Roughly five hours and oodles of tagging me in peekchurs later, the first real action on my wall:


A few days later, I decided to add to the fun. I decided to change my status to celebrate my findings, often with a little bit of my personality thrown into the mix:


And all this has been going on to this day. And so what have I learned from this little experiment?

• Those two really dear people to my heart are responsible for more than half of my friends finding me. I think’s it cute how excited they are to inform people of my existence. It’s heart-warming, really.

• Officemates will add you the moment they see you fiddling around with Facebook instead of working.

• I look ridiculous in pictures.

• I’ve been found by getting tagged in those ridiculous pictures.

• Old friends who never seem to reply to your text messages apparently prefer to do so online.

• People actually react to the random little thoughts you decide to post on your wall.

• There are two ways to lose friends on Facebook – if you act like a completely jerky moron (sorry) and if you’re my sister, who’s removed me TWICE.

• Some friends are too shy to add you on Facebook, despite knowing full well that you have an account.

Let me elaborate on that last one. I’ve got this friend that I was really close with in college. Heck, we even formed a psychic connection on the basketball court. He also opened a Facebook account just this year, and he’s the one I’ve been waiting for to add me.

I’ve made it perfectly clear that I’m on Facebook without explicitly telling him. When he asked about one of our other friends, I told him that the friend seemed sad based on his FACEBOOK account. When he asked me about a certain event, I told him I found out about it through FACEBOOK. The man knows I’ve got an account.

When he opened his, one of the first things he did was ask me if I had one. HE ASKED ME IF I HAD ONE. So what did I tell him? This: “Um, whenever someone asks me that question, all I can say is ‘I can’t answer that question’.” It’s painfully obvious that he knows, but would rather have me tell him directly. Is it some sort of weird self-esteem thingy? Does he want to know if I consider him enough of a friend to add him? Dude, you’re one of my bestest college friends! JUST FRAKKING ADD ME ALREADY!!!

*huff huff*

And so the experiment continues. If you see this man...


...don’t tell him about this post.

At least not directly.

For the sake of, um, science.

Thank you.


Read on >

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Not Completely Growing Up Made Me a Better Adult

I’m pretty different from the person that I was back when I was a kid. Back then, I was one of the class shrimps, posing in front of pictures ‘cause I was the among the shortest. Now, I stand a little bit taller than the average Filipino. When I was younger, I had the straightest, most manageable head of hair, the envy of women and wannabe shampoo commercial models. Now, I shave off the tangled dead animal I pass off as hair. I was one of the school’s top students back when I was a kid. Now, I’m the poster boy for academic underachievement. Yessiree, the person I am now barely resembles the boy who used to wear my too-short shorts.

There’s one thing, though, that I’ve never matured from. And I’m glad I never did.

If you manage to hunt down my elementary school yearbook, you’ll find a bunch of prepubescent boys with quotes following their names. That was because we were asked to submit what we thought were mottos for our lives. While most kids dived into the quote books and dug out the sayings they most identified with (I’ll never understand those who picked “Time is Gold”. Really? That’s your motto in life?), I chose to go the pretentious route and make up my own quote. It just felt right to me if your motto in life was something you believed in because you lived it. Following what someone else thought was the right way of life just didn’t make sense to me – everyone is different, so why would someone else’s words characterize how you live?

And so I took some time to really reflect on what I felt would define my approach to life. This isn’t something a 12-year-old should be trying, but again, I was a pretentious little bugger. After much thought, I came up with something, and I pretty much fell in love with it. I’m not sure what the exact words are anymore, but it went something like this:

“Respect, trust, and love are things earned when they’re given.”

It’s a pretty naïve outlook towards life, if you think about it. What I was trying to say in those 10 simple words was that so long as you respect, trust, and love people, you’re going to be respected, trusted, and loved back. If you’re going to follow this advice in the sense that I meant all those years ago, you’ve got to do this unconditionally. To make it even more naïve, I also meant that you should follow this tidbit with all your heart.

Of course, I never realized back then that this was the kind of thinking that left someone open to abuse. How many people hold the utmost respect for others only to be bullied by them? How many people have given others their complete trust, only to be betrayed? How many people out there have loved someone fearlessly and dearly, only to find that love unreciprocated? It happens to everyone, and it just plain sucks when it does.

