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Repair of an old book

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This Saturday morning, after a long week at work, I woke up at five after going to bed at 6 the previous night thinking that I’d wake up two hours later so I could do some lifting at a nearby gym, only to be woken up by my alarm clock set at 5 this morning. After making coffee, I answered some emails, watched a Youtube debate on power between the then young Chomsky and the virtually ageless Foucault.

Then I saw sitting sadly on the corner of my table a mangled copy of Crime and Punishment. I took pity and held it like a mother holding his son’s wounded body in war. The previous sentence is an exaggeration.

Then an urge to repair took hold of me. Obsessively.

I bought this copy six years ago from a bookstore near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. The bookstore was on the second floor of a building whose ground floor was used by an old man selling birds. Along with titles in Vietnamese as well as books translated in the Vietnamese are Wordsworth Classics. I bought this book by Dostoevsky and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for 50,000.

Since then, the guilt-ridden Raskolnikov became one of my favorite literary characters.

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I stroked my copy like how I would stroke that cat our family had had when I was only 12, with care. I glued the spine together and scotch-taped the pages that needed scotch taping.

I do not have any emotional attachment to my books. I keep those I already read because I have hope that someday my younger brother or sister would pick them up, read them, and discover a universe that I inhabited while reading them.

Or, I keep them because someday, when I become tired of all the prerequisites of living, I shall escape from all these with my books that need repairing, a pair of scissors, a roll of scotch tape, and the ever reliable Elmer’s glue.

Kingsmen: a review

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Kingsmen: The Secret Service is one of those films whose sole reason for being is to entertain. Of course a cultural critic seated in the corner will argue that much of the movie will go to waste if it’s left uninvestigated and its cultural significance unread. But sitting there on a Saturday night among the tired middle class only wanting to escape and forget for a couple of hours the dreariness of the weekday, a 9-5 worker cannot be asked more than to laugh, be amazed, and marvel at the actions materializing on screen.

It is a fun movie to watch. It asks nothing from the members of the audience but to make themselves comfortable in their smelly cinema seats while they hold a cup of extra-large Coke with their left hand and their other hands drowned mercilessly in a bucket of buttered popcorn and then to sit agape at the fast-paced plot and the almost likable characters outwitting and outmaneuvering each other.

This post, however, is not a review of the movie. Neither is this a cultural reading of the entire exercise of cinema-viewing-on-a-weekend-by-the-tired-middle-to-lower-middle-class.

This is a non-post masquerading as a legit post about a movie that is fun but empty. In a sense.

This is an empty post written to fill a space that would have been better left empty but is filled anyway because of the writer’s hubris and disdain for empty space and silence.

Because in the age when everyone is expected to talk, endlessly at times, not say anything is being treacherous to one’s kind.

“Restructured”

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I hate departmental meetings because in them language is taken to its lowest low. Everyone talks endlessly, a lot, and no one tries to understand because statements are cloaked in vagueness. And then the most important points, the points that matter most, are left until the end, when everyone is ready to leave, to make the blow painful, to make is climactic. Of course.

Friday night

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It was a Friday night like this that I have been longing to bring back. This Friday night is reminiscent of those many happy nights just before weekends back in college, back when I was young, gullible, and less cynical, back when I knew things would only get better, when I was often in love, when I was poor, hungry.

I’d sit at my table, get a book from a nearby shelf and read until two in the morning or until I felt sleepy. I’d go down to the kitchen, pour hot water from that rusty thermos of my landlady into a chipped mug and dissolve those cheap three-in-ones I have gone to detest. I don’t miss the coffee, the mug, my room, nor that thermos. But the experience, I do miss. It aches remembering how simple things were back then. How now they’re nothing but objects waiting to gain symbolic significance.

And while I am enjoying this Friday night, it pains me as much because it’s a reminder of that past that’s been dissolved into mere abstraction dependent on my writing, knowing for sure that I will never be able to fully capture and give justice using my prose those beautiful nights that are now rendered almost fictional on the page of this post, but still truly concrete and vivid in my imagination.

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Fifth

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It was a rhythmically pleasant gnashing song coming from that moment of impact of the tip of the needle licking my skin, kissing it, biting it, then violently withdrawing, until droplets of reds oozed out only to be wiped away with a ballad of balled sterilized cotton. This happening thousands of times, as many number of times as the stated rate per minute on the label of a tattoo machine attached to a mini-transformer. This small device from where that beautiful pain emanated was held confidently by my brother.

He did two out of the four. Make it three out of five now.

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There’s no story here. He called the pattern ‘Samoan,’ but I did not feel like checking Google to verify his claim. He said it without trying to fake the depth of his voice. He never saw doubt in my face. I said let’s go with it. I will not wail if one day I find out this is in fact Rapa Nui or Inca.

Or just anything.

Death in the Family

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My Lola died in the afternoon two Sundays ago. Mama said my grandmother drew her final breath at three; all her daughters but one were with her.

I learned about the sad news from my sister who sent me a text message, “Yan, wala na si Lola.” I thought there was no better way to report the passing of someone dear to us but using that tired sentence I’ve heard so many times used by people reporting about deaths of loved ones or by characters in Tagalog B movies.

Whereas some people rattle on the impact of social media on death and how young people of this generation express it in ways unimaginable years ago and novel when viewed on the surface (these expressions in fact only mere variants of expressions that find new signification in the hands of people who know how to manipulate pieces of technology that were perhaps not even anticipated by their inventors), nothing much has changed in how we approach the passing of people close to us.

The following morning after work, I did my laundry at a nearby laundry shop and took some that needed more delicate attention to the old lady in front of the building where I live, so she could hand wash them. While death requires us to come together and share the feeling of grief, the commonplace and the everyday always see to it that their presence is continually felt.

So grief has to be set aside after a tear or two, and then one has to go back to things that are more important.

Now, after an hour and 45 minutes of flight from Manila to Davao and another four hours by bus to Gensan, I will be finally sharing this grief with my family, with my mother especially because later at 1 in the afternoon she is finally saying good bye to her mother.

And on Sunday afternoon, I will say good bye to Mama once again because my own version of the domestic and the commonplace persistently prods me to.

Umberto

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For a while I have not read Eco. I started reading some of his works years ago, The Island of the Day Before and Foucault’s Pendulum, but did not find energy sufficient to keep me plodding on as Eco’s prose can be a little painful at times, too challenging for someone whose patience is as short as the breathing of an asthmatic.

Umberto’s back on my list.

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