30 December 2010


We'll probably be busy preparing for New Year's Eve stuff tomorrow, so I'm going to do this now.

I don't set too much store by horoscopes, but it sucked to hear that next year would be bad for me. I mean, I'm not going to look for the lighter side anymore; I'm just going to say that 2010 wasn't happy. To get another crappy year just might make me crack.

That's what I want for 2011, though. (Crack? No, silly.) I seem to have lost my optimism. I'm no longer convinced when I tell myself and others that things will work out for the best in any and all aspects of my life. After a downer of a year, it's been hard for me to get my hopes up about anything anymore.

It's just no way to live. As it is, there are very few things that keep me happy in the big, bad city; without basic optimism, I'll never get anywhere. So this is to say that the pursuit of happiness will be my new year's resolution. I really hope I keep it.

Don't get me wrong, though. There have been some good times, with good people. For these (and for you), I am thankful.

28 December 2010

"So writing's really your passion, eh?"

I look like a twelve-year-old, so it's hard for receptionists, guards, and pretty much everyone on the way up to whomever I'm about to interview to believe that I'm employed and, yes, interviewing their boss. After a while, I stopped telling reception that I was there for an interview, because then I'd get, "Ah, you're a job applicant? Well, Mr. So-And-So doesn't usually interview applicants himself." Now I just say I have an appointment or official business or something like that.

Another thing I get, usually before or after an interview, when my friendly interviewee and/or their assistant is making smalltalk, is, "Is this your first job?" If not that, it's, "So, how long have you been at BusinessWorld?"

The next question, if they ask another question, is almost always, "So, this is your passion, eh? Writing?" or its twin (fraternal in the way the Olsen twins say they are), "So writing's what you really love to do?"

I hesitate, shrug, half-nod, and give a shaky, "Ye-es."

Maybe it's unfair of me to stereotype, but I feel I'm being stereotyped by corporate types. (Or maybe I'm just being defensive.) I make my living doing something that they might see as impractical, therefore I must really love it to have said no to something more lucrative.

As much as this next sentence/paragraph may endanger my employment status, the truth is that this job is not my passion. I do not take joy in writing articles for advertising-driven supplements. I enjoy writing articles, and I tend to actually enjoy writing about the things we have to write about (except credit cards and cars--I don't charge, and I don't drive, so I don't really care). But other aspects of the job--dealing with Vogons and Golgafrinchans; bugging decent human beings for an interview, getting them excited, and then having to tell them that the lack of advertisers means that the article may/will not be published; and dealing with Vogons and Golgafrinchans--make whatever enjoyment I get out of writing almost negligible.

The other thing is, when I first entertained thoughts of becoming a writer, this was definitely not what I had in mind. When rhyme was still cool, I thought I'd be a poet. Then I gave that up and focused on writing stories for kids and good pulp for all. My D/R/NSPC days had me thinking that I had a future as a journalist, too. If I were doing any of those things for a living, then I'd be able to say, "Yup, it's what I love."

It's not just the weekly whippings from Golgafrinchans that get me down, though. Recently, I've had doubts that I should have become a writer at all.

I'd always liked making stuff up, but only when my fifth- and sixth-grade teachers told me that I was good at putting pen to paper did I believe that it was what I should do with my life. Now, I'm not so sure whether I am where I am because it's what I want, or because it was encouraged. Because I'm not happy, I think it's the latter.

Before I got this job, Martin and I tagged along to last year's Heights writer's workshop. We went back to Manila with some fellow alumni and Martin's now-boss, Ma'am Beni, who told us that we shouldn't do what we love for a living. To be specific, writing for a living would just ruin writing for fun. I wonder now whether that--burnout--is what happened to me, or whether I just didn't love writing enough to begin with.

The scary thing is, it feels too late for me to try anything else, because anything else I was good at and enjoyed before college would require returning to school to do again, this time for a living. While my parents would probably support me, I'd like to do whatever on my own time and dime, and I'm not sure I have both.

Perhaps it's my fear, but the other problem is that "whatever" is just not so clear to me. I like design. I like computers. I like science. But I don't know if I love them, and isn't that what we're supposed to do? Know what we love and do that?

Ugh. I don't know where I wanted to go with this entry. I don't know where I want to go.

Caught in the Roots

Home usually waits till I'm about to leave to tug at my heartstrings and make me wish I could stay, but just two days after Christmas and four days after I flew in, I'm already torn up inside.

My mom is getting older. She still doesn't look a day over 30, but the usual holiday stress is starting to wear her down. She was about to crack on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, she was running a fever and had to go to bed. For the first time ever, we ate Christmas dinner out. We ended up at a roadside carinderia that night (not to sound picky, mind you; our first choice was some other roadside spot that our family has loved for years, but they were closed for the holidays).

I kind of envy my friends who are also daughters and get to stay at home all year. If that were my situation, then I'd be around to relieve my mom of some of her usual Christmas "duties" as she got older, and she wouldn't be too stressed to really enjoy the holidays with us. Instead, I live on the other side of the country and fly in at the peak of the rush (and the stress), and the most I can do to help is not much at all--wrap last-minute gifts, tidy up, set the table. I can't even cook.

Then, there's the news that a friend of my mom's wants to start a daily newspaper in the city and could use some help. The reason I always gave for moving to Manila--there's no jobs for people who aren't entrepreneurs--is starting to look less and less correct. There's also all this outsourcing stuff that lets you work from wherever, and that could be home.

And then, there's just the fact that when I look out of the window here, I see more trees and flowers in two seconds than I ever see in my entire commute to and from work in Quezon City. When I look at the sea, I know I'm not separated from it by a huge cement barrier and miles of garbage. When I go for a walk, I don't have to watch for passing vehicles--I don't have to watch for anything, except maybe the occasional trigger-happy guard who can't tell a friendly collared dog from a rabid stray.

Why don't I stay? It just gets harder and harder to answer whenever I return.

18 December 2010

The Yearbook

I claimed my college yearbook today.

While I think the design was so-so and my picture was terrible, I like the whole thing because it's artifact of my college years.

"Um. Duh, Kat. That's what yearbooks are supposed to be."

Sorry. It's just that I used to judge yearbooks, particularly yearbook photos and yearbook writeups, the snooty way. I'd scoff at how unoriginal the "creative" shots were, sneer at the shoddy writeups, and roll my eyes at the arrogant smirks. After seeing all these pa-cute poses, pa-rocker hand signs, pa-seductive pouts, cheesy song lyrics, bad poems, and writeups by SOs extolling how "wonderful," "sweet," "cool," and of course, "unique" the subjects were, I couldn't help but come away with my own conceited judgment:

Ha. You're not as special as you think you are.

But today, while leafing through the pages, no matter how "objectively" unoriginal, uninspired, or downright terrible the pictures or writeups were, I realized that these people were special. Some of them were special to me, of course, and not just because they were my roommates, orgmates, blockmates, etc. Of course there were people I saw every day for four years--people whose effect on my life is indelible.

After a while, though, I went over each page just to look for the familiar faces, people I passed in the hallway, went to one study group with and never saw again, admired from afar, etc. It's them I feel like paying albeit small tribute to today.

"Oh, there's that guy who hung out with Dave. There's that guy who looked like Carl Jon. There's that guy I had a mild flirtation with and then forgot about when I started going out with Tim. There's that guy who chatted to me about the Ataris one afternoon in the blue. There's that guy who helped out in our final presentation for English class.

"There's that girl that Joey was talking about at our last reunion. There's that girl that everybody had a crush on. There's half of that couple I saw everywhere. There's that girl who looked like a Korean pop star. There's that girl who used to be in Bio."

And so on.

As for the writeups, I couldn't help but feel that they summed up each person well enough. The people they'd chosen to write, the words they'd used, the form each writeup took--however wonderfully or terribly the job was done--were all perfect as artifacts. I can't bring myself think about how cool or uncool they are. I can only think of how each person must have felt upon sending their 15 lines in, after a couple of revisions, or none, or bugging a buddy to come up with something at the last minute. I think of how it must have felt, at the close of one's college years, to be satisfied--or unsatisfied--with how they're making their final impression.

Maybe sometime from now--maybe now, considering that we'll have tossed the yearbooks somewhere for our younger siblings to pore over by this time of day--younger kids will browse through our yearbook and sneer as I did. That doesn't matter to me. I mean, call us cheesy, call us corny, call us uncool or stupid if you want. But that's who we were. And somehow, whether only to our few friends or to some unknown admirer or to that one "random" guy we always passed on SEC walk on our way to Philo at 1450, we were special.

11 December 2010

Here's my wish list, Travie.

Someone finally claimed the P741 million lottery prize (about $17 million at today's exchange rate) the other day, but that hasn't stopped me from fantasizing about what I'd do with the money.

1. Hire a financial adviser. You don't stay at this job a year and learn nothing, and while I still have a lot to learn about investing, if I had the money now, I'd go first to someone who knew how to grow it. I'd ask for short-term investments to give me some kind of regular income and long-term stuff for security. If they do their job right, I should be able to afford everything else on this list in time.

2. Anonymously pay off the debts of people I care about. In my fantasy, it plays out like this: they're at their house or place of work when someone from the investment bank shows up to have a talk with them. The rep explains that someone knows how much trouble they're going through and would like to offer them a fresh start. The moment they say yes, they will be debt-free. They will also be given a choice between among a business franchise to keep them financially independent, a retirement fund to which they can look forward, or a lump sum with which they can do anything they want. From then on, of course, they're on their own.

3. Fulfill a few wishes for my immediate family. You know, things like pay for my brother's wedding, take my grandmother on a trip around the world while she's still young, and buy my dad his Pinzgauer.

