Friday, July 08, 2005

[Blog Entry] Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between, At A Loss for Neil

Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between

Yesterday was full of excitement, to say the least. Pulp’s Good Charlotte concert brought many new experiences, interesting sights, and many interesting stories to tell.


The band’s vegetarian so arranging their meals was far from easy. Thankfully, I didn’t have that job. Last minute plans though had me buying the Garden Burger from Mexicali. Once that was over though, there was much idle time for me as I watched the staff arrange the set for Good Charlotte. It was 11 am at the time, and the bands (both local and international) aren’t due to arrive until mid-afternoon.

Jonathan the Bouncer

One of the bouncers in Good Charlotte’s dressing room is named Jonathan. Seeing that we both had nothing to do, he started making idle chatter.

Jonathan narrated at how he graduated with a degree in engineering, yet pursued the life of a bouncer. He was a music fan, after all, and as a bouncer, you get the privilege of meeting various artists like Linkin’ Park and Jerry Yan. “Kahit mga mayayaman nga naghihirap para makita sila,” he says. (“Even the rich struggle to see them.”) He also gets to travel, depending on where the concert is scheduled to take place at. Of course he admits that the life of a bouncer isn’t for everyone. He was, after all, single, and the traveling life had many luxuries. If he was married and had children, he’d have lots of things to worry about, and had to save money instead of spending it carefree whenever they were out on location.

Jonathan also takes pride in his job. When it comes to concerts where the crowd can get rowdy, no one’s better at crowd control than them. With big bulging muscles and a tight grip, Jonathan and his fellow bouncers are disciplined. Whenever there’s a riot, they clasp their hands together and form a tight formation to fend off the opposition. Police officers, in his opinion, aren’t adept with such matters. Once, the bouncers were asked to leave a gate undefended. One of the police officers foolishly opened the gate to take a peek, and the crowd started swarming in. It was up to the bouncers to fend them off, again. And when it comes to celebrities, security guards and the police might avert their eyes from their duty and stare at the subjects they’re supposed to be protecting, but the bouncers remain focused at doing their job: that is distancing everyone else from their client.

Not that bouncers have it easy all the time. One of the things they’re criticized of is harming the crowd. Jonathan explains that they only do it in self-dense. “Nambabato sila tapos kapag natamaan ang isa sa amin, basag ang mukha niya.” (“They throw stuff at us and when it hits one of us, it disfigures the face.”) Only in such cases do they retaliate, and only to quell the crowd. They don’t harm the innocents, but rather the rowdy folk, the gatecrashers, the drug addicts, the mobs. He exclaims that the police criticize them of that, yet when the police’s lives are placed in jeopardy, they fire a warning shot with their gun. “Eh mas grabe naman ‘yun, kasi baka may matamaan.” (“That’s worse, because someone might be hit by the bullet.”)

Good Charlotte

The band arrived on time at around 2:30 pm, and said hello to everyone they met. I was inconspicuous in my corner, so I never really got to meet them or shake their hand, although I did see them.

What some people didn’t realize was that after the press conference and the sound test, Good Charlotte went back to their hotel all the way in Ortigas. Which, of course, put a lot of pressure on us because of the heavy traffic that would ensue later that day.

Flashback 2001

When Pulp had its first Summer Slam at the Marikina Sports Complex, many Fillipinos were rioting in the streets, a prelude to what would be labeled as EDSA Tres or EDSA 3. Amidst all the heavy music we were hearing, an even bigger riot was happening nearby. The mosh pit in our rock concert was apparently the safer place to be at the time.

Apparently, it would make a repeat performance during the Good Charlotte concert, where there were rallies in both Makati and Manila, blocking off vital sections of the street. Stranded in our duties at the Folk Arts Theater, we didn’t know the details of what was happening, except for the fact that people were trying to depose GMA through rallies, and they had delayed the food, water, and ice that needed to be delivered in our location.

When Good Charlotte left after their sound test, our main concert was whether they would be coming back on time considering the mayhem that was happening.

