Influences (or Why I Write the Way I Do)

Natalie Goldberg (free-flowing writing)
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (wild woman writing)
Jane Hutchison (direct-to-the-point writing)
Ernest Hemingway (simple words writing)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Scarlet Cougar

perhaps because i'm in an awkward age. a single mom, at 38. an age when most of my male contemporaries are married, already balding tummy-big fathers, or have gone 'bi' or have crossed over the sexual divide. an age when the men i know who interest me are too old to be my dad (bless your soul, Dad!), too far (like my other love George C.) or are just too old, too hooked up on work, on making the fast buck of consulting they hardly notice women anymore. you know, that age for men, past 50 yet to hold a senior citizens' card when reading becomes the sleeping pill, and not sex?

so at my age, and here at the village where i'm surrounded day and night by boys literally becoming men in my eyes. who look at you with a swagger and confidence. who confidently walk naked above the waist, flaunt their lean bodies in the sun, while smiling at you with a little lilt on the cheek. how can one not help feeling 'cougar'-y (now is that even a word?)

i'm having an alex o'loughlin high so last night after watching his videos over youtube (before my readings of course), went on and googled 'cougar'. i can't help it. i'm feeling cocky. vampy. i want to know what that world is, technically, just in case. so like any academic, i approached the stuff in a clinical, systematic way. i began to read.

and wham! the intrigue was not in the article on what cougars are. i had to admit after reading a little about 'discourse analysis' (of what should be correctly said and what has been said instead...from Michel Foucault), i was struck by the words used by the author, her language. words like 'preying on young men', 'sexual obsession', 'less interested in relationships than sexual conquest' made me say, ugh?! this is not me! or rather, these are not my motives!  then that's not the end of it. when i clicked on the comments (about 14 of them), i was flattened by the negativity by which women's sexuality as cougars is viewed: women cougars have been called 'little sluts since highschool', 'pitiful', 'messing up [young men]', 'not saintly', 'wanton women', and disheartening of course was what this young male commentor who having slept with older women called them, 'free prostitutes'.  jerk! several self-proclaimed cougars though provide a balance that it's not at all a lonely world, of spontaneity with a younger men, their virility and just having had the independence to assert one's self sexually.

i couldn't believe it. and i thought women's sexuality has 'arrived' ever since Erica Jong published Fear of Flying.  i think women's sexuality is still very much a problematic terrain. how can women be sexual without getting tainted? cougar relationships, as i see it, is where women assert a sexuality not tied to tradition; that is, in tradition that sets what is 'right' by age, sex, class, religious orientation, etc. etc. the relationships could even be explained by statistics that just as there are fewer men to women on earth then naturallement, women have degrees of freedom over the age scale.  but to see the labeling that cougar women get, the negativity, i believe that women are forever bounded by walls and ceilings as long as the 'she' in any population sets the standard. interesting huh? female attributes of purity, chastity, loyalty, nurturance, devotion, piety, even martyrdom tends to be societal standards as well. divisions are still very much alive. and when ordinary women cross over, they are bound to suffer society's rage.  cougar relationships are instead, 'allowed' or considered 'in' as in 'acceptable' for those at the top, the privileged. hollywood and TV stuff. ordinary women bear the real brunt, the real rage. is this not a hypocritical society?

and so, back to my original question. how can women really be sexual? within an acceptable sexuality? what is acceptable? where and when can women just be women, who love too, and feel the itch as well, who might want to explore, want to see what's beyond, want to explode to real orgasms, with young and old men alike, without the baggage and 'issues', not suffer the taint? perhaps it's not possible. perhaps women were all born branded with the scarlet letter.

Thanks to for the real cougar pic.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Silence of Breakfast

all around me
like wolves surrounding
a kill
writing pad, sticky notes
Shatkin, Apthorpe
Cooke & Kothari
a host of books
screaming to be read
but i say,
as i crunch
the last cereal away
and drink the cup
of hot wafting
black coffee
and i sip
and sip
and sip
i hold them at bay
not yet
not yet
not yet

Thanks to Keith for the pic.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Walk

when facing so many things to do, one finds it hard to start. so, i took a walk then. to take me off of my worries, to laugh with friends as i saw elaine and jom en route to school and i ended up joining them in their walk home to kardinya. after saying hi to stephii and downing one delicious cheesecake, i was off again to the chill of dusk embracing the wind. off to the shop to buy chips for tomorrow's drinks. the walk home along south st. was a release. i felt lighter and less tentative as if the shadows of the trees were whispering that i deserve the walk, the peace of just being alone. it's just one of those moments. when we are faced to do something important, struggle hard we might, we're still left with no choice but to face the task, anyway. my father taught me that. the best way to solve a problem is to face it. the task, the deadlines would still be there. we could make it wait but it would never go away. so unburdened by my cares, my fears, taking it all off with a walk, i face the screen again, a little braver this time.
It's nearly summer but I like autumn leaves, a road filled with it in particular so oblige me. Thanks to Stu for the pic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tita, Bernardita, and My Writing

it was perhaps a year ago when i got this invitation from jopen, coming from an isabelina alumni asking for a contribution for a coffeetable book on my highschool alma mater, the colegio de santa isabel, which i fondly call Colegio. now, it's the unibersidad de santa isabel, so consequently, reference to it has changed to a dull Unibersidad. thud.