4. A scholarship foundation for deserving kids from my home region.

5. Funding for marine science schools and research bases.

6. Investments in eco-tourism programs for my home region.

7. Investments in Metro Manila's public trains and a real bus rapid transit system.

8. A foundation for indigent families in need of healthcare.

9. Martin's master's degree.

10. A nice house and a new computer.

That's all--for now.

02 December 2010

Goodbye, Decade 1.

Last weekend at Martin's house, I caught the CNN TIME Frames special on TV. It was all about the biggest newsmakers of the past decade, also the very first ten years of the 21st century.

When I woke up the next morning, it hit me that nearly everything important that has happened to me, the "newsmakers" of my own life, happened in the same ten years. Life is rarely so neat.

While EDSA Dos and 9/11 happened, I went to high school. My best friends and I first got together. We wrote each other stories. I finally worked up the courage one day to tell a boy that I liked him, and I got shot down. I went on my first date ever. I shot a guy down for the first time. I had my first boyfriend and first kiss.

The Indian Ocean tsunami happened during my freshman year of college. I made new friends, including the guy I would hang out with for the next five years. I had a secret admirer who sent me a bouquet of peach roses. I shot down a guy for the second time. I got depressed about how much I sucked in college and changed my major. Someone I liked asked me out twice, but I had to turn him down both times because of prior engagements.

I read some books that completely changed my views on relationships. I went out with someone nice but later decided that the books should've given more credit to chemistry. I took philo and theo classes under some really good teachers. For the first time ever, I showed my writing to people who've made it their job to critique writing, and it wasn't horrible. I met Martin in a book and then in passing.

I left home and moved to the capital. I got my first job at a church. I moved into my first apartment with a college roommate. I ran into Martin again and decided to hang the old books. I fell out and lost touch with my best friend from college. Michael Jackson died and Obama won.

I quit my first job because the church wasn't for me. I was finally able to pay all my bills without my parents' help. I got a new, more difficult job and moved to a seedy neighborhood at the same time, and the stress and disappointment made me cry almost every night for a month.

Ondoy came, 58 people were massacred in Maguindanao, and Noynoy won. I made new friends at work, and work became not just tolerable but actually kind of fun. Martin's leg broke and changed personal life literally overnight. Last month, the leg finally got fixed. It looks like the life will follow.

I understand that in the grand scheme of things, the past ten years of my life aren't much, and these reflections may seem pretty shallow considering that some people had to live through disasters. I don't intend to demean Hurricane Katrina or the Ampatuan killings.

Still, there is some comfort in the idea of life happening--and continuing to happen--in spite of the real newsmakers. People do live through everything. In one month, the new decade begins. I can't wait.

30 November 2010

A Long, Full Life

This is going to sound geeky, but my Sim died the other day, and it depressed me a little bit. Why? Well, by a mix of Sim and human standards, her life had not been as fulfilling as it could have been.

A few months ago, I installed the Sims 2 on Martin's old computer. No one was using it, and I wanted something to do while he did weekend work but wanted me around.

I immediately started work on a Legacy family but also created a Sim self and Sim Martin to be their neighbors. I would alternate between the families to give myself a break from the problems of one ridiculous household by wrangling another.

Anyway, because Sim me and Sim Martin were created at the same time, I assumed that they would die of old age at the same time. But, as in real life, that was a silly expectation.

For those who are not familiar with the game, Sims have aspiration levels of red, green, gold, and platinum. You rack up aspiration points by completing your Sims' "wants," which in turn depend on their age and aspiration type: Grow Up for toddlers and children, and Family, Romance, Wealth, Popularity, and Knowledge for teens, adults, and elders. The number of points they gain throughout their lives determines how happy they are and how long they live.

If you manage to get your Sim to elder-hood without them starving, drowning, burning, getting electrocuted, or encountering any of the other unnatural causes of death, you then get to see them die of old age. They suddenly stop whatever they're doing, stare into space, and see the Grim Reaper, who gently escorts them out of the game. Meanwhile, any family and friends in the area also stop what they're doing, run to the area, and sob miserably over the Sim's passing.

Now, if your Sim happens to die while carrying a platinum aspiration level, the Grim Reaper arrives escorted by hula dancers and hands your Sim an umbrella drink and a suitcase. Your Sim then sets forth into the afterlife with a smile on his or her face, and a platinum grave marker with the symbol of their aspiration appears in their stead. It's a sign of a long, full life that will stand as long as your Sim's descendants continue the game, or unless you delete it.

So, what happened to my Sims? Well, Sim Martin's wants generally involved making friends and being creative. By the time he was an elder, he was a bestselling author and a retired celebrity chef. Sim Kat's wants centered around her family's well-being, but I also got her a career in science to increase the household income. By the time she was an elder, she was a retired mad scientist and had two well-raised kids and one grandkid.

Before long, I saw that death would catch up with my Sims soon enough. To make sure that they would go out in a happy, platinum state, I timed the youngest son's wedding for one day before their deaths. Both Sim Martin and Sim Kat wanted him to get married, and completing the want was worth 8000 points, a number sure to max out their aspiration levels.

On the day of Grim's arrival, all Sim Martin and Sim Kat wanted to do was hang out with their family and each other. I thought it was a sweet way to end it all. Also, while interactions with other Sims are worth only 500 points, nice Sims generally want lots of contact with each other throughout the day, which makes it easy to maintain a platinum state.

Finally, the hour arrived, and the Grim Reaper came--but for Sim Martin alone. My happiness at seeing him accept his umbrella drink quickly dissipated at the sight of Sim Kat left behind, bawling her eyes out over a platinum grave marker. To make matters worse, I had no idea how much longer she would have to live.

I hoped to keep Sim Kat happy until her turn came. The next day, she wanted to hang out with her sons and grandchild, so that kept her in platinum for a while. But the day passed, and she still didn't die.

The next day, she wanted to find love again. Specifically, she wanted to hang out with her best friend from work, a fellow retired scientist whose alien spawn was now Sim Kat's daughter-in-law, and see if they could take things to another level.

This is not a scandal to Sims, for whom a day can be considered equivalent to a human year (and alien abduction and insemination, though it produces green kids with humongous eyes and great cheekbones, is completely accepted). I should also have expected Sim Kat to want to find love because wants cycle.

For instance, after a Romance Sim has attracted, kissed, and seduced another Sim, they'll want to do it over again with someone new. After a Family Sim has had a baby and taught it to walk, talk, and go potty, they'll want to have another child.

Unfortunately for Sim Kat, Family Sims also like being married. So if a Sim spouse leaves or dies, their wants will naturally reroll to finding love again.

I could have ensured my Sim's happiness by inviting her best friend, who was single anyway, over for lunch. However, my human loyalty to both Sim and human Martin refused to give in.

I had hoped that Sim Kat would live at least one more day, either to fulfill her other big want, to have another grandchild (one of the daughters-in-law was due to give birth soon), or for the small wants to reroll to something simple, like talking to her eldest son or making pancakes for everybody. After all, I had managed to keep Sim Martin happy by completing enough simple wants, so he died in platinum even though his last manuscript was still unfinished.

But Grimmie decided to arrive for Sim Kat just when her aspiration meter fell back to gold. Although my Sim wasn't disappointed (gold-level Sims still get the hula sendoff, but sans special tombstone), I was.

Putting myself in the game was definitely wish fulfillment on my part. I wanted the pretty home, the interesting career, and the husband, kids, and grandkids, and I made sure that I got them. The fact that I had outlived Sim Martin meant that I'd had more of my desires fulfilled during my lifetime than he. By both human and game standards, I didn't really need anything more.

But because of her job and because her wants focused on her family, Sim Kat didn't get to fulfill any of human Kat's other fantasies, which involve doing something big and creative. Sim Kat didn't finish her novel or paint a masterpiece because she was too busy studying things for science, cooking dinner, and making sure her kids did their homework. Sim Kat didn't want to write or paint in the first place, but like I said, it would have been wish fulfillment for me.

The less petty reason for my disappointment is, even though Sim Kat died surrounded by her family, and with all the memories of her achievements, she was still lonely. Though she died pretty happy by Sim standards, she was not as happy as she could have been by either Sim or my standards, due to both the game's design and my own choices.

So my Sim's death bothers me because I can't help seeing it as a miniature of my own existence. It's not just some game. I am afraid that my own decisions and last wishes mean that I die unsatisfied. I am afraid that even if I do find fulfillment, I will always seek more of it. I am afraid that I can't or won't let myself be content with what would otherwise be a really good life.

25 November 2010

Think About Death and Get Sad and Stuff

(Scott Pilgrim is an unemployed 20-something who plays bass for the band Sex Bob-Omb. Its members, his friends, are also 20-somethings in dead-end jobs and with varying degrees of maturity. Scott himself thinks dating a high schooler will distract him from the baggage of his last breakup. He then finds his dream girl in Ramona but soon trips over her own baggage; he must duel to the death with her seven evil exes for their budding romance to survive.)

You don't have to be a fan of the original comics to enjoy "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." And I've discovered today that you don't have to know anything about indie music to enjoy the soundtrack.

That sounds kind of stupid and maybe even pretentious, but when it comes to music, I live under a rock. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio; if I do, it's usually whatever station the jeepney driver prefers (kailangan pa bang i-memorize iyan?). My boyfriend is more up-to-date, but he prefers hip-hop to the guitar-y, synth-y, whingy stuff on this record.

