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, June 30, 2011

Follow your Supervisors

before leaving last night, luky, our indonesian colleague at the ARC left solid advice on how we'll go about with our phd. looking at us earnestly ('us' meaning nicole, roxanne, jom and myself), he said, 'follow your supervisors'. ever elusive, he did not confirm whether there was ever any regret on his part that he may have not followed his own supervisors that's why he's leaving with a phd still ongoing (he would be finishing revisions back home). 

but i could get his point.

before getting accepted to a phd here in murdoch, one has to present a whole range of 'competencies' and 'expertise' to qualify. in my part, had to demonstrate the projects worked on with adb and non-adb clients for the past 10 years since leaving murdoch uni in 2000. for others, it could be journal publications which is of greater weight because it shows rich research experience, in the academe. 

in being a student once again, though, one has to shed off that 'expert' cloak and treat the phd process as a learning experience.  of course, part of it is self effort as it takes more than energy to muster going out the door and walking to uni. one should have the drive, the faith in the face of 'buts', 'what-ifs', 'perhaps', or 'cant's'. one must just proceed (for so long as the weather is good and there's no thunderstorm).

to proceed means literally, to go with the process --- of learning. and that involves heeding the advice of others, more superior in the field.  no matter whether sometimes, you could be at odds. with gaps in the language and the way that non-asian supervisors could sometimes frankly react on what you think and write, could a bit be disconcerting, given the differences in culture.  i had incidents with jane and carol when i just could not 'get' them that by the time i was pushed to the limit, i had to respond with my own brand of frankness. told jane directly, 'i don't understand you', 'i don't know what you want me to do!' and to the pamatay statements, 'i don't want to see you. i don't want to meet with you'.

after that, when the fog cleared, i took to understanding (which means i did not understand outright --- i had to force myself to understand otherwise our relationship would suffer) that supervisors are not here to make your life a misery. it only happens that way because gaps between you, as regards theory, its application, and real world realities, would have to be bridged by constant and informed articulation and debate. in other words, you will not be sure about the strength of your arguments and claims in the thesis unless it is tested by the fire of incisive thought and word from your supervisors.

i know it's a rough road. in the metaphors i use, this phd is like a mountain and i'm into the many routes and crevasses which test how determined am i to seek for my own sense of the truth (I am being Nitzschean here) despite the falls and lost trails. 

but if i would compare my writing then, to now, some progress has been made. not only that i'm on to something, but the route has been tracked with the earnestness and discipline of a phd. and i would have never reached this point if my supervisors were 'soft', chummy-chummy, and trying hard not to hurt me by being 'nice'. perhaps one test of good supervising is this:  how often do you return to the table, despite the many arguments and debates? how far off can you stick with each other despite the flakiness and the wear and tear, of your professional relationship?

so thanks luky for saying it out loud.  i will remember and i will heed your advice.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vitti's Tilapia Pechay Guisado

Fry tilapia to a golden brown. After frying, saute garlic (2 pcs), white onions (1/2 bulb) and tomato (1 pc) in the cooking oil used for frying (retain about 2 tbsp from original).  Then add the tilapia and water (3/4 cup). Season with pepper, organic soy sauce and vegetarian seasoning (to replace msg).  Simmer for 3 min. Toss sliced pechay leaves and cook for about 2 min. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vitti's Lamb Sinigang

Use lamb loin chops because they're tender and meaty.  Fry first in olive oil, about 3min of each side over medium heat. Remove from casserole. In the remaining oil, saute white onions and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add back the lamb and 3 cups of water. Simmer in low heat for 1 hour. Continue for another 30min if meat is not yet tender. Add water to in desired amounts. Then add kalamansi juice (about 7-10 pcs depending on water level). Add pechay leaves and turn heat off immediately.  The veggies will be cooked in the soup and retain its crispiness. Bon appetit!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vitti's Fish Pica-Pica

