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1,000 Words a Day (2)

December 11, 2015

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Jessica Z and Stephen K 

Jessica Zafra and Stephen King both believe that I (and also you) should write a thousand words a day. Stephen King suggested very graphic images of how to create thousands of words a day that could eventually lead to tens of thousands of words a week, and then hundreds of thousands of words a year. These suggestions, not surprisingly, require the lack of another human being in a closed room, with you typing away in your writer typewriter. ‘On Writing’ is truly a book about how to be lonely and you could perfect the art of lonelying yourself by following Mr. Happy, Stephen. King.

Writing one thousand words or more a day does not sound intimidating especially right at the moment you hear it told or when you’re reading about a book about writing. But then you get off the writing workshop and/or you put down the book about writing and there are so many things all of a sudden. Just the very thought of opening the laptop is enough to make you let out a smelly groan. It’s so nice to imagine productive days, days that overflow with feelings magically outlined on paper, or, if you’re devoted to fiction-making, all of the feelings you have ever felt during the day are words now owned by characters in your fiction. But life sometimes does not permit you to be the ideal Person Who Has Written and Written Well.

There is also probably no limit to the amount of excuses one can make to justify 1000-words non-creation. Aside from job and tiredness, there is also hunger, hate, vanity, jealousy and other writing person feelings. And also, as very cool people up with the times would say, BECAUSE BOOKS. And fresh show downloads and new DVD purchases – things that taketh away from precious writing time.

Since I am a person who functions superbly in what Douglas Coupland in Generation X calls a structured environment (or something) I find that I could never be without a job that wants me in its loving arms from 9-6. I do not battle the demands of a job and the image of an exhausted office employee, an image so maligned by those for whom the freelancing life is the ideal, I no longer associate with oppression. Oppression is such an ungrateful bastard term for something that gives what I need and want. I do not anymore question the sanity involved in having a 9-5 job (which less structured environment persons find unappealing – which they’re very much entitled to the thought of) because, come to think of it, it is one of the more reassuring life states to be in – employed.

There is also societal pressure to have better looking bodies so some days, working out at the gym takes up time that could have been spent writing the next Palanca non-winner that I would never ever submit.

I’ve been meaning to ask certain borta-writer friends of mine how they balance the obsession with having abs and writing but they just might think I’m crushing on them or something.

One could write more than a thousand words each and every day in this life just listing the number of things, and each item’s explanation, for the lack of a consistent daily, ideal, precious 1,000 words.

Social Media The Destroyer

It’s boring to see social media get blamed for the lack of long, carefully thought out missives about various issues that occupy the common and uncommonly opinionated man, and also incorrect because SM does in fact bring out the wordsmiths in all of us.

I want to call on my Facebook friends who used to be blogger friends to ditch Facebook maybe forever and go back to blogging. But my persuasion ‘game’ is not very strong so I don’t pursue this pursuit. This is the sort of foolish, low ideas I occasionally have that I’m proud to have kept for as long as I’m taken by the next great idea.

Having Facebook and Twitter is a blessing and a curse. Some people handle their multiple social media accounts with flair and are probably making the best use of one of mankind’s most maddening inventions. People who are good in SM get something from their feed and immediately form opinions that the rest of us could immediately love or loathe. Myself, I find that what works is to not quickly opine on each and every single that happens because I don’t always trust what comes out of my mouth.

Diarized Confessions of a Chronicling Memoirist Versus Fiction Making

If your fiction writing is poor and you are a writer who is rich in feelings but poor in imagination, you are probably keeping your shelves stacked with really fat diaries filled with things no decent human being should ever have to read.

I don’t think that detailing my daily commute or my OFWy epiphanies would be of any interest to anyone so mostly, I keep them to myself. But, a year ago, I moved to Bangkok and felt like my experiences in here could mean I’ll be rich in anecdotes and turn me into an interesting human. But I still am not.

