The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Is Sadness the Default Emotional State for Every Being and Happiness a Temporary Sensory Plane on Which All Try Hard to Be and Maintain Being There?

Or, Is Sadness the Permanent Emotional State in Which Every Being Exists and Happiness Only a Temporary State of Mind or Emotion—the Ultimate or Ideal Feeling which We Try Hard to Possess But Never Will?

In June 2004, my friend writer Andrea Duerme and I had a ponderous chat, which delved chiefly on one concept of SADNESS; that is, "Sadness is the default emotional state in which all beings exist."

From the discourse, we were able to draw some insightful statements worth pondering and considering.

Take note, however, that our intent is NOT to claim the ideas we drew as absolute truths but to present them statements as ONLY additional points to ponder. For, in the end, each of ourselves remains to be the conjuror of our own beliefs and the makers of our own decisions. In short, everything we learn from others should be only valid points to consider and not absolute truths to believe in.

For, according to the Austrian-born philosopher Paul Feyerabend (1924–1994), "science [as well as philosophy] is always revolutionary, since what drives scientific research is the competition provided by a plurality of alternative theories"; and

as in "Invictus," by the British poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903):

Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Here are the general statements drawn from the insightful discourse, as itemized by Andrea. And after each item I inserted the actual portion of the chat trail from where it originated:

1. Since humans constantly try to "find" or "attain" happiness, the state of happiness is foreign to the natural human state.

"...human beings are naturally and normally despondent...happiness is the state which needs pain and effort in order to be attained, whereas sadness is the state where we always are...."—eLf

2. The happiness that humans believe to find are and will always be temporary since nothing can ultimately and permanently keep them happy, considering their complexities and everchanging needs and desires.

"...humans are too complex to find a kind of happiness that will satisfy them completely."—A.D.

3. If humans have indeed been born sad, then safe it is to state that 'sadness' is the neutral plane onto which they gravitate after experiencing a 'happiness high.'

"...or is sadness only the default state from where every being strives to escape?"—eLf

4. Whether they realize it or not, humans find more substance in sadness than in happiness, for sadness is the feeling that naturally resides within themselves.

"Happiness is just like a leisure trip; to be sad is to be home."—A.D.

5. Sadness is the default state and the starting point of human existence, and the fragments of circumstances that make humans happy are only a means of temporary escape from this state.

"...happiness often arises after bouts of pain and suffering...thus, every being is after all naturally sad."—eLf

6. Since it is not lasting, happiness could then be measured not by its longevity but by its frequency (or the number of times it existed in one person's lifetime.)

"...happiness isn't measured by its longevity; it's measured by how many times it came our way."—A.D.

7. Struggling to achieve a state of happiness is a way of feeling active or alive.

"People keep on working to attain that feeling of being happy because it eliminates the feeling of being stagnant."—A.D.

8. Most of the time, a human's experience of happiness is exaggerated by the intensity of his/her anticipation of that particular experience.

"the happiness that people attain every now and then are actually fueled by illusions of its intensity."—A.D.

I am ending this article with a theoretical answer to the probably universal

"Why do we always find ourselves more expressive (and as poets, more prolific) when we are sad than when we are happy?"

"We find so much more meaning in sorrow because that's our natural state. Happiness is just like a leisure trip. To be sad is to be home." For, if happiness is indeed humankind's default state, why then are we always in pursuit of it—and of ways to make life better for all of us?

– June 2004, while listening to "The Skyscrapers of St. Mirin" by Close Lobsters (What Is There to Smile About?; 1988, Enigma Records)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Plucking Leafs from My Tree of Memories

Chapter Five
The Essence of Individuality

Perhaps the first focus of the viewer on my highschool graduation picture would be directed on my hair. Look at that bangs! In fact, this hairstyle shocked some teachers and relatives during the time. Until now I would often wonder why many people consider uniqueness a negative quality. Isn't this the essence of individuality? Don't we all strive to be our own person? Or, at least emulate the positive qualities of our chosen icons?

It was during my highschool years (1984–1988) when I fully discovered the beauty of Punk Rock and New Wave music—the alternative music genres of the Eighties. With the upsurgence of eccentrically fashionable British artists like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Lotus Eaters, New Order, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smiths, and Tears for Fears, I was sweeped by the entire New Wave phenomenon—from music to fashion—an artistic expression which I embrace up to this day.

Call it weird or rebellious, or even sacrilegious (I having been a Catholic-school student); but my highschool graduation picture, I believe, is the perfect representation of myself in the prime of my youth—where began my literary and musical journey which would take me to creative realms as a vocalist/composer of a New Wave band (1987–2003); an editor/writer of scholastic magazines (2000–2003); and a bard at heart, to this day still weaving poetry and stories.

High-school graduation picture, 1988, Sta. Clara Parish School, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
 Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Plucking Leafs from My Tree of Memories

Chapter Four
The Beginning of Eccentricity

In 1984, I was a graduating elementary student at St. Mary's Academy in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Many people who knew me back then described me as a boy-next-door. Yet, little did they know that at that age I was already shaping my individuality, or "eccentricity" (as how many people called it) in terms of music and fashion preference. The early Eighties was the period I discovered New Wave music through Depeche Mode, The Cure, and other British Alternative Rock artists known to possess a queer sense of fashion and music style.

I spent my elementary years at St. Mary's Academy. I could have been a Loyalty awardee, but because of my family's financial difficulties at the time, aggravated by my parents' marital problems, I had to transfer to and repeat fourth grade at Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School, a public school near our former home in Barrio Pio del Pilar, Makati City, Metro Manila.

Retrospectively, I would come to regard that time I spent at a public school as the period in my childhood when I regained my self-confidence and overcame my insecurity which arose from my family's economic difficulty.

Modesty aside, perhaps because I was a transferee from a private school, I found myself to be more intellectually adventurous than my new classmates. I'd been topping every quiz and examination and joining various school activities; but more importantly, I realized that my teachers, classmates, and even my parents began to expect so much from me. This rekindled my childhood thirst for knowledge—which I had lost in the intervening years my parents were drifting away from each other.

Learning of my fate, an auntie who was living in Canada offered to shoulder my education. The following year, I was back in St. Mary's Academy, a fifth grader with a renewed confidence and a recharged passion for learning. I joined again a number of Science and Spelling quiz bees, bagging places in a few of them.

I graduated in 1984, all ready for the new experiences and adventures highschool would lay on my path.

Elementary graduation picture, 1984, St. Mary's Academy, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
 Posted by Hello

Photo taken in 1976, during a school program at St. Mary's Academy (MIDES Bldg. auditorium) in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines Posted by Hello

Plucking Leafs from My Tree of Memories

Photo taken in the early Seventies, in Luneta, Manila, Philippines Posted by Hello

=Chapter One=
The First Leaf

I was about six years old when I first had the narcissistic idea that I would be great someday—when my father told me, “Para kang si Jose Rizal, ah! mahilig magbasa at magsulat.