And yet, as I grew up, I found myself following my own advice, despite my increased maturity. I still approached people this way to the best of my ability, and it’s damaged me. I’ve been disrespected by people I’ve held in high regard more times than I’d care to remember. I’ve trusted a bunch of people with too many things, but I’ve had that trust broken again and again. Love? I’ve loved someone with all my heart, and she dumped me after three years.

But I stood by my motto. With my heart in overdrive, I’ve made myself vulnerable to all the emotional pain that I’ve endured so far. I should be jaded, but I’m not. Why the hell do I continue to follow the motto of a 12-year-old, then? Because despite all the hardships I’ve endured by exposing myself like that, I truly believe it works if you stick with it. It’s all a matter of how you look at it.

Sure, people disrespect other people. And yes, some individuals are just undeserving of respect. It’s the hardest thing to do, to find respect for those who show a complete lack of regard for you. I myself haven’t really followed this completely. But when I do, I find that the respect doesn’t necessarily have to come from those people. If you still find the ability to respect those you should despise, you find a newfound respect for yourself. You’ve just made yourself the bigger man. And honestly, self-respect is a vastly-underrated virtue. What’s so great about it is that not only do you end up liking yourself more as a person, but people will see that in you and respect you for that.

Trust is the same. The good thing about trust is that it’s got a reflective nature – show people that you trust them, and they have reason to trust you. Not only that, but acting in a trustworthy fashion helps you trust yourself. It shouldn’t matter if your trust is broken; you’re someone people can trust, and that’s something to be proud of.

Last, but definitely not the least (especially to a sap like me), is love. Of the three things I mentioned in that quote, this is the one that leaves you open to the worst pain. I’m a fucking romantic. I believe the only love worth feeling is when you completely give yourself into the emotion, and so I know how wonderful it can feel to love someone with everything you are. I also know how soul-crushing it can feel when the person you give your overflowing heart to takes it for granted.

That’s the thing about love, though – you really just have to put yourself out there. You can’t expect to be loved if you don’t love someone. And if you want it to be of any real value, you’ve got to love with everything you can muster. You’re going to get your heart broken, yes, and you’re going to set yourself up for more. But when you find that someone who doesn’t break your heart, and who loves you back, it’s just… overwhelming. Love, when reciprocated, is happiness; throw-yourself-into-it love that’s reciprocated is bliss, and that’s the kind of love you want to earn.

I don’t really care if people think I’m just being idealistic. I don't care if this is a poorly-written testimony to my naïveté. I don't even care if this all makes sense or not. I’m blissful right now.

That's right - this is all a thousand-word declaration that I'M IN LOVE!!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I HAVE WASTED YOUR TIME WITH MY RANDOM SAPPERY!!!

*cough*

My 12-year-old self's motto is awesome.

Read on >

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stay Down, Steve Rogers

Zombies are cool. There’s nothing the walking dead can’t add any spice to. Boring movie? Toss a few zombies in for laughs and gore galore! Tired of watching grass grow? Break out a copy of Plants vs. Zombies and defend your Lawn of the Dead! Feel like having a team-building activity? Try surviving Left 4 Dead’s zombie apocalypse in multiplayer. Heck, even things like haikus and literary classics become a lot more fun when you inject a little Romero into them.

It’s a fantastic thing, then, that we live an age where mainstream comics have learned the value of zombification. You don’t need to resort to lesser-known titles (to the mainstream, at least) like The Walking Dead and Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse to get your daily dose of death. Marvel’s been whipping out Marvel Zombies books left and right, while DC’s making our favorite form of worm food the main focus of this year’s major company-wide crossover event, The Blackest Night (which is fucking AWESOME!!!). Yessiree, it’s a great time to rise from the grave.

Except for you, Steve Rogers.

I absolutely detest the fact that Marvel has decided to bring Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, back to life in the Captain America: Reborn event. Sure, I suppose it’s inevitable with such an iconic character, but seriously – why can’t he just stay dead? Out of all the superhero deaths I’ve read, his meant the most. Superman died fighting Doomsday, a creature without rhyme or reason. The Flash, Jean Grey, and a host of other heroes died in an effort to save the Earth/universe/all of existence. Hell, we’ve had heroes die to cancer.