Photocopier at 9 pm

Earlier that day, I had to run to Harrizon Plaza to photocopy an important document since the Folk Arts office didn’t want to loan the services of their own machine. Unfortunately, Manila is not my area and I didn’t know how to get there.

Honestly, it’s a walkable distance for me. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn somewhere hence I hailed a cab to get to Harrizon Plaza. This was at around 3 pm.

Unfortunately at 9 pm, they wanted me to photocopy another document. Honestly, what place is open at 9 pm that offers photocopying services? Apparently, the Westin Hotel. But since it’s as hotel, they charged P10.00 per page. And I had to photocopy ten.

Kamen Rider!

Unlike my previous trip to the photocopiers, I had a ride available. One of our messengers had a motorcycle (which Filipinos shorten to mo-tor [the dash present to stress the accent]) and I was hanging on to him as he gave me a lift to the Westin Hotel (especially considering the fact that I don’t know how to get there either way).

It was actually fun feeling the breeze on your face. Of course since I wasn’t exactly secured on the motorcycle, we didn’t move that fast lest I fall off or lose my grip on the papers that needed to be photocopied.

Screaming Fans

The Folk Arts Theater was filled with fans, and unbeknownst to them, Good Charlotte hadn’t arrived yet. Not that the place was totally cramped since the bleachers could still be seen, but there was a strong presence at the front of the stage. When they cheered “Good Charlotte! Good Charlotte!”, there was no denying that the voices were feminine.

I don’t know if it was just me, but a lot of their female fan base seems to have this American or European look and/or accent. Not that there were any shortage of native Filipinas, but the ones etched in my memory were the more exotic looking ones.

Good Charlotte did give a great performance, and if I’m not mistaken, went down before they did their opening act to touch the hands of adoring fans who were in front. When they finished their last song, they immediately left the stage and went back to their hotel.

It was actually pitiful seeing some female fans, who right after the band had performed, went around to try to enter the backstage, hoping to get their CDs signed. No one told them that they had already left. (Besides, they’re not allowed at the backstage.)

When I finally left the Folk Arts Theater, girls were still going goo-goo-ga-ga over Good Charlotte’s performance. In English of course.

At A Loss For Neil

When I woke up today, one of the first text messages I get is asking if I’ll be at Neil Gaiman’s book signing. Only to be followed up by another text message from another friend who’s asking the same thing.

As I said before, while I do like Gaiman’s writing, I’m not THAT much of a fan (or a fan of any other author, anime, manga, etc. for that matter… I’m a fluid chameleon whose taste changes quickly over time). That and the fact that the only comic I really valued for sentimental value was my hardcover copy of Dream Hunters, and that’s gone (see last week’s entry to know the fate of the book that was lost then found, then lost again).

Still, a lot of my friends (and people who dislike me, an understatement I’m sure) will be there so I just might pop up to reacquaint myself with old friends, and annoy those that aren’t (just kidding).

I did do some digging up at home and managed to uncover my copy of Death: High Cost of Living, which is pretty and a fan favorite of some, I’m sure. It’s not my favorite though, although I do like it. Might as well bring it along, in case I meet a friend and I can give it to him or her if he or she really wants it.

On a side note, while I know where all the foreign artists are staying (and that includes Good Charlotte, since lately, every foreign celebrity seems to be staying at the same hotel in Ortigas), I’m wondering if Gaiman is also staying there.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

[Blog Entry] Gone for a Day

Gone for a Day

I was offline for one day, due to the fact that I was busy at work and some of my friends had a spontaneous plan to watch a movie.

Going online again, it seems I missed a lot of things, ranging from personal crisis of friends, to acquaintance Sacha having a birthday/despidida this weekend, to friend Erin winning a 15-minute interview with Neil Gaiman. Whoa!

Not that yesterday didn’t have surprises of its own. For one thing, Vin was offering me free premier tickets to Fantastic Four last Monday. I declined because… it was Fantastic Four and I wanted the spare time to write (hence lots of blog entries last Monday). Ironically, that was the film my friends were inviting me to watch. I hesitated, declined, then changed my mind. Ugh.

