Friday, September 09, 2005

[Blog Entry] Character


Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve seen the same stories repeated over and over again: falling in love, heartbreak, marriage, death. The names and faces change (sometimes, the person I’m referring to is the guy I see in the mirror) but the tale follows the same patterns, the same trends.

The question we must ask ourselves is that if that’s the case, why do we continue blogging, or continue to read other people’s blogs? Unless you have a fetish for such things, why do people subject themselves to the same thing over and over again?

Perhaps because it’s not the same story. It matters who tells the story, who gets affected. I might read in the newspaper of a woman getting into a car accident. Big deal, happens all the time. Suddenly alter the woman into someone more familiar: perhaps an old classmate, a close friend, a relative. Our reactions will suddenly change, depending on becomes the scapegoat. That one tiny detail, who the subject is, changes the entire picture. You may write it the same way, use the same verbs and adjectives, yet you’re telling an entirely different story by just changing the person who’s affected.

How would you react if a friend got into an accident? Would it be the same reaction if it happened to your significant other? An old fling? An enemy? Or a complete stranger?

In the end, we must realize that a story, any story, is only half-told by the writer. The rest is filled in by the reader. If I killed myself today and disappeared from the face of the earth, would you care? I’m sure a number would have general apathy, some secretly rejoicing in my death, and a rare few genuine grief. If I leave a suicide note, addressing no one in particular, each one will interpret it in a different way. It all depends on character, both mine and yours.

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[Essay] True Pain, True Suffering

True Pain, True Suffering

One thing we’re all acquainted with is suffering. Yet despite knowing the fact that it’s unavoidable in life, we attempt to evade it, and when we get hurt, it’s as if we’ve experienced it for the first time. Just take a look at heartbreaks, or grieving a loved one, or perhaps losing a part of your body. No matter how many times it’s recurred before, it’ll always be a fresh wound once when we’ve experienced it again. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that memory, or lack of it, blunts the trauma. Yet there are actually two things that many people fail to recognize.

The first is that the crisis is not the most painful part we can experience. It can be breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, failing an important exam, losing a limb to an accident, or sudden bankruptcy in your business. Many will attribute loss to that particular event. “It was the saddest moment in my life,” one might say. But it’s also the briefest, which is also why we might cling to that particular memory, playing it over and over in our minds, as if we could mend the mistake we make, despite loathing it and preferring not to dwell on it. We are, by our very nature, illogical and contradictory after all. Yet if we came face to face with the facts, what’s truly terrifying is not the present but the future.

A man who breaks up with his fiancé might cry and feel depressed on the eve of their separation, but what haunts him is the events to come. It’s in the days that follow where he is plagued by nightmares, dreaming about his lonely life, or worse, the past or what-ifs he could have had. It’s in the post-crisis period where he dwells on how there’s no one he can share his life with, or how he might not be as lucky the next time and find someone who enjoys his companionship. The same goes for anyone else who experiences a disastrous event in their lives, such as an earthquake or a typhoon. It’s not during the earthquake that you’re most distressed, but rather later on, when it’s all over, and you have to start picking up the pieces. Emotionally, it’s a lot less to handle because there’s no time pressure, no immediate need to resolve things. But in truth, it’s also the most difficult, because it’s when you come face to face with your own feelings, and realize that it’s not going to be over as quickly.

If there was an explosion and I died, it really wouldn’t be a problem because I had a quick death. However, if I somehow managed to survive, and find out that I lost an arm in the process, that would simply be horrible. When I’m in the hospital bed, I’ll be thinking of my future, how I’ll live life with one less arm. Sure, I’ll channel my anger and disappointment at that one point in time, during the explosion, but you know what, that event’s done and over with. It’s the difficulties in finding employment, or losing sex appeal, or simply not being able to eat with a fork and a spoon that’ll haunt me for the rest of my days. When I fall down, it hurts, but finding the strength to get back up hurts even more. It’s the only way we’ll survive or cope but hey, it’s not a pretty sight.

The second item many people don’t recognize is that we fear pain and suffering not simply for the emotions themselves, but because they bring about one important aspect: change. The truth of the matter is, complacency is lack of change. It’s being able to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, of being in control, of living life in the way you expect it. Any form of crisis wrecks your plans. A couple to divorces, for example, have come to live a life they’re previously familiar with. Now, it’s an entirely new game, and they’re suddenly lost as everything seems strange and new again. Honestly, no one wants to start out fresh. In Monopoly, it’s like starting with zero dollars and zero property, while everyone else has their cache of money and hotels.

