A transcript of a random conversation in Roxas Boulevard

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Napanood ko na ‘to ah.

Oh yeah? Are you making fun of our situation?

No, not at all. But can we at least try to be more imaginative?

What do you mean?

(Laughs.) Like this, having a walk here at Roxas Boulevard. Natatawa ako. Parang sa pelikula lang.

‘Tang ina, ano ba gusto mo?

Let’s buy something to eat.

Bili tayo ng bibingka at puto bumbong malapit sa Arisocrat.

Okay ba don?

Di subukan natin.

Shocks. This is unbelievable, why are they too expensive?

Masarap naman ah. Bili ka ng tubig.

* * * *

Do we have to stay here until sunrise? Baka mamaya somebody will just appear and stab us. Scary.

Gusto mo subuan kita?

No way.

Ang arte mo.

Because we’re in this place. You expect me to do funny things here?

Nasisilaw ka ba? Gusto mo palit tayo ng position?

Yeah. Sige.

Ang liwanag nga pala talaga dito. Lipat tayo.

Palagi ka ba rito?

The last time I was here was already a long time ago. Di ko na maalala.

But I noticed, ang dami mong alam na places here.

Oo naman.

The images I have of Roxas Boulevard were taken from old Tagalog movies I watched. Kaya nga it feels odd being here. It feels like being in a movie set.

(Laughs.)

Oh, are you laughing at me?

May iba pa ba. Kumikislap ang mga mata mo.

Come on, cinnamon.

Oo, paborito ko ang cinnamon.

But seriously. Lakad lakad kaya tayo. Let’s take advantage of this moment, although I feel that I wouldn’t anymore be able to stand this feeling. Parang sa pelikula ni Sharon.

Loko ka talaga. Gusto mo lakarin natin papuntang breakwater near Sofitel.

Game.

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While waiting for my turn to be interviewed

While waiting for my interview, I decided to write this post in my blog to document what I feel this time, this raw emotion. This is my second job interview so far since arriving exactly a week ago. Finding job is not at all easy this time when the economy of the world is not doing well, and especially for somebody like me who has literally no experience in the corporate world to speak of.

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At one point I asked myself why I am giving up, for now, a very exciting job in the academe in favor of the equally challenging, but I’m-an-alien-of, corporate world. I smiled when the closest reason I can give right at this moment is the nice feeling brought about by me wearing a nice shirt, a smart pair of pants, a conservative necktie, and a pair shiny black leather shoes. Staring at my reflection in the mirror in the restroom, I can’t help but marvel at the corporate version of myself, a sharp contrast with the John who used to teach Literature and Journalism in the university, who wore jeans, canvas shoes, and a white shirt in his lectures.

I’ll consider this job as a major point in my life, my first ever entrance to the supposed dog-eats-dog corporate world in Manila.

I feel like a child again. Everything seems new to me. I try to breathe in the air of this bustling metropolis everyday I ride public transport to work. In spite of pollution, Manila is a breath of fresh air (this is not at all sarcastic). I’m always exhausted whenever I reach my place in Espana but there’s this feeling of vigor in me that my laid-back life in the province cannot provide. I feel like being infected by the endless energy of this city.

I feel like a child again, wearing his first school uniform on his way to his first day of class in kindergarten, minus of course the mother holding his shaky hand. After all, I was not accompanied by my mother on that day, just like this time.

The interview went well.

The human resource head of that multinational company I applied to told me to come back for the final leg of the interview with the top managers of the company two days from now. I’m pretty confident things will be okay.

Yes, things will be okay.

Thoughts on writing written amid poor lighting, semi-starvation, and noise coming from a departing train for Bicol

I have this chilling suspicion that I am plagiarizing my self every once in a while. This is a bit scary because I am committing the lowest and basest form of infringement of a right I am entitled of in the first place.

Having read Bob Ong’s Stainless Longganisa, which I accidentally picked up from a house mate’s collection of books, I laughed after reading the first few pages and started to feel bored after the succeeding chapters following the third, and altogether stopped reading the following chapters midway. I’ve read rave reviews from people who have read his books, with the most favorable reception coming from those people who are of my age. But this book failed to better ABNKKBSNPLAko?!!. Something a writer always falls victim of: unreasonable comparison with previous works, and unconscious ‘auto-plagiarism’ in terms of theme, content and to a certain point – although this is debatable – style. But as Bob Ong argued, originality is non-existent, if not bullshit. I could never agree more.

On the other hand, not having internet connection for several days made me understand one very important aspect about writing: a writer needs readers.

Writing is not all about catharsis and the purging of thoughts that accumulate inside the writer, thoughts that occasionally drive him insane. Writing, more than anything else, is also knowing that on the other end of the cliff, somebody is waiting to read the thought processes that resulted from a bloody war that consumed the writer. Although the analogy is exaggerated to achieve a certain result, it’s true for some of us-there are authors that can cause me insatiable longing after shelving their books half finished.

So I had to purchase this device that will allow me to have web connection anytime I have something in my mind and post them here as soon as I finished writing and editing them. Technology is a child of paradox. It breeds to feed itself, cannibalism at its subtlest form.

My thoughts these days are scattered and random. Probably these are results of semi-starvation, noise coming from a train going to Bicol (the railway just several meters from where I stay), and poor lighting. Give me time to gather them and write more coherently next time.

Images

The images we have of something are, to a certain point, permanent and unchanging unless we encounter other images that debunk and deny the very existence of the initial images created in our minds.

