Wednesday, August 10, 2005

[Essay] A Man for All Seasons

A Man for All Seasons

When I was in high school, I was no stranger to outreach programs. At least in name. A number of my more popular batchmates were busy tutoring public school children during their spare time, while all I did was hang out at their org room, listening to their tales of this and that experience. To be honest, I didn’t find teaching kids appealing at the time. I was happy for my batchmates though, and one of the things I envied was their camaraderie. And so it was from them that I encountered the organization called ERDA (Educational Research and Development Assistance), which was responsible for one of the more popular outreach programs in our school.

Little did I know that six years later, I would meet the man responsible for such a prolific and altruistic venture, Fr. Pierre Trizt S.J.. Born at the borders of France and Germany, Fr. Tritz would eventually became a citizen of the Philippines in 1972 after switching allegiances between France and Germany several times. He originally enrolled in a school that gave its students a choice of which order to graduate from, and he chose the Jesuits, mainly because he wanted to go to China. He was inspired to do so after reading a book that dealt with the life of Matteo Ricci, one of the four original Jesuits who managed to penetrate China and befriended the emperor.

Life in China was everything Fr. Tritz imagined and more. In the span of a few months, he learned the language and began what would be his calling in life. He could not yet write in Chinese, but could read and understand the spoken word. Armed with those tools, he began teaching, and would set the pattern for his life. His vocation though was halted with the attack of the Japanese. It was a two-year head start before World War 2 began in Europe, and so the Japanese did not harm the Jesuits for they did not want to antagonize the French at this time. Fr. Pierre relocated to the Philippines, hoping to return to China one day.

When the war was over, China had changed and adopted a communist policy. Fr. Tritz remained in the Philippines, and eventually gained his citizenship during the Marcos era. During his stay here, he continued what he did in China: that is to teach and teach and teach. He was teaching at three universities, but as the years passed by, he had to give up one of them, especially in light of his health.

It was a book that originally inspired Fr. Tritz to pursue the life of a Jesuit in China. It would be another book that would inspire him to set up the foundation that is now known as ERDA. Receiving a copy of a digest given to guidance counselors, Fr. Tritz was shocked to find out that millions of children were uneducated and living in poverty. The advantage of the rich, he cited, was that they had kindergarten. The poor enters school at grade one, knowing nothing. Worse, few actually pay tuition or could afford to. All they have is whatever the government offers them.

Fr. Tritz was supported by the government and given permission to set up a 5-year high school. This high school taught a variety of skills, and one of the more important programs it had was on-the-job training. Once the students graduated, they had the skills necessary to find employment. And so began ERDA, which would later transform into a huge enterprise it is now, drawing aid from various people and volunteers.

When I was sitting in Fr. Tritz’s office, he had a photo of one of the students who were benefiting from ERDA. The student also gave a hand-written letter to Fr. Tritz, which he showed to me. Near his office were several stacks of boxes, each containing school supplies to be delivered to various parts of the nation. It would seem ERDA is successful in its goals, but Fr. Tritz remembers his roots. He tells me of various benefactors, such as Mr. Yuchengco, a wealthy but amiable man who supports and funds ERDA.

I leave the ERDA building, happy on one hand because of all Fr. Tritz has managed to accomplish, but disappointed as well considering how many Filipinos are still stricken by poverty and a lack of good education. As I rub off the shit I stepped outside ERDA’s gates, the one thing I am certain is Fr. Tritz’s sincerity. I mean a Jesuit could have been living in a more comfortable abode, yet the building in which ERDA resides is at the heart of the people they are trying to help. In front of me was a street littered with manure, dirt, and various street folk. The building itself, while sturdy, was unassuming, and could easily be mistaken for an abandoned warehouse.

Others might see outreach programs as a diversion, or perhaps a duty one needs to perform once in awhile, akin to attending Sunday mass. But here was Fr. Tritz, in his ninth decade, continuing an endeavor that might never be finished in his lifetime. For the man who’s survived the World War, migrated to a country half a continent away, and set up an altruistic foundation, he’s still working at it. I think I’ve caught a glimpse of what it is to espouse the Jesuit belief of magis, to strive for excellence, to strive for more.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

[Blog Entry] The Joys (and Horrors) of Sleeping, Autoantonyms

The Joys (and Horrors) of Sleeping

My gaming days on hiatus, I’m finally getting at least eight hours of sleep every day. And one of the things I’ve missed is the ability to dream.

