A dead man

A friend sent me a message last night after I’d gone to bed about this man he saw collapsing in the middle of a street sometime before midnight. The man was declared dead upon reaching the hospital. Doctor’s findings: cardiac arrest.

Waking up with this message, I knew it would define the rest of my day, determining the lens I will use in looking at things–from a program proposal to an evaluation I am working on. The thought of a man suddenly dying on a rainy night in the middle of the street is bewildering. A column written by a young girl in today’s Inquirer talks about depression and suicide. Being reminded all the time of death and its inevitability is something that a cup of coffee in the morning (whose original aroma has all but deserted it) will never easily erase in one’s thoughts. It’ll linger the whole day constantly telling me that all these are for nothing. That in the end, the choices we make while alive will all converge to that singular last breath that is in fact a commencement of that slow but steady process of forgetting and being forgotten.

My friend told me about how that man’s wife and children “were devastated.” I cannot say for sure how this cliché can aptly describe the feelings of the family. For sure they are. But how accurately does the word ‘devastated’ capture the essence of this emotion, of this eternal feeling of loss, eternity being our very myopic and self-centered idea of forever that only lasts as long as one’s consciousness exists? Even language is at a loss in concretizing death, for only living through death can one truly feel it but still completely unable to express it in the purest sense with words.

And so thoughts on the death of that unknown man pulled me back to thinking today and to its concomitant act of writing. It doesn’t matter how futile the attempt is.


I was waiting for my jeans to finish drying at a laundry shop across from where I stay when a graduate school classmate sent me a message about Cielito Habito quoting me in his Inquirer column. I thought he was kidding until I saw this in the newsstand of 7-eleven:


And the specter of all those ghosts in the past never stops haunting me.

A conversation with a reader of my blog

I smiled when I saw my favorite table unoccupied. I placed a copy of Inquirer, a book by David Sedaris, a mangled paperback Crime and Punishment I started to reread two days ago, and a hardbound, original edition of Portnoy’s Complaint on that table and ordered a tumbler of cappuccino. I was 10 minutes early.

I sat there oblivious of the Saturday crowd at Starbucks in Shangri-la, unmindful of the noise and the cheerless chatter of people about their busy work week, concerns, and relationships.

Eavesdropping has lost its appeal on me a long time ago. Whatever transpires in conversations gleaned from overhearing them is dubitable, questionable, if not outright lies. So I shut my ears and went on reading features on the paper of the previous day instead.


Except for some occasional standard spiel, more like a refined scream, belted by a female barista at Starbucks for calling customers’ names, the noise inside the coffee shop was tediously repetitious whose monotonic quality was only shattered by loud laughter made by some people who got lost in the hilarity of their talks or the comedy of seeing other people forcing themselves inside a packed cafe on a supposedly fine Saturday evening drinking a dumb-looking transparent tumbler of iced robusta topped with an equally stupid-looking strawberry syrup.

I forgot how it happened but he came in rushing, placed the two books which I recognized as mine on the table and excused himself. He approached the counter to order something then returned with an unblushingly decadent cinnamon roll. I don’t know how he recognized me, probably because he saw his books stacked on top of the wooden round table.

A month ago, we exchanged books without having to see each other. I was doing a part-time job then so I left them with the condominium guard at the lobby. He also left his two books with the guard which I found inside a paper bag of a popular local clothing brand. Mine were carelessly presented with a note written on a tissue paper inserted between the pages apologizing for something I already forgot what. The contrast of our books was glaring. His were well taken care and looked almost brand new. Mine looked like they’ve been through a lot.

I do not usually lend my books because I am obsessed with annotations; whatever comes in my mind while reading (the more wicked, insensible, profane, self-deprecating or selfish they are, the better) I write them on the margins.  My books are my diaries. But it was already too late. I already made a promise to this reader the titles. After all, the probability of our paths crossing again in the future is miniscule, I reasoned. Furthermore, whatever he gathered from my random thoughts would be knotty at best and nonsensical at worst.  So I went on and lent them.

It was a fatal mistake.

We started awkward and talked about things he already knew about me. I asked him questions often asked in the first day of class. I was speaking in a clumsy Tagalog when he reminded me that we are both Ilonggos. He asked a lot of questions, as if he was trying to establish something. But generally our topic circled on writing and the books we read. For an accountant, I was surprised to know he reads canonical texts usually read in a Literature class. I didn’t get his reason for this but I sensed his disdain for whatever popish. I was amused at how he corrected himself and verbalized his contempt on his overuse of the adverbs ‘actually’ and ‘basically’ whenever he begins his sentence, as if the ghost of his college grammar teacher was seated beside him that time, hounding him.

Aren’t you scared?

Of what?