i didn't get to writing the article but i did get to blogging what tends to be hypocritical about my school. of course, i did not email this to jopen lest i be called a PNG (persona non-grata) by the madres there. not surprisingly, some of my friends understood where i came from. we, being ordinary mortals and students of the school who did not get to be class presidents, active student leaders, or just highly intelligent girls (according to their standards) or coming from buena familias, tend to better see what the school really is, than what it professes to be.

but in not writing that article, i missed writing about the people who did matter when i was there in colegio. my teachers. teachers who have inspired me, even now to be not afraid of who i am, to be able to express myself, to be able to make my mark even though i was an outsider, or that i was not of the perfect mold.

this article is about one special teacher but i could not write about her without acknowledging the first close to my heart, Mrs. Bernardita Estravila, my grade 4 teacher. i was in section yellow. in 1982, i was an outsider, a transferee from zamboanga city and i hardly knew anyone during that first day of school in june. but Mrs. Estravila saw through me. she greeted me with those warm eyes and a smile on her cheek, a left mole just close to her chin. i cannot hate colegio all that much because of Mrs. Estravila. if one school could have a teacher like her, then it must be a good kind school. she much owns this article as Ms Tita Salcedo.

i was in my writing class today, the 6th and last on cecily's series, Words on Paper, on writer's block. cecily spoke of support groups, of people who continually inspire people to write, inspite of and suddenly, for me, the image of Ms. Tita Salcedo materialized. you would not believe it but she was my Grade 10 physics teacher, not my english teacher. although ms. terbio and mrs. raquel would forever hold my thanks for teaching me the rigors of good spelling and grammar. but it would be ms tita salcedo who, unknowingly, gave me the inspiration to write from the heart.

i was in Grade 10 when an essay writing contest was held in our batch to celebrate Science Week. i'm not sure whether i joined voluntarily or was made to as representative of the class. i've forgotten. but i found myself writing, around noon, at the top floor of the blue and white building. yes, that floor known to be inhabited by spirits of dead nuns. it was noon anyway. i wrote by the table in the right side of the science lab. i didn't care that i should write about science as a field of knowledge or inquiry. instead, i wrote a story about a world where mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans and all so-called 'lower-order' beings were actually equal. it was a sci-fi dune-like world more in the likes of frank herbert and isaac asimov. it had no mountains. my view of the world was gray and metal and spaceships. but everyone lived in harmony. my main character was a little girl with a boyish face who was into the arts, into painting, with her bestfriend, a reptilian. i forgot the whole plot except for the ending when mastering their prejudices, the girl and her reptilian bestfriend were painting the earth together, their united testament to a new and gentler earth. i wrote it in a pad paper in blue ink and gave it right away to elaine tam, who was my seatmate and the president then of the science club. that essay would later win second prize in the contest (no trophy or certificate as only the 1st prize got an award) but it is Mam Tita Salcedo's admiration of it, her statement for me in class that was for me, the real prize. approvingly, she looked at me and said that i may not have written according to the styles of an essay, but the story i told was worth telling and worth believing. i could not forgot her look, that faith in what i just did, when she said that. i no longer got that copy of the essay. photocopying was not yet 'in'. i may have forgotten the whole story, but the way Mam Tita Salcedo acknowledged the truth and beauty of how i expressed myself in it is enough of a memory.

so people will stay with us this way, too. it could be through the dark road of deep unforgettable injury or it could be the way of illuminating joyful inspiration. perhaps because i learned how to assert myself when i was in UP, or because i finally accepted how imperfect i am that i don't care much that i had the courage to stick to a writing style truly my own. Mam Tita Salcedo has a part in that independence because she showed me that whatever it is that you can claim as your own, put your imprint, where you can allow your spirit, your sense of understanding, your critique or even love of the world emerge, is truly yours. in highschool, in colegio, i was given an opportunity to claim a space such as that and i was not disappointed. rather than rejected, it was accepted, acknowledged with the right to be. Mam Tita Salcedo gifted me with a faith i carry through all these years. and if colegio should matter, because she, too, was in it, then so be it. for that i owe her, and it is for people like her, that i shall continue to persevere, labor through, nurture, and love my writing.

