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)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Night in Loris

the first thing i would do tomorrow, after sun salutations is to tuck up Yaman's pictures (one including me) and Shadowman's.  tuck them in the box for personal collections. i wonder what memories i would hold after 6 months, taking them up again and posting them on another wall, or another shelf. yes another one. because yes, i'm leaving loris and this ensuite i called my territory since november last year. i'm giving it up because for the next 6 months, i don't want to pay monthly rent equivalent to the upkeep of yaman, me and my mom for a month in naga (obscene!). second, because though this is my territory, i could never call loris my home. it is just a transit point to a place i hope would finally be home for me after 6 months until i finish the phd by 2010 (at the most). yes, so this is indeed my last night here. in this room big enough for a foursome with australian guys according to bic-bic; a retro room according to jom; my own sanctuary when every one else is unbearable. this is the room where tears were shed for an atenean from the past, unfolding as ShadowMan in the flesh. the walls and floors the lone witness to two long-lost lovers bridging 26 years with the maturity, patience and tolerance only 40 year-olds could muster. indeed, this is the room where the love of Lightworker and Shadowman materialized. but unlike guijo, i would not kiss its floors when i leave tomorrow. i will just clean it and leave it fresh for the next one coming in. as i am in transition, so i am leaving this place. i'm going to somewhere more permanent, my real home.

 My loves on the wall including the never-too-late addition, Yaman's Daddy, my Shadowman!

How retro could this house get? Room light comes from this spherical orb, the surface designed like marble icing.  Below's the carpet typical of old Aussie houses for its loud designs and offbeat colors.
Stephii gave me this one and I'll never forget. The only big that matters is one's heart.
 Vitti's most profound discovery at 39.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Shadow's Sun

you are my eternal sun
the sunrise for a new beginning
the sunset as i too shall end
with you...

 Photo courtesy of Fr. James, S. J.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where are all those 160lbs?

i now weigh 160 lbs. i now weigh 160 lbs...i now weigh 160lbs?! such was the train of thought after i finished weighing my luggage around 1030 this morning.  the formula  my luggage + me - just me = luggage. gosh, where are all those 160lbs hiding? since i got here last july, i didn't notice any tightening of my jeans. no shortness of breath while walking, no neck pains. i could still wear my office polos to church without the need to hold my belly in. could someone really weigh so much, and not show? i mean, i would believe it, the scales, if it's evident enough to merit a change of wardrobe. ugh, this came just 5 days after the blog about my fat body. to be confronted with such fatness, pardon the pun, is heavy indeed to take.  for someone who has scorned dieting, i think sticking to sensibility is the logical thing to do now. while my cholesterol's good, including blood sugar, for how long? so yeah, being sensible with food, food, food is still the sustainable way. i'll take this as an alarm going off. the 160lbs may not show in my figure now but the answer to my question could just come in a way i could never recover from.

Monday, September 27, 2010


4 days
to leave a less than ideal abode
to bury in the embrace and heat of a strong man
to upgrade a much ridiculed passport
to console friends under turmoil of circumstances
to lie in peace tight in the arms of a beautiful daughter
to rekindle memories, be nostalgic with good old friends
to begin the folding and unfolding of a new terrain in the phd
to witness the change in seasons, and rediscover fears, hopes, and becomings
moving between worlds, in the world
in 4 days

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Will

no one and no circumstance
could ever tear us apart
you balance my life
you brought me back
to my innocent, happy, hopeful self
i will be with other man but you
i will be the strong silent presence
you are my life now
i breathe as you breathe
i see everything in us
all the completeness and its completion
i will love you forever

(Lightworker to Shadowman 02.2010)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ang Batang Kumakain ng Libro

this is really true. straight from the mommy's mouth.

she was barely one when as part of her teething urges, Yaman would pick any book within her reach and bite through it. normally lying on her back, feet squirming with excitement as she takes the book with two hands, and bites through the reams. her first victim was her first book, 'The ABC Book of Colors', which in less than a year became tattered and worn down, it just couldn't be put together by scotch tape! the second victim was a Pooh book series, those small but thick paged series meant for kids. i tried buying her books made of cloth but Yaman doesn't like them at all. it was not that exciting to eat perhaps.

her two front teeth now are wearing out, particularly the one on the right (her right) which is now as thin as a toothpick. how she hates to see a dentist so yeah, it will take a lot of pleading again to convince her. in the meantime, i'm posting here for eternity her two front teeth, vestiges of teething years of my ever unique Yaman.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Loving my Fat Body

at 27C, for the first time in 3 months,. i stepped out of the house with no jacket on. told myself, had to wear summer shirts na but as the mirror showed, i was bulging in all the wrong places. not the summer body any man would crave and any woman would aspire for. so who would want a body like mine? i couldn't wear shorts anymore without getting conscious of cellulite-heavy thighs. sleeveless tops don't look flattering with flabby arms. before, my mind would readily scream DIET! half-cup rice would banner my meal combinations and mealtimes would stop drastically by 6pm.