However,the currency of the Scott Pilgrim OST, its age-appropriateness in more ways than one, is precisely why I like it. Sure, I know that this hot indie stuff is what my peers are listening to, more or less, but that's only part of it. At the same time, the whole record is nostalgic. Some of the tracks--particularly both songs by Crash and the Boys--sound like something I would've enjoyed in high school. Some of them sound like they were written in any of the previous five or six decades. (In the case of "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones and "Teenage Dream" by T. Rex, some of them were.) Then there's that 8-bit bonus track that definitely brings back memories of the classic Nintendo (or in my case, Family Computer Game) of my childhood.

Other things I can hear in there: it thinks it's mature but is really just smug, it's really frantic and in a hurry, it still clings to unrealistic ideals for relationships, and overall, it drags its feet about coming to terms with reality.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the soundtrack, especially considering that I steeped in the comics for months before the movie came out. But all in all, the whole Scott Pilgrim experience--comic, movie, and soundtrack--has been about being fully aware of how old/young I am while wishing for another time: my years of teenage ignorance, some defining previous decade I hadn't been born into, or the mellow, "real" adulthood that is to come but can't simply be skipped to. And while I don't know music, I do know that many of my friends out there feel the same way about their lives. The critics were on to something when they said that "Scott Pilgrim" was the story of a generation.

You guys. We are Sex Bob-Omb.

12 November 2010

Microwaves are awesome.

Want to know how my first foray into more interesting eating went?

I decided to try making potatoes au gratin in my microwave using this recipe. Here's how it went in blurry phone pictures:

Ingredients. The ice cream can contains salt, not ice cream.



It was less like a gratin and more like cheesy baked potato slices, probably because I didn't cut the potatoes thinly enough and used less cheese than advised. But it was still excellent. I could have passed out from joy.

The very next night, I had pasta topped with pork and beans. Hehe. Baby steps, friends, baby steps.

09 November 2010

Okay, okay, I'm niwang.

"You're niwang. You're even scrawnier than I saw you last."

This is what my brother said to me just this evening over Taco Bell. This is what everyone in my family says whenever they see me after n weeks or months, but all the same, I'm dreading my brother's report home. Sometimes I feel like my status as oldest sibling doesn't really count because I'm a girl, and the only girl at that.

But let's not get into that.

Martin (who just moved to this address) and I've made a pact since his discharge that whenever we eat out, we'll eat healthy. He wants to lose weight, and I want to gain, but I want to gain on good food.

I've actually wanted to do this for some time, but my problem is that I'm also stingy. Up until this point, whenever I went to the grocery, my desire to save money would almost always win over my desire to eat healthy. This is how I've been able to put up with the same toast and palaman for breakfast and pasta, premade sauce, and canned tuna for dinner every day for months on end. (Lunch is whatever looks healthiest and, if possible, the least oily at the office canteen.)

I justified this awful diet to naysayers by pointing out that whenever Martin and I go out on weekends, we splurge on restaurants, books, and movies. When I account for these "luxuries," the groceries that get me through the rest of the week, my monthly rent, my phone bill, and my commuting fares, I have about a tenth of my salary left over. That's pretty decent. I don't want to cut into my savings by buying stuff I can do without.

The thing is, staying in a hospital for nearly a week, even if you're not actually the patient, can get you thinking, 'I need to change something so that I don't end up back here again.' I can't do without proper nutrition. Plus I felt kind of guilty, because if I weren't 20 pounds underweight, I could have given Martin some blood, and we wouldn't have had to hit up our friends to donate instead. If I weren't underweight, I could give blood, period.

Also, I did an article at around this time last year on studies that showed how underweight people are actually more prone to early deaths than even the overweight and the so-called obese, that even heavy folks tend to have healthier hearts than the unnecessarily skinny.

So I'll admit here and now that I need to be more creative with my food, for my sake and I guess for my mother and grandmothers' sanity. There has to be some way to eat both well and cheaply. (Also low- or no-cook, because all I have is a toaster oven and microwave, and leftovers have to keep well. Clearly there is much Googling to be done.)

Wish me luck, and send in your recipes.

08 November 2010

Why Myself

Sometime in high school, one of my teachers asked me outright, "Katrina, why don't you have any friends?"

At the time, my diary entries often featured this mopey, pathetic scene: me, sitting or lying in my dark bedroom and listening to the laughter of my classmates, hanging out at someone's house just down the road. If I was sitting, I could actually see the house and maybe guess whose shadow was breaking the light that came through the bushes and the windows. I'd be wishing I was there and knowing I wouldn't have any fun if I was.

I couldn't help rehashing my bitter memories of high school after seeing two movies about unpopular people last week, "You Again" and "The Social Network." The comedy had nerdy Marni, who still held resentment for her old tormentor nearly ten years on. The drama had self-absorbed Zuckerberg, whose cockiness barely masked his insecurity. Somehow, I could relate to both these characters. Afterward, it was as though I was back in DPS, cross-legged in my checkered uniform, spacing out on a concrete bench, and getting interrupted by Mr. P.

How would I answer that question today?

A. "When I was ten years old and a new kid, I was either picked on or excluded or both. The people who did this were, unfortunately, the same people I would see nearly every day for the next six or seven years, all the way to our high school graduation. While they may have forgotten along the way, I never did. I didn't want to have anything to do with them, which meant staying away from pretty much all social stuff."

B. "English was my first language. Sure, I went to school with these kids for a while, but then my family went to the States. When we came back, I was picked on for my accent and my cluelessness, so I holed up in the library. That place was filled with great books, but these were mostly American, so I'd say that my comforts only helped to further distance me from my classmates. The things I liked, the way I thought--no one else seemed interested."

C. "People did ask me to come to parties. But whenever I went, I usually ended up sitting to one side and watching everyone have a conversation I couldn't understand, not for lack of language but for lack of relatability. Sure, I wanted to be at these parties. I wanted to have a good time with people my age. But I couldn't find any talking points, so I figured, why bother?"

D. "I was often told--once by one of my actual bullies--'They pick on you because they're jealous; you're so smart.' I think I latched on to that. Somewhere along the way, I must have decided that as long as I proved myself better than my peers, I could reassure myself that their friendship and their interests just weren't worth my time.* Naturally, this made me kind of a snob. I didn't like popular things or the popular people. By way of association--it was a really small school, okay?--even the perfectly decent, average and likeable people got my indifference."

E. "I didn't know how to be friendly. Being an outsider--more often voluntarily, as the years passed--showed me how superficial some friendships could be. On some level, I came to equate friendliness with superficiality. I didn't want to be friendly if it meant being fake."

Unfortunately, I didn't think of any of those answers until now, so all I did that afternoon was shrug, go home, write some more in my diary, and cry.

I don't know whether I've just explained or merely excused my dismal high school years, my thick introversion, and my lack of social skills today. Ever since I was ten, I've wanted to know why myself. Why are you like this, Kat? Why don't you have many friends? Why do you turn cold to the few you have?

Today, I'll say that it comes down to wanting to be liked, wanting to be liked by the right people, and not knowing who or where the right people are. Could they have been right in front of me back then? Maybe. Is there no such thing as the right people, just people? Probably. Was there something I could have done better? Why bother asking? Does all this mean I can't get over high school? Who knows?

(Who knows is probably the right person for me to be friends with.)

*I did have one close friend in my class, someone whom I still respect and admire, initially because she was nice to me, smart, and read thicker books than I; now just because she is a good person. Somehow she managed to excel in school without alienating people, and to this day my batch often looks to her to help plan get-togethers and stuff like that. I wish it had occured to me to maybe try and follow her example. Oh, well.

29 October 2010


I had a ticket to fly home this morning for the Halloween / All Souls' weekend but didn't use it. I decided to stay in Manila for Martin's operation and the first few days afterward.

It took me forever to decide because on the one hand, I missed my family and wanted to go home, and on the other, I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy trick-or-treating and snorkelling, knowing that Martin would then deal with the days post-surgery by himself.

Oddly, I knew I'd stay in the end even if I hadn't actually chosen to yet. Does that make any sense? I had a feeling that when the day came, this was where I would be, so I figured that maybe it was where I should be.

While I can't claim to know or share everything Martin goes through, in a way, I've been waiting for this, too. The fracture in January threw a wrench in Martin's plans. Now he can get back on track. And when his life gets better, my life gets better, because I'm happier, being happy for him.

After work, I'll be heading to his hospital room with pizza. Then we can start celebrating.

20 October 2010

with Kat A. as the Non-Action Snarker

While transcribing my last interview*, I started to think of a new way to get through the workday. Since I bond with my coworkers over pop culture anyway, it made sense to start to think of 0800-1800 as scenes from a sitcom, filmed in real-time and yet to be edited. And the good part is, the show's not about me.

No, I'm in a show about my cool and single colleague(s) joining the working world, coming out of their shell, navigating life after college, and so on. Like Ugly Betty but with more drudgery. My boss gets to be, well, the boss. Her second-in-command gets to be the older, wiser one we underlings look up to. Our account managers and their supplement proposals are now plot devices. (Blame TV Tropes.)

I get to be the one who sits quietly in a corner until the right moment to make a witty** comment. Deadpan if I can manage. Other than this, I'm not of any interest to the audience because it's not a show about me.

If I leave the office before my officemate does, the camera stays with her (they're all girls), and my bit part in today's episode is done. If she leaves first, the camera goes with her, to document her post-work adventures (e.g. dinner in which Mom asks her why she doesn't have grandchildren, corporate event in which she may possibly meet a handsome stranger, blind date, or just horrible commute resulting in existential crisis).

All this just to make it easier to shelve office worries until my next scene, really. (Why are you texting me? I'm not in the script.)

* investment banker. My favorite subject, to be honest.
** Ha! I wish.