At the age of five, prior to entering kindergarten in 1976, I was already fond of writing, listing different things in a notebook my father gave me and of listening awestruck to his folktales and Greek-mythology stories. (Yes, at that age I could already write name-words; just ignore most of my spellings.) I used to list names of different kinds of animals, superheroes, countries, and even plate numbers and models of vehicles. (Perhaps, from this where my love for details and trivia originated.)

And, yeah! I would even draw the flags of different countries, the illustrations of which I would copy from the encyclopedias and books my father used to surprise me with. (I remember always feeling challenged every time I tried drawing the flag of Saudi Arabia, with which to this day remains to be the flag I’m most fascinated.)

Speaking of Rizal, I suddenly remember the name of my first-ever crush—Rizalina Driz, a classmate in Grade One (1977–1978), at St. Mary’s Academy in Pasay City, whose distinctively round face, “apple-cut” hair, and the prominent mole on her right cheek I can still vividly imagine. My father used to tease me back then: “Bagay kayo ng klasmeyt mo: Rizalina, tapos ikaw Rizal.” However, so young and virtually innocent as I was, simple smiles and silly stares sufficed what I felt for Driz.

The most enduring, earliest memory I can recall of my childhood was a typical child's naughtiness I did in 1975—an uncle who came from the United States for a vacation gave the children a very big chocolate bar (big, as in with a dimension of one foot by one-point-five feet by three inches).

The chocolate was kept in the fridge, intended to be divided among the children after the usual for-adults-only chitchats. Impatient as I was, I sneaked into the kitchen and spirited away the huge bar of gold from the cold treasure chest; and then hid under the mahjong table and started to feast on my delicious find…

I can no longer recall what exactly happened next after they discovered that the children's treasure was missing and they found me under the table with my shirt and face full of sticky sweet brown mess.

On Faiths and Deities

Photo scanned from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm (2002, Select Editions): In Greek mythology, Zeús is the omnipotent leader of the deities, enthroned on Olympus. With him in the picture is the sea nymph Thetis, who is begging the supreme deity to help her son Achilles concerning the war waged by the armies of Greece against the city of Troy. Posted by Hello

In virtually every mythology, the supreme deity is always male. This is a reflection of the universal social system in the olden times, when religions were still in the making—the reason male chauvinism and patriarchal mentality persist to this day—an indication how deeply rooted such folly is.

Photo scanned from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm (2002, Select Editions): In Egyptian mythology, Ra is the falcon-headed sun god wearing the disc of the sun on his head. Posted by Hello

Egyptian divinities are often illustrated as part-human and part-animal beings. The reason behind these zoomorphic deities has long been explained by mythologists.

Since ancient Egypt was surrounded by a hostile desert landscape, its inhabitants—humans and animals alike—depended on the great rivers that provided water and fertile soil. As they had to share the fertile flood plain of the Nile with these dangerous animals, the ancient Egyptians learned to fear and respect them, giving rise to animal cults which graduated into the worship of deities with animal characteristics.

Photo scanned from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm (2002, Select Editions): Siddhārtha Gautama is the Buddha who is regarded as the founder of the Buddhism faith and philosophy; he attained enlightenment after many incarnations as a bodhisattva, or 'buddha-to-be,' setting an example for all Buddhists to follow. Posted by Hello

The Enlightened One
In Buddhism, a Buddha has come to be known as one who rediscovers the Dharma—the truth; the nature of reality, of the mind, and of the affliction of the human condition; and the correct "path" to liberation—by Enlightenment, which is attained after good karma (action) is perfectly maintained and all negative, unskillful actions are abandoned.
In the mood to read the Bulletin Board of Friendster, of which I'm a member, I took fancy for (and decided to reply to) this article posted by Leila Bondoc, a friend of mine way back my days as a document analyst and a Coding Supervisor (1996–1999) at Quorum-Lanier (Phils.) Inc., a litigation-services company in the Philippines.

Leila writes:
What's Eating Me These Days?

I was taken aback by C.S. Lewis's "There are errors in two directions, and open-mindedness is not the ultimate good" (The Great Divorce).

If this is true, then I believe that this means we can only exert so much—as our ultimate "best"—effort in trying to "actually be" good people; and that no matter what we do, we will always fall short of the true Catholic Christian's definition of goodness; because "goodness," according to this definition, is Godliness; and Godliness can only be for God Himself.

Free will may seem enveloped in the idea of making choices which already have a reward or consequence as we know it. And in a simple mind like mine, it's just like choosing between two jars that both have cookies of different flavors. If I got the chocolate cookie but I hated chocolate, I would think of it as a consequence for making the wrong choice and vice versa.

But "the choice"—as in free will, is deeply understood by people who keep an open mind about their actions. Right?

As I continue to explore what I would so often refer to as "a deeper knowledge of how I came to be," I find that there are indeed a lot of stuff in allegories and philosophies that I need to learn and unlearn at the same time.

I know only one thing, though: I need to learn to be patient in my journey to achieving ultimate goodness. And that, frankly, is what's eating me these days.

My Reply
Dear Leila,
You sound like Siddhārtha Gautama here, before he became Buddha, who, to attain Enlightenment, had to embark on a long journey of mind and heart cleansing.

Yes, there are lots of philosophies out there—in fact, many of them often contradict one another; so, learning and unlearning any of them is certainly a feat. However, in the end, our choices are what will count most—so long as each of our choices makes us a good person within and without.

In relation to what has been eating you these days, let me share with you my own philosophy which is the result of what ate me several years ago during my own self-enlightenment. I decided to immortalize it in my yet-to-be-published book Engkanto: A Bestiary of Philippine Mythical Beings. With this (as worded by the excerpts below) I believe I was able to sum up my own opposing thoughts about deities.

[My Belief]
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.

[My Disbelief]
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 myopic 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.

[My Final Analysis]
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 to which he belongs.

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

Thank you for that very "enlightening" response, Alfie. I just finished reading articles on your blog.

"Ultimately, the key to peace and harmony is diversity, understanding, and acceptance; not singularity, indifference, and discrimination."

That one put THE much needed "explanation" on my mind.

Also, I loved the "Sonnets for Rain." You never fail to amaze me, really.

Today is Monday, and I feel I am fully recharged for a long week ahead because of this exchange. Thank you and I can't wait for your next article or sonnet or...


Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Bibliophilist Once Again

Posted by Hello
February 12, Saturday, at Black Bond Books at Guildford Town Centre once again, I stumbled upon these gems on SALE: Alan Alexander Milne's The House at Pooh Corner and Now We Are Six; unfortunately, the two remaining books of the classic tetralogy, Winnie the Pooh and When We Were Very Young, were unavailable. I bought also four books from the Dover Thrift Editions: Love: A Book of Quotations, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and Other Favorite Poems, English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology, and Poems of Faith.

