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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Wish List

Christmas is around the corner, so everybody says. Hence, here’s my wish list, although I might end up buying all these stuff myself anyway. For my friends who know me and read this blog, wherever you are (let me enumerate: US, UK, UAE, France, Germany, Qatar, Singapore and Australia as well as here locally, in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Manila), gift-giving to the less fortunate (read: ME) knows no boundaries *wink, wink*.

1. Mountain bike- need to take up other sports activity other than rowing, swimming and jogging. I’m serious. Ambrose and I used to pedal our way in high school from Camp 14 to as far as Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, passing by steep gravel roads that cut through deep canyons. I plan to bike-tour Rizal next year with Doc and Frodo.

2. I-pod 4GB, or Creatives mp3/4 player. Saw these in Bugis, Singapore at a price lower than here in PH. Will make a good companion while navigating an uphill route going to Antipolo.

3. Cork opener. Those first-rate hand-made devices made in France and Germany are a sight to behold: beautiful finish, excellent craftsmanship. I can spend the whole day just looking at it. Plus, I drink red wine (good for the heart). The made-in-China ones available in supermarkets locally leave much to be desired.

4. Tea leaves strainer cup. I bought a pack of tea in China, but since it does not come in a tea-bag English-style format, I need a cup that has a compact leaf strainer inside so that I don’t end up with tea leaves stuck in-between my teeth. No, I don’t need a tea set, saucers and all.

5. Cargo shorts, preferably Ambercrombie & Fitch, vintage. I know, I have several pairs already, but I want the fatigue one. Size 28 (I’m size 30, but A&F usually allots a size bigger than your actual waistline). It’s not available here.

6. Diesel tees. Not the flashy ones, though. Size medium. Too expensive here.

7. Adidas or Nike running shoes. Size 9 ½.

8. Bulgari perfume. No Jovan Musk please. Not much of a perfume user, though (my “natural” scent is wonderful enough) but I like the scent.

9. Dark green or almost maroon Speedo swimming trunks (plus goggles and ear plugs). Will take up swimming again maybe March when the water gets warm again. Colors not available here.

10. A piano score of W.A. Mozart’s “12 Variations on ‘Ah! Vous-dirai je maman!’” or a DVD copy of Gioacchino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and Richard Wagner’s “Ring” Trilogy. Failed to find these in Quiapo.

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Preparing for Another Storm

I stacked up on candles, batteries, canned goods, water, bread and the main food groups soda and chips in preparation for the onslaught of another super typhoon, Reming.

In the aftermath of typhoon Milenyo which hit the metropolis last September, I found myself like a nuclear disaster survivor scouring the streets of Cubao looking for food and candles.

I think everybody learned from that experience. My neighborhood supermarket is full of shoppers stacking up exactly the same things on my list. We’re all preparing for Reming’s week-end assault.

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Hell's Music

Running low on funds, I took the jeepney on my way home from my mid-week jog last night in Marikina to my place in Cubao.

Unfortunately, the sound system blared a 70’s Sampaguita classic, disco version. I wanted to puke. It was preceded by a really ugly rendition by some unidentified local rock band which kept on caterwauling Quezon City’s various housing projects, as in “project 2, 3, 4 and so on…” in its lyrics. Ugh…as in ughly!

Handed over my fare but I didn’t even bother asking for the change, I alighted and changed jeeps during a traffic jam as the audio assault became too much for me to bear. I pity the kid sitting right across me. He covered his ears with his hands.

It was too awful to describe. It must be the same music being played in hell to torment doomed souls. I should remember to be good.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Crooked Arm

I have a crooked left arm. When I extend both my arms forward and twist them outwards, the left doesn’t move as much as the right.

When I was a kid in the Bukidnon highlands, we had to cross a small valley via a short cut route: a staircase made of concrete that extends down to the wooden small bridge over a small brook and ascends to the other side. The hand railing, made of wood was made smooth by kids who’d use this as a “slide”.

On top of the stairs, we’d position and sit our asses by using a supermarket carton as the sled. We’d slide down the entire stretch, slowly of course, until reaching the foot of the stairs by the bridge.