By the way, I went to Angono last week and took these pictures. Just in case I haven't turned you off with my delusions yet.

04 October 2010

Open Letter to a Friend

I don't presume to know everything about your life, whether you should feel obligated to anyone, or what keeps you from doing what you want to do. Nor do I presume to be so wise at 23 that I may advise you on how to do it. Hell, I struggle with my own hangups, so who am I to talk about how you should get over yours?

It's just that when I see or read you, I can't help but see also the bubble you've got around you. Some people will say it's a result of your upbringing, but that just gives you an excuse to stay there, when it should be the opposite. You've got the youth, the time, the brains, and yes, the money to do what you want. (You've even got a little egocentrism going--at least enough to believe this letter is for you.) Added bonus: you're actually attractive. What's really stopping you?

I think you're afraid. I think you're afraid of getting hurt, heartbroken, mugged, attacked, rejected, lost, and/or humiliated. I think you're afraid that if and when you screw up, you will disappoint someone. Your family, peers, superiors, and/or crushes will lose their respect for you. Some of them will outright desert you for your suckiness.

This just in: you've reached the age of majority. This means that, barring the law, the only one you have to disappoint is yourself. Yes, you want to keep the true friends; yes, you don't want to do anything that will break your mother's heart; and yes, you want to seem worthy to a potential SO. Thing is, you'll be all the more deserving of their love and respect if you lived your life without being so hungry for their approval.

If they seem to encourage that hunger, there are only two reasons to continue to allow their opinion to matter, and these are conditional. One, you genuinely love them, and doing what makes them happy does not perpetuate some kind of codependency. Two, you value their wisdom and mentorship, and they will ultimately encourage you to be less clingy and discover things on your own.

Wanting to please the wrong people will only make it that much harder to get out of your bubble. Already, you're both cushioned and suffocated by your fears, like sweet carbon monoxide in your sleep. It's scary out there, darling dear. Stay in here with us. We'll keep you safe. Stay.

You know, you're probably tired of listening to those voices. You're fed up with the way they control you. Maybe you're starting to see that these controls don't really exist, or don't have to, and the pin you need to pop the bubble is already in there with you.

And to play to the approval-seeker in you, you can probably tell that you come off as a bubble kid. I think you know what I'm talking about.

So you have something to contribute, you latch onto whatever detail in the conversation may possibly be connected to your experiences, only to underscore how much you have yet to gain--and not just when you recycle your tales.

You constantly draw attention to the things you would like to do and have yet to do, plus the flaws you have yet to work on--as if you need any more encouragement (see above paragraph on your inherent assets). Should you get discouragement instead, you're only so eager to take it and paste it up on the inside of your bubble, to thicken those walls.

Friend, you probably know that this reputation will be more damaging than the one you're likely to develop outside. You know that bullies will take advantage of your fear, because a bubble is just that much easier to push around. You know that people who really care about you will get frustrated, waiting for you to come out.

I mean really, what's the worst you can do out here? You make a bad decision. You fall, and for the wrong person or thing. You lose stuff, like wallets, keys, money, friends, houses, and jobs.

You're a smart person. It's not like you're the type to blindly rush into these things, right? And even if you do, you'll accept that the shit happened, you'll learn from it, and you'll move on, right? It's not like you're going to take that shit, your first failures, and use them to build a bigger, thicker bubble, right? Right?

(Good, because I figured we'd wait till we're bedridden and decaying to be surrounded by shit. At least then it won't be by choice.)

Right now, I've got a feeling of deja vu. I wouldn't be surprised if I took that bubble-shit metaphor stuff from someone else's prior, more eloquent writing. But that's just it, isn't it? People have written so many "move on with your life" letters and speeches in the past, and written better, that it's hard to claim this post is anything new. It's practically cliche. So, why are you taking it from me? Why are you just sitting there, looking at my blog? Why don't you just go already?

29 September 2010


This is the first night all month I can rest easy, without having to worry about work tomorrow, but I feel I hardly deserve it. September, work-wise, was a bust; I couldn't seem to focus properly, articles were late, time was wasted, and that depressed me--which made it even harder to focus properly.

I recall feeling exactly the same when I first started at BW last year. In fact, I've felt the same at roughly the same time each year since my sophomore year in college. Maybe it's some kind of seasonal affective disorder, I don't know. I hope not.

Earlier this year, I told myself that I would take inventory of my life come September. That my birthday and my first anniversary at this job were within days of each other gave me pretty good reason, and now that the month is ending, I think I'll tell you what I've decided.

I knew before September came that I would keep my job (if it would keep me, haha). My boss is pretty fair. I like the work 70% of the time, and my friends at the office can often make the remaining 30% worthwhile. If something interesting opens up somewhere else, I'll give it a shot, but I'm fine where I am now.

I've been feeling pressure from people around me and from myself to seriously consider a master's degree, and the arguments are starting to make sense, so I will look into some UP Open University offerings next year.

I still want to move out of Cubao, but I've decided to wait a bit. Martin knows someone who will move out of a great apartment early next year; it's a good-sized place in a quieter neighborhood, so I'd like to get in line to be the replacement tenant. Fingers crossed.

At a particularly low point this month, I called home even though I knew that my mom would suggest a solution to my problems that stopped working for me years ago. We ended up arguing about it and I ended up crying, and there was one of those long pauses, after which I sighed and said, "It's complicated, Mom." She said we would talk about it when I came home. I think we're finally going to have the conversation that I've been wanting and also dreading for two years now.

Martin is still the reason I wake up in the morning and slog through 30% days, because when the day is over, the week is that much closer to over, and when the week is over, I get to be with him.

Life could be worse.

21 September 2010

This is just how I feel.

is just how I feel.
This is just
how I feel.
This is just how
I feel.
This is just how I

is just how I fell.
This is just
how I fell.
This is just how
I fell.
This is just how I

I don't really know what that is; it came out of a sentence I wrote in my diary today--and the second verse (?) came out of a typo. The more I look at it, the more I'm certain that this isn't the first time somebody's done that, and I wouldn't be surprised if they used the exact words. (Please don't sue me. Rent and bills are bad enough.)

The last time I tried poetry--if you  would call it that; I wouldn't--the editor of the publication I sent it to told me, gently, "You can still write prose." But I felt like putting this up, just to let you all know I'm alive.

09 September 2010

"Keep your head and drop the gun."

I wasn't going to let the week of my birthday pass without updating, but three full work days after the fact seems to have dissipated the high a bit. No worries; it'll probably return later, when I meet Martin, my mom, my brother Mikko, and his girlfriend Camille for dinner.

To use a cliche, I feel I'm at the eye of a storm. So many things around me have been thrown out of whack--relatives on rough seas, friends with sick siblings, country investigating two bloody incidents at once--and yet somehow, I feel that this has been the best birthday I've had in years.

The only explanation I can offer is that about three days prior, I had lost all sight of the meaning of my life. It's not very hard to do that, living mostly alone in a city like this; wondering what makes you any different from the million other people who take the same jeep, train, or bus every day; knowing that no one will remember your work three days from now; and feeling dehumanized by the almighty quest to kiss Slatekin* ass.

Why do I bother? Why am I even here? That kind of thing.

And then, I don't know. I don't know what happened, what switch got flipped, but the next day, all I could think about was how happy I'd be, spending most of the weekend with Martin. And though the weekend wasn't much different from how we usually spend them--parked in front of a computer game, catching up on work, watching cooking shows, going to a movie, eating an expensive meal--I was just indescribably happy that he was the person I was with.

Sunday night, I got some sad (but, to be honest, unsurprising) news about a relative. I can't say much about it except I couldn't stop thinking about how much damage the fallout would inflict on the people around, and I couldn't stop thinking about the people to whom the damage would be most acute. Mostly, I wanted to shield them if and when the bomb dropped, but I wasn't sure if it was my place.

All I've wanted in the past year or so was some semblance of stability for myself (the shallow part of me thinks that this hole can be filled with real estate). That night, however, all I wanted for my birthday was the best for other people, particularly Martin and my family.

"Please, God, do what's best for ______." I learned that prayer from Madeleine L'Engle, who didn't write just fantasy stories but also some really good books about life, faith, and writing. It's the prayer I use when I want something so terribly for someone but have neither the power nor the right to bring about.

My own birthday was a pretty ordinary day. I saw Martin in the morning, brought my co-workers pizza for lunch, and reunited with my mom and brother at night for a quiet dinner in Megamall. But I went to bed feeling hugely grateful.

I want to live. I want to be with Martin, be good at my work, make my little projects, go all domestic, and be happy while I'm at it. I still don't know what for except maybe for life's own sake, and I'm excited by the prospect. Suddenly, I'm terribly afraid that something bad will happen to me before I get the chance. How I got here from last week's "I feel meaningless," especially considering that I haven't actually hit upon a precise meaning, is a complete mystery. But I won't ask questions.

*Word has been changed to protect myself. But I will say they are the only thing about this job that make me want to pull a Steven Slater.

I take comfort in the fact that our company founder once told a Slatekin to go to hell. But he's dead, and times are hard.

31 August 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

I kept dreaming and then waking up, dreaming and waking up last night, but the dream that I remember most clearly was this one:

It was like a heist movie, and the Rugrats babies had stumbled upon a checkbook (it looked like an ordinary brown diary, but that's what it was called in the dream, and I saw on two separate pages a big question mark and the numbers 10:01 or 1.01)  that had proof of some company's bad deeds. I was helping a group to save the babies and retrieve the book. The enemies (headed by Kathleen Turner or someone who looked like her) got there first, though. I was able to shoot some of the henchmen lurking in the hall outside the room where the babies were kept, but when I opened the door, Kathleen shot me first, in the gut.