I never realized I had so much stories floating around my head. Not that all of them are welcome, mind you. Cthullu manifests itself through the insidious workings of the mind, after all. Along with pleasant dreams are nightmares. Thankfully I have more of the former than the latter. But it’s nonetheless a refreshing break, and sparks up my creativity.

Ironically for the past three months, I wasn’t able to sleep because of friends and recreation rather than work. Compare that to nearly a year ago, when the reason I wasn’t getting any sleep was due to work-related nightmares, hence me quitting my job at a call center (at the behest of my psychiatrist, of course).

I see all these online quizzes, asking what’s the first thing you think of when you wake up early in the morning. Unfortunately for me, all that enters my mind is work, work, work, and how much is left undone. Can you blame me for wanting to back to sleep?


I mentioned this to Vin the other day, at how there are words which have two meanings, and they contradict each other. Take for example the word “clip”. On one hand, we use clip to bind things. On the other, we use clip to mean cut or to trim. Same word, contradictory meaning. Another example would be the word “left”. He left the building. He’s left alone. The former meaning he departed, while the latter he remained. Isn’t the world just full of contradictions?

Read more!

Monday, August 08, 2005

[Blog Entry] Calendars


In Filipino culture, they do more than just tell you the date. As a child, I was surprised why there were so many calendars at home around Christmas time. Dad would stock up on them and give them to his employees, who to my surprise were very eager to grab a hold of them. I mean it was just a calendar. Printed on lousy paper. Heck, if I wanted to, I could calculate the days of the month manually.

Yet this wasn’t a phenomenon exclusive to my father’s business. I mean I’ve heard this conversation several times, either waiting at the door of a random office, or more commonly, in an elevator:

Guy 1: Ano ‘yan? (What’s that?) [Pointing to a stack of rolled sheets of paper.]

Guy 2: Kalendaryo. (Calendar.)

Guy 1: Pahingi naman o. (Can’t you give me some?)

Initially, I attributed the desire for calendars due to the lewd pictures a number (especially those released by alcoholic drinks companies or soft porn magazines) are known to possess, but that’s not always the case. Even my late grandfather’s calendars, which are in Chinese and shows the lunar cycle of the year, are in demand.

I honestly don’t get it. If it was the semi-naked women (or sometimes just naked women) on the covers (and is fact the draw of many wallet-sized calendars, especially the ones you rub or burn to “unveil” the figure’s form), I’d understand. But that’s not the only case. During a certain period of the year, calendars are simply in demand just as cigarettes and beer are.

Here’s a tip to employers who pay their employees meager wages. Give them calendars during Christmas. They’ll appreciate it very much.

Read more!
[Blog Entry] Global Domination… by Google

Global Domination… by Google

A few days ago in a section of the Philippine Star, there was a news article regarding how Google poses a privacy threat. I mean they own a search engine, a blog, a popular email provider, and has ad-sense incorporated into them. But I trust their security, and so far, Google hasn’t abused the power it wields (unlike Yahoo, which spammed everyone the first chance they got).

And then in yesterday’s paper, there was news about Google Earth, effectively a huge spy satellite which is available… for the right price of course. I didn’t even know about Google had Google Desktop Search until I read it from Dean. Suddenly, Google conspiracy theories don't seem as far fetched anymore (after all, it's not about who betrays who first, but who betrays who last).

But you know, all of this might be paranoia on my part. Then again, people have committed greater atrocities for merely suspecting (i.e. Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar).

Global domination... first the Internet, next step the world.

Read more!
[Meme] Book Meme (again)

Book Meme

Because it's from Dean... and I need a break from my daily cycle (and because of interesting turn of events as of late).

Number of Books I Own:

I'd probably have an accurate count if it weren't for the fact that a number of my books are in limbo (i.e. loaned to other people, and I have no idea if I'm actually getting them back or not).