A person I just met once told his dog who (which?) was barking at my creamy soft legs: ‘Ignore him! He’s not interesting.’ My self-esteem got instant comedy. I may have looked amused on the outside, but on the inside, I was crying real tears of both shame and amusement. Shame that I would allow people to say such things to me, and amusement because it truly is funny when someone meets you for the first time and decides you are uninteresting.

The circumstances do not matter; a person I just met saw through me and labelled me accordingly and I can’t say that I disagree.

There are life experiences that I could sprinkle with hyper-hyperboles and attempt to prettify with pretty prose. Lots of real life experiences can be turned into fiction that certain people might love or hate. From things that happen in real life, but that would require imagination – powerful, interesting, fully-realized – and lots of work.

Sometimes, that’s all I have, feelings, which I want to talk about.

I asked some of the workshop friends if end-of-day diaries are included in the 1,000 words a day ordinance and was told that they’re not supposed to be. It’s so unfair, but it’s just as well. Imagine living in a world where the feelings of people, both interesting and you-want-to-strangle ones, are all up in your face. Picture a society where every single person that ever crossed your path tells you all about their day, their innermost thoughts, their take on issue, both big and small and big. Unimaginable!

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Because why would they? Nose bleed is what happens when a person gets punched in the nose, or when the brain is too stressed beyond human capacity, so blood can’t help but ooze out. It’s what happens when you’re Carrie and teenage girls are mean to you. Nose bleed happens in other instances that have nothing to do with speaking a certain language imperfectly. Thais don’t have the jokey nose bleed the way Filipinos do when they are suddenly made aware that upon speaking to someone who speaks English beautifully, they, native Tagalog or Filipino speakers, fail to match the proficiency and the beauty of the proficient English speaker, which is such a Filipino thing to do and feel.

I have to say, though, that there is nothing wrong with feeling inadequate with one’s unspectacular English-speaking skills, which compels one to make a nose bleed joke. I’m saying this because I’m a coward who feels the need to make a disclaimer, and also because I really think there is nothing wrong with coping with a perceived deficiency. That coping mechanism happens to be cracking a nose bleed joke which I’m not sure if people are still doing. I sure heard a lot of it in my former office when certain native English-speaking (sometimes, non-native speaking) executives pay us a visit for the sole purpose of hearing us speak English beautifully. Of course, they couldn’t care less about how we speak (or maybe they do which should explain the visitations), but that joke got cracked a lot (eg, ‘I have to take Katarchina to dinner tonight. Nose bleeeeed!’ etc.).

I’ve thought about it, deeply, and realized that being good English communicators does great wonders for the country and its people. If it weren’t for our relatively stellar English proficiency, we would probably be less adaptable as a people who feel the need to grace all corners of the earth with our presence. We probably wouldn’t be one of the most human resource-exporty country in the world, which we are. More importantly, I probably wouldn’t be here in Bangkok doing what I’m doing and loving the shit out of not being in the Philippines where things can be sometimes not so great.

It’s frightening to imagine Filipinos not being such good English speakers because if we didn’t have that, we would have much less, but maybe we would have something else. All that would be left would be our world-class resiliency and singing voice. Horrific. We would just be hospitable islanders who make laughable signages that other excellent English-speaking people would ridicule us for. Since we are such great communicators, we do this to ourselves. If we weren’t the occasionally vicious grammar Nazis that we often are, we would probably find alternative ways to be cruel to each other. The nose bleed joke is therefore essential in perpetuating our strong English communication culture.

I sometimes fantasize about a Philippines that is peopled with Pinoys who would speak Tagalog at least 95% of the time, the way Thais, and presumably other Asian nations, do. I just wish we were less obnoxious about this proficiency.

But who am I kidding? I used to find hilarity in those emails passed around containing jpegs of atrociously worded signs in China or any other country that doesn’t revere English the way we do. But I have changed and my humor leans towards other brands of jokes now. I still find hilarity in playing with open and closed vowel sounds and that might never fade. I used to sing LFO’s Summertime for this very reason (‘New keeds on the black had a banch of heets, Chinese food makes me seek. And I think it’s fly when the girls stop by for the sammer, for the sammer.’).