This is a very simple recipe. Use white or pink fish,like snapper, basa or dalagang bukid. If fish comes in large chunks, slice before sauteing.  Fry white onions in olive oil, then add fish.  Simmer for 3 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add shredded carrots (about 2 pcs) to add a sweet flavor to the fish. Finish by adding coriander and beaten eggs (about 3). Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the egg from solidifying Let cool for 10 minutes.  Then wrap the fish mix into lumpia wrapper.
This used to be 8 pcs but the first three had been sampled before the eventual dinner at 545pm today.  Roxanne had hers with chili sauce. Had mine with just seaweed salad. Bon appetit!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What do you Remember most about your Friends?

i mean, the one which comes to your mind, which is unique to people you know. i don't mean mushy high-value stuff, e.g., integrity or the capacity to hold conversation. it goes a little like this by naming some of my friends and stand-out 'things' about them: 

alvin - he once told me how he wished i was his sister
janty - her beautiful long hands, like a pianist's
cora - fears spiders
angeline - read david copperfield over and over
jopen - very good at scrabble
rodonna - rubs lotion on her face every night
cora - likes liver steak
stephii - can't stand crime novels
elaine - loves unique earrings
bicbic - does her own pedicure
liza -  doesn't curse at all
dinah - ate her baon in highschool with a spoork (spoon-fork)
mabel - cries when she can't get her braids right
bolly - wanted to study foreign service at lyceum u
helene - dreads the dark and sleeping by herself
roxanne - a priceline fanatic!
cheng - finished a personality dev course at cora dolorosa
joey - goes to nail spa every weekend to unwind

Saturday, June 25, 2011

PM Workout with the Hubby

one of Joel Harper's fitness routines is the PM workout, which is a stretching workout for tired bones and muscles. since yesterday, in one of technology's best perks, i've been doing it with the hubby via skype. i demonstrate the moves and he follows on the other side of the world. some poses, like 'thread the needle' and 'bridge', i had to see him do the pose first to make sure it's right. it's fascinating what two people can do, separated though by physical distance, do together. slowly, i've been trying to 'educate' on the lifestyle change i made since turning 40, with the hcg. it's quite difficult with food because he normally eats out or at the office because of his busy schedule. i didn't expect that it is with exercise, now started with the PM workout, where i could help in immediately influencing him. so yeah, he twists, he rocks up and down, and stretches those muscles. and i'm happy to see just how relieved he is. i love you my hubby. i'll keep you happy, and healthy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Old School

got a headache from consuming two cereal coffees with milk. or it must be the excel files of annotated biblios. told by roxanne and nicole that i don't need to make one, because i could store journal info on the Endnote program, a program for storing references and linking them directly to your word doc to generate references list on an instant. but i'm old school, traditional, the long-method but sure-method follower who'd rather go slow and steady but with complete data, in a way useful and convenient to my liking. so i plod on, with headache and heavy feet on home, but satisfied.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Filipina am I?

i've been to multi-cultural homes here in perth, since 10 years ago when taking up the masters. there are some ways, in living with housemates from various nationalities and cultural backgrounds, where my being Filipino/ Filipina is really distinct. like these:

1. always washing after using the loo. cannot stand just using toilet paper to clean. in uni, rely on sanitary wipes than wash when reaching home. so that means using the most basic implement used by filipinos --- the tabo.

2. always inviting people to eat with me in every meal. that's basic i guess in our hospitality. 

3. although we're on a first name basis here with our professors and advisers, it still hurts me to call them 'jane' jane or jim (an emeritus professor in history) jim or carol (prominent anthropologist scholar) carol. so outside uni (in shops mostly), older people i meet, i still call 'sir', 'mam'

4. taking a bath every day. even in the cold winter morning. even if in between showering, lathering soap et al., i'm shivering!!!!!!!!!!