Then, on February 18, while we were buying groceries at Save-on-Foods, I saw for the second time a discounted copy of the fifteenth-anniversary edition of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, so I didn't waste any more time; I bought a copy at once.

1. The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne (1992, Puffin Books) – The second book in the popular tetralogy that brought us Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, and of course Christopher Robin.

"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever.
Not even when I'm a hundred."

Pooh thought for a little. "How old shall I be then?"


Pooh nodded. "I promise," he said.

2. Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne (1992, Puffin Books) – The final book in the Pooh tetralogy, this features the adventures and childhood memories of the characters in verse.

"There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn't because of the state he was in.

3. Love: A Book of Quotations, edited by Herb Galewitz, (1998, Dover Publications) – "Everyone has something to say about love, but very little of it is memorable. This book presents a little of what has been said, but all of it worth remembering."

"Love is not blind; it is an extra eye, which shows us what is most worthy of regard."—James Matthew Barrie

"Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering.
The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable."—Henry Ward Beecher

"Love's sweetest meanings are unspoken; the full heart know no rhetoric of words, and resorts to the pantomime of sighs and glances."—Christian Nestell Bovee

"Love is a true renewer."—Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

"There is nothing holier in this life of ours than the first consciousness of love, the first fluttering of its silken wings."—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Mutual love, the crown of all bliss."—John Milton

"Love has no age, as it is always renewing."—Blaise Pascal

"To write a good loveletter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say,
and to finish without knowing what you have written."—Jean Jacques Rousseau

"Love-verses, writ without any real passion, are the most nauseous of all conceits."—William Shenstone

"Lord, I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing."—Jonathan Swift

"Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."—Alfred Lord Tennyson

"Platonic love is love from the neck up."—Thyra Samter Winslow

"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

4. The Raven and Other Favorite Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1991, Dover Publications) – "The Raven" is regarded as one of the most popular poems in the English Language; this edition includes 40 more of Edgar Allan Poe's most memorable poems.

from "Dreams":

Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
But should it be—that dream eternally
Continuing—as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood—should it thus be given,
'T were folly still to hope for higher Heaven.

5. English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Stanley Appelbaum, (1996, Dover Publications) – This collection features selected poems by England's six greatest pioneers of Romantic Poetry: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats.

from "Song" by William Blake:

How sweet I roam'd from field to field,
And tasted all the summer's pride,
'Till I the prince of love beheld,
Who in the sunny beams did glide!

from "I wandered lonely as a cloud" by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

from "Dejection: An Ode" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

A grief without pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear——

from "When we two parted" by Lord Byron:

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

from "To a Skylark" by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

from "Ode on Melancholy" by John Keats:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose——

6. Poems of Faith, edited by Bob Blaisdell, (2002, Dover Publications) – This anthology features works by more than 60 British and American poets—all of which delve on faith, or the secure belief in a Supreme Being.

from "I never saw a moor" by Emily Dickinson:

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

7. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum (2004, The Random House Publishing Group) – I first discovered this book in College through a classmate who lent me her copy of it. I am yet to reread this reconsidered, revised, and expanded edition; but here I am already sharing something from it worth remembering.

"The older I get the more I realize how much I think is a composite of the goods selected from the supermarket shelves of the world of thought."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sunny but Chilly

Photo taken on Friday, February 18, 2005, at the parking lot fronting Dollar Giant: I may be casting a dark shadow, but this doesn't mean the weather was hot. Sun might have been bright and proud but so was the cold lash of the North American breeze on my face. Posted by Hello

In the Philippines, the presence of the sun glowing bright and of cumulus clouds adorning the sky automatically means the weather is humid and hot; so people there always associate the sun with sweat.

Only after my first few months of living here in British Columbia, Canada, did I realize that sun and sweat do not always go together. In the Canadian province where I am, regardless if the sun is a blinding yellow glow in the sky, a bright sunny day can still get very chilly—at times even freezing that I would need to wear my bonnet and mittens.

Only in the summer months of August and September did I experience good ol' sweat nestling on my skin—and that was a sure welcome; but for the rest of the year, well, I always needed to wear my coat; and I made sure that the pants and coat I was wearing had pockets, where I could tuck my hands for warmth.

Where Have the Birds Gone?
A few days ago, Sunday, February 13, Grandfather and I were on our regular walk in the neighborhood. We thought that the day would be a nice time for basking; but as usual, the bright glowing sun had tricked us once again. We were already a few meters away from the house when the chilly breeze began to blow. Oh, the sun...conspiring with the wind...

Luckily, we were prepared—in coats and with bonnets and mittens, we continued our leisurely walk.

While walking, I was able to compose in my mind bits of verses for a new poem in my vernacular. Here's that poem which I finished as soon as we got back to the house after about an hour.

Nasaan Na Nga Ba ang mga Ibon?

Ang sikat ng áraw ay nakasisilaw;
Sa aming paglalakad siya ay tanglaw;
Subalit hindi madama kanyang init…
Malamig na hangin ay ihip nang ihip—
Malakas na hanging nagsisilbing walis
Sa mga tuyóng dáhong tumatalilis.

Mayroong úgong na nanggagaling sa langit;
Ako'y napatingalâ sa himpapawid—
Anungbilis ng salipawpáw na tumatawid,
Sa kaulápan ay malayang gumuguhit.
May-hangad-sa-mga-mata akong nanamlay…
Kaylan kaya sa ganyan muling makasasakay,

Pabalík sa píling ng mga mahal sa búhay?

Linga rito, linga roon ang aking lolo,
Panay ang masíd sa mga bubóng at punò;
Hanap-hanap, pakálat-kálat na mga ibon.
Malamáng sila'y nasa migrasyón, wari ko—
Naghahanap ng pagkaing maiipon,
Upang sa sandaling tag-lamig ay magbalik,
Sila ay handâ at di daranas ng gútom.

At maya-maya pa ay pagód na si Lolo,
Kaya sa paglalakad ay biglang sumukò.
Sabagay, ako rin nama'y giniginaw na.
Sa mga ulap, araw ay nagtatago na.
Ako kayâ—magtatago rin ba't susukò?
Kaya pa bang ikubli, luhang tumutulò?

– This poem will be included in my poetry anthology Pagpagpag sa Inalikabók na mga Pangárap (At Iba Pang Tulâ, 2003–2005).

Light at the End Of

Photo taken on Friday, February 18, 2005, at T 'n T Chinese Foodcourt (where we had lunch) in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Posted by Hello

Is there really a light at the end of these dark and narrow tunnels? Oh, I see, my enlightened brain.

"What! McSpaghetti?"