Thais, and presumably other nationalities who don’t give much thought (ie., give zero fucks) about their English proficiency, don’t have nose bleeds of the variety that is caused by English-speaking deficiency. In place of petty nose bleeds, they have hypertension when some foreigner has the nerve to engage them in conversations that would require more than yes or no answers which, in the absence of English language knowledge, they opt to answer with a nod or a shrug. This is wise as it keeps them healthy and free of nasal blood flow.

In truth, non-native English speakers (eg., Thais) might only be slightly peeved, or some of them might actually feel like this lack of superb English communication skills poses a major barrier to achieving potential greatness. I once asked a Thai if non-excellence in English is something that can get you ridiculed in Thai society, a reason to have your Facebook post screencapped and showcased to ridiculer’s own feed to be liked because shittily-worded compositions in Facebook are hilarious. I forgot his exact words but the meat of what his answer was that Thais ridicule fellow Thais for other reasons. And even though he was just one person, I believed him even though he was attractive and probably doesn’t get ridiculed for much so embarrassment is probably not something he experiences regularly.

Some Pinoys, on the other hand, make cracks about lost apostrophes and misplaced commas. Sometimes it’s well deserved such as in instances where the grammar crime is committed by someone with heinous thoughts. Sometimes, you can’t help but be on the side of the grammar criminal. It’s strange but an understandable phenomenon. Think about it: If little notes about turning off the faucet in our public bathrooms were heinously worded, where would we be?

1,000 Words a Day

November 15, 2015

My adult planner

My adult planner

When I was in high school, there was widespread fear among boys related to masturbation. The fear has to do with the frequency with which it was done and the potential resulting harm for those who came up with abnormal numbers. Sophomore year is Biology year, so questions on the dangers of jacking off are often raised. This is the time in a boy’s life when it seems alright to ask your biology teacher to kindly specify potential risks involved with rabid jacking off, ie, are we in danger of emptying out our ball sacs if we do it twice or thrice a day – what a regular boy would otherwise think of as perfectly regular intervals. This isn’t a question I myself would ask so I was grateful for other boys’ curiosities as it allowed me to keep asking questions about things not involving me or other boys’ penis.

Even though I didn’t ask this question myself, I can’t deny that fear has not been sowed in me concerning that topic. I may not have had the balls to ask if my ejaculate could possibly run out (a question which would appear bastos at first but has formed in every boy’s mind in the school I went to) but the fear associated with that possibility, I took semi-seriously; for one whole year, I noted all the days in the year when I jacked off. I put an asterisk on all the days I did because it would have been silly and useless to put ‘masturbated’ as planner entries seeing as that word is too long and too obvious. It simply would not have made sense to write even jakoled in the planner because it just didn’t feel right. Planner intruders would have been very suspicious of that habit so I cleverly employed asterisks.

When you become an adult, you shouldn’t have time noting days when you masturbate, even though all it takes to do it is an asterisk. Doing so could only lead to a sharp drop of your self-worth, although if you’re doing such a thing now, or something similar to it (maybe the number of sex partners you’ve been collecting?), it’s never too late to stop and benefit from a slight self-worth rise.

I have more important things to note in my planner right now because I’m a grown-up who can do whatever he wants, mostly. I don’t put marks on my planner anymore to indicate days when I do the essential, but I make sure to write down the number of words I committed to paper every day. The goal is 1,000 words because Stephen King and Jessica Zafra’s workshop notebook recommend it. It’s not so hard especially if you’re filled with feelings. But some days, you just can’t have enough of a fuck to sit down and have a feels-fest with paper/Word. Some days you are like Beyonce – totally fierce and fabulous but utterly incapable of writing original content.

This year’s planner does not suffer from silly little compulsions to detail ejaculatory habits, but highly inconsequential little things are still very much a part of most entries. From this habit, there is no immediate amusement and when my own writing is failing at bringing me amusement, I cease seeing the point. I simply go blind as to why anyone would want to write 1,000 words every damn day! There is no joy to be had from seeing ‘abs, chest’ or ‘abs lite’ in my tiny planner, and since the planner is very tiny, there is no room allotted for any meaningful thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, no amusement derived from back-reading.