But Steve Rogers? His death had much more purpose than being a glorified act of fictional martyrdom. His death came about as a repercussion of Marvel’s Civil War, an examination of the shitstorm that’s bound to happen when egotistical superpowers believe that their actions are for the good of the entire world.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a crash course: A superhero adventure went awry and ended up in a massive explosion that killed over 600 innocent civilians. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, became head of pretty much the world’s most powerful security agency. Working hand in hand with the US government, he helped enforce the Superhuman Registration Act, a method for the government to regulate and police the activities of all superhumans by mandating that they register their secret identities.

More than a few superheroes balked at this idea. This was, after all, a gigantic violation of their rights. Stark, however, was adamant about enforcing the Act, and rallied pro-Registration heroes to his side. He then began to pursue and imprison the superhumans who were fighting for their right to ensure the safety of their loved ones.

Needless to say, this caused a lot of infighting among the superhero community. The act was heavily debated, to the point that the whole thing was an enormous gray area. Still, lines were drawn, and a superhero civil war broke out. On the pro-Registration side was Tony Stark. On the anti-Registration side, none other than Marvel’s very own sentinel of liberty – Captain America, the World War II hero who was a living, breathing representation of the country that now wanted to deprive him of his rights. One plot twist after another soon followed, and the battle was eventually taken to the streets.

The fighting had caused heavy damage to the city, and it didn’t take long for Steve Rogers to realize that innocent lives were being endangered. Being the Boy Scout that he was, he called for a ceasefire and turned himself in. He gave himself up because he knew that all this squabbling was going to end up killing innocents.

And so Steve Rogers was brought to trial. As he was leaving the courthouse, he was shot by a sniper and was killed in the chaos that quickly ensued.

His death never resolved anything, fittingly enough. In a rare moment of comic realism, the two factions never got together and gave each other hugs. They never kissed and made up. All his passing gave the world was a brief reprieve from its own selfish clusterfucks, a moment of silence for the only hero who chose to act like one throughout this entire ordeal.

The events of Civil War drew many comparisons to today’s superpowers and their self-proclaimed duty to police the world. They wage wars over political ideals, never backing down because of their fervent beliefs of what’s right for the world. Yet, in the wake of these superior forces, innocents are dying. Is policing the world really worth destroying it? Steve Rogers said a soft, solemn “No,” and he paid for it with his life.

Steve Rogers died because he believed there had to be a better way of resolving things. To the very end, he was making a statement: that he, a super-soldier, a human being genetically modified to be an instrument of war, saw beyond the political ideologies that ran rampant in a messed-up world and realized that it wasn’t worth it; not when it’s destroying everything they sought to protect in the first place.

And now Marvel wants to ruin all that by bringing him back to life? Give a (fictional) man his piece, will ya? We all know that when he comes back to life, the death will be a footnote to his existence. It’s happened with EVERYONE. I mean, who cares that Superman ever died these days? Who? No one; and the same will happen with good old Mr. Rogers. Sigh.

End tree-hugging hippie fanboy rant here. Thank you.


Read on >

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Axl Rose Helped Me Find a Girlfriend

One of the great things of what I’m doing for a living is that writing inane prattle like this actually helps me on the job. They say that if you want to get started on writing, go do some writing. I’ve found this advice to be incredibly useful, especially to get my mojo flowing. Now that I’ve appeared to hit a bit of work-writer’s block, it’s time to write whatever it is that’s on my mind.

And that, my dear friends, is where our title comes in.

I honestly believe that Axl Rose, legendary frontman of ONE OF THE GREATEST BANDS EVER, helped me get into the relationship I’m currently in. We never met, I never emailed him for tips on dating (which, I imagine, would begin with “Step 1: Get her drunk."), nor did I win Lauren’s heart by serenading her with my rendition of “Paradise City”. No, this is way more unnecessarily convoluted than that.

I grew up listening to Guns n’ Roses, among many others. Back when my mind was still a musical tabula rasa, my older brother and his same-age cousin were raving all about them. They played them constantly on their cassette players (this was before those CD-doohickeys rendered them obsolete). Even though our parents frowned upon the band for their occasional use of colorful language, there was no stopping them. GNR was the pure, liberating power of rock and roll. Understandably, then, they became my early childhood definition of AWESOME.

