On the virtue of nonparticipation

Three months back, before a friend of mine left for China, the two of us had a light talk like we always had been doing after we finished a day’s worth of work. We were walking on the cobblestones of Ateneo talking about the sorry state of the country and how the May-9 election would impact the lives of Filipinos, the poor most especially. Our sector [we’re both teaching in that university] doesn’t stand much to gain nor lose from the result of the election, I thought.

We both agreed that the vision of a Philippines under Duterte was bleak. That time, however, Grace Poe was still leading the surveys rather comfortably, and the odds of Duterte’s win weren’t that great. It was obvious there wasn’t much choice from among the five vying for the position. If I could vote, I would have voted for Mar Roxas. But I was a nonparticipant in this democratic process. And I defended so vehemently my choice of not participating. I found the whole process unnecessary and ineffectual. One vote fewer would not rock the boat.

Seeing and reading about Duterte on TV and on online news these days, I felt for the first time regret for not having cast my vote. Duterte is often seen and heard foaming with vice in the mouth. Although he hasn’t yet been sworn in, he’s already begun sowing a culture of anger.

He’s presently enjoying a high level of popularity because after many years of hypocrisy, seeing a president-elect cuss, drop putang ina instinctively, catcall a TV reporter without showing remorse is a novel experience for most of us. Most take it as a sign of sincerity and truthfulness to oneself, Duterte the polar opposite of politicians we’ve come to detest for their duplicity and avarice.

But one accepted fact of our time is that novelties tend to lose their newness rather quickly. It’s a wonder now how Duterte has continued to remain popular. Although the consuming public is beginning to show sign of fatigue seeing his face, his unrelenting braggadocio, and unapologetic tirade against anyone he feels like shaming only to declare the next day he was just kidding. Kidding my ass!

He’s a dangerous man on the cusp of sitting in the most powerful position in this land. My friend was right. There’s no virtue in nonparticipation.

 

 

My Cats

51G3WT6D1NLWhen I was 11 or I do not remember exactly, my family got a cat which we named Blinky after that fat cat in the Tagalized anime titled “Ang Batang Santa Claus” on GMA7. Our Blinky was a white cat with patches of brown, yellow, and gray hair. I knew then that I’m a cat person and had been smitten by cats since.

The cat came to our home one day from nowhere looking for food. She was a juvenile cat when we had her. Perhaps her mother abandoned her as she’s too big to be breastfed. Blinky was feral turned tame after my sibling and I offered her a home.

She stayed with us for three years or so and got pregnant several times until one day we found her in the kitchen lifeless. Cats don’t live long in my hometown. They live a life on the edge, but I think it’s a life worth living. If I were a cat I’d rather live a dangerous life in complete freedom than be a neutered city kitty waiting to be fed tuna every four hours.

Every cat that our family owned after Blinky was called after her, and we referred to their kittens as Blinky’s kittens. We never bothered inventing names for them. Eventually these cats left the house when our grandmother moved in. She did not like how our cats had gone too comfortable in the house. Soon after, her discomfort was replaced with detestation, and so she waged wars against all our cats. Some time after, the cats were all gone.

I never had a liking for dogs. I hate their smell, the stupid look in their face, and how they try hard all the time to get the approval of people around them. Dogs tend to be too dependent on their masters. They want to be constantly pet and cared. I begin to lose interest the moment something becomes too dependent on me.

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Cats are different. Lest you think this blog has become fully dedicated to cats, it has not. It’s just that I have gone very fascinated with my pet cat Mimi.

Cats are very clean animals. Yes, they look down upon people, but once you get their trust, they’ll remain loyal till their dying days, save for some days when they ignore you no matter how hard you try to make them play with you.

Mimi is a kitten of a street cat. She’s a well-behaved cat who makes sure her poop is covered right after she’s done doing her thing. She can be demanding sometimes especially when she’s hungry. Bathing her and clipping her claws are my biggest challenges to date. I bathe her once every three days and clip her nails once in two weeks. She has enough play time and I vow not to make her fat and contented. If one day she decides to live her catty cat life and explore the world, she will have my blessing.