but as i was walking down the tree-lined stretch of dalston crescent, i just couldn't bring myself to these seriously anymore. at 40, i have hung my spurs on dieting. i am just tired of not eating this so i could achieve a body that is, always, less than what i fantasize. being thin is now an unreachable dream. before i left for perth, i was introduced by this well-meaning doctor in ortigas of HCG treatment particularly using her own experience as an example. lo and behold! i think she went from being a size 16 to a size 8 in 6 weeks. she showed me pictures of middle-aged, middle-class women, just like me, who had achieved hour-glass figures, and even beautiful bright dispositions by just losing weight. if i stayed then more than a week in manila, i would have been lured. then perhaps now, i would have been a size 8 or 10. i would have not been writing this blog.

but time really helps, and the internet. i researched on HCG and got to thinking that this is just one of those faddish things that could work but which, ordinary people like me would have difficulty coping. for who can whip out P32,000 every 6 weeks, feast on a controlled 1500-calorie a day diet, and inject one's self with HCG every day? i thought of all the effort and the abuse that this body, my body again will go through...and i say, ugh...this has got to stop. somewhere, along this stretch in dalston. some time, here, as my skin gets kissed by the glorious sun one friday afternoon.

one has got to live with the truth, the hard-to-swallow-truth that one is really fat, no matter what the effort. that the scales would always tip above 140, and one just had to forego, forever, wearing shorts, thigh-short tube-like summer dresses, bathing suits, sleeveless blouses and body-hugging outfits simply because one is just fat. i'm not saying this to have an excuse to eat non-stop like a tank. no, the me saying this just had had enough of the abuse, mentally, physically, and emotionally, that i subject my body to everytime i try to reach this unattainable ideal of slimness. this is just not me, anymore. it would take 23 years for me to acknowledge.  FAT i am, i say with finality. FAT i am, whatever i do.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


out there somewhere
the husband negotiates traffic
wishing to come home to a waiting wife
out there a little girl scans her thoughts
putting herself to sleep with names
to pair for her future baby brother
as here i sit exhausted but mind alive

connecting the thoughts
of husband and daughter
drawing them near to my dreams
to light true wishes near fulfilling
as they await for me to fill the page
alive, someone they could touch, in their midst

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Right Time

indeed what is the right time?
for coffee
for reading marcia hines
for writing liza that long letter about ShadowMan
for taking Ian to a movie
for Matt's surprise dinner date with Roxanne
for dropping that never-working diet
for waking up from a one-sided love relationship
for wrapping up that draft conclusion chapter
for us, the world will never stop, it doesn't wait
so why should we?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


just two weeks ago, i introduced yaman to then to to until she settled to for dora the explorer. eversince, i've never spoken to my daughter for more than 30 minutes a day. told myself, just let her play and enjoy it. after all she's just a kid. until i noticed, her play hours stretching until 930pm. got the shock of my life when after chiding her that we're no longer talking, we stopped, so we talked and it was until about 1013pm! for the past week, we'd hook up over skype but after a few minutes of warming up each other with hello's and how are you's, yaman would click on her favorite dora and glue away playing, the helpless me looking on. starting just last monday, i've imposed a curfew. play stops at 9pm and ohhh, did she hate it. like manny pacquiao, yaman would her fist and arc it as if about to hit me. oh no this is wrong. from experience, i know taunting yaman with the same anger would do no good. reprimanding her using anger further fuels hers. i had to be mother theresa, Mama Mary, and mrs. doubtfire rolled into one. begging, soothing, stern but still motherly. after a minutes she calmed down, and after a while we were already talking about her birthday party this october. i know i just diverted her attention. i know i haven't talked to her about the limits in playing and that, it's the highest no-no to hit, or even dare to hit, one's elders, especially one's mom. but i leave it at this. and i know i haven't done much. i really am afraid to lose my daughter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lessons from the (Trans)Crypt

1. after interviewing, transcribe

2. don't compromise. transcribe in toto

3. encode notebook notes

4. back-up!

5. organize

6. don't interrupt your interviewee

7. don't assume. ask always

8. record interview date and location

9. bring spares (pens, batteries, recorder)

10. always ask for last thoughts

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Danger on the Horizon

Feeling down lately because delays in what i should do for the past 3 months have converged with the Phase 2 fieldwork sked which starts October 2009. Haven't processed data for Phase 1 and now, the deluge of Phase 2 data is forthcoming.  Don't trust anyone enough in Naga to hire as a research assistant so I will be on edge in an environment where i am not just a student but someone divided into several other competing personalities. moping will not serve anything. Thank God, it is free to write about one's misery.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Last 9 Transcripts

perhaps i just wanted to feel good about myself. indeed, i've wrapped up 81 household interviews, translating these into 81 household transcripts.

yet, lurking in the shadows are 9 more interviews, specifically of 7 organizational leaders and 2 institutional (1 NGO and 1 from Naga's Sanggunian).  initially hoped to pass this over, and just do them when i have the 'time'. but as i went to preparing tabled timelines and profiles for 10 organizations the past two days, i realized these transcripts just couldn't be ignored as these fill in data gaps discovered in the org data.

i had to swallow this truth hard because this means consuming a week, at least, on transcripts again. and i haven't made an analysis yet of initial household-level findings from the interviews, which jane expects by the 2nd week of october.

i want to cry. although now, i can't. this is not yet my breaking point. so the closest is to gnash my teeth and just bear it.

