College reunion

Three years after we all graduated from college, seven of us met again after a week of not-so-very-careful planning at Kitchen in Greenbelt 3. Out of the nine who are currently working in the metro, seven showed up, not bad for reunion we held for the first time in a different place (we already held several mini reunions but they were all in Iloilo). Gretchen missed it because she had a client to meet in Caloocan, and Paulyn was doing some reviews for her exams in law school.  The meeting last night was rushed. Alice and Koko both had to leave early for their work in Taguig, and Fonz had somebody waiting for her outside Kitchen. In the end, it was Tjay, Ira, Nelly, and I who were left to end the night.

Next time, we’ll try staying longer, do some more catching up, and we hope to chug as much alcohol as our guts can take.

Photo credit goes to Alice Ledesma who volunteered her place to be the next venue of our reunion sometime in mid-October.

On why it did not hurt as much as I expected it

I stood there the whole time, aware that I was not anymore welcome, keeping my distance because I am now an outsider who has no stake whatsoever in the exercise. From where I stood, every act appeared obligatory—the clapping of hands, the cheers from the different departments of the university, the smiles from students who still recognize me, the speeches (funny how I also had my share of delivering a speech, in fact, one of the chummiest speeches ever heard in that auditorium), the pictures of my former professors who hold offices projected on both walls of the stage, the powers that-be of the university sitting like your traditional politicians on stage, the traditional boisterous welcome given to the freshmen by radical student activists (an act that has lost its significance and meaning a long time ago, but is continually done because not staging a protest in the most opportune time means acceptance of defeat, something radical student activists have yet to fully understand.), and the suffocating air in the enclosed hall.

I stood there trying to figure out reasons for staying but I found none. Finally, I’ve come to a realization that most choices do not have fall-back system, no safety nets, no return tickets. Until that time it has not stricken me that I am on my own.

The very fine art of critiquing

The critic will never find himself on the same level of the hierarchy of importance as the artist whose work is the subject of our critic’s dispassionate and thorough dissection.The existence of the critic is always dependent on the artist’s. Without the artist, a critic is a non-entity; this he knows oh too well. He accepts it as a given that he will always find himself a few notches below, on the lower wrung of the ladder relative to the artist.

He is someone whose opinions matter in only as far as they are relevant and timely. In the end, the work endures but the opinions of our humble critic dissipate until they crumble into fine dusts of oblivion. Probably this explains why he camouflages his rage with scandalous detachment and emphatic objectivity, a desperate act of giving a semblance of dignity to his unappreciated, cheap, and bastard art of critiquing.

Just recently, I became the object of scorn of my more senior colleagues because of a critique I posted in this blog and that which also appeared in a local paper. To cut it short, I gave unfavorable comments on their supposed creative works (Doesn’t this sound redundant? So instead of calling them ‘creative works’, which is rather verbose, ‘works’ will be used all throughout this essay.What these works are will not be specified here as I do not think information regarding their oeuvre is germane.)

And so there I was, as they might have imagined, looking meek and docile, unable to defend myself from their upbraiding of my humble person. I was not there to defend myself from their onslaught of invectives thrown at my name, and for this, thankfully, I spared myself from the hurt and aches those words would’ve inflicted on my vulnerable spirit, words that would have left me scarred permanently, for life.

Nevertheless, had I been given the chance to defend myself and the words I wrote in this blog and for that local publication, I would’ve been able to clear my name and make them understand that my review was devoid of malice, although I must admit it was a little bit sarcastic and left a bitter sting. But reviews are meant to have these characters.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about my experience in writing and which I’ve been teaching my students at the university, it’s being unabashedly unapologetic for whatever one writes so long as one did a thorough research, verified the information, or if writing a commentary, so long as it is judicious, fair, and well-written. With or without malice.

Malice is impossible to prove, and if proved, it automatically becomes defamatory, and a good critique is hardly, if ever, defamatory.