The MRT trip to Makati also took a long time. Of course when I read today’s newspaper, I found out why. A security guard had died on the MRT tracks.

Of course before that, we had a short excursion to attend a book reading of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline at a café somewhere in Makati. Normally, I’d be discreet, but since I was with company (our appearance suddenly doubled the attendees), our group gained unwanted attention. Everyone’s eyes were on us, and I could feel some of them disliked us for disturbing the peace (we entered four chapters away from the end). Near the end, Ramon (with his afr-like hairdo) showed up and turns out to be the owner of the CD we were listening to.

According to Ramon, Fully Booked will officially be relocating on July 11 from the ground floor to the third floor in Rockwell.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

[Blog Entry] The Bookstore Wars part 1: National Bookstore vs Powerbooks

The Bookstore Wars part 1: National Bookstore vs Powerbooks

I’m not paid by either bookstore yet as a bibliophile, I’ve come to a slight understanding on how National Bookstore and Powerbooks are run. For some people, they’re unaware that the two bookstores are owned by the same clan. For those that do know, they might be lulled into thinking that they’re essentially the same, albeit the latter having a facelift. But that’s perhaps too simplistic.

So is National Bookstore the same as Powerbooks? In terms of inventory, perhaps. I’ve even seen Powerbooks books with National Bookstore price tags (and vice versa), and they’ve been caught sharing the same booth in last year’s book fair, but that’s not the whole story. It’s true that both bookstores trace their lineage from the Ramos line, but Powerbooks is a waif that broke off from the norm.

Of the two, perhaps the braver and bolder one is Powerbooks. Why? Just because National Bookstore and Powerbooks carry the same books and sell them at the same prices doesn’t mean they’re identical twins. One merely needs to take a good look at the former to realize that it’s a charlatan. Contrary to popular belief, National Bookstore’s main selling point isn’t in books: it’s in school supplies. Take a moment to think of where you bought your last ballpen, your last notebook, and your last pencil. Then take another moment to reminisce your childhood, and recall where you bought your ballpens, your notebooks, your plastic envelopes, your plastic folders. Yes, I thought so. National Bookstore.

Powerbooks, on the other hand, has few school supplies (if any), on their stores. The closest thing they have to school supplies are the bookmarks, the pillows (why they’re there, I don’t know), and perhaps the small section devoted to PC games and jigsaw puzzles. Other than that, it’s books, books, and the occasional magazine or comic.

Okay, National Bookstore has survived all these decades by working with a successful formula: by selling school supplies. Yet Powerbooks deviates from this and sets out to carve an identity of its own by merely selling books. *Gasp* What kind of bookstore depends on books for its revenue? But wait, there’s more!

Take another look at who the market of National Bookstore is. It’s the common man, the masses, from the public school children to the educated doctors in hospitals. If National Bookstore was a music genre, it’d be pop. Then take another look at who goes to Powerbooks. It’s the middle-class to the upper echelons of society. Their customers are those who don’t want to wait in long lines, and prefer the expedient way of doing things.

Or to take it from another point of view, look at it this way: Powerbooks has couches. National Bookstore doesn’t. Powerbooks has a café inside. National Bookstore doesn’t. Powerbooks has carpets. National Bookstore doesn’t (well, the one at Shangri-La and Podium has, but those are the exception). Need I continue?

Another significant difference is their mentality on books. Honestly, National Bookstore doesn’t encourage readers. The books, more often than not, are shrink-wrapped. Opening them is frowned upon. Okay, let’s stop there and analyze the ludicrousness of the situation. A bookstore’s main customers are readers (but we’ve already established that’s not the case with National “Bookstore”). That means their customers buy books. The only way we can evaluate a book’s worth is by reading it. We even have the cliché saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. But when it’s shrink-wrapped and you’re not allowed to open it, how else does one judge a book’s worth?

