The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Of Snakes and Saviors

While having my usual breakfast of waffles, oatmeal, and milk, I peered on the Saturday, November 27, issue of The Now newspaper lying on the table. As I scanned through the pages, two articles caught both my fancy and seeming disbelief.

Upon reading the first article, in my native tongue I did utter to myself: "Buti pa ang ahas...."



Snake found on White Rock road

Lose a snake?

A passer-by found a six-foot long Boa constrictor slithering down the middle of a White Rock road early Tuesday morning.

Police were called to Best Street and Thrift Avenue shortly after 6 a.m., captured the beastie and took it to the Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society at 1395 176th St. The snake, estimated to be six years old, can be claimed by phoning the South Surrey–based society at 604-XXX-XXXX.

And then, reading the second article, I smiled and said to myself: "Dito rin naman pala sa Canada eh; eh ba't ganun na lang kung laitin nila ang Pilipinas."


Watch for fake canvassers

The Salvation Army is warning residents to beware of bogus canvassers in Surrey. The group says two white men without official ID are carting around a cardboard box with a Salvation Army logo in Newton, asking for cash. The Salvation Army doesn't canvass door-to-door.


Monday, November 29, 2004

At Last, I Gave In, I Finally Dyed My Hair

On my way to Canada last year, I was looking forward to seeing lots of blonds. That was inevitable, of course; Canada is a North American country, home to many Caucasians. Upon arrival at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, my neck was literally restless. Wow! Blonds, at last. They really amazed me.

After a few days, my relatives brought me to Metrotown in Burnaby, British Columbia's largest shopping-entertainment complex. Wow! More blonds! They were everywhere. Again, they amazed me. And, aside from blonds, Indians (people of India, not the Native Americans or the First Nations Peoples), I noticed, were also common in this part of Canada where I am, but seldom do they dye their hair blond.

Being a Filipino, and now the foreigner in this country, I longed to bump into fellow Filipinos at the mall. And then...bumped into many of them I did. But... What! Filipino blonds? Blond Filipinos!

Yes, I've long noticed that many Filipinos, regardless of age, who I've been seeing here have already become blonds themselves. And they amused me (read: amused, not amazed).

What is that? Adaptive mechanism? An animalistic instinct? Mimicry? Camouflage?

In fairness to those Filipinos, not only they but also many other Asians (Japanese, Koreans, Chinese) who live here—male or female—have the penchant to dye their hair blond. I don't abhor them for that, but it made me think and wonder. (In fact, I'd also been considering dyeing my hair. But not yet. I won't give in yet.)

I wondered, what could be the reasons in dyeing their hair blond or any shade of light brown. Trend? Cool? Weather? Aha, mimicry! Of course, Canada is a North American country, home to many blonds. So, dyeing the hair blond is the best way to blend in, to mix in.

Why blend in? Why mix in? Hmmm. To be inconspicuous? Why elude getting noticed? To avoid falling victim to racial discrimination? Hmmm. To avoid being recognized as a Filipino? Hmmm.

But to blend in, to mix in? That's mimicry – an animal species' practice of imitating a characteristic of another species or natural objects to conceal and protect itself from predators.
Hmmm, lots of predators then in Canada.

Oh, well, what I'm certain of is that among the many reasons behind Filipinos who live here dyeing their hair blond, the worse and most animalistic are: Like some species of insects and many small reptiles, they want to blend in; and, like traitors, they try to conceal their nationality because they are ashamed of it.

Nonetheless, I finally gave in. This afternoon, a few hours ago, I finally dyed my hair. But I did not give in to my animal instinct to mimic. I did not dye my hair to blend in nor to renounce my nationality. I did not dye my hair because I feel embarrassed being a Filipino in North America.

Instead, I dyed my hair to STAND out some more, to emphasize my being a Filipino.

For, this afternoon, a few hours ago, I finally dyed my hair ebony-black.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Second of a Dozen Verses

November 15, Monday
Winter is looming
Colder days are here
On nights, my mind is clear
My heart is beating
Hope, my ally
Despair, my foe

Humanity, my goal
Love, my light

Music, my companion
Pen, my mind
Verses, my heart

November 16, Tuesday
La-la-la-la love me
That's all I want
La-la-la-la love me
That's all I need
La-la-la-la love me
That's all I ask of you
La-la-la-la love me
Before, now, and forever

La-la-la-la love you
That's all I do
La-la-la-la love you
Hon, it's true

November 17, Wednesday
When the weather is cold
I think of you
When my blanket is not enough
I think of you
When the waiting makes me impatient
I think of you

Thinking of you
Gives me warmth
Thoughts of you
Give me love

November 18, Thursday
Because of resentment
My mind is red
Because of sadness
My heart is blue
Because of solitariness
My sight is black

and then...

Because of you
My mind turned purple
My heart turned red

and then...

Hearing your voice
My cheeks turn pink
Knowing you're there
The light becomes silver
My future becomes gold

November 19, Friday
Your voice is New Wave
Your face is Christmas
Your love is Life
Your words explode
And you're my abode

November 20, Saturday
Too many ideas, I fumble for words with which to express them
Too many words from my lips racing to escape, I stammer
Too potent the emotion when speaking such words, I stutter
But in spite of all these, the you and me will always glitter

November 21, Sunday
Tpaulus, hope for the.
Apope, eternal sunshine of.

Flowers, a spotless mind.

The choice. The promise.
Og life. oD steel.

Forever and ever.

November 22, Monday
I'm glad we're not alone
In this kind of love
Life is kind after all
For showing us the light
Now I'm a better person
Able to rise from human nature
Now I'm a rekindled spirit
Able to emerge from darkness

You are my light
You are my shining light
You are my guiding light

You are the light
At the end of my tunnel

November 23, Tuesday
My feet are cold
My lips are warm
My mind is restless
My heart is contented

My faith is indomitable
My promise is true
My intentions are pure
My love is noble

My views are multiperspective
My heart is unidirectional

My beliefs are diverse
My ideas are well versed

My compassion is universal
My goodness is unconditional

I may be complicated
But in love I'm simplified

November 24, Wednesday
When days are cold
I long for your warmth

When nights are solitary
I long for your company

When moments are saddening
I long for your smile

When I think of you
I yearn for home

November 25, Thursday
Train of thoughts railing in my mind, vivid, visions of you, sings of you-->
og yam uoy reverehw em ekat ,eciov ruoy ,neris eht ,ecaf ruoy<--
-->I will go. I will come with you.

November 26, Friday
Staring at the rain
I need a little bit of pain
O Autumn, don't let me fall
Spare me some leafs; heed my call
The water splashes
The wind lashes
In silence, you hush me
Blushing, I love you

Friday, November 26, 2004

We Have the Inherent Ability to See through People Regardless

Having nothing important to do this morning, I whiled my time reading blogs and Friendster postings. Among the surveys I read today, this one posted by my New Wave friend abby caught my interest. Abby is a recently known friend whom I met on the Internet through the newwave101 chatroom. Some will say that we can never be sure about the true character of the people we meet on the Internet; but my take is, we are not dumb and clueless all of the time, we have the inherent ability to see through people regardless if we've met them only through the Internet: through the topics that they always dwell on, their choice of words, how they talk about other people, what they say about their family or friends or others, their opinions about issues. Yes, we can know a person's prejudices with the way s/he expresses views as well as with the way s/he reacts on others' views.

Just feel with your heart and you will be able to tell apart sincerity and deception.

As in The Little Prince (1943), by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944) : "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly...."

As always, I responded to the survey with careful thought and obvious engrossment. For, as I always say, surveys are therapeutic in the sense that they help us analyze ourselves and assess our personalities; and in doing so, we not only learn more about ourselves but also know our friends more deeply.

Now, on with the survey...

"Ikaw Ba Ay..."

Minsan, din.

Mmm...oo, pero sa mga simpleng bagay tulad ng pagkain, kahit ano tinitikman; sa pananamit, ayun duon ako pihikan, mas naiiba mas mabuti sa akin.

Palagi, lalo na ngayong ang tagal ko nang hiwalay sa mga mahal ko sa buhay.

Ha-ha-ha, tinatanong pa ba 'yan? Oo naman...mapa-salita o mapa-sulat man.

Hindi naman. Okey ako sa lakaran—sine, shopping, pasyal, band watching; pero hindi ako maaasahan kapag inuman ang gimmick at kapag ang usapan ay napunta na sa tsismisan, bastusan, at siraan ng pagkatao lalo na ng mga taong wala sa pagtitipon; asahang mawawala na lang akong parang bula.

Depende, uli. Pagdating sa sex, religion, manners, at cultures, broad-minded and acceptive ako; pero pagdating sa language use, istrikto ako. Although, hindi naman ako nangkokorek ng blunders ng iba sa bastos na pamamaraan. Karaniwan, sinasabi ko privately, lalo na kung kakilala ko naman 'yung tao. Pag openly naman, tulad sa mga group mail trails, hindi ko directly na kinokorek: Nagbibigay lang ako ng examples para hindi halata, pero the corrections came across.

Lahat naman ng tao ay maraming bloopers and blunders na nako-commit araw-araw, kahit anupang aspeto 'yan ng kakayanan o pagkatao. Ika nga ng kaibigan kong si junggoi, "Ang mahalaga ay importante." He-he-he. Seriously, ang mahalaga ay handa tayong tumanggap ng kamalian at handa ring baguhin o i-adopt ang bagong natutunan. Ang problema lang kasi sa ibang tao, may halong malisya at kayabangan ang pamamaraan ng kanilang pagtatama sa kapwa. Para bang ang hangarin nila ay hindi itama ang kamalian, kundi ipamukha sa 'yo na nagkamali ka. Hindi nila siguro nari-realize na mas madaling tanggapin ang isang kamalian kung ipaaalam ito sa 'yo sa magandang paraan. Kahit naman sa pagsusuheto ng bata eh, pansinin n'yo, hindi ba mas tumitigas ang ulo ng bata kapag lagi itong pinapagalitan at sinisigawan sa tuwina s'ya ay nagkakamali? Bata o matanda man ang kausap, dapat palaging malumanay, positibo, at may paggalang ang trato natin.

Hindi naman. High-school days, 1984-1988, madalas lang kami mamasyal ng barkada after dismissal or kapag declared na walang pasok (tulad ng kapag may bagyo o transportation strike).

