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)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Avoiding the Sun

starting last week, have been waking up early at 445am to be able to do the things i set out to do every morning before the sun is out, in its painful splendour at 9am.  yes, because it's now summer, sunrise takes place about 530am here, it feels like 12 noon by 9am.  so longer days make my days even longer still. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Becoming my PhD

if two years and 3 months ago, i am able to establish a no-work weekend or a no choice-but-cook-and-clean mondays, a day to read judge dee mystery series or exert a right to do nothing, now, garo dai na uso ini. perhaps it has to go with the self-imposed deadlines for next year. so whatever time could be squeezed for reading, editing, scribbling, planning or just plain thinking, i just do it.  as if the only time spent not doing the phd is when i sleep (although sometimes nightmares come, about my interviewees withholding information, or my notes catching fire), exercise (body and mind), walk to uni, eat, shop for weekly food and supplies, skype with the daughter and the hubby.  i'm gradually becoming my phd.  in a sense, i am even liking it.  which is strange because i am not supposed to. it appears blasphemous to even say it. tantamount to being a pariah in a place where each and every day, everyone wrests with the demon which is the phd.  i just don't.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Four-Word Politics

i've been reading four filipino history and politics books since last Friday: David Wurfel's Filipino Politics: Development and Decay (1988); David G. Timberman's A Changeless Land: Continuity and Change in Philippine Politics (1991); Patricio Abinales's and Donna Amoroso's State and Society in the Philippines (2005); and Benedict Kerkvliet and Resil Mojares' From Marcos to Aquino: Local Perspectives on Political Transition in the Philippines (1991).  I'm not reading them en masse, but in bits and pieces, the best parts in each book. if i am to digest in four-word sentences what stands out from each book, these it would be - That in the Philippines:

1. democracy is a myth (Wurfel)

2. local-national conditions mutually transformative (Kerkvliet & Mojares)

3. relationships underlie political culture (Timberman)

4. post-EDSA politics diverse, divisive (Abinales & Amoroso)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Death

it is only in death
i will be valued
only in death when
i will be remembered
in kindness
the time when
the aged left behind
will cherish the offspring

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Skype with Yaman

yaman, i like green. i like tulips.  i like pink roses, but if you like them, i could have the red ones.  i just miss you so so much my Abalantung.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Politics and My Tipping Point

at what point did i reach the tipping point?  or the point where, from somewhere, and after more than two years of struggling with 'political analysis', 'political theory' and even arriving at a simple calculation to ground my learning experience (politics=relationships) and a theme that will ground the phd journey (development is political); i have come now to a point of understanding, organically, or coming from self-synthesis and self-critique, and not just from the simple exercise of believing (what this and that author writes about), my place in the study of politics.

writing the evolution of Kaantabay last july appeared to have been the litmus test.  it was a rewriting of a draft on Kaantabay's history submitted to jane last january which looked more like story-telling.  in the july redraft, i found my voice speaking together with the data. i appeared to be making sense politically, and jane confirmed it.  fast forward to november 3 when a week before, the july draft had to be edited once more as a presentation paper. what was initially thought as a ho-hum exercise turned out to be a breakthrough of a real serious honest-to-goodness chapter. the presentation paper resulted not only from the simple editing of the july draft. it became a consolidation of other and earlier drafts written about Kaantabay, the earliest being the one written in august 2009, just a month after starting the phd. 

not only is this november draft a testimony to my political voice but it helped round and orient my thinking politically about state-society dynamics.  and true to the word, i latch on the word 'dynamic' to make my claim that politics may be messy, complex and in the philippine context, outright crazy; but it could be studied, like any other, as a transformational process engaged into by state and societal actors, which in turn, changes them as individuals and members of a collective, and in a resulting turn, influences their motivations and decisions.  which could explain why our good governance guru of a mayor is both messianic and manipulative at the same time. which could explain good governance as a tool of political management. which could provide another reason among the many why being critical means not just criticizing, looking for faults per se but seeking to understand, find meaning, find voice to the unsaid, the unbelievable but certainly, not unlikely explanations behind what happens, fault or not. indeed history would be the judge of that. 