For now, I am enjoying my role as her master, equal, or however you refer to our relationship.

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On Memoirs

I began reading this book three nights ago, but because of papers of my students that I needed to check and lectures I had to prepare, the pages have been mercilessly dogeared.

I have not acquired the more civilized approach of using a book marker.

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Manhattan, when I was young is a memoir written by Mary Cantwell. It’s a working girl’s recollection of New York City in the 1950s and early 60s. I have not much love for this city. Aside from my bitter memory of eating at a Burger King in Hoboken after losing my pair of Rayban Wayfarer in Times Square, New York reminds me of a once great city on its way to gradual decline.

But her life story, I’ve been much engrossed. The New York City of her time was full of promise.

I think that memoirs have to be like this: the writer has to be constantly self-deprecating and completely honest. I suppose honesty has direct proportionality to the degree one tramples on herself in every page until nothing is left but an agglutinated version of one’s bloody self. This honesty will require much from her, including shaming herself, betraying herself, if only to be completely sincere. Readers love characters who are witty but sad, perceptive but sad, accomplished but world weary and sad. 

The talk about memory and the many theories surrounding it, well, they can wait. 

 

 

 

Watching plays

Sadly Virgin Labfest is ending today. I watched two sets for two Saturdays; that’s a total of six plays. The plays were definitely worth the almost an hour of queueing for tickets and the long commute from Quezon City all the way to CCP in Manila.

Paying 270 pesos for an escapist Hollywood flick at an SM cinema and be seated next to a really bad audience or paying three hundred for each set and be carried to three different, highly-charged slices of life in a single night is a no brainer comparison. The plays are a runaway winner.

I hope we can have something like the Virgin Labfest all year round.

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This world is lonely

This world is filled with so much loneliness. And the sad thing about loneliness is that everything that can be said about it has already been said and any attempt of anyone to come up with a unique articulation of it suffers the inevitable failure we familiarly call a cliche. And all cliches are detested.

Such is the sorry story of my dinner tonight that reminded me of humid nights spent alone in a room I rent in a staff house back in college.

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Such is the lonely image of my dinner that has to be filtered several times to create a tone, a tone of desolation to keep it in tune with the theme of today’s post.

Ha ha.

Going home

Davao has never succeeded in charming me. I left the city without any feeling of attachment to it. I’m now on a Yellow Bus to General Santos. Anyone who spent his growing up years in this part of the country will always have fond memories of this bus company. For us, these yellow buses are so much a part of our lives that we generically call all buses Yellow Bus.

The trip will take roughly three to four hours, depending on whom one asks. From there I will take another bus to Polomolok and then a bumpy tricycle ride from poblacion to our barangay, which I have not seen for more than two years. If I get lucky later, the tricycle driver may be a schoolmate in high school, or, if our memories will not betray us, in elementary school, and I will have my fare for free. Or if not, we can catch up on what has happened to each other in the past ten years, oblivious of the coughing noise coming from the engine of his tricycle.

Going home has always given me this odd feeling. I feel more like a visitor, a guest at my parents’ house rather than a homecoming son. I itch to fly back to Manila after spending a week home. Two weeks down my supposed vacation, I’m imagining going insane. The slowness of life in Cannery will drive anyone to the edge. It has never happened to my parents and some of my high school classmates who decided to stay, though. But I am sure it will to me. The longest time I spent home since leaving for college ten years ago was two weeks. It’s unimaginable staying longer.

But I’m thinking of doing it differently this time. I will wake up tomorrow to a breakfast of rice and fish I imagine my mother will cook for us. Then I will walk to the pineapple plantation of Dole Phils. nearby to have a good view of the beautiful Mt Matutum. And I’ll leaf through those dated volumes of New Standard Encyclopedia our parents bought twenty years ago and will reread those entries that comprised my early memories of reading.

I want to enjoy the days with my parents this Christmas. I miss them. I will give home another look, and perhaps doing this will let me reconsider staying longer next time. Or maybe, it will help me remember how nostalgia feels.