Thanks to for the pic.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The New Journey of Data Processing

after the 81 transcripts, i'm now in the steady slow process of data processing. in the Lord of the Rings saga, this is the long road from the Council deciding to have the Ring thrown into Mount Doom, and Frodo blindly volunteering for the task, to the tributaries of decisions, false notions, promises and commitments gone through by Aragorn, Gandalf, and the team of Frodo and Sam. These four form the major strands into which Sauron would later be defeated; the Ring ultimately destroyed. 

one look at my data, and i know, the 81 household transcripts form just one strand, apart from the data on organizations, on institutional players, on naga's political economy, on the dynamics of low repayment, and the dynamics of rights buying and selling. underneath each strand still are sub-strands i have to weave into patterns and behaviors that make sense. like for the household data, sub-strands include the phenomena of closed and open communities, gender issues, repayment performance, tenure security perceptions and settlement histories. we are talking of just one strand here.

i feel like i want to write. but perhaps this impatience is empty because i have nothing to write about in the first place, without going through the grinding process of data processing. here i have an inch thick of transcripts that today have been initially translated into organizational timelines and tabled org profiles. next week, the household data would be further organized into matrices, roughly 9 excel files, to become 'readable'  and hopefully 'writable'.

now i'm about to enter the mountain's virgin forests.

Thanks to for the pics: (1) and (2)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

LIGHTWORKS: Sumamo ng Puso

LIGHTWORKS: Sumamo ng Puso

Sumamo ng Puso

isang panaginip kung wawariin
mahalin ng ganito
mahalin ng tulad mo
kurutin, sampalin, pisilin
ang sarili
ganap at tunay nga
pag-ibig mo
pag-ibig natin

sana di na naglalaro ang Diyos
di lang basta nanunubok
o kaya'y nagpapahiwatig
na ito'y di panandalian
basta na lang kukunin
mawawala basta Kanya'ng wariin

pagka't ang puso
di lang pagod sa nakaraan
kundi sabik sa tugon at alaga
ng tunay na pagmamahal
pighati'y di na kakayanin
pangungulilang kamatayan 
lamang ang sisikil

Thanks to for the pic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sleep and Colds

why is it only now? i mean this year, just a month ago. finding out that my sneezing fits and perhaps sinusitis sets in and worsens when i lose sleep. lose sleep. after sleeping around 1am this morning, waking up and finding sleep elusive around 345am then forcing to wake by 7am to report to arc, finally, after the 81 transcripts. but like three weeks ago when also in the arc, i had to bombard nicole (the german roommate) with sneezing fits every other 5 minutes. that day, i too lacked sleep for reasons i couldn't remember now. back when i was in schema, my work days would be filled with sneezing and runny noses attributed naively to the stressful working environment, and the cramped business dev office. these are just indirect reasons; the underlying cause instead, the lack of sleep from overwork, and this eagerness to earn my place in a highly competitive, minimally supportive, male-dominated environment. here i lack sleep for the right reasons. and as if sneezing has to remind me, the right reasons still are not reason enough to neglect sleep and neglect school duties in the process. because of incessant sneezing, i had to leave ARC by 3pm, go under the covers by 4pm or about 8 hours lost in productive time. i had to sneeze to find the lesson.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pride for My Second Son

 Not without 'the bite'. Rafa's penchant for all Grand Slam trophies won.

at 10:09am today, Perth time, Rafael Nadal silenced the cynics and his critiques by finally winning the US Open (2010), the only grand slam that has eluded him since 2005; proving at most the versatility of his game winning by all four of Tennis's Grand Slams (Australian, French, Wimbledon, US Open). Relegated to being called one-dimensional because he established himself originally in the clay courts of Paris (5 French Open titles), now it is no question that the hard, fast and tough pace of hardcourts are within the mettle of Rafa.

listening live to the last 2 games over BBC Radio, i didn't feel like a fan all a-gog by the win of my idol. i felt more like a mother, seeing my 'boy' come full circle in establishing himself as one of tennis's greats. it was in 2005 when he burst into the scene by winning his first French Open title. but earlier than that, sometime 10 years ago, i saw him play and lost in the first round pf Wimbledon, in one its dank outer courts.

in 2005, i was pregnant with Yaman and seeing this bemuscled pirate-like guy, in bright orange shirt (without sleeves) and white pedal, pummeling on tennis balls like fire --- how manang milet and i would cheer him on like rabid fans for every short he makes, at 1-2 am! in our homey sala in Guijo, we would chorus in shrieks and loud clapping for every shot Rafa retrieves and wins; manang in her place by the sofa and me in a foldable bed just beside the tv. now i could imagine manang being as proud seeing our 'Nadal' reach such heights.

so it is with tenderness that i mark this day, 14 sept, as one of my proudest moments following the path of a once unassuming Spanish player i first saw playing and losing in the outer courts of Wimbledon, now poised to become one of his country's and even the world's best in tennis. Congratulations Rafa!