5. saying 'tabi apo' (Bicol word) every time i pass by bushes, do weeding etc. the spirits reside everywhere you know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's your Typical Morning?

it takes me about four hours to get sorted before heading to school. how do i spend my mornings here in perth? this is my routine:

1. the alarm rings at 515am
2. visit the loo
3. weigh, then record weight (food notebook)
4. fix the bed
5. text the hubby
6. boil water for drinks of hot water and hot goji juice before exercise
7. open the pc and listen to Himig Heswita
8. exercise: 15-min sun salutations and a mix of Joel Harper's fitness routines and arm/ abs exercises (recalled from years of exercising) then cool down stretches
9.take a bath
10. dress up
11. fix breakfast (protein, veggie and fruit)
12. wash dishes
13. tend my baby herbs
14. take vitamins
15. fix lunch 'baon'
16. pray

at the earliest, i leave around 830am, and will be in uni in 15 minutes.

and that's just my typical morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Section 1 of Chapter 5

Section 1 of Chapter 5 is finished. in 5000+ words. The chapter has two more sections, so in the next 3 weeks, I face a 10,000-word burden. But for now, I just wish to relax. Even if relaxing means talking to the Hubby without an article nearby, poking its pages out. Of lying in bed before 945pm and sleeping just exactly at 10pm. I'm happy for finishing, even for just one part.  The last sentence was written with the authority just for a PhD student.

Monday, June 20, 2011


my fault
in having false friends
is on valuing the false
and ignoring the real

it's like love
you believe just
to justify your choice
ignoring the side glances
the disapproving looks
and the gut feel
that some thing is wrong

i choose to endure
my choices
but i will no longer

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Taho and Father's Day

On Father's Day, away from my father, Isagani Sr., I suddenly miss taho. Because you realize the folly of taking your deceased father for granted all of your life: their call, their accessibility, their predictability. Then by a choice you make, you get to see rare of them. Until they die out on you. Like the lowly but magnificent taho. That reminds you of home, of your normal life in a quaint little village that used to be just outside the centro. How life was simple and slow-paced. And all you have to worry is not miss the old man barking out 'taho!'.  Daddy was just there to take care of everything. And now he's gone, you just can't simply come home, to see him. Because he's just gone forever.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Paths I Take In Perth

This is dreary Perth on a foggy morning, just after 8am. Forgot when, but this is the route I take to school, just along South Street. It takes about 15 minutes.    
This is the exact same route, on a relatively sunny day on winter. I wish to take my hubby here soon. So he'll know how i live the university life with hands, head, heart and feet.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Family

in daydream
the bed is complete
the daughter sleeping on my left
the smell of her hair
conveying candy, her colors
small hands, pink fingertips
before vacant
a sleeping form now on my right
the gentle sweet snoring
of the man in my life
my love with the strong face
weathered by battles
but lightened by the days ahead
because we are together
a family i dream to hold close
as i sleep now with hands in prayer

Thursday, June 16, 2011

100 Words is OK

it's one of those days. you start the day with a lot of inspiration, a spunk in your walk only to end up with a splunk! splunk! splunk! i could not continue with the 'empty' state of my mind. 'empty' without navigation from the current literature. my data, my facts, need to interact with the literature, what has been written in the field. so away, i read, read, read. and in bits and pieces, add a spark of thought here and there. until at 441pm, i was able to complete the first full sentence, with authority. a sentence that runs 67 words. you are ok vitti. more or less than 100 is ok. today, you reached more words with your head than with your hand.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vitti's Simple Roast Beef

Fry the beef in unsalted butter for 5min on each side. Preheat the oven for 15min at 175C. After the beef, fry on the same pan the chopped white onions and pumpkin. Prepare the beef with cooked onions and pumpkin in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, fresh lemon, salt and pepper, and rosemary. Roast for about 30min if well done beef is preferred. Eat with a bowl of fresh mesculin salad, with grape tomatoes and balsamic sauce. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Roxanne and My Many Firsts