And then there’s Powerbooks. Admittedly, most of its books are still shrink-wrapped. But they leave a few copies that aren’t, which people can browse through and read. In fact, public reading is encouraged. That’s what all the couches are for. You can even ask customer service for assistance. I mean I’ve seen people lounging there all day, reading books as if the place was a library, and then walking out without purchasing anything. That’s the kind of atmosphere you have in Powerbooks. Whether it’s the economically savvy thing to do, you’ll have to read on.

If there’s anything I’m not privy to, it’s to the financial statements of both bookstores. National Bookstore has to be doing something right if it’s survived this long and managed to spew out a bastard child of its own. Powerbooks, on the other hand, seems to be doing the direct opposite of its progenitor. Yet it’s still here, and even has a monthly magazine that it can afford to give away for free (well, if you make a minimum purchase). Oh, and it’s managed to open a new shop at the Shangri-La.

But let’s say I’m apathetic to either bookstore. What’s in it for me? Well, National Bookstore has this loyalty card of theirs. In the past, I think it used to be discounts. Now, it’s just points. Whenever I buy something from National Bookstore, they just ask me if I have their “Laking National” card. How I’ll obtain one, I don’t know. What the actual rewards are, I don’t know. I suspect it’s like those giveaways at banks. It could be anything from a toaster to a refrigerator. The point is to accumulate points, and exchange those points to get something else. Powerbooks, on the other hand, has a different tactic. You have these membership cards which gives you a 10% discount on most purchases. Some even double as actual credit cards. I don’t even ask how to get one. The saleslady offers me this blank card which I must use every time I buy something from them so that it eventually gets upgraded to their membership card which gives me actual discounts. Right now, they have this wacky promo. They give you back approximately 1% (in addition to your 10% discount) of whatever you spend in Powerbooks. Admittedly, it’s not a lot, but when you’re like me who spends a few thousand every month on books, I can probably afford to get a paperback book for free come Christmas. Of course my only question is since when did Powerbooks start acting like a bank (I mean 1%? That’s like the annual interest rate of a bank… no wonder banks and Powerbooks earn a lot of money; I spend P100, and they only give me back P1.00.)

Okay, so what do we have? We have a bookstore that doesn’t really sell books, but has a large customer base (which is as it should be, considering it’s nearly in every mall imaginable). The other bookstore, on the other hand, actually sells books, and rewards readers (unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of shops in Metro Manila, much less in the country). So which is the winner?

Actually, it depends what you’re looking for. For example, I like the fact that I can buy a highlighter along with my book when I go to National Bookstore. Unfortunately, they tend to have really long lines. Powerbooks, on the other hand, I get my books cheaper. And I also have the luxury of browsing through their inventory, provided I actually had the time to lounge around. They also possess a better ambience which is more conducive to reading.

Which is the right bookstore for you? You tell me. Despite all the conveniences Powerbooks provides, it’s one weakness is the fact that its inventory is completely identical to that of National Bookstore. Whether you buy it from Powerbooks or from National Bookstore, it’ll end up in the same pocket. They have the cheapest brand-new books though, which is a good enough reason for most people to support either. That and you can’t miss them whenever you enter a mall.

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[Blog Entry] Freedom, Mobile Phones


Before my grandfather passed away, he used to take strolls around the village despite his old age and the stroke that was plaguing him. My parents and uncles all gave him warnings, but he did not heed them. Once, he came home with a bleeding forehead, which was the result of losing consciousness while taking a walk. Yet that did not stop him from taking his daily strolls.

Of course my parents are giving me the same reprimands. Don’t walk too far. Don’t walk late at night. I’m not dying of a wasting sickness, yet the warnings stay the same. It’s not that I’m denying the danger. There’s always risk in any endeavor. All it takes for me to lose my life is to be unlucky. It could be a stray bullet, a drunk driver, or in the case of the Ortigas area, falling debris. Yet I sympathize with my grandfather. Walking gives me time to think, gives me time to reflect on who I am. I could live life forever in the shelter of my home, yet what kind of life would that be? Am I safe? Relatively. But would I find fulfillment? Life isn’t about just eating, sleeping, and staying alive. We need other things. What those are is best left to your discretion. But there are obviously some things which we must do, which define who we are, that despite the risks, we act upon.