Encouraged by Harrison Ford’s daredevil moves as Indiana Jones and Roger Moore’s James Bond (people, this was the golden age of the Betamax), I sled down the railing as fast as I could. Only to lose my balance at the bottom; I had to use my left arm to support my fall, screaming my lungs out in the process because of the pain.

I'm always reminded of that fateful day everytime I look at my crooked arm.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Eased Out

I had dinner with Raul last night, a rowing colleague and former team manager. He happened to be in the vicinity so we met up in Marvin Agustin’s restaurant at the Gateway Mall—I forgot the name (I initially didn’t want to go there, given its association with the local celebrity).

He told me his business partner fired him (or “eased him out”) for suspending a staffer who’s been sleeping on the job. I feel bad for him, of course. He never expected the situation to back fire on him; he's the one holding the empty bag. Left without a choice, he plans to strike out on his own.

I’ve been free-lancing for quite sometime myself. It’s never easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination and patience to close a single account when you’re up against bigger and more established competitors.

I wish him luck.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Castrato She Isn't


I really wonder if there’s anybody out there who can outmatch Cecilia Bartoli in vocal acrobatics. She makes the voice sound like it were a flute, a violin or a pianoforte. Only the castrati of the 17th and 18th centuries could sing like this.

She doesn't have a powerful voice and it leaves a different after-taste sometimes. But there's no doubt she is a vocal virtousi well-suited to the Baroque--used to be dominated by the castrati, or castrated males who specialized in female roles and now totally extinct-- and florid Bel Canto repertoires.

Here's a video clip of Antonio Vivaldi's Agitata da due venti...

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Critic-At-Large

One grade-schooler reporter for a national daily joined us one morning two weeks ago for dragon boat practice. Her feature came out in the kiddie section in today’s issue. I craned my neck trying to look at our pictures splattered across the pages as we huddled to read the short article about our training routine.

“What does she say about us?” I asked nobody in particular, expecting to elicit a response from anybody who heard me.

“Huh?” Obviously no one bothered to read it, they just want to look at the pictures.

I took the newspaper and immediately after reading the first line, I blurted out, “You don’t write like this. You don’t say, “I was assigned to do a report on dragon boating” because it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

Almost in unison, some of the girls chorused, “Ron, hello? She’s still in sixth grade!”

I didn’t mind being taken to task for criticizing the work of a child, because as any doctor would agree, if there’s cancer, it is best to treat it as early as possible.

Right?

Ooohh, I’m sooo bad. Put a sock in it, will ya? I’m kidding, of course.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Porn in the Office

I used to work in an office where my female colleagues were either approaching spinsterhood or destined for one. Naturally, since most of them had no boyfriends since birth, they constantly bombarded me with questions about, uhm, human sexuality.

One time, out of curiousness, curiousity, whatever, they designated me to buy Larry Flint’s porn magazine, Hustler, knowing fully well that I knew where to buy these things. They shared the cost of the magazine and I got to keep it, of course. All they wanted was to find out for them selves—just for a few minutes, really, they wouldn’t dream of bringing it home--why guys fall over themselves over the prurient material.

April only took a few glimpses. She said she couldn’t possibly take her lunch after seeing the pictures. The rest of them, including Che, were giggling as they browsed through the pages. Del even took her sweet time looking at the pages.

Since Hustler features explicit naked pictures of women, I really wonder if, had it been a magazine devoted to explicit naked men, what their reactions would be like. Instead of giggling, they’d probably be sweating and crossing their legs. :)

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Changing of the Guards

Move over Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras. Make way for Juan Diego Florez and Rolando Villazon, the current tenor superstars!

Compare their respective performances of the aria "Una furtiva lagrima..." from Gaetano Donizetti's most popular opera, L'Elisir d'Amore (Elixir of Love).

Florez

Villazon

Who's better?

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Investing in the Stock Market

Having had a short stint as a financial analyst for a stock broker, some people still seek my advice about investment options, free of charge. It’s amazing how Filipinos know so little about the equities market. I get the same queries each time so here are some basic tips I believe would be helpful for any greenhorn stock market investor:

DO’s

1. Visit the Philippine Stock Exchange website (www.pse.org.ph). Read the primer and the rules about investing. Better yet, register and choose the stocks you initially want to keep track of. Eventually, you’ll be checking this site from time to time to update yourself of your stocks’ performance.