Photo taken on Friday, February 18, 2005, at a McDonald's (where we had our afternoon snack) in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Posted by Hello

How I miss McSpaghetti! Yes, you read me correctly: How I miss McSpaghetti, for I can never be served with a McSpaghetti at any McDonald's in Canada, simply because the McDonald's fast-food restaurants here don't carry that particular item.

Order a McSpaghetti at any McDonald's here and, right there and then, you will most likely be served with an incredulous stare; not unless the service crew happened to be someone who had been to a McDonald's in the Philippines or someone who is in touch with the various cultures of the world or conscious about cultural diversity.

Realize that almost any fast-food restaurant would certainly wisely cater its products to the taste and preference of its target market. For instance, in the Philippines, McDonald's products like McSpaghetti, lóngganísa meal, big breakfast with garlic rice, and úbe-macapunô sundae are big hits among Filipinos; but all of these are unavailable in any McDonald's branch in North America, naturally because these food items are not the type that will tickle the tastebuds of North Americans in general.

I can imagine now what food items one can order at a McDonald's in, say, China, Hungary, Argentina, Romania, Lebanon, Oman, Taiwan, Turkey, or Egypt.

Oh, but I'm still craving for a McSpaghetti! And yeah, I miss also Jollibee palábok, Jollibee Champ, Sbarro's baked zitti, Burger Machine's bart burger, Aji Ichiban's preserved plums, Zagu pearl shakes, shawarma, fried one-day-old chicks, fish balls, barbecued chicken intestines, hot pandesal, Kowloon's chicken pao and jumbo pao, tahó..."Tahó...tahó!"

Ang Súki Kong Magtatahó

"Tahó! tahó!" Sigáw niyá'y marírinig ko.
Sa áming kusína'y pahangós na tátakbo

Úpang kúnin ang pinakamatabáng báso.
Hihingî kay Nánay ng bariyáng mamíso;
At kung sakáli namáng siyá ay tulóg pa,
Magháhagiláp ng baryá sa mga bulsá.
Pagbukás ng pintô, hayún ang magtatahó;
At nakangitî pa sa ákin ang súki ko—
Tátakal ng tahóng masustánsya't maputî.
Ang arníbal áking padáragdagáng mulî;
Sa ibábaw namá'y palálagyan ng sagó
Úpang ang linamnám nitó ay makumpletó.
"Tahó! Tahó!" Sigáw na mulî ng súki ko;
At patuloy na s'ya sa kanyáng paglalakô.

– I wrote this poem in 1992; it will be included in my poetry anthology Pag-aálay ng Bulaklák sa mga Lumípas at Lilípas (At Iba Pang Tulâ, 1988–1993).

Dollar Giant

Photo taken on Friday, February 18, 2005, outside a thrift store named Dollar Giant, where every item costs only one Canadian dollar. Inside that yellow plastic bag I'm holding are the things I bought there: three pieces of headband (oops, the third one I'm already wearing), one hairbrush, and a set of highlighters/markers. Posted by Hello

Stores like Dollar Giant are common and popular here. Yes, even in a first-world country such as Canada, many people would not let discount stores escape the consumers in them.

Thrift, or "the wise economy in the management of money and other resources," and frugality, or "the prudence in avoiding waste," are universal human values.

The Ninth of a Dozen Verses

... Photo taken on Friday, February 18, 2005, in the living room

Sonnets for Rain
February 7, Monday
Your brilliant words were magical;
They always lit my mind.
Your simplest thoughts, sublime, divine;
They’d borne my spirits high.
In mirth or pain, in loss or gain,
Your songs poured forth like rain.
Not once before when we were young,
I found myself in drought;
You always poured like real rain,
’nriching me in delight.
And now from you I’m far away,
My friend, I miss you so.
Friendship built on brotherly love
Till old age may it last.

February 8, Tuesday
When you were Sun while I was Moon,
To us it mattered not.
The light you cast upon my path
Has never made me blind;
For you possess a noble soul,
Which Pride can never touch.
The words like rays your pen did shine
Illuminated mine.
The songs you made, the hopes you gave
Are always in my heart.
When ’twas my turn to be the sun,
As Moon you did your part.
Whoever’s Sun or Moon, I know,
To us it matters not.

So many bards did sing of stars,
Whose beauty they could see.
The chords you strummed on your guitar
Had always brought me glee.
The words I wove, the tunes you plucked—
They blended—harmony!
Among the stars our songs retired;
They twinkle when I’m sad.
I know, stars, in reality,
Are but a burning gas.
Despite that, you remain to be
The brightest I can see.
A star—that’s what you’ll always be,
Forever ’nspiring me!

February 10, Thursday

In various hues you came to me
In times when I was blue.
December then, remember when—
Oh, what a rendezvous!
I awed you with my Cure attire;
In turn, you stunned me, too:
Your licks and tricks on your guitar—
The start of something New
Wave. Music has made us brothers,
Set us on a journey,
Which changed our lives forever more.
How colorful it was!
Among the many friends I have…
The rainbow smiled at you.

Ápat na Sonéta pára sa Áking Diwatà
February 11, Friday
Báwat matyág
Ikáw ang anínag.
Báwat galáw
Ikáw ang aníno.
Báwat kapâ
Ikáw ang kurbáda.
Báwat hágod
Ikáw ang himaymáy.
Múkha mo,
Náis masdán.
Lábi mo,
Náis hagkán.
Bibíg mo,
Náis tikmán.

February 12, Saturday
Ang puso ko.
Pag-íbig ko.
Laráwan mo.
Damdámin ko.
Kalínga mo.
Tulóg na 'ko.
Nánd'yan na 'ko.

February 13, Sunday
Kahit na maláyo
Sa isa't isá—táyo—
Mágkalapít namán,
Ákin at iyóng pusò.
Tuwíng náis kitáng
Mariníg o mákita,
Ákin lang ipípi-
Kít itóng mga matá.
Ánimo ay hibáng,
Dantáy mo'y pumápasò;
Sa áking kalamnán,
Maráhang gumagápang.
Ínit ng kalúban mo—
Kanlúngan ng pulandít ko.

February 14, Monday
Lubós ang áking
Iyóng saríli
Ay iniálay.
Sa ákin lámang
Ka nagtiwalà.
Walóng taón mo
Akóng hinintáy.
Pagmamahál mo'y
Di nabawásan.
Bagkús pa nga ay
Pagtatalík na
Lámang ang kúlang.

Haikus by a Floraphile
February 15, Tuesday
Hymnal as haiku—
Tiny trees on pygmy pots
—Li'l leafs, my pet plants.

February 16, Wednesday
Prick me not, I said,
You always fascinate me.
"Touch me not, therefore!"

February 17, Thursday
How tall and proud yet
Humble, for you bend and bow—
Pride, Humility!