Hey, I pray to God to thank him that I still have legs to walk on, that I continue to live despite my traveling constantly in the polluted streets of EDSA. I don’t regret not reprimanding my grandfather for taking his daily walks. If I were in his place, I wouldn’t stop either. Living life, after all, isn’t just about breathing and moving on from one day to the next.

Mobile Phones

One of the most useful features of mobile phones is the fact that you can make last minute plans. While that in itself isn’t bad, sometimes I feel it’s a burden on my part not to own a cellphone (I own two, by the way). More often than not, it’s not for my sake but for other people’s. When my parents initially offered me a mobile phone, I knew it was not for my sake (beware those bearing gifts!). It was a means for them to track me down.

At present, people have stood me up, whether it’s not meeting me at the arranged time and place, or arriving late or at the wrong place. In such scenarios, I’m glad I own a cellphone. Because I can track them down. Honestly, I’m not the type that breaks off appointments. I don’t break appointments. During rare circumstances, I’m late. That’s it. But other than that, I appear at the designated hour if I said that’s when we’ll meet. Yet it seems the easiest thing for mobile phone abuse is to break off appointments, arrive late, or simply harass other people who did what they’re supposed to do.

Not that mobile phones are all bad. There are lots of other benefits, such as keeping in touch with people, or sending each other endearments and reminders. But I’ll focus on the bad side, because hey, that’s where all the abuse is coming from. Just because you have a cellphone doesn’t mean you can arrive late for an appointment or make cancellations. It helps if you want to notify the other party, but that’s like the EDSA revolution: it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s a problem that could have been avoided.

And then there’s people who don’t answer their phones or notify other people about sudden change of plans.

Honestly though, my cellphone is giving me high stress values, but I’d probably get more problems if I didn’t own one. It’s in the nature of people I meet to arrive late and break appointments. I usually arrive early, so that’s a double whammy for me. I’d do away with mobile phones all together if I could. But alas, the world isn’t perfect, and neither are my friends (or me for that matter).

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

[Blog Entry] Stabilization, Of Living in the Philippines


When I started my 9 am – 6 pm job in January, I was still unaccustomed to my eating habits. I mean shortly before that, I’d have a late breakfast, at around 10 am, and my next meal would be shortly before sunset, at 5:30 pm. That’s nearly an eight-hour fast for most people, but for me, that’s just normal.

With work though, that old schedule couldn’t be followed. Breakfast starts at 8 am at the latest, and dinner at 7 pm at the earliest. That usually meant I’d be hungry some time during work hours, and I’d have to spend money to order food. Which unfortunately, puts a strain on my tight budget.

Lately though, after a few months of work experience, I’ve managed to find stability and my stomach has adapted to working conditions. I could go for nearly twelve hours without food or water. I suspect there will be comments about feeding myself and the like. It’s not me refraining from satiating myself. I’m simply not hungry at those hours, at least not anymore.

Of Living in the Philippines

To foreigners, looking at out country now might seem bleak. Heck, to some countrymen, the Philippines appears bleak. But those who actually live here know that today is no different from yesterday. We thrive under these conditions and we’ll survive.

I’m sorry if we don’t have the conveniences of first world countries. That won’t be happening for a long long time. As for economic tumult, well, we wish that isn’t here either, but that’s the scenario. And it’s not like we’re the only ones experiencing economic problems. As for government instability, well, politicians here for the past few decades have been plotting and scheming. The system remains though, so unless there’s a change in how things are done, the faces will alter but the country will remain what it is. Honestly, even if terrorists attack or some other incident happens, short of war, things will remain. If the country has any flaw, it’s that it stagnates and resists change. Sure, we might cry for revolution (which is the case now, as some Filipinos clamor for a new president), but honestly, rather than actual change, the more things stay the same. If anything, Filipinos are prone of repeating the past. EDSA 1, EDSA 2, EDSA 3... we can disagree at how important they were in our history, but we can’t deny that people rallied during those events. Seen from an outsider’s perspective, it’s a classical Greek tragedy: a nation struggling for change yet ends up repeating itself, as if unable to escape their own fate.