2. Choose a broker. No, I can’t choose for you. The website contains a list of accredited brokers and their contact information. Don’t ask me to invest for you, hello, I’m not a broker. Give them a call, or better yet, acquaint yourself with your broker’s requirements by visiting their website, before opening an account with them. They usually require a minimum amount to be invested. This is similar to opening a savings account in any bank.

3. Be sure to check that your broker has a competent research staff. Research Analysts (I used to be one) get paid by tracking down information and analyzing these for you to make sound investment decisions. Ask for research materials, always. Take advantage of this service.

4. Start reading economic and business news items. These factors determine the direction and movement of stock prices. I know, I know. How can inflation and the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) be possibly more interesting than Pinoy Dream Academy, you ask? It isn’t. But will you earn any money from parking your ass in front of the TV set watching Rosita strut her stuff nation-wide?

DON’T’s

1. Do not expect to get rich in a week. People, this is not a casino. There is an ocean of difference between investing and speculating. An investor puts his money wisely in stocks with values that are expected to rise over time. A speculator gambles his money on stocks which has little or no value, very much like a spin-a-win.

2. Do not be greedy. If your stock starts to climb, at some point it will have to go down. This is because investors always cash in, or take profits on the gains made by the share price movement. Thus if share prices rose 10%, 15% or even 25%, that’s a good time to take profits and treat yourself to some Burger Machine.

So you ask, so what’s the whole idea behind investing in the stock market?

Source of Funding

You see, companies get their funds from two sources: equity (meaning owners’ money) and debt. Large companies, in particular, which have ambitious expansion plans, cannot finance their expansion projects without funding, yes? So if internally generated funds are not enough to finance the project, companies resort to fund-raising activities.

Debt and Equity

So they borrow money from banks or issue notes/ bonds to big-time creditors. But another popular option is for companies (only those listed in the stock exchange, however) to expand their equity base by allowing the public to invest into their company. Essentially, when you put your money in some company’s stock, you become a part-owner, and you become entitled to dividends, or share of the profits.

Trading Game

This is where the stock market plays an integral part: you buy into the company (i.e. acquire shares) via the trading system enforced at the stock market. The good thing is, you do not have to get stuck should you feel that at some point, you want to take out your investment somewhere. In the stock market, you can easily sell it to someone else, especially if you can sell it higher than the price you bought it. It’s what we call “capital gains” and is the main driving force why stock markets exist at all.

So which stocks should we be interested?

Invest on Value

Remember, VALUE is everything. Look, just like any commodity, say a piece of furniture, a stock has its value. The piece of chair can be valued highly, i.e. expensive, because of the quality of the wood, its workmanship and finish. Same is true for stocks. High-quality stocks are those with strong potential for earnings to rise. Thus, these are valued highly, more actively traded and the potential for capital gains is assured.

In other words, earnings/income/profits are always the basis for valuing the stock.

Putting My Foot Where My Mouth Is

Enough with the lecture, here’s an example. I bought SM Investments about a year ago (hi Che!) because of the solid portfolio, which included heavy weights like San Miguel, Banco de Oro, SM Malls, among others which were all expanding aggressively. In other words, the potential for earnings to rise over time was clear as day, and the IPO price still left room for an upside.

I bought it at an IPO (initial public offering) price of PhP250/share. Sold it at PhP312.50 for a 25% gain. It took me quite some time to recover it because of the uneasy political situation driving away investors in the market, but 25% is still better than had I parked my money in say, a savings account at any bank that pays you a really unbelievable usurious rate of 1% (not including taxes!) per year! You see, with inflation hovering between 4-6% per year, your money actually lost 3-5% in real terms, while saving it in the bank.

C’mmon now, people. If you’re tired of stalking and begging prospective clients for “networking” or multi-level marketing schemes that dazzle and excite you with promises of instant riches, the stock market is a good alternative.

Good Time to Invest

With a value turnover of about PhP2bn-PhP3bn daily, foreigners are definitely back (they’re the ones that move the market), a sure sign that the market is filled with investors, rather than unscrupulous local punters and speculators. This is mainly due to improving economic fundamentals: strong foreign exchange thanks to hefty remittance inflows from OFWs eases pressure on interest rates, driving costs of borrowing down and providing boost to business. And with political tensions simmering down, for the moment, everybody can concentrate on making some money.