To meet the self-imposed 1k words a day, I sometimes write movie and book reviews which are not really proper reviews. I try my very best not to disappoint my reader – myself – because myself is such a ruthless, vicious critic but only to its favorite art – itself. I don’t cherish the times when I go back to my reviews and think, ‘what a lousy person this is who writes!’. The same thing applies to my big notebook of thoughts and feelings. I put nasty things in cringe-worthy things in there. I put ‘gay!’ or ‘ulul’ in some entries where they are most rightfully deserved. The main advantage of doing this is obvious – when you are super vicious to yourself, you feel as if no one has any right to do it to you.

I could attempt to write a short story for each day that I’m alive and not convulsing in the asthma wing of some hospital. I’m not incapable of stirring up drama involving non-fictional characters in my life, therefore, if I get desperate enough to do it I could really stir a big one up and milk the experience dry. I could do this and I know it. Stirring Turds could even be the title of the resulting short story collection that would result from the milking.

Minor inconveniences that plague the middle class life are always victimized by unwarranted middle class people’s milking, so why not commit and perpetrate that type of victimless crime?

Since I’m evidently a nice person, I wouldn’t be able to write fiction about people I care about. This is exactly why I need more people in my life that I really could never care about. There are a lot of them already, for sure, but I forget about them fast.

How about mining the Facebook timelines of your friends for fiction material? I don’t know if someone’s already had this idea so bravely said out loud before but if you’re a struggling fictionist looking to win your first Pulitzer and this idea wins you Pulitzer or money, leave a comment for the thanks.

I would do that myself but that would mean more time on Facebook than I care to spend. I love spending time on Facebook but spending more than 15 minutes in it is not going to produce any of the following: great short stories and wonderful, calming feelings. But I could be wrong.

How many times have you wondered how interesting a stripper’s life must be? If you’re the kind of person whose answer to that is ‘745,876 times’, know that “Magic Mike XXL” is not going to make you stop wondering. In the first place, there’s no reason why you should. The reasons for your fascination might be unceasing for a variety of reasons, but if you find that all these essential questions about the Male Stripper life is beginning to get cumbersome, you can just sit back and wait for male asses to pop.

The men of Magic Mike lead fantastical lives of road tripping, women-pleasing, and cash-bathing. Mike, Richie, Tito, Ken, and Ernest are fine examples of male strippers who earn their wages and value what they do. We all know those kinds of male strippers make tons of money but in this movie, they swim in dollar bills.

In the sequel to one of the best male stripper movies of all time, there is an attempt to provide insight to the guys’ personalities: Mike is committed to his business but is not really finding joy in it that he takes Ginuwine’s Pony playing on the radio as a sign that he should join the boys on their trip to the very real Stripper Convention. Richie who is allegedly hung like a horse, is having a real male struggle: he hasn’t had sex in months, a confession that he validates by reminding everyone of his dick’s enormity. The rest of the guys have mildly interesting things happening to them as well and they talk about those things in what feels like eternity, as if to tease you and me. These are some very chill male strippers with some very chill problems. The movie is too classy to make mountains out of these strippers’ molehills. Make no mistake: the road to stripper-con is filled slight inconveniences. On one of their pit-stops, they hang out with wine-drunk cougars and make them feel worshiped, and while a scene like this could have played out like a cheap segue into a who-called-the-hot-plumbers strip extravaganza, the guys’ wine session with the cougs (led by a short and captivating turn by Andie McDowell) turns out tender, fun and sweet.

Maybe I’ve been seeing the wrong male stripper movies, even though the last one I remember seeing was “Magic Mike” part 1. These were the exact same thoughts I’ve had when I first saw Magic Mike. Strippers who aren’t dirt poor, who are not deprived of skills other than dancing in colourful briefs, thongs and things, could make a living other than dancing for thirsty and curious women, but not necessarily out of choicelessness. This is a movie that respects the people’s right to see a stripper movie who are not all solely motivated by the obvious rewards of cash. The cash is indispensable but above all, stripping is fun and beneficial to everyone. Maybe, the strippers from my own native land lead the same interesting lives, and I was just too caught up in my own life to bother with the lives of people whose profession I do not share (but appreciate).

