‘Manok’

Note: For a change, I’ll write this post in Filipino (with just a hint of English)

Naging guro ko siya sa Accounting noong nasa Pinas pa ako. Mahirap siyang makalimutan. Mahilig siyang gumamit ng ‘Yudi pungal’. Minsan naalala ko na may tinanong ito sa klase. Agad namang humirit si Morgan, ang elder statesman ng kurso. Medyo long playing si brod, panay ang ‘Kung baga…Kung baga’. 

‘Nakuha Ko ba, Sir?’ 

‘PWEDE man,’ sagot ni Manong, sabay tawa.

Ako? Isang linya’t natumpak ko ang kanyang tanong.

‘Bat di ka kumuha ng Accounting?’ Nagtaka ang katabi ko. Maliit lang yung klase namin, mga isang dosena lang.

Hilig-hilig lang yan, sa isip ko. Di lahat ng may kakayahan ay nangangarap maging enhinyero o CPA. 

Accounting po

Nabalitaan ko na nag-absent yung isa sa mga kaklase ko, na-miss niya yung finals. Narinig ko rin na nagkaproblema siya kay sir. Kinausap niya na bigyan siya nang konsiderasyon. 

‘Accounting ini, ne’; napangiti na lang ako sa kanyang kwento.. 

‘Pogi,’ sabi ni William. Ganun siya kung tumawag. Minsan nga mali-mali pa. 

‘Mr Pangarap’, tinawag niya si Dante.

Diretsyohin niyo na lang

 
Isang araw binayaan niya kami sa silid-aralan. ‘Dito Lang kayo, babalik Lang ako maya-maya.’

Pag-alis ni Sir William, nagsilabasan na ang mga tao’t tumambay dun sa unaunahan. 

Nagpahangin naman kami ni Dante sa labas mismo ng silid aralan. Nakaihi ako at nag-jingle. Pagbalik ko, ala na si Dante; nakisabay siya dun sa iba. Aaminin ko na nagkamali ako; dapat nagpaalam ako sa kanya. 

Galit na galit si Sir nung nasilayan niyang bakante ang kwarto. ‘Bakit di ninyo dineretsyo?’

Halata na ako, na dapat mas nakakaalam, ang na target ng kanyang pagkabigo. Pinalipat niya ako ng upuan, bago palipatin uli. Sinabihan niya kami na pumunta sa kwarto ng mga Accounting major, upang malaman kung ano ang pagkakaiba ng thesis at feasibility study. Di pa nabasa yung mga paa namin nang magpatama ang Accounting dean. ‘Itong talk ay para lamang sa mga Accounting students’, sabay tingin sa akin. Nagkataon lang Kasi na di Accounting ang kurso namin. Natira kami ni Dante at nakinig sa mga speaker. Nang mag-recess, nagdesisyon kaming lumabas ng kwarto. Dun ko nalaman na wala na yung mga kaklase ko. Marahil ay nag mass exodus sila nang magpatama si dean. 

‘Isa pang chicken joy’

Isang beses tinanong ni William: ‘Nagpapart-taym ka sa Jollibee, di ba?’

‘Opo, Sir,’ sagot ni Chabelita.

‘Magkano na ba ang isang chickenjoy meal?’

‘69 pesos po, Sir.’

Biglang natawa si Sir. ‘Bakit ganyan ang figure nyo?’

Salamat, Will

Pustiso ang ngipin ni Will. Minsan napasobra ang tawa niya’t nahulog ang dentures nito. Buti nga’t nasalo niya bago lumanding sa sahig. 

Isa si Will sa mga paborito kong guro. Okay siya magturo at mahilig magpatawa. Lumisan na ang mga araw na nakikita ko siya sa mga corridor. Babatiin ko ito, bago niya ako tatapikin sa balikat. Kahit maikling oras ko lang siya nakasabay, malugod akong nagpapasalamat sa mga ‘bato sa parang’ lol

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Ooh, Harry!

Dumbledore’s Army

About ten years have passed since the release of the last Harry Potter book. The Deathly Hallows, the seventh instalment in the series, hit bookshelves on 21 July, 2007. Pottermania truly took over then, with Harry Potter 5 (the movie) released at about the same time. I remember my classmate saying then that the fifth film wasn’t as good as the others. Indeed Harry 5 was the start of the film adaptations growing darker. 

