High Chair Book Launch, October 25, 5 pm

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Saturday Fun Machine

A quick trip to the city to fix my visa to China, hang out with a friend in town from San Francisco, and meet up with college friends for what is turning into a fortnightly routine of beer and bonchon, culminated unexpectedly in the Javits Center for the New York Comic Con. Thanks to a friend with a spare ticket, I was able to go minus the expense and foresight (apparently, tickets ran out way before the actual event). Spent a satisfying ten minutes at the entrance taking photos of people passing by–it’s especially hilarious to watch superheroes et al. observe traffic regulations, looking left and right before crossing the street. Lost the drive to take photos inside the convention center due to the density of the crowd, which overwhelmed my old and weary self. But it was still fun to people watch! Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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Dumaguete Weekend

Because of the bad weather, what was supposed to be a weekend in Dumaguete ended up being five days long. The weekend itself was lovely, spent the way we like spending our vacations, by transporting our habits to a new place: long hours in bed, meals with beer and pineapple juice, short walks (by the sea this time), bargain book-hunting, reading marathons. We added cable tv to the repertoire (we are television-less in Manila) and caught a couple of movies in between watching the news. On our walks we took note of Dumaguete’s conveniences: where there’s wifi, it’s free, the food is affordable, the seafood fresh, and everything seems to be a five-minute pedicab ride away. As usual, we noticed the sex tourism (which is of course very much alive in Manila but always more apparent to me when I’m elsewhere). We took a break from our hermit ways and met up with a friend for dinner. All in all a short and sweet stay.

And then our morning flight back to Manila was canceled, and the earliest flight out the airline could offer us was in the afternoon… two days later. After the initial panic and a mild debate over panic as an inevitable vs. unnecessary response to unforeseen circumstances (which cast a cloud over though failed to ruin a ridiculously delicious lunch involving pork ribs, a truffle-infused burger, and a watermelon margarita popsicle), calls were made, emails sent, and schedules rearranged to accommodate the forced vacation.

Given a few more days in Dumaguete, we were (as expected) our predictable selves and carried on with our routine. We determined our favorite breakfast order at the inn where we stayed (boneless bangus), our favorite cafe for reading marathons (Sans Rival, often too crowded for comfort but the brewed coffee is cheap and the sans rival addicting), and our favorite restaurant (Casablanca, where we ate dinner when we first arrived in Dumaguete and where we had lunch before we left for Manila). I got to spend quality time with a few French philosophers and A got to read the history book he picked up at the airport. We did two more dinners-and-drinks with our friend, this time with his boyfriend. All in all a short and sweet stay, enough to make us decide to live in Dumaguete at some point in our lives, i.e., maybe a trial month in the summer of 2014? Abangan!

Along the boulevard, thinking meaningful thoughts

Along the boulevard, thinking meaningful thoughts

Rainy day in Dumaguete

Rainy day in Dumaguete

July, or how to spend time well though not wisely

Nothing like the realization that I have barely a month left before I head back to the other side of the world to resume my identity as a doctoral student to make me realize that said identity should not have been put on hold for as long as I have put it on hold, not when I have to read my way through a hundred-and-then-some-strong reading list for qualifying exams covering the politics of aesthetics, global modernisms and avant-gardes, and Philippine poetry and poetics, and, in the process, produce a first draft of a prospectus by the first week of September. And so today I woke up seized with anxiety, punched in the gut by the fact that I’ve been bad, very, very bad, ridiculously, unacceptably, foolishly bad with my time. Which is another way of saying, what a lovely July I’ve had so far!

Spent the first week reunited with friends from SUNY Albany now living in San Francisco, friends who wanted to do nothing fancy and told me specifically to just carry on with my usual routine and let them tag along. This meant trips to UP and Ateneo (where they got to sit in on a comic book writing class and an intro to lit class taught by friends, visit the dark and dank UP Press Bookstore, and marvel at the bookalike industry of the Shopping Center), long, sweaty walks in and around the UP-Katipunan area, non-stop meat-eating (crispy pata! lechon kawali! binagoongan! sisig! kare-kare!), and of course, videoke night with the usual crew, where they got treated to ripping-the-fabric-of-the-universe-and-opening-a-portal-to-another-world falsetto singing by good friend V a.k.a. the Benjaminian scholar (pagbigyan na, may pinanghuhugutan e). Good friend V later redeemed himself by taking us on a guided walk around the Intramuros-Escolta-Binondo area, the highlights of which include eating sampaguita ice cream (which tastes like its smell, an experience I found confusing yet interesting); viewing Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and Esteban Pichay Villanueva’s Basi Revolt paintings (always a pleasure); listening to an enthusiastic museum guide account for the symbolic meaning of every item in Luna’s Parisian Life (though he was silent on the conspicuous bulge on the woman’s skirt); speculating on the said bulge and the implications of the woman, said to be a symbol of the Philippines (if you flip her image, according to the museum guide, it mimics the appearance of the Philippines on the map) turning out to be a man dressed as a French woman representing the Philippines; looking at the dead river and the post office across it; feeling the hint of a threat of a mugging in the air while walking through a particularly dreary alley; staring at a fountain filled with trash. Fortunately, my friends also spent a few days in Palawan, so they did get to see the more conventional version of the beauty of the Philippines.

