The novella

"I feel very bad," the old man said within earshot.
"No, don't be."
"I am sad about this. But if it's about to happen, then I can't do anything about it." The man's words are terse, raw with emotion.
"Dalawang Kamias--isang senior," the woman said, her voice thick with Batangueno accent.
The busboy wanted to be helpful and gave them two senior tickets instead of one. The woman thought of this dearly, and mused that it was enough as a pamasko, a gift from a stranger.
Meanwhile, the old man was restless with sadness. "I won't be able to read anymore," he said.
The woman take this lightheartedly and said, "Well, I'll do my best to read books to you--"
"I'm very reluctant to do this," the man interrupted her, dismissing her offer. "I'm not sure this will do any difference."
The woman looked at the vast plains past the windows, her eyebrows curled, thinking of the right word.
"You've long since resigned then, Tiyo?"
Her uncle made a sound that's a cross between a cough and clearing his throat. "Read to me," he said, "the receipt."
And so she read slowly, her voice still lighthearted, even playful, still not bearing any strand of sadness. She read carefully the destination, the busboy's name, the price, the distance.
After a beat her uncle dozed off. She pressed the receipt in the last few pages of the book she really wanted to read to his uncle: a novella about a family who fled after their hometown was swallowed by the rising waters of the nearby lake. Where the receipt was pressed is the scene where they had to eat the remaining rice cakes off their bags. Later on, drawn by suspense she would find out that the lake continued to rise and swallowed the fields, carved its way through hills and made islands out of mountains. The family found themselves huddled one day at the highest point they could find, as waters kissed their feet.

Flash report

When I first landed on this job, I had this delusion that at some point they would be buying time for me to read books. (The job description, by the way, didn't include any form of it being a "book review" type of a position. I don't know what's gotten into me to think of that.) This is my second job, and my first real one--real since it involves writing, and I'd like to make a career out of it. Though the job was lax at first, but now that I'm well into my 7th month I've been staying later than 8PM doing research, statistics of Facebook pages.

I'm not complaining. Believe me, I love doing my job. It's just that I'm still learning how to squeeze in my reading time with my job, my commutes and my family life. (Provided that I become successful with the juggling, I'd take the risk and jog at 4AM, which leaves me only four hours of sleep.) Though reading during commutes has given me frequent headaches and a feeling of living in another reality, it's the only way I can make use of my spare time wisely--amid the dim lights and the unpaved roads in Manila which makes the words jump off the page.

This makes me proud to have finished One Hundred Years of Solitude last Friday: almost three-fourths of it I've read in the bus. The prose has this quality where it could warp you back in time (or hurl you to the future), which gives me the idea that maybe it is where we should read the book: clutching the book in transit, bus tickets as bookmarks, blurred car lights passing by the windows (and the occasional snore from a passenger three seats away, or the aural soundtrack of Explosions in the Sky in last month's VIDEO ON BOARD: Lone Survivor).

On the other hand, I'm in the first few chapters of Madame Bovary and I couldn't stand the boredom reading it during commutes. It needs tea and a slice of pound cake on a Saturday afternoon.

A trip to the zoo
























  1. I was very exhausted. 
  2. The zoo trained its animals not to show themselves. 
  3. The alligators didn't budge. 
  4. The ponies had so much ticks in their coat that they had to roll over the sand to relieve themselves of their itch.
  5. The gorillas only ate bananas thrown in their direction--after that they slouch and sleep. 
  6. The lions and the bears look like they've lost hope in their lives.
  7. A one year-old boy hasn't developed the faculties to appreciate animals. Maybe next year.

Murmurations


"Murmur 25"



"Murmur 23"


"Murmur 08"


"Murmur 21" 

Wonderful photos of Richard Barnes in Rome. They can resemble anything from lungs to bodies.

Aging

















My father wanted to visit the Manila he grew up in: the old Manila, still hung from American GIs and films, one-peso hamburger-and-coke meals. In High School he studied at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and walks across Jones Bridge to nearby Escolta, Binondo and Quiapo are usual.

Some four years ago, when I was still wide-eyed and passionate about photography, he proposed to tour me around Quiapo. It's a wonderful place to take pictures, he said. I shrugged, knowing back then that this was one of his plans which would never take off. 

It pushed through last Saturday. We agreed to meet in Ongpin. Alighting at LRT Carriedo, my wife and I chose to go there in a caleza (Php 100/person), taking pictures. This was the Saturday after the Chinese New Year, and to our surprise the crowds have thinned, but the long lines at Eng Bee Tin and other hallmarks of Manila's Chinatown haven't.

After a long wait at Sincerity in Yuchengco St. we had lunch: warm soup, fried chicken, beef with ampalaya, and their unforgettable quekiam. Their fried chicken, which made the restaurant famous, is crispy outside, sweet and juicy on the inside. 

The lunch was followed by a long walk back to Carriedo, my father taking detours to show us around, to tell stories about Escolta back in the 60s'. The place had been abandoned for a long time, and to his shame he wished the government had kept it just the way it was in the 60s', some sort of a heritage place or a museum where people could revisit such grand time, (The place was even mentioned in Jose Rizal's El Filibusterismo: "Sa Escolta, magmadali!") way before Makati, which my Dad noted was nothing but waterlilies, or Taguig.

I took some pictures, and brought home two boxes of tikoy for the in-laws. My wife was scanning her pictures and decided to render all of it in black and white, making it all the more eerie and dilapidated. I followed suit, with the exception of the food pictures below.