30 July 2012





23 July 2012


1. The company party at Hotel H2O means I have a pretty good time spacing out watching three rays, a shark, and a couple of eels make the rounds of a humongous aquarium.

2. Class getting cancelled allows me to work on a new paper building, the first original piece I've liked in a long time.

3. Cris and I take a nice, long, quiet drive in the rain from Quezon City to Manila, with stops at Dunkin Donuts and Bee Cheng Hiang.

4. My family gets together for my grandmother's 80th birthday party.
a. Cris helps with the party, dances, makes conversation, and generally becomes my most-liked boyfriend ever.
b. My youngest brother Mon says more to me in two minutes about the TDKR shooting than he has about anything else in the past year, and I am pleasantly surprised at how articulate he can be.
c. Later, he shares his plot to make Cris uncomfortable all night.
— "Yeah, and I'm going to stand next to him and say, 'I can smell your fear.'"
d. Mikko and Paolo are the best dancers.
e. My family figures out how those party popper cylinders work (one-time use, my ass) and proceeds to make a mess of the Aristocrat function room.
— Dad (52) and Paolo (7) chase each other around the room with loaded cylinders, using flower foam and parts of centerpieces as ammunition.
— "If we were a Westerosi house, our words would probably have 'projectiles' in them."

5. My parents, brothers, and I get Sunday all to ourselves.
a. We suspect Sakae Sushi stops putting out "that red plate yellow caviar fish" after we take it all off the belt.
b. Drum Tao makes me want to dedicate my life to music, martial arts, and having ridiculously gorgeous abs, arms, and back muscles.
c. Dad buys a table for me in Gensan, takes it apart, brings it to Manila, and reassembles it in my apartment. <3
d. After they leave, I go to bed feeling both happy and lonely.


Last night, I dreamt possibly my best dream ever. I can't remember any previous dream like this where I wasn't on some kind of quest; the most I felt I had to do in this dream was to land a raft to reinflate it a bit. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

My cousins, brothers, and I, plus I think my dad and/or a boatman, took a boat out on a sunny day.

That's it. That's all. No strange baroque hotels with ghost parties, no inability to keep my eyes open while a magical swivel chair took me on a tour of an Aztec temple hotel, no orphan children to shepherd across a purple strait, no Ed Westwick in smoking jacket sneering at me while a horizontal elevator took me through a hotel full of girls, no naked mummy-god-prince to escort past a motorcycle gang, no taxi rides past a hotel that looked like a cross between an Indian temple and a Mattias Adolfsson drawing.

(Yeah, I dream a lot about hotels.)

We just went out on a boat for a swim. We dropped anchor where we felt like it, near some isolated, tiny islands, and just swam around and had fun. I think there was a picnic on the boat. I didn't feel stressed or dissatisfied, just happy to be out and enjoying the beautiful blue water, pale sky, and lovely islands. I only wished Cris had been there. The water felt perfect, by the way, and the sun was just right.

A little later, a semi-submerged inflatable yellow raft came to me, and I recognized it as an ex-boyfriend's, for some reason. This didn't bother me; I just got on and paddled around the sea. I enjoyed myself and the fact that it was okay to have fun with this raft, despite knowing that it had belonged to that ex, as if the raft had been a gift that had literally floated toward me, out of the blue. As it was only half-submerged, I just needed to take a quick break to add more air to the raft, so I paddled to the shore and pulled the raft onto the sand. In the background, I could hear my brothers and cousins splashing and having fun.

I don't think I've ever had such an easy dream before.

20 July 2012

Another Note on 是

I realized that yesterday's examples of "yes" and "no" in Chinese may not have been really clear. Here are some that might better illustrate what I mean about answers requiring more conviction or even commitment.

The word 吗 (ma) at the end of a question means that it's a yes-or-no question, but we weren't taught to actually answer with unique words for "yes" or "no." Instead, the way is to answer with the verb used in the question. So there's no simple "yes" or "no," but a full taking on of the action being asked.

Are you going to Beijing?

I am going.

Do you miss her?

I miss her.

Can you wait for lola?

I can wait.

Note that none of the questions nor the answers used 是. I think you can actually answer questions with 是, but that would be like:

Can I buy clothes here?

(You) are.

I don't know if this is correct or just how I understand the nuances of Chinese grammar and vocabulary, but that understanding is based on what I've learned out of mainland-published textbooks, so....

Cris is meeting the rest of my family tomorrow. That should be fun. :)

19 July 2012

Commuting a Sentence

Yesterday was the first time in a long time I found myself wondering why I still worked this job and lived in this country. Maybe Cris has spoiled me with all the driving around. Maybe I've gotten too comfortable living and working with home just 4km away from work and a minimum of Metro Manila traffic in between. Maybe my new neighborhood is just that much nicer than my old one.

Whatever the case, I would like to express my admiration for anyone who must commute home from work from Ayala Station every day. Yesterday I felt like crying for all of them.