College of Nursing, UST, 1988-1989, madalas akong absent sa Biochem Lab class dahil ito na lang ang klase ko sa hapon at 3 hours ang vacant before it, kaya naiinip akong maghintay. Di ko naman nakaugaliang tumambay ng Recto nung panahong iyon, dahil wala rin naman ako masyadong kaibigan sa school. Ang mga kaibigan ko kasi ay yung high-school classmates and friends ko na sa ibang school naman nag-College. Kaya kadalasan, derecho agad ako sa bahay ng bandmate kong si Rain o si Ramil, kung saan kami laging nagpa-practice.

Minsan, lalo na kapag nagpapatawa ako sa mga kapatid at pamangkin ko sa Pilipinas, minsan exaggerated...or better yet, animated. Kaya tuwang-tuwa sa akin ang mga pamangkin ko, kasi pag nagkwento raw ako ay laging may kasamang facial expressions at bodily actions. Sabi ng mommy ko, nakuha ko raw ang style ng pagpapatawa na 'to sa daddy ko. Oo nga, naaalala ko na ganyan din s'ya magpatawa nung mga bata pa kaming magkakapatid.

Pánsinin, pero hindi papansin. Yung iba na hindi ako masyado kilalá, minsan naiisip nagpapapansin ako dahil sa hairstyle at pananamit ko, pero 1985 pa lang ganito na ang fashion sense ko, kaya hindi na 'to papansin, kundi parte na ng pagkatao ko.

Sa tingin ko, ang papansin ay yung mga sunud-sunuran sa uso, laging nag-iisip ng bagong pakulo. Pero, hindi ko rin naman masyadong pinapansin ang mga sunod lagi sa uso, kasi kanya-kanya naman talagang hilig 'yan eh. Ika nga ng lolo ko, kahit anupa ang itsura mo at gawin mo, basta ang mahalaga ay wala kang napeperwisyo.

[bulgar magsalita]
Matagal ko nang nilinis ang aspetong iyan ng aking pagkatao. Napakarami pang masarap pag-usapan kaysa sex, tsismis, at showbiz. Kaya kong tumagal nang buong araw na ang pinag-uusapan ay Literature, Music, Culture, or Science. Siguro dulot na rin ng malaking respeto ko sa languages kaya maingat ako lagi sa mga salitang ginagamit ko. Sa maniwala ka o hindi, ultimo ang pagkakasunud-sunod ng salita ay pinag-iisipan ko pa sa tuwing magsusulat ako.

Halimbawa, kung maglilista ka ng mga paborito mong banda, maaari mo itong ilista (1) ayon sa pinakagusto mo, (2) alphabetically, or (3) randomly kung ano unang maalala mo. Ako, ang nakasanayan ko #2, pero kung gusto kong i-emphasize ang pinakagusto ko, #1; but rarely #3. Ang tingin ko kasi, kahit sa trivial na desisyon na gaya nito, maaaring ma-reflect ang personality ng isang tao. Ang analysis ko:

#1: Ikaw ay ang tipo ng tao na alam mo kung ano talaga ang gusto mo sa buhay. Hindi ka fickle-minded, lagi kang sigurado. Kaya, kahit sa paglilista lang ay binibigyan mo ng emphasis.

#2: Ikaw ay laging organized. Gusto mo laging in order ang mga gamit mo. Malaki ang pagpapahalaga mo sa prioritizing.

#3: Ikaw na ang bahalang mag-analyze nitong "random type" na ito.

Subalit, i-e-emphasize ko--sariling analysis ko lang naman ang bagay na yan. Hindi rin naman conclusive ang lahat ng 'yan. Ang mahalaga, nagkakaroon ako ng concrete guidelines sa pag-aanalisa ng mga taong nakakasalamuha ko.

"Ang mga paborito kong banda ay The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Lotus Eaters, New Order, at The Wild Swans."

O maaari din namang,
"Ang mga paborito kong banda ay The Cure, The Wild Swans, Depeche Mode, The Lotus Eaters, at New Order."

Sabi naman ng marami kong kaibigan, hindi naman daw. Marami raw kasi silang natututunan sa akin, at hindi raw kasi ako yung tipo ng lalake na ang laging bukambibig ay babae. Pero sa tingin ko, paminsan-minsan ay boring din ako, dahil may pagkakataon na ang gusto pag-usapan ng iba ay kalokohan at medyo maiksi ang attention span ko pagdating sa topic na 'yan. Pero, hindi naman ako laging seryoso 'no! Pwede rin naman akong maging bastos paminsan-minsan. Ang punto ko lang, kung may mas magandang pag-usapan other than sex and girls eh mas okay sa 'kin. Pero kung i-e-engage talaga ako, ang style ko e scientific approach para hindi naman cheap pakinggan.

Pero kung ang tanong ay, "Ikaw ba ay bored?" Ang siguradong sagot ko ay, "Madalas."

Matagal nang hinde. Siguro naman alam na yan ng mga taong malapit sa akin at kilala na ako--expressive ako sa nararamdaman ko e. Hindi ako nahihiyang sabihin na umiiyak ako pag nalulungkot at nangkukulam din pag may kinabubwisitan. Hangga't maaari, ayaw kong magsinungaling. Pwera na lang kung kinakailangan. Hindi rin naman kasi absolute ang paniniwala ko sa philosophical statement na: "The end does not justify the means." Minsan kasi, maaari din nating ma-break 'yan, lalo na kung ang situation ay "life or death" na.

Kahit naman nung bata-bata pa ako, kapag may girlfriend ako, hindi na ako suma-sideline. Kahit pa maraming babae nakapaligid, lalo na at sumikat din naman nang kaunti yung banda ko na Half Life Half Death. Babaero lang ako nuong kabataan ko kapag wala akong current commitment. Pero ngayon, lalo na akong faithful dahil sawa na rin naman ako sa pagkabinata. Mas excited na akong makasama magiging asawa ko. Kaya malaki naitulong sa akin ng pagbabanda. Madali nitong naipamulat sa akin ang sense of responsibility at maturity.

Tulad ng pagiging bulgar--matagal ko na rin 'yang binura sa bokabularyo ko. Ang natira na lang ay "Sheet!", pag nagugulat; at "Fvck!", pag galit na galit, pero hindi ko pinaparinig sa iba at lalong hindi ko dinidirekto sa iba. Depende na lang kung pagkatao ko na ang niyuyurakan. Aba! D'yan ko na s'ya kukulamin.

Hindi. Ayaw na ayaw ko kasi ng amoy ng sigarilyo at ng naninigarilyo. Pero, marunong din naman akong makisama, kaya hindi naman porke naninigarilyo ka ay ayaw ko na sa 'yo. Basta wag mo lang akong bubugahan palagi. Ha-ha-ha. Pero, nagtataka lang ako dahil nagkaroon ako ng girlfriend na halos chain smoker pero natiis ko naman. Tukso nga ng officemates namin dati sa akin, pag breaktime daw ay para akong tandang at yung babae ay sabungera--kasi lagi akong binubugahan ng usok. Kaya raw pala, maamo ako sa kanya. Ha-ha-ha!

Hindi rin ako drinker ng alcoholic beverages; bukod sa allergic ako sa any alcoholic beverage, hindi ko gusto ang lasa at epekto nito. Pero, oo naman, at tumitikim din naman ako, lalo na kung family gathering naman. Subalit, ang paniniwala ko talaga, pwede namang maging masaya ang isang party nang walang inuman. Para kasing minamaliit nito ang kakayanan ng tao na maging masaya. Kasi napapansin ko na sa maraming tao, para bang hindi kumpleto ang pagtitipon kung walang alak; walang masayang balitaktakan kung walang alkohol; tahimik ang lahat kung hindi pa nakakainom.

Basta ako, paninindigan ko, sa wedding celebration ko, walang inuman; sa binyag ng anak ko, wala rin. Bakit hindi ba kuntento kung soft drinks at juice lang ang handa kong inumin?

Nakunaman! 1985 pa lang ganito na ako, siguro naman normal na yan by this time, 2004 na. Atsaka, bawat tao naman ay may kanya-kanyang eccentricities at peculiarities, kaya nga individual tayo eh. Napaka-walang kwenta naman ng mundo kung lahat ng tao ay iisa ang damit, hairstyle, relihiyon, kulay, at hilig. Eh para na tayong droids nyan. Eh, ultimo nga droids tulad na lang nina Threepio at Artoo ay may distinction pa rin eh. Tao pa kaya?

Ang concept ko ng sexy ay "arousing, desirable, or may sex appeal," so, ang sagot ko, oo, kasi kahit payatot ako ay may mga nagkakagusto naman sa akin. In final analysis, naniniwala ako na ang sexiness ng isang tao ay hindi limited sa body build, size of boobs and butt, face, skimpiness of attire, shape of tongue and fingers, or the way s/he looks at you. In the end, ang sex appeal ay combination na rin ng lahat ng qualities ng tao.

Oo, pero pag nasira na sa akin ang isang tao, mahirap nang maibalik ang amor at respeto ko sa kanya; lalo na kung kaya siya nasira sa akin ay dahil may ginawa siyang hindi ko talaga mapapatawad.

[walang originality]
Tinatanong pa ba yan? eLf nga e. (Baka sabihin ng iba, ang yabang naman ng eLf na 'to. In second thoughts, hmm, okay lang, lahat naman siguro ng tao may kaunting kayabangan. Ang mahalaga lang siguro ay hindi naman sobra, na tipong liliparin na 'yung kausap mo dahil sa lakas ng ihip mo.)

Ha-ha-ha! Ngayon, masasagot ko na 'to nang maayos: Kaunting-kaunti. Hi-hi-hi. Pag sumosobra na ako, okay lang naman na pagsabihan mo ko, para alam ko rin kung ano ang dapat baguhin.

Pag walang pinagkakaabalahan. Pero sa lahat ng napagtrabahuhan ko, hindi rin nawawala ang pagkakataong inaantok ako, lalo na kapag puyat at masyadong napagod sa kung anuman ang pinagkaabalahan nung araw o gabi bago pumasok sa opisina. Sa school, kapag boring magturo ang teacher. Sa bahay namin sa Pilipinas, medyo, dahil pagod ako lagi sa trabaho. Dito, hindi naman masyado. Sabagay, lagi naman akong nasa bahay. Pag inantok ako, pwede naman umidlip. Yun nga lang madali akong magising, dahil nga bantay ko lagi lolo ko. Minsan nga feeling ko magkakabit na yata ang bituka namin eh. He-he-he.

[mababaw ang luha]
Oo. Madali akong ma-touch ng mga love stories. Kahit pakikinig lang ng kanta, naiiyak ako. Or, kapag may nababasa akong novel or extraordinary achievement ng isang tao, naiiyak din ako.