As I got a little bit older, I’d learn that a few of my GNR favorite songs were “revivals” – our early term for covers – of popular songs from those mysterious years that came before I was born. “What is this blasphemy?” I thought to myself. Surely nothing this fantabulous existed when dull, boring, non-GNR-loving adults were young. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so dull, boring and – worst of all – non-GNR-loving.

It stung to be proven wrong. My brother had made a mixtape for our road trips, and I was quite shocked to hear my dad singing along to “Live and Let Die”. He explained to us that it was remake of a popular song by some dude named Paul McCartney (Who the hell?) and a band called Wings (NOT Guns n’ Roses). I then went on to learn that “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was another revival (Bob Dylan). This got me curious – what other songs out there were based on old music?

Turns out that two of my favorite songs at the time, Ugly Kid Joe’s “Cats in the Cradle” and Mr. Big’s “Wild World”, were written by the same man: Cat Stevens. I was young and all, but I knew from the lyrics of those songs that whoever this Cat person was, he was a good writer. And so I decided to give the originals a listen. I fell in love with them immediately.

Since then, I’ve been sampling the many tastes that retro music had to offer. I tripped out to Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and worshipped Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”. I felt the pains of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and marched off in righteous indignation to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. I even grew an appreciation for Elton John’s music from long before The Lion King made him relevant to my generation. No matter how good the songs were, though, I always had a soft spot for Cat Stevens and his genuine, folksy sound.

Fast-forward fifteen years later, and I’m a socially-inept 22 year-old virgin. I had just met this amazing girl named Lauren, but since I absolutely lack any serious game, my expectations are low. In one of our early dates, I ask her my fallback, hey-I’m-cool-enough-to-carry-a-conversation question – “What music do you listen to?”. She mentions, among other things, folksy music, the kind you find among certain Indie bands and dead 70s artists.

Folk? From the 70s? My inner douche was bumping my fist and proclaiming “SCORE!” at the top of his lungs. I knew right then and there that, aside from liking zombies, this unbelievably amazing girl and I would have a lot more in common.

It’d be a few more months and a sappy trip to La Union before it would occur to me to let her listen to some Cat Stevens. By then, we were blissfully in love, and discovered oodles of things we had in common. Sure, these things would have naturally come about in the course of our relationship, but music is a big thing to me. One of my most ideal romantic moments involves rocking out to the same music together and singing your lungs out to one of your favorite songs. The potential to do that with Lauren gave me a lot more confidence in a relationship with her. The rest is cheesy, mushy history.

And so, by great leaps in logic, that is how Axl Rose helped me get into my current state of happiness. For those of you who don’t want to put up with the length of my ramblings, here they are in flowchart form:

Axl Rose is the vocalist of Guns n’ Roses → GNR is AWESOME → GNR did covers → I got curious about covers → Learned about Cat Stevens → Learned to appreciate old music and 70s folk → Met Lauren → Learned Lauren likes folk → Gained confidence → ♥

Ah rambling… You bring out the incoherent sap in me.

And now, back to work.

Read on >

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eulogy for a Stranger

It’s logically absurd, mourning for someone you didn’t know. Why shed a tear for a person, who by all accounts, lived in a world that was impossible for you to reach? You never met this person, never shook his hand, never spoke to him. All you’ve ever seen of him were pictures and videos, dots of colored ink and pixels that could never really quite capture his true presence. Why should you care about him and his passing, if you didn’t know the guy?

That’s just the thing. Michael Jackson was there since the day I was born, a global phenomenon before I breathed my first breath. I grew up knowing him as a universal constant, his music and moves assaulting my senses before I could even register what they meant. He was one of those things that my generation was just born accustomed to. For as long as I can remember, I felt his presence in the world around me.

He was always there. When I would visit my cousin’s house as a kid, we’d crowd around the television to watch the video for “Leave Me Alone”. When I got my first Walkman, I permanently damaged my hearing by blasting “Bad” through my earphones. When we’d have our weekly family mini-reunions on Sundays, we’d play our newly-purchased “Dangerous” CDs on my aunt’s sound system.

I grew up trying to master the Moonwalk, and celebrated when I figured out how to spin like him. I was enthralled by the video for “Black or White”, which provided the extra thrill of starring Macaulay Culkin. It was just so damn amazing to watch him take on another global phenom, Michael Jordan, in the video for “Jam”. I often daydreamed about what it would be like to live in Neverland, with all my childhood idols, and the rides, and Bubbles the Chimp.