Of exposing so much of yourself in your writings?

Sometimes. There is nothing I have to hide. I am writing for myself.

I looked at my books that stayed with him for a month. I was horrified and almost fell from my seat. They were wrapped in transparent plastic cover. It was the last thing I would do to my books. The last time I remember covering my books was when I was in my elementary; that made sense because we were using government issued books for public schools which means that we have to return them by the end of the year as they will be used by incoming students the following year.

But my books since I entered college until this time are never covered. They all maintain a rugged look caused by being subject to relentless wear and tear aggravated by my sweaty palms, not to mention them being used beyond their intended function: as pillows, sun and rain covers, pot holders, notepads, fans, and my favorite — to shoo dumb people away by feigning I am deeply caught with what I am reading.

I sincerely appreciated his extra effort to cover them. It was thoughtful of him. I sounded robotic when I thanked him every time my eyes landed on the neatly covered books.

And once again, the lingering contrast. His books I kept for a month direly needed attention for they exhibited signs of misuse, warped pages, and a small tear in the blurb of Portnoy’s Complaint. I cannot impose my values on other people and their possessions. I apologized for their near-sorry state but if there was anything I could assure him, I valued his books and enjoyed reading each page. We buy books to read and to let them become a part of us, figuratively and literally.

He is a perceptive man who silently makes commentaries on the events occurring before him. And it was a fatal mistake to lend him my books with all the annotations because it meant exposing myself to a stranger I’ve never met before and whose only image I have of him is through the books he reads.

Again I reasoned, I have nothing to hide. Here’s a reader who knows me more than the people I physically encounter everyday. Nothing is wrong with writing about the life I live if it means being understood and along the way understanding myself by looking at myself being reflected in somebody else’s eyes.

He reads my posts regularly. This for me, is more than enough a reason to continue writing.

In cold blood

In Cold Blood

You’re inside a box they call a condominium unit with a monthly amortization you dearly, regularly and religiously pay. You feel safe because unlike other people you call ‘unfortunate’ or ‘disadvantaged’ who have bridges as their dwelling’s sole roof, you stay in an air-conditioned building manned 24 hours by uniformed men paid by the developer to safeguard your safety.

And so you free yourself from this worry concerning security because the amount you paid for, you thought, covers the peace of mind that comes with staying in a high-rise apartment.  Inside your unit which you thought is the safest place on earth second only to your mother’s womb.

You reason that you are given salary to think about keeping the national economy afloat, so worrying about your safety should be a another party’s job. Too mundane a concern to bother you.  You may forget every once in a while to lock your door or secure the windows. You let other people enter your unit because after all CCTVs are all over the place. In case something awful happens, you have suspects to interrogate.

But what you failed to zero in on your equation is the fact that your secured aquarium of an apartment is located in a Third World country where inequality is as common as the shade of green in tropical rainforest. Your safety is not guaranteed. And so one cold, rainy night, while sipping a cup of steaming brewed coffee in your warm and dry room,  when you least expect it, the lot starts to change and you see yourself reflected on a mirror being stabbed repeatedly by a stranger who came from nowhere. You see yourself being dragged to the toilet and there see your own blood gushing from your own cracked cranium that was obsessively banged on the sharp edge of your lavatory. Slowly, you see your self dying. A painful death.

Man killed in QC condo in possible robbery

By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:26:00 08/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines—The body of a man who had been stabbed to death was found inside the toilet of his condominium unit in Katipunan, Quezon City, before dawn Sunday, the police said.

Chief Inspector Benjamin Elenzano, head of the Quezon City Police District homicide investigation unit, identified the victim as Winston Lou Ynlon, 28.

Elenzano said investigators who went to Ynlon’s unit at the Sunrise Condominium on Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights, found it in complete disarray.

He added that police have yet to determine what the victim does for a living and the motive for his killing, although their initial theory was that it was robbery.

Elenzano said police investigators were also still trying to establish if anything had been taken from Ynlon’s unit.

“We have not started the inventory of what [items are] missing as we have yet to talk to the victim’s family,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Ynlon’s body was reported to the police by his friend, Jojo Flores.

Flores told the police that he went to the victim’s unit after the latter failed to reply to his phone calls.

After his repeated knocks on the door went unanswered, Flores said he went to the building administrator and asked him to let him into the victim’s unit.

They later found the victim in the toilet inside his unit. His hands and feet were tied while his body bore several stab wounds.