Pero kapag naggagayat ako ng sibuyas, hindi na ako umiiyak. Nung editor pa kasi ako ng Bato Balani Science & Technology Magazine for High School, may na-research ako na tip para hindi maging teary moment ang onion chopping. Ganito gawin mo:

Pagkatanggal mo sa balat ng sibuyas, ibabad mo muna sa maligamgam na tubig. After about 10 minutes, duon mo na ito i-chop. Hindi ka na maiiyak. Kasi, yung chemical component ng onion na cause ng pagpapaiyak ay sumasama na sa tubig habang hinihiwa mo ito, kaya wala nang chemical na nag-e-evaporate. Kung meron man, minimal na ito. Isang paraan lang yan na maaari mong gawin para di ka na mapaiyak ng sibuyas.

Trivia: The tear-inducing substance released when slicing or chopping an onion is called propenthial S-oxide.

[love your neighbors]
I'd rather use the statement: Treat your neighbors fairly and well, without expecting a reward nor fearing any punishment in doing otherwise.

Dati. Dala na siguro ng heavy traffic sa Pilipinas. Pwede rin namang nakasanayan ko nang ma-late sa mga meeting; halos umabot ng 2 oras na pagka-late. Pero kapag office meetings naman at pagpasok sa opisina, lagi akong on time. Pero, dito, napansin ko na kapag sinabing alas tres, dapat before or at that time nandun ka na. Kaya sa tingin ko, kapag nagkatrabaho na ako rito, malaki na ang improvement ko sa larangan ng time management and punctuality.

Although, malakas pa rin ang procrastination ko lalo na pagdating sa pagtatapos ng mga literary works ko. Minsan kasi, umaasa pa rin ako sa mood. May panahon na ayaw lumabas ng ideas sa utak ko. Lalo na na sinanay ko ang sarili ko na magsulat nang direkto sa word-processing software na tulad ng Microsoft Word. Pero matagal ko na uling inumpisahang magsulat sa pamamagitan ng papel at bolpen. Katunayan nga ay araw-araw na uli akong nagsusulat sa diary ko, bukod pa sa online journal ko.

Yes, literally and figuratively. Reflected yan sa literary works ko, mahilig ako sa fantasy fiction, lalo na kapag involved ay epics and adventures in different made-up worlds. Literally, pangarap kong makapunta sa maraming bansa, lalo na sa European countries like Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, na napakalakas ng anyaya sa akin. Fascinated kasi ako sa cultures ng mga bansang iyan, lalo na ang History and Literature nila.

Definitely, not. Although, there was a period in my past (early 90s) na panay pagbabanda lang ang inatupag ko, kaya lagi akong napagsasabihan ng mommy ko na batugan, kasi tulog sa araw at ayaw magtrabaho sa bahay, pero panay gimmick pag hapon na at umaga na ang uwi.

By now, alam na siguro ang sagot ko ng mga malapit sa akin at ng mga masugid na nagbabasa ng blog site ko, at ng mga postings ko sa Friendster. To reiterate: I'm very much wonderfully in love and hoping for a happy married family life after a few years from now.

I'd rather describe myself as an intellectually adventurous person. Mahilig kasi ako talagang magbasa at magsulat. Hinihimay-himay ko rin ang karamihan ng binabasa ko, kaya pag nakita mo ang mga books ko, gula-gulanit bawat dahon, tagpi-tagpi ng scotch tape. At higit sa lahat, mahilig ako sa trivia; kahit ang second-largest bird or scientific name ng whale shark or birthday ni Robert Smith ay gusto ko alam ko.

Pinalaki kaming magkakapatid ng aming magulang na hindi naiinggit sa kapwa. Sa totoo lang, natutuwa pa nga ako kapag nalaman kong may na-achieve ang mga kaibigan ko. Nagsisilbing inspirasyon nga ang mga yan para pagbutihin ko pa ang kakayanan ko.

Controlled spender. Pero malakas talaga ang hatak sa 'kin ng books. Pero ngayong marami akong malalaking plano sa buhay ko, pag-iipon ang nasa isip ko lalo na kapag kumikita na talaga ako ng pera dito.

Grabe! May magtatanong pa kaya uli sa akin kung madaldal ako?


Excerpts from My Soon-to-Be-Finished Work, 'Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings (Book One: Bantay-Katubigan)'

{Note: Most of the terms in this book are my own coinage--like sirena'o, Kabenw'a, and Haámyeda’r}

Bantay-Katubigan: The Stewards of the Water Realms

Like waves they set sail
There among the gentle creatures
Of the waters their sovereignty

Partly fish (or -cetacean or any other aquatic animal) and partly human water-dwelling benigno, bantay-katubigan are the Philippine counterparts of the English merfolk, locathahs, selkies, and other aquatic fairies. They are stewards of all water realms including the living things that dwell in them.

Although they are amphibious—breathing through gills or lungs—bantay-katubigan are unable to leave the water. Even sirena’o who reside in water realms inside forest caves never let their tails and scales dry up. Thus, stories of trident-wielding syokoy strolling on sandy beaches or, worse, sirena whose tails metamorphose into human feet are just figments of human imagination.

Based on physical characteristics, the sirena’o are the bantay-katubigan that have more human than animal attributes while the syokoy are the ones more brute than are human. However, contrary to popular belief—and this may come as a surprise—the sirena’o, not the syokoy, are the ones fond of revealing themselves to humans and playing pranks on them.

Graceful and beautiful beings with human torsos, tails of fishes or of aquatic mammals, long hair, fair complexion, and alluring voices, the sirena’o are the most popular bantay-katubigan. They are idyllic and romantic, usual lovers of traditional and classical music. In fact, sirena’o music is one of the oldest and the most tranquil and graceful among the various genres of fairy music. It is mostly instrumental; and when it is lyrical, they are often odes to water realms and the gentle animals of the seas such as whales, dolphins, whale sharks, and dugongs.

Syokoy are usually green-skinned humanoids that have scaly body coverings, webbed hands and feet (although fishtailed syokoy also exist), and fins on several parts of their bodies. They are mostly clam and oyster farmers—clams for food and oysters for the valuable pearls—and are known to be compulsive travelers, regularly migrating from one region to another depending on the availability of food or on the climatic conditions.

They prefer cold environments as opposed to sirena’o, who favor the warmer regions. In further contrast with the sirena’o, who value systematic learning, syokoy rely mainly on instincts for their survival.

Musical Instruments of the Bantay-Katubigan
Bantula. Made from a drift bamboo tube that is closed at both ends with a slit cut out of the tube, the bantula is used by syokoy mainly as a signaling device and by sirena’o as a musical accompaniment for water dances performed during clan gatherings. It is sounded by striking it with a pair of hard-headed sticks or beaters, called tub’lan.

Kudyapi. Also called boat lute, the the two-stringed lute that has an elongated, boat-shaped body and a long, slender neck. The skilled sireno (male sirena’o) produces high-pitched multitonic melodies from the instrument by plucking or strumming its strings with his fingers or with a plectrum made from shell. Many sireno play the kudyapi very well. In fact, sirena’o clans take pride in their young clan members’ ability to compose intricate tunes from the kudyapi, which, to them, is a symbol of masculinity.

Dayuday. Also called spike fiddle, the dayuday is the one-stringed bowed instrument that has a resonating chamber consisting of half a large bivalve mollusk, which is often covered with eel or ray hide. Its long neck is made of drift bamboo or coral. A high-pitched wobbly sound, characteristic of sirena’o classical music, is produced from the dayuday by stroking an improvised bow, called gla’dyad, on its string, which is usually made of twined dried seaweed or mussel hairs. Regarded as a feminine instrument, the dayuday is especially played by sirena (female sirena’o) maidens.

Kubíng. Usually carved out off driftwood, the kubíng, also known as lip harp, is a mouth-resonated instrument that consists of a flexible “tongue” fixed at one end to a surrounding frame. The player produces the sound from the kubíng by placing it between her lips and then tapping its free end with her fingers.

Language and Writing System of the Bantay-Katubigan
abenw’a is the spoken language of the bantay-katubigan. It is an ultrahigh-pitched tonal language, which many human beings would probably dismiss as a mere babble of shrieks and screeches.

Remarkably though, bantay-katubigan inscribe their shrilly-sounding speech in Filipino using an ancient alphasyllabary, called Kabena’o, that the sirena’o culture was able to preserve.

Sirena’o, in particular, engrave the cursive Kabena’o script on driftwood, shells, or slabs of hardened terracotta (whichever is available) using styli made from corals. Paper, parchment, and ink are practically useless to them. However, bantay-katubigan that reside in fresh-water realms inside caves, behind falls, and near forests write Kabena’o on planks and cave walls with indelible ink made from the saps of select species of toadstools or wild mushrooms.

Bantay-katubigan scribes show reverence to their language and alphabet by uttering a simple prayer to the Supreme Deity Haámyeda’r prior to every writing activity. They believe Haámyeda’r – creator of the race and patron of learning – as the deity who gifted them with language and writing system as well as the ability to use them, a faculty which they believe distinguishes them from the rest of the creation.

However, many modern thinkers dismiss such deities as no more than symbolic figures of their race’s mythology—created by imaginative ancestors to explain things they could not fathom. Regardless, belief in these deities remains to be a potent source of hope and inspiration especially for the oppressed and the depressed or in times when life becomes harsh and unbearable.

Bantay-Katubigan Mythology
Like many mythologies, Bantay-Katubigan mythology is animated by deities whose characteristics usually derive from superior and exaggerated qualities of the people who believe and venerate them. This is the reason many sirena’o philosophers doubt—some even deny—the existence of such deities. They dismiss these never-seen superbeings as mere personifications of abstract concepts and unsatisfiable desires, like peace, beauty, wisdom, and immortality.

One influential forerunner of this belief (or disbelief, for that matter) was the sirena philosopher Niyaryan, who, in her controversial treatise Ode to the Deities of Each of Our Own Mythologies, expounded the disbelief in deities:

"The existence of these ‘omnipotent’ yet invisible idols and icons, which continue to pose a great influence on our psyches and behaviors, simply reflects the weakness of our race. It reveals our inability to uphold goodness on its own merits—a shameful display of our race’s incapacity to initiate or sustain fellowship and compassion without the need for some unseen entities, the dogmas of the belief in whose can be reduced to a pathetic choice between the fear of punishment and the promise of reward.

…for an ultimately good individual does good not because she fears the punishment for failing to be good or expects a reward for doing good; but because, for her, to do good is the only right thing to do.”