Yet perhaps the greatest mistake we Filipinos could make would be to remain apathetic. When one continually suffers, we tend to get desensitized to it and after a certain point, fail to realize that something’s wrong. One stops writing the wrongs, and a new problem pops up to distract us once more.

If you’re a foreigner, don’t be afraid to come to the Philippines. If you’ve been here before, I suspect the place will look just as familiar. If you’re an investor, go ahead and invest. The business will thrive or it won’t. Rather than perceive the current conditions as a deterrent, see it as a way of life. Either you’ll enterprise will adapt or not. Even if it survives this time, for example, there’ll be another crisis in a few months. Better to let your endeavor grow and mature: the Philippines is a place that trains and builds up people... or breaks them.

As for Filipinos, it’s not your emotions or agendas that are in doubt. It’s your methods. We seek the simplest of answers when it should be the difficult ones we should be taking. Sure, our current government doesn’t give us much in terms of solutions, but what the other camp is offering isn’t a viable one either. The easiest thing to do is to criticize and we do just that. When that doesn’t work, we want somebody else to replace our current leaders. For other nations, that might work. For us, the best analogy I could think of is buying a detergent that doesn’t work, and asking the company to replace it with a new one. We fail to realize that the detergent is ineffective not because it’s defective, but because it was designed that way. Replacing it won’t really solve our problems. So instead of criticizing, we should give concrete, workable solutions.

Many people think they have the right solutions. Unfortunately, it’s not always the most well thought of. If anything, most are just replacing the current problems with new ones or making scapegoats of other people. I mean one of the most overused solutions I hear is “tax the rich”. Honestly, that’s not a real solution, nor is it just. First, it’s merely moving the burden from the entire country to a select few. Second, it’s not like those select few have the power to cause the change itself. I mean honestly, tax the rich? So what does that mean, the poor doesn’t pay taxes anymore? Or if you tax the rich too much that they stop being rich, what incentive would people have to become rich? Might as well apply the egalitarian society of the former Soviet Union. At least that would make more sense. It’s also not really solving the problem either. It’s like there’s this big bully in school, and instead of standing up to the bully, we pass on the burden of being bullied to someone else. We don’t stop the bully, we just pick who gets bullied. And that’s actually reminiscent of Filipinos: we love pointing figures and avoid taking responsibility. If there’s a problem, the first thing we do is say that “it’s not my fault!”. And so the accusation gets passed on until everyone gets blamed for it yet no one admitting to it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the solutions to all these problems either. Admittedly, the best I can do is point out the flaws in people’s arguments. If I had all the answers, I’d run for president. Perhaps in a few years. I’d come up with solutions by then. But I think the real problem isn’t in coming up with the answers: it’s convincing people to agree with you. And the Philippines is a democracy, so that’s millions of people who have to agree with you. For a change, I want the country to be ruled by both the mind and heart rather than just the latter.

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[Plug] Book Updates

Book Updates

First up is the 9th Academic Bookfair. It’s from July 11-15, 9 am to 7 pm, at the PTA Tent – Clamshell 2 Gen. Luna St. cor. Anda St., Intramuros, Manila. (Not exactly for you fiction fanatics, but those who are interested in education or need to get cheap stuff for school, feel free to drop by.)

Bidshot currently has this auction for Neil Gaiman paraphernalia (click on the Neil Gaiman banner). Bidding ends on Friday, and you can pick up the stuff at Fully Booked on Saturday. (Honestly, the items presented aren’t spectacular, except perhaps for the Sandman Dustcovers, but it’s terribly overpriced. But hey, you’re the Gaiman fans, and it’s your money.)

Haven’t been to Fully Booked in Rockwell yet, but I expect it should have relocated to the third floor by now. So if you go there, don’t be surprised if the ground floor is just an empty shell. Don’t fret, the bookstore lives. Meanwhile, Powerbooks has a new branch, this time in Shangri-La (which for me makes a whole lot more sense compared to having a National Bookstore branch there, considering its market).