yesterday, the excitement over 'Liberation Day' overshadowed one of my firsts. my first day to clean and gut a fish, and a milkfish (bangus) at that. thought it was already clean. thought it could be scaled just by using a knife. so i'm glad roxanne got home just around 11am. she exclaimed, seeing my effort with the fish and the scales flying and whacking my face, my hair, the kitchen sink, the kitchen wall, 'vitti! use this! (taking a scaling implement from the kitchen drawer) and please! wear this! (handing me the black apron). then glancing at the fish, she added, 'hey, that's not cleaned at all! here's what you should do.' this is one of the days, i thank God for making her my housemate. who would think that a wealthy taiwanese girl would teach a trying hard middle class cook like me how to scale and gut a fish? yesterday, i learned that the best position in scaling bangus is to hold it flat on a surface, long side perpendicular then scale it left to right, left to right in light strokes.  then to gut a fish was to cut it from the opening opposite the head down to the side of the belly and take all of its insides out.  in the end i could only say, 'that's it?'. 'that's it!'. roxanne replied with a satisfied smile. that's how ultra cool my taiwanese housemate is. born with a silver spoon and the sense to gut fish. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Liberation Day!

today, it has been cast, under oath, and with finality, our freedom to commit to each other. no more looking over one's shoulder, no more scanning of crowds to gauge what is allowed and not. no more duty to explain why we are at the stage we're in. no more 'hanging', whether on a precipice to just fall over our heads with a bang or to just keep on 'hanging' like taking punishment from time.  today, the road to formality is open and i willingly take your hand, to be yours and only yours, forever. as it is fated to be. i love you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who's the German?

Nicole, my ARC roommate, is a true-blue German. born of German parents, bred in ways Germane that he calls Australia 'uncultivated', meaning uncultured. But she says I'm the German, with how neatly my table is arranged, the journal articles laid down in neat rows, marked with green post-its for titles. yesterday, this is how my desk looked like. as papers are rummaged, others are thrown on the ground, the unnecessary ones, for now. the liquids are away from the keyboard, out of experience to keep the keyboard dry, and the writing uninterrupted. the writing that is inching towards something although the yellow highlights remain, and frighten. I am not all German. order is nothing.  order is not doing anything.  it when everything is in disarray that true knowing can be found.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Our God's Love

i am so wrapped up with the weight on my back
that i fail to see the green grass guiding my path
the happy sun as it kisses my cheeks
the wind as it playfully ruffles my hair
the ground that holds me up from and to where i go
i thank the Lord for all these
i am not minute to His love

Friday, June 10, 2011

Writing is Cooking

serious writing is not just writing
the build up requires working with the data
the material
making something out of something
going on the ground
then above it
like cooking
when vegetables are skinned and diced
meat cut and marinated
the dash of salt and pepper estimated
then the oil goes into the pan
the meat fried, boiled, flavored
the veggies cooked to a crisp
and the dish left to simmer
until it's ready
writing is just like this
you prepare before you write
data becomes basis and evidence
meat, bones and veggie that make up the argument
this is where i am

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sick Call

sick sick sick
a red letter day
eyes bludgeoned
by the data

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This is PhD Writing

chikka'd the hubby, 'nahilo ako sa arguments ko'. no, i am not arguing with anyone. i am arguing my position, on paper, as i write. i was writing my arguments about the 'slum-ness' of sites covered in naga city.

my original intent is to just lay out their 'slum-ness' according to specific categories developed by filipino and non-filipino authors. to sort of characterize systematically the pre-kaantabay conditions gathered during fieldwork.

but i should go beyond telling. in phd writing, you do not only tell. you tell for the purpose of arguing. you argue on the basis of a position regarding a contentious issue.

so i had to raise the level of my thinking, and thus my writing,. above 'slum-ness' as a concept to that of a 'condition' that relates  to one of my critical findings: that Kaantabay's declaration of tenure security for Naga City's urban poor is a lie.

it's this connection that i'm trying to establish: 'slum-ness' to Kaantabay's formalization strategy to tenure insecurity. there has to be a connection, somewhere. whether linear or circular or zig-zagged. although i must be careful with this 'there has to be' thinking. somewhere, i should be to the possibilities that other more plausible connections could exist.