Despite the popularity of this and other similar radical yet convincing theistic views of well-respected scholars, the majority of bantay-katubigan—regardless of economic status or social standing—still live their lives faithfully under the guidance of and belief in deities.

In final analysis,” another philosopher argued, “faiths and beliefs and all those diverse spiritual orientations no longer matter in the end so long as the individual lives his life in harmony with his fellow creatures and the environment, sincerely trying every day—through little to large deeds—to become a better and worthy member of the society where he belongs.

Ultimately,” he concluded, “the key to peace and harmony is diversity, understanding, and acceptance; not singularity, indifference, and discrimination.”

Diet of the Bantay-Katubigan
Elegant and refined as their taste, sirena’o will never dine on fish or cetacean meat, for they regard fishes and cetaceans as too much like themselves; and this likeness, and the mere thought of tasting even a slice of such flesh, nauseates them. Hence, sirena’o are generally herbivorous, preferring seaweed and phytoplankton for food. Although some will occasionally eat small invertebrates like sea anemones, sea cucumbers, and shellfishes except oysters, which the entire bantay-katubigan revere as “the natural jewelers of the sea, beloved of the water deities” because of the pearls such species of mollusks produce and protect.

Syokoy, on the other finned hand, are the carnivorous lot—their bulky physiques and active lifestyles demand a heavier diet, which consists mainly of cartilaginous fishes and common crustaceans.

Manner of Clothing of the Bantay-Katubigan
Bantay-katubigan are simple about their manner of clothing, not that they have a poor sense of fashion but because of the sense of freedom and of vastness the waters had long effected on their psychic evolution. They prefer that their skins or hides or scales be “more in touch” with their surrounding. In fact, a wreath made of seaweed is all the most fashionable syokoy would wear in a clan gathering—which will reason that they, anyway, have thick scales that protect their bodies and fins that adorn them. (Syokoy regard their cephalic fins—and nothing else—their kindred’s crowning glory.) In this same seemingly fashionless sense would a chaste sirena express comfort and contentment in ornamenting her bosom with only a pair of smoothly polished, gorgeous-colored scallop shells.

Sports and Games of the Bantay-Katubigan
The best picture conjured by the word game is, probably, that of children running on fields of grass and flowers, laughing and chanting senseless rhymes on a cloudless summer afternoon. Many believe this to be the best depiction of a game; or in its precise definition: a spontaneous, call-of-the-moment pursuit of nothing at all that completely lacks rules and benefits other than fun.

As it is with children of the various human races, bantay-katubigan children initially play the same games until such time when their elders or cultures dictate what games or, to be accurate, sports they think are appropriate for their kind.

[These are only random excerpts from the said book I hope to publish in the near future. In the book you will discover so much more about bantay-katubigan, the merpeople of the Philippines.--the author]

Copyright ©2004 by aLfie vera mella
All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Winter Songs

I have been so engrossed in inspiring others into regaining their belief in Hope through my literary works when I am the one who desperately needs it. So, to remind myself of the invincibility I found in me during the last Winter, of 2003, I'm hereby sharing the Introduction to Chapter Three: Winter Songs of the first volume of my book Four Seasons in Canada (Poems and Letters, 2003–2004).

Winter Songs
My whole life I regard not only a fantasy-fiction novel, which has its own maps, worlds, characters and creatures, history, languages and cultures; but more so an epic movie, which runs on a backdrop of diverse landscapes and has a soundtrack of its own.

Since childhood, my life has already been musical; I can still remember vividly the songs that constantly played on the phonograph in my family’s first home—I still listen to them to this day, with fondness and with yearning to return to the particular moment each song is able to conjure. Bittersweet memories that keep the child in me alive and forever curious about the world. It’s like plucking golden leafs from the lush tree of my childhood, picking fruits that have long been ripe.

And, yeah! we had a jukebox at the restaurant which we used to own in the early Seventies—that wonderful machine that transformed many a tot’s night into magical moments. I remember the days when I would insert one coin after another into that machine, press the combination of letters and numbers, and listen in bliss as the songs played one by one. This is the main reason music has always been a part of me, from my childhood through my youth to who I have become.

[On the following pages are some of the songs that will always remind me of the sadness and solitariness I felt on many days and nights during my first Winter in Canada. They were my lullabies on many sleepless nights.]

New Wave—the music I love. The soundtrack of my life. Songs that shall grace my wedding day, and shalt one day be played on my wake.

And, in case I haven’t mentioned yet, my father said he got my name from a song. Yes, that Burt Bacharach song which, I believe, perfectly describes the path I’ve long chosen to take. But, being a lover of New Wave music, I prefer listening to the version of the song rendered by Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt, the duo otherwise known as Everything But the Girl.

Alfie (Burt Bacharach)
by Everything But the Girl
(Under the Covers; 1988, WEA)

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are gone, Alfie,
then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even nonbelievers can believe in

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed
You're nothing, Alfie

When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Nothing Much, I Just Want to Be Able to Sleep Well Again

I kept on waking almost after every hour through dawn. My grandfather was snoring loudly. That was occasional, so I felt kind of wary. Every time my grandfather snores that way, I'm certain he's having dyspnea, 'difficulty of breathing,' and this scares me; it gives me the morbid feeling that he's on the verge of having a mild stroke which may graduate into a fatal heart attack. Some might say that I should see it coming, since my grandfather is 89; and to think that he has recently been diagnosed as having an aortic aneurysm. But can you blame me for worrying much about him? Whatever others might have to say--that whatever happens to my grandfather will no longer be my fault--I still feel that he's my sole responsibility. I know I will always feel guilty when Death finally claims him.

I no longer sleep well these days, since several months already. Sometimes, no amount of food intake nor consolation from my family and friends can take away my woes. I know that only I have the power to convince myself that I should be stronger both in physicality and spirituality to be able to surpass this exhausting predicament into which I've been thrown. I just hope that my relatives--no, my clan!--realize that. Because sometimes, with the words that they say, it seems like I should be the one to give thanks to having been chosen to serve as my grandfather's caregiver for the rest of his life. Okay, I appreciate this chance--of finally getting to Canada, where opportunities and grand possibilites await--but I hope they someday realize that I'm paying this "chance of a lifetime" with my own health--physical, mental, and emotional. No, I'm paying this chance with my own life. If not for my family in the Philippines and for my own future family with Charlotte, I would have long gone insane. No, I would have killed myself long before my grandfather meets his own death.

It pains me to learn that some friends and acquaintances, and even relatives, think that I'm having an elegant life here in Canada. Sorry to disappoint them--but I'm having a miserable life here, for all they know. Imagine yourself being stuck in the house virtually every day, to take care of your very old grandfather, unable to go out on your own even on weekends, unable to sleep well, even unable to be alone in some corner of the house for long because your grandfather cannot stay in one place for long without you on his sight. Is this your idea of an elegant life? Tell me.

What I feel is that I'm living a prisoner's life. I've been like this for more than a year now. How much longer can I endure this kind of life? Pardon my frustration, but most of the times the eLf in me cannot dominate my humanity. At the end of my every sickening day, I am reduced to a heap of a miserable human longing to regain his freedom.

I want my freedom back! I want to be able to walk at my normal pace. I'm starting to worry because I'm now used to walking very slow like my grandfather. Since that I am able usually to go out outside or to the mall only when I'm with him, I noticed that I already feel awkward walking at my own pace. Am I getting old, too? I want to be able to sleep well. Perhaps this is the reason up until now I'm still the same old lanky guy I always was. For how can I gain weight when I feel like the weight of the world is on my left shoulder?

I want my freedom back! I want to sleep well at night. Is this such an extravagant wish too hard to realize? Oh, heaven knows I'm miserable now...


Thursday, November 18, 2004

On My Grandfather's Fixation and Some Fond Youthful Memories

Friday, November 5:
While I was organizing some articles I printed, I saw my grandfather get the small scissors from my shelf and put it inside his pocket. I asked him what he would need the scissors for. He said: "I don't know." I told him to hand the scissors to me, and to ask me for it just when he would already use it. I was especially wary because he might leave it somewhere and then Amber and Julie might play with it. For, there was already an instance in the past when Papa, fixated with his sewing needles, unknowingly dropped a needle on the carpet. Spirited Julie, who has the penchant to run in the living room, had accidentally stepped on the needle, which pricked her sole and remained there sticking with blood oozing from the wound. I was really shocked and felt scared, not because of the blood or the wound (for I knew how minor it was) but because the parents, despite choosing to be quiet about what happened, might have been blaming me in their minds, for I, being Papa's keeper, should be the one responsible for whatever Papa does and for whatever happens to Papa. (I think I feel now how parents feel guilty every time their children get in trouble, regardless if the fault was the children's and not theirs. In foresight, is my current task as my grandfather's caregiver a disguised preparation for my future fatherhood, or even grandfatherhood? I hope so.)

Papa wouldn't give in. He wouldn't give the scissors to me. He insisted that the scissors remain in his pocket: "Gagamitin ko 'to mamaya," and mumbled, "Ako ang bahala," then he fell silent, the way he always did every time I would chide him about similar things. "Kayo ho bahala" was all I could muster, defeated once again; and in my mind, Ako na naman ang kawawa. I just sighed in exasperation. Seemingly trivial instances like that exhaust me very much; sometimes they even make me cry in frustration--like how I feel like crying right this very moment while writing this article. My feelings of frustration are overwhelming. Is this normal? Will anyone caught in the same situation react similarly, if not the same? Or am I only too emotional, too vulnerable? If so, I could only wish that my emotionality eventually translates to compassion and my vulnerability to resilience.

I took note of where Papa hid the scissors, so I know where to get it later without his knowledge. I wouldn't let another accident to happen.

Several minutes after finally succeeding in spiriting the scissors away from Papa's pocket, I fell deep in contemplation concerning my grandfather's fixation; my exasperation turned to compassion when questions began to haunt my mind...

Will I be like him when I become as old as he?
Will I someday also develop a fixation on things, like scissors, needles, scotch tapes, or even sandpapers and screwdrivers?--things I usually discover inside my grandfather's pockets every time I check them before I launder our clothes.

In my case, will my future grandchildren find pens, papers, books, letters, or even CDs inside my pockets?

Is this kind of fixation a common and inevitable part of growing old?

My Grandfather when He Was Much Younger
In his youth, my grandfather used to be a good swimmer, gymnast, biker, cook, tailor, carpenter, and book lover.