Much thanks as always to for the wonderful pic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love Interest Kuno

jane said that i should have a love interest. hmmm? i seem to be working so hard that she said, i need to balance my emotions by way of getting inspiration, getting energy, than just expelling it out with my work. another hmmm? so i 'got' one. he's australian. my type - tall, handsome (nice eyes), and dark as in with a 'dark side' --- a dark-haired vampire!

hahahaha! he's no other than Alex O'Loughlin (pronounced daw as 'o-lack-lin'), the star of MoonLight, a now defunct show about Mick St. John, an 85-year old vampire private investigator in los angeles. well, i joined the fray late considering that i've discovered him like 2 years late already, and the show literally dead (ran for only 1 season). stumbled upon the series in youtube while searching for new uploads of the latest csi season 10. believe me, the script for Moonlight is very light, a bit laughable, largely lousy, and the lead female star seems to be the 'wrong' type (looks a little fierce and bit older than Mick). perhaps because i've been following csi, house, wire in the blood which are really no-holds-barred intelligently scripted criminal series that i could compare the 'light' material that is MoonLight.

if it should ever be revived, of course, retain the male lead (Alex is a natural actor and of course, effortlessly gorgeous and sexy) but please hire the best script writers to make the criminal side of each episode believable. that's why in watching Moonlight over youtube, i could afford to 'mute' the dialogue and just ogle at Alex O'Loughlin througout the whole 50 min of downloads while still reading a book. quite a frustrating way to connect with a love interest.

The free promo pic of MoonLight is courtesy of I don't own it.

Monday, October 26, 2009


why does love, so universal, has to be this complicated? why should there be extreme emotions, destructive love, fatal attractions, unrequited love, love from a distance, or love that's not meant to be? why does love has to be so ironic? why can't you just love and be loved back? when should the tension end? then why should love end? why does something so universal, such as air, can't be had by just will?

Thanks to for the beautiful pic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wee Wails

because of my work, i sleep late, or rather i sleep already in the wee hours of the morning. so off to bed at 1am (it was actually 12am since the clock in my laptop i've mistakenly programmed 1 hour late), got ruffled by the sound of a woman's voice passing by the corridor beside my room. she was talking to someone (presumably a guy) and she was quite frustrated for being stood up (at 12 midnight, it's waaaaaaay too obvious girl!). in the next 30min or so, she was wailing on the other side of the universe, in the veranda i think. about 100m from my room but i could still hear her. i laughed since i went through a similar experience, like, more than 5 years ago. cora would laugh if she reads this. at the balcony of a QC 'mini'-condo, called her cell, and cried a river over an impending break-up. of course, it didn't happen and the events that unfurled deserved more my tears but i did not shed any tear then. only cried just recently when i remembered my theme song. oh girl, you'll look back to this experience and you'll feel a little bit embarrassed, a little bit annoyed (for being so 'weak'), and hopefully, a little bit relieved for escaping that hell of a person who stood you up. people who deliberately make you wait and cry and leave you crying that long just do not care. i hope you'll get the message despite the tears.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Much Ado about a Painting Lesson

in long distance, i gave my permission for Yaman to attend a painting class, starting today. the class is hosted by one of our neighbors, now a teacher in ateneo and sponsoring a class at PhP69 per session (~A$1.68) that runs for 3 hours from 1-4pm for 10 consecutive saturdays. Well, someone from my household just suddenly objected to Yaman attending the painting session (you know who --- the 'sad' one) much to my and my sister's dismay and disbelief! anong problema mo?! (what's your problem?) citing reasons that the place is so far or out of the way or that yaman does not need to attend one. by noon today, that person was still objecting whether my daughter should go or not, although Yaman has expressed her interest. Yaman was willing to go that's why i obliged. that was the most important thing, not my permission.

you know, sometimes, being old does not make you any wiser especially if you dwell on your frustrations, what you have not been, what you have not --- all the 'have nots' could be deadening and it could cause you to inflict the same frustrations on others, especially your children, or your grandchildren. do not impose your sad plight on others. what could be a more enriching and liberating stance than to rather support, to not let someone live your prison, to not let someone suffer your fate by allowing them to be, allowing them to unfurl their wings and fly? this is oppression 'to the highest level' because it comes from those who are supposed to nurture, who are expected to know biologically the essence of love not as capture but as detachment and self-expression. for aren't we all released from our mother's womb to wail and face, make mistakes, to change, or just love the world? we should know better. as mothers, we have no excuse.

Thanks to for the lovely pic.

Friday, October 23, 2009


where can one go
how can one be
how can one prevail
when the answer
is no
the urge
is to be
common, unfree
flat in the face
standards fly
images rule
traditions prevail
it thus pays
to mock the mob
show skin
shave one's head
find space
steal space
make space
feed space
defend space
for roads to unravel, many
life to breathe, colorful
community to thrive, true

Thanks always to

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Kingdom of Letters

there are struggling times in writing. just this morning, around 9.30, i could not decide where to start so i tried incorporating carol's comments (the other supe, the anthropologist) on the template i'm working. my objective now is to summarize a 30-page chapter into a 15-page proposal to be submitted to the Graduate Research Committee of the university this December. this is at a time when i'm adding a related perspective to my 'other' approach in impact assessment. so just to get me going, i went through carol's document and a little later, i was writing. and although there is an added perspective, the writing was easy, flowing. as if the 3rd perspective was 'there' all along, waiting to be heard, waiting to be listened to, waiting to be written. (is this how tolkien materialized the Middle Kingdom?)

i know what to do. when inside my head, i just can't find direction over the jumble of thoughts, once i write them all down, i find direction. it doesn't mean that it's easy. one needs time to read, for ideas to germinate on top of others' ideas. it requires patience. putting ideas into words and seeing them work within the sentence, in a paragraph, in unison, a hodge podge of ideas concretized, is just an amazing partnership of the human brain and the human hand. this is one good idea for a short story 'the kingdom of letters' to help signify how in our uniqueness, we all fit, we all have a spot to fill, and a purpose to fulfill.

thoughts and writing rule the world.

