30 March 2012


I have some time to kill before the traffic will (probably) be light enough for me to get home quickly, so I'm going to make a boring, generic life-so-far update.

I want to move out of Cubao by June and will finally start looking at apartments this Saturday. I usually search first on sulit.com.ph, but all of the listings there for the area I want are out of my price range. Also, the last time I went with a listing on sulit, I moved to a (still not very nice) neighborhood that apparently had decent apartments on every street except the one I moved to, and none of those were advertised on sulit.

My brother's decided to stay where he is for the time being, so I'm pretty free to consider areas other than Makati for now. I'm going to check out the first of two other areas this Saturday, then maybe get another haircut.

I finished Basic Chinese 2 last Saturday and plan to take Basic 4 next cycle. I'm not going to give my reasons for skipping Basic 3, in case someone at the school gets mad at me. :s

I've been hanging out with some new-ish friends — people I met back in college but haven't really hung out with till this year started. I wish I'd known them better back then, because they're really fun. We are planning to travel out of the country together later this year.

Here are photos and two craft posts (1, 2), in case you missed them.

Whaaat else? I'm going home for the Easter holidays to check out the new house and arrange my things. Our family's usually busy with church stuff during Easter, but I might finally get to check out this river they've been playing in.

I guess that's all until I think of something more creative to upload. Have a good weekend, guys.

20 March 2012

There is Only Team Katniss

Jamie asked me, "Have you finished 'Mockingjay' yet? What do you think of the ending?" And it reminded me that I had to get some fandom stuff off my chest, even if I probably have unpopular opinions and, in the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter.

Don't worry, I tried to make this blog entry as spoiler-free as possible.

First, let's get the "you're a snob / you're a loser" bits out of the way first. I'm late to the "Hunger Games" party. When the books first came out years ago, I avoided them for two reasons: they were only available in hardback, and there was a blurb by an author I dislike on the cover. Worse, I only decided to finally pick the books up after seeing the trailer for the movie.

That this should bother anyone is kind of ridiculous, but I know it would have bothered 15-year-old book snob me, who was livid at the sight of other girls reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone," only then, and with a cartoony-looking edition cover to boot. So, if you're one of those people who thinks I can't *understand* the books because I didn't read them first, you might not like what I have to say next.

I really, really, really, enjoyed the books, but I just don't get this Team Peeta / Team Gale stuff. For me, there is only Team Katniss.

Unlike that other popular contemporary YA book/film series with a female protagonist apparently torn between two guys, the "Hunger Games" books are not really about a love triangle but about survival. Team Peeta vs. Team Gale is really just a side attraction to Team Katniss vs. Team Government. And I'd go as far as to say that anyone who thinks the series is about the love teams is missing the point. This, IMHO, is why:

1. Katniss says, repeatedly, that she does not want to get married and have children. Having children means the possibility of seeing them off to the Hunger Games, where they will probably die like every child contestant from her district for the last 20+ years.

2. Katniss is too busy with the day-to-day task of making sure her family doesn't starve to worry about getting a boyfriend. While her best friend and hunting partner Gale is apparently a six-foot-plus beefcake, her thought processes suggest that she's avoided thinking of him as anything more mainly because of #1.

But, why go with what her thoughts merely "suggest?" She says outright in the first book that there's never been anything romantic between them. If Katniss and Gale came from Filipino families, she'd probably have called him "kuya" (older brother) all those years. She doesn't see him as anything else until he presents himself to her as something else. I can't really think of any other reason a sophomore spending all that time in the woods with a cool senior wouldn't be all, "OMG!? Does he like me or like-like me?!"

3. Everything Katniss does during and immediately after the deadly Hunger Games, even the parts involving the charming Peeta, is to stay alive. Sure, she acknowledges that she's come to care about "the boy with the bread," but she doesn't really have time to think about how deeply that care might or might not go. For the most part, she's thinking, "Try not to die now, work out my feelings later — if there is a later." She says as much in the "I can't care about him because I might have to kill him" and the "separate out my feelings" parts of the first book.

And when you think about it, reason #3 is the main reason Katniss doesn't pick a guy until long after the action ends in the last book, "Mockingjay." As cheesy as this sounds, before she can decide who to love, she has to decide whether to love at all. It's a huge risk for her; nearly everyone she cares about can be (and is) threatened, used, tortured, and/or killed by the government.

Then there's the fact that she's undergone a great deal of trauma herself. She would like to be left alone so that she can feel like a human being again, yet the movement she didn't mean to start demands that she be their leader. A person like that just isn't up to be anyone's girlfriend at the moment.

When, in the middle of all the action, she does seem to lean toward one guy or another (notably during that "drunk" moment in "Mockingjay"), it's not an, "OMG we're so made for each other," strings-sunsets-roses moment. She's a damaged, confused person looking for a new way to deal with her loss.