The rest of the group subdued her and retrieved the babies and the book while I lay in someone's lap. I was in kind of a daze, rolling the bullet around under my skin (I could feel the ridge just under the squashed head) while feeling a little peeved at the rest of the group for not taking me to the emergency room right away; they were arguing about something else. Only when I lifted my shirt up to see the blood pouring out of the bullethole under my ribcage did I start to wheeze and cry in terror, and still no one could make up their minds.

27 August 2010


It's been a hectic week at work, and I can't even talk about it because I might get into trouble or, at the very least, insult someone (however much they may deserve it. Grumble, grumble). I'm just happy that the weekend is here.

Tomorrow: running errands, maybe catching up with Edwin, and then watching "Walang Sugat" at the Ateneo with my Eliazo roommates. Sunday: much-needed bum time (I feel like collapsing in relief just thinking about it), and maybe another play, "Banaag at Sikat" with Martin at the CCP. Monday: more bum time. Long weekends for the win!

20 August 2010

Who is the hero?

I dreamt that we could be in movies. We'd buy tickets and popcorn, enter the theater, and then be in the movie.

I was in a movie with four other friends (Martin was there), and the movie started out as a parody of epic movies but quickly became the real thing. We were a band of warriors helping a prince complete his quest, and I got to be the tough girl.

There were five monsters we had to kill. The first was in a prison, where the soldiers of the prince's own kingdom wouldn't let us go. They battled us and brought out a balrog-type monster to help them once the good red nuns and red knights were out of sight.

The second monster was waiting underneath an overhang, near the opening of a chamber where I think there was treasure. As we entered, we passed a screeching bird with the head of a woman on its shoulders. It looked harmless, but I had the feeling it was the monster. Sure enough, it attacked once we had all entered that dark and narrow chamber.

The harpy became another woman in armor, and she was beautiful (her head actually resembled the Sphinx in Subnormality) but still out to kill us. She did battle mainly with the prince, but it was i who found her weak spot, under her arm, and there I plunged my sword to the hilt.*

She looked at me a moment as though impressed, like I'd passed some sort of test, and then she stumbled back out of the chamber and (I think) she died.

We didn't take any treasure and almost immediately followed the harpy. In the bird's place on the natural stone table was an old woman. We had to walk past her in single file to return to the road. I led the way because I knew she was the harpy, and sure enough, she pulled out a shiny new butcher's knife.

I blocked her attack with my sword, and the others slipped past us to retrun to the road. The old woman didn't try to kill me, only pushed with her cleaver so she could lean close. She hissed at me something about fighting and love. She made me repeat it to her and, satisfied, she got off the stone table and joined us on the road.

(I'm kicking myself right now because I can't remember what she said. But I suppose my subconscious does, so I'll be okay.)

The harpy walked with us only a short way. Then she quietly took the other path when we reached a fork in the road.

Then we left the movie theater, happy with our achievement and eager to return for the other three monsters, but shaking inside form how actually life-threatening it was. Martin, tired, went to the concession stand for a large soda. Lemon-lime.

After that, I'm not sure if we went home and started a new movie there or went back inside the cinema.

It was supposed to be a children's movie with a similar theme. We were helping five toys prepare for an epic quest. As we were about to leave, the youngest toy, a little yellow potato-like ball named Weegle, disappeared into the house to get his favorite hats. I took the pirate hat to give to a tough little Lego girl, only the hat turned into a dead Lego pirate mummy that she sort of had to carry piggyback.

We set off on our quest--it wasn't the toys anymore, but us, and we rode in our choice of cool superhero vehicle. I had kind of a hog bike.

We ran into a bunch of black bikers in the desert, and they challenged us to a race (a deadly one, of course). They brought out their big cars and bikes, and something was wrong with the vehicles of the guys on our side. They wouldn't start, or they wouldn't go fast enough. I decided to try anyway and took off on my hog.

There was a slim chance I'd win, but I was having fun. Just as I started to speed up, though, I suddenly had no bike. I was walking down the white track, and there was a tall, black-as-night man walking with me. His bearing was noble, even if he was completely naked. Maybe because he was naked. We walked at a normal pace.

When we got to the cluster of bikers, they parted for us, and I knew that the black man was a prince and a god, maybe a lesser god, but still a god, and I was safe.

But not for long. The biker men couldn't do anything, but an older woman came out of a hut by the track and began performing a ritual that would capture me and the god. There were purple chalk circles on the track, and I knew if we both stepped in them, we were lost. The god walked on as though nothing was happening, even though I knew he knew perfectly well what was happening. It was me protecting him now. He got weaker with every spell, it seemed.

i did things to break the circles, I really had no idea, just did what came to mind. Picked up the cloth edges of the track to shake it and scatter the chalk. Stepped on or kicked purple flowers. At one point, I thought to mix dust into the chalk, and the elder woman wailed.

She got more desperate now. She cried out that she could give me shelter from the rain. For some reason, this made me cry. Scared, I ran to the god, and I curled up at his feet, and he covered me with his body and said the only thing he ever sad that whole walk, "Take shelter in the rain."

When the woman's magic passed over us, we continued on our walk along the track. I was weak now, but the god was weaker still and leaning on me for support. The elder woman, still following, must have been really desperate. "You must be hungry!" she cried. 'I have siopao. Do you want siomai rice?" Because this was really ridiculous, I gave her my snottiest "No!"

She followed us to the end, right up to the edge of our homebase. Up to this point, the men of either side had done nothing and had simply watched our progress along the track, because this was the way. Once the god and I stepped over the boundary line (really, a low cement line sticking out of the dirt) and onto our own damp soil, our warriors closed ranks around us and kept the woman out.

She continued to make her pleas, but I ignored her and lifted the god up against a crumbling rock the size and shape of a pyramid brick, or a tomb. A young man came to help and began wrapping the god up in fresh linen bandages. By then he was rotting and struggling to breathe; he would be dead before the young man finished. But it was okay, because we were with our own people.

The men were chanting something, three alien words, which were still booming in my head when I woke up.

In that fading phase where you can still feel the dream even though you're awake, I returned to the tomb rock at night. The god-prince was standing there in his bandages and a tricorner hat. I somehow felt that he was one of the monsters, but also that this part of the quest was past. He embraced me and then kissed me, and then the next moment it was morning and I had to take his body to the sea.

Later in the morning, while getting ready for work, I realized that it was actually the second time I've walked with this figure in my dreams and escaped those purple circles, but it wasn't such an elaborate, ritualistic even the first time, and I didn't see all this bandaging stuff.

Interpretations, anyone?

*This is only the second time I've ever dreamt that a strike had the force and effect I'd intended. The first was when I kicked that gangster in the balls. But that's another dream.

18 August 2010

Sea Glass

As of last Sunday, Martin and I have been together for a year and a half.

I want to say that it's been non-stop wonderfulness with exploding glitter hearts and violins and whistles--and to be sure, there have been bright moments when it feels just like that. But I couldn't help realizing the other day that for nearly half of those 18 months, Martin's leg has made things hard. And it's not just the big things like delayed surgery -> delayed life plans -> increasing angst. It's also little things, like how since all this started, I haven't been able to hold his hand while we walk. I can't stand close to him on an escalator. We can't even walk side-by-side through a crowd.

I can think of good things. Big things. How much his zeal for his work and his students inspires me to do better at everything. How he encourages all my creative attempts and lets them clutter up his room. How he's pulled me through awful emotional phases and helped me beat quarterlife and homesickness and stuff. (Also, how his mom is willing to feed me whenever I come over.)

But when I think of all that, I kind of feel bad that the most I seem to do is carry his stuff, proofread his documents, pay for the occasional cab or breakfast at the Gonzaga caf, and maybe make him laugh every now and then.

So, little things. He let me install my Sims games on his PC. He texts just when I'm feeling angry or insecure, and before I've told him. He plays with the dog he gave me for Christmas. He stops in the middle of work or a game to wave at me from his chair. Little things like that, they're little signs that life is happening, we're still moving, he really loves me, and the world will be okay.

I keep my eyes peeled, and I'm happy.

09 August 2010


Chinese restaurants are family places. It is a mistake to go there for an early lunch on Sunday morning if it is near a mall or a church--especially if masses are celebrated inside the malls--if you are not attending the post-christening party of Baby Atari Gabriel, a Filipino family looking for old favorites, or a Chinoy family just happy to let someone else do the cooking for today. If you are instead, say, a girl who sees her own family maybe two or three times a year, or, say, a boy whose family has not been up to going out as a unit for a while now, then you had better suffer your craving for good dimsum and go elsewhere.

Or, you can order your potstickers, chicken-and-salted-fish fried rice, and salt-and-pepper spare ribs and try to pretend you don't see the teenager handing his cell phone to his lola with a laugh, or the preschooler trying to be prim with her noodles, or the middle-aged dad wanting to get away from the in-laws already, or the cordoned-off tables with their balloon centerpieces waiting to be grabbed by stubby, sticky hands, surrounded by ninongs, ninangs, yayas, cousins, titas, titos, and all the rest, while you eat quietly, because the air belongs to the chattering of the sisters at the table next to yours.

Even if you are full to bursting and need to sit awhile to settle your stomach, you had better call for the bill and make room for the party of five--"high chair, please"--waiting by the door.

Somehow you grew up believing that this is the problem of other people--people who live in shantytowns and tenements; people who sob on the early morning TV and AM radio shows to knock on our hearts for help; people who drive cabs, wait tables, and work five-month contracts under the harsh lights of the department stores. Somehow, you just believed that this kind of thing didn't happen to people you know. People you love.