He was inescapable. MTV constantly played documentaries covering his life. Local shows like Eat Bulaga! and Lunch Date usually had celebrities covering his earlier hits. My favorite Mad Magazine digests were piled with jokes about him and parodies of his music, often playing on the fact that his pearly-white complexion used to be that of a black man (which, of course, I never fully understood until much later). Even in videogames, my earliest addiction, he made his presence felt with “Moonwalker”.

My brother told me the secret of the gravity-defying lean in the music video for “Smooth Criminal”, a fact I shared with some of my earliest friends. At one of our programs in Kindergarten, my class performed “Heal the World” in sign language, when wearing white gloves was the coolest thing ever. On the way home from school, I’d listen to “Will You Be There” on the Discman given to me by my uncle from Thailand, whom I had met for the first time.

When the first child molestation charges were filed against him, I was stunned. I vehemently denied the claims despite the alleged evidence. There was no way such an awesome person could do such a heinous act. To my young mind, it was impossible.

As I turned 10, the molestation became a non-issue when word came around that the Philippines was going to be a stop on his HIStory world tour. The man was coming HERE. I had seen MC Hammer, I watched the then-WWF live performances with great excitement, but nothing at all compared to sheer anticipation of the icon’s visit to our tiny nation.

We ended up watching it from a distance, high up in one of the buildings surrounding the stage. The place itself was bare, my parents were enviously down on the concert grounds, and my 7-11 hotdog had gone stale, but I didn’t give a hoot about any of that. There he was, Michael Jackson himself, strutting like no tomorrow and performing his hits like the phenomenon he was. It didn’t matter to me that he looked like an ant on the stage from that distance – I was in the same area as the greatest entertainer of my generation. Nothing, not a single thing, could’ve been better.

I watched as his career hit its twilight. From being portrayed as an eccentric genius, the man became a freak show, the butt of too many jokes. I admit I was swept by the fray and joked along. I consoled myself in the fact that no matter what kind of a weirdo he seemed to be, there was no questioning his talent.

As he got less and less airplay, I wondered if he would ever be the same. Sure, artists come and go, but this was THE artist. He was the measure by which I compared all other artists. His genius continued to influence artists born generations after him, and rightfully so. You can imagine my delight, then, when he tried to ignite a comeback with “Invincible”. When the video for “You Rock My World” debuted, I was overjoyed to see him back in form, sporting an outfit reminiscent of the one he wore for “Smooth Criminal”. Sure he was a bit slower, but the man could still move. My childhood idol was back.

Or so I thought. Controversy bombarded him in the Baby over the Balcony incident, the Bashir Interview, the second allegation of sexual abuse, and his own bizaare behavior during the court proceedings. The freak show, unfortunately, had never left. Despite all this, I had always hoped that once things blew over, he’d find his way back to the top and take his rightful place as the King of Pop.

The comeback never happened. He passed away before he could even start it.

More than a week has passed since that tragic day, and it’s only now that I speak my mind about it. I had reacted when he died, saying that the passing of the legend took a part of my childhood away with him, but I never fully expressed how I felt. His death never really sunk in until the memorial service ended with that empty spotlight on the stage.

And so, finally, I truly mourn the loss of Michael Jackson. Even though I never really met the guy, he has been so prevalent in my life that a tiny part of myself feels like I knew him. He has been there my entire life, a constant I took for granted until his last days on Earth. The man we’ve always loved, and at times hated, ever since we could remember, is gone.

Despite what others may say, we knew him. We knew him through his music and his lyrics. He spoke to us about love, life, and what they meant to him. He shared with us his ideals of devotion and romance, of peace and understanding, and of the childlike innocence he so strongly valued. He opened his heart to us about the pains of his life, lashing out in frustration at those who wanted a piece of him, and then later begging us to love and understand him. Despite the secrecy with which he guarded his life, despite his eccentric reclusion, he was always reaching out to us, telling the world who he was, what he’s been through, and what he’s felt.

We may never know him as his family did, or as his closest friends did. We may never know what he was like behind the disguises, surgical masks, and umbrellas. We may never meet the person he was off-stage. But we knew him through his music, enough to realize how much of a loss his passing was. To those of us who listened – really listened – we knew him.