February 18, Friday
Beautiful than rose—
That is how you are to me;
Every time you're pink.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Pair of Sonnets for My Belovèd

Every Time I

Every time I think of you,
I am overwhelmed.
Every time I think of you,
I feel pathetic.
Every time I think of you,
I die of yearning.
Every time I think of you,
I feel like crying.
Every time I think of you,
My love grows stronger.
Every time I think of you,
The light glows brighter.
Every time I think of you,
I run out of words...

Without You My

Without you,
Days are hazy.
Without you,
Nights are chilly.
Without you,
Songs are off-key.
Without you,
The future's bleak.
Without you,
Life's incomplete.
Without you,
Tomorrow would be without me.
Without you,
I do not know what else to say.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Her Name Is Haunting Me...Lovingly

Seldom do I watch movies or even films on DVDs here where I am. I'd rather spend time surfing the Internet for useful information, listening to New Wave music, reading a book, or writing stories or poetry. However, the following lovely and haunting coincidences concerning the name of my Belovèd I find worthy of blogging.

Three of the movies that I happened to watch the previous months had all become memorable mainly because my Belovèd's name is part of each of them, as if reminding me how she fondly thinks of me and how I always yearn for her.

In Lost in Translation (2003), Bill Murray's costar Scarlett Johannson plays the character named Charlotte.

In National Treasure (2004), one of the clues the protagonist Benjamin Franklin (Nicolas Cage) is looking for turns out to be the shipwreck of an ancient vessel named Charlotte.

In Elf (2003), the name of the attractive reporter (Claire Lautier) in the scene at Central Park in New York, United States, is Charlotte.

Some more films with my Lady's name in them!

In Le Divorce (2003), starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts, one of the characters is named Charlotte de Persand (Nathalie Richard).

In The Princess Diaries (2001), Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, the name of the queen's executive assistance (Kathleen Marshall) is Charlotte.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Papél at Plúma, Áking Sandáta

Cha: hon, ang galing ng poem mo...
aLf: yung valentine poem na isinulat ko for you?
Cha: ikaw ha? gumagaling ka na sa erotica lit.
aLf: hon, halos lahat ng sinusulat kong poem talagang expression ng feelings ko.
aLf: shhh..hahaha
aLf: naalala ko tuloy sa Chapters bookstore...may section dun na Erotica...panay novels, poetry, and other publications about eroticism.
aLf: baka nandyan ang swerte ko, hon.
Cha: hehe
aLf: tsaka, bumabalik ako sa formal forms...yung may metrical and rhyming patterns.
aLf: na-challenge ako sa comment ng isang Palanca winner daw sa isang poem ko na naka-post sa iSnare.

aLf: hon, kahit negative comments talaga, they sometimes result to something positive...depende talaga kung paano natin i-handle at tingnan 'no?
Cha: yea, depende sa 'tin. Ang buhay natin, reaction sa galaw ng mundo.

A sonnet I wrote on Valentine's:

How much longer could these hands endure
The craving to cup your breasts, my Demure?
These fingers they are like candle tips,
Yearning for the flame in your lower lips.
Oh when will I ever be enwrapped
And locked—out of breath—by your tight embrace?
The pleasure to traverse your skin so couth—
Rapture yet to be had by my tongue and mouth.
Always haunted by your innocent grace;
In my body, the passion seemed to be trapped.
I'm closing my eyes as I think of you;
Touching myself is what I can only do.
If only you can send me your lips—
Winged and wet—to kiss me well as I sleep.

Erotica, Emotions...

pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)

1. Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.
2. Literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality.
[Greek erōtika, from neuter pl. of erōtikos, erotic.]


1. Greek Mythology. The god of love, the son of Aphrodite who excited erotic love in deities and mortals with his arrows and torches. Eros embodies not only the force of erotic love but also the creative urge of ever-flowing nature.
2. Psychiatry. Sexual drive; libido.
3. Psychoanalytic Theory. The sum of all instincts for self-preservation.

Matagál na akóng ganitó—masyádong erótiko, masyádong bukál sa pagpapahayág ng áking mga naiísip at nararamdamán. At akó'y nagpápasalámat dáhil biniyayáan akó ng kakayanáng isa-létra ang báwat kaalamáng áking natututúnan at báwat emosyóng áking nararamdamán.

Báwat táo ay iba-ibá ang reaksyón sa mga bágay-bágay na kanyáng nararanásan. Iba't ibáng pamamaraán din ang kányang ginagámit úpang mailabás o maihingá ang kanyáng isinásaloób.

May táong masalitâ, o kung i-describe sa Inglés ay verbally expressive. Siyá ang urì na karaníwang inilálabas ang nararamdamán sa pamamagítan ng pagsasalitâ o pagkuk'wénto ng saloóbin sa kápwa. Siyá rin ang karaníwa'y mahílig magbubungangâ at madalás makapagbitíw ng masasakít na salitâ sa kányang kápwa, lálo na kung siyá ay galít.

Akó? Paáno ko nga ba mailálarawan ang áking saríli sa larángang iyán? Paáno akó karaníwang tumugón sa báwat sitwasyón na áking napapasúkan? Paáno ko inilálabas ang áking nararamdamán?

Ang tugón ko, túlad ng sagót ng karamíhan, ay depénde sa sitwasyó lokasyón.

Dáhil sa maláyo akó sa mga táong malalapít sa ákin, sa mga mahál ko sa búhay, sa mga táong áking matatakbuhán—mga táong alám ko na akó'y handáng damáyan sa hírap man o kaligayáhan—ang kadalásan kong reaksyón sa mga bágay-bágay ay tumahímik na lámang.

Bukód pa, sa kadahilánang wala pa akóng saríling buhay ríto sa bansáng áking kinaroroónan, hindi pa akó basta-bastá makapangatwíran. Hindi ko pa maipaglában ang karamíhan sa áking mga prinsípyo't paninindígan. Oo, madalás na akó'y mistúlang pípe—hindi makapagsalitâ úpang ipagtanggól ang karapatán; mínsan namán ánimo'y bingí (o nagbibingi-bingíhan)—pinipílit na di mariníg ang masasakít na salitáng nabibitíwan ng iláng táong hindi maíngat sa pamimilì ng sasabíhin; at pamínsan-mínsan, akó'y bulág—mabigát man sa damdámin, pinipílit na h'wag mápansin o mápuna ang mga kamalíang áking nakikíta pamínsan-mínsan.

Subálit bágo n'yo akó husgahán, sána ay maintindihán n'yo ang áking kalagáyan. Maláyo akó sa áking saríling táhanan. Maláyo sa mga mahál sa búhay. Maláyo sa mga táong handáng dumámay. At higít sa lahát, hindi pa maaáring mag-umpisá ng saríling búhay.