Last Books That I Bought:

Memoranda by Jeffrey Ford. I do love Ford's writing, and I find his novels interesting (and a break from your typical fantasy or science-fiction, depending on how you see it). Memoranda is the second book in a trilogy, although I think I gave away my copy of the first book.

Five Nations by Bill Slavicsek, David Noonan, and Christopher Perkins. It's a D&D RPG supplement for the Eberron campaign setting. It's actually one of Wizards of the Coast's better RPG supplements, but won't mean much unless you're a fan of Eberron (or D&D for that matter).

Last Comics (Trade/Collected Editions/Original Graphic Novels) Purchased:

When it comes to singles, it's PVP #0.

As for an actual trade, it's one of those Sandman volumes, but I gave it to a friend when I ran into her at Powerbooks several months ago (I doubt she even remembers [or even reads this blog]).

As for a trade/anthology that I actually bought for myself, it would have to be the locally published Siglo: Freedom and Marco's K.I.A..

Last Books Read:

According to my database, it would have to be The Best of Science Fiction 2004 edited by Karen Haber and Jonathan Strahan. That was way back in June though.

Currently, I've gone through Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrel but I haven't finished reading it yet since it's a hardcover and it's a difficult book to lug around the office. I'm also reading Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson by I lost interest. Right now I'm midway through Memoranda since I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

Five or So Books Important To Me:

The Bible. Because I'm more Christian than I think I really am.

The Scions of Shanarra by Terry Brooks. Not exactly the most astounding fantasy novel out there, but it's the one that started me along the path of reading and becoming a SF&F buff.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, because it's actually the first novel that I finished in grade school.

The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman (and art by Yoshitaka Amano). It's what, an illustrated book that I bought several copies of and gave them away because I liked it so much (and strangely "lost" a number of them to strange incidents). Alas, I had one copy of my own which I managed to hold on to for a year or two, but I had to give it away to a friend (one of the guys who cosplayed as Dream Hunters Morpheus) in the recent visit of Neil Gaiman.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. If there's any book I think that would unite fantasy fans, it's probably this.

Read more!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

[Blog Entry] Anime, Manga, and Japanese Soundtracks

Anime, Manga, and Japanese Soundtracks

Issue #269 of The Comics Journal has an interesting piece on manga. The author describes her experience of attending a comic convention, and one of the attendees was a little girl who walked out, surprised that manga was not available. It was followed by reluctant consent of various people in the comic industry who were happy that that was the experience of the little girl. Now many manga fans see this as part of the festering disease that is DC and Marvel Comics. In my opinion, it’s not, but I’ll get back on that topic later. As much as I want to talk about my love for manga (and comics in general), I’ll have to start with my first love: anime.

Coming from a guy who doesn’t turn on his TV anymore, I was a fan of cartoons as a kid (weren’t we all?). Everything from Hanna-Barbara to action-packed shows like She-Ra (strangely enough, when I was three, I had nightmares about He-Man and the ugly monsters he faced, so I tuned in to his tamer sibling), Bionic Six, Ghostbusters, and Centurions. My favorites ones though, I would later find out, were cartoons which could be classified as anime. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Robotech, and Voltron were favorites of mine, and the one common factor isn’t because of the art style, but rather due to the storytelling (the first two shows are actually collaborations between the US and Japan, the latter doing the animation). The starkest difference between Western cartoons from the Japanese ones was the reluctance of the former to place at the end of each episode the “to be continued” part. And honestly, especially with Robotech and Voltron, there was a bigger story to be told. It wasn’t as episodic as, say, Superfriends. The characters grew, changed, and even died. If you missed an episode, you missed an essential part of the story. Better yet, there was an actual start and an actual ending. The entire season wasn’t a meaningless “who shall we fight today?” gimmick (although there’s no shortages of those, even in anime) but rather had some depth, had some real story to tell.