If there’s one essential element to the stripping profession and lifestyle that “Magic Mike” movies capture, specifically XXL, it is that the job of a stripper is to hold people’s attention hostage; they are fascinating onstage the way they ought to be and Mike and the guys’ boy band banter is no less entertaining.

After succeeding viewings in DVD, my thoughts have not really changed about the women-baiting, cash-bathing world of Magic Mike. If it wasn’t for my own life effectively taking over my healthy interest in stripper films, I probably wouldn’t have stopped searching for the truth. As it happens, I haven’t seen many stripper movies since Channing Tatum first bared his ass onstage with the equally unmoveable yet moving asses of his on-screen buddies Joe Manganiello (whose I Want It That Way sequence in this sequel is too great), Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez in the first Magic Mike; precisely the reason why to this day, I am left unenlightened. And that is okay.

“Magic Mike XXL” is exactly how movies about male strippers should be: fun, glorious and with the right amount of baby-making 90s R&B jams blaring in the soundtrack. It’s hard to think of the last time a movie about strippers let strippers be strippers. There is simply no answer to be found as to what constitutes the stripper life, unless you go and see the riveting and confused stripper documentary “La Bare” in which real life male strippers talk about their lives. Where a movie like “Magic Mike” sort of builds mystery (or at least maintains it) for male strippers, that must-watch documentary destroys it. As the saying goes: Your life, your choice of male stripper film.

‘And as time passes, the not-really-friends on FB have sad things happen to them that I can’t care about if I want to continue living — humans just aren’t set up for feeling deeply about so many people.’ – Richard Lloyd, nymag.com commenter

Things are happening in the world every day, important things that do not involve divas (which happen to be my favorite topic). The Philippines is a very happening place and people are naturally always talking. As a semi-active social media entity, I hear most of the talk. From these, certain emotions are elicited from me, one being anger and another, fright (if that counts as an emotion) – for my frequent lack of concern for whatever important historic thing is happening. For instance, the pope.

Not having an opinion about an important event is probably not as bad as having the wrong or shitty opinion, but shutting up about something has always been more attractive an option to me. As one great diva once sang, ‘it’s not right, but it’s okay.’

When I don’t broadcast my feelings or ideas, I feel either an overwhelming wave of relief for not having said whatever possible foul, stupid or corny thing I felt like saying moments ago – or I feel like a stinking coward. A coward who stinks. I feel like a coward for failing to let people know, for example, that I think 50 Shades of Grey is shaping up to be the year’s condescension victim of the year (because people – actual movie critics and feeling critics alike – are praising it in the most hideous way possible, saying things like ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘I’m surprised by how Okay it is,’ etc. which fucks my shit up for reasons unknown). I don’t even like that franchise and I don’t have immediate plans of seeing or reading it. People can be so patronizing sometimes (actually, most of the time) and this superior attitude over something so obviously inferior is such a shitty sight to see.

Also, the things that I get all worked up about can be embarrassing, so I think I have a very good reason for worrying about being worried, and talking about having second thoughts about saying things about things as un-vital as 50 Shades. I’m aware of this, but sometimes awareness is not enough. That is why I choose the path of comments-less social media persona every time. It’s not that I’m afraid of being seen as an awful person by my peers, it’s that I know I can be awful and I’m just choosing not to expose that capacity for awfulness so carelessly.

I should probably name other Important Events that I failed to see the value of having an opinion of, but I am slowly learning how to effectively turn off current events noise no matter how important they may be. Sometimes I do that by reading. Reading fiction is probably the second greatest way of escape; dying is first.

This is becoming a problem for me because when people are extra-effusive about certain IE, I feel even more worried (‘how could I not be feeling anything?!’).