And should the index hit the 3,000 mark, I think we will be back in the booming days of the mid-90’s, at the height of the stock market. In other words, you won’t have to wait that long for you to recover and make some gains on your investment.

Happy Investing!

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Day the Country Stood Still

It happened again. And no, there wasn’t a coup d’etat nor was there an impending storm forecast to hit the city. Streets all over the country emptied and the country ground to a complete standstill when Manny Pacquiao took centre stage again in Las Vegas Sunday morning (Saturday night Pacific time). He clobbered and knocked-out Eric Morales in the third round. He delivered a spectacular performance. I heard the shouts of joy from my neighbors across the street.

It’s a good thing they chose Sarah Geronimo to sing the national anthem. Last time Manny fought, Senator Revilla’s relative, an unknown singer, made us all cringe as she screeched our national anthem. She sounded like she was undergoing root canal operation without anesthetic.

Congratulations Manny, but your Extreme Sing commercial on TV still makes me dive for the remote and change channels.

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Hairy Conversations

I had dinner with Che last week. We haven’t seen each other for quite some time and in the meantime, her belly’s gained prominence: she’s seven months into her pregnancy. (To think that I used to kid her about being a long-time member of the VSB or virgin-since-birth club).

You see, I ask her assistance for just about everything, even long after our stock market days, especially with data gathering as well as bits and pieces of economic and corporate information. I have no patience with lay-outing my reports for my clients and she does that for me as well. She’s good at techie stuff and I’m not. In exchange, I treat her out to dinner. I always suggest Burger Machine (I know, I’m a cheapskate…Oh, SNAP! I can live with it). Since we couldn’t find one in Glorietta, we always end up at Italianni’s.

Our conversation this time however, shifted away from her belly towards the status of my hair.

Pointing to my receding hairline, she said nonchalantly, “I think your hair is thinning. The scalp is showing”. Thank you for pointing that out, Miss Friendship. I know I’m losing pogi points because of it. If not for my face value, (friends, will you please stop hiding your faces under the covers!) I’ll be spending pathetic week-end nights watching the Animal Channel on cable.

“Have you tried using that shampoo for horses?” she asked me with a genuine concern most doctors reserve for hopeless cases.

“Naaah. I heard it isn’t effective,” I told her. It’s true, I have a cousin who is bald and he and his wife lamented the product’s ineffectiveness to me. How reassuring. Maybe they thought I am about to “join the club” so they felt they had to share this glorious piece of information.

She put forward an ingenious solution. “The only way for you now is to cut your hair really short, you know, almost a bald, skin-head type look”, she says, matter-of-factly.

Gee, I haven’t really tried it. I’m wary of experimenting with my hair, you see. One time, I dyed my hair jet black with henna only to get horrified at the result. Since I am a chinito, I appeared like—gasp!—a Yakuza gangster or worse, a Shaolin warrior in Once Upon a Time in China. I had to wear a baseball cap at all times because I felt uneasy from the stares of strangers you meet on the street. It was awful!

When I told her over the phone about my disastrous attempt at coloring my hair, Che sounded like her guts were about to burst open—yes, she sounded like the daughter of Satan-- it was the first time I heard laugh like a hyena.

“Oh, I use aloe vera extracts”. I explained to her, the moment she settled down from laughing hysterically. “My father used them, and his hair to this day remains thick” I continued. In fact, I have a potted aloe vera plant in my laundry area, and I apply the freshly squeezed extracts directly onto the affected areas.

Honestly, I’m not seeing any results, maybe because I always forget to apply it, but who knows. My good friend Johnny Bravo has a far worse predicament: his hair started decimating at the center, not at the forehead. I always remind him to thank God he’s a six-footer. Most people do not notice the creeping baldness because they’re too short to take a look. He’s been applying all sorts of topical solutions and tries to convince me, unsuccessfully I must say, of the effectiveness, judging from the area of the “fall-out”. Clearly, he’s still in a denial mode.

“Yeah, my hubby applies aloe vera too”, Che reassuringly says of aloe vera’s potential effectiveness.