now i see with fresh eyes. i have read James Boyce's Political Economy under the Marcos Regime but never got to understand deeply the politics of my country and my city until i found Jonathan Fox last April, digested him since and finally understood what he meant by November 2011. and there is Colin Hay and Bob Jessop to thank for strategic relational analysis, and Joel Migdal for the inspiration to the word 'transformational' in his state-in-society framework.  now i am reading Patricio Abinales and Donna Amoroso's book on state and society relations in the Philippines, and next, Wurfel (Filipino Politics) and Timberman (A Changeless Land).  i will never be the same after this.  in thinking, breathing, seeing, studying and living Filipino.

why am i writing this?  because i want to mark the day of marked change. a tipping point in this phd when the conviction to discern politically has been reached.  i want to look back and see, that here, at this time, i've made the breakthrough.  i am not yet finished with the phd. i have yet to come full circle. but just with my eating and sleeping, exercising, motherhood, true love and commitment, i have finally come to my own in politics, embracing it with the firm touch of faith.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


it must be the heat, and the waking up before 5am to escape the sun shining cruelly, its rays piercing through your skin as early as 8am.  it must be the interval of 5-6 hours in between meals which at this starting phase, could stress the body out. must be the thirst that could not be stanched just by water (which reminds me to get powerade tomorrow). or the 1.01-hr interview that took 1.5 days to transcribe. for whatever reason, i am here in bed, tired and for the first time, skyping and blogging while lying down.  i need lots of hugs kuta? where are you my Yaman and Shadowman?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Perfect Thesis

perhaps there should be a simple rule such as this. writing a chapter should entail only a maximum of two months.  more than that, and there must be something wrong. wrong maybe in terms of the argument, evidence and reasoning.  to be stuck in a chapter for two months is also a sign of perfectionism or of just the inability to breakthrough. when that time comes, that two-month expiration period would be the sign, for one to stop and move on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't Know Much

at 6, i don't even know how to add. could not even comprehend the concept of more than, less than or equal.  can't spell 'stem'. don't know what a venus flytrap is.  haven't heard the word 'multiply'. but i turned out ok, so far. i hope yaman would be better in life than me, regardless of knowing how to add, multiply and spell 'venus flytrap'.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blue Roses for the Hubby

Special blue roses for you my Hubby on your birthday
It doesn't matter how old you are, as long as we grow old together
Hair grey and thinning are secondary as long as us you don't forget
And as old age creeps, our steps would slow down
But hopefully not our heartbeats, our beating heart as one
I love you. 

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Persist. Focus. Endure.

when a friend from here eventually goes home, with thesis submitted and affairs in order, one is left holding a bag of inspiration and a bag of desperation.

inspiration because the other's experience points to what one should do to be able to finish. and that is not just to work hard, which is a given. but to persist even if a day in uni brings a lot of mishaps like computer glitches, the meeting with the supervisor goes awry, and one contends with missing data. to focus despite a single blank page staring at you by 5pm. to endure every step, every heartbeat, every hair on end wanting to just do the opposite than go to uni. 

desperation as one envies the other's journey  home. of breathing the polluted but still welcome air of manila in naia. to drown in the warm embraces and greeting smiles of loved ones. to relish what it means to be filipino: in food, custom, the news, its politics, the scenery of dwindling ricefields, and to just speak tagalog, bikol. 

while revisiting this thesis outline, my mind is filled with thoughts of home and when and how i'll be able to make the final and successful breakaway from the toll of the phd as bic-bic did today.  in the sadness of this cold gray nook that is my room, my spirit takes solace in thinking forward. so vitti, persist. focus. endure. live it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Choc Fudge Cake Recipe

The recipe for Choco Fudge Cake c/o Margaret Fulton is as follows (I've memorized it after bungling the first one):

250g butter + 1 tbsp (for lining sides and base of springform pan, see picture)
250 g dark chocolate (premium quality for baking)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp almond meal
1/3 tbsp cream of tartar
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C.  Rub base and sides of springform pan with butter. Line base with butter with baking paper and rub another dose of butter over covered base.  Dust with flour. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large saucepan over medium heat.  When done, set temp to very low heat to keep the mixture warm. Set aside.

Separate egg yolks and whites.  In the egg yolk mixture, mix the sugars until just blended.  Pour yolk-sugar mixture to chocolate mixture. Then add the flour and almond meal.  Mix but do not overdo.  Remove saucepan from heat to just keep it warm.

Warm the egg white over low heat in a separate saucepan.  Add the cream of tartar until these form small white globules.  Pour egg white mixture to chocolate mixture slowly then mix.  It is normal for the mix to have white solids from the cream of tartar.