That’s changed now, as the US has produced some really good animation titles with story and depth, such as Reboot. Back in the 80’s and 90’s though, that was the exception rather than the rule. I don’t think it’s because the US are dumber or less skilled than the Japanese. I mean they’re capable of producing shows Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Farscape, which do have good stories to tell. Rather, it’s perhaps their perception of the animation medium. Whereas the West has merely seen it as a tool to mesmerize kids, hence impacting the kinds of shows they released in that medium, Japan took animation as they would other mediums like film, live-action, and novels: an opportunity to tell stories. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every cartoon the US comes out with is crap, or that every anime Japan churns out is good. It’s just that with the former, such storytelling techniques are rare, while with the latter, well, they do explore various genres and do not limit their audiences.

As an anime fan with access to manga (well, pirated manga but manga nonetheless), it didn’t take a genius to figure out that most of the shows we’re seeing on TV were based on manga that was available. I truly became a manga reader when Dragonball was a craze here in the Philippines. They were just showing a few episodes, but friends of mine who’ve been to Hong Kong and Taiwan had all these volumes of Dragonball comics. What we were seeing on TV was just a fraction of an epic story arc. Suffice to say, I was hooked. That’s not to say I ignored other options. During the same time, I was a fan of Marvel Comics and collected various titles like The Infinity Gauntlet saga and The Dark Phoenix saga for the X-Men. I loved both manga and Western comics, and had really no biases towards either. Later on though, I stopped buying comics because of budget problems, and all the anime I was watching were the ones on local TV.

I didn’t ditch Marvel at that time because I thought anime or manga was better. It was simply a matter of finances. One of the perks I quickly discovered though was that unlike other geeky hobbies which involves lots of males concentrated in just one area, anime and manga drew a female crowd (video games back then was unfortunately, still much of a boy’s club; RPG’s weren’t popular back then [at least in the US], and while there were great female gamers around, they were far and few in between). I didn’t dwell much on it at the time (when you’re a guy around girls, why question the phenomenon?), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention.

DC and Marvel has a niche. That is, it proved to be that on their circumstances, superheroes sells. I mean DC didn’t start out that way. DC stands for Detective Comics, after all. And when you look at it from their perspective, there’s good reason to choose superheroes. I mean the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are iconic. I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who those three were, or what they were capable of. They were larger than life, and everyone pretty much knew their superpowers. When I picked up a superhero comic, I didn’t need to know the character’s history because it was common knowledge. For story arcs, I needed the previous issues to know what was happening, but as for the character’s origins or their motivations, nothing was as transparent. And to this day, DC and Marvel do deliver great stories about superheroes. Unfortunately, that’s their weakness as well: they’re a one-trick pony, and all they tackle are superheroes (of course there will always be exceptions, such as DC’s venture into their Vertigo line with the likes of Sandman, but how many titles like Sandman are there?). Another criticism of mine on their part is the fact that well, their stories don’t end. Superheroes have origins, but they don’t have an ending. The plot continues on and on, ad infinitum. Every decade or so, there’s a restart button the publishers will press, or perhaps a revamp (such as Marvel’s Ultimate line), but in general, a lot of core elements stay the same. In my opinion, a good story needs an ending. Readers want closure (even if that’s not always possible in reality). Part of the reason I think Sandman was a huge success is the fact that it has closure. Superhero comics don’t give us that. At least not often.

Manga addresses that problem. There are stories, and characters revolve around those stories (and not vice versa). I’m not saying that all manga titles are like that, but for the most part, even the most successful manga franchise has an ending. They just come up with different stories to tell. Take, for example, Gundam. The original anime had an ending. It had a sequel, but the sequel revolves around a different set of characters (although the original characters do make cameos). Twenty-five years later, we have remakes ofGundam, which retains the template of the original story, but features different plots and characters. It’s still Gundam, but the story ain’t the same. As for actual manga titles, the likes of Dragonball Z and Ruroni Kenshin were pretty popular, but they do have definite endings (even if it took a few dozen graphic novels to get there). But that’s just my opinion.