I too want to save this for posterity. You have just been severely beaten  in a Slam you strongly covet, even doing it by defeating Federer first?  What do you do? Here, the losing finalist, Novak Djokovic, went over to the half side of the court, his vanquisher's zone, and gave Nadal a brotherly hug before shaking hands with the chair umpire.  Such class without the shot-making. 
Two great tennis players at their finest. 

Rafa's trophy pic courtesy of
Rafa and Nole's pic courtesy of  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Days Off

as if i earned the right to rest after 81 transcripts, i'm having days-off today and tomorrow. fitting enough to clean my room and bathroom (renting an ensuite), and finish cleaning duties for the rest of the house. it feels good waking up without having to exhort to sit down and write down people's views in black and white. other than should-do things imposed by this circumstance of living in a share-house, i'll make do with just-doing whatever and doing-nothing fever. this is one irony in being a vitti. i beg for time to read journals and books on my research but once i find the time, i am so spent with work, i choose to while the time away. you who are reading my blogs would know that i struggle mainly with time. i stretch to the point of exhaustion that to do nothing means just doing anything away from work. i'm not sure whether i should feel guilty. i could worry but now, i just don't care.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 81st Transcript

around 630pm today, i finished the last of my 81 transcripts of household interviews. it's not supposed to be today but walking up the murdoch carpark to the asia research centre, i sort of realized, well, might as well finish the last 33 minutes (of a 55-min interview) here. it doesn't matter there's no passport (usb) since what i call my 'internet' usb saved the day. it is a back-up account at for US$7.95 monthly, a 5-GB account can be maintained. so the latest version of the transcript was downloaded, saved into the PC and about 3pm, i worked on it.

the transcripts are just step 1 of the data analysis stage but i could...i feel i deserve a fitful sleep tonight for being able to build one of the building blocks of my research.  these small moments matter. the last sentence, the last period, and the last key. i feel like shouting. on the way home, beanie, gloves and all because of the cold, i was smiling. i know i'm just about to start anew on data analysis. but i finished something. i'm getting SOMEWHERE.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vitti in the Blog (or What I Blog About)

i blog when i'm tired, dangerously mad, or just simply happy. i  blog about my Abalantung and the gift from the past, my ShadowMan. right now, i'm preoccupied with my PhD.

i blog about my hurts, my Mom who's personality is still unraveling, the betrayals i endured in consulting, and how it seems, all my mentors failed me. strange, i still have yet to write about my Dad, who ShadowMan claims, was always in my lips in highschool. about sex, i hope to write more although it is indeed a question whether sex is really easy to write about. slowly, i'm coming to grips with politics and what it means to my understanding of Naga City.

when i don't know what to write, i blabber, i word play. sometimes, marathon-write, i poem (could this be a verb?) of whatever is on top of the desk or tacked on the corkboard. i write my boredom away.

i write about life as it thrives on weeds, peanut-butter sandwiches, a cut, coffee and water, and the development world's most obscene irony.

what i love blogging about is writing, as i explore every-day writing with blogging, how in a way i have detoured to flash-fiction writing, my first children's story, the struggles with academic writing, my moleskine buddies, my unheralded writing inspirations, the proven technique of blind writing, or just the grand simplicity of being able to connect the writing experience to mountains, sanitary napkin, Beethoven, or even to cooking rice. i've said this do ShadowMan, if  ever someone ever finds my blog worthy, to please please publish my writing blogs first.

that's all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Date

 we're senti and low-maintenance
we can feast on just balut and buko juice
just tour the grounds around ortigas
after afternoon mass at edsa shrine
to talk about all things
that mean a lot, and nothing
we are one as we walk, holding hands
uncaring of how us 40-year olds may look
corny but sweet, like this
our stares light but deep
echoing love once forestalled
but now thriving
i don't know but for me
it is enough that we stay this way
old but still senti
old but still low-maintenance
as long as it's the two of us
it is always enough

Thanks to for the pic.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview 101

this is a continuation of my blog yesterday of my bloopers in interviewing. but after approximately 81 household interviews (and 20+ institutional/ org leader interviews) what have i learned that are worth sharing:

1. conversations are still the best interviews. first, because you put the respondent at ease and the telling of stories gathers a flow that makes your questions less regimented. likewise, the questioning too becomes smooth and it could get surprising, how a seemingly-hard to ask question could be asked so effortlessly within conversation.

2. takes notes even though the recorder is running. i lost 40% of my very first interview because the tape (not yet using the digital recorder at this stage) would not wound. in one interview in pacol, i didn't notice, the digital recorder ran out of memory, of a 40-minute interview, only the first 5+min were recorded. in another, when my interviewee stopped for awhile to accommodate someone buying from her sari-sari store, i pressed the pause button and forgot about it after she got back. i lost like 15min of very interesting stories of how they used to cope with flooding in triangulo.  but in all these, i was saved by my notes, sort of. the notes could never replace the richness of specific experiences retold but it suffices nonetheless, the key points. but anyway, i'm still returning to the woman in pacol (5-min interview). her story is so rich i really need the juicy details.