My silence is also influenced by fears associated with having job and residential security in my current environment. A nice, non-awful person tweeting whatever the shit he wants and getting away with it is something that fascinates me. It’s admirable-infuriating when someone unleashes his inner sociopath by composing seemingly carefully constructed hateful thoughts about an awful situation (one of those important events), thrive and not get shit from some authority figure. It could be that they are saying something mind-blowing about an important thing which affords them a pass, or it could be that these fearsome authority figures only exist in the mind of cowards who tend to gravitate towards unlikely scary scenarios involving imagined authorities.

It could also be because some people’s brand of awful is more substantial or palatable than others. Plain lack of intelligible thoughts could also be a factor. Bobo lang, ganun. Neither uncaring nor unconcerned but stupid.

Yet another factor is being surrounded by personalities teeming with intelligent thoughts. If I surround myself with dimwits, I might have a chance of sounding more intelligent, I think. If I surround myself with even more opinionless personages, I might stand a chance of coming off appropriately opinionated. There is no shortage of possibilities in this scenario and I am willing to explore each and every one of them. What else? If I take drugs (drug addict drugs) and worry instead about my next fix, I wouldn’t be so concerned about today’s social ills, and just focus exclusively on my own.

And now, some finalities.

I know that:

1. Talking about your Facebook life in a blog has the look and feel of someone who hangs out with the popular kids at school during recess, and then goes to his real friends after school hours to bitch about school and its peoples. It’s not cool. Since I’m dripping with awareness (I think), I know this and feel compelled to let you know that I know.

2. Having a public monologue about how uncomfortable you are about your social media ‘silence’ is yucky no matter how it’s done… but maybe only when it’s done by certain people. Yes, the worrying about social media is realer than ever and there is no stopping it.

3. Time and effort could have been saved by refraining from talking about things such as the ones talked about in here, but this my blog.

4. I should take the time to invest more emotional energy in the careers of other females other than Beyonce and Mariah. It is not impossible and I would really like to see me succeed! I feel like I have succeeded somehow by posting about Madonna instead lately. But even she is getting irritating and becoming the very sort of social media celebrity who speaks just so she can make sounds. Ditto Beyonce and constant news about her wig shifts.

Sundays in Pasay

February 1, 2015

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My favorite place of worship when I was young was Don Bosco Church in Makati. It had an unimposing aura about it as it is a school and church, and most importantly, it was directly in front of Makati Cinema Square which didn’t use to be a pirated DVD and cellphone repair stalls haven. It used to be, from what I recall, a decent enough mall where Catholic families such as ours could go after the extremely nourishing Sunday homily. I can’t honestly say that I cared for homilies when I was in grade school age, but Don Bosco was truly like heaven with its perfectly mowed lawns and playground-like courtyard, making it easier for young Catholics like me to suffer the burden of hearing English-speaking priests speak allegedly virtuous aphorisms. Sundays spent hearing about Christ our Lord was worth it as long as there was a promise of mall entry immediately after. If only Christopher Hitchens had some sort of reward for being inundated with religion early on in his life, he may have been slightly less vile towards religion and/or just Catholicism.

Santa Clara Church in Pasay, on the other hand, just wasn’t the right place to be taking your kids for Sunday mass if you’re a parent who wishes to have a religion or god-conscious children. I wish my parents knew this then. The best it could offer were cheese curls and popcorn stands which were hardly capable of making mass-averse children okay with going to church. In the mind of a young person, those precious 1.5 hours pouting and salivating (for cheese curls) at church could have been spent playing Rockman 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Santa Clara in Libertad held no wonders for children wanting to spend their Sundays more productively. Masagana had treats for the adults (the sleaze-infested cinemas, the cheap grocery) and teenagers (arcade games) but none for little children finding their place in the world, specifically, in Pasay City. Since I was not a special child, I behaved predictably and never had fond feelings for church-going as a Sunday activity.