Oh my gad, this is sooo middle-age stuff.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Overdue

This is a long overdue post, taken last year in Tai-peh, Taiwan. (Photos courtesy of Jun O., Doc Don and Ay-ris).

This was what we were there for..



Relaxing in between heats...



Muscle recovery after a gruelling day...



We clobbered the Americans and ended 6th overall, out of a field of 25 teams coming from the US, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jog Talk

Frodo joined me in my mid-week 4km jog at the Marikina Sports Oval last night. He’s been asking me to jog with him since Monday to shake off those unwanted pounds. I told him, “you’re freaking crazy, it’s a Monday! I’ll see you Wednesday instead”.

We did 4.8 kms in 20 minutes, which is not bad since our aim is to participate in the upcoming 10km events this November and December. We were only warming up. We plan to gradually increase the speed and the distance. Oh yes, before I forget, we still have to wake up at the crack of dawn four times a week for dragon boat training!

Ours doesn’t even begin to compare with Eugene’s, another rowing teammate, who’s making his debut participation in an arduous triathlon in Subic this December. Get this, he’s preparing for the 3 km swim and the 20k run!

Doc will do the 80 km bike. The swim part I think I can do, but the 20km run is already a half-marathon. Also, the bike distance is equivalent to going to Malaybalay in Bukidnon from Cagayan de Oro City, which is like two hours by bus! I’m not psyched up to participate in those events, yet; maybe in a few years. Will have to plan ahead and come up with a mini-program to follow.

Doc has been eating like a hog in preparation for the event. And it shows, his cheeks bloats and I didn’t spare him any mercy. “Wow, only a few weeks, yeah?” I was deliberately vague while looking intently at his face. “What are you talking about?” He didn’t get my point, of course. I touched both sides of my cheeks and pointed to his, and we laughed our brains off. Apparently, he is no less vain than I am. He took my jibe seriously and he told me he’s been skipping breakfast and limiting his rice intake to a half-cup.

Anyway, during dinner at a Thai restaurant after the jog, (yes we promptly put back the pounds and the calories we just burned) Frodo recounted how he once participated in a male beauty pageant back in his college days in Quezon. He didn’t really want to, but seeing no one among his peers was good looking enough to represent their batch, he realized he didn’t really have any choice: good looks bear great responsibilities, 'ika nga.

And so he posed and sashayed around the stage, to the right, to the left, half-quarter turn and one step backward please, wore an Igorot native costume, donned skimpy trunks, swallowed fire, acted out a male version of Sisa (he won the talent award) and got himself a year’s supply of deodorant for getting the sponsor to like him. He faltered in the interview portion and ended up third over-all. I asked him, remembering my high school days, “nobody sliced the head off some poor broiler chicken with his teeth?”

You ask, so what is the whole point of all these? Nothing, I’m just rambling. You’re sooo serious.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Viva Verdi!

When I wrote my notes on Giuseppi Verdi’s opera Aïda, the glitchy server prevented me from posting the DVD covers.

Here's the La Scala production



And New York's Metropolitan

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BELLINI: I Puritani

I Puritani
Opera in 3 Acts by Vincenzo Bellini
Orquestra Simfònica i Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu
Barcelona, España
Friedrich Haider, conductor

I caught the first act of Bellini’s I Puritani only, because my DVD copy bought in Zuhai doesn’t play the other CD containing the rest of the opera.

This Liceu Barcelona production under Friedrich Haider about the most vocally difficult opera in existence features a stellar international cast of vocal virtuosi: Edita Gruberova, José Bros and Konstantin Gorny, among others.

Gruberova, despite her age, remains a lyric coloratura force to be reckoned with. She is among the very few sopranos brave enough to tackle extremely difficult roles that require mastery of the complicated style of bel canto singing.

In the first Act, the audience gave her a long applause and ovation after the well-anticipated mad scene where she displayed her bravura fireworks and amazing tonal control. She modulates from a whisper-like pianissimo, tosses off trills effortlessly and navigates all the other “unsingables” like mordents, roulades and scales in between long-drawn out notes before sending her final notes to the stratosphere. You know she’s essaying a mad role because she’s suddenly doing all these vocal acrobatics, mirroring her character’s state of mind.

Bellini has this habit of sending his singers to the upper range of the vocal range, and leaves them there, hanging and twisting in the wind (think of the Casta Diva aria in Norma). No wonder, Pavarotti has once said singing I Puritani is like tight-rope walking.