Thanks to for the pic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kenyan Beat

my flatmate, caroline, is from kenya. while i was frying some meat loaf around 5pm today, she surprised me by inviting me to dance with her. dance? as in dance? words escaped me as the excited caroline spoke to her fellow kenyan in their native language (i could only make out my name 'vitti'). i think she meant to show me their dance, in kenya, which up to now seems to have a contemporary beat. i guess so since caroline, at 35, was dancing to it, with all the humps and flailing arms reminding me of fergie of the black-eyed peas. you know, how she struts. caroline was dancing like her but with movements very african, with legs thumping, the upper and lower bodies in staccato rhythms. and over youtube where her laptop is connected, i could hear kenyan music and the beat, which surprisingly, is bouncy, upbeat and with the choruses and chantings of women that one cannot help but sing with. later on, i was humming them. reminds me of the movie on south africa 'the one'. i've forgotten the plot but i can still hear its music. that's what carol's music resembles and where her dance resonates. she could not help it really as suddenly she got this curtain rod and danced with it! i was so amazed! kenya has sound and music, indigenous yet contemporary enough to be danced by its younger generations. wow, what life of such music! do we have one such dance, such music in the Philippines without donning a baro't saya and beating bamboo poles together?

Thanks to Serge of for the pic!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rest for a Tired Aura

jopen said it first last saturday while i was chatting with her during yaman's birthday party. i saw it, in a way. the dark patches under my eyes and my face showed a pallor, itie, my bestfriend in our village, claimed i was getting darker under the australian sun. it must be how 'dark' my face showed with the early morning sleeping and the late morning waking, still dazed with the previous night's readings. then in this morning class on writing, i unknowingly heaved a loud sigh, as if yawning and weary, which surprised nicole, my german friend and co-researcher at the ARC, and to which my teacher said, quite sensitively, 'sorry!'. i was too embarrassed. after the class, i had to apologize to cecily. then i met jane, the supe upstairs the main library, who noticed, how tired i look. although mind and body don't feel like it, perhaps my aura does. i am tired. so tired i am no longer my face. does this make sense?

so there, i was about to 'rest' in fremantle but how can one rest while walking, seduced by the lure of crazy things to buy, one of them in this sushi place where i just cannot help but eat and take out sushi. so i headed back to the flat, reheated my chicken soup, a salmon omelette and had a late lunch at 1pm. then fighting the urge to read an article, instead went to youtube to watch 'the matchmaker'. until tiring of it, i went then to look for roberta guaspari, the violin teacher in the bronx who had a rebirth teaching violin to inner-school kids, with whom years later, she would play with, in carnegie hall, with the likes of itzhak perlman and isaac stern. i cried just hearing violin music again, especially their rendition of bach's double concerto. until i clicked the link to perlman's performance of schindler's list theme song ('apocalypso'?) where i cried some more. now, i've just finished my 5th short story. and now i'm blogging while yaman, on the cam, is busy drawing. such a rare day to rest. i do really need it.

Photo credit to

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tweaking Miss Muppet and Humpty Dumpty

so what
if miss muppet
fears the spider
and humpty dumpty
remains broken
as if children's
poems are meant
to make children happy
just as adult stories
are meant
to make adults
behave better
less discriminating
less racist
less inhuman
poems and stories
are meant to
tell on life
that could never
be had
by not fearing
and breaking
by not facing
our lesser
evil selves
stories and poems
are mirrors
to the light
and dark in us
who are we
to meddle?

In response to an evening news report today on Channel 7 Australia that a certain education department in Australia has re-woven 'Little Miss Muppet' and 'Humpty Dumpty' into 'harmless, nice' stories. Another injustice to writing!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Forays into Cooking and What I Have Learned So Far

shocks! ang haba ng title for such an 'ek-ek' article. well, the past 4 months have seen an eruption of two vitti-blogs: and which i think comes from my confidence in just writing, imperfect but still my voice (which i would encourage to all of you just to be able to find expression to the thoughts inside your head --- they long to be released mind you!). some friends comment how could i find the time (which i cannot answer since i just do. if one can breathe, then one can write i guess). well, people should not be surprised since these are within my comfort zones (writing about my studies and writing stories --- the latter a new found expression). you SHOULD be surprised if this blog ever comes out: pumuti na ang uwak (the hawk has turned white). an impossibility, that is.

for the past 4 months since living in perth, without any choice, i had to cook for myself. in a family of magnificent cooks, i'm the 'latak' (pitiful last) when it comes to cooking. my mom and sis could conjure up dishes out of nowhere and even just by tasting similar dishes. i just could not. with food, i am a better eater than a cook. but then, i know that i am a 'good' cook in the sense that i like what i cook. and so, if i can satisfy myself then it could mean that at least, i am able to approximate how a dish tastes like or just how it should taste, based on the memories of my taste buds from mom and yumi's cooking. i should know since i have better masterful comparisons.