I think the true strength of manga is that it dares tread were Western comics doesn’t dare venture into. Much like the comparison between anime and Western cartoons, the Japanese aren’t afraid to venture into unknown territory. Manga, simply put, has lots of genres. In the US, for most people, when you say comics, they either associate it with the funnies you see on newspapers, or you think of superheroes. In Japan, I don’t think there’s any such limitations. Regular Japanese might think manga fans are geeks, but whether they’re into fantasy, horror, science-fiction, drama, or whatever is subject to debate. There’s simply a plethora of possibilities in manga (unfortunately, I’m not saying that all of them are good). You can have a bunch of manga fans in the same room, and each one of them will name a different genre, writer, or artist as their favorite. Heck, you can have a bunch of manga fans in the same room and they’d all disagree on what they think was cool.

On the artistic side, readers might want to take a peek at Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It shows how comics as a medium is capable of a lot of things, yet only little of it is being harnessed. Most of his examples are manga titles, simply because manga uses a lot of techniques that Western comics doesn’t use. An example is the “cinematic” flow of some action-oriented manga. An entire page can be devoted to one huge illustration, or several panels could be spent seeing a character tumble from one end to another. To be fair, I don’t think Western comics didn’t pursue that angle not because they couldn’t, but because they can’t. I mean a typical manga graphic novel is several hundred pages long. A typical comic issue is what, thirty pages at most? If you’ll notice, Western manga titles use narrative text blocks often, usually as a quick exposition to inform readers what’s going on. Manga usually does that with visuals because they have the time to do so. With a Western comic, the reader must be hooked in that same issue. It’s all a matter of economics, and manga manages to keep its schedule thanks to its streamlined (sometimes abusive) system of inking and penciling, and comes at the cost of color.

Lastly, linked with the fact that manga has various genres, the Japanese actually cater to both male and female markets. In fact, manga is typically divided into “shonen” (boys) and “shojo” (girls) comics, although that’s not an accurate description of the demographic (those terms are usually geared towards the teen market, and just because a title is shojo doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of male fans, and vice versa). While Japan’s classification system is far from perfect, it recognizes the profitability of both markets. With Western comics, the dominant genre is superheroes, and they’re typically written by male writers for a male audience. To be fair, there’s a wealth of great comics to be explored in the US, like Blue Monday, Liberty Meadows, Nodwick, and the like (check out Devil’s Due Press’s of comic adaptations of popular fantasy short stories like George R. R. Martin’s Hedge Knight or R.A. Salvatore’s Drizz’t series for fantasy enthusiasts). Unfortunately, they don’t often get the limelight, and the masses don’t realize they exist. I don’t think the US has any shortage of diverse genres or stories to tell, but they don’t get as much attention as their Japanese counterparts, nor do they sell (or printed) in such quantities.

Of course the next step in the revolution which I don’t think the US has caught on to yet are soundtracks. I’m not really a music fan. I haven’t listened to The Beatles, and I probably wouldn’t be able to differentiate Britney from Cristina Aguillera. Well, maybe the last part is an exaggeration. I usually downplay my knowledge of music. But one thing I do listen to are anime soundtracks.

What do Japanese soundtracks that Western soundtracks don’t have? Aside from them singing in a language I don’t really understand, it’s the presence of background music (BGM). Come on, just because it’s a soundtrack doesn’t mean each and every song has to have lyrics. I mean short of Kill Bill and Lord of the Rings, where the theme is purely an instrumental, where else can you find such musical themes? The dominant market of soundtracks in the US are usually songs sung by popular artists. While there’s no shortages of that in anime soundtracks either, they still have tons of BGMs and acknowledge composers for it (perhaps one of the more popular ones is Yoko Kanno, a personal favorite). Be it an action movie or a melodrama, Japanese soundtracks will have good BGMs, a rare find for such quirky tastes as mine.

Read more!
[Essay] Friendships


Vin and I were talking about friendships the other day and I was narrating how I often felt like a third wheel in most of the social circles I was in. For those who don’t know me, I don’t have a best friend, nor do I belong to a clique (or “barkada” as we call it in Filipino). Rather, I’m the guy who knows a lot of people (friendly acquaintances if you will), and perhaps the tragedy is that it stops there.