Going to other churches within the Pasay-Makati vicinity was just too depressing to even contemplate, not to mention very unnecessary, and so, I believe that as child, I exercised what very little conviction I had, when I refused to go to church if the church were neither Don Bosco nor Santa Clara. I would have rather spent the remaining hours of that Sunday entertaining thoughts of befriending Satan, than go to a church that is unfamiliar and even bleaker than Santa Clara. I don’t know that this is what really went through my mind as a church-negating child, but I recall quite vividly that hearing the Apostles’ Creed is one of Sunday mass’s greatest providers of relief as it signifies the end of the homily, a 30-minute gabfest that I never once remember appreciating the existence of. Looking back now, I think priests had much more freedom to talk smack about reproductive health and similar bills and things that are supposed to be the causes of inflammatory language in most opinionated Facebook persons’ posts. Back then, there was just no way anyone could badmouth any priest who deigned to preach antiquated lessons, moral or not, in a free medium for all to see. It can be supposed that people are a lot more caring now and more enlightened.

I grew up and that meant one thing: I have become a Masagana target market. As a ten, eleven-year old boy in Pasay, I finally recognized that there are sources of joy where one dares to find them even in a place as delectably grimy as Pasay. Interest in video games transitions into a mild addiction for arcade games and Masagana had arcades, ugly though their joysticks may be. Also, ten and eleven is when I started being fascinated with cassette tapes. It could be an interest in hearing music and nice songs first before the cassette fascination, but it was great either way. I bought my first album, 4 Non-Blondes, in Masagana department store and it was great. What’s Up was such a big hit in the early 90s and Spaceman, the second single, is also wonderful.

Tapes were truly great, I soon discovered. One of the best incentives of growing up is having a genuine interest in a thing and mine seems to have been throwing away money at record store cashiers. Yes, throwing. After 4 Non-Blondes, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Cranberries, lots of Eraserheads, Alamid, Rivermaya and even Orient Pearl and plenty others. I liked my taste.

Then, I started reading. In the topmost floor of the Masagana super store, there was a stack of very randomly arranged books that were sold for 5, 10, 15 pesos. That’s when I first realized that shoplifting can be done if one puts enough thought and effort into doing it and doing it well. 1993 was a good year in literature and life education for me.

Odyssey soon appeared. With its twice as many albums and CDs, life was never the same. I was already in my teens which meant that TLC has penetrated my consciousness. Beyond the greatness of Waterfalls, I was slowly appreciating the significance of this group to a music-appreciating life. They have talked about very worthy topics such as having confidence in yourself, taking care of yourself (by not having unprotected sex), the value of creeping, dealing with unrequited love and lust, and a host of other subjects involving self-empowerment.

I wanted so much to buy the hologram version of Fanmail but that would have meant pawning one of my mommy’s jewelry, back when I still had one of her jewleries. If I were more audacious, I would have pawned the gold charmbracelet she gave me (through my daddy) and bought the Fanmail special edition which, according to rumors, had the rap version of No Scrubs featuring Left-eye. It would be so much later in life when I would learn the value of audacity, and also patience. As for patience, I thank God for providing me it early in life because having that virtue meant waiting for albums to get cheap. Sometime in the last decade, I found a Japanese edition of Fanmail with a bonus track, a track which you can never ever find in any other version of the album.

Why Did You Move Here?

January 24, 2015

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Is a question I should have prepared for but didn’t. I’ve always had an idea of a typical Thai as aloof to the idea of a foreigner. I’ve always thought of them as unlike most Pinoys whose hearts melt when asking foreigners about their estimation of the Philippines and upon hearing something that vaguely sounds like affection for the country, pass out from a wave of tremendous patriotic pride. I think that when a Thai asks me that, it is really just out of plain, unobtrusive curiosity. But then of course, Thais would be unlike most Pinoys in that regard because in the first place, there really is no one in the world quite like Pinoys.

There is nothing wrong with Pinoy Pride, I know it, but I’ve always been unable to relate to this raging nationalistic fervor. It’s fine, though, because I can just feel that the Philippines also doesn’t care about my lack of love for it, and maybe my indifference towards it may not be intense enough as to seriously wound the quite fragile Filipino Pride.

Maybe I never bothered to think about the answer to that because the question ought to be Why did you leave the Philippines? because that is really what I did. Maybe I would have had better responses to that question had it been phrased differently, say, ‘Why did you decide to get away from all the horrendousness brought about by a Manila existence?’ or ‘Why did you think it was smart to leave Metro Manila, shitty Metropolis?’