If an accident suddenly befalls me, it’s painful not just because of the actual sensation of pain, but because of the changes I’ll have to make in my life. If someone close to you dies, the first thing you’ll notice is how he or she isn’t there anymore. Our point of reference will always be the past, which is something we already know and base our future assumptions on. We live life in a certain pattern, and we’ve grown comfortable with that particular lifestyle. Change wrecks that lifestyle, and it’s extremely uncomfortable to change habits, to live life in a way you never expected.

Perhaps that’s why we suffer most after the disastrous event. Because then, we have time to think of the consequences, to feel fear and be frightened. And we’re not frightened for the sake of being frightened, but at the fact that we have to change and adapt to the new circumstances. If we fail in that, it’ll lead to another trauma, thus causing an eternal loop of pain and suffering.

Some of you might be asking how do we stop this? The sad thing is that we can’t. It’s a cycle, and no matter how we avoid change, it always catches up to us. Except in death, and there I comfort in that because the results can be predicted: if I slit my wrist now, I’ll stop breathing, and I won’t have to face my problems anymore. Note that the problems haven’t been solved, merely made inaccessible. And death, in the end, has a certain finality to it because it resists change. When you’re dead, you can’t change the world anymore. Only your previous legacy and other people can do that for you. So is it really a big surprise that people find comfort in suicide?

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[Blog Entry] Where Have My Friends Gone? Relearning How to Chew

Where Have My Friends Gone?

Once upon a time, the blogs I visited could be counted with my toes. Nowadays, I actually have to categorize the people I link to, because sifting through them in a randomized list is simply impossible. And if you look at my LJ, I’ve virtually “friended” over a hundred people, and 80% of those link back (and I think that’s true for most LJ people as well… there are more people you friend than those who friend you back, but who cares, since your friends list is probably gigantic; the only exception to this rule is probably the likes of Tin Mandigma, who deserves her own syndication and RSS feed). Thank God not all of them posts every single day; can you imagine reading a hundred posts daily?

Perhaps more important is the fact that there’s this bunch of strangers whom I’ve never met in real life, yet I link to them and vice versa. Sometimes, they’re not even interesting and I merely link back to them as a courtesy. As much as that’s unflattering to them, I also think back on my life, and how unpleasant I really am in real life. What makes these random readers come back for more? Or even form tenuous bonds of friendship?

If I were a naïve guy, I’d say it’s the beauty of the Internet, of seeing what’s inside a person rather than their external appearance. Of course that’s bullshit. At best, blogs are personal propaganda. And of course, you never place yourself in a bad light, especially when you have the right to censor events and craft your own tale. But that aside, why is it easier to make friends online rather than through the usual channel of approaching someone and saying hello (or in some cases, can I get your phone number?).

The pessimist in me says it’s because there’s a distance between us that we don’t learn enough about the other person to dislike him or her. And it’s true. It might be a quirky habit, an unpleasant voice, or simply being unattractive. While in a perfect world we’d judge people by their holistic attributes, in reality we judge them parcel by parcel, whether it’s their physical appearance, or perhaps one thing that irks us, making the rest of the person’s value irredeemable. While two people might not get along while staying in the same room, the same pair might fall in love reading each other’s blog entries. Because you know, blogging is an active action. Being in a room with someone else is not always a choice; sometimes, circumstances bring you there. And there’s this social need to fill the noiseless vacuum, so there’s pressure to speak, to make a comment, or to greet the other person. When I visit a blog, I’m under no compulsion to make a comment, nor am I there “accidentally” (unless, of course, you’ve been victimized by spyware). And the Internet filters people: I don’t get the entire you, I just get your views, your opinions, or just a tiny piece of your intellect. It’s as if I was saying you can keep everything else, I’m only interested in what you have to say.

If I was the ugliest man on the planet, had my vocal chords cut off, and was covered with snot and shit, it wouldn’t matter. Because the only thing blog readers see is my text. So as long as I have touch-typist fingers, everything’s still okay (at least until the next five years, when webcams become the norm, and blog broadcasts are as common as email).