Not that it always began that way. I mean early on in grade school, I was a popular kid. I got high grades, I regularly had parties at home, and had a few sleepovers at my place with friends. But a part of me changed when I realized that I wasn’t being a good friend to those I was with. I mean when we were playing video games, for example, I always wanted to be one of the players and didn’t want to pass it on to other people. There was also the fact that yes, I was popular in school, but I was also teasing a lot of my other classmates. And I had a best friend at the time. Unfortunately, he was also a bully (more of the physical kind, not that he ever really hurt me physically), and shared my propensity for self-centeredness.

To put it bluntly, I don’t know what happened. The day I stopped teasing other people and started caring, the world around me changed. From predator I became prey. I faced the insults, the bullying, and the social isolation that kids were capable of. I survived, and found solace in the few friends that stuck with me.

And then I graduated from grade school, and three-fourths of the class weren’t my classmates anymore. Those that did remain my classmates were well, let’s just say that they weren’t exactly my top ten choices. High school was filled with new discoveries, new challenges. Unfortunately, few people wanted to be my friend.

Vin was mentioning that in maintaining and making friendships, one has to take a proactive stance. You shouldn’t just depend on the other person to keep in touch with you. In high school, I was very active to the point of annoyance. I talked to a lot of people and tried to be their friend. Unfortunately, no one in class truly wanted me. They had formed their own social circles, their own cliques. At best, I was at the fringes, tolerated but not invited. There’s always group activities in school. You know that feeling when classmates immediately know who to team up with? I was one of the rejects, the clumsy kid you usually picked last during a sports contest. And so I drifted into various groups, never truly belonging to any one team. I tried insinuating myself into their cliques, but I was merely rebuffed. I tried opening myself up to them but they didn’t care.

And so for four years I attempted that. But by my last year, I knew it was a futile effort. In a soap opera, I was the guy who courted the girl, but the girl was in love with someone else and would say that we could still be friends (and he’d help the girl nonetheless despite knowing the fact that they could never be together). I was accepted up to a certain point, but never brought in. I was the person you could rely on if you needed something, but not the person you invited to your birthdays, to your celebrations. And true enough, this would be the pattern in the various organizations I would be part of in the future. Of course I was foolish back then, and perhaps my weakness was that I was too eager to befriend people to the point that I was “clingy”. Which as you know, turns off some people, and makes them less trusting of you. So if I lacked good friends back then, it wasn’t due to the lack of effort but perhaps too much of it. And people who would call me friend always kept me at a distance.

Graduating once again, I had a paradigm shift. But the results were still the same. I was a bit more amiable, a bit more friendly, and perhaps a bit more cunning. Unlike in the past where I was mister unpopular, now I was the guy who knew everyone. Yet the same problem persisted. I was kept at a distance, never truly having close friends. Lots of friends, yes. Close friends, no. So many of my weekends were lonely, and school actually gave a comforting aura because I was around people. Honestly, when you’re in college, making friends is easy. They’re all around you. And because you’re all facing common adversity (i.e. terror teachers, difficult schoolwork, merely belonging to the same class), there’s something you can talk about and one doesn’t need to be shy about approaching other people. Compare that to the real word, where you don’t talk to the stranger sitting beside you in the jeep, or the person you come across at the supermarket. The only place where you’re perhaps forced into forming friendships is the work place. Aside from that, you revert to your old habits, and party with the same set of friends you previously had.

Of course nowadays, I can’t say I’m brimming with effort to deepen friendships. When somebody asks me how was my day, I reply with a generic answer of “okay lang” (just fine), mainly because explaining the trials and tribulations would take too long, and I feel I shouldn’t burden other people with all my worries and complaints (that’s what reading my blog is for). Or at least if they’re sincere about it. How do I know if the other person is just finding an excuse to make casual conversation, or if they’re really interested in my day. The other reason why I reply with such a generic answer is because of confidentiality issues. Suffice to say, there are some stories I can’t tell other people because they’re not my right to do so (case in point: as a call center agent, you can’t really talk about your clients because that’s a breach in protocol; the best rant I can do is talk in vague motions, but nothing really specific).

