Saturday’s events -books and art to tickle my fancy

On Saturday, I rushed to Shangri La mall in Mandaluyong after work for Jessica Zafra’s book signing. She has just released two books: The Stories So Far and Geeks vs Jocks. I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet the bespectacled writer/blogger who keeps me wide awake with the wit, humor and audacity of her blog posts when things become too much in the office. The degree of my enthusiasm in reading has jumped up several notches because of her and for me it was an honor to have signed copies of her books. She is for me, a champion and advocate of bibliophilia among Pinoys. It definitely worked for me. Camera 360 I arrived at around 2:45pm and thought I would be drastically late but thank God that people were just starting to queue. The booktable had several old titles like  the Twisted series but even if I wanted to have all the books, I only allotted for the two recently-published ones. When it was my turn, I managed to have small talk with Jessica, asking what are the chances she could bring Drogon (her imperious white cat she often features in her blogposts) on the next book-signing and how she was doing after her bout with a nasty virus, which, it turns out, was just a case of electrolyte imbalance.  I had my picture taken with her as well.

The author, busy signing a book for one of her fans.

The author, busy signing a book for one of her fans.

Seeing her scribble her signature on the books justified the heat and the mad rush to the mall. The Stories So Far was purportedly the author’s collection of short stories long overdue for publishing. In her blog, I loved the little snippets of stories and I had hoped I could read more of her fiction. This is it! Camera 360 C360_2014-06-29-14-27-51-083 You can read Jessica’s blog at: Jessicarulestheuniverse.com. After the book signing I strolled in the mall and happened to see artists in session at the 3rd level. Camera 360 They are known as The Saturday Group, various artists who use different mediums and convene every Saturday to have sketching or drawing sessions to celebrate the craft they love. Watching them made me want to whip out my sketchpad and pencils, except of course I didn’t bring any.

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I loved this artist’s work most of all. He used soft pastels to do the highlights and tones for sketching.

Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360 It was interesting how each artist had a different way of translating the subject to their own medium. Some did breathlessly realistic sketches while others were a bit impressionistic. The model had a brightness to her face I would have loved to capture if I have been able to do my own sketch of her.

New year, new puppy

Ampee and her puppies

Ampee and her puppies

I have been praying and anticipating for weeks, eversince my friend Mac announced that his dog’s belly is growing big, to have an addition to our small menagerie at home.  When Ampee, (from the word ampon or adopted) the other, more scruffy-looking lhasa apso was brought to us, I couldn’t imagine she would have more than one in her litter because she was so tiny. It seemed as if having more than one pup would cause her to explode. They went for two visits, making sure there would be a bigger chance of success for the stud service. Boy, she and Coby were both spent after each meeting! I forgot to check on them because of the mad rush of the holidays and whenever it comes across my mind, the thought would quickly escape me. Then I got a text message saying that she was starting to swell up. I got giddy but didn’t want to tell anybody about it as I wanted to have a surprise for my family but I can only keep silent about it for hours.

I was told she was taken to the province and wouldn’t be back in Manila until Valentines day. I bet the pup’s gonna have too much love. It’ll be time to puppy-proof the house again.

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My bookshelf

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When I want to have entertainment which could last for several days, nothing is as cheap as a good book. However, I couldn’t resist reading promiscuously, reading more than one at a time (I heard Spain is getting through the tough times by its people going back to the libraries).

I remembered when I was in Paco Catholic School and I had to wait for my aunt who was an English teacher half a day in the library before we went home (I always had the morning classes and she had to finish her afternoon classes). I never got bored. The library doubled as a place of solitude and play place. Back then, when there was no other student studying or doing research, I would play with the librarian’s children but most often we were so well behaved, each lost in the book in our hands. When I have a good book, I still feel like that kid with a stack of good titles in the hallway.

 

Writing at the Park

I am currently collaborating with my friend H on writing a novel with characters derived from Philippine myth. I tried to stay in the office way after my shift ended to write and add material after being indisposed for 3 days due to asthma and inclement weather but colleagues became pesky and distracting and I realized it would be futile. So at the end of my wits, I asked H to have an on the spot writing in the park (Ayala Triangle) where only cute lap dogs became a welcome distraction.

She asked me if I can write while sustaining a conversation but being awake the whole night, the hemispheres of my brain then could only work a small percentage. So I told her no. We forgot to bring notebooks so I scribbled away on paper package for pastry! With furrowed eyebrows I imagined what transpires in the story. It was rustic and I like it. People passing by, leaving your business untouched except for the occasional security guard who strolled the grounds patrolling.