Pour entire mix to springform pan.  Bake for 35-45 minutes. The cake, according to MF, should 'tremble' at the center when cooked.  It is normal for the cake to settle down a bit after cooling.  Dust with icing sugar (1/2 tsp) and serve with vanilla ice cream. 

Bon appetit!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Choc Fudge Cake (Take 2)

the critical part of baking is measurement. so when i poured in three cups of flour and almost two cups of almond meal on the chocolate base mixture, something was dead wrong.  roxanne insisted that i could still use the heavy dough that looked like cement mix.  but after forming cookies and still pouring the dough on the springform pan, after 15 minutes, the result was still a bready bland mass of chocolate. so after literally crying my heart out, just heaved a big sigh and went on to bake the choco fudge cake, the second time, after replenishing lost ingredients by dropping by the shop around 4pm. 

The Choco Fudge Cake with hard-to-resist slices from moi and Roxanne. On top is icing sugar. Without it, the top looks a bit like marbled cake because of the cream of tartar.  The insides are soft and fluffy. Just perfect.  The recipe is courtesy of Margaret Fulton.  Bukas na since late na.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bic Bic's Reality

today, my good friend bic-bic discovered, less than a few days before leaving for the philippines for good on sunday, that her bank account has been closed and all the money in it wired to the philippines. all her money to the point that she has none left for shopping but for the bond money from her landlady amounting to more than A$500. she was upset upon learning from her bank of the erroneous transfer and it took a while for her to be comforted in knowing that her money is not lost after all. it's in safer hands even.  perhaps it's just the thought of not being able to do as she pleases, with the amount she expected to have. i would say that it's really our expectations that disappoint us, not the reality waiting to be acknowledged. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hubby's Washing

hubby's doing the laundry at present.  technology allowing a peek of what he's doing at home, in his own side of the world, in his domestic setting. without a woman taking care of him, he has gone to task the laundry of his office clothes. making sure that he does not appear forlorn and neglected by his household (if there is) by the quality of the uniform he wears. it is necessary to maintain a sense of presentability to the outside world. a sense that even by the sight of one's uniform, one's life as a single adult alone in his condo is isolated from prying eyes.  just hoping here that his long delicate hands will not betray him.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Compromised Life

while hanging my clothes yesterday, can't help but think about the Manny Pacquiao saga. from a hand-to-mouth existence, now money is no object, but for what in exchange? a wife that you no longer recognize. whose ignorance and pettiness it takes the penchant for showbiz stars, plastic surgery and hermes bags to convey.  does he ever see his children while playing the role of congressman, tv actor, endorser, and wanton playboy? does he ever really get to pray in the face of boxing practice, photo shoots and media events?  who among his throng of friends and alalays could he really trust now?  is his best friend around and still his best friend?  in what ways does he miss his life of struggle yet quiet existence? what would he give to bring this back?  what answers does he seek?  does he ever ask these questions?

Monday, November 14, 2011


returned to doing transcripts from second phase fieldwork just last week. hearing myself is such torture that i cringe and wonder what impression i may have left on my interviewees. they must have thought: 

1. she interrupts what i say...
2. she keeps on repeating my answers...
3. she forgot what we talked about God, how is old is her memory?...
4. she drowns her questions in 'po'...i can't understand the bloody question?!
5. she gets lost in the conversation...just told her a while ago about this and that...and we're talking again about the this and the that...

my interviewees are so patient with me.

i can't stand myself!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Once Upon a Time

once upon a time,
i dreamt of having 12 children.
6 girls and 6 boys who would bear my
initials as follows:

alexandra vanessa
alessa vivian
annisette victoria
astrid virginia
agnetha vigdis
antonia veronica

armande vaughn
alonzo vittorio
adamas virgil
andrei vitus
argylle victor
allen venetius

if hubby and i met earlier,
a large totanes brood by now exists

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What do I wish for?

... a return ticket home to Naga and Manila these holidays
... a long awaited annulment
... for God to change his mind and forego Doomsday 2012
... a PhD well written and submitted
... a deep and flourishing well...