I’m not saying all of this is bad. There’s a certain equality in anonymity. But it’s not the entire product either. For all your email, your blog entries, and your Friendster accounts, it’s still not the whole you. It’s a part of you, but not the entire you. If the people I link to are as accepting as they seem to be, then why don’t I meet up with them, or why do we prefer blogging rather than talking face to face?

Sometimes, it’s a matter of convenience, but again, that’s also the problem about blogging: since when was friendship always about convenience?

Relearning How to Chew

The retainers on the upper part of my teeth have been with me for so long that they’re actually comfortable and I can actually lift them without my using my hands. When they first came on, learning to spit phlegm was the most difficult part, since they’d usually get stuck on the retainers. Nowadays, I spit with impunity (except when I’m Singapore, a country that I have visited only once, and only for four hours).

When my orthodontist clamped my new set of retainers for my lower teeth, speaking became a huge problem. Despite my month’s training in a call center, I’m reduced to the speech talents of a three-year old, mumbling syllables and slurring my words. The one advantage I have when making phone calls is that when people finally meet me, they’re surprised and tell me I’m younger than they supposed.

My mastery of spoken English was never great to begin with, but when you add my latest speech impediment, it’s difficult to take myself seriously over the phone.

And then lunch time came, and then the second thing I had to relearn was how to chew. Because food that’s supposed to be in your throat ends up in the area below your tongue, except it can’t get out because it’s blocked by your retainers.

So not only can I not speak, I also can’t eat. There’s no pain involved unlike braces, but I’m rendered virtually useless as well. My only consolation is that I can still split, and my phlegm is very very sticky.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

MTV Hanging Out with Neil Gaiman part 3 (of 10)

Don: All righty then, I got a question for you now. We heard that you’re really good friends with Tori Amos, right? How did you get to meet her exactly? What were the circumstances?

Neil: The year was, about 1991 and I was at the San Diego Comic Convention and I was signing, which is what I seem to do much of. And a guy on line gave me a cassette tape, which was a primitive form of music transmission in this day of discs and emails, and said that this was a friend of mine, she’s sort of working on an album, she mentions you on a song, please don’t sue her. She’s a big fan of yours, and a fan member of the site. And I’m given a lot of cassettes, these days I get most CDs, and one single I’d carry and then never play them again because they’d be you know, some you know Norwegian death rock record company [too slurred] going oh, you’ve come down from the sky. Your sister Death because she’s cute. So I put this on, and it’s Tori and it was sort of a first draft of what was going to be the Little Earthquakes album and well, I listened to some stuff and I just thought it was amazing. And there was a phone number there, so I phoned her, and she happened to be in London while I was at London at the time and then we just became telephone phone pals. We’d throw each other off and talk through the small hours and I said you are going to be huge and this is going to be enormous and this is the trajectory of your career and in three to five years this was how it was going to work, and truth, I was right. She goes I was really really clever. Eventually I just, you know, watched the English Watch Press and actually call… I always know how they always treat the first album, second album and third albums. She goes don’t anybody tell them that, that I wasn’t her [couldn’t understand]. And then she said, come and see me play. So I came and Tori Amos gave me a place called the Kennel Brusery in London. Her entire audience consisted of me, a driver from Melanie Mayfair, her publicist, and the owner of the brand suite and it’s suddenly her birthday thing, it was five thousand a table, so she stopped halfway through the gig and say happy birthday to you and that was her act. Even today, you know no matter what Tori does, ten thousand people, it could be huge, well what do you think? I say a lot of it is good. They’ll get over us.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

[Blog Entry] Inheritance, Courage and Confidence, The Trivial Things


The Palanca Awards are over and a number of friends, acquaintances, and professors were at the event. Not that I was there, but you know, I was hoping that through sheer association, some of their talent might rub off on me. But I guess awards need to be earned the old fashioned way: through work and effort.

Of course it has to be said that you can’t win something that you didn’t apply for. I didn’t join this year’s Palanca Awards, but I’m been struck by the writing bug as of late so maybe I’ll finally join next year.