“Is this the start of something grand?”, I wrote on my journal later that day. The answer can only be satisfactory if I see our story in print.

When life dampens your spirits

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Last night, the rains inundated whatever good mood was left of me from my activities on the weekend.

I hate to be one of the many whose mood was turned bleak just because of the downpour which hampered the cities from their everyday evening rituals. I actually love the rain. I have waited for it for weeks, when the once friendly summer, host to my childhood revelries, became too harsh and unforgiving. Hearing the patter of rain on my rooftop has brought my muse in the past, and the rumble in the clouds before a drizzle have been the subject of several pieces of my poetry. However, I can’t deny that consternation didn’t knock on my mental doorstep when I found myself stuck in traffic for two and a half hours. I felt betrayed by the weather. All I could do as soon as I saw the heavy traffic building up ahead of me was to close my eyes and surrender. No one can be more helpless while stuck in traffic. I resigned to sleeping until I am out in the womb of that tight situation.

Maybe it was not the rain that caused my lackluster evening. Maybe it was the thought of being stuck in life that took a blow to my psyche, and me being helpless and wound up in the traffic jam was just a visual metaphor. Come to think of it, I really am at losing ends towards reaching my goals, and the more I dig deeper, the more it is that my current situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth: I’m still not at my ideal weight (with the 2nd year of my gym membership coming to its end), my stats at work have yet to stabilize and be acceptable, and my questions about religious tenets have yet to be answered, especially now that I am at another fork in the road.

I know all too well what the self-help books would say: “Change your thoughts and lean into the positive. Affirm what it is you wanted to happen. Look for the silver lining.” Others typically would choose some form of intoxicant if but to forget what haunts them temporarily. But it wouldn’t help when you sober up or when the dark imaginings spell your name again. So in writing this and realizing how far my passions have dipped, I would settle with one honest thought I can say without being unreasonable (as optimism can sometimes be): “I wouldn’t despise myself wherever I end up trying.” I know that LIFE at times seems like a lot of work but I need to be reminded that I breathe even without thinking about it. It should be as simple as that. The road to my goals may be a long stretch but I am content to call myself “a work in progress”.

If people can bombard me with negative comments and the situations are not always favorable, I promise to at least be kind to myself and be my own bestfriend. Where the hell would I end up if I gave up on myself? I write this as a self-reminder but I hope it creates a spark or a kindling of a new pattern of thought for others who may be deviating on their road to self progress.

Over the edge of summer

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Over the weekend, we shunned the city, went someplace remote and hoped for a sabbatical, if but for two days and a night. It was a vacation entirely overdue that kept me in high spirits while making the marks in the calendar. I needed it, in the hope that I will be able to bounce back and gain resilience from being flustered in the weeks past.

Seeing the stretch of sea ahead of us made me forget all the internal noise.

When we arrived, the welcoming committee outdid all I had imagined. I saw them, three or four dogs frolicking in the waves, playing in the surf and heralding our entry before we stepped down from the small, mastless boat. I wouldn’t have chosen anyone or anything else as retinue on our way to our temporary dwelling. The dogs left as the humans proceeded to assist in showing our rustic hut. We were six when we arrived: Jem, the muse, Tennie the sunshine, Jed the bandit, Andy the intoxicator, AJ the wisecrack and myself.

I adored the weather, the sand and did everything cliche while at the beach except for making sand castles and baking in the sun. An hour or two was spent waiting for our rendesvouz with our friend Billy, whose hands were tied and had to flee the office as soon as he was off from duty to join us.

The cottage was quaint and had electricity. We were anxious with the security of our belongings because there was no way to lock up a nipa hut but no one dared to mess with other’s things.  Whenever we had to explore, we made sure someone maintained a close distance anyway. I guess all the visitors were busy with their own little revelry.

The meals in the island were superb. You wouldn’t be able to deny that they were cooked with happiness in the hearth. I ate with relish and resisted the urge to scrimp on rice with all the seafood in provision.

At night, when it seemed that it was not an option to reflect among my peers, I was badgered into drinking. I thought it defeated the idea of being away into a semi-paradise. It was not the most tasteful activity in mind (to binge drink) and I hated that I kept silent about it. But then it seems, not any of these peers really knew my agenda. I had to disguise my inner protest and drown it with tacky jokes and loud conversations. I have to make it up to Tennie who endured all my puns, being the best sport among our friends. I retired early into bed, knowing full well that they would harangue the next day with prickly comments about me having an untarnished reputation for being a sleepyhead.

