Tuesday, March 29, 2005


In my room, the industrial fan begins to blow warm air. The atmosphere greedily sucks up moisture from the only available source in the area - me.

My throat turns as disturbingly dry as my sex life.

I put down the book I had been reading, but remained seated on the mattress for a minute.

Then five.

I reach over to check my wristwatch.


At night.

I sigh and finally manage get up and go for a glass of water.


Why do I get the feeling it's going to be a long, hot summer?

Friday, March 25, 2005


Cable television.

The whole Holy Week experience in Manila has been transformed by cable television.

Before cable tv, there would be nothing to watch on the local channels except lenten specials (which featured everyone and their mothers lip-synching to Jesus Christ Superstar). Then, by Holy Thursday up until Black Saturday, there was nothing to watch at all (unless you liked looking at thousands of flickering, swarming silvery dots and listening to static hiss). When the three or so stations did come to life for a few hours, they would feature the prescribed Holy Week fare. Which meant any old movie with bearded men, Roman legions and/or robes.

Flash forward to now, less than an hour after watching a movie with bearded men, Rohan riders and elven cloaks on HBO.

It's day two of the holday, and the DVD stash I was supposed to go through remains unwatched.

My flick snack stash (hurriedly gathered yesterday before the shops closed) however is already missing two bags of chips, a can of beer and about half the contents of a Nips canister. But I am confident it will last until Sunday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Recently, someone from the Chicago office dropped by to take a look at the work Manila had done. He was a Creative Director, if I remember correctly (sorry... nasty past few weeks = short-term memory loss). Which, based on factors such as the currency convertion rates and colonial mentality, meant he was probably something closer to a deity.

He found a seat directly in front of me when the team gathered at the mini theater (well...12 comfy seats before a screen) to view the materials. I'd hear him go "Mmm-hmmm. Mmm-hmmm." or "Nice." as images of recent advertising efforts came on the screen.

Then, a print ad I've done came up.

He looked at the screen.

And he laughed.

Behind him, I grinned.

He got the joke.

Being from advertising, it was almost expected that he was quick on the uptake.

However, to be able to make someone from a different continent and a different generation laugh with just a picture and a sentence is, for me, a magical experience.

And what about the print ad?

It's basically the reason why I'm still at work with the art director long after everyone else had gone home for the holidays. Due to be released for publication in a few hours, the print ad had long since been modified, altered and adjusted. Bigger product. Larger fonts. Oh, and more copy, please. You've heard it all before.

The battle to keep it as simple, as pristine as it was that afternoon in the mini theater had been lost.

All I have now is the memory that, once upon a time, it actually worked.

Right now, that'll have to do.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Friday found me lined up at the Korean counter of an office building (not ours - legend has it there used to be a canteen...but only ghosts hang out there now) food court.

Ordered the Stir-Fried Beef.

When lunch arrived on my tray, I had to check with the counter lady if it was what I ordered.

It was.

As I sat down to eat with two other guys from creative, I pondered how my lunch, with peppers and a somewhat creamy sauce, didn't look stirred (ladled perhaps, but not stirred), let alone fried. Also, its pale, grayish color made me think of pork instead of beef.

Uh oh.

I think I just ate a metaphor.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


8:48 a.m.
Somewhere Else

People often said Finn had my smile. Which, in turn (along with the family name and a nice brown jacket), I had inherited from my own old man.

But today, as he sat beside me on the passenger seat and stared ahead, Finn sure pouted like his mother.

The way she'd certainly pout on Sunday when she gets back from her team building seminar in Cebu. When she finds out that Finn got late for school because I didn't take the route she recommended.

I hadn't driven Finn to school (where my father and I were alumni) in two months, and had no idea that half of a street along my familiar route had been a stretch of rubble, heavy machinery, huge concrete pipes and SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE signs for the past week. Traffic had moved about an inch per minute. The U2 (Best of 1980-1990) cd helped calm me down a bit, and made having to stare at the bumper-stickered back of a van for the past hour somewhat bearable. Though Bono and the gang couldn't quite change the fact that my son had already missed an entire period for this morning, and we were nowhere near the school.

"Finn," I said, turning down the volume on All I Want Is You just a bit.

He turned to look at me - a boy in a school uniform just like the ones I had worn two decades ago. Only different.