He'd sewn dresses, pants, and curtains. He'd cooked the most delicious kare-kare, mechado, and dinuguan. He had built bookshelves, simple cabinets, and mahjong tables. He said he used to read books inside a mosquito net with only a flashlight and the moon as the only sources of light. In short, my grandfather was what we may call a "Jack of all trades."

One particular story my grandfather is fond of recounting to me--with matching actions--was the time, in early 30s, when he walked from Pasay City to Antipolo, Rizal, simply because he wanted a simple adventure. One might quip: Back then anyway, streets were safer and not yet heavily polluted thus walking long distances wouldn't tire and intimidate almost anyone. But, hey, whatever one might have to say, walking from Pasay to Antipolo is unarguably a remarkable achievement. Only a physically fit person could endure such feat. This may perhaps be the reason my grandfather, at his current age of 89, can still cover several hundreds of meters without resting.

Another classic story was the time (also during the pre-World War II era) when my grandfather was a student at Manila North High School (now known as Arellano High School in Pasay City). According to his colorful recollection, he and a best friend named Juan Diaz used to swim kilometer-long distances there in what is now the reclamation areas on Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard to gather mussels (tahong) and shrimp fry (alamang). Breast stroke, back stroke, butterfly stroke--name it, he was once an expert at it.

The Time My Grandfather Immigrated to Canada
I was a grade-one pupil at St. Mary's Academy in Pasay City, August 1977, when my maternal grandfather and grandmother with their youngest child, my then 15-year-old Tito Gerry, immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I remember feeling very sad on my way to school on the morning of their departure. I was urging my mother to take me along with them to the airport, but of course, going to school was far more important. I went home that afternoon missing my grandfather; he was very affectionate of me. I think, at that very young age I was already entertaining the idea that I might be my grandfather's favorite grandson--simply because I noticed that, among his many grandchildren, it was to me whom he used to tell his wartime stories. How we enjoyed watching Combat together, and from my grandfather where I learned the names of the tv show's characters Vic Morrow and Rick Jason.

Thinking of it all, I realize now that my coming here to Canada, to take care of my grandfather and be his last companion on his last days, has been a completion of a circle after all. It was like, a grandson taking care of the grandfather who used to care for him when he was a child.

Still Strong and Relatively Independent at 89
Despite his age, my grandfather is still relatively independent. He can walk for long, albeit with someone guiding him. He can still go to the washroom by himself, although with me checking if he flushed the toilet or left yellow stains on the rim of the bowl. He can still bathe himself, but with me scrubbing his back and waiting until he finished dressing up lest he might slip on the tiled bathroom floor. He can still eat, but with me (with the help of the children, Amber and Julie, Marivic and Jenny) prodding him, lest he would surely leave his food on the plate barely touched. Thus, at his age, Grandfather is definitely strong and independent.

Now, I Can Understand My Grandfather's Fixation Very Well
I understand him now, very well. Perhaps deep inside him, he is battling his deteriorating memory, strength, and agility by way of trying to be as independent as he can. Maybe, being always "in touch" with the tools with which he was once-upon-a-time skilled in using, makes him feel the same strong and agile young man he once was.

Yes, I can now understand his fixations. I can no longer imagine myself not doing the same when I reach such an age. Oh, pens and CDs in my pockets, books and letters.... And when that time comes, all I wish to have are children and grandchildren who will be patient and broad-minded enough to not only understand me but more so empathize with my condition, the way I feel what my grandfather feels every day of his remaining time on Earth.

I saw my grandfather get the chainsaw and put it inside his pocket. I won't chide him anymore about it....


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings

My concept of a book which describes the life and culture of some commonly encountered engkanto, or Philippine mythical beings, like duwende and sirena'o had been on my mind for several years, long before I left the Philippines in 2003. My having become the editor cum writer for two years of Diwa Scholastic Press Inc.'s Magica, an English Magazine for High School Students, has prepared me well for this endeavor.

During my stint with Magica, I was able to further my skills in writing in English; more so, writing for the magazine compelled me to revisit and rediscover Literature and Mythology--subjects I deeply love since childhood, courtesy of my father, whose folktales, lore, and mythology stories I regard as the catalyst to my love for books and storytelling.

Furthermore, I'd like to acknowledge the following highly creative beings, former officemates at Diwa, for having offered their talents for free, during the early stages of Engkanto: Jayge Salvan, for proofreading; Jonel Mendoza and Michael Pasetes, without whose illustrations my book would have been less attractive and interesting; El Dosado, a firm believer of engkanto, for his countless stories about such beings; and most of all, junggoiperalta, for the precious layout, ideas, suggestions, and support.

So, now, here's the Introduction of a book I wish to be able to publish in the Philippines soon, Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings (Book One: Bantay-Katubigan).

Copyright ©2004 by aLfie vera mella
All rights reserved

“We are the children of our landscape;
it dictates behavior and even thought
in the measure that we are responsive to it.”
—Lawrence Durrell, Justine


Have you heard of or read stories about duwende, sirena, or tíkbalang? These fascinating, oftentimes intimidating, Philippine mythical beings are what we may collectively call engkanto in Filipino, the Philippine national language.

In the World Map
One of the largest archipelagos in the world, the Philippines is an independent republic in the southeast rim of Asia. It is composed of over 7,100 islands that are bounded in the east and northeast by the Philippine Sea and on the south by the Celebes Sea. On its southwest border lies Borneo, and to its north Taiwan. Geographers divide the Philippines into three major groups of islands: Luzon in the north, Visayas in the middle, and Mindanao in the south; then they further group these islands into 17 regions, among which Metro Manila, in Luzon, is the National Capital Region—the country’s center of commerce and most urbanized area.

In Linguistics
Although the culturally diverse Philippines is the largest English-speaking country in Asia, the native tongue in Metro Manila and in many other urbanized areas in Luzon is Filipino, making this the country’s national language.

Filipino is an augmented version of Tagalog, another Philippine language spoken by many people from the main islands of Luzon. Its spelling used to be Pilipino, but a Philippine Congress act in 1989 changed its name to Filipino. This move sought to adapt the name of the language to the new and modified 28-letter Philippine alphabet, which Department Order No. 81 mandated in 1987.

Filipino is a conglomeration of legitimate, homegrown Tagalog words, like pakikipagtalastasan (communication), panitikan (literature), paaralan (school), and úpuan (chair); words from other Philippine languages that have become widely used, like cabalén (from Kapampangan, meaning “compatriot”), guráng (from Bikol, meaning “old person”), and pilandók (from Maranaw, meaning “mouse deer”); and many foreign derivative words, like komunikasyon (from English, meaning “communication”), silya (from the Spanish silla, meaning “chair”), and kutsára (from the Spanish cuchara, meaning “spoon”).

The current 28-letter Philippine alphabet consists of the original Filipino letters
A, B, K, D, E, G, H, I, L, M, N, Ng, O, P, R, S, T, W, Y
plus the adopted English letters C, F, J, Q, V, X, Z
and the Spanish letter Ñ.

The Philippine alphabet originated from the Latin alphabet, which the Spaniards, through their own language, brought to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, which began in as early as the 1500s and ended in the late 1800s.

Kuwentong Engkanto
Like any culturally rich country, the Philippines—inhabited by diverse peoples collectively called Filipinos, with different languages, subcultures, beliefs, and cultural customs—is teeming with kuwentong engkanto, ‘fairy-stories.’ Beloved by many Filipinos, these stories that portray Philippine mythical beings like duwende, sirena, and tíkbalang have the power to enthrall children especially at night—curious little children who, amidst fear and all, will prod their parents or grandparents to tell them any kuwentong engkanto—a feat to which the latter will happily oblige and in which will equally indulge themselves. However, this should not be the case—kuwentong engkanto need not be scary and terrifying all the time for the simple reason not all engkanto are fearsome and malevolent; in fact, most engkanto are noble and kind.

The Etymology of Engkanto
Engkanto is the exact Filipino translation of the English word enchanted or fairy, which many fantasists and folklorists define as “any mythical or imaginary being or object” or as “a mortal being or object when she or he or it is under the spell of someone or something unfathomably wonderful.”

Regaining Their Nobility
Many Filipinos are afraid of engkanto because they are misinformed—their elders had, either intentionally or unknowingly, led them to believe that such beings always cause harm or bad luck—or simply because humans have the natural tendency to fear the unknown. This phobic behavior of humankind may initially seem inexplicable, yet it is forgivably understandable because engkanto are indeed elusive and mysterious. Besides, not all human beings have the gift to see them and perceive their true nature.

Moreover, most of the Philippine fairy-stories documented by human chroniclers highlight only the follies, evil, and mischief of maligno—the malevolent type of engkanto [e.g., aswang (human viscera–eating shape-changers), manananggal (detachable-torsoed fetus eaters)]. These partly true but often-exaggerated accounts, sad to say, overshadow the essence of the entire Philippine fairykind’s existence. You see, contrary to the popular belief that they exist only to harm and scare humans, many engkanto serve a noble purpose: They protect the environment, guide travelers in their journeys, and teach humankind to appreciate and preserve nature and all its wonders.

The Yin and Yang of Engkanto
Undoubtedly stories about engkanto doing mischief or causing misfortune are popular—and well loved! (Many humans are naturally masochistic in the sense that they have the peculiar penchant for listening to or reading terrifying tales and scary stories, especially the types that whack them out of their wits.) Such stories, however, are usually exaggerations, embroidered and embellished by the teller who, perhaps, went out of wits; or if proven cases indeed exist, either downright-malicious maligno perpetrated them or downtrodden benigno did them with just causes.

From the Latin words benignus, ‘benevolent,’ and malignus, ‘malevolent,’ benigno and maligno are the two types of engkanto according to affinity to humankind.

Understand that, in terms of psychology, engkanto are like humans or almost any other kindred—they have the benevolent as well as the malevolent types. And even benigno, like any good-natured individual, possess mischievous characters and reveal them once in a while by playing pranks on others, especially on humans who tend to harm nature. For instance, a lambana may play tricks on human children swimming in a lake by hiding their clothes or other belongings, or a disgusted tikbalang may kick a human passerby whom it catches spitting near or urinating on its favorite hollow tree.

Revealing Their Peculiarities
And now, in respect to the entire Philippine fairykind, I present my noble objectives in coming up with this book.

First, to describe some of such beings, particularly the most commonly known and encountered. Second, to enlighten humans about the true nature of these beings (with the hope of reversing the negative perceptions about them). And last, and the most laborious but interesting part, to reveal some of the well-kept cultural and literary treasures of such elusive beings—peculiarities that may include habitat, diet, musical preferences, fashion, writing and educational systems, beliefs, tricks and games, and even samples of their literature.