It’s interesting to note though that the 3rd-place winner of the Future Fiction category, Pearlsha “Isha” Abubakar, is my predecessor in my current job. She used to be the managing editor of the Philippines Yearbook (in addition to Pulp Magazine), and while I’m not the managing editor of the publication (no one is... there’s just the editor-in-chief, and then me, the editorial assistant), I did get her computer and desk (I was also originally supposed to get her mobile phone number as well). While cleaning up her office space, I found a couple of her reading materials, like Modern Mythmakers and Ancient Wisdom, Landscapes of the Imagination, Native Words Native Roots, Wordsmiths and Archipelagoes, Stoking the Fire, Dreamers of the Loom, and Where the Water Falls. So you know, rather than depending on sheer osmosis, I have something more to go on when it comes to honing my writing skills.

Courage and Confidence

More often than not, I’m meek and shy. I try to be humble and modest (but me being the attention hog that I am, fail at it). But you know, there are times when you must exert your force of personality. It’s not about being proud, it’s about being confident.

I learned that lesson from my grade school Filipino teacher, who was this big woman that possessed the right amount of kindness and strictness. She was harsh when she needed to be, but often began class with a joke and a light mood. One of her grading criteria for our oral exams was that we give ourselves a grade after our performance. Instead of just solely depending on the teacher to grade you, we had a say in it. But more importantly, we had to be confident about our speech. I mean if I thought I did horribly, even if the fact was different, and gave myself a D, that’ll never turn into an A. So if I wanted a high grade, I had to rate my performance high. Of course if you did lousy and graded yourself high, others will feel you’re arrogant... or bluffing the teacher to give you a high grade.

Watching my classmates perform and give themselves a grade was pretty much like watching Celebrity Poker on TV: you knew which were winning hands, but they only won if the players had the courage to raise for everything. This is where the human psyche plays a role, and you witness students deserving an A get a B or lower because they didn’t have the balls (and I’m not being sexist about this because well, it was an all-boys school) to give themselves an A.

Of course the real interesting part is when it’s finally your turn. After watching my classmates triumph and fail, your own insecurities start creeping up on you, and once I was done with my performance, I was tempted to give myself a low, low grade. But I remembered that they were just insecurities, and gave myself a high grade. Not the highest, because I knew I made some minor mistakes, but high enough.

The Trivial Things

It’s strange, but more often than not, it’s the trivial things in life that make a difference.

When you win the Lotto for example, you might get several millions of pesos for example, but it’s all an abstract figure. You’ll only start noticing it when you’re eating better food, sleeping in a more comfortable bed, or wearing more fashionable clothes. Same goes with getting a promotion in your job, or reaching a higher income stream.

Or take a look at charity. What causes you to pursue a mission in stopping poverty? Is it the suffering of millions of people? If truth be told, it’s probably the suffering of one person that matters. Why do such commercials give close-ups of individuals rather than a multitude? It’s because they want to give them an identity, something closer to home. When you think of ending poverty, do you think of people in the hundreds and thousands? You’ll probably recall the kid who peddles near your house, who knocks on your car window. Or the girl who sells sampaguita flowers amidst evening traffic.

Not that it always applies, mind you. Some people simply think big, and their mind encompasses macroscopic levels. But it’s my experience that people take things a day at a time, piece by piece, step by step. And that means something only affects them when they’ve experienced it themselves. In light of the current disaster in the US, it might mean a relative who lived near the disaster vicinity. Or a place you once visited, and is probably now gone. Or perhaps you remember a similar experience that happened in your life, and you remember the faces you saw. It’s easier to be benevolent when it’s personal.

If you want change in your life, start with the trivial things. It might mean throwing trash in the trash can, when you usually leave it on the floor (or beside the waste basket). Or simply saying hello to your parents every morning. And writing emails to a friend once a week. If you’re a writer, it might entail writing a hundred more words per day.

Sure, it’s trivial, and while we don’t always remember the trivial moments in our lives, it’s something we live with everyday.

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[Short Story] Friendship (edited as of 09/07/2005)

By Charles Tan


Matthew 19: 30. But many who are first will be last...

This restaurant must be more Christian than I thought. Because my order hasn't arrived yet even though I was the first one at the counter. Mike yawns, taco shell bits on his plate. Marie had a bunch of leftovers, mostly tomatoes and strips of lettuce from her salad. Not much to say about Vincent and his empty bowl. The chili must have been very good.