Easy reads

The reasons behind the Potter success story are easy to see. In spite of the length of the books, they are some of the lightest reads you’ll ever encounter. No wonder that the books received many awards, including children’s book prizes. Harry’s wizarding world was an escape from the monotony of everyday life. Tackling Harry’s growing pains, friendships, classwork, and extra curricular activities, made every volume a page turner. You’d be surprised about who reads Harry Potter. There’s no shortage of Potter enthusiasts, from an older white mother, to primary school kids, from Muslim youths to various economists. 

The author par excellence

I could keep going on about how great I think the Potter books are: the thick, eye catching plots; the captivating dialogue; the relatable characters; and the writing wizardry of the author. There have been a few imitators, but nobody would even come close to the magnitude and sales of this franchise. Nobody but J.K. Rowling deserved all the glory. She offered her manuscript to many publishers, meeting rejection at every step. I won’t be surprised if some of them didn’t bother to reply. You’ll always hear about publishers wanting something different and original. This kind of fiction has never been floated before, so it’s their loss.

We have to tip our hat off to Ms Rowling. She had two young kids, was a single parent, and was looking for work. Writing anything must have been very tough. She wrote parts of the first books in cafes, without the comforting thought of having a publisher. Yet she finished the manuscript, got a publisher, and sold a few books. The rest, as they say, is history. Now that corner is a tourist attraction, together with other elements in the book, such as King’s Cross station. 

Being Harry Potter

The relatable characters in the Potter world is another thing making the book special. Everyone wants to be as humble and friendly as Harry; we want to be as good a seeker, as deft a flyer, as him. Perhaps we yearn to be as lucky as him, or as gracious to others. We wish to be as courageous as Harry, or as loyal to our friends. Or maybe we desire the opposite: to be more practical than him; to be less adventurous.

Or mustn’t we want to be Ron? We long to be the golden boy’s loyal sidekick, less his fear of spiders. Or how about Albus? Who knows, some may even want to be Neville, that brave, brave man terrified of Professor Snape, his Potions Master. Devouring the books give us this unique power.

Rowling by the river

In this age, it’s very hard to believe that someone would pull off a Harry Potter. You have to be extremely talented, imaginative, and one of a kind to stretch a magical story for seven thick books. Writing a trilogy alone is hard work, so I’d like you to try writing seven tomes. We have to admit that Rowling is a different specimen, and appreciate her brilliance. 

I remember being in the audience for this multiple choice trivia quiz in college. One of the questions was: What is the best selling book of all time? The three groups answered ‘the Bible’, while the fourth one selected ‘Harry Potter’. Another time, I showed my cousin my first ever published article. Looks like we have the next Harry Potter here, she half-joked. To be mentioned in the same sentence as the boy who lived; what an honour. To paraphrase Dobby the house elf, by now, we have heard of Harry’s greatness and of his goodness, we always knew.

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The North Korean Conundrum

We watch with bated breath for the next episode. Whatever happens, we’re doomed. On the blue corner, a hulking US President with plummeting approval ratings. His mere temperament is being lampooned each week on SNL (Saturday Night Live). On the red corner, a gung-ho challenger with the baggiest pants, and a wacky hairdo to boot. He has nothing to lose.

No different

I remember back when the dude’s father passed away. I asked an acquaintance if he thought junior would be more…tolerable, especially since he studied in Europe. ‘I think he’s just the same,’ he answered. Another time, I asked my colleague about what he thought of Kim’s nuclear threats. ‘It never happens,’ he said. ‘Never happens,’ he added as if to validate himself.

But as the blows are traded, there’s a sense that this fight is not all empty talk. Like Pacquaio-Mayweather, it might just happen. In any case, we are the only losers. Korea might be a bit farther than the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, but every American should stock up their bomb shelters. If it’s closer to your backyard, as those Americans residing in Guam, you cannot ignore the crescendoing around you.

The war-less generation

Our generation cannot imagine another world war. Our parents weren’t even around when the last one was fought. We are not accustomed to endless famine, nightly bomb blasts, and living with crippling fear. The Cold War between the Soviets and the US never materialised as a direct confrontation, but the thought of one alone was enough to keep them awake at night.

While it’s time to be spooked, it’s also the time to enjoy the last laughs. Cherish every SNL episode as if it’s your last. Buy as much popcorn while tuning in. Spend hundreds copying Kim’s getup, wacky haircut and all. Heck, even pledge your spare change to building that darn wall. Remember this: the laughter comes before the fall.

If you think it’s all fun and games, then think again. Remember the guy? All he did was to rip posters of junior. All he did wrong was being an American. They made him suffer, torturing him; it’s all in the news. After they were through with him, he expired; couldn’t even last a week back home.