Salámat na lámang talagá at may kakayanán akóng magsulát. Dáhil sa biyáyang itó, tánging papél at panúlat ang nagsísilbing tapát kong kaibígan sa báwat áraw at gabíng nagdáraan.

Oo, hindi akó ang mabungángang urì ng táo. Kapág akó ay nasásaktan, inilálabas ko na lang ang sakít sa túlong ng áking plúma—paták ng tínta ang nagsísilbing luhà.

Kapág akó ay nagagálit, iniípon ko na lang ang gígil sa áking dibdíb. At mulì, sa túlong ng áking panúlat—tulâ at sanaysáy ang nagíging sábog at siwálat n'yan.

Último ang áking panggigígil at pangungulíla sa áking diwatà, sa pagsusulát ko na rin lang múna ipinadárama't ipinakikíta.

Sa madalíng salitâ, hálos lahát ng áking nadárama...isinisiwálat ko sa pamamagítan ng literatúra.

'Yan, ganyán akó. Ganyán ang urì ng áking pagkatáo. Bukál subálit tahímik. Erótiko ngúnit kontroládo. Mahabà ang pasénsya. Maalalahanín. Sensitíbo at paminsan-mínsa'y usyuséro; pero hindíng-hindi mapanláit, mapang-husgá, at pakialaméro. Subálit sa óras na makaháwak ng papél at panúlat—káhit na síno ay dápat mag-íngat—daíg ko pa ang may háwak ng paláso at sibát. Káhit na síno, sa pamamagítan ng literatúra, ay káya kong paslangín at ikóndena. Íka nga ay, káluluwá lang n'ya ang waláng látay; iyón ay kung may káluluwá nga ba s'yang matatáwag.

Ikáw? Paáno ka pumasláng ng kapwà? Anó ang ginagámit mong sandáta?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pathetic Adventures of eLf in Canada:

Donut versus Bagel

A few days ago, we (Grandpa, cousin, niece, and I) ate lunch at a Tim Horton's, a donut shop which reminds me of Dunkin' Donuts in the Philippines. While ordering food, I got into a situation which made me realize that even a learnèd and well-read person like me is not free from stupidity once in a while. How pathetic, if I may add...

I ordered for the lunch combo that consisted of a mushroom soup, turkey sandwich, donut, and soda. While preparing the sandwich and the soup, the service staff asked me:

"What soda would you be having?"

I said, "Dr. Peppers."

"How about the donut?"

"Ahmm," I muttered as I darted my eyes to the trays full of different-flavored donuts and other stuff. "Okay, I'll have a piece of that—strawberry bagel."

"Come again?" said the service staff.

I didn't know if my voice was, as usual, soft and inaudible because of my tendency to mumble—a tendency, I observed, common to foreigners from third-world countries who find themselves alone in a first-world country and who are still shaving off the remaining iotas of inferiority in their systems.

I replied, this time chin up and head high and with a louder and well-modulated voice (the way I always did in the Philippines when paying for my jeepney fare..."Mama, bayad!"): "I will have a piece of strawberry bagel."

The service crew looked at me with a puzzled face and said:

"Can't you see? That's not a donut; it's a bagel."

Ha-ha-ha! I felt my blood rushing up my head. I was sure the lady saw how pink my face had become. But, gentle and compassionate as I am, I simply ignored her sarcasm. Besides, I wouldn't want to create a scene.

In an instant, I felt I was reduced back to my default state—a foreigner from a third-world country who finds himself alone in a first-world country and who is still shaving off the remaining iotas of inferiority in his system.

But, should the service crew blame me for my "stupidity," or should I say, "ignorance"? I could really feel her look of condescension. I would have reasoned, hey! sorry I didn't know; for I used to call almost any similar round bread with a hole in the middle donut.

In fact, even the elongated ones (éclair) and the ones without a hole which are filled with jelly inside, many Filipinos refer to also as donuts.

I swear, that little piece of bagel could really pass as a donut, especially for me who am yet to discover, first-hand, many things where I am. I swear, that bagel surely looked like a donut—just bigger. But, yeah, it is round also, and it also has a hole in the middle.

Anyway, feeling pathetically reduced to a munchkin, I simply muttered, "Oh, well, a piece of that chocolate-filled donut then."

Back at my seat, I didn't care to tell my companions what happened at the counter. I thought, who cares; I wouldn't want to have another probable look of condescension.

Reflecting on this trivial yet sad plight of mine, I suddenly thought about what happened. Why did it happen? Then, the concept of semantics popped up in my mind. I realized, the service crew could not blame me for having been "stupid" not to know the difference between a donut and a bagel. Why? Simply because I am new here where I am. Certainly, most of the things here, which to them are commonplace, are understandably new to me.

Semantically Speaking
Some words or things here, which in the Philippines pass as synonyms or even as "the same thing" are very distinct from each other. For instance, in the Philippines, try to show a cantaloupe and a honeydew to a common person and then ask her/him what fruit that is; that person would most probably simply answer:

"Ah, e di milón."

Is s/he correct? Technically, yes, her/his answer is correct; because cantaloupe and honeydew are fruits belonging to the melon family. And, in the Philippines, the honeydew (with the green flesh) is a relatively new fruit as compared with the cantaloupe (orange flesh); besides, many Filipinos would not pay much attention whether the melon is a cantaloupe or a honeydew (except for the watermelon, or pakwán)—which to them are:

"Ah basta, pareho lang milón yang dalawang 'yan; halos pareho naman ang lasa nila e."

Acceptable? Of course, basically because cantaloupe and honeydew are varieties of melon anyway, so calling both of them milón is technically correct after all. Besides, both fruits are not good representatives of the Philippines as compared with, say, bananas; so it's not a big deal. Which brings me to the topic of bananas...(Play background music: "Mick's Blessings" by Style Council [Café Bleu; 1984, UK Polydor].)

In English, Refer to It as Banana Plant, not Banana Tree;
but Yes, in Filipino, We Call It Punò ng Ságing

I now realized that here in Canada at least, many people regard cantaloupe and honeydew as two fruits very distinct from each other. You should not refer to them simply as melons; you have to be specific. When in a fruit store, you don't simply ask for melons; specify if what you're looking for is cantaloupe or honeydew; lest, you might be given a look of condescension. Regardless if no one is safe from stupidity once in a while, nobody in her/his normal state of mind would want to be called stupid even only occasionally.

Okay, back to bananas...

The language problem behind the donut-bagel or the cantaloupe-honeydew situation, nonetheless, is applicable to any other country anyway. Let's take banana for example...

In the Philippines most, if not all, people would not be content in referring to banana as simply ságing. They will usually want to know "anóng kláseng ságing? lakatán, latundán, sabá, señoríta..." chiefly because bananas are one of the most common and often-used fruits in the Philippines.