Worst of all, you grew up believing that you, with all the opportunity your background and education provided, would be able to do something about it.

06 August 2010

Not Kidding

In the middle of a long e-mail thread, the conversation turned to kids and how none of us wanted to have them. B went into kind of a panic when E brought them up, and E said something like, "Paano na lang ang mga pangarap mo sa buhay, di ba?"*

I then said, "E, may mga tao na ang pangarap nila sa buhay ay magkaanak."** The atmosphere of the conversation (electronic though it was) didn't feel particularly inviting toward the idea, though, so I made some lame segue to the season finale of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," in which Kourtney gives birth.

B then jumped in saying, yeah, we all want kids, but not right now. And it went back and forth like that for a while before the conversation turned back toward someone B's been seeing.

I didn't say anything more after my one comment. But really, I wanted to say, "Screw you all, I want four kids and a dog and fish and a turtle or two and a house to clean and homework to check and diapers to change and teenagers to yell at, braces to pay for and PTA to quarrel and preschool play costumes to make and to have to pick up the middle child's best friend from across town at the last minute, sleepovers to say no to and stray kittens to say yes to and unsavory shit hidden under my oldest son's mattress, and goddammit, I can't wait to get started!"

I guess I don't get my friends.

* What's gonna happen to your dreams in life, right?
** There are some people whose dream in life is to have kids.

04 August 2010


I'm growing out my hair. I wanted an important, personal reason to do it--not just, "I want to see how long it can get before I get tired ofit," or "I don't really trust salons anymore"--but while trying to figure out why, it grew anyway.

"I want a different look."

"It's never been gotten longer than this before. I want to see what's
so great about long hair."

"I don't know what else to do with it."

"I'm waiting for the right time to make a big announcement."

"People at work say it'll suit me."

"I'm waiting for Martin's crutches to go back into storage."

"I've gotten used to hiding behind it."

"I'm belatedly fulfilling the wishes of the guys I hung out with in college."

"I need something that reflects the passage of time, because nothing
else in my life is so constant."

"It makes me feel pretty."

"It makes me feel rooted."

"It makes me feel like a mermaid, all magic and mystery and seawater."

"I like it."

"I felt like it."

"Wala lang."

01 August 2010

Counting Down to Halloween

It's only August, but I've got Halloween on the brain already. My parents just sent me plane tickets to go home for that weekend plus the two days of the dead that follow--despite my telling them I'd go home for Christmas. It's nice to have folks that miss you. :)

Halloween has always been a fun time at Kalsangi because of the annual trick-or-treat. It's a big neighborhood thing, to outdo one another with decorations and scary sound effects. I've gone from going from street-to-street for candy to sitting in the garage and giving it out, but the feeling of fun and mischief is the same.

I may have missed a Halloween or two; if so, I don't remember those. Since I left for college, Halloween has become synonymous with homecoming. It helps that, while my mom is always pretty active in getting our street to come up with a really original theme, we always use the same old decorations at our own house each year.

I have a good excuse to walk around my crazy neighborhood at night (though really, I don't need an excuse). I get to see which little kids I used to fawn over are now strangers in puberty. I still like to dress up, even though there's no one in particular I'm looking to impress anymore. There's still the food and drinks in the Clubhouse at the end of everything with my family and friends.

Hay, it's only August, but I can't wait.

29 July 2010

Introducing Impassioned Fruit

Let me introduce my latest Web project, Impassioned Fruit. Like Dispatches From Dad--and unlike Starfish Drive--it's a blog with a focus, this time pushing myself to make more stuff while paying albeit unworthy tribute to some of the passionate people I've met on the job. :)

It's got just one post so far, but if I manage to pull off my post-Agatep project this weekend, there should be a new one next week.

I've been sick for the past two days, but thanks to medicine, people's good wishes and prayers, a long sleep, and hey, maybe even that bland chicken noodle soup I picked up from a fast food joint, I am better now. Except for the cough and the nasal voice and the slight headache. But no more can't-get-out-of-bed-urgh-chills-pain, so I'm better now, really.

22 July 2010


Sometimes, in my dreams, my eyelids grow heavier than they ever do in real life, and no matter how I try to keep them open, they clamp down shut. Last night it happened while I was on vacation with my family, whirling down the boardwalk on a red swivel chair, on my way to a party.

The dream dictionaries tell me that there are two possible meanings for blindness in dreams. Either there is a problem that I refuse to see, or I feel lost and uncertain. I think my fight to keep my eyes open in my dreams mean I'm refusing to go blind (it always happens when something fun is happening, or there's something I know I can't
miss). But I guess even my unconscious doesn't know what I'm looking for.

Since we're on the topic of dreams, let's talk the world of "Inception" a bit (I loved the movie).

If I got stuck in limbo, I would probably spend my time doing just what Cobb and Mal did, designing buildings. Except, I don't know much about architecture, so my creations would probably look more Hundertwasser than Frank Lloyd Wright. Or they'd be kinda box-like, because The Sims is about the closest I've ever gotten to designing places.

I'd build all the houses I've wanted to live in, in the places I've wanted to stay--Monterey, Ballesteros, Benguet, Camiguin. But I'd take Cobb's advice and not remake Kalsangi; I'd rather not give into that temptation. I have to admit that part of its magic is in its staying a memory.

If I had a totem, it would probably be the pen my dad gave me when I graduated from elementary school. It seems kind of cliche--ooh, a "writer," choosing a pen as her totem--but actually, I'd choose it because it's old (it was Dad's dad's), a little heavy, and out of ink. I don't think they make refills for it anymore, so if I picked up the pen and could write with it, I'd know I was in a dream. The sentimental value doesn't hurt, of course.

I know the totems featured in the film were tiny, but that's another reason I'd choose the pen; I'd probably lose my totem if it were any smaller.

Do you dream of the same places in your dreams? Over the years, the settings of my dreams have become more constant. Cobb and Mal tended to return to certain places as they built their dreams; is that true of the unconscious in real life? Do we put down roots in our unconscious as we get older? I don't remember places I dreamed about as a kid as clearly as I remember the places I've dreamt about in the past couple of years.

Or is it just a reflection of your current state? I often dream about beaches and hotels. Not always the same beach or the same hotel, just that the events in my dreams tend to take place on a beach or in a hotel. The dream dictionaries say beaches represent a meeting place between the two states of mind, the rational and the irrational (I wonder if Christopher Nolan knew that when he set the entrance to limbo "on the shores of your subconscious"). Hotels, meanwhile, represent shifts in identity. Add the blindness, and, well.

Now I'm a little annoyed. Couldn't my unconscious say anything helpful, instead of just stating the obvious?

19 July 2010

Dream Homes

Beachside places, where the towns are small and the sea is large. That stretch of Sarangani near the hotel that never opened, where whales pass by. Ballesteros, Cagayan, where when it rains, the sand, sea, and sky are almost the same color, and all you have to tell is the scrub on the gray dunes. Camiguin, where you could walk around the whole island in a day. Dumaguete, where your mother was born, where your grandfather built you a swing, where you first learned to love what went on underwater.

Mountainsides, where the air is cold and thin, where the distance from the earth's core makes people grow older faster, but that's okay, because life is somehow slower. Kalsangi, whose corners you know like the back of your hand. Sagada, where the ugly functionalism of the cement houses does little to spoil the sight of clouds within your reach. Makiling, where your kindergarten fiance lives on one side and your paternal ancestors wait on the other.

High-rises, where you can see the line of smog cutting across the sky like a bad Photoshop gradient, and suburbs, for all they represent. Ermita, where the old buildings make you ashamed for choosing the new. The Fort, for your inner yuppie. QC, for your love and his ambitions. Makati, where Grama and her biddy club get to watch movies for free, and where there are kids and dogs in the park on Sundays.

The future, where you can finally get a move on.

In case you missed it, here is my blogging anniversary post. There are also some new photos on my Tumblr.

06 July 2010


It happed again.

After my parents left for the airport, I went online for a few minutes while waiting for breakfast and for my cousins to wake up. I scarfed down a bowl of champorado while watching the latter part of a "Wizards of Waverly Place" episode with Trixi. Then, I threw my stuff into my backpack, and we were off to Ortigas.

I said goodbye to Trixi at Poveda and took the bus to Cubao. Changed clothes at the boarding house and went to work early--force of habit formed after the previous week. I wrote e-mails, made phone calls, and looked for interviewees. I updated this blog. I read the news.

I stopped by SM and Booksale on the way home. Dinner was KFC takeout while reading "Scott Pilgrim" vols. 1-5 for the first time. Then bath, laundry, bed.

With the lights out, I said my prayers over the Cubao night noise. I thought of home--where my last one was, where my next one might be. Then I cried like a baby.

05 July 2010

Coming Clean

The letter-giving didn't happen. There wasn't time. Either I was still catching up on work, or I was having too much fun with my family to bring it up. Before I knew it, I was hugging them goodbye, and then my uncle took them to the airport.

Part of me wonders if I really should give my parents the letter. It's not that I'm afraid of how they'll react. I'm just not sure anymore if making an announcement really matters.

Lunch last Friday went something like this:

Mom: How come you don't go to church anymore?
Me: I have a lot of questions, and I'm not satisfied with the way the churches I've attended are answering them.
Mom: ... But you still have a God?
Me: Yes.
Mom: And you still pray?
Me: Yes.
Mom: Okay. But if you have questions, maybe you should ask Tita Lisa. She's good at those things. You know that she's now handling the religion program for the whole school?

And that was the last we said on my own faith. Maybe she'll ask again, maybe she won't. Maybe my two yeses were enough for her. They were honest, after all.