but along the way, of course, my dishes are still a poor second compared to my mom's sinigang and kaldereta and tinola or yumi's adobo. i could not even copy their signature dishes like my mom's arroz ala valenciana or yumi's gambasetti. i even feel 'stupid' with my questions to them about cooking. just like the time when i asked my mom how to cook dry adobo (shocks! ilipat lang pila sa isang separate frying pan yung cooked adobo!) or the time i asked yumi how to cook arroz caldo (shocks, will stir chicken meat and malagkit lang naman po!).

but then, too, along the way, i've come across several 'rules of thumb' in cooking, realized through trial and error and this i'd like to share with you (after a lengthy intro. hay, much like a thesis intro na kailangan mong mag-background). so oblige me. pwede nyo akong tawanan (laugh at me all you want, it's ok). here they are:

1. as much as fire and water are destructive elements of feng shui, so they are in cooking (see! i could write dramatically about water and fire but not use them well at first in cooking). i realized that to retain the taste of the meat, one should control the amount of water. i also realized that liquid ingredients like soy sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, patis add up to the water level so the base amount of water should be estimated taking all these in mind (yeah, i have to learn them like reading a book!). i nearly ruined my chicken curry once since i forgot to factor in the can of coconut milk for the broth. how did i correct it? di binawasan ko ng sabaw and added a little salt. madaya, pero masarap naman ang resulta he he. but i don't use plain water. instead, i use rice stock (the first batch of water after washing rice before cooking) to add a little richness to it.

2. with the proliferation of fast foods, nothing beats slow cooking. this i got from my dearest uncle rollie in sydney. i told him my frustrations of not being able to get the taste of pork in sinigang just like my mom does. until he advised that it has to do with the heat. so related above, uncle said better cook meat under low fire. oo nga no? then on, my sinigang had this sweeter taste of pork meat, parang pareho na rin ng kay mommy. pwede na, kumbaga. low fire also helps cook the insides of meat, like chicken, so no 'bloody' parts on my fried chicken.

3. never cook with a burned tongue or just after brushing your teeth. for the simple reason that the burning feeling obscures the taste of food. di ko ma-feel ang sarap since what i am most concerned about is the sting in my tongue. likewise, the 'minty freshness' of colgate ruins what could be called an unadulterated sense of tasting.

4. it doesn't hurt to experiment especially if you're a newbie like me. i was able to cook curry chicken ala pumpkin soup which in the end...tasted very good! i sliced the pumpkin into small thin pieces (knowing that they cook slow) and whaddaya you know? they all disintegrated and turned the curry soup into a bright orange just like pumpkin soup. i could remember before that my famous 'estofado' (cooked while i was in LB at di ko na ma-replicate sa naga --- insecure in front of mom and yumi) i was able to conjure by accidentally mixing hunts pork and beans with ketchup (supposed to be tomato sauce only). there's this salt and garlic combination by masterfoods which i use to marinate chicken and sprinkle on corned beef --- masarap sya 'day!

5. when cutting onions, breathe through your mouth. although, i could never be a daughter-in-law, i still make it a point not to shed tears when cutting up onions. you see there's this filipino saying that should you cry doing so, you will never be appreciated by your spouse's in-laws. i came to do this by not breathing to my nose since it seems, taking in the pungent smell of onions triggers tears. so my breathing pattern is like this: exhale-take in air-exhale. and yeah, i should be damn fast with cutting since this breathing technique is so tiring!

ok yan lang he he. i still have to come up with the 6th down to the nth. i hope you learned something and did not go all the way to #5 thinking how a crazy 'cook' i am. i don't even call what i do 'cooking' with my flatmates here in the village. i call it 'experiment' and so far, i'm comfortable with it. my taste buds say so.

Thanks to for the pics.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Notes to a Birthday: Yaman's 4th and Counting

four years ago, at exactly 430pm, i gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, christened 'YAMAN' even while still inside the womb, because she will be the light and the wealth of my world. you see, the word 'YAMAN' in the tagalog sense, means more than just material wealth, but rather implies the whole range of richness in all things positive. true, it was a birth not far from the intrigues coming from a pregnancy out of wedlock, and the frustrations from a pregnancy that is unplanned. but as they say, the best things that one could ever dream of in life are sometimes not the things that are acceptable or even planned, at the first instance. my dream then of going home to an empty flat with just a sofa has become so remote, and so unimaginable for me, i believe that Yaman has not only enriched my life, but my consciousness --- my consciousness to live and form and breathe my world with color, with visions more than my own.