Now, free your minds of your prejudices as you glimpse into the realms of engkanto—mythical beings of the Philippines, my Motherland.

Four Seasons in Canada (Poems and Letters, 2003-2004): Winter Poems & Letters

As I previously wrote months ago to some close friends, I intend to finish before the current year ends a four-volume book entitled: Four Seasons in Canada (Poems and Letters, 2003–2004). As of date, I've finalized only volumes one and two--Winter Poems & Letters and Spring Poems & Letters.

Despite the materials for it being already complete, Volume Three: Summer Poems & Letters had to give way to another book I wanted to finish, Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings Book One: Bantay-Katubigan, which should have actually been done already but, perfectionist-to-a-fault as I usually am when it comes to my literary works, I've decided to delay it so I can add at least three short tales (featuring the adventures of a sirenito named Traydon [the real owner of the Engkanto's Book One]), which will animate the featured mythical being--the Bantay-Katubigan (Philippine aquatic fairies), specifically the sirena'o (Philippine merfolk) and the syokoy (Philippine locathahs).

Volume Four: Autumn Poems & Letters is in the making, since Fall is yet to give way to another Winter.

Anyway, for the benefit of not only my friends--so they can have a glimpse of the books I hope to publish and see in print someday--but also of myself, so I may be inspired by the comments of the same friends, thus giving me sparks of inspiration to double-time my writing, I hereby feature on my blog site excerpts of the books I'm blabbering about.

Here are six poems from Volume One: Winter Poems & Letters of my book Four Seasons in Canada (Poems and Letters, 2003-2004):

Winter Poems
Winter usually evokes a feeling of awe especially in children and the young at heart--what with the spectacle of such purity and pristine glow of snow. The thought of snowflakes falling from the sky will perhaps curve dreamy smiles on the faces of people who are yet to experience a Winter day. Unfortunately for me, however, many a cold Winter day and night had been gloomy, not because I failed to touch the smoothness and softness of snow when it fell fey but because my loved ones are from me so many miles away. Thus, Winter, instead of delighting me through and through, stabbed my heart with sadness and wounded it with yearning to return to where my thoughts always dwell--home.

Inevitably, Winter provoked my poetic pen to bleed profusely yet again.

“Save your dreams
for the Spring that comes off that Winter.”
--Joe Pintauro, Kites at Empty Airports

The Prodigal Poet

I’ve abandoned her for quite a while—six long years to be precise
But now I’m back! I’m back within her cuddling guise

I’ve been so blind on many Lindar nights
So deaf to hear even the sound of flickering lights
Or even mute to utter silence-shattering words
Wrought from thoughts that conjure a thousand lonely worlds

Was it loss of inspiration or of my treasury of words?
Or, perhaps, of imagination; or because I journeyed other literary worlds
Of myths and mores and other sheathless swords?
But now I’m back, I’m back nestled in her embracing fjords

I dip my quill and yet again
Skate it intricately on the paper’s white-
Ness Of softness Slide! on smoothness with elegant phrase
My cursive hand glides—what a sight!—across the surface

With the splotch of ink I now intend
To indite whatever words ascend
From my thought to someone else’s thought
Invoke whatever moons and suns they’d taught

But now, my Muse, I chant once more:
“Hark! I’m back!
“I’m back in lore and lust with your verses’ luck.”

- 6:30 p.m., December 4, 2003, Thursday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “Years Later” by Cactus World News, [Urban Beaches; 1986, MCA])

Cold as Snow

I used to wish for Winter days and snow
Back home, back when I was too young to know
The thought of such immaculate and enchanting sight
A wonderland where wishes beamed—so bright!

Soon, at last, the first fall of flakes has come
and awakened me on a dusky dreary morning
Silent little feathery bits of immaculate falling
from the sky above Gently kissing
the damp green grasses below in aplomb

Child-eyed, full of awe, I hurried and opened the windowpane
There I stood and stared, then smacked on the face
By the sudden whip of ice-cold brazen haze
I closed my eyes and felt the breeze of cold-hearted pain

And then I wondered to myself once more
Where went my smile? Oh, it was killed!
It flew against my will
The smile I kept when Winter was still a lore
Are wishes grand only when they’re still
deep in our hearts and unfulfilled?

Another whip of Winter breeze has lashed my face
Right there and then, in a faint wintry morning daze
At last, I witnessed my first-ever sight of wished-for snow
Alas! It turned my heart into something as cold as floe

O Cold! So cold! Because I was so far away from home
The mirth for a wish-come-true was gobbled by a winter gnome
So now, how could I wish again for the return of snow
When home’s the only wish that sets my heart aglow?

- 10:15 p.m., December 4, 2003, Thursday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy [The Dream Academy; 1985, Warner Bros.])

Déjà Vu
(To Elena, the first to assure that many others suffer a similar fate)

Every night at the same time
I find myself nestled in my bed—my eggshell
In the lamplighted nook of my bedroom—my nest
Thinking of everything and nothing at best
My glorious past is flashing back like a spell Sublime!
In my mind in my head Is there anything else I can do
Other than listen to these bittersweet songs anew?

I’m jaded and out of bliss
How much longer can I endure this?
Will I reach the end of this tunnel
Unscathed and once again spirituel?
Will I emerge after all still whole
A stronger person, a better Soul?

When days no longer differ from one another
I wonder if there are many others
Who suffer a similar fate
And begin to lose their faith

Sucked into oblivion into some unwished-for plight
And all I can do is languish in this forlorn mental flight

- 1:45 a.m., December 15, 2003, Monday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “The Ghost in You” by Counting Crows [Clueless OST; 1995, Capitol)

Finally, I Touched the Sky

I used to write poems about the snow
The whiteness the purity
Immaculate oh how it percolated my throe!

But now I’ve realized they were half-lies
Well, at least, in my own guise
Pretentious me oh I succumbed to Vanity!

For how could I have written about the snow
When I hadn’t even touched its glow?

But that Saturday, my Muse bestowed me another chance
To weave something about the jaded snow
And this time, believe me, I was in silent lucidity
For I beheld its fall in nonchalance and woe, not in revelry

Morning came, outside the window-
Pane Silent cottons of feather-bits a-flow Pain!
From the sky above to the ground below
Kissing the waiting grasses ever so slow

O smooth o smooth-
Ness silent and white
West! I never thought it could be so bright
Less than love o loveli
Ness so soft and light

Towards the windowpane I sauntered
Slowly and opened it bliss-
Fully a chilly breeze embraced my skin
O how I wished I was with my closest kin

I just closed my eyes and let my soul fly free
A vague smile on my lips uttered unmistakably
Mustering words that said: “Finally, I touched the sky.”
I finally touched feathery bits of the unreachable sky

- 7:20 p.m., December 4, 2003, Thursday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by a-ha [Hunting High and Low;
1985, Warner Bros.])

Sorrow in Lieu of the Snow

Suddenly the child in me about came prancing
When against the windowpane one morning
Snowflakes started to patter
Delightedly my lips did mutter
“At last! It did finally embrace me—
“The scent and softness of Winter potpourri.”

I never imagined upon waking
Trinkets of white would do the greeting
On my lips, however, were only half-smiles
For the loves of my life were far away a thousand miles
So the enchantment summoned by Winter that morning
Waned and was replaced slowly with sorrow and with yearning
To return to where my thoughts always dwell—home

- February 20, 2004, Friday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “Home and Dry” by Pet Shop Boys [Release; 2002, EMI])

After the Snow
{to Algae}

As long as there is
Spring after
Winter there is
A reason to dream
Gloomy and sad
These days and
Nights may seem
A snowball of sorrowful
Moments is
Sure to melt
Into a palmful
Of bliss
Full of memories
After the snow

- January 12, 2004, Monday; Surrey, British Columbia
(While listening to “Hands Across the Sea” by Modern English [Ricochet Days; 1984, Sire])


Monday, November 15, 2004

The First of a Dozen Verses

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I've acquired a new notebook which has been serving as my journal since the day I bought it, November 3. Inspired by my plight and by the constant encouragement of many friends regarding my indulgence in poetry, I've embarked on writing at least one impromptu poem that would serve as a postscript to my journal entry for the day.

This will be a test of my literary courage and prolificacy, for I intend to indulge in this feat for as long as I have the words with which to express what I'm thinking and feeling.

November 3, Wednesday:
Your face smiles in my mind
My heart yearns for ever more
To be with you is what I wish for
Having you, I could no longer ask for more

Three years may be long
But the thought of a happy life with you
Turns those years into mere days

I will never forget what you said:
"Time and Distance is nothing
compared to Love"
Love, indeed, conquers all!

November 4, Thursday:
Receiving mails from you
always delights me
Catching you on the messenger
always excites me

Reading your words of fondness
fills my heart with gladness

Oh, my love
You're the best thing I ever do have

How I long to touch your face
Your kisses I want to taste

If I only have real butterfly wings
To home I will fly right away
For the meantime, listen as my heart sings
I promise you, my love
We will be in bliss together someday

November 5, Friday:
Whatever some might say
I will always love you
Whatever some might do
I will still wait to be with you

No matter if they doubt my nobility
I will still be who I truly am
No matter if they discourage me
I will still stand by my ideals

I am who my family know I am
I am who my best friends say I am
I am who you believe I really am

November 6, Saturday:
You soothe me with your voice
You comfort me with your words
Your giggles make me laugh
Your sincerity makes me feel secure

But, most of all,
Your love makes me persevere
and dream some more

November 7, Sunday:
This may be short
Yet my patience to wait is long
This may be quick
But my love for you is strong

November 8, Monday:
Sa dilim ng yungib
Liwanag ay tubig
Kabog ng dibdib
Badya ay pag-ibig

Mga likha ng pluma
Alay kay Haámyeda'r
Bawat dulas ng tinta
Sa kubling lugar

Mga akda ko ay hitík
Punung-puno ng pagsinta

November 9, Tuesday:
I dread the day when we would finally meet again
For I feel afraid I might lose you again
I count the days elementarily
With every verse I indite with honesty

Oh love, Oh love
Do wait for me
For I, too, will
Very patiently

Oh wait, Oh wait
And forever love me
For I, too, will
Through eternity

November 10, Wednesday:
*Gently* a gentle breeze a silent stream the full moon
Slow but a solitary swan

That's how my heart, for you, feels

November 11, Thursday:
weary and lonely
exhausted and tired
depressed and alone
homesick and sad

But your love is what
Makes me cope and
continue to hope

November 12, Friday:
If only I am avian
I'll fly home to you
If only I am magical
I'll fly home to you

But since I'm neither avian nor magical
I'll just fly home to you when I'm deep in slumber

November 13, Saturday:
How does a man know if he's really in love with a lady?
How does the lady know if the man is really in love with her?
How does the lady know if she's really in love with the man?
How does the man know if the lady is really in love with him?

