While browsing an online travel magazine that left me torpid afterward because of the writer’s endless narration of his itinerary donned in a language too sweet and delicious I’m sure it will leave a diabetic’s sugar level shooting to the ceiling, I thought, unless he was high on drugs which made his senses super keen, he must be lying.

Travel writers are a special group of writers. They thrive in the extraordinary and the bizarre. Most of them have a special truckload of word ammunition that often leaves my mouth agape because of  its sophistication and elegance. I often see a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal as they often are–a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal, respectively. For travel writers, however, a mountain is a cascade of boulders and debris swept by the gentle blow of the easterlies, a room with a view is a room flooded in a carefully orchestrated foxtrot of sunlight and cool wind on a tranquil Saturday morning, a meal is a plateful of freshly harvested farm produce perfectly showered with a local concoction of cane vinegar and a hint of muscovado. To a travel writer, everything is a novelty, and so it has to be written in a hyperbolically romanticized way to an extent that a reader who is a local of the place he’s writing about will not recognize, take offense at, and find patronizing.

I seldom trust, if not completely distrust, travel writers. They do not understand the dreariness and the dryness of the everyday and the commonplace. They are passersby who cannot wait to leave the place and catch the next bus, train, or plane because the thought of what is out there, the other side of the mountain, the horizon, the antipode beckon with tempting invitation that the now is expressed in such succulent platitudes.  I gravitate toward the everyday because the everyday does not imagine itself other than what it is. The everyday defies any attempt at making it look rosier than what it truly is. It is only in the everyday that reflection is possible and truthful.

At work on a Sunday

It’s not because I am such an industrious worker. Most of the time I am not. My views with regard to work have changed countless of times. They’ve flowed and ebbed depending on the fulfillment and financial reward I derive from them. I could spring to as high as not expecting remuneration so long as the toil gives me some feeling of ebullience and satisfaction for having helped others, or I could neap to as low as counting every minute of it and not working beyond the final minute knowing that I am not anymore paid for it. Work has become so perfunctory (has it never been?) that I often dread going to work. There are rare occasions, however, that I regain my long-lost insouciance toward work. Sadly, I am not very consistent in keeping it that way.

Today, I left home at 7:15 for my make-up work from 8:00-12:00. That’s a failure to keep the Sabbath Day holy, the fourth commandment in the Decalogue. But the issue whether the real Sabbath is Sunday or Saturday is still being debated. Until the time Christians have settled the matter, I won’t feel contrite working on a Sunday (or Saturday).

It’s a downward journey, I hear most people say. Once one has given up his Sunday for work, he’ll have very few excuses not to give up his evenings, holidays, even those precious moments with people dear to him.

Two questions: negative capability

From a rumination while drinking beer on a hot afternoon:

It often comes rather late to an artist, writer, or to anyone who sees himself to be either or both, that the decision to be any (or both) is a disconcerting choice. In the end, consumers of an artistic production matter less because the production of a piece of art or writing anchors less on what the reader thinks than the artist’s. After all, the reader has long considered him dead, so might as well return the favor and do a piece of art or write as if the reader is as dead.

This graphic story by Linda Barry aptly captures this problem.







My reflection in the the mirror

Since moving to this new house, I have been using the kitchen as my study area instead of my room upstairs. My bedroom feels too big, drab, stuffy, dark, and I have better internet connection here; the router (or however you call it) is directly an arm’s length from where I am seated now.

Tonight, for the first time, I noticed my countenance (such fancy word!) reflected in the glass window in front of me. I’ve gained weight since I arrived here. I consume on average 3000 calories every day and I hardly visit the gym because of my tight schedule in school and my homework that pile up faster than I can get rid of them. If not for the regular push-ups and ab crunches I do every 15 minutes, then for sure all those definitions I worked hard to achieve will give way to the flabs that take minimal effort to gain.

I also have grown my hair long since I cannot afford to part with my 15 dollars to pay the barber. This is the longest time I have gone without a haircut. I look odd; my head feels heavy. My unusually curly, more correctly, kinky, hair is beginning to take charge and dictate on me the rules of its daily upkeep. I spend more than ten agonizing minutes each day styling it and making sure it stays in this position during most part of the day.

I have also been growing mustache in order to look, I don’t know, sleek. And seriously mature. It’s itchy but I feel relieved it has not led to a pimple break-out so far. I suppose spring here helps. The air is dry so my skin remains dry the whole day; there’s much less dust hence the pores of my face are not clogged. The result, a much clearer skin.

I also want to add that diet may also play a crucial role. Vegetable and fruits are a staple in every meal.