But Thais are not like that. They’re so great and kind and so they would only ever ask about moving and not about the leaving.

Had the questions been phrased differently, I would have had to prepare a pageanty answer because as much as I would love to point out the positives first (ie, ‘Because I simply love Thailand!’ etc.) I wouldn’t want to be perceived as a shit-talker of his own country and of shitty things, in general. Talking behind the Philippines’s back, even though it sometimes deserves it, does not feel good, knowing that not all people who migrate feel the same way as I do. Also, it would feel very silly and embarrassing if I talk ill of a country I know I would have to go back to sooner or later. If it’s any consolation I have Palawan Pride. I think Palawan makes all other beaches look like swamps.

That is maybe why I never bothered to devote an hour or so of my life to list the plentiful reasons why I decided to move to Bangkok, Thailand — because the question needs to be rephrased. But every time I get asked that, I am tempted to give the following stock answers:

1. Because there’s nothing in this world I would rather be than here.

2. Because the trains here are so great. So great that I would never shut up about their greatness, ever.

3. Because I love spicy food and it feels so great to be eating them here instead of some ‘Authentic Thai Food’ restaurant in Rockwell, Makati.

4. Because you can mall-hop abandonedly thanks to the wonderful, great trains.

5. Because I’ve read in some tourist brochure or magazine that Bangkok is a city where ‘culture meets commerce’ or something and I wanted to soak up that culture-commerce atmosphere aura.

6. Because I hate our trains and 80% of our roads.

In short, I moved here because it’s so great being here, which I know tells the interrogator nothing. Noticeably, however, hate will have a major role behind the reasons.

It’s not an easy question to answer. If I say something about ‘loving the culture’ and be asked to be specific, I wouldn’t be able to articulate the *culture love* because my idea of culture is hazy and will always involve thoughts of the DVDs being sold at Lido Theater. Great variety of DVD titles would always mean, for me, an act of culture fortification, because making available to the masses these wide variety of movies, not anymore accessible in the Philippines, could only mean that the ministry of culture, specifically the DVD-importing and printing department, cares to have its people have access to these cinematic (and musical) treasures. The DVD and CD selection in a lot of Bangkok stores are truly remarkable and, like the rest of Thai culture, so great.

But I know that that is not what makes a city so highly cultural.

In some faint way, I could say that this is a city that wouldn’t make you feel as if you’re only doing these cultural things as a duty but because there’s actually so much culture to take. And because the trains, those great, great trains, and the boats, let you hop from one place to another without feeling contemptuous of the sickness that is the modern day transportation.

You go to museums because they’re pretty, they’re very accessible, and the restrooms are gleaming works of architectural marvel. You don’t go to Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre because you feel like your Instagram needs to have its periodic culturification because in the last few days all you’ve had are pictures of your photogenic meals and you feel like the commerce-culture balance must be achieved.

I could say that I love the people, but which people exactly? I could support the *people love* claim by saying that the people who make this city so thoroughly livable deserve all the love it can get and so I am professing and freely giving my love to those people.

I could tell them that I love not being impelled to treat the whole office to lunch when it is my birthday, resignation day or baptismal day which is what sometimes happens back home. But deep down I would know that that’s not really it.

Maybe, Why did you move here is a question asked by anyone who has encountered a Pinoy anywhere in the world and it is in fact one of the most common questions ever asked. Maybe there is an idea of a Philippines, especially from those who have never been in it, that is filled with images of fun if over-crowded, party beaches and bountiful coconut trees, and smiling, charming locals, that the idea of someone moving away from all that could only mean insanity. I go to work every day not having poisonous feelings about life, ie, with a song in my heart, but when I dig deeper, I find ‘great trains’ as not being a very compelling reason for loving where I’m now living.

Next time I get asked that, maybe I’ll just say, Because the internet is fast, which I think could perfectly capture the essence of my real answer which is ‘I’m not sure’.

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