at around 330pm today, the page i'm writing got filled with paragraphs in red fonts and yellow highlights; meaning, these are 'uneasy' statements, to be further probed into and finalized. a technique learned from proposal writing, where all thoughts that enter my head, i just throw on to the page so that it would be clearer to me, more concrete. then later, i return to it and suddenly they crystallize into connections.

that's what i'm hoping to happen in the coming days. i want to make sense of my thoughts and the words in which they are expressed. i have to sort out the hunches from gut feels to grandiose motherhood statements that really are nothing. just rubbish that occasionally disrupts the flow of wild thoughts.

around 530pm, i would just have to accept that of 327 words written for the day, about a quarter needs to be re-examined and re-stated. i would just have to accept that i'm lost in my jungle of words, and so cannot sort out my arguments. when i'm at this state, i know from instinct that i need more time and patience to work on the data and let it 'talk'.

so tomorrow, i'm not going back to the yellow highlights and red fonts yet. i'm not going to sort out my arguments even. it would have to wait. i would just discuss 'slum-ness' based on the data and allow insights to flow from the analysis. then, i'll see whether the yellow highlights and red fonts bear returning. whether the connection above holds water, whether there are another connections worth investigating, in what ways  and what arguments would form given these connections. 

so imagine, on and on, every day, i would have to contend with this manner of thinking and writing. enough to make me crazy. enough to make me cranky. but not enough to make me quit.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sportsmen Extraordinaire

Yesterday, 06 June, Rafa Nadal bagged his 6th French Open title, equalling Bjorn Borg's haul. I like this photo because it shows heaps of the maturity between two rivals, Roger Federer with his quiet accepting composure beside the man who would not be overcome in clay, and later in the other three surfaces defining tennis's three other grand slams. Rafa Nadal, unassuming, without pompous pride, just exhilarated with giving his best.  In the many years watching tennis since 1992, I am privileged to have seen the sport mature to the highest class of sportsmanship. Thanks Rafa and Roger!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Salawikain (while doing housework at Windelya)

ang lumakad ng matulin...
nasasabit sa screen door

huli man daw at magaling
matututo rin ng baking

ang laki sa layaw...
salat sa diskarte

ang buhay ay...
parang washing machine

 aanhin pa ang damo...
kung naubusan ng panahon mag-weeding

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vitti's Asian Spaghetti

This Asian Spaghetti is a cross between the classic Italian-style spaghetti, which uses whole tomatoes, rather than tomato sauce and Yumi's gambasetti, with its helpings of shrimp and chorizo.  I call it Asian style because of the ingredients which seems like I'm going to cook seafood noodles he he. The ingredients are accidental, meaning, they are the ones available in the ref at the time of cooking so there's really no choice left to whatever can be included in the dish. Have a taste, relish!

Stir-fry white onions in unsalted butter and olive oil. When slightly browned, add in sliced pieces of lamb sausage. Cook until meat has browned. Then add shrimp slices (unshelled) and fry until they turn pinkish. Add rice wine, a dash of sea salt, pepper and psyllium (a kind of fiber that is not only healthy but keeps the sauce thick to achieve the consistency of ordinary spag). Simmer for 3 minutes. Add shitake mushrooms (softened and sliced), bell pepper and basil (lots!). Simmer for 5 minutes. Then add pasta (cooked) and mix thoroughly. Transfer entirely to baking dish, with unsalted butter lightly spread over the bottom and sides.  Sprinkle with parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10 minutes under 180C (oven pre-heated for 10 minutes).