Make a fruit salad and you will surely need lakatán; make a "bananacue" and you will need sabá; eat lunch with a viand of menúdo or mechádo and you will most likely love to couple it with latundán; and you may want to amuse a child with a pilíng of señoríta.

But here where I am—where fruit salad–cum-bananas, "bananacue," and minatamis na saging are foreign—they don't care much about such varieties of bananas. When they want bananas, they simply go to the fruit store and buy bananas. When they couldn't readily find the banana, they simply approach the service staff and ask where the bananas are. The service staff, in turn, simply either tells the customer that the store ran out of bananas or points to the section where s/he will find the bananas. No more asking "What variety of bananaslakatán, latundán, sabá, señoríta?"

Role Reversal
Baligtarin ko kaya ang sitwasyon? Halimbawa nagpunta sa Pilipinas yung service staff na naistupiduhan sa 'kin dahil hindi ko alam na magkaiba pala ang bagel at donut. Tapos, gusto n'ya kumain ng banana. Pumunta siya sa palengke (s'yempre mas adventurous para sa kanya kung sa wet market instead of a grocery s'ya pupunta), tapos hindi n'ya mahanap kung nasaan ang bilihan ng banana. Naghanap s'ya ng mapagtatanungan...nagkataon namang ako ang kanyang naispatan...

"Excuse me, where can I find the bananas?"

Eh, namukhaan ko s'ya. Sa isip ko, aha! ikaw yung service crew sa Tim Horton's sa Canada na tiningnan ako nang nakapanliliit na tingin nung hindi ko alam na bagel pala yung inakala kong donut. Kaya, sinagot ko 'yung tanong n'ya ng kapwa tanong din...sabi ko...

"Ahmm, what variety of banana are you looking for: lakatán, latundán, sabá, señoríta?"

S'yempre malilito s'ya; malamang ay sabihin n'ya: "Just banana...any variety will do."

Kung kagaya n'ya 'ko na hindi marunong umintindi na karaniwan namang nararanasan ng kahit na sino— anupaman ang lahi o kultura n'ya—ang "ka-istupiduhan" o "kamangmangan" sa mga bagay-bagay sanhi ng semantics or language specifications, e malamang sinagot ko na s'ya ng: "Can't you see? Bananas have different varieties; you should know which variety you are looking for!"

Pero dahil malawak ang pananaw ko, at mahaba ang pasensya ko, at maaalalahanin akong tao, sasamahan ko pa s'ya sa bilihan ng saging at ipakikilala nang maayos...

"This one, the plump and thicker one, is sabá; this, longer and whose skin is darker yellow, lakatán; this, medium-sized and lighter yellow, latundán; these, cute little ones with green skin, señoríta."

Tapos, siguro naman magpapasalamat s'ya sa 'kin, at baka ayain pa ako..."Would you care to join me for dinner? Any suggestion for a nice place to eat?"

Ha-ha-ha! Yayayain ko sa Dunkin' Donuts o kung saan may bagel. Ha-ha-ha!

Teka nga pala...ano nga ba ang pagkakaiba ng donut sa bagel?

Donut versus Bagel
According to my trusted Internet word reference:

dough·nut, also do·nut

1. A small ring-shaped cake made of rich, light dough that is fried in deep fat. Also called olicook.
2. Something whose form is reminiscent of a ring-shaped cake.


A glazed, ring-shaped roll with a tough, chewy texture, made from plain yeast dough that is dropped briefly into nearly boiling water and then baked.

Leche! E halos pareho lang naman pala e. Naalala ko tuloy yung madalas kong bilhin sa Glorietta Activity Center, sa Pilipinas; may stall doon na nagtitinda ng maliliit na "ring-shaped friedcake," na mini-donut ang tawag ng karamihan.

Pero teka, pansinin mo yung ikalawang kahulugan ng doughnut. "Something whose form is reminiscent of a ring-shaped cake"! E di, pwede rin palang tawaging doughnut ang bagel? Basta korteng singsing daw e. Hmmp!

Pero sa isang banda, mas mainam na nga rin naman 'yung specifically correct.

Ang tatandaan ko mula ngayon: kapag sa kumukulong mantika inilubog, donut; kapag sa kumukulong tubig, bagel.

Subalit ang hindi ko lang talaga matanggap ay 'yung asta 'nung service crew—kung paano n'ya ako itinama. Hindi naman kasi mahirap tumanggap ng kamalian; basta ba maayos na pamamaraan ang ginamit sa pagwawasto sa iyong kamalian. Sa puntong 'yan sumesemplang ang maraming tao; ituturo nga sa 'yo ang tama, pero may bahid naman ng pangmamaliit; tipo bang ipinamumukha pa sa 'yo na

"Oo, tanga ka nga, sa simpleng bagay e nagkakamali ka pa!"

Hay! Words! Di bale, nagpapasalamat pa rin ako sa service crew na 'yun ng Tim Horton's, dahil sa kanya I took the time to check the minute difference between a doughnut and a bagel. Pati kahulugan ng éclair ay inalam ko na rin.

And, from now on I'll be using the spelling doughnut, because I follow the Chicago Manual of Style's rule concerning use of word variants: "when choosing between variants of a word, always opt for the first dictionary entry.

One More Trivia

1. An elongated pastry filled with custard or whipped cream and usually iced with chocolate.
2. oblong cream puff

Therefore, éclair is not a doughnut; so the next time I go to a Dunkin' Donuts, I would no longer call my favorite éclair doughnut. I would simply say, "Kindly give me a piece of éclair."

Post Script [Pardon my indulgence. He-he-he.]
Still goin' bananas, I decided to research about the numerous varieties of bananas. I then found out that even in the English language, there are specific names for every known variety of banana. [Of course, there should be names for every discovered species or variety of fruits—talk about taxonomy.] Many people just don't go into these details, primarily because this is too ponderous and laborious; and if they do happen to know such, this most likely has something to do with the commonness of the fruit in question.

In countries where bananas are not a "priority fruit," many people don't really pay much attention to the varieties' names—they'd naturally prefer the general term—although each variety has its own name; and this is understandable, for they'd rather indulge in grapes or apples, which are among the most common fruits in North America.

In the Philippines, definitely, where—as every Filipino certainly knows—bananas are among if not the most common fruit, useful in some Filipino dishes (pochéro) and many local delicacies (halu-halò, sabá-cum-yélo, fruit salad), people tend to know the names of, at least, the commonest varieties.

Goin' Bananas
For indulgence's and curiosity's sake, here are some interesting pieces of information about bananas.

1. Bananas come in different varieties, which can be characterized by shape, color, and size.
2. North Americans are mostly familiar with these types: the blunt-ended Cavendish; the Gros Michel, known by its tapered ends; the starchy plantains, which is used only for cooking as a vegetable; the dwarf or “baby” bananas; and the red bananas.
3. Edible bananas (genus Musa) originated in the Indo-Malaysian region reaching to northern Australia.
4. The history of banana, including its medicinal uses.