Lastly, Neil Gaiman interviews Gorillaz for Wired magazine.

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[Blog Entry] Portfolio


For conventional writers and artists (as far as writers and artists are “conventional”), I think one cannot stress the importance of having a portfolio (which I label as “sample work”).

I mean I’ve seen lots of applicants (not necessarily in my job) for writing and graphic design positions. But honestly, please, don’t submit just your resume. Submit a portfolio. Of course if you’re a big-name artist and have one of your works on a billboard somewhere, that might not be necessary. But if you’re just starting out, it’s not that we’re denying your talent, but we’re honestly clueless with regards to what you can do. Shall we just base it on your name? The photo attached to your resume? Your alma matter isn’t going to help because there are probably other applicants who graduated from the same school as you did. And as far as awards and workshops go, if we’re not familiar with them, we can’t exactly judge your caliber. For all we know, the workshop or award you won is inappropriate to what we’re looking for (i.e. we might be looking for corporate writers, but the award you won was for a fiction contest, for example). The best way to showcase your work is probably through your portfolio, be it sample work or sample art.

For other occupations, the resume or CV might be your selling point. Anything else might just be supplements. I think writers and artists should get rid of this notion. It’s your resume that’s a supplement. Your portfolio is your primary selling point. I know some people who can do away with both, but that’s because they’re either charismatic people, have a good network of friends and family, or either started early in their careers and/or are extremely good at it that one only needs to mention their name to get someone’s attention. I’m not one of those people. And chances are, you aren’t either (if you’ve attained that position already, all of this is unsolicited advice). Which is why a portfolio is important. To be honest, I’m a shy person. Yet having a portfolio works to my advantage. I don’t have to talk about it. I just hand it over to my prospective employers (or clients, if you’re more of the independent type) and leave all the talking to my portfolio. They browse through it at their leisure (so I’m not pressured to give them a presentation under a time limit), and it’s something they can use as future reference (which gives hope for those who aren’t immediately hired). That’s not to say that writers and artists shouldn’t practice their social skills, but based on merit, nothing can best express your capabilities other than the actual work you come up with.

Ideally, a portfolio should comprise your best work. While more isn’t necessarily better, I don’t want it to be as thin as tissue paper, because I want to show the range of my talent and capabilities. Even if the position you’re applying to isn’t looking for a particular style of art and writing, submit it anyway because you’re not psychic and don’t know what your clients are looking for (i.e. just because you’re submitting work to a comics company doesn’t necessarily mean all you submit are comic art and scripts, but include poetry, portraits, photographs, fiction, landscape art, etc.). That’s not to say you don’t include comic scripts or art in your portfolio when applying for a comics company, for example, but do show variety and range.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been doing my homework. I have a portfolio, and while it has range, not all of it is my best work. I’m the one compiling my portfolio though so while not all of it is my best work, certainly none of it is my worst. Which is also an important lesson for starting writers and artists: don’t put everything in there. Similarly, either screen your works or edit them. Nothing is more embarrassing (and this has happened to me) when your prospects start pointing out typos and incorrect grammar in front of you. But on the other end, don’t lose confidence in your work. As I said, ideally, what should be in your portfolio are your best works. If I followed that formula strictly, I wouldn’t have anything in my portfolio. The point is to be critical of your choices, but not to be too conscious about it that you end up putting little, if any, in your portfolio.

Again, I’m a shy person. But when the time comes for me to look for prospective clients, I have a handy file (softcopy) that contains my portfolio (it’s a failing of mine, but having a hardcopy is essential as well). If I need to submit something by email, I just send it as an attachment. I’ve been doing it for the past year that I don’t have to be shy about it anymore. If you’re the type that’s self conscious, you don’t even have to look at it. Your clients do, however, so just send it to them. When in doubt whether it’s appropriate or not, just send it anyway. In most cases, something is better than nothing. I mean the worst scenario is that you don’t get a reply. I don’t think I need to elucidate what the best scenario is.