Bellini, along with Rossini and Donizetti, were the main exponents of bel canto. If it’s a Bellini, you can be sure there is a lot of beautiful and highly melodic singing going on.

Bellini was not a poet, and thus, had to rely on other people to write the libretto before setting the story into music. The libretto by Count Pepoli is amazingly flawed and highly unbelievable. In fact, it is pockmarked with blatant inaccuracies. You see, the story is supposedly set in Puritan Scotland, in Plymouth. A quick check on the map of the UK shows Plymouth firmly located in the south of England, and that history tells us the Puritans were from England, and not from Scotland.

Despite this, Bellini managed to write not only some of the most beautiful music in all opera, but the most difficult to perform as well. This opera requires full-volume singing in the upper part of the voice register all throughout. No wonder then, this opera is less frequently performed despite the marvelous music.

The tenor, Jose Bros, has the most demanding role of any tenor anywhere: he has to hit one F above high C (imagine that!) and two high Ds. No opera, Italian or otherwise, makes seemingly impossible demands than I Puritani. Hitting those unnatural high Cs is already scary enough for any tenor, pushing it way above the normal vocal range can seriously damage the vocal chords as well as jeopardize a fledging career, and so it is important to train assiduously for this single role alone. I have a CD of Pavarotti singing the tenor’s opening aria which contained the high F, and his voice cracked! Bros, however, nailed it in this production without sounding like a castrated calf.

I will not discuss the story line, yet. But what I’ve managed to see and listen so far is quite impressive. How I might be able to watch the remaining Acts, I do not know.

Impressive and highly recommended.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Strange Encounter

Slept late afternoon yesterday, so I had trouble sleeping last night. Christine’s incessant barking made it worse, I had to get up from bed at 2:30 a.m. and decided to have a light snack at Chowking's, a few blocks away from where I live.

While seated near the see-through glass panel windows waiting for my order, a figure dressed neatly and impeccably in black-and-white striped polo shirt, sporting a shortly-cropped hair, in his early twenties, passed through my viewing point outside and glanced back towards my direction, as if waiting for a cue.

Didn’t really think much of it, though, until I realized this guy was waiting for me all along, outside. Seated on the pavement, he followed me upon stepping out of the door. I thought, well he couldn’t possibly be a hold-upper, the security guards at the fast-food joint and the nearby bank were a few feet away, and he didn’t appear like he could carry out a stick up; and then it hit me: what if he were trying to pick me up, after all this wasn’t the first time complete strangers came up to me, men and women alike (Ems, I’m not making this up so remove that smirk off your face) ostensibly hoping for more than just a handshake.

I stopped walking and he quickened his steps as he approached me, surprisingly as if I were a long-lost friend.

“Hi. Have trouble sleeping?”

Maybe it was obvious.

“Yeah, and I got hungry so I decided to come here” I said politely. I’m friendly even with strangers, as long as there isn’t any gun or knife tucked away somewhere.

“Just came from work in Makati, haven’t had any sleep for a couple of days as well, because of the erratic schedule”. He spoke in a mix of English and the vernacular typical of people who went to expensive Catholic schools. Perhaps we can form an insomniac’s club, I wanted to say.

And so it became clear to me, my life wasn’t in any danger. It seemed like he was just looking for someone to talk to and wasn’t hitting on me. And besides, he’s just too young to do that. I wanted to shout, “why me? We barely know each other, I don’t even know your name!” but I realized he simply wanted me to do a Big Brother thing. My gad, do I look like the brother he never had? So I decided to just sit it out in the pavement and listen to him do all the talking. I thought I’d spare just five minutes of my time before walking on home.

Why he decided I’d make a good sounding board a la Dr. Phil is beyond me. Maybe he was drawn inexorably to my presence which radiates a positive aura or energy so infectious he just can’t help but succumb to it (Ok Che, you may strangle me now).

He talked about his work at a call centre in between cigarette puffs, his misgivings about his job, the pressure and the physical toll on his body, you know, like not getting enough sleep. Dude, I wanted to tell him desperately, if you want me to listen to you yak all night long about how miserable your life is, buy me some beer, preferably Cerveza Negra, so that at least at some point I’d probably pass out to even care. But since I’m a nice guy, too nice in fact, I smiled and simply grinned all throughout the ordeal. Why I even bothered to accommodate him I don’t really know.