3. insist (on your respondents and yourself) on a quiet environment while interviewing. sometimes, perhaps borne of hiya and respect, i would interview despite a transistor radio running, children inside the house screaming, or TV blasting off. just now, on my 78th interview, i missed a lot of key information because of blaring radio, the cries of my respondent's apo and would you believe? a cock crowing at 5 o'clock in the afternoon! gosh, i feel like i want to stone that cock to death! so do not, at any rate, allow conversation to continue under noisy circumstances. the technique is to stop, to repeat and to confirm whether the info you just heard is as what you've heard.

4. insist on recording. my last 10 interviews in pacol are all based on notes and so flimsy, i believe i would have to return to them when i get back this october. i know now that i should re-frame how i explain the uses of digital recording to my respondents: less than the issue of privacy but more on accuracy, the gathering of information from my respondents in their words, without fear of them being misquoted or misrepresented. the trade-off of course is sensitivity to comfort as i could only ask for answers that my respondents are comfortable in sharing.

5. listen more, concentrate more. this is where digital recording helps. when you need not transcribe what your respondent is actually saying because it is being recorded anyway, then you could concentrate more on probing the answers, other than just focusing on the next question on the interview guide.

6. interviewing is a trial and error, iterative exercise. my interview guides (IG) underwent 4 revisions from march to june. first, on style. the first IG consisted of 5 pages (back to back) with questions occupying the rows, followed by straight lines to write answers into. with my work in consulting before, i'm normally used to instructing my surveyors to do the questioning. little did i know, and how heartless i was, thinking now how they must have struggled writing cramped on those tiny white spaces. so i changed the IG by making 2-column tables, each divided according to section. in each table, the narrow left column contains the questions while the wide right column consists of white space, one can freely write on. each question is separated by a row to keep it uncluttered.

next, on content. you learn after every interview that there are needless questions, there are questions that need re-wording, and there are new ones to add (the pre-testing phase).  until now that i'm transcribing, i still picked up additional questions or rewordings to help me revise the latest IG for the second phase fieldwork.

your questions would also vary depending on the type of respondent you're interviewing. so the third related change was on structure. this was helped greatly by my style of arranging questions in table form. so in well-defined rows, or tables, i was able to highlight questions to a specific respondent type.

fourth, is structure. the IG should occur in a flow that would help unfold the structure of what you want to know. first, respondent and household level socioecon info; next rental and settlement history including investment patterns and practices in existing property; membership and participation in the community organization; repayment performance and status; views on the program, and views on tenure security. in more than one occasion, i was asked why the hell am i asking sensitive, disturbing questions. with my IG, i was able to explain to my respondents how i'm centering on their experiences and the meanings of their participation in the program, including the dynamics of why they do or feel XXX and not XXX. my being systematic helped show that my questions are not just random musings of a wanton mind but instead, focused on a well-defined research purpose.

fifth, on specification. i couldn't find a more appropriate term. in phase 1, i supposed to interview households only. but along the line, of course, based on my research protocol in gaining permission first from organizations before going to each household, i also decided to make a separate guide for gathering org-level histories. thus, i came up with 2 guides: one for household and one for organizations. around april, i used to have three: household (original awardee-OA), household (non-original awardee-NOA) and organization.  but bloopers of all bloopers, in one interview, i mistakenly started the interview of an OA using the guide for NOAs. it was so embarrassing, i had to stop the interview to awkwardly pick out the right guide. before any interview, i would prepare my guides such that they are neatly folded one by one. in this case, i forgot the ordering so i mistook a NOA guide for an OA. after that, i just decided to integrate my questions for OAs and NOAs in one guide, but separated by tables.

7. find a good fieldwork sling bag.  when you interview, you cannot survive with just a pen and your questionnaire. in my case, other than the digital recorder, guides (2 sets for household and org of at least 10 and 5 respectively), and pens (at least two pens and 1 pencil; the pencil for mapping), i had to bring an umbrella, a water bottle, business cards, cellphones (i have three but in the phil, i use two - actually i should write too, find a multi-sim cellphone he he!) and charger, medicines (just in case, for asthma attacks, ulcer and diarrhea), and a personal vanity set containing spare feminine napkin, cologne, face powder, hand sanitizer, sanitized wet towel pack, and mosquito repellent (i found the need when i had to wait for a doctor's apptmt at the Bicol Access Medical Center, right after a day's work, which is stormed by mosquitoes starting 5pm and up). these do not include my wallet and purse. so all these i had to fit in one bag! i found a sling bag to my taste because it leaves my hands free and during interviews, the bag also serves as a makeshift rester (as in 'patungan') for your guide during the interview. i found the perfect sling bag, a LINA brand, i bought for PhP200 pesos (A$5) at the ukay-ukay with 8 compartments! the main compartment is very roomy i could fit in 20-page photocopied materials in it along with the guides, water bottle, umbrella and wallets.