Alarming the neighbours

There’s also those missile tests, which should alarm the neighbours. Testing rockets in the middle of the night? Hoy! It’s time to sleep, junior! Don’t even mention those tacky parades. You know, the marching battalions, as seamless as robots, and people art work. This has been a staple of North Korean pride, and an eyesore for everybody else. My, what have we gotten ourselves into?

What one does, the other does better. When Pres. Trump and his UN allies made sanctions against the North, Kim let it slip that they will counter with ‘physical action’. We are witnessing one knockdown blow after another. The flurry of punches are electric. Neither is backing down. The crowd is going nuts, and it’s just the first round.

This is entertainment, ladies and gentlemen. Watch and learn.

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Channeling Rizal

In my youth, nobody influenced me more than the Philippines’ peerless national hero, Jose Rizal. We studied him, I saw his life on film, I read his works. He only lived 35 years, but what a life it was. The controversy surrounding his debut effort has certainly inspired my own writings. At age 26, he published his first novel, still dissected and studied in schools around the archipelago. He was also a doctor, an ophthalmologist ahead of his time. He was a linguist whose penchant for learning languages was eclipsed only by his numerous romantic relationships. In addition, he was a reformist who advocated Philippine autonomy and representation in Spanish parliament. 

La novela

Noli Me Tangere, his first novel, was banned and burned by the Spanish. Rizal’s struggles in publishing the book are well documented. As a student in Spain, Rizal couldn’t get the funds needed to publish. In his frustration, he hurled parts of the manuscript into the open fire. If not for a friend’s generosity, Noli would have been a footnote in history. With limited supply and great demand for the book across the islands, prices for Noli shot up. This is a writer’s haven: controversy that breeds an irascible appetite and skyrocketing prices. I’m lucky myself to have been able to write, and start early. However, one cannot subsist as an anachronism; you should not rue that you don’t live in Rizal’s time. 


The greatest thorn

Rizal was a martyr, as evidenced by his premature death at the hands of the Spanish colonisers. But he was also a warrior, the greatest thorn to the rulers’ throat, bothersome enough to merit his early demise. He campaigned against the evil Spanish empire, which in another iteration would mean the dark side. Personally, I can relate to this; you have no idea. Rizal defied an empire and put it to its knees. What would Rizal make of my world, of our world, today?

Even though I never met him, I learned from his short life: about family, love for country, and defying authority. From him, I gleaned that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. I have embraced this as a battle cry for my fiction. Are my works stranger than truth? Is it real, made-up, or hyperreal? These are the questions that would stalk my readers, the difference between an intriguing work and an altogether bland piece. 

Legacy

In his homeland, Rizal’s legacy is everywhere, proof that the number of years you live matters little when you’ve accomplished so much. His name lives on: in streets, parks, an entire state, and schools. As mentioned above, his writings are required reading for students. In 1898, a mere two years after his premature death, we gained our independence from Spain. Apart from being a blessed writer, what often gets overlooked is that he was a prolific student. He studied in Ivy League schools in Manila, undertook medicine in Spain, and even ventured into Heidelberg. Given, he was from a wealthy family who owned tracts of land, but one could not help but be impressed by his resume. 

He also travelled the world, traversing both old and new worlds. Because of his heavy record keeping, his life is one of the most documented of the 19th century. He worked in Hong Kong, was exiled in Dapitan, and was bound for Cuba before he got killed by firing squad. He gave so much in so little time. So to end our sermon, make the most of what you’ve got; you may not be a hero, but you can learn from the best.

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Skiing Perisher

This gallery contains 23 photos.

We decided to go skiing on day 3 of our vacay. We got our gear from the ski shop the day prior, including our helmets, and his poles and skis. Before booking, we phoned a shuttle service that’ll take us … Continue reading

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Snow falling in Jindabyne

Jindabyne is a small town in the middle of nowhere. Yet in spite of an ungodly location, it remains a top winter hotspot. It boasts one thing that the rest of the state cannot: being the gateway to the snow. I’ve booked the Jindy accomodation about two months in advance. This has become my trend: securing seats and rooms early to avoid disappointment. Our last two trips had an average of about two months between booking and travel.