The next day, I woke up later than I intended. I did not get to see the change of the palette of the sky, did not observe whether it had tints of saffron or was able to chant my Sanskrit mantras at dawn. I failed ultimately to get what was appetizing when I planned this vacation. But, I would rather put a wider smile than to let this ruin my temporary escape. The snorkeling activity left my doldrums a bit diminished.  I gave everyone the best I’ve got as a companion and hoped for no reciprocation. I know I am bigger than a small amount of failure before breakfast.

We left for the snorkeling spot at 8am. The little city of corrals underneath the bamboo raft was a world on its own. I could see massive formations that would have engulfed me had I been on the ocean floor. I swam past by a big brain corral and got goosebumps while underwater (all the creature-feature movies I saw as a kid made me imagine it opening up and swallowing me while overhead).

The remainder of the day was spent basking in the sun and seawater, traversing on the shallows, taking pictures like there’s no tomorrow. Lying on a bed made of bamboo under a canopy, with gentle, lapping waves took the afternoon siesta to a different level. I wanted to make a mental snapshot of the scenery but got a backup using my phone’s camera lest I forget.

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If I would choose the best pic that would depict how content I was with the island and all it had to offer, it would be this:

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sitting on a makeshift stool (tree stump) with a nearby island and cerulean waters as a backdrop -SIMPLY PRICELESS

I insisted on spending the last few hours swimming but nobody obliged to keep me company. Over their game of cards, while the ladies’ laughters overtook the island, I tapped away on my laptop which was another aberration for a nature-related activity. I tried to blog but couldn’t.

When it was time to pack, my arms felt heavy. I knew I would come back and hope to be with other friends or with my family. My dogs would love to play with all the canine residents and plans would have to be made for this second visit.

Tired as I was, reaching back the city, I had to refocus and know that in this head which gets pretty occupied with nonsensical trifles most of the time, I can recount and take that experience which allows me to be that traveler and tourist at the same time, ever excited for more adventures, never allowing myself to get stuck in a rut.

(Note: The place described in this entry is called Armada Resort in Magalawa Island located in Palauig, Zambales.)

The plight of Yoda, the aquatic

Imagine the short italicized intro being done by none other than Sir David Attenborough:

On the picture is Yoda, a 5-year old red-eared slider, a semiaquatic turtle specie belonging to the family Emydidae, which, has had a near fatality by one of her canine family members arousing an uproar among all the other species within their human’s small menagerie at home.

Drats. I hate it when my pets make me worry. Apparently, I am not just a dog lover. My fascination for animals extends even for cold-blooded critters and this story happened a few days ago. Seriously, I doubt about the part saying Yoda is coldblooded.

It was a few minutes before dusk and I was cleaning Yoda’s tank and I had the dogs untied, running and frolicking behind me for their short time of potty and play. I put Yoda on top of the outdoor sink where she would usually stay put until I finish and put her back on her aquatic haven. I had to give the tank a good scrub because of all the algae build up, having had a good thriving condition because of the weather being all too sunny.

Suddenly, the dogs started being jumpy and I saw Rocky being agitated by something in the grasses. He pounced and barked and snapped at whatever manner of a thing it was that tried to scurry away. I had hoped it was vermin. Large rats from the yard needed eradicating by all means of natural predation. Rocky went on pouncing and snapping vigorously for a few minutes before I went in for a closer look and when I realized what it was, my heart almost jumped out of my throat.

“HOOLEEEEEEEY MALONEEEEEY!”

Rocky was actually toying with my turtle! My knees started shaking and I immediately picked up Yoda carefully from the ground, cradling her in my palms and inspecting her limbs and shell and afraid there might be blood. She was clearly exhausted and tried to really cramp her fat limbs inside the shell so Rocky couldn’t get her. The worst thing I saw was that there was a small puncture on the right side of her shell, about the size of the head of a sewing pin. Nothing was oozing out from the hole but there was a red taint probably because it scratched the soft flesh beneath the first layer of the shell. Poor thing, it took maybe an hour before she started peeking out and sticking out her head from her shell, looking traumatized.

The next few minutes was spent researching over the internet for first aid procedure for punctured shell injury for turtles. I was able to filter down the common advise which was to make sure to disinfect the wound as turtles are known to have died not solely because of the puncture wound but because of infection. The first thing that always came up is disinfection by using Betadine solution (which supposedly shouldn’t hurt even for deep puncture wounds). The medicine box at home was out of it but I recalled having bought an antibacterial solution for reptiles weeks before so I used that instead. I had to keep Yoda dry and placed her in an empty basin.