Not that I’ve stopped being friendly to people. In fact, I’ve made a few new friends over the past year. But the fact is that I’m usually at the periphery, and no one wants to take the risk of deepening the friendship. On my part, I don’t want to take on the role of the uninvited guest, because I’ve played that part too often in the past, and all you get are disgruntled people. And perhaps the other factor that’s impeding me is the fact that I’ve developed a reputation. Sure, some people like me. But a number of people hate my guts, or hate my habits, or have reasons to dislike me (whether justified or unjustified). Just look at my friend’s list in livejournal. A number of people there hate me. But I add them to my friend’s list anyway, because to tell the truth, I don’t usually break the relationship. It’s usually other people who do so. Offhand, I can only remember one incident where I was the one responsible for breaking off with the other person. As for the rest, it’s usually the other side that gets mad at me, gets angry, or simply stops being my friend because their friends got mad at me.

Moral of the story? Well, it takes two to tango when it comes to forming deep relationships. I mean I could be the most amiable person in the world, but if the other person is unwilling to accept me, then there’s no friendship. Vin says you can win them over with persistence. Well, that’s true. But the opposite can also happen: they’ll get so annoyed with you that from mutual acquaintance you’ll turn into a pariah. And of course, even if you’re already friends with someone, unless you take the time to keep in touch, that relationship will eventually drift. People change, after all, and it’s the gradual changes that we can live with. When you keep out of touch with someone, you’ll one day discover that he or she is a totally different person. And perhaps another fact I want to tell is that people’s perceptions should change as well. I mean people do change, yet more often than not, the way we treat other people is as if they were static. I mean personally, I’ve grown and matured. Some people who dislike me before have seen the changes and have grown to accept me. Some still perceive me as the foolish kid I still once was though. And the opposite can be true as well: a person might have been a good friend to you once, but now, they’ve changed whether for the better or for the worse. The relationship shouldn’t remain static but change appropriately as well.

A fitting end would perhaps be my experience just a few hours ago. On my walk home, I passed by Robinsons Galleria to take shelter from the rain. A Chinese boy, with pale skin and shaved head, looked at me and started following me. He eventually came up to me and introduced himself as Allen. What’s your name, he asked. Charles, I said. Can I be your friend, he asked again. By now, I was suspecting he was a retarded kid or something (and his speech pattern didn’t help him either, because they were far from fluent). I hesitated, but I eventually said sure. He then asked me more details, such as where I was heading and where I lived. Of course I remember the warnings parents usually give to their children: don’t talk to strangers. And so I answered truthfully but vaguely, mentioning that I was walking home and that I lived in Mandaluyong. I asked him whom he was with and he said his companions were at the basement. By now, I was eager to get rid of him. Honestly, I appreciate the gesture. But why did he choose me of all people? I suspect it’s because he has nothing else to go on but by appearances, and by my appearance, I looked like one of his kin: that is, a fellow Chinese.

Before I walked out of the building, he eventually left me and said goodbye. We shook hands and I was only too eager to be away from him. Perhaps we’re not so alone in the world as we think we are. There are people willing to be our friends. The problem with us (and me in this case), I think, is that we choose our friends. We don’t accept who’s available, but rather pick the ones we think we deserve. It’s much like courting a girl: you think is the perfect one for you. Unfortunately, her opinion greatly differs from yours. And you have this friend, waiting patiently for you at the outskirts. But we ignore her, because we think she’s not the one for us. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes… we’ll never know. Stranger friendships have been born out of stranger circumstances.

Read more!
[Blog Entry] Farewell


If my life was a comic book, a story arc just ended. My friend and GM (that’s game master, not general manager) Jobert left for the US several hours ago. His family have plans of migrating to America and Jobert first left us back in 2003, occasionally dropping by during his summer break. At around mid-May of this year, he came back and we had RPG sessions like we’d never had before (that is, three games a week, most of them ending in the wee hours of the morning… and it wasn’t even the weekend). The old RPG group was reunited once again… and now it’s back to regular life.

Not that I’m complaining. I mean between work and our regular RPG sessions, I had little time to sleep. Not to mention the significant decrease in reading and writing output (hence the lack of entries, or even my lack of updates on the Neil Gaiman transcripts). It’s been a blast. We’ll miss you Jobert. Hopefully you’ll come back soon. But in the meantime, I’ll catch up on some much-needed rest.

Read more!