After my self-imposed five-minutes elapsed, I got up to leave and we finally shook hands. He held on to it a wee bit longer but I didn’t think he meant anything by that. As for me, my eyelids started to fail me, I had to head home and hit the sack.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Satanic Verses

I failed to watch the remake of the Omen, but last time I saw it I think I was about to enter high school, when Betamax still raged across the nation like wildfire and VHS was only starting to creep in like a thief in the night. Prior to that, my family patronized practically all the Amtyville Horror series. We usually invited our cousins along and scared ourselves silly. You know, blood dripping from the walls and the ceiling, demonic possessions, doppelgangers and poltergeists, we rented them all.

You see, when all your movie viewing habits were restricted to RPN 9’s Sunday’s Big Event or the weekend screening of awful Tony Ferrer-Vic Vargas starrers, as well as charity screenings of black-and-white cowboy movies provided by US soldiers at the community social hall, you’d understand our hankering for big-time Hollywood flicks.

Anyway, only my brother and I watched the Omen at home, at night as my parents and sister went to bed early. Considering that The Exorcist remained fresh in our minds, this one made me quite uneasy as well. The possibility of the Son of Satan walking the earth sent jitters down my spine and made the hair on my skin stand on its end. Worse part is, the tape had a double feature, a documentary about Satanic worship in the US. We couldn’t put it away, out of curiousity, and watched the grim feature about devil worshippers inside a dimly-lit make-shift church chanting Satanic verses and hugging cadavers. Awful, I couldn’t sleep at all.

Anyway all this talk about the devil apparently influenced the morality police to ensure kids’ or teen-agers’ musical choices were devil-free. Back masking, or playing records or cassette tapes on the other direction supposedly reveals the devil’s subliminal message on the listener, and thus, the pernicious influence could perhaps provide some light on the listener’s bad behavior and sinful lifestyle.

We were forced to listen to awful, grating sounds, very much like how a monster like Godzilla sounds in the movies, supposedly mouthing words with obvious references to the devil like Beelzebub, Satanic Prince, etc., in between gibberish and non-sense. In fact, Hotel California was a favorite target. The logic was that if you listened to it, then the devil’s message must have entered your sub-conscious.

I found it extremely stupid.

But since this period also saw the rise in popularity of the Spirit of the Glass (in the absence of an ouija board, you use an upturned empty glass over the cut-out alphabets spread on the table to communicate with spirits, and maybe even with demonic beings), and with Froilan providing the details about the mechanics, claiming he once participated in one session and thus personally attesting to its authenticity, my impressionable young mind simply believed just about anything.

In high school, we all thought a group of really brash and abrasive punks who listened to rock music like Hotel California, wore hi-cut boots, applied a little dark make-up for a gothic look and sported frizzy and spiky hair, were Satanists. They certainly fit the bill because they listened to devil-inspired music, had a fashion sense nobody appreciated except Satan himself and they belonged in the general section, meaning they weren’t particularly doing well in school. They must have neglected their homework in the service of Satan.

In addition, we assumed they must be congregating somewhere on a regular basis to worship Satan. Our imagination, especially Froilan’s, went wild. We thought that aside from doing drugs and booze and listening to rock music, they probably engaged in wild orgies at the cemetery, sort of like a tribute to Satan. Why the cemetery, well I don’t really know--the ditches in the pineapple fields were clearly out of the question-- but I guess they couldn’t possibly do it at home with their parents around.

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

Sharp Rebuke

The results of the US mid-term elections is Bush's own undoing. Since Americans realized that's it is now too late to kick him out of office, they're venting their anger towards his party, the Republicans, and with good reason.

The War in Iraq is a complete disaster. It's a no man's land with heavy casualties, both civilian and foreign (mostly US troops), day in and day out. What sort of success is that? And besides, Bush even up to this day, will not own up to his mistake of invading Iraq under a wrong premise. There has not been a single weapon of mass destruction found in Iraq. He seems to say the Iraq invasion is the best thing that the Iraqis could ever hope for because it removed Saddam, the long-time scourge of the Bush father and son. Unfortunately, that didn't result in an improvement in the lives of the Iraqis at all. In fact, the current situation is a dangerous one, and the US seems unable to control it.