I wonder if there'd still be someone brave enough to challenge me about bananas. Hmmm.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A Tribute to iSnare

During another ponderous time with her on the Yahoo Messenger last February 6, Charlotte encouraged me to check out iSnare, a Web site that accepts literary contributions for posting...

Cha: ay, babasahin ko muna letter mo sa 'kin, hon.
aLf: letter? sa e-mail?
Cha: yup.
Cha: sandali lang, ha?
aLf: sige, read ka muna, wait lang ako...
Cha: hon, while waiting
Cha: visit mo 'tong site...
aLf: sige...
Cha: the site's objective is to showcase Pinoy writing talent

While waiting for Charlotte, I checked out the site she recommended...

aLf: nag-submit na 'ko ng articles sa iSnare...ia-approve pa raw ng administrator according sa automated message...

Then, the following day, February 7, I received an e-mail from iSnare's chairperson, Mr. Glenn Prialde, informing me that the article I submitted had been approved and was now posted on the site...

Hi aLfie mella,
Your article entitled Foot-binding under category Culture was approved and added to our database.

Best regards,
and to Your Success,
Glenn Prialde
iSnare Chairman

Inspired by this new venue through which I can share my literary works, I continued contributing more articles in the ensuing days. And then, on February 9...

aLf: di ba na-approve marami kong articles sa
aLf: then, I just received a personal e-mail from the site's chairperson.
Cha: oh really? and?
aLf: 'kakataba ng puso. nabawasan na naman ang self-doubt ko, hon.
aLf: here's his message...

Wed, 09 Feb 2005

Hi, Glenn here,

Are you really Filipino born? I love your articles, great and original. I just hate to see some, if not a few, of our Filipino kababayan sending us junk by sending in songs and COPIED articles.

OMG, to protect them I just keep e-mailing them to tell them that they could be jailed for it. I could only hope I can always detect if the article is copied...

Anyways, keep on sending your original articles... At kung maaari eh humanap ka pa ng maraming katulad mo. Invite your friends to submit their original articles to iSnare. I would rather love approving great original Filipino articles——

Here use this page to invite your friends.

Thanks and more power to you!

If not for Charlotte, I would have not discovered iSnare in the first place...

Cha: i'm so proud of my honey
aLf: thanks
Cha: can't wipe off my grin
aLf: hon, alam mo ba na big part ka sa pagiging prolific ko these days...
Cha: sabi ko sayo eh....malaki at maganda ang mako-contribute mo run sa site...see, sinulatan ka pa
aLf: kasi ang lakas ng inspiration na nakukuha ko sa 'yo...kahit ikaw lang ang mag-appreciate sa mga sinusulat ko ay excited na ako lagi to come up with something new
aLf: thanks uli.
Cha: kasi gusto talaga nila ma-showcase Filipino talent
Cha: saka totoo sinabi nya...may something original sa work mo...kahit universal theme or topics na ilan beses na na-discuss...yung take mo..something "fresh" or original nga
Cha: kesa nga naman sobrang profound at kinopya lang pala sa iba
aLf: tsaka ang nagustuhan ko e yun bang pag may nakakabasa sa gawa ko e alam agad na ako talaga ang may gawa. original nga ba ang term dun? [dumb kunyari. hihihi]

As always, I delight in reading critiques about my works—positive or negative they may be has a message for you about your article "'A Poet to His Firstborn."

Hi there!
Its my first time to visit the website of isnare. your poetry caught my attention. I dont want tobe rude, i just thought i'd give you an unsolicited advice. your poem A Poet to His Firstborn, is not a poem. its pure prose and full of cliche's. pls be guided on your poetry basics. better yet stick on essays. I like your essays more than your poems. a friendly comment from a Palanca winner. Good day. I hope to keep in touch.

To quote again my best-friend Rain Paggao:

"...a writer, as a true child of knowledge, must entertain and care for impressions good or bad, not only for a counterattack (I love a warrior pen!), but also—this more than anything else—for his refinements."

—as much as I enjoy responding to words of encouragement...

Fri, 11 Feb 2005

Greetings Glenn,

Yes, I'm Filipino...born, raised, and grew up in the Philippines. Only in 2003 did I leave the country for Canada, chiefly to take care of my 89-year-old grandfather who, without me, would have already long been in a nursing home.

Thank you very much for commending my contributions to; as I always say...the pleasure is mine.

My second chief reason for writing is to help shape a better generation—a thinking and questioning generation.

Your regarding my articles "great and original" is certainly the best compliment a writer like me can receive. You didn't make me proud; you made me all the more humble and, more so, inspired to continue writing and sharing my ideas.

I agree with matter how keen the eyes of an editor, plagiarists can still trick him/her once in a while. I myself was a professional editor at Diwa Scholastic Press Inc. when I was still in the Philippines (I handled and wrote for supplementary magazines like Bato Balani Science & Technology Magazine for High School); and every time a writer would submit something I very well knew was a plagiarized work, I couldn't help but feel disgusted and disappointed.

Yes, there are "writers" who have the penchant to submit "cut-and-paste" articles, thinking that they could get away with it. But in the end, whom they were really deceiving were themselves. Writers they are not but thieves of others' lifeblood.

I'd rather contribute an original haiku than submit an impressive epic which I just copied from someone or somewhere.

Again, thanks for the encouragement. I've already invited a few of my writer friends to contribute something to iSnare. In fact, I myself might have not discovered iSnare at this stage if not for the invitation of a friend.

Good luck!

Respectfully yours,
aLfie vera mella, otherwise eLf

After only a few hours...

Fri, 11 Feb 2005

Hi Alfie,

Great to have you as an author on my site. To tell you the truth, I loved BATO BALANI back in my school years! Yeah! I studied elementary up to college at the University of San Carlos in Cebu, and Bato Balani was a part of our reading materials. I am really honored to know you being its editor. I could have not been a recipient of an academic award at that time if not for Bato Balani, which I always loved reading, hahaha.

Again, thanks for your contributions to the site. I already visited your blog and even plan to make an article about blogs that would, of course, mention blog links including yours.

If you have some suggestions for the site, I would love to hear it, especially suggestions on how to generate more income for me to buy the server I long wanted :)


When do we consider a poem not a poem? When do we dismiss it as pure prose?

Answering these questions is indeed a feat, for since the advent of free verse the line dividing poetry and prose has become thin and blurry. And even though a number of formalist poets had expressed their disdain for the form—including Robert Frost (1874–1963), who said that writing free verse was like "playing tennis without a net"—there were those who became as highly regarded for embracing free verse—poets like Walt Whitman (1819–1892) and Gustave Kahn (1859–1936).

Carl Sandburg (1878–1967), a known free-verse poet, thus began his "Languages":

There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.