The arrival

One thing that stands out about Jindy is the painstaking journey to get there. The bus left Sydney around 7am, and we arrived there before 2pm. In that time, I could take a round trip to Auckland with time to spare. The coach made several stops along the way, including lunch in Canberra. I slept walked through check in at reception and soon we were in our room. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was workable. The other door opened to an open area with views of the lake. I sat there for a while, ignoring my throbbing head. After twenty minutes watching the birds and hearing the crashing waves, we went for lunch. The food is pretty much the same: standard Aussie pub food. We walked through town afterwards, but the whole place had a backward, sleepy feel. I guess people just went for pit stops on the way to the snow.

Mixed bag

The rooms were comfortable, with daily housekeeping and climate control. No shower gels and shampoo, no premium pay TV channels and no room service. There was complimentary daily breakfast though, and free in room wifi. There was a closet too to hang your stuff. The breakfast met my expectations. Though quite Aussie, there was tea, three choices of fruit juice, and a reasonable selection of go foods. Staff were friendly and welcoming, but they didn’t have the things I requested. In the end, Lake Jindabyne hotel is a worthy three stars. Some might argue otherwise, but it’s a mixed bag. It does a few things well while lacking in other respects. What wins me over though is the view of the lake. There is a trail around the lake, and we walked this during our first day. The greenery refreshened my mind, the wind rejuvenated me. After the cumbersome coach journey, wandering along the path was a real shot in the arm.

Snow fallin’

On our last day, we were in for a special treat. As we waited for hours for our return coach, it started becoming very cold; my hands were freezing. Suddenly, the snow fell. I’ve never ever seen real snow in my life; it was awesome. The kids were having a field day; surely this was the way to be stranded. My friend commented that he hadn’t seen snow like that in a very long time. He was 2 or 3 when it last happened. He was so young he only realised this through the pictures. I’ve read that it rarely snows in Jindy. If it had to happen once in a few years, I’m glad I was there. Being a natural chronicler, I captured the moment on my mobile phone. Others followed suit and started recording. How did you find my shots?

To be continued…

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High-calibre fiction 

It’s sad that people nowadays aren’t really into reading. Yes, they read Facebook posts, LinkedIn profiles, Google reviews, and Twitter updates, but seldom do they chip away at books. Even less read newspapers; everything is online these days, especially through mobile devices. Personally, I’ve outgrown the dailies. I rarely borrow magazines, but when I get the chance, I do devour my share of books. That’s why I am adept at judging the rightful contenders from the flashy pretenders.

Quality reads

I’ve outlined my book list here previously. I tend to go for Grisham, Matt Reilly, and Mitch Albom. They produce quality reads, with reasonable description and captivating dialogue. Grisham alone has offered at least thirty books since his debut in 1989. That alone shows that he’s doing some things right. He has become a household name since his second book, The Firm, was released in 1991. Through time, he has always managed to find a way in his meal ticket, legal fiction. Being a former lawyer also helps. His books are easy reads. Although they have legal and American jargon, it’s better than wading through mountains of rubbish descriptions. 

Steig Larsson 

That’s exactly what I faced when I tried out Steig Larsson’s Girl with the dragon tattoo. My chiropractor recommended this, having heard that I was reading Michael Patterson’s latest. When I confirmed that was the kind of books I go for, he said I should read dragon tat, and 1984. Having done some research on both, I was convinced that 1984 was a stream of consciousness drone that played for far too long. I may have reviewed the film adaptation here, but the novel is a whole different version. So I tried dragon tat. At first, all those mountains of description was annoying me. Then I became irked, too irked at too much Sweden and how the characters looked or felt. By the time I reached 80 pages, I gave up. I had to. Lesson number one for any writer out there: do not play with fire. This means stick to what people would know. If you’re a Swedish writer, it’s understandable that you’d write about Stockholm. But please; don’t overdo it. I’m sure your readers could care less about settings and roads and islands and companies. That’s all background noise. Once is enough. If you haven’t been to China, then focus on your plot. Don’t attempt to thicken everything by yapping on and on about a foreign country.

Are you joking?

At times I thought about whether he wasn’t serious about the whole spy thing. I really couldn’t believe how this could be a classic. I guess exotic locales and characters charm some people. Meanwhile, I’ve written about places I’ve never been to. Someone even asked me: have you been there? I just didn’t let on much, but inside I realised how shortsighted he was. The bottom line is this: you can dream and write about anywhere. Anywhere. That’s what fiction’s about: to dream, to teleport. But do realise this: with that fantasy world comes a condition: the place does not have to define your story. Remember that: if everything were all setting-driven, then how bored would the crowd be? Know your audience. When it’s all said and done, write a novel, not a travel guide. Now I know dragon tat made its mark, but as they say, ‘No two persons ever read the same book.’

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