i know there are single women who read my blog, and those that cannot still relate, but having a child, natural or adopted, enhances one's being, one's hopes and dreams to be, inspite and because of. so as i greet my YAMAN her 4th birthday, and as i write this blog (and i watch her, via webcam, go about the house carrying her pink balloon around, her giggles, her voice, and playful roaming about making it all worth it) i must say, i should greet myself too. happy rebirth, vitti! perhaps parents ought to do the same, not to boast or to brag, but just to reinforce this rare privilege of becoming parents, thanking God for blessings that come in neat little packages called children who constantly remind and inspire us to become better humans, as for my own that comes in the name of YAMAN.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gorrest Fump

if life can be a box
of chocolates
then it can also be
like egg yolk being beaten
or banana trees toppling
of harvests blown by cyclones
our lives are sweet
as they are endless upheavals
we come no closer to laughing
until we rattled and
crazed again
by the impatience of storms
by the persistence
of our own follies

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living in the Age of Fear: My Say on Climate Change (In Respect of Blog Action Day for Climate Change)

the debate on climate change is, from my limited knowledge, being waged on two sides:

(1) that humans are responsible for it because of wanton disregard to the environment, from the way that we consume and our raising into a 'throwaway' or 'disposable' culture, our ignorance and silence to the deleterious effects of extractive industries such as mining and logging, and the developed countries' (yes, for once, the developing country is lesser to blame!) fossil fuel-hungry march to manufacturing-led industrialization (among others he he)

(2) no way are humans responsible, with some scientists saying that climate change is a 'natural' process caused by the heating up of the sun, a view to which my brother subscribes to.

either way, we are not guilt-free. we have so much to fear. because whether it's the fault of humans or the sun, we live in the age of tipping points --- the balance has tipped. gone are the days when typhoons used to hit bicol and all the way up to the south and north parts of the tagalog region. now even visayas and mindanao (remember cotabato and cagayan de oro) are no longer spared, and ravaged. gone are the days when rainy days are meant for lovers to do a little cuddling under the sheets (remember 'pumapatak na naman ang ulan?'...). now the rains, falling for just one day under storm signal no. 1 (that was ondoy) is a cause of much panic, material loss, and death. gone are the days when flash floods occur only in valleys high-up or some remote barrio. gone are the days when floods could just be associated with navotas and malabon. gone are the days when we are less vulnerable and never fearful. this is the age of fear.

an age of fear not just from rich yuppie Spanish mestizo convicts or zombies or UFOs or manananggals, or kidnappers, or rapists, or even the abu sayyaf. this is the age of fear, of Mother Nature, itself. and thus, while we can claim protection from humans by means of the law or even, vigilante forms of justice, from Mother Nature we cannot be guaranteed of such protection. we have no protection. we cannot demand protection from anyone outside of us, but from our selves. Mother Nature demands that we change in attitudes, in outlook, in will. and we are lost and helpless because Mother Nature forces us to confront another kind of fear - our values.

perhaps because it's hard to reverse lifestyles and habits. perhaps because our institutions would rather engage in mudslinging than be accountable. perhaps because we'd rather blame anyone but ourselves (e.g., squatters, dam managers, urban planners). or perhaps because we can no longer distinguish between fear, and apathy.

so are we ready then?

Danke to Keith Levit of for the impressive pic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


can a man eat the sun
that eats into his flesh
can a woman eat the stars
eating her sights after a beating
can a child eat the dark
that eats whole confidence
can humanity eat the world
eating away its significance

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cougar Love, Anyone?

times indeed have changed. suzie, an acquaintance from uwa, says it's women finally asserting their sexuality. janty takes it in jest with her toy boys while annisa is just scandalized. the three are indonesians and across the generation divide, we are freer to laugh and discuss the possibilities of it amongst us, regardless of race and ethnic background, during the MAWP which also included parma (indonesian), djali (malaysian), tuti (indonesian), yukini (japanese), umnia (pakistani) and naris (thai).

mind you, cougar relationships (older woman-younger man) even has a mathematical formula. the man should be half the woman's age + 7. so at 38, i am 'allowed' under cougar rules, to have a boyfriend 11 years my junior at 27. that means, when i was 11 (grade 5), the man i'm supposed to be with hasn't even been born or was just suckling his mom (how gross!). that's not so bad says annisa, madonna's love interest now is 27 while she's 52! oh! what long ago was cradle snatching is now just plain feline attraction!

umph, let me see? where will i and my younger man date? at the araneta coliseum watching the pba? will we hang out at 'emba'? here in perth, will he be playing footie while i cross-stitch by the stands? will he have steak for dinner and me, just a protein drink? wouldn't sex be embarrassing? could i keep up? can he keep up by how slow i walk? will he make me strong coffee? will he understand my love for books? the ungodly hours i keep until three in the morning? will he rub my toes or just be a dork? will he just be an ordinary passing love? or will he finally deserve the 'torch'?

thoughts like these swirl about while i locked eyes with a smashing tall dark-skinned guy at the laundry area this morning. at 11am, i was fresh as a bag of lettuce while he had spring in his gait, and his smile was as bright as the sunshine outside. 'are any of these yours?', the hopeful cougar said with eyes raised on the machine filled with a bulk of washed uncollected clothes. 'oh yes, mam. now it's your turn!'...MAM?! COUGAR?! forget it.