There are no hows. They just know.

November 14, Sunday:
Through the open front-window blinds
Leafless trees I can see
Gray skies steady pour of the rain
Atop the lamppost perched a solitary crow
Whispering winds making the branches swing
I stare in silence, contemplating
My mind wide open, flying
Towards familiar places
To see familiar faces
I yearn I smile I wish I hope
That soon I may return home

Friday, November 12, 2004

A Long, Exhausting Survey (dedicated to Vayie de Leon)

This survey I received from my friend Vayie de Leon, whom I regard as the "Queen of Surveys," simply because she is a person who does not hesitate to reveal her true self to people she knows, or to the Internet world for that matter, by way of indulging in posting interesting (sometimes, intriguing) surveys. And I find this delightful not only because she gives others a glimpse of her Soul but also because it gives others the chance to bare theirs by responding to the same surveys.

Vayie and I have known each other for so looong—especially in the late 80s to early 90s, when she was still a high schooler at St. Mary's Academy while I an avid "fan" of Marya girls, I being a Sta. Clara alumnus who kept on coming back to the front school, which is "Marya," to "appreciate" the lovely blue-uniformed ladies (or were they still girls then? He-he). But surprisingly, we never became friends, suffice to say that we just simply knew each other by face and by name. In fact, she even knew me quite better because my sister Karen was once a classmate of hers at St. Mary's, and because she amazingly knows most of my past paramours. Wow! My lovelife, I never realized it was that interesting to others. Nonetheless, thanks to my band Half Life Half Death, to which I'm forever indebted for allowing me to rise into confidence and develop a paradoxical charisma—one which I will describe as "either love me or hate me."

More than a decade past, Vayie and aLfie are no more than faces and names stuck webbed in the recesses of each other's mind. Then, recently, around June, we stumbled upon each other at the newwave101 chatroom; a few days' worth of responding to each other's musings and we already learned that we could have been good friends back then, simply because we share some interests, particularly New Wave music and the Pop culture of the 80s.

More so, only this time that I learned that Vayie is a younger cousin of my former high-school classmate Eduardo Dayacap, whom was also a best friend of mine but with whom I became estranged when I entered the intriguing and oft-misunderstood realm of alternative music—in short, Eduard and I drifted apart as friends and never got to talk with each other again. Well, thanks to Vayie, I was finally able to let Eduard know some of my thoughts about what happened to our friendship back then. And this removed at least one among the countless question marks that rattle my mind once in a while.

Again and again, I will say that it feels fulfilling and self-completing getting connected with friends with whom I lost contact for years, or with people whose sincere offers of friendship in the past I might have ignored and taken for granted for whatever reason. Vayie is among such people. But as I deeply believe:

"Once is better than never and part of forever is better than none, but regaining a friendship once lost or ignored is never too late."

So, Vayie, thanks for being a friend after all that has passed.


Now, back to the survey...

1) I easily fell in love with girls who were…
Ø affectionate, intellectual, and family-oriented. Yes, I'm sure I will never fall in love again for I already found my end in love—in someone who is worth treasuring for the rest of my life, a love which is the end of my search yet a love that is unending. Nonetheless, I treasure everything and everyone in my past, for without them the present I would have not been the same.

2) I will give everything to…
Ø have a simple and comfortable life (just a little bit of luxury) with my future wife and children and the rest of my immediate family. What then am I doing about this? I continue to persevere despite my current inability to study yet and work in a job I truly want, for I believe that after I become eligible to do such things—that is, study and work—greater opportunities will come my way, and all I need to do is choose the better and share the fruits to my own family and other loved ones.

3) I’m presently so in love with…
Ø Charlotte Belialba, my future wife, whom I will marry when I finally return to visit my homeland; Cha, whose love and sincerity I already lost twice in the past—in 1996 and in 2000—Cha, whom I will never lose again...ever. How then do I nurture our love? I try to be with Cha on the Net as frequently as I possibly can, sending her regular e-mails and sharing with her everything that is happening with me here. I regularly call her on the phone (mostly, she makes the calls) so I may feel her soothing presence on the other end of the line and let her hear my reassuring voice. And most important, I send her postal mails regularly, to show how much I love her. Sending postal mails will always be more romantic and personal than sending e-mails, simply because with postal letters I get to send a physical part of me—that is, the letter itself—which I wrote with my pen using my right hand, the stationery I sprinkled with my perfume, and whose envelope I sealed with my wet tongue.

4) I hate it when people…
Ø I'd rather use the word dislike or abhor, for as much as I could I don't want anger and hatred to linger in my heart "for anger leads to hate, and hatred leads to suffering." But wait, doesn't abhor mean, "to regard with horror or loathing," which seems worse? Oh, well, whatever!

So, I abhor it the most when people utter maliciously slanderous words about me and my loved ones. I abhor people who nurture so much envy and jealousy in their hearts. I abhor those who, instead of delighting in and feeling inspired with the achievements and successes of others, feel threatened and slighted by the good tidings that come to others. I dislike it when people doubt my most serious expression of intent to realize my well-laid plans. I dislike it when, oh well, cut the crap! I HATE people who are arseholes and fuckfaced and leeches and plagiarists and "kupal" and so much sexually preoccupied whose every joke revolves around sex and sex and sex and people who shove their beliefs on you until your ears bleed and your mind become numb, convincing you that their belief is the only "truth, way, and life."

5) This year, my biggest blow was…
Ø when I found out that a relative of mine has been telling lies about me, accusing me with some of the worst accusations one can throw at someone: a drug addict, gay, stealing money from my grandfather, and other heart-breaking words borne out of envy and jealousy. How did I react? I just cried secretly, for I was alone here, helpless and without someone who would defend me. I couldn't confront them simply because I am yet to live on my own. In effect, I'm still under their mercy, somehow. In a positive light, this eventuality continues to transform me into a more controlled and patient individual—no longer the hot-headed, easily agitated, and not-hesitant-to-retaliate aLfie whom I once was. Luckily, I no longer live in the same house.

How do I relate with such people? Inasmuch as I can, I avoid being with them, for I am not a hypocrite—I cannot stand conversing with people who have been stabbing me on my back. Do I seek revenge by way of doing the same to them? No. I don't believe in getting even. As a fellow member on the newwave101 yahoogroup, Tes de Leon, wrote in one posting: "an eye for an eye makes the world go blind; a tooth for a tooth makes us all bungal," a modified quotation from the well-renowned Indian inspirational leader Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948). Well said.

6) I will never regret…
Ø falling in love with someone who broke my heart and left it unmended for months, when she was impregnated by a male of her species. My reason? I was able to realize how loyal, faithful, and capable of loving I am—because I couldn't hate her for that grave act back then. In fact, I offered myself to her when she said the person's family didn't want her. Regardless, love, lessons in life.

7) The most important people in my life…
Ø First, my family, which consists of my mother, father, sisters and their own families.
My mother, Teresita Vera-Mella, I have long regarded as a very strong yet vulnerable woman. Since the early 80s, when she and my father finally separated chiefly because of the latter's restlessness in the matters of falling for various women, my mother was left on her own devices in raising us, her children. And, I'm proud to say that she succeeded, for none of us has ever gotten into serious troubles. All of us grew up to be family-oriented, loving, affectionate, generous, and, above all, broad-minded.

My mother has always been there for us—budgeting a meager amount of money for our school allowances, laundering our clothes, cooking our food, attending our school functions, waiting late on nights my siblings and I were out on gimmicks, laughing with us every time one has a joke—funny or corny it might be, and crying every time one of us has problems too difficult to handle.

The last time I was with my mother was on August 14, 2003, my day of departure to Canada. No tears fell from either our eyes, but I knew deep inside that both wanted to weep. Her assuring voice on the phone keeps on giving me hope and strength—hope for my dreams and strength to persevere.

On November 20, my mother will turn 57, all I wish for her at this stage are better health and peace of mind.

My first sister, Lovelle: I'm proud to have witnessed you transform gracefully from a restless and ill-tempered party-girl to a loving and responsible mother to your two sons, Aki and Kali. Your silence is unassuming to some, for they do not know that behind your serious façade is a deep thinker and analytical observer. I delight in the fact that we share the same passion for books and films.

Ramil, one of my bandmates and best friends who became my sister Lovelle's husband, I thank you very much for always regarding all of us as a part of your own family even before you and Lovelle have finally decided to be together for the rest of your lives. You have not only been a great and supportive friend but have also been a brother. May you keep on taking care of my family there in our country. In case I haven't told you yet, I've always admired you for your mild manner, creativity, and sense of humor. You know how to make people laugh, and you know when to keep quiet and just listen.

Karen, my spirited second sister, who is yet to bid farewell to her youthful lifestyle, please take care of your son, my nephew Algae. Now is the time when Algae needs your guidance and attention. I shall celebrate the day you will finally weave yourself in a chrysalis and emerge as a fully matured lepidopteran. With your wit and humor, you have more than what you think you possess.

Jay, my sister Karen's husband. Away from my family, I can now well empathize with how you feel being far away from your wife and son. May you have greater patience and perseverence, especially that my sister and your son are both strongwilled—perhaps, "like mother, like son."

Kim, my middle sister, the most beautiful, my favorite, I don't worry about you much in the sense that I very well know how responsible and independent you are since childhood. I can feel how hardworking and strong you are and how much you love your children, my niece Arianne and nephew Akev. You may have failed in love the first time, so I wish for the success of the next—may it be the last one as well. Thank you for always regarding highly of me and for lovingly appreciating and delighting in my achievements. I will always be the "greatest brother" you believe I am. I will never disappoint all of you.

Niña, my youngest sister, in you I always see my younger self—gregarious yet reserved, adventurous yet controlled, fashionable and unusual, and, most of all, broad-minded and a lover of knowledge and reason. I would like you to know how proud I am for what you have become. I feel happy for you for having finally finished College and for finding a job which you enjoy and which pays well. Always remember the pains and woes Mommy had to go through just to let you finish your studies. Return the favors by regarding her well and by avoiding being a pain on her neck like you always did when you were younger.