All this is why it takes years for Katniss to finally be able to love someone, and when she does, it's for the right reason. It's also with a good person — maybe the right person, maybe the wrong person, but still a good person who loves and is lovable. Maybe it's anticlimactic or not very romantic, but given the things she and her loved ones have suffered, it's still a lot better than she could ever have hoped for.

So, did I like the series? Sure, parts of the plot could have been tighter, especially in "Mockingjay," but yes, I enjoyed the "Hunger Games" experience as a whole. I was on Team Katniss.


If you do ask me about the love triangle, though, I'm on Team Peeta. Brooding ranters are overrated.

13 March 2012

The Zombie Magic Word

It's probably because I signed up for Outbreak Manila and probably because I've been reading the "Hunger Games" series, but last night, I dreamt that there was a war against zombies. I was part of a team with weapons and robots, and we were doing pretty well when one of the team members (I later found out that we were a couple) got captured while in his robot.

The zombies, rather than eating him right away, threw him into a cell. Maybe they mistook him for one of their own; his robot had shape-changing capabilities, so he could pass for a zombie. They even started including him in their training sessions. I don't know why, with such a fancy robot, he didn't just escape, but maybe they would have suspected him and attacked, and he wouldn't have been able to fend them all off.

The zombies had a shape-changing power, too. At will, they could change into the people they used to be, but they'd still be zombies inside. It was a clever disguise.

To pass this part of training, our hero simply changed into himself. During one session, however, he wasn't able to change back into a zombie quickly enough, and the others began to have their suspicions. He knew that he had to escape within a day.

That night, the guy had a dream (inside my dream, yes). In the dream, we were both being chased by zombies, and we jumped onto a small boat in a river with a green glass bed. It floated over the park where the zombies were based, and one of the zombie lieutenants was talking to a little boy who looked like a younger version of our hero. The lieutenant was in his normal person form, one of those tall, blond, well-built guys who make great soldiers. He told the little boy that if he just said the magic word, which sounded like, "Sgoobitysgoobitysgoo," the zombies would turn into friendly people and leave you alone. But, the zombie captain was immune to the magic word.

So, the dreaming guy, who was apparently my boyfriend, said that when he woke, he would try to escape using the magic word. I was going to be there to help him in case anything went wrong, particularly with the captain.

He came out of his cell for a military training session as usual, but he had been right about the zombies' suspicions; they began closing in on him as soon as they saw him. The zombie lieutenant reached into the robot's mouth to get our hero, and at once, the hero yelled, "Sgoobitysgoobitysgoo!"

All of the zombies turned into harmless people. The captain turned into a beautiful woman, sort of a cross between Camille Sullivan and Tina Majorino. But she still wanted to kill us, so we began chasing each other across the park and the outdoor mall and trying to kill each other with whatever weapons we could get our hands on. Somehow, she got into a helicopter just as I ran up to a second story, but it was out of ammo, so she just chased me down some rooftops and tarp lean-tos on foot.

I got to the ground where my boyfriend was waiting, and we started running, but the zombie captain cut us off. She slowly advanced on me and started giving a villain's monologue about how weak and stupid we were, to try and stop her and the horde. I grabbed the nearest sharp objects, which were a mechanical pencil and a fork, and kept stabbing her in the chest while she talked and I said the magic word again. She seemed to falter once, and I knew the magic word would have some effect after all, but for some reason, I didn't say it again.

I needed help, though; where was my boyfriend? This was the part in the movie where the hero would have barrelled in to give his girl a hand. But, he was sitting in his robot just to one side, watching me try to make the most of my mechanical pencil. Judging by the expression on his face, he didn't really care.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the blond zombie lieutenant approaching with some pink pills in his hand. Somehow, I knew that they would make the captain immune to the effects of the magic word, so I asked the lieutenant why he was doing this. I think I shouted, "You're supposed to be good now!"

To keep him from reaching the captain, I jumped on him, but that meant I was exposed to the captain, who fell on me.

I woke up with my arms and fists still locked, as if I was still clutching the fork and pencil and bracing myself.

The boyfriend was nobody I know in real life, but I know what kind of guy to avoid now, hahaha.

06 March 2012

The Better Story: Notes on Agnosticism and "Life of Pi"

I've been meaning to write down some thoughts about faith, religion, and "Life of Pi," by Yann Martel but haven't gotten around to it until now. I'm going to discuss the ending and twist of the book, though, so I suggest you stop reading now if you don't want to get spoiled.

02 March 2012

Suburban Scrawl

My schoolmate Vittorio wrote this post earlier this week to imagine, what if his family had pushed through with plans to move to the US?

Immediately, it had me imagining a similar scenario—what if my family had never returned to the Philippines?

What if, instead of growing up here:

Kalsangi, aerial view (Google Maps)

I'd grown up here?