Many thanks to Marcel of for the pic.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just George

He's my papa. Yun lang.

Photo credit to Mr. Ruben Napales of Philippine Daily Inquirer,

Sunday, October 11, 2009


this afternoon, i'm off to nedlands to attend what janty is tendering --- a 'middle-aged woman's party' (MAWP). and while my friends say i'm too young (-looking! naks!) to attend such party, i beg to disagree. first, i'm 38 and if i'm expected to live until age 74, i'm halfway past the middle mark by 0.0135. and if i'm expected to live a little later until 76, then i'm just about qualified. so, what we look forward to tonight, other than food? will there be men around? what do women in a MAWP talk about if not our children, or our husbands, or our careers, or our studies, in particular. will obama come into the picture and why he undeservedly won the nobel? will we talk about age-defying and age-retarding creams and lotions, and potions? how will the wine taste like over conversations of women bringing gray hairs, wrinkles, and memories to a party?

Thanks to Michael Pemberton of

Friday, October 9, 2009

Conversations with Moi

a flash fiction writer?
uhmmm, perhaps that i will be.
okay, perhaps that would be my genre
suits my weakness with dialogues
and my writing span of 5 paragraphs
unless it's a technical paper.
but perhaps
i need to sleep more
and dream more.
oh, i don't have
to take myself seriously
on this, right? but ok
i'll give it a try.

Credits to Dawn Hudson of for the wonderful pic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Guardians of the Soul (A Short Story for Yaman)

This is a story about the Guardians of the Soul.

Once upon a time when time was young and raw, there stood in the precipice of a rocky outgrowth, the Guardians of the Soul. Eight tall beautiful guardians that lie awake at day and sleep in the night. Like humans, they laugh, play, and tease each other. But like humans, they also bicker, envy, and grumble for they are enamored by their beauty.

One day, the God of All came, with Truth and Justice, and asked, ‘Who among you is the Greatest?’ Without hesitation and rocking their foundations, Love, Wisdom, and Faith began climbing up, at the expense of those beside them.

Until the God of All struck them down and with a thundering voice bellowed, ‘What blind lot!’ And with wrath, never before seen, the God of All declared, ‘Because of your selfishness, you shall learn selflessness. You shall be transplanted to the back of these mountains and lie guard there until the end of time. Only when it knows fear so shall the Soul find you. Go and make your penance!’ And so shamed though all-knowing, Love, Wisdom, and Faith stand back and guard the Soul always at its last and darkest hour.

Hope, the ever loyal friend, asked to be taken away with Love. To this sacrifice, the God of All, with heart warmed divined, ‘Selfless spirit, you shall have your place, but alone. With this lot you shall stand, yet in front shining. You will not be mistaken as any other, by any Soul. For to them, you shall be the light when all is dark cast.’

And so the God of All harkened them with a command. ‘The duty of the Guardians is to work together and not against each other. To put up with each other, hold up the weakening, the one falling apart. For any obstacle, difficulty, you shall bear pain as witness to your testing, but the Soul shall bear the scars, deep. You shall remain beautiful and spotless but forever be on guard! From now on, you must stand guard, day and night, without sleep, without fail. Protect the Soul from any assault for if the Soul that hold your scars give up, so shall you crumble, and die.’

And so it came to pass that the Guardians of the Soul fronting that mighty rock outgrowth dwindled from eight to four – Temperance, Humility, Patience and Fortitude. They are the first defense against any beating, any rape of the Soul. Should they fail and crumble, Hope shines as a ray of light, and promise. And ever eager to repay and prove their selflessness --- Love, Wisdom, and Faith finally unleash their power.

My first story at 38. Came out of a dream this morning. Of old but beautiful faces of giants whose heads and torsos guard mightily against a smashing sea. I can actually hear the voice of the God of All in my head, and by the representation I know of God, was in billowing shiny white robes. With pencil and pink notebook, I hurriedly scribbled the story still half-awake, mouth unwashed, hair in disarray, and occasionally closing my eyes to hear the voice of my dreams.

Being my first, I dedicate this to Yaman but I might as well dedicate it to all of you, all of us, children at heart and forever searching.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


hay, how children could break one's heart?! mine got a breaking today as yaman refused to chat with me and seems to pretend to and eventually went to sleep. we were chatting last monday when the webcam at home went bust because of a loose cable connection. yumi said that yaman kept on calling 'mommy! mommy!' over the screen, until she has to be told that our connection has gone kaput. i miss my kid so much and with what happened, makes me wonder what am i doing here in perth?! however i praise technology it's still not enough and looking at each other onscreen remains a pale substitute to holding your child close, feeling her warm and snug, peer into her eyes and assure her that mommy's near, mommy's coming home soon, don't be mad now, i'm here. but even at a tender age, yaman deserves to be. she probably could not forget, her own frustration too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This Sea Beside Me