"Hey. Don't you worry, Kiddo. Dad's going to talk to the teacher when we get to school, okay? I'm very sorry you're late. "

"It's okay Dad," Finn looked away after a ghost of a smile. Then, he spoke once more in a voice that was barely above a whisper. "I don't wanna attend P.E. anyway."



I realized my fingers had been drumming on the steering wheel. I stopped, and adjusted the can of pine-scented air feshener instead.

"It's basketball this quarter, right?"

He looked down to trace the seatbelt buckle with a finger, and nodded.



"Tell you what, Kiddo. Let's ask your Tito William to show you some basketball moves next time he drops by the house. That okay?"

Finn nods once more.

I reach out to ruffle his hair.

"Yeah. That's my Kiddo."


Sorry, Finn. My bad.

I sighed quietly.

Then I realized Finn was watching me.

I smiled at him.

He smiled back. With my smile.

And Bono started to wrap up the song.

Friday, March 04, 2005


If some of the things that keep my grandmother awake at night (she mostly sleeps on the couch during the day, but insists it's not true when people remind her of that fact) ever come to pass:

The house (in the event it's not stolen by sneaky lawyers, relatives or lawyer relatives) would burn to the ground because of exploding LPG tanks and/or cellphones (yes, exploding cellphones) while we are being murdered in our beds by an assortment of burglars and terrorists.

Which may be not be so bad because we may already be suffering from diabetes, the lack of potassium (asked her what it was for - she didn't have a clue), lung damage from the incense sticks I light from time to time, and/or osteoporosis.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Sometimes, the walls that divide The-Way-Things-Are from What-Could-Have-Been are so thin that I can almost see flashes of what my otherselves see. Feel what they're going through. Hear their thoughts in my mind.

So begins a series of glimpses. Of lives lived Now.

But not Here.

In truths that lie parallelwise.


8:48 a.m.
Somewhere Else

Everyone learned a lot of new words over the past week. Fancy terms like Antigenic Shift.


Highly Pathogenic.

However, after blood spewed from that field reporter's mouth while she was on national television, I realized that all these big words would be of no use in a matter of days. Or hours.

It was just as scientists and health workers had feared. Avian Flu Strain H5N1, first detected in the country when a family of 6 died after a lechong manok dinner last Saturday, had mutated. Instead of avian to human transmission, the virus now jumped from human to human.

Since people didn't have antibodies to counter something that infected poultry, fighting the original strain had been difficult enough. After the mutation, the rate of infection quadrupled in less than a day. Mortality now took place within minutes instead of weeks. And there are spine-chilling speculations that subsequent mutations would be airborne. Compared to this outbreak, the global flu epidemic La Grippe, which killed about 30 million people in the aftermath of the first world war, would look like a case of sniffles passed around a neigborhood.

Major cities in the National Capital Region had been quarantined for the last 27 hours. An hour ago, the quarantine was extended over the entire metropolis and the towns clustered around it. It wasn't clear how the army, certainly suffering casualties among their ranks, would ever manage to seal off 636 square kilometers of urban sprawl populated by 10 million people who won't even line up properly at the bus stops. But at least I'd be free to move around the metropolis, and find my way home without getting shot.

I convinced myself that my chances would be better if I walked home instead of getting into an enclosed public transport. Not that many of them were still plying the routes anyway.

About forty minutes after I left the office, with a rubbing alcohol-soaked handkerchief over my nose and mouth, I saw the looter.

I had halted in my tracks to assess a particular house a few meters away along my path.

Its gates were wide open for a car that never quite made it into the driveway. From where I stood, it looked like a bag of blood had burst inside the vehicle, and had spattered the windshield and rolled-up windows.

As I was preparing to cross the street, the looter emerged from the gaping gateway.

The looter wore an old basketball jersey, baggy shorts and grimy slippers. He cradled a DVD player in his arms, power cord dangling down to his knees.
He couldn't have been older than 16.

Before the looter could run off, he suddenly began coughing. His prize flew from his arms and shattered on the pavement when he reached up to clutch his throat.

His eyes were wide with terror as he fell on his knees. Gasping for breath, gripping his neck, he crouched over the metallic debris that had burst out of the player. Over the distant wail of sirens, I heard him wheezing.



Soon, he shall start coughing blood.

I pressed the handkerchief closer to my face and crossed the street.

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