Read on >

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Have Seen the Anti-Christ

Sometime around high school, a friend had shown me irrefutable proof that Barney, the Big Purple Dinosaur who’d lull me to sleep with his hypnotic singing voice, was in fact a Satanic figurehead for the corruption of children. I always thought the creature’s bizarre rituals were akin to a child molester's training video, and so this claim piqued my interest. How so, oh dear high school friend, was the big old Pedosaurus Satan’s gift to the world? “Simple,” he said, grabbing a pen. “Barney is

A CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR”

It pleased me to note that my friend’s keen sense of observation was as astute as ever. Go on, I urged him.

“Now waaaay back in Ancient Roman times, there was no letter U. The letter V was used in its place, making Barney

A CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR”

I stopped to think for a moment what those fiddle-playing pasta eaters had to do with Barney, but quickly remembered that this was high school logic playing out. And so my friend continued:

“Since we’re talking about Ancient Rome, let’s isolate the Roman numerals in that phrase, shall we? That leaves us with

C V V L D I V”

“Now add it all up,” he said. I promptly brought out my Roman Numeral Calculator and did the conversions:

I = 1
V = 5
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500

So

C + V + V + L + D + I + V = 100 + 5 + 5 + 50 + 500 + 1 + 5 = 666!

HOLY CRAP! BARNEY IS 666!

Of course, that was completely pointless. It does illustrate, however, that with enough stretches of the imagination, people can find whatever they want to find in just about anything. If you look hard enough for the devil, you can find him (or her) in the most mundane things.

So why bring this up? It’s because I’ve been playing a bunch of Pokemon recently, which is the second of two things I’ve enjoyed that were accused of being Satanic material (the first being Magic: the Gathering). Now, Magic, I can understand – in its early days, the art was a lot less censored, and there was even a pentagram depicted in the card Unholy Strength. But Pokemon? Cute little furry critters that you catch in tiny balls? Oh please. I find it hard to believe that a creature named “Jigglypuff” will lead to the eternal damnation of my soul.

And yet I’ve read of others who were convinced that Pokemon were infernal spawns of evil sent forth to defile the souls of all mankind. I remember getting an email from a concerned parent back when Pokemania was running rampant that warned of demonic possession taking hold of her Pokemon-crazed son. She was terrified to discover her child speaking in a raspy almost-whisper, uttering a word unheard of in any language. “Bubba-zoar, bubba-zoar,” he said, clearly taken over by a malicious force from the depths of Hell. The kid, of course, was just copying the Pokemon Bulbasaur who, in the anime, has a tiny little raspy voice and can only speak his name. If the mother had just freaking been watching what her kid was watching, she’d have known that before breaking into a fundamentalist Christian panic.

I know that when I do become a parent, I’m going to spend actual time with my kids and watch what they like to watch. I’m not going to be like that mother who probably was too busy with her own life to get to know the things her kid liked. You’re going to see me chilling out with my kids in front of the TV, laughing along to their generation’s equivalent of Spongebob Squarepants. Why? Because I’ll actually give a damn about my kids. Shame on you, fundamentalist Christian mother who’s out of touch with her own son; shame on you.

And yes, I realize I’m far too old to still be playing Pokemon. I’m also a little too old to be watching Chowder and Ben 10. But you know what? It’s fun keeping in touch with your inner child. It sure as hell makes relating with tomorrow’s leaders a whole lot more interesting.

P.S. Two straight posts without cursing! Fuck yeah!

P.P.S. Oh shit.

Read on >

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Selling Ted Out

Why is it that when something enters mainstream consciousness, it suddenly seem to become a lot less cool?

I remember when Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was a beautifully-kept secret of the Geekdom Illuminati, a wonderful piece of visual prose that had existed below the common fanboy’s radar for decades. Suddenly, with the release of the book’s collected volumes, everyone and his cousin was reading about Dream and the rest of the Endless. In fact, when Gaiman came to visit a few years ago for a local event, he was quite literally swarmed by legions of his readers.

Now a few who had been reading the series before it erupted into the mainstream reacted in different ways. Some were suddenly cooler than they actually were, just for having read the book before the rest of us did. Others violently protested against the Sandman’s sudden boom in popularity, wishing that the book stayed a secret known only to the purest of comic book geeks. Whichever side you belonged to, if you were one of those who were early readers of the series, I’m guessing you couldn’t help but feel that the series lost a bit of its allure when its sales increased astronomically.