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It’s been almost three days since I arrived in the Philippines. The clichéd expression ‘It’s nice to be back’ did not prove true, for the images I have of Manila as a boy from the province were only confirmed if not strengthened. Most of these images are generally negative: the unforgiving traffic jams, expressionless people who endlessly go to a place no one really knows where, polluted environment, and the city’s alienating character.

I was able to find a place near Espana, two jeepney rides away from my prospective workplace in Ortigas, Pasig. I had an interview this week, a day after I arrived, two scheduled interviews next week, and probably some more in the coming weeks. I am giving myself a month to iron out everything before finally deciding where to work. I know it’s time to think about my long-term plan this time. I simply cannot afford anymore to jump from one job to another for the stakes if I fail would be too much to bear.

Manila does not alleviate any of my worries and fears at all. It is a merciless city where charity and pity are the last things one could expect from other people.

The same images that have been shown over and again are never debunked nor denied; they are only emphasized and highlighted by the grimes, sweat, and dusts my body and clothing collect whenever I travel by bus or jeepney or walk along the busy streets of Cubao.

It’s been three days, but I felt that I’ve been staying here for years.

I think that I’ll have a hard time loving the city.

The last post written in Vietnam

This is my last post while I’m in Vietnam. I’m now at Tan Son Nhat International Terminal (Saigon International Airport) waiting for my 1am flight to Manila. For some reasons I am not feeling anything special now after having to deal with a very ordinary predicament of an excess baggage. I was overweight by 9 kilos which means paying 90 USD;  that would be too much for a poor man like me. So I had to maneuver my luggage enabling it to be just within 15 kilos allowable baggage weight. After the ordeal, all romantic feeling that I had before leaving Vietnam vanished and was replaced with sweat, fatigue, and an extra weight I have to carry with me as hand luggage. And I forgot to mention the 3USD coffee that almost caused my eyeballs to fall off my eye socket.

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But seriously, Vietnam shall remain a very special place to me, especially Hanoi, for it allowed me to value things I used to ignore: national pride, history, friends, myself. The nine months gave me enough time for self reflection which I would otherwise not experience had I refused to accept this opportunity. I became more aware of my vulnerability, but then again all is not lost because I met people who shall remain my friends until in my thirties, forties and beyond.

Career-wise, a lot of people questioned the cleverness of this decision, even myself sometimes. But looking back, I know it’s one of the wisest things I’ve done.

Vietnam also resulted to the creation of this blog. Writing the posts in this blog forced me to write almost daily, something I never considered as a chore but a responsibility to few readers who keep on coming back and making me feel that indeed there are souls interested to read some thoughts of a twenty-something.

The life I’ll have awaiting for me may be scary at first glance, but it means a new territory to conquer, and more importantly, new experiences to write about.

Manila, I’m coming.

An ‘itch’ to murder

The urge to murder has never been this strong. I was walking my way at around 12 noon to have my first meal of the day when I felt this sudden craving to see blood gushing off a butchered head of the first person I feel the fancy of killing.

I woke up late after downing seven bottles of beer last night without any sign of hangover. I may not be a heavy drinker but my tolerance for alcohol is pretty high. My room is in a mess and waking up with empty beer cans surrounding me (from the previous day) added more to the helluva of mess. I didn’t seem to know where to start so I just took a quick bath, wear something decent and went out to find food.

If my life continues like this then it won’t be long before I actualize this seething itch in me (calling it an ‘itch’ seems to lighten the effect). The view outside my hotel in Bui Vien in the District One of Ho Chi Minh City starts to get consuming. I see the same faces of tanned tourists who feel entitled to this grand vacation, tourists who inquire about a trip to the Mekong Delta, Siem Reap in Cambodia, or the Cu Chi Tunnels, tourists who drink their heart out in a pub that opens 24 hours a day right next to where I stay.

For a Southeast Asian like me, it’s difficult to distinguish one Caucasian tourist from the other. They all seem to look like a mass of monotonous white to pinkish flesh attempting to look as Asian as possible by wearing stupid-looking colorful garb, and some wearing non, a traditional Vietnamese head cover, with a horrendous result.

Dehumanizing a group of people is a good ingredient for genocide. No. I have no hatred towards Caucasians.

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Nonetheless, I am itching to slaughter somebody this time only to spite myself. And the white mass of people surrounding tempts me to commence an onslaught of carnage.

Of course I am kidding. God, why am I entertaining these thoughts?

Being a bore

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I am contemplating to go out and party outside, but as always the case, I’m left in my room writing. My journey in Vietnam is about to end; I’m only counting the remaining hours. I’m supposed to have fun, but as always the case, fun doesn’t escape relativity. Until this time I still do not have a working definition for fun, so I am starting to think of my self as really boring, insipid.

I’ve been so used to being alone that having fun with another person is not what fun is as I see it. I love traveling alone, having dinner alone, doing things (except sex) alone.

I hope to change things when I’m already in Manila. I just turned 23 but I feel like a man of 60. Probably, growing up in the province has something to do with this attitude towards fun as my generation defines it. I’m not altogether against anything bacchanalian or hedonistic but I am more inclined to be quite conservative when it comes to Friday and Saturday night parties. And now, while I’m counting the remaining hours of my stay here in Vietnam, I chose to get stuck inside my room in a seedy hotel, reading Gustave Flaubert.

Pathetic.