8. and the most important, with a lot of regret, transcribe after you interview or if you're too tired, still, fit transcribing into your fieldwork schedule as much as you can. don't take transcribing for granted and for later. first, it matters much that your mind is still fresh with the details. just this evening, i could not make sense of my scribbles in one org interview that unfortunately had no accompanying recording. other than not understanding my handwriting, i could not connect the sentences which would not have been the case if i transcribed this immediately. secondly, just look what happened to me. i spent 80% of my three months here in perth just transcribing. but of course, the three months were worthwhile as i got to speak with jane and brainstorm with her before she left for service leave. that i think made up for all the lost time that would have otherwise been devoted to writing. the 80% transcribing does not include data processing even! so imagine if i would have finished my transcripts last june. then i would have processed the data here and ended up with a chapter or two this september.  but then, i would've not known if i haven't undergone it myself. doc chona (echavez), one of the excellent consultant-researchers i know, have advised me before of this golden rule in qualitative research. now that i've gone through it, i know na. no sense repeating it then for phase 2 fieldwork.

so here i am. down to my last 11 interviews, scrambling even further down the road to prepare my org timelines and tally sheets before i leave on october. a tedious effort really this data organization and analysis but i look forward to the rewards in the future, of having organized and well-prepared data sets. thanks for the lessons learned, even though these are just in the interviewing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Despicable Me

after transcribing 58 interviews, this is how silly i am in my interviews:

1. i forgot to mention the date of my interviews, a basic rule. good i have Shadowman's SMB desk calendar where my daily activities from March 1 to June 30 were recorded

2. i make this awful nasal sound: uhm, uhm, when faced with information that i take-for-granted

3. i cut off my respondent's statements when faced with information i find interesting

4. i poorly follow-up, suggesting that there are times, i don't quite 'get' the story or information being shared. like in one interview, i forgot to ask the basis for the land price in one community as i got too hooked on the condonation granted to the community but still unpaid till now

5. i am apathetic. in my 36-minute interview with a family with an abnormal son, never did i ask what happened to their son to have such a mental abnormality. as it appears from their story, the son contracted the illness when he was growing up

6.i forgot the importance of getting relative information. for example, i ask how much rent for land or for housing each household paid before joining the government's land tenure program. but i did not ask how much this rent compares to their incomes then (like what %); the same goes with their amortization.

7. i still stammer when constructing my sentences and i beat around the bush.  this especially happens when i am unsure of how i'll ask the question and partly because i have a way of talking that sounds like a passive sentence when written. for example, the question in my interview guide reads in bicol, 'igwa kamong security of tenure' (do you have security of tenure?). of course, because it is just a guide, i could not ask that question straight away. this is where i get silly as i ask 'igwa po kamong kaseguruhan sa daga, ito po bagang pagmati na dai na kamo pahahalion' (do you have security of tenure, you know, the feeling that you will not be removed). the error here is, i just translated the question to bicol but i have not really said in a way that could be understood by ordinary people. another is, tenure security is more than just a feeling. it is also a condition set out by governments. governments lay out the terms and conditions by which tenure security could be achieved. in my first 10 interviews, i stammer everytime i ask this question or i go around it like, 'saindo pong pagmati, paghuna nindo, mahahaloy pa kamo sa daga nindo na dai kamo pahahalion?' (do you feel, do you think, you will still stay longer here to the point will not be removed). somehow, in the next 70+ interviews, i was able to nail the question, by giving it some context: 'pag arog kayan na dai kamo nakakabayad, pagmati nindo, mapapahali kamo digdi sa daga nindo kan gobyerno?' (in this case that you are not able to pay, do you feel you can still be removed from this lot by the city government?). if the respondent is fully paid, the question is adjusted a little at the start ('maski kamo naka bayad na'...) (even if you are fully paid...)

8. i tie up questions. like in this org level interview, i asked the leader 'could you please relate how your organization came to know this place, why you relocated and the adjustment process your members underwent after the transfer'. this is all mish-mash. primarily, i should give every respondent ample time and effort to answer one question at a time

9. i am a victim of 'ano' (this means 'what' in english but could also be like saying 'you know'). in at least three interviews, i was nodding and agreeing with my respondents as they say in some cases, 'kadto bagang ano, na si ano ang nag aano samo' (you know that time when you know was making us you know). OMG, i could kill myself.  i was saved by my persistence as i notice that in my interviews, i would repeat the information told with the exact details like, 'so, let me know if i understood you well. you mean to say, that office XXX advised you to undergo this XXX by the year 19XX because of XXX'.

so i did sound silly but i slowly climbed a learning curve for interviewing in majority of the transcripts. this learning curve, i will blog about tomorrow.