i'm drowning in a sea of books and i want to read them all. how i wish i'm dr. teresita calderon. the fastest reader in the world, a woman, and a filipino. she used to read 25,000 words per minute with 100% comprehension. two years ago, my brother narrated that she was tested again by this agency in the US and well, she could then read 80,000 words per minute, again at 100% comprehension. these piles of books beside me would be mincemeat to her. but here i am. and here i go since i have no choice. to read and note-take in a sea of books.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Asian Signs

this pic was taken last last Saturday, 26 Sept, the first time that Perth landed a 20C+ temp of 25C since spring set in last august. it was a hot day and was waiting for the 98 bus to kardinya when i saw this cloud formation. that day, i walked to church and back to the lib using an umbrella and that's how 'Asian' i could get. you see, here in perth, the sun is loved so much that aussies lovingly flaunt in it. shades or sunglasses are their only protection. but often, women and men expose themselves, with some walking barefoot even as if their feet needs sun-bathing too. only asians, i was told, would walk in the sun with an umbrella. so imagine me walking with an umbrella that sunday. this is beyond the understanding of a normal aussie.

today, october 5, the sun went out again. and perhaps because it was a regular school day and there were a lot of people in school, i got a bit 'ashamed' of using my umbrella... only to regret it later.

you see, around dec 1999, three months before leaving for home, i had been diagnosed with a suspect 'melanoma'. it was suspect since the doctor here in murdoch could not confirm without some tests and she insisted on operating too. to excise it appears to have been urgent. it started like an insect bite which did not go away. it was itchy and the irritation turned red, hard, and dark at the sides. this darkening i think made the doctor suspect. not too mention that i got so dark-skinned that time my mom wondered whether i really took my masters from australia or from africa.

so to cut the story short, i got a bit embarrassed of giving away a little of my 'asian-ness' this afternoon to my risk of course. so starting tomorrow, i wouldn't care anymore. i'm the one at risk to melanoma. and with umbrella or not, i'm asian anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Murdoch Uni and the Village

This is the first batch of pictures of my school, Murdoch University, and where I live, Banksia court in Murdoch Uni Village. Walking from church around half past noon today, the weather was so great --- sunny and blue --- so I decided to take pics along the way, or my route passing over the school and down to the village.

This is what I like about Murdoch. It is a school in a park. We're surrounded by gum trees and a lot of plant species exotic to Australia. But what I like most are these gum trees. Sturdy and giving off this piney citrus scent during spring.

The Chancellery Oval just after Carpark 3. Where the school admin is.

There are 3 flags hoisted over the school. On the middle is the Australian Aboriginal Flag which is significant in recognizing the Aboriginal origins of the whole country.

The facade of the Chancellery, with the Murdoch logo. This plant is called Grass Boy which is indigenous to Western Australia. It used to be called 'Black Boy' until the derogatory connotations of the term and the Government's conscious awareness to eradicate discrimination against anything aboriginal made it ripe for a name change to 'Grass Boy'.

Murdoch Uni is on flat ground that there is no landmark monument. Bush Court, however, is this wide expanse at the center of the school where during school days, are just littered with people.

The first thing that greets me as I go down the steps to Banksia court is the gazebo where get-togethers are held and Aussies and other students sun themselves in the morning and afternoon.

My room is along this corridor. The one at the first level, just beside the bike parking slot. While the flat could be cavernously silent, I am within hearing range of all comings and goings, which is sometimes not so good especially at night.

This is the view of Murdoch Village from the Kardinya side. Banksia court is the one at the middle. Here I am en route to a friend's house. Impressive eh, especially at night. Too bad, I'm leaving for a better homey place by December.

More next time!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Make Me

long hair
gray hair
limp hair

i need a makeover.

Friday, October 2, 2009

To the Beautiful Ralph Fiennes

what is this?
about dark driven men
that draws me
as if sad eyes
are not enough
had to touch their chests
and hearts
just to feel the thumping
as if their eyes
are not dead
and i
could be as lost
as them

Photo credit to

Thursday, October 1, 2009


as of 812pm, naga was still quite peaceful with the impending approach of super typhoon peping (international name: parma), now a category 4 storm as it has yet to approach bicol. by then, it's expected to be category 5! i live in the age of climate change!

rather than follow pag-asa, i recommend that you tune in to mike padua's which gives a more detailed and regularly updated tracking system for incoming typhoons. i bet mike hasn't and will not sleep a wink tonight. i met this guy sometime in 2008 on an expo of local development initiatives in sm megamall. a tall unassuming guy whose weather satellite is a human-made contraption so simple that he had it strapped on top of one beam holding his exhibit nook in place.

is this national karma or what? three typhoons in a row: ondoy, peping (parma) and melor (international name, no fil name yet). while i get jittery here in perth, yumi as her usual self is calm, so is my mom and jungee and of course, yaman does not care at all. and i remember the story of this pastry vendor who just had breakfast with his family, over coffee and pandesal, on the morning of sept 26 in tayuman, and never see them alive after. his family perished under Ondoy, unable to get out of their rented bungalow once floodwaters came. all five of his children, his wife, his mom, were found huddled in one corner of the house, still holding each other.

life so temporal, so precious.

Danke to for the wonderful pic.