The sheer number of people in the queue, which just takes over the entire station, is astounding. I walked the length of the station last night and then walked back when I saw the exit was blocked, and in the three minutes it took to do that, the number of people lining up (hundreds), crowded, noses smashing into one another's backs, seemed to have doubled. I could only imagine the number of people crowding onto the actual train platform and the number of people on the actual train.

I'm no stranger to the MRT, nor am I a stranger to the crowd at Ayala Station, but this was the first time in the past four years that I actually tried getting home from there at rush hour. I decided to take the bus.

That, of course, meant walking 1.2km back to the correct loading bay on Ayala Ave. in a storm, but I thought it would work.

Okay, as much as I've been driven around in the past couple of months, I'm still quite proud to be a pedestrian and a commuter. I'm also used to walking, and I actually prefer the rainy season.

But yesterday, everything just seemed to get me down. I'd been sick for almost a week and was feeling nauseous. I'd come from a disappointing, demoralizing meeting that made me question my career choices and crave a vacation. I'd had to put off a doctor's visit to carry out a family errand. I'd had to go up, down, and across three different mall buildings looking for the place to carry out said errand. I'd done all that walking in the pinchy meeting shoes already responsible for the ugly black line across my big right toenail. The downpour (and the puddles) meant that there was water in those shoes. Now I just wanted to go home — like everyone else on Ayala Ave. at that hour.

So, it's no surprise I couldn't get on a bus, either, at least not the bus back to Quezon City. I decided to just sleep over at my grandmother's place in Makati, then commute back to QC in the morning. I crossed the street, which sounds simple but, on Ayala Ave., meant a 200m walk to the underpass and a 200m walk to the bus stop actually across the stop I'd just left.

It was the first time in a long time I found myself feeling miserable about Philippine urban planning, which is why I was wondering why I still live here, which led me to think about getting a job elsewhere, which led me to question what's still keeping me at my job here.

Once again, my teal-and-gold-filtered memories of Singaporean streets, Singaporean sidewalks, and Singaporean public transportation swam before me like dreams of summer vacation. I thought of the difference the position of taped lines in front of train doors made (they're supposed to be at the sides!). I thought of the difference crosswalks made versus under- or overpasses. I thought of the difference trees, clean air, and conveniently placed bus stations made.

My brothers at a crosswalk in Singapore.

I also thought of the children and parents in "I Not Stupid." I thought of how many foreigners often see Filipinos, even successful ones in white-collar jobs. I thought of Philippine beaches and Philippine mountains. I thought of the Chocolate Hills, which I've never visited. For some reason, all that was enough to make me feel torn.

How much would I have to give up just to be able to get on the train without feeling like cattle? Would it all be worth it? Or is there not enough in my native country and culture worth staying for? Do I really live in a world where I have to choose between clean air, a less f-ed-up government, good urban planning, and a manageable population, and staying where I've spent ~7/8 of my life to date? What kind of world is this? Why is it so hard to go home from Ayala Ave.?

Here's some language nerdiness that borders on philosophical. I can't find Chinese words for "yes" and "no."

A dictionary like nciku will tell you that "yes" is 是 (shì), but none of my teachers or lessons so far have actually spelled out that 是 and 不 (bù) mean "yes" and "no" in the same sense as "oo" and "hindi." In fact, the very first Chinese lessons say that 是 means "is/am/are/be," and 不 is "not – ," as in,

是不是红的? ; "Is it or is it not red?"

So in dialogues, when they answer a yes-or-no question with 是 or 不是, in my head, I translate, "is / is not."

Another way to affirm or negate is 有 (yǒu) or 没有 (méi yǒu), but that's literally "have/meron" and "have not / wala."

你们有苹果吗? ; "Do you have apples?"
没有。; "(We) do not have (apples)."

你给她打一个电话了吗?; "Have you given her a phone call already?"
没有。; "(I) have not."

Maybe it's just me, but saying that something is or is possessed requires more conviction than just a simple "yes" or "no." I wonder if this is reflected in Chinese culture somehow. I could just be a geek.

09 July 2012

Mid-Year Check

Four days into 2012, I wrote this to-do list for the year. We're at the halfway point now, so I think it's time for a self-check.

1. Sign up for the next cycle of Mandarin classes.
I'm actually in my third cycle for the year and pretty happy with how I'm doing. :)

2. Re-read the Bible two or three times.
Ha. Yeah, this isn't happening.

By three times, I meant once each in three different languages: Tagalog, Cebuano, and English. Things were going well until I hit a speed bump at Genesis 5. Yes, yes, call me lazy.

In the end, I decided that with all the things I wanted to do — apart from all the things I had (have) to take care of every day — I had to accept that I didn't have the time and commitment that such an ambitious project deserved.

I did, however, learn some interesting things about myself and language. Though I never spoke Cebuano/Bisaya growing up and mostly use Taglish in everyday conversation, I found the Cebuano Bible much easier for me to grasp than the Tagalog. Osmosis, I guess; the sounds of Cebuano in my head were just warmer and more familiar.