I sounded vain in the previous three paragraphs or so. But it’s the fault of the glass window before me. I would never have been conscious had the table been placed somewhere. Now, it’s the table.

Man is one of the few creatures on this planet conscious of his existence and how this existence render changed and never-the-same-again everything and everyone around him.

This awareness, by the way, also changes him.


Today was cold. We lunched on reheated food from dishes of two nights ago. Lunch reminded me of those lunches I had back in the Philippines when I never really had to enjoy food, as the sole object of the act of eating is satiation of hunger. I didn’t feel like laughing at what would have been funny jokes. This was a slow day.

On old posts

I do not disown them, but as you reread old posts written three years ago, let me give you a disclaimer: they were my thoughts years ago. Then. Some are kept as they are aspects of my core that years gone by simply cannot erase; most, however, were a product of immature thinking. And who I am now, fortunately, is not exactly the same man who wrote those three years ago. Often I cringe while reading a couple of them. I had been careless logically, philosophically, grammatically. And it does not mean I have ceased committing similar mistakes, although I have been more aware of them now. Whereas before I generalized because I wanted the world to be neat and all the parts placed in their definite compartments, now I still generalize but without the contempt. I have been more forgiving, more reflective, and I care less about the unimportant (those vexations to the spirit).

I’ll still write.

Visita iglesia

I asked a Mexican student here how the letter ‘s’ in words like ‘iglesia’ is enunciated. Is it like how my History teacher in college would as in /iglethia/ which I still find funny? Or the more phonetic /iglesya/? I breathed a sigh of relief when he said the latter. I could not bring myself to say /inthithuthion/ or /tholuthion/! But he warned me it’s Español de Mexico and not Español de España. This I shall not forget.

I will not be prejudiced against how the letter s is enunciated by the Spaniards. We all got options, and it’s all a matter of preference. I’m for the sibilant, or however you call it, /s/.

And so a couple of friends, B, and I went for a visita iglesia on Holy Thursday. It was my first. The idea is for one to visit as many Roman Catholic churches as he can and to pray the fourteen Stations of the Cross, ideally a station for each church. Doing so was a tall order so we settled only for eight churches. Still a feat considering the traffic, long ride, heat and humidity, and the crowd of Catholics who were to express their faith by doing their own visita iglesia. We went around Bulacan, a province north of Manila.

The altar of the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace in Barangay San Vicente, Sta Maria, Bulacan. It has this other-worldly feel because the image of the Virgin is outside the church which can be seen from the inside through a clear glass panel.

Bas reliefs of angels found in a church museum beside the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace. One would also find relics of saints and other icons in the museum, which despite the limited space was able to enthrall (this word sounds awkward here) me with the sculptures and paintings that were,  more than being religious, curious.

The belfry and facade of Inmaculada Concepcion parish church in Sta Maria, Bulacan. Outside, while waiting for the mass to finish, we ate fish balls and boiled corn. I may be mistaken, but one of our friends mentioned that beside it is a shrine for a saint whom people who are unable to walk pray. Those who were able to walk again offered their crutches to the saint.

Interior of Sta Rita de Cascia parish church in Guiguinto, Bulacan. This year’s Holy Thursday was unusually solemn because according to that same friend of ours in the previous years there were children hoisted a la Cirque du Soleil on the ceiling of the church portraying different scenes in the Christ’s Passion.

There was power black-out when we reached this church of Santissima Trinidad in Malolos, Bulacan. I found this the most modern-looking among the churches we visited. I failed to comprehend, however, the symbolism behind the glass stained eye-in-a-triangle (Eye of Providence) image.

Among the churches we visited, the Barasoain church or the parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the most historic. It was found on the 10-peso note that is now out of circulation.

The cat was nowhere to be found.

The National Shrine of St. Anne found in Hagonoy, Bulacan. There’s a waterfall inside!

The Santa Isabel church in Malolos, Bulacan is nothing short of spectacular. But after having gone through six churches, it seemed quotidian although it truly was not. This was where I prayed the 9th Station, stuttering.

And finally, the Immaculate Conception (Major Seminary). Our last stop. The seminarians prepared well the three churches in the area for the visiting faithfuls — the paths were lighted, there were priests ready to hear confessions, and seminarians guided people around.

The exercise showed us one of the many things Filipinos would do to express their faith, the beauty of Philippine churches, patience, valuing the company of friends, and for me, the importance of taking part in this communal Catholic exercise once in a while.

I look forward to the next visita iglesia or iglesya (but definitely not /iglethia/).