Thanks to for the pic.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All is Fair in Love and PhD

when i wrote this on my facebook wall, i'm not hinting on romance or that i'm having problems juggling love and PhD. i'm referring rather to the love of PhD, which appears lost, or is very hard to do when one is doing a PhD. i wrote this to counter the tendency to complain and use one's PhD as a scapegoat for mood swings, depression, and suicidal tendencies. it is self-flagellation for the wrong reasons.

for one thing, there is no reason to complain when the decision to do a PhD is one's own. another, one has to know fairly well what one is committing to with a PhD. of course it is not a walk in the park, of course you have to struggle, of course there are sleepless nights just going over and targeting one's research question; of course...because it's a PhD!

on my second year, i'd rather take the middle ground and just immerse on what this PhD has to offer. for one, it is making me think political (sort of). second, i get more in touch with my apathy (yes, my apathy! in transcribing, it makes me squirm just hearing me ask insensitive heartless questions! i will blog about this later...). and third, the research experience is showing me new strategies on how to conduct myself and future studies on the field. fourth, i don't want to dwell on this negativism towards doing a PhD. this PhD is more than me. more than my arthritic hands or aching back; it is much more than the scorching sun. it is even more than the library of articles i'm ambitiously building but has yet to read. it is even more than the opportunity cost of being away from Yaman and ShadowMan. this PhD is about the reality being undergone by people and a government struggling with its integrity. i am studying development as it is created, recreated, sustained or even taken for granted by the people participating in it. it is this elusive 'thing' called 'development' that i am here for; elusive because 'development' is alternatively understood in its failings, in its divergence from the ideal. how can i hate the reality i'm facing? rather than hate, one should even be humbled.

i leave the hating of the PhD to those who cannot see beyond what they are doing, who still have yet to see their contribution, and who, by hating, would only hurt themselves more, by finishing less. i am not saying that i am so good at this that i will finish my PhD in no time, or without sweat. no, it is a mountain i'm climbing. and it's not an easy climb. but i'd rather climb with love and enjoy the journey.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Because I Cook

i cut myself again, the same hand, but a different finger...the thumb. the knife was so sharp or perhaps my hand slid down so forcefully (i was supposed to cut a carrot in half while watching a movie over youtube), that the knife cut through a tenth of the nail.  no grand lesson taught here today. as i've been religiously transcribing for the past week, i'm now down, almost, to the last 9 of 81 interviews. there is no grand rest to take as once in a while, i 'relax' over lunch just watching or listening to youtube, or when cooking just like today. like the time i got so fixated with Shadowman's recording of 'Ito ang Araw' (magnifico!). for movies, i've recently had my fare of 'All the President's Men' (a movie about the Washington Post's covering of the Watergate scandal) and just a while ago, 'The Birdcage'  (the marriage of an ordinary guy and gal depicting in actuality, the marriage of the traditional and non-conventional). just previewed this 2007 adaptation of jane austen's 'Persuasion' so i have another movie in line next week.

anyway, i just cut my finger because i'm learning how to cook. unbelievably, i rarely buy cooked food now. i mostly cook my food, a pleasure derived from staying at home most of the time, and having the luxury to while away time in the kitchen, cutting, slicing, measuring, mixing, waiting, and tasting (all these while watching youtube he he). the last time i had cooked food was just this lunch, my first time since july 1 to eat at the school canteen with a friend of mine from the vet sciences. so this cut is 'normal', i explained to Shadowman, because i'm slowly but surely knowing the kitchen; particularly the knife, among its instruments.

i still can't chop carrots like lightning. i still cry when cutting onions. i still slice my finger, once in every three weeks. but i'm cooking. i'm cooking!

Thanks to for the pic.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


i read Yaman a story today. to keep our cybertalks interesting because she seems to be getting bored with me, seeing me every day. so whaddaya know? Yaman also surprised me today by making a 'box for mommy!'. a make shift box made from an old pink/ lavender box, with little stickers on the side and strips of paper looking like lace, on the sides and the middle. while putting on the finishing touches, Yaman was listening to my story of 'Silly Suzie Goose' (by Petr Horacek). we were actually both multi-tasking. i was saving phd work on the web ( while typing each storyline over skype and showing the corresponding illustration from the book. Yaman would be pasting, cutting here and there, while occasionally going over to the sala to get more material and yelling, 'mommy ang dami kong kalat!' with a lot of lambing. then she will read the line i just typed. she's so very good in reading already. i'm so happy. we finished the story in over 30min. she finished the box in about the same time. Yaman and I. we will never lose each other.

 Snipping, pasting...Mommy's box in the making!  A box where I can store her drawings daw. As in folded drawings? Yes Mommy!

The last of the many finishing touches. At times, I am told to 'close your eyes mommy...'

The 'first draft' of Mommy's box...apparently this is not yet finished...

From Yaman with a lot of love....Thank You Abalantung!

Closing it out na with Lola. At 4, Yaman already knows how to close Skype and the PC.

 Goodbye Anak Ko, I'll see you again tomorrow! I love you!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Be Careful. It's Dangerous Out There

'Be careful. It's dangerous out there'
- Michael Quinn Patton 
(Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods 2002, pp. 415-416)

my fieldwork in naga, which started out last march 2010, was my first, again, after the last, sometime in 2008, when i did case study research on a DAR-ADB project where i visited davao city, maguindanao, sultan kudarat, and tawi-tawi. research has always been my thing. and i never flinch when it comes to fieldwork even under hard summer conditions.

it's not that i have not disregarded personal safety before. in mindanao, i made sure research protocols were observed; like, informing relevant hierarchy within the dar (regional and provincial) of my itinerary, including the project office maintained by the dar project in davao city. other than the dar, local government units i also contacted to at least provide political legitimacy to the exercise. it went to the point that in tawi-tawi, i was accompanied by the lady vice mayor and her husband, who happened to be the ex-town mayor, a soldier who carried along two bodyguards, for my entire 1-day trip in one island to inspect a road project.