Below is a call for help made by the Ayala Young Leaders Alliance (AYLA) and AYLC Secretariat on the death of Wynton Ynion, an alumnus (2000) of the leadership program of which the author of this blog was also once a participant of:

The Ayala Young Leaders Alliance (AYLA) and AYLC Secretariat would like to appeal for help regarding the death of our fellow Ayala Young Leader, Winton Lou G. Ynion (AYLC 2000 Alumnus) who was found dead this morning in his apartment. His remains will be at Charity Chapel, St. Don Bosco Parish, Makati City (beside Walter Mart, Makati).

For monetary assistance, you can drop by at AYLC Secretariat, 10th floor, BPI Main Building cor Paseo de Roxas, Ayala Makati or deposit at Mr. Simon Mossesgeld current account: 0011 1643 58. Please text or call Ms. Steffi Borromeo (AYLC 2007- 09275326150/752 1065) if you have deposited on the account.

For volunteers please get in touch with Ms. Steffi R. Borromeo (AYLC 2007) – 09275326150 or 752 1065.

SONA 2009 redressed

Was it a sardonic statement or a reflection of the descent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to accommodate the readers shallow taste? Interspersed with photos depicting the demonstrators who picketed in front of Batasan this afternoon that criticized the president in her State of the Nation’s Address and Mar Roxas in his soon-to-be classic wet and wild pictures  boycotting of the SONA to be with the rallyists are Hollywood-like shots of our congressmen and senators strutting in their colorful ternos and Filipiniana on the red carpet.

Philippines Arroyo

The photo montage reminded me of Marie Antoinette saying her “Give them cake.” while the people of France starved in front of her.

It must have been appalling to see your representative in the House looking like wannabe celebrity who thought that the SONA was an annual parade to showcase her taste in fashion. Even hard-liners, activists congresswomen like Liza Maza and Risa Hontiveros-Baraqueil did not let go of this opportunity to make a political statement to the effect that their gowns have meanings, that they were made from indigenous materials, and that they are symbols of protest.

Now I understand why as a nation we are not taken seriously by other nationalities, it’s because we’ve never taken ourselves seriously in the first place. It is this “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” stance that is almost farcical if not absurd way of looking at our politics that makes us a subject of jokes. The same approach Sen. Pia Cayetano has been employing these years when she has constantly stolen attention with her statuesque figure and class. Or Jamby Madrigal’s old rich and subdued taste. Or a congresswoman from an unknown district who totes her couture gown she had made-pasadya only for this media-magnet event.

While Arroyo boasted about her accomplishments during the previous year, our vision was directed to her subliminally and sexually charged fuchsia gown. I may sound like a chauvinist pig here, but her choice of color spoke of both dominance and oozing sexuality. It was almost a good opportunity for the rest of the nation to validate whether her boob job was a success, or whether the leak made them less swollen.

Still she has failed to reflect in her SONA the real state of the nation. She boasted the GNP growth that is relatively higher than the rest of Southeast Asia but has never trickled down in the lives of ordinary Filipinos, or her non-committal statement of her stepping down the office next year, or the CARP programs that did not benefit its supposed recipients. Empty promises never kept, or if kept, remained illusory.

Arroyo did not bid a definite good bye, instead she left a looming fear in us that come 2010, she will hold on to her office as hardly as a scum.

Only her dress reflected her true motivations: power, dominance, and a libido that can only be described as “plenty”.

The man with a black umbrella

It has been raining since the time I woke up this morning. Atmospheric conditions such as today’s remind me of rainy November afternoons in Hanoi when all I did was to cuddle a pillow and bury myself with blankets my friend’s mom provided me or to bathe in the rain while cycling with my red bike around Ho Dac Di or Pho Thai Ha.


Yesterday when I went to Inquirer office in Makati to get my prize and my friend’s for the Virgin Labfest theater review, I mentioned to Gibbs Cadiz, the man who organized the competition, in our chat that I studied in Hanoi for almost a year. It felt as if it was already a long time ago, and the people and the place more fantastic than real. It has almost been five months since I arrived here in Manila and decided to ‘test the water’. Nothing much has come up from this youthful adventure I am embarking on.  I could’ve directly gone home to my parent’s house in Polomolok.

Hanoi was the first thing I thought of when I woke up today. How I miss that city.

While exerting all my efforts to climb the steep stairs going to Boni MRT Station, the black umbrella I bought from 7eleven weeks ago when I got caught in a downpour in Intramuros, flipped a la Mary Poppins to the chagrin of the woman in front of me who seemed to have magnetized all the water soaked in the synthetic fabric of my umbrella’s canopy. She gave me a deathly and almost deadly look and proceeded unceremoniously, before I could say my apologies, to her despirited gaits up the train station.

One of the reasons I love rainy days: people are cool-headed.

Harry Potter

Although I have no intention of watching the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to the 8-part movie, the film review by Manohla Dargis of the New York Times may help you put the film in a perspective using an unimportant critic’s critique  here.