Friday, November 11, 2011


every time i remember the past, the Lord i thank for releasing me just at the right time, for the right reason. and now as i see my present and future, the Lord i thank for returning what has been lost, at the time least expected but auspicious, and for reasons, reclaimed and clear.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Can Only Sing for Christmas...

tending my herbs this morning, i found myself singing 'winter wonderland' to them.  gone away is the blue bird, here to stay is a new bird, who sings a love song, as we go along, walking in a winter wonderland...

 the breeze is still cool here in perth, at the tail end of winter.  by december, it would be hot and scorching to the point that pine trees droop and the poinsettias in our neighbor's backyard fail to bloom.  i face the gloom of december 25, as my heart pines for my Yaman and my hubbylabs.

i've said before that by hook or by crook, i would be home for christmas every year after a flat christmas away from yaman in 2009.  still, i would have to eat these words and swallow my pride.  these holidays sandwiched between yaman's 6th birthday and my fieldwork, and the well even drier than before.

so perhaps, on december 25, i will just cook roasted turkey, blog and the morning after, tend to my herbs and sing, i'm dreaming of a white christmas...just like the ones i used to know...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How I Wish

everytime i see the hubby eat noodles,
and the daughter being carried to bed
how i wish i was there preparing their food
and tucking them in

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Right To Shave My Head

if i could lawyer for the right to shave my head, it is this.  that hair can grow and that if one is shamed to be seen with me, in public, this way, then avoidance is their call, not mine.

for one's talk about freedom, there is really none. we are held within by structures. movable prisons that may permit movement but still constrain and dictate under the conditions set by others. 

and why would shaving my head be conditional with death?  i am not only bereft in exercising the right i once had; and threatened with the sentence of shame. more than this, i am left no choice for acceptance in life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Man Who Holds My Future

i believe that just as when you set your sights low, you would get the lowliest; then when you dream far and big, you would be presented the opportunities to get far and live to the full. gone are the days in my love life where i just contend with what comes. na kumikibit-balikat lang.  where the rule of the relationship is, 'what you see is what you get' and 'bahala na bukas'. 

it is when we get into deep conversation with that special someone, on our dreams, that we realize what is easily taken for granted.  that commitment which is as intangible as air.  but as our visions become one, so does the language, and hopefully, with grace from Above, the courage to get these dreams going.  with my Shadowman, there is this stability so longed for but very rarely had.  i could recall the eerie uneasy silence that my ears have grown accustomed with whenever my dreams are articulated in one-way conversations.  to be with someone, and still feel very much alone. 

here he is in front of me. serious and earnest his face as he respects my space for blogging.  he doesn't talk, just observes. occasionally butts in to remind me that Ms. Philippines was the first runner-up for Ms. World. this man holds my future. not in a crystal ball of illusions. but in fixed clear and colorful visions of a doable and shared future.  i rest my world into his hands.  safe forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love Is Almighty

He is always true to His promise
that whatever He started in us
He will take it to completion
because He can never contradict Himself
nothing is hard when the heart loves
nothing is impossible when the heart understands
and nothing is heavy when He is in our hearts

Saturday, November 5, 2011

December 2010

Yaman made this in a scrapbook she's starting with pictures of us in our Manila and Tagaytay outings last December. I wonder whether my daughter misses that time. I think she does. The first stay at East Raya and the trip to Manila Ocean Park (Manila City), Tagaytay City, and Amici.  The Christmas Eve mass at the Ateneo and how she slept from 9pm onwards because it was already bed time. How am I going to get home to them this Christmas Holidays?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cold Cradles

i look at her and know that she too wonders how her daughter is at this time. whether she's fed as well as this one, doted on, talked to with constant attention. and perhaps she wonders too, seeing me on the screen, how can she bear to be as far away as myself from her own daughter. and we are linked by reasons that no mothers with children just beside them would understand.  we are the mothers of cold cradles.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Talk

today, gave a presentation of my paper, 'The Evolution of Kaantabay: The Influence of Policy and Politics (Pre-1989 to 2010)' at the asia research centre. the key would be ruling my nerves which i did not do by imagining a naked audience. rather, i just proceeded from modulating my voice and speaking as calmly and clearly as possible to get the arguments and findings across. now i am released. the dread of an arc presentation has passed and another one does not look as daunting. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 1 Scare

november 1 really provided a real scare but after calming myself to the reality of the situation, the thesis was still salvageable.  knowledge hardwired in this brain and in hard copies.  but technology should not be taken for granted and always, the virus danger is present and real.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


technology may not be on our side tonight
as lightworker panics over the discovery of
her pc and external hard drive being infected with malware
the prospect doesn't look threatening but it is always good to be sure