The waiter finally arrives with my dinner plate. He smiles at me, as if his grin would turn back time and undo the twenty minutes I've been waiting for my beef burrito. The waiter reminds me of the ushers at church, a little bit too enthusiastic. I want to smack him in the face, and demand a refund.

Matthew 5: 22. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…

Instead, I take the plate calmly and smile back at the waiter. Thank you, I say. It seems I've been doing a lot of acting lately.

I steal a glance at Marie before I start munching on my food. She's facing Mike, telling him how it's been a month since they last saw each other face to face. I concur. It's just been the three of us: Vincent, Marie, and I that have been together, especially since we all go to the same college. It was I who stayed with Marie, holding her hand and comforting her as she failed her first Math exam, who went with her to the play they were required to attend for English class, who drove her back home during weekdays.

Exodus 20: 14. You shall not commit adultery.

Was I committing adultery? It's not like Mike and Marie were married. They're just boyfriend and girlfriend. One that'll be ending soon at that. Marie's been the one approaching me. It's not like I was courting her or anything. I can't deny my feelings forever can I? When she mentions how Oasis is the coolest band around, I agree. When she takes out an Anne Rice novel to reread, I remember my own copy at home. We simply get along, and share a lot of common interests. Is that so bad?

Luke 6: 31. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

It's so easy to be like other guys, stealing the girlfriends of other people. But I'm not like that. Mike's a friend after all. That's why I'm waiting for Marie to break up with Mike. That's when I'll court her. Besides, it's Mike who told me I should be selfish from time to time. I'm just following his advice. And to a certain extent, I'm tired of always being the good guy, the person everyone depends on. If what I'm going to do is a sin, hopefully God will forgive me. Because I can't imagine life without Marie. And if Mike's a true friend, he'll understand.

Before I start eating my dinner, I try to catch another glimpse of Marie. I spot Mike's eyes instead.

Matthew 26: 50. …Friend, do what you came for.

I look down, say a quick prayer, and focus on my food.

The burrito's spicier than normal. It burns, but it's so damn good. I take in a second bite, and another. The meal was worth the wait.


Nothing's happening. Paul's just there, immersing himself with the food that just arrived. Marie, sexy Marie in her green tube top, talking to Mike in low whispers. At least there was no physical contact this time, although Mike did try. His hand reached out to hers, but Marie's fingers remained stiff. He withdrew it soon afterwards.

Most people think I don't notice. Heck, they probably don't notice me. I'm not just a third wheel, I'm a wraith, ignored and taken for granted. I test my theory by standing up and getting out of the table. I murmur that I'm heading for the bathroom. Paul's ears twitch, but no one looks in my direction. Mike's attention seems to be directed only at Marie. As for Marie, I really don't know what's going around in her head.

The restaurant's bathroom is dirty. The faucets are rusting, and the hexagonal tiles are wet with what I presume was piss. I‘m alone, unlike the superficial companionship I had when I was with Marie. This was truth, this was reality.

Marie was Mike's girlfriend. Before Marie graduated from high school, she was already going out with Mike. M&M we called them, Mike and Marie. Mike and Paul, on the other hand, were my friends from high school. Mike used to be my classmate, until he failed Science during our junior year. He was retained, while Paul and I moved on to our senior year.

I was never close to Paul, at least not as close as he and Mike were. During weekends, Paul and Mike would go out to the local arcade and play video games. Or sometimes, Mike would sleep over at Paul's place, browse through each other's comic collection, and top it off with sleepless nights of playing board games and poker. Occasionally, me and some of Paul's classmates would be invited. But it was mostly Mike and Paul. It felt awkward, intruding on their boyish intimacy, but they were the only guys in class who actually invited me to hang out with them. Mike and Paul did most of the talking when I was around, and I'd make the occasional quip or two. Or whenever they needed a different opponent with the video games they played, I'd join in and give them a run for their money.

And then Paul and I graduated from high school, while Mike remained. Marie happened to be attending the same university Paul and I were going to. Mike introduced Marie to Paul earlier, and then Paul introduced me to Marie when we saw her at the college campus.

We pursued different courses, yet we were always together. We were a triumvirate, the Three Musketeers, but the truth of the matter was, it was Paul and Marie, with me being an afterthought. Again.