There’s a little bit of romanticism behind knowing of something that others don’t. It’s like a secret tropical paradise – it’s more precious when less people know about it. The more people know about your heavenly beach getaway, the more will come to visit. The more people that come to visit, the more businesses come to capitalize on its popularity. As it becomes more and more commercialized, even more people come to party in the summer months. The place gets loud and raucous and dirty, and your favorite beach, while still a premium spot for tourists, becomes a lot cheaper (I’m looking at you, Boracay). In the end, it all boils down to one scenario – the more people who know about it, the more people will spoil it.

Now I’m not saying that the same will follow for Gaiman’s work. You have to admit, however, that you now can’t go to a local bookstore without seeing his name. Comic book snobs (especially those who make it a point to refer to the books as “graphic novels”, which really is just a snootier term for what they are) shudder at the thought of your regular old Juan de la Cruz perusing the shelves and picking up a copy of Neverwhere just because it has “Dat Gay-mahn Guy’s” name on it. They call Coraline’s cinematic release a crime against nature, because of the addition of a character new to the beloved source material.

But I ask, what the hell is so bad about that? What’s wrong with more people appreciating what you do? I’m not entirely sure, but from my experience, there are about two reasons why aficionados dislike their goods entering the mainstream.

One is that they may envision the secret beach scenario I illustrated above. They fear the emergence of *gasp* Sandman charms for Crocs or *gasp again* Delirium popping up in an episode of Hannah Montana or *be still my raging heart* some other disgustingly mass-marketed product.

Another is that they run out of self-perceived “coolness”. With Sandman out in the mainstream, the comic snobs can’t scoff at the common fan’s fascination with colorful spandex and explosions. They can’t ridicule people for enjoying comic books’ equivalent of Michael Bay movies when everyone else is reading the works of Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Frank Miller, among other fantastic writers. They lose the ability to say “Psssh. You read X-men? If you want to read real comics… excuse me, Graphic Novels, you should read what I read.” It seems as though knowing about something that others don’t is a status symbol, a step up in the hierarchy of coolness.

Honestly, I’ve felt this way before, but I’ve always consoled myself in the very fact that more people are reading the stuff. So what if crappy adaptations take liberties with the source material (I still hate X-men Origins: Wolverine, by the way)? So what if your hyper-trendy next-door neighbor buys a few trade paperbacks of the Sandman solely because “everybody’s reading it”? I think it’s good that everybody’s reading it, because that means their tastes are improving, and if the taste of the mainstream as a whole improves, so does the quality of work the major corporations choose to publish. Your little snobby secrets are helping make everything better.

It’s because of this that I want to sell Ted the Bug out.

Ted is a character in one of my favorite titles, Bone. Drawn and written by the extremely talented Jeff Smith, Bone tells the story of three cousins and their adventures in a valley of fascinating people and creatures. The tale begins with Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone being driven out of their hometown following a disastrous event involving Phoney’s ambitions and some bad prunes. Lost in the wilderness and desperate for water, they chance upon a crudely-drawn map before being separated by a swarm of locusts. Fone Bone is able to hold onto the map and finds his way to the valley, where he meets Ted, the possum kids, a cigar-smoking dragon, a pair of stupid, stupid rat creatures, and Thorn, a young farm girl living with her grandmother.

Despite its simple, almost cartoon-ish start, the story develops into an epic journey, with an ages-old battle that extends into the dream-world and an unbelievable discovery about Thorn’s past. Jeff Smith masterfully melds the animated whimsy of early Disney cartoons with Tolkien-esque fantasy in his storytelling, while his art explodes with dynamism and expressiveness in every panel. The tale is full of wonder, charm, terror and humor, and is, in my opinion, a classic for all ages. The art and storytelling is simple enough to be read as a bedtime story, but the themes, plot and dialogue can be appreciated by any age group. It’s hard to find a story that can capture the emotions behind love’s regret and the corrupting influence of power in such a quaint, well-done package.

The critics agree, too. The winner of 10 (TEN!!!) Eisner awards and 11 (ELEVEN!!!) Harvey Awards, Bone was named one of Time Magazine’s Ten Greatest Graphic Novels. Scholastic acquired the rights to publish Bone in 2004, and just finished publishing the last volume in January 2009. What’s great about the Scholastic editions, and what sets them apart from Smith’s independent Cartoon Books label's editions, is that the series has been colored by award-winning colorist Steve Hamaker.