Our old neighborhood, Fresno, CA (Google Maps)

I'd have gone on to the fifth grade and stayed on the spelling team. Maybe I'd have made it to nationals and been on ESPN (come on, who knows?).

It was in the fifth grade, here in the Philippines, that a teacher first singled me out for good writing. It was only then that I really thought I could be good at something in particular (well, aside from spelling). Until that day, my life had been about playing with my friends and wearing out my library card. Only after that teacher—and the teachers who followed—praised my writing did I begin enthusiastically writing stories and making up characters and worlds. Only after that did I join the school paper and make it my goal to be EIC in my senior year.

Would a teacher in my American schools have done the same thing? In the US, I was one of those Asian kids in advanced math and reading classes; I seemed to be good at everything. What if my teachers had pushed me toward the sciences instead, especially after visits to the Monterey Bay and Chicago aquariums introduced me to the idea of marine biology?

I still had good piano teachers then. In the third grade, I told my homeroom teacher that I wanted to be a pianist when I grew up. What if I'd run with that and tried to become a musician instead?

And speaking of running, I used to be on the track team. I have no idea if I had any real potential, but what if I did?

When I think about going on the middle and high schools there, I immediately think of the friends and crushes I left behind:
  • The best friend in advanced class who was the lead in the school play and is now working happily for a Hollywood tabloid
  • The other friend in advanced class who explained what virginity was and is now a food server
  • The choir member best friend who treated me to my first slumber party and is now in a theater company, I think
  • The blue-eyed spelling team crush who wrote me a sweet goodbye letter and is now—?
  • The next-block neighbor crush who invited me to a pizza party and is now a missionary
  • The two Joshuas: the now-married one who teased me in the lunch line and first called me Cat (when I wasn't Midget); and the redheaded, trouble-making one who is now—?
I could go on, but what I really think when I think of them is, would we still have been friends? Would I have been torn, in the style of teen movies, between my popular cheerleader / student council – material friends and my laid-back, average good friends? Keeping the high grades and not getting called a geek? Getting a boyfriend and not? Losing my virginity and not? What kind of choices would make what kind of friends, and vice versa?

Would I still have become a Christian? That's a really interesting question. My family had always gone to church, and I'd always gone to Sunday School. But it wasn't until my senior year in high school, here in the Philippines, that I started taking my faith seriously and trying to understand what being Christian meant. Would I have found myself asking to be saved? And if I did, would I still have left the church after years of asking other things?

Would I care as much about whether I was "Filipino enough"? As a third culture kid back in the Philippines, I've never been able to shake off the feeling that I don't quite belong in this or that country. In the States, though, I was part of a community with other kids growing up Fil-Am. What kind of ethnic identity would I have had as a result?

I don't know where I would've gone to college. The only college I knew of at the time was the local one, Fresno State. I'm sure in high school, a teacher would have put me on to UC Berkeley, NYU, Yale, or Columbia. Would I have cared about getting into an Ivy League School?

I think I would definitely have benefited from the US system in which college students don't declare a major until they know what they want. When I applied to colleges here, I thought I was charting the course for my future, but really, I was throwing darts. I applied to mass comm. or its variants at other schools, partly because I liked the idea of becoming a powerful editor, and partly because it seemed expected of me, school journalist whiz that I was.

I really wanted to put down creative writing, but my parents convinced me that I'd starve. At the Ateneo, I landed in a management course that was nothing I'd hoped it would be. I got depressed and stopped studying for a whole semester, but I managed to shift into communication before my grades fell below the requirement.

If I could go back now, I'd tell myself to take up humanities, computer science, or, yes, creative writing. Would I have been able to discern this, in the US? Or would I have found something else, like marine biology, architecture, urban planning, social work, or cultural studies?

I'm pretty sure I'd have been fascinated by the subcultures of the early 2000s. Would I have been emo? A hipster? Or would they have been too intimidating, like all these cool city kids were intimidating, when I went to college? I'd have been a city kid, too, though (or as city as someone from Fresno could get, anyway). Maybe I'd have been more confident than I was fresh out of high school.

Where would I have gone after college? Career-wise, if I'd still gone into journalism or the humanities, probably at a newspaper, ad agency, or art gallery. If I'd studied a science, then probably grad school, the academe, and a corporate research facility.

Other answers to where I would have gone include LA, San Francisco, Monterey, Chicago, and New York. Or just Fresno, still Fresno, because it wasn't a bad place to live.

It probably wouldn't matter once the recession happened, though. Then, really, who knows.

Would I still have had that mental breakdown? Again, who knows?

In some alternate world is a Katrina who is the answer to all these questions. At this point, I can't really imagine how life will go for her, because right now, I can barely imagine how life will go for me.

In the end, though, I don't really mind not being her. I just hope she's happy.