I'd carpool with Paul to school, and once we parked the car, we'd meet up with Marie. I was usually in front, and the first one to spot her every morning. I'd wave to her and greet her good morning. But the first person she always greeted was Paul. And then they'd hug each other, or sometimes, kiss each other's cheeks, only after which they'd turn their attention to me. Did I get a hug or a kiss? Just a simple wave and hello.

There were times when Paul and I would be together, or Paul and Marie would be alone. But there was never a moment longer than a few seconds when it would just be me and Marie. Whenever I'd talk to Marie, the only real conversation pieces we talked about were our assignments, our unjust professors, and how the next day would be a holiday. I tried talking about the Anne Rice novels which Marie loved to read, but she simply dismissed me as a poseur, and gave me a reading list. End of conversation.

Last month, I suspected there was something going on between Paul and Marie. There were moments when I'd catch them holding each other's hands, or their bodies itching to be closer to each other. There were never any overt signs, no sudden gifts to each other, no kisses, no prolonged body contact, no over-protective or jealous attitudes. But I felt that something was going on.

I was tempted to tell Mike about it, but what would be the result? What if I was wrong? Or worse, if I was right, I'd be labeled as a rat. Besides, I owe Mike nothing. He didn't introduce me to Marie, Paul did. He didn't entrust Marie to me, he entrusted her to Paul, his best friend.

When I came out of the washroom, no one was at the table. There was just the bill, along with the receipt and some change.


Mike was handsome, with his hawk-like nose and gentle eyes that always looked at me. No one paid me as much attention as he did, not even Paul. A year ago, I loved that about him. Now, it's just tiring. I don't want a guy constantly watching over my back. I'm not his property.

-I'm sorry, I'll try to make it work.-

Mike's first mistake. You'll try to make it work? What am I, chopped liver? You always thought of this relationship as yours, not ours. It was always you, you, you.

-Just give me one more chance. I know I can fix it.-

That's what you said the last time. The reason I didn't break up with you back then was because of pity. Your grades plummeted, you even crashed your car into a tree. But I've changed, I've grown… I've discovered someone else.

I wanted to divert my eyes to Paul, to draw strength from him. But I didn't want to give him away either. Instead, I looked down at my hands, and I see the silver bracelet Mike gave me during our first month anniversary. The day he gave it to me, I remember it being shiny and bright, especially the engraving with my name on it. Now, it's dull and lackluster. But it's proof of how long our relationship had endured.

I gaze into Mike's brown eyes, and see what seems to be tears. Not in public! The reason I asked Mike to invite Paul and Vincent along was so that we could avoid making a scene in public. That didn't stop Mike however. And where the hell was Vincent? He was pretty much like Mike nowadays, there when you don't want to see him, but absent when you need him.

At least Paul was still here. My steady rock. The guy who waited for me as I took my three-hour midterm exam in Math. And failed. Paul offered me a smoke, and we talked until we couldn't see the pale moonlight. And when I got two tickets to Mistress of the Inn, a play we were required to watch for English, it was Paul who drove me to the theater, and there we watched the amateur actors act out their roles.

I wrote a letter to Paul when I got home from watching the play, which had moved me to tears. I could imagine myself as the protagonist, searching for love in faraway places, when the man who loved me was nearby. Mike was a suitor, nothing more and nothing less. He made me realize though what I wanted in life, what I really sought. He introduced me to Paul, and for that, I would be eternally grateful. But I couldn't give him my love. The farce needed to stop.

Mike's hand tries to clasp mine once more. I brush it away, and tell him flatly it's over. For some moments, he looks fuzzy. Something seems to have been caught in my eye. Paul suddenly stops eating his food, and turns to look at me. It seems as if everyone's eyes, from the patrons to the waiters to the cook, were on me. I get up, grab my purse, and run.

It was Paul who ran after me. I was surprised that Mike didn't give chase. Did he know?

I'm finally free, but why do I feel doubt?


M&M. The best couple ever. We even have the same birthday.

Yet here I am, picking up the pieces. I get the largest bill I could find in my wallet and give it to the waiter. That pays for tonight's dinner. As for the tickets for tonight's movie, I might as well burn them.

I don't understand what happened. What did I do wrong? Was it something I said?