In fairness to the artist, the real one, I mean, he, most of the time, is impervious to critiques, favorable or damning. He does not mind what the critic says because he knows that his works are a masterpiece regardless of the contending opinion of the critic on them. For him, his works are not meant to be analyzed and dissected but felt and digested.

A critic does not figure in the universe of a real artist. Yes, he may read the critique of the critic but that’s just it, a pragmatic endeavor meant to pass time, like reading yesterday’s paper while defecating at seven in the morning.

But the sham artist, the artiste, the insecure newbie parading as a redeemer of the declining high art, is somebody the critic must handle with utmost care. His definition of art is anything so long as it is his art. Any critic’s opinion regarding art that runs counter his notion of what art is (which is, in this case, his art) is a declaration of war. And our poor critic who carefully drafted and phrased his review so as to maintain that air of objectivity and fairness is left in the mercy of the wrathful gaze and painful words spat by the up-and-coming artist, the noveau artist, our version of the equally pitiable noveau riche.

This noveau artist will definitely stoop to the level of the critic, or if need be, lower himself even further just to make a point and to put across the clear message that he is a true artist. Which of course will give a different message, that is, he is otherwise.

The critic, aside from exposing real art from sham, also exposes a true artist from a phony one. Critiquing is not an easy craft. Although not as prestigious as other high Art, it is as difficult to master. It takes one to have a very keen attention to detail, great finesse, a very stiff upper lip to fully master the very fine art of critiquing.

And the gall, if I may add.


I’m waiting for my 5:50 flight to Iloilo this time (how boring it is to begin an essay with this insipid line). Since I already booked my return flight on Monday, despite the hesitations, I know I have to be back here in Manila on Monday and will start living the newest chapter of my life as a college instructor at Ateneo de Manila University. This trip to Iloilo is for me to say hello and good-bye at the same time.

As an older brother to my two siblings, Sef and Gemini, I’ll have to make sure that, in my absence, they’ll be comfortable and safe, not that they were when I was still with them. But this is something I promised our mother. She has a lot of apprehensions regarding this drastic decision I am taking and I completely understand her. I had to reassure her over and over again that I’ve made worse decisions before and it’s not as if I have not prepared myself to fail, and I quipped, ‘Ma, I always play to win.’ Despite my cocky statement, I am scared. Nonetheless, I’ve had numerous experience of diving head-on with my eyes close, this isn’t the first and I have no intentions of making it the last. I’m scared, but who isn’t?

As a former member of the faculty of the University of the Philippines Visayas, I have to ask forgiveness for this ‘selfish’ decision. Nevertheless, however I look at it, this decision is the most rational decision somebody of my age can take had he/she been in my position. And I hope this is something the university that has nurtured me for the past eight years will understand. Yes, I have plans to go back one day, and I’m sure I will, that is, if UP Visayas is still willing to take me back.

And as a good friend to a handful of people, I need to say my good-byes and thank yous and to tell them that distance is relative and transcend-able. I have few people I consider my friends and I am sure they’ll all remain loyal to me no matter what. I have come and gone before but nothing seemed to have changed, except for some battle scars here and there. This one will not be any different. So I know a little catching up over a cup of brewed or instant coffee will be all right.

Not wanting to sound overly-dramatic this time, it occurred to me that this trip is also to say adieu to the most beautiful city in the world.

Leaving the University of the Philippines

It was a decision that did not take me long to finalize; one day, while on a bus, as I am wont to do, I made up my mind. I am leaving the University of the Philippines this semester and there is no turning back, barring legal actions from UP. Although this seems hardly possible.

I dreamed of going UP to study when I was a starry-eyed, young boy in the province. I studied hard in high school to study in UP, nailed the UPCAT and became one of the top 50 male entrants. I went to college, proved myself, and realized I had to prove myself over and over again, so I did, and I did it in as many times as the challenges manifested themselves. I graduated with honors, and with no second thoughts, vowed to dedicate my life to this university, ignoring offers from multinationals. I love teaching and cannot imagine myself doing a job other than teaching.