I realize I’m gushing about a comic book, but I really do want more people to read it. It’s a fantastic piece for all ages, and if I can get even just one person who chances upon this little bit of binary code on the vast universe that is the Internet, I’ll be happy.

I’m also writing this because Lauren gave me the most awesome gift for my birthday: The Art of Bone. I really love seeing Jeff Smith’s work in progress, and he’s been one of my biggest inspirations in the field of comics. To think that he’d been drawing these characters since his early childhood, and was able to develop them into a wonderful work of modern visual literature is just amazing to me, and I can only hope to achieve what he's accomplished with his dreams.

I am being such a fanboy right now it’s not even funny. But really, if you do so happen to read this post, read Bone as well. You’re going to love it.

Read on >

Monday, May 4, 2009

All I Need's Just a Pair of Wheels

I sometimes wish I could wear spandex.

And spritz hairspray all over my long, unkempt mane.

And grab my crotch on stage.

I've got a love for cheesy rock anthems, the kind that sets your soul on fire with motivational words, emboldening guitar chords, and ultimately ends up as the main theme on movie soundtracks. For as long as I can remember, I've been performing hits like "Eye of the Tiger", "Blaze of Glory", and "All for Love" in the sanctity of my shower. There's just something about these songs that makes me feel (dare I say it?) alive.

Perhaps it's the catchy tunes the songs typically hold. Maybe the incredibly cheesy lyrics strike a familiar chord with me (I mean, have you read the previous entry?). It might even be the fact that these songs are best sung from the chest, belted out like a primal affirmation of modern masculinity. Whatever it is, I've been hard-pressed to find music that's so unabashedly emotional.

And so my fantasies are better explained: the spandex is for the outfits the bands used to wear back in the anthems' heyday; the hairspray for the hairstyle that goes with the costume; and the crotch-grabbing for me to be able to hit those really high notes. I absolutely love these songs and love singing them. Hell, I don't know the lyrics to most of them, but I will audibly mumble along to the choruses.

What makes me enjoy them is the incredible passion behind them. Yeah, it's probably all commercialized mainstream money-making hogwash, but it's pretty fucking effective. I can feel the fire burning in my eyes whenever I hear one of these bad boys playing. I can feel myself standing up, pumping my chest, and belting out this declaration of my manhood. I am the man who will fight for your honor, goddammit!

So what's the point of all this lame drivel? I've decided to actually listen to one of the songs, and not just ride the wave of awesomeness it brings to my senses. The song of choice is the now-classic "Man in Motion" by John Parr, main theme of 80s brat pack flick "St. Elmo's Fire." I mean, take a look at some of those lyrics:

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazin' sky
I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire

I can climb the highest mountain, cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin' in me, burnin' in me

Just once in his life a man has his time
and my time is now, I'm coming alive

I can hear the music playin', I can see the banners fly
Feel like you're back again, and hope ridin' high
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin', St. Elmo's Fire


How does that not make you want to make something of yourself? How? John Parr has awakened something in me that no other 80s singer, not even Rick-fucking-Astley, can ever hope to bring out.

See, I'm going to quit my job soon, and among other unfortunate things, one thing that's been holding me back from finally telling the bosses to shove it is the fear that I might be making a mistake. I don't want to leave my job thinking it's holding me back, only to find out that I made a mistake. I don't want to see myself as an idealistic young tool whose ambition got the better of him. And yet, I do know that the company isn't going to take me anywhere. In the end, all that's left is my fear of changing things to which I've grown accustomed.

Well, to fuck with that. I'm going to be a man in motion. I'm going seek those new horizons underneath the blazing sky. I am going to soar with the eagles (but stay a Lasallian!) and take a mighty flying dump on the occupational wasteland I'll be leaving behind. Hell, I might be making a huge mistake, but I'm young, and I know that things will get better than what they are now eventually, even if I do end up taking a step backward. Hell yeah I can feel it burning in me! AWWWW YEEEEAAHHH!!!

Also, I really do need a pair of wheels. I'll probably need to learn how to drive first. AND I WILL, BITCHES. I WILL.

Read on >