I guess that's how I came to the only conclusion I got out of this interrupted project: If I ever study a Filipino language seriously (again), it should be Cebuano/Bisaya. While Tagalog seems more practical considering that I live in a Tagalog region, I can't help thinking of this quote I first posted after I finished Basic Chinese 1:
"Learning a language, even a natural language, is more of an emotional decision than a practical one. It’s about belonging to a group."
— Arika Okrent, author of “In the Land of Invented Languages” (source)

There's something special in the conscious choice of a language to study. I didn't choose for English to be my first language, nor did I want to study Tagalog Filipino* all those years in school. Chinese is only the second language I chose to learn because it felt important; Bisaya, now that I think about it, now that I remember how alien I felt coming home from the States, was the first.

*I'm using "Tagalog Filipino" here the same way people use "Mandarin Chinese."

3. Move out of Cubao within the next six months.
It took five months, but it finally, finally happened. :)

4. Finish at least two economics reference books.
Hay, another reading project abandoned, for now.

I am, however, reading more business and economics news these days, and when I remember, I put in a half hour or so at Khan Academy.

5. Use my induction cooker.
Cris gifted me with a proper saucepan, and since then, I've used the stove to boil pasta, fry an egg, and watch Cris make noodle soup, hahaha. Baby steps. Half point?

6. Travel out of the country at least once.
Not yet, but soon, soon. I have a ticket to Beijing in October. :) If stuff goes really sour with China before then, I'd like to rebook for Malaysia or Singapore.

7. Email my parents more often.
I have upped my emails in the past six months, but they're still not as frequent as I'd like. Half point.

8. Get rid of old/unneeded belongings.
I did a lot of throwing away during the last stages of the move. I still have a big bag of clothes and bags to donate, but they can wait under my bed till the next charity thing at Mikko's church.

9. Get my college stuff out of storage and sort that, too.
Hmm, I forgot all about this. :|

10. Invest.
I've actually lost a lot of money recently, if we're talking about the amount in my savings account. But, I suppose new things for the apartment and the massive deposit are a different kind of investment.

Still hoping to get my balance up to a certain amount and then plunge into a financial instrument, though.

11. Read at least 50 books.
So far, I've read 13 new ones this year and am in the middle of a 14th. That's less than I'd like to have read by now, but at least I'm reading.

12. Make more complicated popup buildings.
Only three so far: The Great Wall (1, 2), a kind of landscape of Santorini (1, 2), and an imaginary Aztec temple that I decided wasn't worth photographing.

I hope to have more time for buildings once I've finished settling into the new apartment. I also have to buy a table for working and eating on. :/ Half point for the six-month mark, then.

13. Visit Luneta on a Sunday morning
I've actually been to Luneta twice in the past six months, though both times on Saturday afternoons. It was still nice, though.

15. Use my Ayala Museum membership at least once a month.
Hey, looks like I skipped 14.

This makes me feel so bad, but I haven't been to the museum once since the year began. I wanted the membership for what I'd imagined would be a year of being single and bored.

16. See Picasso's "Suite Vollard."

17. Visit Manila Ocean Park.
I'm thinking of striking this from my list. Friends have told me it isn't worth it. :/

18. See my childhood friends more often.
I've seen them only a couple of times, so I'm not removing this item. Maybe just a half point for this one.

19. Hang out with Internet friends IRL sometime.
I ran into Lance (@bottledbrain) at the museum on the last day to see "Suite Vollard," but I was about to leave already. :s

This kind of thing takes planning and courage — and more planning than courage. I can't even see offline friends without planning a month or so in advance, and something usually happens to cancel the plan. My offline friends are increasingly online friends, too. :|

20. Spend a weekend in Baguio.
Not yet.

21. Spend a weekend in Corregidor.
Not yet.

22. Find out if that thing they keep saying about my great-grandfather is true.
*sigh* Not yet.

23. Be a better editor.
Hmm. I'd rather not go into details, but suffice it to say that I can still do better. Half point?

24. Redesign certain company websites for fun with MAMP and a local Wordpress installation.
I actually did this and then showed the results to someone at the company who had a little more power to suggest Wordpress. But, the group handling the site in question decided they'd rather keep the current CMS. Oh, well.

25. Watch at least two Filipino plays.
Forgot about this one, too.

26. Finish at least one abandoned story/essay and submit it somewhere.
My interest in creative writing beyond this blog seems to fade more every year. There are just so many other things I want to do also.

27. Get a pet.
I'm definitely looking forward to this, but this might have to wait a while. I've got a lot of big expenses coming up in the next six months (a table, a bedroll, people's birthdays, my birthday, Beijing, Christmas, maybe one more cycle of Mandarin), so I don't know if I'll be to squeeze a pet in until next year.

28. Be open to whatever's around the corner.
I definitely think I deserve a full point for this, but I'm not taking it off the list. :)

That makes 10 points, if I've counted right. I guess it's not bad.

Would it be cheating if I made a new list of priorities and things to do for the rest of 2012?