UP is a big institution and like big institutions, its tortuous bureaucracy dehumanized and made it impersonal along the way, including the people that run it. I had to fight my every way. I sent letters of complaint after letters of complaint, whose tones ranged from pleading to mocking, to the administration. But I felt not listened to.

I felt alone and lonely.

If only there was enough reason for me to hold on and stay.

I am young. Too young to deserve UP. Probably someday, I’ll go back and serve again this prestigious institution. But for now, I have to move on and see what’s in store for a still-starry-eyed young man like me.

Pictures of the author

And since blogging is a truly personal medium for individual expression, this narcissistic exercise of posting my pictures here is far from being impertinent, and I, being unabashedly honest, think this was done in good taste. This post is as personal as ‘personal’ can get.

It’s a perfectly normal enterprise, an essential endeavor that comes naturally based on public understanding of the capitalist idea of ownership that is reminiscent of pre-Cold War definition of  ownership (the blog domain, that is, as applied in the contemporary times).

Besides, readers are free to enter and leave this site at their own pleasure (and/or risk [!]).

These pictures were taken outside Miagao Church almost a month ago by the author of the blog whose link appears below the pictures.

I abhor my style of writing above. This means to say that I do not tolerate myself writing in such a way and that this will be the last time I am utilizing this tone.

On my job as an instructor at the University of the Philippines

A good night sleep is too difficult to come by these days. Its elusiveness is as legendary as that of the Holy Grail. Being one of the countless who search, most often in vain, for that sating sleep, I consider myself lucky if in those innumerable attempts,  I  got six to eight hours of peaceful sleep. I had to make sure my memories of them are vivid, so vivid that I can touch them to give me something to hold on to when I am working on or forcing myself to have a decent three-hour sleep.

For the longest time I have never experienced that exceptionally satisfying sleep as I had last night. This morning I woke up at nearly eight o’clock feeling relaxed, unhurried, and in a more exact term, but not want to sound like pitching for an energy-drink commercial, rejuvenated.

But this pleasing sensation of having risen up after a gratifying rest was short-lived. Becoming fully cognizant of the grave mistake I just committed, excessively enjoying that sleep I’ve been deprived of for several weeks already, I have to keep myself from sticking a rusty knife in my throat and repeatedly puncturing it until my body was completely emptied of that sinful, rejuvenated blood. I have entirely forgotten that I was supposed to give my students enrolled in my Introduction to Journalism class their third long exam at 7 o’clock in the morning!

I know of no normal human being who can wake up, much less answer a case study and pass a demanding essay exam at 7 o’clock in the morning. I wonder why my department set a class heavily inclined on the lecture side, or any class for that matter,  at this time of the day. But this aspect of my argument, justifying my absence due to oversleeping, is irrelevant and immaterial, me being a paid instructor with specific responsibilities, including waking up before a 7-am class; moreover, we’ve already reached the last weeks of the semester so complaining about the 7am schedule is too late at this point.

I imagined my students rejoicing, thanking whichever supernatural being they worship, probably even offering their souls, because their teacher failed to show up on the day of the exam. This has never happened to any of the classes I enrolled in when I was in college, though as a college student I would have given up everything for something as rare a happening as this morning’s incident.

But I have to move on and forgive myself. Because of this, I am rescheduling the 3rd long exam to March 17, 2010, Wednesday in Rm207 at 1:00 in the afternoon.


I was on my way to my 1 o’ clock class this afternoon when I was accosted by one of the senior professors at the Division of Biological Sciences.

Your first name is Ryan, right?

Yes ma’am, John Ryan.

Recabar? We did a survey on the Revitalized GE courses, and you were singled out by some senior students as one of the best teachers of the general education subjects.

(It took me a while to respond, and my response wasn’t that substantive) Ah yeah? Really?

Keep up the good work.

Of course I didn’t want to show her I was overjoyed. I said ‘Thank you’ and excused myself coolly, apologizing I had to hurry up because I was running late. I smiled at her for the last time, not saying anything as if being complimented for my teaching style is a daily occurrence I’ve already gotten tired and sick of, and left.