naga should be tame to me, i could almost take personal safety for granted. i speak the language, i know the norms, i am a nagueƱa. but still, experience (or the lack of it, as it showed) would dictate that it's a whole new terrain for a researcher like myself. for one, i have no experience working with the urban poor. i have no pre-established network of urban poor leaders, not even their NGO partners. i could only rely on the basic proven strategies on the field:  follow the established hierarchy when entering your work area, starting from the city government down to the community; talk to the barangay or community leaders first before going to the household; explain adequately the purpose of the study to the community leaders and households; if possible, provide ample time for their questions during the interview.

i had to be aware of local sensitivities. it was not easy to enter urban poor communities, especially those in established onsite zones known before for their criminality and alleged hostile attitude towards outsiders. in triangulo and igualdad, i had to contend with the usual presence of men huddled at corners, having rounds of beer. that's why perhaps it mattered that i'm always seen going to the house of this and that officer so i wasn't harassed at all. but i had to be careful giving out my contact details given this instance when a resident, the son of an interviewee, kept sending me text messages, and was even calling, at ungodly hours, perhaps wanting attention. the key here is silence. don't mind at all. don't even ask why they're texting or calling. and perhaps, not only because they are poor, but because it is not customary to answer to a stranger (who would?) especially one asking about their tenure, their capacity to pay, their knowledge of 'illegal' activities, including whether and to what extent they are involved in these. i am able to gather an audience, of more than 80 interviews, because of the technique of first contacting the community president and having her/ him recommend members i could interview. so i really name-drop but with a purpose and with prior knowledge of the person whose name i'm 'dropping'. 

now that i'm transcribing and i'm nearly up to the last 17 interviews, i realize how much i'd have to thank my interviewees for trusting me. for understanding the encumbrance of the interview to their time, their personal space, their histories, and to the problems and insecurities they are facing right now. i had a harder time dealing with those called 'illegal occupants' where my presence has been rebuked, doubted. where i found it 'safe' not to use the digital recorder, although i had to explain my purpose next time with it, to be allowed the use of it, illegal the interviewee or not, because it is crucial, for the second phase interviews this coming october until march. in my transcripts, i understood the dearth and shallowness of the info gathered from just notes for my last 11 interviews in pacol. i could no longer trust my memory just by relying on my notes.

when i started, i was just hoping to evaluate the conditions of beneficiaries of an urban poor program in naga city. but the further i go, i know i am dealing more than just tenure security in this. i am now looking into the extent of 'illegalities' in the program, the fallout of laxities in policy enforcement and program implementation, including the vagaries being undergone by a city where land is finite resource but exacted with infinite demand by an ever growing population. adding to these, in the future, i will be looking into the politics of implementation, of relationships being entered by its players. politics that center around the political importance of the urban poor but their expediency in some ways. i understand it as dangerous terrain, but how dangerous it could get, i have yet to know.

Michael Quinn Patton, a leading expert in qualitative research from the University of Minnesota, was correct and realistic in pointing it out that contrary to common belief, doing qualitative research is much much more dangerous than the quantitative field of research where the search for the truth is done through mechanical means and less in-depth probing. the danger is not only in the exposure but also in immersing with characters and into an environment where one has no control. and so one can only adapt with. and in adaptation, only the fittest (including the street-smart) survives.

at first i have been putting too much emphasis on the writing of this thesis.

it is only now that it has dawned on me. to write i must survive fieldwork first. not only with my notes and my data intact. but also with me, literally, mind soul heart and body.

before writing, i should survive first.

it could get quite dangerous out there.

Thanks to for the pic.

Friday, September 3, 2010


 if one yearns for chocolate
then just eat chocolate
if it's a steak, order one
a martini, go and have a drink
some people die for cappuccino
some people, without perfume, can't survive
my craving is beyond yearning
beyond eating something dark, and sweet
beyond getting a hangover
beyond heat swirling down on me
or scent wafting through
i need you
i need you
i need you

Thanks to for the pic.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Man and His Music

ShadowMan sings. He composes. Breathes music to poetry. And he naturally whistles (while i hum). He had long been unhappy, but he has never lost touched with his music. Partly music might have kept him alive, and sane after all those dark years. Hearing his voice in a recording was the answer I longed for, for the day, and for the many days I am enduring without him. As if he's just beside me. Giving me goosebumps as I was thinking how at peace and fulfilled He was in a previous life; like, He was singing with the Holy Spirit. I am spared with the guilt of wrenching him out of this world  but I am thankful nonetheless for now He is here. Here being offered to me willingly. The man with the golden voice is singing my fears away, cradling me now, forever protecting, keeping the path straight amid my wanderings. I will never be lost again.

Thanks to for the pic.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big and Little

big and little hands to hold me now
big and little hearts looking over
big and little voices soothing my pains
the physical no match for the loneliness
of separation while sick
sick outside and inside
i long for big and little love