On Sunday, we went to the Legazpi Village market for breakfast and shopping. Dad had his vegetable noodles, Mom had chorizo paella, Mikko had Russian cabbage rolls, and I had a chicken shawarma. I think Mom had the best time; she found her old schoolmate, artist Sunny Garcia, and then she bought (well, Dad bought) a capiz chandelier, a dress, and some magnets.

We went to church at Union. It was my first time there, and it was really refreshing to hear a witty, coherent sermon that didn't rely on outdated e-mail jokes, corny anecdotes, or fancy PowerPoint graphics to spice things up--it's actually easier for me to pay attention and respect that way. The pastor did say a few things about homosexuality before launching into the meat of his sermon, and that told me that this probably wasn't the church for me, either. But I forgot about my disagreement in order to just enjoy the rare, quiet time with my family. It was simply nice to stand next to my mom singing hymns. It was nice to pass the communion trays from my brother to my parents.

It's these little things that I miss about going to church. But I know you can't go back unless you want the big things, too.

I did say I'd talk about these things on this blog, but I only will when I feel I have to. No more for today. I just want to relish the new memories I made with my family over the weekend, inside church and out. I hope I see them again soon.

03 July 2010

Easing Out

My parents are in town this weekend. Yesterday, over lunch, my mom asked me a question that I had been expecting but still somehow was not quite ready for:

"How come you don't go to church anymore?"

I had planned to have a letter handy in my pocket to gently explain everything, but I guess I got too caught up in all the deadlines at work to write it before I saw my parents. That's all right. I will give my parents the letter tomorrow. And I will talk about it here eventually. Here's hoping and praying (really) that things will work out.

28 June 2010

Toy Stories

We caught "Toy Story 3" last Friday, and while I enjoyed it, I have to say that I still like the previous two movies better. I think it's the months of hype that pushed my expectations so high. I should sit down and watch it again when it all dies down--that's always how I best enjoyed the previous two movies, anyway: on the living room floor with my brothers, surrounded by their toys.

The movie did get me thinking about my own toys, though; the ones that are still stashed somewhere in my room at home and waiting for me to have kids so they can come out again. This is a list of the ones that stand out in my memory. (I wish I had pictures, but I'm not home right now to take them.)

Faded pink teddy bear. I stubbornly held on to this one, not because I actually had any strong attachment to it--I didn't even play with it that much--but because something in the back of my mind told me, "You have to have something that you've had since nursery school. All the life stories you've heard have someone holding onto something they've had since nursery school."

Sparkly purple teddy bear. Kind of itchy and not even that soft. I remember this because it was one of the first toys my parents got me when we'd first moved to the States. We were still living in the San Joaquin Hotel and our stuff hadn't arrived yet, so my brother and I picked out a few toys from the Salvation Army.

Big box of Lego. My brother Mikko and I shared this toy, also since our San Joaquin days. The space in front of the TV where we watched Nick Jr. (I still know the words to that "Red, red, red ball" song) was littered with these pieces. He liked to build his own stuff while I liked to copy the models on the box's cover. It became kind of a tradition between the two of us to play with these Legos on Christmas mornings while waiting for our parents to wake up. Over the years, though, the bricks were assimilated into the rest of my brothers' Lego collection.

Polly Pocket. I collected a lot of these, getting some of them as gifts and buying the rest with my weekly $1 allowance. My favorites were a small purple horse trailer with a saddled chocolate-colored horse that Polly could ride, the babysitting playset, the school, the mansion, and the ice cream parlor. A recurring storyline involved the floppy brown-haired one turning evil, taking over the town, stealing Polly's boyfriend--the only male figurine in my entire collection--and making everyone wear cement clothes.

Barbie. No girl's toy list is complete without this chick. I had several of the older model, before they adjusted her vital statistics to make her body more realistic. I also had the flat-chested, Skipper who didn't smile. To be honest, I didn't care how small her waistline or how big her boobs were; I just liked giving Barbie things to do in the wooden dollhouse my parents gave me. She had mostly G-rated adventures, until an older playmate took things to soap opera proportions one afternoon by introducing a teen pregnancy storyline for Babysitter Skipper. I feel somewhat traumatized on my dolls' behalf because of this.

Not really a toy: four ballerina figurines. Because they looked alike, they were sisters in my stories. The protagonist was a sitting ballerina (explained by a crippling injury), the least maarte-looking of the four. She was in love with a yellow yarn marionette I'd made. I later made a red one to play the part of lecherous antagonist.

Paradisa Lego sets (the girl-oriented Lego). I'd steal some of my brothers' bricks and male minifigs to stage pirate raids on the Paradisa resort. I had a heroine on a jetski. I was always annoyed with my youngest brother for messing up my playspace, so when I got older, I let him have the Paradisa pieces. I kind of regret this whenever I go home, go to his room, and see them gathering dust on his bookshelf.

Brown stuffed rabbit. My favorite stuffed toy to hug. Mom got him from the thrift store and was supposed to donate him along with a bunch of other toys, but I "borrowed" him from the pile and never gave him back. When I left for college, he and many other toys were hidden in the cupboard above my closet so my mom wouldn't give him away.

a Bratz Jade doll. Jade was the last doll I ever got. I was already in high school, so this cool-looking teen doll with a gang of equally cool friends appealed to me. With her sneakers and casual outfit, I made Jade out to be the athletic girl-next-door and got one of the male Bratz, Dylan, to play her fun boyfriend. But I lost all interest when the Bratz makers put out all those outrageous themed outfits and ditzy movies where Jade was a fashionista, her friends were all screeching caricatures, and Dylan was a useless goofball.

24 June 2010

Freedom in Quarterlife

A few days ago, my friend Audrey posted a link to "Welcome to Your Quarterlife Crisis," by Kate Carraway over on eyeweekly.com. 

I once said, "I used to think the quarterlife crisis was my generation's excuse for being lazy. Now I feel like crap."

After reading Ms. Carraway's article, though, that old idea's returned. I still think it's laziness, but in a desperate, M. Scott Peckian sense.

I think the problem of my generation (naks) is that we don't want to commit to any one thing, lest we miss out on something else. We want to be free to investigate all these possiblities, right? Ms. Carraway sums it up really nicely:

"They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want."

One thing that's stuck with me from college theology, though, is that that kind of freedom is actually paralyzing. You get stuck in a chain of superficial relationships because you won't commit to one person. You get stuck in career limbo because you won't settle in any job. You become a chronic dabbler in a series of hobbies because any more advancement in one requires more of your time and effort.

That applies to everything, really--to get anywhere great with anything requires more of your time and effort. That's why the floundering around of quarterlifers strikes me as laziness.

The desperation comes in because people my age are scared of being so devoted, scared that the time and effort we'll put into something might be better spent on something else. There's nothing wrong with that, actually--as long as it's clear to you what that something else is. But most of us at this stage will say that it isn't.

How does it become clear? Well, to spoil the essay a bit, I'm going to quote part of the conclusion:

"Having so much — youth, ability, independence — can feel like the worst possible scenario. What remains, though, is the potential for the years with anxiety and without direction to be reclaimed. [Career counselor Marc] Scheer sees real opportunity here. 'If you feel you’re in crisis, this is a great opportunity to draft a five-year plan with steady concrete goals to help you get to where you want to be. Anyone can transform their life in just a few years.'"

Okay, let's see, five-year plan. I'm going to be a little flexible with myself and just set a few specific goals. What do I want? Not a career; that doesn't really matter to me. I want to settle down and have a family. But plans like that depend on committing to other people, and anyone who's committed themselves to another person will find that you have to make room for their own plans, plus things you can't control.

So my plans look more or less like this:
  1. Wait for Martin's surgery and recovery.
  2. Wait for Martin to complete his master's / plot his own career.
And in the meantime,
  1. Be patient, keep working, and save a lot of money.
  2. Get financial advice and put some of that money in a mutual fund or something, something that matures in three to five years. (The neat things you learn at this job!)
  3. Invest again if Martin needs more time.
That way, however long it takes Martin to do his thing, I'll be ready.

If he goes out of the country for his master's, the plan is
  1. Go on an adventure; leave Manila also.
If in the course of all this, things don't work out between me and Martin--well, God forbid. There's nothing that would make me want out, but to appease you pessimists out there, the plan would be to
  1. Go on an adventure; leave Manila.
Some people (relatives included) think it's silly of me to bind my lifeplans like this and that I should be cavorting in Amsterdam or something; you know, being free. I'm telling you, I am free.

I'm free to work toward what I really want. I'm free from worry about what to do with my life because the above points have me set for the next couple of years at least. I'm actually free to jump from job to job if I want--if I'm only out to save money and not to climb the ladder, then I don't have to stay at any one company for very long. But you know, I'm actually kinda interested to see where the current one will take me, so I'm free to do that, too.

I think that's the bottom line of Ms. Carraway's article, that freedom to choose isn't freedom until it's exercised. I think that paradox of freedom to commit is what has us quarterlifers in crisis. Deep down, we know how precious time is, so we're scared to waste it on the wrong things. The sad thing is that it takes people a while to know the right things.

And for all my talk of lifeplans here, I don't really have an answer for my generation; I can only ask, "Well, what do you want?" In my case, after reading the article, I sat myself down, asked myself where I wanted to be, and traced the simplest path to it. In the process, I saw a path that actually left room for lots of exploring on the way. My two cents is, maybe that'll work for all of us.

And if it doesn't, you're free to try something else, right?

22 June 2010

In the Weeds

Just a few things via e-mail today; I'm in the weeds at work and have a ton of catching up to do.