Algae, my nephew whom many people regard as my former childhood self, simply because he exhibits many traits which I possessed back when I was his age—inquisitive; stubborn; a lover of details, trivia, fantasy stories, and lore. You always amazed me with your talent in drawing and with your mild manner. You are not like many children your age who, so young as they are, already exhibit scary tendencies to harbor prejudice, discrimination, and hostility. My fondest memory with you was the time we travelled from San Pedro to Cartimar in Pasay City to buy turtle and rabbits. I know you will soon grow up, but heed my wish—remain as youthful-minded as you possibly can. And always take care of Mama, who takes care of you most of the times.

Arianne and Kevin, I always regard both of you as children with the minds of grownups, because you always amused and amazed me with your witty questions and matured manner of speaking. Thank you for always remembering the stories I used to tell you when I was still among you. I was always excited to go home to San Pedro every time I knew you were spending your weekend there with us. To Kevin: you always make me smile every time you would quip: "Di ako takot sa multo, sabi ni Tito aLfie, hindi tutuo yun...." Arianne, I'm happy to learn that you are growing up to be a fine and graceful girl, no longer the mataray Arianne I know when I was there.

Aki, you were barely two-and-a-half when I left, but your intelligence at such an early age has always impressed me. May your love for books never leave you. You will soon find out that books are, indeed, one of the things that make a person broad-minded. May you still recognize me when I finally return home. Hearing you talk clearly over the phone surprised me, for all you were able to utter then, as I remember, was simple "Tito, Tito..." Take care of your newborn brother. I don't worry much anyway, for I'm sure you'll grow up a loving brother to your sibling--the way your mother and your father are to theirs.

Kali, you will probably be about three years old when I return. I don't worry, for I'm certain you won't feel uncomfortable with me; the love in our family will be natural in you.

Daddy, although I seldom hear from and about you, I'm sure you're always safe and coping. I know how strong and resilient you are, for you have already survived many instances of sure death, the worst of which was the time you were stabbed by hold-uppers. Ironic this may seem, but it was the time I finally forgave you for the things you've done to your family in the past. I will always remember the scene at the hospital in which you were sitting fragilely on your hospital bed, recuperating from your mortal wounds, asking for my forgiveness for the things you have done. Daddy, I have long forgiven you. And I appreciate your efforts in compensating for the lost time and affection; I delight in every little thing you did to show that you love us after all. I will never forget my College-graduation ball when you served as our taxi driver. Most of all, I will never forget the fairy tales and mythology stories you used to tell me when I was very young. To this day, I regard them as the catalyst to my being a poet and a storyteller. Daddy, wherever you might be now, you are thinking of me I know.

And lastly, Charlotte, my future wife, you have eluded my love twice in the past (or is it the other way around? I think it doesn't matter anymore), so finding each other again after all these years I regard as a blessing and a gift. Always trust in my nobility. I know myself well. I will certainly shed tears on the day we will finally meet again—tears of joy...tears of love.

To my friends, your simple words of encouragement and your belief in my indomitability I will always regard as your gifts of hope for Charlotte and me. I can never be where I am and will never be who I have become if not for your gift of friendship—the second-greatest gift of all.

8) Nothing scares me more than…
Ø the death of someone very close to me.

9) My freakiest dream is…
Ø When I was still a child, I feared sleeping in the afternoon because I always had what I would call "noon nightmares," which I can now only describe as dreams about things scary and geometrical, tiny objects becoming gigantic and then back again, bubbles and rings encircling me until I felt I was being strangled, bouncing, dizzying, my head enlarging...until I would awake feeling dizzy and nauseous.

10) It hurts when…
Ø someone you trust betrays you for no apparent reason. It hurts when you lose a well-loved job, like what happened to me in the past, at Quorum-Lanier (Phils.) Inc., when I was included on the list of employees for retrenchment. It hurts when somebody you love or close to you dies unexpectedly, like the death of my niece Aeshen who barely passed the age of two because of a brain tumor and the recent demise of my friend Jas Latina who was hit by a speeding truck.

11) I will give everything to have a one wild night spent with a famous person like…
Ø Okay, for the sake of not leaving any question unanswered...Paris Hilton or Heart Evangelista or both on the same night.

12) The most annoying person on Earth is…
Ø Back when I was in the Philippines, a former boss named Mr. William "Bill the Bull" S. Fernando. Now that I am here in Canada, allow me simply to say, "a hypocritical relative whose heart is full of envy and bitterness and whose mouth can spit the most venomous character shatterer."

13) The time I really felt loved is…
Ø I have always felt loved by my parents and my sisters and their children. And now, I feel so much loved and wanted by Charlotte.

14) My mother and I would often fight on…
Ø nothing much, just petty arguments about my loud music, stacks of paper and other literary documents which she used to refer as "your garbage," and my tendency to bum around the house when I was much younger. But the most serious argument we had was the time she reprimanded me for getting involved with a married female friend.

15) I would let go of a love that is…
Ø I would let go of a person who simply cannot love me anymore.

16) I get sick with the thought of…
Ø a housefly couple having a day of their very short lifespan on human feces stuck on my salivating tongue.

17) My best friend in the whole world is my…
Ø On a list of three, considering the quality time we spent together and the mutual trust, belief, and respect we had for each other (in this order): Rain Paggao, Ramil Aznar, Carol Pobre.

18) I will give up everything for the person I love…
Ø I will not give up everything, but instead I will work hard to be able to give everything to the person I love, the lady who will soon become my wife.

19) The one thing that I will never ever understand is…
Ø There is hope in learning almost anything if we indulge in it seriously, but I feel I will need painful efforts in understanding about 'stock markets.'

20) I love food, but I am not fond of…
Ø any bitter-gourd dish.

21) When I love a person, I…
Ø declare it to the whole world regardless if the world will laugh at me and say: "Tell it to the marine fishes!"

22) I admire my dad because…
Ø he was able to regain the love and respect of his children by compensating with little but lovely things the grave deeds he did to his family in the past.

23) Why should there be…
Ø sadness and pain? Because sadness is the default human emotional state, and because humans are naturally masochistic.

24) The best thing about me is that…
Ø I can express my individuality without fear of being judged.

25) I will do everything for love except…
Ø die for it, for this defy the very essence of loving—which is, keeping yourself alive and well for your love.

26) The common thing about my exes is that they are all…
Ø Hmmm, let me just say that many of them were fair-skinned and longhaired.

27) I would love to have the power of…
Ø the Force.

28) All I want to receive as a gift on my birthday is…
Ø birthday cards and letters sent through the post office.

29) Life is…
Ø what you make of it; its ultimate purpose is to give us the chance to give meaning to each of our own lives. And, life is a continuous struggle of human nature versus humanity.

30) I would go anywhere with the person I love but in…
Ø the heart of Mt. Vesuvius.

31) If I’ll be born again, I would want to be…
Ø a human being; it's taxing being an eLf.

32) If there’s one part of my body that I would want to change, that will be my…
Ø body build—enough muscles will make me confident in wearing trunks on beaches.

33) The most tearjerker film I watched is…
Ø Cast Away.

34) One thing I hate about life is…
Ø its unfairness.

35) Nothing saddens me more than…
Ø witnessing someone close to me suffering the unfairness of life despite that person's hard work, perseverance, and honesty.

36) I can give you a kiss when…
Ø the kind of kiss I will give will depend on the person I will kiss.

37) If I die, I want it to be a…
Ø peaceful natural death, because of old age.

38) The noblest thing I did in my life is…
Ø I left my fairly comfortable life in the Philippines to go to Canada to serve as Charon to my maternal grandfather; with, in fairness, the foresight of finding a chance for a better life for my family.

39) If I’m naughty enough…
Ø I have been very naughty (and experimental and adventurous) in my younger years. Am I correct to assume that the "naughtiness" in this context concerns something sexual?

40) I was last hospitalized due to…
Ø a nerve cyst in my right elbow that was eventually incised.

41) The one thing I cannot understand with the human nature is…
Ø I think I understand human nature well—that humans are naturally sad, selfish, stupid, and evil; though this doesn't mean I will dwell in such state helplessly. To be able to rise from such nature is a constant challenge for me—and this is the true essence of humanity. Thus, Life is a continuous struggle of remaining stagnant with your human nature versus the conscious attempt to rise and achieve humanity.

42) My basic principle in life is…
Ø Be as good and understanding as I possibly can. Always try to maintain the balance between the yin and the yang of Life. Too much independence breeds indifference, too much invulnerability leads to destruction, and the list goes on and on...

43) Nobody knows it, but I get extremely jealous when…
Ø Nobody knows it.

44) All I wanted at this very moment is…
Ø to fly back home—if only I have butterfly wings—and spent the night with Charlotte.

45) The 6 most significant ladies in my life are…
Ø My mother, Charlotte, and my sisters.

46) I get upset when…
Ø I encounter unnecessary problems unexpectedly and I cannot do much about it.

47) My biggest question as of the moment is…
Ø “Why do I have to sacrifice much when all I want is a comfortable life with my family?”

48) I would be willing to work hard for a living, but I’d rather die than work as…
Ø an executioner. Ha-ha-ha. Let's see how would this go if I reverse the concept: I would be willing to work hard for a dying, but I'd rather live than work as a child deliverer. He-he-he.

49) I only thought of suicide…
Ø but never really attempted to commit it.

50) Aside from my family, the one person who loves me unconditionally is…
Ø Charlotte.

51) If I’d be reincarnated as an animal, I would want to be a…
Ø I don't believe in reincarnation, so the appropriate question for me would be: "If I believe in reincarnation, what would I want to be in my next life?" My answer: someone who believes in reincarnation. Ha-ha-ha.

52) My most traumatic childhood memory is…
Ø the time, in 1978, when I fell from a fence and onto a barbecue grill or something, which caused the large centipede-looking keloid on the skin just below my right knee.

53) I would never date…
Ø anyone anymore, I'm faithful and finally contented romantically.

54) In 3 years, I would have a…
Ø sweet, intelligent, and loving wife.

55) If I could date a famous athlete, it would definitely be…
Ø I'm not a fan of sports, sorry. Let me just change the question: "If I could date a famous musician, it would definitely be...Susan Dallion (a.k.a Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Creatures)."

56) If there’s one question always asked but which I cannot answer, it’s…
Ø “Why are your ears not pointy?”

57) I could be [completely] happy only when…
Ø it's time for me to return to Shire.

58) I would like to have the body of…
Ø an eLf.

59) If one could see right through me, they would realize that I’m…
Ø really an eLf trapped inside the body of a human.

60) After this, I have to…
Ø sleep already. Gully dwarf! I spent about 6 hours answering this survey.

Vayie, did I pass your "eLf challenge"?