I wanted to chase after her, but Paul ran first. He gave me a quick glance and hesitated. My eyes probably told him to go, that I didn't want her to see me like this. I fought to hold back my tears. Paul might know how to solve this. There's no one else I trust who'll take care of my girlfriend. He's my best friend, after all, honest and loyal to the bone.

I remember when we were in grade school, and Paul was failing Science. Leo, the smartest kid in class, offered to give Paul the answers to the next exam. I would have taken it just like that. Instead, Paul declined, and told him that he couldn't. It would be cheating. So what, Leo asked. Paul just smiled, and told him he was being a good Christian.

It can be annoying at times, I must admit, but that was a part of Paul you could always depend on. I couldn't invite him to go out for several rounds in a bar, but I could depend on Paul's honesty. Perhaps that's why I chose him to be my best friend. You can't buy trust and sincerity, and Paul had them in spades.

I wonder where Vincent went? He simply disappeared. Vincent's a nice guy as well, but there's just something about him that turns people off. I also dislike his eyes. They're always staring, observing. The looks he gives Marie, it's as if a predator was staring, although Vincent was never threatening.

Marie… my dear Marie. I dial her number, but she didn't answer her mobile phone.

I could always write her a letter, much like the love notes I sent her when she was still studying in high school. This is only a temporary setback, I can fix this.

I have to be stronger, more determined. I was a wreck the last time. I have to prove to Marie that I'm whole, that I can take care of her and our future family.

I'm just grateful that I have friends like Paul to count on.

If you can't depend on your friends, who else can you trust?

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[Essay] 52 Hours a Week

52 Hours a Week

I used to work six and a half days a week. The pay wasn’t much, but I loved the atmosphere I was in. From 10 am to 6 pm, I was surrounded by anime paraphernalia and talked to customers who loved anime. After work, you’d think that a person like me would go to a bar or something, but all I did was go home, watch some anime, and chatted with friends via the Internet about anime. You’d think that after sixty non-stop days, I’d be burnt out but the fact of the matter was, the only thing I truly missed back then was my participation in Magic: The Gathering tournaments.

These days, working five days a week is already draining. So what happened? I simply grew and developed a lot of other interests. Not only am I just interested in anime, I have to juggle my reading time, my writing time, my gaming time, and my regular public service announcements in addition to work. And believe me, work these days is work.

I met a friend of mine, Richie, a few weeks ago. He’s had several years of experience working in various jobs and positions, and now he’s finally landed a career in what you’d think would be a dream job. I mean he loves gadgets and technological devices. He now writes for a magazine that deals with those kind of stuff. Yet because it’s his job to know about the latest stuff, it stops being a hobby. When you’re compelled to do something other than for the sheer fun of it, it starts being a duty.

Yet his story is not unique. Nor is it the rule. I have friends who’ve learned to hate their ideal job, because it’s draining the sheer fun out of the experience. But I also know people like Vin, one of the people who started Comic Quest, and he still retains his passion for comics despite being surrounded by comics day in and day out. Your experiences with work is a double-edged sword.

I mean personally, it’s because I’m deathly bored and stressed with my work that when I get home, I’m in a hurry to get things done, whether it’s reading, writing, or gaming. I wonder if I was in a job that incorporated all three, would there be less output from me, quality and quantity wise? But I also remember my days in Comic Alley, and perhaps the reason I was there everyday (aside from the fact that I had no social life) was because of my enthusiasm for my hobby.

We all react differently, depending on the situation. Perhaps the only real warning I can give people is be careful what you wish for. Or as my Christian faith would say, be grateful that God doesn’t give you what you want, but what you need.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

[Plug] Open Call for Submissions - A Time for Dragons: An Anthology of Philippine Draconic Fiction

Open Call for Submissions - A Time for Dragons: An Anthology of Philippine Draconic Fiction


In the realms of fantasy, no other mythic creature inspires the same sense of awe and wonder, menace and majesty as the Dragon. Crossing cultural boundaries, the dragon is represented in a myriad of forms, in many tales from across the globe, spanning centuries of art and literature. Perhaps the fascination stems from what the dragon represents- a creature of unbridled power, a primeval force of nature that challenges the mettle of anyone who crosses its path.