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[Blog Entry] It’s Game Time!, Dream Hunters

It’s Game Time!

I’ve been an avid gamer all my life. It started out with console games (video games, something as primordial as an Atari game system which only had two buttons, to later graduate to a Super Famicom), then moving up to Collectible Card Games (CCGs), PC games (I just love anything Blizzard comes out with), board games, RPGs (the pen and paper types, where you meet up with friends, roll dice, and have your characters on paper), and anything in between. Unfortunately, I don’t have an unlimited budget, so I can really focus on only one at any one time. Lately, it’s been RPGs. However, the real problem with having campaigns is that it takes up a lot of time. A typical game could last as long as seven hours, or at times even overnights are necessary.

Right now, I’m having three of ‘em in a week. This can be attributed that our former Game Master (GM, the guy who acts as storyteller, judge, and opponent) is here on vacation, and we have until August to make the most out of it. Unfortunately, I can only do two out of three things: sleep, work, and play. Not much sleep these days, much less any reading or writing.

But it also reminds me of how fortunate I am to be with such great guys. I mean our GM brings us home (we live in Pasig, Mandaluyong, and San Juan), even if he lives all the way in Makati. Got home at 4:30 am today, and an interesting sight was the fact that near our village was a car accident. Honestly, that could have been us, and we were far from alert at that time. But thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and I was able to safely arrive home and collapse. The GM had to bring our other companions home.

I honestly love gaming. Unfortunately, duty calls, and as much as I want to be a professional gamer, life doesn’t permit that at the moment.

Dream Hunters

Neil Gaiman will be here in a couple of days and everybody’s hyping about his arrival. It’s times like these that I realize if I’m excited about it, it’s not because I’m that much of a fan, but rather for the sake of my friends. Why else would I be plugging his events, book sales, and the like? Yes, I like Gaiman, but in all honesty, it wouldn’t be the end of my life if I didn’t get the chance to meet him, or have him sign a copy of a graphic novel or book. Life goes on for me. I wouldn’t mind being there, and it’ll probably be memorable, but I’m not that ecstatic over it, nor will I expend every possible resource just to meet and greet him (but apparently, I will do so for my friends though).

Interestingly enough, exactly five years ago, Gaiman came out with Sandman: The Dream Hunters, a collaboration between him and renowned artist Yoshitaka Amano. I liked it so much that I bought several copies, and ended up giving them as gifts at one point or another (there was even an incident when I left a copy at the office and I thought it got burned when the office went down in flames but fortunately it’s with a friend now). Eventually, there was a point in time where I didn’t have a copy of it for myself since some of my friends really wanted a copy for themselves. Strangely enough, friends would also approach me regarding it whenever they wanted a copy as well.

Thankfully, I was able to get a copy of my own in 2002, when CCHQ popped up in Katipunan and were wonderful comic book clerks. When someone would look for a copy of Dream Hunters, I’d refer them to CCHQ (or now, Comic Quest, in which you can place orders as well). I thought that would be the end of it.

Of course now in the Gaiman rush, another friend is asking where he can get a hardcover copy to have Gaiman sign it. Since it’s on such short notice, instantly procuring it is a problem. Well, there’s my personal copy, which I haven’t read in years and is gathering dust on my bookshelf. And my friend is asking if he could buy it.

So I’m pondering the fate of my last copy of Dream Hunters, for history seems to repeat itself. This is what, the 5th hardbound copy of Sandman: Dream Hunters that I’ve bought, obviously going to everyone else but me. It’s not like I’m going to have Gaiman sign it anyway. But honestly, it’s a book that I love, and holds precious memories for me (considering all I went through to procure such a copy).

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[Plug] Tech/Gadget Writer Wanted!

Tech/Gadget Writer Wanted

C! Magazine, a monthly car magazine, is looking for a tech writer. You can forward your resume and sample work to, and please label on the subject that it’s regarding tech writer submissions.

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