Sure there are other domestice issues like corruption and the economy but it seems the electorate is far angrier at Bush's belligerence because of the rising body count in Iraq.

Most pathetic are UK and Australia, lameduck governments who serve at the pleasure of the Americans. When America speaks, you can bet your bottom dollar these two will be at their beck and call. The latter especially, has delusions of being a superpower. And so as Bush's credibility goes down the drain, Blair's and Howard's should follow suit as well, because that is where they rightfully belong.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Musical list no. 1

Currently listening to Schumann's Rhenish Symphony. Beautiful music. Conventional lay-out in the classical mold. Nothing innovative, even the orchestration is a bit dry in some parts, but the musical details and the melodic breadth are overwhelming.

Which leads me to come up with a list of my favorite Symphonies and Piano Concertos:

1. Mahler no. 2
2. Brahms No. 2
3. Beethoven no. 7
4. Dvorak no. 9
5. Schumann "Rhenish"
6. Franck
7. Mahler no. 1
8. Brahms no. 4
9. Schumann "Scottish"
10. Beethoven no. 9

Piano Concertos

1. Tchaikovsky no. 1
2. Chopin no.1
3. Chopin no. 2
4. Rachmaninoff no. 1
5. Ravel Concerto for the left hand
6. Brahms no. 1
7. Dvorak
8. Scharwenka
9. Prokofiev no. 5
10. Saint-Saens

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

Romanza Nada

Recently, I received the following SMS messages:

“Hi how r u? havnt hrd frm u since last wk? wazzup?”

“Y not reply to my txts? Watsamatter?”

“I thot u agrid to c me aftr dat night”?

“Ur jst lyk d odrs, jst ful of crap. U m8k me sik!”

I know. I’m one of those creeps who take advantage of some people’s vulnerability, promising the moon and all, simply to satiate my burning thirst for lust.

But hey, I do not go overboard. I don’t say things I’d only regret later on. You see, just because I had a date, had too much to drink and ended up at some mid-priced hotel doesn’t mean I want to go to the next level and get introduced to the parents.

Why can’t it be just that, a night of fun and excitement, in and out of bed, a one-night stand? I thought in this day and age of hedonism, we’re pretty much liberal about these things?

Why get worked-up and emotional, start harassing me and laying on the guilt trip for the insensitive manner in which I supposedly dumped the other party? Sure I was deliberately vague, I couldn’t say up front what I really felt then: I didn’t feel emotionally connected, that’s all. The sex was great. But there were no sparks; the earth didn’t shake; I couldn’t hear the fiddling notes in the air. Romanza nada.

It would have been far worse if I were the Great Pretender and carried on the affair. Leading on the other person to believe something that is just isn’t there to begin with would only be a recipe for disaster. It just wasn’t meant to be. And breaking off remains a practical way of keeping your sanity and allow both of you to move on to better things and better-minded people.

I don’t enjoy ignoring other people, much less hurt them. But what can I do? Mend my ways? What are you, some frigging fire-and-brimstone born-again preacher?

Some think I’m a candidate for karmic revenge. In fact, friends of the aggrieved are already on the prowl, ready to pounce on me and perhaps beat me to a pulp with their claws.

I guess being inconspicuous and lying-low for a while would do the trick. Don’t get me wrong and don’t judge me. I’m not on a conquest. Like most people, I’m searching for the right one as well. Maybe the person just wasn't the right one.

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Thursday, November 2, 2006

It's All About the Back!

MTV (or was it MYX) played Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" yet again, which got me thinking: "hey, I have a sexy back!"



You see, Pam took the picture above while I took a shower after training, with my joyous consent! There is a precedent: when Norma Baites' mom, Aretha Franklin and Pam barged into my room in Canton and dragged me from bed and forced me to party, I was lying face down with only my fake Calvin Klein red boxer briefs on. This was what they saw :)



All this narcissistic talk about my back is killing me bwahaha! I know what you're thinking: "The nerve of this guy. How kapal of him. Fishing for compliments, he probably has an awful front. My gulay!".

Whatever. hehehe

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