Started the second week exhausted by the fun of the first, but pulled myself together in time to start teaching another writing class at the Ayala Museum, the field trip to Makati breaking the monotony of my movements, which tend to remain within the Diliman-Cubao-Eastwood area. Watched the latest Linklater Before Midnight in the theater sandwiched between two men, the opening-a-portal-to-another world videoke singer V, who watched the movie autobiographically (relate kung relate) and A, who alternated between insulting Ethan Hawke’s pretentiousness and dozing off. Lesson re-learned: it’s not easy watching these Before movies with men. The movie triggered a weekend of Linklater films: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly, the first part of Tape, and Waking Life. Waking Life led to Examined Life, which led to bouts of anxiety over exams, thanks to the sight of Butler clothes-shopping and Zizek flaneuring his way through a dumpsite. It also led to Hearts of Darkness, in which a four-year-old Sofia Coppola compares the Pampanga landscape to a Disneyland jungle (sabi nga ni A, “bata pa, airhead na”).

The third week landed me in Makati thrice (!): tagged along with A, who had a meeting in the area, taught class at the museum, and attended a talk by Ambeth Ocampo on the Kalantiaw hoax. Found myself at the dentist’s, the nail spa, the Arcellana reading room for a poetry reading, the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall for more videoke. Celebrated the birthdays of one sister and two nieces.

Now, on the first day of the last week of July, I’m faced with the always daunting task of filling out forms (this time for travel to Hong Kong in November for a week-long event) and putting together a syllabus for my fall term poetry class, the two items topping today’s to-do list. Started the morning reading Joe Brainard’s I Remember while worrying about Susan Howe’s Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker, which of course is the harder text to teach, and thinking I should fill out the forms instead since I should fed-ex them asap, or maybe I should bathe the cat? sort the laundry? organize the giant pile of stuff into a more recognizable stack of books, maybe locating the long-lost Emmanuel Lacaba books I need in the process? Now I’m so tempted to put on my shoes instead and go grocery shopping, a task on my to-do list for tomorrow. Why is it that I never want to do what I’m supposed to do right this minute? The chores of tomorrow always look more attractive than the chores of today.

Walking around Manila. Photo by A.

Walking around Manila. Photo by A.

Attempted to see the old Meralco building (set to be demolished) but alas, we were too late. Photo by A.

Attempted to see the old Meralco building (set to be demolished) but alas, we were too late. Photo by A.

Beautiful geometry. Photo by A.

Beautiful geometry. Photo by A.

The fountain of crap. Photo by A.

The fountain of crap. Photo by A.

Signs of Life

Before anything else, two poems in The Offending Adam.

I’m back in Manila for the summer and am supposed to use my time productively by putting together and sticking to a reading schedule for my qualifying exams. Realistically speaking (according to my pre-flight-to-Manila self), this means ten theory books and then some (out of the hundred plus on my list) over the period of two months, and then a couple of weeks devoted to writing the prospectus, which I have to turn in first thing when I fly back to Albany. A month into the break and so far, I’ve read, hmm, bits of three books, and by bits, I mean a chapter here and there, and by read, I mean sort of/somewhat/slightly absorbed… I might remember an idea or two after scanning the parts I underlined. I’m not reading strategically (i.e., for the prospectus)–I’m mostly flitting about and picking up whichever book seems mildly compatible with my mood and the heat and the vibe of the hour in the afternoon. This disarray is clearly the result of not having gotten around to drafting a reading schedule, the thought of which just makes me want to, well, do something else.

The good news is, I was just in Palawan, where I passed time eating seafood and drinking cerveza, reading Vogue, and talking Adam’s ear off.

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Meanwhile, other people have been leading far more productive lives: case in point one and case in point two.

I had to pause from writing this to entertain our landlady, an eighty-seven-year-old woman whose version of saying hi takes a minimum of thirty minutes and often involves a mini-lecture on the woes of living on the brink of death and the perks of life as a single woman. Today’s topics: living at home with hired help vs. moving into a home for the aged, what money can buy, why marriage is not a good idea, why living in is the way to go, why it is important to be on/stay on the pill. Now that’s a woman with a plan.

Kitakits sa BLTX!

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What: Better Living Through Xeroxography, A Small Press Expo
Where: Ilyong’s Kalantiaw, Project 4
When: Dec 7, Friday, 8 pm

To see more gorgeous BLTX ads (and to get a sense of the kinds of books, comics, art, and stuff you’ll find at the event), check out the BLTXXX Facebook page.

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