In the West the dragon has become an avatar of malice, devourer of maidens, keeper of priceless hoards, a threat to be overcome by knights in shining armor. In contrast, the Oriental dragon is a revered icon, master of storms and rain, and keeper of wisdom.

Given the popularity of dragons, particularly in the genre of "pop-fantasy" (of the Dungeons and Dragons RPG variety), it comes as no surprise that some of the sense of wonder has faded. The dragon has suffered from over-exposure and become diminished, stale.

Despite the flood of mediocrity, there are many excellent stories that deal with dragons, among the most noteworthy off the top of my head are: King Dragon by Michael Swanwick, The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin, The Dragonbone Flute by Lois Tilton, and The Man who Painted the Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard. All are excellent tales, written by pedigreed authors.

And so, encouraged by the response to best bud Dean Alfar's Speculative Fiction anthology (featuring fantasy, science fiction and stories of the interstitial/slipstream mode), I have decided to publish "A Time for Dragons: An Anthology of Philippine Draconic Fiction".

I'm now extending an open call for submissions. My agenda is simple. Show me something new, something fresh, something that presents the dragon in a new light and restores a sense of awe and wonder. I'll accept tales from across genres: classic fantasy, science fiction, horror, slipstream, children's fiction/juvenilia, as well as poetry - whatever strikes your fancy. Show me new dragons that have never been seen before, make it grand or small, just keep in mind that we are dealing with a creature that has fascinated humanity's collective imagination for centuries. Give it the treatment it deserves.


1. Word Count. For fiction, anywhere from 2500 to 6000 words. For poetry, short or long form is acceptable. English language only.

2. Language & Setting. English language. Can be set in original imaginary worlds or the "real" world, not necessarily the Philippines (as Dragons are "universal"). Absolutely no fan fic.

3. Number of Entries. Each author may submit up to two (2) submissions.

4. Format. Only via email. Attach as a Word Document - just make sure your submission is virus-free. Please email all submissions to: viniquest(at)yahoo(dot)com

5. Cover Letter. Kindly include a cover letter that includes the title of your submission, the word count, your full name, contact details including contact numbers, as well as a list of your previously published work, if any. New unpublished authors are more than welcome to submit.

6. Compensation. Each author whose work becomes part of the anthology will receive two (2) author's copies of the final publication. Similar to Dean's anthology, the Dragon antho is completely self-funded - except that selected authors may also avail of special discounts at Comic Quest and Petty Pets (right, Dean?) ;)

7. Deadline & Publication Schedule. All submissions must be received before midnight of January 4, 2006. Authors of selected pieces will be informed thereafter. The book will be released by the first quarter of 2006.

Have fun!

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MTV Hanging Out with Neil Gaiman part 2 (of 10)

Don: Everybody you’re hanging out with me Don, Claire, Colby over there, and of course, Mr. Neil Gaiman. How are you doing today sir?

Neil: I’m enjoying myself.

Don: Okay, so we got lots of your fans here right now, and they’re going to ask us some questions for you, so let’s go to Claire and Colby and see what you got.

Colby: Thank you very much Don and I’m here with Lala, right? And you have a question for Mr. Gaiman.

Lala: Hai. Who are your favorite musicians growing up?

Neil: Growing up, let’s see. David Bowie are really out there.

Crowd: -laughs-

Lala: Freak out!

Neil: And then I was feeling lucky in lots of ways ‘cause I was fifteen going on sixteen when punk caught on New England, so it was all sort of happening around me and at that point, it was the Damned and the Ends Ups and the Clash and the Pistols, and you know, for a fifteen year-old kid, sneaking in to the local pub to watch the Jam sound check. I was too young to get into the gig. But nobody noticed this kid sneaking at the back, and just sort of hanging out in the darkness [speaking too fast]… so growing up, everybody’s going.

Colby: Thank you Lala, next question.

Claire: I’m here with Kitch and she has another question for you.

Kitch: Hi! If you were casting the Sandman movie, who would you get as Death and Dream?

Neil: If I could cast, anyone from, you know, if someone gave me a time machine and magic powers, I think I would probably cast the young Audrey Hepburn as Death because I think she’d be perfect. Unfortunately, I don’t have magic powers or a time machine. Of currently living actors I think Johnny Depp would make an amazing Dream.

Colby: So I won’t have a chance.

Neil: Not open.

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