Martin and I saw "The A-Team" over the weekend and really enjoyed it. Maybe we'll catch "Toy Story 3" later this week.

I attended a talk held by some members of the public health sector at this resort. It was interesting, but I think the talk could have been held at any old conference room in Manila to save time and money. It was nice to get away from the city for a while, though. Maybe someday I'll go back there to check out the

One stupid thing: I want more visitors to this blog, but when I got the chance to share the URL with people I met at the talk, I got shy.

Another stupid thing: I left my cell phone charger in the room at the resort. It was plugged into a hidden outlet under the side table, so I wouldn't be surprised if none of the resort staff spotted it during check-out inspection. I ended up shelling out P500 last night at SM Cubao for a new charger.

My parents celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary yesterday, but on their way home, the truck got hit by a jeepney with a drunk driver. My parents are safe and unharmed, apart from Dad's hand, which Mom says is/was painful and swelling. When I texted Dad, he joked about it, so I guess things are okay. I'm actually worried about the driver now, because he's in jail.

My brother was picked best on-the-job trainee at Shell when the internships were over. I found out pretty late, on Facebook. Hay.

My schoolmate Audrey posted this link to yet another essay on the quarterlife crisis. Maybe I'll post some
thoughts on it later. You know, when I'm not supposed to be working.

17 June 2010


I had a little reunion dinner with my roommates last night (C2, Powerplant Mall--awesome food!), and Gella and Aeli got to dishing on the guys they've been going out with lately. Whenever they asked me and Myka in turn about us and our boyfriends, the conversation would kind of die.

I don't know how it is for Myka, but for me it's just that I don't really know what to share about our relationship. What's going on in our individual lives, maybe--"Oh, Martin's waiting for the loan for his surgery to come through. He's still teaching this year and is now the Creative Writing coordinator. Me, I'm still plodding along at old BWorld and entertaining thoughts of moving to a new neighborhood." But us together? What could they possibly want to know?

"Institusyon na kasi," Anne would say.

I could argue that a relationship doesn't reach institution status till it lasts maybe 50 years, not 15 months. But I guess she means that at this point, there seems to be no reason for me or Myka to pore over every little detail with the girlfriends to find out, "What does he mean? What's going on in his head? Where is this thing we have together going?"

The catch, of course, is that--again, I can't speak for Myka--I'm with a guy who says what he means, will clue me in on what's going on when I need to know, and who can assure me of at least the general direction in which TTWHT is going. I don't need to hash out my confusion with an external party; I just go right to the source. If I
didn't, then I'd probably be right in there with Gella and Aeli, taking a scalpel to what's happened so far.

"What's it like, being an institusyon?" Aeli asked.

"It's nice," was all I managed to say.

Well, it is. It's nice to be able to go to his house on the weekend in an old t-shirt and pair of shorts and do nothing but watch cooking shows and movies on TV. I like meeting up in MoA and making the rounds of all the bookstores before settling into a cafe for wifi and paperwork. I actually like listening now to his gripes about work and the politics going on at school. In short, I like the comfortable routines that we've taken on since the start of the year.

When you hear single people talk about the troubles of finding a good partner or speculate about whether some guy in the next department is making eyes with them, you feel kind of glad that this is not your problem. It's not to say that people in couples are superior, just that their problems are different.

What are the problems? Me, I worry a lot about another person. Every now and then, I feel a mild panic at the idea that I might not be as much a part of his life as I want to be. I feel helpless when he has a problem that I can't really do anything to fix. I wonder if it's safe or sane, to have so much of your own happiness depend on another person's. I have bouts of impatience; I want to know when all the waiting is through. Overall, there's this terrifying vulnerability that, at the same time, seems completely necessary for TTWHT to be so awesome.

I think my problem with being asked about being institutsyon is that I have no snappy way to adequately convey its awesome ordinaryness. It's one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of things.

"Uh. It's nice."

I guess that's really all I can say.

15 June 2010

Leveling Up

I had breakfast with Martin in the Ateneo faculty lounge this morning. I'd eaten there before, during the summer, when there were but a handful of students around. Martin wasn't teaching, but he would come in for admin meetings at the Fine Arts Department.

Today was the first day of school, so there were more than just a handful of students there, even if it was so early in the morning. We even spotted a few moms accompanying their freshman sons. (Hay.)

With a near-empty campus in the summertime, it's easy to feel proud of yourself upon returning to your alma mater, but after this morning, I can no longer remember why. "Suddenly, college life feels like a blur," I said aloud. Suddenly, when I look back on the four years spent racing from classroom to classroom, staying up late in my dorm room to cram and commiserate with roommates during finals week, being the token little sister type in our block's guy barkada and then spending all my free time in the pub(lications) room, I hear a VROOMSH sound in my head. The pride I feel over "it all" being behind me has been replaced by shock at just how far behind me "it" is. That was college? Oh. Well. Huh.

Maybe that's why adults keep mentioning a certain "real world" whenever they talk to students. Maybe it's not so much that their disbelief in students' ability to cope with new responsibilities as it is their disbelief that they ever had old ones, once upon a time. It's not really a "real world;" it's a new world, one that bears some resemblance to the old ones (ever hear this song?) but has higher expectations and direr consequences.

Now that I think about it, life so far has been like those MMORPGs I used to play. At the start, you get a puny weapon and can only kill puny monsters. Then, as you gain more experience points, you level up. You get to wield bigger weapons and kill bigger monsters--but in the end, that's all it is: killing monsters, just at different levels.

Then the game asks you to specialize, so you focus your efforts on developing a certain aspect of your character (I have a high level of DEX, so I'd make a great archer, but now that I think about it, I'd rather be a magician). You think about stuff to invest in for your character's survival (I can afford this really cool staff, but I really should save up for a better shield).

And then, some quest or errand sends high-level you back to your old training grounds. You find that the map wasn't as big as you thought, the terrain was not as difficult, and the claws of your most feared monsters now give just a slight tickle. You may feel pride, and feel like laughing at the beginners just entering the field. But after a while, it's not even funny, and instead, you feel some kind of amnesia. "Did I really come from this place? Was I really like them? When? How?"

I don't claim to be a high-level player, whether in real life or in RPGs. I usually gave up on a game once I got the basics down and reached phase two or three of a career; the tedious quests you had to complete to become an awesome, highly specialized top-level player just didn't seem worth it to me--unlike my brother, who kept notes and bought guides and did all these calculations and stuff to make sure he made all the right moves and eventually be king of the game. Our approaches to gaming are actually not that far off from our approaches to life in general. (I wonder if it means anything that I preferred simulations to RPGs. Hmm.)

But at the very least, I can reasonably say to the people about to cross the bridges I've crossed that the fearsomeness of those ravines is all in their heads. You get over things. You move on. You even forget.

Of course I'm a little sad. I miss when things were big deals. I miss when cutting class meant a missed quiz, not a smaller payslip. I miss having concrete, if somewhat superficial goals. I miss living under the illusion that I really knew what I wanted.

But I'm here now. And when I think about it, life is good. I live independently. I have a decent job. I have my family and my friends. I have Martin. This is, more or less, the life I want for myself at this point. Even if I'm half stumbling through life out of school, there are actually more opportunities for me to be happy now than there ever were before.

And the best part is, the fun's not about to be cut short by graduation--at least, not for maybe eighty more years.

Life is good.

11 June 2010

10 June 2010

Fly on a Corner Office Wall

This morning, I interviewed a guy in one of the country's top investment houses, and as I hurried out of the tower and onto the sidewalks of Ayala Avenue afterward, I wanted to cry out, "Investment banking is the shit!"

Say I've been drinking the Kool-Aid, but working for BusinessWorld has given me an appreciation for the world of business (hahaha) that I doubt I could ever have picked up in a classroom.

One of my favorite movie dialogues happens to sum up the reason for my esteem quite nicely.

Linus: Making money isn't the main point of business. Money is a by-product.

David: What's the main objective? Power?

Linus: Ah! That's become a dirty word.


A new product has been found, something of use to the world. A new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines go in and you're in business. It's coincidental that people who've never seen a dime now have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their faces washed. What's wrong with an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds, and movies on a Saturday night?

David: You make me feel like a heel. If I don't marry her, some kid will run around Puerto Rico barefoot!

Have I quoted this scene in an older post? Sorry; I can't help but recall it after meeting one of these folks in suits.

In this scene from "Sabrina," David Larrabee is upset because his tycoon elder brother Linus has asked him to marry the daughter of the guy with whom the Larrabee company is going into a joint venture. I can't remember the details, but it's kind of to seal the deal. David asks Linus why he doesn't marry the girl himself, and Linus explains that he'd be a terrible husband because he's in love with business. David asks what he sees in it, and Linus answers with what I see in it.

I don't think I've got what it takes to be a great entrepreneur or an investment banker, but I admire people who do, because their work gets things done. All these executives I've interviewed in the past near-ten months I've worked for this paper have shown me that there are powerful people who are not only aware of their impact on the community but are also glad to make it.

There are real estate developers eager to build homes for the people who can't afford a ritzy business district condo. There are investment bankers who want and will help small businesses to break into a market dominated by olde, establishde names. There are company presidents who are willing to absorb the costs of ensuring environmental sustainability.

Though I don't doubt that somewhere, such a caricature lives and breathes, CEOs are not all fat cats who light their cigars with dollar bills. Though there are still issues that need to be resolved (how much of their success actually trickles down?), suits aren't all evil, greedy, money-grubbing jerks; some of them actually want to do something to improve the lives of the people around them, and they have the power to do it. It's a breath of fresh air, and it gives you hope, even as you board the bus back to your own little desk across town, and the conductor switches the TV over to a noontime show.