This is my dinner for tonight. Had three helpings but no guilt here since this is healthy healthy food. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Past and Free Coffee

it was last thursday over free coffee offered by the postgraduate society here in murdoch. it was still morning so ordered a flat white while two fellow arc-eans; luky (indonesian) had a mocca cappuccino while charan (bangladeshi) had tea with milk.

with these guys, our conversations could go anywhere until we became nostalgic; why we didn't take this and that course in college and so we would've not been into this phase of 'suffering' in our phd. luky at one time was encouraged by his parents to take up mining engineering (wow! how much good money would he be earning now in the mining fields of WA). charan would have taken up chemical process technology (wow! in demand now in australia as well as europe, the middle east).  i was two years into agribusiness in el-bi when i thought of transferring to UP diliman to take up --- accountancy! but i backed down knowing how financially hard-up the family was at that time and comparing the BSAB curricula and BSBA curriculum would mean 3 more years in college which was not practical given the circumstances.

so in those decision reversals, three people in 20 years find themselves having coffee and looking at life that would have been financially rewarding (Luky at  BHP-Billiton; Charan AusEnergy;Vitti at PricewaterhouseCoopers) and then what? we are just looking at the financial rewards. for now we are broke (temporarily), at odds with our chapter writing (until the next draft chapter), so much that that it is enough to break away from it, even if for just 30minutes to mull about the past that would soon be forgotten by the last gulp of free coffee. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Regret and Doubt

it must be because of the quality of Michael Pinches' article - critical, incisive and heartbreaking. dead tired today. i finished reading the whole 24-page article (after beginning with the topic sentences yesterday) around 230pm. took a walk. a second lunch of chicken-veggie noodles at half price. a little walk to the lib and the biblio worked at from 3-330pm. nicole noticed it. hardly smiled when she entered the room around 1230pm. managed a weak 'yeah' when she asked permission to use the phone (as if she'll shatter my concentration which does happen to her with just a teeny bit of sound) and sighed most of the time. i'm tired. i'm reading instead of writing. i regret not reading this piece before. so now i cram. like any phd student does. there's never any confidence. doubts always lurks. and for today, against me, it won.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reading and Borrowing

one has to restrain from writing if such restraint promises insight and better structure, out of the need to read, read, read more.  i know the days are ticking, and there are only 28 days left to the chapter 5 submission. but i had to give in to this gut feel, at past lunch today, i think i shouldn't leave this part like this. i think i need to read more about what has been written about squatter settlements in manila, of national and international definitions of 'slum-ness' before i write about the same in naga city. so here, i am blogging but beside me an article with topic sentences in each paragraph highlighted in neon green. borrowing time while waiting for the hubby. borrowing time for whatever is left unconsumed for the day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More to the PhD

he was in coat and tie, an arc colleague who gave a public lecture on his research on 'non-traditional' security today.  but striking was not how he looked but what he was carrying strolling down the path to the centre. on his right hand was a gray plastic bag which showed his lunch for today, in a transparent tupperware. initially, you would say he looks professional and dignified but that gray plastic bag, that lunch box helped assure that we still an ordinary human being, notwithstanding his rank as lecturer, his education as a phd.

born and bred in a society where status is a source of pride, we tend to look up to people whose achievements far go beyond what we have. so it's quite normal, for instance, for people to be astounded that yours truly is doing a phd. in my interviews, some respondents would quip, 'uratigo' as if i've just landed on the moon.  i bring them down to earth though as i clarify that i'm a debt of philippine society to australia, and sans money and connections, just fend on scholarship money.

like my colleague, a phd is just one of my personal goals that i had the luck to pursue because of the right circumstances. but like him, i too carry a lunchbox to school, in a black grocery bag draped over my left shoulder. i struggle and experiment with cooking, sometimes i put too much salt on my food. i juggle housework and phd work to the point that sundays and mondays, you could find me either soaking flags and shirts for handwash, nagtitipig, vacuuming my room, mopping the kitchen and living room floor, cleaning the toilet, such that it is once in a blue moon to lie down to sleep, or read. i fart, i incessantly brush three dark toes (because of trapped blood under the fingernails i read from wearing tight shoes) in the morning and night with listerine, and i rarely have time to pluck hair from my armpit. a phd is just an aside. it's just what i do when i am not doing the things above.

it would be strange for a filipina to tell a jew what lesson she got seeing him on his best and his most ordinary, on a day of his public lecture.  but it's a relief to be brought back to reality that this phd is not the whole world, and that my world revolves around so much more outside of it.