Things turned out well and I tried to observe for any change of behavior or signs of weakness the next morning but Yoda seemed to have snapped out of it like a dream. She took only a few minutes to finish up all the reptomin tablets I dropped from her basin.

I inspected her wound earlier and I saw that it is starting to get plugged by this clear cartilage coming from inside so I guess she would be fine in the next coming days. I suspect she could be classified as my first ever “dog” because whenever I come near the tank to feed her, she would scoot over under my flailing fingers and “beg” for treats like a dog: head sticking out and trying to support her body by the hind legs. Sounds strange but I will post a video in the next few days showing this behavior.

The ancients did not know mediocrity.

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I got a Facebook invite from my friend Hannelore about this and I couldn’t pass up the chance since I’ve heard that the National Museum has undergone renovations and also since I didn’t know what to do on my weekend. I was so stressed the whole night while at work and I had to remove myself from the usual cramped, imposing environment. “No mall visits today”, I was told by her in all aplomb, it implied that we not spoil the day looking at all the commercial trappings we’ve all been accustomed to. We needed to bask in culture.

On my way to meet her, I tried to walk leisurely along Ayala Avenue before I took the underpass and I passed by the shops with wide window displays and I happened to glance at an interesting figure. I was compelled to take a shot with my cellphone.

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It was breathtaking to see the jade-green ceramic figure. It was better to see in person than in a picture. Looking at it, I felt calm and serene and it reminded me of the Devadasis  (temple dancers) of India. Being in a supplicant’s pose, the image likewise reminded me of The Golden Tara, a Hindu-Buddhist deity found in Agusan del Sur in the Philippines, which, unfortunately has been brought to the United States and is now in the Chicago Museum. it felt like an appetizer to the day’s events.

We walked a little through the Luneta Park until we reached the National Museum. It was a break from the city, from the towering skyscrapers, the smoke-spewing vehicles. I was grateful the weather was cloudy and free from the onslaught of frenzied weekenders. Yet.

The entrance to the building was not that grand but seeing the wide halls left me dumbstruck as I wasn’t accustomed to being in a historic site and I can only hear our own set of footsteps tapping on the marble pavements. We got an impression of how many visitors had gone up and down the staircase because the marble steps beside the railings were dented and uneven. I felt like a schoolkid on a fieldtrip sans the queue of classmates and livid teachers. I was afraid cameras would not be allowed but I was being ahead of things. So I snapped away lots of pictures.

I wish they could have done something about the airconditioning. All the visual feasts I had looking at the exhibits were interrupted by an occasional throbbing in my head due to the stuffy air. I asked Hannelore if she feels anything funny, to which she replied rather coldly: “No. You’re either imagining things or it’s the stench of old things getting to you.”

And so the strangeness was just brushed off but I was feeling better after we stepped out of the gallery that had the ancient burial jars (cue twilight zone music).  At times I forgot I was in a museum and spoke in an inappropriate volume. Apart from no security on most floors and no guide to tell us about the exhibits, any guest could get away with impulsive delinquency.

I realized one thing, ancient Filipinos did not ever settle for mediocrity. Every tribe or ethnic group gave their best shot in infusing everyday objects with the stories of their lives. A Maranao knife did not have a plain polished handle but had the most intricate of carvings, an Ifugao cloth was weaved with the patterns from the weaver’s dreams (hence the term dreamweaver), a Hanunuo dipper is embellished by sculpture depicting small men in locked arms. Seeing these wonders, I’m sure I will bounce back from all the stress when the new week starts.

I had another trip down memory lane when we went to the Manila Planetarium but the experience was sort of diminished in  comparison to my childhood recollections. It was sad to see the place falling apart. My reviews about it would have to be in another entry.

Seduction

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A flame flickers and revives,

dictates and dances even on closed eyelids

and consumes the very fabric of this stifled sanity.

It has kissed

the hollows of this chest and left it

bare and unashamed like the

moth who would rather embrace it.

Fuelled by wanting,

I have shaken the husk and thrown in

the thinnest of my raiments

as an offering,

to celebrate the naked space

where you ultimately burn,

an idol engraved and branded

across this heaving bosom,

where passion grows bereft of foresight

succumbing to your form

which is my quiet consolation.

Your flesh and your eyes,

define

that I am hungrier than fire.